An Alarming Situation

Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Last Saturday, my cell phone rang at 8:10 AM. When I picked it up it read “Nancy Next Door.” 


Nancy Next Door only calls when there’s something wrong. A coyote jumping into my yard. A fallen tree on our shared fence. A broken gate…that sort of thing. Naturally, I thought a tree had fallen since A. there are lots of trees in the woods and in my yard that are leaning in a bad way and B. after over a year, I’d finally fixed the fence from the last fallen tree. 

“Are you home?” asked my neighbor. I was not. I was five hours away, at the beach. “There’s an alarm going off in your house,” she said. “I don’t see smoke but it’s been going off for about 15 minutes.” 

No problem, I told her. I’d call my other neighbor who has a key to my house. 

It’s 8:20 or so on a Saturday morning, and my neighbor answers her phone and after hearing my predicament replies, “I’m not home.” She’d had a family emergency the night before and was at her in-laws’ house, checking in. She was 15 minutes away but still, I hated to ask her to drive over to my house. 

“That’s okay,” I say, “I’ll call my daughter.” 

My daughter lives about 20 minutes from my house. But when I call her, she doesn’t pick up. 

Saturday is her day off, I know that she likes to catch up on her sleep. Who knows if she’s even got her phone turned on? And I don’t want to call her husband because…well, what if they’re not asleep, if you catch my drift? So I can call my sons (both of whom live about an hour away and let's face it, they're not going to pick up) or call back my neighbor (with the key). I call the neighbor.

She doesn’t pick up, either. 

It’s now 8:30. My smoke alarm has been going off for at least a half hour, maybe longer. I’m pacing like a lunatic, wondering what to do when my cell rings and it’s my daughter. She listened to my message and she was pulling on her jeans and heading straight over to my house. Whew! 

I call Nancy Next Door who says, yep, the alarm is still going off. She still doesn’t see smoke. But now I am really alarmed. I suspect that the alarm she’s hearing is coming from my basement; I remember that I store paint and all kinds of other cleaning products down there. 

I call my daughter who’s just about at my house and tell her to be VERY careful. “Touch the front door. If it’s hot, just call 9-1-1.” I’m still on the phone with her when she gets to the house. “The door is cool but the smoke alarm is still going off,” she says. “Should I go in?” I tell her to open the door and determine if she smells smoke. And she says, “Mom, you know I still can’t smell normally. I may not be able to smell smoke.

OH MY LORD. It’s been nearly an hour that the smoke alarm has been blaring! And at this point, like the Calvary riding up, my neighbor who has the key and her husband and full use of her olfactory senses walks up to my door. 

Now, the point to this re-telling is this: how goes the story you’ve been working on?

Because if you don’t have a gripping problem, a couple of interesting characters, and more than a few obstacles to provide a fair amount of tension (and a ticking clock is always good, too), then you don’t have much of a story. You might have some delightfully pretty paragraphs and such but readers need story. 

And P.S. the house didn’t burn down; it was just a faulty smoke alarm. (I’m partial to happy endings but your story can have whatever resolution you like.)

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Interview with Jeanie Ransom, 2021 Q3 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Runner Up with "How to Write a Perfect Sentence"

Saturday, August 28, 2021
Congratulations to Jeanie Ransom and How to Write a Perfect Sentence and all the winners of our 2021 Quarter 3 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!

Jeanie's Bio:  
Jeanie Ransom sold her first story to Seventeen magazine when she was seventeen. She’s written for numerous national and regional magazines and newspapers since, was an associate editor at a bed-and-breakfast magazine, worked as an advertising copywriter, and is the author of nine traditionally-published children’s books. In addition, Jeanie has been an elementary school counselor, a licensed professional counselor, and a Starbucks barista and Coffee Master. She’s participated in workshops at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival as well as taken several WOW! Women on Writing classes. Previous WOW! Contest entries have been in the Top Twenty or a finalist. Her flash-fiction story, “The Space Between,” was just accepted for publication by Flash Fiction Magazine. When she’s not traveling between her home in a western suburb of St. Louis, MO, and a cottage near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula in northern Michigan, Jeanie likes to read, look for rocks, be on the water or walk in the woods with her husband and their two collies, Sadie and Sawyer.

 If you haven't done so already, check out Jeanie's talent in writing with the moving story How to Write a Perfect Sentence 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 How to Write a Perfect Sentence? 

Jeanie: Thank you for reading it! The essay grew out of frustration with my writing process. I find myself writing and rewriting the first few sentences so much – in essence, editing as I write rather than doing a rough draft – that I have trouble pushing through to finish a piece. I was tired of being paralyzed by perfectionism, of beating myself up because I wasn't as productive or prolific as I thought I should be. So, for this essay, I decided to just write what I was feeling, and oddly enough, the memory of my grandfather making me walk "the right way" when he took me to the zoo surfaced. It was an "aha" moment when I realized how early messages had affected the way I thought about myself. I feel like a lot of writers have a harsh inner critic that makes them doubt the quality and/or value of their work, and I hope that by sharing my story, they'll know they're not alone, and may want to explore where their inner critic came from. 

WOW:     That darn inner critic - you're right...I'd never talk to anyone else the way I talk to myself!

Where do you write? What does your space look like? 

Jeanie:  I divide my time between Missouri and Michigan, so my writing tools – computer, pens, journals, projects – are usually stashed in a backpack so I can write wherever I am. My favorite – and most productive – place to write is at a coffee shop or cafe. My writer friends and I call it "cafe writing," which is code for "no talking, just writing" for a set amount of time before taking a break. As far as what my writing space looks like, in Missouri I have a desk in my eldest son's old room, along with a couple of shelves filled with books on writing and books written by members of my critique group. On top of the desk is my mother's old typewriter, the kind that makes the satisfying "clackety-clack" when you type, a writing totem (mine is a small carved wooden owl my oldest son gave me), and a bowl of miniature dog biscuits for my two office "assistants," Sadie and Sawyer, both rough collies. At my cottage in Michigan, I tend to write in a spare bedroom with a big comfy leather chair in one corner, or go out on the deck. Sometimes my writing space is in the woods, on a fallen birch tree about fifty feet long. I guess I write here, there, and everywhere! 

WOW:     I love a cozy coffee shop - thanks for sharing some of your story - I love that you have your mother's old typewriter. That's so sweet! Speaking of family; who is your support - what have you found to be most supportive in your writing life as well as in life in general? 

Jeanie: My husband and three grown sons are my biggest cheerleaders, followed closely by my critique group, The Polished Pens. 

WOW:    Sounds like you have a great support system!

 What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for the remainder of 2021 and beyond? 

Jeanie: My plan is to continue writing essays, flash fiction, and micro memoirs. Ideally, I'd like to generate enough material for a book. I've also been doing some nature writing, though I'm not sure where that's going yet. My writing goals for the rest of 2021 include submitting more work to online and print literary journals and magazines. I just had a flash fiction story, "The Space Between," published by Flash Fiction Magazine, so I'm excited to see what I can do this year and beyond. 

 WOW:         YES! Congratulations!

You've worn many hats according to your bio - which job (so far) has been your favorite? 

Jeanie:  Hmmm, that's a great question! I believe that every job a person has – good or bad – teaches them something. Even if it's only to learn that you never, ever want to work in that field or industry again! For example, writing ad copy for radio stations and then at advertising agencies taught me how to write short and to meet tight deadlines, both of which came in handy when I started writing children's books years later. Working as an elementary school counselor gave me experience writing lessons and presenting them to students from kindergarten through third grade, which just so happened to be the target audience for the children's books I'd write and the school visits I'd eventually do. My favorite job was working as a radio station copywriter. I'd just graduated from college, and radio was a fun and exciting business to be in, especially for young people. I met my future husband, a DJ, at a radio station in Little Rock, Arkansas, so there's that, too! 

WOW:       Isn't that a tough one? You did great with your answer though!

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

Jeanie:   I kept a diary when I was growing up, and amazingly, I still have all of them! So I guess journaling came pretty naturally to me when I became an adult. I don't remember exactly when I started journaling on a pretty regular basis, but I know that over the past few years, journaling became an essential part of my self-care. I've tried "Morning Pages" and writing a certain amount every day, but I decided I didn't want to feel bad if I skipped a day or my word count fell short. That's not helpful! Now I journal on a regular basis, just not every day, and not a prescribed number of pages. Sometimes I'll fill two pages, or as many as seven. I just start writing whatever comes to mind, even if it's "I don't know what to write about," and continue until I feel like I'm done. I know that for me, especially during the pandemic, journaling was often the only writing I could manage for months at a time. It kept me grounded and ended up providing material for future essays. I've belonged to a writers' group for at least twenty-five years. Different members have come and gone, moved away or moved back, but the group has continued. There is nothing more important for a writer, in my opinion, than a good critique partner or group, whether it's online or in person. 

WOW:         Why do you enter contests? What would you like to tell other authors concerning contests and submitting their work? 

Jeanie:  At the start of the pandemic, I found myself unable to read a book or to write more than a few sentence fragments. To motivate myself to write and submit something, anything, I started entering contests. I'd taken a flash-fiction workshop at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival in 2019, and really enjoyed it. It was something totally different from writing children's books, which I'd been doing since 2000, and I think that's why I was able to switch gears. Once I started playing with flash fiction, I tried flash non-fiction and micro memoirs. Everything's under 1,000 words, so even as stuck as I was, I could manage to squeeze enough words out to write a whole story. I also returned to writing essays, something I hadn't done in decades, and submitting several to contests. I was familiar with WOW – Women on Writing – from taking an online class a few years ago, but I hadn't really paid much attention to the fact that they had contests until the pandemic. I decided to enter one, and was pleased to be a finalist, so I entered another one, and so on. I found WOW's contests to be affordable, easy to enter, and extremely well-run. While I still enter some contests, I'm really careful to do my research and choose wisely, which is what I'd advise anyone to do. I've started submitting more to online and print literary journals and magazines that don't charge a reading fee, and have found that taking online classes has helped me generate new material to submit, whether to a contest or for publication.

WOW: Thank you ever so much for sharing your essay, sage advice, and your laughter today - we look forward to reading more of your work! Congratulations again! 

  Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

Check out the latest Contests:
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3 Things to Remember When You Query

As I look up various agents online, I get this strange feeling that I’m playing duck-duck-goose. Here’s an agent that might be suitable – duck. Here’s another one that could work - duck. This one looks like a great match – goose! 

In kindergarten the goose always gave chase. With agents it is much less certain, but you can improve your odds by putting your best foot forward with your query.
Here are three things to remember when crafting your query letter. 

Out of All the Others, I Chose You 

Writers approach agents every single day. Some will have done no research beyond finding an e-mail address. These are the people who query an agent who only represents children’s authors for an adult cozy mystery or a thriller. 

Others will have put a bit more effort into it. These are the writers who skim a market listing and see that this agent represents mysteries. They then assume that the agent will want a cozy when she only represents hard-boiled detective stories and police procedurals. 

To demonstrate that you have really and truly done your research, tell the agent why you are approaching them. “I saw on Twitter that you want stories set in 15th century Mongolia.” “Your Manuscript Wish List indicates that you want to see more STEM picture books.” Don’t claim a connection that you don’t have, but do let the agent know why you think they are a good fit. 

How Is Your Manuscript Unique? 

Perhaps even more difficult than showing why you chose the agent is figuring out which information to include about your manuscript. All too often, we resort to the kinds of phrases we hear in movie trailers. “This is a story of one woman’s fight against big government and corporate corruption.” “A fantasy epic to rival Lord of the Rings.” 

That approach just doesn’t work in a query. One problem is that we already have Lord of the Rings. The other problem is that these kinds of statements are too general. 

Instead you need to show what makes your story unique. Your character is struggling to get a toxic waste site downwind from her neighborhood cleaned up, but government regulations and lobbyists stand in the way. That’s much more specific. 

Cut the Clichés 

Since you only have one page for your query letter, it is going to be tempting to use written shortcuts. Be careful when you do this, because it is easy to fall into using clichés and overused phrases. 

What falls into this category? Referring to your nonfiction character as a national treasure. Other worn phrases include sordid underbelly, uphill battle, low-hanging fruit, or a drop in the bucket. 

Keep it short, but keep it meaningful.

Many agents post their query letter preferences online. Explore to see what you can find, then take the time to write a letter that explains why your story is unique and why this agent out of the many you have researched is a good match for your manuscript. Do this and maybe the Goose will give chase!


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.

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

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins September 6, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins September 6, 2021). 
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A Focus on Friendships - Part Two of Three

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Thanks for tuning in for part two of three on our focus on friendships. My favorite books are the ones where I feel most kindred to the characters. I finish those books and feel like I've had a visit with a dear friend. During Part One of our focus, we talked about feedback; giving it, receiving it, growing from it, walking away, considering the reason for the feedback, and MORE! In part two, let's talk about what draws us to certain people and pushes us away from others. 

 So - here goes - let's talk about friendships, shall we? This isn't me telling you what to do or not to do - it's just a conversation and hopefully it will offer each of us a little something. Grab your favorite beverage (I'll fill my coffee mug) and we can chat a bit. Stop back in a few weeks for part three publishing on the 6th of September!. If you're wondering, today's photo headline is me and my best friend celebrating our engagement over a decade ago - he still makes me smile like this! 

Let's start with a quote by English writer Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)



Isn't that an interesting concept (and clearly not a new one)? I think about this as I start a new book. I've never met these characters before, but if they feel familiar to me I am immediately drawn in. As authors, we need to keep this at the forefront of our craft and make sure those real life idiosyncrasies of each character make it to the page. Often, in our own mind we know our characters quite well, but we need to make sure they feel familiar to our readers as well. So - how do we best do this? By taking a look at what draws us to friendships off the page.

What is it about someone that draws us in and makes us decide they need to be part of our world? Is it an unexplainable energy or vibe, a welcoming smile, their posture? What makes them approachable (or how did they approach us - in the case of an introvert)? Think about these things and make sure they land on your page - your readers will thank you! And for non-writers; remember that the key to a healthy relationship of any kind is appreciating the other person; so as you read this, think about what it is you appreciate about those friends in your life - and get out there and tell them about it! Similarly, if you're a reader who has fallen in love with the characters written by a particular author - take a moment to thank them in a review! 

Our time is coming to an end today - but before we get together again, leave a comment and answer one of these questions if you would please? 

 ** Were you ever drawn to someone after initially thinking you didn't really care for them? What shifted? 

** Have you ever ended a friendship? Why and what feelings went along with that "break up"?

** What do you think is the key to a long lasting friendship?

And with that - hugs my dear friend and until next time!

Today's blogger is Crystal J. Casavant-Otto who is a hot mess of a momma and dairy farmer enjoying her little corner of the cornfield in Wisconsin! 

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A Thunderstorm Brings out the Best

Wednesday, August 25, 2021
School is back in person for my daughter who is in 5th grade, and we live about a mile from the school. However, you have to cross a very busy street, and it does take about 25 minutes for a kid to walk a mile (this is a distracted kid who will want to stop and smell the roses). Right now, there are not enough bus drivers for kids who live even much farther than we do, and so this makes us car riders instead of bus riders. Many, many more families are car riders this year because of the bus driver shortage. As you can imagine, on the first day of school, this was a logistical nightmare, and I waited in line for about 30 minutes to drop my daughter off. Then, I prepared myself that the afternoon pick-up would be just as bad.

About fifteen minutes before the pick-up session would begin, one of the worst thunderstorms we've had all summer sprang into action--rain beat down, thunder pounded, and lightning streaked the sky.

When I finally got into the parking lot from the street after about 15 minutes of waiting, I couldn't believe what I saw. One poor school employee had no umbrella or poncho and stood out there in the rain, soaked and directing parent traffic. Two teachers' assistants, with umbrellas that were doing very little to protect these women from the splashing and pounding rain, stood between the cars with their cell phones, typing in kids' names whose parents were in line to let teachers in the building know the order they should organize the kids to hopefully expedite the pick-up. These women were also joyfully handing out, with smiles on their faces, blank sheets of paper for parents to write last names and stick on the windshield to help with future pick-up days. 

And then I saw the principal. 

I am already a huge fan of the principal; she has battled cancer and was very open and frank about it with parents. During the pandemic, she has done an amazing job to keep communication open and help concerned and anxiety-ridden parents, teachers, and kids. But yesterday, her work ethic and character really stood out when I saw her with an umbrella and a nice dress, running back and forth from staff who were rain-soaked and helping kids into cars to the cafeteria, so she could get the kids and direct them to the staff--and all of this was in her bare feet. The heels from that morning's drop-off were long gone. That's right--she was completely barefoot. A river of water had formed in the parking lot at the curb, so everyone's feet were getting soaked. All of this just brought tears to my eyes, and I felt so lucky for my daughter to go to a school, where they care so much about the kids and the families. They worked harder than any school employee should ever have to, and they did that for the kids and parents. 

As a writer, I watched this situation yesterday, and I immediately wanted to write about it. I was deeply touched and wanted to honor these members of the school staff, who are currently under so much stress with pandemic rules and regulations and parents fighting over whether or not their kids should have to wear a mask at school or be vaccinated--and now principals also have staff and bus driver shortages. It's not an easy time to be in education. As a writer, I wanted to find a way to acknowledge this and learn from it.

As a writing teacher, I wondered if I work as hard as that principal was at the rain-soaked pick-up for my own writing students. Do I go out of my way to make sure they feel safe and secure to share their writing, no matter what storms they have weathered? If I haven't been, I want to start. 

As a writing mom who doesn't always make it to my own writing projects each day, I'm often down on myself for the lack of progress I make on a manuscript, and sometimes, it's because I chose to do something with my daughter instead. Writing moms are full of so much guilt all the time--for writing, for not writing, for snapping at our kids when we are trying to write, and they interrupt us. But yesterday, watching those teachers I realized: these kids--they're what's important--and they are only this young for a bit. This is my daughter's LAST YEAR OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. Every time I start to feel guilty for deciding to watch TV with Katie at night, instead of working on my book, I will remember the sacrifice her principal made that first day of school and get over it.  

A lot of you reading this may have a loved one starting a new school year, from preschool to college-aged kids and grandkids. Maybe you work at a school, and so you're actually starting a new school year, too. And a new school year always brings about a need to "get back to business" after the chaos of summer--it's almost like another January 1, only this time, the weather is better and the kids are out of the house. 

This post up to this point is trying to say: I'm so lucky my daughter goes to the school she does. That principal and school staff made an impression on me that I wanted to share with you. I did it the best way I know how--with the written word. And I hope that somewhere in this river of words, you're inspired to work hard at your writing dreams, put your family first though, practice some self-care, and if you find yourself in a rainstorm, look for the person who will go barefoot and lead you to safety to help get you out. 

Margo L. Dill lives in St. Louis, MO, with her daughter and dog. Her Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach class is starting back up on September 3 after a summer hiatus. Find out more or sign up here.  For more information about Margo, check out her website, .

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Can a Virtual Assistant Help My Writing Business?

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Time for some real talk. I’m almost 45 years old and have been working as a freelance writer and editor for a long time. Because the flow of my various projects, gigs and responsibilities has always fallen into that “feast or famine” category, it has taken me almost all those 20 years to come to a realization—I really suck at organization and project management. I’m not complaining, but I’m at a point in my career where I have plenty of writing and editing work, but my organizational skills are abysmal, and people are starting to get irritated that e-mails to me are going unread and I’m tired of apologizing for being overwhelmed. 

This is not a good trait for a freelance magazine editor, I realize. Part of the issue I’ve been having with my current job is that I am the sole editor. In other magazines I’ve worked for, I’ve at least been able to job share or have an assistant editor to bounce ideas off or be able to split a certain number of tasks so that I don’t carry such a heavy load. In addition to my freelance magazine gig, I also have a blog, a podcast, ideas for new articles and a novel I’d like to finish outlining. It’s a lot, and I’m not going to lie and say I’ve been the most productive or efficient writer I can be. But I enjoy having different projects to work on. 

I’ve been working recently as a copywriter for a new client, where I’m essentially part of a writing team. We have a leader who does nothing but set expectations, deadlines and calendars and we have at least two short, 25-minutes a week to keep us on track and the content flowing. Because, as most of us creatives know, we could sit around all day chatting about “ideas” and never really getting down to the content creation part if someone wasn’t driving us. 

I was having a conversation with my husband last night, and he flat out told me, “Organizing and planning is not your strong suit. You are a visionary—someone who wants to create but can’t get projects off the ground because you don’t have anyone holding you to any deadlines.” 

This is true. I’ll admit it. I brought up the idea of finding a virtual assistant—someone who can create calendars and timelines for me and make sure I stick to them, so that I’m not saying, “Eh, I’ll get that new podcast script written when I get around to it.” I know I’ll get overwhelmed with external deadlines and NEVER get around to it. I may finally be at the point where I can try a virtual assistant for a small number of hours each week for a trial period, maybe 90 days. If the trial period ends and I finally have a podcast schedule laid out, in motion, affiliate marketing set up, pitches crafted and sent out and consistent blogs written that I can post, this may be the solution I’ve been looking for all along. In every “entrepreneurial” podcast I’ve ever listened to, I’ve been told to outsource the things you aren’t good at so that you can excel and make money at the things you ARE good at. 

Has anyone here ever worked as a virtual assistant or had experience working with one? I’d love to know if it helped your writing or editing business become more productive and streamlined.

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and magazine editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Learn more at her website,, which is in desperate need of new content that she can’t seem to upload off her hard drive.
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Getting Back Into a Writing Groove

Monday, August 23, 2021

Over the last few months, I lost my writing motivation. I blame the summer along with some difficult job changes. The truth is I just couldn't get back into writing, and when these things happen, sometimes it's hard for me to get back on track. 

To get into a better place, I have a usual starting point - reading back over previous work. I have a stack of notebooks I'll grab and read through a bunch of old stories that I've handwritten. They aren't perfect by any means - far from it actually - but it gets me back in touch with my writing self. 

Sometimes getting back into my writing routine usually means I go in two different directions - I write new stories or I go back to previously written work and start revising. The first part of this year I did such a great job with writing new stories so I knew I had to get back into revising.

And it wasn't easy. 

I used a lot of sheer discipline to get back into writing. Revising wasn't an easy process, but over time, it became easier for me to return to my writing groove.

If you have had a hard time getting back into writing, you aren't alone. My advice is to start small. Re-read old stories, trying doing something artsy that isn't related to your writing, and read book genres that are outside of your comfort zone. Start small as you start your writing process over, and make sure you keep to regular writing routines. All of this makes a difference and before you know it, writing is familiar again.
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Interview with Annie Eacy, Runner Up in Q3 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Sunday, August 22, 2021


Annie Eacy studied writing in Burlington, Vermont. She has since been selling books (new, used, and otherwise) for five years, while working on her own. She traded one city on a lake for another, and now lives in Ithaca, New York with her partner in a tiny apartment that sits among the treetops. She writes poetry, fiction, and essays. 

Read Annie's essay here and then return for an interview with the author. 

----------Interview by Renee Roberson 

WOW: Welcome, Annie, and congratulations! When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? 

Annie: I don't know! I was the kid that was always writing -- even before I knew how. I still have notebooks filled from front cover to back with scribbles that were my attempts at writing before I knew the alphabet. I also remember my mom saying to me from a young age that she imagined me growing up and being a writer who lived by the sea, and I think I just always like that image of myself as well (although I don't live near the ocean). I remember her saying it all the time, but in reality, she might have only said it once as a passing thing, and I liked it so much that I played it over and over again in my head. Memory is funny that way... 

WOW: What are some of your favorite formats to use when writing creative nonfiction? Could you give us some examples of ways you’ve used them? 

Annie: I really enjoy poetic prose, like "Bluets" by Maggie Nelson, or even Eula Biss' books, which are all nonfiction, narrative essays, but so beautifully written, which is what I attempted to do in "Picking Blueberries." I enjoy repetition -- anything that will call you back to an earlier passage and give it new or dual meaning, such as repeating "I am not an early riser," or how I imagine each group arriving at the blueberry patch having the same initial thought that they believe makes them clever (myself included). What's great about creative nonfiction is that you're not spending time coming up with back stories, making sure there are no loopholes, or other things you have to think about when writing fiction. You generally already know the backstory because you or someone you know lived it, or you can research it. So the fun comes with playing with the language and creating something that is not only (hopefully) a compelling story, but that can read as if it were fiction or poetry. 

WOW:  Thanks for those book recommendations! So many of our readers are enjoying the craft of creative nonfiction. I love the addition of the memory of your grandmother in the second half of the piece. Did you always know you wanted to include her in this essay or did she make an entrance in the revision process? 

Annie: I think about my grandmother a lot. She was a mysterious woman in so many ways to me, and though she lived into her 90s, I was too young to really know how to have a meaningful relationship with her and it's a big regret of mine that I didn't ask her more questions about her life. What was it like being a teenager in the 1930s? What was living through WWII like? What was it really like to be a woman in the workforce in the 50s & 60s? Being a single mom? A child of immigrants? There's just so much I don't know. So she appears in my writing a lot because I have to imagine so much about her. One thing I DO know about her though: she loved to pick strawberries. And every year, I think I will go pick strawberries and maybe I will feel close to her. But I always miss it -- it happens too early in summer and I'm never thinking about berry picking yet. That day when I went blueberry picking that inspired my piece, I was already thinking about her. So, she was there from the start. From before the start. 

WOW: What are some topics you enjoy writing about in your fiction? 

Annie: I love to write about love, about sleep and dreams and memories, about quiet moments of contemplation, and about relationships. I find relationships and the expectations we put on them endlessly interesting. Can you ever really know a person? Can you ever truly be known? I also find the cyclical nature of life interesting, which I think (hope) comes out a bit in "Picking Blueberries," as I imagine my grandmother's afternoon being quite similar to my own. Maybe we actually do know each other better than we think. 

WOW: When do you find are the best times of day for productive writing? 

Annie: I write at night. But I don't know if I write at night because it is the best time, or if it's because it's the only time I have when it's guaranteed that no one will be calling, texting, emailing, interrupting. No one is asking anything of you late at night, and that's the best time. If I were an early riser, as I say in my piece, I might find the wee hours of the morning a good time to write as well, but I prefer to sleep in.

WOW: Annie, congratulations again and keep up all the great writing!
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Dream Big

Saturday, August 21, 2021

 Dream big. Dream a big dream and it might will come true.

This idea of seemingly impossible dreams coming true has been swirling in my head for the past week or so. Three things formed a huge confluence in my brain and--more importantly--in my heart.

One: I spoke to a friend who told me about the major league game that was played on the Field of Dreams field. I know. Technically, they had to create a new field that met the MLB's specifications, but it was on the same plot of land and since my friend taped it, I got to see the beginning. Seeing the players emerge from the cornfields, I got chills.

If you build it, he will come. That was the mantra of the movie. If they built the field, Ray Kinsella's father... the players... the fans--they all came.

Two: I finally reconnected with the student who nudged me into finishing my book. Five years ago, I began writing a story during NaNoWriMo. I did it while I was surrounded by my middle school students. They wrote. I wrote alongside them.

I didn't finish the novel wannabe that school year. However, one student nudged me. At several points during the winter and spring, following the end of NaNoWriMo, Danny questioned me.

Did you finish your story, Mrs. R?

How's your book coming along?

Are you still working on your book, Mrs. R?

The next year, I did finish the manuscript... and Danny was responsible for a good part of the fire that burned inside me. That fire continued to burn as I slogged through a second draft... through querying until I found a publisher that is every writer's fantasy. Because of Danny, a dream that I had when I was 13 came true: there is now a book with my name on the spine.

Lately I've been daydreaming fantasizing considering my book becoming a movie. Perhaps a two-part miniseries on Netflix. I can see it so naturally unfolding, and even figured the perfect point for the first part to end. 

I laugh a bit when I tell friends. A few have asked what I'm working on now, and I say, "I'm actually teaching myself to write a script, because I can see Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story turned into a movie. I know it's crazy..." and then I chuckle.

But is it crazy? It's a big dream, for sure, but is it unobtainable? Should I lay it down, to gather dust, because it's too huge to work towards?

                                                                       image by Pixabay

Three: I came upon an inspiring article. I know the power of three in writing. Apparently the third block/idea packs a wallop as well. This third bit made my doubts topple over. 

The article chronicles a woman who dreamed of writing a cook book. She wasn't a famous chef or a well-known blogger. She was merely a woman who dreamed a dream.

Along her journey, she had many obstacles. However, instead of turning back, she figured out small actions--microactions--to get closer to her ultimate goal.

So, now I am going to work on a script... and when the roadblocks spring up, I'll work on carrying out the small actions that will help me get to the ultimate goal

And my publisher? When I told her about my dream, she laughed--hard--and said, "If that happens, you're going to have to get an agent, because I don't know anything about movie rights," but she's so so wrong. My publisher took a chance on me, we were together from the beginning, and we're going to navigate it and ride it through... together.

Sioux is a freelance writer and the author of Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story, a historical novel for middle grades about the Tulsa Race Massacre. If you'd like to read more from Sioux, check out her blog.

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Don’t Just “Handle” Rejection. Work With It.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021
I’m writing this post as a reminder to myself as much as to you. Because yesterday I got a rejection email. The day before, I got three. One day last month I got six in one day. This year? I stopped counting after I reached 100. And each was as hard as the last.

Isaac Asimov called rejection letters “lacerations of the soul.” Me? I don’t feel lacerated as much as hit in the gut. Rejection makes me feel terrible, & terrible about myself. Jealousy, loneliness, self-doubt: to my lizard brain, a simple rejection is a threat to my human need to belong.

But rejection is also a constant, immovable companion: Alexander Chee calls it “the other medium of writing.” I have periodic mini-crises where rejection makes me doubt whether I can go on as a writer. But if I am to be a writer at all, rejection is part of it. That’s the choice: write, and be rejected, or don’t write. Don’t believe me? A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 29 times. Ray Bradbury got 800 (yes, eight hundred) rejections before selling even one story. The Tale of Peter Rabbit was rejected so many times that Beatrix Potter decided to self-publish.

At the end of each mini-crisis, I come to this: the writing is worth it. The readers and students I have are worth it, the ideas that sometimes well like bubbling water in my gut, pulling me out of bed in the morning, the satisfaction of work completed, the challenge of improving a piece: worth it. Knowing that I’ve tried is worth it—or at least it’s better than just not trying.

I’m not here to tell you that there’s a way around rejection. Or that it’s easy, or gets easier. I’m here to convince you that rejection is worth getting to know. So, how do you let rejection move your work forward?

1. Submit again.

Many writers have a strict routine: a piece gets rejected, they submit the same piece to other venues immediately. The idea is to not let a single rejection feel too important. Instead, you want a continual process of having your work out there.

Another way of looking at it: let the rejection fuel your fire. Let it focus you. Increase your persistence in fighting for what you want.

Another wrinkle to this “submit again” tip: make sure you always have multiple irons in the fire. When one piece feels too bruised by rejection, have a fresh piece to work on or submit. This ensures that you keep going somehow—even when it feels impossible to keep going in the exact same direction.

2. Take a break…then submit again.

Some of us need a little time before we get back up on the horse (raising my hand). Or sometimes a particular rejection will hit us hard. In that case, give yourself a set amount of time to grieve, sulk, or wallow. You can even have a little rejection ritual—take a bath, eat some ice cream, cry, watch a show. At the end of that set amount of time, move on. Submit again.

3. Take pride in your rejections.

They’re a feature, not a bug. “I love my rejection slips,” Sylvia Plath wrote. “They show me I try.” This instinct is behind the “100 rejections” idea—in one of the online writing groups I’m in, we publicly announce our rejections, counting them and cheering them on. The goal? Get to at least 100 rejections per year. The reason? Rejection is a natural part of writing, and we should welcome it.

Plus, you can only get accepted if you’re putting yourself out there to get rejected. Every one of my own acceptances this year (including my first personal essay publication, my first fiction publication, my second poetry book publication) sprung from my membership in the 100 rejections club. The acceptances were a happy byproduct of the rejections. Even writing this paragraph makes me smile at the word no (and no, and no, and no, and…). All those no’s now happy little flags, fluttering from my accepted work.

4. Let rejection teach you.

Sometimes a rejection teaches you what’s wrong with your work. Silence, form rejection, or specific critiques can lead you back to the work and show you what needs fixing.

Or sometimes the work is perfect, and rejection is just one person’s opinion. Barbara Kingsolver wrote, “This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.”

In those cases, rejection can be the closed door that shows you a new path. It can teach you who your audience is—or isn’t—or what’s wrong with your submission approach. For example (and this happens to me a lot!) it might make you ask—do you want to be published in a particular venue because of something intrinsic to that venue’s voice or values? Or because it’s a name-brand venue that would make you feel fancy? Look for the places that love and will value your work, not places you view as wins.

5. Reaffirm yourself.

You can trick yourself into keeping on despite it, and you can do the hard work of reevaluating your writing after it. But you also need to remember that you are good, are great, are worthy apart from what anyone else decides about your work. That is: rejection does not define you. Rejection does not determine your self-worth (that one’s good for a post-it note on the mirror).

When rejection gets you down, take some time to remind yourself of the successes you’ve had, or of the things that have graced your life without your having to ask for them. Take some time to remind yourself of what you love about writing, about the writing life, about your writing. Which does not need an acceptance to exist, and matter.

Now go! And may your path be littered with rejections, acceptances, and most of all may it be paved with the good stones of your own work.


Leah Claire Kaminski holds degrees from UC Irvine and Harvard. For nearly 15 years she’s taught students to read with attention and to write poetry, academic essays, and creative nonfiction. Leah’s poetry is widely published in magazines and in a chapbook from Dancing Girl Press called Peninsular Scar. Her collection Live oak nearly on fire has recently been named a finalist for the Laureate Prize from Harbor Editions and the Paul Nemser Prize from Lily Poetry Review. She’s at work on a new collection, Death Cleaning, and is also at work on speculative and horror fiction. Originally from Miami, Leah lived in Boston and Orange County, California before recently relocating to Chicago with her partner, child, and two cats, Bernie and Betsy. She loves writing, and teaching writing, because the page never judges. Visit her website at

Leah is also a WOW! Women on Writing instructor. Check out her new class, WHY DO I WRITE?: Discover your true drives, your idiosyncratic rituals, and your own path forward, which starts on September 17th!
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The Busy Bee Reader

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Whenever I ask the Oldest Junior Hall how work is going, he always says, “I’m a Busy Bee!” So I’m deep into my pre-writing (all that stuff I shared last time!) and buzzing around myself. 

But I want to circle back, as the news people love to say, to a part of my pre-writing. Namely, the reading part. Which isn’t writing at all but just as important in the pre-writing process. 

 If you’ve ever used mentor texts, it’s mostly that concept. It’s hugely beneficial for me to read up in what I’m planning to write. Take, for example, a new market that I’ve come across and have an idea I figure will fit. First, I’ll read a bit of the market to get a feel for the style they like. But I’m also reading to sort of saturate my brain with the tone of this new market. I don’t know if osmosis works like that in writing, but I kinda feel like it does for me. 

However, the osmosis trick doesn’t work quite the same way when it comes to novels or picture books. That takes a little more reading work. 

Back in the day, I penned a bunch of picture books; the Oldest Junior Hall was the Only Junior Hall so it really was a long time ago. And when I jumped into children’s writing, I wrote even more picture books because I’d been into picture books for years. The trouble was, it had been years since I’d actually read ‘em and picture books have come a long way in the last decade or two. So I had a lot to learn about what makes a good picture book today; reading A LOT of contemporary picture books, and using mentor texts, was not only eye-opening but also game-changing for me. 

And when I dipped my toes into children’s novels, I gravitated toward middle grade. Who knew I still think (and write) like a 12-year-old? Anyway, I put in hours and hours, reading A LOT of middle grade fiction so I’d know what the pre-teens were into these days. But also because I just really like middle grade fiction. It was basically immersion therapy and a tremendously helpful tool. 

Now, I’m going back to adult fiction, specifically cozy mystery. As it happened, when the world was closed down, I read digital books, and I found myself reading mysteries. I LOVE mysteries and so it was a joy to read LOTS of mysteries, from charming and cozy to suspenseful and intense. So yeah, I’d done a lot of reading and I was all in for some mystery-writing. But I was also interested in writing a series so next, I decided to read a few series’ books; not the whole series, just the first one. And I was looking for the good…and the bad. 

Because here’s the last reason I read: sometimes, it’s not about what to do; sometimes, it’s about what NOT to do. And though I realize that even badly written books get published (I mean, we’ve all read books and wondered how, right?), I don’t think a debut author in a new genre can risk poor writing. 

So when I see a lot of boring minutiae of a character’s day, I cringe. (And make a mental note not to get bogged down in the tedious.) When I read declarative sentences that end with question marks in that annoying way we speak sometimes, where our inflection goes up after statements, I want to scream. (There’s another mental note for me, to avoid that sort of punctuation that stops the reader.) 

Yep, reading serves a myriad of purposes in my pre-writing and writing, so I highly recommend it. And when I’m lounging on a beach chair, book in one hand, cool drink in the other, and the Junior Halls imply that it must be nice, just sitting around, I can say in all honesty, “Scram! I’m a busy bee here!”

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A Focus on Friendships - Part One of Three

Sunday, August 15, 2021

I feel a bit shocked that it's August already - nearing the end of third quarter for our business and time to go school shopping for most of our littles. We are just wrapping up third crop hay on our farm and getting ready for corn harvest. This is one of my favorite months of the year in my little corner of the cornfield. The corn is taller than I am, and I can't see the road from my patio. We have a long driveway, but this time of year, I have a cornfield as a privacy fence. It's all very fancy if you ask me - my allergies however are a different story. We all have well established farmer tans and freckles and we've cut most of the sleeves off our t-shirts. As much as we will eventually welcome the cooler weather, fuzzy sweaters, and school, for now we are soaking in the more relaxing days and increased together time. Well, I am enjoying the together time. I am positive my teenagers would tell a different story of the demanding mother who forces them out of bed hours before they are ready. 

 Those angsty teenagers are the inspiration for my articles this month. If you don't have teenagers, I'm sure you were one at one time, so don't stop reading now. I promise you'll be able to relate - and today's discussion about friendships may help you with your writing (believable characters and such) and if you're not a writer, maybe it will help you with your friendships. Now, before I get too much further, I want you to know I've been an awful friend. I've been a great friend. I'm a work in progress. There's undoubtedly people who might look at this article and think "she has no business talking to anyone about friendships" and there's other people who might disagree wholeheartedly (maybe...I hope?). I however, think struggling with things is what makes us the perfect person to participate in a discussion about said topic. So - here goes - let's talk about friendships, shall we? This isn't me telling you what to do or not to do - it's just a conversation and hopefully it will offer each of us a little something. Grab your favorite beverage (I'll fill my coffee mug) and we can chat a bit. Stop back later this month for part two publishing on the 26th of this month!. If you're wondering - today's photo headline is a picture of me and my best friend a few days ago as we celebrate our 9th year of wedded bliss and forever friendship! 

 Have you ever been the friend who spoke up and told someone how you feel? If you have, I commend you! It's really hard to tell someone how you are feeling. There's always the risk of them seeing your feedback as an insult or attack. What happens then? Sometimes we let that fear of the unknown stop us from being open and talking about our feelings. Whether we have the conversation or not, those negative feelings are going to take a toll on the friendship. It takes a brave person to open up about how they are feeling. It also takes a brave person to listen and accept what is being said. Once we hear how someone is feeling, it is our choice what to do with that information. Years ago before children and before farming, I had an opportunity to lead a discussion concerning "dealing with difficult people" and I like to use some of that information when it comes to sorting out my own feelings and friendships. My takeaway from the difficult people discussion was concerning types of feedback and deciding what type of feedback we are receiving (or giving). I like to say there are two types of feedback, but in reality only one is feedback and the other is criticism (or basically an insult). The words can be the same for each, but it's the motive that needs to be examined. Let's boil it down to something basic: 

 1) Feedback is something we are telling someone about to help them grow 

2) Criticism is something we are telling someone to hurt them Basically, the intention is the difference. 

 We could spend weeks coming up with longer definitions, but let's go with the down and dirty for the sake of today's conversation. My daughter was recently told by a friend that the friend felt left out at times. She bravely said "when we are together I have a lot of fun, but when your other friends are around I don't feel like I'm part of the group". I applaud the young lady for talking about her feelings. She wasn't attacking the other friends or hurling insults, she was simply sharing things from her perspective. My daughter was hurt by what was said and came home to talk about it. I told her that though I wasn't there, I feel this is valuable feedback that should be taken to heart. I also reminded her that she's 14 and the choice is hers to make - she can either accept the feedback or not. I suggested she may want to thank her friend for being open about how she is feeling and then they can talk about ways to be more inclusive in a large group setting. We also had a conversation about how we might feel differently if the friend had said "you really aren't a good friend when Krissy is around; you ignore me and you're so snobby". It's so easy to tell the difference between feedback and critism in this example; sometimes it's not quite this easy though. 

 Our time is coming to an end today - but before we get together again, leave a comment and answer one of these questions if you would please? 

 ** When did you provide a friend with what you thought was feedback but it was received as criticism? What do you wish you had done differently? 

** How would you like to receive feedback from a friend? Do you have an example of a time you received feedback and it helped grow your relationship/friendship? 

** What do you think is the key to a long lasting friendship?

And with that - hugs my dear friend and until next time!

Today's blogger is Crystal J. Casavant-Otto who is a hot mess of a momma and dairy farmer enjoying her little corner of the cornfield in Wisconsin! 

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Interview with Jennifer Theoret: Q3 2021 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Jennifer’s Bio:
Jennifer L. Theoret has a wide range of interests—archaeology, paleontology, history, and more, and is involved in her local community. She is an occasional contributor to local newspapers and magazines, and would like to offer an apology to her professors at Johnson State College for taking so long to get back to writing seriously. (It’s been a long “five years”!) Jennifer lives in Vermont with her three dozen orchids and her rather menacing-looking cactus, Mr. Grimm. 

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

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q3 2021 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? 

Jennifer: I struggled for a while with the daunting prospect of what shall I write. It came to me that a great many women have had hysterectomies, but though it is a shared experience, it is rarely spoken about. The orchids were a more unusual element that I also had personal experience with. Somehow the two seemed to fit together. Also, I wanted to address the feeling of loneliness. There are more humans on the planet than ever before, and yet we are more isolated than ever. It's another thing we rarely talk about. As to process, I couldn't really say. I submitted "The Care of Orchids" to WOW a few cycles ago. It made the first cut but not the top 20. I received very useful feedback on the critique that really rang true and helped me craft it into a better essay. The critique also reinforced the gut feelings I had about certain passages – good and bad. It has helped me to hone and to trust my writerly instincts. 

WOW: I’m so glad you found your critique helpful, and that you used it to revise and resubmit! That’s a great success story. You mention in your bio that it took you awhile to get back to writing seriously. What prevented you from writing and/or how did you find your way back to it? 

Jennifer: I felt as though I did not have permission to write. It seemed frivolous – an expenditure of time and energy on a pursuit that was a bit mad. It seemed I should be doing something productive. What most prevented me from writing was – me. But then, this writing, it's a bit like hunger, isn't it? A craving. A need. 

WOW: Yes, writing can feel frivolous until you recognize that craving within you, or when you consider the power storytelling has to open minds and change perspectives – for both the writers and the readers. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you? 

Jennifer: Growing up, I enjoyed the writings of outdoor humorist Patrick F. McManus. Even serious situations can have a little humor in them. In school, one of the few essays I liked among the dismal assignments (why do they make kids read such depressing stuff?) was an excerpt from Travels with Charlie, which was both funny and true. More recently, I have found much writing to admire among the entries of the WOW contests. Mary Jumbelic's "Watching Her" was especially moving. It artfully tied together past, present, and future with a tragic true story. On the fiction side, I really appreciated Tara Campbell's "The Kracken in Love." 

WOW: If you could tell your younger self anything about writing, what would it be? 

Jennifer: Do it! Write! You ARE good, but not as good as you can be. As you will be. Storytelling is a human need as old as the cave paintings. The world needs your stories, and you need to write them. Study, learn, WRITE! 

WOW: Excellent advice for any of us. Thank you for your thoughtful responses. Happy writing! 

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, book reviews, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen. Tweets @dr_greenawalt.
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To Each Her Own

Friday, August 13, 2021
Each writer walks her own path.

I loved hearing about how Chelsey works – knitting her way into an essay. She’s found that it works best for her to think it through before she starts actually writing. And there’s Cathy with all of her prewriting, getting to know her characters before she sets words on paper. She knows her world intimately before she gets to work. 

Me? I have my own way of coming into a piece. I very often start with a situation. What would happen if . . . ? Who would find themselves in X situation? What is the story behind . . . ? 

I don’t know much more than the situation that starts it all when I start writing and so I begin with this situation. In Airstream, my middle grade science fiction novel, I started with the ship waking up as three siblings come out of hypersleep. I knew that this was how the story opened just as I knew that my main character had no clue why she was on this ship. How would she react? Before I could write the second scene, I had to get to know her. 

That means that I leave my computer and find someplace to knit and noodle. Or crochet and noodle. My husband often finds me stretched out on the sofa turning yarn into a baby blanket or a shawl. “I thought you were writing?” “I’m noodling. If you need something to do . . .” Soon I’m back to noodling. 

When I know my character, what she loves, what matters to her, and how she feels about herself, then I come back to the story and write the next scene. Usually when I’m about two scenes in I’m ready to meet at least some of my secondary characters. Then I start playing with my outline. Next I familiarize myself with the rest of my characters. Then I finalize my outline. 

At that point, I go back and fix my first two scenes. Invariably a few things have changed but surprisingly enough they are generally small things. 

At last I’m ready to fall into the first draft. As I write, I do research. Fortunately, I’m sharing my office with my husband who has a lifelong fascination with all things NASA. “How can you die in space? They can’t get smacked by a rock. That’s too easy.” “Why would your air handlers fail?” “How do you put on an EVA suit?” “What do you call that thing that astronauts use to . . .” 

It may seem like a stop and start way to write, but it works for me. Maybe you prefer to prewrite. Maybe your path includes lots and lots of time not writing but noodling. Maybe you need to journal or play hopscotch or quilt or landscape or go to the opera. 

The important thing is that you find something that works for you. And when someone says, “I thought you were writing,” suggest that they do some odious chore. They’ll almost always go on their merry way and leave you to whatever it is you need to do to prepare to write. 


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.

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

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins September 6, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins September 6, 2021). 
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What to Do with All the Unfinished Manuscripts?

Thursday, August 12, 2021

On our Facebook page, I recently asked how many unfinished manuscripts our community had on their computers. We received many different responses from Naomi Blackburn writing, "I have 4 in various stages from concept to first edits. All will be finished," to Sophie Giroir putting the laughing while crying emoji and writing "easier to count the folders."  

It's much easier for me to ask that question than to answer it myself. My word of the year for 2021 is FINISH, and so far, it hasn't been going so well...but that's all about to change--I'll save that for a different post.

What I wanted to talk about today was reasons why unfinished manuscripts exist in a writer's world and what you could do (or not) about them.

1. Some unfinished manuscripts are not meant to be finished. Some of my early picture book drafts or half-finished novels are just not meant to be completed. I don't think any of these are a waste of time, and maybe some day one or two of them will turn into something more--now that I know more about writing and marketing and my audience than I did when I started. But you can probably point to at least one manuscript that's in draft form on your computer or in a notebook in your desk drawer, and it doesn't need to be finished. It was written for a certain reason at that time, and it's served its purpose. 

Tell yourself that's okay! It's all part of the learning process, and that's true.

2. Find a writing partner or critique group. Sometimes, what you need is a writing partner or critique group to help you finish the manuscript. Basically, a writing partner or critique group can keep you accountable and keep you writing. Some members of my critique group meet online a few days a week and write together. I know some people are in a group that is strictly accountability--so there's no critiques--just encouraging each other to stick to your goals.  

3. Find a writing class or coach. One of our Facebook followers said she hired a coach to help her finish some manuscripts. That's definitely something a coach can do. They can help you figure out what is blocking you from finishing and set goals to complete what you want. A writing class with regular assignments can also help. The class I teach for WOW! about writing a novel with a writing coach is designed so that writers are turning in a section of their novels for critique every week. Many writers like the design of the class because it makes them work on their novels on a regular schedule every week.

4. Get a routine. No matter if you have a class or an accountability partner or a writing coach, the biggest thing about finishing manuscripts is having a routine where you write on a consistent basis. Your routine does not have to look like anyone else's! But if you have a routine, this will help you finish manuscripts that you want to finish. 

So what about you? Do you have unfinished manuscripts on your computer? Do you plan to finish them? And how will do you this?

Margo L. Dill is a writing coach, teacher, and author living in St. Louis, MO. Sign up for her Writing a Novel with a Writing Coach class which starts on September 3. Find out more details here. Read about Margo here. 

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