Interview with Barbara Ashford, Instructor at Odyssey Writing Workshop

Monday, November 30, 2020

Today, we are excited to interview one of the instructors from Odyssey Writing Workshop: author Barbara Ashford. 

The Odyssey Writing Workshop has offered world-renowned workshops for over 25 years and has been an innovator in online classes since 2010. A graduate of the Odyssey Workshop, Barbara Ashford has taught seven previous online courses and has served on the staff of the Odyssey Critique Service for more than a decade. Find out more about Odyssey Writing Workshop, including their incredible staff and courses, and apply for their courses by December 7th.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: Thank you for taking the time to interview with us today! Tell us a little bit about the courses you teach with Odyssey Workshop. 

Barbara: I’ve taught courses on dramatic tension, revising your novel, creating emotional resonance, and scene structure. I’ll be offering the scene structure course – One Brick at a Time – this January. It looks at scene structure from the macro perspective – the role a scene plays in developing the story – and the micro perspective – like understanding and using beats to calibrate the moment-by-moment emotional impact of a scene. Like all Odyssey online courses, it includes lecture, online discussions, homework assignments, and critiquing the work of other participants. Students get a critique from me on every assignment, as well as a private meeting where we can discuss their work, address issues they’re grappling with, and brainstorm solutions. 

WOW: I love how many elements there are to the courses! What are some of the feedback of these courses you have heard from students? 

Barbara: You can read feedback from past participants in One Brick on its webpage. I’m always happy that students find my classes clear, concise, rigorous, AND fun! On evaluations, students consistently cite the depth and specificity of my critiques as one of the most helpful aspects of the courses I teach. But it’s especially rewarding when students tell me that they feel they have gained the tools and knowledge they need to become better writers. 

WOW: I'll bet! What do you see students struggling with the most in their writing? 

Barbara: In terms of scene structure specifically, it often comes down to understanding the importance of developing conflict that not only creates drama within a scene, but pushes the story – and the POV character – forward. Related to that is the need for scenes to multi-task by developing character, building the world, advancing the plot, and underscoring theme. Balancing all those elements can be a difficult task even for experienced writers. 

WOW: That's great insight. So, in an interview earlier this year, you talked a little bit about understanding the story you want to tell as a writer. What suggestions can you offer about how to do that, as a writer? 

Barbara: Sometimes, it’s as simple as understanding the kind of story you want to tell. For a manuscript I’m editing now, I’ve asked the author, “Do you want to write a fast-paced crime drama? Or a character-focused story about a lawyer?” They’re not mutually exclusive – you can build character in a thriller, just as you can have a strong external conflict in a character-focused story. But it’s important to understand which kind of story you’re telling so you can decide the relative weight to give each element. 

Other times, it’s a matter of understanding the heart of the story you’re telling. To me, that requires an understanding of theme. The term theme can be kind of nebulous. Over the years, I’ve found two books that help crystallize theme for me and for students: Bill Johnson’s A Story is a Promise and Robert McKee’s Story

Johnson suggests that you identify the core dramatic issue your story is exploring – some universal value at the heart of the story that all readers can relate to, like injustice or love or freedom. Then ensure that every scene sheds light on that value to create a cohesive whole. 

McKee’s controlling idea takes it a step further. It’s a two-part statement that describes how and why life changes from the beginning of a story to the end: Value (that same core dramatic value you identified as the promise or heart of the story) + Cause (which explains how/why the value has been fulfilled). Essentially, it’s a “this is what happens” statement and a “this is why it happens” explanation, e.g., Justice (Value) is attained because the protagonist fights society’s oppressive laws (Cause). 

So try to identify the heart of your story in one word. Is this a story about justice? About friendship? About family? Then try formulating a controlling idea that captures how/why that value is fulfilled (or left unfulfilled if you’re writing a tragedy) by the end of the story. 

WOW: You have given me so much to think about for my own writing! You started out at Odyssey Workshop as a student and now are an instructor. What do you think students gain the most from taking courses with Odyssey Workshop? 

Barbara: When I attended Odyssey, I had never taken a creative writing course or read a book on writing. So the sheer breadth and depth of the information I learned was staggering. 

Both the workshop and the online classes bring together a great mix of writers. Writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Writers of middle grade, young adult, and adult literature. Writers in college and writers on Medicare! That brings a lot of diverse and valuable perspectives to the table. 

Ultimately, Odyssey isn’t just a class. It’s a community – something we all need as writers. The Never-Ending Odyssey is a mini-workshop for graduates where they can continue to hone their skills. The Salon offers live chat sessions on various writing topics. The discussion group is a place to ask questions, report progress, and share struggles, insights, and market information. The online critique group provides feedback on your manuscript from other members, while the Odyssey Critique Service offers professional feedback from published writers (like me!). 

WOW: That's so rewarding! Why do you think writers should take courses?

Barbara: Learning is a life-long process. Sometimes, you’ll get a fresh perspective on an aspect of writing you thought you knew well. Other times, you might discover a new concept that changes the way you approach a scene. Or something resonates with you at a particular moment in your life that had never before evoked that “Aha!” response. 

WOW: I totally agree! If you could have given yourself advice when you first started out, what would you say? 

Barbara: I was pretty insecure when I started writing fiction. I wanted everyone to love everything I wrote. And when that didn’t happen, I felt like a failure. I learned that you can’t please everyone. “The world” isn’t your core audience. So stay true to the story you want to tell. When you receive critical feedback, look for common denominators that might be highlighting issues to address. 

For me, it was a delicate balancing act – learning to trust my instincts and stop second-guessing myself while remaining open to changes that could strengthen the story I wanted to tell. 

WOW: I love that advice. Is there anything else you'd like writers to know about taking courses with Odyssey Workshop? 

Barbara: Be prepared to work hard, try new techniques, and learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of your writing. 

WOW: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today!

About Barbara Ashford

Barbara Ashford is a writer, editor, and creative writing teacher. Her first published series was the dark fantasy trilogy Trickster's Game (written as Barbara Campbell). Published by DAW Books, Trickster's Game was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Society's Fantasy Award for adult literature. Barbara's background as a professional actress, lyricist, and librettist has helped her explore the complexities of human nature on the stage as well as on the page. Her musical adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd was optioned for Broadway and an original musical, Just Desserts, will premiere this summer. She drew on her musical theatre roots to create her second fiction series, the award-winning Spellcast and its sequel Spellcrossed, set in a magical summer stock theatre. Barbara has taught eight online courses for the Odyssey Writing Workshop and serves on the staff of its critique service. You can visit her dual selves at and

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WOW! Interview with Contest Runner Up Carrie Jade Williams for "Shining Armour"

Saturday, November 28, 2020
Congratulations to Carrie Jade Williams and Shining Armour and all the winners of our 2020 Quarter 4 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!

Carrie Jade Williams Bio:

Carrie-Jade Williams started writing 6 months ago and is loving this new hobby that has snowballed into an obsession! She started with a course with The Novelry. Since then she has been the Finalist in the London Independent Story Prize, selected by the Irish Writers Centre for their Residency program and longlisted/shortlisted for a few others. She has enjoyed completing courses with the Blue Pencil Agency, practicing Flash Fiction with Jude Higgins, and writing articles published in Women Alive, The Leisure Painter and others.  

If you haven't done so already, check out Carrie's moving story Shining Armour and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW:   This is such an unexpected year and your essay really resonates with me - Thank you for writing this piece - what is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from Shining Armour?

Carrie:  I think the number one thing I would love readers to take away from my work is that life rarely goes as we intend, but even in the darkest moments there are blessing. The only guarantee we have is this moment, so embrace it. Be kind to yourself and others. Love. And stay true to what motivates you.

Now my mantra for writing is different. 

1. Write what you have to say for the reader. IT will find a home somewhere. 

2. Novels are not the place for stories about ex-boyfriends- put those in personal essays and check you’d want your Mother reading them before you send them out because they might be accepted. 

3. Surround yourself with writers who LOVE to write- even if it’s online during Covid.

WOW:  All fabulous mantras - thank you thank you thank you!

What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for 2021 and beyond?

Carrie: My writing goal for 2021 is to see if there are any Literary Agents interested in working with me. I’m currently plotting out a second novel and have been asked to consider writing about the realities of being in my 30’s living with a Neurological Illness and the impact misdiagnosis has on my ability to accept my diagnosis.

To date I simply write whatever I love. Writing with a Degenerative Illness is challenging- I regularly forget words and have to use Assistive Technology as I struggle to type anymore so I have to absolutely fall in love or have a sense of urgency about what I write.

I’d love to work on a project that puts a spotlight on removing accessibility barriers too.

WOW: Your writing is very wise - as a wiser writer now, do you have advice for your younger self when it comes to making decisions, believing in yourself, and/or writing? What would your current self say to the younger you?


Carrie: As someone living with a Degenerative Illness if I could go back to my younger self I would simply say “Don’t put things off- do everything you love now.” Unfortunately, I think I made the mistake a lot of people do and think that I will do things later, after  next year, when I retire.

One of the blessings of being diagnosed with a life limiting illness is that I’ve prioritized things. I wrote a Bucket List and am working my way through it. Writing was one of the things on my Bucket List and since then so many amazing opportunities have opened up. I’ve been blessed to meet some awesome writers and learn more about the Arts World.

My hope for others is that they can find that sense of freedom in life without a Terminal diagnosis.

WOW: Thank you for these inspiring words; great conversation with a younger you and with the rest of us!

Do you often enter contests or is this a first? What would you like to tell other authors concerning contests and submitting their work?

Carrie: This was one of the first contests I’d entered. Essentially, I get really bad Imposter Syndrome as a writer as I’ve no training, so I decided to try and get 100 rejections in the year (I’ve only been writing for 6 months) and out of those rejections I’ve had a number of acceptances which is mind blowing.

Jude Higgins runs a great Flash Fiction workshop every Tuesday over zoom and Alison Powell who runs a WriteClub group which I have learnt a lot from. Both of these groups help me plant the seeds of stories and essays that I then submit into the world.

Personally, I never take rejection personally, but would love there to be a more compassionate conversation around rejection and the Arts. If my story can prove anything it’s this- if you are writing share your work, I have no training, a broken brain and am pretty useless at editing but the world wants to hear our stories. Share!

WOW:  Great suggestion - feedback is helpful and compassionate feedback is worth embracing!

Who is your favorite author and why?

Carrie: At the moment I am reading This Happy by Niamh Campbell. Not only is this a brilliant novel but she is a beautiful soul. I was blessed to spend time learning from her at a recent retreat and she shared some great advice.

As a writer I’ve also been really lucky to have other writers share their knowledge including Louise Dean, Katie Khan, Emylia Hall (everyone at The Novelry) and will always be grateful for their commitment to nurturing new writers. So, if you’d asked me 6 months ago my favorite I would have answered differently- whereas now I want to support Authors who take the time to share the craft, who write from their heart and who have made space for someone like me at the table in a world that would otherwise be closed off.

WOW:   Such excellent thoughts Carrie - I'm so glad we had this time together today!

Carrie:  I'd really like to add something quick as we wrap this up, a special note to my fellow writers: 

I think for all writers to find somewhere safe to just write for themselves, 
not for publication is important. 
I’m blessed to have found Marianne Powers Writing for Sanity and fun on Saturdays online and without the space to just write whatever sprouts in my mind 
I don’t know if I’d have been brave enough to write anything else

WOW: Thank you ever so much for this great advice and for sharing your essay and your thoughts today - we look forward to reading more of your work! Congratulations on your many accomplishments and we hope 2021 is as amazing as you are! 

  Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

Check out the latest Contests:
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Showcase Your Writing Online

When I was starting out as a freelance writer, one of my first goals was to produce a few solid clips that I could then use when pitching for other writing jobs and assignments. Because I focused on writing parenting topics, I was able to achieve that goal pretty quickly by pitching regional parenting magazines.

Fast forward to 2020 and most writers aren’t photocopying their writing clips and sending to publications via snail mail anymore. These days, showcasing your work online has become the focus. As the editor of a regional magazine, I agree with this sentiment. When a new writer pitches me an idea, I am much more likely to give them the assignment if they have a blog or website where I can view their writing style via online writing samples and clips. 

I also interview contestants in WOW’s flash fiction and creative non-fiction contests, and one thing I hear a lot from these writers is “Wow! You did your research on these interview questions.” When trying to develop interview questions for another writer, it is so much easier if I can view their work and projects online. Even if they don’t have a website, if they include a list of places they’ve been published in their bio, I can check those clips out and develop interview questions by reading their prose. 

If you don’t have an online portfolio, don’t let the technical aspect of it intimidate you. There are sites like Wix, Squarespace and WordPress that are easy-to use, free and provide most of the features you’ll be looking for. They also have stock photos you can use if you don’t have any of your own. I personally purchased a domain name 15 years ago and have slowly upgraded my site over the years. Now I use a WordPress template and recently invested a small amount of money ($20-$25) to buy a new template that has more features, such as widgets for social media, a home page to host my blog posts and other pages where I can link to my podcast and writing clips. You can start out simple and work your way into adding more bells and whistles to your site when you feel comfortable. 

LinkedIn is also another professional site where you can share your work in posts that any of your connections can see and read. Asking editors or other professionals in the writing/publishing industry for a quick recommendation is an easy way to get your work noticed. I’d love to hear if you already have a place online to showcase your work. 

Please share your sites or blogs in the comments! 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and magazine editor who also produces the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Visit her website at
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If You Build It, Will He Come? One Can Hope.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

"If you build it, he will come." That famous line from the movie Field of Dreams is one that just about everyone knows, baseball fan or not. Kevin Costner fan or not. It holds a magical promise--do the thing, and the universe promises you will see results.

Oh, if life was only like the movies. (Well, not like Alien or Nightmare on Elm Street, but like Field of Dreams or Grease or even Pirates of the Carribean, but I digress.)

Writers are constantly building "it". Some people's IT is a novel; others write a short story collection. Some write poetry or picture books. Others craft self-help or memoir. We build manuscripts and books and pieces of art all the time. 

But this does not guarantee HE or rather, THEY, will come. 

Where are the readers? Where are the reviewers? Where are the adoring fans?

In the case of being a writer, you have to add this to the Field of Dreams quote: 

"If you build it, and work really hard on marketing and building your brand and creating a newsletter list and writing more books and learning advertising, he will come--maybe."

You think I'm joking. 

A lot of times in my posts, I like to give tips or tricks to make a writer's life easier. But sometimes, I want to lament. I want to share my feelings, my frustrations, my joys, my sorrows, my failures, and my successes. I could easily turn this into a post about marketing:

Here are the three main things you need to do to find your readers. 

But I don't want to!! We are in the middle of a pandemic. (That's now my excuse for a lot of things, such as eating an entire pecan pie before it's even Thanksgiving here in the U.S.) I have a huge case of sinusitis that I have been messing around with for months because I didn't take time to go to the doctor, and now I'm on some strong antiobiotic for 14 days with a headache and face pressure every single day. Ugh. So I can't reach deep down inside of me and give you marketing tips.

What I can do though is sympathize. 

Damn, it's hard to find new readers, isn't it? It's hard to get people to review your books. Then when you find someone, they don't spend $50 on Amazon, or you have sent them a gift from Amazon, and so Amazon deletes their review from your page. 

Querying and facing countless rejections or months of NO ANSWERS AT ALL is extremely heartbreaking after pouring out your heart and soul onto the page for months (sometimes years). 

Watching someone shoot their way to success while you struggle and celebrate one book sale this week is difficult. Of course, you don't want to be jealous, but it's understandable that the green-eyed monster comes out.

Why do we continue to build it when it is so hard to get him to come?

Because it's who we are. Because when we do see our ranking move up on Amazon, it's thrilling. Because when we get a 5-star review from someone who is not a relative, we feel an energetic buzzing that makes us feel alive. Because writing and publishing and submitting give us hope for a brighter future, and sometimes, hope is really all we need. This reminds me of another movie that might be better for writers than the one I started with. 

“Beginnings are scary; endings are usually sad, but it is the middle that counts the most. You need to remember that when you find yourself at the beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up.” ~Sandra Bullock, Hope Floats

Here's to hope! 

Margo L. Dill is an author, publisher, editor, and writing instructor and coach, living in St. Louis, MO. She currently is the managing editor of WOW!, and she teaches two classes: Writing a Novel With a Writing Coach and Writing for Middle-Grade and Young Adult Readers. She also owns Editor-911 Books, a small, but growing, independent publishing company. Find out more here.  

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Giving Your Best Gift: Writing

My parents were both engaging storytellers. 

But while they loved to gab on and on in great detail about their lives before us kids came along (and ruined it or blessed it, depending on the circumstances of why we were hearing a story in the first place), they weren’t very interested in putting those stories into any permanent form. 

One year—Dad was probably around 80 years old—I gave him a mini tape recorder and lots of tapes so he could talk and record to his heart’s content. My dad was both chatty and a gadget guy and I just knew this was the perfect gift! Except Dad never used even one tape. I could kick myself for not sitting down with Dad and the tape recorder running while he shared memories that made me smile and sometimes, cry. 

And Mom, the English major? She was a great one for sending notes but try to get that woman to write down anything longer and you were asking for trouble. But oh, how I wish I’d gone to the trouble! 

Now it’s too late, at least when it comes to my parents. But there’s still hope for me, and for you, too, for your kids and grandkids, because…wait for it… we’re writers

Yep, that’s what we do, even if 2020 hasn’t exactly been a bonanza year for us putting words to page. But maybe for this holiday season, we can put someone else’s words on the page. We can give the gift of writing to a loved one.

 All we need is a bit of time and a little effort. 

When my daughter was in fifth grade, her teacher gave the class a Social Studies assignment: ask your grandparents about the Depression. It was perfect timing as lots of grandparents were in their 70s and well-remembered those lean years in a way that textbooks couldn’t bring to life. But it wasn’t just a simple assignment; she’d given the students specific questions to ask, and I’d forgotten all about that project until last year when my daughter took all the tapes from our video recorder and transferred them to DVDs. 

On Christmas morning, I watched Dad, sitting on the couch, telling my daughter stories about the Depression that I’d never heard. (Naturally, I was in the kitchen during this homework project, fixing a meal. You can hear me in the background, talking to my mom. She occasionally added something, off camera. Mom wasn’t big on being videotaped.) I was absolutely transfixed, twenty years later, watching that video and listening to my dad’s responses. 

It’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Now, it may not be possible to do in-person video interviews like that but it could be fun to have a Zoom interview session. I think the trick to getting lots of great stories is to ask unusual and leading questions. Pretend you’re doing research for your next big project. 

Because you really can’t get any bigger project than writing down a loved one’s stories, right? And take it from the daughter who knows better now. It’ll be worth every minute.

~ Cathy C. Hall (who's only two in the above pic with my parents and two brothers. The third brother had yet to come along. But I'm wishing all my family a happy Thanksgiving, and the best to your family, too!)
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CC's Road Home Reader Review and Giveaway

Monday, November 23, 2020

Today we are excited to announce a reader review event featuring the book CC's Road Home by Leah B. Eskine. Read the reviews of this captivating young adult novel and an interview with the author, while also entering to have the chance to win your own copy of the book.

First, about the book CC's Road Home:

Desperate to forget her past, sixteen-year-old CC arrives on her grandparents’ North Louisiana farm and asks, "Will I ever feel normal again?" She brushes aside her family’s attempts to break through her isolation and angst and hides her darkest secret from her beloved Gran. Even CC’s vivacious new friend, Addy, and a summer romance with steely-eyed Eric can’t persuade her to reveal what happened last winter in New Orleans.

It’s 1964 and as Beatlemania and Motown captivate America’s youth, this young woman encounters small-town racial tension, erupting sexual assault, and ignorance towards her beloved brain-injured Uncle Bud, all issues fueling the dynamic conflicts in Leah Eskine’s debut novel.

What WOW readers said: 

"CC’s Road Home, takes place in a rural Louisiana town in the 1960s. A sixteen-year-old Cicely visits her grandparents when she is left there by her mom. You get a real sense of her dysfunctional relationship with her alcoholic mom and how that affects her life and the decisions she makes.

The story is a heart-wrenching representation of how teen pregnancy was dealt with back then. These teen girls who found themselves in one of the most emotional and vulnerable situations of their lives had no recourse but to be shipped off to a strange place so they could have their babies, ‘out of sight.’ These poor girls are were forced to sign away their rights and give their children up for adoption.

Within the pregnancy storyline, another aspect of the story is played out within the tumultuous times of the 60s, dealing with racial inequality and racism.

The novel’s storyline is excellent and fleshed out however there are some issues throughout the novel. There are plots that get brought up but never resolved. Some of the dialogue is awkward and fragmented which pulls the reader out of the story.

With that being said, the book gives the reader many emotions throughout its story and finally comes to a bittersweet end, beginning with Cicely meeting Adrianna. It’s sweet and tear-jerking but it helps the reader understand that Cicely is healing the scars of her past so she can live for her future."

- Review by Stephanie Anne

"There are a lot of tough things covered in this book - teen pregnancy, racism, ableism, and sexual assault. THAT said this book is amazing and emotional and just captures your attention from page one. CC is a teen facing a world she doesn't yet have the maturity to navigate easily, and watching how she handles everything will tug at your heartstrings. A great coming of age book for young and not so young adults alike."

- Review by Liliyana Shadowlyn

"I enjoyed the time period (1964) of this novel - it's important for young people to have options other than contemporary settings. The author has done a good job of tackling tough topics like racism, family dynamics, and teen pregnancy, and I really enjoyed many of the characters - especially Gran, Johnny, and Uncle Bud." 

- Review by Michelle Cornish

"CC's Road Home is a good young-adult historical fiction book that offers readers a glimpse of the 1960s. While the book deals with many serious issues, including racial tension, young readers will enjoy the journey with the book's main character, CC. Without giving away too many details, I can say the book is superbly written. Eskine captures the reader's attention from the start and doesn't let go until the last page."

- Review by Karen Brown Tyson

"YA Historical Fiction is a step back in time that the youth of today need to be reading.

Set in 1964 when Elvis and the Beatles were hot, 16-year-old CC is exiled to her grandparents' farm. Her mother has all but disowned her, she's no longer attending school, and is ashamed of her past.

The farm life, however, is good for CC. She manages to make new friends and reconnect with family while finding her place in the world.

Like all teenagers, she has a lot of growing up to do that nothing but time will remedy. In order to find peace within herself, she will have to experience a few more hardships before she will see things more clearly.

With racial tensions, social pressures, and self-doubt, CC will find the courage to stand up for herself and to own her mistakes in order to grow as a person and find the home where she is happiest.

Dealing with some serious issues, this book handles teenage pregnancy, racial tension, and physical assault delicately enough for youths to read and learn from.

Leah B. Eskine's debut is a dear story that I'm sure will be cherished by many."

- Review by Kelly Srgoi

"The author did a great job describing the setting of the story which is the 1960s. While there are so many differences from that generation and today's young adults, I think the readers will be able to appreciate some timeless values. Relatable and relevant, this story can capture one's heart from the first few pages till the end."

- Review by Rozelyn De Sagun

"Such a delightful historical setting for this book tackling the tough subjects! I thoroughly enjoyed both the 60s setting as well as the young adult challenges and decisions facing CC. CC’s Road Home is charming and the main character (young CC) is endearing though resilient. I loved every page of this expertly written novel and plan to read more books by the talented author Leah B. Eskine."

- Review by Crystal Otto

CC's Road Home is available for pre-order on, Google Books,, and You can also add it to your reading list on

About the Author, Leah B. Eskine

Leah grew up in small southern towns in Louisiana and Texas and moved to New Orleans in her twenties. She gravitated early on to teaching high school students and her stories are inspired by the young people she encountered. Her first novel CC’S Road Home is set to release in January 2021. Leah has written short stories and published articles in educational journals, but CC’s Road Home is her debut novel and explores the theme of the importance of family endurance in spite of great obstacles. 

Leah lives with her best friend and husband, Paul, and their two rescue poodles. When she’s not writing, Leah enjoys country music, sixties rock, walking the dogs at dusk, lunch at neighborhood restaurants, movies, and reading – a lot. 

Leah would love to stay in touch with you at Follow her on Twitter @Eskineleah, FB @Leah B. Eskine and Instagram @eskineleah.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: Congratulations on your book CC’s Road Home. I loved hearing how you decided to write this novel, based on a conversation with your daughter. Can you tell us a little bit about that conversation and where your idea came from? 

Leah: Nicole, it’s wonderful to have an opportunity to talk with you and your readers about my new novel, CC’S Road Home. You ask about a conversation I had with my daughter, Stacey. I gave her a copy of “Red Shadow,” a short story I wrote while in my critique group. She called later to say “Mom, I really like the story, but it reads like the beginning of a longer story. Maybe a chapter one.” I was surprised because I had been writing short stories and had not thought about writing a novel. It seemed like a daunting project, but as I thought about the possibility, I decided to give it a try. 

Twelve-year-old Maggie is the main character of “Red Shadow.” At the time I’d been looking at WOW and Margo Dill was offering a class titled, “Write a Young Adult Novel” so I signed up and after working on a few chapters, I realized I wanted to work on an idea I had for an older character. Out of that process, sixteen-year-old CC emerged. 

The story sprang from my years of teaching high school students and the opportunities I had to help them with issues confronting them. This idea coincided with a book I read years before, The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler. Her nonfiction book describes the heartache of girls and women who went two homes for unwed mothers and very often put the babies up for adoption. This of course was before Roe v. Wade when there were few options for unwanted pregnancy. Having spent a lot a time talking to young girls about the consequences of life after pregnancy, the story worth telling for me is how it feels for a teenage girl to have the baby, really, under any circumstances and try a live a normal teenage life afterwards. During pregnancy in the 50s and 60s, these girls were already treated as “bad girls” and then leaving a baby behind – people could be ruthless in their judgments. This was the story I wanted CC to tell. 

WOW: That's so incredible how all of this came about. I can’t help but be completely impressed by how you managed to write this novel with only one hand! How did you manage to do that? 

Leah: You asked about my physical struggle in writing this book. Let me give you a little background. By early 2018 I had written 18 chapters of CC’s Road Home, but I had to undergo a shoulder replacement surgery in March. During that surgery there were complications and I suffered major nerve damage to my left arm and hand. I was left with a condition called wrist drop. along with very limited use of my left arm. Of course I was in physical therapy for the rest of the 2018 and had to undergo additional surgeries to try to repair that damage. 

I’m left-handed. I could no longer write in longhand and could not type for risk of further damage to my hand. Wrist and arm supports were made for me by wonderful occupational therapists. I worked on the physical recovery full steam ahead while the thoughts of writing again were constantly on my mind. I tried using speech to text methods but writing fiction orally didn’t work well for me. 

In December, 2018, I woke up one morning thinking about my main character, CC. I realized she was just sitting around in my desktop waiting for me. She had taken on that magical moment when a character comes to life, and I felt like I had abandoned her. 

I spent the last few years of my teaching career working with students with special needs, always trying to help them figure out ways to get a job done – in the classroom or in the community. Next question for me – what would I tell myself? How will I get the job done? I returned to my desktop that day and stared at my computer. 

I had nothing to lose, I started typing Chapter 19 with the fingers of my right hand. It was a “if they can do it, I can do it” moment. The work I wrote during this time needed a lot of revision but I stuck with it trying not to constantly make corrections, I told myself toot to keep going. Write. Create. 

I finished my first draft the summer of 2019 and chose a wonderful editor to help me revise, rewrite, and edit towards a final draft in February, 2020. CC has been with me a total of five years starting with Maggie in “Red Shadow.” Some days at the computer she took on a life all her own. I wrote her story because it mattered, while the damage to my dominant arm and hand inspired me to continue my work, to never desert those things that matter.

WOW: You are truly an inspiration! This novel is based out of Louisiana and you have lived there for quite some time. Since you are already familiar with the area, did you do any research to make sure you captured the setting correctly? 

Leah: I love living in New Orleans, and friends have asked why I chose a rural setting in north Louisiana to write about. I guess at heart I am a small-town girl. I grew up in small towns in the heart of Cajun country along Bayou Lafourche, went to high school in Gatesville, Texas while living with my grandparents, finished at a private high school in Metairie, La. and went to college for two years at Louisiana Tech in, you guessed it, Ruston. Those quaint little places run deep in my heart and mind. I love that living in several towns helped me to adapt to people and to write about them – Gran and Gramps, Johnny, Addy, Miss Eugenia, Uncle Bud, Miss Jessica, all are characters drawn from small town memories. 

I still did some research. I wanted to capture those north Louisiana rolling hills and wooded terrain I describe, especially in CC’s ride to Ruston high School with Gran. I depended on my earlier life there, but looked at websites like Only in Louisiana which posts lovely photograms’ and descriptions of different areas of the estate. 

But if you’re in Louisiana or most of the South, you must know about the heat! Summers are sweltering and humid. CC introduces the reader to this fact in chapter one where I describe the heat. “Hot was not a strong enough description. Sitting alone you could actually hear the heat – the distant buzzing of bees and muted chirping of daytime crickets. And the gnats! They were always there, ready to get in your eyes until you waved them away.” Hearing the heat! It’s so hot you can hear it. Part of living in Louisiana. 

WOW: Well, you absolutely captured that area! I love that you set this book during the sixties. How did you capture the music and the historical moments that were happening throughout this character’s life during that time? 

Leah: Nicole, I have to admit I lived during the sixties. And music by 1964 was such a part of life. Since my novel is historical, I made sure to go back and look at recording dates. Music connoisseurs know music better than me and are sure to challenge me on actual dates. For example, when I started writing CC’S Road Home, I was going to set it in 1963. I realized about one fourth through, that the Beatles arrived in America’s on February, 1964. It’s hard to write a novel employing 60’s music without talking about the Beatles. I couldn’t, but there was a wide variety in music and it wasn’t all rock. There was some Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, The Miracles, the great B.B. King blues, and of course Elvis. At the swimming party in the middle of the book, the kids are still twisting! 

After I turned to ’64, I researched racial tension in Louisiana and beyond. Dr. Martin Luther King relocated the movement further south, and I read about his work in St. Augustine, Florida. In Chapter three CC overhears the television reporter describing the sit ‘ins at counters at McCrory’s five and dime and Woolworth’s lunch counters in that city. I wanted to give the reader a feel of those news happenings. After Addy and CC are almost driven off the road while transporting a group of black children, Gran explains the seriousness of that situation to them and insists the sheriff press charges against the boys. A big deal in a small community at that time. 

My subplots are also told from a historical point of view, Uncle bud’s brain injury and the family’s heroic support of him in spite of a lack of understanding; the sexual assault on CC and the tragedy of the secrecy surrounding that event; CC.’s struggle to understand the community’s attitudes towards race,; and her struggle to resume a normal teen life. All of the themes woven together as part of CC’s journey. 

WOW: That's an incredible amount of history you've captured in your book. 2020 has been a difficult year for many of us. You have been an example of triumphing over difficulty. What advice do you have for writers? 

Leah: I practice the” no matter what” philosophy. 

I had already been through breast cancer and all the treatments and surgeries in 1999 and 2000. We all have difficulties, and it is always how we handle them that is telling. Borrowing from Jeff Bridges in the movie, Starman, “You earth people are at your best when things are at their worst.” I never forgot the truth in that statement. 

As writers struggling with motivation this year, I think we need to be mindful of the wonderful communities all over the internet who offered webinars and virtual meetings at nominal cost and free in some cases to writers to motivate and teach. Some groups started “writing spaces” on zoom or other platforms where individuals sat and wrote together silently, and shared as they felt the need. I found this to be a profound way to continue working. 

I felt during this time that I was in a large community of writing caregivers, aimed at helping one another. Authors have spent time and energy writing books and can suffer the heartbreak of getting lost in this situation. Many writers held virtual presentations for book launches and salvaged the release of their books. A sense of community developed around these events and writers and their readers participated. 

Bloggers, like you, Nicole, offered much needed advice and inspiration, not always about writing, but topics on health and nutrition, exercise, and especially what to do to avoid feelings of isolation. 

And in the end, don’t give up. Inspiration evolves from never giving up, no matter what. That morning I got up and asked myself, “How will I finish this book?” started a whole chain of wonderful events in my life – the completion of the next chapter, the completion of the book, finding a publisher to look at my book, the day I saw my cover the first time, the time I opened a box and saw my book in print, and the looks of pride on my families faces when they showed them my work. None of this would have happened if I had not asked myself how can I write under these circumstances? 

Looking back that morning was no different than any other. It started with that first sentence, certainly under different circumstances. But I still had to start – with that first sentence or group of sentences. It was a morning like others I have experienced – how can I write this morning? I don’t know what to write. But we sit, we start, we put a few words down, and often we create a paragraph, and then a page, and… you know the rest. It’s all about never give up. That’s where we get inspiration. The never give up attitude. No matter what.

WOW: I totally agree - never give up! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today. Best of luck on your book!

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

Enter to win a copy of CC's Road Home by Leah B. Eskine by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway ends December 6th at 11:59 PM CST. We will announce the winner on the Rafflecopter widget the next day. Good luck!

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Interview with Susan E Wadds, WOW! Q4 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Winner of The Writers’ Union of Canada’s 2016 short prose contest for developing writers and WOW! Women on Writing’s 2018 Essay Contest, Susan Wadds’ short fiction and poetry have been featured in literary journals and anthologies, including Room and carte blanche magazines. The first two chapters of her novel, What the Living Do, won Lazuli Literary Group’s writing contest, published in Azure’s winter 2017 issue. She leads writing workshops and retreats in Canada and Europe, and most currently, online. Her website is She lives in South-Central Ontario, Canada. A graduate of the Humber School for Writers, Susan is certified in the Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) method of writing workshop facilitation. She is Past President of the Writers’ Community of Simcoe County (WCSC). Since 1989, she’s sustained herself and family through her Rebalancing therapeutic bodywork practice. 

Give Susan's essay, "What I Remember is This," a read and return to learn more about the author.

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

WOW:  “What I Remember Is This” is a multi-layered piece of creative non-fiction that contains many different elements of the relationship between mother and daughter—including the mental and physical memories of a specific timeframe. Was it difficult editing this piece and deciding which parts to include explore on a more deeper level? 

Susan: I must say you’ve really done your homework! These are terrific questions. I wouldn’t say it was difficult per se, to decide what to include, but approaching the story took many turns. I did try it as a piece of fiction but, as I often find, fictionalizing these events simply didn’t work. In fiction, one has to have explanations for everything that’s said and done, if only in one’s head, to make sense of the piece. Life doesn’t always have the answers we seek, which to my mind makes creative non-fiction all the more compelling. I considered leaving out the hippie commune and factory work but then there was no obvious backstory to the mother’s outburst; the humiliation heaped onto her already precarious physical state. I considered also making the reason for the marrow test more explicit, but in the end felt it wasn’t necessary. 

WOW: Thank you for that kind compliment! What do you most enjoy about writing creative nonfiction? 

Susan: When I feel brave enough, I’m able to step in and tell the truth. That telling of “my” story is always a relief – to have it land on the page somehow alleviates the weight of it. Rarely am I able to write about anything that’s less than ten years old. As Barbara Turner-Vesselago advises, it’s best to let personal stories “compost” before writing them. She maintains that to have perspective and to avoid a rant, one needs to wait. The stories are there, I just have to wait until the shape reveals itself. 

WOW: I can totally get on board with that perspective of watiting. I'm in my mid-40s now and find I'm writing more and more about now about things that happened in my teens and 20s. You also lead online writing retreats and workshops, and have one titled COVID-19 and Sanity. How has this specific workshop been helpful to the writers you’ve connected with? 

Susan: During the past seven months these Zoom workshops have been the silver lining and many of the participants have stated just that – the workshops are what’s keeping them sane. Through connection but also through being able to set down the weight of what this time asks of us. The Amherst Artists and Writers (AWA) method of writing workshop facilitation buoys and encourages, noting always what is strong in freshly generated writing. So at the end of a workshop, everyone feels heard, seen, and appreciated. More than ever, we all need that. In the beginning, gathering virtually was a necessity done begrudgingly but as we progressed through the weeks and months, a surprising intimacy developed. Instead of being limited to local writers, I will often have people from Portland, New Jersey, Kenora, Victoria, Toronto, Calgary, and Costa Rica. Many have met online and it’s always sweet when those who’ve shared the screen before meet up again – delighted to reconnect and write together. There are a few who are working on full manuscripts, so it’s a thrill to listen as these stories take shape. In effect, all the workshops these days are "COVID-19 and Sanity." 

WOW: Part of your novel, What the Living Do, has already garnered an award. Could you tell us what the book is about? 

Susan: Brett Catlin imagines herself tough and capable, attributes she’s developed to counter her deep feelings of remorse over deaths she believes she’s caused. She’s a 39-year-old road worker who, when she finds out she has cancer, initially refuses a hysterectomy. After unsuccessfully attempting to heal herself through alternative methods, she agrees to the surgery only to discover that she’s pregnant. During a trip home to help her mother, Brett witnesses her older cousin’s interaction with his young niece which sets off a series of reactions and realizations. This encounter ultimately helps her decide the course of her life and the life she carries. 

WOW: You work helping others through a rebalancing therapeutic bodywork practice. What does this practice entail and how have you seen it help others? 

Susan: In the mid-eighties, I received several Rebalancing sessions that transformed my relationship with my body. The revelations I experienced of what lies beneath the surface are what took me to India in 1988 for the training. There, we learned from many different teachers, each with their own style and approach, from the deep-tissue work of Ida Rolf to the soft joint release of Milton Trager, to the powerful bioenergetic, emotional release work of Wilhelm Reich. The training was experiential which meant that every day we worked on ourselves and each other, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Given the range of learned techniques, every Rebalancer develops their own unique approach. I tend to use deep-tissue massage and soft joint release, along with breath and energy work in my sessions. On the surface, benefits include ease of movement and freedom from pain, and on a deeper level, clients experience a sense of being restored, of coming home, and often an emotional response brings recognition and release from old trauma.

WOW: That sounds amazing--I can see why you find joy in that line of work and helping others. We can't wait to see what else you share with the world in your writing journey!

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Important Decisions About Big Issues

Saturday, November 21, 2020
I will begin by apologizing. I’m sorry. It’s not the first apology--when it comes to my soon-to-be book--and I know it won’t be my last. 

I apologize for being white and female and old, and for telling a story from a Black and male and youthful perspective. I’m sorry I am the one telling Henry’s story… or rather, I’m sorry I’m telling Henry’s story and not a male POC author. I wish someone else had told it.

But Henry chose me, not somebody else. 

When talking about this about-to-be-born book, I usually add: I didn’t write Henry Simmons’ story. He came alive when I had over 25,000 words and then scrapped them all and started from scratch. Things happened to Henry and he saw things and he realized things… and I was merely the conduit. I know that sounds like an excuse for this not being an #OwnVoices story. I also know that the above is full of a great deal of “I this” and “I that,” and I don’t mean it to be. 

I mean to be telling the horror and loss and injustice and the loss and the loss and the loss of the Tulsa Race Massacre. 

A little background information: I wrote a manuscript about the Tulsa Race Massacre (sometimes mistakenly called Tulsa Race Riot, but there was no riot). After sending it out to over 120 agents and publishers, I finally got a yes. The manuscript is going to become a book. The 100-year anniversary of the massacre is coming up in May. I plan on being in Tulsa with my book. 

                                                                  image by Pixabay
                                      This is a sculpture in Tulsa. During the massacre, Black people
                                              were often shot and killed despite having surrendered. A.C. Jackson
                                               a local surgeon who was recognized nationally as a gifted surgeon, 
                                             was shot in his front yard even though he said to the small mob, "Here
                               I am, I want to go with you." Jackson was only forty years old when he was murdered.

But do I have the right? Do I have the right to even tell the story? 

I recently contacted a nationally-known and well-respected expert on the Tulsa Race Massacre. She and I are both educators; I’ve met her at national conferences. Would she be willing to read my manuscript and possibly give me a blurb for the book cover? She said she’d love to… and then she asked the million dollar question. Who was telling the story? When I told her it was told from the perspective of a young African American male, there was a reflective gap in time. And then she respectfully said no… and she gave me some suggestions. 

  • Rewrite the story from a white person’s point of view--not really possible in this case 
  • Wait 10 years until the playing field evens out, until there are more diverse stories told by authors with more diversity--Does my lardy body have 10 more years?
  • “Boycott” publishers and refuse to submit work until more Black stories are told by more Black authors 

She also said some Black Tulsans feel saddened when people are making money off of their pain and suffering. That made me stop--as a writer and a human being. 

I’ve made some decisions. I’m going to continue with this on my next post (or two) because it’s too huge to cover in just 500 words. But I’m interested in what you think. Is this a story I can tell? 

And please be honest. Please.

Sioux Roslawski's writing has been published in 15 Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. She's more than halfway through November (and NaNoWriMo) yet hasn't made as much progress as she'd like, since she's writing surrounded by her middle-school students. If you'd like to read more of Sioux's writing, check out her blog.


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3 Additional Uses for Research and Backstory

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

It doesn’t matter if you are a fiction or nonfiction writer. When you have finished your manuscript, you almost always have a file of materials that didn’t make it into the manuscript. 

For fiction writers, a lot of this material is backstory. It may be the childhood incident that spurs your point-of-view character into action. Or the one that holds her back. Maybe it is a list of her favorite music, movies, or foods. 

For nonfiction writers, it could be background material on the historic era in question. This material might include newspaper headlines, catalogue pages, or play bills. Interviews with experts always yield way more information than you can use. Then there’s the brilliant sidebar which, while fascinating, no longer fits the chapter. 

What do you do with all of this? Build a section full of reader extras on your web site. This could include: 

Text Extras 

A chapter or series of sidebars you had to cut from your nonfiction could become an article or other nonfiction short. Backstory rewritten to have a compelling beginning, middle and end could become a downloadable short story. Different authors provide different print extras to entice readers. Kris Bock, author of the Cat Café books, offers her fans recipes for various baked goodies sold in her fictional café. You could also offer a knitting pattern or other craft-based how to. The possibilities are limited only by your topic and your imagination. 

Graphic Bonuses 

Stories and other text based freebies aren’t the only pieces your readers can download. If you own the copyright or have copyright free art, photographs and maps, you can use them to create everything from bookmarks and postcards to trading cards and matching games for your readers to download and print. For a historic piece, you might create themed paper dolls or sewing cards. Line art can also be used to create mazes or coloring pages. 

Online Offerings 

As long as you are bringing readers to your web site, why not give them something that benefits from being online? That play list you made for your character? Publish it on your site with links to the various songs. Create an online scavenger hunt based on visuals from your story. Engage preschool readers with music based activities or a “Simon Says” video. Yet again, the possibilities are endless. 

Next time something won’t fit into the main manuscript, don’t sweat it. You may yet be able to create a home for it online.


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

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins December 7, 2020) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins December 7, 2020). 

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A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

I absolutely love this time of year.
Here in Wisconsin, the leaves have mostly left the trees 
and every step you take you'll hear a crunch
as they're all beneath your feat.

It's a delightful time of year for baking (see picture above)
 since the added warmth
and the delicious smells are sure to 
entice the entire family to gather around
the table (or at least head to the kitchen). 

And sweaters...
It feel so good to grab a mug of coffee, tea, or cocoa and 
throw on a soft warm sweater.
I adore walking outdoors in the morning watching the 
steam from my coffee then visiting with my horses  
in their warm stable. 

I begin each day making a mental list
of things I am thankful for

Here's why I do that and why I think you should too:

-When you count your blessings you realize how bountiful they are and regardless of your bank balance you'll feel rich!

-While you're thinking about things to be thankful for, you can turn off the noise of the world for a little bit - it's an emotional and mental break from stress.

-As you think about things to be thankful for, you will relax your muscles and begin to smile and breathe more deeply which is good for mind and body.

-When you are thankful, you'll start looking for more things to be thankful for throughout the day and we all know that when you look for something you'll find it.

Nothing I'm saying here is new and if you prefer hearing it from someone older, wiser, and famous - check out what Shakespeare himself had to say about being thankful

"Oh Lord that lends me life, 
lend me a heart replete with thankfulness"
                                                ~William Shakespeare

As you know, thanksgiving is quickly approaching here in the United States. Yes, this year is going to look a little different than years past, but the fact remains we can still take time to be thankful, show thanks, and smile. 

What are some ways you can step up your thankfulness game? 

-offer to pay for someone's groceries

-send a thank you card to someone who has touched your life

-call someone you haven't spoken to in a while and thank them for their friendship

-thank someone on social media for brightening your day with their pictures and stories

-speak to the manager at a store and tell them you're thankful for a particular employee who went above and beyond to provide you with delightful customer service

-thank an author for writing such lovely stories (don't forget the best way to thank an author is by leaving a review)

Please leave a comment on this article and share your thoughts and ideas about spreading thanks today and always! Thank you for taking time to read this today and thank you for being you!


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  Miss Maggie May, a bunny named Penelope who is absolutely the most amazing companion, and over 250 Holsteins.

And now she runs a virtual classroom for her children who are distance learners! 

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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How Do You Know When to Give Up?

Monday, November 16, 2020


I have one young adult manuscript I’ve spent years working on, and finally published on the free digital platform Wattpad last year. I also entered the first 20 pages in a book adaptation contest almost a year ago. After having been turned down by numerous literary agents, I thought the book, which is told from the point of view of a young man who has taken his own life, might have potential as an adapted work. 

After a long weekend spent editing and writing magazine copy for my day job, I received my feedback from the contest in my inbox last night. It was not good, and probably was the last thing I needed to read when I was already under a great deal of stress.

This is the second time I’ve submitted my story to a contest and was basically told it isn’t marketable. The person in charge of writing my critique called the premise of the book “bizarre,” and also said the following: 

It covers quite heavy subject matter—molestation, depression, suicide—and yet the intended audience for this seems to be in the YA range, given the young(ish) age of all the main characters. These are subjects that are generally not covered in films/TV shows intended for younger audiences, adding yet another complication to the potential marketplace success of this piece. 

I was a little confused because I read a lot of YA, and from what I can tell, dark sells. Also, plenty of YA novels feature characters that are 17-18 years old. These are themes that are covered in young adult novels, and have also been in adaptations (mostly on streaming services, I’ve noticed). So this led me to wonder if it is simply time to give up on this book (which was inspired by a real-life event that happened when I was in high school). Maybe it’s my writing and delivery that aren’t marketable. 

I’m not going to lie and say I suck at writing. I have enough confidence in myself to know that there are specific things I can write well, such as podcast scripts, flash fiction and magazine articles. But maybe young adult fiction is where I need to hang up my hat. The other thing I could possibly do is go through one last round of professional editing and then self publish it. I’m creating an audience with “Missing in the Carolinas,” and I’m pretty sure the listeners of the podcast don’t mind dark themes. It’s hard to know, but it’s something to think about. It’s hard not to feel depressed about critical feedback, no matter where it comes from. I mentioned earlier in this post that I've received comments that the book wasn't marketable. I also received positive feedback once from an artist grant application that the characters were very well developed and the committee thought I would be able to finish the book successfully without the grant. No wonder I'm confused!

I have another YA novel I wrote a few years ago during NaNoWriMo that may have more potential, so I’ll also consider working more on that one in the future instead. I still have dreams of being a YA novelist, so I’m not sure I’m ready to give up on that just yet. 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and magazine editor who also hosts a true crime podcast called "Missing in the Carolinas." Learn more at
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Interview with Keb Filippone: Q4 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest Third Place Winner

Sunday, November 15, 2020
Keb’s Bio: 

This is Keb’s first time entering a WOW contest and her first time trying her hand at creative nonfiction, generally preferring poetry over prose. She is very grateful for the positive response to her essay. Keb has explored writing on and off over the years, but it wasn’t until recently, when she became an empty nester, that she started to focus on it. She is currently at work on a poetry manuscript that addresses some of the challenges of middle age. She has been inspired to attempt more nonfiction as a result of this contest. After spending most of her life in NY, she moved to Florida approximately 6 years ago where she lives with her husband and dog. She is the mother of three lovely and talented children. 

If you haven't done so already, check out Keb's award-winning story "Some Things Better Left Unsaid" and then return here for a chat with the author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the WOW! Q4 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing this piece and how did it and your writing evolve as you wrote? 

Keb: I don’t think this essay would have come about if not for the pandemic and ensuing shut down. I was exasperated and felt trapped by the circumstances. I adore my family, but I felt like I was losing myself because I couldn’t find any solitude. I think the quarantine amplified all my frustrations. I started writing in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep because it was the only time that I felt truly alone and focused. I have always loved writing poetry, but during this strange unprecedented period I wanted to explore my vulnerabilities and more fully express myself, and I felt prose provided a better opportunity and platform for this. 

WOW: A silver lining of the pandemic, perhaps, that you were able to find time to write and explore a new genre. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? 

Keb: I can be pretty raw and brutal in my writing which doesn't necessarily match my demeanor. And I also think I need to work on being more empathetic with those around me. 

WOW: Was it a challenge to share a personal essay with an audience? If so, how did you overcome it? 

Keb: Oh God yes, in the essay I basically dissect my marriage and admit to some of my worst vices. However, the piece flowed out of me so easily and literally, the day after I wrote it, I stumbled across the WOW site so I felt like it was meant to be. 

WOW: Perfect timing! We’re glad you found us! Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you? 

Keb: I listen regularly to Billy Collin’s daily poetry broadcasts, which are available on his Facebook page. I find them very inspiring. He is one of my favorite poets. I'm currently reading Love & Trouble by Claire Dederer which is great creative nonfiction and I’m also reading Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill which is a very creative approach to storytelling and literary fiction. 

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

Keb: Write more, and not always just about sad stuff. Document what makes you happy and brings you joy. And also, if you have a thought you find interesting, try to capture it in the moment and expand on it rather than letting it float away. 

WOW: Ooh, that’s great advice! Thank you! Anything else you’d like to add? 

Keb: I have such respect for sites that encourage writing, and I’m so happy to have discovered WOW. I am grateful for the appreciation of my essay. It definitely has inspired me to keep at it. 

WOW: Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses. And we are grateful you shared your writing with us! 

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