Ask the Book Doctor: About Capitals and Lowercase

Saturday, July 29, 2023
Image by Storyset on Freepik
by Bobbie Christmas
Q: I want to use TLC in dialogue (“Your sprained ankle could use some TLC.”) What is the proper way to write this? Also, how do I write ASAP? I know there are different rules for different abbreviations, but how do we know when to use hyphens between the initials or, as in NASA, use them as a word? TLC, like so many others, does not seem to fit any category.
A: ASAP, NASA, and TLC do, in fact, fit specific categories. NASA and ASAP are acronyms (words created from the initial letters of its elements) and TLC is an abbreviation (something spoken as letters, not a word). Acronyms often appear in all caps, but some have become so common that they became words. Scuba and snafu come to mind as examples of acronyms that have become words that are set in lower case.
As for abbreviations, Chicago Manual of Style shuns most abbreviations in narrative, with the exception of titles, such as Dr. Dialogue often ignores rules and guidelines, so while I wouldn’t use TLC in narrative, it’s fine in dialogue. We are accustomed to seeing both TLC and ASAP in all caps with no periods, so that’s how I would use it. Your example, “Your sprained ankle could use some TLC” is fine as is. 
I don’t know of any reason to use hyphens between initials. Perhaps you mean periods, which I have seen at the end of some abbreviations. (Examples: St., oz., lb.) That said, if you’re writing a book, you should follow Chicago style and use such abbreviations only in specific cases, such as in charts or lists.
As if to confuse the matter more, some abbreviations have become commonly used as words and are lowercased, such as jpeg and pdf. When in doubt check the Merriam-Webster dictionary to see how best to format a specific initial or acronym.
Q: Should a pet’s name be capitalized in academic writing, such as Lassie, Toto, or other famous animal names? Also, what about a person’s own pets? Should these names be capitalized?
A: Pet’s names are proper nouns, which are always capitalized. Lassie and Toto are capitalized just as John and Mary are capitalized.
Although a pet’s name should be capitalized, its breed is not, but if part of its breed identity contains a proper noun, the proper noun is capitalized. Examples include German shepherd, Cain terrier, and Labrador retriever.
Terms of endearment such as honey, sweetie, and cutie, which are sometimes called pet names—as opposed to pet’s names—are not capitalized unless they appear at the beginning of a sentence. Here’s an example: “Come here, sweetie, if you want your dinner.”
Q: I’m writing a book in which I use the names of board games (like Monopoly and Pictionary) and video games (like Rock Band and Guitar Hero). Do I need to use the TM or R symbol next to the names of those games within the pages of this book?
A: Can you imagine how unwieldy our writing would become if we had to use the trademark and copyright symbols every time we mentioned a registered product name? Although advertisements and packaging may use trademark symbols, authors of books follow Chicago style, and The Chicago Manual of Style recognizes registered names by capitalizing them only.
Ideally owners of trademarks also want us to use the generic description after the branded name, but that too can become cumbersome. For example, they wish we would say Kleenex brand facial tissues, Band-Aid brand bandages, and Jell-O brand gelatin. In most forms of writing, capitalizing games names such as Jell-O, Monopoly, or Guitar Hero is enough to acknowledge that the names are trademarked.
Send your questions to Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style: Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, and owner of Zebra Communications. or Read Bobbie’s Zebra Communications blog at
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Replenishing the Creative Well

Thursday, July 27, 2023


The patio from our recent vacation hone in Texas.

Almost one year ago I wrote about leaving a contract job that had taken over my life, and not in a good way. The stress over it left me with constant anxiety, sleeplessness, and irritability. I was a miserable person to be around, if I even let myself leave the house. I always felt like I needed to be planning ahead on the editorial calendar or catching up with e-mails. Even leaving my desk to go to a hair appointment would leave me feeling guilty. 

Leaving that job was a blessing for me. I’ve been able to pick and choose what projects to work on while continuing to grow my true crime podcast. With my daughter being away for her first year of college seven hours away, I made multiple trips to see her and spend time with her. I’ve been cherishing the time left with my son, who is 17 and entering his senior year of college. I’ve always tried to balance work and family time, but you gain a different perspective when your kids grow older and begin to leave the nest. You want to make sure they know how much you love and want the best for them. I also have two dogs, and in the last year, noticed that my senior rescue was starting to slow down due to arthritis. He always enjoyed (and requested!) daily walks, but they started to slow down and he had a pronounced weakness in his right side. Last week, he took a turn for the worse and became paralyzed in his back legs. We had to make the difficult decision to let him go. For a dog who had always been active it was heartbreaking to both him and us. I’m so grateful I had the past year to focus on giving him the special care and attention he needed, although I’ve been having trouble working at my desk that he used to sleep underneath during the day.
From left, Sonic, who left us last week, and right, Ruby the dachshund.

I was catching up with my writing accountability group the other day and began to feel discouraged because I haven’t made a lot of progress on the projects I said I would focus on this past year. I had hoped to have a first revision done on a suspense/thriller novel I’ve been revising but I’m only about halfway through. I had hoped to have secured more sponsorships for my podcast but I haven’t done that. Then I began to think about what I have done. I’ve spent more quality time with my family than I have in years after the hustle and bustle of endless magazine production cycles and no paid time off. I’ve traveled to some fun destinations, like the Gulf Coast, the South Carolina Coast, did a tour of several colleges in the Southeastern Conference, watched football and basketball games at my daughter’s university, attended several concerts, and recently returned from a week in Austin, Texas, where we stayed in a gorgeous lakefront dome built in the 1970s. I finally gave myself permission to read for pleasure again and have 11 completed books on my Goodreads 2023 list to show for it. I also recently signed up to work with a personal fitness coach so I can finally lose this 15 extra pounds and reset my metabolism. 

I guess my point is to never let yourself feel guilty for putting your writing on the backburner for other things. The pages will still be there when you get back to them. I look forward to getting back to work on my novel in progress very soon, and am grateful to have people in my life continuing to encourage me even when I have to take a step back. 

What do you do for enjoyment when you need to take a step back from your creative projects?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and podcaster who hosts Missing in the Carolinas.
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Nothing Like a Good Bandwagon

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Ever wonder where the expression "jump on the bandwagon" came from? I never really knew until I joined one of my own. It actually originated in 1855. It was a phrase used by Phineas T. Barnum, who used it in reference to the wagon that would carry around a circus band. This was a ploy to attract villagers to the circus performances. Politicians would later do something similar to attract attention to their political campaigns.

Now, we just use it to refer to when someone joins something because of its popularity. 

Lately, I have done that with Substack. Ladies and gents, I have started my own Substack newsletter.

It all started when I read Sue's post about her starting her own. I've been contemplating doing one for a (sometimes) weekly feature on my blog, Three Things on a Saturday Night. It's when I share (or a guest shares) a book, movie, and wild card recommendation that someone would enjoy on a Saturday night. It's a feature that I've always felt deserved more attention.

I've hesitated to start one because I don't want to deter people away from my writing blog, especially since I've been blogging a lot more lately. However, today I realized this could be a great way to drive traffic to my blog. In my first post, I snuck in a link to a book review that I had written recently. While I only have a grand total of two (yes, TWO) followers, I'm excited to have an easy-to-use outlet to share random weekly thoughts and recommendations.

Another reason why I decided to start one is the lack of a social media community online. Since Twitter is rocky and I've never been one for Instagram, it has left me with only Facebook. While that's fine, casual conversation isn't really part of the Facebook groups I'm in. I miss the day-to-day chatter you'd find on Twitter. Sure, Threads is a thing now, but I like to cover my bases. Since a lot of writers are on Substack, I figure I may as well join in the fun.

So, if you are looking for some fun weekly recommendations, subscribe to my Substack, Three Things on a Saturday Night. You may as well sign up to receive updates from my writing blog, World of My Imagination. And find me on Threads while you're at it.

Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her writing has been featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not, Best Colleges, Mental Floss, WOW! Women on Writing, Sky Island Journal, Arlington Literary Journal, The Ocotillo Review, and The Gold Man Review. 
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Interview with Lynn Aprill, Runner Up in the WOW! Winter 2023 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, July 25, 2023


Award-winning writer and educator, Lynn Aprill’s work has appeared recently in Copperfield Review Quarterly, Bramble, Willows Wept Review, and others. Channeling Matriarchs, her first chapbook with Finishing Line Press, was published in August 2021. She is ridiculously excited to retire in 2023 and begin her MFA program through Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. She resides with her husband and various dogs on 40 acres in Northeast Wisconsin. Her work can be found at


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

WOW: I always love to hear where other writers get their ideas. Could you share what inspired the idea behind “It’s Time?” 

Lynn: I was taking a historical flash prose workshop with author Rebecca Meacham through Write On Door County this spring. Our assignment was to find a prompt as inspiration to craft one historical flash prose piece of 300-1000 words and bring it to the next class. As a former history teacher, I’ve always been fascinated with the Civil War era, and I stumbled upon a brief paragraph about an unnamed New Jersey woman who enlisted as a man and fought in the Civil War. She was injured in battle and promoted twice before her identity was discovered when she went into labor while on picket duty after the Battle of Fredericksburg. Using this brief description, I created the characters of Frannie and Will and the scene leading to her discovery. 

WOW: You’ve published a poetry chapbook titled “Channeling Matriarchs,” which one reviewer described in this way: “In the patriarchal society of the Bible, chances for a woman to be remembered at all depended largely on the fame of husband, father, brother. Through line, phrase, or sometimes single words, Lynn Aprill subtly reveals the feelings, thoughts, motives of 16 named or nameless women, giving them a life of their own.” What was the process of exploring and expanding on this very nuanced topic like for you as a writer? 

Lynn: I was raised in the Lutheran faith, so Christian Bible stories were part of my upbringing. As I grew older, I began to question the patriarchal point of view portrayed in the Bible and the lack of authentic female voices. My writing process included reading Genesis: A Living Conversation by Bill Moyers and The Harlot by the Side of the Road by Jonathan Kirsch, along with versions of these women’s stories found in other religious traditions (primarily the Hebrew Bible). After researching a particular woman through these resources, I would try to imagine her lived experience and capture her voice in a poem. It truly felt like channeling these significant female characters of Biblical tradition! 

WOW: Having initially focused on poetry in your creative writing, what drew you to the flash fiction genre? 

Lynn: Having taught high school English and history for 27 years, I have dabbled in all types of creative writing, as I think many English teachers do. Poetry and flash fiction have a lot in common, so it’s not a huge leap from one genre to the other. Flash fiction allows me to spend some time fleshing out characters and doing more with dialogue and storytelling than poetry does, so I really enjoy being able to make use of multiple genres depending on my focus. I’ve really fallen in love with the characters in “It’s Time,” so I may be working on expanding it into a longer piece in the future. 

WOW: On your website bio you mention the excitement over ordering books through Scholastic when you were a student. What were some of the book series you were hooked on back then? 

Lynn: Gosh, so many! I remember getting all of the Little House books in elementary school. I ordered every Encyclopedia Brown book I could find, which has led to a lifetime love of mystery and detective stories. The first poetry book I owned was called “There’s a Rocket in my Pocket.” During the summers, we would order the subscription to Scholastic’s Dynamite magazine, which my sister and I would read and reread all summer long. I’m so thankful that my mom encouraged literacy in our household. 

WOW: Besides beginning an MFA program, what other things are you looking forward to in retirement? 

 Lynn: I was accepted into the Billy Collins workshop at the Southampton Writers Conference this month, so meeting and learning from Billy Collins is immediately ticking a big bucket list item for me. I’m obsessed with genealogy, so that is another project I’ll continue to work on in retirement, along with traveling to places connected to my family history. Mostly, I’m looking forward to just sitting and enjoying my own backyard!

WOW: We appreciate you being here today, Lynn! Congratulations again and we hope you have a fabulous time at the Southampton Writers Conference.
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The Women’s World Cup is on in Australia, so I wanted to talk about: How Writing Is Like An Elite Sport

Friday, July 21, 2023

I grew up watching my uncle and brothers play soccer, and I even played some soccer myself. I married a man who played soccer and now I have two kids who play - you guessed it - soccer. But it wasn’t until my kids got serious about soccer that I realised my writing rejections were teaching me some important lessons.
Because rejections are universal. 

No matter where, how or why they come, when rejections hit, they land like a punch, and the only way to condition yourself for them is to learn how to take some punches. 


Entering the ring is a writer who’s been submitting her work - heart-and-soul-on-the-page pieces - for over a decade. 

And I’ve received countless rejections! 

There have been times when rejections have got me down, there have been times when rejections have encouraged me, and there have been times when rejections have frustrated me, but I've never let them stop me from believing in myself and loving what I do. 

So here are my top tips for overcoming adversity in life. Whether you’re a writer, athlete or anything in-between - rejections can hurt, but don’t let them harm you: 

Love the journey
A few years ago, when I was drowning in rejection, I asked myself why I was writing. If I never got anything published, would I still write? And the answer was yes! That resounding yes liberated me because I realised that I don’t write for the glory; I write because I love it. 

Sometimes it’s a numbers game
It’s not always about your ability or what you create. Sometimes there’s just no spots. Don’t give up, you got this far and soon your number will be called! Don’t take any rejections as a not ever, think of them as a not now. 

There’s more luck involved than you think, and opinions vary
What one person loves about you, another won't. But it’s important to remember that, in the same way, art is subjective; we all have individual opinions on everything we consume, observe, and critique. So be grateful when someone believes in you and don’t be deterred when someone doesn’t. It’s just one opinion. Focus on the positives. 

Rejections make you stronger
Rejection is like a test. The worst one I ever got made me sad, mad and then it motivated me to reach out and hire an editor: WOW!'s very own Margo Dill from Editor 911. And Margo answered my call, helping me to take action and improve. That rejection made me realise just how strongly I felt about my manuscript and that I was ready to invest in making it better! 

Keep dreaming
Sometimes you get so close and you know you deserve that yes, but you still get a no. This is the hardest type of rejection to take, but it is not the time to stop dreaming. When you face that last hurdle and you can't clear it, don't stop running. Your race continues if you have the determination to try again. Put your head down and keep working.

So let rejections test you, they sort the weak from the determined. 

Swallow those unkind rejections, they’ll help you identify what you need to improve. 

Let rejections encourage you to work. 

Allow rejections to make you so hungry you become unstoppable. 

And even though everyone isn’t going to love you, believe in yourself. 

Hard work pays off! 

In "The Importance of Consistency" chapter of What Makes a Matilda, there's a great quote: "Talent and luck can play a big part in becoming a professional footballer, but something every Matilda knows is that a huge part of any athlete's success is training and consistency."

Go Matildas! And go team USA, FIFA ranked #1!

Kelly Sgroi is 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. Some of her short works are published by WOW! Women on Writing, Dream Journal, The Endometriosis Foundation of America, Endometriosis Australia, and a few Medium publications. Her debut manuscript is a women’s fiction story about motherhood.
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No Time For Twitter

Thursday, July 20, 2023

For those of you just joining the Twitter saga, a quick recap: 

1. My Twitter account was hacked in March. 
2. Said account was locked and suspended. 
3. I sent a mountain of documentation to regain access. 

This week, in the midst of website-building, I was debating whether or what social media buttons to use. But first, I figured I should check on the old Twitter account since I’d heard nothing from Twitter Support. 

In March, I could see my account in all its glory, waiting patiently for my return. Now, there is nothing but a vast white screen with the message: 

Account suspended 
Twitter suspends accounts that violate the Twitter Rules. 


So from my new account (that was created only so I could actually get into Twitter to see what’s going on in my old account), I sent Twitter Support a message: 

@TwitterSupport My original account was hacked months ago, I sent you ALL the info, but nothing since March 30. Now that account is suspended/gone and I'M left to start over? Not worth the trouble--and I guess my account w/700 followers not worth your time. 

 Notice that even though I’m livid, I’m polite. Within three seconds, the tweet was bombarded by bot messages, recommending that I contact other helpful bots who will retrieve my account. Honestly, I’ve never had so much activity on a tweet before—and the rapid bot response tells me that customer support on this platform is seriously lacking. 

Anyway, I was already leaning heavily into tossing Twitter; I assumed (correctly) that I’d never get my old account back and I wasn’t keen on taking the time to start over with my new account. But mostly, after researching social media of mystery authors, I didn’t see where Twitter is worth the effort. 

I just couldn’t find (cozy or general) mystery writers (followers from 200 to maybe 2,000) tweeting about their new releases or old releases or re-releases where the tweets garnered much if any attention. And I’m not referring to only indie-published writers; I checked authors who were with trade publishers, too. 

An occasional “Like” hardly seems worth all the Twitter trouble. So for me—and granted, I’ve never been big on Twitter—I’ll pass on spending my marketing time tweeting. But I’m curious about mystery readers…Where do they go to get information about books, about what to read next? Is it Amazon? Goodreads? Both of those behemoths are a given, and they seem the best bet for my time and effort.

But I’m thinking about a Facebook page…or maybe Instagram. I see both of these social media buttons on writers’ websites and I wonder about the payoff. I’m fine with Facebook and I know my target audience—we’ll call them the "Golden Girls"—are all over that space. But do they follow authors there? 

Instagram? I’ve never bothered with it but the Junior Halls are always throwing pics on there. I suppose I could give it a whirl but is it worth the work? Do photos promote books? 

So readers (and writers), I’d really appreciate your input. Where should I—as a mystery writer aiming to attract the mature female reader—put my marketing money and time? (And if you say the T word, I’ll scream!)

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Starting a Substacks Newsletter

Wednesday, July 19, 2023
Are you ready to step off the cliff
 and start a newsletter?

Well, I’ve done it. After Cathy extolled the virtues of Substack, I started seeing it mentioned here and there.  Some of the newsletters I've been reading for years had even migrated, unbeknown to me, to Substack.  

This week I decided to step off the cliff. I know that sounds impetuous, but I’d been noodling this over since I saw Cathy's May post. If I was going to do a newsletter, what would I do? What do I know enough about to compile a monthly or bi-weekly newsletter? Writing. Books. And creativity. 

As I contemplated this for several weeks, the content didn’t change much. I've also been reading a variety of Substacks newsletters to familiarize myself with things. I really like: 
  • Sarai Mitnick’s Making Time. Her newsletter is about creativity but she approaches it from the perspective of making time to make what you want. She sews but she also cooks and obviously, because she has a newsletter, writes. I always take something valuable away from this newsletter.
  • The Practicing Writer by Erika Dreifus. I’ve been reading this one since long before it migrated to Substack. She shares a lot of writing and publishing news as well as markets. 
  • Never Not Nervous by Brooke Barker  In this newsletter Brooke shares her comics and her thoughts.  I absolutely love her comics. 
There are more, but I’d been reading these for a while and saving the ones that I especially liked as inspiration. Why did I decide to step off the cliff and create my own newsletter right this moment? For one thing, it seemed like a great topic for a post. “I decided to do this, and it went great!” 

I’m also under contract for three separate books with two deadlines this week. What better time to start a newsletter. No, really. I get a lot done like this. 

I’ve been reading about design lately, so I sat down yesterday evening and quickly pulled together my text. I found fonts for the body of the newsletter, for the banner, and for the subheadings. I am capable of spending way too much time looking at fonts. 

This morning, I got up and changed the fonts around. I needed something bolder for the subheadings. Then I changed the font for the body of the newsletter.  Twice.  Finally, I was ready to put it all together in Substacks. Naturally, I googled what to do. 

Step 1. Sign up for Substacks. Um, yeah. That one seems a little obvious. 

Step 2. Create a publication. Hmm. Someone has clearly never written a how-to for money, but I clicked through.  Where was the button for publication? I waffled for a bit and realized that what I needed to do was create a post. (Click!) 

When I realized what I was seeing, I had to take a deep breath. My design?  Irrelevant.  You upload everything into a template. That said, what is moderately frustrating for me means it will, in the long run, be easier to do. They have created a format that is clear and easy to read on a phone and on a desktop.

Sure, I have a few things that I want to adjust but I've made a start. My plan is to post twice a month (midmonth and the end of the month). For those of you who are curious, you can find my first issue here.  And I’d appreciate it if you subscribe.

If you are trying to create content on Substack and can't figure something out, feel free to comment below. I'll gladly help where I can. Just remember, I've only just recently stepped off this particular cliff.


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of 40 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.  Click here to find her newsletter.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on  August 7, 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 August 7, 2023) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins August 7, 2023).
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Interview with Laura Girardeau : Winter 2023 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, July 18, 2023
Laura Girardeau works as an editor at a university, with past adventures as a wildlife biologist. She enjoys writing flash in the voice of her younger self. Her fiction, essays and poetry are published in several anthologies. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her essay in Deep Wild 2022, and a finalist in The Master’s Review, Tulip Tree Press, and Midway Journal contests. “Sixteen” first appeared in 5 x 5 (A Word with You Press, 2019) with a different title and pen name. Laura grew up in the enchanted forests of the Pacific Northwest. She now lives in the Inland Northwest with her teen daughter, also a budding writer, and their pride of small felines.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Winter 2023 Flash Fiction competition! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Sixteen?”

Laura: First, thanks to the editors and staff of WOW for inspiring a supportive community of women writers! I stumbled upon the WOW site and got hooked. I love reading winning pieces, bios, interviews, and articles to learn from others. WOW makes sharing writing fun and connecting rather than intimidating.

“Sixteen” was inspired by loss. Growing up, I kept diaries like many girls, and planned to use them for memoirs when I grew up. But I lost the diaries in a cross-country move. So I started writing stories to capture memories I might otherwise forget. When recall was hazy, I started with one sense memory (sight, sound, scent, etc.) and found that each was hooked to another, filling in the picture.

“Sixteen” was my way of capturing first love and the trials of high school. I wrote in the girl’s voice so it feels more like a diary. What did it feel like to be that age? How was it heaven, and how was it hell? What’s specific to my experience and what may be universal? What do we still search for? And how can I honor those I’ve loved? By writing a story, of course!

WOW: Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Laura: Flash is a challenge that can make us better writers. When I first tried cutting a short story to flash length for a contest, I hated the process. Then I saw how weeding down to key details makes writing come alive, like saturating photos. Flash helps me reduce purple prose, a weakness of mine. It helps me show and not tell, evoking emotion and empathy in new ways. Flash is also great in an online format. It’s quicker to read and write for busy people. With shorter pieces being shared online, more writers can share their work, and more readers can access it to experience multiple worldviews “in a flash.”

WOW: What advice would you give to someone wanting to try writing flash fiction for the first time?

Laura: Have fun playing! Start by reading pieces on WOW and other sites. How did a writer take advantage of the short form to innovate and hit you in the gut? Then try writing vignettes. What might life feel like to a character vastly different from you? What’s your strongest sense memory of being 5, 12, 16, or 60? If you can’t recall, play a song or smell a scent from that time, and go from there. Stop after a few scenes or pages. If someone grows from the story (a character, you as the writer, or a reader) and there’s a surprise or emotional impact at the end, it may be done. No need to tie it with a bow. Life is mostly untied.

Or practice “weeding” a longer story. Make a copy and cut 100 words, then 200. Later, get it below 1,000 words, then 500. What suffers and what shines? Compare versions with a friend. You may be surprised that they like the short form more. Only you were attached to your “darlings” (favorite phrases that only mean something to you). If you need community, check out teacher bios and choose an online workshop.

See contests as inspiration rather than competition. Sometimes we need a deadline or prompt as a kick in the pants, and a small fee or due date is worth it to get writing. Sit back and enjoy watching the game, no attachment to the outcome. Whether or not we win, we can be touched by stories and celebrate each other.

WOW: Great tips! Can you tell us what projects are you currently working on? What can we plan on seeing from you in the future?

Laura: I have several stories I wrote years ago to capture the lost diaries, one for each year I could remember. “Sixteen” was one. I may “mine” the others for gems, weed them down to flash, and submit. A book of connected stories is possible, but I also enjoy submitting single pieces since it exposes me to many journals and writing communities. I like to learn from other writers. I’m dabbling with new topics, characters and creative non-fiction to get out of my head. I also like poetry as a gratitude practice.

I’m relatively new to submitting. I’ve always written for myself and been shy about sharing. But sites like WOW showed me that when women share stories, it’s a gift. If we can experience a moment of beauty, understanding, shared humanity, or healing through writing or reading, we all win. That’s the real prize.

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

I like to write first thing in the morning before my daughter wakes up, with coffee and a notebook at the window. That half-dream state can make our writing wild and honest, especially if we scribble in longhand. Computers can be used later for editing, but writing first drafts in longhand uses a more creative part of the brain. If you get a few snippets or gems to use later amidst the junk, you succeeded.

Write as if no one’s reading (since they aren’t)! Even if you’re not a morning person, you can still tap your own power rather than the barrage of stuff society throws at us on the news, phones, internet, etc. Just keep it all unplugged for the first 30 minutes and grab that golden time when your thoughts are yours, when dreams and memories swirl in wild ways, and see what happens!


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

Saturday, July 15, 2023
Image by pch.vector on Freepik

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: Which of the sentences below sounds best?

John's mother told him,
A. "I'm beginning to regret giving birth to you."
B. "I regret giving birth to you."
C. "I wish I never gave birth to you."

A: I assume you are striving for the most realistic dialogue possible, rather than what sounds the best, so I will give you a fourth choice. It is the most realistic because I actually overheard it in person. Yes, I witnessed a mother saying to her fortyish son (whom I was dating at the time), "I wish I'd never given birth to you." This quote is the most realistic, but it is devastating for a child to hear. It could end a relationship between parent and child. Don't use it unless you intend for it to have dire consequences, as it did in real life.

Q: I have written a novel in what could be described as conversational style. There are large blocks of text in which one of my characters is telling the story of her life to someone. I am having a little trouble finding information that explains how to use punctuation marks in this type of writing. Any suggestions? 

A: Without seeing the manuscript, I’ll say the following:

Monologues (long dialogues without anyone interrupting) are discouraged in contemporary literature, because readers today prefer to see a story unfold with action as well as dialogue. Consider breaking up the monologues with actions and or reactions. Here’s an example of using action to break up a monologue: 

Elton scratched his forehead. “I don’t exactly remember the date this happened, but I remember . . .” He looked up as if retrieving memories. “I remember being under a bed, afraid my brother was going to hit me with that broom, but he stuck the handle of the broom under the bed anyway and poked me with it. Hard.”

Here’s an example of breaking up a monologue with a reaction:

Elton scratched his forehead. “I don’t exactly remember the date this happened, but I remember . . .” 

“Don’t stop now,” the therapist insisted. “What happened?”

Elton looked up as if retrieving memories before he continued, “I remember being under a bed, afraid my brother was going to hit me with that broom, but he stuck the handle of the broom under the bed anyway and poked me with it. Hard.”

Even though readers today don’t want to be told a story and would rather feel as though they are watching the story unfold, monologues do have a place, and they also have punctuation guidelines.

When a character speaks for more than a paragraph, don’t end the paragraph with quotation marks. Open the next paragraph with quotation marks, though. At the end of the monologue, close it with quotation marks. Here’s a brief example:

“One night my father came home stinking of whiskey.” John shifted his weight. “Pops yelled at us, woke us from a deep sleep. We didn’t know what he was going to do next.

“To our surprise he made us all get up, Ruth, Susan, Samuel, and me, and he danced with every one of us in the living room.” John shook his head. “That night turned out to be one of my best memories of my old man.”


Send your questions to Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style: Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, and owner of Zebra Communications. or Read Bobbie’s Zebra Communications blog at
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Turn Your Passion into a Podcast

Thursday, July 13, 2023


When I first started my podcast, I did not anticipate the ways in which it would evolve, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the content I’ve been able to create and tie back into "Missing in the Carolinas." While at first I focused solely on missing persons cases, I realized I could use other true crime topics I’m passionate about to create new episodes. 

For example, I’ve produced a lot of episodes in the past year that tie into trending true crime documentaries that feature high profile cases in the Carolinas. It seems like every other day there are new documentaries released, along with true crime shows like Dateline and 20/20. I found an article on the website written by Christine Persaud that explores our country’s obsession with true crime. 

With the true crime genre more popular than ever, it has us wondering: Why are we so taken with such a dark and disturbing genre? The answer leans to part escapism, part morbid curiosity. Ironically, while true crime is rooted in fact, watching these terrible tales about events that took place decades or even just a few years ago offers a strange sense of satisfaction that maybe things are and will be OK, because, well, they could be worse. 

The article also stated: That these stories are rooted in fact can be an alarming realization. But psychotherapist Kathleen Check, who spoke with Barth for her article, posits that watching true crime shows, particularly those about killers, provides viewers with a sense of being able to see inside the mind of a killer, “thus creating a psychological protective barrier.” In other words, understanding how evil people think and operate provides a better chance of knowing how to protect yourself. 

For me personally, the documentary, “The Confession Killer,” which focused on the numerous false confessions of Henry Lee Lucas, fascinated me because it showed a systemic-wide issue of closing murder cases simply because one man confessed to them. Watching all the archival footage, it became apparent to me that the special accommodations, meals, and elevation to an almost voyeuristic celebrity status in the state of Texas was the spark that inspired Lucas to confess to hundreds of murders he didn’t commit. I remember when I first discovered an article titled “Odyssey of Murder” that ran in an August 19, 1984 edition of “The Charlotte Observer,” I was intrigued. The article claimed Lucas was confessing to involvement with at least 10 crimes in North Carolina, including several murders that were eventually linked to other perpetrators through DNA evidence. And this was before the documentary “The Confession Killer” was released. I was motivated to watch it to explore the personality of a person who was clearly a pathological liar and as a journalist, I respected the ones who quickly caught onto the hoax and fought to have it exposed. 

No matter what topic you’re passionate about, from video gaming to true crime to personal development to writing, podcasting is an excellent way to share your message and help you learn more about your hobbies and interests. Podcasting doesn’t have to be complex—with a plan in place, you can start your very own at very little expense. 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer of both fiction and non-fiction who decided to use her journalistic background to create a true crime podcast focused on North and South Carolina. She will share the backstory of how she created her own podcast, examples of different formats, what kinds of software, subscriptions, and other tools you may need, finding ideas for creating podcasting content, monetization ideas, and how you can repurpose your materials in the 90-minute webinar “You Can Start a Podcast” on Aug. 16. You can register for the webinar here.
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Keep Trying, Don't Give Up

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

It's unfortunate how easy it is to lose hope about your own writing success. Submission after submission, rejection after rejection, there seems to be greater evidence to stop bothering than to bother. But every now and then, a surprise comes in.

Recently, I had that experience.

Prior to this acceptance, I had taken my short story through another round of revisions, hoping it would lead to an acceptance. I had to muster up all my energy to do this, and not lose sight of my goal: publication. 

Even when I'm finished with a story, I'm never really done. After a certain number of revisions, I go back, tweak a bit, and send it out fresh. Sometimes it's more than tweaking though. Sometimes I realize a story needs a major overhaul.

With my short story, "You Spelled Carrot Wrong," last year, I realized it needed an overhaul. My character wasn't strong enough, and she didn't have clear motivations. So, I reworked it and sent it out into the world again. 

Then, feeling a tad defeated, I got some fresh feedback, applied it as best I could, and sent it out again.

Finally, last week, I got an acceptance. This story had received 51 rejections, and finally, its 52nd was an acceptance.

I never would have thought this story would have been accepted. After a while, I begin to wonder if a story ever would, especially since it has been submitted for a few years now.

However, it's a reminder to me, and I hope to you as well, to not give up. Even if the journey feels tiring, keep trying. Keep striving. You just never know.

Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her writing has appeared in Sky Island Journal, Arlington Literary Journal, The Voices Project, and eventually, The Ocotillo Review. A poem of hers was also featured in the anthology DEAR LEADERS TALES. Say hi to her on Twitter or Threads under @BeingTheWriter.
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Interview With M.T. Solomon, Runner Up in the Winter WOW! Winter Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, July 11, 2023


Today I'm excited to interview M.T. Solomon, runner up in the Winter 2023 WOW! Flash Fiction Contest. Before we get to our interview, make sure you check out her story, Luminous Trees, first. Then come on back!

But first, here's a bit about M.T. Solomon:

M.T. Solomon is a freelance writer, born in the American south but raised in the remote wilderness of Alaska. She wrote her first book at the age of six. At eleven, she wrote and hand-bound several children's books, most of which were riffs of Calvin & Hobbes with a female protagonist. She graduated from Portland State University in 2012 with a B.S. in Liberal Studies and a minor in Writing. Her work has appeared on the cover of Gotham Writers class schedule and has been featured on The Spinning Pen and Reedsy. Besides writing, she also coaches high school volleyball and is a passionate supporter of equal opportunity for female athletes. She lives in Alaska with her husband, three sons, a poodle, and her beloved labradoodle Drogon-Francis.

Her debut Adult Romantasy, All the Fragile Hearts, releases October 10th, 2023. Visit her website,, for updates, where to preorder, and to sign up for her newsletter!

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on winning runner up! This was the type of story that I wanted to reread to really comprehend the vivid details you wrote. How did your story transform from first draft to final draft?

M.T. The story began as a lot of my work does: I just get this idea for a first sentence. Just randomly. So I'll write it down on my phone in notes. And if those lines are lucky they'll stick with me and gnaw at me until I feel compelled to add to them.  The first sentence of Luminous Trees stuck with me and I just kept wondering who this woman was that was so affluent yet isolated? And why would someone be sent to visit her?

WOW: That's an awesome way to approach a story! You have some pretty amazing successes under your belt. What advice do you have for writers struggling to get their work published?

M.T.: I suggest figuring out what success and failure means to you personally and what that looks like in actuality. And control what you can. I wish I had done this earlier in my writing career, but it took having children and eventually having this discussion with them to support their academic and athletic endeavors that I realized I never took the time to sort this out myself. When I worked out that failure-- to me-- meant not trying, then the act of merely submitting my work was a success. Sure, winning all the contests/awards/grants/recognition would be amazing, but what is within my control is the writing and submission of my work. Everything else is out of my hands. So try. Work on your craft. And try some more. Learn from your failures. Try again. 

WOW: Excellent advice. I love that you wrote at such a young age and even did a spin-off on Calvin and Hobbes! How did those early writing years shape where you are today?

M.T.: I think overall it taught me what a lot of writers end up learning too: write what you like to read. Write what you want. Don't focus or tailor your story towards trends. But I had to take the long road there, so starting off I emulated a lot of writers I loved. Bill Watterson really knew how to tell a story in short form. He knew how to add depth without being too verbose about it. And the adventures and troubles of Calvin and Hobbes were hilarious. It was only later I learned that Watterson didn't want to write a kid strip initially and really fought against it despite knowing it could be great. He didn't want to fall in Peanuts' shadow. And as an adult engaged in a creative pursuit, that just struck me hard. And I decided I wouldn't allow fear of failure to stop me. I'd write what I want and not worry about the shadows cast by others. 

WOW: I love that! What do you hope readers take away from reading your story?

M.T. Luminous Trees, for me, is really about surviving. I know the title is about the trees, but I don't want that to take away from the woman's victory when she descends from her palace at the end. She did it. She outlived the man who cast her aside. She overcame isolation and humiliation. She alone descended those stairs and the trees were the only ones to bear witness. I just can't stop thinking about her. She haunts me. 

WOW: How beautiful! What are you currently working on that you can tell us a bit about?

M.T.: I'm currently working on my debut novel, All the Fragile Hearts, set to launch sometime in October. It's an Adult Fantasy with dual POV's that follows Cecelia - heir to a throne she feels like a stranger in, and Viktor - a man so used to worrying about himself that the feelings he has for Cecelia scares him. I fell short of labeling it Romantasy because it doesn't revolve around their physical intimacy. Instead it's a novel about imperfect people trying to find themselves beyond old paths. Trying to grow and stretch. Trying to allow themselves to be loved despite their brokenness. But they're also doing this amidst a military coup and the assination of a monarch Viktor swore to protect. There's Fair Folk-- my alternative to elves. There's a religion built around the planet's two moons. There's magic and history. There's something for everyone, really. I'm self-publishing for various reasons that both excite and terrify me. Updates about the book can be found on my instagram @m.t.solomonwrites

WOW: Best of luck on your book! Thank you for your insights!

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Interview with Barbara Morrison Runner Up in the WOW! Quarter 2 2023 Creative Nonfiction Contest with "Silver"

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Congratulations to Barbara Morrison and Silver, and to all of the other contestants and winners of the WOW! Women on Writing Quarter 2 2023 Essay Contest!
Barbara's Bio: 
Barbara Morrison, who writes under the name B. Morrison, is the author of a memoir, Innocent: Confessions of a Welfare Mother, recently named Best Nonfiction Audiobook by Independent Press Awards, and two poetry collections, Terrarium and Here at Least. As a former welfare recipient, she speaks about poverty and food insecurity and volunteers with Edible Brattleboro to create help-yourself gardens and food preparation and preservation learning experiences. Her writing has appeared in anthologies and literary journals such as Little Patuxent Review, The Sun Magazine, Tiny Lights, and elsewhere. She conducts writing classes and workshops and provides editing services. You can learn more about her work at
*****interview by Crystal J Casavant-Otto*****
WOW:  I hope everyone has already read Silver, and if not I recommend giving it a read and then returning here for our interview! Thank you for writing this essay. What is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from Silver? 
Barbara:  De-cluttering seems to be on many people’s minds lately. With this essay I wanted to add another way to consider your possessions. Each thing that has been with us for a long time has accumulated a history, one that is entwined with our own. That seemingly innocuous item—perhaps a dress or a vase or a cup—has actually become a magical memory box. When you lift the lid and start drawing out the memory fragments, you may be surprised to find them coming together in unexpected ways, perhaps giving you a new way to think about your past and how it has become your present. You may still be unsure whether to keep the item or give it away, but you will know more about its value. 

WOW: That's great advice - with a household of seven plus, I'm often overwhelmed with the "stuff." Speaking of advice, what advice would you give to others (specifically female authors) when it comes to self care?
Barbara: There was a year—a significant birthday year—when I decided to do as many wild things as I could, all the things that I thought I would maybe do someday. No, I didn’t get a tattoo, but I did consult a fortune teller. The highlight of the reading was something she said that I think is great self-care advice: Try to nurture yourself rather than just pampering yourself. To this day I look for what will nurture me. Of course, I still pamper myself sometimes, but find it important to remember the difference.
WOW: I can honestly say I didn't see that answer coming from that particular source - you've surprised me in a most pleasant way. I love that you pass along that great insight - I think we could all use more nurturing! Let me ask you this; who is your support - what have you found to be most supportive in your writing life as well as in life in general? You are clearly a support to so many - but who is there for you? 
Barbara In my memoir Innocent, I wrote about my struggles as a single parent living in poverty. That experience taught me about the value of community. I was surrounded by many people who, although they had very little, were surprisingly generous. Others reached out a helping hand at critical moments. Along with my family, my rich tapestry of support includes my friends and social communities.
WOW: I know you have me intrigued and looking to read more in your memoir - I'm including a link to Innocent so others like myself can grab a copy.   I feel community is so crucial as a mom and a writer, but that is not always the case. What role has writer's groups and or other writers played in your life? 
Barbara:  As a writer, I again find my greatest support in my community. The various writing groups I belong to, both organizations and small critique groups, have supported, taught, and inspired me. I have tried to pay it forward by volunteering, teaching, providing editing services, and creating events for readers and writers that are free, inexpensive, or by donation. I also try to amplify the work of other writers by reviewing books in my blog and by liking and sharing their posts. We can accomplish so much when we work together!

WOW: Thank you ever so much Barbara for sharing your essay and your thoughts today - we look forward to reading more of your work! Congratulations again! 

Interviewed by Crystal J. Casavant-Otto who just keeps on keeping on and can be found blogging and sharing on social media hashtag #raisingkidsandcattle

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5 Ways Short Story Writing Has Boosted My Productivity

Thursday, July 06, 2023

By Linnea Gradin
For many aspiring authors, finishing and publishing their first novel is their ultimate goal. Completing it promises an immense sense of accomplishment, but the road there is often long and arduous, so it’s easy to get stuck on the way. Add to that the pressure of putting everything you want to say into a single story, and the fear of the blank page can start to hinder your writing progress.
It’s for this reason (and many others) that I’m a huge proponent of the short story. Below, I’ve outlined five ways this shorter format can help you beat procrastination and become a more effective writer — both in terms of skill and routine.

1. Building a consistent writing habit

When it comes to writing, simply getting words down on paper on a regular basis is an invaluable skill in and of itself. The length of a short story feels more attainable, allowing you to actually get started.
Frequent calls for submissions are another way in which short stories can help you create a consistent writing habit. With novels, it’s easy to push things indefinitely, especially as the sheer size of the undertaking looms large. With short stories, you’re facing a smaller task and you’ll often have monthly or quarterly submissions — such as WoW’s flash fiction and essay contests, or even weekly short story competitions like Reedsy Prompts — to stay on top of. When you have some places to submit to regularly, it becomes much easier to establish part-way goals and keep up with a consistent writing routine.

2. Exploring your creativity and experimenting

The short story format also comes with the exciting possibility of exploring multiple avenues of interest. Unlike novels where you commit to a single idea over a longer period of time, each story you write can tackle something new, giving you the freedom to experiment with wilder ideas. If it doesn’t pay off, there’s always the next story.
If you’re someone who’s driven by curiosity, this is a great way to build positive associations to the writing process. When you allow yourself to follow where your curiosity leads and tell all the different stories floating around in your mind, you get a chance to push your own limits. And as you experiment with genres — from literary fiction and fantasy to horror and romance — and play with the format, writing consistently becomes significantly easier.

3. Completing arcs and finishing projects

There’s also a lot to be said for the feeling you get when you actually finish something. With short stories, you get to experience the dopamine release much more often. Of course, with novels, there’s the promise of delayed gratification to keep you going, but with shorter pieces, the finish line seems that much closer. Before you know it, you can’t wait for the next time you get to sit down and write just to experience the heady feeling of accomplishment again.

4. Honing your writing skills

The creative process is subjective, and writing a short story isn’t necessarily easier than writing a novel just because it’s shorter. The challenge of the short story lies in the fact that you’re forced to tell a complete story within a limited word count. You can’t spend pages and pages on world building or character development, so every word needs to be chosen with purpose and care. Forcing yourself to kill your darlings until you’ve boiled your writing down to something sharp and (hopefully) insightful will inevitably make you a more intentional writer.

5. Overcoming perfectionism and fear of rejection

Lastly, one of the wonderful things about short story writing is that there are so many ways to get your work published, whether in online magazines or print journals. Unlike the process for pitching your book, short stories can usually be submitted directly.
Of course, with more frequent submissions you also stand a greater chance of facing rejection. But it’s a little bit like ripping the band-aid off. It always stings a little, but after a while you start to develop thicker skin and can even start to learn from it. You were rejected but the world didn’t end, and perhaps you even got a couple acceptances, building up your platform in case you end up querying literary agents down the line. With less pressure on yourself to deliver a perfect first draft, you’ll find that it becomes easier to write without worrying about any writing flaws.
As you get more writing miles under your belt, perhaps that longer piece will start to feel more approachable. Whichever format you choose, just remember to let curiosity lead the way and you’ll find yourself longing to get back into the writer’s chair.
Linnea Gradin

Linnea Gradin is a writer for Reedsy — a digital marketplace connecting authors with the industry’s best publishing professionals and providing answers and information on all things writing and publishing related, from how to find a ghostwriter to how to make an audiobook.
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Dare to Take a Chance

Wednesday, July 05, 2023
Whether the heat or the holiday, I glanced at the calendar where I’d written “WOW! Blog post” and crumpled. 

Well, I didn’t literally fall to the ground in a crumpled heap of sweat. But I think my brain probably crumpled inside my head. Just collapsed into a pool of gray mush. Because not a single, solitary idea was left in the old mental file cabinet and time was a-wasting! 

Fortunately, that image of a file cabinet saved the day. I remembered that I had a file on my desk marked, “WOW! Post Ideas” and all I had to do was open the file to find… 

A whole lot of nothing. A lone sheet of paper waited, one with notes that had been struck through indicating I’d used that idea. UGH. But wait! There in the corner of the folder pocket, a scrap of newspaper. An old, torn, yet glorious scrap of an astrology column. Here is what it said: 

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 23). When you muster up the courage to take a chance, that’s something in and of itself. You needn’t couple your daring with the added pressure of demanding that you succeed. 

Isn’t that wonderful? You never know what amazingly accurate wisdom you’ll find in an astrology column! 

Now, I understand that life is about taking chances. Heck, sometimes, just getting out of bed in the morning is taking a chance. So this generalized horoscope was bound to hit the nail on the head with a vast majority of Libras (including me) as well as pretty much any newspaper reader. But the words resonated specifically for me that day—and why I’m sure I saved it—because I was deep into “Should I or shouldn’t I?” mode on switching the focus of my career.

But isn’t much of any writer’s life about mustering up the courage to take a chance? 

For example, when a writer spends money on a critique of a manuscript or when a writer sends out a query to the first agent. (Or the fiftieth agent.) How about when a writer pitches an article to an editor, or when a writer chooses to self-publish a book? Or even when a writer offers classes to other writers. I mean, basically, when a writer goes from thinking about to the act of doing, that takes courage of a special sort. 

But what I most love about that horoscope is the next line: 

You needn’t couple your daring with the added pressure of demanding that you succeed. 

Wow. Imagine how many writers—whether just beginning or considering something new and different—are out there right now, longing to try but stuck in a place of inertia because of fear of failure!

But here is what I wrote on the bottom of the scrap of newspaper: 

“Give yourself credit for starting. Starting is for the brave.” 

That was my takeaway point. So on this day after celebrating the land of the free and the home of the brave, dare to take a chance with whatever is calling your heart. Be brave!

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Interview with Kathryn Boyd, Runner Up in the WOW! Winter 2023 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Kathryn’s Bio: 

Radio station continuity director. Advertising agency copywriter. Freelance copywriter. Kathryn’s career had its ups and downs but was never boring. And all the while she studied the art of writing fiction until bold enough to make it her life’s work. 

As of now, she is in the final stages of rewrite for an upper YA near future eco-fiction novel. The working title is Great Plains Desert. The Darling Axe served as Developmental editor. 

Kathryn’s husband, Mike, is also an avid writer. They live near grown daughter Molly, who astounds them as she continually challenges herself to excel in every facet of her life. 

Home is Olathe, Kansas. This is where the North American Eastern deciduous forest transcends into the Western tallgrass prairie and its rich source of stories waiting to be told. 

*****interview by Sue Bradford Edwards*****

WOW:  First of all, I hope that anyone who hasn't read your story, "Too Many Kids," will take the time to do so.  In the meantime, what was the inspiration for this story? 

Kathy: The actual problem/solution conversation happened between a mom of seven kids and her oldest daughter. I decided it would make a good story if a kid actually accepted the challenge -- Which one should we give away? 

WOW:  That's a doozy!  It is vital to pick the right POV character in a story. With so many characters, how did you know “Too Many Kids” was Jeremy’s story to tell? 

Kathy: With the combined families, life had changed dramatically for every member of the family. Yet I felt adapting to an expanded family was hardest for Jeremy. He’d been displaced as the oldest boy in the family. He had to share a room with his little brother and a teenager. 

Jeremy’s complaint of ‘too many kids’ implied ’not enough Mom’. He worried about being left out now that additional kids and a new baby clamored for attention. 

WOW: I think we've all felt displaced at some time so that's something that clicks with readers. How did your story change during the revision process? 

Kathy: I heightened Jeremy’s confusion and doubts about which kid the family could do without. In so doing, emphasis is added to Jeremy’s difficulty answering what he originally thought would be an easy question. 

WOW: Your bio says that are also working on a YA novel. How does writing a novel inform your flash writing process?

Kathy: Love. Fear. Greed. These are the three emotions uppermost in my mind when crafting a story of any length for any market. Basic emotions motivate humans and make for great stories. 

WOW: Now I'm going to look for those motivators in the book that I'm reading. What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started writing fiction? 

Kathy: The value of a constant reminder to Show Don’t Tell by having it tattooed on the back of my left hand.

WOW:  That's definitely something I need to remember as well.  I hope our readers will soon have the opportunity to read your young adult novel.  Thank you so much for taking the time to share your ideas about writing.
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Interview with Amy Holan (aka Havi Zavi), Runner Up in the WOW! Q2 2023 Essay Contest

Sunday, July 02, 2023


Amy Holan (also known as Havi Zavi) is a Licensed Psychotherapist and writer who publishes, a synthesis of travel essays, art, culture, and adventures. She is also a contributing columnist at Womancake on Substack, a publication serving large slices of wisdom for women over 40. When not traveling the world, she splits her time between the desert and a small, rugged island in the Pacific Northwest. A proud Childfree by Choice woman, she is delighted by the other honorariums she holds: wife, auntie, sister, cousin, friend, dog mom. You can find her on Instagram @havi_zavi. 

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

You can read Amy's essay, "Machine Guns and Family Bonding," here.

WOW: Travel and adventure experiences provide such great material for essays. What are some important elements you think writers should consider when writing creative nonfiction that involves travel? 

Amy: I believe the best creative nonfiction is when vulnerability shines through and you feel a connection with the author. Travel evokes vulnerability and provides plenty of opportunity for an author to connect with the reader. Traveling puts you out of your comfort zone in so many ways. Away from the creature comforts of home, figuring out food, trying to find your way to the museum, or, in our case, a pretty large language barrier. The moments when things go the worst are often the moments when we find our resilience and power. These are also the moments that end up being the most memorable. Try to push yourself into activities that make you uncomfortable to get the most material. Then lean in when everything is going wrong. Pay attention to the feelings and interactions that happen around you. Did someone you were traveling with surprise you with how they responded? Did you surprise yourself? Cultural differences certainly exist but in a difficult moment we also find that humanity shares the same language. Moments of connection are always themes that unite and inspire and sometimes connection might be a shared glance, a helpful stranger, or, in our case, a moment of connection in a family trying to find their way in a new life together. 

WOW: What was your family’s time like living in Honduras after the journey you write about in your essay? 

Amy: It was a time that redefined us as a family. Without speaking the language we were forced to speak to each other. This brought us closer together. We spent our days doing our homework as quickly as possible so we could spend as much time as possible on the beach. We were barefoot 98% of the time and learned how to swim in the ocean and contend with jellyfish stings. It was also during this time I discovered my love of reading and devoured whatever was put in front of me. The house we lived in was half built so in the beginning we had to shower in the warm torrential rain. When we finally had water in the house, we experienced mild electrocutions due to the poor wiring. It was a beautiful, chaotic, strange, fun, and stressful time. To this day we laugh about all the things that went wrong, including the day my brothers were swept out to sea on a Costco air mattress and the time we took a bush plane to an island and the plane died halfway down the runway (stories still to come). 

WOW: Oh my goodness! What a teaser! You now divide your time between the Pacific Northwest and the Arizona desert. For any of our readers who have never visited those places, what do you think makes them such a desirable place to live? 

Amy: The Pacific Northwest is where I was born and raised. I still believe it to be one of the prettiest places on earth. We live on a small island that is very rural with a lot of farms, lakes, and hiking, and spend most of our summer days gardening, paddleboarding, swimming, and trail running. In the winter we transition life to the desert which has a completely different kind of beauty. There are incredible sunrises, sunsets, blooming cacti, and hiking not far away. It is a lovely balance between being surrounded by lush green and gorgeous tans and reds. 

WOW: What wonderful descriptions of those places. How did you first get inspired to write creative nonfiction? 

Amy: As a young woman in my twenties I became obsessed with the memoir genre. Having been a literature nut for years (Jeffrey Eugenides, Kurt Vonnegut, Irvine Welsh, Zadie Smith are a few favorites), I found new authors (to me) with beautiful prose in this genre (Dani Shapiro, Lidia Yuknavitch, Dave Eggers, Joan Didion, David Sedaris). Reading beautiful writing has inspired me to find ways to create and contribute my own voice. 

WOW: What advice do you have for traveling abroad for the first time? We’d love to hear some of your tips! 

Amy: Learn a few words of the native language of the place you plan to visit. Things like "please", "thank you", "table for two, please", "bathroom", and "check, please" are great starting points. Even in a place like Barcelona (where I am currently) where everyone speaks beautiful English, the effort is appreciated. If you want to take it further I recommend using Pimsleur (I wrote a piece about that here: to get some basic knowledge. Be city savvy, but not so paranoid you are afraid to leave your hotel room. Check out new neighborhoods, take the metro, and make friends. Remember people live where you are visiting, so be mindful and respectful of locals. And once in a while put your phone down and just live the experience.

WOW: Great tips! Thank you so much for sharing your writing journey and quite frankly, inspiring me to write more about my own travels!
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