Friday Speak Out!: My Sh*tty First, Second, Gulp, Fifteenth Drafts or What I Learned from Years in Writing Groups

Friday, July 31, 2020
by Libby Ware

Ann Lamott, in her writing guide, Bird by Bird, advises writers to move forward without editing until reaching the end of a “shitty first draft.” I’ve tried this approach and I’ve also written a chapter, taken it to my writer’s group, revised it, and then moved on to the next chapter. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. But whichever method is used, a warning is due.

I started my first novel in the mid-nineties. It arose out of a short story with a minor character demanding that his story be told. My story about Lum, a white intersex Appalachian woman had a character, Smiley, who was a Black peddler in the same community. So I took off with his story, initially calling it a novella. I noticed that writers often mislabel novels as novellas until they realize that there’s more story than they thought. I started a workshop run by a writer who is an excellent editor. We could turn in pages every week, and then we’d have a chance to read to the group every three to four weeks. My optimal plan was to give her pages one week, get back her comments the next week, and then revise based on her input. Then take it to the class and revise with their suggestions. That plan went along well until I got to the end. Then I started all over again. And then I workshopped the whole thing over again. And I joined another more casual writers group, so I was getting even more feedback. Other writers were also bringing their work back for their third or more read through.

I met an agent at the Atlanta Writers Conference who, after reading the whole novel, advised me that there was not enough connecting Lum and Smiley. She suggested either adding more association between them, or separating the novel into two. Lum’s story is about a spinster not having her own residence, but moving from one relative’s house to another as they need her for child care, housework, hog killing, etc. I decided Lum deserved her own story and I pulled her chapters out, only to find that I didn’t have enough for a full novel. I added new material; and, instead of taking new chapters back again and again, they got one pass only with the teacher and were seen once by the class and the other group.

I think workshop leaders do their writers a disservice by encouraging or just not discouraging three or more readings of the same material. Over-revising can take the freshness and energy out of a piece. Also, a lot of time can be spent revising chapters that may not end up in the finished book. And for every time it’s brought back, someone will find something that needs to be changed.

Libby Ware is the author of the award-winning novel LUM and co-author with Charlene Ball, under the pen name of Lily Charles, of Murder at the Estate Sale, to be published August 15, 2020.

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photo by Amy Gibbons
photo by Amy Gibbons 
Libby Ware is a member of Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America and president of Georgia Antiquarian Booksellers Association. She is a fellow of The Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences. Her debut novel, LUM, won the American Library Association’s Stonewall Honor Book in Literature, a gold medal by the Independent Publishers Association, and was a finalist for Lambda Literary’s Debut Novel Award. With Charlene Ball, she writes the Molly and Emma Booksellers Series under the pen name Lily Charles. Their first title in the series, MURDER AT THE ESTATE SALE, is due out from Black Opal Books in August 2020. Find them at

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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Why Should I Enter That Contest? This Post May Just Convince You!

Thursday, July 30, 2020
Why should I enter that contest? You’ve probably thought this while reading a contest announcement (maybe even WOW!'s Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest with a deadline of 7/31!) and thinking about the entry fee. Maybe you’ve been eyeing a contest for your novel or for a format or genre you don't usually write to try something new and get some feedback. Whatever your reason for entering a contest, they can build your confidence, improve your craft, and give you publishing credits all in one!

As you know, writing is hard work. It’s easy to become discouraged with each rejection letter. Contests can help ease the pain. One exists for almost any genre, at any ability level. Many come with publication and prize money. When more prizes are offered in any given contest (honorable mentions/runner-ups), more writers receive acknowledgement for their hard work. A winner’s certificate, framed and hanging above your desk, can help remove the sting from an editor who rejects you. Success in a contest can keep you going when publications are lacking.

Not only can contests boost your confidence, but also they can expand the genres you write and improve your skills. Contests are a great place to try that personal essay about your mission trip or a poem about your beachfront home. They give you a reason to type the words in your mind and a deadline to follow. With the deadline looming closer, excuses for not writing—Facebook, watching TV, doing chores —may disappear with a goal to work towards and an ending in sight.

Work on your craft while creating the entry. Try first person if your novel is written in third. Contest pieces are generally shorter and a place to experiment with dialogue or sentence structure. Try a flash fiction competition. (WOW! has one here!) Flash fiction challenges you to write an entire story with a small amount of words. These stories can help you cut out unnecessary adjectives and adverbs that bog down your manuscript.

Remember the slush pile you fear and dread? When you enter a contest, there isn’t a slush pile. Your entry will be read and considered seriously. It doesn’t matter if you have an agent or if you’ve only published stories for your family. Everyone has an equal shot at having her voice heard in a contest.

The greatest benefit to contests is they may provide you with credits to put in a cover letter or in the bio of your indie published book. If you entered chapter one of your novel in a yearly competition, and it won first place, tell the editor in your cover letter or your newsletter followers in your latest edition. This win means three things: you can complete a manuscript, you care enough to polish it and send it off, and someone, besides your mother or significant other, thinks your writing is good!

Just a few tips before you go contest crazy. Read the guidelines carefully. Many judges narrow their entries before even reading because one rule, such as a misplaced heading, wasn’t followed. Watch out for contest fees that are high, but the prizes are low. Finally, make sure if the prize is publication, you want your work to appear in this media. When you enter, you are usually agreeing to have it published.

The other day, I received an email from one of my WOW! novel writing students, and she asked me if I knew of any writers who were having trouble focusing during the pandemic. Her particular query was riddled with anxiety because she said she seemed to have more trouble now (five months into it) than at the beginning. I wrote back immediately and told her, "You are not alone!" So while writing this piece for today, I kept thinking: if you're having trouble writing--you can't bring yourself to work on your memoir or your novel is dysopian and real life is too similar--see if you can find a contest for a short piece and work on only that for a while. As I've been saying since March, you have to give yourself grace during this time because you've literally never faced life during a pandemic before. Maybe this is the time to try your hand at writing a flash fiction piece and entering it in a contest. Then you can go back to your novel.

The next time you are thinking, Why should I enter that contest? Remember, winning may be the encouragement you’ve been looking for or the break you’ve been waiting on.

Margo L. Dill is a writing coach and instructor (and managing editor) for WOW! Women On Writing. Check out her classes on the classroom page. The next one starts on August 7. She is also a judge for WOW!'s contests. Find out about her own writing here
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Writing Tips, Compliments of the Kitchen Painting Project

Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Like many of the Pandemic Population, I’ve been working on a home project. Namely, painting. And the other day, whilst I stood there, paintbrush in hand, fumes swirling about my head, I still somehow managed a couple of brilliant thoughts about writing. So before the fumes overtake me, here’s a few writing tips, compliments of the Kitchen Painting Project:

#1: Music Can Make All the Difference

I don’t know about you but I am not one to bounce out of bed, shouting, “Wheee! I get to paint all the trim today!” No, friends, painting all the trim is an onerous task. Painting all the trim calls for a little mood music to make it all bearable.

Fortunately, I have four or five CDs of ol’ Dean Martin and before long, despite my aching arms and knees, I’m singing and smiling; I’m in a fine mood, mostly because I have lots of great memories of Dean. Suddenly, I’m not a woman of a certain age with paint splatters in her hair, I’m a kid again, staying up way past bedtime to watch Johnny Carson and Dean. That’s the power of music!

And how can you harness that power in your writing? If you’re writing your memoir, listen to the music of your life. You’ll be amazed at the memories that will come flooding back to you. Or if you’re writing an historical piece, listen to the music of the time period to get a feel for the culture. Maybe you’re writing a mystery or thriller; there is nothing like Tubular Bells to set the mood. The point is, music might just make an ordinary story sing so why not give it a try?

#2: Respect the Process

Painting is a tedious process, isn’t it? One has to do all the prep work before even starting the job. And then there’s the painting itself, which includes who-knows-how-many-coats of paint (and waiting in between for paint to dry). Finally, there’s the point where one thinks one is finally done but puts on one’s glasses and sees flaws.

Well, it’s just like writing, isn’t it? Granted, a pantser might skip the prep part of the writing process but once through the first draft, it’s time for rewrite after rewrite after rewrite (and waiting a bit between revisions). And finally, there’s the point where the writer sends out the finished product for feedback and beta readers or critique partners take a close look. Flaws must be addressed.

Painting or writing, there’s a process. And respecting the process pays off in the end product.

#3: But Forget Perfection

Just when I think I am done with all the trim, I find another spot that needs a touch up. Or a pinprick hole that needs filling in or a streak of stained wood peeking through—UGH! But you know what? There is always going to be something that needs a bit of paint. And I will never move on to the next Pandemic Project if I don’t learn to live with imperfection.

Writing is the same way. At some point, one must quit fiddling with the work and start the next task. The next task may be submitting; it may be querying; it might be starting a whole new writing project. But for every writer (and painter) the time comes to call it done and move on.

And maybe celebrate with a little Dean Martin and a drink.

(So what home project have you been working on for the last couple months? And what writing tip can you share from it?)

~ Cathy C. Hall (who may have spent more time watching Dean Martin videos than writing this blog post. But you have to respect the process, y'all. )
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Interview with Teri Liptak: Winter 2020 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Teri’s Bio:

Teri Liptak lives in Texas with her supportive husband, Eric, two opinionated cats, and one loud-mouthed dachshund. Her son, Logan, and daughter-in-law, Kasey, also live in Texas and keep her inspired. After experiencing “empty nest syndrome” and more free time than she was used to, Teri began exploring writing and art. She enjoys writing women’s literary fiction and poetry. Currently, she’s working on a novel-length story. You can follow her at Twitter: @ teriliptak

If you haven't done so already, check out Teri's award-winning story "Under the Stars" 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?

Teri: What excited me most about writing "Under the Stars" was that it started out as a character sketch exercise to flesh out one of the characters in my novel better. Once I started learning more about Helena and put her in a situation to see what would happen, she just came to life on the page. I think this will become part of my writing process in the future – write a flash fiction story for each major character.

WOW: I like that idea! A flash piece about each character would give you more intimate knowledge of them because, whether you complete the flash piece or not, you would have spent a lot of time learning about the characters. What did you learn about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece?

Teri: Writing this piece taught me how to create relatable characters and move them through scenes without extraneous description and details. Flash fiction is an excellent teacher for beginners like me.

WOW: Excellent! I’m happy to know the experience was a positive and meaningful one for you. Are you willing to tell us more about your novel-in-progress?

Teri: Here's a little blurb for the novel I'm working on: After the sudden death of her only child in a tragic accident, Nettie Lambert’s strength will be tested in every way, as a wife and an artist. In her effort to cope with her grief and guilt, she soon becomes obsessed with the mysterious, well-written journals she finds hidden away in the lining of a decades old trunk bought from an antique store. Will meeting the owner of the journals whose beautiful words fortified her through her despair help Nettie move forward beyond heartbreak, or will it cost her everything?

WOW: What an intriguing premise! Now I’m curious to know more about those journals. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Teri: I'm actually going back and forth between two books right now. I'm reading Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody to help me with the first draft of my novel. I highly recommend this one for writers who prefer to outline their books before drafting. It is so full of great information. I'm also re-reading The Journals of Sylvia Plath for the third or fourth time. To have access to her thoughts, so raw and honest, fascinates me as an aspiring writer. She shares her doubts about her writing and the fear of rejections, which gives me strength to put my stuff out into the world. It took her ten years to get her first poem published in The New Yorker. That surprised me.

WOW: It is somehow a relief to know that even the most successful writers have had doubts and fears about their craft. If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why?

Teri: A piece of writing advice I would give to my younger self would be, don't fear rejection. It is merely a part of the process. It is inevitable, and it doesn't mean you are wasting your time. Every rejection brings you closer to a "yes."

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

Teri: I have a new found respect for flash fiction. It is definitely a challenge to craft a meaningful, interesting story in 750 words or less. I enjoyed the experience very much.

WOW: Thank you 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. For more on the power of storytelling, join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
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What's Your Angle?

Monday, July 27, 2020

This past week, as I worked on the script for a podcast episode, I had a terrible case of Imposter Syndrome. While researching the story idea, I found out other true crime podcasts had covered the same topic. One used the same book I was reading as the basis for her episode. Even though I was already several pages into the script, I seriously considered giving up.

Then I started thinking about all the investigative crime shows I watch on television, like “48 Hours” and “Dateline NBC,” and all the different spinoffs of Investigation Discovery shows. There are some stories that get told over and over on these types of shows, but it doesn’t keep me from watching them if I recognize the case.

The trick, I told myself, is finding your own angle. After all, as a magazine editor, the angle is what I advise writers to find when working on their assignments. Is someone writing an article about a new bakery in town? What’s the angle? Oh, the owner is a trained pastry chef specializing in French treats who has baked for three different United States presidents? (True story, by the way). There’s the angle.

When I was working on a podcast script about a disappearance in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, I watched an episode of the Investigation Discovery Show “Hometown Homicide” while I was working on my script. I recognized the show uses a formula—they delve into three different “theories” and sometimes insert fictionalized or composite characters into the mix. When I scheduled the interview with one of the authors of a book about the mystery, she and I discussed her being interviewed for that TV show. She had no idea they were going to change the names of real people on the island and disagreed with the way the show was edited. I made sure to provide a variety of questions for my own interviews so I could make sure this retelling of the story was different from other shows I’d seen about it, while still staying true to the facts.

So once I talked myself out of how much I sucked as a podcaster this week, I thought about my angle. The podcast episode explores a man named Larry Gene Bell, who was executed for kidnapping and murdering two young girls in South Carolina in the mid-1980s. There have been a lot of podcasts and TV shows (and even a made for TV movie) about his crimes. What I wanted to explore was three women who went missing from my town in the 1970s and 1980s when Bell actually lived here. He was never conclusively linked to the women’s disappearances but there have been journalists and law enforcement that have speculated. I started off the episode by talking about the three women and then segueing into Bell’s crimes. I hope the point of difference made for an intriguing episode for listeners.

If you ever find yourself stuck with any type of non-fiction writing (articles, personal essays, blog posts) stop for a minute and brainstorm what you want your angle to be. Once you narrow that down, I guarantee you’ll have an easier time getting the words out and down on paper.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and magazine editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Learn more at
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3 Ways You Can Set Yourself Up to Write

Sunday, July 26, 2020
Write every day. That’s the advice that we are so often given but how do you squeeze writing in around your day-to-day activities? It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with children who are distance learning, working remotely yourself, or just dealing with day to day household tasks, it can be way too easy to put your writing off. You finally get a moment to write and . . .

Nothing. The words simply refuse to flow. Here are three things that you can do to help the words flow when you have time to write.

Have a Ritual. Setting up a writing ritual may sound strange but I’m here to tell you that it works. When I am doing a hard copy edit. I’m usually working on a deadline which means that I need to get it done now. What is my ritual? In the dining room, an area where I don't normally work, I set out my print manuscript, a pencil, a fresh cup of coffee, and a specific candle. Even on days my mind is scattered, when I smell that candle, I sit down and get to work. 

Have a Plan. Know what you are going to work on. Don’t wait for the Muse to come along and drop something in your lap. Instead, develop a plan. For some people, this plan can be really general. “Today, I am going to draft a picture book about bees.” For other people, it has to be a bit more specific. Not only do you need a project, you also need an outline.  Don't worry if what you need differs from project to project. For fiction picture books, I just need to know what manuscript I’m working on. For nonfiction picture books, I need an outline.

Stop in the Middle. Throughout July, I’ve been working on the same project, a cozy mystery tentatively titled Send in the Sopranos. I have written on this project each of the last 21 days. I’ve learned if I stop at the end of the scene it is hard for me to get started the next day.  I find myself waffling over where this new scene takes place and which characters are in.  If I stop in the middle of a scene? Then I can read the last few sentences and mentally drop back into the scene.  Soon the words are flowing.  Yes, some days this flow is a trickle but even that is something. 

Even if you can’t write every single day, these three techniques will help the words flow when you sit down to write. Yes, even the ritual, and I have a licorice-scented candle to prove it.


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 (next session begins  August 3, 2020) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins August 3, 2020). 
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Must Have: Calm Strips (Interview and Giveaway!)

Saturday, July 25, 2020
We’re excited to bring back our “Must Haves” column. Long time WOW readers will remember our editors highlighting their favorite products for the e-zine. This time, we’re not only sharing our amazing finds but also giving you a chance to win them!

One of our favorite tools to help you de-stress is a meditative sensory product called Calm Strips.

I tend to struggle with anxiety; and lately, it's been challenging. It’s hard to write when you're anxious—especially when you’re trying to get into a character’s POV or structure your next short story. And let’s not even talk about submitting! So when I sit down to write, I need to be in a relaxed, creative headspace. That’s why I was excited to find Calm Strips. They are accessory adhesives that are crafted to help you soothe anxiety and fidgeting. To find out more about the product, I interviewed Michael Malkin, founder of Calm Strips.

We'll also be giving away a pack of 20 Calm Strips to one lucky winner!

 -- Interview by Nicole Pyles 

WOW: So, tell me a little bit about Calm Strips and how you started this company. 

Michael: I worked in a busy retail environment for a long time and, while it was very fulfilling, it also tended to exacerbate my anxiety. On especially busy days, I would wrap some carpenter’s tape around my finger. I enjoyed the texture of it, but I knew there had to be a better solution. Calm Strips are the result of a lot of work to make something that could still be carried anywhere, but had a better texture that could be utilized as a stimulus or for grounding / meditation.

WOW: I love when people start companies by solving a problem they experienced! What are Calm Strips designed to do?

Michael: Calm Strips are sensory adhesives. They are made from a thin but extremely hardy and durable vinyl. Crafted to help soothe anxiety and fidgeting by grounding you in a calming scene and giving you a gentle, but textured, surface as a stimulus.

WOW: That sounds so incredibly helpful. So, how do you select the designs for the Calm Strips?

Michael: I tend to always be on the hunt for new wallpapers for my iPhone. I find that a lot of the things that make a compelling iPhone wallpaper, also make a good Calm Strip. I will usually find a designer that I like and, either use a piece they’ve already done, or work with them on an original piece. We’ve also had customers ask us if they can submit designs, and we are always open to that. If people want to send us designs to we will definitely take a look.

WOW: I think that's amazing you use customer designs! Based on what you hear from testimonials, what behaviors have people stopped doing thanks to their use of Calm Strips?

Michael: We’ve heard from customers that they have helped with everything from biting nails to fidgeting to skin picking. Those are the stories that really motivate us here at Calm Strips. We are a really small company. There’s really just me and Luce (our Operations Director) here day in and day out. So when we see those stories it really gives us energy and motivation to keep pushing through.

"2020 has been a tough year… no doubt about that. I think Calm Strips are not going to solve those issues on their own; however, I do think that this year has brought anxiety, depression, and mental health in general to the forefront of the conversation." 

WOW: That is so inspiring to hear that kind of feedback. As we look ahead to the start of fall quarter, how can Calm Strips help parents with kids or basically, anyone who struggles with how much life has changed this year?

Michael: 2020 has been a tough year… no doubt about that. I think Calm Strips are not going to solve those issues on their own; however, I do think that this year has brought anxiety, depression, and mental health in general to the forefront of the conversation. I believe that we can contribute by helping reduce the stigma of anxiety and letting people see that you can have something that can help that is discreet, stylish and understated. We are also working to reduce the cost for these types of items, especially for schools. You can give each student a Calm Strip for ~75 cents, which is significantly more accessible than other, less effective and more distracting, solutions.

WOW: Thank you so much for sharing and we wish you the best in your company! 

Find out more about Calm Strips by visiting their website.


Enter to win a pack of Calm Strips, which end up being 20 total strips. Giveaway ends on August 1st at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner on the Rafflecopter widget the next day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Friday Speak Out!: Meta-Notes on my COVID Book Launch

Friday, July 24, 2020

by Heather Siegel

I finally launched my book last month, which took 3 years to write and 2 years to see through to publication. Once I got over the bummer of not having my event at Barnes & Noble and embraced my backyard as the only viable venue, I invited a few neighbors to bring lawn chairs and masks, made individual plates of cheese and crackers, and dug out my daughter’s karaoke mic (4 minutes before going live on Facebook... turns out it was in the vacuum closet). Trucks rambled by in the background, people commented they couldn’t hear me, and one guy complimented my speaking, noting I also say “um” too much. He’s right, and one day I will get media training. For now, um is my crux when I throw a social distancing gathering and act as the entertainment.

Overall, however, the launch was successful-- which is why I’m offering this meta-reflection for those who may have COVID launches. My reading elicited over 1,600 views, which is a decent number in my indie world of writing. My last launch, held at a bookstore, drew in 75 people- and that was via emails, personal invites, texts, and good old-fashioned begging.

I also received over 200 positive comments through Facebook Live, which I believe helped increase viewership. Had I done the reading at the store, I may only have posted still pictures of the event, knowing how much I despise seeing myself read. If the bookstore manager had insisted upon a video, it likely would have been through Zoom or CrowdCast, which while great, would have limited my invites to my contact list, and not allowed for people to casually drop in, as the Facebook Live event did.

I also learned a few things. Besides that I need to put the karaoke mic back in the same place, and wear pants and not a short skirt, to minimize underwear-obsessing, working with what you have and doing what you can in this strange time, as well as having a sense of humor about this whole business of writing and presenting books, is healthy for the ego.

Of course, looking back—and speaking to fellow writers—there were ways I could have improved this impromptu launch. This would have included sound checks and better equipment. While I had originally purchased a podcast mic, I didn’t realize until minutes before I went live that I would not be able to present my book and simultaneously read and respond to audience comments, and so the mic became useless as I handed off my phone to a friend who acted as a liaison between me and the Facebook audience. Now, I think I could have filmed a Facebook Live with my computer, and handed my phone to that friend to read off comments, resulting in the same interactive dynamic, only with better video and sound.

I could have also planned my content better- preparing talking points, and passages to read. Since my memoir includes letters I write to “the universe,” asking for help with life issues, I chose to ask this same universe for help in choosing passages, which was, of course, silly. As one writer-friend later told me, “YOU are in charge of your book reading.” Also, remembering to slow down might have helped combat my umms, or perhaps, as fellow-professionals have suggested, preparing beforehand via something like Toastmaster.

Still, even with the glitches, I am happy I jumped in carefree, as the reading felt organic and authentic, and might even be part of the charm of why people have been watching it.

Then again, who knows, maybe the universe did assist.

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Heather Siegel is the author of THE KING & THE QUIRKY: A Memoir of Love, Marriage, Domesticity, Feminism & Self (Regal House Publishing, 2020) and OUT FROM THE UNDERWORLD (Greenpoint Press, 2015). Her work has appeared on, in literary magazines, and popular websites and blogs. She teaches academic and creative writing, and runs private workshops and a book incubator Visit her at


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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Objects, Memories, Stories, Writing

Thursday, July 23, 2020
There is a black cape stuffed between my clothes in my bedroom closet. It belonged to my mother, her multi-purpose cloak for both weddings and funerals. After she died, it was one of the items I wanted of hers. I knew I would never wear it. My mother had great taste when it came to fashion but it wasn't my style. Still, sometimes I try it on like a little girl playing dress-up when I need to bask in her aura. Memories flood my mind and I am transported to a time and place when her voice rang close to my ear and her touch was at the ready.

Many of us hold on to objects for sentimental reasons and because they bring memories back to us in the quickness of a camera flash; be it a photograph, a love letter tucked away in an old book of poetry, a beautiful vintage brooch given to us by a favorite aunt, or a fancy silver tea set passed down to us that we stared in wide eyed wonderment at as a child.

These objects, that we store figuratively and literally in our memory boxes; objects we can touch, wrap our fingers around, or gaze upon at leisure; objects that hold the weight of yesterday's good and yes, bittersweet memories, are fodder for our storytelling as writers.

I recently read an article about memory boxes, and how objects that hold a special significance or have a meaningful past association to someone with memory loss, can be used to exercise that person's sense of touch and other senses, and to encourage verbal expression. How awesome that must be for the person with memory loss, and his or her caretaker or family, howbeit short-term. It demonstrates the power of objects when it comes to stirring one's memory to foster expression.

My mother's black cape is figuratively in my own memory box. When I look at it or try it on, I remember the occasions when she wore it, and soon after I am inspired to write stories about women and mothers who are symbolically superwomen. I write without borders; you know without that red pen hovering overhead, enjoying the process. My words flow more effortlessly and so does the dialogue of my female protagonists in my stories. Editing takes a back seat for that day.

It is the same with the multiplicity of other objects in my figurative memory box; they too help me  reset emotionally, awaken my writing "spirit" and produce greater bodies of work:

Fragile old letters my grandmother wrote to my grandfather when he was in the Army. These letters encourage me to step out of my comfort zone of writing my preferred contemporary fiction and write about my grandmother's era. That in turn leads to me being knee deep in research; browsing online archives, watching documentaries, and reading articles, so that my stories will be accurate pertaining to historical facts during that era, and rich in details.

Family photographs, especially black and white photographs, are always stimuli for my writing. A photo is worth a thousand words rings true. I find after looking at family photographs, those thousand words and more come, for either a nonfiction article or essay about my own family, or a story that chronicles a fictional family's life. 

Wedding favors that line the shelf of my etagere, those pastel almonds in sheer organza pouches, also inspire my stories. Whenever I remove them from its shelf to dust and hold them in my hands, I remember when a friend or family member Jumped the Broom; not just the love they had for each other but the bridges they crossed to get to that celebratory day. Soon I am jotting down a storyline and notes about the ebbs and flows in a fictional couple's marriage, which later turns into a few paragraphs, and eventually the first draft of a story or beginning pages of a novel.

Objects, memories, stories, writing...they are always interconnected. What meaningful objects are in your memory box that inspires your storytelling?


Jeanine DeHoney's writing has been published in several magazines, anthologies, and online blogs. Her stories are always "full" of the voices of the women who loved and nurtured her.
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Gotta Have Faith

Wednesday, July 22, 2020
These days, my faith is faltering. I queried dozens of presses/agents earlier, and recently, queried/submitted to over 80 in the span of a couple of months. Many of those have not responded (an unspoken Thanks, but no thanks?) but I’ve had plenty of variations on The story doesn’t speak to me. (Each time I see the snippet of an email beginning, “Thanks so much for sending me…” my heart drops. I don’t know how an acceptance email about a manuscript begins, because I’ve never gotten one. However, I wish the negative ones would begin honestly and bluntly, so we don’t even have to open them. My suggestion: “Your writing stinks to high heaven,” or "Find another way to spend your time. Immediately.")

image by Pixabay

Currently, I’m going through a Writer’s Market 2018, and I highlighted (67!) publishers so I can make a last push. If no publishing contracts result, I will be forced to write the story in long-hand on legal pads and peddle them on a street corner go another route.

Of course, George Michael reared his head as I worked on this post. It was inevitable. Even though he's gone, his catchy tune burrowed into my ears. The lyrics and music to his song “Faith” slipped in my head and refused to leave… and now I listened to it from the perspective of a writer.

Oh, but I need some time off from that emotion
Time to pick my heart up off the floor
Oh, when that love comes down without devotion
Well, it takes a strong man, baby
But I'm showin' you the door.

'Cause you gotta have faith.
You gotta have faith.
You gotta have faith, faith, faith
You gotta have faith, faith, faith.

We need time--at times--to lick our wounds when we get rejected. However, when we’re in love with the idea of being a writer… and not having the devotion, the commitment to do the real work? Well, it takes a thick skin and a fierce spirit to kick the rejection (and our internal editor) out the door and to the curb… so we can get back to writing.

Speaking of licking one's wounds, Radar is
great at licking anything--the rejection off your face,
the ketchup on your fingers, whatever. Here he is,
faithfully waiting for me to stop writing so I can pet him.
In working on this post, I read a piece on how writers can renew their faith in their writing. Towards the end, there’s a list of 5 things you can do. I especially love #2. It makes so much sense. As a kid, I thought I was a writing rock star. Every line I wrote was like a pearl dropped from heaven. My school newspaper feature articles were hil. Ar. I. Ous. I just knew it. It was only when I got older that I started doubting my skills. Perhaps if more of us did what is suggested in #2, we’d have more faith in our abilities.

And faith is the fuel that keeps us showing up at our computer, ready and willing to write.

How about you? How do you keep the faith in your writing alive? Stumbling spirits want to know…

Sioux Roslawski turned into a human slug this spring and summer, but she's recently come out of hibernation and has sprung into action--submitting, querying, entering a contest, and getting her classroom ready. If you'd like to read more about her, head to her blog.
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Meet Dawn Rae, Runner Up in the WOW! Winter 2020 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Dawn Rae lives in Cape Town, South Africa where she is a church secretary (because someone has to pay the bills) but belongs to three different writers’ groups (because that’s where her joy lies). She shares her home with Plum and Honey, cats-of-great-character! Dawn loves books and has been an avid reader all her life, dipping into her mother’s books from an early age. Over the years she has written many poems, short stories and business articles, some of which reached publication. Dawn has self-published four books: Rory’s New Coat, a children’s book; Milestones, a collection of short stories; The White Glove and The Parrot’s Apprentice, two of the novels she wrote through the annual international writing event NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Dawn enjoys crosswords, Sudoku, jigsaws and playing board games with a group of ladies, although that’s on hold during Covid-19. She avoids domestic stuff whenever she can, but so far she has not managed to teach the cats to cook. Connect with Dawn by email at dawnrae1611[at]gmail[dot]com, on Twitter at @DawnRae1611 or find her on Facebook under Dawn Melodie Rae.

Read her magical story here and then return to learn more about the author.

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

WOW: Hello, Dawn, and congratulations! “The Keeper of the Keys” is a fantastical and unique story. Can you share a little with us about how you came up with the idea for it?

Dawn: I love writing prompts, especially the fantastical and unique, and I find a lot of what intrigues me on Pinterest. This story grew from a prompt we used at a writing group, "Someone finds an unusual key." As a writer I love fantasy--magic and dragons and suchlike--so it was a no-brainer the story would go that way. Stories, for me, simply present themselves and demand to be written. Sometimes it's a vivid dream, at others it might be a first line or a name. In this case, Surmeil's name jumped out at me from the back of a truck I was stuck behind in traffic. That's why I have paper and pens everywhere :)

WOW: I love how you found that name, and it fit perfectly into the story. You belong to three different writers’ groups. What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned during your time with those groups?

Dawn: The groups I belong to are each unique. The main one, West Coast Writers' Circle in Cape Town, has about 30 writers of all levels and genres. My involvement is in a giving capacity, serving in various roles over the years. I love this group because I get to present workshops and writing exercises to stimulate their creativity. It's such fun! But for me it's about giving back and encouraging other writers. Plus I grow with every exercise or workshop I prepare, as well as those given by others.

I also belong to Romance Writers of SA (ROSA) Cape Town chapter, not because I write romance as such but because I so enjoy those ladies. They range from newbies to seriously published, mainstream and indie. I can't begin to tell you what I've learnt from them, from the simple 'Get your bum in the seat' to a detailed road plan for self-publishing. (Which I have yet to follow, she sighs).

And then there's the small group, three or four ladies who get together monthly to share and discuss our writing. I absolutely recommend being part of a small group. These groups have a limited lifespan and that's okay. I've been part of two previous small groups and had just arranged a new one when the CV19 lockdown hit. I look forward to 'after' when this group can really get going again. It's in small group that I am held accountable for promises I make and deadlines I set myself. Once, someone in small group read a story I'd written and said, 'Dawn, you're capable of so much better than that.' I'm forever grateful to that person. You don't get raw, honest feedback like that too often.

I think the most useful advice I ever had came from someone in my first small group, 'Ignore the word count, just write the story.' Because I love contests and flash fiction, this was really valuable to me. I also still hear voices from the past whispering, 'Info-dump...' and 'Cliche!' and I smile as I ring the changes.

WOW: You’ve published two books that you created through NaNoWriMo. Are you a writer who needs a hard and fast deadline in order to complete a project?

Dawn: I am totally deadline driven. The adage, 'If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would get done!' was written just for me LOL! And there's another... 'A task expands to take up the time available for it.' I confess I'm a lazy writer, adept at excuses cleverly disguised as good reasons. But November... ah, how I love November.

WOW: Plum and Honey sound like wonderful writing companions. What are their personalities like? 

Plum and Honey are chalk and cheese. Cliche I know, but that best describes them. Plum is 14 and an absolute cuddle-bunny. She's an SPCA girl and for the first 2 yrs I had her she never made a sound--not a meow, not a purr. Now, she purrs and cuddles with wild abandon. Honey is also a rescue, 4 yrs old, but a more ornery girl you've never met--doesn't want to be touched or held unless she's ready, and then for a very short time. I'm currently sporting scrapes from when she decided my hand was a sworn enemy LOL! Yet I love them to full capacity and wouldn't trade them for anything. Except maybe chocolate. No... not even for chocolate. But as writing companions, they're useless. All they do is sleep...

WOW: Tell us about your books Rory’s New Coat and The White Glove and Parrot’s Apprentice.

Dawn: Ah yes. Rory was an experience in vanity publishing, a term I knew nothing about back then. It was a contest entry that didn't win but was 'so good you really should publish it...' Mind you, I do believe it's a good children's story, well illustrated and produced, and those who bought copies agree. But I did end up with many copies in my garage which I've been able to pass on to worthy causes like Santa's Shoebox and several libraries. An expensive lesson but one well learnt now. Briefly, it's the tale of a ladybird who wants to be different but who discovers different isn't always better.

In The White Glove, Lady Eleanor marries against her will, but at the wedding her husband accidentally ingests a poison intended for her and she sets out, with her childhood love, to seek the fabled antidote. With The White Glove I was more conservative, printing in much lower numbers and reprinting when needed. White Glove was also an important lesson in Nano. I completed my Nano 50,000 words but hadn't finished the story... and it took me another year to do so. (Did I mention I'm deadline driven?) Now, I strive to get the whole story down, knowing I can go back later and flesh out.

And Parrot's Apprentice, ah, I really love that book. It was such a joy to write, and I've had excellent feedback from readers. Is it okay to have a favourite amongst one's own books? Well, no matter, that's my favourite. It's the tale of Artemis, an inept wizard because his mentor has been turned into a parrot and it's difficult to teach magic when you don't have hands. Into their lives comes Myra and her father who is currently a rat, for which she blames Artemis. They need to find a witch to change him back so they set out together - Myra and the rat, Artemis and the parrot, and of course, their cat. There has to be a cat.

I intend having these books up soon for sale as ebooks, but in the interim anyone who's interested can email me at and we'll make a plan.

WOW: I absolutely think it's okay to have a favorite, book story, amongst ourselves. Thank you for chatting with us today and for sharing what inspires you. Happy writing!

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Dancing Between the Beats (Reader Review and Giveaway)

Monday, July 20, 2020
Dancing Between the Beats by Lynn Nicholas
We are proud to present another special reader review event with author Lynn Nicholas, featuring her book Dancing Between the Beats. Read the reviews of this fun book and our interview with the author. Don't forget to enter to win a prize pack with a variety of items picked about by the author as well as a copy of her book.

First, about the book Dancing Between the Beats:

Twenty-four-year old Paige Russell, still grieving the death of her single mother, defines herself as an orphan. Her obsession to find the father she never knew takes her to Tucson, AZ, where she settles in as the newest ballroom instructor at Desert DanceSport. But Paige’s newfound sense of belonging could be short-lived. Swirling under the glamorous surface of Desert DanceSport are rivalries and conflicts that threaten the future of the studio, and Paige is hiding a life-changing secret of her own.

Studio owner Katherine Carrington is grappling with complicated cash-flow issues of her own making. As her stress level rises, her demeanor ricochets between controlling and neurotic. Katherine’s identity is defined by her ownership of the studio, and losing it would mean losing herself.

Aging playboy Marcos Stephanos, dance master and studio manager, is too distracted by the disarming new-hire Paige to focus on the warning signs of Katherine’s erratic behavior. Will his nonchalance cost him his career?

Top dance instructor Tony Moreno finds flirting with Paige so tantalizing he misses practice sessions with his ambitious, professional partner, Sylvie Goldstein. Instead of burning up the floor with Tony, Sylvie is smoking with resentment against her unwitting rival, Paige.

Will misunderstood intentions and ego-driven altercations force the exposure of secrets and betrayals at the studio so many call home? Who will adapt and who will retreat when expectations clash with reality, and the status quo suddenly shifts?

Laced with humor, Dancing Between the Beats offers an insider’s view of the world of ballroom dance, along with a smattering of off-beat insights about relationships.

What WOW readers said: 

"I judge a book by how quickly it pulls me into the story and how fast the characters are developed. In Dancing Between the Beats, I was delighted to find both the pull and the development. Dancers will admire the depths Nicholas went to portray the mechanics of Ballroom Dancing as accurately as possible. Anyone who loves a good mystery/drama/love story will enjoy how all of this seems to be entwined in the story line. As I read on in the story, I found myself caring for the characters. Would Paige find her father? Would Marcos survive Katherine’s sabotage? Would Katherine ruin the lives of everyone, including herself? No spoilers here…you will have to read the story to find out. Suffice it to say, the ending was also quite satisfactory."

- Review by Linda M. Rhinehart Neas

"Dancing offers us a look into Desert DanceSports, a fictional dance studio that has become a de facto community center for its most loyal customers. This Big Cast book takes us through a game of perspectives. Author, Lynn Nicholas, has created deep characters and proved herself unafraid to show every conscious and subconscious bias of each of them. The entire book allows the reader to dive into the real-life drama of dance instruction and running a business while balancing the surrounding egos. Dancing offers a slow burn contemporary drama with real-life circumstances that show things are rarely as bad as we believe and fear is our greatest barrier to growth. Some characters learn, some cannot, and their choices affect the very fate of their beloved Desert DanceSports.

I rated this 4/5

The reason for 4 stars: The descriptive language was beautiful and often insightful, though at times it became too top heavy with metaphor, simile, and analogy for me. A few conversations felt like the characters had fallen into an exchange of proverb-like statements. There were a few occasions the unconscious bias of a few characters made me squirm, though these moments were true to character. These are my personal opinions, and therefore not a comment on the well edited, deep character development and well executed writing Lynn has provided."

- Review by CK Sorensen

"Interesting and honest. The author was able to give the readers a good look inside the world of ballroom dancing. An easy to read book but still full of emotions. It really showed that a dancer's life is not just glitz and glamour. In fact, it is more about passion and determination. I really like that the background of each character was highlighted. This not only drawn me to the story but also made each personality more relatable."

- Review by Rozely De Sagun

"I really enjoyed Dancing Between the Beats--I liked how the various characters told their own stories and that this book gave a glimpse into competitive and amateur ballroom dancing as well as the instructors' and students' personal lives. My favorite character, believe it or not, might be considered the antagonist, but Katherine, the studio owner, kept me turning pages to the end. I wanted to find out if she would be able to get out of the mess she was in as we slowly watched her self-destruct. I also enjoyed the storyline between Marcus and Paige. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew these characters pretty well and could see them in a sequel. It was clear to me that this author knew her away around the ballroom dancing world in some capacity or she had done a lot of research! Since I know nothing about it, I found this storyworld very interesting also!"

 - Review by Margo Dill 

"24-year old Paige Russell moves to Tucson, AZ to be a ballroom dance instructor at Desert DanceSport. There, she finds herself plunked into the middle of rivalries and the general real-life soap opera that is the ballroom dance world. What takes her to Tucson is the essential conflict of the book. It takes a little long to reveal that conflict--until about halfway through the book it is nothing but character exposition and reads more like a television mini-series. The characters are three-dimensional, however, and once you do learn what the real conflicts are the drama is compelling. Lynn Nicholas' great talent is in character development, not plotting, so if you like to really get to know people and their motivations you will love this book. If you like action and a moving plot, this isn't for you."

- Review by Lori Duff

"I just have to start off by saying that this not the typical genre that I usually read, so I was a little hesitant to venture out of my little bubble. I was pleasantly surprised though and thoroughly enjoyed Dancing Between the Beats! If you have ever danced or have ever had interested in the world of choreography, lessons, and the environment this is a great read. The beginning was a little slower but by the last 7 chapters of the book I couldn’t put it down! The author does a wonderful job building character development, and keeping the reader entertained with lots of twist and turns in the plot. It was romantic, deep, whimsical, and entertaining."

- Review by Emilie Garner

"We enter the dazzling world of a dance studio with Lynn Nicholas' book Dancing Between the Beats. You hear about the lives of the students and the instructors. Of all the characters, though, I enjoyed reading Paige the most. Her storyline really intrigued me and I kept looking forward to the moments I could see her again. This book was filled with drama coming out at all sides! There were secrets kept and hidden agendas. I also thought the author did a great job describing the dance motions. I never once felt lost. This is a fun book with rich characters that will make you want to join a dance studio and take classes. It sure did that for me!"

- Review by Nicole Pyles

Dancing Between the Beats is available to purchase at, Barnes and Noble, and Be sure to also add this book to your GoodReads reading list as well.

About the Author, Lynn Nicholas

After hanging up her technical-editor hat, Lynn’s focus shifted to creative writing in 2008. Dancing Between the Beats (2020) is Lynn’s debut novel.

Her stories and poetry are inspired by everyday life as it unfolds around her. She gets lost in sunsets, believes in the power of words and hugs, finds that her garden nourishes her creativity, and writes supervised by an autocratic black cat and two dog friends.

Lynn’s short fiction and poetry have appeared in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, SandScript Arts & Literary Magazine, The Wild Word, Every Day Fiction, Wow! Women on Writing, The Storyteller, and Rose City Sisters, among other publications. Lynn is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Society of Southwestern Authors. She is also an amateur ballroom dancer.

Follow Lynn's blog at

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your book! What inspired you to write Dancing Between the Beats

Lynn: My writing is usually inspired by life as it either quietly unfolds around me or knocks me over. That was definitely the case after I signed up for my third NaNoWriMo writing challenge in 2011. I’d been ballroom dancing for two years, so I thought it would be fun to create a storyline I could drop into the unique environment of a ballroom dance studio. I entitled it Dancing Between The Beats, a dance term that also applies to life.

In the 2011 NaNo draft, my main character was a mid-life ballroom dance student, awed by the glamorous environment. A growing awareness of behind-the-scenes conflicts and drama was tempering her awe to pragmatism. As more characters and their interweaving storylines emerged, I found myself working through some emotional baggage and using the storyline to process disillusioning changes in relationships. Writing is cathartic for me. I was unconsciously following the old adage to “write what you know.”

So, in a nutshell, I exaggerated the reality of the dance studio and spun it off into the realm of “what if.” Then I tossed in my own angst, opinions, experiences, and personal philosophies, and mixed well. The result was the situations my characters found themselves in and the words that came out of their mouths.

WOW: That sounds so fun! I am so excited to hear that your book Dancing Between the Beats was a NaNoWriMo novel! What was your process to finish this novel in one month? How did you achieve that?

Lynn: The succinct answer is, “I didn’t.” The purpose of a NaNoWriMo challenge is to hammer out a minimum of 50K words in 30 days: not stopping to edit, just pure stream-of-conscious, get-the-juices-flowing writing. What you end up with is the bones of a draft novel, but only the bones: something to work with. I finished 2011 NaNo challenge with well over 50K words, but didn’t begin to expand that NaNo draft for a good year. The final and much-changed manuscript wasn’t finished until late summer 2019, at which point I handed it over to a professional editor. That was eight years after that 2011 NaNoWriMo.

“Ballroom dance builds confidence, teaches focus and patience, and demands that you constantly strive to hone your craft. It’s about building on what you know to work toward the ever-moving target of perfection. You’ll never reach it, much like writing.”

WOW: I'm so impressed you stayed with your novel, despite the time frame. How did your experience with ballroom dancing help you write this book?

Lynn: Ballroom dance builds confidence, teaches focus and patience, and demands that you constantly strive to hone your craft. It’s about building on what you know to work toward the ever-moving target of perfection. You’ll never reach it, much like writing. 

A dance studio overflows with creative inspiration. It’s a subculture—a microcosm—replete with an eclectic mix of outgoing personalities and egos, from the young artistic/creative instructors to the retired doctors and engineers that comprise a large part of the student base. Being able to pull from this rich stew of inspiration gave my novel a unique flavor, I think. Lead-and-follow dance, like ballroom, forces adult students out of their comfort zone: strong women have to give it up, trust, and follow; and macho males have to get over themselves and learn arm styling and facial expression. Grown men cry with frustration. To put it kindly, when two amateurs are learning to dance together, the process can illuminate character flaws. Taking dance lessons should be a prerequisite to getting married. Seriously. I used this in the novel.

One thing I would like to note; while DBTB is set in the world of ballroom dance and much of it is light and entertaining, at its core is the need to belong, the pain and disillusionment of betrayal, and the reality that life rarely gives you what you imagined or expected. It’s about adaptation and acceptance. These themes could be used in any setting where there is human interaction, from a small town business to a big city hospital.

I think I’m the poster child for “never give up on your dreams.”

WOW: I think that is such a powerful, important theme. What was your revising process like?

Lynn: It was painful and lengthy. I expanded the original NaNo draft to four times the word count, and subsequently cut, slashed, and rewrote for several years before I felt ready to write The End. I “killed my darlings” big time and cut out entire scenes. I changed names, and pushed some characters to the forefront and others to the sidelines. Along the way I kept a running “where to go from here” file and wrote a detailed outline, chapter by chapter, which expanded and changed over the years. I created a storyboard with individual scenes on 3 x 5 index cards, which could be rearranged to keep the timeline logical. I pinned character profiles to the board. I did research on everything from sports cars to embezzlement laws and the genetic rarity of green eyes. I created a picture board of everything from the layout of the dance studio, to items of furniture in my characters’ homes and their cars. By late 2019 I handed final copies of the manuscript to two BETA readers and a professional editor.

During the eight years I rewrote and revised DBTB, I continued to learn and grow as a writer. I attended workshops, posted stories and edited on FanStory, and joined the Society of Southwestern Authors. I created short works to submit for publication and, when critiques were offered, I paid serious attention. In 2014 I took an upper level, special projects class at Pima Community College, which was an invaluable experience. Then I joined a writing group and ran chapters by fellow writers for input and critique. I culled and edited stories for PCC’s Arts & Literature magazine (SandScript 2018). I even reimagined the basic concepts of a couple of scenes from the novel as short fiction. Getting feedback from submissions was an excellent test for reader appeal.

WOW: You have an incredible revision process! On your blog, you describe yourself as a late bloomer. Why do you think that is?

Lynn: Like many women of my generation, I focused on supporting my husband’s career rather than following my own dreams. I worked full time all my life, raised my son, and then moved my 92-year-old grandmother in with us in my forties. In the middle of it all, I went back to school both full time and part time, concentrating on the sciences and writing. My last ten-year stint as a technical editor laid the groundwork for my own writing, but I didn’t start writing creatively until my early fifties. By about 2007 I began submitting flash fiction pieces, including entering contests on WOW! (top 10 twice and top 20 twice). WOW!’s critiques are excellent. I entered and completed my first two NaNoWriMo challenges in 2008 and 2009, during which time I was overseeing serious medical issues for my stepfather, and then for my mother. I started the NaNo draft of DBTB soon after my mother passed away in 2011.

I think I’m the poster child for “never give up on your dreams.” I took figure skating lessons in my late forties, began writing in my fifties, and started ballroom dancing at sixty (on my birthday.) I was seventy when DBTB was published. My motto is, “It’s not over 'til it’s over.”

“We writers really do a number on ourselves. How many writers don’t feel like “real” writers because no one has paid for their work or interviewed them on the Today Show? Writers have to stop letting others define them.”

WOW: You inspire me! You really do! You talked about on your blog about that moment you said out loud, "I am a writer." What advice do you have for writers who have a hard time saying that out loud?

Lynn: Uttering those words was a life-changing moment. We writers really do a number on ourselves. How many writers don’t feel like “real” writers because no one has paid for their work or interviewed them on the Today Show? Writers have to stop letting others define them. We don’t question the legitimacy of the artist who paints every day but has yet to have a showing in a gallery. Dancers are dancers whether they are on the Broadway stage or taking lessons in a local studio. If you write, if you are putting words to paper—better yet, if you are obsessed with putting words to paper—you are a writer. End of story. Own it.

WOW: I completely agree! Thank you so much for your time and best of luck on your book! 

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

Enter to win a signed copy of Dancing Between the Beats, a notebook, a fan and bookmark from Indonesia, a copy of Stories from the Drylands, and felted soap made by an artisan local to the author. Giveaway ends on July 26th at 11:59 PM EST. We will announce the winner on the Rafflecopter widget the next day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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The Silent Patient: A Lesson in Craft

Saturday, July 18, 2020

It seems appropriate that I start this post with dual warnings since this is a book with two narrators and two timelines. This post will be a gigantic plot spoiler. You’ve been warned so no fussing. 

The second warning is a trigger warning. This book is about abuse. As a thriller, this book is creepy and will at times makes your skin crawl. As a woman you’ve dealt with men who think that everything female on earth was put there for them. And then there’s the abuse. 

In spite of this, when I finished this book, I had the urge to go back to page one. Once I read the ending, I wanted to see how author Alex Michaelides set everything up. The ending was 100% inescapable but also a complete surprise. 

For those of you who don’t know the book, it is the story of a painter, Alicia Berenson. She and her husband, a fashion photographer, live in a big London home in a trendy neighborhood. She has an upcoming show. Then one night her husband comes home and she shoots him five times. No one knows why because she hasn’t spoken a word since the murder. 

This is a story with two timelines. There is the past, leading up to the crime. It is told in Alicia’s voice. She talks about her love for her husband their life. She talks about her childhood and her mother’s death. She talks about being stalked and the fact that no one believes her. She even admits that her husband made her see a friend of his, a therapist, who put her on medication for paranoia. 

The present timeline is told by Theo Faber, her present psychotherapist. He is certain Alicia didn’t shoot her husband but the only way to find out what happened is to get her to speak. To do this, he delves into her past. He talks to her cousin, her brother-in-law, and her gallery owner. Alicia as described by each of these men is a very different person. 

The story bounces between the two narrators and timelines. As the reader, you know someone has to be lying because there are just too many contradictions. You think you know which characters Alicia should trust. 

But as the stories dovetail, you realize Theo isn’t reliable. Really. This part is a huge plot spoiler. You find out that he was the stalker who threatened to kill both Alicia and her husband. He didn’t and wants to know who did. I can’t bring myself to spoil the entire plot. I know I warned you, but I just can’t do it. 

Michaelides wove together two stories. One with a narrator people see as fragile and potentially unreliable. The second with a narrator people see as reliable and trustworthy, maybe a bit unimaginative. As the story progresses, their roles are reversed. 

Read this book to study an ending that is surprising but inevitable. Learn about voice and how to choose your narrator(s). Explore pacing. I might be jealous if I wasn’t trying to piece together exactly how he did it. 

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 (next session begins  August 3, 2020) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins August 3, 2020). 
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The Only Way to Get Rid of the I Can'ts In Your Writing Way

Thursday, July 16, 2020
I accomplished a huge goal this week. I published another author's book, and so I started a new publishing company, Editor-911 Books!

I will tell you that during this process I started to say,

"I CAN'T!"

many times. Okay, I did say it a few times, but the best advice I have for you--when your brain is shouting at you, "You can't do this! What were you thinking?" and then your mouth says it out loud, "I can't"--is your heart knows you can. Listen to your heart.

This adventure started when Fred Olds (an octogenarian who was in a critique group with me for children's writers around 2006-2010 in Champagin, IL) approached me after I returned home from 20Books to 50K, a conference for indie writers. He asked if I thought I could help him publish some of his stories for kids, and we could do a 50/50 split on royalties. My brain shouted, "You can't do this. You don't know anything about this, and you haven't even published your own books yet!"

But as I talked to him some more, I found out that his wife was in a long-term care facility, and he visited her every day. I read some of his stories, which are delightful, and my heart said, "You can do this!"

When I started to design his cover after taking a book cover course that taught me to use Photoshop, I thought: You can't do this. You have no idea what you are doing. But then I looked at the other covers on Amazon for children's books, and I knew I could. There was no reason that I couldn't. My first love has always been children's books, and so I did it. My heart knew I could.

When I wanted to make a print book--man, there's a learning curve!--I said, "I can't," too many times. But then I would listen to the indie podcasts or read some blog posts, and I knew it was just doing one step at a time. I could do it. I wanted to make a print book since this was a kid's book, and I want to sell it on more than just Amazon. I want kids to hold Fred's book in their hands and listen to their parents or older siblings read to them my very favorite story in it, "The Hobbling Hermit."

There's this grumpy old man, the hermit, and he finds a mouse, whom he wants to squash. But the mouse is clever and tells the old man that he is magical and has one wish left to grant him. Through their adventure of trying to figure out a wish that this clever mouse can grant, they become friends. It's got a great ending, and I love that little mouse (note the front and back cover below!).

"I can't" was replaced with "I love" each time, and now Fred's book is on sale. It's already sold 50 copies--including one ebook in Italy! How fun! No idea who bought that, but I love the opportunity indie publishing gives authors these days. There's that word LOVE again.

So next time you feel yourself saying, "I can't," look at what's in your heart, and let your heart win! Keep going, step by step. You can accomplish what you set out to do.

Margo L. Dill can now add publisher to her bio with the start of Editor-911 Books. She would love for you to check out Fred's book, Read-Aloud Stories with Fred, Vol. 1, here  (in print or ecopy) or Anna and the Baking Championship, which is a free historical fiction ebook (will be a print book soon!) that you can get by clicking here. 
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