3 Reasons Character Motivation Matters

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Recently I read a Tweet from an agent. “Make your character’s motivations come through loud and clear in your query.” It seems that too many authors query, stating the character’s goal, but not the motivations behind the goal. 

Without motivations being stated loud and clear in the query, the answer was consistently “good luck placing this elsewhere.” Why is motivation such a big deal? 

Motivation Makes the Goal Matter 

Think about a book that pulled you in and wouldn’t let you go. Character goals vary from attempting to win the Triwizard Cup to trying to win a beauty pageant. Without motivation, you hear a character’s goals and think what is that and who cares? Motivation is what makes a goal meaningful. 

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry has been set up and has no choice but to compete. Failure could mean death to himself or his friends. Finding out who set him up alone is a powerful motivation. Add a struggle to survive and his goal is even more compelling. 

In Dumplin, Willodeen may be chubby but she’s comfortable with who she is until she starts dating a handsome private school boy. She can’t believe he loves her for who she is and her self-esteem plummets. She decides the best way to bolster her flagging confidence is to enter the pageant. 

Life or death. A girl struggling to rediscover her self-esteem. Motivations like these make readers care. 

Motivation Provides a Bridge to Believability 

Motivation is also what makes your characters believable. Me? I’ve never battled for to be a Triwizard winner and getting me on stage would take a miracle. These just aren’t goals I can identify with. But struggle? Most of us have battled, even if it wasn’t life-or-death, to meet a particular goal so we understand struggle. And at some point in our lives, we’ve lost faith in ourselves and our own abilities. We get wanting to find self-worth. I get that. I get wanting to believe in yourself. 

Your reader’s life may be completely different from your character’s life and that can make it hard to build reader interest. Fortunately, the right motivation can provide the bridge your reader needs to enter your character’s world. You do this by utilizing motivations and emotions with which your reader is familiar. 

Motivations Make Your Character Complex 

Last but not least, motivations are another way to create a complex character. All you have to do is set up conflicting goals. How do you do this? Give your character a goal that is in conflict with a core value. A character who values law and order has to break the rules to achieve their goal. A character who values her independence above all else has to work with others to achieve her goal. A character who values might has to turn to cunning. 

Motivations are essential when attempting to create believable characters, accessible stories and complex worlds that readers are eager to explore.  

And? Don’t forget to express these motivations clearly in your query letter. 


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 November 2, 2020) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins November 2, 2020). 

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Meet Nikki Blake - runner up in the WOW! Quarter 3 2020 Essay Contest with a moving story titled "Ghost Hunting in Diablo Valley"

Saturday, October 17, 2020
Congratulations to Nikki Blake and Ghost Hunting in Diablo Valley and all the winners of our 2020 Quarter 3 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!

Nikki's Bio:

Nikki Blake enjoys writing all sizes and genres of fiction and creative nonfiction from her home in the SF bay area, CA. She shares her office with a gray tabby named Tedz, and a flatulent dog named Pluto. She has been an avid reader and writer since childhood. Her favorite part of writing is creating characters and then tagging along on their adventures. Nikki has written and illustrated a children’s book, is currently working on a YA novel, and hopes to publish some of the short stories she has written. When she is not writing, she enjoys drawing, painting, gardening and artisan bread baking.

If you haven't done so already, check out Nikki's moving story Ghost Hunting in Diablo Valley and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW: Congratulations Nikki! Thank you for writing this essay - I'm sure readers will enjoy Ghost Hunting in Diablo Valley. Let's get right down to the nitty gritty. What role has journaling and/or writer's groups played in your writing life?
NIKKI:  I have spent most of my life writing in stops and starts, never really finishing projects. It was not until I discovered an online writing group about a year and half ago that I was able to receive the support and feedback I needed to actually finish projects and submit them for publication. Since then I've written over 20 short stories, and started a YA novel. I would never have gotten anywhere without my writing group! 

WOW: That's great incentive for others to join a group. Do you often enter contests or is this a first? What would you like to tell other authors concerning contests and submitting their work?

NIKKI: I do enter contests often as I enjoy writing to prompts and deadlines. At first, I was discouraged when I would not place (or win). I thought this meant that I was just not a very good writer, but then I realized that I was still able to create a story or an essay that I would not have created otherwise, and that writing is a process. I could then revise, polish, and submit my work somewhere else, which is exactly what I did for this essay. 

WOW: We sure are thankful you entered our contest and you hit the nail on the head - writing most certainly is a process. I think it's important for people to hear that.

 Do you have other published pieces (long or short) or books?

NIKKI: This is the very first thing I have ever had published! So exciting! 

WOW:  I'm glad we could be one of your firsts and thank you for writing this essay - what is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from Ghost Hunting in Diablo Valley

NIKKI:  I think we all have past versions of ourselves that can sometimes hold us back from believing in ourselves. I re-wrote this essay a few times, and I struggled with the last sentence and how to end it. What was I really getting out of this talk I was having with my past selves? I finally settled on the word "try" because really, that is all any us of can do. I made a promise to myself that even if I never got anywhere with my writing, it would not be for lack of trying. 

WOW: What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for 2020 and beyond? 

NIKKI:  I plan to continue to write short stories and essays, to send more items out for publication and to finish a rough draft of my YA novel that I started this year. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing your time, talent, and insights! We sure look forward to reading more from you!!!

Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

Check out the latest Contests:
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Creating When You Can't Focus

I don't know what to blame lately. COVID? The election? My ever changing, ever elusive writing goals? Whatever the reason is, I can't seem to focus too well lately. At least, not on creative stuff. So, what's a writer to do? Today, I thought I'd put together a few suggestions on what to do if you have a hard time focusing on your creative project lately.

1) Make bite-sized goals or tasks.

If you are trying to get yourself back on track with writing, set mini tasks for yourself. Things like: do a 20 minute writing session three times a week, outline a particular project, or write at least 100 words at the end of your work day. Whatever your desire is, whether it's to finish a book or complete a short story or memoir, set mini goals. For me, my personal mini goal is to get out my spiral bound notebook and finish a story I had started. I'm convinced handwriting it will help me.

2) Cut back on social media.

Isn't social media irresistable? In the worst way possible, social media can rope me into a spiral downward these days. It's also really hard to let go once I start. So, I've committed to limit my social media intake. If you can, at least remove the apps from your phone. I think that helps me the best. It's good to stay informed, reach out to your community, and boost your audience platform, but there comes a point when it's doing more harm than good.

3) Write out your distractions.

Sometimes if I can't get out of my own mindset, journaling the stuff distracting me is so helpful. Sometimes getting it out of my head is like a reset button. So, if you are distracted or unable to focus on something creative, write about what IS occupying your mind. You'll relieve stress and get some words in for the day.

With any luck, these ideas will help you. In all honesty, it's quite possible will all just need to ride the wave of 2020 and just do what we can, however we can. But maybe we can get ourselves back on track. 

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What Happens When Your Child Is Old Enough to Read Your Book?

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

I'm not going to lie--when my daughter (soon to be 10) said she wanted to take my middle-grade historical fiction novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, to read for her independent reading selection at school, I was, well, terrified. You know how writers joke that our parents are always telling us how wonderful our writing is and how we shouldn't use them as a judge for how our writing will be perceived by the rest of the world? The opposite is true for our children. They can be very harsh critics. When my daughter doesn't like something, she's not quiet about it.

So the first message I received from her (through a shared Google doc we use to communicate while she's at virtual school) was (spoiler alert): "Why did you make Ma die? I am so mad at you!"

And I thought, Hey, she really is reading this book of mine, and she is at least invested enought that she cares about the characters.I told her (and all my Facebook friends) that Ma had to die for the story to work, but my daughter still wasn't buying it. 

Then she was quiet about the book for a couple weeks, and I thought, Well, she lost interest. It happens. She's used to the excitement of Harry Potter and Dork Diaries. But then yesterday, she started messaging me again: "Does Albert like Anna? Is there a book two? You better get busy writing book two next! I'll proofread."

All right, all right, I will confess to you, my writing friends, that these messages from my daughter did make me tear up. I mean, I think my writing life is now complete--even if I have no more success.

My daughter likes my book!

My daughter said that she would like to dress up as Anna (my main character) for Halloween and also Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. She can be both. (Is there even trick or treating during a pandemic?)

Take that, J.K Rowling. 

My daughter then went on to tell me that no one has made a YouTube video about my book--she was sorry to say. Oh, trust me, I was laughing--it's so funny that she would even think to go on YouTube and look for Finding My Place, thinking that surely someone would have made a YouTube video about it. She knows there are a lot of fan fic videos about the Harry Potter series, so why not Finding My Place? When I told her I had 25 reviews on Amazon and 4.5 stars, she was amazed. 

This week, I suppose, my daughter discovered that I really am a writer, and other people (although not a ton) really do read my books. And wow, other kids might like them. 

(I told her to tell all her friends.) 

And I'm now getting started on a third book in the series (Anna and the Baking Championship is a prequel that I put out this summer) which my daughter has already decided there should be a dance in the middle of the book, even if they are still at war, because then Albert can ask Anna to dance. 

I hope that if you have children, you get to experience this feeling some day. I swear that 2020 has been a year full of a lot of bad stuff, but this--this week was amazing. 

Happy writing! 

Margo L. Dill is a writer and editor, living in St. Louis, MO, with her 10-year-old daughter and 1.5-year-old dog. She also teaches classes for WOW! Women On Writing, including a monthly novel writing course which offers critique. Check it out here. You can find out more about Margo and her books on her website. 

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Twelve Simple And Inspiring Writing Tasks To Do When You Don't Feel Like Writing

As writers we write. We stay the course even in the midst of a pandemic by sitting down at our computers or with our laptops with a mental or sometimes real sign on our office (or bedroom) door that says, "Do Not Disturb- Writer At Work." 

But there are those days, when I for one, just want to hold a warm cup of chamomile tea in the palms of my hands and thumb through some old magazines and not think about revising, or querying, or finishing a story to submit to that new literary magazine or anthology with the deadline quickly approaching. And lately, not frequently, but every now and then, I throw out all of the "I must get this writing project done now!" and say, "I need a break."  

And maybe you do too. Maybe you too have to give yourself permission to be not so knee deep in a writing project for a few days. Maybe you need to tell yourself to slow down, not speed up...just until you shake off some things like stress and anxiety...or as much of it as possible. You won't lose your writer's credentials if you do, and you'll also gain a multitude of restorative benefits. 

We writers have this finely honed ability for life. It will always rebound back to us even if we take a short sojourn away from it. But if the thought of not writing for a day sends shivers through your body and you must write, something, anything, here are twelve simple and inspiring writing tasks you can do:

1. Write a letter. Letters have become a lost art with the ease of social media and texting but I hope the art of letter writing is soon revived. Buy some beautiful stationary and pen a letter to a loved one to share a loving or humorous memory or to show how much they are appreciated. If you want to be fancy place a wax seal  on your envelope. And here's a bit of information you may already know, Jane Austen's epistolary novel, "Lady Susan," was written as letters exchanged among her title protagonist Lady Susan Vernon, her family, friends, and enemies.  

2. Have you been cooking more since the pandemic? What has been your favorite quarantine recipes? What have been food fails and "clean their plate of even the crumbs or sauce" hits with your family? Write down those recipes and the stories and lessons and bonding that came about because of them. Who knows, you may want to publish them in a magazine or write your own cookbook.

3. Write a short biography of an elder in your family and the era they grew up in. This is a great history lesson to share with children and teens.

4. Write one positive or motivational mantra for each day of the week, and yes, it can pertain to writing. 

5. Write a realistic day in your life comic strip. Don't worry about being a great illustrator, stick figures are allowed. 

6. Write an acronym for your name.

7. Write your name on a check for a charity, essential workers, an organization that assists poor or disenfranchised communities, or any cause that is dear to your heart and changes lives for the better. No amount is too small, every penny counts. 

8. Describe a DIY you completed and write down step by step instructions you can later submit to a magazine. DIY projects have skyrocketed since the pandemic and people have been stuck at home. The fact that you refurbished an old desk to look like a piece of art can inspire others to tackle a craft or home improvement project. 

9. Write down your vision for yourself as a writer. Where do you see yourself in the next six months? What writing goals do you want to accomplish? 

10. Write greeting card verses. Who doesn't love receiving a greeting card with a thoughtful or humorous verse. Have you ever thought you could have written that? Well you can. Even if you only write them for friends and family. If you have a knack for it, you can send those verses, poems, and phrases, to greeting card companies in the hopes they'll publish and pay you for your sentiments. 

11. We all need a superheroine these days when we don't feel as if we have the emotional and physical energy to be one ourselves. Create a fictional superheroine, maybe one that saves the world from Coronavirus. This heroine might even plant the seeds for your next sci-fi novel.

12. Write lists. Write a list of fun trivia questions and see if your friends and family can come up with the answers on Zoom. Have an adult version and a children's version. Write the best list of all, a list of the things you're grateful for during these testing and unusual times, because there are still many things, and sometimes you have to take a break and pause to remember them.


Jeanine DeHoney's writing has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and blogs. She was recently interviewed by author Kathryn Schleich for her author's blog, and will have an essay published in the upcoming Winter Issue of "Please See Me," an online literary journal.  

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Interview with Heather Siegel, author of The King and the Quirky

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

About the Book:

Thirty-four-year old Heather Siegel is eccentric, artsy, and independent, and she doesn't believe in romantic fairy-tales. At least not until she meets her opposite in Jon, a man of science, logic, and kingly ego. She not only falls for the idea of love and "soulmates," she goes one step further. Going against the advice of three waves of feminism, she moves to the suburbs of Long Island and invests wholeheartedly in marriage and motherhood. Naturally, it doesn’t take long before she finds herself lost and adrift. To regain a shred of her old self, she embarks upon a series of quirky and painfully humorous entrepreneurial and health adventures.

Can you be a stay-at-home mother and still be a feminist? Does the word soulmate have more than one meaning? Should we believe in the “true love” narrative? What is the goal of marriage and raising children, anyway? These are questions posed within this high drama of the mundane, in which (spoiler alert) no murder happens, no affair unfolds, and no death, illness, or trauma is suffered. What does unspool is an entertaining arc of transformation, a light introspective about a marriage of opposites, and boatloads of honesty. The King and The Quirky is sure to get you thinking about your own relationships and it will remind you that perhaps your most important relationship is the one you have with yourself.

About the Author:

Heather Siegel is the author of the award-winning, coming-of-age memoir, OUT FROM THE UNDERWORLD (Finalist in Foreword Review's 2016 INDIES Book of Year Award) and THE KING & THE QUIRKY: A Memoir of Love, Marriage, Domesticity, Feminism, and Self (Next Generation Indie Book Award Winner, Women's Issues, 2020; Readers' Favorite Book Award Winner, Women's Nonfiction, 2020).

Her creative nonfiction has appeared in Salon.com, The Flexible Persona, and Entrophy Magazine. She holds an MFA from The New School University, and lives on Long Island where she teaches academic and creative writing for local colleges and continuing education programs. More about her can be found @www.heathersiegel.net

----------Interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on the publication and success of your memoir. You did a fantastic job, and I think many of our readers can relate to your story. What made you decide to dive into this project? 

Heather: Thank you so much-- and I appreciate the question. It’s one I asked myself while writing, and again after the book was released… and the answer is that I honestly didn’t decide to dive and write this book. 

The writing of this really began with a series of questions that knocked around in my head—issues that irked me as I lived through these events, and also surfaced as themes of discussion amongst my friends, many of whom had experienced similar love trajectories. We would reveal our struggles with marriage and domestic life— what I call the high drama of the mundane—over coffee, wine, and walks. I guess the difference is I went home and wrote about it. 

WOW: Part of your story is about how you fell for the idea of love and "soulmates," and you question whether we should believe in the "true love" narrative (particularly with a marriage of opposites). At one point, you described how the things that you and your husband had fallen in love with about each other might end up being your relationship’s undoing. Perhaps that’s true of all relationships in some way—that what seemed so great in the beginning can be less than great later on? 

Heather: I definitely think this can be true of all relationships. And I think it may even tie into how my definition of soulmates evolved for me as time went on. I mean, do people really complete us? Or is every relationship a vehicle to work on our own shortcomings and complete ourselves? 

Examining this in my own relationship—as well as how my definition of soulmates—and the love narrative—evolved over the ten-year span of this story, has helped me think about the give and take of all my relationships. 

WOW: Another issue you explore is whether you can be a stay-at-home mother and still be a feminist. I related to a lot of your experiences of early motherhood and your thoughts about this topic. What would you say to someone struggling with the challenges of raising a family and staying true to oneself? 

Heather: I don’t know that I am the right person to be giving advice to anyone on their personal path. But if I were talking to my younger self? 

The first thing I would say is to be kind to yourself. And prioritize self-care. We need gas in our tanks, so siphon whatever me time you can and do what makes you feel good — whether it’s napping, taking a bath, going for a walk, reading crime thrillers, whatever it is. 

Second, I think I’d tell my younger self to connect sooner than later with like-minded people going through similar situations—for me that meant finding people who found humor in the struggle. 

Third—and this is something I actually do mention in the book I wish someone HAD told me-- I would say, keep a lifeline to your former self, whether it’s to your career, hobby, or passions. Maybe you will need to put this on the back-burner for a while, but keep that pot on simmer! Self-invention can be challenging the second go around. 

Last, I’d tell my younger self to read about financial feminism. It’s difficult to admit when you’ve thrown your finances into a collective account, and have agreed to let your spouse handle the checkbook and earnings, but there is an autonomy and self-reliance in earning money. And unfortunately, in a domestic partnership that can sometimes translate to power. I’m not talking about tyrannical power—I’m talking tone and subtleties. I’m talking respect. 

It’s no accident that over centuries the patriarchy fought the matriarchy for so long, trying to deny us the right to work, own property, and eventually earn equal wages. 

In my relationship, unfortunately I took for granted all the waves of feminism, and all the players who fought for us, and being a self-made small business owner who didn’t get married until her mid-thirties, and who was marrying a liberal, pro-feminist, I didn’t think my not earning for a bit would create any imbalances of power. But as you know, since you’ve read my story, I was wrong. 

So basically what I am saying is I plan to tell my own daughter that whatever it is-- I don’t care if its 100 dollars or 100K—it’s not a bad idea to have access to some finances that are separate from the household’s. 

WOW: Well said! In the book, you provide such wonderful detail about the phases of your relationship with your husband and the events of your life. Did you keep a diary or were you able to rely on your memories when writing the book? Or perhaps you just started writing and the recollections flowed? 

Heather: I did scribble here and there on my computer or in a notepad over the ten-year period during which this story takes place. Many of these—as you know from the book—were “Dear Universe” letters. Others were “Dear Jon” letters, usually written in the aftermath of an argument. (Luckily I spared my spouse at least some of these). 

I also kept a running list of Jon-isms, funny or unique things my spouse would say—which, as I think about it now, really began shaping his “character” in my mind. 

And I suppose at heart, I have always been a storyteller—perhaps it’s the middle child-attention seeker in me, or perhaps the closet performer. And when I would stumble upon one that really tickled me, I would “test” it out during those conversations with friends. Similar to when you share your dreams, this oral telling solidified several stories and made them easily accessible. 

WOW: One of the reasons your memoir is so compelling is your honesty and “realness” about your experience. Do you ever find it difficult to reveal your truths? How did the people in your life react to the book? 

Heather: You know, I do and I don’t find it hard to reveal my truths. A blessing of middle age is that I am less inhibited by things that used to embarrass me— say, my skin issues. I also understand as a memoirist that coming clean about my ambivalence, imperfections, and less than stellar thoughts and reactions is part of the pact I’ve made with the reader that says, “Here’s my story. I hope it resonates for you and gets you thinking about your story.” In some ways, this is like a friendship covenant: And you can’t b.s. your real friends if you want to have a meaningful relationship. 

But I will also say that not every truth needs to be revealed, which is why I ended up, during the editing phase, omitting a few anecdotes. I knew they would get laughs, but I also knew that my kid had started growing up. And I had to ask myself if she would really want to one day read about-- hypothetically speaking here-- her mother sexually fantasizing about Gordon Ramsey? (Probably not, I hypothetically may have decided). 

I also found, during the 20th pass through the manuscript, I didn’t want to read about certain things— like elongated marital spats— which is usually my barometer that probably no one else would either. 

In the end, I think the edits I made tightened the manuscript and helped clarify my intentions: that it wasn’t my spouse who was the villain so much as the crucible of marriage and the double-edged sword of domestic life. 

Apparently, I did okay, because my mother-in-law called me to tell me she loved the book. And I heard the same from my step kids, both of whom told me the book was a page-turner, which I found interesting considering that they know much of this material. 

WOW:  I enjoyed the quotes from married people that were included throughout the book. Can you share a few that you really like? 

Heather: Yes, I’d love to. These were so much fun to collect, and so interesting to see together, as they are all contradictory, and yet seem to make collective sense. Here are a few: 

“Don’t gaze into each other’s eyes looking for meaning. Look outward together.” — J.O, married 12 years.

“You go through waves. I lost and found myself many times. I just lost myself again now that my kids are grown.” — D.C., married 32 years.

“A marriage isn’t 50/50, it’s 100/100.” — J.D., married 16 years.

“Alcohol, lies, and time apart work like a charm for a good marriage.” — K.F., married 19 years.

“It’s very simple: You need to be nice.”—C.W., married 15 years.

“Everyone needs to understand that you can love somebody and still not like them once in a while.” — K.G., married 25 years.

“No matter how bad the fight is, come to bed.”—E.F., married 23 years. 

“Remember what made you say yes.”—M.I., married 13 years.

“Never tell them how much you REALLY spent on something.”–S.F., married 21 years.

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”—B.F., married 40 years. 

WOW: Those were some of the quotes I highlighted while reading! Do you have any tips or a piece of advice for our readers who are trying to write a memoir? 

Heather: Sure. I actually wrote a short craft piece recently about memoir writing for a site called Write It Sideways. I discuss the importance of reading other memoirs to absorb memoir technique, telling your story orally to find structure and meaning, going wider with meaning to bridge the universal, using a double perspective to add reflection and layers, starting with an inciting incident to pique interest, and writing your back cover copy to further concretize your structure, and to understand your takeaway and themes. You can read it here: https://writeitsideways.com/8-motivational-and-practical-tips-for-memoir-writing/ 

WOW:  It must be a challenge to promote your book during these unusual times, although we know you’re getting creative with it (from your blog post for us called “Notes on My Covid Book Launch”). You also have a book blurb from Phillip Lopate, widely considered to be a master essayist, which is so cool. Any advice for new authors who are contemplating how to market their book? 

Heather: Yes, I would say that for starters, as uncomfortable as it is, ask for editorial reviews which can then be parlayed into a press release that will hopefully entice more readers to continue reviewing. You can also do the following pre and post release: 

- Reach out to book podcasts to see if they will interview you, or discuss your subject or genre.

- Reach out to bookstores and see if they will host a zoom interview or reading.

- Reach out to organizations that work with your target audience and see if there is a synergistic way to work together. For my first book, for example, I connected with foster care organizations. For this book, parenting groups.

- Query relevant magazines, websites, blogs, and bookstagrammers and see if they will review your book or publish an excerpt.

- Enter contests.

- Connect with book clubs.

- Do a giveaway on GoodReads, and possibly through a virtual book tour.

- Once your pre-order link is up, email your list and offer to send the first chapter.

- Enlist Book Ambassadors to spread the word on social media. (For this, I gave out free ARC’s and enclosed a note asking people to do the following on launch day: 1. Post a copy of the book on their social media feeds. 2. Write a review. Not everyone will come through, but enough will to get some momentum going). 

- Team up with other authors, whether in your own publishing house, or outside of it. Find a common theme that unites your work and build a podcast idea or reading around it. This can be helpful in pitching your work and trying to get coverage, as it will ensure a larger audience for the host.

Also, give back and support other writers promoting their solo works. Share their links and books. Make reading and reviewing for others part of your repertoire as a writer pre- and post-launch.

Launching a book can be a daunting experience— it takes a village.

WOW: Are you working on any writing projects right now? What’s next for you? 

Heather: Yes, I’ve just completed two fiction manuscripts and hope to have some news for them soon. I’ve also been running my “Creative Writery” for some time—helping memoirists and novelists develop their stories. I run a private workshop through CW and do developmental editing. My journey as a writer began some 25 years ago, and I couldn’t have done it without the writing teachers and mentors along the way who helped me develop my voice and craft. To be on this side of things, helping others, is rewarding. 

WOW: Thank you for chatting with us today, Heather! We wish you continued success with the book and your newly completed fiction manuscripts.
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The Silver Box by Margi Preus Blog Tour & Giveaway

Monday, October 12, 2020

In the final Enchantment Lake mystery, Francie’s search for the truth about her mother—and herself—plunges her into danger during a North Woods winter. 

When she wakes in her aunts’ cold cabin on the shore of Enchantment Lake, Francie remembers: everything about her life has changed. Or is about to. Or just might. Everything depends on the small, engraved silver box that she now possesses—if only she can follow its cryptic clues to the whereabouts of her missing mother and understand, finally, just maybe, the truth about who she really is. 

Francie, it turns out, has a lot to learn, and this time the lessons could be deadly. Her search for answers takes her and her best friends Raven and Jay as far afield as an abandoned ranch in Arizona and as close to home as a sketchy plant collector’s conservatory and a musty old museum where shadows lurk around every display case. At the heart of it all is a crime that touches her own adopted North Woods: thieves dig up fragile lady’s slippers, peel bark from birches, strip moss off trees, cut down entire forests of saplings to sell for home décor. But Francie is up against no ordinary plant theft. One ominous clue after another reveal that she possesses something so rare and so valuable that some people are willing to do anything to get it. When Francie’s investigation leads her into the treacherously cold and snowy North Woods, she finds out that she too is being pursued. 

Print Length: 216 Pages 
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction 
ISBN-10: 1517909680
ISBN-13: 9781517909680
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press 

The Silver Box is available to purchase at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Thrift Books, and Bookshop.org. You can also add this to your reading list on GoodReads.com.

Book Giveaway Contest 

To win a copy of the entire The Enchantment Lake Mystery series, including The Silver Box, please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on October 18th at 11:59 PM CST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck! 

Praise for The Silver Box 

"Margi Preus shows her deep knowledge of and appreciation for Minnesota while telling an engaging story with puzzles and action and heart. The Silver Box is truly a celebration of our state—from its North Woods to its Twin Cities landmarks." — Kurtis Scaletta, author of Lukezilla Beats the Game 

"A modern Nancy Drew replacement grounded in current technology but largely reliant on brain power and courage." — Kirkus Reviews 

 About the Author, Margi Preus 

Margi Preus is the author of the Newbery Honor book Heart of a Samurai and other books for young readers, including the Minnesota Book Award winning West of the Moon, and the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award book The Clue in the Trees. Her books have won multiple awards, landed on the New York Times bestseller list, been honored as ALA/ALSC Notables, selected as an NPR Backseat Book Club pick, chosen for community reads, and translated into several languages. New titles in 2020 include Village of Scoundrels, The Littlest Voyageur, and The Silver Box, part of the Enchantment Lake mystery series. 

Back when such things were done, Margi enjoyed traveling, speaking, and visiting schools all over the world. Now mostly at home in Duluth, she likes to ski, hike, canoe, or sit quietly with a book in her lap.  
You can follow her online at: https://www.margipreus.com/

Twitter: @MargiPreus 
Instagram: @MargiPreus

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on finishing The Silver Box, the third book in your The Enchantment Lake Mystery. What was it like for you to finish the last book in this series?

Margi: I didn’t know I was finishing the series until I got to the end of this third book and realized I had. Originally I had intended to do four books, one for each season: Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring. But, actually, it probably works out for the series to consist of three books, because, honestly, there really are only three seasons in the north country: Fall, Winter, and Summer. Winter is usually a long, increasingly miserable slog, and then one day it is suddenly summer. Many people claim northern Minnesota has only two seasons: Winter and Bad Sledding. 

That probably didn’t really answer your question.

WOW: It did! Sometimes we can't help but realize we've found the end to our stories. How did you first get the idea for writing this series? 

Margi: I have a cabin in northern Minnesota and along the shore there used to be a twisty, dusty, bumpy, sandy road. Some people wanted to “improve” things by getting a paved road (also wider, flatter, less curvy). There were two camps: for and against the "improvements," and emotions got so heated that I wondered what would happen if my neighbors started killing each other over it. The idea for a mystery was born. In reality nobody was killed, and the story ended up going off in its own direction (as stories often do) and became not so much about that road issue after all. But that’s what started it.

WOW: We can get so territorial about our home turf! I loved how you used that tension to inspire your story. How has COVID-19 impacted your writing schedule, if at all? 

Margi: Like a lot of people I got a bit stalled. I know many writers who have not been writing, or took a break from it, but have channeled their creativity in other ways: painting, cooking, baking, gardening, redecorating . . . it’s all creative work, and I think it’s good for us to do something different, and develop some new pathways in our brains. 

WOW: I totally agree! Each creative outlet feeds another. What books did you read when you were at the age of your readers? 

Margi: Nancy Drew, of course! But I am old enough that when I was about that age, there was not the plethora of books for young readers as there is today, and no genre like YA. I was a fan of Judy Blume and Harriet the Spy was a favorite. Also Island of Blue Dolphins. But when I got old enough to be able to read adult books, that’s pretty much what I did. I remember reading A Tale of Two Cities and Jane Eyre, for instance, at about the age of my readers. I probably missed a lot, but I loved those books to pieces. I also managed to get my hands on some pulp fiction that my parents didn’t approve of. So that really motivated me to read a lot. 

WOW: You had such eclectic tastes in books at that age! What are you currently working on that you can tell us a bit about?

Margi: I have had three books come out in 2020, two of them just as the world was shutting down. Village of Scoundrels, inspired by the true story of WWII village that sheltered hundreds of Jewish children and teens rescued from French concentration camps. And The Littlest Voyageur, about a red squirrel who stows away in a voyageur canoe.) So I’ve been in a little bit of a scramble, trying not to let these books sink into oblivion . . .alas.

WOW: That must be so exciting to have them coming out all at once! What do you hope readers take away from reading this series?

Margi: I always hope that kids will be inspired to go outside! I am a lover of the Northwoods, of wilderness, of waterways—I hope that comes through in my books—and I would be very happy if these books inspired a kid or two to want to explore the out-of-doors. 

Environmental issues are also part of these stories and my characters either take a stance or become informed about issues. I’d also be thrilled if these stories inspired kids to want to learn more about any of these issues or maybe get involved.

Of course, mainly, I just hope my readers enjoy the story!

WOW: I'm sure they will! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today and best of luck on your book!

--- Blog Tour Dates

October 12th @ WOW! Women on Writing
What goes better with coffee in the morning than a muffin? Stop by WOW's blog The Muffin and join us as we celebrate the launch of Margi Preus's book The Silver Box. Enter to win a copy of her entire Enchantment Lake Mystery series.

October 13th @ Mindy McGinnis
Join Mindy McGinnis as she interviews author Margi Preus about how she came up with the idea of The Silver Box and the Enchantment Lake Mystery series.

October 14th @ Bring on Lemons
Visit Crystal's blog today and read her review of Margi Presu book The Silver Box, book three in The Enchantment Lake series. 

October 14th @ Reviews and Interviews
Join Lisa as she interviews Margi Preus and finds out more about this incredible author!

October 16th @ The Frugalista Mom
Visit Rozelyn's blog today and read her review of The Silver Box, book three in The Enchantment Lake series. You can also enter to win a copy of the entire series!

October 17th @ Carrie Sorens' Blog
Visit Carrie's blog and read author Margi Preus' guest post about raising big questions for readers to ponder (that don't always have an answer).

October 18th @ Fiona Ingram's Blog
Stop by Fiona's blog and check out a spotlight of Margi Preus' book The Silver Box. You can also enter to win a copy of the whole series!

October 20th @ The Faerie Review
Join Lily as she reviews The Silver Box, book three in The Enchantment Lake middle-grade series.

October 20th @ Susan Uhlig
Join us today as Susan reviews The Silver Box, book three in The Enchantment Lake middle-grade series.

October 21st @ Lady Unemployed
Visit Nicole's blog today where you can read Margi Preus' guest post about how all writing is political and how to weave local or national issues into storytelling.

October 21st @ The Frugalista Mom
Rozelyn goes live on Facebook with author Margi Preus. Join them as the author talks about her wonderful middle-grade mystery series.

October 22nd @ The Knotty Needle
Visit Judy's blog today and read her review of The Silver Box, part of the Enchantment Lake middle-grade series.

October 24th @ Carrie Sorens' Blog
Join Carrie again where you can read her review of The Silver Box, part of the Enchantment Lake middle-grade series. You can also win a copy of the series too!

October 26th @ Kathleen Pooler's Blog
Join us at Kathleen's blog today where she will be featuring author Margi Preus and her book The Silver Box.

October 29th @ It's Alanna Jean
Stop by Alanna's blog today where she shares Margi Preus' guest post about finding inspiration out the window.

October 30th @ Lori Duff Writes
Join Lori Duff as she reviews Margi Preus' book The Silver Box, the third book in the Enchantment Lake mystery series. 

November 1st @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Visit Anthony's blog today and read his review of The Silver Box, book three in The Enchantment Lake series. 

November 2nd @ World of My Imagination
Join Nicole as she reviews The Silver Box, book three in The Enchantment Lake series. Also, you can enter to win a copy of the whole series.

November 4th @ Author Anthony Avina's Blog
Join Anthony's blog again today and you can read his interview with author Margi Preus.

November 4th @ Crafty Moms Share
Join Carrie as she reviews The Silver Box by author Margi Preus, the third book in the Enchantment Lake mystery series.

November 5th @ Bev. A Baird's Blog
Join Bev as she reviews The Silver Box by author Margi Preus, the third book in the Enchantment Lake mystery series. Don't miss her review of this charming middle-grade fiction series!

November 7th @ BookMama789
Join us over at Jean's Instagram page as she reads and reviews The Silver Box by author Margi Preus, part of the Enchantment Lake mystery series. 

November 8th @ Shoe's Stories
Join Linda at her blog today and read her review of The Silver Box by author Margi Preus, part of the Enchantment Lake mystery series. 

November 9th @ Always in the Middle
Visit Greg's blog today and read his review of The Silver Box by author Margi Preus. You'll love hearing about this middle-grade mystery series.

November 11th @ Bookapotamus
Join Kate as she reviews The Enchantment Lake mystery series, part of The Silver Box blog tour. You'll love hearing about this middle-grade mystery! 

November 13th @ Choices
Join Madeline as she features Margi Preus' book The Silver Box on her blog today. You'll definitely want to add this book to your reading list!

November 14th @ Reading in the Wildwood
Visit Megan's blog today she reviews The Enchantment Lake mystery series, part of The Silver Box blog tour. You'll love hearing about this middle-grade mystery! 

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

To win a copy of the entire The Enchantment Lake Mystery series, including The Silver Box, please enter using Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Giveaway ends on October 18th at 11:59 PM CST. We will announce the winner the next day on the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Meet Melinda Hagenson, Runner Up in the WOW! Q3 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Sunday, October 11, 2020
After completing three degrees at UC-Berkeley and USC, Melinda Hagenson spent twenty-five years teaching college English before escaping to the Northwoods of Wisconsin, where she now spends her days thinking up ways to put off editing her first novel. Writing contests are among her favorite diversions; she placed second of 4,000 competitors in NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge last year and has received multiple honorable mentions (for both poems and short stories) from the Wisconsin Writer’s Association. You can read her short story “A Play of Hopes and Fears” in The Independent Bookworm’s anthology The Adventure of Creation. She occasionally updates her blog at www.melindahagenson.com

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

WOW: Welcome, Melinda! “Nobody Said it Was Easy” is such a moving piece. Did you always know the story of the grandfather clock would play an integral part of the essay about your father? 

Melinda: I knew before I started writing that it would be about the clock, but what surprised me as it developed was that it wound up going in a very different direction than I’d planned. I had intended to write about how the clock was destroyed in a fire a couple of years after my dad passed away—a fire in which his wife, my stepmom, was killed. The essay wasn’t originally supposed to be about my dad at all. Surprise! I’m much more a pantser than a planner, and this essay is definitely a product of that. I often have no idea where a piece is going until it gets there. 

WOW: What advice would you give writers struggling to formulate a solid creative nonfiction essay? 

Melinda: I think the “rules” are similar to those for fiction writing. I guess I’d start by suggesting that you make lists. I make tons of lists. When you find a topic you want to explore, think about the So What—that is, not just what makes you think the piece is worth writing, but what might make it worth your reader’s time as well. There needs to be some kind of universal resonance, but you might not find it in the first or second draft. You should expect to revise many times, not just once or twice or even three or four times. It’s true that every first draft is crap, but even a fourth or fifth draft probably still needs fine tuning. For this particular essay (“Nobody Said it was Easy”), I did nine drafts. Oh, and try to include some dialogue. And that five-paragraph essay structure you learned in high school? Throw it out the window. 

WOW: Ha ha! I love that idea of throwing the five-paragraph essay structure out the window. Creative nonfiction has become much more of a fluid genre and I love that. Can you tell us a little about your entry that took second place in last year’s NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge? 

 Melinda: The prompts were tough. Our location was a cloud (the location prompt has to be the “predominant” setting for the story, so that was a head scratcher for sure), while the object was a pair of binoculars, and we were given only 48 hours to write. My story, titled “As Close as Your Heart,” was about a character named Shelby, who, after her mama dies, goes to live with a man whose identity she’s not even sure of. The story’s denouement is set in a hot air balloon. 

WOW: Very cool! I'm not sure I could have tackled that prompt myself, so kudos to you and your win! What was your favorite part of teaching college English for 25 years? 

Melinda: I think what I miss most since retiring is the engagement. I mostly taught first-year students, and they invariably started the semester thinking they were already pretty good critical thinkers, but in reality, what most of them had been taught to do for twelve years was memorize and regurgitate what they’d been told. I loved watching them discover that they had minds of their own and something worth saying—and I loved the way class discussions could spark some unique and genuine critical thought. I divided each of my classes into groups, usually of five students each; the class would read an assigned piece as homework—pretty standard procedure—and then in class I’d distribute a series of two or three questions for each group to discuss among themselves. That is, each group got different questions. When each group shared their thoughts with the class, they were not just regurgitating the professor’s ideas and perceptions, but their own—and the whole class was encouraged to engage. It was a lot more fun and interesting, for both them and me, than straight lecturing. 

WOW: We’d love to know more about the novel you’re trying so hard to avoid editing. Could you share any details of it with us? 

Melinda: I’m happy to! Eighteen Crossroads is a family saga that begins when Aniela Bobrowska, eighteen, voyages to America in 1907 to help care for her recently widowed uncle’s children. She intends to stay only a year, but after her uncle refuses to send her home, her one year stretches into seventy. Throughout her life, Aniela strives to encourage her progeny to embrace their Polish heritage, but in the American “melting pot,” this proves to be a challenge. As the novel follows the arc of her personal American dream, each chapter recounts a single “crossroads moment” in one of her descendants’ lives that affects her dream’s trajectory. Early versions of several chapters have received some recognition, which is gratifying and which motivates me to want to get this project finished!

WOW: That's a great elevator pitch. We can't wait to learn more and see that novel come to fruition. Keep up the amazing work!
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Owning Our Stories

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Photo by Noelle Otto from Pexels

There are times I haven’t wanted to own my story. But as I was attending a webinar on how to put together a social media plan from Jasmine Star, owner of the company Social Curator, I realized it may be better to focus on telling the story of who I really am. Jasmine makes no bones about the fact that she is the daughter of immigrants and went to college on a scholarship. She hustles, she says, because she wants to break that cycle of struggle for her family. I’m doing the exact same thing myself, but I’m normally to hesitant to share that part of myself with others because I’m embarrassed. 

My husband had to participate in the “Privilege Walk” exercise that many colleges and workplaces are conducting, where participants learn how power of privilege affects their lives, even if they don’t realize it. He told me that based on the statements that were given out, I would have had to take multiple steps backward during the exercise. He wanted me to be mindful of that whenever I get down on myself. 

 Some of the directions included, "Take a step backward if:"
• If you have been divorced or been impacted by divorce (my mother was divorced twice) 
• If there have been times in your life where you skipped a meal because there was no food in the house 
• If you had to take out student loans to attend college 
• If you were ever uncomfortable about a joke or statement you heard related to your race, ethnicity, gender, appearance, or sexual orientation but felt unsafe to confront the situation 
• If you have ever felt unsafe at night walking alone 

I’ve had friends who have joked with me before about how many writing gigs I take on. They wonder why I feel the need to do so much all the time. I don’t tell them it’s because I worry that I will one day go hungry again and don’t want my kids to feel like they can’t apply to the colleges of their choice. I don’t tell them that I worked my behind off all through college because I was grateful just to be there and needed to make money for basic living expenses. I realize by staying I may be doing other women like me a disservice by not speaking up. 

Yes, I’m Mexican American. Yes, I had a grandmother who worked as a housekeeper for a family in Texas. Yes, I had blue collar parents who never attended college. No, I didn’t have health or dental insurance as a child. No, there wasn’t a college fund waiting for me when I graduated from high school. No, I’ve never inherited money from a relative, nor will I ever. I had terrible math grades in high school and didn’t do so well on my SATs, but I also didn’t have access to tutors that could have helped give me an edge. Reading and writing are the only things that have come to me naturally, so I’ve leaned on those skills to help me survive and accomplish the things I have. 

Whether we like to admit it or not, having some of these things give us an inherent privilege over others. By speaking out and working to break the generational cycles of poverty, we can help give those who follow us a better chance at telling and triumphing over their own stories.

What's your story?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and freelance magazine editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Visit her website at FinishedPages.com.
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Do You Feel Lucky?

Thursday, October 08, 2020

I had a front row seat at my oldest son’s somewhat unconventional wedding this past weekend, and as I sat there, listening to the vows between him and his soon-to-be-wife, I was struck by two things. Firstly, that Oldest Junior Hall had kissed a lot of close-but-not-his princess on the way to finding his true love. But he never gave up; he always believed he’d find The One. 

And secondly, considering the goofball (his words, not mine) that my son is, that he was awfully lucky to find someone who found all that wackiness not only endearing but was willing to spend the rest of her life with it/him. 

It all reminded me of the novelist, Philip Pullman (whose trilogy, His Dark Materials, is brilliant fantasy writing). He was the keynote speaker at the Summer Spectacular SCBWI Conference this year, and he had a virtual Q & A. 

Mr. Pullman (Or maybe it’s Sir Pullman?) began by listing the three things necessary to be a writer who gets published. One necessary thing is perseverance, said he. 

Well, yes, of course, that’s a fact. A writer who wants to get published must stick to it, hang in there, never quit and all that. Everyone can have perseverance, right? No special skill involved there, just the ability to keep working despite setbacks. Perseverance comes in handy whether you’re trying to get published or find a mate. 

The esteemed novelist told his audience that we must also have talent. 

Okay, that’s a bit trickier. He felt like fate had granted him writing talent and that had obviously been extremely helpful in his career. But he had worked at improving the talent he’d been given and he encouraged the audience to work diligently on improving the talent they’d been given. And that’s certainly doable, too, since there are so many opportunities available to help us writers improve our skills. So yes, perseverance, talent…I’m feeling very hopeful at this point. 

And then he came to the third necessity to be published: luck. 

Wait a dang minute. Luck? I’m not saying that I haven’t often felt like there are writers out there who’d been exceptionally lucky to get this or that publishing deal. But I eventually talk myself out of that thinking because luck, after all, is not something you can somehow acquire. It’s just…luck. Some people seem to have been born under a lucky star while others of us couldn’t find luck if it whacked us upside the head. 

So, honestly, this annoyed me. It annoyed me a lot. 

But then I stopped all the mental fussing and fuming and moved on because…well, it’s true. Luck comes into play in our lives all the time, whether it’s finding the right mate or finding a publishing contract. My own books came about because of a lucky connection made years ago, even years before I started writing for children. 

And so I hope you’ll take Mr. (Or Sir) Pullman’s advice to heart. Persevere, work on improving your writing talent, and then be ready when luck comes around to whack you upside the head. Because it probably will when you least expect it. It’s just like the song that my son and I danced to at his wedding: “Fairy tales can come true. It can happen to you…”

~Cathy C. Hall (who enjoyed dancing to Young at Heart. In fact, she likes to think she's among the very young at heart. And that makes her indeed lucky.)
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Writing in the Time of Corona

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Writing in the time of corona is different. Different precautions have to be taken. Different procedures have to be created. After all, we all want to emerge in some months (years?) on the other side of this pandemic, healthy and happy and relishing the chance to finally walk around without a mask.

These days, I’m still meeting with my writing critique partners… online. We send each other our pieces the day before we meet, and then give our feedback during our Zoom session. Is it as satisfying, as fun as meeting in person? Of course not. However, it’s the best we can do right now.

Currently I’m taking a writing class. It’s not something I normally do, but since face-to-face contact is limited these days, getting feedback and inspiration from fellow participants as well as from the instructor is something I truly appreciate. We send our weekly writing pieces to each other. We also have a site set up by the instructor where we post our feedback.

Celebrating with my writing friends is also different. Recently, I got some great news. My manuscript is getting published. If this had been September 2019 B.C. (before corona) instead September 2020, I would have bought a decorated cake from a bakery and after toasting my critique partners for all the support and help they’ve given me, I would have given them the news.

Instead, this is what I did: I went to a famous local cupcake bakery. (They won the big prize in the 2011 Food Network’s show Cupcake Wars.) I bought three special sugary creations. (I found out their favorites by telling them a lie about my students surveying people about cake flavors, and the kids needed more data. Oh, how trusting my friends are.)

Jilly's 14 Carat Cupcake... carrot cake, topped with gold glitter

I then dropped them off a couple of evenings before we had our writing critique Zoom. I told them, “Enjoy… and there’s a reason why you’re getting this cupcake… But I won’t tell you what it is until Thursday.”

I caught one of my friends as she and her husband were pulling out of their driveway. There I was, a masked woman, trying her best not to startle them as I handed off my bag of booty. (She was so used to seeing me in a small square, gridded off on her computer monitor, she almost didn’t recognize me, in-person and masked.)

Yeah, these are the days. As Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs sang: 

These are days you'll remember

Never before and never since

I promise

It’s certainly changed the way I’ve taught, too. I can’t walk around and look over students’ shoulders and praise their writing like I’d like to. I send email messages letting them know I’m bowled over by their writing. We talk about lines that sing, in whole-class discussions. And Thursday we’re walking to a nearby park and doing a writing buffet. Stories from all three classes will be fanned out on picnic tables. Usually, kids will write their comments on a story on a colorful sheet stapled to the back of the story. Then they’ll read a different piece. And a different piece. Thursday, each story will be slid into a plastic sleeve. Students will slip their comments (written on quarter-sized sheets of paper) into the plastic sleeve and behind the story. Before another student can read the same story, I'll wipe the sleeve down with a disinfectant wipe.

Yeah, these sure are the days...

Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher, a dog rescuer and a freelance writer... and next year, she'll be a novelist. (Yippee yahoo!) She's also a mother of two and grammy to three and the wrangler of one enthusiastic 84-pound golden retriever.
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Interview with Angelica R. Jackson, Runner Up in the Spring 2020 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, October 06, 2020


Angelica R. Jackson, in keeping with her scattered Gemini nature, has published articles on gardening, natural history, web design, travel, hiking, and local history. Other interests include pets, reading, green living, and cooking for food allergies (the latter not necessarily by choice, but she’s come to terms with it). Ongoing projects include short fiction, poetry, novels, art photography, and children’s picture books.  
She’s also been involved with capturing the restoration efforts for Preston Castle (formerly the Preston School of Industry) in photographs and can sometimes be found haunting its hallways. An incurable joiner, she is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (where she serves as her region's Social Media Coordinator), and several other writing organizations. 

She shares a home in California's Gold Country with a husband, a rescued Basset Fauve de Bretagne dog, plus a Miniature Pinscher/Nibblonian mix, a reformed-feral tabby, and far too many books (if that's even possible). She is the author of the award-winning Faerie Crossed young adult urban fantasy series, and her photos are collected in Capturing The Castle: Images of Preston Castle (2006-2016). She also features her art on her line of handmade jewelry, Charming Corby Jewelry. 

Angelica’s story “Ebb Tide” placed third in the WOW! Women On Writing Spring 2010 Flash Fiction Contest

Connect with her online: Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Art Galleries, Website

Make sure you read Angelica's story The Devil You Know, then come on back and read her interview. 

 -- Interview by Nicole Pyles 

WOW: First of all, congratulations on winning runner up in the flash fiction contest! I felt like this story is part of a much bigger one, especially with your strong character development. How did you get into the mindset of this character? 

Angelica: Your intuition is correct--this is actually a reworked section of a novel I'm working on called Stay, Girl: Together, a runaway girl and a neglected hound overcome their abusive pasts by taking the lead in a fun-filled neighborhood prank war. It's Because of Winn-Dixie meets Okay for Now, set in small-town Northern California in the 1930s. 

I rewrote this scene to be more of a standalone flash fiction piece, which mainly meant taking out some exposition that related to other parts of the story, and also changing the characters somewhat. In the novel, the character of Lacey is a dog rather than a cousin, but that seemed like it would take too many words to set up. 

For the main character, I drew on my own childhood abuse and tried to convey how that trauma plays out through a child's POV. Lacey is inspired by a hound we rescued a few years ago, who came to us sick and shutdown with shyness. I think my understanding of how to give her time and space contributed to her bonding so closely with me before she eventually passed away. That's one of the great things about fiction, too--in my book, the dog doesn't die! The other two dogs mentioned in the story, Nap and Josie, are based on my current pair of mischievous, rescued dogs. 

WOW: I love how you pulled from your own experiences. You have such vivid descriptions in this piece that I felt like I was actually there. How do you capture settings and scenery in such a vivid way? 

Angelica: The settings and descriptions are a blend of my visual artist side and some sensory issues I have. The visual artist side expresses itself in my photography, sketches, and paintings, and it has trained me to notice and memorize details. 

When I'm looking for inspiration, I'm just as charmed by the bee with pollen caught in its hair as I am by the wide field of flowers and looming mountains. I'm also fascinated by how two artists can describe or interpret the same scene so differently; a finished painting or scene in a story is made up of who we are as well as what we see. And how that is expressed through the filter of our experience. 

I have some sensory issues that make it difficult to tune out sounds, smells, breaks in a visual pattern, and so on. It can be both a blessing and a curse, but I have definitely embraced using it to make scenes and characters richer and more dimensional. 

WOW: I think that's amazing! You have such a variety of creative talents! How do you nurture each one? 

Angelica: Funnily enough, I feel like each outlet only adds to the well of creativity rather than taking away from it. If I get stuck in one of my writing projects, I'll go work on some art for a while and it takes the pressure off the writing block. Creating art specifically for my writing projects also gets me inspired again, like how my book covers make me like the characters all over again--and believe me, after rounds of revisions or proofing audiobooks, I need to be reminded of the time before I was sick of my characters and my story, haha. 

 Last year I also started making glass cabochon jewelry with my artwork and some vintage images and find it relaxing to piece my jewelry. Making small design decisions like what finish or size of setting suits each image the best is a nice break from larger plotting decisions in a novel. 

WOW: I completely agree. Creative outlets each feed each other! What are you currently working on that you can tell us a bit about? 

Angelica: I'm working on Stay, Girl, mentioned above, and it started out as a middle-grade book but may turn out to be more for the adult literary market. I'm also working on the third and final book in my young adult, urban fantasy series, Spellmeet, which should be out next year. 

The other project is a deep rewrite of the first book I wrote (my UF series was the first published), a task prompted by the stressful days of COVID. My anxiety reached a point where I was truly struggling to write new words in my book projects, but I found I could get my brain to cooperate with shorter pieces (like my contest entry) and editing. I had set aside my first novel because although I had grown as a writer to the point where I could see all the first-book issues, I couldn't see how to fix them. Turns out the best way was to ditch over 2/3 of the words I'd already written and start many of the sections from scratch. I'm pleased with how it's going but needed a break, so I'm currently setting up an Etsy store for my jewelry. 

WOW: I'm so impressed with what you've been working on! What surrounds you when you write?

Angelica: Unless I'm at my PC, I move around a lot when I write. I'm fortunate enough that we have a beautiful garden and when it's nice outside, I often take my work out there. My Instagram feed is mostly my garden and my dogs if anyone wants some visuals. 

My office has posters lining the walls (including some gorgeous art deco versions of characters from the show Firefly), and multiple dog beds and a cat tree since the critters have figured out that I am in that room a lot. When the dogs come in from the garden, the first place they look for me is the office, haha. I usually have music playing in another room because it's too distracting to have it right in my ears while I'm working.

WOW: Your office sounds amazing! Thank you again for speaking with us today and best of luck with your writing! 
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