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Saturday, April 30, 2022

Common Word-Choice Errors


By Bobbie Christmas 

Q: What are the most common errors you find in manuscripts you edit?
A: I find and correct errors in word choice, punctuation, spelling, grammar, and more, so the answer is far too long to address in full here. My Purge Your Prose of Problems reference book (available only through my website, cites more than seven hundred errors I’ve spotted repeatedly in manuscripts I’ve edited. Here I’ll address a few specific word choices that confuse many writers. 
Compliment as a verb means to flatter. (I complimented her on her dress.) 
Compliment as a noun means an admiring remark. (She smiled at the compliment.)
Complement as a verb means to complete. (The mask complemented her costume.)
Complement as a noun means something that completes or makes perfect. (The written report was the perfect complement to her business proposal.) 
Ensure means to make sure. (I took a course in CPR to ensure I could help my husband if he had a heart attack.)
Insure means to cover with insurance. (The policy insured my house, but not my car.) 
Affect is a verb that most commonly is used in the sense of to influence. (He learned how smoking affects his health.) 
Affect can also mean to feign for effect. (She affected an English accent to impress her future boss.) 
Effect, however, can be either a verb or a noun. 
As a verb effect means to bring about or execute. (The layoffs were designed to effect savings.) 
As a noun effect means something brought about by a cause or an agent; a result. (The new carpet had a dramatic effect on the room.) 
Use extreme caution when choosing between affect and effect. “These measures may affect savings” implies that the measures may reduce savings that have already been realized, whereas “These measures may effect savings” implies that the measures will save money. 
Many Americans get the spelling of acknowledgment wrong because Brits spell it with an extra e, but Americans should not. If publishing in America, spell acknowledgment with no e after the g. 
Incite is a verb that means to cause someone to act in an angry, harmful, or violent way. (She intended to incite a riot with her comments.) 
Insight is a noun that means the ability to understand people and situations in a very clear way. (After listening, she had more insight into his character.) 
Sight refers to a view, picture, or display. (The sight of the sun rising filled her with excitement.) 
Site refers to a location or position. (The building site was near a river.)
Lead (pronounced “leed”) is a verb. (She always leads the parade.)
Led (pronounced “led”) is the past tense of to lead. (She led the parade last Saturday.)
Lead (pronounced “led”) is a noun. (Car batteries contain lead.) 
As a last but vital entry, many folks get nauseous and nauseated confused. 
Nauseate and nauseated are verbs that mean to feel or cause to feel nausea, loathing, or disgust. (The smell nauseated the workers.)
Nauseous, however is an adjective that mean causing nausea or sickening. (A nauseous odor rose from the decomposing body.)
If you write that a character was nauseous, it means the person was making other people sick. Nauseated suggests a condition induced by an external cause. By contrast, nauseous is an adjective that refers to a state whose cause may be unknown. (He became nauseated when he looked at the nauseous color of her gown.)
Caution: If you say, “I feel nauseous,” it means you are making other people sick. The correct word choice is nauseated. “I feel nauseated.” Choosing the wrong word may make your editor nauseated. 
Bobbie Christmas is a book editor, author of Write In Style: Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, and owner of Zebra Communications. She will answer your questions too. Send them to or Read Bobbie’s Zebra Communications blog at

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Look for the Positive News Where You Can Find It

In a time where things feel as bleak as ever, it's important to find the good news where you can find it. Being grateful for what I have and for the positives in my life is an important part of my day-to-day way of being. I can't say I'm always really good at it, but I do try. Recently I had a strange new positive way of looking at a situation that would have deeply bothered me before.

It started with getting a not-so-great feedback on a story. I am deep into the revision process at this point, so instead of ruminating about it for long, I just accepted their feelings and moved on. Honestly, I knew that it was entirely possible they just didn't like it. That it had less to do with my writing but more with it not being the kind of story they enjoy. And I was okay with that. My stories aren't going to be liked by everyone. At the same time, I'll try to take what I can from their advice and apply it.

This felt like a major step forward for me. I can't always expect to roll with the punches that smoothly all the time but to do that even once was remarkable. 

A few days later, I received a rejection letter for another story of mine. Well, this kind of rejection was one I was pleased about. I was a quarter-finalist in Ruminate Magazine's 2022 Fiction Contest. So while my story was rejected, even to get that far is pretty cool. It also left me with a feeling that likely that particular story may just see publication soon.

Looking for the positives isn't always that easy. Even in the midst of these moments, it would have been easy to feel really negative about both moments. The funny thing is at the moment I'm working on an article that talks about dealing with bad days. One of the tips I've discovered is shifting your perspective. As hard as it is, sometimes that shift can lift the weight of a potentially bad moment and give you a positive view of things. It's not always possible for me but I'm working on it.

What's your good news lately? If the good news isn't easy to find lately, how do you shift your perspective when faced with a bad moment?

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Interview with Michelle Jayne: Fall 2021 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Michelle’s Bio: 

Michelle Jayne is a post-middle-aged, middle class, middle manager of average height and IQ. She is a US Army veteran and introverted community activist. She has a useless degree in Soviet and East European Studies and only the M of her M.A. in Russian Linguistics, because she kept falling asleep during class and decided taking expensive naps was a bad idea. She lives in a suburb of Minneapolis with her husband, daughter, and squirrels that she names and now counts as friends of the pandemic. Currently, she is an MFA student, hoping to earn all 3 degree letters this time around. Michelle teaches workshops on Self-Care for Creative People and How to Create a Writing Practice, while also facilitating writing groups. Her current work-in-progress is Property Lines, a novel, and she writes for her blog, The Green Study

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

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Fall 2021 Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story? 

Michelle: This story came out of a writing prompt contest, so it was written and edited under pressure. I was supposed to write a fantasy story involving a vegetable garden and soap. As a gardener and nature observer, I always thought it funny that the good soil created by worms is called castings. The idea of casting away anything we don’t need, while creating something better, appeals to me in writing and in life. 

WOW: A perfect title and metaphor! What did you learn about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece? 

Michelle: This story is different from what I typically write. I tend to write claustrophobic suburban stories or stories about the alchemy between characters. The feedback from my writing group and peers surprised me, because I saw it as a silly one-off. It has encouraged me to experiment more, to see what emerges. 

WOW: It’s amazing how even a little bit of encouragement from peers and writing buddies can lead to new and experimental writing. Please tell us more about your workshops on Self-Care for Creative People. How did you identify a need for this workshop, and are you willing to share any self-care tips with us? 

Michelle: I started out teaching beginning writing craft workshops, but wasn’t getting anywhere with my own writing. I wanted to explore what was going on and how to deal with it. A lot of people are struggling right now with anxiety, whether it be the pandemic or the political discourse or just life under strained circumstances. Creative people, who are accustomed to viewing the world in details, find themselves overwhelmed and paralyzed by the weight of information. They berate themselves for not being more productive or question what it is they should really be creating and if it even matters. 

Self-care gets a bit of a bad rap because it is often conflated with privileged self-indulgence. True self-care means honoring your vulnerability and responding to that with compassion. The basics are sleep, hydration, nutrition, and movement. Beyond that, making space for creativity, letting go of expectations, and adapting to our circumstances, energy levels, and environment. Improvement and progress often take place at the margins – slight shifts in habit, doing one thing when we feel like doing nothing, looking at a situation and trying to find a small action to improve it. And then most of all, being forgiving and gentle with ourselves, like we would a good friend. 

WOW: I love and appreciate this definition and explanation of self-care and the lens you put on it for creative people. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it? 

Michelle: I tend to bounce between 4-5 works at a time. I’m finishing Brit Bennet’s The Vanishing Half (such a good storyteller!). I’m doing research for my current novel on immigration and have started Susan Sniader Lanser’s Fictions of Authority: Women Writers and Narrative Voice. I’m interested in literary theory not grounded in traditional white, male literary canon. 

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

Michelle: There are a lot of things that seem like writing – classes, conferences, how-to books, workshops – but only writing is writing. It’s important not to conflate things that are about writing with the actual work of writing. 

WOW: That is excellent advice, and something that I needed to hear right now! Anything else you’d like to add? 

Michelle: Thank you for this opportunity to participate. It has given me a little boost of encouragement in the middle of a Minnesota winter! 

WOW: Thank you so much for participating and for these 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.

Monday, April 25, 2022

The Landline Life and Uses of Phones in Literature

Photo by Pexels


April 25 is National Telephone Day. As a child of the late 1980s and early 1990s, oh how I loved the telephone. I was talking to someone the other day about how many phone numbers I had memorized when I was a teenager, and now I can barely remember my own kids’ phone numbers because they are automatically programmed into my phone. 

I'm an only child, and once my parents let me have my own phone extension in my room, I thought I had struck gold. Looking back, it was probably because they were tired of hearing me yakking with my friends out in the living room all the time. I would spend hours on that phone, calling anyone and everyone I could think of, including the DJs at the radio station so I could request songs. Does anyone remember calling your parents collect from a pay phone when you were ready for a ride home? In high school and college, I spent more time than I want to share sitting next to my phone willing it to ring when I was waiting for a guy to call. 

As telephones have evolved, so have their use in books. I read an interview with young adult author Lois Duncan years ago where she discussed how her publisher tasked her with updating versions of her books from the 1970s. She said much of that updating required her figuring out how to get the phones away from the characters. I thought back to all the thrillers I’d read by her and laughed out loud. She was right. So many of the mysteries and suspense revolved around the lack of technology. For example, in the book “Down a Dark Hall” a group of girls with psychic abilities are lured to a prestigious yet small boarding school for gifted girls. Once there, the headmistress imprisons them and uses them to channel famous deceased dead artists and musicians so they can create “new” original works she can sell for thousands of dollars. In the modern adaptation for film, the headmistress has the girls all hand over their phones in a locked box in her office so they can focus on their studies, preventing them from calling anyone from help for most of the film. 

Can you think of any books you’ve read in the past where the plots would have been solved within the first 20 pages if the protagonist had access to a phone and/or computer? I’d love to hear about them. And Happy National Telephone Day!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer, regional magazine editor, and host/creator of the true crime podcast Missing in the Carolinas

Sunday, April 24, 2022

INTERVIEW WITH Bethany Jarmul, FIRST PLACE WINNER OF Q2 2022 creative Nonfiction Essay CONTEST

Bethany Jarmul is a writer, editor, and work-from-home mom. She has worked as a magazine writer, a copywriter, and in various management roles. But leaving her full-time job in 2019 allowed Bethany to focus her time on her greatest passions—raising her kids and writing compelling, creative essays, stories, and poems. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Literary Mama, Scribes*MICRO*Fiction, Sky Island Journal, and Allium, A Journal of Poetry & Prose among others. She grew up in the hills of West Virginia and lives in the suburbs of Pittsburgh with her husband and two kids. She loves drinking chai lattes, reading memoirs, and taking nature walks. She’s new to Twitter and would love for you to follow her: @BethanyJarmul.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Q2 2022 Creative Nonfiction essay competition, and placing as a runner up with another piece as well! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Bethany: Thank you! I've been a fan of WOW for more than a year now. I was just starting to get serious about pursuing creative writing when I took a course through WOW in February of 2021. I have kept up with the social media, blog, contests, and courses ever since. I'd been dreaming of seeing my photo up there on the website as a contest winner, and decided I was finally ready to submit.

WOW: I loved both of your entries, "The Pause Button" and "Grocery List for My Parents' Visit." Can you tell us about the inspiration for these essays? Did you have the idea of the pause button as a symbolic image to start, or did that come as you began to write? And for the second piece, did you begin with the idea of using the list within an essay format?

Bethany: Both these essays began in the course that I took through WOW—Chelsey Clammer's "Not What But How." I continued to work on the essays after the class ended, then they sat on my laptop for a while while I was struggling through a difficult pregnancy.

For "The Pause Button," the events in that essay took place on Valentine's Day of 2021, which was during when I was taking Chelsey's class. When I found out I was pregnant and my husband came home and gave me flowers, I thought "this could be a movie!" But I didn't feel like a character in a romantic movie should feel. I felt conflicted, confused. It seemed like perfect material for an essay. The idea of ending with the pause button came to me as I was writing the essay and exploring the movie idea.

"The Pause Button" was also a craft experiment for me. I pulled in some research and examples of change from nature with the chameleon and the butterfly. The essay also switches from first-person narrative to second-person after the break, which is something that I was newly exploring. The second-person narrative allowed me, as the writer, to distance myself from the story while also helping the reader feel the immediacy of the moment and imagine themselves experiencing what the narrator was experiencing.

For "Grocery List for My Parents' Visit," it was my first time writing a "hermit crab essay," which is an essay that takes on the form of something else, in this case—a grocery list. Writing in this unique form freed me to write about difficult things that I would have had a hard time writing about in a straightforward chronological essay. Plus, it's just fun to play around with form and structure. I've found that using a specific structure frees me from the overwhelming feeling of the endless possibilities, the blank page.

WOW:  As a busy mom, how do you find time to write? What works best for you?

Bethany: Yes, I have a toddler and an infant and work part-time from home. I don't have a quiet, clean place or a lot of time in which to write. But I decided to write anyway. I use whatever snippets of time I have, sometimes writing with a toddler on my lap or while nursing my infant. I watch a lot less TV and spend less time on social media, so that I can write and read more.

When I gave up my full-time job to stay home with my kids, at first, I felt like I was never going to accomplish anything else other than changing diapers. Eventually, I realized that for the first time in my adult life, my mind was free. I was busy and often physically exhausted, but my brain power could be harnessed toward writing in a way that wasn't possible when I was working full-time and mentally spent.

The other barrier to my writing was my mental health—anxiety and depression, especially during both of my pregnancies. I'm thankful for therapy, medication, and lots of prayers that have helped me get to a place where I feel confident enough to write again.

WOW:  We're glad you were able to find you way back to writing! Are you working on any writing projects right now? What’s next for you?

Bethany: I'm going to continue writing and publishing essays, some poems, and maybe a short story or two. I enjoy all writing, but creative nonfiction is definitely my favorite. I'd like to publish a book—a collection of essays or a memoir-in-essays. I'd say that's my five-year goal. Anyone interested in keeping up with me and my work can follow me on Twitter: @BethanyJarmul.

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

Bethany: Do it! But read some books and take some classes first. This was my second time entering the WOW essay contest. The first time, my essay didn't even make it through the first round. I was a solid writer, but I didn't understand the essay form yet. I hadn't done my homework, and it showed.

What it takes to improve your writing—read, write, take classes, and find community. Joining a writing group and getting peer feedback on your work is so important. If you can't find one to join, create one.

If you are looking for some craft books on writing essays, here's some that I recommend:

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Tell it Slant

Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction

Getting to the Truth: The Craft and Practice of Creative Nonfiction

For classes, I recommend WOW's writing classes, of course, also Creative Nonfiction and Writing Workshops.

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.”– Richard Bach


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

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Book Clubs


I recently was the featured author at a book club meeting. This was the third book club (that I know of) that read Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story, my novel. The other two were quite different. One was a church group, and my publisher, Margo Dill was a member; all the readers were white. The other was an all-Black group, and one of my friends, Astra, belonged to it.

The group that just met this week involved family... or at least in-laws. We met at my son's mother-in-law's home for a light dinner followed by da da dum: the book talk.

I learned some tidbits from each group, and I thought I'd share how I was schooled by the three groups.

  • Be prepared to be surprised. During Margo's group meeting, one of the women wondered what had happened to Olivia's doll. It was prominently featured, and then was never mentioned again. Clearly, I'd dropped the ball. I decided to thread the needle and tie up that loose end, because it was a completely valid point. (I still have not sent you that part to add. Sorry, Margo.)  During Astra's group meeting, one of the women said she had wished that the married couple who were the "saviors" of the story were Black instead of White. She pointed out that too often, Blacks are portrayed as being unable to save themselves without some outside (White) intervention. I had to let them know that the couple was a real-life couple, and they were White--but I understood.

  • Be prepared to handle some disagreement.  Up front, I was told that some of the women that came to this week's meeting were conservative (they whispered that last word). I figured this was the case. During the meeting, there was some discussion that strayed from the book and mired in some political and racial issues. Everything was civil, but it was obvious that not everyone was on the same page when it came to politics. (Same page... book club. Do you see what I did there?)

  • Be prepared to take pictures--and be prepared to be insistent about it.  I brought a camera, planning on taking a photo of the whole group at some point--hopefully with everybody holding up their copies of Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story. (I know, I know. Shameless self-promotion.) A couple of the women thought a picture taken with a phone (and a timer) would be better. I said I'd like to take a picture as well, but that idea was shot down... and now, I still haven't gotten that text with the photo. 

  • Be prepared. Mentally, I went over some of the details I wanted to share in the week before the book club met. The head of the group very graciously let me know how their club meetings flowed. I discovered they expected to ask me questions after I had done some talking. Fortunately, the leader had some wonderful questions that kept me yammering for a while. (Why did I choose Henry as the main character? Why not a girl?... What made me choose this historical event to write about?... How long did it take to write the book, and what were some of the obstacles?)
How about you? What could you share either from the perspective of a reader or an author that would help me in the future? Fumbling authors (like me) want to know.

Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher, a dog rescuer, and the proud author of Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story. You can see more of her writing by checking out her blog.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Friday Speak Out!: The Book Marketing Pitch

by Claudine Wolk

YOU are the secret to a successful Pitch

Think of a pitch. Visualize it. A pitcher stands on a baseball mound and throws a ball to a batter. Instead of real time, let’s slow things down a bit and imagine the pitch resuming in slow motion. The pitcher releases the pitch and it slowly reaches the batter. The batter takes a swing and his bat either hits it or misses it.

One of the hardest and most time-consuming parts of book marketing is pitching to media contacts. First, you have to take the time to identify media contacts. Then you have to come up with a pitch to send to them. Then you have to send it, follow-up with it and hopefully provide what the media contact wants for their review, mention or interview.

What is a pitch in book marketing? One of the ways we sell books is to “suggest” or “pitch” the book, the author, or the author’s message to different media contacts to review the book in their media outlet, to mention the book in their media outlet or to interview the author in their media outlet.

What is a media contact? A “media contact” is an entity or person at that entity. Media entities include tv, radio, newspaper, magazine, blog, and podcast, as well as book industry reviewers and long lead reviewers. A book marketer (You!) creates a media contact list and then you pitch to your list.

How to get started on a pitch to media contacts

First: Keep your goal in mind. When you pitch to a “media contact” you are hoping for a book review, an interview about your topic, or a mention of your book. Repeat after me: review, interview or mention…. review, interview, or mention. Those three things are always your main goal.

Second: Mass emailing equals mass rejection: I know it is tempting to write a generic pitch and to send it through Mail Chimp or Constant Contact or to a string of every email in your contact list but this is bad form for a couple of reasons. First, putting media contacts in a constant contact database is a no-no. You technically have to have the permission of the contact to add it to your constant contact database. Second, media contacts can spot a blanket pitch from a mile away and will most certainly ignore it.

Third: You will be pitching your book for years to come. Take a minute and a breather. I know it is overwhelming. I can remember panicking at the sight of the grocery store magazine rack at every checkout counter when marketing my first book. Every magazine was a potential media contact…how was I going to pitch to them all? The answer, one media contact at a time.

Tips to pitch to your media contact

One: SINCERITY - take the time to read the media contact’s website or work so you get to know them a bit. Sincerity ALWAYS wins the day. Every successful hit I have ever had has included a sincere and well, thought-out pitch. Quality over quantity is the key when pitching to a media contact.

Two: Write a pitch that makes it easy for the media contact to say yes.

Include all the information that the media contact will need to do what they need to do. If you are pitching via email, include a call for action – “let me know where I can send a copy of my book and media kit for your review, mention, or interview,” for example.

If pitching by mail, include a copy of the book (or galley) with your press release, author bio, and interview q&a. Include a well written cover letter with your call to action. Include why the media outlet’s audience will love you or your book, why they need it or will be entertained by it. Include a few bullet-pointed reasons! Always include a call to action… “Please consider for -review, interview, or mention of the book for your magazine.”

Three: Gently follow-up with the media contact. For example, you can start the follow-up letter or email with the words: In case you missed it…. I have included information about so and so…

Finally, don’t give up. If you come up with a different way to pitch to the same outlet down the road, a different spin or a new story, try it again a few months later.

You are the secret to a successful pitching campaign for your book. Take the time to create meaningful media contact lists and creative pitches and you will be on your way to getting your book seen and sold!

* * * 

Claudine Wolk is an authorpodcast host, and radio host. Follow her substack newsletter Get Your Book Seen and Sold or visit Claudine lives with her husband, Joe, in Bucks County, PA and is working on her next book.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!


Thursday, April 21, 2022

I Get By with a Little Help from the Pros

On New Year’s Eve of 2020, I bought a new car. This was a momentous event because I’d been driving the same car for over 15 years. I LOVED my red CRV and it was in great shape but yeah, it was a bit basic; instead of all the bells and whistles, it had a bell and a wheeze or two.

So the new car, an HRV (a wee bit smaller than a CRV), arrived in my driveway and I literally had to have a lesson in how to start it (A button? What fresh hell is this? as Dorothy Parker would say). I must have called the salesperson a dozen times to ask questions about bells and whistles and I don't know what all. 

And then this year, I started getting emails about changing my oil. So I made an appointment to go to the professionals at my local dealership, at least for the first oil change. And after checking the mileage, the very decent fellow said, “You don’t need an oil change, ma'am. Your car can tell you when you do.”

 Here we go, I thought, another fresh hell.

 “Here, let me show you where you can check your oil.” And the pro got in my car and pointed to a black pencil-type rod and blew my mind.

 “Has that always been there?” I asked, completely incredulous. And yes, it had always been there, waiting to give me all kinds of info. 

If I had taken my car to a generic oil change place, would they have pointed out that rod button? I suspect not; they would’ve likely assumed I knew about it already. But at the dealership, their job is to help their customers have the best experience with their cars. Your success is their success, so to speak.

Professionals can be very helpful that way, can’t they? And it doesn’t matter if you’re a new car owner or a new writer. (Ah, finally getting to the writing part!)

It was embarrassing when I bought that new car and had no idea how to make it go. So I had to ask questions; I had to read the manual. (Um…I may not have actually read that book. But I skimmed it!)

It was also humbling when I started out in the creative writing business. I had a journalism degree and had plenty of news writing and copywriting experience but that’s not the same as the fiction and essay writing I was trying. So I started asking LOTS of questions of the more experienced writers I met, and I read a LOT of "manuals" as well.

And just as I went to the dealership for the first oil change, I joined professional writing organizations so I could find the people who knew the answers. And I can’t tell you how many times I had mind-blowing reactions while attending a webinar, a class, or a conference: 

That’s what show-don’t-tell means?” 

“Setting can be a character? Brilliant!” 

“The Hero’s Journey? Has that always been there?” 

And just like the very decent pro at the dealership, most professionals in the writing business want you to have a positive and enriching experience when you begin your journey with words. Whether you’re reading their wisdom in a book or blog post, attending their classes, or paying for their expertise in a specific field, they want you to succeed. 

 It’s not always easy when faced with something new. But take it from a car owner and a writer who is still learning new stuff every day: go to the pros for a little help. You’ll be very glad you did!

(But seriously, y'all. That little pencil-like rod/button is practically impossible to see, right?)

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Productive Procrastination


This post made me think about how I work.

Monday, I needed to dive into my rewrite. After all, I have a teen nonfiction book due Friday. It is 8 chapters, 15,000 words, and too long already. I need to focus the text, work in some more examples and descriptions, and cut the excess. One chapter is 700 words too long. Others include notes to myself like “Transition!” or “Brilliant conclusion goes here.” 

I spent the day prodding myself. “Must rewrite . . . must rewrite . . . must . . .”

Somehow I suspect you know where I’m going with this. So much to do, so little interest. My brain was full of great ideas -- blog post ideas, ideas for my upcoming comic, and ideas for brand new projects. I got through one chapter but everything was calling to me except this rewrite. Face it. I folded laundry! I did dishes twice.

Fortunately, I know how I work best. I let myself work on anything that was on my to-do list and had to be done by Friday. After all, the rewrite isn’t the only thing I need to get done this week. So I pulled together work related social media posts. I worked on blog posts. I worked on the back matter for the book. I got so much done and all the while I was procrastinating where that rewrite was concerned. 

The reality is that I never work on only one thing. And that’s a good thing because I never know when I’m going to get stuck. Sometimes I need a bit of distance to think something through because what seemed like a great idea or the perfect solution simply refuses to come together. Sometimes I’m waiting for a critical bit of information. Sometimes my brain is just being bratty and does not want to work on that thing right there. 

So I work on something else. I accomplish one or more things on my to-do list.

And that’s a good thing. Because by dinner time I had a note from my editor. “Here are my comments on book 1. Can you get this done by Friday?” 

Do you work on one thing and only one thing at a time? Or do you move between projects? 


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 May 1, 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 May 1, 2022) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins May 1, 2022). 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Interview with Lori Lyn Greenstone, Runner Up in the WOW! Fall 2021 Flash Fiction Contest


Lori Lyn Greenstone/Ekphrastic Mama is a writer who prefers purple gel pens and builds life-size giraffes from driftwood, then blogs about how art teaches us to trust our creative process. You can see this and more of her writing and art history at Ekphrastic Mama

Her art is on the cover of the anthology, Mothers Creating Writing Lives: Motherhood Memoir along with her chapter, “Ekphrastic Mama” inside. With one child married, one in college, one in high school, another in junior high, one in elementary school, a toddler, and a new grand baby—she experienced all phases of motherhood simultaneously, and lives to write about it. In her defense, she quotes beat poet Alice Notley: “I didn’t plan my pregnancies. I’m an experimentalist.” 

Every May, Lori leads May is Motherhood Memoir Month—MaMoMeMo—taking writers on a wild ekphrastic ride where you don’t have to be a mother to have a motherhood story—it’s where you begin... 

She is currently finishing a novel of historical surrealism, An Ear to Hear, the journal and sketchbook of the woman to whom van Gogh gifted his ear—a surreal act of ekphrasis; “Gifts Bestowed” sprang from this work. 

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

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

WOW: Welcome, Lori, and congratulations! This is such a unique idea for a flash fiction story. You mentioned in your bio that “Gifts Bestowed” was inspired by a larger historical fiction novel you’re working on. How did you first get the idea to explore this time period featuring Vincent Van Gogh? 

Lori: I read most of Vincent’s letters, studying and analyzing their forms during my undergraduate years at UCSD; many follow the same literary construction as the Pauline epistles. Vincent’s father was a pastor, and Vincent himself was a missionary to the miners in the Borinage. I was touched by how he cared for these poorest of the poor, getting dirty as he went into the mines to care for these people. The church withdrew their support because Vincent couldn’t keep himself clean and set apart as a clergyman. I fell in love with the heart of this misunderstood artist and writer. I wanted to see him through the eyes of the woman, Rachel, to whom he gave his ear, to hear her story since she must have known things others didn’t. Her mother ends up in Saint-Remy with Vincent, so it is also very much a motherhood story. (See drawing below, part of the ekphrastic novel). 

WOW: I love that every May you invite writers to join you on May is Motherhood Memoir Month, or MaMoMeMo. Could you share with our readers how this works and how writers participate? 

Lori: Taking a cue from Nanowrimo, I deemed May Motherhood Memoir Month. You don’t have to be a mother to have a motherhood story- it’s where you begin, since we all came from a mother. Even an absent mother creates a story; it’s your story, how you came to be. I encourage people to write their stories by offering prompts and encouragement, and I post some of my examples. Unlike Nanowrimo, there’s no pressure to write a certain number of words each day. Each person sets their own goals. MaMoMeMo is a lot of exploratory fun. 

WOW: I love this! My oldest child is heading off to college this fall three states away and it's brought out quite the wide range of emotions.  I'll have to check out some of the prompts. What are some of the revelations you’ve had when writing about your own unique experience with motherhood? 

Lori: We are all in process. I am such a different mother now than I was with my first child forty years ago. I just got back from a trip to Paris with my youngest daughter, age 14 (I had her at 47, big surprise!). We have such an easy-going relationship that allows for lots of laughter. Some of this might come from maturing as a mother, but my youngest daughter also sports a very enjoyable personality. For whatever reason, it just works now in ways it didn’t when I was younger, raising my older two daughters and three sons. My other revelation is that even though my mother is dead, I’m still working on myself as a daughter. I used to think that a relationship ended with death, but writing a memoir about my difficulties with my mother changed my view. Relationships live on in our thoughts and therefore continue to change and grow. Being able to process relationships through writing brings clarity while fostering empathy. In essence that’s what I write about, whether I’m exploring a historical figure like Vincent Van Gogh or journaling for my own deeper understanding of our roles in the world.

WOW: Could you explain to us what ekphrasis means in regards to your writing and creating works of art? 

Lori: Ekphrasis is Greek for “art that speaks out.” When we tell a story or give a speech the most important thing is to create an image in the mind of the listener or reader so they are following right along, living it in their own mind. Ekphrasis was used by Socrates to teach effective speaking because it involves vivid description. In teaching, I ask students to reference a piece of art, which could be a simple photo. They begin by describing the image which naturally leads to ideas and stories. College students who never enjoyed writing discover it is easier than they ever thought possible and more enjoyable using ekphrasis as an entry point for an essay or story. In my writing I begin with a piece of art such as one of Van Gogh’s paintings. Many of his lesser portraits have become characters in the novel. Rachel, my protagonist who receives Vincent’s ear, is an aspiring artist and model. Her journal is also her sketchbook, so as she studies the artworks and recreates them in her sketchbook they come to life in the novel. Drawing is not only a way to study a piece of art, but it becomes a meditation that leads one deeper into the story behind the drawing or painting. In this way ekphrasis can work from both directions; a vivid description can inspire a piece of art or an art work can inspire vivid description. The novel I’m writing is an ekphrastic novel, inspired by art, but also inspiring art as in the sketchbook drawings. (below is Rachel's mother) 

WOW: Speaking of creating, you constructed a life-sized giraffe in your yard using driftwood. What did that project teach you about trusting your intuition and flowing with the creative process? 

Lori: Often we get ideas but are unsure how to bring them to fruition. I had this vision of a life-size giraffe I wanted to see out my window, but I didn’t know how to build it. I was also working to finish my first novel. Building a giraffe from driftwood might seem like a procrastination move, but in the end one project facilitated the other. I didn’t realize this until I texted my oldest son a picture of the giraffe after we’d assembled it from pieces of driftwood we’d collected for years. He commented, “The wood looks like it always wanted to be a giraffe.” I thought of my novel and all the disparate scenes I’ve written, very experimental and mostly from prompts employing ekphrasis. Building what turned out to be the laughing giraffe gave me faith to trust my creative process, to believe that all the scenes could coalesce into the novel I’ve envisioned, or at least the one that wants to be written. You can see the juxtaposition of the two processes on my blog, Ekphrastic Mama. And if you ever want to build a life-size giraffe from driftwood, you can see the process laid out in photos

WOW: Thank you for such a rich conversation today, Lori! We look forward to immersing ourselves in more of your work in the future!

Sunday, April 17, 2022

She Rested


Where's Crystal? 

Just like her beautiful daughter
in this picture...she's in bed. 


Most of you reading this are a lot like me - we are busy women who wear many hats. Some of us our writers, some readers, some mothers, daughters, friends, business people, employees, cooks, managers of households, etc...

If we are honest with ourselves, we are all tired. Tired of being busy. Tired of being in charge of everything. Tired of long days at the office. Tired of trying to juggle the have to things with what we want to do. The list goes on.

My problem has always been my inability to give myself the same type of grace I give others. If a friend says she's tired, I'll drop off a meal, a cup of tea, some bath bombs, and I'll suggest she take a nap while I watch the kids. If a friend says she has too much work, I'll offer to help and suggest she take a walk or a break. When I'm tired, there's a little voice in my head that says "don't be lazy. Get up and do the things. You can rest when you're dead." I wish I knew where that voice came from, but as I can't change the past, I try very hard to ignore that voice and rewrite my current script.

Here's what I tell myself:

*rest is good for the body and the mind; you'll be better equipped to do everything once you rest a bit

*you aren't lazy, you are tired and that's part of being human

*enjoy a nice rest and it will be easier to look at things in a positive light once you feel renewed

*you can't help everyone else if you get sick - rest will help you have a strong immune system

So today - it's Monday and I'm resting. Not that I need a reason, but I'm allowing myself to rest because in the last week I've cleaned church 4 times, played the organ for 3 different church services, created 4 church bulletins and a newsletter, colored eggs, organized a scavenger hunt, filled easter baskets, decorated cookies, made 2 big meals for groups of 9 and 11, organized and prepared the breakfast at church, checked in several homebound friends, given dozens of hugs, and somewhere in there managed to milk some cows, ride some horses, do lots and lots of laundry, pay some bills including an overdraft fee, and then to top things off our roof came off our barn (again) in a wind storm the same day as my dear friend went to the ER. 

My body is tired, my mind has been spinning, and my emotions need a reset. I am not lazy or depressed. I am not overwhelmed or incompetent. I am simply resting because it is oh so good for my creativity, my mind, and really all aspects of my well-being. 

When is the last time you allowed yourself to rest? What is stopping you from resting and resetting? 

As our time together comes to an end, let me ask you:

What could you say to yourself that would help you rest when you become weary?

What are some ways resting has helped you personally and professionally?

Since I never leave the farm - tell me about something exciting happening in your life! Do you celebrate Easter? What does Easter or Springtime look like for you?

 Share your answers as a comment on this post!



About Today's Author:

Crystal is a foodie, farmer, and friend! She has 6 children and lots of special young people who call her "mom" even if she isn't 'their' mom! She starts each day sipping coffee and milking cows with the love of her life and occasionally ends the day with a glass of wine.  Crystal is raising kids and cattle while juggling cleaning jobs, bartending shifts, music gigs, her job as office manger and she escapes reality a few hours each week riding horses and reading books (not simultaneously)! And who knows, she may start blogging again sometime soon:

In the meantime, you can find her posting pics of food, cattle, and more on Instagram and Facebook

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Questions on Chapter Length, Page Counts, and Rhetorical Questions

By Bobbie Christmas
Q: For a two-hundred-page novel, how short is too short for the chapter length?
A: The length of a chapter has only to do with the scene or scenes that need to be covered in a novel or the subjects to be covered in a nonfiction book. No rules apply to chapter length. I’ve seen a one-word chapter, albeit a contraction, in Angela’s Ashes. If I remember correctly the word was “T’was.” 
While I don’t recommend one-word chapters, logic should prevail when it comes to where to break chapters. In novels a new chapter can start after a time shift or a scene shift, for example. In nonfiction a new chapter may be appropriate when the subject matter changes. 
Allow me, however, to address another issue this question unintentionally raised.
Editors and publishers don’t refer to manuscripts by the number of pages. They work with the word count, not the page count, so authors should do the same. Too many elements can affect the page count of a manuscript. Is it single-spaced or double-spaced? Is it twelve-point type or larger? Is it in Courier or Times New Roman? Does it have large margins, small ones, or standard one-inch ones? Does it have many chapters, all of which have correctly started on a new page, one-third of the way down the page, or has the writer not followed standard manuscript format? 
On the other hand, when you say your book contains 55,000 words, agents, publishers, editors, and others in the publishing industry will have a clear understanding of the length of your manuscript. Knowledgeable writers therefore think in terms of word counts and convey word counts when speaking to others in the business. 
To be clear, page counts should refer only to published books, not to manuscripts. 
Q: My wife and I have been editing one of my books, and we came to a disagreement over a question used as a statement. This was all I could find on Google: 
"Questions, commands, and advice are typically not statements, because they do not express something that is either true or false. But sometimes people use them rhetorically to express statements." Here is the sentence in question: “You’re not interested in justice unless it can be found in a bottle … are you?” The character is an attorney who presents a statement, sometimes accusatory, and then adds something that turns it into a question to avoid an objection from the other side about not asking a question. Here's another. "You had an ax to grind, didn't you?" 
My wife thinks that the sentences are not questions, therefore I should not use a question mark. I understand her point, but what do you think? 
A: "Are you" and “didn’t you” in these cases are intended as questions, regardless. I would therefore punctuate the first example this way: “You’re not interested in justice unless it can be found in a bottle, are you?” It could also be written this way: “You aren’t interested in justice unless it can be found in a bottle. Are you?” The recast changes the meaning a little, so I'd stick with the comma, as shown in my first example. 
The second example is fine just as it is: "You had an ax to grind, didn't you?" Even a rhetorical question is still a question. 
In this case you win, but break it to your wife gently. 
Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style: Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions, too. Send them to or Read Bobbie’s Zebra Communications blog at

Friday, April 15, 2022

How to Write a Travel Story: By Staying Home

By Barbara Noe Kennedy

 You don’t need to jet-set around the world to come up with a good travel story—as nice as that may be. Remember that old adage about writing what you know?

Maybe you live in an under-the-radar small town, a hidden gem of Khmer culture, a wilderness/camping/trail haven, or home to the best small museum/cooking school/monument you’ve never heard of. The possibilities are endless! It’s just a matter of viewing a place that you know inside-out through visitors’ eyes. What would a visitor want to know?

Honestly, as a travel writer who covers destinations around the world, I often find myself writing about my hometown—Washington DC. By virtue of living here, going about my daily life, seeing it through the different seasons, I have insider knowledge. I read local newspapers and magazines, watch the local news, talk to friends. I eat at local restaurants, run and bike on local trails, see shows at local theaters. I’m constantly running around town, visiting a new hotel or museum or restaurant. I’ve watched this city grow from a provincial southern town to a veritable global city. In short, I’m an expert.

In addition, I have developed relationships with local tourism representatives, who invite me to museum openings and hotel tours and put me on press release lists that keep me in-the-know on upcoming events. I always know when a new museum has been approved or when a distillery opening has been delayed. In addition, their website,, is a font of information, including a special “press” section that offers story inspiration, resources, and the latest industry news. Most cities and towns have tourism staffs that are just as helpful.

So, what I encourage you to do, especially if you’re just breaking into travel writing, is take a look around you—and write what you know.

Here are some prompts to get you started: 

1. Small museums: Does a local museum have any intriguing artifacts (check out Old Rip in Eastland, Texas)? Is there a collection of sites related to a famous (even not-so-famous) person?

2. A local food specialty: Everyone may eat cheese curds (for example) where you come from, but most of the country has never heard of them. What’s their story? What are the best places to experience them?

3. Road trips: Americans love to drive. Is there a scenic or interesting drive in or around your town? Write about sites, restaurants, hotels, and parks to stop along the way, to create an idyllic escape. Or make it a themed drive—the best places to sample cheese curds in the greater Madison area; or Long Island in winter; or “George Washington Slept Here.”

4. Weekend getaways: People also love weekend getaways. Is there a weekend getaway from your town—or could your town be a weekend getaway? Provide restaurant, hotel, and activity suggestions.

5. Freebies: What are the free things to do, whether it’s summer concerts, gardens, museums, festivals, etc.?

Writing about home in the guise of travel writing doesn’t preclude you from hopping onto a plane to go kayaking in Hawaii or wat-hopping in Thailand. But it’s definitely a place to get started. Remember, you’re the on-the-ground expert. That goes a long way in writing an insightful travel story.


Barbara Noe Kennedy is a former longtime editor with National Geographic Travel Publishing. She currently works as a fulltime freelance travel writer, with credits including Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, London Telegraph, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, BBC Travel, The Points Guy, and more. She also teaches travel writing and creative nonfiction and leads tours.

Barbara is also a WOW! Women on Writing instructor. Check out her upcoming webinar, Travel Writing 101. More information about our classes can be found on our classroom page.

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Thriller Writing Tips Gleaned from a Netflix Parody

I enjoy writing thriller/suspense and true crime, so it stands to reason those are the programs I’m drawn to when I’m in the mood for a good binge. Netflix presented me with a show suggestion called “The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window,” and once I saw Kristen Bell was the star, I decided to check it out. Here’s the synopsis: 

When a handsome neighbor moves in across the street, Anna, a heartbroken woman for whom every day is the same, starts to see a light at the end of the tunnel; that is, until she witnesses a gruesome murder. Or did she? 

Satirical in nature, watching the series also gave me some revision ideas for my own thriller I’ve been working on revising. Here are some tips I picked up: 

Watch your protagonist’s vices. Anna is an alcoholic, which reminds me that so many protagonists in thrillers are a little too into their cocktails and wine. Or anxiety medication. I deliberately made my main character, a podcaster whose sister went missing a few years earlier, a woman who struggles with sleep issues. Medication may come into play, but at least it’s something a little different, and there’s the additional element of dreams and other sleep mishaps I can add in. 

Add in the tragic backstory. In “The Woman in the House Across the Street . . .” Anna is struggling to get over her divorce and an event that broke up her family. In my story, not only does the protagonist have a sister who may have been murdered, but she also has generational trauma stemming from other familial relationships.

Don’t forget the twist. In the Netflix series, you’d better believe there’s a twist at the end. This one was so shocking, and almost humorous (it was a parody, after all!) that as my daughter wandered into the room, she asked, “What in the world is going on here?” In my novel-in-progress, there are several different characters that could have devious intentions. This requires leaving breadcrumbs throughout the book that a reader might not pick up on right away. It’s a challenge, but one of the things that makes writing fun! 

Have you watched “The Woman in the House Across the Street from a Girl in the Window?” What did you think of the formula? What are must-have elements you look for when reading or writing thriller and suspense? 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer, regional magazine editor, and host/creator of the true crime podcast Missing in the Carolinas.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

10 Interesting Words from Other Languages

I love coming across beautiful words from other languages, especially ones that have no English equivalent. Some are deeply meaningful, some are interesting for writers, and some describe the funny parts of life. Here are ten from my ongoing list:

  • Petrichor: the wonderful smell in the air after it’s been raining
  • Komorebi: sunlight filtering through trees
  • Waldeinsamkeit: The feeling of solitude and connectedness to nature when being alone in the woods.
  • Tsundoku: the act of buying a book and leaving it unread, often piled with other unread books
  • Kaizen: a method for transforming habits incrementally, one step at a time, in order to continuously improve
  • Meraki: to do something with soul, creativity, or love; when you leave a piece of yourself in your work
  • Irusu: pretending to be out when someone knocks at your door
  • Yaourt: To sing along to a song even though you don’t know the lyrics. Instead, you use nonsensical noises that vaguely resemble the lyrics of a song.
  • Shemomedjam: to eat something because it’s so yummy and delicious, even though you’re not hungry
  • Meriggiare: to rest or relax at midday, usually in a shady spot on a sunny day
  • Ubuntu: The act of being kind to others because of one’s common humanity.

Are you a word lover too? Share one of your favorites in the comments below.

--Marcia Peterson  

Tuesday, April 12, 2022


Kathleen Dunn is a native of Portland, Oregon, and now currently lives in Knutsford, England. She finished her first novel during lockdown, and hopes to write many more without succumbing completely to madness. When she isn’t writing, she loves hiking, dancing around to The Strokes, and reading spooky stories.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Fall 2021 Flash Fiction competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Kathleen: I had written "Parasite" before I even knew about the competition. I was so excited about finishing the story that I immediately started searching for open contests. WOW's site spoke to me from the get-go-- I went to an all-women's college, so I love the idea of a site dedicated to women writers.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Parasite?”

Kathleen: I wrote the first draft of this story around Halloween. Movies like Rosemary's Baby, Alien, and The Omen were being advertised for the season, so I had those ideas circulating in my head. I also felt inspired by "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Like the main character from Gilman's story, my character is a woman who's motherhood brings her to a dangerous place (both physically and mentally).

Moreover, I liked the idea of taking something traditionally considered the most feminine, natural, and 'womanly' thing--giving birth--and subverting it into something sinister. It seemed like WOW, a forum specifically created for women writers, was the best place to share a story like "Parasite." Who better to judge it than women themselves?

WOW: What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Kathleen: Flash fiction makes you think on your feet. How can I get a message across in so few words? What adjectives to use? How can I keep it short, sweet, and to the point--and still make it fun?

It's a thrilling challenge for any writer, I think.

WOW:  You finished your first novel (during lockdown, wow!). What did it take to accomplish that big goal? What did you learn along the way?

Kathleen: Persistence is everything. Making time each day to sit down and write was the only reason I finished my first draft. I also think that during lockdown, when everything was so frightening and unsure, having a world to escape into was a God-send.

I learned quite a few things along the way. Namely, that writing long-fiction is a long process, and expecting perfection from early drafts is not only impossible, but also counterproductive. You've gotta chip away at it bit by bit, and make sure that you keep all those fun critical voices in your head at bay. The work will get done if you keep at it, but pace yourself.

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

Kathleen:  To quote Winston Bishop from New Girl

"Nick, it's not that hard, man. Just sit down and write. You ain't Hemingway."


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

Monday, April 11, 2022

Perspective on Writing is a Fickle Thing

Ask me today how I feel about a certain story of mine and I'll answer differently if you ask me next month. I've been working on revising a short story of mine and it's been a challenge. Yesterday was the first time I looked at it in a month, and I thought it needed quite a lot of shaping up. The plotline was solid but there were other factors that made me feel a bit "blech" about it. It made me think of how perspective on writing can be incredibly fickle.

You see, I also rant into a flash fiction piece of mine that I had long since written off as being unworthy of publication. When I read it over the weekend, I thought to myself, "Wow, this really isn't that bad." The same can be said of a short story I wrote several years ago, also that fell in the category of "not really that great." After some polishing, I am now re-submitting it for various lit mags. 

I'm a huge proponent of distance from writing and getting a fresh perspective. It can reveal things about a story that you really didn't see before. It can cut both ways too. You may realize something wasn't as terrible as you first thought, and you may discover something wasn't as great as you remembered.

If you have finished a story, whether it feels "blech" or amazing, give yourself some distance. It's an important part of the writing process where you quietly extricate yourself as being the writer of the piece and become the reader instead. I've discovered this can be important if I'm stuck on a piece too. By removing myself with distance, even letting years pass at times, I return to it with a fresh perspective. I can see something in it that I never did before.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Interview with Julie Lockhart Runner Up in the 2022 Q1 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest with "Nature's Sanity"

 Congratulations to Julie Lockhart and Nature's Sanity and all the winners of our 2022 Quarter 1 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!

Julie's Bio:
Julie Lockhart loves an adventure, especially in wild places. She spent most of her career in academics, where she published extensively in peer-reviewed journals, such as Critical Issues in Environmental Taxation; Social Accounting, Mega Accounting and Beyond; and Advances in Accounting Education. During the final six years of her professional career, she led a grief support nonprofit, where she discovered the beauty and depth of personal stories, sharing her own experience as well as that of others to help grieving people feel less alone. From that she has embraced a memoir style in writing about her adventures, sharing vivid details and insights that come from her life experiences. Julie has published two personal essays in Southern Oregon newspapers. She was raised in the Chicago area, and has spent her adult years in the Pacific Northwest. Julie recently moved to Port Townsend, WA.

If you haven't done so already, check out Julie's talent in writing with the touching story Nature's Sanity and then return here for a chat with this talented author. 

WOW: Thank you Julie for sharing your essay - it's so inspiring to hear from our contestants - I always learn something! I'm sure you've got some great tips and tricks to share, so let's get to it!
 Thank you for writing this essay - what is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from "Nature's Sanity" ?

Julie:  Thank you for interviewing me! I wrote this essay based on a prompt from Chelsey Clammer’s online class, Crazy Good Writing. As I worked to put words to my physical and emotional experience, I felt transported back to the peaceful refuge that nature provided for me. My hope is that others who read it will also feel the peacefulness, a balm in these difficult times. Perhaps the scenes will spark ideas for the reader on how to raise their spirits when life drags them down. I also hope the reader appreciates the value of cherishing wild places for the health of our humanity.

WOW: That's such an amazing gift to give strangers - especially in today's busy world. Thank you!

 What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for 2022 and beyond? 

Julie: This year, I hope to motivate myself to finish the first draft of my memoir and start to edit in earnest. I am much better at finishing shorter projects—like 1,000 word essays—where there’s more immediate gratification. As I gain confidence in my writing craft, I plan to continue to write shorter essays about the challenges I’ve worked through in my life—perhaps to inspire others. My husband and I will also be doing a lot of camping this year, and I will bring my notebook for some timed writings as we travel from stunning place to stunning place in the Western states, capturing the sights, sounds, feelings in real time.

WOW: That sounds dreamy (the camping part especially) and we wish you all the luck with your amazing goals!

I think you had mentioned you have a great support group - so we have to know; what role has writer's groups played in your life?

Julie: I am part of a weekly writing group with four wonderfully supportive women. All of us write in a memoir style, and three of us, including me, are working on memoirs. We do timed writing, of twenty or so minutes, which carries me into a zone of deeper perspectives on my life. We put pen to paper and keep writing without regard for spelling, punctuation, grammar. Then we share what we wrote. Afterward, I go to the computer and type it in, without much editing. Later I can go back for more editing. It may seem strange, but I’ve written most of what’s in my memoir by hand like this. In the group, each of us has brought finished pieces for feedback, too. We learn from each other, while retaining our own style and voice. The four of us have formed a close bond from the sharing that comes in writing and reading about our personal challenges and breakthroughs. I am where I am in this journey as a writer because of them!

WOW: It's so empowering when authors help one another - I'm so thankful you have such a fabulous support system!

Do you often enter writing contests - tell us what prompted you to submit to this particular contest? What would you like to tell other authors concerning contests and submitting their work? 

Julie: I have submitted to several WOW contests, as well as to other magazines. I thrive on getting writing out there, even though I’m collecting lots of rejection letters. When I was in academics, I had to come to terms with crushing rejection, and I realized it’s not personal. Thus, I learned in my 30’s that I have to take risks and get my work in front of critical eyes and bounce back after rejection. Essay writing often broaches the tender places of the heart, so it takes some bravery to polish a piece and send it out. Yet I made the decision to jump in and accept what comes. Plus, I love a deadline to keep me moving forward. Word limits force me to become more efficient in how I share the details of my story. I spend a lot of time with the thesaurus to find just the right juicy word to express the essence and feel of my experience without having to over-explain. What I love best in submitting to WOW is getting the critique. The editors are so positive and give excellent feedback that helps me improve what I’m working on. Even with “Nature’s Sanity,” there’s more work to be done based on the critique!

WOW: We sure love hearing that! Thank you - we are happy to be part of your story!

As our time comes to a close, I have to ask... How did you end up in Port Townsend, WA? Is there a good story we should know? 

Julie: There’s always a good story! About 15 years ago, while living in Bellingham, WA, I travelled to Port Townsend for a personal retreat. Wandering into the spiritual bookstore on Water Street, I spotted a sign: Psychic Reading Today! I made a spontaneous what-the-heck decision and signed up. The psychic began by telling me all sorts of things she couldn’t have otherwise known about my family, my work, and my relationship. Then she said, “You’re a good writer. You write things that aren’t fulfilling to you. Soon you will be writing things of meaning.” I took notice, and when I got back home, signed up for a creative nonfiction course. Fast forward to 2021, when my husband and I decided to move out of fire-prone Southern Oregon, Port Townsend was high on our list. I loved the idea of getting back to the dramatic scenery of Northwest Washington. He and I visited here last June and found a beautiful house right away—in a very tight market. It seemed meant to be. Being here now is like full circle—to have placed in the Q1 contest while living in Port Townsend where I first answered the call to write things of meaning!

WOW: This has been so inspiring - thank you ever so much Julie for sharing your essay, and your time with us today! We look forward to more from you in 2022 and beyond! 

I also need to say - I knew there would be a good story in your move - thanks for sharing!! 

  Interviewed by Crystal Otto who just keeps on keeping on!

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