Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Over the years, I’ve interviewed writing contest winners, including creative nonfiction essay writers. When asked to share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice, they came through with some inspirational ideas. Here’s what some of the WOW contest winners had had to say:

  • “Another friend of mine, who is training as a coach (and who is also brilliant), nudged me out of my writing slump last winter by helping me remember my own rhythms (i.e., working first thing in the morning, even just doing a quick prompt) and pushing me to set up the routines that supported those rhythms. She gave the example of a ballet dancer she had heard on a podcast who said, essentially, I didn't make a habit of going to the gym to train at 6am, I made a habit of hailing a cab at 6am. So, we started small: laying out my notebooks, pens, the accoutrements for tea the night before. So that the next morning, when I am easily impressionable, I am directed optimally. It reduces the likelihood of an Internet rabbit hole and that sense of a "lost day" considerably. I think this applies regardless of the rhythm/routine: create the conditions that support it--set the running shoes by the door, the notebook and pen on a table cleared of all the other life clutter. Go.” - Hilary Fair, runner up

  • Several years ago, I was in a writing class in a neighboring town. A woman read an essay about her family that was more like a historical document (lots of names, dates and geographic information) than a story. When she got done reading, she paused and began to tell us this very funny incident that had happened to one of her family members. We all laughed and shouted "THAT'S the story you should tell.   I am always trying to get to THAT story!” - Kristi Scorcio, runner up

  • “I was just talking to a writer friend this week about the importance of keeping the joy! Publication is great, competitions are wonderful, but ultimately the joy in the process of writing is the most valuable thing we all have as writers. My piece of advice would be to hold on to the fun parts with both hands and squeeze for all they're worth!” - Ellen Brickley, runner up

  • My favorite writing tip is to read your essay or story aloud when you complete each draft. I always hear things I didn't see when reading, such as clunky phrases, plain old typos and, on a positive note, poetic language. My new version of Word has a Read Aloud function. I use that occasionally but find that my own voice reveals things that the robotic voice doesn't.” - Marcy Dilworth, runner up 

  • Everybody says this but it is so true, and I didn’t start doing it religiously until recently. Carry a notebook wherever you go, whether the dentist, hardware store, even the flea market (especially the flea market!), and use it to jot down descriptions, observations, overheard conversations, etc, that you can mine for details in your writing later on. It is so important to record these moments as soon as they happen because those delicious little tidbits of life can so easily get swallowed up by the business of life. And for me, it’s almost impossible to conjure them up again unless I stop what I’m doing and make a note at the moment. The other day, I saw a woman at a gas station in a Subaru with one of those car wraps advertising a zombie hunting business! That’s going to end up somewhere one day, I promise you.” - Ashley Memory, first place winner

Did you find something you could use? Do you have a favorite writing tip or piece of advice to share? Comment below!

--Marcia Peterson
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Leveling Up

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Photo by Mikael Blomkvist

I had one of those moments a few weeks ago when I became paralyzed by choices. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing, but it did force me into some decision making. I had a potential sponsor for my podcast reach out to me, but they asked for listener demographics, which I did not have. I took a webinar on “finding a sponsor for your podcast” about a year ago and had a wealth of information at my fingertips but still I’d chosen not to do anything. 

The e-mail from the sponsor’s marketing agency spurred me into action. I put together a quick survey and included a call to action in the podcast script I was working on. I shared the survey link with my e-mail subscribers and social media followers. I had already had a call with a website and branding consultant about creating a new website for the podcast, and I got her proposal back. 

Then I had to make some decisions. I thought the new website quote and photography session for new images sounded reasonable. I got excited thinking about listeners finally having a fun place to go to interact with the podcast. But then I got discouraged. I have a full-time editing job, do the podcast in my spare time, and have been trying to revise a suspense/thriller novel I wrote last fall. Something had to give. 

I talked with my husband about it, since he’s worked in marketing and experience design for years. He asked me what I thought was most important. 

“The website,” I said. “If I do this right, it has the potential to attract more listeners and potential sponsors. Plus, I can add a true crime blog right into the platform and people will stay longer when they go to it. Once I finish writing the suspense novel, I can add a tab for it right on the website, because it ties in with the genre.” I knew I could also add an easy way to capture e-mails on the site, something I’ve been struggling with. 

“Then I think you know what you need to do,” he said. “You have to keep the day job to pay the bills right now. Focus on creating the website, and once that is completed and launched, you can get back to the novel revisions.” 

At first, I felt discouraged, because I have a lot of ideas on how to improve the novel, but if I’m ever going to monetize my podcast that I’ve worked so hard on for two years, and put all the content I’ve created to good use, the website has to go up first. I think a lot of us get to the point where it’s time to “level up” on a project or piece of writing, and it can be scary. It might be signing up for a writing course or conference, hiring a professional editor, or taking a research trip. It scares me to invest the money into the website, but I believe in the designer’s work and a colleague I admire connected us. I’ve seen samples of her work in action. I know what a good website can do for a podcast, especially one in the growing niche of true crime. 

I’d love to hear examples of how you’ve invested in your own writing!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and magazine editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, "Missing in the Carolinas." 
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Trying a New Approach With Writing

Monday, May 16, 2022

I can't say this year has been my best work with writing, but I've been consistently submitting, revising, and typing up stories as much as possible. One short story of mine that's been a touch-and-go process for a while now found some momentum that surprised me. 

First, some background. I am not much of an outlining writer. In part, what has helped this, is the fact that I write short stories. But even then, if I ever attempted a novel again, I wonder if I'd feel differently. Whenever I have outlined, it totally drains my momentum to write a story.

However, with the particular I mentioned above, let's call this my "trip to Mars" story, I know the ending already. I wrote a section that is basically the final scene I have in mind. I mentioned it to a writing friend of mine and she told me how she couldn't write like that, that she was a chronological writer. 

I realized that I'm completely fine writing out of order. In fact, knowing the endpoint of this story has actually helped me continue writing it. I don't understand how knowing an ending helps me when outlining doesn't. You'd figure that one would be as helpful as the other. But to me, there's a difference.

So, as you try to get yourself back on track, pay attention to what works for you. Maybe you write your endings first, like me. Or maybe you really do better with an outline. 

Sometimes you really don't know what has helped you unless you write it out or talk about it. So, if you have a writing buddy, talk about what's helping you continue forward. Pay attention to what helps them and compare and contrast. You might be surprised by what you learn.

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Interview with Mary Jumbelic, Runner Up in the WOW! Q2 2022 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Sunday, May 15, 2022


Mary Jumbelic is an author from Central New York, and former chief medical examiner of Onondaga County. Performing thousands of autopsies in her career, she elaborates a strong voice for the deceased. She explores through creative non-fiction the imprint the dead have made on her humanity. Published with Rutgers University Press, Vine Leaves, Jelly Bucket, Grapple Alley, and Unleash among others, her pieces have also ranked in the top ten in national writing contests and one has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She teaches at the Downtown Writer’s Center in Syracuse and is assistant editor at Stone Canoe. Her blog, Final Words, is available at www.maryjumbelic.com. Follow her on Instagram @MaryJumbelic. 

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

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

WOW: “The Trailer” is a heartbreaking essay, with so many vivid and sensory details and descriptions of the setting. Were there any parts of the piece that had to be left on the cutting room floor during the revision process? 

Mary: When I originally wrote “The Trailer”, I was barely present in the story. Instead, I shone the spotlight on the boy’s pain and death. Ultimately, I realized the significance of my pain in reading his final note and had to reveal myself as a more defined character. 

WOW: You are a retired medical examiner. When did you first begin to explore creative writing—was it during your career or something you focused on more after retirement? 

Mary: I have always loved writing and journaling throughout my life: before, during and after my career as a medical examiner. In retirement, I found the time to take writing classes, join with other writers in groups, attend conferences, and hone my creative nonfiction work. 

WOW: Could you tell us more about the themes you explore in your memoir? Did you begin with the process with an outline?

Mary: My memoir explores the juxtaposition of my life––death on a daily basis balanced with my own need for survival. Themes of acceptance of loss, appreciation of life, and facing the ghosts of all my cases feature strongly in my manuscript. I created a body of work that began to flesh itself out into a collection and then formed a chronologic arc of my life that organically began with the death of my father and ended with the current pandemic. The outline was born from this, and I wrote fresh stories for transition points. 

WOW: I have no doubt your memoir is a riveting piece of work! You’ve won many impressive awards for your writing. What do you think is the key to creating an award-winning that will get noticed by contest judges? 

Mary: The key to getting noticed is to write what you know and assiduously hone your writing. I adhere to Stephen King’s advice “If you want to be a writer…read a lot and write a lot.” My stories arise from my passion for forensic pathology and storytelling. Writing is hard. Some of my pieces have gone through twenty drafts. In the early days, I workshopped essays. It is helpful to learn what other writers and readers think of your work. Also, read your pieces out loud; hearing it reveals errors the eyes miss. 

WOW: As a writing instructor, what types of courses do you teach and what do you enjoy most about helping others with their writing? 

Mary: I have taught memoir, but my specialty is teaching forensics for mystery and crime writers. That combines my two loves. It is thrilling to watch writers develop their skills through exercises, homework, and critique. I learn from the students as well––new perspectives and styles.

WOW: That is a great specialty to focus on in teaching. Thank you so much for being here today and we look forward to reading more of your work.
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About Tight Writing

Saturday, May 14, 2022
(Illustration by storyset - freepik.com)
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: I keep on hearing “write tight, write tight,” from fellow writers and others. I’m not so sure what they’re trying to say to me. The whole darned issue is driving me a little crazy. How can I ever know what’s loose and what’s tight writing?
A: Creative writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, reads best and sells better when it gets to the point without wasted words. If I were to tighten your question, I might recast it this way: 
I keep hearing “write tight.” I’m not sure what people mean. The issue drives me crazy. What is tight writing? 
The recast says the same thing as the original, but it’s tighter.
Writers who grew up reading classics filled with flowery prose may think they must write the same way if they want to be successful. Many writers “back in the day,” however, were paid by the word. Elaborate descriptions added to the word count and paid the author more. Most classics are considered literary or scholarly, but their style won’t work for today’s readers. Contemporary style calls for clean, tight writing. Fiction readers want a story with an active plot, dialogue that’s related to the plot, and action. They don’t want to read long descriptions of people, places, and things. Nonfiction readers want information and examples, but they don’t need repetition or digression.
Tight writing is devoid of unnecessary words and repetition. It relies on active voice (the boy threw the ball), rather than passive voice (the ball was thrown by the boy). It spurns gerunds and participles (“ing” words) whenever possible.
I’ll give a typical paragraph in a memoir as an example and then show my tighter version after my edits. 
Well, I remember seeing a very large package on the front doorstep of my house one morning. I started to shriek, “It’s here! My very own books are arriving.” I could hardly breathe when I was rushing to the front door so I could get the box, bringing it inside.
When I saw a large package on the doorstep one morning I shrieked, “My books are here!” I rushed to the front door and brought the box inside.
As you can see, the tighter version deleted superfluous words and replaced weak verbs with strong ones. 
In memoirs, especially, I see “I remember” far too often. Of course the author remembers; otherwise he or she couldn’t be writing about it.
In fiction and nonfiction manuscripts I edit, I see dozens of words that can be deleted without affecting the final result. While the following piece of dialogue is grammatical, what would you delete to make it more realistic and tighter? “Well, John, I know your eldest daughter, Denise, is about to graduate from high school, so what do you intend to do to celebrate with her?”
Here's what I recommend: “Denise is about to graduate. What are your plans to celebrate with her?” In real life John knows that Denise is his daughter, that she’s his eldest, and that she’s graduating from high school, not college. All those things can be deleted. In addition, when two people are the only ones speaking, they rarely call each other by name unless they’re angry with each other.
I edit manuscripts and can tighten a manuscript for a price. It’s time consuming, though, so it’s not cheap. Instead I recommend my book Write In Style. The book explores and explains many words and phrases that writers can find and refine in their own manuscripts.
Tight writing is strong writing; however writers should initially write without thinking about writing tight. Get the story down first. In the next drafts delete superfluous words and replace weak verbs with strong ones. You’ll be amazed at the results.
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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Six Ways to Beat Sagging Middle Syndrome and Fix Your Story

Friday, May 13, 2022
By Madeline Dyer

Is the middle of your story sagging? Do you think this is the weakest part? Are you really stuck on what to write here? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, chances are you need to dig a little deeper into your novel’s structure to make it more engaging, entertaining, and crucial to the story.

In a three-act structure, the central act is usually the longest act and it connects arguably the most exciting parts of the novel—the opening/hook and the climax/end—and so this is often the trickiest part to write. You don’t want it to be boring, but you also don’t want to reveal everything in the middle, because that’ll affect your ending. Similarly, you don’t want to rush toward the ending, as that’ll affect pacing. As such, the central act is both a place that connects the first and third acts and the place where you develop your story further, while keeping readers engaged.

Luckily, there are a number of ways to do this!

Use Plot Points

It’s easy to create forward momentum in the opening, when you’re introducing your reader to the exciting premise of your story, but you also need to make sure to maintain this momentum going forward. An easy way to do this is to end the opening of the story (act one) on a plot point. A plot point is a point of no return. Something (usually bad) happens to the protagonist as they begin to try and achieve their goal, making their goal even harder to obtain while also meaning they definitely can’t go back to living like they were. The protagonist then has no choice but to move forward, in a different direction, to face this new problem which they must solve in order to continue their journey to obtain their goal. (Note: this is different to the inciting incident, which will happen earlier in act one; the inciting incident will usually cause the protagonist to realize what their goal is.)

Switch up the Setting

You can also maintain forward momentum by introducing a new setting which brings its own challenges. If your protagonist is comfortable and familiar in their surroundings in act one, then shake this up in act two. Act two is where we see our main character being tested. Make things as hard as possible for them!

Picture the Movie Trailer

Act two should be exciting! Think of your story as a film and work out which snippets of exciting scenes would be used in a movie trailer—most of these will be the scenes you want in act two, as these will keep readers engaged while developing the plot.

Introduce a Love Story

You can also use the middle part of the story to focus on your character’s love life (the subplot of ‘the love story’ often really gets going in this central act), and you can show readers the challenges that come with this love story—especially in the wider context of the protagonist achieving their goal. Is the lover a distraction? How does their presence affect the protagonist’s interactions with the antagonist? And has the love interest got their own agenda?

Develop your Protagonist and Antagonist

While we get to know secondary characters more in the middle section, we also need to get to know the two most important characters further here as well: the protagonist and antagonist. Readers need to learn more about these characters, and we need to see interactions between them. Think about how the power struggle between the protagonist and antagonist develops as the central act progresses, and consider whether each will use the other’s darkest secrets, mistakes, flaws, and fears against them.

Twists and Turns

You’re also going to want to have some twists thrown into this central section, too. This will really help with reader engagement and increase the pacing and tension. Sure, save your big twists for the ending, but whet your reader’s appetite by giving them a couple smaller, unexpected twists in the middle, as well. This shows that you really know what you’re doing and will also promise a satisfying ending with an even bigger twist.

Most successful novels use many, if not all, of these techniques in order to keep the reader interested and to prevent their novels from suffering from Sagging Middle Syndrome.


Madeline Dyer lives on a farm in the southwest of England, where she hangs out with her Shetland ponies and writes dark and twisty young adult books.

Madeline has a strong love for anything dystopian or ghostly, and she can frequently be found exploring wild places. At least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes. Her books include the Untamed series, the Dangerous Ones series, and Captive: A Poetry Collection on OCD, Psychosis, and Brain Inflammation.

Untamed won the 2017 SIBA award for Best Dystopian Novel and has been a #1 bestseller in its Amazon category in five countries. Madeline’s second novel Fragmented was also a runner-up for Best Young Adult novel at the 2017 SIBAs. Her memoir, Captive and her ace romance novel, My Heart to Find (written as Elin Annalise) have both been nominated for 2021 Reader’s Choice Awards from TCK publishing, for Best Memoir and Best Romance respectively.

She is represented by Erin Clyburn at Howland Literary. Madeline is also a staff editor at Bolide Books, a publisher based in Scotland, specializing in speculative fiction. Visit her website at www.MadelineDyer.co.uk

--Madeline is also a WOW! Women on Writing instructor. Check out her upcoming classes, NARRATIVE STRUCTURES and HOW TO WRITE A YA DYSTOPIAN NOVEL. 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!
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Outlines, Beats, and Book Maps!

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Writers are a quirky bunch, aren’t they? We all have our own way of making the magic, whether writing a novel, or a short story, or even an article. 

Some of us swear by outlines, some of us use a sticky note or index card system, and some of us sort it all with some form of a book map. I’ve used each of the above methods when writing novels, but sometimes, I mash them up and use ALL the sparkly stuff. Like this time around, when I pulled out all my techniques to use at different stages of the work. Here’s a walk-through of my latest novel and maybe you’ll find something that will help you at whatever stage you’re in: 

You may have heard about J. K. Rowling and her famous outlining for the Harry Potter books. I’ve used a (much less detailed) chapter outline in the beginning stage for a novel but this time around, I didn’t have the story quite nailed down; I had an idea. So I started with LOTS of notes about the concept and the characters and a general outline began to evolve. In my head, that is.

So next, I pulled out my Save the Cat Writes a Novel because I wanted to take everything in my head (and in my notes) and put it into beats. I wasn’t trying to create a chapter outline, but that’s more or less what happened, a sort of beats/outline. So in my sparkly notebook, I had all my characters, lots of ideas, and the beats worked out up to about the mid-novel point. And I actually would check my beat notes before I started writing each day. Yay me! 

Now, I know you’re wondering about that “about to mid-novel point” bit. See, I hadn’t quite worked out every little plot point in the several arcs but I knew where/how I wanted each arc to end (that was info in my notes). So with less structure in the middle, I was able to “jump off” into some very interesting "fun 'n games" threads. Or maybe I just got tired of beat notes and felt like I could wing it. Either way, it worked! 

Finally finished, I needed whole-novel editing and I made a book map template. I wanted to make sure that each chapter had an arc and carried the plot(s) forward; I needed to make sure that the characters (an ensemble group) had a mostly equal share in the spotlight. And I needed page numbers for quickly going back to make corrections or additions in plotting (or spelling of names or hair color changes or dogs’ comings and goings). I am not going to lie, y’all, this book map has been worth every minute of the work. My novel may not be as complicated as Rowling’s series, but with a couple mysteries and romance or two, one can get caught up in the weeds. The book map pulled me out of the weeds and into the clear every time. Whew! 

I’m almost to the end of editing/mapping and I have one more step. But that’s a quirky tip for next time, y’all, so stay tuned! And if you have a quirky step in your novel-writing, share! I mean, where do you think I came up with my steps?

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Interview With Alex Otto, Fall 2021 Flash Fiction Runner-Up

Tuesday, May 10, 2022
Alexandra's Bio: 

Alexandra Otto writes stories and short screenplays. She just completed her first novel, a middle grade fantasy. When Alex isn’t writing or teaching, she is outsmarting the largest bears in the world in Southcentral Alaska. She is represented by Rena Rossner. 

You can connect with her on Twitter @alexottowrites and don't forget to read her story, “The Dreamkeeper” and then come back here for her interview. "The Dreamkeeper" originally appeared in Enchanted Conversations: A Fairy Tale Magazine.  

----------interview with Sue Bradford Edwards----------

WOW: The Dreamkeeper pulled me in and hasn’t left my mind since I read it. What was the inspiration behind this story? 

Alexandra: When one of my children was just a month old, she had a sudden high fever and had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. They found the cause and treated her, though we had to spend a few days there. I am fortunate that my child recovered fully. To write this story, I tapped into the memory of my fear that she would slip away. I suppose losing a child is every parent's worst fear. 

WOW:  Most definitely! This story is so rich with detail. How did you decide what deserved a place within your limited word count and what had to be left out? 

Alexandra: I think for flash fiction, it's really important to not overwhelm the reader with exposition. In "The Dreamkeeper" my protagonist said she had heard about Dreamkeepers from her grandmother, but she wasn't sure if they were real. That's all. There was not enough word count to give a history of who they were, how they appeared in the world, where they came from, etc. The reader had to take at face value that this was a myth which turned out to be real. I think it works because the reader is encountering the Dreamkeeper for the first time at the same moment that the main character is. 

It's also important to be precise with details; I didn't have a lot of time to describe the baby's nursery, so I chose one or two details to focus on, like a rattle made with jackrabbit fur, to give one specific image and a little insight into the rural background of the characters. 

WOW: Your bio lists your location as Kodiak, Alaska. How does this location feed into your stories? 

Alexandra: I always get inspired by the beauty of Alaska and the amazing people who live here. My middle grade novel is set in a fictional town in Alaska, but it's very closely based on my hometown of Kodiak. 

WOW: You have also written a middle grade fantasy novel. Can you tell us a bit about it? 

Alexandra: I am a Ukrainian-American writer. I grew up in an immigrant family and English is my second language. My story is based on Ukrainian folklore I heard about from my grandparents. My book is The Stolen Story Society. When eleven year old twins Anna and Roman discover that their grandmother's folktales have been stolen, they must go on a quest with the folktale witch Baba Yaga to retrieve them from a land of stolen stories. My novel is currently on submission by my agent. 

WOW:  That sounds fascinating.  I hope you will soon have good news for us. How do you move between a long project like a novel and shorter work like flash fiction? What advice do you have for readers who may be wondering if they should focus on only one type of writing or try multiple things? 

Alexandra: I took a writing workshop with a well known screenwriter at the Sundance Institute, who said she always works on multiple projects at once. I was relieved to hear her say that, because that is my process also. I find that when I lose steam for one project, I switch gears and work on another. Often while I'm working on the second project, ideas are simmering on the back burner for the first project, and inspiration will strike because the pressure of facing a blank page is removed.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my story! Keep reading and writing; we all have a rich world of stories to tap into and share with the world.

WOW:  And thank you, Alexandra. We appreciate the time you spent sharing your writing process with all of us.  
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Audry Fryer's Until Next Sunday Blog Tour, Author Interview, and Book Giveaway

Monday, May 09, 2022


I'm excited to announce the WOW! Women on Writing book blog tour with author and Audry Fryer and her book Until Next Sunday. 

This book is written with so much heart - you can't help but fall in love with the characters from this historical romance!

Here's a bit about the book:

 After bravely leaving the life she knew to come to America, 
illness threatens Rosina’s happily ever after. 
When separated, will letters keep their love alive? 

Rosina leaves Italy to build a better life, but the reality in America is nothing like the dream. She is far from the Italian countryside and the beautiful olive groves where she grew up. Here the work is endless, and the winters are cold and desolate. She never expects to find love in such a place. 

Then she met him. Gianni, the shoemaker’s apprentice, is gentle, handsome, and everything she never knew she needed in her life. 

But when Rosina falls ill and is quarantined, their future is at stake. All she can do is cling to the beautiful letters Gianni writes. Each week she tries to survive the long, lonely days until next Sunday for his brief visit. 

Will fate bring Rosina and Gianni together once more? Or are they destined to remain star-crossed forever? 

Until Next Sunday is a sweet historical romance inspired by a true story. It is based on actual Italian love letters which were discovered a century after they were written (some of which are contained in this book.) It is a portrait of the times, and a true immigrant experience. Feel the force with which these two lives find love, against all odds.

Purchase your own copy on: Smashwords, Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo.

About the Author

Audry Fryer is an author and professional freelance writer from Pennsylvania. Formerly a teacher, Audry wrote her first novel while her toddler son and twin babies napped. As her children have grown into teenagers, she has expanded her writing career. Audry lives with her family and two pugs in a quiet corner of Southeastern PA. To learn more about Audry, please visit her website at www.audryfryer.com.

Social Media Links:


...............interview by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto 

WOW: How was Until Next Sunday born? I loved the book and can't wait to hear the behind-the-scenes details about how everything started! Do tell us all the great details! 

Audry: You could say that Until Next Sunday was born over a hundred years ago when Gianni wrote his very first love letter to Rosina. Over the next several months, they would write over a hundred love letters to each other as they persevered to keep their love alive during a difficult separation. Later in life, Rosina lovingly archived those letters in an album intended for photographs and stored them in her attic. When Rosina died, the box containing the album of love letters was passed from family member to family member, attic to attic. Eventually, a family member took an interest in the letters. But they were written in an Italian dialect that couldn't be easily translated. Amazingly, the family found a translator, a professor at the University of Delaware, who was traveling to visit his family in the same region of Italy. Until Next Sunday includes a beautiful letter from Biagio, the translator. The family, specifically three sisters, the granddaughters of Rosina, could finally read the letters. They knew they had to share this beautiful love story with the world. First, they pursued making it into a movie. However, they received advice that they should create a novel first. Here's where I come in! 

One of the sisters, Laurie, married my husband's uncle. She knew I was an author and had self-published two ebooks on Amazon. She asked if I'd be interested - I jumped at the opportunity. Soon, I received a box of papers containing the typed-up copies of the love letters. That was the summer of 2016. During the next five years, I would write and rewrite the story several times. I eventually worked with an editor and, finally, an independent publisher. By the time we published Until Next Sunday on February 14th of this year, those love letters had made an incredible journey- much like Rosina and Gianni had when they immigrated to America! 

WOW: That is such an amazing story in and of itself. Definitely a labor of love for everyone involved! What was the most difficult part of this project? How did you overcome it? 

Audry: There were two difficult parts. 

First, the love letters only told part of the story. I had to research, imagine, and piece together what must have occurred from letter to letter. 

The second difficult part was making sure the story made sense. There were so many unanswered questions the letters left us wondering. For example, what was the true cause of Rosina's illness? Was it tuberculosis or an infected tooth? And, what prevented Rosina from leaving the sanitorium? By the time we, meaning myself and the three sisters, reached out to an editor, I had created several versions of the story. The developmental editor we worked with was incredible. She guided me to where changes needed to be made and helped shape the story into a true page-turner. 

WOW: As someone who has read the book, I must say you did a fabulous job making everything seamless - it never felt like any pieces or details were left out! Who has been your greatest supporter when it comes to writing and publishing your work? 

Audry: My parents have been my greatest supporter of my writing and publishing work. I credit my mom for my love of reading, leading to my desire to write. We both share and discuss books often. She reads so much more than me, so she's always letting me know her critique. If she says I'll like a book, she's usually right! And, best of all, she loved reading Until Next Sunday. As for Until Next Sunday, the story's creators, Linda, Susan, and Laurie, have boosted my writing career. When they entrusted me with their grandparent's story, I felt honored. And because of them, I was finally able to have a print version for sale. I'll never forget Laurie handing me the advanced copy of the paperback. It felt unbelievable to hold a book I wrote in my hands! 

WOW: Now you've held your book baby! I definitely love that term and congratulations to you and your tribe of supporters on this birth!

If Until Next Sunday was made into a movie, what song do you think should be part of the movie version? (and why) 

Audry: When Until Next Sunday is made into a movie (and I say "when," not "if" because it's a real goal), I found the perfect song - "A Sunday Kind of Love" by Etta James. It's a classic, soulful, romantic song that's not well known. I love her voice. Most people know Etta James for "At Last" which is another fantastic song. I found the song, "A Sunday Kind of Love" when I created a playlist on Spotify for Until Next Sunday. The playlist is part of my free book club kit download that you receive for signing up for my bi-weekly newsletter at www.audryfryer.com. You don't have to be in a book club to enjoy it - it's fun for all readers. Also, if you want to listen to the playlist I made of romantic songs with a flair of Italian, search Spotify for the playlist entitled, Until Next Sunday. It's a great soundtrack to play in the background when you're cooking an Italian-inspired meal. 


WOW: That's such a great song - thanks for the explanation AND now I will be waiting (rather impatiently) to watch the movie of Until Next Sunday!

In the meantime - What's next for you? 

Audry: The only critique we've received for Until Next Sunday is that readers want more. They want more backstory, more details, and more scenes. They want to know what happened before the story began and more about their lives after the story ends. So I'm open to writing a prequel or a sequel in the future. For right now, I'm working on my website and my Book Lover's Blog. I want my website and my blog to be a helpful resource for readers to find fantastic book recommendations and informative tips for living their book lover lifestyle to the fullest. I plan to write posts about everything from creating a reading nook to finding the best reading apps and more.

WOW: There are so many exciting things in the work for you Audry, and we here at WOW! can't wait to see all your dreams come to fruition! Thanks for reaching out and having us be part of your plan to spread the word about Until Next Sunday! We are excited for your tour and beyond! 

- Blog Tour Calendar

May 9th @ The Muffin
Join us as we celebrate the launch of Until Next Sunday by Audry Fryer. We interview the author about her book and also give away a copy to one lucky reader.

May 10th @ Create Write Now 
Today's guest post at Create Write Now comes from Audry Fryer as she pens an article titled: "The Importance of a Talented Editor." Hear from Audry on this important topic and find out more about her latest work: Until Next Sunday.

May 11th @ Pages & Paws 
Kristine from Pages and Paws reviews Until Next Sunday by Audry Fryer. This historical romance is delighting readers. Find out what Kristine thinks!

May 13th @ Rebecca J. Whitman
Audry Fryer pens today's travel inspired guest post on Rebecca J. Whitman's blog. Find out more about Fryer's book Until Next Sunday and the region of Italy featured in the book.

May 16th @ What is that Book About
Today's book spotlight at What is that Book About is none other than Audry Fryer's latest Until Next Sunday. Readers will want to add this gem to their TBR pile right away!

May 16th @ Rebecca J. Whitman
Don't miss today's podcast with Rebecca J. Whitman as she features Audry Fryer and Audry's latest book Until Next Sunday.

May 17th @ Beverley A. Baird
Beverley A. Baird welcomes Audry Fryer to her blog today. Stop by and learn more about Fryer's latest book Until Next Sunday and find out the inside story about "How 100 Love Letters Became a Novel."

May 18th @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Book Reviewer, Author, Behavioral Psychotherapist, Artist, Oral Historian, and Public Speaker Linda Appleman Shapiro, reviews and shares her thoughts after reading Until Next Sunday by Audry Fryer. Don't miss Shapiro's insight on this beautiful historical romance.

May 19th @ A Storybook World
A StoryBook World welcomes Audry Fryer and Until Next Sunday to the spotlight today! Stop by and find out more about the historical romance everyone is talking about!

May 20th @ Rebecca J. Whitman
Rebecca J. Whitman reviews Audry Fryer's Until Next Sunday and shares her thoughts with readers on her blog; don't miss a chance to learn more about this historical romance that is delighting readers young and old!

May 20th @ Word Magic
Readers at Fiona Ingram's blog will hear from Audry Fryer today as she writes about the difference between historical romance and historical fiction. Is there a difference? Find out today and learn more about Fryer's latest work Until Next Sunday.

May 24th @ Mindy McGinnis
Readers at Mindy McGinnis' blog will hear from Audry Fryer today as she writes about how to create a book club kit for your readers. Sop by and learn more about Fryer's latest work Until Next Sunday.

May 24th @ Author Anthony Avina
Readers at Anthony Avina's blog will hear from Audry Fryer today as she writes about Roses and what they symbolize in books. Stop by today and learn more about Fryer's latest work Until Next Sunday.

May 25th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Fellow author Madeline Sharples has Audry Fryer and Until Next Sunday in the spotlight at her blog today! Stop by and see what all the fuss is about!

May 30th @ Bring on Lemons with High School Student, Carmen Otto
Teenager Carmen Otto offers her 5 star review of Audry Fryer's Until Next Sunday. Otto can't wait for her school library to add this gem to their collection! Read more from Carmen about this historical romance today!

May 31st @ Reading is My Remedy
Chelsie Stanford of Reading is My Remedy offers her review of Audry Fryer's Until Next Sunday. Find out what Chelsie has to say about this historical romance and it's talented author!

June 1st @ Lisa's Reading
Lisa from Lisa's Reading has Audry Fryer's Until Next Sunday in the spotlight today! Stop by and see the historical romance everyone is talking about!

June 2nd @ KnottyNeedle Creative
Judy from the Knotty Needle offers her review of Audry Fryer's Until Next Sunday for readers of her blog. This is a delightful historical romance and readers will want to hear what Judy has to say!

June 2nd @ Beverley A. Baird
Beverley A. Baird reviews Until Next Sunday by Audry Fryer. This historical romance is getting lots of attention - find out what Beverley thinks!

June 3rd @ Author Anthony Avina
Author Anthony Avina reviews fellow author Audry Fryer's latest historical romance, Until Next Sunday. Find out from one author to another what Anthony thinks of this book!

June 4th @ Boots, Shoes and Fashion
Linda of Boots Shoes & Fashion interviews Audry Fryer about her latest historical fiction, Until Next Sunday; don't miss this insightful interview!

June 5th @ Choices with Madeline Sharples
Madeline Sharples welcomes a guest author to her blog - today, readers will hear from Audry Fryer about Until Next Sunday as well as learning what Audry has to say about Top Strong Female Characters in Literature.

June 9th @ The Frugalista Mom
The Fruglista Mom, Rozelyn, shares her review of Until Next Sunday by Audry Fryer! This is a book and review you won't want to miss!

June 10th @ World of My Imagination
WOW! Blog Tour Manager Nicole Pyles shares her review of Until Next Sunday by Audry Fryer. Nicole's review wraps up the book blog tour for this historical romance - find out what Nicole has to say about this beautiful story!

***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****

Enter to win a copy of Until Next Sunday by Audry Fryer by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends May 22nd at 11:59 CT. We will announce the winner the next day in the Rafflecopter widget and follow up via email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Interview with Jennifer Lauren: 2022 Q2 Creative Nonfiction Contest Third Place Winner

Sunday, May 08, 2022
Jennifer’s Bio:
Jennifer Lauren is a retired lawyer and Seattle native living in Austin, Texas with her son, daughter, husband, and too many pets. Her first novel, Everything We Did Not Do, is represented by Emily Williamson of Williamson Literary, who is actively seeking publishers. Contact Emily at www.esjwilliamson.com/contact-us. Find Jennifer at www.jenniferlauren.net

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

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Q2 2022 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? 

Jennifer: This essay was inspired by my friend's offhand comment, "I'm not a country club wife, but I'm trying to be." It really sparked a combination of sadness, anger, and frustration about why the working world isn't set up for families to succeed. Particularly women, but all caregivers, struggle so much to live their best lives when society demands we work, run a household, raise children, work out, stay skinny, and maintain a social life – all the time. It's ridiculous and unsustainable. Then the pandemic hit and sent so many of us over the edge. I think it took a global pandemic for many of us to realize this is simply not sustainable. 

Obviously, this is a hot button issue for me. As to the writing process itself, this one came pretty easily. It's rare, but sometimes pieces just flow. When that happens, I know I'm doing my best work. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing your writing process. It’s such a wonderful feeling to feel that flow! What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? 

Jennifer: Apparently, I'm still processing the fact that I couldn't balance work and family! Honestly, my first thought when I finished this essay was that I need new material. But at the same time, it's such a common theme among my friends. None of us well-educated women know where we fit anymore. 

WOW: Yes, it is absolutely a relatable topic for many women. But even with all of this happening, you are accomplishing some amazing things. Congratulations on completing a novel and finding representation! Can you tell us more about your novel? 

Jennifer: Thank you! It was so exciting when I connected with Emily. She has worked so hard to help my novel shine. We're waiting on publisher responses now, but we're certainly interested in hearing from anyone who's interested! 

My novel is called Everything We Did Not Do, and is centered around two very different women, one rich, one poor, one young, one middle-age. Anne Marie Richards is alone, newly divorced, her twins at college. When her elderly father, Cory, reenters her life, she sees an opportunity for meaning: taking care of the man who raised her. She dreams of rekindling a relationship damaged by miles and time. But Cory Richards doesn't want his daughter's help. He pushes Anne Marie away and insists they hire an aide. 

Claudia Smith is a single mother desperate for a job. Any job. When she has a chance to work as Cory Richards' aide, she lies about her past and is hired on the spot. Her instructions are simple: cook, clean, drive, and stay close in case he falls again. She doesn't realize she'll also have to keep his secrets. 

When Cory dies mysteriously, these very different women become intertwined in ways they never could have imagined, leaving them with a fierce determination to protect the ones they love. 

WOW: Great hook! Thank you for sharing it with us. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you? 

Jennifer: I'm really loving Anne Lamott right now. I love her essays on writing, love and life. Elizabeth Gilbert as well. She inspires me to live the way I want to live, not the way other people tell me to. 

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

Jennifer: To borrow an old, worn-out slogan: just do it. I really wish I'd started a blog when the kids were younger. I feel like I had more relatable material, and blogs were still fairly new back then. But honestly, we meet life where it is. I'm not sure how I would have found time for creativity amongst long work days, diapers, daycare, and playdates. For new writers staring out: be nice to yourself. Take it one word at a time. 

WOW: I can see the Anne Lamott influence on your last piece of advice. I love it! Anything else you’d like to add? 

Jennifer: Thank you so much for choosing my essay, and thank you to the women who've reached out to me. It's been a whirlwind last few weeks; I promise to get back to each of you. Your comments melted my heart. 

WOW: Thank you for your 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. Personal Tweets @dr_greenawalt.
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When to Use Single Quotation Marks

Saturday, May 07, 2022
By Bobbie Christmas
Q: Do single quotation marks indicate irony? Do they indicate thoughts? When should I use single quotation marks?
A: Use great caution when using single quotation marks. Many writers use them incorrectly, perhaps because their use in American English differs from the British. In American English single quotation marks should be used only inside double quotation marks, with the exception of headlines. Following is information on single and double quotation marks from my book doctor’s desk reference book titled Purge Your Prose of Problems:
Quoted words, phrases, and sentences run into the text are enclosed in double quotation marks. Single quotation marks enclose quotations within quotations; double marks, quotations within these; and so on. The practice in the United Kingdom and elsewhere is often the reverse: single marks are used first, then double, and so on. For American audiences, use American punctuation.
Never use single quotation marks in running text for any purpose other than as a quote within a quote.
In headlines, chapter titles, and titles, however, single quotes are more appropriate than double quotes. Example: ‘Appropriate’ Behavior Depends On Culture
Note that it is a fallacy that thoughts belong in single quotation marks. They don’t. Period.
Here’s another entry in Purge Your Prose of Problems about thoughts:
A writer’s job is to train the reader to understand when characters speak and when they merely think.
Sticklers remind us that thoughts always tell, rather than show, because in reality we cannot read someone’s thoughts. Strong writers therefore avoid revealing characters’ thoughts. Instead they show what characters are thinking through their self-talk or dialogue.
If adding thoughts to a novel, however, here are important things to know:
Format: While Chicago style no longer advocates using quotation marks or italics for thoughts, many readers are accustomed to seeing thoughts printed in italics, and that format is acceptable, even though not recommended, as long as it is consistent.
Direct thoughts: Direct thoughts are always in first person and are usually in present tense.
Example: Mike pondered, Should I go to the meeting or stay home with Brenda?
Indirect thoughts: Indirect thoughts often include “that,” even though the word may be understood and not stated. Example: Bill thought the rain would never stop. (“That” is understood.) Indirect thoughts never call for quotation marks or italics. Example: Ezra thought he’d like to get new shoes.
Creative Writing Tip: Instead of complicating a manuscript with italics or repetitions of “he thought/she thought,” strong writing uses characters’ body language to show, rather than tell, that the characters are thinking.
Ray blinked. She was the sexiest woman ever to walk through his door. Was she married?
Was four dollars a decent price for the bag of flour? Sam rubbed his chin. He never had to buy supplies before.
Mary pushed her hair behind one ear. Did the interviewer have any idea she lied on her résumé?
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 Bobbie@zebraeditor.com or BZebra@aol.com. Read Bobbie’s Zebra Communications blog at https://www.zebraeditor.com/blog/.
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Sound it Out

Friday, May 06, 2022
By Chelsey Clammer

I will forever be in love with the guitar instructor who figured out how to play the opening music for the TV show "The X-Files" on electric guitar. How he was able to listen to the song, figure out the notes by ear, then he taught me how to play the theme music to my favorite TV show for an upcoming recital. That was decades ago. How decades later I still think it's cool the instructor could play the song by ear. Perhaps this is the epitome of engaged listening.


Consonants take up some space in my mouth and do that thing where they and parts of me make up words kind of like were we to sing.

That sentence is a joke.

That sentence is a joke in the sense that it just sounds ridiculous.

That sentence is a joke that is supposed to be an example of what not to do.

The following sentence is not a joke:

Consonants gather in my mouth, waiting to be sounded out by tongue by lips by a jaw making movement. And then the teeth for the end—to bite off a word, clip its ending. Words pushed out of mouth and I'm left with the feeling of the light vowels, instead of the cumbersome consonants.


I think of how musicians can figure out and play a song by ear. Notes that can be understood by an astute listener. Notes that create a language. What does sound say? As where the vibrations of strings guide one sound to the next. One motion of the hard to the next. The strum of experience. Thrum.


This is really about editing. How I can hear an essay and edit it by ear. Where I can recognize how this sounds weird. Move these beats of syllables to a different sentence to even out the pace and rhythm. I used to think about editing as a type of science or maybe math. The obvious metaphor of a puzzle and how we can push that concept just a bit further. Can figure out what goes where and what works well together to create a fuller picture. Or perhaps writing is a problem that needs to be solved. The solution is found in the method of approaching it.


The collection of off-notes and melodies. The collection of sound finding meaning. The collection of sentences building on themselves to make a mountain of meaning.


Follow my ear through each word. Trust that you'll know yes. That's it when you hear it. The subtle differences not just in meaning, but sound, too. Scroll, flip through a thesaurus until you hear the right term. Now run with it. Pace yourself. Get into the rhythm of language.


Now sound something out. Best technique tip I ever received from another writer: read your work out loud. Or even better: record yourself reading your essays, then listen to the recording for pauses and inflections and pace and rhythm and all of those things our creative voices want to sing.


Informative section of this column:

There are many software programs you can use for free to record yourself reading. Some even read for you.

Natural Readers: https://www.naturalreaders.com/

GoldWave: http://www.goldwave.com/

Audacity: http://www.audacityteam.org/

A relatively comprehensive list can be found HERE.


What all of this means: listen to yourself. Listen to the ways in which you put paragraphs together in order play. Hear the words of your writing and keep aware of the sounds on the page. Edit by ear.


Chelsey Clammer is the award-winning author of Circadian (Red Hen Press, 2017) and BodyHome (Hopewell Publications, 2015). A Pushcart Prize-nominated essayist, she has been published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Normal School, Hobart, The Rumpus, Essay Daily, The Water~Stone Review and Black Warrior Review, among many others. Her third collection of essays, Human Heartbeat Detected, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. You can read more of her writing at: www.chelseyclammer.com.

Chelsey is also a WOW! Women on Writing instructor. Check out her upcoming class, WHAT OUR BODIES HAVE TO SAY: Writing About, Writing with the Body.  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!
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