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Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Show Must Go On

"The gratification comes, for me, in the doing of it. And once I've done it, I can't do anything about it if it's good or if it's bad."

                                                         - Cicely Tyson  (1924- 2021)

In this theater of life, both personal and the writing life, the show must go on. Just as the revered award  winning actress, lecturer and activist, the late Cicely Tyson, a trailblazer in theater, film, and television, is quoted as saying, "I can't do anything about it if it's good or if it's bad." For this celebrated legend, in life and in theater, the show did indeed go on, gracefully and beautifully, for 96 years. What a legacy and body of work she gifted the world.

This past week, before I found out the sad news of Cicely Tyson's passing, I was reflecting on my writing, the good parts of it, my recent acceptance into an anthology, and some of my past mistakes, what I call my writing bloopers. Cleaning out my inbox of old rejection letters and looking at stories that went through several revisions after getting rejected brought me to that place of thinking about my bloopers. As I remembered my greatest bloopers, this time though they didn't weigh as heavily on me as they did initially.

For as long as I can remember, I've loved watching blooper shows. Watching these funny outtakes from movies or sitcoms of actors and actresses always filled me with a lightheartedness I needed to get through my day. It was good to see others, knowing there was nothing they could do to expunge their most embarrassing moment, laugh at themselves and get on with the show.

Throughout the years I've had my share of embarrassing bloopers as a writer. One particular blooper was when I mistakenly changed the name of my protagonist in the middle of my story and in my hurry to submit it, overlooked the name change and of course it quickly got rejected. And there were plenty more; bloopers that made me hang my head down low, wishing I could erase that page from my life. 

Fortunately, after nursing my bruised ego, the show did go on. I took a deep breath, and then I sat down and wrote. I learned to be more forgiving of myself along the way and remind myself that I'm human. I realized that those bloopers I committed; grammatical, contextual, or typographical, or because of my rush to submit, or my plate being so full, or my mind being preoccupied; were writing life dilemmas I couldn't dwell on or beat myself up about. Instead they became teaching moments, lessons I learned and grew from so I wouldn't continue to make the same mistake over and over again. Often after my greatest writing blooper, I wrote my best stories or essays. I've learned in this writing journey of mine  that even if I slip on a banana peel and fall on my face, as long as there are broken no bones, I can get up, dust myself off, and write with even more determination and passion. The show must go on. 

So I have a bit of advice for those of you who have bloopers of your own in this theater called the writing life that may mock you at times and cause you to feel down. Don't breathe any more life into them. What's done is done. So don't sit and ponder for another second, "How could I have made that mistake?" You're human. It's part of your past so don't carry that into your future. Dust yourself off and take the lesson from them and write smarter but more importantly, "write" on. Because the show must go on, lights, camera, action, no matter what. 

And I hope, as I plan on doing, you pick up a copy of the late icon Cicely Tyson's memoir, "Just As I Am. A Memoir." I'm sure it will offer up some of life's greatest gems that can inspire us all, both in the theater of life, and the theatre of writing. May she rest in peace. 

                                                                     - Jeanine

Jeanine DeHoney's writing has been published in several magazines, anthologies and online. She loves each and every Cicely Tyson movie she has ever watched.


Saturday, January 30, 2021

Connect with Sweet Romance Canadian Author Caroline Flynn

Caroline Flynn writes lovely romance books that are clean and sweet! So she's the perfect author to feature, as we get ready for February, the month of love and romance! Caroline is a Canadian writer from Northern Ontario. She doesn't have to imagine what small-town life is like--she lives it every day. Caroline loves everything book related, whether it's reading them or writing them, and she's the dog-mom of an eccentric brindle boxer named Jazz (who makes a special appearance in one of her books, The Forget-Me-Not Bakery!). Caroline uses her coffee addiction to fuel her writing passion, and the truth is, she can't imagine devoting her life to being anything other than an author! So let's hear from Caroline...

WOW: Caroline, thank you for taking time to talk to us about writing and your books today. Let's start with what you write. We know you have two books on Amazon that were published this year. Tell us about these books.

Caroline: Thanks so much for inviting me to chat with you! Yes, I have two books available at all major retailers, The Forget-Me-Not Bakery and The Winter Berry House. They are two standalone stories within the Port Landon series. I write sweet romance, and Port Landon is the fictional small town where this series is based. While my stories are light-hearted and fun, there's always a deeper, more emotional theme in them as well. For example, while The Forget-Me-Not Bakery is a sweet story about a city girl who follows her dream of owning a bakery and winds up in the Port Landon because of it, it's also a story about a resident of that town, the local veterinarian, who is the single father of a young boy since the tragic passing of his wife eight years prior. The same can be said for The Winter Berry House. While it's a heartwarming story of rekindling long lost loves, it's also a story about a man who has to return to his hometown after the loss of his beloved grandmother (who raised him). In that journey, he is forced to face the demons of his past, including the fateful mistakes he made that cost him the love of his high school sweetheart in the first place. It is these more emotional elements that make the characters more relatable, and make the HEA (happily ever after) that much sweeter.

WOW: I love small-town romance books and TV shows, like Gilmore Girls. I'm so excited to talk to you! We also know that you have an agent, Erica Christensen, because this is how we met you. Please tell us about your journey to securing an agent and how you knew Erica was the right choice!

Caroline: Erica is the best. The best advice I can give anyone about finding an agent is this: Find someone who is as excited about your manuscript as you are. Erica was, and still is, that person for me. Her energy, drive, and wholehearted passion when it comes to books are just phenomenal. She has shown excitement about my words since I first queried her, and that excitement hasn't let up. She works hard to get my stories in the hands of the right editors and publishers. Erica might very well be the best choice I've made in my publishing journey thus far.

WOW: That is great advice and so amazing! Let's talk a little about the writing process. Do you write every day? Are you a pantser, a planner, or a planser? Morning writer or late at night?

Caroline: I would love to tell you I write every day, but that would be somewhere between the truth and a lie. I DO write every day when I am actively writing a first draft. I tend to write my first drafts fast, though. I've completed first drafts within anywhere from 40-90 days, and I write feverishly every day during that period until it's done. That said, my outlines are detailed. I know what has to happen next and where I'm heading when I sit down to write every day. Unplanned things always end up in my manuscripts, but it always begins with a well-planned outline, so that I can get the first draft out of my head and onto paper as easily as possible. I tend to get most of my writing in during the late morning and afternoon. For me, evenings are when I read, not write. :)

WOW: Yes, we all know that reading is as important as writing--and honestly part of the career. We read in your bio on Amazon that you have a brindle boxer who made it into your book! And you both live in a small-town in Canada. So do you believe in the advice, "Write what you know." Is Jazz asking for a cut of the royalties?

Caroline: Anyone who's ever owned a boxer knows they're a high maintenance dog breed, so Jazz tends to get ALL the royalties (but I wouldn't change it for the world!). ;) That dog is my whole world, which is why I put her in a book--so the rest of the world could fall in love with her, too. As for writing what I know, I think it is easier, but I don't know if I believe in that advice completely. Researching something out of one's comfort zone and learning about things not yet experienced might make the writing process lengthier, and perhaps more difficult, but it's worth it in the end to broaden one's scope and see things through someone else's eyes.

WOW: I've owned a boxer, so I know exactly what you're talking about! And I agree--write what you know up to a certain point, and then learn something new--of course, then you know that, too right? So, what's next for you?

Caroline: I have recently completed the first draft of the third book in the Port Landon series, so I see a lot of editing on the horizon. The book is tentatively scheduled to release later this year.

WOW: Congratulations! Where can interested readers connect with you to find out more?

Caroline: I am most active on Twitter (, but I can be found on Facebook and Instagram as well under the same username, @flynnromance. I also maintain a newsletter that I send out on the 15th of every month ( I love chatting with readers!

WOW: Great--we will check that out! Thank you so much for your time!

Caroline: Thank you again for taking the time to put together this interview! Take care!

Friday, January 29, 2021

Friday Speak Out!: Daydreaming on the Page

by Carrie Jade Williams

Daydreaming will one day kill me. Literally. The part of the brain that engages with daydreams will one day be gobbled up by the Neurological disease chomping its way through the grey matter housed in my skull.

To me, writing is simply daydreaming on a page- it brings me joy. I know I am not the most talented writer--I will never write a great literary work, but I am disciplined. I write every morning. I hold myself accountable. I love that I have the time to leave behind my thoughts.

It’s like being an intentional ghost. I’m planning to haunt those I love with the words I leave behind.

I write down (using my Assistive Technology) all the thoughts that will live on when I am no longer here and that ability to still be able to communicate is a blessing. A huge blessing. One I will never take for granted. That’s why I turn up every morning to face the page. That’s why I keep ploughing through a novel that only my family may read. I don’t take my words for granted because I know they will one day simply disappear.

I love that I get to be me, present myself on the page because I live in a world that now sees me first and foremost as a disabled person. I love that so many in the writing community have made space for me to share my thoughts. I love that I have found a writing family.

Our words have power, if only just for ourselves as the process of getting our thoughts out from us and into the world heals parts of our heats we may not have acknowledged were fractured. There is power in letting these words free. But there is always the potential that our words will have power on those around us, and in this digital age we never know who will stumble across them. For me, I live knowing my time is limited, so my words are like a bay leaf that I hope will leave a taste long after I am removed.

Write what you love. Write what makes you smile. Write even when you are told you can’t. Publication is only part of the journey. Every time each of us share our work, be it in a blog post, a writing competition, a lit mag or a podcast episode, we hand parts of our heart for other to share.

Writing gave me back my voice--and the chance to haunt those I will leave behind. It could do the same for you. Free your ghosts, let them dance on the page. Don’t lock them away.

* * *
Carrie Jade Williams is a writer who recently won the Financial Times writing competition. She also runs a quirky blog about being in an inter-abled relationship ( She runs regular free online writing meet-ups (11am Writing Power Hour (Drop-in) Tickets, Multiple Dates | Eventbrite) She is also running a series of courses starting On Valentines Day with Marianne Power (tickets available on Eventbrite or on Instagram @carriejadewrites)

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!

Thursday, January 28, 2021

A Change of Perspective

 “When I changed the way I looked at things, the things around me started to change.”

                                                              --Darrion Cockrell, 2021Missouri Teacher of the Year

Recently I watched a video about Darrion Cockrell’s accomplishments. He was born to a drug addict. He was a Crip before he was 10. He was a foster kid.

A kid like that usually goes down the tubes. Prison or the cemetery. Mr. Cockrell defied the odds. He’s now a St. Louis educator, and was named Teacher of the Year for my state this year.

Am I proud of this young man? Mos def. Am I inspired by what he’s achieved? Yes. But it was what he said--the quote at the beginning--that made me sit up straighter and truly pay attention.

Our perspective can have a ripple effect. When we change that perspective, the ripple changes.

When I was 13, I dreamed of being either a journalist, a social worker or a novelist. I fantasized about someday having a book on a bookstore shelf with my name on the spine… but deep down, I think I figured it would never happen. 

When I was 16 I dreamed of being an unpaid angst-filled poet (and I was).

Between my teens and entering my middle ages, I wrote: occasionally and without purpose. When I was in my 40’s I finally switched the way I looked at things. I realized that if I didn’t get off my broad, flat rump and start submitting, I’d never get published… and I aggressively went after that goal. I joined a writing critique group. I wrote and revised and submitted. A few of my pieces got published. 

When I was in my mid-50s, I dreamed of getting a book published. During NaNoWriMo I wrote, surrounded by my students. I daydreamed about finishing the manuscript I had started and getting it published. In my heart, however, I doubted my writing would ever interest a publisher.

Change of perspective resulted in a change in my life. I began querying, and looked at a high number of rejections as a goal. The more agents and publishers I contacted, the more likely my manuscript would eventually become a book… and it’s happening. This spring, my book Henry’s Story: Greenwood Gone will be making its grand debut.

Okay, so it won’t be a grand debut. There won’t be a red carpet (unless I roll it out myself). There won’t be a sea of photographers snapping my photo at author events (unless I strap a GoPro to my golden retriever, and strap one onto all of his four-legged friends, and bribe them with a smear of peanut butter once they’re finished). There won’t be a bunch of people wanting my autograph (unless my family members accept the $10 I give each of them to please please please show up and act like they’re buying a book… I’ll need the money back later, of course). 


But grand is in the eye of the beholder. Because of the pandemic, I’m looking at things differently. I’m not expecting what used to be a normal book roll-out. I’ll be prepared for different. Smaller. More creative due to possible constraints.

A change of perspective results in things changing around me. Congratulations, Darrion Cockrell… and thanks for inspiring young people.

Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher and a freelance writer. Her book (has she mentioned it lately?) is coming out in the spring of 2021 and is titled Henry's Story: Greenwood Gone. If you'd like to read more of her writing, head to her blog.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Managing the Idea Factory


Back in December, I wrote the following in an Instagram post: 

Here’s something you need to know about creative people. We have notebooks all over the place filled with our ideas and scraps of projects. We drink a lot of caffeine. We have periodic bouts of insomnia because we can’t turn our brains off. We get discouraged when we can’t see immediate results from the creative process. We drive our loved ones crazy. But is who we are, and we can’t change that. Nor would we ever want to. 

There are times when my brain is flooded with ideas and I can’t keep track of them. And then there days when I feel I don’t have a creative bone in my body left. The problem is that I struggle with organizing my ideas and moving projects forward. For my day job as a magazine editor, I constantly have to search for ideas for monthly content. We have monthly themes for each magazine, so that helps. I keep things organized in a very basic spreadsheet in Excel, month by month, and fill in each department as I confirm ideas and assign articles. I use Excel to track my monthly income from magazines, articles and blog posts, along with a brief description of individual assignments. For my other personal writing projects, however, the structure is just not there. 

I have a notebook I’ve labeled as being for “True Crime,” and if you peek inside, you’ll see jumbled lists of names, dates, places, ideas for true crime blog posts, cases I want to research for my podcast, and ideas for social media posts and e-newsletters. I would be in big trouble if I lost that notebook because unless a script or blog post is already written, I don’t have a backup source of content ideas. 

While researching efficient ways to organize my ideas, I found my head spinning as one blogger described using a program called Evernote to capture her ideas, Google spreadsheets to organize them and then another program to manage the workflow of each idea. Maybe I’m just an undisciplined mess, but the whole process made me more confused than ever. 

I would love to come up with some other organized system for capturing and executing my ideas, but so far I haven’t come across one. I’ve spoken before about how I consider myself a “pantser” rather than a “plotter,” when it comes to writing, but lately this seems to be hindering the creative process more than I’d like. I don’t want to shut down the idea factory that seems to be churning in my brain as of late but if I don’t find a way to streamline the inspiration, I’m afraid I’ll lose it for good. 

How do you keep track of ideas for your writing projects and stay on track? I’m open to any and all suggestions!


Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and freelance magazine editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Learn more at

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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

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.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Don't Let One Negative Critique Spoil the Whole Bunch

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.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

4 Types of Reading for Every Writer

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). 

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Art of Encouraging Others

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!

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!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Helping Novice Writers Step Out Of The Shadows This New Dawn

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. 


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Just For Today, For a Writer (Part Deux)

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.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Interview with Seetha Nambiar Dodd: Summer 2020 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

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.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Looking Inside a Publishing Story about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and His Important Message

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. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Self-Promotion: A Necessary Evil?

     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.