Friday Speak Out!: A Debut Novelist’s Foray into the World of Sensitivity Readers

Friday, June 24, 2022
by Adele Holmes

In 2019, while pitching my first novel which involved discrimination during the Jim Crow era, I was asked if I’d had a sensitivity read. In all honesty I’d never heard of the term, but its implication was fairly easy to pick up, so I brightly replied, “Yes.”

I’m white. Two of my beta-readers were Black. They both heartily approved of my manuscript. That’s the same as a sensitivity read, right? As it turns out, the answer is a definitive, “No.”

Luckily the agent did not offer a contract, and I went home to delve more deeply into the subject of sensitivity readers. A web search for articles from within the writing community revealed a deep divide—imagine that, in America, a deep divide over otherness. Not only was there disagreement on when and where, or even if, a sensitivity read was necessary, but there gaped a huge hole where the definition should have stood.

Those inclined to recommend such a manuscript review argued that no one outside a certain criteria (race differences, cultural differences, gender-identity differences, any you-name-it differences) could appropriately speak to the situation without oversight from someone inside the criteria.

Those against sensitivity reads bemoaned censorship of the author’s right to write about whatever they chose, without muzzling for the sake of political correctness.

I found little indifference on the subject, no shrugging of the shoulders with a quiet, “Meh.”

In the years since, likely due to the spotlight of the #OwnVoices movement, most writers have a working concept of what a sensitivity read is. The dictionaries, wikipedia included, have not yet applied a strict definition. Many publishers now require a sensitivity read for any manuscript that has the possibility for cultural inappropriateness. And still the debate rages with very little middle ground.

Back in 2019, a hard look at the facts of my situation led me to realize that my beta-readers were my friends, and as such, they might be biased in my favor. I chose to contract a professional sensitivity reader, and I’m glad I did. She found little to correct, a fact that bolstered my confidence in the cultural appropriateness of my novel. What she did correct was incredibly instructive to me. While I had no instances of the “white savior” role popping up, there were a few examples of white privilege that I had overlooked to call out.

I make no pretense of calming the waters; this tempest will likely never subside. But the honest sensitivity review I received made my book better—and made me a better person. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
* * *

Adele Holmes graduated from UAMS medical school in 1993, and from residency at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in 1996. She practiced general pediatrics in central Arkansas for over twenty years. While she loved every moment of it, a serious travel bug, a need to put the voice of her soul onto paper, and a call to give back to the community led her to an early retirement in 2017. Her debut novel Winter’s Reckoning, a southern gothic set in the Southern Appalachians of 1917, will be published by She Writes Press on August 9, 2022. She continues to write, travel, and serve in her community. Visit her website at www.adeleholmes.com

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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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3 Writing Prompts

Wednesday, June 22, 2022
I was skimming one of the writing books from my shelf, Pen on Fire by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, and came across some timed writing ideas. It always feels good to have a few more writing prompts to choose from when you need one! Here are three interesting ideas from the book that you may want to try.

1. Poetry line

“Take a poem from a book of poetry [or anywhere], and pick one line.

Write that line down. Now, build a scene around it. Freewrite for fifteen minutes, using that line as a prompt.”

(You could also use the line as a prompt for a journal entry, an essay or your own poem.)

2. Crisis

“Do you have a list in your notebook headed ‘Crisis’? If not, make that list now,” DeMarco-Barrett writes. “Crisis you survived. That winter you learned your brother had stolen all of your mother’s money. Hearing the diagnosis—autism—for your firstborn. When you learned the reason the credit cards were maxed out was because your husband had been…”

Pick one and write about it in as much detail as you can. Begin in the middle of things. Don’t resort to summary; don’t tell us what happened—show us.”

Another option she offers is to do this with fictional characters. 

3. Location Variety

“Try altering your routine to see what happens. Every day for a week spend 15 minutes writing in a different location. Write at a desk, on the couch, on the bathroom floor, at the park, at a restaurant, or on a bus. Write sitting on a chair, standing up, lying down. Write and bright light, low light, blue light. Experiment. See what works for you. In the meantime, you will have collected pages. And that is a very good thing.”

Let's get writing! 

--Marcia Peterson

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Interview with Chiu Yin Wong Hempel: WOW 2022 Winter Flash Fiction Contest Third Place Winner

Tuesday, June 21, 2022
Chiu Yin’s Bio:
Chiu Yin has held senior management positions at Pearson Education and The Economist Group. She is the author of an award-winning trilogy of illustrated books on the architecture, founders and landscape of Tuxedo Park, a historical community in the Hudson Valley, New York. The flash fiction Shanghai Tango is extracted from her debut novel about the struggle for love and survival of the fifteen-year-old, illegitimate daughter of a powerful general and a former prostitute. The story takes place in war-torn Shanghai in 1948, on the eve of the Communists’ final victory in the bloody civil war against the Kuomintang, forcing the latter to retreat to the island of Taiwan and setting the stage for the geopolitical tensions today. The narrative draws upon extensive historical research as well as stories Chiu Yin’s grandmother told her about China during the war years. 

If you haven't done so already, check out Chiu Yin's award-winning story "Shanghai Tango" and then return here for a chat with the author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Winter 2022 Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story? 

Chiu Yin: The challenge of visualizing a brutal, life-changing moment. 

WOW: What did you learn about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece? 

Chiu Yin: I have a wonderful family who will praise and support me regardless of what I do. I discovered that I need to be my own harshest judge. Being perpetually dissatisfied with my work is a powerful motivator. 

WOW: Your bio says that this story is an excerpt from your debut novel, which draws on extensive historical research and stories from your grandmother. That sounds fascinating! Could you tell us more about your writing process and you how incorporate research and narrative? 

Chiu Yin: Before I began writing the novel, I read a ton of books on Japan’s war against China and the civil war between the Communists and Kuomintang afterwards. This gave me the historical context. I had visited Shanghai on a number of occasions in the 1990s. But what made that distant time of 1948 come alive in my mind were my grandmother’s vivid stories of atrocities, suffering and bravery she witnessed firsthand during the war years, and the videos and photos available online of Shanghai in the 30s and 40s. I was thus able to transport myself to that city in that time and I put my characters in that milieu and tried my best to describe in words what they – and we – saw, heard, touched and smelled as the drama of their lives unfolded. 

WOW: It’s always fascinating to hear how writers approach their projects, so thank you for sharing that insight into your research and writing processes. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it? 

Chiu Yin: I read mostly non-fiction. There is so much to learn about the past and the world around us. But when I read fiction, I choose writers who are masters with the craft of words: Amy Hempel, who luckily for me is my sister-in-law and inspiration, Julian Barnes, Evelyn Waugh… I also look for page-turning tales (Lee Child who is a superb thriller writer, for instance) and I love historical fiction. 

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

Chiu Yin: I had many false starts in writing the story… so, my advice to my younger self would be to plot the arc of the story and the psychological/emotional profiles of the key characters before attempting the first word. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing that advice, and thank you for you other thoughtful responses! Happy writing! 


Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, founder and editor-in-chief of Sport Stories Press, which publishes sports books by, for, and about sportswomen and amateur athletes and offers developmental editing and ghostwriting services to partially fund the press. Connect with Anne on Twitter @dr_greenawalt.
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Growing Something... and Holding Onto It

Monday, June 20, 2022

In a freak of scheduling, you're getting two servings of Sioux in a row. I figured I would continue my post from Saturday about creating a channel-platform-thingy with a couple of production friends. We'll be targeting women over 30. (We're still in the talking stage. We've only just begun. If you're ancient like me, those words might make you think of the Carpenters. Check out the end, where I've taken liberties with the first four lines of the song, and enjoy the link to the smooth croonings of Karen and Richard Carpenter.)


If you missed the past post--just two days ago--here it is, so you can catch up avoid hearing Sioux blather on. Again.


                                                          image by gerait via Pixabay


I've learned a few things since Saturday. Some tidbits I learned from what others told me. Some I learned from what others have done in the past--and I've never forgotten them. And some info I got from research.


Someone with tech skills filled us in: we're contemplating launching our own channel via an OTT platform. For those who don't know--like me, prior to Saturday--OTT stands for "over the top." The channels offered via a platform are above and beyond (over the top) when it comes to companies that usually offer content. Listeners/viewers can subscribe to these channels just like people can pay for HBO and Showtime. (If I'm getting this wrong, don't hesitate to comment. I work with middle-schoolers. I get told I'm off base all. The. Time.) 


This is a small fire that's been fanned in the hearts of a few of us. We know the general direction we want it to go in. Forks in the road will appear, we know. But we're definitely not interested in handing our steering wheel over to someone who has a strong personality so they can start using a new roadmap and take over... which I've seen before.


In the past, I've seen one person step in--after a project has evolved past its embryonic state--and immediately start talking about our program. Our project. Our class. They expected the creators to simply fall into place and include them in what (just a moment earlier) was someone else's our.  However, the dreamers kept true to their mission, listened to the schemer's ideas, and gently reminded them that they could help, yes. They could participate, of course. They could certainly contribute... but it was not their baby.


Hold onto what you know is true. And keep a firm grip on it. By the time it's grown large enough that it fills more than your hands, when it's evolved to the point where you're embracing it--your arms stretching as far as they can--it'll be able to stand on its own. Then you'll happy you didn't tear off pieces, fragmenting your dream.


I've been doing some research, and learned another acronym besides OTT. This one is CTA--call to action. We will need to tell the audience to check out the ____ video. To subscribe to our channel. To come back next Tuesday when a podcast about ___ drops.  Otherwise, our viewers and listeners will switch over to a different channel, leaving us behind in the dust. The CTA is a gentle nudge.


A watermark is important. Our logo--a small version--should be in a corner of whatever we do. Each time someone watches a video on our channel, they'll see our logo. That helps with brand awareness.


Apparently there are clever ways to suck a viewer deeper into content. Inserting a link at the end of one video--a link leading to another video--means they won't be a one-and-done viewer. Similar results will come from creating a "playlist." Just like a musical playlist means the listener will (hopefully) stick around for multiple songs, having a string of videos auto play, one into another, means they'll watch several videos... and perhaps get hooked. (Each time I sit down to watch something on Netflix, I plan on watching just one episode. But when the message comes on that the next episode will come on in a matter of seconds... I end up watching an entire season while lying on the couch. Netflix is so clever.)


How about you? What clever tips/hacks can you share with the blogosphere? 

 

We've only just begun

to work

White space and techno-stuff

Pulling out hair and we're on our way... 


                                               In case you're under 60 and have no idea who
                                               the Carpenters were--Karen had an incredible
                                               voice, her brother Richard was a master at
                                        arranging... and Karen died way too young from anorexia.


Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher, a freelance writer, the author of Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story, and a dog rescuer. You may check out more of her writing via her blog.

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Dream Big

Saturday, June 18, 2022

 What if? What if I had said yes to that opportunity? What if I had been willing to take that risk? Those questions plague most of us. Right now, I'm at a fork. Like the song by the Clash, should I stay or should I go? Should I stay, mired in my routine... or should I go off in a new direction with a couple of friends?


                                                     image by Noel_Bauza, via Pixabay


Currently, I have a fragmented life. My writing has left me stuck on the side of the road, in a ditch. My teaching has shifted to working with graduate students, like it does every summer. My college teaching is easy, and reenergizes me, so it's in no way problematic. There's things in my personal life that need smoothing over. Here's where the stay or go part comes in...


A couple of friends have an idea of taking a simple, once-a-year storytelling event, and expanding upon it. They're talking about something (a platform? a website? something that can be subscribed to, for sure) that would be a leap for all three of us. However, my mind is already whirling.


On this platform/website, we could have podcasts. Vodcasts. Themed sets of storytelling sessions. Mini workshops. The possibilities are endless. I have a dear friend who lost her daughter, son-in-law and baby granddaughter in a horrific way, due to postpartum psychosis. I could chat with her in a vodcast, and shed some light on that form of mental illness. I'm adopted. My half-sister is adopted. I know people who are birth parents. I have a friend who adopted two handsome young boys. A vodcast/podcast (or two... or three) could focus on different adoption perspectives. Also, I'd love the chance to share some of the great writing ideas other people have gifted to me. My brain is getting dizzy... but sometimes, dizzy is good.


Yes, it would require extra work. And yes, it would require all three of us to dive into waters of unknown depth. There's so many things we'd have to learn. We'd stumble. But what if this endeavor evolves into something magical? What if? What if I say no... and years later, I wonder? And regret.


I have a writing friend, Renee Roberson. She is obsessed with true crime stories. She frothed at the mouth and pinched herself, thinking it was too good to be true when she got to go to MurderCon, a writing conference that focused on crime. (Her favorite workshop session was "Buried Bodies." That sounds like the perfect class to attend right before bedtime ;) Renee has a lulling, hypnotic voice, writing talent oozing out of her ears, and she had a dream.


What if she started her own podcast? Would she have an audience? She had no experience doing podcasts. Would she fall flat on her face?


Thankfully, Renee took the leap. Her podcast, Missing in the Carolinas, is incredible. Her love of true crime, combined with her writing talent and her wonderful voice, converged in a phenomenal way.


I am not thinking that if Renee can do it, so can I, because my knowledge of technology is 157% less than hers. (Yes, I know a little about math, and that is not an incorrect percentage.) However, I look at the leap she made, the courage she had... and perhaps I can jump into something new--as long as I can hold hands with a couple of other newbies.


How about you? Did you have the chance to dream big? If so, how did it end up?


About-to-make-the-move Sioux wants to know.




Sioux Roslawski is middle school teacher, a National Writing Project teacher-consultant, a freelance writer, and the uber proud author of Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story. In her spare time, she rescues dogs for Love a Golden. You can see more of Sioux by checking out her blog.




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Friday Speak Out!: Presentation, Giveaways and Gimmicks

Friday, June 17, 2022
by Janet Shawgo 

An inviting table presentation can make or break your sales, trust me on this. If it isn’t eye catching or appealing readers will pass you by.

I find it important to keep things neat and tidy, even if you have a lot going on, your books need to remain center stage.

If you have banners place them up on tables so that they will draw immediate attention. Display any awards you have received, I have mine on a canvas making it easy to transport and safe from damage.

Costumes can be a great conversation item whether you wear or display them. I have two that I wear at signings, book club meetings and festivals. You will be surprised at the reactions you receive and it can increase your sales.

Most authors have freebies, pens, candy, and bookmarkers. I have my business cards attached to a small gift bag containing either herbal tea, small nail file or handwipes. These are less than ten cents each, because I buy in bulk. You should make choices depending on your budget.

In my city I attend a festival every year and to increase traffic to the table have included a giveaway. For any book you buy a ticket goes into a box for the prize. In 2021 I gave away a Harry Potter backpack and throw. I discovered a great deal for my budget and it was well received.

This two day festival was an investment of $200.00. I cleared over $1200.00 and sold out of my books in three different genres. I discovered returning to the same festivals faithful readers seek me out for new releases. I made numerous contacts with book clubs and was interviewed for a local magazine because of the costume I wore.

Though these ideas are helpful you need to engage every person even if it’s just to say hello. Unless you are Stephen King, James Patterson or Robert Dugoni, your books will not sell themselves.

I have met readers who said they had too many books at home to read and couldn’t buy another, but after a short conversation they bought two.

It is possible for you to sell ice in the Artic.

* * *
Janet began writing in 2009 while still working as a travel nurse. She retired in 2019 to her home in Galveston Texas.

She has published five full novels, three novellas, and has been published in three anthologies for poetry, flash fiction and short stories.

Janet has multiple awards for her works and was a runner-up in the WOW winter contest for her story The Holiday Slayer.

www.jkshawgo.com  / Instagram author_janetshawgo / 
Twitter @jkshawgo_author

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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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Weighing the Pros and Cons of a Gig

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Photo by Alexander Mills on Pexels.com

A few weeks ago, I got an intriguing message from LinkedIn. A recruiter was looking to fill an editor role for a large personal finance company in my area. Although I have my hands full with my day job at a regional magazine, I took a moment and scanned the responsibilities. It looked pretty straightforward and aligned with my skill set, although a bit more “corporate” than I’m used to. But I’ll admit the contract pay ($46 per hour) attracted me. 

I hopped on a quick call with the recruiter that morning to talk specifics. Then I discovered a few things that made me pause. The company was looking for 40 hours a week, starting almost immediately, and two days a week would require driving to their corporate headquarters. That’s a 45-minute drive from me on a beltline I absolutely hate driving on because of the traffic and number of daily accidents. Still, I agreed to do a second screening interview the next week. 

Then I hung up the phone and wondered what I was doing. Haven’t I been saying all along that my day job requires so much writing so that I can’t focus on buildng my podcast and finishing revisions on a thriller novel I wrote last fall during NaNoWriMo? When I got a formal application in the e-mail from the recruiting agency I had to make a choice. I talked to my husband about it. He said he knew that while the money was attractive, it wouldn’t be something I enjoyed doing, especially with the hairy commute. Plus, the recruiter had told me that the contract ended at the end of August, and by then the company might be ready to make the position permanent. And they wanted me to start this month, when I have a week’s vacation planned at the end of the month (I had to plan that carefully, too, in between my magazine deadlines). 

I e-mailed the recruiter that I had changed my mind and didn’t want to move onto the next interview. This did spark an additional discussion with my husband, who asked why I have not asked my current boss for an increase in pay since I started there three years ago. “Yes, you are contract,” he said. “But the cost of living has gone up, including gas prices and food. You deserve to see an increase in pay.” I realized he had a point. 

Sometimes it can be tempting as a freelancer to go after every high-paying gig you see, but then you realize why you chose this profession and make a list of the reasons you like working contract jobs. I think the lesson learned here is to try and choose the work that has a good trade-off, and know what your worth is. 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas.
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Interview with Abbie Barker, 2nd Place Winner in the WOW! Winter 2022 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

 


Abbie Barker is a creative writing instructor living with her husband and two kids in New Hampshire. Her flash fiction is featured or forthcoming in several publications including, Berkeley Fiction Review, Cutbank, Cincinnati Review, Superstition Review, Pithead Chapel, Atlas and Alice, and Best Microfiction 2022. She earned a degree in fiction from the Mountainview MFA and an MA in literature from Fordham University. She loves the ocean, large dogs, and coffee shops. Read more of her work at abbiebarker.com or connect with her on Twitter


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

Read Abbie's winning story here and then return for an interview with the author. 

WOW: Hi Abbie, congratulations on your 2nd place win in this contest! Your piece contains a unique structure with three different segments. How did you first get the idea for the the story and what inspired you to format it this way? 

Abbie: Thank you! Like many of my stories, “Store Aisles I Passed Through Before Leaving Town” was first drafted in a workshop. This one transpired from a Sarah Freligh prompt. Her micro classes are wonderful, and I recommend them for anyone wanting to sharpen their skills writing tiny, distilled stories. I won’t share the full prompt, but in general, we were asked to write about a character or narrator’s specific memory while focusing on concrete, sensory details. 

When drafting this story, my initial intention was to focus the entire story in the cosmetics aisle. However, one thing that excites me about any workshop is how a prompt provides a starting point, or a way in, but as the writer, we have to find our own way out. It didn’t take me long to realize that the larger story happened outside or beyond that first interaction with the mother. At the time, I was also in the middle of a bathroom renovation and had spent several hours in Lowe’s staring at tile, so that second scene was pulled directly from life, and then tweaked to fit the story and narrator. When possible, I try to pull from my own settings and experiences and those details find their way into my work in a variety of ways. This helps me keep my fiction more concrete and specific. Once I had written two segments, I knew I wanted to write a third to round out the story. So, I chose a third store aisle that I hoped could provide another glimpse into the lives of these three characters while creating movement. In segmented flash, I love playing around with white space and what’s been left unsaid, and it was a lot of fun tying these segments together through the store aisle setting. 

I feel fortunate that I discovered the structure in the first draft. Subsequent drafts focused on tightening the language and finding the right title. I first titled the story, “Store Aisles I Remember,” which was functional, but I really liked the idea of choosing a title that could do a little more “work” and perhaps hint at the aftermath. This is one of my favorite titles that I’ve written, and I’m glad I waited to send this piece out until I landed on one that excited me. 

WOW: That sounds like an amazing class. Speaking of classes, you also work as a writing instructor. What are some of your favorite college-level English courses to teach and why? 

Abbie: I have been teaching college English courses part-time since 2009 and have taught several different composition courses, as well as a few literature courses, and now I teach creative writing online. My favorite course to teach is a beginning fiction workshop. My students spend the term working on a 6-8 page short story (twice as long as the stories I’ve published!) and I’m tasked with guiding them through the process of writing a complete and contained work of fiction over the course of eight weeks. While I love helping students sharpen their skills, what makes it so fun is how passionate and excited my students are to be there. Most of my students are creative writing majors and the rest are students that choose the course as an elective because they enjoy writing and want to pursue that interest at a deeper level. When I taught composition, I always had to work hard to convince students that they could become stronger writers with patience and practice and beyond that, I had to encourage them to put effort into that practice. Now, when I teach fiction, my students generally show up excited to write, and my biggest challenge is helping them maintain that excitement through the process of drafting a complete story (because we all know the process is sometimes frustrating and even discouraging). 

WOW: You have an impressive list of publications. What advice would you give writers hoping to break into literary journals? 

Abbie: Thank you! I’m sometimes so focused on “what’s next” that I forget to step back and acknowledge what I’ve been able to accomplish so far, so I appreciate you saying this. I wish I had something new and profound to say on the topic of lit mag publishing, but for me it simply comes down to patience and persistence. It’s easy to become focused on the final product and lose patience in the writing process. I have to remind myself to slow down and give every story the time it needs. I am a slow writer, so this is why I enjoy flash because even the slowest writer can complete a story of 1,000 words or less in a reasonable amount of time. Sometimes I miss submission deadlines because a piece is not ready, but I remind myself that these journals will open again for submissions in a few months or a certain contest deadline will come around again next year, and hopefully I’ll be better prepared by then. I’m in my early forties, so I’m not a particularly young writer, and I’m always balancing my own sense of urgency to get my work out there with the necessary patience required to wait for the right opportunities. 

I have also spent a lot of time researching literary magazines. I read ranked lists and the annual “best of” anthologies, including Best Small Fictions, Best Microfiction, and the Wigleaf Top 50. Spending time reading a wide variety of literary magazines has helped me find the right home for the work I have been fortunate enough to publish. There are a range of opportunities out there, and I think it’s important to focus on publications that excite you. Beyond that, it’s also important to not give up when the magazines you admire turn you down. The selection process is both competitive and subjective! One of my stories collected over 30 rejections before placing in a contest that I am thrilled to have placed in. Publication success will come, but it requires this careful balance of patience and persistence, or in other words, learning when to stubbornly submit, and when to take a step back and stubbornly revise. 

WOW: What is your writing process like? How do you know when a piece is complete and ready to find a home? 

Abbie: This is a challenging question to answer because I feel like my process is always evolving and I don’t fully understand it. Sometimes first drafts come together quickly for me, and other times I have to fight my way through them. When everything (including my kids’ schools) went remote in 2020, online workshops were crucial to my writing process – I wasn’t completing story drafts without them. I needed the deadlines and regular feedback. Earlier, while I was earning my MFA in fiction, I wrote much longer stories, and I hadn't received any formal training in flash, so I craved instruction specifically on the form. A workshop I took with SmokeLong Quarterly in 2020 was crucial to my understanding of the form and led to some publication success in my first year of submitting. This year, I’ve been enrolling in fewer workshops, so I’m not drafting nearly as many stories, but I’m spending a little more time with each draft and finding my own pace and rhythm. I really enjoy editing at the sentence level and also cutting out extra words or even entire paragraphs, but I’m still learning how to take bigger risks in the revision stage. In my response above, I mentioned the importance of patience, and I’m still figuring out how to be patient with my own work and how to gauge when a story is ready for publication. Sometimes I have to send a story out to one journal before I know whether or not it’s ready. Hitting “submit” tends to crystalize my feelings. There have been a few times where I stopped submitting a piece after only one rejection because I recognized the need for more time. I am also involved in a wonderful group of flash writers who are always willing to offer support and feedback when I’m stuck. Knowing when a story is ready for publication mostly comes down to a gut feeling, and to be honest, I still sometimes get it wrong. I’ve gradually grown more confident in knowing when to submit, but this confidence has come with experience and receiving generous feedback along the way, beginning in graduate school. 

WOW: It's good that you know without workshops and submission deadlines you would have difficulty finishing drafts. It sounds like accountability is crucial in your writing process. “Blue People” was nominated for The Pushcart Prize. How hard was it to develop and revise what must have been a highly personal piece of writing? 

Abbie: It was such a huge honor when Cease, Cows nominated “Blue People” for the Pushcart Prize. This was my third story accepted for publication, but the first piece of flash fiction that truly excited me in the process of writing it. Like many of my stories, the idea began with the first line and from there, the voice of the narrator snapped into place, and I was able to draft the story rather feverishly without the aid of a deadline or workshop. I appreciate that you recognize the personal nature of the story. It is fictional, and while most plot elements are made up, the core of the story does come from a personal place; writing it became an indirect way for me to reflect on my relationship with my sister and how those dynamics might change once our mother is no longer here. (I will say, the Blue Man Group detail is true). When composing "Blue People," I was meeting with a couple writer friends in person, and they provided me with some tremendous feedback on the first draft. I’m so glad I had sensitive readers; they both had intimate knowledge of schizoaffective disorder, which gave me the confidence I needed to send the story out after revisions. I ended up removing a scene from that first draft and making it into a separate flash, which was later published in Monkeybicyle. I have since written a couple other pieces that explore this sister relationship in different ways, and I have certainly considered expanding these stories into a larger project, but have not made that leap yet.

WOW: Thanks again for all this great information, Abbie. I know our readers will find this helpful. We wish you continued success in your writing journey!
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An App That Helps Analyze Your Content

Monday, June 13, 2022
Whether it's pitching an editor or thinking of a new blog post idea, I'm always trying to craft the right angle for an article. In fact, I need all the help I can get lately. Recently, I had the chance to try out Brainstorm Buddy.

How it works is this app will walk you through your idea to see if your idea is ready for the masses. The self-test asks you questions about your headline, your audience, relevancy, length of the piece, usefulness, and its surprising qualities. All of these questions come down to you being honest with yourself.

It would be easy to run through the test and answer positively for each question, but how helpful is that? So, running through the quiz on one idea of mine, ended up with this answer:


The great thing is after the score it offers tips on how to make my idea better. Some suggestions include:

  • Find ways you can pitch your idea elsewhere
  • Dissect ideas that have been done to death and find out how you can fill in what's missing
  • How to narrow down your ideas
And more! I loved those tips and that helped me a lot. Most importantly, and like I've already said, it comes down to being honest with yourself. 

What's also great about this app is the workshop available to repurpose your content ideas. The creator of Brainstorm Buddy gives you tips on how to make your one idea into 25. For example, repurposing a lengthy article by taking one of the points mentioned in your piece and turning it into a short blog post. 

As I pursue more freelancing this year, apps like this help me tremendously. Since it's always a challenge to ensure an idea is ready for pitching or for my audience, extra help like this makes a huge difference. Best of all, it isn't that much money per month! It's only $3.99 per month to get the help you might need for your writing.


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Interview with Natalie Y. Wester: 2022 Q2 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Sunday, June 12, 2022
Congratulations to Natalie Y. Wester and The Last Place I Ever Thought I'd Be and all the winners of our 2022 Quarter 2 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!

Natalie's Bio:

Natalie is a former second-grade teacher and National State Teacher of the Year who retired from teaching as a second career at 59. A radical reinventor, permission-giver, and storyteller, she encourages midlife women to give themselves permission to change the life they’re living so they can live a life they love. 

By 60 she became a solo around-the-world traveler and recovering social media avoider. At 61, she launched The Hot Goddess blog for midlife women, and started a “blackboard to bourbon” journey by becoming a whiskey distillery intern. Now 62, she’ll become an expat when she moves solo to Portugal this fall. 

Natalie has been featured on Solo Traveler Insiders, Reinvention Rebels, Calm the Chaos, Her Bold Voice, and 365 Women platforms. As a freelance writer decades ago, her work was published in the Chicago Sun-Times, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland Magazine, and other regional publications. Previous writing awards from the International Association of Business Communicators and Society of Technical Communication were on behalf of PR clients in her first career. This is her first literary writing contest entry.
 
If you haven't done so already, check out Natalie's talent in writing with the moving story The Last Place I Ever Thought I'd Be and then return here for a chat with this amazing author. 

WOW!: Congratulations again on placing in the Q2 Creative Nonfiction Contest! I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Last Place I Ever Thought I'd Be and learning more about your story! Thank you for taking time to chat with me today! 

What was the takeaway you were hoping readers would receive from reading your submission?

Natalie:  To believe in the power of tomorrow. That sounds trite, I know, and nearly impossible to do when submerged in darkness. I was given a second chance by a friend who saved my life by calling 911, and that life eventually transformed into something I never imagined. The journey isn't over. Tomorrows hold change and discovery we simply cannot fathom today. There’s nothing more powerful than that. 

WOW!: Not trite at all - your story is very moving and impressive - speaking of impressive, you have an impressive bio - what made you start your blog? What advice do you have for others when it comes to second careers and reinventing oneself at any age? 

Natalie: When I came home from my 70-day solo around-the-world trip I then went to South America for my 60th birthday. COVID lockdowns began soon after I returned from that trip. As I was isolated at home alone, I started trying my hand at travel writing in a journal. Those writings morphed into more of a memoir format, so I registered for a free online memoir-writing course through Wesleyan. I also registered for various social media classes and a digital marketing certification program. I had to create a website for one of the digital classes, so I created The Hot Goddess, and uploaded some of my memoir class assignments under a "blog" tab. The site was not public. I finally challenged myself to muster the courage to launch the site for my 61st birthday. I discovered I don't enjoy digital marketing (just can't do daily social media as a recovering social media avoider), but I loved writing blog posts and engaging with the blogging community as a way to keep me writing every day. As far as reinventing and reimagining your life, the first step for me was giving myself permission to live a life that made me happy. And then giving myself permission to take my own time figuring out what that life is. Giving ourselves permission to put ourselves first is huge for women. It's just not something we naturally do because we're always putting others' needs before our own. 

WOW! You're spot on with taking time for ourselves - let's talk time for self care!  What advice would you give to others (specifically female authors) when it comes to self care and dealing with dark times in their lives? 

Natalie: I wrote on The Hot Goddess blog about moods and self-care, and the harmful stories we tell ourselves. I've learned the emotions we feel are based on and controlled by the messages we tell ourselves. A quotation from Dan Harris's book, 10% Happier, has stayed with me: "The voice in my head is an asshole." Identifying and addressing that voice in third-person writing in a journal has transformed the way I deal with dark times, by quieting the critical chatter and changing the narrative I tell myself. Accepting ourselves as we are, and giving ourselves permission to meet our own needs, are the first steps to embracing self-care as a routine. Solitude, time in nature near water, journaling, and writing are part of my self-care routine. I used to feel guilty for doing what I need to do to take care of and soothe myself. I don't anymore. 


WOW!: Such excellent advice - thank you!  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? (to see a pic of a younger Natalie - you can find that here)

Natalie: Much of my journal writing is letters to my younger self. I've written about this here and here on my blog. "I wish I could go back in time and tell my 20-year-old self that a lot of what she will chalk up to her “intuition” will actually be her insecurity talking, and it will lead her down a path of recurring self-sabotage and self-fulfilling prophecies. Intuition comes from a place of confidence, power, and strength. Insecurity comes from a place of fear and doubt. I wish I could tell my 20-year-old self (life) gets so much better. I wish I could tell her this is coming." My younger self, you need to know: Being different is good. Silent suffering is not. Happiness is deserved. You are good enough. 

WOW!: Such great advice - thank you for sharing some history for us! And speaking of history what is your history with writing contests? - tell us what prompted you to submit to this particular contest?

Natalie: What would you like to tell other authors concerning contests and submitting their work? This is my first writing contest. In a previous career in public relations I won business writing awards on behalf of clients, but I've never entered my personal writing in a contest before. Just as I challenged myself to launch my blog for my 61st birthday, I set a goal of entering a writing contest for my 62nd birthday. I researched contests, and discovered WOW! and its awards as a highly regarded contest and resource for writers. I certainly didn't expect my entry to be in the top 10. I just wanted to take a first step. That's what so much of writing – of living – is. Just taking a first step.

WOW!: Thank you so much for taking time to chat with me today - you are such an inspiration! I look forward to hearing from you again in the future! 

Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

Check out the latest Contests:
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E-books vs. Print Books

Saturday, June 11, 2022
 
By Bobby Christmas
 
 
Q: I was wondering how you feel about e-books. Most people have pretty strong feelings for and against. I’d be interested to know how you feel and why.
 
A: I have two takes on the subject, depending on the point of view. From the point of view of a buyer, I download many e-books onto my Kindle so I can take them with me on trips or read them in lower-light situations. I’m not in those situations often, though, so my e-books often languish unread for a long time. As an author and self-publisher, though, I’m all for e-books, but with a warning.
 
In my opinion, and it’s backed by statistics I’ll give later, I’m all for producing every book in both printed and e-book forms, so my books are available as both e-books and printed books. On the one hand I sell far more copies of my printed books than I do my e-books, but on the other hand, when people buy my e-books, I make more money per sale.
 
With e-books I have less work, as well. Buyers’ money goes into my account and my website automatically delivers the e-book file. What a breeze!
 
It’s also a breeze when people buy my books through Amazon or my publisher, because those places fulfill the order for me, but I get a truly small percentage of the price. On the other hand, I make more if people order the books directly from me, but I’m the one who has to pack and ship them, and each order takes time to fulfill.
 
E-books have many advantages to both publishers and buyers. They cost less to produce than printed books, so they cost less for buyers, even though they sometimes have a greater profit margin for the seller. They’re certainly easier to deliver than printed books, and buyers can obtain them almost instantly.
 
On the downside, e-books still don’t sell as well as printed books.
 
Sovan Mandal’s April 30, 2021, article on Good E Reader noted that according to research by Statista’s Advertising & Media Outlook, almost twice as many printed books sold in 2020 compared to e-books. About 45 percent of the people who bought a book in 2020 bought a printed one, while 23 percent of those who bought a book chose to buy an e-book. Experts are saying that e-books may have a steady market, but e-books only complement the publishing sector; they don’t replace printed books entirely. At least, not yet. In the United States, the second-largest e-book market, 22.7 percent of buyers bought an e-book in 2020 compared to 44.5 percent who bought a printed book.
 
Although a good supplement to printed books, e-books should not supplant printed books. They still don’t appeal to buyers as strongly as printed books do. Some people are hesitant or forget to go to a website and download the books. Some are afraid. Some don’t want to use a credit card online. Some don’t like reading long works electronically. Many people still like the feel of holding a printed book, as opposed to holding an electronic device.
 
Although e-book sales have been growing over the years, some people still don’t see the upside to them, which can include clickable links, electronic bookmarks, instant fulfillment, and a lower price. While printing can be costly, e-books avoid the cost of printing, plus you can sell the same file thousands of times and never “run out.” E-books have advantages to both buyers and sellers, but I recommend offering your book in both printed and e-book forms, rather than one or the other.
 
*
 
Bobbie Christmas is a book editor, author of Write In Style: How to Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, and owner of Zebra Communications. She will answer your questions too. Send them to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com or BZebra@aol.com. Read Bobbie’s blog at https://www.zebraeditor.com/blog/.
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Friday Speak Out!: How to Balance Parenting and Writing

Friday, June 10, 2022
by Fatima Farooq

I couldn’t believe it when my best friend asked me: "How would you manage kids and content writing together?" My fussed look took her by surprise as she thought she had asked a legitimate question. To me, however, it was not something that needed much focus.

What the hell did I know?!! The moment I started writing articles as part of my new job, I knew what my best friend was talking about. It is a tedious task. Not only does writing demand time, but it also warrants uninterrupted concentration to let one’s creative juices flow.

Any female writer with kids and their endless tirades would know that both require a mystical equilibrium that is far from being readily achievable.

But don’t let this come in the way of choosing the career of your dreams. If you’re thinking: Is writing and maintaining family life a balance that is impossible to achieve? Well, the answer is a clear NO.

As I discovered, there IS something that you can do to create a favorable atmosphere where you can successfully extract valuable time from your daily chores while giving 100% attention to your family commitments.

Curious to know what these are? Dive right in:

- Place importance on your work

The first important step is to sit down with your kids and tell them just how vital your career is for your personal growth. You can put in factors like you having a lively overall persona, better financial aspects, along with any other features that may pertain to your personal life.

Kids today are more clever than we might give credit to! They understand what we say to them when we treat them like adults.

- Assign a place of work

Remember that your living room might be occupied all the time by busy kids or pets. It always helps to have a secluded place of work so your kids would know that you shouldn’t be disturbed while sitting there.

Even if you don’t have room to spare, don’t worry. Picking your bedroom’s corner or placing a desk and chair in the backyard may work too.

- Pick a specific work time

As choosing a separate work spot is important, so is assigning a fixed time of the day for writing. It will help you to juggle other family chores around this time. Your kids would also know that mom is unavailable at certain times of the day and they are more likely to work their schedules accordingly.

See! Balancing home life/parenting while maintaining an active writing career isn’t that hard after all. All you need is to be a little organized, a tad bit prioritized, and a dash of luck and Voila! All good to go!

Good luck!

* * *
I am a Senior Content Writer at Pritningblue since 2019. The company is based in Los Angeles, USA. My work typically revolves around marketing and SEO but I occasionally write non-fiction to flex my creative muscles. I got my BA (Hons) in English studies from Anglia Ruskin University, UK in 2014. When not working I love to read, cook, travel, and take care of my pet cat Harry so he doesn't scratch every piece of furniture in the house.
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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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Writing is Like Building a House

Thursday, June 09, 2022
Grandma's House.  The old version.

Grandma's House.  The new version.

Recently my extended family met in my father’s West Texas hometown. We visited my grandparent’s house – a small adobe structure on the corner of Ft. Davis and 2nd Street. “Small” and “adobe” could describe several dozen homes in the neighborhood. Without the location, I wouldn’t have found it because the new owner did a major remodel. 

I thought the redo was adorable. I’m not thrilled with the color, but that can be changed down the road, like putting a new cover on a book. But other family members were horrified at the destruction of the home. Destruction? That seemed a bit extreme. After all, the house was sitting right there. 

I shouldn’t have been surprised that not everyone was enthusiastic about the changes. After all, writing and building are a lot alike. Hang on and you’ll see what I mean. 

Whether you are erecting a building or writing something new, you start with a basic plan. What are you building? It could be as elaborate as a museum, or it could be a small home. Your writing project could be as elaborate as an epic series, or it could be a picture book. 

These parameters don’t tell us much. Perhaps as the builder you got a basic material request. “Make it from adobe.” For your writing project you could be working from a prompt. “Write something about winter.” 

From there, you take off. Your adobe home may consist of four rooms, not including the bathroom. Or it could be a massive cliff dwelling with multiple stories and many apartments. What features would you include? Given the basic nature of the prompt it would depend on a lot of things including space, budget and time. Every builder would come up with something different. 

With the writing project, many things would factor in. Is it for a contest or a specific publisher? Either would have a set of guidelines. Do you write nonfiction or fantasy fiction? Nonfiction will take the project in one direction, while fantasy fiction will take it in another. Who is the audience? You could be writing for toddlers, BIPOC teens, or female Boomers who garden. Take all of this into account, and something about winter could be the picture book A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats or George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones epic fantasy series. 

Whatever has been built must one day be updated. Some changes are simple -- new paint, doors and windows. But there are also bigger changes -- relandscaping, changing the roofline, moving a door, or changing the profile of the building. 

When you write, you must rewrite. Some changes will be your idea, but there are also changes requested by an editor or agent. Some of these changes are going to be huge. They may require eliminating a character or subplot or changing a setting. These massive changes will change the look and feel of your manuscript. You may look at the suggestions and think “Sweet! That’s going to make it so much better.” Or you might look at the suggestions in shock and wonder why the agent wants to ruin your story. 

A lot of it is a matter of personal taste. Not all suggestions are going to work with your vision. But some will. And still others won’t quite work, but they’ll put you in mind of something that will. This is true whether you are remodeling an adobe home or reworking a writing project. 


 --SueBE


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

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on July 10, 2022).  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 July 10, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins July 10, 2022). 
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Right or Wrong? What Say You, Writers?

Wednesday, June 08, 2022


Photo by Pixabay
Last week, I got a few texts from friends, asking me if I was trying to message them on Facebook. Ugh, I thought, do these hacker folks have nothing better to do? 

Normally I ignore this sort of thing but I do change my password thereby keeping hackers from messing with my pictures of flowers or pithy quotes. (Though in my humble opinion, a hacker is already on the wrong side of morality and my quotes, often of a spiritual and/or philosophical nature, might be just what the nosy criminal needs.) 

Anyway, after changing my password—which requires me to either remember or find my password, neither being an easy task—I had another thought. When was the last time I checked passwords, especially on sites and such that I rarely visit anymore? 

It’s a chore that’s been on my To Do List forever, not just for cyber security reasons but also because I like to keep up with where Cathy C. Hall’s words might be. So I spent some time checking old websites where my essays or blog posts might have been; all but one of them was no longer functional, or at least out there in the same context. 

I couldn’t login anymore. Any byline was missing. I’d disappeared! It was as if I’d never written for those sites.

And then I had another thought… What to do about all those essays and/or columns I’d written, some for pay and some for free? I mean, back in early days of my career, I wrote a lot of short pieces. Some of them were my best life stories and now they’re…well, it’s as if they never existed. 

As if they never existed. 

Hmmm…So what if I put them back out there? Maybe do a little sparkly editing and send them out again into the world? 

I know writers recycle pieces all the time—I’ve done it myself—but I’ve always noted that it would be a reprint, or that a version of it had appeared elsewhere. But what I’m wondering is this: does a writer need to specify that words have been published before when the website is defunct? When there’s no way to find the writing unless the author of said words could dig up a copy in their own files? 

To be clear, I’m not talking about essays or stories published in anthologies, hard copies or ebooks. I’m curious about all those online sites that are here today and gone tomorrow, never to be seen again. Can a writer, in good conscience, submit a piece that’s run on a bygone, belly-up website and not mention a word about where it may have appeared before? 

Right or wrong, writers? (Asking for a friend.)


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Interview with Sumitra Singam, First Place Winner of Winter 2022 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, June 07, 2022
Bio: Sumitra writes in Naarm/Melbourne on unceded Wurundjeri land. She travelled there through many other spaces, real, metaphorical and transitional; and likes to write about those experiences pretending that it is all fiction. She works in mental health when she inhabits the real world and realizes there are bills to pay. Find her on twitter: @pleomorphic2.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW:  Congratulations on your first place win in our Winter 2022 Flash Fiction competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Sumitra: I am a member of Writers HQ (www.writershq.co.uk – do join, it is a friendly and welcoming writing group) where we create lots of flash pieces, and I was looking for a place to submit a piece I had recently written. A friend on the site recommended WOW. I had a look at the website which seemed positive and inclusive, so I thought I’d submit!

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “The Garden of The Masseuse Noi Is Fed on The Sorrows and Resentments of Her Clients?” It’s a beautifully written and affecting story.

Sumitra: Thank you! The story grew from an experience of receiving a massage. I had a brief conversation with my lovely masseuse, and my imagination took over. I felt very affected by her migrant story, and wondered what it might be like if you had little choice over where you lived and what you did for a job, particularly if you were a woman In saying that I just want to check my own privilege – I am from a similar part of the world, and am also a migrant to a Western country, but the similarity stops there – I have been fortunate in my life. I felt it was an important story to tell, and it flowed easily from the pen.

WOW: What key elements do you think make a great piece of flash fiction?

Sumitra: I don’t know if I am qualified to answer this question! I feel like I am still learning. I know that when I read pieces of flash that move me, they convey something unspoken about the human experience. There is a connection to my own experience, but then something that pulls me further along that curve, to a deeper understanding.

I’m sure people know of the main pieces of advice – careful word, especially verb, choice, confining the subject of the story to something quite specific, and starting and ending well. I find I have to leave pieces for a while then come back to it, and then I am able to edit more effectively. I also find having others read and critique absolutely invaluable, so I really want to thank Sarah, Jane and Caoileann for the beta on this piece.

WOW:  Great tips! We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Sumitra: Well, it always works best for me if I write daily – that helps to reduce revving time, and gets me into the meat of it quicker. That isn’t always possible, but it is more likely to happen if I take time to plan my week and slot in writing time in my diary (another thing I learned from Writers HQ!). Generally I write in my journal the minute I wake up – just for 10 minutes or so, then I allocate some other time in the day to write and to edit. Sometimes that is ten minutes, sometimes two hours. Writers can be quite hard on themselves, and I think it is important to acknowledge that we do the best we can given that we live in a world that demands other things of us (like feeding children - might be important occasionally).

WOW:  Yes, children do need occasional feeding and care, haha. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Sumitra. Before you go, do you have a favorite writing tip or piece of advice you can share?

Sumitra: I read Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott, a great book of advice on writing. In it she says that she doesn’t believe in writer’s block, it is just that the writer has used up all the ideas in their head, and they need to go back out into the world to gather more inspiration. I’m not sure I entirely agree with her that writer’s block doesn’t exist, because I certainly have periods of self-doubt which get in the way of creativity, but I wonder if she is talking about something a little different here – namely that it is okay to do things other than actual writing in the service of the art. Basically she has given me license to eavesdrop and people watch (thanks Ann).

I really want to thank WOW and Hannah Andrade for this opportunity. I’ve really enjoyed the process. And I’d really like to encourage anyone who might be sitting on a piece to dust it off and submit. Stay safe and well everyone. Om Shanti.

****

For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.
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Interview with Meg Faith, Runner Up in the WOW! Q2 2022 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Sunday, June 05, 2022

 


Meg’s journey with writing began at age 10 when she submitted a handwritten poem by mail to a writing competition and won. Meg most enjoys writing fiction, but finds joy in any opportunity to put pen to paper. Meg has Bachelor Degrees in English and History and a Masters Degree in English Literature. She has spent time professionally with a Shakespeare theater and taught college-level English Composition before transitioning into her current work in the nonprofit space. Today, Meg is the CEO of a nationally recognized nonprofit that serves people experiencing homelessness, where she has been honored as a top 40 under 40 Person in San Francisco and has received recognitions from the Mayor of San Francisco and Governor of California. She enjoys hiking, puzzling, baking, and traveling. While her favorite place in the world is London, her second favorite place is in her reading chair next to her dog, Tonks. 


Read Meg's essay here and then return to learn more about the author. 


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

WOW: Meg, congratulations on placing in this contest, and welcome! We're excited to learn more about you. How did you first get the idea for the structure of “Studious,” including the mention of the color-coded binders? 

Meg: I approach most things in life the same way, with a well-planned outline! Even in my writing, I like to plan the story out first. So, as I was thinking about this very personal story, it only made sense to approach it the same way and even to highlight my very organized nature in the story with the image of the binders. I can laugh at the fact that I made an outline for a story about the fact that I enjoy making outlines! 

WOW: What made you decide to make the transition of writing college-level writing to CEO of a nonprofit? 

Meg: When I finished graduate school with a Masters in English Lit, my first professional role was at the Shakespeare Project of Chicago. I took the position because of the focus on Shakespeare and because I enjoy writing historical fiction around his time period. What I found in doing that role was how much I loved working with an organization that had a direct impact on the community. I began to use my writing background to support nonprofits with their grants, specifically supporting organizations that served people experiencing homelessness. Over time, my work in the nonprofit space became more predominant than my time spent writing. Though like many aspiring writers that have full time jobs elsewhere, in the back of my mind there is always a story hoping to be told one day. 

WOW: Who are some of your favorite authors to read? 

Meg: I have spent a lot of my life with Shakespeare. I am on the Board of the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, worked for the Chicago Shakespeare Project, and he was a big focus of my studies. I also turn to Toni Morrison a lot for style inspiration, she has a seamless way of making prose sound like poetry. But if you were to try to understand my favorite authors based upon my bookshelves, you would find such an array of stories and voices that it would be impossible to know! 

WOW: You mention your favorite place in the world is London. What is it about the city that brings you so much joy? 

Meg: I have always felt that I was meant to be born in England, and it was a mistake for me to be born anywhere else. When you walk around London, you can feel literary history hidden everywhere. An unassuming pub turns out to have been frequented by George Orwell and friends or the place that inspired Anthony Burgess to write Clockwork Orange. Even today, it is a culture that thrives on telling stories. Theatre is not only revered there, but accessible to the general public. You might stumble upon an afternoon play in the park, only to realize you are watching the most brilliant version of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” you have ever seen. Even as I write this, I find myself distracted looking for available flights to return... 

WOW: Do you have any advice for writers who are just starting to venture into creative non-fiction writing? 

Meg: Nonfiction can feel like you are telling a story that doesn’t yet have a conclusion. My advice would be that you don’t have to wait for what you consider to be the ending of your story to start writing it, because if you’re always waiting for the ending, you may never get the chance.
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Why Read?

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Renee's post (hot off yesterday's press) about blending genres got me thinking. I mean, I'm in the middle of reading a YA novel that blends genres. It has threads of journalism, along with nubby nubbins of true crime drama. Thinking about blending genres got me thinking about why I read... and why all writers need to read.



It fills the well

Of course, if you read something crappy, it might inspire you to make your lines really sing. recommend you read poetic prose. Novels with plots so engaging, your butt has a permanent crease line because you've been stuck on the edge of your seat for 378 pages... and you're gonna mourn when you finish it because it's. Just. That. Good. Subliminally, we become better writers as we read wonderful writing.


It solves problems

I'm writing avoiding writing a manuscript about Emmett Till. It's gone through several iterations. It's a contemporary novel, set long after Till was tortured and then killed. Reading Hollow Fires has given me an idea of how I can get Emmett into the story in a unique way.   


 It's recess

Reading great stuff lets our brain take a break from writing... while still keeping the gray matter semi-engaged. Of course, I could be watching the last season of Ozark instead of reading (which I still haven't done, sodon'ttellmewhathappenedtoRuth) but truly, settling down and reading prose or poetry is better than TV watching or knitting for us as writers...


which leads me to the final reason I'm throwing up to the spirits today:


It's part of the grunt work

Dancers work out. Teachers go to workshops. Boxers tape up their fists (right?). Reading is the pre-writing work writers need to do.


 Stephen King, in his primer On Writing, has given us a memoir-instruction book. He said:


Good writing, on the other hand, teaches the learning writer about style, graceful narration, plot development, the creation of beautiful characters, and truth-telling. A novel like The Grapes of Wrath may fill a new writer with feelings of despair and good old-fashioned jealousy – “I’ll never be able to write anything that good, not if I live to be a thousand” – but such feelings can also serve as a spur, goading the writer to work harder and aim higher. Being swept away by a combination of great story and great writing – of being flattened, in fact – is part of every writer’s necessary formation. You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.


Let a good book sweep you away... and then you can work your rear end off trying to write something that sweeps others away.


What book or poem or short story has swept you away? Curious Sioux wants to know.

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