Interview with Runner Up Jean Kelly Widner and "The Flame" as part of our Q4 '23 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest!

Saturday, December 30, 2023


Congratulations to Jean Kelly Widner of Boulder City, Nevada and The Flame - 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 Jean’s Contest Entry The Flame if you haven’t done so already, give it a read and then return here for this touching author interview! 

 Jean’s Bio: 

Jean Widner is a professional writer and business owner of a small-town media outlet, She has worked retail and co-owned two successful e-commerce companies and now works as an online marketing consultant. When not working, she, her husband and two golden retrievers are traveling the western U.S. She is currently working on a book called The Adoption Paradox, and is an active volunteer and voice within the adoption community advocating for change. You can learn more at or

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

 WOW: Jean, I’m so happy to be here with you today so that I and our WOW! Readers can learn more about you, your story, and what’s next for you! Thank you for writing such a personal essay - what is the take-away you'd like readers to gain from The Flame ? 

Jean: I was born and adopted in what is known as the “Baby Scoop Era”, which ran from WWII to 1973. During those years more than one and a half million adoptions took place in the US. Young, unwed mothers were shunned and shamed and often sent away to have their babies in secret. In these hospitals and group homes, they relinquished their children to adoption. But it really was an uncaring and unfair system. They were often alone and without any family support. 

 The information that I have on my birth mother, or first mother, is scant. She was from the Dakota’s. I was born in the Booth Memorial Hospital for Unwed Mothers in Washington State. So, she was very far from home. I have never met her but wish to. The information for this essay comes from the “non-identifying information” that the Salvation Army and the State of Washington allow me to have. It painted such a sad story and after learning about it, I knew I would want to lean into those emotions and write it down. It took me the better part of a year to even attempt it. 

 What I’d like readers to walk away with is the sense of what it was happening to these young women. Most of our society looks at adoption as a win-win-win, but there is always a loss at the beginning. Adoption always includes that first primal separation from one’s mother. I want them to really sit with and consider what that was like for both the mother and her baby. 

 WOW: It’s so brave of you to share your story – thank you for your honesty and support of all those involved in these difficult life decisions. 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 writing about adoption, but who do you turn to for support? 

Jean: Most importantly is my husband. He is my rock, my love, my everything. 

 To the rest, I am writing about adoption because I’m an advocate for making adoption better. What has been my greatest joy has been finding a whole community of support from so many people in the adoption constellation and how healing we can be for each other. Birth/first parents and adoptees can find such solace and peace when we open our hearts to each other. Also with adoptive parents who are really listening and seeking how to create healthier relationships with their children as they grow. I’ve found support in so many unexpected and meaningful ways. 

 WOW: Thank you for being so caring and supportive of others and thank you to your amazing husband for being so supportive of YOU! Do you have advice for your younger self when it comes to making decisions, believing in yourself, and/or writing? What would your current self say to the younger you? 

 Jean: I talk to that young girl so often as she still needs so much care. I tell her to believe that 10th grade teacher when she told her, “You’re a very good writer.” I ask her and myself to remember that when self-doubt creeps in. When my inner critic says that I’m not worthy or good enough. On the days when I’m stuck in the weeds, can’t make things flow the way I want to, and on the days when I know I need to set it aside for a bit and give myself some patience and grace. 

 WOW: It sounds like you have fabulous advice – thanks for sharing it! You have an impressive bio - it begs the ask - tell us more about the Adoption Paradox and what we can expect with your latest project? 

 Jean: First, thank you. I am very blessed and am working hard to grow and improve my craft every day. The Adoption Paradox will be a collection of stories, backed up with research, to take a deep look at adoption and all its potential and its consequences. I am a mostly happy, healthy person who came from a good family and an overall positive adopted experience. That said, there are inherent losses and challenges and a lot of trauma that accompany the practice for many. For example, adopted people are four times more likely to attempt or commit suicide than the general population. We also significantly struggle with addiction and other mental health challenges. So, if all is well in “adoptionland”, then what is going on? These themes are what the book explores. What is also important is that all parts of the triad will have their say: adoptees, birth/first parents, and adoptive parents each have their own sections dedicated to their point of view. Most books out there focus on only one. So, the book will flip the script, three ways. 

 WOW: Thank you for that information – I had no idea. It sounds like The Adoption Paradox will be helpful to so many! What role has journaling and/or writer's groups played in your life? 

 Jean: Huge. I honestly cannot thank my local writer’s group and their read and critiques enough – shout out to the Henderson Writers Group in the Las Vegas area. Also, there are other groups that I’ve taken part in that have helped me grow. Adoption conferences, retreats and workshops have provided many fresh writing prompts. They help me unpack a lot of my childhood to better understand who I am as both a person and a writer. It’s a fantastic journey and I’m grateful to so many friends and family and other artists who have helped me. 

 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 

 Check out the latest Contests:
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So Long, Santa Baby

Thursday, December 28, 2023

On December 22nd of 2008, my guest post, Santa Baby for Writers, appeared here at The Muffin. FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, y’all! And gosh, it’s been quite a journey since. 

Fifteen years ago, my byline was Cathy Hall. Within a year, I’d add the middle initial to differentiate me from all the freelance writers (and general population) of Cathy Halls out there. And now, as an author of cozy mysteries, I use Catherine C. Hall. (Honestly, it still throws me to see an email with a Dear Catherine.) 

Fifteen years ago, I had one blog, all about me and my freelance writing, at Cathy C.’s Hall of Fame—and it’s there now, on Blogger, though it only exists as a landing page, sending people to my current spot on the web. But that wasn't until 2013. Somewhere in between, I started a Wordpress blog where I promoted my children’s writing. After five years, I streamlined, exporting ALL my posts from both blogs to a Wordpress website. Yep, Cathy C. Hall Writes, where you’ll find an awful lot of fun writing stuff. Like Tooting My Own Horn Tuesdays, What Not To Do Wednesdays, Finding Something Fridays…Ah, good times. 

Fifteen years ago, I had a separate website at Cathy C. Hall, with my bio and a list of writing credits. And it still really annoys me that someone bought my domain within a few days of letting it drop while I sorted out the move to the new website. And then, this year, when exploring domains for the brand-spanking new website (where Cathy C. Hall was once again available!), I didn’t jump on it immediately and some BOT bought it. 

But if you’ve been reading The Muffin all these years, you know these stories. You’ve read about my techno difficulties, my umpteen rejections, and so many “What Not To Do’s” (where I learned lessons the hard way) that I could fill a book. But you also know the value of persevering, of picking oneself up and try, try, trying again. I’ve shared plenty of my Tooting My Own Horn stories, as well as other writers’ success stories. Which brings us back to Santa Baby. 

Fifteen years ago, I asked for all that a writer could possibly want…contracts, a book of my very own, an agent, and an angel editor, plus a stocking full of web promotion. Oh! And a ring—on the phone—from Oprah. 

I did get contracts through the years; I even snagged an agent. But when I wrote an adult cozy mystery, I said so long to Santa Baby. I found my own editor, and I didn’t ask Santa (or an agent) to believe in me; I believed in myself enough to publish a book of my very own. Thanks to WOW!, I found my sparkly web promotion. Well, you’ve heard all those stories, too. 

And now it’s time for me to finish the next story, the one where I write, write, write and get another book done in The Ladies of SPI series. So I’ll be stepping back from The Muffin—though if Oprah gives me a ring, you’ll be the first to know!—but truly, there’s nothing more I can tell you that you don’t already know, friends. 

Just keep writing—and thanks for reading my writing for the last fifteen years. ♥

~Cathy Hall
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Ask the Book Doctor: About Numerals

Wednesday, December 27, 2023
Image by rawpixel at Freepik

By Bobby Christmas

Q: With 9/11 and 24/7 prevalent in journalism, it seems odd not to write it with a virgule (slash) in fiction, even though Chicago Style and editors warn prose writers to avoid virgules. Won’t nine-eleven stand out as odd, if it were not in dialogue?

A: I must remind writers that in creative writing we have guidelines and recommendations but no absolute rules. You can write any way you want, although the books that get published do tend to stay within recommended guidelines. I don’t recommend writing nine-eleven, though. Instead write it out as month and day—September 11—and I’m sure it will have the same impact and recognition as the numerals 9/11. If you don’t like it written as a month and day despite the guidelines for Chicago style and you prefer the numbers, by all means use the slash and move on. Your eventual editor may still change it, but in my opinion using such recognizable terms such as 9/11 or 24/7 probably won’t get your work rejected.

Q: Which of the following is right? I have a bet with my coworkers.

1. John came in No. 1 in the race.
2. John came in number one in the race.
3. John came in number-one in the race.
4. John came in number 1 in the race. 
5. John came in #1 in the race.

A: Chicago style, the style book publishers use, writes out the words for numbers one through one hundred. The first sentence uses the numeral incorrectly and also relies on an abbreviation. Chicago style avoids abbreviations whenever possible.

Sentence number two is correct.

Sentence number three has an incorrect hyphen.

Sentence number four handles the numeral incorrectly; it should be written out.

Sentence number five uses a symbol instead of words.

Chicago style avoids symbols and abbreviations whenever possible; however, abbreviations or symbols for a unit of measure are an exception. For a unit of measure the quantity is always written as a numeral. 9 V, 10o F. Always space between the numeral and the abbreviation or symbol.

By the way, Chicago style spells out the word “percent” in running copy—charts and graphs not included—but uses the numeral before the word “percent.” Example: Only 9 percent of the voters said they preferred soup over sandwiches.

Q: I know that Chicago style spells out numerals one through one hundred, but in dialogue do I have to write something like this: “Were you nineteen in nineteen fifty-three?”

A: No. Chicago style does have exceptions to its rule on numerals. Dates are an exception. Correct: “Were you nineteen in 1953?”

Other exceptions include but aren’t limited to the following:

Numbers with decimal points can be used as numbers in narrative, but not in dialogue. The average age of dogs is 12.1 years. Tom said, “The average age of dogs is twelve point one years.”

Approximate numbers above one hundred are also written out, whereas exact ones are in numbers. We spent a thousand dollars on airfare, but only $242.50 on food for the trip.


Bobbie Christmas is a book editor, author of Write In Style: Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, and owner of Zebra Communications. She will answer your questions too. Send them to or Read Bobbie’s Zebra Communications blog at
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Interview with Tess P., 2nd Place Winner in the WOW! Summer 2023 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Tess P. has worked throughout London, crossing careers from law to television with creativity, curiosity and playfulness at her core. ‘Secret Whispers’, an unplanned collection of contemporary poetry was published in 2021. ‘Secret Portraits’ is her second work, a dark treasury of shorts and poems that will be in print early 2024 with all paperback profits going to a UK cancer charity. She is hoping to send her debut novel out into the world very soon. Tess writes intuitively, driven by her heart. Her penchant for photography, eye for aesthetics and appreciation of life, imbue her every piece. You can find her most days engaging in light chat on Twitter/X @Tess_2020 

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

WOW: Hi Tess! Congratulations, and welcome to the blog. How did you first get the idea for this story?

Tess: My idea for 'An Unexpected Muse' came suddenly whilst watching a TV series on the 'Old Masters'. This particular episode focused on the madness and mayhem within Vincent Van Gogh's mind, and it got me thinking how difficult one's life becomes when the aim is sheer perfection, and nothing less will sate. 

WOW: Ideas are all around us, right? What is your favorite line from “An Unexpected Muse?” 

Tess: Oooh! Excellent question. I have a few, but perhaps this is a favourite, summing up Da Vinci's internal angst: 

"Leo hung his head in shaking hands and wept uncontrollably. He was prone to an excess of drama, but art was art. It was his life, his passion, his beating heart's discourse."

WOW: Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind your poetry and the forthcoming “Secret Portraits?” 

Tess: 'Secret Portraits' is a collection of around 30 poems and seven stories. The tone is dark, the words are biting, the core - twisted and shocking. But within the shorts are moments of humour, sass, poignancy and reflection. All my work tends to encompass trailing ribbons of tenderness, albeit faint at times. My one wish is that when the reader pauses to close the page, the words linger a while within their mind, and hopefully too, stirs the heart. I find inspiration simply from life around me. Sometimes, harking back to personal experiences, other times, sparked by my own photography, but mostly it is unconsciously gathered from a thousand snippets of thoughts. This will be my second collection, following on from 'Secret Whispers', and hopefully picked up by a small press. I'm planning for the profits from the sale of the paperback to be donated to a UK cancer charity. 

WOW: What a fantastic description of your poetry. You mentioned working on a novel. Are you a writer that does past by outlining short and longer works of fiction beforehand or do you prefer the process to be more organic? 

Tess: My novel is now complete and ready for querying. A sentence I thought I would never utter, probably like every other writer gone before me. I always knew the aim of this story, its tone, characters, and my reason for writing it, but in all honesty, most of the chapters came together in a totally organic fashion. It is in the edits, that I then play around with moving sections of the story, fleshing it out, and judging whether it feels satisfyingly complete. 

WOW: I can relate to this method! Who are some of your favorite writers and why? 

Tess: I've been an avid reader since I was five and read my first classic "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott, when I was about nine. It has stayed with me as a firm favourite along with "Pride and Prejudice," by Austen and "Jane Eyre," by Bronte. I have a very long and ever-growing list of cherished contemporary authors, including Clare Chambers, Joanna Cannon, Cecelia Ahearn, Samantha Downing, and Bernadine Evaristo. It's difficult to pinpoint what it is that exactly draws me to their stories, as their writing is very diverse, but I think they share the incredible skill of creating this wonderful sense of intimacy and warmth, resulting in a captivating and deep immersion that one has no desire to pull away from.

WOW: Thank for again for joining us, Tess, and congratulations on the win! We wish you the best of luck with your sales of "Secrets Portraits" and your querying process!
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Interview with Tammy Davis, Runner Up in the WOW! Q4 2023 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Sunday, December 24, 2023


Tammy Davis is an Indiana writer who spends her days telling organizations’ stories and the rest of her time telling her own. She has two adult children whose company she adores, though not quite as much as that of her anxious bullmastiff, Wallace. She publishes in several northeast Indiana magazines and occasionally on her blog, Wordsmatter ( She’d love to know how it feels to get eight hours of sleep. 

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

Read Tammy's essay "Broken Birds" here

WOW: Tammy, thank you for joining us today and congratulations! How did you first get the idea to write about your mother’s Tupperware Bowl in correlation to your parents’ divorce? 

Tammy: Over the past year, my therapist introduced me to EMDR therapy. (Look it up; I highly recommend it.) Through that process, I found myself continually returning to the house where I lived when my parents divorced. It showed me that much of my work needed to start there. The bird memory pops up every time I see that bowl, and everything just came together when I started writing about it. 

WOW: You work as a copywriter and marketing strategist, and it takes a special skill to gather the best information possible to tell a company’s story in a compelling way. What advice would you give someone first starting out in this line of work? 

Tammy: I always think of myself as a translator. It’s my job to figure out what my client wants to say and then create a story that resonates with the intended audience. That does two things. First, it helps me remember that it’s their story, not mine, and that keeps me objective. Second, I’ve had to learn to listen like my audience so I can anticipate how each story will resonate. If a writer can do both of those things, she’ll likely go a long way. 

WOW: You shared on your blog that you joined an online writing group. How has that helped shaped your writing style and projects? 

Tammy: Having a community with a shared passion has been so validating to me. Being among these women, even virtually, has helped build my confidence so that I’m more willing to step out of my comfort zone with my writing. It’s like stretching before running; it makes me stronger, more able to go the distance, and more likely to take on new challenges. 

WOW: I agree that writing groups can be so helpful in building our confidence levels and increasing productivity! How did you first hear about this contest? Have you submitted to it before? 

Tammy: This contest was recommended to me by one of the women in that writing community we discussed. In fact, entering it the first time was one of those steps outside my comfort zone. I had submitted twice before Broken Birds, and the feedback provided each time has been incredibly helpful. 

WOW: Do you have any funny stories about your bullmastiff, Wallace? 

Tammy: Wallace is such a character. He weighs about 105 lbs. and insists on sleeping under the covers beside me because he has to constantly touch me. His favorite activity is catching marshmallows. Every night he waits (read: gets in my face and barks until I go to his treat drawer) for me to throw a handful of them to him in rapid succession. He’s really good at it!

WOW: Ha, love that! 
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Friday Speak Out!: The Gift of Writing: Breaking the Silence and Finding My Voice

Friday, December 22, 2023
By Claudia Marseille

I am a painter by profession; writing came to me as a gift late in life. In my late 60s, many of my friends are dealing with the impact of mild, age-related hearing loss and complaining about obtaining hearing aids. Repeatedly they tell me, “Now I know what it was like for you growing up with hearing aids.” And, as sympathetic as I am to anyone dealing with hearing loss, I say to myself, “Oh no you don’t, you really have no idea!” These comments are largely made by people with mild hearing loss and have made me reflect deeply on the impact that living with a severe to profound hearing loss has had on my life. Their experience is completely different from mine.

At age four, in the 1950’s, I finally received my first primitive, clunky analog hearing aid, nothing like the sophisticated digital aids of today. I had to learn to hear, lip read and speak along with ten years of speech therapy. I faced painful social isolation and loneliness as it was difficult to participate in group situations, both socially and at work. I couldn’t understand what was said in movies, on TV, in restaurants, parties, and until recently, I had great difficulty using the phone. Additionally, I had a complicated relationship with my German refugee parents, a disturbed psychoanalyst father, and Jewish mother, survivor of the Holocaust. They were too pre-occupied with troubles of their own to fully advocate for me and so I had to navigate my way largely on my own through the substantial challenges of being mainstreamed in public schools.

My friends’ comments motivated me to write journal entries of my early childhood of experiencing no sound, and then of learning to hear and navigate within the hearing world. Initially a poet friend mentored me, and so my first vignettes were poems. As more memories surfaced, my excerpts became longer and more poignant. I became more serious about writing and went on to complete several writing classes. By now I was flooded with material and I switched to prose. Although it was not my initial intention to write a book, my memoir, “But You Look So Normal: Lost and Found in a Hearing World,” turned into one, and to my delight, it was picked up by the publisher, She Writes Press. It will be released May 14, 2024.

The process of writing has been an unexpected blessing. For so many years in my childhood, as speaking came late and words were elusive, I lacked the means to articulate my feelings and my struggles of overcoming loneliness and isolation. Writing and coming out with the full truth of my experiences, many of which I suppressed deep within me, has helped me find my voice. It has truly been a transformative process of breaking my silence and expressing my authentic self. Through the written word I have found solace and peace.

* * *

photo by Anita Scharf
After earning master’s degrees in archaeology and in public policy, and finally an MFA, Claudia Marseille developed a career in photography and painting, a profession compatible with a hearing loss. She ran a fine art portrait photography studio for fifteen years before becoming a full-time painter; her paintings are now represented by the Seager Gray gallery in Mill Valley, California. She and her husband live in Oakland, California, and have one grown daughter. Learn more about her writing at
 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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Fewer Subs in 2023, Yet Almost the Same Number of Publications

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Image: Eric Rothermel

Year-in-Review lists, followed soon after by fresh New Year resolutions: two activities that go hand-in-hand this time of year. 

Some of us love the tradition. Others wince and skip it. 

I fall in the middle, neither loving nor hating it. I see the value in tallying my accomplishments over the year, and it motivates me to keep my momentum going as I start a new list of annual goals. Yet, it also shines a light on goals I missed, as I jab a finger of judgement back at my own reflection.
I still have 10 more days until I need to carve my 2024 New Year resolutions into the stone tablet, but I’ve already tallied my report card for 2023. In doing so, I discovered an interesting story in the numbers and recently shared it with my accountability group, the fabulous group of WOW! bloggers and staff who are part of our “Butt Kickers” cohort. We’ve been cheering, commiserating, and entertaining each other for years now around our individual writerly triumphs and travails. I cranked out my annual Year-in-Review stats to share with the BKers last week. 

2023 Writing Activity 

  • Submitted to 18 literary journals. 
  • 7 pieces published – with 2 published in print ($50 payment for each print publication). 
  • Submitted the first 5 pages of my memoir manuscript to 1 contest: 
      • First Pages Prize. $20 fee. Second time I submitted, after being longlisted in 2021. 
      • Did not place on the longlist. 
  • Submitted 10 queries to agents (some with sample pages). 
  • Was accepted into the print anthology Awakenings: Stories of Body & Consciousness – published in October 2023. 
      • Teamed with 3 essayists in the anthology, calling ourselves the Northern New England cohort, to help promote the anthology. 
      • Our cohort participated in a virtual Zoom reading in November 2023. 
      • Our cohort had a post published on the Brevity Blog in November 2023; a craft article that discussed our promotional activities in support of the anthology. 
      • I pitched a podcast host I'd met on Instagram to have our NNE team appear on “Fine Cut.” We taped in October 2023 and the episode aired in December. We discussed a scene from the 2022 movie “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” – then we discussed our essays in the anthology and the theme of bodies and awareness. 
      • I interviewed the Awakenings anthology editor, Diane Gottlieb, for the November WOW! Markets newsletter. 
      • Will attend a salon reading in Brunswick, Maine, in winter 2024 where our NNE cohort will read parts of our essays and discuss the anthology – activity pending
      • Will give a reading at a Portland, Maine, bookstore in March 2024 with the NNE cohort – activity pending
      • May have an opportunity to join an anthology reading panel at the AWP conference in Kansas City, Missouri, in February 2024 – activity pending.
  • Attended the Salem Lit Festival in September 2023 to read my Five-Minute Lit flash, titled “Germie.” 
  • Interviewed 4 editors for WOW’s “On Submission With …” column. 
  • Started blogging for The Muffin through WOW; wrote 6 blogs. 
  • Was selected to attend a writers retreat – Millay Arts in Austerlitz, NY. 
  • Was selected to attend the Prague Summer Program for Writers for 3.5 weeks in Prague, Czech Republic. 
  • Was accepted into an inaugural “Craft Year” program – a free mini-MFA style workshop that kicked off in August 2023, with monthly meetings scheduled into August 2024. 
  • Completed a 5-week long Book Proposal Bootcamp in November 2023. Took apart and rebuilt my book proposal and query letter. 

For comparison, I submitted to 60 lit journals in 2022 (vs 18 subs in 2023). I was published 9 times in 2022 and was published 7 times in 2023. The year before that, in 2021, I submitted to 82 journals and was published 10 times. 

This is the part of my Year-in-Review stats that jumps out at me. Considering that I subbed to far fewer lit journals in 2023 than in 2022 or 2021, I had nearly the same acceptance rate. 

Interesting, right? 

I asked my Butt Kicker cohort what they thought. They feel that I’ve learned how to submit the right pieces to the right journals. Essentially, they say I’m targeting my markets better. 

I agree. I’ve never been one to firehose my longform essays, flash CNF, or prose poetry to a bajillion journals. I know this approach works for some writers, and it’s one way to build a portfolio. For me, though, the firehose method makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to send out the same piece to dozens of journals at the same time, or turn a piece around and submit it to another journal on the same day I receive a rejection. 

It feels like begging. It also doesn't give me the opportunity to reevaluate why a piece was not selected. By firehosing (yes, I'm calling this a word), I miss the chance to think about and perhaps rework a piece before submitting again.

My publications number shows that I’m uncomfortable with the firehose approach. And, I’m OK with that. It’s likely why I also have not yet queried my memoir to scores and scores of agents. Some writers argue that it’s a numbers game, so yes, I’m probably missing opportunities by not querying more. I sent only 10 queries in 2023. I queried 45 agents in 2022. 

Yet, as I look at my Year-in-Review stats, I’m going to give myself grace around my querying and journal submission strategy because I'm learning from my Year-in-Review numbers. It indicates that I for sure am getting better at targeting the right homes for my work—which means more to me when a piece does land because it also indicates that I was just as selective in choosing the journal as they were in accepting me. 

I want the same feeling when subbing to agents and independent presses. And with that, I’m ready to usher in 2024.

Ann Kathryn Kelly writes from New Hampshire’s Seacoast region.

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Interview with Alison Morretta: Summer 2023 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Alison Morretta graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in English and Creative Writing. She is a freelance writer and editor who has authored sixteen nonfiction books for middle and high school students. She has been published in The First Line and has an upcoming short story to be featured in Black Sheep. Alison is the Senior Editor at and is currently working on her first novel—that is, when her rambunctious Corgi, Sophie, is not interrupting the creative process to demand a game of tennis ball.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing as a runner up in our Summer 2023 Flash Fiction competition. Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “The Bereavement of Wild Birds?”

Alison: I had been thinking about entering the contest for a while, but none of the ideas I had were really working for me. I started and abandoned a few things, and the deadline was approaching. I was on my way to work to make yet another attempt at my submission when I saw the scene I opened the story with—the turkey getting hit and the young turkey looking on. It absolutely devastated me and I ended up pulling over and just sobbing for a while. It got me thinking about mothers and children—daughters in particular—and how those relationships can so often be fraught. I consider myself very lucky to have a great relationship with my mother (Hi Mom!), but if I didn’t, and she was taken from me suddenly, I would be just as lost and confused as that poor little turkey by the side of the road.

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

Alison: I tend to write much longer pieces, so I started writing flash as practice to work on streamlining narratives, economy of language, etc. I really enjoyed the challenge of being forced to create and complete an entire story arc with very few words at my disposal. It has really helped me when it comes to editing my longer stories and novel chapters, too.

WOW: We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Alison: I am so lucky to have a wonderful place to go to write—the Fairfield County Story Lab in Fairfield, CT. The Story Lab is a shared workspace specifically for writers, and there is such a wonderful sense of community and creative energy there. For a long time, especially during the pandemic, I was unable to get anything done at home, and when I found the Story Lab, it changed everything for me.

My writing routine is to wake up at around 6am (because my darling Corgi, Sophie, does not let me sleep), get an overpriced latte at Starbucks, and then head to the Story Lab. I split my time between day-job editorial work and either my novel or one of the short stories I’ve got in the works. I give myself breaks (perhaps more than I should) and chat with the other Story Lab members about what we’re working on, how it’s going, or just general venting about Life Things. I usually gas out by early afternoon and then go home and watch mindless reality television.

WOW: That sounds like a great routine! You’re also currently working on your first novel. Can you tell us anything about it, and what your novel writing journey has been like so far?

Alison: I’d been working on a novel off and on since 2016. I completed about half of it, then I got lost in the no-man’s land of the middle (I am definitely a pantser by nature, not a plotter). Over this past summer, I decided to send that first novel on vacation for a little while because I had another idea that I was much more excited about. And, shockingly, I actually plotted that book!

The novel I’m currently working on is in the psychological thriller/domestic suspense genre, which is my absolute favorite type of book to read. It’s a revenge story about two sisters. It has a more-than-slightly unhinged protagonist, lots of dysfunctional family dynamics at play, and some toxic romance thrown in for good measure. I’m having an absolute blast writing it!

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

Alison: While I realize this may not work for everyone, I find it helpful to have several things cooking at once. I’ve got the novel going and then a handful of short stories. If I’m only working on one thing at a time, I get writer’s block a lot more easily. When I’ve got a few things in the rotation, if I get stuck on one of them, I can bounce over to something else. Then when I go back to the one I was stuck on, it’s like I’m reading it with fresh eyes and I can figure out how to move forward with it.

* * *

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Celebrate the Small Wins

Monday, December 18, 2023


Yesterday I danced in the kitchen. There was singing. There was twirling. There was my very confused  20-year-old son and reluctant dancing partner. We were celebrating. No, I didn’t sign a contract, finish a book or snag a full-time writing gig. It was an opportunity I thought was lost being suddenly revived. A small win.
There was a time when a nebulous win like that would have gone unmentioned. 
At our house, the men in my family answer the perennial question “What did you do today?” with concrete events (sometimes literally, as they have a side gig pouring concrete). I fixed the 920 machine. I used the plasma cutter to make a new connector. I worked on the scissor lift. These are the types of things my son and husband do each day. I don’t always understand their industry jargon but I understand that things are happening.
For a long time, I felt that accomplishments like writing 1000 words, researching home and garden markets or receiving a request for a writing sample weren’t big enough to qualify as an answer for our daily supper question. Next to welders, backhoes and tag outs they didn’t feel real.
Being a writer involves thousands of tiny positive steps that may or may not lead to a big win. Somewhere along the line, I decided that those tiny steps deserved to celebrated. In the beginning, my family listened silently to the many little things a writer does each day. They were probably a little confused or bored. Eventually, they became familiar with the journey writers take each day as we search for new jobs, new ideas, new contacts.
I no longer dismiss my small wins as not worth mentioning. I now see each small win as a positive step in my writing journey. It may not look like much now but someday, with enough small steps, I’ll have reached my goal. And I’ve invited my family along for the journey, which they happily celebrate - sometimes with dancing. 
How do you celebrate the small wins?

Jodi M. Webb was published in dozens of magazines and anthologies you won’t recognize. She even spent several years as a WOW Blog Tour Manager and has the sweatshirt to prove it! For the last 12 years, she’s written ad copy, advertorials and organized contests for her local newspaper. Stay tuned for what comes next!

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Interview with Rebecca L. Burford: Q4 2023 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Sunday, December 17, 2023
Rebecca’s Bio:
Rebecca (Becca) L. Burford, a retired grant writer, enjoys being a stay at home dog mom to Elroy, a 17-year-old mostly Beagle mutt. Becca loves the outdoors but only as long as the temperature stays above 50. Gardening and cooking and challenging herself to step out of her comfort zone (such as letting others read her writing) are her current hobbies. She and her wife Teresa have been married for 25 years in the eyes of the Lord and nine in the eyes of the law. Currently residing in Hagerstown, Maryland, they are avid Washington Nationals fans and season ticket holders.

If you haven't done so already, check out Becca's award-winning story "Waiting on Our Father" and then return here for a chat with the author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q4 2023 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? 

Becca: I have a file (ok – a fairly massive collection of files) on my computer called Random Thoughts. This collection began on legal pads way back in the mid-80s and has morphed over the years to the conglomeration it is today. Every once in a while, I visit these thoughts and think, that’s some good shit right there. I knew I wanted to write an essay for the WOW! Creative Non-Fiction Contest – but I had zero clues as to what I wanted to write. I combined two different “that’s some good shit” thoughts to jumpstart this essay. And I can’t wait to return to all of those thoughts and just keep writing. 

WOW: What an excellent idea to keep all of your ideas organized and waiting for just the right time to use them! What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? 

Becca: About myself, I learned I have a lot I want to say but don’t really have the desire to say it out loud. Writing helps me scream it from the rooftops while remaining my same introverted awkward self. About my writing? It helped me realize I’ve still got it and if I don’t use it, it’s a total waste of a gift. Take it out, polish it, share it. It does no one (namely me) any good hidden away. 

WOW: Writing is an amazing outlet! And thanks so much for sharing your writing with us! What has prompted you to come out of your comfort zone to share your writing with others? Is there anything that helps you to feel more comfortable sharing your writing? 

Becca: My 63rd birthday is fast approaching. While I have every intention of living until at least 100, my time is definitely dwindling on this current plane. I have zero (good) reasons to be scared and all the best reasons to live out loud. I’m choosing the latter. The thing that helps me the absolute most in sharing my reading is the relative anonymity of it. I don’t/won’t make eye contact with someone while they’re reading my words. I can’t judge their judgement. I write it. And, I set it free. And I’m lighter and more energized for it. 

WOW: That sounds like a good approach to sharing your work. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you? 

Becca: I adore good writing. It inspires me to be better, to do better and to write, better, I hope. I have always been a fiction reader and for the longest time, therefore, believed I was a fiction writer, even though very few of my Random Thoughts are fiction. Then, four years ago I read Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. I had no idea until I finished the book that it was non-fiction. I was blown away and my entire mind opened up to a new vision/version of reality and the writing about the phenomenon of truth. 

WOW: What a marvelous realization! I hope that continues to expand your writing practice. If you could tell your younger self anything about writing, what would it be? 

Becca: DO IT! Do it all the time. It will help you (that is me) unpack and unload and reevaluate and others might just catch a glimmer of their own self, their own joy, their own pain, their own journey, their own ownership because of it. You can be a helper without ever even knowing it and those positive vibrations make the universe a better place. 

WOW: Great advice! Anything else you’d like to add? 

Becca: YES! Thank you, WOW! First for the avenue, for the critiques – the first one that totally pissed me off because I could tell the critiquer did NOT get what I was attempting to say; old me (younger version) would’ve said f*ck it I’m out. But this newer (better) me refused to give up. I revised and recruited three readers (two of whom helped me immensely) and I tried again. The Q4 contest (this one we’re speaking of now) changed my life. I’m literally tearing up typing this. I was heard, I was seen, I was understood, I was validated. And I’m not only so grateful but I’m inspired to go further. Thank you, wonderful women of WOW! Thank you. Seriously: THANK YOU! 

WOW: We are so honored to be a part of your writing journey! Thank you for sharing your writing with us and for your thoughtful responses. Happy writing! 

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, founder and editor-in-chief of Sport Stories Press, which publishes sports books by, for, and about sportswomen and amateur athletes and offers developmental editing and ghostwriting services to partially fund the press. Engage on Twitter or Instagram @GreenMachine459.
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Go Ahead, Press That Refresh Button

Thursday, December 14, 2023

I know seeing a picture of a boozy beverage may not be your idea of hitting a refresh button, but I couldn't find an actual refresh button photo on Pixabay. So, I did my best.


I got an email from Aswiebe's Market List. And in the issue she asked, "How long has it been since you last wrote fiction? When you stop and think about it, does the answer to that question surprise you? Do you even know how long it's been?"

I confess it's been a while for me this year. And I haven't been ashamed to talk about it. I had my reasons. 

However, at the end of the year, I realized I missed the fun that comes with creative writing. I wanted to enjoy it again. Saying I want to write a novel would be disingenuous. I want to want that and not just do that because I feel like I should or have to for some reason. Although, I think wanting to write is a good goal for me. 

The thing is being away from it for so long leaves me wondering if I can get myself on track again. Have I been gone too long?

Of course, the short answer is no. Although, sometimes we go wrong by thinking it's too late to refresh our enjoyment of something we used to love. 

So, if you've been away from writing this year for whatever reason, don't be afraid to hit that refresh button. That is possible. 

What are your 2024 goals?

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 a random issue of Woman's World. Since she's beginning to despise social media, follow her writing blog at World of My Imagination.

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All I Want for Christmas Is...Reviews!

Tuesday, December 12, 2023
A friend sent a page from her 2022 Page-A-Day calendar since we’d been talking about my book and reviews. I laughed out loud, because this, I imagine, is what the typical reader thinks an author expects:

When in reality, most authors would be just as happy to have a review like this: 

Now, I do have a respectable number of reviews for my debut cozy mystery, Secrets Laid to Rest, and I appreciate each and every one of them! But compared to the number of books sold, well…that’s another story. 

So who are the people who leave reviews for an indie author like me? 

Regular reviewers, whether they consider themselves professional or hobbyists, can provide quite detailed and well-written reviews. If you’re looking for reviewers, research your genre. Many reviewers just love to read, and getting free books is payment enough for them. 

Or consider a promotional book tour like we have here at WOW!Women-on-Writing. It’s a great way to not only get reviews but also build followers and get a book noticed out into the wide web world. (And it pays to remember those followers when one needs a review for upcoming books. How do you recruit them? That’s what social media and newsletters are for, y’all.) 

Writer/author friends make great reviewers! These reviews often read like a blurb from the back of the book. I’ve certainly written my fair share of reviews for my author/writer friends and I try to think in terms of attracting a new reader. I tend to keep reviews pithy; a few sentences, a handful of stars, and if a book is on Goodreads, I’ll post there and on Amazon. So if you’re a writer, join your pro organizations, make friends. Support your buddies and they’ll often do the same for you. 

Lovely readers—perhaps your friends, your family, your co-workers who didn’t even know you were a writer—make up the rest of the folks who might leave a review. The above review, with the “so far, so good” remark came from family. Honestly, I love that he took the time to leave a note when he received that Amazon email asking what he thought of Secrets Laid to Rest. He’d only read a few pages of the book but he figured he should say something. (More importantly, he left stars. Yay!) 

Keep in mind that it’s intimidating for non-writers to leave a review. They may tell you all day long how much they love your book but writing anything puts them on the spot. (And maybe they’re not even sure how to go about it!) 

Bottom line is that regular reviewers—unless they’re compensated—may not get around to your book. Your author friends have great intentions but busy lives; they, too, may not have time to write a review. And all those lovely readers might buy a dozen books from you but please don’t ask them to write a review! So what’s an author to do when all she wants for Christmas is reviews of her book? 

Just keep asking, y'all. (And it wouldn’t hurt to ask Santa, too.)

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Interview with Carol Ovenburg: Q4 2023 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Runner Up

Sunday, December 10, 2023
I'm thrilled to chat with Carol Ovenburg today about her moving and relatable lyric essay, "The Game of the Name," which was a runner up in WOW! Women on Writing's Q4 CNF Essay Contest. If you've ever forgotten someone's name, you'll want to read Carol's essay. In today's interview, Carol shares tips on essay revision, writing book proposals, and more!

Carol's bio:

Oil paint bleeds a painting on canvas, a poem dies on the page, essays clutter her journals in-between working on the proposal for her completed manuscript draft of her memoir. Carol began writing in 2000; her memoir in 2010; CNF essays in 2020, three of which have been published in WOW and one in Minerva Rising. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and completed postgraduate studies in Interior Design, winning top honors in both. When she’s not writing or painting, she travels to Argentine tango social dancing events, tends to occasional housekeeping, stalls on exercise routines, searches for the next best anti-aging cream.

Carol lives in Talent, Oregon with her tango-dancing life partner and sometimes with their little granddog, Griffin, the cutest little dog ever.

Carol can be found on Facebook and LinkedIn. Her website: (still a work-in-progress).


WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q4 '23 Essay Contest! I absolutely love your poetic and relatable essay, “The Game of the Name.” Your opening about not remembering your husband's name hooked me right away. Did you always know that would be your opening? And do you remember where you were when that happened?

Carol: I’ve told that story many times to friends who also blank on names, always with the same opening—at thirty-two forgetting my husband’s name while introducing him. I was at a large party with my then husband and a group of engineers and their wives when it happened. I remember being mortified. The only thing worse was if I had introduced him by a different name, say, an old boyfriend’s name.

WOW: Oh my gosh, that's hilarious; and yes, that would have been worse! You do a great job with humor in the piece, and your metaphor of a chamber in the brain that opens and closes is a perfect way to describe name recall. It's beautifully woven throughout the piece. So are the mnemonic techniques, your character descriptions, and the tango! In fact, the piece feels so well balanced, and I bet it took a while to get it that way. What was your revision process like for this essay?

Carol: Thank you, Angela, for your kind words. The idea for “Game of the Name” went down in one sitting, including the title. I knew the opening right away, so that was easy. My mnemonic device was pretty straightforward but not so interesting by itself. I had to give examples of what I go through to remember someone’s name, so, I used the three most recent name-blanking incidents. I wanted to show how well I knew these people yet still forgot their names. I never forget a face, but I never remember a name kind-of-thing. Once I completed a little research about forgetting names and had all the other essay components, I began looking at craft—sentence structure and cadence. It has to sing. Content means nothing to me unless the words make music.

Tango has become a side theme in much of my writing because so many of life’s experiences are enhanced, sometimes triggered in this dance. My partner and I traveled to fifteen three- to four-day festivals last year. This year will be the same. Thirty to forty hours of dancing at each festival. There are hundreds of people around the country who attend these dance festivals, not always the same people. Remembering names is a huge challenge. 

WOW: I can imagine that being a challenge! I also have trouble remembering names, but never forget a face. Your bio mentions completing your memoir (congratulations!) as well as working on your book proposal, which I know is challenging. Many writers have asked us about writing book proposals. Do you have any tips or advice you can share with them?

Carol: I’ve just finished editing two memoirs by two authors and problems in the writing jumped out like flashing neon. I wish editing my own work were as easy. I think if I had started the book proposal process earlier in the game I be in a better place with it. But, although daunting, it’s now showing me where my book still needs work. For example: what is my theme and what are the sub-themes and did I present my chapters as hooks or cliffhangers leading into the next chapter, or do I have too many chapters? And how about the chapter titles and the book title? And the marketing part—who are my readers? So much to wade through. But it’s a great exercise.

My best hindsight tip for writing a book proposal is write it before starting the second draft of your book. Or write your next drafts along with writing your book proposal. It will be a helpful guide to finding your theme and structure and eliminating writing that doesn’t belong. But, if you’re like me and are starting it at the end of your book, don’t rush it; enjoy the process and keep an open mind about what might need changing in the text. Oh, and make sure the proposal “shows” your voice and doesn’t deviate from the actual book. From everything I’ve read from publishing experts, the book proposal is more important than your book, so make it good. 

WOW: Those are excellent tips, and I also suggest to writers to make sure their voice sounds the same as their book. And you're right, it's so helpful to write a proposal before your second draft because it'll help tighten your theme. Thanks for those great tips!

You've placed in several WOW contests and been interviewed a few times here at WOW, so we are big fans of your work. What are you working on now?

Carol: I’m working on another essay right now that could be a hermit crab essay or maybe braided. Just playing with an idea, so I don’t want to say more just yet. I’m still plugging away at my proposal, working toward getting more editing gigs, refining my website, and making another dress for a four-day tango event. I’m also working on another memoir about tango—the working title, The Colors of Tango. It consists of essays specifically about my experiences from the beginning of my tango journey. Each essay is followed by a poem about the colors of tango. Each poem follows an abecedarian structure, but that may change.

WOW: Your tango memoir sounds wonderful! What do you like best about dancing the tango?

Carol: That’s a good question, Angela. For me Argentine tango is mostly about connection. It’s as much social as it is movement. I’m writing the book, now, because it’ll take a book to answer that question.  

WOW: Thanks so much Carol for chatting with me today. It's always a pleasure to read your work. Good luck with your new book!

Find out more about WOW's flash fiction and creative nonfiction contests here:
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Selling Is Not A Dirty Word

Friday, December 08, 2023

Jodi Webb
“The self-promo is hard for me. I know it’s necessary to raise visibility for my coaching and workshop offers, but memoir and personal storytelling are so…well, personal, that 'selling' just feels icky.”

Annette Fix, a fellow writer who is also a memoir writing coach, recently wrote that when someone pointed out that her social media posts should always include her business information. Writers are not salespeople. So sometimes (a lot of times) sales feels…icky. But the truth is that everywhere we turn, someone is selling something. Selling is not a dirty word. So how can we be comfortable as writers who are also salespeople?

As writers, we’re all familiar with how point-of-view can change everything. A murder mystery written from the victim’s POV is very different from one from the murderer’s POV or the detective’s POV. 
If you’re uncomfortable with self-promotion, stop and ask yourself about the POV. Do you see it as you trying to get something (usually money) from people? Stop right there. You are not a con artist tricking a person out of their money with snake oil. Look at your exchange from the nonwriter’s POV.  What are they receiving in this exchange? 
Our most common exchange as writers is a book sale. We get money. The reader gets a book. It’s easy to see things from the nonwriter’s POV. Self-promotion is easy when the exchange feels concrete. But don’t overlook the value of the others things you have to offer. 
Value Beyond Books 
Many us of start to falter when we’re selling something more abstract…our knowledge as a writing coach or our presence as a speaker. For some, it feels like we’re asking for money but giving nothing “real.” We mistakenly believe that it’s an uneven trade, that we’re receiving much more than we’re giving.  
Take a moment to appreciate what you’re bringing to the table. Look at the exchange from the nonwriter’s POV. You’re offering them something they may not have found anywhere else. Your engaging personality bringing people to their event. Your knowledge helping them achieve their long-held dream of writing a memoir. Not everything valuable fits in an Amazon delivery truck. Don’t underestimate the value of what you are delivering.  
Writing vs. Writing Well 
Sometimes, it’s difficult to get over the fact that everyone can write. Yes, we all learned to write in elementary school, starting with those one-paragraph book reports hung neatly on the bulletin board. But there is a difference between writing and writing well. Don’t dismiss your skill. Compare the handful of flowers you picked from your garden and plunked in a water glass to the breathtaking arrangement your florist delivers. Technically, you both arranged flowers. Realistically, the results were worlds apart. Why? Skill. 
For writers, writing can be many things. Challenging. Fun. Rewarding. For non-writers, it can be very different. Torturous. Overwhelming. Mind numbing. (OK, it can be those things for writers too, but we eventually get to the positive parts.)  Recognize that what is innate to you can be insurmountable to another person. You can help them tackle that mountain. Even if writing well seems simple to you, it is a skill that not everyone possesses. 
Repeat after me. I am a writer. I am also a salesperson. My skills are valuable.  
Happy promoting!
Jodi M. Webb was published in dozens of magazines and anthologies you won’t recognize. She even spent several years as a WOW Blog Tour Manager and has the sweatshirt to prove it! For the last 12 years, she’s written ad copy, advertorials and organized contests for her local newspaper. Stay tuned for what comes next!
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Genre and Format: The Confusing Terms Used in Children’s Publishing

Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Whenever someone refers to the picture book genre, I cringe. I used to do this myself. Picture books aren’t a genre. They’re a format. If you want to publish books for young readers it is vital to know about both genre and format.   

The two broadest genres in writing are fiction and nonfiction. Within each of these categories, whether you write for adults or children, are numerous other genres. Fiction genres include: 
  • Mysteries – a crime has been committed and someone needs to figure out who did it and why. Check out Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley.
  • Fantasy – stories that involve magic. Anyone remember a series about Harry Potter? 
  •  Science fiction – futuristic science. I loved The Lion of Mars by Jennifer Holm. 
  • Historical fiction – these fictional stories are set in the past. See The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate.
  • Romance – The lovers meet and then they split. Will they end up together at last? Ali Hazelwood has published romances for both adults and teens. 
  • Dystopian – A cataclysm of some kind has left the world a total mess. The Hunger Games made it from print to screen.   

There are even more fictional genres, but there are nonfiction genres as well. 
  • Memoir – This is a slice in a person’s life as told by themselves. It contrasts with autobiography (a person writes about their whole life) and biography (a person writes about someone else’s whole life). One of the latest is This Indian Kid by Eddie Chuculate.
  • How-to or DIY – These books relate how to do something whether it is hand sewing or dying cloth with plants. 
  • Science – Biology, chemistry, astronomy, and ecology are all covered in science books. Young reader science can be about anything from human anatomy to fungus. 
  • History – The history of a wide variety of topics is covered in this genre. One of the best writers of historical nonfiction for young readers is Steve Sheinkin. 
  • Popular Culture – From books about music to art and pop culture of all kinds, these books appeal to fans of everything from Barbie to Pink. 

If you write for young readers, you also need to identify your format. The most well-known formats for young readers include: 
  • Board Books – these cardboard books stand up to rough handling by babies and toddlers. One popular board book author is Sandra Boynton. 
  • Picture Books – Picture books combine texts and illustrations to tell a story. They are most often 32 pages long. For a popular series, check Ryan T. Higgins Mother Bruce books. 
  • Early Readers (also called Beginning Readers) – These books have a smaller trim size than picture books. They are fully illustrated, but the illustrations don’t help tell the story. They are there to help decipher unknown words. Step Into Reading is one popular early reader series.
  • Chapter books – Each chapter has some spot illustrations but there is much more text. The chapters are short to help newly independent readers build confidence. See Saadia Faruqi’s Yasmin books. 
  • Novels -- Tweens and teens who are fully competent readers turn the pages of novels. Many of these books are popular with adults and even make it to the big screen like Judy Bloom’s Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret

If you write for adults, you need to know your genre. If you write for young readers, add format to this description to help you find the right agent or editor for you. 


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.
She is also the instructor for 3 WOW classes which begin again on January 8, 2024. 
She teaches:
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Finding Katya by Katie R. Aune: Blog Tour & Giveaway

Monday, December 04, 2023
Finding Katya by Katie R. Aune
I'm excited to share yet another amazing blog tour has been launched. This time it's Finding Katya by Katie R. Aune. This memoir is perfect for anyone who has ever thought of leaving their job to travel long-term or simply getting off the beaten path and exploring lesser known parts of the world.
Celebrate with us as we interview author Katie R. Aune about her memoir and giveaway a copy of the book to one lucky reader.

But first, here's more about Finding Katya:

Finding Katya is the inspiring and compelling story of one woman who ditches everything to embark on an unconventional adventure through the former Soviet Union.

On her 35th birthday, Katie Aune was at a crossroads. Still reeling from a difficult breakup and longing to find more meaning in her life, she hopped on a one-way flight to start a year-long journey of discovery. Once a Russian and East European Studies major in college, Aune plotted a course that would take her through all 15 states of the former Soviet Union.

In a book that is part memoir, part travelogue, Aune takes readers along as she discovers places that are far off the typical tourist track, from riding the Trans-Siberian Railway across Russia and taking a cargo ferry from Ukraine to Georgia, to volunteering in Tajikistan and camping in the desert of Turkmenistan. Faced with the vulnerability of traveling solo through unfamiliar lands, she shakes off her insecurities, embraces the unknown and realizes that each journey is worthwhile, even if it doesn’t go as planned.

ISBN-13: 979-8988365907
Print length: 286 Pages

Purchase a copy of the book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Make sure you add it to your GoodReads reading list.

Praise About Finding Katya

"[A] candid recounting of a long journey with low and high points not presented as a sugar-coated fantasy...This engaging travelogue illuminates a historically significant part of the world that remains little known to many Americans." — Kirkus Reviews

"Reading Katie's book feels like traveling beside her to places both familiar and harder to reach. With candor and insight, she captures the joys and challenges of heading out alone into unfamiliar places and the unique experiences she had along the way. A fun read and inspiration for your next adventure!" — Audrey Murray, author of Open Mic Night in Moscow

"Katie is a trailblazing solo female traveler who made the former Soviet republics a priority long before they were on anyone's radar. I admire her courage and resourcefulness." — Lee Abbamonte, TV travel commentator who's been to every country in the world

"Katie's raw and honest voice puts you front and center into her travel adventures (and misadventures!), making you feel like you are riding them right along with her. Her story is a testament that travel isn't always perfect, but that the lessons we take away from it change us completely." — Beth Santos, founder, Wanderful

About the Author, Katie R. Aune

Katie R. Aune is a recovering tax attorney who has worked in nonprofit and higher ed fundraising for more than a decade while also dabbling in travel blogging and writing. Despite not traveling overseas for the first time until she was 25, she has been to nearly 70 countries and all seven continents. Born and raised in Minnesota, Katie is currently based in Washington, D.C. and has a habit of rooting for sports teams that find ways to lose in devastating fashion.

You can find her online at:

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, congratulations on your memoir! What inspired you to write it?

Katie: This book was a labor of love more than ten years in the making. In 2011, I quit my job to take a career break to travel, ultimately spending 13 months traveling and volunteering throughout all 15 states of the former Soviet Union. I chronicled my journey in real time in my blog, but I wanted to give readers a deeper look at the challenges I faced and how I grew along the way – something that really wasn’t evident to me at the time.

WOW: That's incredible! You are so brave to have embarked on this experience. Your memoir has such incredibly rich detail. You really took me along with you. How did you recapture all the details of your excursion in such vivid and clear ways?

Katie: I was fortunate in that I captured a lot of it in real time. I published a fairly successful travel blog during the year I spent traveling, writing three to four posts a week in real time about my experiences. I also took a lot of pictures, which I used to refresh my memory on how places looked. I also kept a journal and posted on social media a lot – I downloaded all of my Facebook posts to grab added details.

WOW: How amazing you shared that at the time! I confess, I'm a huge fan of memoirs of people who take a big risk like you did. What made you decide to take that leap of faith?

Katie: I’m a big fan of taking calculated risks, which is what I feel I did in quitting my job to spend a year traveling. As I detail in the book, I spent more than a year planning and saving for the trip and I did everything I could to set myself up to find another job again when I returned home. I also had the benefit of meeting a number of other “career break travelers” who were also in their early to mid-thirties (at the time) so I had examples of other people who were successfully quitting their jobs to see the world. 

WOW: How serendipitous that you met those people at that time. What do you hope readers take away from reading your memoir?

Katie: A couple things. I like to describe my book as part travelogue, part memoir. It’s a personal story that I hope readers find relatable and inspiring. But it’s also a tribute to all the places I visited, from traveling across Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway to spending six weeks in Ukraine to volunteering in Armenia and Tajikistan to camping in the desert of Turkmenistan. I hope readers will take away a greater interest in these destinations overall. Several are in the news now for the wrong reasons (Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, etc.) but every place I visited was amazing in a different way and the people I met everywhere were incredibly friendly and welcoming. We focus too much on our differences and often miss how similar we all are, no matter where we live.

WOW: So true! How did your book transform from first draft to final draft?

Katie: My first draft was basically a collection of blog posts from the travel blog I published while I was traveling. I started by eliminating the stories I didn’t want to tell or that I felt didn’t fit into a larger narrative. Then I began enhancing those stories, adding more detail about the places I visited and pulling memories from the journals I kept at the time. The best thing I did was hire a developmental editor who helped me shape the overall story and arc to take the book from a series of anecdotes to a cohesive story.

WOW: That was a smart investment! Why did you decide to self-publish?

Katie: A mix of impatience, laziness and a desire to retain creative control. After sitting on my story for nearly a decade after my trip, I didn’t want to wait another two to three years to publish it and I knew that would be the timing if I went through the process of trying to find an agent and then a publisher. I also got some initial feedback from querying agents that my story likely wasn’t commercially viable – which I appreciated. It’s about a part of the world that most people don’t know or care much about, so I figured I was facing an uphill climb to go the traditional publishing route. I was ultimately happy to self-publish as I was able to control the timing and creative aspects, like my cover (I’m obsessed with my cover design!) and my overall story.

WOW: I feel the same way about your cover! And how cool you believed in your story enough to publish it yourself. What words of advice do you have for those who wonder if their story is worth telling? 

Katie: I think every story is worth telling, but not every story is for every audience. You just need to find your audience.

WOW: A very true sentiment to leave our readers with! Best of luck on your blog tour and your book! Thanks for joining me today. 

Finding Katya Blog Tour

--- Blog Tour Calendar

December 4th @ The Muffin
Join us at WOW as we celebrate the launch of Katie R. Aune's memoir Finding Katya. Read an interview with the author and enter for a chance to win a copy of the book.

December 6th @ Pages and Paws
Stop by Kristine's blog for a guest post by Katie R. Aune about how to quit your job to travel.

December 7th @ Chapter Break
Visit Julie's blog for a guest post by Katie R. Aune about what she wish she had known about writing a book. You can also read an interview with the author as well.

December 10th @ Shoe's Seeds and Stories
Visit Linda's blog for her review of Finding Katya.

December 12th @ The Faerie Review
Visit Lily's blog for her spotlight of Finding Katya

December 13th @ Bookplaces
Visit Kay's blog for her review of Finding Katya. 

December 14th @ Nikki's Book Reviews
Join Nikki for her review of Finding Katya, a memoir by Katie R. Aune.

December 15th @ Michelle Cornish's blog
Visit Michelle's blog for a guest post by Katie R. Aune about what not to do when self-publishing your first book. 

December 18th @ One Writer's Journey
Stop by Sue's blog and read her review of Finding Katya by Katie R. Aune.

December 21st @ Knotty Needle
Visit Judy's blog for her review of Finding Katya, a memoir by Katie R. Aune.

December 23rd @ A Storybook World
Visit Deirdra's blog for her spotlight of Finding Katya by Katie R. Aune.

December 24th @ Lisa Haselton's Reviews & Interviews
Join Lisa's blog for an interview with author Katie R. Aune

December 27th @ World of My Imagination
Join Nicole for her review of Finding Katya by Katie R. Aune.

December 28th @ Boys' Mom Reads
Visit Karen's blog for her review of Finding Katya by Katie R. Aune.

December 29th @ One Writer's Journey
Stop by Sue's blog again for a guest post by Katie R. Aune about traveling off the beaten path.

December 31st @ Affinito Lit
Visit Stephanie's Instagram page for her review of Finding Katya

January 2nd @  A Wonderful World of Books
Visit Joy's blog for her spotlight of Finding Katya by Katie R. Aune.

January 4th @ Choices
Visit Madeline's blog for a guest post by Katie R. Aune about female solo travel tips.

January 4th @ Rockin Book Reviews
Visit Lu Ann's blog for a review of Finding Katya by Katie R. Aune.

January 6th @ Boots, Shoes, and Fashion
Visit Linda's blog for her interview with author Katie R. Aune about her memoir Finding Katya.

January 7th @ Jill Sheets' blog
Visit Jill's blog for her interview with author Katie R. Aune about her memoir Finding Katya.

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

Enter to win a copy of the travel memoir, Finding Katya by Katie R. Aune. Fill out the Rafflecopter form for a chance to win. The giveaway ends December 17th at 11:59 pm CT. We will choose a winner the next day and announce in the widget and also follow up via email. Good luck!

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