Interview with Robyn Fisher, Runner Up in Q2 2021 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Sunday, June 13, 2021
In 2016, Robyn quit her demanding teaching job to become her husband’s full-time caregiver. After he died 2017, she walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain, sold her Pacific Northwest home of 25 years and finished writing her forthcoming memoir, You Remind Me Who I Am: A Memoir of True Love and Lewy Body Dementia. She writes, blogs and podcasts about healing from loss, hiking and walking, and mid-life reinvention. She currently divides her time between the Pacific Northwest and Maui, documenting her walks and thoughts on Instagram @robynpassowfisher. “The Glass Sliver” is an excerpt from her memoir. Find her blog and more at www.robynpassowfisher.com.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Q2 2021 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Robyn: Gosh, why not? “The Glass Sliver” is a short excerpt that I felt was a stand-alone and was excited to find a place to submit it. So thank you!

WOW: Your entry, “The Glass Sliver,” is an excerpt from your upcoming book. What inspired you to write a memoir?

Robyn: My memoir chose me, actually.

In 2016, Lewy Body Dementia was ravaging my husband’s body and brain, and I quit my full-time teaching job to be his 24-7 caregiver. He was a musician, a poet and a writer, and he loved that I wrote regular updates to keep our friends and family in the loop about his illness, especially because he couldn’t write anymore. I always read them before I emailed them. “Your writing brings me such joy,” he told me. This is a disease characterized by hallucinations and personality changes, and when I would write about what was going on, and read it to him, I believe it helped ground him. “You remind me who I am,” he told me.

My writing helped ground me, too, back then. Still does, actually, when grief comes to call. The positive responses, from both my husband and our circle of friends, made me want to keep writing. My updates became essays, and then after he died, I hired a writing coach who helped me turn those essays into chapters.

My book is non-linear in structure, with the main timeline the last two years of my husband’s life, the medical mystery, love and family, and the acceptance of knowing that our partnership was ending. The secondary timeline takes place during the two decades leading up, from the somewhat scandalous beginnings of our love story, our commitment to honesty in all things, family, and the love that helped us deal with the end.

WOW: How wonderful that your writing brought your husband joy, and that it helped you as well. What has your memoir writing journey been like? Anything you can share about the process?

Robyn: When I went on my pilgrimage along the Camino, I had only about half of it done. Not too long after I returned, I decided to sell my house and simplify my life. The book was pushing on me. Literally. I felt a gentle push on my shoulders and head, almost like the someone was guiding me into a chair from behind. When the push happened, and I couldn’t sit down, I had anxiety. Grief is weird. I wanted to distract myself from it, but I also want to learn what it is trying to teach me.

Well anyway, I got my house on the market, then spent six weeks with some friends who encouraged me, read my chapters and helped me keep writing. The book is done now and I’m shopping for a publisher, looking to build an author platform. It has given me something to focus on instead of grief. It has been guiding me at this stage of my life.

The process now is the query process which is daunting, in all honesty. But I am also writing a blog about my Life Reinvention after loss, writing and submitting personal essays and other writing.

Gosh, I hope I answered your question!

WOW: Yes, and best of luck on your publishing journey! You mentioned walking the Camino Santiago in Spain. My sister also completed that solo journey following a difficult life event. What was it like for you?

Robyn: Lifechanging. It was the perfect thing for me to do at the point in time, just seven months after my Bill died. I had been a hiker and backpacker in my youth, but I felt this physical exhaustion like none I’ve ever felt before. I had gained weight, my body felt broken, exhausted, sick. I have described those early days of grief as an illness. I knew walking a long distance would help me feel healthy again, get my body moving again, release the exhaustion of grief. Help me figure out my own pace of life.

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Robyn! Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Robyn: I’m not a very disciplined writer and it helps me to have a deadline, so that’s what I do. I find or create deadlines for myself by participating in writing groups or taking classes. It also really helps me to do a Julia Cameron style brain dump to get started. I keep post-it notes and lists in my journal of scenes that I think I want to write, and almost always when I sit down to work on one, I end up writing something else. I’ve learned to trust that something else. If I trust the writing and take it where it wants to go, that works best. I’ve also learned to reach out for help when I need it!

***

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

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Retrain Even Your Old Dog

Friday, June 11, 2021

As part of my health journey, I recently read the following: 

  People change behaviors by retraining                              automatic habits.
(thanks Noom) 

 I also read this on my oldest daughter's 23rd birthday...so I'm the old dog referenced in the title. 

Whether we are old or young, we can change our behaviors and today let's brainstorm about how we can change our writing/journaling behaviors to become more successful. 

 Back in the day, before I started writing for WOW! and managing tours, I read a fabulous article by Sarojni Mehta-Lissak titled 13 Strategies for Freelance Writers . If you don't have time right this minute to visit this article from 2007, let's look at some quick tips:

* Read Writing Magazines (you're here, aren't you?)
* Have at least one friend 
* Go to libraries
* Keep a piece of paper nearby
                                                     * Start a blog
                                                     * Enjoy the ride 


If you're anything like me, before your feet hit the floor you are grabbing your phone. I check my email, social media, and right before choosing my outfit I check the weather. That's great and all, but if I want to improve my writing, I know I need to "Read Writing Magazines" and if I do that first each and every day, I know I can build a healthier habit. This doesn't mean I can't eventually check my emails and social accounts. It just means making my writing a priority will help me with my goals. Seeing Lena's freshly painted walls is fun, but it's not going to help my writing. 

You see where this is going? 

I challenge you to review the list included in this article (or refer back to the original article) and make your own action plan. 

Mine looks like this:

1) Start each day reading a writing magazine (like WOW!) instead of starting with social media and emails.

2) Get back in touch with my writing group and even if we can't meet in person, let's get back to sharing our work. Instead of looking for another Netflix series to enjoy, I am going to retrain myself to use that time for writing instead.

3) Go to the library - it's open again! Bring the kids even!! Instead of movie and popcorn night, we can have library afternoon with a stop for icecream on the way home! 

4) Find a fun and artsy notebook and special pen to keep next to the bed, but one that will fit in your purse and beach bag too! I can retrain myself to enjoy this as a special treat! 

5) Get back to regular blogging (start with one post each week as a beginning goal). 

6) Reward yourself with something special once you've been working on and accomplishing this action plan for a month! 


Now that I've shared my plan, let's hear what's on your mind? How are you going to retrain your automatic habits? 

Leave your comments, ideas, and suggestions below!

Hugs,
~Crystal

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!: How Journaling Saved My Writing

by Maruable (Marusa Zemva)

In recent years I've often dreamed of flying. These kind of dreams have always been my favorite. If I could be any animal, I would choose to be a bird. So I can fly wherever I want to, whenever I want to. From a bird’s eye perspective, everything looks so clear, so small, almost meaningless.

Well, the dreams where we can fly are supposed to tell us that we need to change something.
And when we finally decide we will do something different, our insecurities come to the fore. When I decided I would pursue my writing career I was overwhelmed by a strong doubt. I doubted my ability to describe and summarize my views. I doubted my ability to correctly express myself. I've had this big fear of the language barrier, and I was convinced that I was simply not capable of writing content worth reading and sending out as to actually get someone to read it.

I struggled for months to write something and lost myself in trying this and that. I was so afraid of not writing well and being rejected that I just didn't do anything. I gave up before I even started. I stopped trying.

Looking back, I think I didn't know shit about myself and my desire to write was not strong enough. A year later, I was alone one day, drinking wine and thinking about writing, and suddenly I felt like I had a pivotal moment where I realized I was made to write. It hit me literally from nowhere, and it was like a 'light bulb' moment of sorts.

Later, I somehow managed to suppress all my feelings and hopes, and I accepted that I just wasn’t capable of writing. Which didn’t mean that someday I wouldn’t be, but at that moment it was more important to know I was not.

One day I took a piece of paper and began to write. My monologue. My journal. My thoughts. I wrote something small every day. Some days I wrote just a few words and some days I wrote pages. This helped me overcome my own limiting beliefs. Until it all became so real and unbelievably clear, and I thought, it would be sad not to share this mess with anyone. It would be sad to not share my soul story with some other souls out there. Souls, who might be struggling, souls who might be feeling as lost and defeated as I was back then. And just like that I decided I would collect all this written mess into one book.

From that day on, I called myself a writer. And now it is up to me to upgrade from writer to author. I know I have a long way to go, but now my belief is stronger than my doubts, and I believe that change can happen. That change is a real possibility. And, truth be told, I am the one who will make it happen.

While journaling down my thoughts and feelings, I also became more observant of the world around me. It really brought so much clarity into my life, and I am beyond grateful for that 'light bulb' moment I had.

For once in my life, I freed myself of all my thoughts. Through that, I realized my meaning. And after that, I never dreamed of flying again.

* * *
My name is Marusa (also called Maru) living in Bled, Slovenia, and I am a Freelance Content Creator under the name Maruable. 

I hold a Bachelor’s degree of Natural Resources Conservation and Research and thoughtfully strive to create and preserve a better world for all beings.

I am an adventure seeker, a yogi and an absolute animal lover. With English being my second language, I still decided to write and manage my business outside my comfort zone. Furthermore, this year I've finished writing my first draft of my book which I also wrote in English. The book speaks about my personal development journey, and it'll be out soon. 

My 'Maruable' website link: http://www.maruable.com
My instagram link: https://www.instagram.com/neversettlebird/ 


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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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Interview with Writer MM Wittle's on Her Experience with Local Gems Poetry Challenges

Thursday, June 10, 2021
MM Wittle Bio: 
MM Wittle is a writer of all genres who is a high school and middle school teacher during the day, a college professor at night, and a book worm and writer on the weekends. Wittle also knits book scarves because to her, books need to be kept warm, too. Wittle’s play “Family Guidance'' had a reading at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, PA and was selected for honorable mention at the 5th Annual Philadelphia Theatre Workshop’s Playwriting Competition. “The Education of Allie Rose'' was a finalist in the Philadelphia Ethical Society Playwriting competition and was shortlisted in the Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama in England. Wittle’s work has appeared in Transient, The Bond Street Review, Free Flash Fiction, The Fox Chase Review, The Four Quarters, Decades Review, *82 Review, Thin Air Literary Magazine, and Emerging Literary Journal and others. Wittle's creative nonfiction book, Three Decades and I'm Gone was published by Creeping Lotus Press in 2014. Follow MM Wittle on facebook

Congratulations on the publication of your chapbook Prescribed Burn, a winner in the Local Gems poetry challenge! How did you learn about the Local Gems poetry challenges and what prompted you to sign up? 

I've done their 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge, which they didn't publish, and The Phoenix Rising Challenge. The chapbook I have now is from the Phoenix Rising Challenge. 

30 Day Challenge I've been on their mailing list and they have published my work before in two of their South Jersey Bards Collections. And I signed up for it because I knew I needed to push myself to write. With the pandemic and teaching, I wasn't leaving room for my writing. I figured if I had prompts helping me each day, I would be more likely to stay with it. 

Phoenix Rising Challenge I went with the Phoenix Challenge because it was only for 10 days and I figured I could write a response to a prompt for ten days while I'm teaching...during a pandemic.... 

Were there any moments during the challenges that you thought you wouldn’t finish? Were there any moments of euphoria? 

30 Day Challenge I won't lie; there were days when nothing came out. But then, there were days when I could write 5 poems. I used my Facebook writer's page to keep myself accountable and I even read some drafts on there to hear some reactions. I think there are a few poems in that chapbook I really like (and others I really hate). 

Phoenix Rising Challenge Not finishing wasn't an option. What I liked about this challenge was there were many different ways of looking at the prompt and I kept trying to push the idea of some of them. For example, the poem “The Shopping Cart” came from the prompt about what goes in a full shopping cart. For this poem, I thought about my trips with my mother to the local discount store. And the namesake of the book, Prescribed Burn, came from the idea of building from the ashes like the Phoenix. 

After you finished the poetry challenges, what was the process like submitting to and publishing with Local Gems? 

30 Day Challenge I wasn't sure if the email I had for them was working, so I kept emailing to check a few days before. Then I submitted on the day it was due and didn't hear anything until the winners were announced and I wasn't one of them. 

Phoenix Rising Challenge After I was done, I was given a few days to edit. Then I submitted the chapbook and the process moved along. I got my manuscript back for editing and then we discussed the cover. I used my picture of the High Water Mark monument in Gettysburg. 

What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating these books? 

30 Day Challenge I really like this chapbook and do have it out making the rounds. I was able to see three themes emerged and I really liked how the chapbook just weaved itself together with very limited direction from me. So, I think from this I learned to trust my process and the book will present itself. 

Phoenix Rising Challenge The Phoenix Rising is a very limited print. There are only 74 copies printed. Ever. And I am using that as a nod to my father because as I was writing this book, his birthday and death anniversary fell around the time of the challenge. The 74 is the age he would have been if he didn't pass away in 1985. And while I am always writing about his and my mother's death (both passed before I was 18 years old), I think with this collection, it isn't just their deaths emerging and making its way on the page. There are different ideas peppered in here. And I think my biggest win is finally writing about Gettysburg, PA (which I LOVE and have been obsessed with since 1991). 

What were your thoughts or feelings when you held your books in your hand for the first time? 

30 Day Challenge It's still in manuscript form, but I do like it. 

Phoenix Rising Challenge "I gotta mail these copies!" I did a presale and was feeling very bad that my supporters were waiting for their copies. But after that, I think...this is going to sound weird but, it's almost like I have this need to get rid of the book as soon as I see it. I was like that with my other chapbook, Three Decades and I'm Gone. I was happy and thrilled the book was done, but it's almost like the book isn't fulfilling its purpose sitting in a box in my kitchen/home office/classroom on Wednesdays. Like, I wrote these books to get the stories out there and I want them far...far away from me. They no longer are just mine, but they are yours and you will take the lessons and words you need from them. That got hella deep!

Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience writing and publishing your poetry? 

I feel like the biggest thing is to believe in your work, even if that means not getting it published right away. The world is filled with many fantastic poets, and you should be encouraged and empowered to add your voice to that conversation. And as a very wise woman once said to me, come up with a list of 10 places you feel your work adds to the overall voice of the magazine, published catalog, whatever it may be. Send out 5 queries. Once you get that first rejection, move down to number 6 and get your work out there. It has a place and it will find a home. And lastly, I would say believe in your work to occasionally make special editions. I have a special print of a Sylvia Plath poetry collection owned by her editor. We all can't and shouldn't be Sylvia Plath, but our work, our voice, is as important and needs to be dressed up in special editions and limited runs. 

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who connects with writers and readers @Dr_Greenawalt.
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Writer...Plain and Simple

Wednesday, June 09, 2021
This past weekend my family surprised me with flowers and a cake. There wasn't any iced inscription on it that said, "Happy Birthday," or some other celebratory salutation most would expect on a cake. Instead, as my grandchildren held it in front of me with a lone candle, was the word, "Writer,"... plain and simple in blue icing. 

My heart swelled. Joyous tears filled my eyes. So often we writers feel others, even those closest to us, aren't aware how long and hard we toil at our craft. Sometimes we assume they don't know the behind the scenes work ethics we have, the sweat and tears we pour into our work, the disappointments we have faced, and the tenacity it takes to write one poem, article, story, novel, podcast, screenplay, etc. And sometimes because others don't acknowledge our efforts with bells and whistles, we wrongly assume they aren't as excited about what we accomplished, or simply think that being a writer is no big deal. But this past weekend my family showed me that it was, a big deal. They applauded me for this arduous writing journey I have been on for so many years, one that is still in progress. 

My husband acknowledged my beginning journey, when I typed, one peck at a time on the Royal manual typewriter he gifted me with when he saw how serious I was about writing, and how I used to type through the wee hours of the morning sure that I would never give up on my dream but unsure of whom would want to read my words. My adult children acknowledged my middle writing days when they saw me writing after getting home from work, after dinner, after checking homework, after they snuck out of their rooms at night to get another glass of water, and seeing me at my desk/office in our Livingroom writing. And my grandchildren acknowledged that from the time they were old enough to remember, I was always putting pen to paper or sitting at my computer writing in between loving on them.

Writer...this is our profession, so full of passion, love and pain, letdown and excitement, and everything in between. But it is something we can never stop doing, even if we tried. 

Writer...sometimes it comes with a cost. Sometimes we give more to our writing than our family, and hope and pray they don't suffer because we chose one over the other if only for a little while. 

Oh how thankful I am to have people in my life that have never pointed a finger at me and made me feel guilty for my love affair with writing even when I was feeling guilty myself. How thankful I am to have loved ones who understand the big picture, who were/are there from the beginning, the middle, and will be there until the end.

As a writer, I'm sure you have those kind of loved ones and people in your life too. Even if they don't surprise you with a cake, they acknowledge you as a writer in other ways. Maybe your spouse brings you a mug of tea and makes sure no one disturbs you when you're knee deep in a writing project, or an adult child posts updates about your writing life on Facebook or Instagram, or you overhear a younger child bragging to his or her friends that, "My Mom is a writer." Or maybe you are acknowledged through a smile or an encouraging word that gives you a second wind that helps you become more productive. These are the people who see you, who applaud you, who are proud of you even if they don't say it often. Some have been there for your beginning writing journey, some have entered your life in the middle of your writing journey, and most will be there until the end, acknowledging you as "Writer." Plain and simple. 

                                 
                                                                    --Jeanine


Jeanine DeHoney is a freelance writer whose writing has been published in several anthologies, magazines and online. 



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Interview with Tara Campbell, Winter 2021 Flash Fiction Contest First Place Winner

Tuesday, June 08, 2021
Tara Campbell is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction editor at Barrelhouse. She received her MFA from American University. Previous publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Wigleaf, Jellyfish Review, Booth, Strange Horizons, and CRAFT Literary. She’s the author of a novel, TreeVolution, and three collections: Circe’s Bicycle, Midnight at the Organporium, and Political AF: A Rage Collection. Her fourth collection, Cabinet of Wrath: A Doll Collection is forthcoming from Aqueduct Press in 2021.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win in our Winter 2021 Flash Fiction competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Tara: Thank you so much! I give all credit to my friend and fellow writer Myna Chang, who has placed first and second in previous WOW contests, for introducing me to the site. The freshness of the work up at WOW intrigued me, so I thought I’d give it a try too. Kraken wasn’t my first entry, but it is my first win, so I encourage everyone else out there to keep trying too!


WOW: 
Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “The Kraken in Love?” On your website you refer to your writing as, “…put our world in a snow globe, add a drop of weird, and shake,” which is a great description. 

Tara: 
Like many people, I’ve always been drawn to the ancient, outsized horror of creatures like the Kraken. From the safe distance of modern times, we can look back on the terror as kitsch and reproduce embodiments of it on all sorts of cheesy products. I did this myself in a way, stuck at home knitting quarantine-fueled projects like Krakens emerging from between bright red lips [see attached photos]. I guess I started thinking about how this thing that’s a joke now was once real, in some form, and I began to imagine what it would have been like to be one. The isolation of COVID probably influenced my Kraken’s loneliness. In real life, I’m blessed to live with a partner I love, but I know that many people have been starved for touch, and I’m sure this hunger played a role in my Kraken’s predicament.

WOW: Are you working on any writing projects right now? What’s next for you?

Tara: I’m working on a series of flashes based on random selection within a uniform framework. It’s inspired by a technique novelist Michael Moorcock wrote about involving "deliberate paradoxes" like “In the City of Screaming Statues"—a verb and an object we would never expect to see paired together. So I made my own lists, and am drawing paradoxes at random—and these paradoxes are landing me in a lot of interesting cities that I have to then figure out through writing.

WOW: That sounds like fun, making those kind of lists! What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Tara: I teach speculative fiction, and one of my favorite ways to keep with the field is The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology series edited by John Joseph Adams in tandem with a guest editor every year. I just finished going back through the 2016 and 2017 editions. I especially enjoyed the 2018 edition guest edited by N.K. Jemisin. There is so much variety and energy in that selection of stories—which makes sense, given the breadth and verve of Jemisin’s own work.

My next read is going to be Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction (ed. Joshua Whitehead) because I want to keep expanding the range of experiences I read, and anthologies are a great way to discover new writers to follow.

WOW:  Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Tara. Before you go, do you have any tips for our readers who may be thinking about entering writing contests?

Tara: It was my pleasure! I would advise people to look at the profiles of the guest judges to help determine if they have a story that might fit. It’s useful to know whether a judge prefers realism or is also open to speculative elements. One judge might want to linger in rich imagery, whereas another wants to be carried away on the momentum of a story. In a pool of strong writers, these subjective preferences can make a difference. But the most important thing is to remember that not being selected doesn’t necessarily mean your work is bad—it means there wasn’t a fit. And there’s nothing wrong with trying again until there is!

****

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

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Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know Blog Tour (And Giveaway)

Monday, June 07, 2021


Now announcing a blog tour featuring two clean and sweet books:

Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Collection and Only My Horses Know

Both books are perfect for parents who worry about the material their children are reading or they are reading to them. Both are clean and sweet. 

Published by Editor-911 Kids, an imprint of Editor-911 Books, a small, independent press owned and operated by Margo L. Dill that publishes books that readers love but aren't traditional. 

Join us as we interview the authors, share more about the books, and give you the chance to win a copy! Also, by actively participating in this tour, you have the chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Collection by Fred Olds with a story by Margo L. Dill, editor (stories for kids ages 3-9):


In this full collection of Read-Aloud Stories with Fred, we have included all six stories from volumes 1 and 2, a bonus story "Looking Inside" by Margo L. Dill (only available in this collection), and a foreword by Margo also. Each story has an illustration to start the story along with a question for children to consider while the story is being read aloud to them (or older children can read to themselves). These stories are perfect for parents and grandparents to read to the children in their lives.

The stories are:

"Looking Inside" Join a kindergarten class as they learn about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and how he believed all people were the same on the inside.

"Ben and the Terrible Red Card" Ben is always getting in trouble at school, but he feels his teacher just misunderstands him. He's trying!

"The Hobbling Hermit" The hermit's feet hurt, and he takes out his grumpiness on his new housemate, a small, smart mouse.

"Sammy and the Cross-eyed Crow" Sammy lives in the jungle and talks to animals! What happens when he meets a crow who can't fly straight?

"Ben and the Bully, Billy Bob" Here's another Ben story, and this time, Ben's in front of the principal's office for a run-in with Billy Bob the Bully!

"The Cheerless Chairmaker" Fred Olds has written a new fairy tale with a poor, sweet chairmaker and a smart, savvy princess!

"Sammy and the Royal Rabbit" Sammy is back in the jungle with Jonathan the crow, and this time, he is visited by a rabbit who thinks he's a king!

This is a very special collection of short stories by two experienced children's authors. Don't miss out on getting this collection today! 

Purchase Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Collection on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org. Be sure to also add this to your GoodReads reading list.

Only My Horses Know (middle-grade contemporary novel) by Cinda Bauman


Life on a Montana horse ranch has always been the best for twelve-year-old Kylie Hannigan. She bonds with the horses, rides them with her friend Joey, and helps her mom train them. Plus she barrel races her favorite horse, Kiwi, and with plenty of practice and grit, they will definitely beat her rival Olivia this year.

But then, something starts happening with Kylie’s mom. She sleeps all the time, and Kylie has to do the chores, the training, and all the care for the horses--and it’s too much! At least it’s summer, so she doesn’t have to worry about school, and she can spend time talking to her favorite animals. One day, a strange-behaving horse with an even stranger name shows up for training but is only ignored by Kylie’s mom. Training a difficult horse used to be a fun challenge Kylie could share with her mom, but that’s not even happening now.

Then her mom changes again, and she’s up doing everything—including cooking and cleaning in the middle of the night. Kylie still gets no rest because Mom thinks Kylie should be able to do it all, too. So when school starts and Mom’s behavior goes back and forth and back and forth, and then embarrasses Kylie in front of Joey more times than she can count, Kylie decides the only thing she can do is hide everything from everyone—accept her horses.

Kylie’s life spins out of control along with her mom’s. She can’t train for the barrel races with Kiwi or keep up with homework or talk to her best friend. What will it take to get her life back to the way it used to be? Or is that even possible?

Purchase Only My Horses Know on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org. Be sure to add this to your reading list on GoodReads.

About the Authors


Fred Olds has crafted dozens of stories over the years and has been involved with various writing and critique groups. At the age of 92, he is a devoted husband and proud father and grandfather living in Central Illinois. After retirement from the Postal Service as an electronic technician, he finally has time to concentrate on writing. A true storyteller at heart, his first love is writing children’s books with an occasional murder mystery thrown in for a change of pace. Check out his kids’ short story books, Read-Aloud Stories with Fred, Vol. 1 and then Vol. 2, and his first book for adults, The Hobo Who Wasn’t, an exciting detective story. He's also the author of The Dog and the Flea: A Tale of Two Opposites and The Cat, the Mouse, and the Neighbors' Dog, two books of the Perky Pet Problems picture book series.


Margo L. Dill is the CEO and owner of Editor-911 Books in St. Louis, MO. She is also the author of the American Civil War Adventure Series with two books, Anna and the Baking Championship and Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, for middle-grade readers. Her other books are That's the Way It Always Happened and Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire: The Case of the Missing Cookies, which are illustrated picture books, and she has a short story about kids learning about Martin Luther King Jr.'s teachings in Fred Olds's collection of short stories, Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Vols. 1 and 2. Her next book is for teachers and parents and is out in June 2021, It's Not Just Academics: A Guide To Teach Kids' Health, Communication, and Social Emotional Skills. She lives in St. Louis with her tween daughter and lively rescue dog, Sudsi. 

Find out more at:

Her website: www.margoldill.com


Cinda Jo Bauman lives in Central Illinois with her husband and dogs. During her high school years, she took every art class offered along with every child development class. After a class where she spent part of the day at a daycare, child development won out over art. Years of story time led to a love of children’s picture-books, which made her wish she had stuck with art. 

Flash forward to today, and she still loves children’s books! After researching and much study; learning about writing and illustrating children’s books, she joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and found her passion. Besides writing children’s picture books and middle-grade novels, Cinda also creates with cut paper sculptures and paints in oil and acrylic. She loves iris flowers and the color purple.

Only My Horses Know is her debut middle-grade novel.

Find out more about Cinda:

Cinda's website is: https://kidsillio.com/

Make sure you follow along and leave a comment on participating blogs. At the end of the tour, we'll be giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner who has commented on at least one blog post throughout the tour.  Tour ends July 11th. You have until July 15th to submit your entries on this Google Form to be eligible to win. The winner will be announced on July 16th. 

Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First off, congratulations on the release of these two sweet books! What inspired you all to write these books and stories? 

Cinda: I have always dreamed of writing and illustrating children’s picture books. After working on a few, I just wondered if I would also be able to write a novel. I had the characters. I had the horses, but I struggled to find the plot. Only My Horses Know was written after remembering a character on an old medical series called ER. One of the nurse’s moms struggled with a mental illness. It made me so sad for the character, how she had kept that secret all her life. I could just feel her pain. I kept wondering what sort of life the character would have had as a child, pre-teen. I decided I would write what I imagined life would have been like for her. 

Fred: Well when our [my wife Jean and I] kids were tots, like most kids at bedtime, they pulled every trick in the book to keep from going to sleep. “Tell me a story, Dad,” they’d beg. So with a bit of imagination, (something I’m fortunately blessed with), I’d conjure up some tale about a past pet, embellish it a lot, and begin. 

“Close your eyes first,” I’d say. My stories rarely got to the end before they were asleep. (That should have told me something!) 

By the time I neared retirement, and with a mental library of stories already, (coupled with the convenience of a computer word processer; my handwriting is awful!), I decided I’d like to take a shot at writing kids’ books. 

But first I needed help, and after a complete and total humbling from my teacher’s constant criticism during a writing correspondence class at Parkland, I knew I needed to join a critique group. The rest is history. 

Margo: I have the honor of publishing these two wonderful authors’ stories, and then in Fred’s collection book (Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Vols. 1 and 2), I slipped in a story of my own. “Looking Inside” is possibly more relevant today (unfortunately) than it was when I wrote the story. The inspiration came from a magazine ad where two kids (one Black and one White) were pictured, with one looking inside the other’s wide open mouth. I thought to myself, What is that kid looking for? Then being a former elementary school teacher and a current parent, I knew what it was like to want to really share a message with a group of YOUNG kids and for them to be very curious about everything BUT what you are trying to teach them. So I combined the ad image with my experience and set the story near Martin Luther King, Jr. Day while this poor teacher tries to share Dr. King’s message and wonder if the kids are ever going to understand what he was trying to teach about race. 

WOW: What inspiring stories of how you all came to find your ideas! How are you all “related”? 

Margo: Besides all being published by Editor-911 Books (which is a traditional publishing company I started in 2020), we were in a critique group through SCBWI back in the mid-2000s when I lived in Champaign, IL. We used to meet at a Borders bookstore with a few other wonderful writers and critique each other’s stories. We grew close like a family, and even though I moved away when I had my daughter, we stayed in touch. 

Fred came to me in early 2020 (pre-pandemic) and asked me to help him publish his stories. I’d been wanting to try indie publishing, and so with his encouragement, I did. I loved Fred’s storytelling style, and I was always a huge fan of Cinda’s book, which we had critiqued back at Borders, and I had edited for her when she revised it. So I asked her, and she said yes. 

WOW: I love how close you all became! Cinda, In Only My Horses Know, you have the challenge of tackling the issues of mental illness, as well as discussing your main character's faith in God in your book. How did you balance both of these potentially challenging subjects in a book meant for middle-grade readers? 

Cinda: I think the hardest part to balance when writing for a young audience about mental illness was the ending. You want your book to have a happy ending, but sadly mental illness isn't something with an easy cure that makes it just go away. So, I decided I needed to find a way to end it that would bring at least hope to the family and to the community. The second problem was that I did not want Kylie's story to be such a downer that readers would get really tired of her and stop reading. But I also thought it was important for them to get to know her and see her and her mom's struggles develop. 

Adding faith to my story came natural for me. But when I look for faith-based books for young readers, it's hard to find books that are not written for an audience who already has faith or a relationship with God. I decided I want my writing to appeal to youth who have no faith. I hope to introduce my readers to God without them even knowing it! I wanted to make sure my characters were flawed and relatable, not perfect goody-two-shoes. 

WOW: What a balance you found with both topics! Fred, your stories range from realistic, humorous school stories to new fairy tales to talking animals in the jungle! How do you come up with your ideas?

Fred: Some ideas are born from incidents in my personal life and some from family members. Sometimes, ideas pop into my head spontaneously, often quite inconveniently. For instance, I’ve often sprung from my bed, just after settling down, when an idea pops up in my head. I’ve learned never to sleep on an idea, for it will vanish forever overnight! And try to keep an idea in your head while on the interstate until you get to a place to pull off! 

WOW: Margo, you just started your new publishing company, Editor-911 Books. What led you to start this and what have you learned so far? 

Margo: Besides what I mentioned about Fred and I having a conversation about his remarkable stories and picture books, I had gone to the 20Books to 50K conference in Las Vegas in 2019. This is a conference for indie authors and publishers, and I was amazed and educated about how far the self-publishing world had come since I had a book traditionally published by White Mane Kids in 2012 (Finding My Place). I was listening to story after story about all the control and creativity that these authors and publishers had, and although my publishers have all been fantastic, I wanted that control back, and my creativity to soar. So I have been learning all I can, and still so much more. 

Then of course, a pandemic hit--we published our first book in June of 2020. But that’s okay because there’s really very little upfront cost. Most cost goes to marketing, and I am having so much fun. I love publishing other people, and the whole creative process of starting with an idea and finishing with a product that someone buys and reads! 

I have plans to grow, grow, and grow. I have two other authors signed, Terrill Martinez and Amie L. Merz. We just published Sioux Roslawski’s book, whom many of you know from her blogging here (Greenwood Gone: Henry’s Story), and I’m hoping when I get a little more experience and no pandemic, to open for submissions a little more. Authors who are interested in finding out when that happens can join the reader newsletter here or the writer newsletter here. Both have “free” gifts with them, and both have different content if they want to join both! 

WOW: From what I know myself, I'm imagining the marketing angle is so big but you are doing so well with both books! So, Cinda, why is it important to have clean books for children, like your Hope and Horses series? 

Cinda: There is so much negativity in the world now. Kids are exposed to violence everywhere they turn and choices that can lead them down a path of lifetime struggle. I hope my readers appreciate that in my books, yes, things sometimes stink, but there's always hope if you are open to it, and if you rely on your real friends, your family, and your faith. 

WOW: I agree! There is always hope. Fred, I'm so inspired that you followed your dreams at 92! What advice do you have for others who feel it might be "too late" for them? 

Fred: It's never too late to do something you really want to do. For instance, when I was 85, I heard someone play a beautiful song on the piano, and it touched my heart. I thought to myself, If I'd only started when I was younger, I could probably play that song myself now. Well here I am, seven years later, and still active; but I still can't play the piano! So quit telling yourself, I'm too old to start something new. Age is just a number, so go for it! 

WOW: Absolutely! What's next for all of you? 

Fred: Well I’ve got Read Aloud Vol.3 and Vol. 4 nearly done, plus The Mortimer Kidnapping, a mystery story that’s ready to go. Plus I’m trying to complete a semi-fictional love story, (¾ complete) woven around my experiences in post-WWII Japan. 

Cinda: I've been working on book #2 in the Hope and Horses Series and jotting down ideas for cover art, as they cross my mind. The themes for the series are: book #1 acceptance and healing, book #2 handling anxiety and loving yourself, book #3 forgiveness and moving on. Book #3 is already written, but I'll be anxious to start on the revisions once #2 is finished. I’m still pinching myself that I’ve been given this opportunity! 

Margo: As I said, growing the business and selling books to readers. I am also finishing up my own title which is a book for homeschool parents and teachers called: It’s Not Just Academics: A Guide to Teach Kids Health, Communication, and Social Emotional Skills, out this summer. I also want to write book three of the Finding My Place series, and I have a YA romance series with book one and a middle-grade mystery series with book one almost done. So many ideas, too little time! 

WOW: Best of luck to you all and congratulations again on your books!

  --- Blog Tour Calendar

June 7th @ The Muffin
Join us as we celebrate the launch of this incredible blog tour. Find out more about the authors, their touching books, and enter to win books for yourself. Become an active participant in the tour, and you can win a gift card.

June 8th @ Lisa's Reading
Visit Lisa's blog where she shares a guest post about clean, sweet, books and how to find them (and why kids will love them too). 

June 8th @ Pages and Paws
Come by and read a review of Read-Aloud Stories with Fred

June 9th @ Create Write Now
Mari shares a guest post today about tackling the stigma of mental illness.

June 11th @ Pages and Paws
Come by to Pages and Paws again and read a review of Only My Horses Know

June 13th @ AJ Kormon's Blog
Join us at AJ Kormon's blog where you can read a guest post about finding problems kids will relate to. A must-read post for children's book authors!

June 14th @ AJ Kormon's Blog
Join us again at AJ Kormon's blog today where you can read a review of Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know. 

June 15th @ Lisa Haselton's Book Reviews and Interviews
Join Lisa as she interviews author Fred Olds about his book Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Collection.

June 16th @ Words from the Heart
Linda reviews the book Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Collection by Fred Olds.

June 17th @ Literary Quicksand
Join Jolissa as she reviews Read-Aloud Stories with Fred Collection by Fred Olds.

June 18th @ Words from the Heart
Linda shares a guest post about tackling Christian themes in secular books.

June 20th @ A Storybook World
Join Deirdra as she features Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know. 

June 21st @ Lisa Haselton's Book Reviews and Interviews
Join Lisa as she interviews author Cinda Bauman, author of the book Only My Horses Know.

June 23rd @ Bring on Lemons
Visit Crystal's blog today where she reviews Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know.

June 26th @ Shoe's Seeds and Stories
Join Linda as she reviews Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know. 

June 28th @ Jill Sheets' Blog
Visit Jill's blog where she reviews Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know. 

July 1st @ What is That Book About
Michelle shares a guest post about following your dreams at 92. What an inspiring story!

July 2nd @ One Writer's Journey
Visit Sue's blog where she reviews Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know. 

July 6th @ McFly's Book Bliss
Join Marisa as she reviews Only My Horses Know.

July 9th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Join Wendi at her blog Strength 4 Spouses where she shares her review of Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know. 

July 10th @ Shoe's Seeds and Stories
Visit Linda's blog again where she shares a guest post about finding a good critique group.

July 11th @ Strength 4 Spouses
Join Wendi again at her blog where she shares a guest post about the importance of communicating in families.



***** BOOKS & AMAZON GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY *****


Make sure you follow along and leave a comment on participating blogs. At the end of the tour, we'll be giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner who has commented on at least one blog post throughout the tour.  Tour ends July 11th. You have until July 15th to submit your entries on this Google Form to be eligible to win. The winner will be announced on July 16th. Good luck!


Enter to win a print copy of these clean, sweet, and exciting children's books: Read-Aloud Stories with Fred and Only My Horses Know! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends June 20th at 11:59pm PST. The winner will be announced the next day in the Rafflecopter widget and we will follow up via email. Thank you, and good luck!

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WOW! Interview with Contest Runner Up Helen K. Hedrick for "Le Pen de Amazon"

Saturday, June 05, 2021
Congratulations to Helen K. Hedrick and Le Pen de Amazon and all the winners of our 2021 Quarter 2 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!


Helen's Bio:

 Helen has her master’s degree in social work. She completed her career as a school social worker and raised her two children to young adult age in Boulder, Colorado. She now lives in a highrise in downtown Denver with her husband who is required to read everything she writes. Her formal writing training is from Gotham Writers’ Workshop in New York City and Lighthouse Writers’ Workshop in Denver. Recent classes at Lighthouse have moved her towards writing in something like a “hybrid/narrative nonfiction” genre and she is delighted that WOW has chosen this piece for publication.

   
If you haven't done so already, check out Helen's talent in writing with the honest story Le Pen de Amazon and then return here for a chat with this talented author.

WOW: Thank you for writing this essay - what is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from Le Pen de Amazon?


Helen: I don't write with a specific take-away for my readers and I am always surprised with the different take-aways each reader develops. One reader asked me if the children really fell through the ice in the end. Another told me she has noticed over the years how maturity has indeed softened my language. My mother read the piece and said she didn't understand a word of it. 


WOW: It's interesting even when we have an intended take-away, each reader's life experience is going to give them a different view of our writing. So, tell us dear Helen, where do you write? What does your space look like? 


Helen: I write anywhere and everywhere: park benches are great.  On my yoga mat on my stomach (modified sphinx pose?) is great. Rarely do I sit at a desk or in a chair.  Lots of time when I am running or walking, words that will end up on a page are coming to me....

 

WOW: I'm chuckling while envisioning that pose - maybe an idea for your bio pic on an upcoming book? Who is your support - what have you found to be most supportive in your writing life as well as in life in general?


Helen: Writing classes provide support.  I have several friends who are good, enthusiastic readers and provide gentle feedback or comments that help me know which direction to head with the piece.  


 

WOW: I'm still going back to yoga - and still laughing - what advice would you give to others (specifically female authors and mothers) when it comes to self care?


Helen: Aw, I don't know. Self care is so tricky - who even knows what it means. . . Mostly we all just try to manage "stuff" when it presents itself, right? 

 

WOW: Speaking of things presenting themselves... what’s next for you? What are your writing goals for the remainder of 2021 and beyond?


Helen: I am not a person who sets rules for myself about writing.  I write when something pops out for me to write. I want to send 3-5 (?)  pieces in for consideration at various places this year.  That's IF I get around to it! 


WOW: I certainly appreciate your honesty.


Do you have advice for your younger self when it comes to making decisions, believing in yourself, and/or writing? What would your current self say to the younger you?


Helen: My current self would say to my younger self: Look at you! Faults and foibles and all. . . you did pretty damn good so far, but you're not off the hook yet.  Stay open, keep taking risks, push sometimes when you don't want to.  Stop still and listen and wait sometimes when you don't want to.   

 

WOW: Do you have other published pieces (long or short) or books? If you do not - what's holding you back?  


Helen: I have never gotten organized enough about sending pieces in for consideration.  Sending this piece to WOW was a fluke of some sort.  


WOW: Fluke or not, we are glad you are here!


What role has journaling and/or writer's groups played in your writing life?


Helen: Journaling is writing.  All my pieces come out of one journal or another:  a sketch book, a tiny travel notebook, my daily journal-- and they are drawn with color pencil, written in ink.  (It turns out I don't like writing with Le Pens very much - they are too fine-pointed and tend to seep through to the back of the page--but they are beautiful). 


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


Helen: I have probably in my entire life sent 10-12 pieces to literary journals or contests for consideration.  I would tell myself and others:  DO IT!  Just hit the submit button.  Nothing to lose.  



WOW:  What advice do you have for others during this turbulent pandemic time? What's working or not working for you?


Helen: For me, this time is actually no more turbulent than any other time in life.  It's all about not getting attached to how you think things should be. . . don't all the wisest of sages tell us that???



WOW:  So happy to hear you're living your best life - pandemic or not!

Thank you ever so much for sharing your essay and your thoughts today - we look forward to reading more of your work! Congratulations again! 

  Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

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