The Dance of 2020 - Remembering...

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Dance by Garth Brooks was a song I learned on the piano way back in 1989. I was 12 and saved up my babysitting and stall cleaning monies and purchased the Garth Brooks Easy Piano Song Book from my piano teacher Mrs. Hansen. I remember this time in my life quite vividly. My friends were busy figuring out hair spray and lip gloss dreaming of what it might be like to get asked to the school dance. I spent my free moments playing piano and singing for my sick father. I remember singing this particular song and feeling quite wise. I thought the lyrics had been written just for me (not really, but I absolutely felt each emotion as I came to grips with losing and going through oh so many of life's milestones without my best friend). 

I still play that same piano. I still sing that same song. I'm not sure how wise I was then or how wise I feel right now. I do however love the last day of the year because it gives me an opportunity to reflect on the year and years prior. I think we can all agree on one thing:


I don't think there's an appropriate font for 2020 but it feels like maybe El Messiri might be appropriate since MESSY is one word I often used to describe how life felt this year. Is that what we are going to remember a few decades from now? I don't really know to be honest with you and a part me wants to forget oh so many things about this year, yet there's lessons to be learned in every painful moment, right? As Garth says: 

I could have missed the pain

But I'da had to miss

The dance

That brings me to another country song with a special place in my heart. How They Remember You by Rascal Flatts

Did you stand or did you fall?
Build a bridge or build a wall
Hide your love or give it all
What did you do? What did you do?
Did you make 'em laugh or make 'em cry?
Did you quit or did you try?
Live your dreams or let 'em die?
What did you choose? What did you choose?
When it all comes down
It ain't if, it's how they remember you

I'm doing a lot of remembering today. My Auntie Jay died just a few days ago at the amazing age of 104. She lived in her own home and lived alone until the day she died. She did NOT die of Covid-19. She saw a lot in her life and had the most phenomenal perspective on life and love. I will remember her holding babies and smiling. I will remember her raking leaves in hear yard during the fall of 2020 - (she spent 3 days getting the yard ready for the lawn guy to come mow one last time before winter). I will remember her urging friends to stop and visit because being lonely was far scarier than the pandemic. This wise woman was interviewed by the local paper just months before her death and there's a great deal of wisdom in the Herald Times Reporter article. As I remember Auntie Jay (real name Julia) and as I reflect on 2020 I can't help but wonder how my friends and family will remember me.

I didn't make all the right decisions during 2020. I probably took the wrong risks here and was too cautious there. I could have been happier and less anxious. Did I make sure everyone had enough joy? Was my glass full enough? 


Let's take a moment to think about all the things we did RIGHT during 2020. Let's take time today to concentrate on the JOY that came during the last 12 months. Leave a comment on this post about something positive you did or a positive experience you had during 2020 and when you're done doing that, pick up the phone and call someone and tell them how your life is better with them in it! Drop someone a note wishing them a happy new year and tell them what you admire about them. It's great to show up at someone's funeral and share memories of how you remember them, but imagine what joy it would give them to know how you feel while they are still alive!

If you've read this far - thank you! I'm glad you are here and I'm glad you've overcome oh so many obstacles to get here - I'm hopeful that 2021 is going to be filled with extreme joy and gladness for you and your family!


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 a hot mess of busy-ness who has decided to shorten her bio...

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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Why You Should Start a Blog in 2021

Next year marks my 10 year blogging anniversary. It's hard to believe that so many years ago I first started my writing blog. As a writer, in between every blog post, I battle an internal conflict that debates whether it's all worth it. I've read all sorts of opinions about writers having a blog, and once I even received bad advice where someone said that writers that aren't published shouldn't even start a blog. Since then, I've realized that was really bad advice, and as we embark upon a new year, I thought I'd put together a few of my personal reasons why you should start one: 

1) It gives you a platform to grow.

Ideally, you should own your own domain for your blog, but at the very least, hosting your blog through either WordPress and Blogger is a great start. What having a blog gives you is the chance to develop your writing voice. Lately, I've been rewriting many old blog posts, and it's amazing to see my own transformation. I realized I transformed from a somewhat immature but energized writer to a more mature, thoughtful blogger that uses fewer animated GIFs in her blog posts. 

I've seen many writers use places like Instagram as their personal blog, which is fine for some, but keep in mind, many people have had their profiles removed completely off that platform. You also run the risk of your engagement dropping because Instagram changes its algorithm. There's also a matter of their terms and conditions that can be a concern. But I digress...

2) You'll strengthen your writing.

One of my favorite movies is "Contagion" (don't judge), and one quote I smile at is, "Blogging is graffiti with punctuation!" I guess that all depends on the blogs you follow, right? I have to say, that as I look back over old posts, I'm amazed at how much I've transformed as a writer. I've definitely improved. Not only that, keeping up a blog builds a writing habit. It also helps me not get tired of the same type of writing all the time. So, while my own blogging has seemed like graffiti with punctuation at times, it's still the act of writing. And that helps me in the long run.

3) You develop connections within the writing community.

I have found some amazing writers and writing friends thanks to my personal blog. In fact, I'm fairly certain my own love of writing blogs eventually led me to find Women on Writing. In fact, for a long time, I hosted a weekly writing prompt where I met many good writing friends, one in particular who I still keep in touch with all these years later. Starting a writing blog, following writing blogs, and being involved in that blogging community builds connections. Think of it like talking shop with people. You get to rub elbows with your own kind. How cool is that?

4) You can talk about your writing journey and promote yourself along the way.

One of the coolest things about having a blog is reflecting on my own writing journey. I've talked about the highs and lows, the roadblocks, and the triumphs. Along with that, I've had the chance to promote my own writing. The wonderful thing about having a blog is that you can talk about your journey to publication. You can update readers, and possibly reach new ones. 

As 2021 rolls around, and you consider what can kickstart your writing, consider starting a blog. Nothing inspires me more to write than writing about writing on my blog. Blogging also allows me to explore ideas and do research. That alone is inspiring to me. So, I hope you decide to start a blog, and if you do, make sure you let me know. 

Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. Say hi to her on her writing blog World of My Imagination or her work-life blog Lady Unemployed.

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Interview with Eva W: Summer 2020 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Tuesday, December 29, 2020


Eva Wewiorski has lived a geographically varied life in Scotland and the UK, currently residing in Leith, Edinburgh with her fiancé. Outside of writing, she works in a university library. She trained as a librarian at Newnham College, Cambridge and throughout that year, spent every evening and weekend she could scribbling in the romantic secrecy of her rented annexe. At the end of her internship she decided to pursue writing more seriously and is currently undertaking Glasgow University’s Creative Writing M.Litt course on a scholarship award. Her entry for WOW! Women On Writing’s Flash Fiction Competition is her first publication. You can follow her on Twitter @evadoubleyu.

Make sure you read her story, "Dear Victor," then come on back and read her interview with us.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First, congratulations on winning runner up in the summer flash fiction contest! Your story roped me in immediately. The whole time I kept wondering which direction it was going and then you delivered that shocking ending! What was the inspiration behind this story? 

Eva: I liked the idea of a story based on something that at first seemed like quite a saccharine and girly premise - a woman talking about her first real kiss, a high school crush - that then gradually revealed itself to be something very sinister and creepy. I write a lot about trauma, particularly around taboo subjects, and teacher-pupil transgressions are definitely something not often talked about - even though I think they’re more common than people realise, as with all forms of power abuse.

WOW: I definitely think you are right on about that! So, I love how you wrote this story as if the character is writing a letter to Victor. When you first started this story, did you know how it would end? 

Eva: Yes, I knew the last line before I knew the opening one. I liked playing with the power dynamic by having the narrator address him by his first name, which is obviously not how she'd have known him as a teenager. I felt it undercut the status he'd have as 'Mr' , reinforcing a man like him is no way deserving of the respect that comes with the title.  Even though I obviously knew the ending, as I was writing it I found myself almost believing it was a fellow student she was talking about. It was eerily easy to create all the misleading clues.

Also, I know it ends on a pretty grim note and the narrator’s obviously very damaged but I hope the letter form also conveys a sense of power for her now, the fact that she’s directly addressing him and vowing to one day speak out. At the very least, she’s now able to comprehend the true nature of what he is and understand that what happened wasn’t her fault.

WOW: That power she has regained absolutely comes across in the piece! What does a typical day of writing look like for you?

Eva: Because I'm in the middle of an creative writing M.Litt, I have lots of writing tasks I have to prioritise, including giving feedback on other writer's work. I generally set myself a personal goal of a minimum of 500 words a day, which is normally enough to either complete a short exercise - a piece of flash fiction or reflective exercise  - or write a decent chunk of a short story. Inspiration doesn't always arrive with the clock and a little progress each day is better than trying to perfect a major project in one day - I've learned that the hard way! I'm a big fan of writing on paper first before typing it up, and I generally print things out to edit the final draft on paper too. Outside my coursework, I'm also in the process of writing a novel which I work on really any spare moment I have. I'm the sort of person who will write on the back of a receipt while on a moving bus and, left to my own devices, I'd probably never stop. Thankfully I have a fiance who helps remind me there is an equally exciting world outside the one in my head. 

WOW: Writers always need someone there to remind us of the world outside our mind! How do you know when a story is done?

Eva: I think the point you have to let it go is when you find yourself reading over bits you previously thought were brilliant and then suddenly falling out of love with them for no reason. When you’re at that stage of proofreading obsessively and getting bored of re-reading the same thing, it’s easy to forget that what’s become overly-familiar to you will be completely fresh to a reader’s eyes. It’s important to step away before you end up panicking and changing things or worse, deciding irrationally it’s no good at all and binning it altogether. This is one of the most important things I’ve learned since being part of a writer’s group. You have no idea how others will receive your work, often in a pleasantly surprising way. 

WOW: Oh that's a fantastic point! What do you hope readers take away from reading your story?

Eva: I hope they find it entertaining, as dark as the subject matter might be, and are taken aback by the twist. I tried to write it in a way that invites a second reading, so if WOW subscribers feel it’s got re-readability, I’ll be thrilled. 

Also, I hope this isn’t the case but in the event there’s someone reading it who can relate to the narrator’s situation or has a Victor Larkin in their past, I really hope they find a way to tell their story and get the support they need. And to always remember that transgressions of this nature are never, ever a victim’s responsibility.

WOW: I completely agree. Thank you so much for talking with us today and I can't wait to see what you come out with next!

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Nine Guiding Principles To Order My Steps As A Writer in 2021

Monday, December 28, 2020

This has been a year when my steps, personally and as a writer, have faltered. Some missteps were because of the pandemic. Some were because of disheartening and tragic occurrences in the world that both saddened and angered me and stopped me in my tracks. And some were because of my own doing...procrastination, being too easily distracted, or just wanting to frolic around my home doing anything besides pecking the keys of my computer keyboard, pretending I had no writing cares or (deadlines) at all. 

But as we enter 2021, a year I'm hopeful will be one of, "less struggle, less brokenness, and more silver linings," paraphrasing an inspiring message my niece sent me recently, I am ready to order my steps. I am excited about applying new principles to my writing life, and life in general, to cultivate a more positive, creative and "go get it" attitude.

Here is a list of nine guiding principles I hope will order my steps as a writer in 2021:

1. Each morning when I awaken, and especially before I sit down to write, I will put on fresh armor. I will take off the old garments of self doubt, or worry I may have clothed myself with from the day before and put on a finer tapestry, one that glitters with self assurance, knowing that I can reach whatever writing goals I set out to do.

2. I will create more structure in my writing life. I will organize my writing space so that it isn't a catchall for junk mail and a bevy of other nonessential writing items. Everything will have it's rightful place, from pens to reference books. I will plan my writing schedule the night before too. It will be flexible, not written in stone to allow for those daily hiccups in life we all have, but I know a written schedule will help me prioritize my work and life and be more productive. 

3. I will work on strengthening other areas of my life. I will eat healthier, exercise more, and nurture myself not only physically but emotionally and spiritually. When I am feeling good from the inside out, I am a more fruitful writer. 

4. I will choose to leave my writing bubble more often. Writing is full of so much solitude, but I don't have to go it alone as a writer. I will reach out to other writers more for support and wisdom and stand next to, even virtually, to those whose visions are akin to mine, thus meaning they are passionate writers who know this is their appointment, to write. Their creative minds and spirits can fuel my own and vice versa. I will remember there is strength in numbers when we come together as writers to show and offer support, and to ask for support in whatever form we need it be it an ear to listen to our frustrations, a question about marketing, or some much needed laughter.  

5. I will look my writing monsters in the eye. Those hairy, sharp fanged monsters, that are always lurking nearby- my fears, even at times, the fear of success. They have caused me to be immobile at times, to pull the covers over my head and shiver and hide, frightful about what's next. It's time to shine a flashlight on them, just as my father did when he looked under my bed as a little girl, and remember they are just in my imagination. I can boldly face my fears. If I truly think about it I have already. I can look those monsters in the eye each time I put pen to paper and submit my work or not worry about getting a rejection in my inbox. Each time I do I gain courage and those monsters will begin to scatter.

6. I will choose a quote a week to encourage me. Quotes can inspire me and infuse me with positive concepts I need to keep writing. A quote that inspires me is by science fiction author, the late Octavia E. Butler, who was also the first science writer in 1995 to receive the MacArthur Fellowship. She is quoted as saying, "You don't start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it's good stuff and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence."

7. I will write outside the box. Writing outside of the box will allow me to write less predictably. It will allow me to take chances and give myself permission to try something new, like writing in another genre. I always wanted to try my hand at science fiction. So what if I fail, at least I tried something out of the norm. 

8. I will embrace failure. Failure isn't the end of the world or my writing career. Oprah Winfrey is quoted as saying, "There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction." 

9. I will be my best friend as a writer. I will learn to be kinder, gentler, less hard on myself. I will give to myself what I give to others, belief in my dreams, faith I can accomplish them, and optimism for what is to come.


Jeanine DeHoney has had her writing published in several anthologies, magazines, and online blogs. She is looking forward to the silver linings in 2021 and hopes you are too. 

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Regroup in 2021

Saturday, December 26, 2020


I think we can all agree that 2020 ended up looking a lot different than we probably imagined this time last year. I consider myself very blessed that I ended the year still employed and able to earn extra income because of freelance opportunities. There are plenty of people impacted by the effects of the pandemic that have not been so fortunate. 

Because of this, I believe we should all give ourselves grace when it comes to setting goals for the new year. We are not out of the woods yet with COVID-19, so life is not going to miraculously go back to normal in January, as much as we'd like it to. When I looked back on the goals I set for myself in 2020 . . . they were pretty ambitious. There was a young adult novel I had planned to revise/rewrite that I haven’t touched, creative nonfiction essays that I planned to write, another book I wanted to query agents for, etc. In November, in an attempt to give myself some perspective, I went through some files, resulting in this revelation I shared in a Facebook post: 

I've had a little FOMO for this year's National Novel Writing Month and not having time to participate, but then I started crunching some numbers. Since this past May, I have written a total of 49,420 words in my various podcast scripts. For those who don't know, I research and write each episode of Missing in the Carolinas, and then carefully type up each script before recording so I'm not rambling all over the place. Each could be the equivalent of a long-form magazine article. The goal for National Novel Writing Month is to complete 60,000 words in 30 days, and as you can imagine, it requires a heck of a lot of discipline! But seeing as how I have almost written that many words for my podcast (actually probably closer to 60,000 if you count the separate true crime posts I write for my blog) I've almost completed a novel this year! And this is all in my "spare time," so I guess I should cut myself a little slack. 

I may not have checked off all my “goals,” but I never stopped writing. I also taught myself how to do some things I had never attempted before, such as uploading audio to a media host, creating an RSS feed, using GarageBand, recording interviews with Zoom, recording interviews with an app called Tape A Call, installing a new Wordpress template on my website, and finding new ways to research newspaper archives online. While these are not things I would normally think a writer should know how to do, they’ve proved pretty valuable and I’m proud of teaching myself some new things. 

For 2021, I think we should all give ourselves grace. That’s what I plan to do. I want to continue doing the best job I can as a blogger, magazine editor, true crime writer and podcaster. I also want to decompress and read more books than I was able to in 2020. While I have a few small goals in mind, I also want to commit to continuing to teach myself new skills, such as creating an online class as a way to earn passive income. Think about what you could do if you taught yourself how to do one new skill a month, such as a taking an online writing workshop or webinar on how to build an e-mail list? Teaching yourself new skills and finding ways to regroup should be a goal for all of us in 2021. What new skills would you like to learn in the new year?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and magazine editor who also hosts the true crime podcast Missing in the Carolinas. Visit her website at
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12 Days of a Writer's Christmas

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Happy holidays to one and all on this Christmas Eve. If you were just celebrating Hanukkah, I hope you had a wonderful time! I'm a Christmas celebrator and a writer, so I thought I'd have a little fun today...

The 12 Days of a Writer's Christmas

by Margo L. Dill

On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a brand new MacBook Pro.

On the 2nd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 2 sharpened pencils, and a brand new MacBook Pro.

(I know what you're thinking: Is she really going to go through all the days? I have presents to wrap. I have cards to write still. I have cookies to bake for Santa.)

OKAY! OKAY!  Skipping ahead for you last-minute Christmas to-do list people...

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me 12 reviewers reviewing

11 readers raving

10 agents a calling

9 ideas spinning

8 contracts for signing

7 bestsellers a selling

6 librarians recommending

5 Star Reviews

4 adoring fans

3 days of quiet

2 sharpened pencils

And a brand new MacBook Pro. 

Happy New Year, everyone. I'll be back soon with my usual word of the year post and a lesson I've been learning from my You Are a Badass book by Jen Sincero! 

Margo L. Dill is a writer, publisher, editor, teacher, and writing coach, living in St. Louis, MO with her 10-year-old daughter and 1.5 year old dog. Find out more at

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A Fine Romance

Wednesday, December 23, 2020
It’s true confession time, y’all. I’m having an affair. And it’s been going on a loooong time.

It all started when I was about eight years old. That’s when I learned to read and fell in love with words. Big words, little words, hard words, easy words. Words could make me laugh out loud, and sometimes, words could bring me to tears. Words were—are—endlessly fascinating to me. I especially love origins, of individual words and of phrases. And today, since earlier this week marked the first day of winter, and since I’m a little snowed under (see what I did there?) with holiday baking, I decided to share a little of my romance with winter words.

 As pure as the driven snow: 

This is a somewhat old-fashioned expression meaning pure, but it’s a lot older than you think. First, you’ll want to know that driven snow is snow that’s been blown into drifts, and that snow is very clean and purely white. The first use of the expression can be found in texts around the start of the 19th century, but the idea of purity associated with snow is way older than 1800. Would you be surprised to know that William Shakespeare first brought that imagery to play goers way back in The Winter’s Tale in 1611? To wit, “Lawn as white as driven snow.” 

Walking on thin ice: 

Yep, old Will was quite a prolific wordsmith and we can thank him for many expressions. But of course, there are other well-known writers who’ve gifted us with winter idioms we still use today. Like “walking on thin ice.” (Or “treading on thin ice,” or “skating on thin ice.”) It’s an expression that even a Southern girl who’s never seen thin ice can understand, namely that one is on dangerous ground, metaphorically speaking. It was first seen in print in the essay, Prudence, by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed.” Makes perfect sense! 

Jack Frost nipping at your nose

I’m not sure how old I was before I realized that Jack Frost was a name and not just a crazy way of referring to frosty weather. So who the heck is this Jack Frost fellow, anyway?

From Harper's Weekly, October 5, 1861

Turns out, he’s not a fellow at all. Jack Frost is a personification of winter, based on Scandinavian traditions—maybe. There’s also plenty of evidence that Jack Frost has English roots, dating back to 1734 in a book called Round About Our Coal Fire or Christmas Entertainments. Except Jack’s not a character there but instead just a colorful phrase for winter. Skip ahead to the 1800s and Jack Frost takes on some serious personality when he jumps the pond and lands in America, most notably in an1861 political cartoon by a fellow named Thomas Nast. Sound familiar? Yep, he’s the guy who gave us the first drawing of Santa Claus as we know him today. 

Oh, how I love a good story about words! And I love you, dear writers, who take the time to read my words. To paraphrase that wonderful romantic line, “You make me want to be a better writer.”

~Cathy C. Hall, wishing you happy holidays and all the best in 2021!
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Monday, December 21, 2020

Karen Barr lives with her husband and three min doxies, on 34-acres east of Kansas City. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gardening, talking to the neighbor’s calves, and sitting among the charm of 45-60 hummingbirds that spend the summers off her upper deck. She is editor-in-chief of Village Square literary magazine, an extension of Writer’s Village University. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction, WVU, is a four-time winner of the UK Write-Invite online competition, and her publications include stories in Ginsinko, Lost River Review, and Village Square

If you haven’t read her story, “Our World Is Not Normal” please take the time to do so and then come back to learn more about her process. 

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

WOW: Although I suspect I know the answer – what was your inspiration for “Our World Is Not Normal?” What did you do to make the story more universal? 

Karen: Yes, I think the inspiration is fairly obvious, but it's interesting how that follows into your second question. It all came from a 3-word prompt. I believe it was smoke, fog, & glass. 

When I read those words there could be no other meaning. They described a world being invaded by something sinister. An unseen enemy that could be foiled by a pane of glass. Suddenly it felt like science-fiction, an event that could happen to any world, anywhere. 

So I explored that possibility. What it might look and feel like, how a collective voice might experience and report it to future generations. It was a cathartic process as well. Being able to look at a situation similar to what we're currently experiencing, from the outside, allowed me to dissect and inspect a lot of my pent-up emotions. Using the 'we' voice really helped me to experience it more universally, and hopefully, the writing followed. 

WOW: Rewriting is such a vital part of the creative process. How did your story change through rewriting? 

Karen: This was one of those stories that came to me as I wrote. I had no idea where it was going from one paragraph to the next. So there was a bit of tidying, but surprisingly, not as much as most things I've written. 

The only real changes to this story were a couple of efforts to clarify at the sentence level and a half-dozen word choice switches. This is actually, the very first story I've ever sent out without weeks or months of revisions! 

I work with a wonderful writing group at WVU (Writer's Village University). They've been my beta readers for the last seven years and they are most generous with their comments and suggestions. Most of my work goes through major changes during the revision process. 

WOW: Isn’t it amazing when a piece comes together without a struggle? How does your work as an editor on Village Square inform your writing? 

Karen: The position has given me a new perspective on the process. For example, I've found out how difficult it is to turn down a submission! When you have two great pieces to choose from and one hole to fill, it comes down to details. So, I spend more time on my final revisions, paying special attention to details like word choice and flow. Even how the text looks on the page. I'm a big believer in white space. 

I've learned a lot just by reading work from such a diverse group. It opens me up to new perspectives and regional terminology. 

It's also helped me to be kinder to myself. We writers tend to take rejection personally and when that happens, it stifles our creative flow. Knowing the pressure editors can be under has taken much of the sting out of the rejections I receive. 

WOW: Nothing can flatten a writer quite like a rejection! What projects are you working on now? 

Karen: I always seem to have a handful of short stories 'in the works,' but currently, no new projects waiting in the wings. I'm also an administrator at Writer's Village University and I facilitate a lot of classes there, so my time is limited. 

But to be honest, this has been a stressful year for most of us. With all that's going on in the world, I'm happy to just relax with my husband and puppies through the holidays, and once the new year begins, I'll get back to work. 

WOW: What a great segue into my last question. What advice do you have for writers who have had trouble creating in 2020? How might they relaunch their writing in 2021?

Karen: Now you're going to make me reveal my master plan! LOL 

Let's split that in two. For those who've found it hard to create - BE KIND to yourself. The stress and tension we're experiencing is a worldwide phenomenon. We're all in this together. Our world is seeing unprecedented times. The political, social, and economical landscape of the U.S. was in flux, and the rest of the world held its collective breath. The entire planet let out a sigh of relief over the election, only to be thrust right back into the fray of confusion and unease with the subsequent attempts to overturn the results. 

We've suffered so many ups & downs this year. Wildfires, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, plane crashes, murder hornets, vanishing stars, not to mention the extra burden of job loss, childcare, figuring out how to pay the bills with one less earner in the household...the list goes on. We shouldn't be hard on ourselves if we found it difficult to create. 

Look at it as time spent filling the creative well. It's been feast or famine in the world of creativity. Some found the quarantine a relief. A time for silence, a time to reflect and evolve. For them, it's been a time of meditation, healing, and repurposing. 

Others have had so many balls in the air they haven't had a chance to relax. Between helping and caring for others outside their own households, children now at home who are normally in school, spouses losing jobs, and the accompanying flurry of panic as they try to find ways to keep their homes and possessions. And we won't leave out all the essential workers who have laid their lives on the line, working 12-16 hour shifts, putting themselves and their own families in danger to care for the rest of us. 

We've lost time, friends, and loved ones. But we're still here. 

Now, looking ahead to next year and how we might relaunch our writing in 2021... I can only speak for what's worked for me in the past and what I'm going to try to do, and that's R-E-L-A-X. I know how much the stress of the past year has hobbled my writing, and I know the cure, but I admit, it's been difficult to implement. 

1) Stop watching the news. It's a perpetual worry machine. My husband is much more into the inner workings of politics than I am, so he leaves the news channel on all day. I can't tell you how hard it is to walk through the living room and not get caught by the "Breaking News" that pops up every few hours. I can feel my body tense up as I watch. Find a time, no more than fifteen minutes a day, to inform yourself and after that, stay away from the news. 

2) That goes double for social media. The world around us has been in chaos for the last year and we've assimilated that chaos by starting the day with news or newsfeeds. In order to create, we must clear the chaos from our brains and social media does nothing but enhance that chaos. We generally have very little willpower when we're in chaos, so it's better to remove the temptations than try to resist. So turn off, unplug, and distance yourself from notifications. 

3) Get outside. There's no better restorative than nature. I'm lucky to live out in the country, where I have 34-acres to wander. If you live in the city, there are still ways to get out of the house and breathe in some fresh air even if you have to drive to a park or other location. I find tremendous solace in gardening, something that anyone can do, even if it's no more than some herbs on the kitchen windowsill. This may be the only choice for those in parts of the U.S. seeing that we're headed into winter. But find a way to get outside and refresh yourself in nature, every single day. A simple walk in the fresh air while letting your mind wander is one of the best ways to 'get out of your own head.’ Julia Cameron considered walking essential to creativity. 

3) Meditate, exercise, & dump the negative. If there's one thing that stands out this year in comments from friends and acquaintances, it's meditation. More and more people are turning to mediation for release, one, because it's something that can be done anytime, anywhere and it really works to bring a sense of calm and self-control. It also assists in keeping a positive attitude. Which brings me to exercise. There's nothing like the feeling you get after a hard workout, confident, powerful, and exhausted. But here's the thing...your creative mind is working just as hard as your body when you exercise. The fresh flow of blood to the brain combined with the pain of pushing yourself to the limit is both revitalizing and vital to dumping negative thoughts. Focus on what you have and what you can do, rather than what you've lost. 

4) Find ways to reset your creative mind. We've put all our efforts into basic survival this past year. Wearing a mask, washing our hands, keeping our distance from others, shopping online, homeschooling our children, trying not to touch that or this thing, working around store outages and empty shelves, worrying about unemployment or your family or friends getting sick, dying! How can our creative mind possibly stick its head up amongst all the odd routines and negativity? 

One thing that works for me is to write it all down. To make a list of everything my brain is trying to tell me, all the little things it thinks I will forget if not for its constant reminders. I write it all down on a piece of paper, then I toss out the list. (If it's too scary to toss the list, just remove it from your work area, put it in a safe place to worry about later.) The real point is to clear out my head. Once I have all that chaos dumped onto a piece of paper, my mind relaxes a bit. I am noticeably calmer and I can then force myself to push everything else into the background long enough to create. 

Most importantly, be kind to yourself, forgive yourself, and don't dwell on the past. We've been through unprecedented experiences this past year! In 2021, when we're finally able to distance ourselves, to step back and look at it all in hindsight, we'll realize that our creative well is full to use however we see fit. Don't let it go to waste. 

WOW: What an amazing final answer and set of directions to guide us all into a creative 2021. Thank you for inspiring us and giving us this special holiday gift!

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A Book Born 5 Years Ago

 Forty-one years ago on this day, my daughter was born. And five years, 1 month and 21 days ago, my book was conceived.

I’ve been posting about my book on the Tulsa Race Riot (really a massacre, not a riot). I’ve been posting about some criticism/advice I’ve been given, since my book’s main character is young and Black and male, and I’m ancient, white-as-notebook-paper and female. (In case you want to catch up, I wrote this post and then this post.)

My book has not been published yet. An educator-artist is working on the cover, and my publisher (My publisher! My publisher!) is doing a final wade-through on my manuscript. The goal? A print schedule that will allow me to go to Tulsa (with books) for the 100-year anniversary commemoration activities at the end of May, 2021.

When I approached a nationally-known expert on the Tulsa Race Massacre (I’ve spoken to her at several national conventions) to ask her to read my manuscript and write a blurb, when she learned it was not an #OwnVoices story, she respectfully declined… and gave me some suggestions as well as some information.

image by Pixabay

One of the things she said made me stop dead in my tracks. She said, “I struggle with teaching the Tulsa Race Massacre at this point because I've heard from colleagues that Black Tulsans feel both glad that the story is out, but taken aback by the number of projects created about it by white people. As if their pain was material for others.”

There is no way I want to profit in any way on the backs of the massacre’s victims. No way.

In the comments to my posts, there were some great suggestions. Donate some of the book’s proceeds to a charity. Create a college scholarship for a Black Tulsan. That made me think of the Greenwood Cultural Center, an educational center focused on the Tulsa Race Massacre.

As a teacher, I know how tough it is to scrape together money to go on field trips. Perhaps my proceeds could help pay for classroom trips to the Greenwood Cultural Center. Then I considered what an impact various writing opportunities have had on my life. What if the money from my book could pay a young Black Tulsan to write a performance about the Tulsa Race Massacre for the Greenwood Cultural Center? A rapper, a songwriter, a movie maker… What if they received a grant to create something that could be seen on a screen at the center?

This is what I’m leaning toward currently. The other ideas I’m considering came from comments to my post. What other ideas do you folks have?

Sioux Roslawski is the author of a soon-to-be-published middle-grade novel about the Tulsa Race Massacre. If you'd like to read more of her writing, check out her blog.

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Interview with Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo: Q4 2020 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Sunday, December 20, 2020
Jennifer’s Bio: 

Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo is the Chief Executive Officer at Wonder Woman Writer, LLC, and a Freelance Writer. In addition to being a Forbes Women Contributor, she has had pieces included in Time magazine, Parents Magazine, Huffington Post, and ScaryMommy. Ms. Palumbo has covered topics such as infertility, women’s health, patient advocacy, pregnancy, relationships, parenting, being the mother of an autistic child, and more. As an infertility subject matter expert, she has been interviewed on news outlets such as CNN, NPR, FOX, NBC, and BBC America, and was featured in the documentary, Vegas Baby. She also contributed a chapter in the book, Women Under Scrutiny by Randy Susan Meyers and performed in the Cover Girl’s “Stand Up for Beauty” with Aisha Tyler. She has been highlighted as an influencer in Medium, Welum, and iMensch. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram

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

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

Jennifer: Do you know how in movies, like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the protagonist looks into the camera and says to the viewer something along the lines of, “Can you believe this?” That’s how I felt during our whole birthing class journey. My husband and I just didn’t have anyone to turn to (other than each other) to ask, “Is it wrong that our birthing plan is simply to get the child out?” The class, the other attendees, and the flute playing during every birthing video we watched; I just didn’t fit in. The longer it went on, the funnier it got to me. To write about it was my way of expressing this and, hopefully, connecting to other women who, like me, were OK with medical intervention to give birth and not interested in creating paintings with my placenta. 

WOW: You paint such a vivid picture of your experience – I can easily imagine those looks on your faces during that class! What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? 

Jennifer: As odd as this may sound, I’ve written so much about trying to get pregnant as we had infertility issues that this essay taught me that I could write about other things (even if they are all still related to my uterus in some shape or form). 

WOW: You have a wealth of successful writing experiences. What was your biggest challenge as a new writer, and how did you overcome it? 

Jennifer: One of my biggest challenges when writing is, I’m not too fond of outlines or overthinking things. This means that I write a bit too quickly, sometimes, and I need to be more patient. These days, I will write something and then walk away from it for a day or two (or longer) and go back through it. Taking more time to review it again, edit it and even think about it after writing about it has been incredibly helpful. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing that. I think it is beneficial to hear about other writers’ processes. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you? 

Jennifer: David Sedaris and Fran Lebowitz are two of my favorites. I also performed as a stand-up comic for many years, so many comics have inspired me. Getting on stage, being an instant protagonist, connecting with the audience, and working to elicit a physical response is an incredible skill. Performing as a comic and nonfiction essays are similar in that you have to be “real” and find the humor, and I love that. 

WOW: What a great connection between creative nonfiction and performing as a comic! If you could tell your younger-writing-self anything, what would it be? 

Jennifer: When I first started performing stand-up comedy, I was often told that I was a good writer. At first, I didn’t understand it as I never wrote down my routine. I wanted to write/learn it the way I would perform it – from memory. Finally, at some point, I had an “epiphany”: Writing is like telling a story… but in written form. It’s funny to think back to it now, but I’d say to myself, “If you’re a good storyteller, you may be a good writer too!” 

WOW: Anything else you’d like to add? 

Jennifer: For anyone thinking of writing or wanting to write – just do it. Once you get something on that paper, you can always go back, edit it, change it, add things or cut things out. Fill up that blank sheet! 

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

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen.
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Friday Speak Out!: Writing

Friday, December 18, 2020
by Alice May

My house falling down unexpectedly had a very focusing effect on me.

It’s not difficult to imagine the thoughts that galloped through my head as I stood on my driveway, watching in total disbelief, as a large corner section of two supporting walls slid gracefully away from the rest of the property, taking with it a couple of windows and part of the porch roof.

As my house fell down, my comfortable, if hectically busy, life fell apart.

We didn’t know why the walls had collapsed, hadn’t a clue what to do and had nowhere to go. According to our house insurance provider, we didn’t have a policy that covered us for the damage, either, which came as a nasty surprise.

The whole unfortunate event was the beginning of an extremely transforming and highly unsettling stage in life, from which my husband and I and our four children (as well as the the house) emerged forever altered. There was a lengthy stay in a tent in the garden, followed - to my utmost relief - by the arrival of a caravan and a frustratingly slow and painful climb over eighteen months to re-establish a normal existence.

Life became defined by two distinct periods, the time before the house fell down and then what came afterwards.

Two years later, on a cold January morning - shortly after we’d finally rebuilt the house and moved back in - without conscious intention or voluntary thought I gave into the urge to start writing and I haven’t stopped since.

Now, I wonder why I didn’t write before, but, on reflection, the answer to that particular question isn’t exactly earth shattering. The little gremlin that has sat on my shoulder ever since I was a very small child has repeatedly insisted that I’m rubbish. Think of rock bottom and then dig at least fifty fathoms further down, if not more, and that’s where you’d have found my self-confidence, lurking at an impressively low level. Why would anyone want to read something I might write?

The house falling down, and the subsequent trials we went through, taught me a great many things. The most valuable lesson for me has been that it’s okay to give myself permission to believe in me. And so, I write.

The gremlin still sits on my shoulder muttering poison, but I don’t give pay attention. People may not want to read what I write and that’s absolutely their prerogative, but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t write and it doesn’t stop me enjoying the writing process.

Writing is now crowbarred into and around every aspect of my life; the school run, social events and family time. If I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. With a notebook and pen in my bag and a fully charged laptop at the ready, I write anywhere, any time. I can’t imagine living any other way and these days, to my shock, I find I actually like me, which is something that’s never happened before.

* * * 
A former GP surgery manager and now a part-time school librarian, Alice May is mum to four not-so-small children and married to (probably) the most patient man on the planet. They live in what used to be a tumbledown cottage in the New Forest.

Alice is the author of The House that Sat Down Trilogy and enjoys speaking to clubs and groups about the importance of self-care and promoting resilience through creative activities.

Instagram: alicemay_author_artist 
Twitter: @AliceMay_Author

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"?
Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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The One Thing You Need to Do

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

It’s that time of the year again. As December flies by, we find ourselves bemoaning what we didn’t get done. And let’s face it. 2020 was a sucker punch for us all. No one had the year they expected, so it isn’t surprising that many of our goals have gone unmet. Many of my writing friends are tweeting and posting the same question – how can I get back into writing in 2021? 

Want to know a little secret? No, I’m not going to sell you a ten step program guaranteed to put you on the New York Times list. But I am going to tell you what one thing you need to do as a writer. 

You need to write. 

You probably see a lot of posts telling you what how-to books you need to read. Or they are recommending writing classes, online conferences or Zoom webinars. 

And if any of these things are what you need to do to get the words flowing, fine. Sign up for my classes. I won’t stop you. Attend a webinar on creating scenes. Whatever. 

But the one thing you need to do is write. 

Not sure what to write? Here are 4 suggestions. 

For the compulsive list maker: 

Make a list of the movies you’ve seen. Or list the books you’ve read. List your favorite book characters. List 10 settings you would like to utilize. List the poets/paintings/ice cream flavors that inspire you. If you are making a list, you are writing. 

For the writer with little or no energy who is aching to start a specific story: 

Write the first sentence. Make it compelling. Capture your setting. Fiddle as needed but stop at that one sentence. Unless you really need to write on. Whether you craft a sentence or a paragraph, you are writing. 

For the lover of fairy tales: 

Play with a favorite story. Retell Goldilocks from the point-of-view of Baby Bear. Or give it a new setting. What if Hansel and Gretel weren’t roaming through the woods but a gated community with a designer coffee bar? Play and have fun. Even if you just take notes, you are writing. 

For the Instagram fan: 

Scroll through your feed. When you find an image that grabs your attention, use it as a story starter for a micro story. No, not a 300 word micro story. Is that really even “micro”? Seems a bit excessive to me. What can you do in 50 words? 25 words? 10 words? 

A writer writes. Sometimes a writer writes something long and lyrical. Sometimes a writer writes something short and sharp. But the one constant? 

A writer writes. 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 27 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 January 4, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins January 4, 2021). 

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Realizing My Home Library Needs Some Diversity


Last week I interviewed a local college professor who is scheduled to talk to the parents at my school about diversifying their family libraries. It was a great discussion as I asked her to give me some examples of children’s literature that deserve a place in classroom libraries, while also filling a clear need of representing people of all walks of life, race and ethnicity. 

But it also made me take a long, hard look at my own selection of literature. 

I pride myself on being an avid reader and writer, but when I took a look at our home library, I saw that it was lacking . . . a lot. Very rarely on our shelves will you find books featuring people of color or written by them. Also, my mother’s family is Mexican-American, and never once did I seek out a children’s book featuring Mexican-American characters or families to share with my kids. I believe part of this stems from my own background—my mom favored paperback romance novels and my stepdad only read Louis L’Amour westerns, but as a college-educated woman, I should know better. Why have I not set out to find more diverse examples of literature to recommend with my kids or grace my own bookshelves? 

My husband reads self-help and motivational books. Books written by wealthy, successful white men—people like Stephen Covey and Ken Blanchard. I read a lot of the “book club” selections that feature predominately white women and suburban life, or young adult thrillers written by women such as myself. Occasionally I’ll select a memoir, but again, it will be something like “Educated” that's landed on the New York Times Bestseller List. 

Thankfully, I’ve noticed the teachers at our middle school and high school have been working hard to diversify the assigned reading for my kids. My daughter read “Kite Runner” this year, and my son read the first in the series of the graphic novels about John Lewis’ work with the Civil Rights Movement last year, March

But as a parent, I need to do more. From the professor I interviewed, I learned the importance of giving our kids a window so they can see what the world looks like, but they also need a mirror in order to see themselves reflected in that world. I can still follow those recommended lists of classics, like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but then I need to also follow up by having my kids read something else written during that time period by a Black author, so their voice can be represented accurately. And as for myself, I have some work to do. I will first begin by reading more books by women of color, of all different races and ethnicities. Any recommendations would be welcome as I begin my own research—The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet is on the top of my contemporary picks to start with.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and magazine editor who has way more books than she knows what to do with, but she could use more. Visit her website at
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Interview with Lorin Fries: Summer 2020 Flash Fiction Contest Third Place Winner

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Lorin’s Bio: Lorin Fries integrates writing alongside an international career in food access and climate change. She placed 4th out of nearly 5,000 participants in the 2019 New York Midnight Short Story Contest. She is finishing a first literary fiction novel in which two stories intertwine, across generations, in Brooklyn: a beloved magician struggles to heal a heartbroken girl during WWII while his granddaughter, a hardened human rights journalist, fights to evacuate a dear colleague from the Syrian war. 

If you haven't done so already, check out Lorin's award-winning story "You Carry Our Story" and then return here for a chat with the author. 

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

Lorin: Everything we buy has a footprint -- whether it’s the climate impact of dinner or the labor of miners who pried a diamond from the earth for your ring. Part of my professional work is to encourage ethical (and less) consumption. I hope fiction like this can help paint the stories behind our choices. 

WOW: Wonderful way to describe the combination of your work’s purpose and your fiction. What did you learn about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece? 

Lorin: In 2003, as a researcher in South Africa, I descended into a dark column on a shaky elevator to meet men in the platinum mines. It’s hard, dangerous work. I was humbled by their perseverance and wondered about their lives. I remembered those men when I got engaged last year and looked for a responsible, transparent source of precious stones – a more complicated endeavor than one might imagine. This story tumbled out in the midst of that search. As with much of my writing, it’s an attempt to honor folks often invisible in mainstream society. 

WOW: A very worthy goal. What was the inspiration for your first literary novel? 

Lorin: My nearly-drafted novel is inspired by my grandfather, a pediatrician and magician in Brooklyn. He was known to do a magic trick with one hand while giving a shot with the other. I wondered what he would do for a child for whom neither science nor magic could protect. The book begins when a young girl seeks him out because she believes that, like pulling a rabbit from a hat, the magician can bring her father back from World War II. 

WOW: Intriguing premise! Thank you for sharing that with us. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it? 

Lorin: Over the past few years, I’ve diversified the authors I read. I’m finishing the breathtakingly good An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and I’ve just re-read Tommy Orange’s There There. As a white woman living in the US, I believe such stories are vital to my understanding, action and allyship.  

WOW: It’s wonderful to hear about conscious choices to diversify one’s literature list, which, of course, diversifies perspectives and experiences. If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why? 

Lorin: Focus on creating and finishing multiple, smaller pieces, so you get practice with completing a full arc of story and character. 

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

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen with the purpose giving them a forum to discuss their own athletic careers, bodies, and lives in their own words. For more on the power of storytelling, join the conversation on Facebook.
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Psst. Hey You. Yeah You. Don't Give Up.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Walk with me for a moment. We're inside the dimly lit streets of my imagination. We're walking down a desolate street, next to buildings that look like they haven't been habited in years. It's night time, and all we can hear are distant traffic noises, a dog barking, and a couple having a fight in a nearby apartment. 

An alleyway is coming up, where the darkness doesn't seem to have a beginning or end. You look at me a little nervous, but I reassure you, it's fine. 

We can hear movement like someone is there. We're both aware that because this is my imagination that anything can happen. Dragons could be lurking. Maybe something worse. Or maybe something better. You just never know.

"Psst," a voice says.

We pause. You look at me, and I look at you. We keep walking. Maybe it was nothing.

"Hey, you."

This time we turn and face the voice. A cloaked figure steps out from underneath the street lamps. Their face is obscured by the hat covering half their face, and a coat collar is popped up to cover the rest.

"Yeah, you." The figure shuffles forward. We step backward, uncertain if we should start running. 

"Don't give up."

"What?" I finally ask, finding my voice.

"Yeah, you heard me. Don't give up." Suddenly, the figure takes their hands out of their pocket and flips a coin that bounces towards us. Then, they step back into the shadows of an alleyway, swallowed whole by the darkness.

I take a step forward, reluctant that something in the darkened, poorly lit streets of my imagination will lunge at me. A neglected imagination can be a dangerous thing, I think to myself. You stand nearby, holding a weapon of some kind that I never realized you had. 

Picking up the shiny object, I examine it closer. 

"It's a coin?" You ask.

"Yeah," I say, somewhat confused. "But it's something else."

"What is it?" You ask, getting nervous and irritated with me at once. You've always been terrible at waiting.

"It's an idea." 

The moment I say the words out loud, we notice a light in the distance. It's the sun rising. Ever so slowly, the light of the sun casts its warm glow between the buildings. Someone nearby opens up their window, birds start chirping, and a man pushing a cart filled with ice cream pops sets up his stand. People step outside as if they were kept inside too long. 

"Look!" I tell you. "My characters!"

Various people of different shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds step forward into the light that has awakened them.

I look at the coin again. It's a familiar one. One I've seen before, but this time I'm seeing it in a new light. In a new way.

We both take a walk down the streets of my imagination. We look at each other, about to say goodbye, and you ask me how you light up yours.

"Don't give up," I tell you.

The End


I hope you stayed with me for the duration of this piece. To be honest, I've been in a funk lately, and enormously unsure how I'll find that creative spark again (hopefully, I've captured that sentiment in this piece). Then recently I got an idea. It was a goofy one, to say the least, and one that will likely not make much sense until I polish it up. But it was an idea. And it was a way of bridging two stories together that never really went anywhere.

And it gave me hope. So, today I want to encourage you to stay with it. Don't give up. Whether it's a short story, novel, or memoir, don't give up. Sometimes all you need is a spark, just like I got, to remind you that your imagination is there, waiting for you to wake it up.

Check out what else Nicole is writing about on her blog World of My Imagination or Lady Unemployed.

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Anne Walsh Donnelly, Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Runner Up, Writes About Self-Love

Sunday, December 13, 2020

We are lucky to interview Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest runner up for Q4, Anne Walsh Donnelly, today who lives in Mayo, Ireland. Ann won for her essay, "A Lover Without a Lover" which you can read here. 

Here's a little bit about Anne:  Anne Walsh Donnelly lives in the west of Ireland. She writes poetry, prose and plays. She started writing in her mid-40s, kick-started by the end of her marriage and her work in therapy. She dedicates this piece to her therapist(s) who provided a safe place for her to explore her inner thoughts and feelings. She is the author of the poetry chapbook The Woman With An Owl Tattoo published by Fly on the Wall poetry press in the UK. The chapbook is an intimate reflection on her journey of self-discovery and acceptance of her sexual identity in mid-life. She is also the author of the short story collection Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife published by The Blue Nib imprint in Ireland. To find out more about Anne and her work, go to: She was recently awarded a bursary by the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival for one of her plays. Twitter: @AnneWDonnelly Facebook: AnneWalshDonnelly

WOW: Congratulations, Anne, on placing as a runner up with your essay, "A Lover Without a Lover." This essay seems to have many themes that will resonate with our WOW! community. Can you discuss some of the themes you were particularly exploring while you crafted this essay? 

Anne: It was the whole notion of belonging and what home really means that I wanted to explore in the essay. The sense of being comfortable in one’s own body and in one’s own skin. Home for me is an internal state of mind; it actually doesn’t matter where you live, how beautiful or grotty it is. It’s the internal not the external that matters. I wanted to show how my work in therapy has helped me. I did a lot of excavating in therapy; often the process was quite painful but very rewarding. I started writing as a result of my work in therapy, and I also explored my sexuality. It was in the process of integrating all the different parts of me, some of which I had buried, that I finally came home to me. The title refers to how I’ve learned to love and accept myself. I am my own lover now. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing that with us. Internal work is not easy, but so rewarding. It's helpful for all of us to hear how it helped someone else in our community! This essay reveals some personal information about yourself, and we often have writers ask us: How do people let the public (or their loved ones) read such personal information? Do you have any advice to give to these writers who have a little fear about laying it out on the page? Have you ever felt that way? 

 Anne: That’s an interesting question, and there’s no right or wrong answer. I think you have to go with what feels right for you. That can vary from day to day. It’s important to protect yourself in the process. Write whatever you need to write, but let it settle and think before sending it out for publication. Not everything needs to be shared. Yes, I’ve often felt fear! Sometimes I’ve let something be published and after have asked myself what the hell was I thinking! I was terrified when my chapbook of poetry, (which is about my coming out journey) was published. But the reaction to it has all been good. In fact, I believe it may have helped others in their journeys. Sometimes. you’ve just got to take a risk. 

WOW: Yes, that's true. And really personal or not, writers are taking a risk every time they share any writing with another person. In the essay, you go back and forth in time, and you also use songs to move the piece along. What made you decide to use these two devices to tell your story?

Anne: I love listening to music, especially songs that have a storyline, and there are certain songs that encapsulate different experiences I have had. I can’t remember making a deliberate decision to go back and forth in time or to use songs in this essay. It just evolved as I was writing. This piece went through a lot of drafts with bits added and bits taken out in each draft. 

WOW: Well, it definitely worked! In your bio, it states that you are an author of poetry, prose, and plays. It also states that you have won an award for your playwright ability. Tell us more about your plays and/or this award! 

Anne: Yes, I write plays, poetry, and prose. One of my strengths is writing dialogue. I was awarded a bursary, this year, from the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival for my play called, “My Dead Husband’s Hereford Bull.” It’s dark and funny, and I had great fun writing it. It’s about a widow who thinks her dead husband’s bull is talking to her, and that he’s threatening to kill the woman she’s having an affair with. The play explores her struggle with her sanity and sexuality. It was scheduled to be performed earlier this year, but unfortunately COVID hit. 

WOW: That sounds very interesting, and we are sorry to hear about COVID stopping the production. What are you working on now? 

Anne: I’m really looking forward to 2021! My first full collection of poetry, called Odd as F*ck, will be published by Fly on the Wall Poetry Press next year; so I’m currently putting the final touches on the manuscript. The title is my attempt to be humorous. I’m describing myself at being Odd as F*ck in the book! Essentially the book is about my growth and transformation, as a result of my painful experiences, and what I’ve learned is that life is easier if you don’t take yourself too seriously. I’m also working on a new manuscript. It’s a hybrid piece and interweaves prose and poetry, and I’m really excited about it. It’s set in rural Ireland, and it’s about a man who has spent most of his life in a psychiatric hospital, but is now living in the community. He converses regularly with Jackdaws and thinks their claws keep him from jumping into a lake and drowning. You’ve probably gathered by now that my characters often tend to be a bit left-of-centre and slightly unhinged. A bit like parts of me, maybe! 

WOW: I think your characters sound wonderful and quirky! Keep it up because it's obviously working for you. Thank you, Anne, for your time today!
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You Are The Master Of Your Fate, You Are The Captain Of Your Soul

Saturday, December 12, 2020


Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be,

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

                                                   -William Ernest Henly (1849-1903)

I have always loved the poem, Invictus, by Victorian era English poet William Ernest Henly. I've often shared it with my children and family to encourage them when they were going through difficult times. And it has always inspired me; each stanza, each line, reminding me that I am the one who can chart my own destiny and achieve my long-held dreams.

William Henly contracted tuberculosis of the bone as a child of twelve years old. Sadly, the disease progressed to his foot, and his leg had to be amputated below his knee. He was 17 years old at that time. He wrote the famed poem, Invictus, along with several other poems, shortly after his leg was amputated while in the hospital. 

His poem has motivated many, including the late Former South African President and Nobel Laureate, Nelson Mandela. He was inspired by the message in, Invictus, during his many years of suffering and imprisonment. 

Life in general can often feel as if we're in a ship at sea in the middle of a torrential storm. We see the shore in the horizon but don't know which way to steer. Sometimes in our frustration we're ready to  pass the helm to someone else or give up altogether.

But as in this poem, we have to hold close to our heart that indeed we can be the captain of our fate, the one who's in control as much as is humanly possible. We have what it takes to navigate around those crashing waves. We have the gift of wisdom, patience, creativity, unrelenting faith, and strength, to help us get though any external storm. Even as writers, we have what it takes to get through a myriad of writing hurdles that at times may cause us to lose self confidence or question our future as writers. We can choose a more advantageous to self response and have a brighter outlook when faced with repeated rejections, or harsh critiques of our work, knowing the worth of our work. 

We can readjust our lens so it isn't as harsh and unforgiving to self, to view our writing life in a more positive light. We can choose to focus on our successes more than our setbacks, the quality of the work we've already published and not just the quantity we haven't. We can choose to focus on how dedicated and fearless we are in telling stories that are meaningful to us, and will hopefully be for others, instead of focusing on our doubts concerning our writing.  

The poem, Invictus, inspires us to press on, persevere through our rough patches, those arduous seasons in our life, now particularly in our world. It's powerful words let us know we have the ability to change our ships course and speed, that we don't have to be at the mercy of the elements. 

We can choose to live, write, create, embrace joy and purpose, no matter what. We are the master of our fate. We are the captain of our soul. 


Jeanine DeHoney has had her writing published in several anthologies, magazines and blogs. 


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