Interview With Maja Zysk, Summer 2022 Flash Fiction Runner-Up

Tuesday, January 31, 2023


I'm excited to interview Maja Zysk, one of our runners-up in our Summer 2022 Flash Fiction contest. Before reading our interview, please read her story Rockwell's Missing Portrait then come on back.

First, here's a bit about Maja:

Maja Zysk is an award-winning fiction writer and poet, with work* appearing in North American Review, Mid-American Review, The Briar Cliff Review, Reed Magazine, and elsewhere. Born in Poland, grown in the Sierra Nevada, and matured in the Valley of the Sun, she currently casts her anchor in the PNW’s Columbia River. When not waltzing with Sasquatch, she wrangles a toadstool princess, chips away at a novel, and ferments things. Maja’s first chapbook of poetry, Soil, was published in 2020 by Finishing Line Press. (*Work published under the name Maja Zmyslowski)

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: Congratulations on winning runner-up in our Summer 2022 Flash Fiction contest! Your story was raw, and tragic, but very real at the same time. What inspired this idea? 

Maja: The term "latchkey kid" inspired the story. Certainly, there are children who gain independence when unsupervised and it's a positive thing, but there's an element of parental intention and choice that comes into play. There are millions of parents who don't have access to adequate childcare, and my piece was a reflection on that, as well as a commentary on the high cost of medical care, mental health, and how often we only bandage the symptoms rather than treat the root causes of such issues. 

WOW: You really reflected the raw reality of that in this story. Did you know the ending before you wrote it or did it take many revisions to get to the ending that was published? 

Maja: I'm a pantser, not much of a plotter. The ending surprised me when the words came out. It saddened me, but that was the point I was trying to make: it's not all happy endings out there. 

WOW: Absolutely. Excellent point. I love the title of your story. The Rockwell paintings seem to portray this idea of "America as it should be" but your story reflects parts of America in its raw, real form. What inspired you to choose this title and cultural reference? 

Maja: I've always been a fan of Americana, and Norman Rockwell's artwork of everyday life shows the best of times. However, the scenes depicted in my story are also everyday life. My husband titled the piece. I didn't have a title and asked him to frame the story for me, and that is what he came up with just seconds after reading it. It's a perfect title, and I don't think the story would be as strong without that exact one.

WOW: It really is the perfect title. What are you working on now that you can tell us about? 

Maja: I recently finished a full-length manuscript, a sexy nerdy rom-com focusing on mental health, weird science, and love, of course! I'm in the process of querying agents - woo! 

WOW: That's so exciting! I see you also work on poetry and even had a poetry collection published! How does your poetry writing influence your creative writing? 

Maja: Poetry is my first love. Whether free-form or structured verse, poetry is like having a bit of magic in your back pocket. You can carry a poem in memory, recite it like a mantra. Applying an economy of language and focusing on sensory impacts is a skill that I've brought over into my creative writing. Poetry lets you play with words, sounds, and images, and this only strengthens a paragraph in longer fiction. 

WOW: Great point! So, I'm curious: what surrounds you as you write? 

Maja: I romance myself. We're talking candles, flowers, cuppa. 

WOW: I love that! Makes sitting down to write like a date with your characters. Do you have a particular writing ritual you like to do that you can tell us about? 

Maja: Before I sit down to write for a long stretch, I harness some energy by putting on headphones and dancing to "Paris" by Else. Then I perform a series of yogic breaths and high-five the universe. Tap into that flow state! 

WOW: That sounds amazing! I'll have to do that myself. Congratulations again on your story and best of luck on your book!

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The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself by Marla J. Albertie: Blog Tour & Giveaway

Monday, January 30, 2023


If you are in need of a confidence boost, you will love The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself by Marla J. Albertie. This is a perfect book for the new year! It's great to do on your own as well as with a group of colleagues, your partner, or your whole family. Read on to find out more about this amazing author and her book! You also have the chance to win a copy for yourself too.

Before we get to that, here's a bit more information about The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself:

Can you imagine all the things you like, love, and adore in one book? 

Let’s be honest. We tend to forget how amazing we really are. It is easy to see it in others, but when it comes to seeing ourselves, we tend to have bad vision.

This is why I wrote this book! All your favorites are captured at one time with space to write more. How often do we brag about ourselves, take time to think about what makes us happy, or do the things we like? If I had to guess, not as often as you would like. You deserve to brag about yourself, so why not? Not only is this a bragging book, but it is a book of ideas you can use to start your next project, business, career move, or anything your heart desires.

In this book, you will learn: 
  • How to vision board your next big career move
  • How to inspire yourself by seeing you
  • That you are worthy
This book is for everyone who wants to see themselves as the person they are. You deserve to be your own cheerleader. Grab this book today and start bragging on yourself!
 
ISBN-13 (paperback): 979-8887592923
ASIN (e-book): B0BT25JW93
Print Length: 218 Pages

Purchase a copy of the book on Amazon or get an autographed copy off the author's website. You can also add it to GoodReads.

About the Author, Marla J. Albertie

Marla J. Albertie has lived on board a United States carrier, therefore, she feels she is unstoppable. As a native of Jacksonville, Florida she loves to read, travel, and shop. Many of her travels have been on cruises as she has taken 16 thus far. Marla believes life is a journey and we all can create the life we want so why not; you only live this life once. She has a passion to see growth in peoples’ lives and wants others to pay it forward.

As an energetic visionary, she is the owner and founder of the TruthSpeaksGroup LLC, a multi-media company that creates strategies and solutions for work-life integration/harmony (WLI/H). She is also the founder of MJA Notary Services LLC., MJA Publishing LLC., and JEMA Holdings LLC., and being the founder of I/O for Teens Inc. is her greatest work yet! 

Marla’s mantra is to #TeachTrainEducate working woman who desire to understand their truth and live a life of success defined on their own terms. 
 
Marla's one word philosophy is #Learn. 

Therefore creating I/O for Teens Inc. was a no-brainer!

Marla is a certified professional career, executive, and life coach, trainer APTD (Associate Professional in Training and Development), Certified Chief Happiness Officer, Certified Positive Psychology Practitioner, Director of HR, Instructor, of Psychology, Amazon Best Selling author, and has over 25 years of business, coaching, and training experience.

Marla holds a Master of Education in Adult Education, Bachelor of Applied Science in Supervision and Management, and an Associates of Science in Financial Services. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
 
Marla loves speaking, teaching, and writing. Among the many ventures she is involved in here are just a few: The founder of the Motivational Movement K.I.M. (Keep it Moving), Truth Speaks Academy, an annual Women’s Empowerment Conference. I.M.A.G.IN.E. (I’M Awesome Growing IN Excellence), YouTube Channel featuring the talk show Creating Your Career with Marla J. Albertie which has 36 episodes, and blog TheWorkingWoman.co. She has also published two books and co-authored a third.
 
Marla is an active member of the Junior League of Jacksonville, ATD, SIOP, SHRM, Blacks in I/O, APA, ICF, IPPA, and NAHSE. She is also a Well-being and Data Literacy champion at Mayo Clinic. 

When she is not trying to save the world, Marla loves a good story and frequents the movies to eat her favorite movie snack, nachos. She loves spending time with her family and friends cruising, shopping, and reading. 

Here is where you can find her online:

Follow her as a writer on Medium
Subscribe to her blog: www.theworkingwoman.co
Take a course at Truth Speaks Academy
Subscribe to my talk show on YouTube: https://youtu.be/faUFIqU8pHs
Instagram: TruthSpeaksGroup

---- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your book! Why is it so important to write down the things we love about ourselves?

Marla: This is a great question because how often do we get into a slump and forget how awesome we are? This can happen often especially as we're coming out of a pandemic. When you write something down you have something to come back to as a reminder when those slump days come. My book is a holding place for those reminders. 

WOW: That is incredibly true. You are the founder TruthSpeaksGroup, LLC and helping people create solutions to work/life harmony. How did your work with consulting and coaching others influence your "brag book"? 

Marla: I mainly work with the 9 to 5 working woman. As we may know that 9 to 5 working woman tries to accomplish it all. Whether it's being a spouse, partner, parent, employee, entrepreneur, and so much more, it doesn't matter the 9 to 5 woman has been told she has to accomplish it all. I understand what  these beautiful women deal with because I have dealt with the same struggles. Through my coaching sessions that made me realize, these women need something to remind themselves that they are freaking amazing regardless of what other people say.

WOW: Yes! Absolutely! And I love the purpose you shared on your website: "To use my drive and happiness to coach and motivate women to live an abundant life in harmony." I feel like this speaks to a common struggle among women of having to "do it all" without really feeling that harmony of an abundant life. What advice to you have for women who struggle with that? 

Marla: As a woman, it is in our nature to try to do it all. I'm not sure who wrote that rule, but it's high time to break it. No, we don't have to do it all and I help women realize that without feeling guilty. We must stop and take time to remember who we are. First, one of the things I teach in my coaching is we are first humans. We are not spouses first, we are not mothers first, we are not daughters first. We are human beings first. Then we are women, then we are partners, then we are mothers, then everything else falls in line. I think this is where women get the misconception, they forget to be human “beings,” therefore they forget to “be.” I help them realize it is OKAY to “be.” This is true harmony. 
 
WOW: I definitely struggle with just being. What lessons do you hope people walk away with after completing this book?

Marla: I hope people walk away with the permission to brag on themselves and the permission to know that bragging is not a bad thing. The word “bragging” gets a bad connotation. Bragging does not mean that you are better than anyone else, bragging simply means that you are proud of who you are, and you deserve your own respect. Respect starts when you first respect yourself. Love starts when you first love yourself. It is OKAY to brag on yourself. If someone doesn’t like it, maybe they need to brag on themselves too. 
 
"The word 'bragging' gets a bad connotation. Bragging does not mean that you are better than anyone else, bragging simply means that you are proud of who you are, and you deserve your own respect. Respect starts when you first respect yourself. Love starts when you first love yourself. It is OKAY to brag on yourself."
 

WOW: Great sentiment! What kind of coaching and consulting do you do?

Marla: I call myself the life-harmonizing strategist. I truly believe that women can harmonize all areas of their lives. There is no such thing as work-life balance. If you try to balance everything in your life there's going to be something that is always off scale. I help the 9 to 5 working woman harmonize all the important areas of her life through Positive and I/O Psychology methodologies. This in turn helps her with her confidence and self-esteem. It helps her realize the badass woman she already is. I simply dig the gold that's already in her out. As a coach we must believe in our clients; and I am willing to put in the work if they are.

WOW: That's amazing! What are you working on now that you can tell us about? 

Marla: Currently I'm wrapping up my PhD studies in I/O Psychology which is the study of human behavior in the workplace. I recently started a nonprofit (I/O for teens Inc) helping teenagers with life, career, and confidence skills they need to achieve their dreams using I/O methodologies and principles.

WOW: You are such an inspiration! Thank you so much for joining us. Best of luck on your tour!
 
The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself Blog Tour
 
----- Blog Tour Calendar

January 30th @ The Muffin
Join us over at WOW's blog The Muffin where we interview author Marla J Albertie about her book The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself. You can also win a copy of the book too!

January 31st @ Karen Brown Tyson's blog
Come by Karen's blog for her review of Marla J. Albertie's book The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself.

February 1st @ One Writer's Journey
Visit Sue's blog for a guest post by Marla J. Albertie about creating your manifesto.

February 2nd @ Barbara Barth Art and Words
Barbara shares a guest post by Marla J. Albertie on writing.

February 2nd @ The Mommies Reviews
Glenda shares her thoughts about Marla J. Albertie's inspirational book The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself.

February 3rd @ The Mommies Reviews
Visit Glenda's blog again for a guest post by Marla J. Albertie about business and entrepreneurship.

February 5th @ Barbara Barth Art and Words
Join Barbara again as she reviews The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself by Marla J. Albertie. 

February 8th @ Create Write Now
Mari shares a guest post by Marla J. Albertie about business and entrepreneurship.

February 9th @ One Writer's Journey
Visit Sue's blog again for her review of The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself by Marla J. Albertie.

February 9th @ Lisa Haselton's Reviews & Interviews
Lisa interviews author Marla J. Albertie about her book The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself.

February 10th @ Choices
Visit Madeline's blog for her review of The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself.

February 12th @ A Storybook World
Join Deirdra as she features a guest post by Marla J. Albertie about career development.

February 14th @ Lisa's Reading
Visit Lisa's blog for her review of The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself.

February 15th @ One Sister's Journey
Visit Lisa's blog for her review of The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself. You also have the chance to win a copy of the book too!

February 18th @ World of My Imagination
Join Nicole as she features Marla J. Albertie on her feature three things on a Saturday night. You'll also have the chance to win a book copy too!

February 20th @ Word Magic
Visit Fiona's blog for a guest post by Marla J. Albertie about the law of attraction.

February 22nd @ Beverley A. Baird's blog
Join Beverley for a guest post by Marla J. Albertie on writing.

February 23rd @ Knotty Needle
Visit Judy's blog to read her review of The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself.

February 24th @ Beverley A. Baird's blog
Visit Beverley's blog again for her review of The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself by Marla J. Albertie.

February 25th @ The Faerie Review
Visit Lily's blog for her review of The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself.

February 26th @ A Storybook World
Join Deirdra for her review of The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself.

February 28th @ Liberate and Lather
Join Angela as she shares her review of The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself.

March 1st @ Jill Sheets' Blog
Visit Jill's blog for an interview with author Marla J. Albertie.

April 1st @ Write Advice
B. Lynn Goodwin will be interviewing author Marla J. Albertie about her book The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself. You also have the chance to win a book copy too!
 
 
***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****
 
Enter to win a copy of inspiring journaling book, The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself by Marla J. Albertie! Fill out the Rafflecopter for by February 12th for a chance to win. We will choose a winner randomly the next day and follow up by email. Good luck! 
 
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Interview with Andreea Ceplinschi, First Place Winner of Q1 2023 Creative Nonfiction essay contest

Sunday, January 29, 2023
Andreea Ceplinschi is a Romanian-American writer. She writes poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction, with a decided focus on poetry. Her work has appeared in Passengers Journal, 86logic, Solstice Magazine, Cathexis Northwest Press, Hare’s Paw Literary Journal, Into the Void, Prometheus Dreaming, and elsewhere. Her work explores dysfunctional childhood family dynamics, various aspects of immigration, and trauma responses linked to abandonment issues and outsider syndrome. When not writing for herself, she acts as the poetry editor for Passengers Journal.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Q1 2023 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What inspired you to write your essay, “You Might Be An Illegal Immigrant?”

Andreea: Thank you so much for selecting my piece and for giving space and acknowledgement in the WOW community. I’m grateful for this question, as it ties into my writing journey and the way it’s rooted in my Passengers family.

After a long break from the writing world, in 2020 I took a trauma writing workshop with Passengers Journal, more or less looking to hone my skills as a writer with little access to cost-prohibitive academic programs. It was during that workshop that the instructor, poet Aaron Wallace, who is no longer with Passengers but will forever be a notable influence in my life, said the following to me with regards to real-life moments I was processing through poetry: “Do you understand that happened to you, but it’s not ok?”

That one question made me feel so seen! I had no idea how alone I’d been feeling with some of the things that happened in my life. So I started writing about moments I couldn’t approach unless I put them in writing. That’s how this essay came about, and that’s why I initially submitted it to Passengers. It was one of the stories that weighed on me. It was the repeated dismissal of my humanity both as a partner in a casual sexual dynamic, and as an individual within a capitalized healthcare system. And even though I had shared that experience with some close friends who supported me and validated my feelings, it never felt resolved, and carrying it around made me feel alone with it. Writing it down, sharing it, and having my own personal “me too” acknowledged by strangers who suddenly feel a lot closer – that’s what helped me leave it behind, as well as find community in the sense that I’m not the only one carrying stuff like this around.

(Other notable CNF moment stemming from the understanding that putting trauma in writing makes it feel lighter is the piece “My Dead Mother’s Breasts” which got an honorable mention in your Q2 2021 contest. It was picked up just this month by The Blood Pudding and finally got published, after a few revisions.)

WOW:  I'm  glad to hear that writing about your experience provided cathartic benefits and a sense of community with your readers. Also, congratulations on the publication of your previous contest piece! How did your essay develop, both in your initial thinking about it and in the revision process?

Andreea: I didn’t think much about it to be honest. It was one of those stories that lived inside of me for so long, it was ready. Since childhood, I’ve developed humor and sarcasm as coping mechanisms and figured that framing a heavy topic with a bit of humor makes it easier to take in.

I started off trying to write a story about the doctor in this piece. It was going to be a short horror story, all fiction, set in dystopian future where only humans with a perfect score are allowed “maintenance and repair” in the form of healthcare. The way you achieved a perfect score was first and foremost to be part of the pure race, no immigrants, to offer proof of resources and loyalty to “the economy” and, if female, to display a willingness to breed forth within the pure race. Where things take a turn is where the narrator gets a little flustered and her accent comes out, setting off alarms in the facility and a frantic struggle to escape this doctor who suddenly turns into a rage monster and tries attacking the narrator. Pretty different than the end result! Once I started writing, the doctor character felt so real because she was real, and every line of dialogue was actually a lived experience, so it felt disrespectful to my past self to not write about the actual event. I did keep the dystopian air and sprinkled a little sarcasm on top, but the story itself was always there, just waiting to come out.

Trying to pull fiction out of my own reality showed me that the experience itself wasn’t about any singular issue, not just about a miscarriage, not just about being an illegal immigrant. It’s also about the healthcare system, capitalism, women not being believed when they’re experiencing their own bodies, and that suddenly felt more urgent and more important to communicate.

WOW:  Your experience writing this piece feels inspirational, in that we just need to start writing what calls to us, and then we may figure out the best way to tell the story as we work on it. Can you tell us about Passengers Journal, where you act as the poetry editor?

Andreea: Why, I’m so glad you asked (insert big grinning emoji).

Passengers journal has become home to me. After the writing workshop I took in 2020, I was offered a reader position for their poetry department. This opened my mind to a whole new understanding of how the literary world works. I had no idea what a “reader” was. I had no idea about a lot of things in publishing. All I knew was that Passengers saved my life (no, I’m not exaggerating for effect, but that’s a story for another essay).

After 2 years and having become poetry editor, what I can say for certain is that we’re doing our best to support voices and writing that might otherwise go unheard. I know everyone boasts supporting minorities and some might be doing it better than us, with more resources or staff with history in academia. We’re an entirely volunteer, international corps of about 80 and we give it out best.

As far as I’m concerned, Passengers has provided me with growth I would have never had the resources to achieve otherwise. Through them, I’ve had the opportunity to interview incredible artists like Prof. A.D. Carson, who presented his doctoral dissertation as a rap album called “Owning My Masters” and has since been teaching Hip Hop and the Global South at UVA, all while being an amazing artist and activist. That was my first attempt at an interview through Passengers, and the journal’s first as well. I couldn’t believe it when he said yes. What powered me through my anxiety, other than Prof. Carson’s incredible kindness with his time and thoughts, was knowing that this was an important voice to amplify, and I couldn’t waste the platform we have at Passengers, however small, by passing up the opportunity to have a conversation.

Now we’ve done many more interviews, book reviews, we even hosted a virtual conference this past summer with panels, workshops, interviews, lectures. We’ve started an ongoing open workshop program because we noticed a need for a type of peer community that typically forms in academic environments, and our mission is to build community outside of that. We’re dedicated to making art accessible, both by sharing editorial skills at little to no cost, and by taking steps to reach a wider audience, such as professionally recording every piece we publish and releasing both departmental podcast episodes discussing the work, as well as the entirety of every published issue in the form of a full-length audio episode.

I could go on for a while. I don’t know if you can tell by now, but I love my Passengers family and I will never pass up an opportunity to peacock about them!

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

Andreea: 
I didn’t think I had any cohesive idea I would want to work on. For the past couple of years I’ve been writing inconsistently, in random spurts of inspiration, sometimes poetry, sometimes flash CNF, sometimes horror fiction. Quite eclectic, I know, but I often thrive on chaos.

Lately, an idea has started to crystallize, and it’s taken me by surprise. I’ve always just wanted to be a poet and thought one day I’ll have a cohesive collection focusing on my childhood, my family history of immigration (my parents, like many post-’89 parents who lost their jobs after communism fell, left Romania to join the Western-European work force; after the age of 16, I only saw my mom 4 times in person until she passed), my own stories of immigration and this overwhelming desire to belong somewhere that never quite comes true. On the other hand, lots of people have asked me to write a memoir, and I’ve always laughed it off because I can’t imagine who would be interested in my life story.

But lately it’s becoming clear that some of my life events, presented in small bites, flash pieces, essays, they do have an audience and feel relatable to some. Maybe nobody can find my life as a whole relatable, but moments are, and sharing them is often cathartic when there’s at least one “me too” reaction to them. So I’ve been considering a collection of both poetry and personal essays. It might follow a storyline, or it might end up being utter anarchy, but I will say it feels good to finally have a seed I want to plant.

WOW: What an exciting concept--to write about your life events in small bites, in different forms. I hope you pursue that idea!  Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Andreea. Before you go, can you share a favorite tip or piece of advice related to creative nonfiction writing?

Andreea:  I never thought I’d give anyone nonfiction writing advice because I’ve never focused on any particular technique, so here goes:

1. I love the poetry concept of “speaker of the poem.” I think of that every time things get deep and personal. I let my speaker feel what she needs to feel, so that I, the writer, can be ok. It creates a sense of detachment so that I can look at an event I’m writing about with more clinical eyes and see where the story makes sense and where it doesn’t, where the narrative is shaky, where the details are too much or not enough. Think of the speaker of your essay as a character rather than yourself, and be the judge of whether the story they’re telling makes sense.

2. Write about the wound when the wound is open and hurts, but edit once it starts healing. Anything I’ve ever written in a raw state is raw material. If you try to put it out into the world while it’s still raw, you’ll either overwhelm your readers or it won’t make sense. Don’t discard the raw writing, that’s the emotional core of any piece, but make sure you give it enough time to create the distinction between writer and speaker. If you can look at something you’ve written and think “I’m ok now because the speaker of this piece is not ok,” then you’re ready to edit.

3. Turn your defense mechanisms into stylistic devices. Mine are sarcasm, self-deprecating humor, and a high dose of ADHD, meaning I’m prone to oversharing, but at least I make it funny. What’s your defense mechanism? Do you dissociate and daydream? Let your speaker do that too in the most intense moment of your story, break your own tension in the very way that seems comfortable and natural to your real life.

I think this is all I have. I don’t know if it’ll help anyone, but if it helps one person, my work here is done 😀

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to ramble! And thank you for giving my essay the space and consideration, I hope it reaches the audience it needs to reach. I appreciate it.

****

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

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Friday Speak Out!: This Is How It Begins

Friday, January 27, 2023
By Donnaldson Brown

People sometimes ask if my past experience in screenwriting has influenced how I write fiction. I mumble something vague about dialogue conveying character, or something slightly less vague about finding the beat a scene needs to move the story forward. That’s all true. Recently, though, I realized that everything I’ve written – the essays and fiction that have seen the light of day, and the stories, screenplays, and abandoned play stacked on my shelves or digitized on thumb drives huddling in my desk drawer – all started with an image, that rolled into another, of characters demanding my attention. Sometimes they drop me in the middle of whatever is captivating or troubling them. Occasionally, they’ll let me in in the beginning. At some point, it becomes clear they’ve tapped me to tell their story and they’re not going away.

My husband was a painter and sculptor, and among my siblings are an architect, a designer, a photographer and a builder. In contrast, I suppose, I never considered myself visually inclined. My medium was words. Realizing that all my stories begin and evolve through very detailed visualizations of characters and the settings they inhabit, took me by surprise.

For instance, one day a teenager galloping hard across the Texas chaparral on her grey mare streamed into my consciousness. I tried to ignore her, as they kept running, sweat lathering the mare’s neck. What was she running from? Where was she headed? I couldn’t abandon them – not with that bank of clouds, dark as a bruise, moving in from the west. Suddenly, a boy, about her age, lands inside a sprawling brick ranch house. The screen door slaps shut behind him. He is drenched. And angry. Who’s this? Floundering at first, I wonder are they connected? Yes. Yes, they are. How?

And there you have it. We’re off to the races. Their story unfurled into Because I Loved You.

Stray characters don’t often approach me like this, practically waving their arms. So, when they do, I pay attention. I’ll start a journal for them, to find their words, their private thoughts, be they petty or lofty. Journaling brings out their worries and desires, which inevitably leads to other characters in their story, and to their inner monologue, which then leads to dialogue. When Leni and Cal came to me, I didn’t think I had enough words in me to write a novel. But they led the way.

I’m thankful for the characters who plant themselves before me and take root. Invariably, I fall in love with them. Giving them voice is a privilege and a duty, sometimes my reason to wake up in the morning. I listen as closely as I can, to find the best way to tell their story: what point of view to use, what tense, will there be flashbacks. Sometimes they leave breadcrumbs. Sometimes it’s just trial and error, draft after draft. I keep at it, though. Because I don’t want to let them down.

* * *

Donnaldson Brown
DONNALDSON BROWN grew up riding horses on her uncles’ ranch in East Texas and in her hometown in Connecticut. Her debut novel, BECAUSE I LOVED YOU, is due out in April 2023 with She Writes Press. She is a former screenwriter and worked for several years with Robert Redford's film development company. Her spoken word pieces have been featured in The Deep Listening Institute’s Writers in Performance and Women & Identity Festivals in New York City, and in the Made in the Berkshires Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She’s a past fellow of the Community of Writers (formerly Squaw Valley Community of Writers), Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Craigardan. Ms. Brown is a longtime resident of both Brooklyn, New York and western Massachusetts. A mother and former attorney, she is currently a facilitator and trainer with The Equus Effect, which offers somatic based experiential learning with horses for veterans, first responders and others struggling with PTSD. Find her online at donnaldsonbrown.com

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

Thursday, January 26, 2023

There are a thousand little details to take care of when one becomes a publisher, and frankly, I’m more of a Big Picture gal. But I had a fairly good idea of what I was getting myself into before I signed up for this adventure. Still, there have been moments… 

For the better part of January, there have been LOTS of moments as I’ve tackled formatting my manuscript for ebook and print. So I thought I’d share a bit about the process in general. 

There are several avenues one can pursue with formatting: there are free programs that are basic but serviceable and there are programs that come with a cost, providing a few more bells and whistles and continuity if one is planning on writing/publishing lots of books. Or one can hire a professional to format the book, either separately or included in a package deal (for example, the company that creates the book cover might also offer formatting for an added fee). 

As I read all about formatting and costs and such, I was reminded of my newly painted bedroom vs. my newly painted kitchen. 

When I realized my bedroom was long overdue for a new coat of paint, I looked around and eyed the king-sized bed, the dresser, and the chest of drawers. My back hurt just thinking about what it would take to move those heavy pieces of furniture to get to the walls. And to tape all the trim, including crown molding—egads! So I called the painter guy and it cost me more than I budgeted but it was worth it. The room looked fresh and gorgeous and I knew the professional paint job would last for years. Plus, my back thanked me profusely. 

Then there was my kitchen, where I’d had renovation work done. I looked around and eyed the wallpaper; it was time for it to go. Not only that, I wanted to remove the chair rails and paint the walls. 

This time, I decided I’d do the project myself. Because for one thing, there was very little wall space; it was easily accessible, requiring little ladder work. It would be tedious, but it really only required time and attention to detail, both of which I could manage what with a Shutdown going on. And in the end, the kitchen looked pretty gorgeous, too. 

Now back to formatting. I weighed my timeline as well as the time involved to do the project myself. I looked at quite a few different programs and read reviews about finished products and support staff. And of course, I looked at my budget. 

Ultimately, I purchased a formatting program. It was moderately priced and provided extras I wanted. And I knew I had plenty of time since I’ve pushed my deadline way out. Most of all, I was sure that, given all the tutorials, the program would be doable for a do-it-yourselfer publisher. 

I was mostly right. It hasn’t been the easiest part of the process (See “there have been LOTS of moments as I tackled formatting”) but now I have a swell program and know what to do (and what not to do) for the next book. 

So the bottom line? Know thyself! Honestly consider what you can manage, no matter what your writing project may be. Get excited about the Big Picture, but take a good look at the little details, too. And when you’re done, celebrate! In my case, with a nice, long nap…zzzzz.


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Conquering the Tech, For Now

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

 

Photo by Pexels

Tech and I don’t get along. I’m sure that’s a statement a lot of my fellow writers can get on board with. I hate installing software updates on my computer on phone, have neglected my writing blog because every time I log into it I have to relearn how to format blog posts , and can’t remember how I set up the RSS feed for my podcast a few years ago. 

I’ve known for months that I wanted (and needed) a website specifically for my podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Initially I had set up a podcast page on my writing blog, FinishedPages.com, but the formatting was glitchy and I felt like it didn’t flow very well. This past summer I reached out to an acquaintance of mine who also has a podcast and asked if he knew anyone who could help me create a new website. I think I’ve discussed here before that it didn’t work out, we weren’t on the same page on what I wanted, and while she created great photography, we had communication issues that prevented the new website design from happening. 

I researched a bit and thought I had found an affordable template I could install on WordPress. But after I purchased it, I opened the PDF of instructions and couldn’t read past the first paragraph. There was something about inserting the code into the SQL or something along those lines, and I realized I was in way over my head. I know nothing about coding and programming. I requested a refund from the company (they said they had a 14-day money back guarantee) and started exploring WordPress templates suggested by GoDaddy, who is my website host and the place I purchase my domains. I found one that I could install easily right into WordPress, and started playing around with it. 

I quickly grew frustrated. I liked the design of the homepage, but I couldn’t figure out how to get other features to work and I have so much content to migrate into the site. I assumed the site wasn’t live while I was playing around with it. Imagine my shock when I realized yesterday the site was indeed live, and it looked terrible because nothing was complete. After screaming out a few choice words and almost having a panic attack, I sat down in front of my computer yesterday and didn’t move for several hours. Once I got my hands in it, I figured out what I needed to do and how to use the plugins to give the site extra features. WordPress also has great stock photography to choose from if you need it. If you’re thinking a lot of this sounds like gibberish, I get it. But the template only cost $69, and the site is now in a workable form. While I’ll be uploading files for the next few months, I’m happy with what I have so far. The next step is to migrate all the true crime content off my old writer blog and give that a facelift, too. 

Oh well. One thing at a time. You can check out my work in progress here. 

What kind of relationship do you have with technology? Can you relate to my website woes?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. She won't be picking up freelance work designing websites anytime soon.
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INTERVIEW WITH MELISSA BALICK, RUNNER UP IN THE SUMMER 2022 FLASH FICTION CONTEST

 

Melissa’s Bio:

Melissa Balick is a deeply unconventional nanny who lives in Oakland, CA with her partner Jon and her haunted, world-weary dog Willow. She spends much of her time hiking through California redwoods or scaling rocks on the Pacific coast, peeking into tide pools and imagining life as a hermit crab. Her work has appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine101 Words, and will soon appear in Hungry Shadow Press

You can find her on practically every platform, from Medium to TikTok, @melissabalick.

If you haven't read "Restaurant" yet, take a moment to explore this story and then come back to learn about Melissa and her writing.

-----interview by Sue Bradford Edwards-----

WOW: What was the inspiration for Restaurant?

Melissa: I’ve had acute climate anxiety all my life and I'm also a professional babysitter/nanny, so I think a lot about how much we hide these problems from children, who are too busy trying to figure out how to even be a person to get saddled with the weight of the problems of the world. 

I remember in particular that I babysat a little boy the day after the 2016 election when I lived in Los Angeles. Everyone I walked past that morning looked downright zombified, and I was also suffering from feelings of profound dread and panic. The boy's parents and I exchanged broken, devastated looks with each other, and then their 2.5 year old son came to the door and I transformed instantly into a person who would not, could not allow the terrible news for our world harm even one morning of this child's life. I smiled, I played, I got downright cheery. He deserved to have his fun and play and enjoy childhood. I'm sensitive to how easily children pick up on our cues and reflect them back. So "Restaurant" came from that idea, the way that parents will pretend to eat the balloon, act like there's nothing to worry about, to rescue their children from the harsh realities of what is happening on our planet. 

WOW: How did "Restaurant" change during the revision process? 

Melissa: This one didn't change very much from when I first wrote it. 

WOW: It is such a tight story. How do you tell which details deserve space in the brief word count and which have to go? 

Melissa: First of all, thank you for saying it's tight. To be honest, looking back, I would add another sentence or two. I regret not including any sensory detail of the deflated balloon, because I find them to have a particular physical presence that would have evoked childhood in a visceral way. 

In general, I tend to only like stories where, at the end, I feel like I understood the story and what it was trying to say. Most short stories that are well-received do nothing for me except make me throw the book against the wall because I did not understand the point of that story or often, even, what happened in it. But they get published and win awards so I suppose that's what other people want. Not me, though. I like a tight story. I don't want readers getting bored or confused at any point in my stories. So I write the kinds of stories I like, and hope for the best. 

The whole process of writing is pretty much a mystery to me. You never know what other people will love or hate. All I can do is write what feels right to me, what captures the spirit of what I'm trying to say. Occasionally it resonates with other people and I can't control that. I can only write what resonates with me. 

WOW: That's so true.  You can't control the reader so write what you love. What does a typical writing session look like for you? 

Melissa: I'm an erratic writer at best. If I'm inspired, I might sit down and bang out a story in a day, then revise it about 16,000 times. I find it literally impossible to make myself do anything I don't want to do and the consequences of not doing something will have to outweigh the benefit of getting it done by a lot before I'll actually do it. Even this interview request -- you can't tell me I wasn't the last one to respond and answer. 

So, when it comes to writing, if I sit down and actually do it, I just do it. I don't know where it comes from or what it looks like. I can tell you that I don't do what everyone says to do, which is to vomit it all out on the first draft and fix it later. I suffer over every sentence the first time I write it, then suffer over it another dozen times, then put it away for a couple months, pull it back out, and suffer over it at least another five times. I can't recommend this method to others, but I'm being honest, this is what I do. 

WOW: I'm glad you've found what works for you but I have to admit.  I slap the whole thing down before I fine tune it.  What can you tell our readers about your current project? 

Melissa: I don't exactly have a current project. I have a couple novels I wrote and haven't finished editing. I have a lot of ideas. I can't see myself pursuing literary writing with any seriousness. I read almost exclusively literary fiction but I hate rejection and part of me would rather crank out genre fiction for self-publishing than try to compete in literary writing and keep losing all the time. The whole question of whether or not I'll keep writing with any seriousness is very much undetermined at this time.

WOW: I'm sure I'm not alone in hoping that you do continue to write as the mood strikes you!  Because I for one will be looking for more of your stories since tight stories that don't leave me guessing appeal to me as well!
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Save the Cat!® Beat Sheet Workbook Reader Review & Giveaway

Friday, January 20, 2023
Save the Cat! Beat Sheet Workbook

We are so excited to have the Save the Cat!® team back with us again to promote another amazing book. This time we're introducing Save the Cat!® Beat Sheet Workbook by Jamie Nash, based on the books by Blake Snyder. Before we share with you what WOW! readers think, here's a bit more about the book:

Break out your favorite pencil and roll up your sleeves! The Save the Cat! Beat Sheet Workbook provides key writing prompts and asks all the important questions—but you bring the story, filling out the pages that walk you step-by-step through the Save the Cat! process.

The official hands-on companion to the best-selling Save the Cat! and Save the Cat! Writes for TV, this interactive workbook helps you dig deep into every aspect of your story. It’s inspiring, easy to manage, and your guide to:

• Idea and Concept Brainstorming – Unlock your idea engine with a series of exercises and prompts geared to help you find your best story idea.

• Meaningful Themes – Explore yourself, matching your story to something that speaks to your soul and represents your tastes and personality.

• Story Genre Identification – Nail down that pesky question of “What is your story?” with the Save the Cat! Story Genres.

• Create Fully Developed Characters – Give life to main characters who have wants, needs, and flaws. Surround them with a supporting cast that provides opportunities for conflict and thematic tension.

• The Save the Cat! Beat Sheet – Discover the tools and detailed exercises to give your story the structure to succeed.

Publisher: Save the Cat! Press
ISBN-10: 0984157638
ISBN-13: 9780984157631
Print length: 200 Pages

Be sure to purchase your copy of this book on the Amazon.com, Target, Barnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org.

Now here's what WOW! readers had to say:

"Having written two novel drafts using the Save the Cat beat sheet methods, I was excited to get my hands on this workbook. The first couple of pages had me scribbling away and taking a good hard look at my own deepest darkest fears and things that make me rage. This was perfect because my current WIP is a “Whydunit” with a protagonist who is a lot like me. (Shocker!)

"The parts that suggested we doodle made me a little hesitant because I am not a doodler by nature, but I worked through them anyway and had fun using the collaging method and pasting in pictures I found from other places.

"I knew starting out my protagonist/detective had some missing pieces to her story (a female sidekick and confidant) and I wanted to dig deeper into the family dynamics that have made her the person she is today. All the exercises within the “Develop Your Characters” section helped me fill in the holes. I also began working on another “Whydunit” novel idea I have because I was so inspired. 

"If you are suffering from the dreaded writer’s block, or like me, need help fleshing out first draft, I highly recommend the Save the Cat Beat Sheet Workbook by Jamie Nash. Your hand will be cramping up (in a good way!) by the time you reach the last page."
 
— Renee Roberson

"I’m a big fan of the Save the Cat books, so I was excited to see there was a new workbook coming out that was based on those books. That being said, I was also cautiously optimistic that, perhaps, the workbook would be like others I’ve tried in the past (i.e., rote, redundant, uninspiring, etc.).

"I’m happy to report that I was genuinely inspired just from reading through the workbook. It really works to loosen you up and forces you to use your imagination without worrying about it being a 'good' or well-thought-out idea. After setting free your imagination, the book THEN helps you to hone in on themes and plot points and genres.

"It contains wonderful ideas on how to make your story and your characters more three-dimensional. Then, finally, it has you brainstorm the fifteen typical beats involved in writing a good story.

"This workbook is useful for a variety of different writing levels and can help you regardless of whether you have the mere spark of a story idea or are already halfway through writing your project.

"I’m really excited to delve into the workbook in greater detail. For now, I already have a handful of exciting new ideas for my novel!"
 
— Katherine Itacy

"If you need a burst of inspiration to be creative, this is a wonderful book to pick up. I love all the ways it helps you dig into new ideas, from dissecting your doodles to switching up movie plots. It also helps you understand the type of story you are telling and the way you are going to tell it. It's a hands-on guide that is perfect for the new and experienced writer. I definitely recommend it!"
 
— Nicole Pyles

"Admittedly, I'm a Save the Cat fan. So I was wondering what this workbook would give me. I have a specific story I want to rework and I approached the workbook with that in mind. But I'll be the first to admit that I hate having to decide where my story fits into the various types. Is there a monster? Or a mystery? Or is it a buddy story?! Help!

"I love that the workbook takes you through a series of questions. Does your story have X? If you said, YES, go here. Really? That's what it is? I don't know for a fact that I'm going to ultimately agree but it definitely made me reconsider some of my assumptions.

"And I have to say that I really loved the get to know yourself questions and the whole section on how to morph an idea into something new. If you don't have an idea you want to run with, these exercises will help.

"I know some people are loathe to write in a book because then they can't use it again. So don't. Write on a post-it stuck on the page! Then when you are done you can pull them out and start again with your next idea.

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a Whydunit to solve."
 
— Sue Bradford Edwards

"This workbook covers all the basics screenwriters need in order to plan their next solid story. The exercises included are both thoughtful and fun. They really encourage you to embrace your full creative power. Even though it's geared toward screenwriters, novelists who enjoy the STC method will get just as much out of this workbook."
 
— Jessica Leibe

"The Save the Cat Beat Sheet Workbook is my new favorite tool for brainstorming and story generation! I’ve read both Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat Writes a Novel, and this workbook is the perfect companion. Where the books assume the writer has an idea already, this interactive workbook starts from scratch by examining your emotions, what gets your heart pounding, and more. It’s perfect for those new to the STC method. I’d suggest working through the idea generation exercises in this workbook first, before reading the books, because it encourages play and helps your imagination run wild.
 
"My favorite exercise was gluing a photo to the page and creating plots in different movie genres like comedy, science fiction, inspirational, and horror. I wrote several variations of my initial story idea and love them all! The Choose Your Own Adventure section was fun, and it is no surprise to me, since I mostly write creative nonfiction and memoir, that I’m an Inside Out writer.
 
"Even though I’ve completed two book-length beat sheets in the past, this workbook was still full of revelations. Jamie Nash’s Beat Sheet Workbook is a godsend for writers like me who’ve fallen into a rut of taking their writing too seriously. This was the book I needed to help me break through the blocks that have been holding me back and blast back into my creative side."
 
— Angela Mackintosh

"If you've ever struggled with starting a story or have started a story and don't know where to go next or how to get there, fear not! This clever and quirky workbook is for you!

"You can also kiss writer's block goodbye with the variety of clever exercises and engaging activities offered to get those creative juices flowing. Plus, Save the Cat's '15 beats' that are at the heart of every great story are also included. Don't worry. They're all spelled out in logical progression and well-defined. So are easy to follow, step-by-step instructions and encouragement for turning your creative legwork into a compelling and exciting story.

"This book will be a welcome addition to any seasoned or wannabe writer's bookshelf."
 
— Pages and Paws

"I have been using this book to help with my writing practice. Each day I work the exercises on one or more pages, and then I sit to work on my novel. It's been a great way to warm up before jumping in to whatever chapter I'm working on.

"Because the exercises are short, it's easy to fit them in to whatever time you have. And I find they get me thinking about things in a way I wouldn't otherwise. For instance, one exercise asked me to write down things that get me emotional, particularly things that make me cry. I was tempted to flip past this page because I don't typically think of emotional things before writing. But I stuck with it, and came up with a list of things that surprised me. And it helped when I was writing an emotional scene a few days later.

"I also like that it's easy to jump around with the exercises so I don't have to go page by page if something on one particular day is not calling out to me. I should also mention that I haven't read the books this workbook is based on, but I don't think it's necessary for anyone to get a lot out of this. So if you're looking for a way to whet your creative appetite, I highly recommend this Save The Cat! workbook."
 
— Cindy Hudson

"I loved this book! You know when you lose something, and you search for hours for it but when you stop searching for the lost thing, is time that you find it? When my writing came to a screeching halt, I loved picking up this book because it had my mind thinking differently than I would normally. It was fun to let go and think of new creative ways to bring forth new juicy ideas.

"I was in a coworking session and my accountability partner said he was going to work on his writing. He held up Save the Cat!® Beat Sheet Workbook: How Writers Turn Ideas Into Stories and mentioned using this book if he got stuck. I held up mine as well... we are now instant 'internet cousins.' What was the likely hood of that happening? I say this to support my point of its use to help push you through the dull and stagnant moments when it comes to writing. If you like workbooks, writing out your ideas, and prefer to process information in the question-and-answer format, then do not hesitate to put this book in your cart and checkout."
 
— Angela Clay
 
Save the Cat! Beat Sheet Workbook Reader Review Event and Giveaway
 
***** BOOK GIVEAWAY ***** 
 
Enter to win a copy of Save the Cat! Beat Sheet Workbook by Jamie Nash. Fill out the Rafflecopter form below by February 2 at 11:59 pm CT for a chance to win! We will choose one winner randomly the next day and follow up via email. Good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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4 Ways to Wrap Up Your Nonfiction Manuscript

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Earlier this week, as I read Melissa Stewart's post on the ending of her book Mega-Predators of the Past, I realized I haven't recently written about the many clever ways you can wrap up your nonfiction manuscript. Here are four of my favorites. 

Summary Plus 

The manuscript I am currently revising for Red Line ends with a summary, but I have to go beyond what my reader has encountered in the preceding pages. One way to do this is to make a prediction as I did in Evolution of Mammals: 

“Fossils are one of the oldest means of studying evolution. Using DNA analysis, computer models, stable isotope analysis, and more, scientists are creating a more accurate picture of how mammals have changed over time. As scientists continue to develop new techniques and share information, that picture will continue to evolve.” 

Another is to end with a note of hope. "This has been a bad situation, but things are looking up because..." This is especially important when you write for young readers.  Most editors want to end on a positive note.


Consider This 

Another possible ending challenges readers to contemplate the information you’ve given them. Kelly Milner Halls does this in her book In Search of Sasquatch

"Serious Sasquatch hunters believe their quest will one day be just as successful. And millions of people around the world are sure they’re right. Until then, we’ll have to be content with compelling evidence that has opened even skeptical scientific eyes to the possibilities. Do you believe? Consider the evidence; then see if you can decide.” 

Whether or not you are a believer, you will be amazed by the amount of information the author compiled and the nature of some of the sources she used in her book. It is enough to make you think.


Call to Action

In this popular nonfiction ending, the author challenges the reader to go forth and . . . conserve, recycle, feed the hungry, etc. The specific challenge depends on the topic. For example, in Investigating Fossil Fuel Pollution, I talk about the different things that people can do to reduce the use and impact of fossil fuels. 

The call to action can also be used in historic fiction as Louise Borden does with His Name was Raoul Wallenberg: Courage, Rescue and Mystery During World War II. Here is her ending: 

“The fate of Raoul Wallenberg is still unknown. His tragic arrest casts a shadow on the light and the hope that this young Swedish architect brought to those in need during the dark days of 1944. “His enduring legacy – the knowledge that one person can make a difference in the world – lives on in the many thousands whom he and others saved, and in the generations that follow them.” 

Borden challenges readers to solve the mystery and also to create a legacy of their own. Thanks to Borden’s challenge, her readers are now thinking big! 


Circular Ending 

I really like well-crafted circular endings. A circular ending is one that somehow connects to the beginning. This is the type of ending that Melissa Stewart crafted in Mega-Predators of the Past. In the final three sentences of her book, Stewart restates the idea that dinosaurs are “overexposed and overrated” while concluding that it is time to “let other prizeworthy predators of the past share the stage.” This was her introduction and helps readers see that she has proved her point with numerous animal examples. 

Endings may not be my strength, but when I come across one that works this well . . . wow! It really wins me over. Now I just have to develop the perfect ending for my own manuscript. 

--SueBE

Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 35 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 February 6, 2023).  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 February 6, 2023) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins February 6, 2023). 
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Asking If Writing Is a Hobby, Is Asking the Wrong Question

Wednesday, January 18, 2023
This may seem like a silly thing to be bothered by, but I recently read a blog post by a writer I follow who asked whether or not you are taking writing seriously, questioning whether you are just writing as a hobby. 

Somehow, this bothered me. And it did because creating writing has taken a back seat like I feared this January. Of course, it's only week two of the new year and this was a stressful week at work, but still...

The blog post, which I'll admit I skimmed, suggested that many people have grandiose dreams of writing and publication without actually wanting to put in the effort of writing. You know the whole pen-to-paper and butt-in-chair type of thing. 

That may be true. Sometimes the dream of success is far different than the reality of trying to obtain it. And yet, honestly, those dreams can be motivators.

But what's also true is having the discipline to write isn't exactly easy. You really do need to make writing a regular part of life, get in the muck of the revision process, etc.

Yet, this is what bothered me: the person says a hobbyist just writes for fun, and a professional writes for keeps. 

As if it's really that black and white. As if writing for fun is silly and only those who mope through their text are the true professionals. As if there isn't a time to love writing for the joy of it and other times for disciplining yourself to get through your written work. 

I think asking someone whether they are writing for fun (hobby) or writing for a future (professional) is asking the wrong question. 

There's a deeper reason this bothered me, and if you stayed with me this far, hang out a bit longer.
You see, let's go back a bit before all of this. Several years ago, blogging was a regular thing for me and I loved doing product reviews too. I was part of a blogging community and this whole hobby thing came up for blogging. There were people on there saying people who blog for the fun of it shouldn't be doing product reviews at all. 

I mean, how fair is that? Why not, right?

It always set me against this community and made me not feel as if I was supported at all. 

What I have realized is there was a far greater benefit to me doing this type of blogging than I realized at the time. It was writing practice and helped me feel confident cold pitching companies. It exposed me to public relations. I'm sure it's why I'm comfortable cold-pitching publishing companies to work with WOW! and why I'm fine pitching bloggers to participate in tours. If I get a bit of snark or a brush-off or just ignored, it's fine. It's part of the process.

So, was I hobby blogger as implied by this community? Or, as this blogger I read recently implied, was I just blogging for fun (hobby) and not "for keeps" (professional)? Well, I was blogging for fun, but I never saw it as a hobby. I didn't just categorize myself that way. There was a bigger picture happening for me than I realized at the time. All the skills I gained from it were valuable and even led me to feel comfortable doing public relations (which I am doing professionally now).

This year I want writing to be fun again, but does that mean I'm making it a hobby? 

Well, that's not the question to ask. 

To me, a hobby means it's something I don't expect to have a serious outcome. And sure, maybe for some writing is purely for the fun of it without any future expected of it.

But even then, I plea for that person who just "writes for the fun of it" to not categorize themselves with the label of hobbyist versus professional. 

Honestly, I think writing for the fun of it is the first step towards a professional outcome. Sure, writing isn't always fun and you do need discipline for many stages of the writing process. But don't be so quick to label yourself and be dismissed by those who are at a more successful level than you. Instead, keep going. Keep making writing fun for yourself. Because before you know it, writing will become something different. 

For me, I want to make writing fun for me again. I want to capture the joy of creative writing. Should I label myself as just a hobbyist then? No, absolutely not. And you shouldn't either if that's what you are hoping for too. 

I have felt guilty for not writing lately, and sometimes I do struggle with the joy of writing. But that's where discipline can come in because the second I do make writing part of the day (or week) it does add joy to my life.

Instead, I need to ask myself this: are there opportunities when I can prioritize writing over other tasks? The want to write is part of it, but making the step towards adding it to your day is another part. 

So, if you have the want of writing but aren't writing, or maybe you have dreams of writing success and aren't writing, don't just accept the label of "hobbyist." Instead, ask yourself: can you discipline yourself to write even if the want isn't there and the successful result doesn't come right away?

If you've answered "yes" to that question or even "I'd like to" you are halfway there to capturing your creative self again. 

Take one step at a time and embrace where you at while striving to push forward. You'll get there. Just trust the process.


Nicole Pyles is a writer, blogger, and bookworm living in Portland, Oregon. Her stories and poetry have been featured on The Voices Project, Arlington Literary Journal, Sky Island Journal, and in the anthology Dear Leaders Tales. She loves promoting authors with WOW! Women on Writing as a blog tour manager and reviewing books on her writing blog, World of My Imagination. She has also started blog, Notes on Scripture, that includes reflections while reading the Bible.
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