Interview with Susan Moffson: Summer 2020 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Susan Moffson has been working in the field of international development for over 20 years, some of that time spent living and working in Africa. For the past 10 years, she has worked for the non-governmental organization, Jhpiego, the leading partner in a consortium implementing the global health project, Momentum Country and Global Leadership. 

She has written several work-related blogs about the positive impact Jhpiego-led programs have had on many women and children and has realized she is a journalist at heart. Susan loves to write fiction, pulling from her time abroad, to capture the incredibly rich and varied cultures she has been fortunate to experience. 

If you haven't read her story, "Lockdown in Congo," please take the time to do so and then come back to hear about her writing process.

--Interview by Sue Bradford Edwards

WOW: I suspect that when readers see the title of your piece, they expect to find a story about pandemic lockdown. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind your story? 

Susan: The inspiration for this story are events loosely based on experiences during actual lockdowns in Madagascar, Uganda, and Congo. During our time overseas in Africa, we occasionally had to prepare for lockdowns in case of election violence, or potential coups, or other instability. By "preparing" I mean make sure we had enough food and water on hand for five or so days. 

So in a way I felt ready for lockdown during a pandemic and I guess a part of me wanted to convey that this lockdown phenomenon isn't new for many parts of the world. I think it's timely with some of the election drama in our own country, to show that developing countries, with weak democracies, often experience election instability and even violence. 

WOW: Now I wonder if you realized just how timely this story would be! Written pieces change and grow through the rewrite process. How did this piece change from first draft to submitted story? 

Susan: I've been working off and on for about three years on this story. I think the lockdown due to the pandemic made me want to revive it. This story was originally much longer- an actual short story. I find I do better with flash fiction so I decided to try to condense and tighten the original version. 

WOW: Back to the idea that you lived through experiences similar to the ones described in your story. What advice do you have for writers who want to create fictional stories based on real life? 

Susan: What inspires me is to tell stories that highlight actual issues in different cultures/societies, whether poverty, human trafficking, prejudice, or other. My advice is to try and strike a balance between talking about issues in a compelling way but not trying to lecture or preach. I struggle with this balance often! 

WOW: I think a lot of us work to achieve that kind of balance. What was the most difficult part in creating “Lockdown in Congo”? Why was this a challenge and how did you come upon a solution? 

Susan: I think given my background in international development, my constant challenge is to tell a story with rich details about various cultures but not to sound like I'm writing a report for work! 

WOW: That would be tricky. Can you tell us something about your current writing projects? 

Susan: I'm working on a story about the anti-gay laws in Uganda, where we lived for over 3 years. We've made so much progress on LGBTQ+ rights in our country but many other countries have so far to go. I feel like that's important to highlight.

WOW: What an important piece!  You'll have to let our readers know where to find it when you send it out into the world.  

For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.

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Don't Let One Negative Critique Spoil the Whole Bunch

Monday, January 25, 2021

Recently, I sent my story around on a critique forum to get feedback, and one piece of feedback I received stopped me in my creative tracks. They accused my story of being boring. Worse, I believed them. I re-read the story and thought, good grief they are right. 

I almost overhauled the whole thing until I received a rejection letter. My story - yes, the one I planned on changing completely - had been rejected. Yet, something in this rejection made me pause. It made me wonder if that other person had been wrong.

You see, the rejection was positive. It said, "It was good; it just wasn’t a perfect fit for the issue."

Now, I know from my past experiences that receiving a personalized rejection is a massively good sign. It's a rare but beautiful thing that tells me this person thought highly enough of my story to write a remark about it.

Trying to get published is tough, whether it's an entire book, a short story, or a poem. Worse yet, we're often our own worse critics, and when someone comes along and agrees with our self-doubt. Yet, even if you get one bad review. A scathing bad review where maybe you are left with tears. A review or critique that makes you wonder if you were meant to be in this whole writing business. If you do, I encourage you to do one thing:


Yes, pause. Don't absorb the review completely. Sometimes a story just doesn't speak to someone. Maybe it's not their kind of genre. Maybe they're in a bad mood. And maybe they even have a point somewhere in their critique, but I will say it again:

Pause. Don't let it hit you.

Before you agree with them and trash the whole thing, put space between you, this critique, and your story. If you can, go back to your story with fresh and neutral eyes, and maybe find someone a little kinder to help you with your story. 

You don't need to trash 75% of your story (as this person suggested to me) to get it to a more polished state. Yes, I need to revise things and sharpen the plotline, but this story has potential and that rejection told me so. 

So today I encourage you with every bit of nasty feedback or criticism you receive about your writing, take it with a grain of salt. Yes, it hurts, and maybe somewhere amidst the thorns, this person has a point, but you shouldn't trash something you have created because of one bad critique. And if you can, be the person that encourages someone to go back to a story they lost faith in. Be that person. Be the encourager. I think we need more of those in this world.

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4 Types of Reading for Every Writer

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Late in 2020, I prepped to write a middle grade science fiction novel. Because I read a lot more fantasy than science fiction, I knew I needed to compile a reading list. I found very little for this age group so I asked book fans and writers. I found online lists composed by reviewers and librarians. I requested a dozen recent middle grade novels and War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. 

After I read the first contemporary novel, I examined the others. Every book was a boarding school story on another planet. Harry Potter goes to Mars, etc. Why oh why was the only unique recommendation War of the Worlds? And why didn’t science play a bigger part in these books? I also noticed that there was no diversity among the authors. 

I put creating a better list but on the back burner until I signed up for a DIY MFA starter kit from Gabriela Pereira. One assignment was to compile a reading list to study the type of book you are writing. Gabriela includes 4 types of books-- 

Comp Titles 

These are the titles your book will be up against in the market place. Many of them will be the same genre as your book. Others may be the same theme or setting. All will be recent. 

My comp titles: 

  • The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm. I found this title because I had seen a recent interview with Holm. This was my jumping off place. I looked it up on my library web catalog and then used the NoveList feature to find read-alikes. 
  • An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon 
  • The Moon Platoon by Jeremy Kraatz 
  • Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee 
  • Sleepers by Darcy Pattison 

Contextual Books

These titles inform your writing. They may be research. They may offer breadth in the genre or topic. They don’t have to be recent. 

My contextual titles:

  • Space Case by Stuarts Gibbs 
  • The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow. I read this one when it came out and loved it. 
  • The Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos 
  • Minrs by Kevin Sylvester. My grandad was a mining engineer. This was an easy sell. 
  • The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. Hint: If your book is compared to Firefly, I will pick it up. 

Contemporary Books 

Even if a book doesn’t directly compete with yours, you need to know what is being published in your genre. These books may not be contextual but again add breadth to your list. 

My contemporary titles: 

  • Randoms by David Lee 
  • #MurderTrending by Gretchen McNeil. Running man with a teenage girl protagonist. Yes! 
  • The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch 
  • Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza 
  • The Secret Lake by Karen Inglis 


These are the foundational titles, the ones that led to what we see today. Because I’m writing a book for young readers, I chose several early dystopian novels for tweens. 

My classics: 

  • War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. It was written in 1897. How much more foundational can you get? 
  • The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey 
  • City of Ember by Jeanne Du Prau 
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry 
  • Enders Game by Orson Scott Card 

Not only are the plots more diverse than my original list, so are the writers and the characters. This is a solid list but I couldn’t develop it until I started looking beyond comp titles and include contextual titles, classics and a broader scope of contemporary books. 

Like Cathy recently pointed out in her post, writers need to be readers. Are you reading from all four categories? 


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 February 1, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins February 1, 2021). 

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The Art of Encouraging Others

Friday, January 22, 2021

I didn't realize I was a walking talking ball of encouragement until my husband pointed it out. Well - he didn't say it quite that way. In fact, he began by pointing out how weird I am because I hollered out the car window at an acquaintance. I guess I thought everyone did that kind of thing. I posted about the scenario on social media and learned a lot about myself from the comments made by friends and family. 

I'll back up a bit. I love coffee and I especially love Starbucks coffee. I fell in love with it decades ago when I was traveling for work. I appreciated the consistency of their product and customer service. No matter where I traveled, I Could count on a Venti Vanilla Latte to be a Venti Vanilla Latte. That was important to me. As much as I enjoyed visiting local mom and pop restaurants and coffee shops, when I was busy with work, I needed that one piece of consistency to begin my day on a positive note. Now, I only visit Starbucks when I have gift cards, but just being there puts me in a good mood. Before I digress much more, I'll get to the conversation:

Picture hubby and I going through the drive through on a chilly evening a few weeks past Christmas. It's snowing lightly and the barista hands us our drinks with a smile. (I'm in the passenger seat of the farm truck and hubby is driving)

"wow, it's you - hey Crystal I haven't seen you in a while. How are you?"

"I'm great thanks - more importantly how are you? Good Christmas?"

"Pretty stressful actually - I think I'm glad it's over."

"Well - you're still gorgeous and I'm happy to see your smile!"

"You're so sweet; thanks!"

As we drive away, my husband asked if I was hitting on the barista. I turned to him quite perplexed but of course he was laughing as he says "you know, guys don't say that kind of thing to each other. Women are weird."

We had a great conversation and I guess I've been me for so long I hadn't realized I was encouraging people. It probably started when I was managing people at a call center, or maybe as a child when my doting father was always telling me positive things, but it has become a part of my style and after speaking with some of my children's friends, it's become part of them as well. Once you've done something repeatedly over a long period of time, it becomes second nature. 

The more I chatted with friends about encouragement, the more I learned. We created a list of the top 5 things you can do if you want to become an encourager of others. Maybe you're already doing these - but if not, consider adding a few of them to your daily routine. When you encourage others, your self talk changes as well and you'll find yourself smiling more as you do even greater things than you did before!

- Offer a sincere compliment to a stranger or acquaintance (this doesn't have to be wordy - for example: wow - that's an awesome pair of boots! I love your hair! etc...)

- Provide feedback regarding a business transaction (this could mean leaving a book review on Amazon, mentioning something to a manager or owner at a grocery or convenience store, or leaving a note with a tip at a restaurant)

- Take an interest in someone (you can do this in person, over the phone, social media, email, etc... ask someone how they are doing and have a conversation. Offer a compliment about something they are doing that you find interesting. Ie: that sounds really interesting; you've been working hard toward your goal. Way to go!)

- Refer a friend (this could definitely work with authors and readers, but take it one step further and if you know of a friend who is hiring, offer to share their job posting with your friends, if you know a friend looking for work, offer up any suggestions you have that may help them find work, etc... )

- Get your hands dirty (not really...but sort of... basically get involved and sometimes this sounds like "hey, I know getting to the gym is your goal, I'll help you. Wanna meet up there after work tomorrow?" sometimes it does mean physically getting dirty though... ie: "I know you can can get all these seeds in the ground and make this garden happen before it rains, let me help you". Make whatever is important to your friend important to you and get in there to help them. Being on someone's team is very encouraging. 

Have I mentioned how amazing you are dear reader? I love that you show up, take time to read and digest the information, and I'd love to hear from you! What are ways you've encouraged others? How have others encouraged you? And while you're leaving comments - what's your favorite Starbucks drink or the name and location of your favorite coffee shop?


Thanks in advance for the comments! You're Fabulous!!!


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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Friday Speak Out!: Dear Writer Friends

by Deirdra Eden

The modern world works on billable hours, clocks watched, and the mantra, “Produce, produce, produce.” Even among other creatives there is a massive emphasis on getting more done, not to mention the competition. The pressure can kill creativity, damper the joy in your work, and knock you off balance. 

You might find yourself somewhere between totally overwhelmed at the prospect of managing your time or you’ve tried and failed so often you are ready to give up. 

It’s because you are a creator! You see the world in terms of expression and potential. You dream the impossible. You have exactly what it takes to make life functional, balanced, and beautiful all at the same time. 

Having a creative spirit requires discipline. Creators like to let their ingenuity run wild and free. A dog can be a friend, a protector, and companion. But just like creativity, if not disciplined, the dog can go feral and then turn on its master. Once creativity is tamed, this energy can be harnessed, focused, controlled, commanded, and become a powerful ability for the creator who can masterfully control their artistic energy. 

What kind of creative energy method (or combination of) are you? 


Zig-Zagging energy is great for brainstorming, seeing the applications of available resources, recognizing opportunities, and fueling enthusiasm for new projects. However, the struggle comes with actually completing tasks.


Obsessive Focus Energy gets things done! It is the arrow shot from the archer’s bow: one target, one path, one destination. No distraction! No deviation! 

When Obsessive energy ebbs, as all energetic cycles will, the creator is left in befuddlement, wondering where everyone has gone. They may realize that they have broken promises, missed opportunities, or simply strained their own capacities too far.


The Evading creator would like to write a book. They have lots of notebooks at home, but they need a fresh notebook. They may redesign their entire office, and then say, “I can put my mind to my work, but only when the dishes are done”.

Evading Focus Energy is about preparation. The wonderful thing about Evasive creators is that they generally control their flow of creative output and balance. They are great team members because they will never let the group run off half-cocked in excitement about the latest endeavor. They have prepared for every contingency and once the ball gets rolling, it can roll much farther.

We cannot change the outcomes of our lives if we don’t change our understanding of creation, time, and ourselves. You can channel your desire to create into the powerful motivating force it is meant to be.

* * *
Deirdra Eden is a social and behavioral scientist and the author of Time Management for Creative People, in which she explores the seasons, cycles, and how to be in the right mind for right-brain creators.
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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Helping Novice Writers Step Out Of The Shadows This New Dawn

Thursday, January 21, 2021

I often mention in writing posts that I knew I wanted to be a writer from a very young age. I knew that once I became an adult, I'd graduate from writing stories cross-legged on my bed in black and white notebooks to writing stories for those glossy magazines I saw at the newsstand or were spread across the coffee table in my Livingroom. 

I know now, that had I not been so passionate and dedicated to achieving my writing dream, it may have continued to simmer on a back burner in my life, and I would have stayed in the shadows, writing in notebooks for my eyes only. If that had been the case, I would have wished for a fairy godmother, herself an accomplished writer, who sensed something greater in the words I penned, to have tapped me on my shoulders and said hopefully something like this, " Dear one, you have a gift but you'll never know how far and how wide you can go if you keep hiding your gift under a rock. So I have come to help you step out of the shadows." 

As we enter a new dawn and a new day, after such a tumultuous year, as we usher in healing and hope with our newly elected President, Joe Biden, and our first woman and woman of color Vice President, Kamala Harris, I feel even more motivated as a writer and excited about where my writing will take me. I'm also excited and committed to motivating other writers; friends, family members, and acquaintances I've met through writing, who've expressed their desire to step out of the shadows. I've decided to be their fairy godmother, reminding them that filling journals and notebooks is a starting point for all writers and is indeed cathartic and shouldn't be abandoned, but that they have stories that have outgrown those perfectly lined notebook pages they tuck away in their nightstands at night. They have  stories the world needs to hear, that will make you cry, laugh out loud, and teach you how to make lemonade when life gives you its tartest lemons. They have a gift that shouldn't be hidden under a rock.

Two examples of that are; A good friend of mine writes poetry and bares her soul in her journal about growing up as a foster child and about being a single mother. My sister writes about surviving domestic abuse and has stacks of notebooks filled with stories about how she finally untangled herself from a cycle of abuse and healed. I've encouraged both my friend and my sister to go to the next level with their writing and submit their true-life stories to magazines and anthologies, most recently to one of the Chicken Soup for The Soul Anthologies. It was a proud moment for not only both of them, but also myself, when they wrote and submitted a story to the Chicken Soup for The Soul editors.  

Helping other writers step out of the shadows does my heart good. It doesn't leave me feeling overextended or cause me to neglect my own writing projects, for I don't have to spend hours walking them through each step. I give them basic information, such as to make sure they follow the writer's guidelines, and how to format a manuscript, to get started. Mainly I try to inspire them to cross over the bridge to all the great opportunities waiting for writers on the other side. Who knows, my friend who writes poetry may one day be reciting her poem as poet laureate as eloquently as Amanda Gorman recited her powerful poem, "The Hill We Climb," as the first youth poet laureate and youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history.

So on this new dawn I'd like to share a few things I plan on doing to help novice writers step out of the shadows and into the light: 

1. Offer encouragement without pressure. Just because someone has expressed their desire to publish doesn't mean they are ready to do so when you feel they are, or when you have a magazine in sight that would be the perfect home for their story. They may need time to mentally prepare for sharing their innermost thoughts with an audience and opening themselves up for possible judgement, criticism or rejection. I will let them know they have a story to tell that will inspire and resonate with others on a similar journey and that I hope they will share it soon because I believe in them and their ability to tell a great story.  

2. Gift them writing books as presents. Books such as, "The Elements of Style," by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, "On Writing: A memoir of the Craft," by Stephen King, "Bird by Bird," by Anne Lamott, and "Writing Down the Bones," by Natalie Goldberg, and the latest edition of, "The Writer's Market," to name a few. 

3. Give them a subscription or information about writing magazines they can subscribe to such as, Poets & Writers Magazine, Writer's Digest, The Writer, or Creative Nonfiction Magazine. 

4. Recommend writing websites, or online courses, many which can be found on WOW, that help writers hone their skills and build their storytelling strengths. 

5. Let them know that the best advice I can offer them, is to write, to write everyday if only for a few minutes, and not worry about the editor or skeptic sitting on their shoulder. Let them know to unabashedly get their story written, and come back to edit later for submission. The more they write, the better they will get, and the more confidence they will have when it comes to sharing their work.


Jeanine DeHoney is a freelance writer who has had her writing published in several magazines, anthologies and blogs. 


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Just For Today, For a Writer (Part Deux)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Like you, I keep up with the blog posts here at The Muffin, and when I read a few recently—namely, Jeanine DeHoney’s A Writer’s Prayer for Serenity and Sue Bradford Edwards’ 3 Steps to Developing that New Writing Habit—something clicked in the dark recesses of my memory. Hadn’t I written something similar?

It took a while to find the blog post (I knew it had something to do with writing but as you can imagine, that was not a helpful key word for my search), but eventually, it popped up on the screen: Just For Today, For A Writer. It ran right here on The Muffin in January of 2013. 

2013! That was eight years ago. 

Well, firstly, I was pretty darn impressed that I remembered it at all. But secondly, I wondered, reading the post, if I’d successfully developed these writing habits. You see, I take stock monthly, even yearly, but eight years? That’s some serious accountability. 

So here’s the original post, but for today, I decided to just look at the basic promises I made in 2013, the ones this writer vowed to tackle, on a mostly daily basis: 

Just for today, I will write.

Uh-oh. Right from the get go, I smelled trouble. But wait! I could count my journal because that’s writing. And the deal was not to write a set amount but to write. So despite the tragedies and the triumphs of the last eight years, I have always written something, just about every day. Yay, me! 

Just for today, I will read. 

Reading is my comfort food, my happy place, my go-to for learning. I probably didn’t need to add that promise; I’ve been reading since I figured out how. On the other hand, I know writers who don’t read much so I will reiterate now that you can’t be a writer if you’re not a reader. 

Just for today, I will encourage or support another writer. 

Admittedly, I don’t always do this. Sometimes, I support a non-writer friend or encourage someone I don’t even know, like a young mom in the grocery store. On my bathroom mirror is a sign where I’ve written, “Whose day will I make today?” I wholeheartedly recommend the habit of support and encouragement; I’m sure I sleep better every night for following that practice. 

Just for today, I will take care of business.

Yikes! I struggle with this chore as much today as I did eight years ago. It’s why every January, I spend the month cleaning out all my inboxes. I know I should keep up with it every day but I’m busy, y’all. Reading. 

Just for today, I will be thankful that I’m a writer. 

How I’m thankful today as a writer may not be the same as it was years ago; now, I appreciate that writing is not just about validation but about helping me to work through all that makes up my life, and hopefully figuring out who Cathy C. Hall is. So whether I’m compensated in dollars and cents or serenity and joy, I’m good to go. (Not to mention that I’m sitting here, just as I was eight years ago, writing away in my pajamas. I’ll always be grateful for that!) 

Okay, then. I’m going to say that eight years later, I’ve done a fairly good job, keeping my writing promises. How about you? Can you remember where you were on your writing journey eight years ago? Sometimes it takes the long view to show us just how far we’ve come, day by day!

Cathy C. Hall is a children's author, freelance writer, blogger, speaker, and dog wrangler. Way harder than it looks.
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Interview with Seetha Nambiar Dodd: Summer 2020 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
Seetha’s Bio: Seetha Nambiar Dodd grew up in Malaysia, surrounded by Enid Blyton books. She studied English Literature at university in the UK, and now lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and three children in a chaotic adaptation of Five Go Adventuring Again. Seetha writes creative nonfiction on her blog and was inspired by the Australian Writers’ Centre to try her hand at flash fiction. Her prose, poetry and freelance articles have been published in anthologies and on various online platforms. The pieces she is most proud of are the ones that honour and celebrate her family, who gave her roots, wings, and the confidence to fly. Seetha has had Honorable Mentions in two of WOW’s Creative Nonfiction essay contests. This is her first published piece on WOW and she is thrilled about sharing her work with the WOW community. You can find her on Instagram @seethadodd and read more on

If you haven't done so already, check out Seetha's award-winning story "All the Blue Ties" 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? 

Seetha: Sometimes a memory from the past can emerge and be as vivid as the day it happened. But it is also loaded with new thoughts and experiences. I had this sudden image of my father, tall and healthy, getting ready for work, and then another image of the day of my father's funeral. I wanted to try and connect the two somehow, and to explore the metaphor of the blue tie. The more I delved into it, the more emotions surfaced about the options that life presents to us, the choices we make, and about courage. 

WOW: Thanks for sharing the inspiration behind your story. What did you learn about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece? 

Seetha: I started writing this piece in the first person, but it felt too personal, and was too difficult to write. The use of the second person allowed me not only to take a step back from the experience, but it also (hopefully!) added a layer of empathy to the voice – as the observer rather than the initiator of the emotion. It almost felt like I could be the older “me” who understood how the ten-year-old me felt. I also learned that it's good to experiment with style - for example, to see if the flashback in the story would work better than a retelling of the past. 

WOW: Stories in the second person can be very challenging, and I often wonder why authors choose a second person perspective. I appreciate you sharing why you chose it – you made it work very well! According to your bio, it sounds like you predominantly write nonfiction. In what way did the Australian Writers’ Centre inspire you to try flash fiction? 

Seetha: The Australian Writers' Centre runs a monthly flash fiction competition called Furious Fiction - 500 words in 55 hours in response to a set of criteria. I love the challenge of creating a piece of writing in a short amount of time. The competition has sent me down many paths of genre and style that I wouldn't otherwise have travelled! Now it has become a regular writing exercise. 

WOW: How wonderful to have a catalyst to help you experiment! Do you think you’ll continue to dabble in fiction or return to nonfiction? 

Seetha: I love both and I think I need to write both. To paraphrase a quote I once read: nonfiction to tell the stories in my head, and fiction to tell the stories in my heart! 

WOW: I love that! I had never thought of nonfiction vs. fiction in that way before. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it? 

Seetha: I have a pile of books on my bedside table. Top of the pile are Oscar Wilde's Complete Short Fiction (a book I bought over twenty years ago but revisit often for the clever sentences), and a more recent acquisition: Australian writer Imbi Neeme's novel The Spill. It caught my eye at the library and I was drawn in from the very first page. It's a beautiful story about family, love, and regret. 

WOW: If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why? 

Seetha: Don't be afraid to sound like a beginner - just say the thing you want to say! We're all beginners at something at some point. Oh, and if I'm allowed another: keep writing those 'Dear Diary' entries! 

WOW: Excellent advice! Anything else you’d like to add? 

Seetha: Thank you so much, WOW team! I love that I can be a part of this community from all the way in Australia. 

WOW: We love having you as part of the WOW community! 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.
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Looking Inside a Publishing Story about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and His Important Message

Monday, January 18, 2021

About twenty years ago, I used to look through real-life, print magazines for story ideas. I saw a photo of two young children, a boy with his mouth wide open, and a little girl looking inside it. Today, I remember that the children did not have the same skin colors (I searched for the photo, so I could show it to you, but I couldn't find it!), and this photo prompted a story idea titled, "Looking Inside." 

In this story, it's Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, (just like today!), and a kindergarten teacher is attempting to teach her class about who Dr. King was and more importantly, his life's work. But she keeps getting interrupted, as kindergarten teachers do, from the children wanting to tell her things about their own lives and just general kindergartener wiggliness. 

At the end of the lesson, she wonders: What did they actually learn in that chaos? She sends them to centers; and a few mintues later, she sees two children "looking inside" each other--pulling earlobes down and peering in, for example. She rushes over there, due to the fact that there is a "keep your hands to yourself rule" in every classroom in America and probably worldwide, and the discussion that follows assures her that the children did indeed understand Dr. King's message that all people are the same and should have equal rights. 

I always loved this story. And I never knew what to do with it because it is told from the teacher's point of view, flash fiction, and cute. I couldn't find the right home for it. 

Enter Fred.

As you know, my publishing company, Editor-911 Books, is a business I've been growing for the past year, and my first author was 91-year-old Fred Olds. Fred writes stories that are marvelous, but they have trouble finding a home because they just don't fit the mode of what children's editors and agents are looking for currently. 

To grow my business, I wanted to learn how to sell books through Ingram Spark, and not just Amazon, and so I had an idea for a book to try, and Fred said, "Yes." (Sometimes, all it takes is an idea and a yes!) I'll show you what was born out of the idea below, and then how the beginning of this post about my story fits and how all of this relates to why I'm writing about this on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 

In this book above, which is now available to order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or an indie bookstore, contains Fred's first and second Read-Aloud Stories with Fred volumes. But I also wanted to give readers more value and explain how great Fred is. So as editor of the book, I wrote a foreword and decided to add my "brand-new" story, "Looking Inside" to the collection, and it's officially out today...on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. 

When I was deciding which of my short stories for kids to include in the collection, I thought back through this year, and all the fights that people of color are still having to fight and wondered if Dr. King's message will ever get through to us, as it did to the kindergarten class in my story. And I knew that this was the crucial story to publish in Fred's book--and "Looking Inside" found its home. 

If you are interested in reading my story for yourself or to some children in your life, I hope you will consider checking out Fred's book with my two small additions. His stories also seem to really resonate with both children and adults, and although they are very fun, they all have a subtle message for children about how to treat people, friends, and animals fairly and kindly. 

It's never too late to find a story home if you wrote that story from your heart.

And so, I'll leave you with Dr. King's words because his message is what's important today:

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, publisher, writing coach and teacher living in St. Louis, MO, with her daughter and dog. Check out more here or in the WOW! classroom. 

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Self-Promotion: A Necessary Evil?

Sunday, January 17, 2021

     If you listen to a Jason Derulo song, or some of Lady Gaga’s songs, you’ll notice their name appears somewhere in the lyrics. Derulo puts his name right in front, at the beginning. Gaga’s name might be missed, if you’re not listening carefully. After all, it’s only two syllables and often, it blends in seamlessly with the chorus. 




Want your bad romance!

Shameless, right? I mean, it’s so brazen to just put your name out there, like a miniature billboard, correct?

Wrong. Both Derulo and Lady Gaga are simply promoting themselves… and promoting themselves is something that writers need to do (or do more often).

image by Pixabay

I can hear you whining already. I’m a writer. I’m not savvy when it comes to business. I’m not supposed to be promoting myself. I’m supposed to spend my time writing.

Unless you’re up in the stratosphere with Jodi Picoult, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, James Patterson and John Grisham, you  have to promote yourself. Most likely it will be up to you to set up some (or all) of your book events. You will have to contact newspapers, radio stations and fellow writers to get reviews and publicity. You have to put your name and your book out there, because nobody else is gonna do it.

Believe me, I’m right with you. I’m a teacher (a profession known for attracting people who love their job but hate the limelight). I’m also a writer. If I was a wizard at publicity and promotion, I’d have been making the big bucks all these years.

Yet here I am, working on ways to promote myself, because I have a book coming out this spring. And I want to walk that fine line. I don’t want to assault folks endlessly with pleas to buy my book. Read my book! Review my book! However, I do need to get my book out there (hopefully in clever and informational ways).

I read this post and got a couple of helpful hints. One, I need to really put my personality forward. Sitting behind a table that’s stacked with my books, waiting for people to come up and talk to me will not work.

Another suggestion is to support fellow writers. I’ve been doing this for years. I’m thrilled when a writing friend gets published in an anthology or gets a book published. Writing is a tough business. We writers have to support each other. We have to.

In another post I read, I got some other ideas. An easy thing to do: add my book to my email footer. Each time I send an email, my book’s title (and cover) is being shared. Another idea: write a guest post or article. Bloggers might appreciate you offering to write a post for them, and while you’re helping them, you’re helping yourself by promoting your writing and yourself.

As I continued reading, I started thinking of unique give-aways or possible merchandise that could be connected to my book. Setting up Skype sessions with a class (since my book is a middle-grade novel) or being part of a book club that’s reading my book (either a local group or participating virtually) are also possibilities.

In the end, as a writer, you have to step away from your laptop, think outside of the box, and promote yourself…

… because if you don’t talk up your book, chances are, nobody will.

              If you go to the 2 minute mark, you'll see a sweet old lady rocking out.

Sioux Roslawski is a middle school teacher and a freelance writer. In spring of 2021, her middle grade hisorical novel, Henry's Story: Greenwood Gone, will debut. If you'd like to read more of Sioux's writing, check out her blog.

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How to Write Compelling True Crime

Saturday, January 16, 2021


It’s no secret around here that I dabble in true crime writing and reporting. While the genre has always fascinated me, I never imagined it had the potential of being an income stream. But with true crime being more popular than ever (think of all the networks, streaming programs, books and podcasts out there), I believe it’s possible to make money writing about it. 

I used my curiosity to start up a podcast about missing people in North and South Carolina. At first, I envisioned writing about unsolved cases. Then, the more I started reading and digging into research, I discovered it was also interesting to tell the stories of people who had been missing but maybe had then been found. Was there a mysterious story behind what happened to them? Was their disappearance tied to another case? Now I try to provide a balance of unsolved cases and solved cases. Very often in my research I would come across an intriguing story, but it wasn’t related to North or South Carolina. I would write about those for my blog, and now the majority of my writing blog is true crime. These posts could one day turn into a book proposal if I organize them the right way, along with my other research I’ve collected for the podcast. 

How do you know if a subject is worth writing about? Here are a few stories I’ve tackled. A husband in my area has been accused of murdering his wife with Visine. Yes, you read that right. Most people don’t know Visine can be lethal if ingested, so that made it unique, in my opinion. The topic of serial killers, especially female ones, make for salacious storytelling. While I was researching a ghost story episode of my podcast, I learned about one of America’s first female serial killers, Lavinia Fisher. The more I read about her, the more I became convinced she may have not even murdered anyone, but her story didn’t really fit into my podcast episode. I wrote about it for my blog instead. I also get ideas from watching old episodes of “Unsolved Mysteries,” one of my favorite shows. The ideas for true crime topics really are endless. 

But can you actually make money writing about true crime? You bet! Do you listen to any true crime podcasts, or watch true crime YouTube vloggers? They likely make money from advertising revenue, and the bigger following they have, the more money they can bring in from sponsorships and ads. Mainstream magazines are also seeking out this genre. I recently pitched Cosmpolitan with two ideas, and while they were rejected, the editor e-mailed me back and forth the same day with tips on how to narrow my queries a bit for their demographic. Go to freelance work-for-hire site like Upwork or Fiverr and you’ll find many opportunities for true crime writers, from writing book proposals, editing articles or writing for podcasts. 

Do you like writing or reading true crime? Share your favorite places to find it below.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and magazine editor. Read more true crime at her blog,, or check out her podcast, Missing in the Carolinas.
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Friday Speak Out!: Publishing Madness

Friday, January 15, 2021
by Penny Wilson

We writers all go through the same loop when submitting our work for publication. We write, submit, get rejected and repeat. I can handle that. Rejection is part of the process. Rejection makes you try harder and you learn from every rejection.

There is a vast amount of differences for submissions! There are almost as many WAYS to submit as there are publications that accept them.

*Some accept previously published pieces, others do not. Some consider a blog post as being Published, others do not.

*Some charge reading fees, others do not.

*Some places do not accept simultaneous submissions, while others do.

*Some want your submission in a Word document, others want a PDF. Still others want the submission to be a copy and pasted into the body of the email.

*Some have very specific requirements as far as font size and type, others do not.

*Some places want a bio from you. These can vary wildly. Anything from a short piece, limited to 50 words or less to something longer. Some places want the bio written in the 3rd person, others do not. Then some places do not want a bio at all.

*Most publications seem to take a lifetime to get back to you. 6 months or more is not uncommon. If this is the case, you’ve got this unpublished masterpiece (IMHO)sitting there and you can do NOTHING with it. Because if they do not accept simultaneous submissions or previously published work, you cannot let it be seen anywhere else until the Publication Gods that you have submitted to have given it a pass or fail.

It’s all maddening! Why do we do it?

I get so frustrated. I crawl back to my little cave of self-pity to lick my wounds. Then that spark will come. That “ping” that tells me “This time! THIS will be the ONE that will get me seen and the publishers will take notice!!” So I go at it again and submit more of my work.

I do offer some advice in this mad, mad world of write, submit, reject and repeat.

*I print out the submission guidelines and keep them next to me as I’m preparing my piece for submission. This way, I’m sure not to overlook anything.

*FOLLOW the submission guidelines to the letter. No matter how brilliant your piece is, if you did not follow the rules, you’re out on your ear, more often than not.

*Proof your piece. For heaven’s sake, you don’t want to be rejected because of a spelling error, do you?

*Keep track of where when & what you submit. It will make it easier if are submitting simultaneously, or if you want to check back with that publisher.

*Lastly, take time to vent. Cry, yell and curse the Publishing Gods. Shake your fist and stomp your feet. Then when it’s all said and done, take a deep breath and climb back on that horse and give it another shot.

Why? Because we are writers, that’s why.

* * *
Penny Wilson is a freelance writer who writes in several genres. Her poetry has been published in online journals, such as Ariel Chart, Spill Words Press and the Poppy Road Review. Her poetry has been featured in the publication America's Emerging Poets 2018 & 2019 by Z Publishing, Poets Quarterly and Dual Coast Magazine published by Prolific Press. Penny is a member of the Austin Poetry Society. You can find more of her writings on her blog at and follow her on Twitter @pennywilson123.
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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3 Steps to Developing that New Writing Habit

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Based Crystal’s post, I’m not the only one trying to establish new writing habits. How I go about doing it will be different after seeing Christine Carter’s TED Talk, The 1-minute Secret to Forming a New Habit. Carter, a life coach, helps high achievers set leadership goals. 

In her talk, she admitted how grandly she failed at her goals to reestablish her running habit. Early in the pandemic, she spent a week creating a detailed plan to train for a half-marathon but stuck with it for only a few weeks. She had failed at her key point in forming a new habit which is our … 

Step 1. Pick something simple you can do every day. 

As Carter explained, you need to pick something easy you can achieve in one minute. Once she flopped at training for the half-marathon, she set an attainable goal. Run for 1 minute. 

If you are trying to set a daily writing habit, this is the perfect type of goal. Write for 1 minute. Every day, sit down at your desk or stand at your kitchen counter. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter where you do it. Wear flannel pajama pants. No one here is worried about that. 

Write for 1 minute. You may not get much done but it is better than nothing. 

Step 2. Do it day after day. 

Writing for one minute takes very little time and very little effort. You can do it while your coffee is dripping into your cup. It may not seem like much but as you do it day in and day out you are building a habit. Pretty soon, you’ll be doing it on autopilot. Push the button on the Keurig. Write for a minute. 

Even when you don’t feel like it, you can do this. It is, after all, next to nothing. 

One minute every day, Carter built a habit as she ran for only 60 seconds. You will do the same if you write for 1 minute.  

Step 3. Look for the urge to do a little more. 

If the one minute goal feels like all you can manage, stick with it. But when you have the urge to do more, write for 5 or even 15 minutes. When you feel like you need to do more to satisfy the writing itch, that’s when you have established your habit. Carter failed to train for a half marathon but now runs for 15 minutes a day. 

Daily writing may not be your issue. Maybe your email is out of control. Or you write but never submit your work. What can you do with a minute? While your coffee brews, see how many e-mails you can delete. One minute at a time you can develop the habit to reduce what’s lingering in your inbox. Or you might start keeping a list of agents or publishers whose interests are similar to your own. 

One minute at a time. It isn’t much, but it is better than nothing. What habit can you form drip by drip?


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 February 1, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins February 1, 2021). 

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Stagnant Goals

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

I love Jim Rohn and still have my very first copy of SUCCESS Magazine. In a recent article titled: 4 Tips for Setting Powerful Goals Jim got in my face and helped me realize I had been forgetting an important key to my personal and professional goal setting. I'm sharing my experience in hopes of helping others who might have fallen into the same trap I had.

The number 1 point in the above article is Evaluation and Reflection. I had gotten so busy trying to keep my boss happy, my clients happy, my children happy, the bills paid, the clothes washed, the animals fed, etc... that I had forgotten to evaluation my goals. It had been a good long time since I had taken a look at where we were going and where we had been. After reading the article a few times, I came back to number 1 and asked myself:

"Are you satisfied with where you are right now?" 

Guess what? That question made me giggle at first. I thought about it some more and started jotting down things I was and was not satisfied with. I started crying. I sat a good long while just looking at my list before I answered that important question with:

"Absolutely NOT!"

In so many areas I felt I was falling short. I had slipped from an over achiever to someone who was just getting by with good enough, close enough, and that will do for now. I had been doing the same things day in and day out thinking I was moving toward my goals when in reality I was stagnant. I wasn't making any forward progress at all but I hadn't realized it because I hadn't taken time to evaluate much of anything. Blame it on the pandemic, blame it on the busy-ness of life, blame it on anything, but regardless of how we landed in this place, something needed to change to move us forward again. No one wants stagnant goals and that's what mine had become.

Until now that is! (if you know me, you knew there was a happy ending right around the corner)

We sat down as a family and made some big changes and set some lofty goals. Each one of us has our own goals and we also have some family goals we are all working towards. My goals include more time for writing, following up with authors who have asked for help, and some additional time for reading. Let's not forget some time each week to evaluate and reflect! 

As we near the end of our time together today, let me ask you these important questions (please answer in the comments, or leave a note - we love hearing from you):

1) When is the last time you evaluated your goals? How often do you do this and how do you remind yourself? 

2) Are you going to evaluate your goals sooner than later now that we've chatted? 

3) What are you most excited about this new year? What's going on with you?

And as we part ways today, I'll leave you with this gem:


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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Freelance Editing for Dummies


I mean the title of this post as a joke and in the most loving way possible. I had lunch recently with a friend and she was asking what tasks fall under my job as a freelance magazine editor. After I finished firing off a list of the tasks, she gaped at me. “That’s a lot of work, Renee! I had no idea all those things were part of an editor’s responsibility.” 

My "day job" is being editor for two monthly magazines in my area. One is a lifestyle magazine and the other is a smaller publication focused on residents of the community who are 55 and older. For each issue, I’m responsible for planning out the themes and content, getting approval for each article (from businesses, people profiled, etc.) assigning articles to freelance editors and photographers, writing additional content where necessary (I write the editor’s letter, a regular column and calendar of events for one magazine and at least one feature article and a calendar of events for the other). Once articles are completed, I edit them and upload them to Dropbox so our creative director will have everything in one place. When photographers share galleries of their assignments, I select my favorites and upload them as well. Once an issue is laid out on the page, I go through three to four rounds of copy editing the pages, and this includes captions for each photo and cover blurbs for the issue. 

I collect invoices from the writers and turn them over to the publisher for payment, and also reconcile any missing payments and invoices when those issues arise. I work to develop good relationships with writers, and welcome them to submit relevant pitches that our magazines can use for future issues. In addition to these two monthly magazines, our company also produces annual newcomer’s guides for two area Chamber of Commerce offices. When we’re working on these, I look over the content we already have on file and see what needs to be repurposed and what new articles we can assign to freshen up the guides. These editorial budgets are a lot smaller, so it requires creativity to give the guide a new look while continuing to share the same information about real estate, the school systems, healthcare, the dining scene, etc. 

There are always things for an editor to do. While I don’t manage our social media channels, I send a weekly list of five fun community events to our social media manager so she can share them with our followers. I also send her any relevant posts I think may help her with social media planning. I’m always looking through story pitches from PR agencies and writers to see if there’s anything I can assign ahead of time. I stay networked with local businesses and organizations to see how we can mutually help one another. 

It’s a lot. I’m fortunate the role of technology allows me to work remotely and set my own hours (some weeks require more hours than others), but there is a lot more to the role than just copy editing stories or writing a few articles each month. 

Do any of these editorial responsibilities surprise you? What would be your favorite part of this job?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also hosts the podcast Missing in the Carolinas. Visit her website to read more about writing, reading and true crime.
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Must-Have Pages for Your Blog

Monday, January 11, 2021

Are you starting a blog in 2021? 

Well, I sure hope you are! And if you are undecided about starting a blog, here's a post I wrote about why you should.

One of the most important elements of a blog, aside from actually creating the blog posts, is having the right sort of pages on your blog. Today, I wanted to review a few must-have pages that you should create, whether you want to make a career out of blogging, or simply want to blog for the fun of it. 

  • An About Me Page 
The purpose of an about me page is to give readers a chance to know you. You are basically answering a couple of the most basic questions: who are you? and why did you create this blog? 

Of course, this is often easier said than written, so here are a few simple steps to write this page:

- First, describe who you are. In a few sentences, write a little bit about your background, your life (as much as you feel comfortable), your personality, your interests, and any fun facts about you. 
- Second, describe your blog. Why did you start this blog in the first place? What do you want people to gain from reading your blog? Why should they follow you in the first place? And you know, it's okay if your sole purpose is to simply use your blog as a way to talk about day-to-day life (I actually love those types of blogs). Or to talk about gardening. Or your favorite movies. Or a mix of all three. Just let people know. 
- Give people some next steps. So, after people find out more about you and your blog, what do you want them to do? Leave some actionable suggestions, whether it's subscribing to your blog via email, follow you on social media, or read your latest post. 

One more thing - don't forget to update this at least once a year. Things change! You'd be surprised how quickly outdated this page can become.

  • A Contact Page. 
Please, please, please create a contact page. As a Blog Tour Manager, I am always on the lookout for new bloggers to invite to tours, and it's so disappointing when I can't find a way to reach out to a blogger. 

So, if you ever want to hear directly from readers via email (I LOVE when people write me directly about my blog posts), or hear about potential partnership opportunities (such as blog tours!), you need a contact page. 

Here are a few basic pieces of information to include: 

- Your email address 
- Your social media sites 
- Other important links (such as other blogs you may have. Or a link to your writing portfolio. Or a link to your podcast. Or where people can buy your books.) 

  • A privacy policy. 
Basically, a privacy policy is a way of telling people you aren't a total creeper. Okay, that's not exactly the purpose, but in all seriousness, there are lots of privacy laws out there, and you want to be as compliant as possible. So, even if you don't plan on advertising on your blog in any way, you'll want to have one in place. 

Having to add this element can deter a lot of people, but there are plenty of free privacy policy generators you can use that will do just fine. 

Here are a few places that make this process really easy: 

As you get into the groove of writing and creating blog posts, you may think up new pages to add. For example, on my writing blog, I have a page dedicated to authors who may want to feature their book. On my work-life blog, Lady Unemployed, I invite people to share their unemployment stories on one page or be a guest writer on another. I've seen many bloggers that review books have a page specifically dedicated to describing the types of books they want to read (usually called a "review policy" page).

Overall, if all you do when starting your blog is create these three pages above, you'll be way ahead of the game already. 

Do you blog? What sort of pages do you have on yours?

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