A Few Left Turns... and I'm in Japan

Thursday, August 13, 2020

I hate sports. I despise ‘em. I have no interest in car races. They bore me to tears. However, I love Hoosiers. I love Million Dollar Baby. I love Seabiscuit. I love Heart Like a Wheel (that is an oldie but a goodie). I love Ford v Ferrari (which I just saw a couple of weeks ago).


The common denominator in all those movies? The underdog. A broken-down coach/girl/horse. A female driver in an all-male arena. A couple of rough-edged racers up against a sleek Italian car company.


And man, do I love the underdog.


In my will-it-be-forever-a-WIP-and-never-a-book-? manuscript, the centerpiece is an underdog. A 12-year-old young man who’s fighting for his life.


Here’s where the left turn comes up.



Image by Pixabay 

In writing this post, I read some articles and posts on underdogs, and I thought about some of the iconic (in my eyes) underdogs. Jim Braddock. The 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. Gandhi. Rocky Balboa. (Okay, I realize that Rocky is a fictional character, but did you know that Sylvester Stallone wrote the script for the original Rocky movie himself--in three and a half days? You may not consider him a stellar thespian--maybe you do--but do you think of Stallone as a writer? A writer who could churn out a movie script in under a week? The movie was the highest-grossing movie of the year, was nominated for 10 Oscars--one of them for writing--and won 3. That is its own little underdog story.)


Then the question came up: Do underdogs always have to win in order for the reader/viewer to be satisfied?


Put your left-turn blinker on again. We're two-thirds through a u-turn.


I watched a short mostly-animated movie on a real-life Japanese race horse (Haru Urara). Certain I would ditch it even before the 18 minutes elapsed, I was surprised. I was riveted until the very end… and it got me thinking.


Writers who do their best, writers who keep writing and submitting--even if they never get a book published… are they still considered winners?


Put your left turn blinker on for the last time. We’re finishing up our u-turn, but we're ending up in a different spot than where we began.


Curious about Haru Urara, I read an article that touched on the Japanese spirit. In Japan, the form/effort/simple beauty of something is more valued than the outcome/cost. A tied game, where each team does their best, is the most perfect conclusion. Neither team is embarrassed or ashamed. Each team is a winner. The author of the article, Richard R. Gross, wrote “At gift-giving time twice a year in Japan, the perfection of the lace pattern on a melon is more prized than even the fruit itself.”


So, this might be a bit early to call it, and it might seem like a version of the sour grapes story… You know, this will never happen (getting my manuscript published), but that’s okay, I feel good because I put up a valiant effort for a long time, but I do wonder.


Here’s the stop sign. Or at least the yield sign.

Maybe it’s okay to ultimately not win the golden prize (a published novel). Maybe I can think of myself as a winner despite the fact that my manuscript might collect dust forever.


We’ll see…


How about you? What makes you feel like a winner? For you, is it reaching the destination… or the journey itself?



 Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school ELA teacher who is going to simultaneously teach in-person and remotely. (Her lessons will be streamed to those students who are learning from home.) Since she will have both a mask and a face shield on, much of her facial "communication" will be obscured. The photo to the right is getting enlarged, and will be glued to a paint stick, so when a student begins to share a writing piece with the words, "I don't think this is any good..." or they insist, "I can't write poetry," I will show what my face is doing under the mask. There is another one--which will be the other side of the sign--with my mouth gaping, so when there is an OMG moment--when a student has written something that is amazing, I'll hold that one up. (And no, probably much to your surprise, my hair does not usually look like this... I thought it would a funnier sign if I took the photo as I flaunted my bed-head hair.)

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Storybook Story

Wednesday, August 12, 2020
It started with a text I received from Oldest Junior Hall.

Well, technically, it started 35 years ago when the kid was born and took over my life. But for the sake of this story, we’ll begin with the text. It read, “We’re expecting a slideshow and/or laser show with interpretive dance.”

See, Oldest Junior Hall is getting married. I believe he was referring to the rehearsal dinner in this text but it so happened that his lovely fiancée was having a bridal shower (through Zoom, of course) and we were asked to prepare something creative for advice, toasts, or whatever. I knew I had to come up with something different because Oldest Junior Hall has certain expectations of his family (see above text).

It had to be funny but heart-warming. Creative but not to the point of possibly wrenching my back. And it also had to be fast because it was the day before the shower and I’d literally not done pea turkey. And then I remembered Sue Bradford Edwards’ post about Adobe Spark!

Sue said it was very intuitive and her book trailer turned out amazing. So for those of you who thought, “Easy for Sue to say,” today I’m sharing my sort of step-by-step experience with trying Adobe Spark to create a slideshow (see above text).

First step was finding all the images. The most challenging part of this process was trying to take a screenshot of a text message. I literally spent over thirty minutes on this one image. Your image-gathering will probably go much more smoothly; I only mention this bit to demonstrate how inept I can be. I’m guessing you’re already smugly saying to yourself, “I’ve got this.” And you would be right.

Anyway, one hour in and I was ready to start the process of creating. I found Adobe Spark, signed up (for the free version!), clicked on “slideshow” and bam! I was at the drawing board.

Now, I’ll admit that I have experience with templates and websites and such but I am by no means a tech wizard (see the screenshot fiasco). But from the get-go, I knew that Sue had accurately described Adobe Spark: this is a VERY easy platform to use. Whew! I watched the one-minute tutorial and off I went to put ideas and images into a slideshow.

Because I knew this couple was all about The Princess Bride (as anyone with any sense would be), I had my rough idea of a simple, short storyline. I started with a title, and then added images, arranging the slides in a basic arc. After I had my slides in order, I went back to add text to each slide. (I chose not to use audio to narrate the story because I knew that would take more time to sync up everything). Keep in mind that I stuck with the basic program throughout the process, no advanced settings, no added frills. Next, I chose a (free) music track, previewed the show a couple times, tweaking the text, and bam!


I had a fun, somewhat creative one minute slideshow in under two hours. So my gratitude to SueB for the tip about Adobe Spark. And for you, dear writers, I strongly encourage you to try one of the many free options to create videos, slideshows, or other social graphics, even if it’s just for fun right now. I know that someday, we’ll return to in-person book signings and appearances, but digital marketing is here to stay. If writing is your business, show the business world that you have current skills.

And honestly, y’all, it’s not inconceivable. If I can do it, so can you.

Disclaimer: Before the shower, I spent another hour fancying up my slideshow (trying different themes and music) so three hours for a minute slideshow that everyone seemed to enjoy. All in all, a pretty happy ending.


~Cathy C. Hall, who would like to thank Oldest Junior Hall and his lady for appearing here today. I'm not sure they actually know they're appearing here and lending a hand, but Oldest Junior Hall owes me (see 35 years ago).


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Interview with Alicia Starr Cook: Runner Up in the Winter 2020 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Alicia is from Melbourne, Australia. She works as an editor and proofreader and has been a contributing writer for video games and comic books. Alicia has studied photography and journalism and currently lives in Portugal.

Make sure you read Alicia's story Lime Cordial and come on back and read her interview.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles


WOW: First of all, congratulations for winning runner up in the flash fiction contest! I noticed in your bio that you are a contributing writer for video games and comic books. How does that type of writing contribute to your fiction?

Alicia: Well, I think any type of writing that I do contributes to my own creative work. The comic books and video games are collaborative, and I find that I learn a lot about technique and style from the other writers that I work with. I like working on the comic books especially because the writing I do for them is mostly dialogue and that has helped me learn more about creating characters with depth. The volumes are quite long too, so being able to work on a story that is continuously evolving and unfolding has shown me ways in which I can expand on my own work- which tends to be quite short.

WOW: I completely agree - any type of writing contributes to creative work! I loved the voice in this piece. It's almost as if this character is writing a letter to a long-lost friend. What was the inspiration behind this story?

Alicia: This story was partially based on a memory from my own childhood. I created the character of the boy and wrote the story as more of a reflection that was written to him, because I often wonder about the people who were in my life at that time and how they coped with what was happening around us, and where they ended up. I thought that approaching the subject of domestic violence in this way would show how the children who are caught up in it are affected, and how it transfers to their adult life. It’s an idea I would like to expand on in future too.

WOW: I really hope you do. It's a powerful piece. What is your rewriting and revising technique after you've written the first draft?

Alicia: After writing a first draft I usually put it away for a week or so and work on something else. Giving myself some space from the piece helps me to be more objective when I come back to revise it. The second draft I either send to a writer friend to look over or I read it out to anyone who’ll listen. After that I do spend a lot of time going over and over the work, sometimes obsessively, but especially for short pieces like this one it’s important to make sure that every word is working how you intend it to. It’s something that I’m still learning how to do.

WOW: I love your process! You have such vivid sensory details in this piece! Can you tell me a bit about your writing process to create such vivid scenes?

Alicia: Thank you! I’m not sure how it fits into my process, but I’m inspired by literature with rich imagery like The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy for instance, and I read a lot of poetry. I think the details of what surrounds the characters in a story add just as much emotion as dialogue- which is probably why I tend to shy away from writing dialogue and focus on the corner of world where the story is taking place instead. And in life, those sensory details that we remember from a situation can come to represent a particular feeling that we experienced at that time, and that’s something I really want to express within my writing.

WOW: Yes! I completely agree. Sensory detail can definitely bring us back to a time in our life! What are you currently working on that you can tell us a bit about?

Alicia: At the moment I’m working on trying to write longer stories, and also shorter pieces. That sounds contradictory I know, but I’m trying to find a happy place in between fiction and the kind of prose that I like to write. Eventually I’ll put some things up on a website/portfolio that I’m working on getting together too. There’ll be some of my photographs on there as well. I’m using the Cargo Collective platform and the site will be called becauseilikeyou. I hope to have it up in a couple of weeks.

WOW: I can't wait! That sounds amazing. So, what surrounds you when you write?

Alicia: When I write I always have a pot of tea or coffee on the desk in front of me, I can’t get through without it and find that I get too distracted if I have to get up to make another cup. My dream would be to have a never ending mug of tea, similar to Norman Lindsay’s Magic Pudding, though hopefully not sentient because I couldn't deal with that morally. Lately I’ve taken to surrounding myself with the notebooks that I write in. This has become part of my process as I write, because I find it helpful to look through ideas that I’ve jotted down in the past. I use the notebooks while I type too, to physically tease out different ways of writing out a thought. It might seem a little chaotic from the outside, but it helps me organise my thoughts and get to the heart of what I’m trying to say. I usually have a book or journal lying around too, for when I need to take a break from my voice for a minute. And I listen to music. It depends on my mood but I’ll listen to everything from Sun Ra to Haruomi Hosono or David Bowie or Dorothy Ashby. I can write for hours when I find the right rhythm, and music certainly helps with that.

WOW: I love that! I can just picture your writing setting. It sounds inspirational. Congratulations again and we can't wait to see what you have next!
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Now That You're Started - Now What?

Sunday, August 09, 2020

I hope you caught my last article titled: Start Where You Are. If not, go ahead and check it out when you have time. Today's article is a stand alone post but relates quite well as a step two if you will to follow Start Where You Are. Once we get started, we need to persevere!

I've looked back on the multitude of author interviews I've done through the years and compiled a list of tips and thoughts shared by some of the most authentic and brave authors when it comes to moving forward with our writing journey. Once you've read these valuable ideas, please feel free to share your own to help encourage others (and yourself - since sometimes when we give advice it helps us better walk the walk and not just talk the talk). 

Thanks for being here!



WOW: Was it difficult to face emotions and truths about your family while writing Replacement Child or did you find it healing? 

JUDY: Both really. It was almost like a magic trick that I would write my memories of certain incidents and would see a new truth emerge. When I had just begun writing and understanding some of my complex feelings toward my father, it was painful when I realized that in some way he resented me for not being his first born daughter. It was definitely a journey to come out the other side of that hurt ...


WOW: The topic of child abuse and/or neglect is often one people take notice of but are afraid to face head on. I hope the community really gets behind this issue. Was it difficult to face emotions and truths about your family while writing Betty’s Child or did you find it healing? 

DONALD:  Some of it was difficult. I proofread chapter 21 only once. That is the chapter where my brother is assaulted. I’ve never read those pages after that. I’ll admit that releasing all of it was cathartic...




WOW: Linda, Thank you for choosing WOW to help promote She’s Not Herself. It has truly been a
pleasure working with you. I have to ask, what prompted you to publish such a personal story?

LINDA: ............. In the end, my hope is that readers who are still suffering will find some degree of hope





 WOW: Eleanor, Just the fact that you were able to move forward in life is remarkable, but then having the resilience and determination to share your story is quite amazing to me. Who or what do you credit as being the most influential in your life when it comes to your positive outlook and your ability to see the positive things instead of dwelling on what you cannot change? Tell us a little bit more about how you came to be where you are in life. 

ELEANOR: Resilience is mysterious! For me, it’s a combination of divine grace and luck of the draw. I’ve always been an optimist. Even when I was in the midst of horrible grief, I somehow knew I’d come through it. My influences are many. First and foremost my parents, especially my father. Both my parents were professional actors and Dad’s motto was “The show must go on.” Even under trying circumstances, my parents expected me to go out and do my best. I saw both my parents do this against tough odds so I picked it up early. I learned to find humor in almost any situation.




Madeline: ... Deciding to publish this memoir was terrifying, though I never considered not publishing it, if I had the opportunity. I was encouraged by my writing instructors and mentors to get my story out to the world. I feel if my book helps just one family get through what my family has been through it will be a success. That motivation is much stronger than my fear of having my raw and painful experience out there for everyone to read. 



All of these amazing authors (and so many more) provide such excellent motivation, ideas, and thoughts for the rest of us. I definitely admire their bravery and feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to interview them. Please take a moment and click the link if you'd like to reach the entire interview with any of them.


Hugs,
~Crystal

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 the occasional unicorn (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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Tips for Protagonists and Antagonists in Your Novel

Saturday, August 08, 2020
If you're a novelist for any age audience, your books will most likely have certain types of characters in them--whether you write YA paranormal romance, middle-grade historical fiction or psychological thrillers. Read about these two common character types below while you think about your work in progress. 

Protagonist: Every story will have one. The protagonist is the main person in your story. He or she (or they) is faced with a conflict that must be solved by the end of the novel (or you have some unsatisfied readers!). The protagonist may not always be 100% likable or completely honest and trustworthy (e.g., an anti-hero); but readers should feel empathy for the protagonist and be able to identify with him or her in some way. 

Tips for Building Your Protagonist:
  • Watch out for stereotypes—it is okay for a protagonist to be smart or not, funny, popular, likable, friendly, pretty—as long as it fits your story. 
  • Give your character a flaw or two, but watch out what you give them. Messy is good, a hoarder—depends on the genre. 
  • Your main character has to have a goal and be someone that your reader can get behind.
  • Your protagonist needs an internal struggle (stage fright, cheating tendencies, low self-esteem, OCD) and an external struggle (fighting a bully, breaking up with someone, destroying an evil spirit, getting the lead in the play).
  • Your protagonist has an overall goal for the book. Ask yourself: What does your character want or hope to achieve? If he or she could achieve anything with no obstacles, what would it be? EXAMPLE: Harry Potter wants to pass his first year of wizarding school & play Quidditch, winning the cup for Gryffindor. 
Of course, we love the protagonists. These are the characters we pretend to be. But then there are those characters we love to hate...

Antagonist: This is the character(s) (or situation) that opposes the protagonist. So basically, the antagonist represents or creates an obstacle, problem, or issue that the protagonist must overcome. The antagonist is NOT always human. Sometimes, it's nature. Sometimes, it's ourselves (addiction, for example). But for the purposes of this post, we are focusing on the human or paranormal bad guy.

Tips for Building Your Antagonist:
  •  Remember, your antagonist’s main reason to be in your novel is to provide an obstacle for your protagonist. EXAMPLE: Dorothy (our protagonist) in The Wizard of Oz wants to get home (goal). The Wicked Witch wants her shoes (the way Dorothy gets home). She provides an obstacle, plus a lot of drama! 
  •  Your antagonist should not be evil for no reason OR should have a redeeming quality. EXAMPLE: Voldemort rewards loyalty, and he is a smart, talented wizard who uses his intelligence for evil. But he had a very bad childhood. (Side note: Watch out for the “ABUSED” reason, as it is a common one, for why someone is evil.)
  • Give your antagonist a back story, so you can understand this person, even if all the background doesn't make it in the novel. 
  • Get to know your antagonist. What is your antagonist’s internal and external struggle? What is your antagonist's goal? Make a special note of any likable traits and his/her weakness (greed, self-love, power-hungry, etc) or anything special that happened in his/her past to make this person the “bad guy.”
It's important to really think about how your antagonist and protagonist work together to tell your story. A good "match" will make a very powerful novel or series. And who knows? Maybe your pair will go down in history with the best of them... Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, Harry Potter and Voldemort, Katniss and President Snow, Dorothy and the Wicked Witch of the West, and insert your characters here.

Margo L. Dill teaches novel writing for WOW! Women On Writing. Sign up for her monthly class at the link above; or if you write for young adults and middle grade readers, consider taking her novel class to write for that age group, which starts in September. Find out more details here. 
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How Magazines are Pivoting During a Pandemic



In mid-March, as we were all discovering just how widespread COVID-19 was, I was in the midst of producing two different lifestyle magazines. One was a startup I’ve talked about before on The Muffin.  

As an editor, I don’t think I had realized just how heavily we relied on local events and movers and shakers in the community until all of our content prospects started to fizzle. How do you produce a “Wine and Dine” section when bars and restaurants are only offering take-out, if they’re open at all? How do you cover a nonprofit benefit when it has to be rescheduled? How do you put together a calendar of events when nothing is happening?

 

For the May issue of one of the magazines, CURRENTS, we did a community-focused issue where the publisher wanted to produce at cost and run ads for the small businesses that support us for free. It seemed like a great idea at the time, except I had no budget to hire any writers. I found myself researching and writing stories of how the community was pulling together and shifting their business models to stay afloat, all while relying on whatever photos I could take myself or that were provided. It was hard, but I kept telling myself that at least I still had a job.

 

For the next issue, we tried to do a theme that we could still sell around, which was “Classic Cars.” Again, we had to get creative with the stories, and the dining section still looked a little different, but we were still maintaining a presence in the community. 

 

For July, we created our annual pet issue, which was a great way to get our minds off the shelter-at-home orders. Who doesn’t love cute photos of animals? It also provided more sales leverage because people were still taking their pets to veterinarians and dog boutiques and grooming services.

 

August is normally our back-to-school issue. Again, that looked a lot different because most of our public schools in the area (North Carolina) are not returning to school in person full-time just yet. Instead, I planned content around what schools were doing, ran a profile of a local tutoring service, a nearby “glamping” resort where people could get away, a teacher who authored a children’s picture book and a nonprofit that provides laptops to families who can’t afford to pay full price for them.

 

As I write this, I’m editing articles for our September issue, which is focused on the arts. The arts in our area have suffered. I’m interviewing the local organizations on how they’ve had to cancel their programming, offer virtual performances and gathering what types of art work have been created by local artists and artisans.

 

Again, I still feel fortunate to have a job. Both magazines are still being produced and I only had one month where I couldn’t pay writers for one magazine and had to fly virtually solo. Writers have been grateful for the work, and I feel like we’ve all become stronger and more creative individuals during this crazy time.

 

How have you had to pivot your career or writing during the pandemic? Have you been inspired to write about the process?


Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and magazine editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas.

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Friday Speak Out!: Not a Nice Little Hobby

Friday, August 07, 2020
by Jeaninne Escallier Kato

I recently sent my memoir manuscript, “B.J.’s Promise,” to a childhood friend. After weeks of waiting for her critique, she called me to say, “I could actually see and feel your relationship with B.J., the dog I remember changing your life. Your writing is such a nice little hobby.” I was so taken aback by her response, nice little hobby, I had no response. This is from a woman who bought my children’s book, Manuel’s Murals, for her grandchildren, who cheered for me when I won a flash fiction contest, and who has followed my writing path with other publications since we were young adults.

Other friends suggested she was jealous of my talent, or didn’t want to give it the credit it’s due for whatever reasons; but for me, it was symbolic of a bigger picture. This particular friend didn’t mean any harm, she probably didn’t even realize the impact of her words. Not being a writer herself, how could she know what words mean to me? Which brings me to the existential question of why I write, why any of us write. I have thought long and hard about this; I feel deeply compelled to share my thoughts here in this newsletter with other writers.

I know why the word ‘hobby’ stung so deeply. My writing is an extension of who I am, it is an account of my existence on this planet. I don’t consider the people and experiences of my life as hobbies, as if they are ancillary to the meaning of my life or a way to pass the time in between what matters. My writing is a way to encapsulate all the experiences, in one form or another, with the people, pets, places I have loved, known and encountered because that is everything to me. It is my way to rejoice every aspect my life, for good or bad.

Dancers dance, painters paint, actors act. They do it because it is what they were born to do. They do it because parts of them would die if they didn’t. Isn’t that why we write? Our stories may not be exactly as we have lived them, but when we create new stories, we are exercising the needs and drives of every electrical current in our brains. We are honoring how we are wired. We are honoring who we are.

My writing isn’t just for me. I write to inspire, to educate, to support, to soothe, and yes, to even challenge my reader. Any movie that has ever impacted my life came from a writer. Any book that affected me as a child sparked the course of my life. My best works have been written to enlighten the reader to new cultures, hopefully, to minimize prejudice and racial divide in these divisive times.

Having said all that, I need to give myself permission to say, “No, writing isn’t a fun little hobby; it is what I was born to do.” Don’t you agree?

* * * 
Jeaninne Escallier Kato is a retired educator who finds her writing muse in the Mexican culture. She is the author of the noted children's book, Manuel's Murals http://manuelsmurals-blog.tumblr.com. Jeaninne is a WOW flash fiction 2017 winner for her story, "A Desert Rose." She is published in two Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, has stories in several online literary magazines, and her essay, "Swimming Lessons" is featured in the coffee table anthology, Gifts From Our Grandmothers. Jeaninne is in the process of publishing her memoir, B.J.'s Promise.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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Take the Opportunity to Use Video to Promote Your Work

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Last week, I read a Publisher's Weekly article about the poem “And the People Stayed Home” by Kitty O’Meara. O’Meara wrote about how staying home because of COVID is an opportunity to slow the world down. When a friend asked to post it on Facebook, the poem went viral. This November, it will come out as a picture book from Tra Publishing. 

It isn't surprising that this article has me thinking about opportunities. The article is about a picture book that focuses on opportunities. The same article talks about a writer who took the opportunity to share a poem and then recognized a new opportunity for it to become a picture book. 

With this in mind, I read a blog post about book trailers and immediately started thinking about the variety of videos I could make. 

For The Assassination of John F. Kennedy and The Murders of Tupac and Biggie, I could focus on the crimes themselves with a true crime-style story. Or I could discuss live television and how various television stations, including Channel 11 Lubbock where my father worked, covered the assassination. 

I could interview my son about the geology class he took as a preschooler. They got to make fossil casts, hunt for fossils, and clean fossils before taking several home. That’s how we came to have a cluster of fossilized mollusks the size of a dinner plate. That would be a great introduction for The Evolution of Reptiles and The Evolution of Mammals

If not that, I could record an evolutionary trivia challenge. Which animal is most closely related to the hippo? A whale, a rhino or a manatee? 

Instead of focusing on my books for my first video, I decided to create a trailer for one of my WOW classes. I teach both "Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults" and "Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults." I decided to start with the writing class. What do you include for a class trailer? I started with the title of the class, who should take the class, why they should take it, what they will study, and a bit about me. 

I did this on Adobe Spark. There were many things to love about this program. Not only was it free but it was fairly intuitive. You can also use it to make slide shows, Instagram stories, web pages, and a variety of graphics. So far my experience is limited to videos. 

The worst part was the microphone feature. You have to hold down the microphone graphic button. Easy peasy? Not when you are using a touch pad. Tap. Tap. TAP. “I know how to hold down a bleeping button. Of course it recorded that.” Next time I will make sure I have a mouse handy. 

I’m not going to claim perfection but I think this turned out pretty well for a first effort. 



How could you use a video to promote yourself and your work? Try to think outside the box. 

--SueBE


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 25 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins September 7, 2020) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins September 7, 2020). 
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A Letter To Myself As A Younger Writer

Wednesday, August 05, 2020
Dear Younger Writer,

When you decided you wanted to become a writer at the tender age of seven, you being a little black girl growing up in a low income housing development where dreams often got deferred, overheard the whispered voices of a few saying, "That girl dreamin' dreams that don't have a chance in coming true." 

Although you were shy, although people often told you to speak up, speak louder, or to stop staring at your shoes when they were speaking with you, there was something that reared up inside of you because of their doubt, what I now know to be, your unrelenting conviction, this audacity to believe in your dream of being a writer no matter what. 

You dipped yourself in this self assurance as if it was delicious rich dark chocolate every morning. At nightfall, after your writing was done and you tucked your notebook full of stories under your pillow or hid your loose pile of typed pages in your dresser drawer in the bedroom you shared with your sister, you closed your eyes, contented. 

You, younger writer, knew even at that young age that the sound of a pen gliding across a blank page or the pecking of your fingers on the keys of a typewriter or keyboard would be cathartic and I would find that out one day too. It is why you wrote for hours on end on the weekend when school was out or summer break. You only came up for air when you needed sustenance. You carried your notebooks around like they were an appendage of your body. 

You, younger writer, showed me the importance of seeking solitude, how to grow quiet to gather my thoughts and stow myself away from distractions in order to write. Although our mother was concerned about you choosing to write instead of going outside to socialize with your friends, she in time understood you. She realized she was not an accessory to you becoming an introvert, instead she was allowing you to be the creative being you were in the space you were most secure and at ease in. 

Fast forward to your teenage years...teenage rebellion took a hiatus because you were too preoccupied with telling stories. Your voice grew in boldness and you had to have your say about everything from pop culture, boys, friendships, fashion, and what was wrong in the world.  

When you became a young adult, you were ready for others to read your words, your voice more sharpened but still in pursuit of its own pulse. You started testing the waters and sending work out to magazines. You got rejection after rejection but you never gave up. Your perseverance paid off. You became a published writer. You celebrated, that and every publication afterwards no matter how small or far between. You taught me to do the same through all the seasons of my life.  

Thank-you younger writer for helping me remember that other people's opinions are just that, their opinions, and they should never derail your dreams.Thank you for reminding me about the younger self I once was so many years ago, who wrote not because she wanted to be successful, which of course is what most writers hope for, but wrote because she was passionate about her craft and that passion reverberated in every part of her being. 

                                                                                                    Signed and sealed with love,
                                                                                                                         Jeanine

What would you say in a letter to the younger writer you once were? 
                                                                                                     
Jeanine DeHoney's writing has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and blogs. Her stories are always "full" of the voices of the women who loved and nurtured her.




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Be Your Own Cheerleader

Monday, August 03, 2020

It's pretty common to hear a writer say that they are their own worst critic. I can completely understand that sentiment. It's hard to write, read, and critique our own writing without developing a level of judgment and cynicism of our own work. Especially when we don't think we're at our best.

Lately, I have been particularly stressed and it's made me put writing to the side a little bit. As I look at my submission spreadsheet, I realized that I rarely submitted my work this summer. Not to mention, it's gotten to be a habit to delete emails notifying of me of the latest competitions I can enter. 

But after a very difficult week last week, I coached myself into reading some of those emails rather than deleting them. I even found a few contests to enter, despite a gnawing feeling that my work wasn't ready yet. 

In times like these, I think we all need to be our own cheerleaders. We need to coach ourselves forward and nudge ourselves to keep trying. Avoid looking at your writing too harshly. Now more than ever, I think kindness, grace, and care needs to be taken with others as well as within ourselves. 

Today, I encourage you to be your own cheerleader. Try your best. Try to write a little bit today. Encourage yourself to submit something that's been collecting digital dust for weeks. Best of all, try to encourage a fellow writer. I think as we encourage each other, we tend to take that encouragement seriously within our own hearts. 

If you are in the revising process, try not to read your work with a harsh, critical eye. Instead, see your writing as a piece of pottery you are still trying to form into a vase. If you get rejected, instead of thinking your writing wasn't good enough, consider that maybe it wasn't a good fit for them instead. 

Now that we have jumped the hurdle of the mid-year mark, I think most - if not all - of us are shocked this year has gone the way it did. So, let's cheer each other on and keep going, one step at a time.

Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. In the midst of writing short stories, she's also working on her unemployment blog, LadyUnemployed.com. Say hi to her on Twitter @BeingTheWriter.
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There Will Be Blood

Sunday, August 02, 2020
Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there lived a writer named Sioux. She spent hundreds of hours carefully crafting a story… the lyrical lines… the sensory images. Sioux was in love with her picture book manuscript, all 2,782 words of it--

Screee! What? Your picture book is almost 3,000 words long? That’s sooo long, the kid will go to sleep in the middle of it, and when the story is finished being read aloud, the kid will have graduated from high school. Good grief! That is much too lengthy for a picture book.

image by Pixabay

The above fairy tale is totally true. I’ve had a picture book manuscript gathering dust for at least 15 years. I was in love with it. There’s a long, not-happily-ever-after story about it involving a small publisher who is now on the “writer beware” list. Suffice it to say: I was elated, I was then crestfallen, so I put aside the project for what I thought was forever.

Fast-forward to July of 2020. I got a nudge from Margo Dill. “You’ve purchased a picture book editorial package a while ago. Remember? I’m booked through the end of this month, but would you be interested in sending me a manuscript at the beginning of August?”

Me: Sure. I have a picture book that’s 2,700 words long. (I shaved off the other 82 words… kind of like how I ignore the weight on my driver’s license, that’s about 20 years old and a ton too little.)

Margo: Usually picture books are 1,000 words or less. (Translation: That is going to be a hot mess for me to critique. I’ll have to go in with a flame-thrower and set the thing ablaze if there’s any hope of getting rid of that many words.)

I felt Margo’s shudder even through her email. I smelled the sweat circles start to form in her armpits. So I reexamined my story… and I started cutting.

Here’s how I pared it down from 2,700+ to 1,009 (and I’m not quite finished):

1. Using contractions in some spots. “I would” became “I’d” when it fit with the tone and the rhythm of the piece. Of course, this is the opposite of what I’ve done during some NaNoWriMos. There was one November where I didn’t use a single contraction because when a writer is working on amassing 50,000 words, every single word counts.“I will” is two words. “I’ll” is only one.

2. Condensing time. My story takes place over 9 months. In the earlier draft, I impressed myself over how I included sensory details about each season. I patted myself on the back each time I read it--with each seasonal scene, I had created a rich world for my main character. Unfortunately, when major cutting and slashing has to be done, time has to be shrunk. Spring and summer were now covered in the same paragraph. Fall segued into winter in a sentence or two, instead of a couple of paragraphs on each one. After all, there isn’t much difference between spring and summer, and snow is the big difference between fall and winter. Condense and combine!

3. Show not tell. Forget the gorgeously-written descriptions. Show through a few, tightly-written phrases. After all, the illustrations (hopefully) will fill in some of the story details.

In short, drastically cutting a piece involves blood. You have to go in ruthlessly, with a sword machete, and do major slashing. Does my story still have moving moments... or is it now a disjointed mess? Did I do a passable job of keeping the storyline intact?

And most importantly--will Margo be able to come in on a white horse and save my manuscript?

(Like with all fairy tales, to find out how it ends, you'll have to wait until we get to the last page of the story... so this story will be continued later. If you'd like to read about some more suggestions on how to slice and slash your work, check out this article.)

Sioux is hoping there will be a happily-ever-after with her picture book manuscript. (Her middle grade novel? That's a longer tale, frought with more obstacles.) If you'd like to read more of Sioux's stuff, check out her blog.
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Start Where You Are

Saturday, August 01, 2020
How many times have you thought to yourself, "I should have started writing about this when it started; why didn't I?"

Maybe it's just me - but I haven't been as diligent with my writing as I should be. I haven't been as diligent about anything as I should be. I'm a hot mess of missed articles, a messy desk, and a scattered brain. This global pandemic has me treading water on what feels like a sinking ship and it's not even a nice old fashioned type Titanic ship with fancy glasses - it's more like Gilligan's Island and I just want someone to rescue us and here I am wearing red high heels on the beach. As a side note to my side note, here's what not to say when someone uses the sinking ship analogy: "everyone is in the same boat". My husband mentioned that the other day and I reminded him if we are ALL in the same boat, there won't be enough life jackets so I was in NO way comforted by his well meaning sentiment. 

See? Like that...off I go...

squirrel


Let's get back on track.

This pandemic began back in March here in Wisconsin. I've jotted down a few journal entries here and there, made a few blog posts, posted a couple pictures and notes on my social media, and I keep thinking I should be writing a detailed account of our experience. It would be therapeutic to me and priceless to my children and future generations someday.

But...

But...

I don't remember all the details from the beginning. I can't start in the middle.

Or can I?

The truth is, I can start right where I am. Mark Twain said:

"The Secret to Getting Ahead is Getting Started."

It's not often a book starts with birth and ends with death. Does any story ever really start from the beginning? Is birth the beginning or is conception? Chicken? Egg? Truth is, it doesn't matter.

I could easily summarize the first few months and move forward with my writing. I wouldn't even need to write or journal every day, a simple photograph here or there will help tie the story together or help with a future memory. I could use my introduction as a way to pull things together "from the beginning". Even if I get distracted, something is better than nothing. Mari McCarthy of Create Write Now  talks about journaling for your health and well-being and right now, more than ever, there are many of us feeling very unusual (to say the least). Even if you have not been diligent with your writing or journaling, start right where you are and use your time and talents to help you feel more in control during these uncertain times.

Setting small attainable goals has always been very helpful for me - my goal is starting today (August 1st) I am going to spend time with my journal. I'm starting right where I am and I am going to keep track of life and my thoughts for the month of August. Once we get to the end of August I can reassess that goal and either adjust it or make a new one, but I'm starting.

How about you?

Have you been writing? Why or why not?
What is your long term goal with your writing or journaling?
Has writing/journaling been therapeutic?

We definitely want to hear from you, so leave a comment and share your thoughts and ideas with our readers and writers!

Hugs,

~Crystal

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 the occasional unicorn (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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