A Podcasting Media Kit

Thursday, November 30, 2023

I’ve been working on my podcast since 2020, but it was only recently that I put together a simple media kit for the show. I was beginning to think about pitching sponsors and realized I needed to provide some numbers. Earlier this year I applied to work with a Podcast Marketing Agency that helps you find sponsors for your show, but was turned down because my download numbers weren't high enough. But since I've taken the show from twice a month to weekly, my reach has grown.

What numbers did I need to include in a media kit, though? My podcast is very niche, covering missing people and cold cases in North and South Carolina, so I feel like my download numbers are modest. But I think the statistics are subjective depending on who you talk to. When I told a local podcaster who also runs a niche podcast that I am averaging 1,000 downloads per episode, he said, “Wow, that’s really good!” But then I also hear that major brands don’t want to work with podcasts unless they have around 50,000 downloads per month. My podcast had nowhere near that kind of reach. However, I read on the website for The Podcast Host that if a podcast episode receives more than 484 downloads, it is in the top ten percent of podcasts. Really? There are a lot of podcasts out there!

I went to the website Canva because I’ve used their templates for various projects in the past. And lo and behold, they had a few free templates for podcast media kits. Voila! I took one of their simpler designs and tweaked the content a bit. On the first page, I put a logo of the show and added a mission statement. I included how many episodes have been produced to date, the total plays since launching in May 2020, and the number of plays as of now in 2023. On the second page, I added in a few different reviews of the show. Then I went and asked my husband, who has worked in marketing and branding for various corporations over the years, if he could help me put together a chart showing the show’s organic growth since launching. The bottom of that page included the social media accounts for the show, the website, and a snapshot of our listener demographics. 

What I didn’t include: I haven’t done a lot yet to grow my social media channels for the podcast, so I didn’t include the numbers of those followers, or those of my modest e-mail newsletter list. Instead, I focused on where the numbers looked more impressive, such as how the show has grown more than 54 percent year over year. Because I built the media kit in Canva, I can easily go in and update it each month with new stats and upload the new version to my website. You can check out the media kit here

Have you put together a one or two-page sheet for any of your writing products or offerings? I’d love to see other examples! 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and creator/host of the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas.
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Interview With Sophie Claire, Runner-Up in the WOW! Spring Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, November 28, 2023


I'm so glad to interview Sophie Claire, running up in the WOW! Spring Flash Fiction Contest. Make sure you read her story After the Storm then come on back.

First, here is more about Sophie:

Sophie Claire writes emotional stories set in England and in sunny Provence, where she spent her summers as a child.

Previously, she worked in marketing and proofreading academic papers, but now she’s delighted to spend her days dreaming up heartwarming contemporary romance stories set in beautiful places.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: Congratulations on winning runner up! You had great character development in your story What is your approach in creating such strong characters in fiction?

Sophie: Editing! That’s the key. We all strive to create strong and sympathetic characters (heroines especially), but I often have to edit my work several times to really draw this out. No one wants to read about someone who’s too sharp or jagged: characters also need warmth and motivations we can relate to. It’s only in revisiting the piece that I tease out these elements, so I write a rough first draft, then edit several times until it’s polished. 

WOW: Great technique! What surrounds you as you write?

Sophie: I’m lucky enough to have my own office, and I always have a mood board on the wall beside me for each book. It’s a collage of pictures and words cut out of magazines, and it helps me stay focused on the story, but also provides inspiration. I also use Pinterest, but there’s something about having it right there beside me that really sparks my imagination. I also have a clutter of printouts and notes on my desk: I’m a very messy writer, and it drives me mad, but it’s all essential, and woe betide anyone who moves even a sheet of paper!

WOW: I love you have visuals around you! I loved reading on your website that you love to help characters find their home. Is that something you've struggled with as well?

Sophie: I’m half French, half British, and, growing up, I lived in England but we used to visit my mother’s family in France regularly. I always felt very aware of the different attitudes and traditions within these two countries, and, as a child, I desperately wanted to fit in and belong. However, as an adult I embrace the unique perspective that my background gives me. I speak two languages, I cook French and British cuisine, and I hope my upbringing makes me more open-minded and gives me a better understanding of different attitudes. I love to write about characters struggling with the issue of belonging, and I strongly believe that we have to find peace within ourselves and our relationships before we can really ‘come home’.

WOW: That's amazing! You have some incredible publications under your belt! Why did you decide to write flash fiction?

WOW: I started writing flash fiction recently as warm-up exercises for my writing day. I belong to the Romantic Novelists’ Association and in their quarterly magazine (Romance Matters) they hold a flash fiction competition. I entered it and, when I won, I was so thrilled that it motivated me to write more short pieces. I’m a slow writer and finishing a novel can take me a year or more, so completing a short story in a morning is hugely satisfying. It’s also a great way of honing my writing skills: creating tension and plot development in such a short word count is not easy.

WOW: Finishing a short story is such a wonderful experience. What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

Sophie: I’m currently promoting my latest release, This Christmas in Paris, which was loosely inspired by the film You’ve Got Mail. I’m also writing another romance novel set partly in England and partly in the South of France at Christmas. I really enjoy writing festive novels, and this one is super cosy with a heroine who’s a carpenter. 

WOW: I have already added your book to my reading list! I love that movie! What advice do you have for writers who are struggling telling their stories?

Sophie: Relax! That’s what works for me, although it’s not always easy to do. So often we put pressure on ourselves, or let our inner critics have too much volume in our heads. I recommend writing short pieces if a longer project feels too daunting, and writing every day to keep those writing muscles working. I also swear by Julia Cameron’s morning pages. I use them as a warm-up to get into the zone, and if I’m stuck with the plot they often help untangle the knot. But the thing that helps me most is to read: it’s when I’m relaxed and absorbed in a story that ideas come to me. 

WOW: Great advice! Congratulations again and best of luck on your future successes.

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Come Back to Me by Leslie Hachtel: Reader Review Event & Giveaway

Monday, November 27, 2023


Come Back to Me by Leslie Hachtel

Today, I'm excited to announce the launch of a special reader review event with author Leslie Hatchel. Today, our readers are sharing their insights into her book Come Back to Me

You'll have the chance to find more about this book and more about the author herself.

Before we share what our readers thought, here's more about the book:

What would you do if you could go back in time to find your soulmate? For Skye Blaine, the answer is clear: she would do whatever it takes to be with the one she loves. Follow her as she travels through time in search of her heart's desire, finding that the path to true love is never easy, but always worth it. Will she find her happy ending? This page-turning story of love, sacrifice, and courage is sure to captivate and inspire. Don't miss out on this unforgettable journey through time!

Purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.com. You can also add it to your GoodReads reading list.

WOW's Readers Share Their Thoughts:

"I liked this book, probably because I enjoyed the Outlander series. Once the story gets started it's pretty good. I think the beginning takes a little bit to get used to, as the plot is being laid out. It's a little far fetched but if you just go with it it's an nice fun." ~ Melissa, The Reading Nerd

"Come Back to Me presents a tale that blends the intricacies of time travel with the timeless quest for true love. The time-travel element provides a unique backdrop against which the story unfolds, offering both suspense and a sense of wonder. Come Back to Me offers a blend of romance, adventure, and fantasy. It's a testament to the power of love and the lengths one would go to in its pursuit." ~ Michelle Cornish

"This was a fun romance! I love the premise of time travel and the main character finding love from a man she sees in a photograph. I thought the author did a fantastic job of depicting the time period of 16th century Ireland. The settings and description were rich. The ending left me with the feeling there will be more to come in another book, and I hope that's the case!" ~ Nicole Pyles

"If you are a fan of the Outlander series, chances are you will also enjoy this book. Ms. Hatchel has penned an interesting tale about a young woman who falls in love with the gentleman in a 16th century painting and won’t settle until she figures out how to time travel to meet him. The characters are well developed and relatable. The intriguing ending makes one wonder, will there be a sequel?" ~ Sandra Warren

"Come Back to Me by Leslie Hachtel is a quick read and if you love time travel and science fiction this is a nice light weekend book you'll enjoy. The characters are engaging and there's a cliff-hanger ending that will definitely leave you eager for the next book in the series!" ~ Crystal Otto

"I love the book Come Back to Me. It is one of the books this year that has kept me entertained through the whole book. It was well written and a fast read. The characters where well developed along with the storyline. I recommend this book whether you are a romance fan or not." ~ Jill Sheets

About the Author, Leslie Hatchel

Leslie Hachtel has been working since she was fifteen and her various jobs have included licensed veterinary technician, caterer, horseback riding instructor for the disabled and advertising media buyer, which have all given her a wealth of experiences.

However, it has been writing that has consistently been her passion. She is an award-winning and Amazon bestselling author who has written seventeen romance novels, including twelve historicals and five romantic suspense.

Leslie lives in Florida with her very supportive husband, and her writing buddy, Josie, the poodle mix.

She loves to hear from readers!

You can find her online at:

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your book Come Back To Me. What inspired this novel?

Leslie: It started with my love of estate sales and antiques. Being around things from the past always makes me wonder about who created them and what were their lives like. And what if someone’s soul mate was actually born years before they were. And those thoughts coalesced into this story.

WOW: Oh what a beautiful thought! I love the blend of romance and time travel and historical elements in the book. What was your research process like to capture that time period so well?

Leslie: Doing research is imperative when writing any history and it needs to be as accurate as possible to give a credible background to the story. Information is definitely available and that’s half the fun of writing about the past. It’s a learning process and makes the characters all the more 'real.' It also makes the book consistent. And there are so many periods in history that haven’t been explored. I really enjoy finding out about the time periods I write about.

WOW: I think that would be my favorite part of writing a book that had historical elements.You have excellent character development. What tips can you share?

Leslie: Thank you. I try to build my characters by imagining what their childhoods were like, their relatives, friends, experiences, so they are ‘born’ complete. Our past definitely informs our present and that is true when creating characters.

WOW: Great idea! You have an impressive number of books under your belt. How do you maintain that momentum?

Leslie: I love to write. I love to do research. And I treat writing as a job, so it takes priority over things like dusting. I make time in my day to make sure I get words on paper and I start thinking about the next book even before I finish the one I’m working on.

WOW: That's the best way to approach - like a job. What draws you to writing romance?

Leslie: I love the happily ever after!

WOW: A good reason to love romance! You have also had an impressive number of careers! Do any of those drive your fiction?

Leslie: Experiences make a person who they are, so of course my careers have influence, just as the people I’ve met along the way and the places I’ve lived.
WOW: Great point. Why did you decide to self-publish?

Leslie: So many reasons. For one, it’s a much faster process. From my first contract to actual publication was two years. Now, once one of my books is edited and the cover chosen, I can have it published in days, not years. Also, most publishers don’t really do much marketing for their authors, so that’s on me regardless. And I can control the pricing and where my books are sold.

WOW: The sense of control over the process seems to be a common reason for authors! What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

Leslie: I’m actually working on three books right now: 

An historical, called Adriana is set in the 1700s, and tells the tale of a woman who disguises herself and gets a job aboard a ship bound for the colonies. Of course, she meets and falls in love with the captain, but true love never does come easy. This one should be available before the end of the year.

I’m also working on the sequel to Come Back to Me, which focuses on Skye’s best friend Harper and her time travel journey. It’s titled Follow Me.

And, then I’ve also just outlined the next book in the “Notorious” series titled Killing Most Notorious.

WOW: All of them sound amazing! Best of luck on your future novels and thank you for joining us today.
Come Back to Me by Leslie Hachtel Reader Review Event

***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****
Enter to win a copy of the novel, Come Back to Me by Leslie Hachtel! Fill out the Rafflecopter form for a chance to win. The giveaway ends December 11th at 11:59 CT. We will choose a winner the next day and announce in the widget and also follow up via email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Interview with Runner Up Miel Sloan for "Letter to My Suicidal Son, Take Three" as part of our Q4 '23 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest!

Saturday, November 25, 2023


Congratulations to Miel Sloan and Letter to My Suicidal Son, Take Three, and to all of the other contestants and winners of the WOW! Women on Writing Quarter 4 2023 Essay Contest!


I hope everyone has already had an opportunity to read Miel’s Contest Entry Letter to My Suicidal Son, Take Three – if you haven’t done so already, give it a read and then return here for this touching author interview! 

 Miel’s Bio: 

Miel Sloan is the pen name for a poet and writer who is publishing under a pseudonym to protect her son. She is currently writing a book of lyric essays about raising a son with mental illness; the title essay, “Mother Matter” is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review. Her essay “Letter to the Insurance Company Psychiatrist” recently appeared in Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine (Letter to the Insurance Company Psychiatrist – Pulse). You can follow her on Twitter: @MielSloan. The photo is her favorite library, Biblioteca Vasconcelos, in Mexico City. Whenever she’s in Mexico City that is where she writes. Originally from New York, she now lives mostly in the Midwest and Mexico and Central America whenever possible. 

 *****interview by Crystal J Casavant-Otto***** 

 WOW: Congratulations Miel! I’m so glad you could take time to be with me today for this interview. I want to first and foremost thank you for writing such a personal essay – now I need to ask - what is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from Letter to My Suicidal Son, Take Three? 

Miel: This essay stems from a thought that has haunted me since my son has struggled with suicidality: What if this is his last day? What if this is our last moment? The last time we speak or touch? What would I want to say, do, experience or re-live? What would he want me to do? 

 Of course, no deep relationship can be reduced to one treasured moment; the piece mirrors the conflict between wanting to re-live an accumulation of treasured moments and the impossibility of doing so, especially in twenty-four hours; it’s a reminder that no culminating experience will suffice. 

 I hope a reader recognizes that in the accumulation of the handful of treasured and defining moments depicted in the piece, there is also something that cannot be articulated, and what cannot be articulated will resonate in the loss, in the absence of the beloved and of the part of oneself that vanishes with that loss, in this case my identity as mother of this young man. 

 WOW: As a mom, I can’t even imagine those things you describe as “cannot be articulated” – it resonates deeply. Thank you for sharing your submission and for answering my questions to honestly. Now for a bit of a lighter question: Where do you write? What does your space look like? You have an impressive bio - it begs the ask - tell us more about Biblioteca Vasconcelos? When did you first visit?

 Miel: I write almost everywhere. I do not have an office. I own a small A frame with two bedrooms: one for my son and one for me. Sometimes I sit on the sofa with my laptop, sometimes the dining room table, often my sun porch (assuming it’s warm enough). I write on planes and trains, I write in airports and temporary apartments, I write in coffee shops and libraries. The only important quality is relative quiet. Silence is preferred, but as long as it’s not loud with jackhammers or blaring music/TV, etc., I can write. 

 I spend as much time as I can steal away in Latin countries--the climate, culture and language are great lures, and the more tranquil pace is conducive to writing a book. In March, 2020, a year before I started this book and a week before Covid stopped the world, I was in Mexico City and discovered Biblioteca Vasconcelos, the largest public library in Latin America. Built in 2006 and designed by Alberto Kalach, it exemplifies modern architecture: the bookshelves hang suspended with opaque glass floors and ceilings. Catwalks and open stairs link the bookshelves. The suspended shelves remind me of my life since my son’s descent into mental illness; like the bookshelves, our lives seem tenuous, ethereal. When I walk between them with nothing but a few inches of flooring between me and seven stories of air, I feel unsteady. These shelves, however, are quite stable held in place by tension. Similarly, I keep discovering that my son and I are more stable than we might seem and somehow the tension between us provides a structure that keeps us from falling to our deaths. 

 WOW: You describe Biblioteca so vividly – thank you for practically bringing us there with you! 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 an advocate for those with mental illness - but who do you turn to for support as a woman, a writer, etc... 

 Miel: My greatest support comes from my friends and partners; each provides me with something unique, and in this way, my needs are met. Some of them are the best listeners, some are my best readers/editors, some are excellent problem solvers, some are my cheerleaders. 

 I attend many online meditation groups. Participating in two twenty-minute meditations daily for the past three + years has been life changing. When I first transitioned from one to two meditations a day, I hoped that I’d find better tools to help my son. What it provided was space to grieve. Each night, during my second meditation, tears streamed down my face. I didn’t know that I needed a space wholly for me, but I did. It has slowed down the ticker tape of worries and enabled me to see and feel them at a reasonable pace. The people I have met, people from all over the globe, have provided amazing examples of coping with one’s struggles through the power of silence. 

 WOW: It sounds like you are in such a great headspace right now – and definitely moving in a forward direction. That begs my final question as our time draws to a close: What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for Fall/Winter 2023/2024 and beyond? 

Miel: This essay is part of a book I’m writing entitled Mother Matter. I started working on it--not realizing it was a book--in 2021. More than half of it is drafted and maybe 20% of it is polished. The goal in 2024 is to have more than 50% polished and all of it drafted. I’ve secured a grant for 2024, which has bought me 3 months off work to be a full-time writer. This is the third time in my life that I’ve had such great fortune; it’s exhilarating to write full-time. With that opportunity, I intend to begin soliciting agents by the end of 2024. I invite readers to follow me on X: @MielSloan. There I post updates re: publications and awards like this contest. 

 WOW: Thank you again for your submission, your honesty, and your time. Congratulations on being one of our runner ups and we certainly look forward to reading more from you in the future! 

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

    Check out the latest Contests: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php
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The Ups and Downs of Freelance (& Important Lessons I Learned in 2023)

Wednesday, November 22, 2023
A visual representation of me freelancing.

We are coming to the end of another year. This time last year, I had stopped getting assignments from a well-paying writing gig and considered pursuing another direction entirely. As 2023 began, I accepted some freelance public relations work and quickly accepted the challenges that went with it. Now, this year, things have ended far differently for me than when I started. I'm now writing for some pretty popular magazines and public relations is now a soon-to-be distant memory.

For anyone who does freelance, you know there are major hills and valleys to this type of work. And I have faced some significant lessons this year that I wanted to share with you:

1. Freelance work doesn't come with a guarantee. 

I guess this is a pretty obvious one, and I don't just mean the certainty of the workflow. I also mean the guarantee that it's right for you. I've always done (and enjoyed) freelance writing. However, this particular lesson came around when I started doing public relations. I thought I'd love it when I started. While I enjoyed it at times, I quickly realized it wasn't right for me. There were countless aspects I hadn't considered before I started. You have to invest in a lot of resources. You have to always be on top of potential opportunities, leaving me with the feeling I couldn't turn off my brain. And more.

The grass is always greener on the other side, as the saying goes. What looks appealing and works well for one freelancer, may not work out the same way for you.

2. There are plenty of things you'll do without any pay at all.

I can't tell you how many meetings I had this year to discuss possible freelance opportunities. Or to discuss how I could potentially represent someone in PR freelance work. I kept telling myself it was a fantastic way of learning how to talk about my strengths. However, many of those opportunities didn't pan out. Sometimes I was ghosted. Other times I realized it just wasn't a good fit for me. The sad thing is these meetings were all unpaid, of course. The mental energy, the preparation, and my insights were all given for free.

I think this is common in freelance work and I've read many articles from fellow freelancers on how to address the whole meetings-that-go-nowhere thing. My best tip? Try to do as much as you can via email before doing a meeting. It will help you understand far better whether an opportunity is right for you.

3. Contracts are really important.

It doesn't matter if this potential client is your best friend. Or a referral from a family member. The moment you begin to do freelance work for someone, you need to have a contract in place. One that outlines your payment terms, what happens if things are unpaid, what happens when you want to end the business relationship, and other things that protect you (and the client).

My freelance writing has been straightforward with this, and for that, I'm grateful. I ran into a situation this year where I attempted to work for someone without a contract and all I can say is how glad I am that I didn't do much for this person. So create a contract. There are some templates available on a variety of sites you can use (Hello Bonsai is one).

4. Keep trying. You just never know.

If you had told me I would have started writing for some major media outlets this year, I wouldn't have believed you. Not really, anyway. However, I've always been pulled towards commerce writing (i.e. those are those articles that discuss gift ideas, deals available, etc). And I wanted to do that kind of writing. With just a few of those samples under my belt and some others that came about thanks to my work with Mental Floss, I started cold-pitching editors to consider me for assignments. That's been a fruitful endeavor that has led to many opportunities.

I think what helped is I had a specific niche in mind and a goal. I'd recommend the same depending on your freelance endeavors. 

5. Cutting things out is hard.

Because of the rises and falls of freelance work, I am slow to cut things away. But thanks to a fairly recent opportunity, I have taken the brave step forward of trimming my freelance activities. I'm thankful for it. I admire those who can do that kind of work as their full-time career. Truly, I think it's incredibly brave and takes a lot of energy, time, and a multitude of resources. 

Sometimes as a freelancer, you do need to cut back. It's also hard to say no to anything. However, saying yes to everything is impossible. If an opportunity has come around and you aren't sure you want to say no but you aren't sure about saying yes, give it time. Tell the prospect you need a few weeks and you'd like to check back. I did this and came to realize I didn't need the work after all.

As I look ahead to 2024, I'm intrigued to see how my skills and efforts will play out this time. Freelancing comes with some rough waters, but there are plenty of benefits. 

What insights can you share about your experience with freelancing? 

Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her writing has appeared in Sky Island Journal, Arlington Literary Journal, The Voices Project, The Ocotillo Review, and The Gold Man Review. A poem of hers was also featured in the anthology DEAR LEADERS TALES. You can read her other writing on Mental Floss, Better Homes and Gardens, Tom's Guide, and in at least one issue so far in Woman's World. Say hi to her on Twitter or Threads under @BeingTheWriter.
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Interview with Kathleen Furin, Runner Up in the Spring 2023 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Kathleen's Bio:

Kathleen Furin is the recipient of the 2022 Eludia award for her story collection Last Sunrise, which is forthcoming from Sowilo Press. She has published work in American Literary Review, Permafrost Magazine, Evanescent, Philadelphia Stories, Literary Mama, Mutha Magazine, and Midwifery Today, among other journals and anthologies. Her story “Body Memory” won first prize in the 2023 Tucson Literary Arts festival. She is an Author Accelerator certified book coach and currently works as an equity consultant. 

Pop on over and read her story, "Jitterbug Gold," and then come back to learn about her writing process.

-----interviewed by Sue Bradford Edwards-----

WOW:  What was the inspiration behind Jitterbug Gold? 

Kathleen: I had entered a competition with Fractured Literary and was advanced to the final round. Our prompt was “talismans.” I started to think about what objects people were connected to and why, and of course began thinking about families and how so many families have a variety of heirlooms and “treasures.” My parents still have a serving dish that my great-grandmother won in a dance competition, which always makes an appearance over the holidays. When I think about what her life would have been like and how things were for women at the time she was alive I think mainly about constraints and a lack of freedoms, so it was fascinating to me to imagine a woman who pushed back against expectations and upended social norms. I didn’t think a serving dish would work, but I loved the idea of a woman being rewarded for doing what she loved against all odds, and the story just evolved from there. 

WOW:  Revision is a vital part of the writing process when a story is shaped and refined. How did this story change during the revision process? 

Kathleen: With flash fiction the ending of a piece is critical. Flash can be sort of like a sonnet; the last two lines in the sonnet might shift your perspective or offer something unexpected, and that was sort of what I was going for here. I was struggling a bit with this ending but my friend Jerome, who is a great reader, offered some suggestions. In addition, revising flash fiction always involves cutting words. This piece was probably three or four times longer than the word count limit on the first draft. So I had to go in and trim a lot! Every word matters when you are so limited. 

WOW:   It is so tight now.  I can't even imagine the piece at four times this length. You could have chosen many different things from a ring to a pendant to a watch to serve as the talisman in this story. How did you decide at last on the watch? 

Kathleen: That’s a great question but I honestly can’t remember. I really was just thinking about items that family members treasure. I wish I had something profound to say – maybe the evolution of Nonna as a character as she was freer to be her true self as time passed in her life connects to the idea of a watch – but that’s as an afterthought, thinking about it now. 

WOW:  Wondrous serendipity then! How does your work as a book consultant shape your own writing? 

Kathleen: I learned so much when I had the great fortune to connect with Jennie Nash and Author Accelerator. I think there is a lot of truth to the idea that you don’t really learn something until you have to teach it. The ways she thinks about structure, organization, narrative tension, and character development are so brilliant and have certainly made me much more intentional about the ways in which I tell my own stories, even when they are super short. My coaching process often involves supporting the writer to draw on what they already know. I don’t necessarily always have answers for my clients, but if I can ask the right questions I can help them answer them for themselves. So this idea of asking questions of myself and my work, especially when I get stuck, is helpful. I learn something new with almost every client I work with and just about every consultation I participate in; I can then apply this knowledge to my own work. 

WOW:  You have a variety of sales and experience. What advice would you give to a novelist or essayist who is waffling over whether they should attempt flash fiction? 

Kathleen: I think attempting new forms is one of the best ways to grow as a writer. Writing flash forces us to really be intentional about understanding our narrative arcs and our character transformations. It's the same thing we are doing in longer works but we have to tighten everything up. Nailing down the arc and transformation is a critical task no matter how long your piece will be. Generally, playing with different forms can be a great way to stay engaged and inspired. We can become freer because we don’t have the same expectations of ourselves when attempting a new form. I would advise writers considering it to try it and see what it feels like.

WOW: Thank you so much for sharing how this piece came to be.  I hope that everyone else feels as inspired as I do.
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Homecoming Chaos by D.W. Brooks: Blog Tour and Giveaway

Monday, November 20, 2023


Homecoming Chaos by D.W. Brooks
We are excited to launch the Homecoming Chaos blog tour and giveaway today!

This romantic suspense by D.W. Brooks is perfect for readers who enjoy some witty dialogue and family issues mixed with a little romance and mystery. The blog tour starts today and lasts through December 17th.

Below, you'll have the chance to find out more about this book and the author D.W. Brooks.

Join us as we celebrate this book and this inspiring author.

First, here's more about the book...

A dead body in the parking lot of her family’s business, a killer on the loose, and a handsome detective asking a lot of questions…

Jamie Scott’s life fell apart four years ago when she broke off her engagement, turned down a dream job, and went overseas to run away from her life. Now she’s back, but the reunion is not without problems. She arrives home just in time to attend the soiree her mother planned, but she’s not prepared for what she finds—a dead employee in the parking lot.

Detective Nick Marshall is assigned to the murder case at the forensics lab owned by Jamie’s family. He meets the headstrong Jamie, but he has a job to do. And his attraction to her… well, he’s a professional.

Jamie knows the stakes are high. She has to face the past and save her parents’ business while dealing with her family drama and an uncertain future. She also has to deal with Nick, who wants her out of the way of his investigation. But fate keeps throwing them in one another’s paths… and into chaos that they both want to avoid, but neither can seem to escape.

Publisher: Life: The Reboot, LLC
ISBN-13: 979-8218150501
Print length: 449 pages

Purchase a copy of Homecoming Chaos by visiting AmazonBarnes and Noble, or Kobo. Make sure you also add Homecoming Chaos to your Goodreads reading list.

About the Author, D.W. Brooks 

Author D.W. Brooks

D.W. Brooks lives in Texas with her husband and children. She enjoys trying to stay in shape, sporadically cooking, reading (still), writing, and working on her blog. She is eternally grateful to the woman who donated a kidney to her over 5 years ago and continues to advocate for organ donation as much as she can.

Learn more at www.authordwbrooks.com.

--- Interview by Michelle Cornish

WOW: Congratulations on the release of your book Homecoming Chaos! What was your primary inspiration behind the book? Did any personal experiences shape the narrative?

D.W.: My first ideas for Homecoming Chaos centered on writing a story about a female physician who had made the decision to leave the practice of medicine, like me. I thought it would be interesting to explore some contradictions surrounding that. When I decided to leave medical practice, it was not as common as it is now. Friends and family greeted me with many questions, recriminations, doubts—you name it. That was going to be a part of the story. But as I developed the idea in my head, I moved away from that component of the story—at least for now—but kept the part about a person named Jamison Jones Scott who completed her training and realized that for whatever reason she didn't want to do what she trained for at this time. 

I then had to create a compelling reason that she wanted to leave. To do this, I called on another personal experience: my sometimes challenging relationship with my mother. My mother and I didn't always see eye-to-eye. Jamie's relationship with her mother is 100X more challenging than my experience, but it gave me a solid foundation to create some of the issues that Jamie has. Beyond that, Jamie's character differs greatly from mine. It excites me to write about stuff I would never do.

WOW: I'd love to talk more about Jamison Jones Scott. She has undergone significant life changes prior to the events of the book. How do you think these past experiences influenced her actions and reactions throughout the story?

D.W.: Jamie's prior life experiences color most of her actions in the present. She returned hoping to improve her familial relationships since she burned a few bridges on her way out of town. After she spent decades not expressing herself and going along to get along, she finally reached her breaking point, which led to the crisis point and her escape from town and country. While she was away, she went to therapy and spent a lot of time in self-reflection, trying to learn how to better manage her relationships and her reactions to them. However, therapy can give you confidence in a vacuum, but when you enter the actual situation, using the strategies you practiced may not be as easy. She also had to learn how to better deal with her guilt about how she treated her family by leaving like she did, as well as the guilt from what happened when she was in New York. Finally, her family may not be completely on board with the more balanced Jamie and could expect the various relationships to return to the previous status quo.

It also appears that therapy did not affect her impulsiveness—which got her in trouble in the past. She will have to address that as well. For readers who want to know more about Jamie's backstory, I wrote a prequel novella—I DO CHAOS—that I am currently offering as a free download from AuthorDWBrooks.com

WOW: Detective Nick Marshall and Jamie Scott have a complex relationship, especially with Nick trying to keep Jamie away from the investigation. Without giving us any spoilers, can you discuss the dynamics of their relationship and what you aimed to convey through their interactions?

D.W.: Without the backdrop of the mystery at the lab, Jamie and Nick's meeting would probably be like any meeting between a man and a woman who are attracted to each other. But the murder changes the dynamics. Nick is very interested in Jamie. However, he is also very dedicated to his job. His nickname is "the Bulldog" after all. Jamie feels guilty about her previous actions, sees her family in danger, and plunges in to make it right. With her mother throwing bombs into the mix, it increases the romantic tension between Jamie and Nick.

I hoped to convey that the relationship between them was not just an attraction—that there was a potential for more. I think they are very similar in many ways with a strong sense of right and wrong and willingness to push a few boundaries to get the right answer. Their interactions have some edge because of the pressures related to the investigation, but it's obvious to others watching them that there's some sexual tension as well.

WOW: The title Homecoming Chaos suggests a return to one's roots and the upheaval that can ensue. How does the theme of 'homecoming' play out in your novel?

D.W.: The homecoming concept plays out in several ways in this story:

  • Jamie was living with her fiancé before she left the country. It had been almost two decades since she had lived in her parents' home, having moved to New York as a teen while she was modeling. She had been on her own, so living at her parents' home was a shock.
  • Her sister made a comment about Jamie's homecoming, comparing it to the return of the prodigal son. Jamie left while burning bridges and hurting her family but is being welcomed home by all, despite her behavior. 
  • Her ex-fiancé and estranged best friend were both big parts of her life, but she ghosted them as well. Now, Jamie's homecoming also will involve meeting and addressing her behavior towards them too.
  • This book briefly touches on her medical career, but when she left, she torched potential employers and bosses. Coming home to her career, uncertainty is another aspect of her homecoming.

WOW: The family drama element is a pivotal aspect of the story. How did you approach writing about family dynamics while intertwining it with a murder mystery?

D.W.: Some of the familial dynamics were straightforward to write about in this story. As I noted previously, I used some dynamics of my relationship with my mother as a baseline and then proactively ratcheted up the tension between Jamie and her mother. Writing a sibling relationship was a bit more challenging as I don't have any! I wanted to use the thought that Jamie was likely the "favored" child to build the relationship with the sister. But I wanted to help that relationship grow by having them team up to help the family. 

I didn't think it was difficult to intertwine the murder mystery because I planned for everyone to act in character. Everyone reacted to the scenario in character. The only wild card would have been Jon, but he had his own drama to deal with, so I kept him out of the main mystery story for the most part.

WOW: The importance of organ donation is a cause close to your heart. Do you incorporate personal advocacies or experiences, like this one, into your writing? If so, how?

D.W.: I am a fortunate recipient of a kidney which was donated by a living donor we located through Facebook. Because my kidney problems are genetic, I had been aware since I was a child that kidney failure was likely in my future. Because the entire experience of kidney failure, dialysis, and searching for a donor was so very stressful and scary, I have shied away from writing about it, although others have asked me to. Maybe I will incorporate organ donation into a future story; I feel as if I might be in the right headspace to do that now. I think there are several interesting and touching ways to incorporate the topic into one of my future Chaos novels in the series.

WOW: Can you share with WOW! readers what you are planning next?

D.W.: I am writing the next installment in the CHAOS series, and there may be another novella or two tucked in there. I also need to resurrect my activity on my blog and on my Etsy shop where I sell printable checklists, planners, calendars, and more. In addition, I am also looking forward to my kids' graduations this May (one from college and one from high school) and some trips that my husband and I are planning. It's going to be a busy time!

WOW: That's amazing, how wonderful! All the best to you with the release of Homecoming Chaos! Thank you so much for answering my questions. 

Homecoming Chaos Blog Tour

--- Blog Tour Calendar

November 20th @ The Muffin
Join us as we celebrate author D.W. Brooks and interview her about Homecoming Chaos. You'll also have the chance to win a copy for yourself.

November 22nd @ Author Michelle Cornish
Visit Michelle's blog to read her review of Homecoming Chaos.

November 25th @ The Faerie Review
Stop by to check out Lily's spotlight of Homecoming Chaos by D.W. Brooks.

November 27th @ Michelle Cornish
Join Michelle to read an interview with D.W. Brooks.

November 29th @ Pages & Paws
Join Kristine as she shares a guest post by D.W. Brooks about switching careers from medicine to writing. 

November 29th @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews blog
Join Lisa for an interview with D.W. Brooks.

November 30th @ Life According to Jamie
Stop by Jamie's blog to read her review of Homecoming Chaos.

December 3rd @ Author Michelle Cornish
Visit Michelle's blog to read a guest post by D.W. Brooks writing as Jamison Scott about the wedding that wasn't.

December 5th @ Reading Beyond the Book Cover
Join Jaleesa as she shares her review of Homecoming Chaos.

December 6th @ A Storybook World
Stop by Deirdra's blog to read her spotlight of Homecoming Chaos by D.W. Brooks.

December 7th @ Nikki's Book Reviews
Check out Nikki's review of Homecoming Chaos by D.W. Brooks.

December 9th @ Helen Hollick Author
Visit Helen's blog to read a guest post from author D.W. Brooks.

December 12th @ Bring On Lemons
Join Crystal as she shares her review of Homecoming Chaos by D.W. Brooks.

December 14th @ The Knotty Needle
Stop by to read Judy's review of Homecoming Chaos by D.W. Brooks.

December 15th @ Sue Edwards’s blog
Stop by Sue’s blog to read a guest post by D.W. Brooks about literary beginnings.

December 17th @ World of My Imagination
Visit Nicole's blog to read her review of Homecoming Chaos by D.W. Brooks.

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

Enter to win a copy of Homecoming Chaos by D.W. Brooks! Fill out the Rafflecopter form for a chance to win. The giveaway ends December 3rd at 11:59 CT. We will choose a winner the next day and announce in the widget and follow up via email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Interview with Jacqueline Doyle, Runner Up in the WOW! Q4 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Sunday, November 19, 2023


Jacqueline Doyle is the author of The Missing Girl (Black Lawrence Press). She has published creative nonfiction in EPOCH, The Gettysburg Review, Passages North, Pinch, Fourth Genre, and elsewhere. Her work has been featured in Creative Nonfiction’s “Sunday Short Reads” and has earned nine Notable Essay citations in Best American Essays. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Find her online at www.jacquelinedoyle.com. 

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

WOW: Hi Jacqueline, congratuations, and welcome!  “Dear Maddy” is about the suicide of a family member and the lingering questions such an event leaves behind. How did this essay evolve over time and how has it helped you process your aunt’s death? 

Jacqueline: I started writing late in life, just after my father died, and I thought I would write about him. I was surprised when the first piece I produced was a grief-saturated dream fragment about my aunt’s suicide, which had happened long before. By the time I wrote “Dear Maddy,” I had already written a few longer essays about my aunt and I was wondering what role those essays played in my writing in general. It did not seem like a subject I could lay to rest. In many ways she is the central inspiration for my current WIP "The Lunatics’ Ball," where I explore the family legacy of bipolar mood disorder and the treatment of female “lunatics” throughout history. 

WOW: That also sounds like a therapeutic project. Can you tell us a little more about your flash fiction collection, “The Missing Girl?” 

Jacqueline: "The Missing Girl" started with the last story, “Nola,” and the encouragement of J.T. Hill, the editor of Monkeybicycle. I had already published a lot of flash by then without thinking about a collection. The flash in "The Missing Girl"—about girls and women who’d been silenced, abused or gone missing, and about abusers and predators—felt like they belonged together. It’s been a while since it was published, and I’m always excited when it attracts new readers. I just visited Kathryn Kulpa’s Cleaver workshop on the flash collection, where she taught the book. I loved talking to her students. 

WOW: What is your writing process like? Do you prefer to outline even your shorter pieces or are you more of a “pantser” with first drafts? 

Jacqueline: I’m definitely not an outliner. The most exciting pieces to write are voice-driven stories and essays that start with a first line that takes me somewhere I don’t expect. But I sometimes spend a lot of time rearranging pieces like a jigsaw puzzle’s to see where they fit, discarding the pieces that I don’t need. Segmented essays like “Dear Maddy” often work that way for me. I also tend to revise as I write, though you’ll find craft books that advise against that. I revise obsessively once I have full drafts as well. 

WOW: As someone who has published an impressive amount of work in literary journals (and been nominated for and received many awards) what advice would you offer writers who are looking to submit their own writing? 

Jacqueline: I would advise writers to spend some time reading the magazines where they submit to get an idea what the magazine publishes. When I first started submitting flash, I sometimes kept my flash open on the desktop while I opened flash from the literary journal I was interested in to see whether I could picture my flash in their pages. And I find this one difficult: don’t get too discouraged by rejections. Take them in stride and keep submitting. I’m an editor at the literary journal CRAFT and I know that really great work is rejected every day for a whole variety of reasons (often simply for lack of space). You might want to rethink and revise your piece after many rejections, but don’t lose heart. 

WOW: Can you share with us what you are reading right now? 

Jacqueline: I’m often catching up with new publications, but right now I’m reading four brand new books: Ross Gay’s new collection "The Book of (More) Delights," Jayne Anne Phillips’ new novel "Night Watch," and two new anthologies—"Best American Essays 2023," edited by Vivian Gornick, and "Awakenings: Stories of Body & Consciousness," edited by Diane Gottlieb. I’ve been reading bits of the three collections for a few weeks. It’s Sunday afternoon, a bit chilly for Northern California, my husband made French toast for brunch, and now I’m looking forward to curling up on the couch in front of the fireplace with "Night Watch."

WOW: Thank you so much for these thoughtful responses. We look forward to hearing more from you!
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Interview With Jason Ridler, an Odyssey Writing Workshop Instructor

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Today I am excited to interview Jason Ridler, an instructor from Odyssey Writing Workshops. A professional historian and published novelist, he will be teaching the Odyssey online class Right Voice for the Right Story: Discover the Variety of Voices Inside You and How to Use Them (application deadline December 5). This course will examine elements of voice that, when wielded together, can make your story more compelling than if you drafted it in your usual ways. 

Jason Ridler, Ph.D., has dedicated twenty years of his life teaching and guiding students to success in writing and history. His students have discovered passions for learning, sold novels, stories, and memoirs, and thrived in education from high school to grad school. In addition to teaching at Odyssey Writing Workshop, he also teaches creative writing at Google and history at Johns Hopkins University.  He’s a graduate of the 2005 Odyssey Writing Workshop. Find out more at www.jasonridler.com.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles
WOW: Thank you for taking time to speak with me today! I wanted to dive deep into the course you are teaching. I find it interesting you are focusing on voice. How does the writing voice pull the reader into the story? 

Jason: Your favorite author has a voice. You quickly recognize it once you’re attuned to their beats and tones. But stories have a voice, too, and finding the harmony between author voice and story voice creates a powerful experience for a reader. And, honestly, for the writer, too. That combined writing voice can pull the reader into the story by harmonizing literary devices with an attitude or melody that reflects the writer but also the unique requirements of an individual story. 

WOW: Fantastic insight. How do you know when you've captured the right voice for the story? 

Jason: One way: while drafting, you recognize the distinct element of the story more compelling than the rest. It could be a descriptive passage, dialog, a plot point, image, or character choice, etc. In improvisational theater, we call this element the “shiny thing.” The emergent phase of writing will always have dross, it never comes out whole, but once you find the shiny thing that makes this story engaging you can then shape the rest of the story to maximize that element. It will inform word choice, sentence structure, and more. The “shiny thing” becomes the lodestar for creating the voice of the story through the voice of the writer.

WOW: That's a great description. In your course, you teach others how to discover their stories' voice. What techniques do you use? 

Jason: We investigate three facets of voice - subject matter, emotional lenses, and structure. First, we spend time trying to unpack what we wish to write about. Not just content, but why YOU want to write about X, Y, Z. We consider meaning. There are layers of meaning within your interests that, if mined, you can use to inform the story’s voice in ways that may not be obvious at first blush. The results of that digging are often more thematically rich and compelling than a surface level note about, say, liking Star Wars. Sure, but why? With a little digging the deeper reasons may in fact surprise you! 

We then explore the role of emotion in informing your point of view and world choice, akin to method acting, but also from literary approaches from the likes of Lucius Shepard and Gary Braunbeck. Gary's work taught me that voice demands a deep consideration of emotional reality. You can't read his work without being in the presence of a powerful voice. 

And, we look at the role of structure, including less conventional modes of it. The same story told in a three-act structure will have a different impact and integrity if written as anonymous advice cards to HR about the creepy guy at work who never sleeps. Less conventional forms offer more means for novelty and mystery than you might think. One of my students' best stories was written in the form of posts on a version of the social media platform NextDoor, complete with comment threads, emojis and fuzzy pictures. No one could put it down. And it would have been far less evocative if it was about someone reading a screen who wants to solve the mystery of what happened to Mrs. Orchard. 

WOW: I love how you help writers connect with voice. This sounds so helpful. What can students expect by taking your course? 

Jason: Fun! I agree with Jane Yolen that while writing is labor, skilled labor for pros, that does not mean it has to be misery. That’s a myth, or a choice for those who may need it to be true. It is the love of the art that makes many hardships bearable or even fun. The creation of art should have elements of joy and desire, the antic and the fecund, to shake us out of patterns and assumptions and grow our skill set. That said, I also love miserable writers! 

I take examples from literature, theater, history, con artistry, and movies as well as genre fiction. I’m also a sketch comedy writer and improv actor and believe that teaching is a form of performance. You can’t have students retain knowledge if you’re dull as dirt. Subject matter expertise has NEVER made someone a good teacher. Ever. Teaching is an art assumed to be easy but requires as much skill as writing to do well. 

WOW: Ha, I had to laugh about you loving miserable writers. So, who is the course right for? 

Jason: Intermediary writers, maybe with a sale or close to getting one. Beginners who are serious about the craft of writing are most welcome, too. 

WOW: Good to know! You have a lengthy history teaching students. What is one of the most important lessons you've gained as an instructor? 

Jason: Teaching high school made it clear every student learns in their own way. So, there can be no one best method to teach anything. I subscribe to a breadth approach. Learn more tactics, skills, learning modalities, and you’ll have a greater chance of finding the right tools for different students than if you’re still using the same tool kit stolen from John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction (Gardner himself was excellent at teaching his students to write the best version of their stories their own way, not the way that worked for him). 

WOW: I really appreciate that approach. What has your experience been taking Odyssey Writing Workshop courses? 

Jason: I graduated from the onsite course. In that environment, I was able to maximize my learning through the concentrated, six-week study and practice. What might have taken two years of trial and error was branded in six weeks. Sold a pro-rate story from that workshop when I got home, too!

WOW: How awesome! Thank you again for speaking with me today.

Odyssey Online Writing Workshops

If you are interested in Jason's course, Right Voice for the Right Story: Discover the Variety of Voices Inside You and How to Use Them, don't forget that the application deadline is December 5.
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Friday Speak Out!: Science in Fiction: How Not to Write Like a Textbook

Friday, November 17, 2023
By D. J. Green

The scientific process is truly creative. Scientific writing, however, can feel anything but. Having spent more than thirty years working as an environmental and engineering geologist, I’ve written my share of technical reports, most of which were not at all exciting, even when the science within them was. They got the job done, but they would not engage a non-geological reader. When I decided I wanted to communicate the wonder of geology to a wider audience, I had to find another way.

So, how to write about science without it reading like a textbook?

Like so much of writing, one answer is—show, don’t tell. Create a character who is a scientist faced with a problem or exploring new questions. Put that character in a place—for a geologist that place is “the field”—which could be anywhere on this big, beautiful Earth. For a chemist, it could be a lab. For a marine biologist, it could be a coral reef. That list goes on and on.

Give the character a life, in addition to their scientific one. Most scientists do (have a life, that is), and if they don’t, maybe they’re too one-dimensional to develop as a character. But maybe not, you decide.

Put the character in action. What do geologists, or chemists, or marine biologists, do that motivates them, or fascinates them? These are people who devote years, even decades, to their studies. Reveal why. Show what the character is doing, and how. Write sensory details—not only what the character is seeing, but engage all their senses. There’s likely to be some telling, and that’s okay, just tell it well. Better yet, let the character tell it.

In my novel, that character is Will Ross. He’s an American engineering geologist who has traveled around the globe to work on a dam in Turkey where construction has come to a halt due to problems with the foundation:

Refik, Will’s assistant, huffed up the trail just as Will reached for the Estwing rock pick that hung on his belt. Its handle was smooth and contoured to his hand, shaped over years of study and work. He swung the hammer. Metal rang on stone. Rock dust drifted up, depositing a thin film of grit on his lips. He blew the dust off the specimen in his hand.

“Travertine,” Will said, holding the rock out to Refik. “Each of these layers”—he pointed to them—“was precipitated when hot, mineralized water surfaced and cooled. Cooler water can’t hold the minerals in solution that hot water can, so when the water daylights, minerals get deposited layer by layer by layer.” He traced them with his finger. “Like this,” he said.

The scientific process is a story all its own—and science, in fiction, can make a good story great.

* * *

D. J. Green is a writer, geologist, and sailor, as well as a bookseller and partner in Bookworks, an independent bookstore in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She lives near the Sandia Mountains in Placitas, New Mexico, and cruises the Salish Sea on her sailboat during the summers. No More Empty Spaces, her first novel, will be released in April 2024.

Author website: www.geologistwriter.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100013749849820

Instagram: @geologistwriter

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/d-j-green-97128ab/


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

Thursday, November 16, 2023
When I was a little girl, I put a lot of stock into the saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Though not so much with actual books; in my day, hardbound books were solid colors with those plastic covers that were always annoyingly falling off the book. 

But when it came to the spirit of the saying—that it’s what’s on the inside that matters—I was all in. As a quiet kid outside the home, I sincerely hoped that people would see beyond my shyness to the brilliant and flashy girl on the inside. 

And so it’s a little bit funny now that, as a self-published author, I’m singing a different tune. Namely, that the book cover matters. Quite a lot, actually. 

Oh, not if you’re a profitable author. I was reading Louise Penny’s The Madness of Crowds when I did my book cover research. It has an artsy, geometric design on the cover, and I remember thinking that I’d have no idea what the book was about, based on the cover. But it’s not the cover selling the book. It’s Louise Penny and Inspector Gamache. 

Catherine C. Hall might initially get readers from friends and family. But to attract readers who don’t know her from Adam’s house cat? That was going to start with the cover, a point made clear to me recently when I heard from my local library system. 

My library system serves one of the largest and most populated metro Atlanta counties; Lord only knows how many books—hardbound, digital, and audio—are in the system. When it comes to those of us outside the trade publishers—regional or indie published authors—it’s not easy to get a book on the shelves. But it is possible. One fills out the form and waits. 

So I filled out the form, dropped off a copy of Secrets Laid to Rest, and crossed my fingers. About a week later, I received an email, inviting me to give an Author Talk at one of our libraries. Not till March, but still, I was pretty darn excited! 

Just this week, the staffer called. We touched on timing, how I had wanted to release the book last fall but the cover took way longer than I planned. And she said, “Oh! It’s a great cover. I noticed it immediately.” 

She happened to be in the office of the staffer who gets the proposals and my book was on the desk. The cover caught her eye. I joked that it was worth it then, ‘cause that cover was a whole thing! 

“We get a lot of books here,” she added. “But few of them look as professional as yours.” 

Simply based on the cover, she had judged Secrets Laid to Rest to be professionally produced, a lesson to learn if you’re self-publishing. But I still think it’s important to look beyond the outside to what’s inside. So make sure the content of your book is as brilliant (and flashy!) as your cover!

Author, Secrets Laid to Rest
A Ladies of SPI Southern Cozy Mystery

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Interview with Scarlet Ansley: Spring 2023 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, November 14, 2023
Scarlet’s Bio:
Scarlet Ansley is a model and occasional horror movie actress in Los Angeles. Her earliest stories were written in a Bratz Dolls journal during recess, but “The Playground” is her first published piece. Through her work, she has seen the world’s beauty and its blood, and it is reflected in her writing. While she enjoys exploring humor and themes like identity and love, most of her stories and poems are penned in darker ink. If pressed, she would label her genres as gothic fiction, romantic fantasy, and thriller, but she prefers not to be pressed. Scarlet is literarily claustrophobic. She is currently in the editing stages of her first novel. For more, visit her website, or follow her on YouTube

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

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Spring 2023 Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story? 

Scarlet: "The Playground" terrified me before it excited me. It was a different style for me (a lot less dark), and I put a lot of myself into it. To be fair, the world is sort of terrifying. It’s so big and complicated, sometimes I have to look at it through a different lens. This story was both that lens and an attempt to figure out which camera it fits. 

WOW: It sounds like a potentially very rewarding process. What did you learn about yourself or your writing while crafting this piece? 

Scarlet: This piece was a challenge. For a while, I sat there thinking: how do I write fifteen years of someone’s self-discovery, self-denial, and self-acceptance in under 750 words? I guess my philosophy became reduce, reuse, and recycle. It’s almost counterintuitive when every word matters, but I figured it would be less daunting if I could pair things down and return to the same core ideas. In a way, the method itself is a lot like relating political negotiations to the playground snack trade. Even now, I’m not sure if the content of the story affected the editing process, or if it was the other way around. 

WOW: Could you tell us more about your first novel? I promise I won’t press you to define its genre 😊 

Scarlet: I appreciate your consideration of my genre-based literary claustrophobia! I can say with confidence, though, that it is a fantasy. I’m in the later stages of editing now, which is really exciting. It almost feels unreal to have 100,000 coherent words. Fantasy is an amazing genre to write because it offers so much freedom. I wanted to take that freedom and balance it with the most challenging, most turbulent, most human emotions: trust, love, grief, and hope. It’s all wrapped in a story of two kingdoms separated by mountains formed in war between the gods. At its heart, though, the first novel in the series is about a woman who will do anything to save her best friend. She comes to discover that the path ‘anything’ takes might just mean the end of the world as she knows it. 

WOW: Your excitement for the story is palpable! I hope you continue to enjoy the writing, editing, and publishing processes. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it? 

Scarlet: I just finished reading T.J. Newman’s thriller Drowning. In her first novel, Falling, she brings the characters to life in so few pages. I just had to see if she managed it again. She did not disappoint. Her handle on both character realism and tension is wildly impressive. I felt the clock ticking in my bones. I had the opportunity to talk to her at a meet and greet a few months ago, and she really gives us writers a good name. I will always support authors who are not only talented but also kind. 

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

Scarlet: I look back on my older writing and it makes me feel something. It’s not always something good, because life isn’t always good, but that’s the way it should be. The best part of writing is that, through it, you can express things you didn’t even know you had in you. I would tell my younger self that, even if her work doesn’t get past the first draft, it matters. It matters because all writing does. It is a testament to life and growth, and someday she will be a better writer—a better person—because she has that work to reflect upon. So, never stop. Never put the pencil down. Never throw away the paper because, one day, you’ll need it. The writer lives inside her work, even if no one knows she is there. I like to think that means the little girl who wrote about heartbreak when her favorite cartoon was canceled is huddled somewhere between my lines of more devastating loss. At least, I hope so, because then her feelings, as small and inconsequential as they seem to me now, still matter. 

WOW: What a lovely reflection on your writing history. Anything else you’d like to add? 

Scarlet: I will say again that I am grateful to have my work acknowledged and to have been given the space to talk a bit about myself and my writing. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing your story and your inspiring responses with us. 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. Connect on Twitter @greenmachine459.
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