To Achieve Success, First You Need to Define It

Wednesday, May 31, 2023
Image by Natalia Lavrinenko from Pixabay

10 Steps to Becoming a Successful Writer 

What You Must Do to Succeed as a Writer 

5 Things All Successful Authors Do 

I can’t imagine trying to write an article that would bear one of the above titles. After all, how can you tell every writer how to achieve success when each of us defines success in a different way? How you define success as a writer depends on many different factors and can change over time. 


Some of us simply want to write. We have a story to tell, and we want to get it down. For these types of writers, reaching the end of the story that has been pushing its way through them is a huge success. 

For other writers, finding the time and energy to lay words down is a huge accomplishment. The reality is that many days end without them finding the time, space, or energy to write. So when they do write, they know they have accomplished something amazing. The process itself is the success they crave. 


For other writers, creating a manuscript isn’t enough. They want to publish it. They want it out in the world for other people to read. Some of these writers choose self-publishing because it offers a level of control that is important to them. Others query, pitch, and submit their work to a variety of traditional publishers. They know that having multiple manuscripts out at any one time increases the chances of a sale. 

Whichever path they choose, success means getting their words out into the world. They want their writing out there where it can be found by readers. Online or as an e-book. In a journal or as a print book. Publication marks success. 


Still others want to do more than publish. They measure success by receiving payment for their work. These writers avoid literary journals that offer compensation in the form of publication but no money. It isn’t enough to earn a byline. Instead, they seek paying markets. 

Some of these writers also look for writing related income. They take editing jobs. They teach classes and offer workshops. Some of them speak at conferences. All of these things add to their income.


Still other writers measure their success through recognition for what they can do. While some hope for a New York Times bestselling title or a medal from the American library association, these aren’t goals the writer can directly impact beyond writing the best book they can possibly write. 

To find recognition, they enter contests. They apply for mentorships and to attend retreats. Every achievement means success for these writers. 


There are also writers who need to know that they have had an impact on the world. These writers often choose their topics carefully, spinning up articles about social justice or ecology. Some of them work as grant writers, seeking funding for nonprofits of various kinds. 

Success for writers who seek to influence their world can also come when they hear directly from their readers. When they get fan mail, they know they have written something that meant something to at least this particular reader. 

You don’t have to find success in only one area. Here at WOW we often discuss what success looks like but we also recognize that it is varied. A writer can find personal success in all of these areas or in only one. What is important is that they define success on their terms and then look for the tools that they need to get there. 


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 June 5, 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 June 5, 2023) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins June 5, 2023).
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Down a Bad Road by Regina Buttner: Blog Tour and Giveaway

Monday, May 29, 2023


Welcome to the Down a Bad Road blog tour! This psychological thriller by Regina Buttner is perfect for fans of domestic thrillers by best-selling authors Kimberly Belle, Kaira Rouda, and Heather Gudenkauf. The blog tour starts today and lasts through June 25th! See the tour schedule below to follow along.

Enjoy the following excerpt of Down a Bad Road

Lavender snorted. “How can a dead person be dangerous?”

Penelope sighed. “It’s hard to explain, the message I’m getting isn’t quite clear. This storm that’s about to dump on us has thrown my chakras out of balance. It happens sometimes, when the atmospheric pressure is in flux.” 

What in the hell were chakras? Lavender chewed the remnants of her peach-flavored gloss from her lower lip. This was a whole lot of crazy talk.

“The best I can make of it,” Penelope went on, “is that Ron’s safety is at risk somehow, and this woman may have something to do with it.”

Fear jolted Lavender. At this very moment, Burley was driving down to Pennsylvania, to pay his final respects to Marta.

“When was the last time you spoke to him?” Penelope said.

“This morning. After he asked me to marry him, he said he needed to get on the road—” Lavender’s voice rose, on the verge of hysteria. “Are you serious, Penelope? You really think he’s in danger?”

“Yes, I believe so, and you may be, too. You need to be careful.”

Holy crap! Lavender’s insides twisted with fear. Had Burley lied about Marta’s death? But why would he do that when he was smitten with her? She’d divorced her husband to be with him! She wanted to believe that Penelope’s strange ramblings were completely mistaken, but what if they weren’t, and something bad was about to happen? Either way, she had to get hold of Burley. Now.

“I have to go, Penelope,” Lavender said. She hung up without saying goodbye and dialed Burley’s number, but the call wouldn’t go through. Clutching the phone in her trembling hands, she stared out the living room window as the wind picked up and the swirling snow began to come down harder.

About the Book

Jealousy can be deadly.

Longtime bachelor Ron Burley has a rule against messing around with married women in his rural upstate New York town, but sassy, lovely Lavender has convinced him to break it. Their steamy affair sets someone off, but it isn't Lavender's clueless husband-it's Marta, Burley's clingy childhood friend and ex-lover.

Marta knows Burley is on the verge of going broke, so she secretly tries to lure him with a lucrative job offer and some enticing fringe benefits. Although he's sorely tempted, Burley's afraid to trust Marta due to the sketchy circumstances surrounding their bitter breakup years ago; but this might be his only chance to get back at her for what she did.

Suspicious of her boyfriend's romantic history, Lavender visits a psychic for a tarot card reading in a creepy cabin in the Adirondack woods. Watch your back, the psychic warns her. Burley and Marta aren't the innocent people they're pretending to be. Someone's out for revenge, and this love triangle could turn deadly.

Thriller fans will enjoy the tense, cat-and-mouse-style suspense in this spellbinding page-turner. Filled with deceit, festering grudges, and high-octane drama, Down A Bad Road is deftly crafted to keep the reader wanting more. —Laurie Buchanan, author of the Sean McPherson novels

 Down A Bad Road is gripping, unforgettable suspense laced with dark humor. Regina Buttner’s unreliable but compelling characters struggle in a blue-collar community where everyone is willing to do whatever it takes for a leg up or a way out. Expect to laugh. Prepare to cry. But don’t plan on setting this fast-paced thriller down until you read the last page! —Cam Torrens, author of Stable

 A cautionary tale with a gut-punch plot. In this steamy, small-town thriller, Regina Buttner takes the reader down a bad road indeed. —Brian Kaufman, author of A Shadow Melody

Publisher: Black Rose Writing
ISBN-10: 1685131883
ISBN-13: 978-1685131883
Print length: 298 pages

You can read more about the book (and read a preview!) by going to:

Add Down a Bad Road to your Goodreads TBR list or purchase a copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or

About Author Regina Buttner

Regina is a registered nurse-turned-writer who was raised in beautiful upstate New York, where she spent many happy years exploring the winding back roads and scenic hiking trails of the Adirondack mountain region. She recently traded the snowy northern winters for the tropical breezes of the Sunshine State, where her favorite pastimes are kayaking among the mangroves, strolling the gorgeous beaches, and attempting to teach tricks to her boisterous corgi. 

Learn more on Regina's website or follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads or BookBub

---- Interview by Michelle Cornish

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Regina, and congratulations on the release of Down a Bad Road! I love the twists and turns in this story. Did you plan these ahead of time or did they come to you as you were writing?

Regina: I’m very much a plotter rather than a pantser. I like to know where my story is going, as if I’m setting out on a long drive and following a road map. When my novels are in the planning stage, I create that road map by first constructing a narrative outline of the story, using the same voice that I would use if I were explaining the plot to a friend. I do, however, allow myself to write “by the seat of my pants” when I’m creating my individual scenes. That’s where potential plot twists will often surface, as though the story has a mind of its own. I then weave those twists into the narrative outline, adjusting the story arc as I go along.

WOW: What advice do you have for authors wanting to incorporate a major twist or surprise ending into their story?

Regina: You can’t just plunk a bad guy or a dark secret into your story without setting the reader up for it first. If you don’t, you risk losing your credibility as a storyteller. The reader won’t find the sudden turn of events to be believable, and they’ll lose their trust in you. To prevent that from happening, you’ve got to drop a few breadcrumbs here and there throughout the story. Breadcrumbs are tiny bits of information that hint at things yet to come in your characters’ lives. This subtle foreshadowing will percolate in the reader’s subconscious, building up to that delicious Aha! moment later on in the book, when the puzzle pieces of the plot begin to snap into place.

WOW: Do you find it difficult to write villains? Why or why not?

Regina: I have a blast writing villainous characters! In Down a Bad Road, I had a wonderful time creating self-centered Lavender, bumbling Burley and manipulative Marta. Lavender was especially fun to play around with as she morphed into the satirical vixen that my beta readers said they “loved to hate.” Writing these unlikeable yet compelling characters freed up a part of my normally straight-laced psyche, which allowed me to explore the darker side of human nature.

WOW: I love that! How much of your own personality shows up in your characters?

Regina: My sense of humor tends toward the sarcastic, and my friends would probably describe me as a bit of a smartass. I think those traits of mine shine through in the character of Lavender, but magnified about a thousand times! I actually consider myself to be a genuinely nice person who would never stoop to Lavender’s level of insensitivity and scheming. In that sense, I’m more like the character Burley, who strives to live a life of integrity, even though his efforts often fall far short of his intentions. 

WOW: Did any particular book or author inspire you to write a thriller?

Regina: One of my all-time favorite novels is Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel, the classic gothic tale of mystery and obsession. I’m a longtime fan of du Maurier’s vivid settings and intricate plotting. I love the ambiguity of cousin Rachel’s seemingly innocuous actions as she toys with young Philip’s affections. Every time I reread the novel, I find myself pondering Rachel’s intentions right along with the bewildered Philip. In homage to du Maurier’s stellar example, I try to weave that same sense of uncertainty and foreboding into my own stories.

WOW: Do you have a favorite writing craft book or favorite piece of writing advice you’ve received?

Regina: Being the plotter that I am, I’ve found the craft book Write Away by Elizabeth George to be an indispensable guide for planning a novel. Her method takes you step-by-step through the process, from initial idea to final draft. My favorite piece of advice from George is the importance of “showing up.” Your novel won’t get written without you sitting down in that desk chair every darn day, and doing the work. Only you can make it happen!

WOW: Wonderful advice, Regina! Thanks for joining us and we wish you all the best with Down a Bad Road

Down a Bad Road by Regina Buttner Blog Tour

---- Blog Tour Calendar

May 29th @ The Muffin
Join us as we celebrate the blog tour launch of Down a Bad Road by Regina Buttner. You'll have the chance to read an interview with the author and win a copy of the book.

May 30th @ Author Anthony Avina’s blog
Stop by author Anthony Avina’s blog to read his review of Down a Bad Road by Regina Buttner. 

May 31st @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews blog
Join Lisa for an interview with Regina Buttner.

June 1st @ World of My Imagination
Stop by World of My Imagination to read Nicole's review of Down a Bad Road

June 4th @ Author Anthony Avina’s blog
Revisit author Anthony Avina’s blog to read “How a Corgi Supercharged My Writing Life” by Regina Buttner. 

June 5th @ A Lit Life
Stop by A Lit Life read Stephanie's review of Down a Bad Road

June 7th @ One Writer's Journey
Visit Sue Bradford Edwards’ blog to read an interview with author Regina Buttner.

June 8th @ Michelle Cornish's blog
Read a guest post from Regina Buttner about cultivating writerly discipline.

June 9th @ Reading is My Remedy
Check out Chelsie's Instagram where she'll review Down a Bad Road.

June 10th @ World of My Imagination
Stop by Nicole's blog where Regina Buttner is a guest for "Three Things on a Saturday Night."

June 12th @ Reading is My Remedy
Stop by Chelsie's blog to read a guest post by Regina Buttner about disguising your friends and family in your stories.

June 13th @ Michelle Cornish's author blog
Join Michelle as she reviews Down a Bad Road.

June 14th @ Create Write Now
Visit Mari's blog to read a guest post by Regina Buttner about growing up old-school Catholic and daring to write about it!

June 15th @ The Knotty Needle
Join Judy for her review of Down a Bad Road.

June 16th @ Mindy McGinnis’s blog
Stop by Mindy’s blog to read “A Humorous Look at NOT Dating After 50” by Regina Buttner.

June 16th @ From the TBR Pile
Join Kari as she reviews Down a Bad Road

June 18th @ Lady Unemployed 
Stop by Nicole's blog to read "How Joining a Professional Writers Organization Transformed My Writing Career" by Regina Buttner.

June 21st @ Life According to Jamie
Join us as Jamie reviews Down a Bad Road

June 22nd @ Sue Edwards’s blog
Return to Sue’s blog to read "From Nurse to Writer" by Regina Buttner.

June 23rd @ Nikki's Book Reviews
Read Nicole's review of Down a Bad Road.

June 24th @ The Faerie Review
Stop by The Faerie Review to read a spotlight of Down a Bad Road

June 25th @ A Lit Life
Return to A Lit Life to read a guest post from Regina Buttner about how a visit to the Stillwater Hotel in Upstate New York inspired the setting for Down a Bad Road

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

Enter to win a copy of Down a Bad Road by Regina Buttner! Fill out the Rafflecopter form by June 11th at 11:59 pm CT for a chance to win. We will choose a winner randomly the next day and follow up via email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Interview with Audrey A. Human, Runner Up in the WOW! Q2 2023 Essay Contest

Sunday, May 28, 2023


As a traveler, I’ve migrated throughout the United States—from Michigan, to Hawai’i and in between—landing, finally, in Portland, Oregon. I was chasing that dream we were all told we wanted, only to realize my own. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois-Chicago, I landed a laboratory position along the Gulf Coast of Texas, analyzing wastewater and soil samples. When I’m not testing what comes out the other end of the toilet, I’m writing. Currently, I am working on a speculative fiction novel in which humans have discovered an exotic fuel source that burns clean and renews itself, sparking a war with galaxy-traversing space rats. 

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

WOW: Hi Aubrey, and welcome! Your essay really made me stop and think, so thank you for sharing such a personal experience. What are you hoping readers take away from “How to Measure Maximum?” 

Aubrey: With this essay/personal experience, I would like for readers to understand the plight of a woman during times of extreme stress and lacking basic necessities such as housing. We live in a tumultuous time for the economy and it's getting worse. Population rates rise but available and affordable housing has not kept pace. This tragedy steadily unfolds in the United States and elsewhere as more and more hardworking people find themselves out on the streets. The median house price in the Portland, Oregon area alone hovers around $400k. I don't know many people that can qualify for a mortgage at that rate. Furthermore, rent averages around $2k a month for a typical two bedroom apartment. Only recently, have businesses begun applauding themselves for paying closer to $15 an hour. At that pay rate a few years ago, I struggled to find housing and slept in my car for over two years. 

WOW: I agree on all points. Reading about it in a firsthand account such as yours makes the crisis all the more clear. When did you first decide you wanted to pursue a career in science? 

Aubrey: In college, I originally planned to major in History or Anthropology. The job market for those fields seemed extremely competitive so I switched to Biology. At the time, I felt like studying something practical would lead me to a job that paid the bills with a little left over for traveling or other leisurely activities. 

WOW: Could you share some life lessons you’ve learned from your travels? 

Aubrey: Probably the greatest life lesson I have learned by traveling is just that: to travel. I think it is imperative to discover how other humans live around the country and around the world. In the United States, I have been lucky to have met folks from other countries, learn their cultural values and world perspectives, expanding my own in the process. When I talk to people back home (in Michigan), many of whom have never left the state, or even the town, it is as if I am speaking to the past. They seem stuck and unchanged, encapsulating ideologies and worldviews of a nostalgic sort. I like to think of myself as a continuously evolving creature that craves change and spontaneity. Life is about growth and learning and the best way to do that, in my opinion, is to go out and wander the world. 

WOW: You are currently working on a speculative fiction novel. What do you think is the hardest part of creating a body of work in this genre? 

Aubrey: Besides finding time to actually do the writing, probably the most challenging endeavor of writing speculative fiction is the research. Though it is fiction, I want to write stories that sound as if they could happen in our lifetime. Space exploration, rudimentary and largely confined to our native solar system, could be a possibility. Discovering exotic fuels that might power that prime directive is also possible. Encountering other life forms that grew up on other planets is also probable at some point. Writing speculative fiction, to me, fuses the imagination with the real. Making that world seem as believable as possible, despite all the aliens and advanced technology, is an arduous journey that, with the proper diligence, can have great incentive. 

WOW: That's a great overview and I love that you are working so hard on the research aspect of it as well. Who are some authors who inspire your writing? 

Aubrey: I love reading so my personal list is long and spans genres. A few on the top shelf are: Anne Rice's dark fantasies, Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," the hilarious writings of Douglass Adams ("Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" and "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series). Also ranking high are: Dan Simmons' "Hyperion" series and Philip K. Dick, whose wildly imaginative stories have provided a lot of inspiration for me. Becky Chambers is becoming a new favorite of mine ("A Closed and Common Orbit"). More women writing "traditionally" male genres is vital to the literary universe because a lot of science fiction out there caters more towards men than women. Chambers not only provides a female perspective but she also explores non-binary genders, a very significant topic in a country that actively fights for and against the rights of LGBTQIA+ communities. A good writer can weave words of gold and honey but a great author can spin a tale so vivid and real that you forget your own life when reading it.

WOW: Losing yourself in a story--that's the absolute best, isn't it? Thank you so much for being here today and we wish you all the luck with your writing endeavors!
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Demystifying the Blog Tour: A Powerful Marketing Tool for Your Book Launch and Beyond

Saturday, May 27, 2023

A blog tour is a marketing campaign that involves coordinating a series of blog posts and online promotions to create buzz and generate exposure for your book. It typically involves collaborating with bloggers and influencers who have an audience that aligns with your target readership. These bloggers will read your book, write reviews, host author interviews, and feature guest posts or excerpts from your book on their blogs. The goal is to reach a wider audience and generate interest in your book within their established community.


The Blog Tour Framework

Here's a breakdown of the framework for a typical blog tour:


  1. Identify and contact bloggers: Research and compile a list of relevant bloggers who cater to your book's genre or niche. Reach out to them via email or through their website's contact form, expressing interest in collaborating on a blog tour.


  1. Provide review copies: Offer a digital or physical copy of your book to the interested bloggers, allowing them time to read and review it before the tour begins.


  1. Create tour schedule: Coordinate with the participating bloggers to create a schedule for the tour. Each blogger will have a designated day to feature your book on their blog and share their review, interview, guest post, or any other agreed-upon content.


  1. Create content: Prepare author interviews, guest posts, or excerpts that you can provide to the bloggers to publish on their respective blogs. These pieces of content should be engaging and relevant to your book, enticing readers to learn more about it.


  1. Promote: As the blog tour progresses, actively promote each blog post across your own social media channels and any other platforms you use. This will help generate more visibility and encourage your existing followers to visit the blogs hosting your content.


  1. Engage with readers: Throughout the blog tour, make an effort to engage with readers who leave comments on the blog posts. Responding to their comments and answering their questions will help build a connection and potentially lead to more interest in your book. 

Blog Tour Benefits

The benefits of a blog tour can be significant for your book launch or generating interest long after your book has been released. Some potential advantages include:


  1. Increased exposure: By leveraging the established audiences of bloggers and influencers, you can reach a wider audience that may not have been aware of your book otherwise.


  1. Social proof: Positive reviews and endorsements from bloggers can lend credibility to your book, encouraging readers to take a chance on it.


  1. Networking opportunities: Collaborating with bloggers and influencers can expand your network within the literary community, opening doors to potential future partnerships or opportunities.


  1. Enhanced online presence: The blog tour generates online content related to your book, increasing your online presence and searchability, which can have long-term benefits for your author platform.

When to Plan a Blog Tour

Determining the best time to have a blog tour for your book largely depends on your specific goals, timeline, and the nature of your book. However, there are a few general considerations to keep in mind when planning the timing of your blog tour:


  1. Book launch date: Ideally, you'll want to schedule your blog tour around your book's launch date. This ensures that the tour generates maximum buzz and attention during the critical period when your book becomes available to the public; however, a book tour can also help reignite interest in your book long after it’s been published..


  1. Pre-launch promotion: Consider starting your blog tour a few weeks before your book's official launch. This gives bloggers and influencers ample time to read and review your book, and it allows you to generate buzz and anticipation leading up to the release. Pre-launch promotion can help build excitement and generate pre-orders or early sales.


  1. Availability of review copies: Ensure that you have review copies of your book available and ready to send out to bloggers well in advance of the blog tour start date. This allows sufficient time for bloggers to read the book and prepare their content for the tour. Consider providing digital copies for ease and quick distribution.


  1. Audience availability: Take into account the preferences and availability of your target audience. If your book caters to a specific season, genre, or holiday, it might be beneficial to align your blog tour with that theme or timeframe. For example, a romance novel might benefit from a blog tour around Valentine's Day.


  1. Other marketing efforts: Consider coordinating your blog tour with other marketing initiatives you have planned. This could include social media campaigns, advertising, or other promotional activities. A coordinated approach can amplify your book's visibility and impact.


  1. Blogger availability: Reach out to bloggers and influencers well in advance to secure their participation and confirm their availability for the tour. Keep in mind that popular bloggers may have busy schedules, so it's beneficial to plan ahead and be flexible with scheduling to accommodate their availability.


Ultimately, the best time for a blog tour is when you have everything in place, including review copies, promotional materials, and a solid plan for engaging with bloggers and readers throughout the tour. Take the time to strategically plan and execute your blog tour to maximize its impact on your book launch or relaunch.

Did you know WOW! Women on Writing offers blog tours as part of our marketing services? 
If you're interested in exploring professional assistance for your blog tour and other book marketing endeavors, check out WOW! Women on Writing's book marketing packages. We offer comprehensive and tailored solutions to help authors like you navigate the world of book promotion. Our team of experts can guide you through the process, provide valuable insights, and connect you with influential bloggers and reviewers in your genre. 
By leveraging the expertise and network of WOW! Women on Writing, you can enhance the effectiveness of your blog tour and ensure your book receives the attention it deserves. Learn more here or contact blogtour[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com with questions.

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Creating a Vision Board with Marla J. Albertie

Friday, May 26, 2023
Interview by Nicole Pyles
As a writer, it's important to picture the goal you have in mind for your work. Without it, it's easy to stumble in the dark, uncertain of the direction of your writing future. That's when vision boards come into place! Being able to create a visual of the goals you have for your writing career has tremendous benefits.
Today, I'm talking to Marla J. Albertie, author of the book, The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself. She's also a career, life, and executive coach and is currently pursuing her PhD in I/O Psychology. Her Vision Board Mastery course is self-guided, allowing you to create the vision you have for your life. We're chatting about her course today.
WOW: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today! I'm so excited to talk with you about vision boards. First, tell me about your vision board mastery course.
Marla: This is a course for those who want to create their vision board on their own terms. I do not believe in "rules" when creating your vision board, therefore my course walks people through the steps of how to think about what they want and create the vision board that is suited best for them. The course is self-paced and most of all fun!
WOW: I love that you make it self-paced! Why is creating a vision board so essential to writing success?
Marla: We all have goals and dreams we want to accomplish; however, what will we do to make those goals and dreams a reality? For example, someone may want to write their first book; if so they can place or create a picture of themselves holding their first book. Once this has been created, your mind will get to work on how to make this a reality because you are now looking at this visual every day. Therefore, it must happen!
WOW: I think having that picture in mind is so valuable. For people who don't know where to begin for their vision board, what do you suggest?
Marla: My course starts off having people make a list of 100--yes, 100 things they want to do/accomplish. I know 100 seems like a lot, but it allows you to think about what you desire, it also gives you time to think about what you want for your life and the legacy you want to create. Writers can think about the story they want to tell the world.
WOW: What an eye-opening experience! Why is having a positive mindset a great motivation for writers?
Marla: Let me do a reverse on this question and ask a question back: what will having a negative mindset do? Think about it and you will realize having a positive mindset is really the only option for success.
WOW: Great point! As a life coach, you work one-on-one with people to help them with their goals. What insights have you gained for your own journey from working with your clients?
Marla: I learn for each client and I have coached hundreds. The most important insight is what we think about ourselves is reflected in our actions. I think we as a people, especially women, do not realize the damage we cause ourselves because of our thoughts. Mindset is everything!
WOW: It really is! What commonalities have you noticed about what gets in the way of people achieving their goals?
Marla: The way they think, if you "think" you can't then you are right you won't, if you "think" you can then you will. It really is that simple. 
WOW: I completely agree! I love how you blend psychology with your coaching. How does our mind frame help or hurt our goals?
Marla: I think it goes back to what I wrote in #6. One of my coaches, yes coaches have coaches, told me whatever you believe you are 100% correct and no one will argue with you. This quote has stuck with me for years.
WOW: I think that's something we need to remember. You talk about an ah-ha moment! For people looking for their own ah-ha moment in their writing journey, how do you suggest they get there?
Marla: Think about who you are writing for, what do you want them to get from your words? What is the ah-ha moment you want them to have? Now ask yourself, have you had the same ah-ha moment?
WOW: Great tip! You wrote a book encouraging people to brag about themselves! Why is highlighting accomplishments such a helpful tool for writing inspiration?
Marla: You are an awesome human. There is no one else on the planet like you. I believe we forget this sometimes, therefore keeping a list (brag list) of why you are awesome is a reminder for writers to know they have something wonderful to share with the world. If you change one life, you have made an impact.
WOW: Yes! We all matter. For people who started out the year strong but their goals have since gone by the wayside, what do you suggest?
Marla: This happens all the time, there are tons of statistics on people who have goals and go strong for those goals and then ... nothing. I suggest starting with the end in mind as Stephen Covey says. What legacy do you want to create and leave? What do you want to say on your deathbed? I do not want to say "I wish I did ...". Start with this to bring things into perspective, you will do what is important to you. We all have 24 hours and we make time for what we want...What do you want?
WOW: I hope people get the opportunity to take your course (only $19.97!) and purchase a copy of your book, The Ultimate Brag Book About Yourself. Thank you for your insights today! 
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Why I Love the "Cold Case" TV Show

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Cold Case/Max

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about how being a writer has ruined watching TV for me. It hasn’t stopped me from indulging in numerous shows and documentaries (I even review true crime docs for my podcast), but today I want to discuss one of my all-time favorite procedural shows, “Cold Case.” Not to be confused with “Cold Case Files,” Cold Case featured fictional stories and premiered on CBS in 2003, running for seven seasons. Each episode focused on a cold case unit in Philadelphia, and it had an amazing soundtrack that tied into the time period of the case. I rediscovered the TV show on the streaming service Max (formerly HBO Max) awhile back, and I’ve analyzed how different episodes often pulled from important times in U.S. history. (And isn’t it ironic how much history repeats itself?) I can also tell certain episodes were inspired by real life cases, such as the pilot, “Look Again,” which featured the unsolved murder of a young girl who closely resembled Martha Moxley, who was at the center of a murder scandal involving the Kennedy family in the 1970s. 

Here are other important episodes of note: 

Season 2, Episode 7-It’s Raining Men. The start of the AIDS epidemic is revisited when a survivor asks the unit to investigate the unsolved murder of his former partner, who was an outspoken activist against the disease. 

Season 3, Episode 5- Committed. This episode takes a heartbreaking look at how people living with mental illness were treated in the early 1950s, and treatments that are now considered barbaric, when a Jane Doe is identified as a patient who went missing after leaving an institution. 

Season 4, Episode 1-Rampage. When this episode aired in 2006, it drew inspiration from the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, taking place at a shopping mall rather than a school. The team works to uncover whether or not a third shooter secretly got away with murder after two young men shoot dozens of shoppers in the food court and then take their own lives. 

Season 4, Episode 8-Fireflies. This tearjerker explores the friendship between a young white girl and African-American girl in a time where segregation was still a hot-button topic. One of the girls went missing and was presumed murdered, but in an unexpected twist the story doesn’t end the way you think it will. 

Season 5, Episode 9-Boy Crazy. The team takes a closer look at the unsolved 1963 murder of a high school girl who preferred dressing like a boy, and explores what the expected gender norms were from the time period and how psychiatrists chose to treat what they called a mental disorder. 

Season 6, Episode 3-Wednesday’s Women. This episode told the story of a murdered housewife and Tupperware sales consultant who was inspired to travel to Mississippi and volunteer during the Freedom Summer. 

I enjoy rewatching all the old episodes and studying the formulas (there are always at least three different suspects presented), the historical context, and the topics covered (cults, Civil Rights, women’s reproductive rights, sports, LGBTQ+ issues, gun control, mental health awareness, and much more). And more often than not, I have myself a good cry at the end of the episodes when the final song is played, like Joan Osborne’s “What if God Was One of Us?” at the end of the mall shooting storyline. 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and podcaster at Missing in the Carolinas, which has reached more than 120,000 downloads.
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Active and Fallow Periods in Writing

Wednesday, May 24, 2023
It’s mid-May in New England, and nature is delighting us Northern folk with flowering trees and shrubs, grass that is quickly greening, warm breezes, and signs of life in our flower gardens. 

With hours more sunlight in the mornings (and evenings) now, I wake each morning by 6:15 and throw on a baseball hat to get a 45-minute walk in around my neighborhood before starting my work day. The neighborhood streets are especially beautiful this time of year, with an abundance of trees putting on their best springtime frocks: pink crabapples, white dogwoods, magnolias in a beautiful blush shade. Not to be left behind, shrubs demand equal admiration: fragrant lilac bushes, cheery yellow forsythia, azaleas covered in lavender, red, pink, and white blooms, and rhododendrons getting ready to burst in a few weeks. 

On my return from my morning walk, I always take a few minutes and step into flower beds that ring my house, eagerly inspecting them. I see shoots pushing up from the earth and literally gaining an inch each day. I’ve got seven flower beds, each one a decent size. Though the beds demand a lot of attention during summer with weeding and pruning, it’s the spring that is the busiest as I rake away winter mulch blankets, fertilize, prune browned remains from the previous autumn, and haul out garden statues from winter storage. The prep required even before the beds can be freshly mulched for a new season is easily two full weekends of manual work. 

As novelist and poet Rudyard Kipling noted: “Gardens are not made by singing, ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.”
Image: Ann Kathryn Kelly

Ahh … but how well worth it, it is. By the second week in June, I’m fully enjoying the fruits of my labor, with overflowing flowers everywhere I turn. Anyone who gardens—flower or veggie—knows it’s a labor of love, and not for those who don’t want to get their hands dirty or wake with the occasional sore back and hamstrings. (This last point especially kicks in, with each passing year. Hello, fifties!) 

In the seven years I’ve been doing this—I averaged designing one new bed each year—I’ve invested hundreds of hours (and dollars) planning layouts, purchasing perennials and annuals, planting them, re-planting many in new spots when I found that a certain plant was not thriving and needed more sun or more shade, and of course weeding, pruning, weeding, pruning, dividing, replanting, pruning, weeding—ad infinitum. 

Can I get an amen on Mr. Kipling's quote? 

Know what else is a labor of love that requires as much patience as gardening to see the fruits of our labor? Writing. Instant gratification? Good luck with that. 

Neither cultivating mature gardens nor sitting down to write produces immediate and picture-perfect results. Whether it’s a prized perennial we’re tending, or an essay, fiction piece, or poem we’re trying to bring to life, both art forms demand patience. Both demand hours of love and attention. Both require learning from our mistakes and not being afraid to start over, to achieve the desired result. 

Plants have active growing seasons, but require times of dormancy. Writing, too, goes through active and fallow periods.
Image: Ann Kathryn Kelly

It’s the rest between bursts of energy that makes a garden—and a writing practice—sustainable. That’s the reminder I’m repeating to myself. 

What does this mean for my writing? Historically, I write a lot less during the summer. Because gardening and writing both require so much energy, I prefer to give my full attention to one pursuit, in order to do it well. Each has its season. As winter descends, I call up snapshots of my gardens in their glory (in my mind and on my phone) to help germinate new writing. 

What do you do, to help your writing germinate? Do you have a hobby that brings out the wonder and beauty in your writing practice? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! 

Ann Kathryn Kelly writes from New Hampshire’s Seacoast region.
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Interview With Tara May Flanagan, Fall 2022 Flash Fiction Runner-Up

Tuesday, May 23, 2023


I'm excited to interview Tara May Flanagan, one of our runners-up in our Fall 2022 Flash Fiction contest. Before you read our interview, make sure you read her story "Morning Coffee" and then come on back.

First, here's a bit about Tara:

Tara is a writer and editor living in Lake Tahoe, California. Tara’s first love is books, and she spent six years working in the independent bookselling industry. Samples of her work, including short stories, blog posts, and novel excerpts, are featured in Sick Lit Magazine and at her website,

---- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all congratulations on winning runner up! You managed to capture perfectly the struggle of someone watching a family member struggle with homelessness and all the issues behind what caused it. What inspired this idea?

Tara: This story was prompted by a writing assignment and inspired by my mother. While she’s never been homeless, she has faced a lot of adversity, and I’ve often felt helpless in my ability to improve her situation. With this story, I wanted to take that familiar feeling and project it into an even more impossible situation than I’ve ever experienced in order to explore those emotions.

WOW: I can understand that battle completely. You did so well to also capture the mother-daughter relationship. What fueled that part of your story?

Tara: I definitely drew from my own relationship with my mother. We were so close when I was young, but we’ve lived apart ever since I was 17, and for years I didn’t see her very often. Despite the distance, we have a better relationship than some mothers and daughters who spend a lot more time together. I’ve always harbored a fierce love for her, alongside feelings of frustration and helplessness. I wanted to capture those conflicting feelings in this story because they’re such an integral part to our relationship.  

WOW: You did so perfectly! What do you hope the reader takes away after reading your story?

Tara: That things are often imperfect, and they are never simple, but sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is to simply be there for them. Even if that someone is your mother. 

WOW: Amazing wisdom that I hope people take to heart. I saw you did ghostwriting, including ghostwriting a memoir. How does that kind of writing help your creative work?

Tara: So much! The memoir I worked on was one of the most illuminating projects I’ve ever done. I had never ghostwritten a creative project like that before, and I was amazed at how I was able to transport myself into the story as though it were my own. The whole process—from interviewing the author, to weaving in and expanding on pieces the author had previously written, to composing my own writing from the author’s POV—was so creative and enjoyable. I would welcome more ghostwriting projects, and I recommend them to any writer.

WOW: I can only imagine! How did working in the independent bookselling industry help you in your own writing?

Tara: I’ve always been a reader first, above all things, and I entered the independent bookselling industry primarily to be close to my favorite things—books! But I also wanted to be surrounded by books because I knew they fed my writing brain, that part of me that is always thinking, always catching snatches of story ideas and potential titles, always formulating scenes. And it worked! Ideas and inspiration are everywhere in an indie bookstore. I also got to learn a lot about the literary world itself, what it takes to get published, and where the books go on the shelves. It was wildly informative, and I hope to always work in books in some capacity.

WOW: What a learning experience! What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

Tara:A novel, of course! Aren’t we all? It’s a story inspired by my childhood growing up wild and poor in the California desert—a little bit The Glass Castle and a little bit The Ocean at the End of the Lane. It’s a lot of work, and I still don’t believe I really know what I’m doing, but it’s so much fun!

WOW: I can't wait to read it! What advice do you have for writers who are uncertain about sharing their work with the world?

Tara: The more you do it, the easier it gets! Seriously, the more you submit your work, the more you read your writing out loud to others, the more you WANT to do those things. You’ll gain more confidence in your writing (even though it’ll always be scary), and you’ll get better at it. Besides all that, you’ll never succeed if you don’t at least try. Your writing should be for you above all, but it’s okay—good even—to share it sometimes. 

WOW: Amazing advice! Congratulations again and good luck on your novel! 
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15 Fascinating Story Starters From Nextdoor

Monday, May 22, 2023

Earlier this year, Renee wrote a post about using Nextdoor for writing inspiration. Ever since that post, I've been looking for ways to use this website as a source of creativity. I began to think of Nextdoor as the police blurbs you'll see in local newspapers (which I don't get physical copies of anymore).

However, there were a few snags. I'm not one to go to the Nextdoor app, and usually just get the notifications in my email. So, rather than adding a rabbit hole of distraction during my day (like social media does to me), I used email notifications.

All of those short email blurbs of neighborhood complaints turned into interesting story starters. And I wanted to share them with you! I didn't save ones that used specific street names or business names, as I figured it wouldn't be helpful to me in the future. So, I saved ones that were vague enough to be useful later down the road.

Some were odd. Some were hilarious. All are fantastic fodder for short stories or even lengthier works. Or great tidbits for dialogue or character development.

I've only been doing this for a couple of weeks, but here are the ones I've saved so far:

  1.  I needed to pick up a milkshake from McDonald's on my way home this evening.
  2. Around 9 am, there was a break-in attempt on my car this morning.
  3. We had a girl knock on our door at 4:12 am this morning, and she was crying.
  4. Our graveyard officers took two people into custody early Monday.
  5. Long story short: Some girl I used to be friends with over seven years ago keeps trying to get in touch with me.
  6. Not trying to be alarmist, but I found a four-inch stick vertical in the corner of our garage door and the wall on our driveway.
  7. With fraud, you're on your own.
  8. I'll tell you what I don't like.
  9. I had a window in my car broken last night.
  10. My mom was cleaning out her storage unit.
  11. What was that explosion?
  12. I really hope a copy of this video was given to the police.
  13. Let's try this again.
  14. So, we walk my dog after 10 PM every night.
  15. My neighbor, who raises fighting cocks, spread rat poison last Wednesday.
  16. Disappointed to say that our Waste Management Recycling Bin was taken this week.

I hope these inspire you as much as they inspire me! Feel free to use any of these as inspiration for your stories.

Have you found a creative purpose for Nextdoor? Share in the comments!

Nicole Pyles is a writer and PR consultant living in Portland, Oregon. Say hi to her on Twitter @BeingTheWriter.

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Interview with Sophia Zhang: Q2 2023 Creative Nonfiction Contest Third Place Winner

Sunday, May 21, 2023
Sophia’s Bio:
Sophia Zhang is a young Chinese-American writer born and raised in the California Bay Area. Her writing has been awarded by Scholastic and Youngarts, and is pending publishing in The Blue Marble Review. She’s interested in exploring intergenerational family dynamics, her Chinese heritage, grief, beauty, and love in her work. Apart from writing, Sophia loves history, pickles, and Taylor Swift! 

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

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Q2 2023 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? 

Sophia: I began writing my essay during a period when I was reprocessing some of my 'grief' and childhood years. The essay really just began as a list I brainstormed and jotted down of different core memories during that period. I then wrote short vignette-like scenes of each, slowly edited and structured them in a way that compelled me, and finally completed the last touches and revisions. It was during this process that Ungrieved evolved from many word-vomity paragraphs to a cohesive piece. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing insight into your writing process. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? 

Sophia: I think writing my essay really did help me reprocess and self-reflect on my grieving process as a child. While I had obviously experienced the emotions I touched on in my piece like shame, loss, and fear in my piece, as well as rationalized some parts of my reaction to my father's death and illness e.g. (it’s normal for children to be scared of disease markers, even if it's on their own father) prior to writing Ungrieved, the process truly forced me to grapple again with those emotions and stitch self-understanding together around my grieving process in a way I'd avoided tackling and never been able to voice really previously. And that understanding has been really helpful to my healing process. As someone new to writing, "Ungrieved" was the second piece I've authored. Finishing it and seeing it get a positive reception from my community members was incredible and encouraged me to continue to write. In terms of craft, the piece taught me the importance of paying attention to sentence structure and not letting a desire for lyricism take away from clarity or impact. 

WOW: It sounds like writing this piece – and writing in general – has been a very powerful and healing process for you. You mentioned that you’re new to writing. What has inspired you to start writing or keep up a writing practice? 

Sophia: I originally picked up writing as a tool for self-expression and catharsis. I especially value the personal insight writing can bring to me; I find that when I write, I can recognize and better understand aspects of my personality, beliefs, experiences, and relationships with others that I might otherwise have never thought about. I continue to value writing for that purpose but since then, especially as I read the work of other writers more, I've been more and more amazed and inspired by the way writing can serve to build community and solidarity. 

WOW: Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you? 

Sophia: There are so many it's hard to choose! I really enjoy Joan Didion's work, especially The Year of Magical Thinking. I really respect the way she was able to write with such candor and rawness yet convey such power and emotional impact. I'm also a big big fan of Ocean Vuong's poetry and On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous—the lyricism and the way he uses form is such an inspiration to me. I'm also literally in love with the way Chen Chen balances optimism and lightness with pain and gravity in his poems, as well as the way Winniebell Xinyu Dong creates such striking images and nuanced depictions of intergenerational relationships in Chinese families. 

WOW: Wonderful examples! What do you hope to accomplish with your writing or what are your writing goals? 

Sophia: I'd really love for my writing to bring comfort and/or inspiration to those who read my work. Specifically for "Ungrieved," it'd be my greatest dream if anyone who has ever felt similarly isolated and ashamed of their grief to find solidarity in my piece and understand that there's nothing to be ashamed of; everyone grieves in an individual and unique way. My current writing goals are to, of course, improve my writing. Specifically, I'd like to try writing more frequently, experiment more with literary styles/genres, and disseminate my pieces more. 

WOW: Excellent and exciting goals. I hope sharing this story with WOW will help you to find your ideal audience. Anything else you’d like to add? 

Sophia: I'd just like to thank you and all of the other WOW staff for your efforts in reading through submissions so carefully and organizing quarterly competitions. I'm incredibly grateful for this honor and space. I'd also of course encourage anyone who's potentially hesitant about entering to just go for it! 

WOW: Thank you for sharing your writing with us and 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. Engage on Twitter or Instagram @GreenMachine459
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Be Determined and Proud – Just Keep Querying!

Friday, May 19, 2023
Kelly Sgroi

They say you should aim to be rejected 100 times per year. This refers to submitting to literary journals, but there is something to be said about this theory. 

If you are submitting, your chance of acceptance goes up. So if the more you submit, the more chance you have of being published, why are you worried about all your rejections rather than focusing on sending out your next query? 

I believe everyone has to do what works for them, and I can only share my own experiences and suggest what worked for me. The rest is up to you. But if you’re feeling like all those no’s are a sign you should stop querying, think again. Some pretty famous authors got rejected more than you would think, but that didn’t stop them. 

So you’ve written a novel-length manuscript, it’s taken years to draft, redraft, pull apart, rewrite in a different tense and have critique partners look it over. You’ve fixed all the boring parts, tightened your premise, decided on a title and found a beta reader who believes in this manuscript. Now you’re happy with the structure, you’ve edited it down to the line level and you’re ready to query. 

You are also query package ready (and that took lots more time and effort), phew! 

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.” – Harper Lee 

Those are some wise words. 

Next, you need to research who is open to subs in your genre, decide who you think is a good fit and—send your first query out in a batch. I think sending queries out in a batch of 5 is a good idea. It’s enough to give you an indication of where you’re at but not too much that you could blow your chances with everyone in one hit. 

The idea behind this is that each rejection provides you with clues. Yes, even form rejections tell you something about where you’re at. 

Each time you get a rejection, reread your manuscript and make some changes based on what you have learned. 
  • Writing not strong enough – hire an editor 
  • Didn’t connect with pages – look at your main character 
  • Intriguing premise and assured writing – maybe it’s just not the right time 

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many rejections or rounds of edits – what matters is that you get your yes. 

Never give up and your dreams just might come true! 

Check out these 5 famous author rejection numbers, that make me feel better about my 28 rejections: 
144 Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen - Chicken Soup For The Soul 
100 Lisa Genova - Still Alice 
60 Kathryn Stockett - The Help 
41 T.J. Newsman - Falling 
30 Stephen King – Carrie 

“I love my rejections slips. They show me I try.” – Sylvia Plath 

I have to agree, what I’m most proud of is my determination. 

Just keep trying! 

Kelly Sgroi is a women’s fiction writer based in Melbourne, Australia. Now represented by Beyond Words Literary Agency, Kelly is thrilled to be out of the query trenches and looking forward to what comes next in her writing journey. She’s also a content writer and an enthusiastic member of the writing community who loves conducting author interviews and posting book reviews. Her debut manuscript is about motherhood, and she is excited to share it with everyone soon. For publications and more, check out
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