Giving Thanks for Writing Support

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Photo by wewe yang from Pexels

With November almost over and no gifts purchased yet this year because, well, work and NaNoWriMo, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. But when I was brainstorming what I should write about for this post, I decided to go with good old-fashioned gratitude since we are celebrating a day of thanks. Here are a just a few things I’m grateful for: 

Time to write. Yes, life is busy, but I’m learning to embrace being the mother of teens. You’d be surprised at how much time you get back in your life when they can drive themselves to and from school, to and from sports practices and games, and back and forth from work and friends’ houses. While I do try to attend all their cross country races and track meets, the months of mid-November through early February provide even more time at home to tackle projects because my kids take an off season. Next year my oldest will be away at college somewhere, but we aren’t talking about that right now! 

The gift of the muse. In the past several months, I’ve been blessed with a variety of ideas for both non-fiction and fiction projects, and have produced one new solid short story, a creative non-fiction essay, more than half of a thriller/suspense novel, and multiple podcast scripts and interviews. I’m not sure what has sparked this burst of creativity, but I’m choosing to roll with it as long as I can. 

Podcast listeners and follows. "Missing in the Carolinas" continues to grow organically each week and I have yet to do any real marketing for it. I'm thrilled to have at least 700 downloads within a week of each episode now. I’ve put the title of the show in my e-mail signature, no matter who I’m sending a message to and mention it in passing in as many conversations as I can. My focus has been producing quality work to gain the trust of listeners before exploring sponsorship opportunities, but I believe it’s almost time to put the second part of the plan in motion. Last week a friend suggested I call a mentor of hers in South Carolina to discuss how he crowdfunded one of his books. I mentioned the podcast to him and by the next day, he had sent me a message from him that read, “Hey! I started the podcast and it’s excellent.” Coming from a retired newspaper journalist, this compliment made my day. 

Supportive family, friends, and colleagues. I wouldn’t have it made it this far without the support of so many people. My family picks up the slack with cleaning the house and running errands for me so I can squeeze in time to write, my friends cheer me on from near and far, and my colleagues have been very kind in complimenting me with the work I do in magazine content creation and editing and my creative work. It’s so true that a little support goes a long way, especially to a shy and introverted writer who’s always been nervous about putting her work out into the world. I’m sure I’ve left something or someone out, but these are the main points that were on my heart. I’m thankful for so many blessings in my life, and I’m thankful to be blessed with the love of writing. 

I hope you all have a restful Thanksgiving, no matter how you celebrate! 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also hosts and produces the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Learn more at FinishedPages.com.
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Interview with Gregory Ashe, Instructor at Odyssey Writing Workshop

Wednesday, November 24, 2021


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

The Odyssey Writing Workshop has offered world-renowned workshops for over 25 years and has been an innovator in online classes since 2010. Instructor Gregory Ashe is a longtime Midwesterner. He has lived in Chicago, Bloomington (IN), and Saint Louis, his current home. He primarily writes contemporary mysteries, with forays into romance, fantasy, and horror. Predominantly, his stories feature LGBTQ protagonists. When not reading and writing, he is an educator.


-- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today! Tell us about yourself and how you came to find the Odyssey Workshop. 

Gregory: I found Odyssey after I’d spent about five years trying to learn how to write on my own. The winter before Odyssey, I’d done an online workshop that I found very helpful (John D. Brown’s Novel Writers Academy in embryo), and I wanted more of that in-depth instruction. I did some research about writing workshops and narrowed it down to Odyssey and Clarion, and I ended up applying to Odyssey because I liked the description of the program and the first-hand accounts of past participants. 

WOW: That in-depth instruction is so valuable! You actually graduated from the Odyssey Workshop! What was that experience like for you? 

Gregory: Fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about Odyssey. Being able to set aside six weeks to do nothing but read and write and think about reading and writing was a rare gift, and I’m so grateful I had the chance. I understand that the format is changing, and I think it’s going to be a wonderful way to provide the same excellent material to more people. Jeanne is a fabulous instructor; she’s rigorously analytical about stories and storycraft, and she has an uncanny ability to spot weaknesses—and offer solutions—in your work. Over the years, she’s developed a thorough overview of the major skills and concepts for writing speculative fiction. I say with complete honesty that I wouldn’t be where I am today without Odyssey. 

WOW: What a wonderful experience you had! What kind of course are you teaching this January?

Gregory: This January, I’ll be teaching a course on scene and sequel—but so much more. These two core concepts also touch on goals, character-driven momentum, pacing, conflict, interiority, and more. •

WOW: Oh that does sound valuable! Who is this course ideal for? 

Gregory: This course is ideal for people who find structure, plot, and pacing either difficult to understand or hard to control. Scene and sequel are the mid-level structural units of most commercial fiction, and understanding them—and, as I mentioned above, related concepts—will give writers more control over their writing. This isn’t just for plotters, either. People who ‘pants’ or write without plotting need to understand these same concepts for revision! 

WOW: That's great to hear it's for both plotters and pantsers! As an instructor, what type of common issues do you see students struggling with?

Gregory: The most common issues I see are, probably unsurprisingly, related: first, many writers either don’t understand what it means to give a character a goal, or they don’t know how to execute that idea. If you’ve ever read a story (or chapter) where the character seems to be drifting aimlessly, you’ve seen what that might look like. Many writers also struggle with crafting a scene around a goal and its resolution—a character might have a goal, but the scene meanders, or the goal is forgotten, or it’s resolved without any complication, etc. These really aren’t difficult problems to solve, but you need the right conceptual framework to identify the problem first. 

WOW: That problem definitely sounds familiar to me. For people who are reluctant to take an online course because they aren't sure it's worth the cost, what would you tell them? 

Gregory: The old saying is that if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur. Something of the same principle applies here—yes, writing courses cost money, but that’s because you’re paying for someone to provide personalized, direct instruction and feedback, as well as their expertise. As with most things (brain surgery excepting), people can probably teach themselves elements of the craft, but it will take longer and be more difficult. A good instructor is a facilitator who will help you learn better and faster than you most likely would on your own. Another answer is that money means you have some skin in the game. Ninety percent of writing is a head game, convincing yourself to put words on paper—laying down cash money is a way of committing yourself. It’s also an investment in yourself—if you feel guilty about the expense, think of it as a way of showing that you respect yourself. You deserve it!

WOW: I agree with that sentiment and I'm so glad you took the time to speak with us today about your experience with Odyssey Writing Workshop and your course. 
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Showing Or Telling?

Tuesday, November 23, 2021
Showing vs telling.
Scene vs voice over.

Show, don’t tell.
 

Most of us have seen this comment hundreds of times, penned into the margins of our manuscripts. We’re being told to create a scene in place of whatever detail we’ve just told. A big part of knowing when to show and when to tell is knowing how each is most effectively used. 

Showing is all about creating scenes. These scenes show the characters attempting to meet some goal and, more often than not, failing. The characters then regroup and come up with a new goal. Scenes pull the reader in because this is where they meet our characters and get caught up in our carefully crafted plots. But showing isn’t always better. 

Telling is a great way to foreshadow. “Beck had planned everything out. There was no way things could go wrong.” Right away we are all on the edge of our seats waiting to see how the author is going to mess up Beck’s life. 

Telling is the way to go for transitions, including when you need to show the passage of time. “After Beck got ready for work” is so much better than showing us Beck’s morning routine, unless that routine reveals something surprising. Is Beck creating a to-do list that includes revenge on the person who messed up his great plan? That’s something you might want to show in an actual scene. 

But how do you know for a fact that you are successfully doing one or the other? That you are telling vs showing or vice versa? 

I was fiddling around online a couple of days ago when I found this Writer’s Digest post by Roseann Biederman. Her test for showing vs telling is simple – if the camera can show it, that’s showing. 

I would add two things and expand on this a little: 

First, think of your camera as having sensory-surround, because showing can involve all the senses. In fact, I make sure that every page includes three different sensory perceptions. That keeps me from only including sight. So maybe you could say “can you sense it?” If so, that’s showing. 

Second, if it sounds like a voice over, it is most likely telling. (Clearly I have been spending far too much time with Save the Cat.) But what do I mean by does it sound like a voice over? Take this sentence as an example: Beck had an exemplary sense of direction. Definitely voice over and if I was the director it would voice over a scene showing Beck making a wrong turn and ending up at a dead end or passing the same land mark time and time again. But, yes, this does sound like a voice over so it is definitely telling. 

Show, don’t tell. Scene or voice over. You need to know how to do both because the correct choice depends on what you are trying to do.

--SueBE

Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on December 6, 2021).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins December 6, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins December 6, 2021). 
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Robert Hoffman's Blind Spot Blog Tour, Author Interview & Giveaway

Monday, November 22, 2021
We're back again with another blog tour! How exciting it is to announce the launch of Blind Spot by Robert Hoffman. Blind Spot is certainly not Hoffman's first attempt at writing as you'll see in his bio, but it is his first time here at WOW! and we are excited to help him promote this humorous work of fiction. Thank you to David Kalish who previously toured with WOW! and sent Robert our way. We love and appreciate referrals!

And without further chit chat - here's a bit more from the author himself about Blind Spot:

In this comedy/drama, based very, very loosely on my own experiences, a middle-aged father of three named Doug Kaplan appears to have it all. An attractive and supportive wife, three healthy boys, and a successful career.  He doesn’t shy away from his responsibilities as a father or as a son to his aging parents, and he is valued and respected at work.  However, all his life he has been plagued by the accusation that he does suffer from one significant character flaw, a subtle but substantial penchant for being selfish, a flaw that he is largely oblivious to.

Doug Kaplan’s life was progressing about as well as he could have hoped for. In addition to his loving wife and family, he and his wife Kelly had finally purchased a house in lovely Seaford, Long Island, and while it may have been a fixer-upper, it was still going to be their dream home.  Despite his selfish streak, which by his wife’s own admission could be off-putting, he might never have found his blessed existence sidetracked, until he encountered the elderly woman next door who proved to be a seemingly unavoidable obstacle.  Who knew that their home on the cul-de-sac known as McGregor Court would be nestled next to the biggest know-it-all and budinsky in the entire Metropolitan area.  Yes, Trudy Fleischmann was a force to be reckoned with.  Emigrated from Germany as a little girl at the end of World War Two, Trudy has known suffering and sacrifice, but she is also wise and caring, and why shouldn’t she share her knowledge and opinions with the young couple who has just moved in next door.

Already having to look after Kelly’s widowed mother as well as their growing family, Doug and Kelly end up seeing their responsibilities increase exponentially as not only does Trudy’s husband Burt die, and remove the one pleasant buffer that lay between Doug and Trudy, but Doug’s father passes as well, and now he and Kelly must provide care for three elderly widows as well as their three young boys. However Doug’s entire existence will become, much to his chagrin, inextricably tied to Trudy after he accidentally runs her over with his car one beautiful summer’s day in a supermarket parking lot. Can Doug overcome his selfishness and provide the care and patience that the badly injured Trudy requires? Doug’s family, career, and sense of who he is as a person are all on the line as he tries to summon his better angels and do the right thing.

The Blind Spot is available on Amazon and Bookshop.org. Make sure to add it to your GoodReads reading list too.

Who is Robert Hoffman? 
It’s about time somebody asked that question.  Rob Hoffman is originally from a town on Long Island called North Massapequa.  He attended SUNY Oswego where he majored in Communications, a degree that it turned out he had little use for.  He did however meet  the woman who would eventually become my wife, the former Michelle Lindell.  Rob and Michelle lived in the aptly named Flushing, Queens for six years before moving to a town called Clifton Park, New York just south of Saratoga Springs.  Finding little value in his degree in communications, Rob became a social studies teacher, teaching in Long Island City, Queens for four years before spending the remainder of his career in Rensselaer, New York, a small city on the banks of the Hudson River just across the water from Albany.  Rob taught for 31 years before retiring in June of 2021, only to come back as a part-time teacher in September of 2021 at Rensselaer High School.  Rob had always been interested in becoming a writer and he began his blogging career as a contributor at the “Times Union” of Albany for six years.  In this time Rob also blogged for a variety of sites including Fark.com, Crooks and Liars.com, Albany.com, and Knees and Fists.com.  Rob has remained happily married to Michelle for 34 years and counting, and has two grown sons, Andrew and Alex, ages 29 and 23.  Most recently, Rob and Michelle became grandparents to the newest addition to the family, Sam Hoffman, son of Andrew and his wife Katie.

Blind Spot represents Rob’s first true attempt at writing fiction, an experience Rob both fun and exhausting. Rob had thrown around several ideas as he began to think about what it was he wanted to write about, and then one day his wife had sent him to the supermarket on an errand where he saw somebody he really didn’t want to spend anytime talking to, so he raced out of the store, got in his car, turned it on, slammed it into reverse and was about to speed out of the spot when he stopped himself and said, “Dumb-ass, be careful, you could hit somebody.” Then, as Rob began to slowly and carefully pull out of his parking spot, he thought for another second and it occurred to him how ironic it would be if he accidentally hit the person he was trying to get away from and “Blind Spot” was born.  The character of Doug Kaplan, while not autobiographical, is sort of based on the best and worst of Rob’s traits.  Doug is at times the guy Rob always wanted to be, and yet at the same time, Doug also represented the guy Rob was relieved to know he never became. The other characters according to Rob are combinations of people that he knew from his childhood, as well as college and work experiences.

Follow the author online at: 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robert.s.hoffman.7/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/burtpurdy
Linked-in: https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-hoffman-43999348/
Instagram: @hoffman_files
Website: https://thehoffmanfiles.wixsite.com/website

--- Interview by Crystal Otto

WOW: Rob, I was impressed with your positive attitude when we spoke on the phone as well as in each and every email correspondence we shared. You seem so upbeat and fun so this is probably a great question for you: How do, a positive upbeat person deal with rejection? I'm sure there's been some along the way - so tell us your secret(s)!

Rob: Well, usually with a lot of ice cream and sobbing. Honestly, at least in regards to trying to get an agent or a publisher, I knew enough people who are somewhat knowledgeable about the business, and their advice helped manage my expectations. That’s not to say it wasn’t frustrating at times, especially since the feedback I received from the many agents and publishers I reached out to was so generic and unhelpful for me as a new author, but I always understood this was going to be an uphill battle, and I was at least smart enough to realize that the rejections were not personal in any way.

WOW: Now that you've wiped those tears, your response begs the question of what flavor icecream although that's probably not relevant here, so let's find out how Blind Spot come about. Did you always set out to write a book and have it published or did you start blogging and it led you here? Tell us more!

Rob: I had been blogging for the Times Union of Albany for several years as a non-fiction blogger, and while I enjoyed the experience, I was starting to feel like it was getting a bit stale. I began to read on the advice of my brother some of the classics of literature, and thought that it would be fun to try and write a work of fiction. The idea for the book came from a trip to the supermarket for an errand at the behest of my wife. It was a beautiful summer day and I just wanted to get back to our swimming pool. I saw across the store an individual who I knew would talk my ear off and keep me from getting home so I raced out of the store, jumped into the car and threw it into reverse. Suddenly it occurred to me just how foolish I was being, and thought about what would happen if I had hit somebody over something so silly and careless. I then thought about what if the person I hit was the person I was trying to avoid, and Blind Spot was born.

My goal was of course to be published, but much more than that, my ultimate goal was to produce something of real quality, or something that would be considered professional. That was the most important thing to me to have people I respect read it, and tell me that it was a serious effort and of professional quality. I did achieve this part of my goal and many have told me that achieving that goal was something that I should be proud of.

WOW: I hope you're proud of your book baby - and that advice was great; it's something you should be proud of! You touched on this before, but tell us more: What have you learned through the publishing process that you could share with new up and coming authors?

Rob: Well, I’m hardly an expert, but I guess I would say that if you really want to have an agent or publisher truly consider your work, it has to fall into whatever is most commercially viable. In other words, if it’s not science fiction, wizards ala “Harry Potter,” “Teen Drama,” or a story that can be turned into a series, then most agents and publishers won’t see your work as financially advantageous to them. You and your book represent an investment to an agent or publisher, and if they don’t think there’s a very distinct market for your book then it becomes very difficult to get their attention. With that said, my advice is to write what you want, and to just keep writing. First of all it’s the only way to improve, and secondly, trying to force yourself to write about something that you’re not passionate about is almost impossible. 


"My advice is to write what you want, and to just keep writing."


WOW: That's such great advice. And now for one of my favorite question: what would your current self say to your younger self?

Rob: I have always tried to overcome my cautious attitude that dominates all of my decision making. It’s really kept me from trying things and being spontaneous, and if I could somehow convince my younger self to take more chances, that would be great, but of course that’s not the way it works. I always wanted to be a writer, and while teaching has worked out very well, I often think how it would have been if I had been willing to move to a small town and work on a newspaper, and work my way up the journalistic chain. Of course when you look at what’s happened to newspapers over the past ten years, maybe my cautious self knew what it was doing.

WOW: Well - I'm not sure that your cautious younger self and my adventurous younger self would have been friends, but that's great insight! What is the most important take-away you want readers to have after they finish Blind Spot - how do you want us to feel when we close the cover?

Rob: That’s a great question. I suppose it would be great if they believe that all of the moving parts came together and that there was a certain amount of symmetry to the story. In other words, everything that they read in the book kind of all came together in the end. I also hope they see Doug as basically a good guy, and really the type of man that most of us could relate to, and that the dialogue rang true. In other words, I’m hopeful that people as they read the story felt like the dialogue between the characters felt and flowed naturally, and that they were surprised by some of the aspects of how the book turned during the last 100 pages or so, and of course how it ended.

WOW: Now that you're a published author - you get this tough question (and the answer cannot be Robert Hoffman): Who is your favorite author and why?

Rob: From the aspect of whose talent and command of the language I would love to possess, it would have to be Philip Roth. His boldness, his use of language, his ability to cover so many layers of a story, and pass along commentary upon our society are unparalleled over the past 50 years. Whether you are reading The Human Stain, and how it predicted the overreach regarding political correctness or the so-called “cancel culture,” or The Plot Against America where he seemed to foretell the rise of Donald Trump, and the heavy lean towards fascism in the United States, has to be considered two of the greatest pieces of literary genius in modern times. However, my favorite book of all time is Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, which is still the funniest and most creative novel I’ve ever read. If only I had his imagination.

WOW: Who has been most influential during your writing and publishing?

Rob: Without my brother Mark who served as my editor, cheerleader, and mentor, this book would never have happened. My brother was a professional editor for many years and served as the editor for the World Almanac Book of Facts in addition to several other gigs in publishing. He’s also served as a college English professor for over 40 years, so working with writers to improve their skills is something of a passion for him, and I am forever grateful for his help. Of course my wife who always pushes me to do and be better is always an inspiration to me.

WOW: Family is such a blessing - that's for sure! What's next for you?

Rob: Right now I’m involved in several projects. While I retired as a full-time social studies teacher this past June, I’ve returned to my school to teach part-time in the mornings so my wife doesn’t think I’m completely slacking off. I’ve written a treatise for a reality television show with my writing partner and friend David Kalish, (A man you are somewhat familiar with) and right now we are attempting to complete a screenplay for a movie. In addition, I’ve begun my second novel, a work of fiction based on a true story about my wife and a most unexpected surprise she received after she had her DNA tested which I can’t wait to finish and come back to tell you about in a year or so.

WOW: Thank you so much for choosing WOW! and for sharing such fun insight. We look forward to your tour and working with you on future projects!

--- Blog Tour Calendar

November 22nd @ The Muffin
Join us at The Muffin for an author interview, giveaway, and blog tour launch post for Robert Hoffman's The Blind Spot.
https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

November 23rd @ Lisa Haselton Book Reviews and Interviews
Today, Lisa Haselton interviews Robert Hoffman about his humorous work of fiction titled Blind Spot. Find out more about this debut novel and it's author!
https://lisahaselton.com/blog/

November 24th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Readers at Choices will hear from guest author Robert Hoffman with his post titled " Man Plans and God Laughs. " Don't miss this guest post and an opportunity to hear about Hoffman's debut novel Blind Spot.
http://madelinesharples.com/

November 26th @ The Faerie Review
The Blind Spot by Robert Hoffman is the highlighted book today at the Faerie Review - don't miss a chance to learn more this work of humorous fiction by an accomplished blogger!
https://www.thefaeriereview.com/

November 29th @ Word Magic with Fiona Ingram
Robert Hoffman pens today's guest post at Word Magic (fellow author Fiona Ingram's blog). Don't miss this great article titled: "Sorry isn't Enough" and an opportunity to learn more about Robert and his latest work of humorous fiction - Blind Spot.
http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com

December 2nd @ The Knotty Needle
Judy reviews Blind Spot by Robert Hoffman for readers at the Knotty Needle. Don't miss this opportunity find out more about Hoffman's humorous work of fiction!
https://knottyneedle.blogspot.com/

December 3rd @ Beverley A. Baird
"Do I Have a Story to Tell" is today's post at Beverley A. Baird. This post is penned by none other than Robert Hoffman who recently released Blind Spot, a humorous novel readers are raving about! Don't miss your chance to learn more from Hoffman himself!
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

December 4th @ Author Anthony Avina
Readers at Anthony's blog will delight in today's guest post "Woulda Coulda Shoulda" by author Robert Hoffman. Don't miss this guest post and opportunity to learn more about Hoffman's new book Blind Spot. Stop back in a few days (on the 11th) to read Author Anthony Avina's review of "The Blind" spot as well!
http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

December 7th @ World of My Imagination with Nicole Pyles
Readers at World of My Imagination are in for a special treat! Not only is Nicole going to review Blind Spot by Robert Hoffman, but she also will be offering a giveaway! This is your chance to learn more about this humorous book and maybe even snag a copy of your own!
https://worldofmyimagination.com

December 9th @ Bring on Lemons with Crystal Otto
Crystal Otto reviews Blind Spot by Robert Hoffman for readers at Bring on Lemons - Otto has hinted that she would give this book 5 stars and said "it made me laugh out loud so often" - so don't miss your chance to hear more about this debut novel!
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

December 11th @ Author Anthony Avina
Fellow Author Anthony Avina reviews "Blind Spot" by Robert Hoffman.
http://www.authoranthonyavinablog.com

December 14th @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Fellow Author Linda Appleman Shapiro shares her thoughts about Robert Hoffman's Blind Spot. Find out what an accomplished Memoirist and Psychotherapist thinks of this humorous work of fiction.
http://applemanshapiro.com/category/book-reviews/

December 15th @ Bring on Lemons with Michelle DelPonte
Michelle DelPonte, a Wisconsin mother, healthcare worker, autism advocate, and history buff shares her review of Blind Spot by Robert Hoffman. You won't want to miss Michelle's insight into this humorous book!
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

December 16th @ Bring on Lemons with 14 Year Old Carmen Otto
14 year old Carmen Otto heard her mom laughing out loud while reading Blind Spot and couldn't help from grabbing a copy to read for herself. Find out what a young reader things of this debut novel by Robert Hoffman!
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

December 18th @ Bring on Lemons with Cathy Hansen
Wisconsin business owner and educator Cathy Hansen offers insight into what she thought after reading Robert Hoffman's debut novel Blind Spot. Will this be a lemon or sweet lemonade? Stop by Bring on Lemons to find out!
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

December 24th @ Jill Sheet's Blog
Stop by Jill Sheet's Blog today and hear from Robert Hoffman as he pens his guest post titled "Aren't We All Just a Little Bit Selfish?" just in time for the holidays! Learn more about this topic as well as Hoffman's novel Blind Spot!
http://jillsheets.blogspot.com/


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

Enter to win a copy of The Blind Spot by Robert Hoffman by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends December 5th at 11:59pm CT. We will announce the winner the next day in the Rafflecopter widget and follow up via email. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Interview with Eden McCarthy: Q4 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Sunday, November 21, 2021
Eden’s Bio:
Eden McCarthy is a writer and massage therapist living in the mountains of Southern Oregon, near Ashland. She is currently working on a book of poems and essays unofficially entitled, The. She loves to write about relationships and their inherent odd, messy, incredible exchanges and miscommunications. Her personal essay about getting vaccinated “The Resumption of Life” was published earlier this year in Sneak Preview, a local newspaper that serves the cities of Ashland, Talent, and Medford, Oregon. You can find her poem “Don’t Ask Me” in a long-ago, forgotten anthology compiled by a poet’s society. Eden has undergraduate degrees in French literature and theater and a master’s degree in management. She is an avid dancer and dog mom and is slowly-but-surely learning to sing and play guitar. 

If you haven't done so already, check out Eden's award-winning story "The Little Deaths" and then return here for a chat with the author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q4 2021 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? 

Eden: I started writing “The Little Death” after my dad died several years ago. He was a functional alcoholic, a narcissist, and a sex-addict type of person whom I didn’t grow up with but spent enough time around to suffer his view of women and loose, lousy boundaries. After his death, I realized his past behavior had surpassed gross – that it classified as full-on-but-not-always-overt sexual abuse. I began to wonder if my early exploration of sex was normal or a result of being sexualized by my dad. Writing about my grade-school sexcapades helped me conclude that the moment-to-moment explorations felt too innocent and natural to have been kindled by my dad’s dysfunction, at least not directly. He lived across the country from me at that time, and I can’t recall him boundary blasting me until I was fourteen. “The Little Death” is the result of wanting to document my six-year-old self-discoveries and claim their normalcy. I feel proud of my early recognition of sexuality and cherish the clear, easy pleasure I felt at that time. 

The first version of “The Little Death” was short, just under 500 words, and was one of my original WOW! submissions. The reviewer found the topic and writing refreshing but wanted better pacing and more information about Soline. Members of my writing group were disturbed by Soline’s mom’s nonchalance (it was real!) and wanted to hear more about France. I set the essay aside, unsure how to apply suggested fixes without ruining the story’s candor, container, and innocence. Shortly after, my home in Southern Oregon burned in the Almeda fire and a serious relationship broke up. I developed other pieces, mostly relationship and fire-themed, and then made the wise and lucky decision to take Chelsey Clammer’s editing class where we would learn techniques to edit our own work. We were to choose an existing essay and spend the entire class shaping it up – I chose to revisit “The Little Death.” By replacing certain descriptions with physical gestures, adding more specific verbs and body sensations, expanding my aha moments, and clarifying that the essay was not meant as erotica, the changes I made created the exact story I wanted to tell. 

WOW: Thank you for so generously sharing your process! It’s so fascinating to hear how authors think about their writing and particular pieces progress over time. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? 

Eden: I remember my teen and early adult years as tumultuous and painful; I disliked myself and life despite great friends and therapeutic interventions. Except for an island of time spent abroad in Poitiers, France – 1984-85. I blossomed. Something about how the French honor emotion and sensuality helped me understand that I had value. I learned to express myself in French more directly and confidently than I ever had in English and finished my coursework before the end of the school year. Early completion left me time to travel and study jazz dance in Paris. France had served as an antidote for growing up in an environment that didn’t foster self-expression, self-worth, or self-confidence. When I returned to Oregon to complete my senior year of college, I struggled to hang onto my good reception overseas. Writing “The Little Death” anchored my childhood vibrancy and its resurrection in France. At six, I had preferences and honored them, desires that I satisfied without judgement or restraint. I was sensual, spunky, and ready to explore. Those same parts were seen and acknowledged in France – even welcomed. Learning the meaning of la petite mort connected me to others; even French folks on the other side of the globe died little deaths like I did! I felt real and valid, a human on track for a juicy life. My essay captures that essence so I can recall it if needed. I learned that it’s sometimes needed. 

WOW: Does the book of poems and essays you’re working on have a theme, and what prompted the working title The

Eden: The original working title of my book was All My Men because each piece focuses on a past relationship or interaction with a man. I love exploring awkward moments in male-female dynamics. Early on, I wrote several Taylor Swift-like revenge essays – if a man did me wrong, he got written about! Things shifted when I composed a breakup essay called “The Water Man” that explained how profoundly lost I felt in and out of the relationship – this time without being focused on the guy. The essay contained a compassionate assessment of my emotional damage and vow to find a way back to me. I loved it so much that I renamed my book The Water Man…until I realized my cherished body of work would be named after my toxic ex. On a whim, I shortened the book’s title to The, which made me laugh for its absurdity and potential, and reworked the titles of all my individual pieces to begin with “The” – the something or other. I have succeeded in naming most essays and poems The _____, but it’s restrictive, and the title of a recent essay called “Remaining Embers” doesn’t follow the pattern. We’ll see. If enough time goes by, The Water Man title could resurface. All My Men isn’t horrible either. The still makes me smile, so for now, it’s The

WOW: Titles are so tricky, but can also be helpful to have a working title that speaks to you as you’re writing. Thanks for sharing your title’s evolution! Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you? 

Eden: I have always loved the playwright and essayist Sarah Ruhl. I came across her book 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write while searching her plays for an audition piece. Her ability to take small, daily circumstances and make them bigger or relate them to art and theater inspires me. I bought the book that day and adapted a portion of one of her essays to audition with because she speaks to her readers like they’re in the room with her. Thank you for this question. Because of it, I discovered and ordered Ruhl’s newly published memoir about getting Bell’s Palsy after giving birth to twins. She talks about going “full mammal” with two babies. Another reason to admire her: cool word pairings. 

Since studying with Chelsey Clammer, I have been inspired by Brenda Miller (a fellow massage therapist), Jenny Lawson, Kim Adrian, and Marya Hornbacher, mostly for their ability to take a small or usual event and turn it into something special with the way they put words together. They seem to understand how brains jump around to make meaning from the environment and accept their minds’ messages as valid. Whether narrating internal dialogue at a silent meditation retreat (Miller), trying to find a felt vagina that disappeared off the counter (Lawson), creating a questionnaire to better understand an ancestor and herself (Adrian), or trying on red shoes (Hornbacher), these writers share their mindsets and unique perspectives in a way that feels confident and right because they zero in on details and accept their own experiences and perceptions. They follow their creative thoughts far enough to make sense of them and somehow marry their feelings with their thoughts. 

Chelsey is amazing. I experienced her first as a supportive, thoughtful, and dynamite teacher and just ordered her book Circadian so I can get to know her writing. 

WOW: Thank you for that list of inspiring essayists! I’ve also taken a class with Chelsey Clammer and loved her style! I’m glad you had such a good experience in her class. If you could tell your younger self anything about writing, what would it be? 

Eden: I would hug myself hard and say, “You have a voice and many things to say. You’re you. Just write and don’t stop. Write for you.” When I was in my early twenties, I somehow ended up with the actor Anthony Edwards in the back of my van – Anthony Edwards from the movie Top Gun and TV show E.R. There were no seats in the back or seat belts, so he and his friend (a friend of my boyfriend) fell over every time I rounded a corner. The drive and laughter equalized us until a conversation over breakfast about writing. He mentioned he had been writing more after his breakup with Meg Ryan. I must’ve said something about wanting to be a writer and wishing I could write because I got a confused stare before he said, “You just write.” At the time, I thought he was crazy. Of course, people would want to hear what Anthony Edwards has to say, but I’m just a regular person. I let that thought keep me from writing for several years. 

WOW: I’m glad you’ve broken away from that thought and have been brave enough to share your voice and your story with us! Anything else you’d like to add? 

Eden: I love my life now and thank you. With all I’ve been through lately – COVID, a wildfire-consumed house, a breakup – I appreciate even more the opportunity to write and study writing. I’m honored to have placed in the WOW! Q4 2021 Creative Nonfiction Contest. 

WOW: Thank you for your thoughtful responses. Happy writing! 


Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, book reviews, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen. Tweets @dr_greenawalt.
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Authors, Sign Up for Our Next Big Group Giveaway

Friday, November 19, 2021
Are you looking for an inexpensive way to promote your book? Or maybe you want to have a boost in your social media following? Today, I'm excited to announce that WOW is hosting another big group giveaway event with the theme of "The Gift of Reading."

In case you forgot, when the pandemic started last year, we hosted a "Stay Home and Read" giveaway event. We had over 100,000 entries in that event! We featured some amazing authors and shared their books with the masses. 

How a group giveaway works is that we'll be hosting the giveaway on The Muffin and we'll be featuring your book alongside some other amazing books by authors taking part in the giveaway. Not only do you get featured in this way but you also get to add a social media account to the Rafflecopter widget, where someone gets an extra entry if they follow you on social media. Plus you also get included in an e-blast featuring all the books included in this event. 

The cost to participate is $50 per book and $10 of that fee goes towards an Amazon Gift Card for the grand prize winner (so the more authors that join, the bigger the prizes, and the more the entries!). We also ask that you be willing to contribute at least 3 books to the giveaway, however this time we're allowing international entries, so be prepared to send out an e-book if the winner is not in the US. 

The deadline to sign up for this event has been extended to November 22nd. So, please sign up now via this Google Form (and don't forget to share this event with your author friends!). 
Any questions? Leave us a note in the comments!



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Interview with the Founders of Two-4-One Kid Critiques

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Today we are excited to introduce you to an excellent must-have resource for authors of children's books: Two-4-One Kid Critiques.

With Two-4-One Kid Critiques, you double your chances for success! Published authors Gloria G. Adams and Jean Daigneau combine their years of writing and editing experience in this unique service that offers two critique edits for the price of one—picture books through young adult novels.

We're excited to interview the founders today and give them a chance to share their services with you.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles 

WOW: I’m so glad to tell our WOW readers about your critique service! First, please tell us a little bit about you and your co-founder. 

Two-4-One: Jean Daigneau (www.jeandaigneau.com) has been published in the adult and children's newspaper and magazine markets, including Highlights for Children and Fun for Kidz, and has sold educational testing material, craft ideas, and greeting card text. Her work has appeared in the Guide to Literary Agents and Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market. Her book, Code Cracking for Kids: Secret Communications throughout History with 21 Codes and Ciphers, was published in October 2019 by Chicago Review Press and was a finalist for a 2020 Ohioana award. Her next book with that publisher, Ellis Island and Immigration for Kids, is scheduled for December 2021 release. She is a former SCBWI regional advisor and is active on her local board. 

Gloria G. Adams (www.gloriagadams.com) spent most of her career as a children’s librarian and storyteller. She has been published in books and magazines, along with a picture book, Ah-Choo! with co-author Lana Wayne Koehler, Sterling Children’s Books, 2016. She has three non-fiction titles published through Rosen, Enslow, and Greenhaven Press, along with a recently-launched biography of James Anthony Bailey through her independent publishing company, Slanted Ink.

WOW: Great to hear about you both! Why did you both decide to create this company? 

Two-4-One: We have both been helped by so many writers and others in the children’s writing community. By sharing what we have learned on our own writing journeys, we feel we are able to give back to other writers along the way. 

WOW: How wonderful! What common problem do you see in children’s books that you critique? 

Two-4-One: One of the most basic issues is telling not showing. And in picture books, we often see too many illustrator notes. For many projects we find that there is not enough tension, which we believe is what keeps a reader riveted to a book. Along with that major issue is the lack of character development. We feel strongly that a main character needs to connect with the reader and should be different at the end of the story than he or she was at the beginning. 

WOW: Helpful insights. What advice do you have for authors who want to write children’s books? 

Two-4-One: Don’t quit your day job! Seriously, the children’s publishing world has changed so much since we started writing professionally, and it is certainly challenging in many ways. But our advice is the same advice we would have given more than 20 years ago when we both began. Read, read, read. Read to learn what is being published, read the kinds of books you are writing or want to write, and read books about how to write. 

Also, practice, practice, practice. You won’t get published if you don’t write. And that means that no matter what level of writing you are on, there is always something new to learn. Study the writing craft whether it means participating with a critique group, attending writers’ conferences, watching webinars, or reading blogs and articles on the craft of writing. 

WOW: Reading and practice are great pieces of advice! What types of services do you offer? 

Two-4-One: For critiques, we use a rubric to discuss plot, story arc, character development, dialogue, point of view, setting, and pace. We go into this in as much detail as we feel is needed to explain where we see issues or have suggestions for changes. Some of this information can be very specific and some is general as it pertains to the project as a whole. When necessary, we’ll share our thoughts as to the age level of the story’s audience and how we feel the story and characters fit for those readers. And we sometimes recommend books to read that relate to the project being critiqued. We each offer a critique individually, without prior discussion, and then compile our comments into a collaborative summation as well. 

For revision critiques, we go directly to the manuscript and each make comments about changes made. This service is one-half the price of the initial critique. 


Lastly, we create an annual calendar planner specifically for writers (available on Amazon). This includes a monthly writing tip and encourages writers to set goals and track progress. It also includes additional space to jot notes and a list of resources helpful to writers. 

And, of course, we’re always available to answer questions. 

WOW: Awesome! Who is your service for? 

Two-4-One: We specialize in children’s books, from picture books through YA, but also consider special requests on a project-by-project basis. Our service is for writers of all levels, whether they are new writers, or those seeking agents, and even some who are already published.

WOW Your service is a welcome addition to the writing community! Thank you for your time and we encourage all of our readers to visit their website and find out more about their services.

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Find Interesting Flaws for Your Protagonist with This Writing Exercise

Wednesday, November 17, 2021
While many of you are in the thick of NaNoWriMo, now that the month is a little over halfway done, and some of you are celebrating picture book month, I thought I'd take some time today and share a character flaw writing exercise with you. While those of us who live in the United States are getting ready for a big holiday full of many fall and Thanksgiving favorite delicious dishes, we can all take a few minutes out of our busy November schedules to think about...

What is wrong with our main characters? 

I don't mean this in the sense of you are writing a poor book or a boring main character. I mean that in order to have an interesting book, you need a hero or heroine with a problem and some flaws. Everyone's got them--so should your characters. 

Here's the exercise! If you want to share your answers to step one and two with us for our next market newsletter at the end of November, in 100 words or less, we'd love that! We'll of course give you a byline and link to a website if you have one. Put these two steps in the comments or email them to me with the subject line My Characters' Flaws at Margolynndill (at) gmail.com. 

  • Step one: Brainstorm a list of flaws for a protagonist that aren’t “too bad.” (Think of qualities in yourself or your best friend you might want to change, but aren't the end of the world, if you’re stuck). 
  • Step two: Choose two flaws from your list that you will assign to your protagonist’s personality in a current work-in-progress or soon-to-be work in progress. Now think of three good qualities that your character will also have. 
  • Step three: *WRITING PROMPT FUN*: Pretend your protagonist and another character from your fiction work (antagonist, sidekick, mentor, love interest) go to a job interview for the protagonist. The interviewer asks the OTHER CHARACTER (sidekick/mentor/love interest): "What is the protagonist’s biggest weakness?" Write down what the other character would say. Now give the protagonist a chance to answer in his or her own voice. "What does he/she think about what the other character said?" Let the protagonist respond.
So for example: 

Harry Potter and Hermione Granger go on a job interview for Harry to be a professor at Hogwarts when they are older. Professor McGonagall asks Hermione, "Granger, what is Potter's biggest weakness?" Hermione smiles and says, "Well, Professor, sometimes Harry thinks he has to save the world all on his own. He is stubborn and doesn't want to ask others to help him." 

"Potter," the older witch asked. "Do you agree?" 

Out of habit, Harry rubbed his scar and thought before speaking carefully. "I definitely used to be that way when I was younger. And with my own kids, I probably still am. But now, my biggest weakness is my love for my children and Ginny, my wife. Sometimes, my love blinds me into doing stupid things." 

That's how you do step three of this writing exercise.

Okay, your turn! 


Margo L. Dill is a writing coach and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO, Please visit the WOW! classroom to see the classes she'll be teaching in December and January and to sign up: Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach and Writing for Middle Grade and Young Adult Readers. 
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Meeting Things Head-On

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

I was invited to a book club meeting recently. The women in the group had read my book, Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story. I joined their Zoom, anticipating a spirited conversation. I was not disappointed.


They asked some questions. Why didn't you make it a happy ending? (I felt too many people had just vanished--nobody knew what had happened to them. They're finding mass graves now. And besides, is there truly a happy ending in a massacre?) What made you write about the Tulsa Race Massacre? (I felt too often we've swept our tragedies--our mistakes--under the rug. This event was never taught in any history book I've used. My book is one way for young people to learn about the massacre.) How long did it take you to write it? (About five years. Two years for an awful first draft. Another couple of years of revising and getting it edited. A year or more for queries and lots and lots of rejections before finally getting a yes.)


Then they asked me: Do you have any questions for us? and I had to acknowledge the elephant in the room.


They were all Black. I am not.  I was curious if they were offended by someone white writing from a Black perspective. 


To not delve into that perhaps-it's-gonna-be-a difficult conversation would be pointless. If I hadn't pulled on my thick skin (the same skin I strap on when working with my middle-school students) and willingly posed as a target, I wouldn't have grown as a writer. When writing my book, I wanted my main characters to have integrity. I want the same thing for myself. 


                                                                    image by Pixabay


Meeting things head-on in with these book club ladies made me think of other ways in which writers need to be honest...


  • A market has dried up/changed. There is an anthology that's published 15 of my stories. I haven't had a yes from them in years. It's time I resign myself: stop wasting time. It's said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. Why do I continue to submit, thinking their needs have suddenly changed (back)?

  • Talking and dreaming isn't doing. I've said I want to approach churches to discuss the possibility of setting up a book club. I need to set up a timeline--an action plan--and start acting on my dreams.

  • Use the available resources. You may think you don't need a colleague's assistance/advice... You may think it's better to not use a plotting tool to keep your story from meandering forever--you can do it on your own. If there's technology/a book/a person that can help, buy it/use it/ask.

How about you? How do you meet things head-on? Hard-headed writers want to know...


Sioux Roslawski is a freelance writer (who hopefully is going to find markets that might possibly publish her stuff) and is a published novelist (who is also hopefully going to take some action on getting her book out there more). You can find more of her writing on her blog (siouxspage.blogpsot.com)

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A November NaNoWriMo Experience

Monday, November 15, 2021


This past spring, I participated in a WOW! blog tour for the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course. Because I already have the book, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel and love it, I decided to use the online course to flesh out a new idea I had for a mystery/suspense novel. I love reading this genre, but have always been too intimidated to attempt my own full-length novel. By the time I completed the course, I had a 3,000-word outline, complete with the 15 essential “story beats” mapped out. Around mid-October, I wondered if I should consider participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. I hadn’t been able to last year, because I was focused on producing scripts and episodes for my true crime podcast, so I didn’t feel that bad about missing out. This year, I had fewer projects on my plate, so decided to give NaNoWriMo a try since I already had a rough outline ready. I “won” NaNoWRiMo in 2013 with a rewrite of my contemporary YA novel, “Between,” and in 2014, I wrote a suspense YA called “Under My Skin,” which I still have yet to revise. 


I gave myself a goal of 60,000 instead of the usual 50,000 that’s the benchmark for NaNoWriMo. I knew 60,000 would be closer to the completed version of a full-length suspense novel, also called a “Whydunit.” According to the Save the Cat! Method, this type of book includes three things: A “detective,” a secret, and a dark turn. That broke down to 2,000 words per day, and I figured as long as I managed my time wisely, I could hit that goal. So far, I’m on track at a little over 29,000 words. While I did have the rough beat sheet in place, I began changing things about the story, about a podcaster trying to solve her older sister’s disappearance, almost immediately. (I guess you can't completely take the "pantser" out of me). I changed the “fatal flaw” of the character from an eating disorder to a sleep disorder, because I realized there were a lot of scenes I could write about dreams and the side effects of a prescription sleep medication. I also had to decide exactly how I was going to tell the story. Once I decided to use a variety of storytelling “devices,” such as first person POV of the protagonist, a therapist’s notes, newspaper articles, and podcast scripts, the story began flowing. Some of these scenes I can write as standalones and figure out where they go later. I’m using a simple “post-it note” method where I write a brief description of each scene and put in on the wall. I line these notes up in order, and if I happen to write a scene and don’t know where to put it right away, I’ll stick it off by itself as a placeholder.


I’m at the part of the process where I need a “fun and games” section and a “midpoint.” I’m determined to get through the end of this month successfully, and I’m happy to report my husband has been pitching in as much as he can on the weekends with running errands and grocery shopping so that I can focus on writing along with my current magazine production deadline. 

Is anyone else giving NaNoWriMo a go this year? I’d love to hear how it’s going? 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and freelance editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Learn more at www.FinishedPages.com.
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Check out Carol Ovenburg, Second Place Creative Nonfiction Winner with "Mother Bones"

Sunday, November 14, 2021
We welcome Carol Ovenburg today who wrote the creative nonfiction piece, "Mother Bones," and won second place in the Q4 2021 contest! Congratulations to Carol! She connected her essay to her visual art, and the piece is both rich in description and storytelling. You can check it out here and then come back and find out what she had to say about that powerful ending! 

Here's a little more about Carol: She has been a visual artist for over 40 years, a writer for over 20 years. She is also a Narrative Life Coach helping people find and change their self-limiting stories through writing. She loves writing creative nonfiction and is currently finishing her first memoir titled, Pearls, about her struggle growing up the daughter of an alcoholic mother with borderline personality disorder. She is temporarily living and working in the hills of Ashland, Oregon, with her partner awaiting the re-build of their home consumed by the Almeda fire in Talent, Oregon, September 8, 2020. In her spare time, she reads and screens plays for the Ashland New Plays Festival. travels with her partner around the country for Argentine tango dance festivals (festivals for the double vaccinated). Serves on the architectural review board for her Talent neighborhood. Designs kitchens and interiors for other fire victims. She is in two writing groups and loves taking writing classes and on occasion she finds the time to sit down with a good book. 

WOW: Welcome, Carol, and congratulations on placing 2nd in our contest with "Mother Bones." I love the ending. Your choice of a four-letter word to express how you felt really worked in this piece. Writers have to be careful when using profanity because it is so overused. How did you know it would work in this piece? 

Carol: Strong expressive punch. Quick about-face impacts. I use four-letter words for emphasis. In "Mother Bones," I needed emphasis. 

WOW: And you sure got it! What are the universal themes you explore in this piece? 

Carol: Bones. Personification for displacement. Loss of identity, death, disappearance. Destruction. But also dance and sounds and rhythms and strength and agility and resilience. 

WOW: This is why your piece did so well! So many themes packed into a short essay and so powerful! They reach everyone who reads it in some way. Let’s switch gears to talk about how you are a narrative life coach. Please explain what this is and what you do to teach and coach others. 

Carol: I teach about brain function as it relates to memories, emotions, obsessions. I became certified as a life coach and New Life Story Coach a couple of years ago to help people who are stuck in the emotional loops of their narrative clarify the work through writing. I coach through questions. I let coachees find their own answers. It’s a powerful brain-changing process. 

WOW: Sounds amazing. (Interested writers, check Carol's Narrative Life Coach info here.)What’s the writing project you are working on now? What’s next for you in your writing career? 

Carol: I’m working on my memoir – Pearls. It’s been a journey – not just in writing about unpleasant things, but in learning to write unpleasant things well and to use concrete nouns and strong verbs. I work with a mentor – Jack Remick – author of many books, who has helped me find my voice as a writer. I love writing essays in the creative nonfiction genre, but the goal of my writing journey is to render content through craft. I cannot tell you enough how affirming it is to be selected as a second-place winner in Q4 of WOW.

WOW: Awesome, and we are so glad to hear that! Best of luck with your memoir, and we wish you the best of luck. We are glad you entered! 
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When The Universe Strikes

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Gather round, friends, it’s storytime with Cathy. 

It was midday Tuesday, and I sat down at my desk, opened my laptop to a word document, and began to write this very blog post. I had an idea, and once I got started, the words flowed. To be exact, 239 words were on the page when out of the blue, my curser stopped. 

At first, I thought it was the mouse, and so I tried to direct the curser manually. But that did not fix the problem and as I realized my laptop had frozen, my cell phone rang. 

ME: Hold on a sec, I need to figure out what to do about this document on this &^&^* frozen laptop.

DAUGHTER: Uh-Oh. (And then Daughter went into a long story about her work laptop and how she had to purchase a new one and eventually circled back to built-in obsolescence which happens to be a thing we both believe exists. And regularly targets members of the Hall family.) 

ME: I’ll have to shut down to get my laptop going again so I’m going to take a picture of what I’ve written, just in case it’s not automatically recovered. But boy am I glad that I wasn’t working on my novel! 

And so that’s what I did and we continued to chat about whatever was the purpose of the call and I was fine with that because it was not too terribly late and I had plenty of time to write the blog post. 

So I went back to Word and sure enough, there was the blog post but a few paragraphs of what I’d written were missing. No problem, I thought, and I pulled up the image, re-wrote the part I’d lost, and then continued on my merry way. I required a few finishing touches but I wanted to catch the news so I minimized the doc.

Now it’s around 6 and I sat down again to do those few edits; I was in a hurry because that’s usually the time I get my novel-writing done. But first, I remembered that I hadn’t emailed my manuscript to me and since my laptop was getting wonkier and wonkier every day, I took care of that business. And then, I added the last few sentences and saved my blog post. 

But I had an uneasy feeling about that save function. Something about it didn’t feel right so I double-checked my documents. Yep, there it was so I pulled up the doc and…no blog post. Nothing but a big blank page. 

Okay, I tell myself not to panic. The document is there, I just have to find it. But I don’t remember how to find unsaved and/or deleted documents. And so for forty-five minutes, I watch helpful videos and try EVERYTHING POSSIBLE. 

You can probably guess what happened next. There was no document. Nada, zilch, zero. At this point, I could attempt to remember every word I’d written and re-write. Or I could eat (It was, after all, 7:40) and then watch The Voice.

So here’s the thing: if the Universe destroys your blog post not once, but TWICE, I think one should listen. So I ditched that blog post, enjoyed The Voice, and sat back down at my laptop at 9:00 to work on my Nano manuscript.

Now, I’m not one of those people who write late at night. At 9:30 or so, I’m taking care of household chores that don't require too much brain power (like washing clothes or opening mail) and I had a whole list of things to do. But I employed a little “planned neglect” and managed to get my word count in by 10:45 or so. 

When next we meet, friends, I’ll tell you all about planned neglect and how it can make you a better writer. But the moral of this particular story (written Wednesday afternoon) is this: Don’t waste your time crying over spilt milk (or lost words from a blog post). Also, built-in obsolescence is real and out to get you so make sure you have a reliable back up system. And finally, this blog post is way better than that other one. I mean, would you have wanted to read all about grammar? 

Exactly. (You can thank The Universe.)

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Picture Book Month aka Making It Work for You

Wednesday, November 10, 2021
Make the idea your own.

November is Picture Book Month. No, not Picture Book Idea Month. That’s now known as Storystorm and takes place in January. Picture Book Month is all about celebrating the picture book. 

You can do this in any number of ways. It isn’t Storystorm, but you can still make a point of generating at least one new picture book idea every day. You can read a picture book every day. Your local library is sure to be full of picture books. You can doodle, illustrating your way through a manuscript idea every day. Buy picture books to give as Christmas gifts. Make earring charms featuring the covers of your favorite picture books. 

What… 

Ever. 

Do what you need to do to feel inspired. Recharge your creative batteries. Do whatever it is that makes you feel like a writer. 

Earlier in the week Crystal wrote about managing her to do list. She had to find a balance that didn’t weigh her down but was still do-able. You can find her post here

Nicole wrote about rewriting a short story. She either had to give up on it or find a way to rework it because giving up just wasn’t acceptable. Instead she did a radical revision and cut everything it didn’t need. Read about that here.

Margo wrote about finding a way to make a story theme your own in the face of finding a published novel with a similar vibe. She advised her student that her voice and writing would make the story as she wrote it entirely unique. Click here to read Margo's post.  

Making something your own is something that all writers need to learn to do. When Angela or Renee or Cathy gives you a brilliant piece of advice, their way may not work for you. You, after all, are not Angela, Renee or Cathy. But the way they do it with minor, or major, modifications may be just the fix that you need. 

There are so many people who are discouraged. They dream small and they often discourage you from dreaming big. WOW! isn’t like that. Whether your dream is writing for young readers, creating a pod cast, or crafting a series of essays, we are here to tell you that you can do it. 

You just have to find what works for you. Whether your goal is writing a picture book or spinning a poem, you can do it. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I should be working on my next piece of teen nonfiction. So naturally I have a new picture book idea just begging me to come play.

--SueBE

Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on December 6, 2021).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins December 6, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins December 6, 2021). 
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Interview with Veronique Aglat, Spring 2021 Flash Fiction Runner Up

Tuesday, November 09, 2021



Today I am excited to talk with Veronique Aglat, one of the runner-ups to the Spring 2021 Flash Fiction contest. Make sure you read her story The Perfect Spot then come on back and read our interview. 
First, a bit more about Veronique:

Veronique Aglat writes out of a studio leased from the Montreal Art Center for inspiration and company. She turned to writing to honor the memory of her son Liam, a true artist in the making, whose life ended too early. She has published several short stories in literary magazines and is working on a novel.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First off, congratulations on winning runner-up! What surrounds you when you write? 

Veronique: I decided to write full-time on the nine-month anniversary of my son's death. I looked up space for rent and found someone who had a studio at the Montreal Art Center. He needed someone to help him share the burden of full rent, especially since he couldn't give drawing lessons there anymore (COVID, what else?). The Art Center is part of Montreal's heritage. It has three floors filled with art, artists of all sorts, and a library. I sit at my desk, write for a while, and when I don't know where to go with a story, I look at a new exhibit or a painting I find interesting. I am surrounded by visual art. 

WOW: What a beautiful setting! What inspired the story?

Veronique: I read an article about this bizarre tree that produces only good fruit once it has rotted a few weeks. It used to be a major source of winter sugar in England before air shipping. Nowadays, we have bananas, pineapples, and mangoes all year round. Go back 120 years, and most English people ate what they grew. However, it is making a comeback. There is someone who planted a whole orchard. The tree is real. It comes from Central Asia. I was learning to juggle at the time, hence the mayor who juggles three fruit. 

WOW: That's so amazing! I love how you blended fiction with reality. What does a typical day of writing look like to you? 

Veronique: My goal is always to be at my desk at 2 pm. I used to close the door, but with summer and AC issues, I leave it open. I prefer when I can close the door. I try to write 1000 words. I want to be flexible, so some days it's more, some days less, but 1000 is a good objective, especially if I'm working on a longer piece. I keep a diary of the work I do every day. 

WOW: That's an amazing way to keep yourself on track. What are you currently working on that you can tell us about? 

Veronique: I'm writing a story based on the premise: what if a gum that can regrow teeth was invented? It's two stories that run parallel to one another. One deals with an old man who has been wearing dentures for 50 years and who decides to try the gum. The other is about a young man who went to dental schools on loans and now faces a future where his skills are obsolete, but his debt isn't. Both storylines merge eventually. I am also working on a historical fiction novel loosely based on my great uncle's life. He was picked up by the Nazis in 1942, mostly because he was homosexual, and deported to Mauthausen, where he died two weeks after the Liberation in 1945. 

WOW: Both stories sound amazing! You have a wonderful way of capturing all senses in your writing. What is your technique for doing that? 

Veronique: When my children were little, we had many plastic figurines; some were Star Wars characters, others were animals, etc. We named each figurine and touched it. Then we played a game where we closed our eyes, felt the object, and named it. We sense a lot more than what we see. For example, I know who is entering the building by the way the person closes the door. The other day, I passed next to a man who smelled like Cardamone and lavender. I think I sometimes close my eyes to give my other senses a chance to give their input.

WOW: That's a profound way to capture senses! I love it! Congratulations again and I can't wait to see what you come up with next. 
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