Interview with Winter 2024 Flash Fiction Runner Up, Liz Chang

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

 

Liz Chang was the 2012 Montgomery County Poet Laureate. Her poems have appeared in Verse Daily, Exit 7, Breakwater Review and Stoneboat Literary Journal, among others. Her 2023 chapbook Museum of Things from Finishing Line Press includes the Pushcart Prize-nominated work “On Jolly Holiday.” Chang’s flash fiction has been published internationally in Oxygen: Parables of the Pandemic and Opia no. 2. She is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Moravian University. More information on her forthcoming work and appearances can be found at lizchangpoet.com









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

WOW: Your story, The Ghost of Louise Gluck Takes Persephone Apple Picking for the First Time, pays tribute to Averno, a crater lake in Italy that also serves as the entrance to the Roman underworld. What was your process like in getting the details down on paper, and then polishing and shaping them until you were happy with the final result? 

Liz: I’m pleased you noticed that, but in this case, I can’t really take credit. Averno is the title of Louise Gluck’s collection that has a bunch of poems about Persephone. In the series I’m working on, I use bits of inspiration from the poets or authors whose voices I’m creating. In this case, though, I didn’t use many of Gluck’s exact lines–more like images and settings from the character she created and the speaker in Averno’s reference to growing up near an orchard. I had also recently gone apple picking with my family, so that’s where some of the physical details came from. As an aside, I have been to the cave in Slovenia that Dante visited just before he wrote The Inferno. I crawled about six feet in, on my hands and knees in total darkness, and then instinctually threw my body into reverse to move back out toward the entrance. I’ve discovered that caves are not for me. 

WOW: Ha! I can understand that about caves--they've always struck me as quite unpredictable. What is your favorite line from “The Ghost of Louise Gluck” and why? 

Liz: The one line I did use from Gluck here was the bit about “...in the way one expects of a lyric poet.” I tried to kind of pull off a cheeky self-own, as a lyric poet myself, with the set-up about Persephone comparing apples to pomegranates and how they’re only vaguely alike in a sort of superficial, romantic way. In general, I’m having so much fun with these little flash pieces because I get to pay homage to some of my favorite, departed artists, but also I get to move them around on a little stage in my brain. One of my writer-friends teased me recently, saying, “Your brain must be a strange place to be!” …but that’s the joy that I’m trying to tap into with this project. Even the more somber pieces are fun to craft because they feel like stolen moments with the people I most admire. 

WOW: How did you first discover your love for reading and writing poetry? 

Liz: I was very fortunate to have a lot of support early on as a reader (in second grade) and a writer (in third or fourth). I know not everyone has that. In college, I took a class with Hettie Jones, and even though I felt lost in my major coursework, I always looked forward to writing for her workshop. I would hold off poetry writing until the night before I had to produce something–it was like I got to savor a reward. Living in New York City was rough on me, so I think having the mental space to shut out all of the noise and try to distill my hidden self onto the page was really tied to my weathering that time. 

WOW: Your chapbook “Museum of Things” has such a unique concept—the poems are structured to resemble artifacts in a museum with each piece focusing on a specific item from your past. What advice would you offer other poets and writers looking to find a personal concept such as this one to immerse themselves in? 

Liz: I studied visual art as an undergraduate, and I’ve heard readers mention they generally see a lot of fine art influence in my writing–mostly in terms of color and pattern work, which I have always really enjoyed. 

In this case, I was writing some little micro memoir pieces for a poetry workshop I’ve been in for the last thirteen years. We meet monthly, so I always aim to have something to show them. I was scraping the bottom of my mental barrel, certain that no one would care about these little stories behind all of my accumulated “things” except me. It was my poet-friends who recognized that these were worth revisiting. In fact, my one friend Susan suggested re-conceiving them as ‘museum tags.’ I really enjoy finding an idea’s natural form–both in visual art and writing. I threw myself into the challenge, and I eventually let them be poems. …

But I suppose I’m backing into the advice part here. I would say that the best advice is (and I’m sure I’m paraphrasing someone important here) that the personal is universal. Strong writing moves outward from purely individual experience to connect with a larger audience. If you pay attention to your craft and distill your work until it is as strong as it can possibly be, then readers out in the world will respond. As a poet, I seek to create an emotional experience for the reader on the page, but I am also committed to being a storyteller and to communicate with my reader. If you value that relationship, people will notice. 

I can’t tell you how many times audience members have found themselves in just one line in a piece during a reading–that’s all it takes. For instance, I describe my grandmother wearing “one black shoe and one blue” to teach her kindergarten classes and a gentleman came up to me at a library reading to quietly confess he’d done the same. When someone noticed his shoes, he replied, “I have another pair just like it at home!” 

WOW: In addition to being a poet and writing instructor, you are also a beekeeper. What drew you to this pastime and what do you love most about it? 

Liz: My husband jokes that it was my destiny after I played a honeybee in my second grade play. Also I used to teach an essay that had the line, “what is it about poets and bees?” I still don’t have an answer to that question. But I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that I love the backyard honey. I’m a miserable gardener, so this is the closest I get to appreciating the garden the previous homeowner put in. I also really enjoy having something in my life that’s less about words and more about instinct. This is one of the only spaces where I can quiet my mind and tend. When I’m working to make their lives easier, I don’t narrate what I’m doing in my head. I try to be their guardian instead of their “keeper” (although I do use that shorthand term to refer to myself–I mean that I find the action to be more like protecting and supporting them over owning them). 

WOW: It sounds like such a fascinating hobby and I'm glad you discovered it! Liz, congratulations again for placing in the contest and we appreciate you sharing these insights on the writing life.
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Ask the Book Doctor: About Author Intrusion

Sunday, July 14, 2024
 
By Bobbie Christmas
 
Q: Someone online the other day inquired about a quick, easy way to look up questions about writing. People suggested The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, as well as The Chicago Manual of Style. Those are well known. I suggested Bobbie Christmas’s Purge Your Prose of Problems.
 
Now I’ve just looked through that book and your other gem, Write in Style. I think I remember reading something in Write in Style, where you said when writing in third person, the writer’s voice should not have opinions about the story or characters that they impose on the reader. I hope I'm remembering this correctly.
 
I want to be sure I’m not advising a client wrong about her story. If the main character says someone’s a jerk, that’s fine, but the narrator should not be calling that character a jerk. Right?
 
I’d like to quote you (if that’s your position) but I can’t find it in the book.
 
A: You're absolutely right. The issue is one of author intrusion. If the narrative calls a character a jerk, it reflects the author’s opinion and is therefore author intrusion. If a character calls someone a jerk, that’s the character’s opinion, and it’s fine.
 
Example of author intrusion: The jerk who stole Marie’s purse threw it in a trash bin.
 
Example of character’s opinion: Marie looked at her battered pocketbook and said, “The jerk who stole it threw it in a trash bin.”
 
Although I may have covered the issue briefly in Write In Style, I covered it more in depth in Purge Your Prose of Problems. Here’s what Purge Your Prose of Problems says about author intrusion:
 
Strong writing shuns author intrusion, which can happen when a portion of a novel is not written in the viewpoint of a character in the book.
 
Minor author intrusion can be a word choice that implies personal feelings, rather than using a true description.
 
Example: The weather was beautiful. (Beautiful is a personal opinion.)
 
Better: The weather was perfect for kite flying because a slight, steady breeze blew through the treetops. The sun peeked through thin clouds, imparting a warm glow to the vast green slopes of Rocky Top Park
 
Sometimes a one-word intrusion occurs when an author chooses adverbs that reflect a personal opinion. Examples of minor author intrusion: Luckily, the car was unlocked. Hopefully, she would heal quickly. Better: He found the car unlocked and breathed a sigh of relief. She hoped she would heal quickly
 
We also sometimes see the two-word intrusion, of course. Of course the door was locked. Delete it in narrative. The door was locked
 
Sometimes thoughts not attributed to a character can sound like the author’s opinion and therefore constitute author intrusion.
 
Example: (author intrusion) He had better hurry; someone might catch him breaking in
 
Better: (action) His hands shook, even as he tried to hurry. (thoughts) I’d better hurry, he thought. What will I do if someone catches me breaking in? 
 
Example: (author intrusion) She shouldn’t have yelled at him. Now he would be angry
 
Better: (dialogue) “I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t have yelled at you. Please don’t be angry.” (thoughts) Why did I yell at him, she wondered. Now he’s going to be angry with me
 
Major author intrusion stops the action and dialogue and goes into an explanation.
 
Example: Junior Sol wept into his hands. He felt bad because even though he was a doctor, he couldn’t do anything to save his mother.
 
Better: Intern Junior Sol wept into his hands. A nurse patted his back. He turned to her, almost shouting. “What good were all those years of medical school and all this training? I still feel like a little boy.” He pointed to the body in the hospital bed. “I can’t even help my own mother.”
 
All that said, creative writing has only guidelines and no actionable rules. If an author wants to express a personal opinion in a novel, no police officer will come and make an arrest, but in fiction it's wiser to let those opinions come out of the mouths of characters, rather than the author. Nonfiction is the place where we can express our personal opinions without going against any tenets of creative writing.
 
***
 
Send your questions to Bobbie Christmas, book editor, author of Write In Style: Use Your Computer to Improve Your Writing, and owner of Zebra Communications. Bobbie@zebraeditor.com or BZebra@aol.com. Read Bobbie’s Zebra Communications blog at https://www.zebraeditor.com/blog/.
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Go With the Flow in Life and Pitching Your Work

Thursday, July 11, 2024

The author at the peak of Grandfather Mountain in Linville, N.C.

I’m on vacation with my family this week. Instead of our normal trek to the ocean, we decided to rent a mountain house near where our son will be attending college and appreciate the cooler weather and fun outdoor activities. We had everything planned out, and a lot of our itinerary was based on the advice of my husband, who also attended college in this area thirty plus years ago. 

Our first adventure was tubing down the New River with nothing but the current to carry us and a few drinks packed in a cooler. A shuttle van took us to the drop-off point and we were basically told to “have fun!” We settled in for a lazy two hours in the water, until we noticed we were approaching a bridge that looked—what’s the best way to describe it?—sagging in the middle? We were supposed to just float underneath the bridge but as we got closer, we began to panic. Did we have enough room to clear it? 

We could have tried to stop, drag our tubes out of the water and walk along the riverbank beside the bridge. But instead, we flattened ourselves like pancakes and prayed. We made it underneath the bridge, barely, but we were wondering how the large group of thirty or so people floating a good ways behind us were going to tackle the situation, seeing as how they were all attached to one another and hauling Bluetooth speakers, coolers, and even a charcuterie board in an airtight container! 

The next day we decided to check out a local waterfall less than half a mile from where we were staying. Based on the map in the parking lot, there were three different ways to get to the waterfall and they were labeled by difficulty. We picked one path and headed in. While the ground was full of roots and mud, you can imagine our surprise when we found the waterfall less than a half-mile into our hike. My son, an Eagle Scout, was pretty underwhelmed. We were back out of the park and to our car within an hour all in. We laughed and told ourselves you just must roll with it sometimes. 

Back in May I wrote about putting together an agent checklist for my suspense novel. I selected five different agents and discussed what they requested from writers pitching their books. They were all different I sent out my first batch of queries and quickly noticed something was missing from my submission package. I had a short synopsis as part of my query letter, but I realized some agents also want a longer synopsis where you hit all the main plot points of your book, from beginning to end, in no more than 800 words. 

I pulled my submission package document out again and got to work. Whittling down a synopsis of an 86,000-word-book to only 800 words isn’t easy. But I have a completed draft to send to my next batch of agents. 

My submission package now includes: 
• A one-sentence logline of my book. 
 • Both a short and longer author bio. 
 • An 800-word synopsis of the book, covering all the main plot points. 
 • A brief description of the potential target audience and other comparative titles to mine. 
 • The most polished version of the book, where I can pull the first 10 pages, 25 pages, or 50 pages, depending on what/if the agent wants. 

I’m sure just like our vacation excursions, these different pieces of the submission package will continue to evolve, when and if agents respond. The bright side of continuing to work on these various pieces means the book will have a great marketing package already put together when and if it sells. 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and host/creator of the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. She’s currently seeking representation for her suspense novel “It’s a Miracle I’m Alive,” which was inspired by her experience podcasting.
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Interview with Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar: Winter 2024 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, July 09, 2024
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is an Indian American writer. She is the author of a short fiction collection Morsels of Purple and a prose chapbook Skin Over Milk. She is currently working on her first novel. Her stories have been published in numerous anthologies and journals including the Best Small Fictions 2022 and 2023. She is the winner of the National Flash Fiction Day Micro Contest and the runner-up for the Larry Brown Short Story Prize. Outside of her day job as a technologist, she is a submissions editor for SmokeLong Quarterly. More at saraspunyfingers.com, Twitter:@PunyFingers Instagram:sara_siddiqui24

---interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Winter 2024 Flash Fiction competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Sara: I’ve seen friends’ posts on social media about winning the WOW contest. That combined with the fact that this contest is always open propelled me to submit my story to the Winter call.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “The Rest Area at Chautauqua Lake?”

Sara: I know the setting well. My husband and I used to stop at this rest area after dropping our son to college. Sometimes, I peeked into the cars parked beside us and wondered about the people inside them. Those thoughts came to mind one morning and took the shape of this story.

WOW: What do you enjoy about flash fiction writing versus the other kinds of writing that you do?

Sara: Flash fiction is quick and effective for both the reader and the writer. With my full-time job, I am hard-pressed to find time to write. That’s where Flash comes to the rescue. I can write the first draft in one sitting and then complete the story in three or four revisions and that leaves me with a spurt of writerly satisfaction.

WOW: You mention that you’re working on a novel. Can you tell us anything about it, and what your novel writing journey has been like so far?

Sara: My novel is a story of a girl growing up in the backdrop of a loss in the family. She tries to emerge, crystallize her beliefs, and determine her identity and place in the world.

With an unrestricted word count, I have the freedom to build the characters with more depth, expand and detail the scenes, and interrogate internal thoughts with more clarity. On the flip side, it’s hard to maintain the focus and energy throughout the chapters. I have to constantly rein in my thoughts which tend to wander in different directions.

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

Sara: Take breaks but don’t give up. It’s alright to not write anything for some time, but please return to the keyboard. We need to keep reading and writing alive in this age of AI and robotics.

***

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Interview with Anne Walsh Donnelly, Q2 2024 WOW! Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Sunday, July 07, 2024
Anne Walsh Donnelly lives in the west of Ireland, writes prose, poetry and plays and loves to experiment with form in her writing. She is the author of the poetry collection, Odd as F*ck. Her fragmentary novel, He Used To Be Me, was published by New Island Books in February, 2024. Anne is currently working towards her first personal essay collection.

Facebook: AnneWalshDonnelly
Instagram: annewalshdonnellypoetry
X: @AnneWDonnelly

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing as a runner up in our Q2 2024 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What prompted you to enter the contest?

Anne: Thanks. I’ve entered the contest several times and have been placed in the top ten five times, coming 2nd last year. It’s lovely when judges ‘get your work’ and obviously the WOW judges get mine! So that encourages me to keep submitting. I also love the critiques they give, they are always very constructive and have helped me improve my essays in the past.

WOW:  Love to hear that! Your entry, “The day you decided not to kill yourself” is quite moving and while it’s very personal, a lot of it will be relatable to others. What inspired you to write this essay?

Anne: It took me seven years to write this essay, it’s about a particular day when I had suicidal feelings and I’ve been trying to write about that day for the last seven years but it wouldn’t come. Finally in January of this year it landed on the page which was a release. It's one of my favourite essays and I'm so proud to have gone through what I've gone through and am now able to write about it.

It’s an important story to tell and I wrote it to give other people hope, even in your darkest moments you can turn your life around. It’s difficult but it’s doable with support from others. All you have to do is ask. The turning point for me was my love for my children and not wanting to leave them without a mother. There’s sometimes a lot of bad press about antidepressants but they saved my life and continuing in therapy while I was on them helped me recover from my depression.

WOW:  You’re also currently working a personal essay collection. Can you tell us anything about it, and how it’s going?

Anne: It’s going well. I’m on a bit of a roll at the moment and am writing a good few essays, thankfully. There’s a lot of ideas and themes floating around my head so I still need to decide on an overarching theme for the collection as a whole but that will evolve during the writing process.

For me craft and form are as important as content when writing a personal essay, so I’m having fun experimenting and trying out new ways and new forms to tell my story.

WOW: What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Anne: I tend to have a few books (poetry, fiction and non-fiction) on the go at the same time. One of the books I’m reading at the moment is Seaborne by Irish author Nuala O’Connor. It’s a novel loosely based on the life of 18th-century Irishwoman, Anne Bonny who was an Irish woman tried for piracy in Jamaica in the 1720s. Nuala is a fabulous writer, one of Ireland’s best (in my opinion), and her prose is a delight to read. I’d highly recommend the book to any reader.

I’ve just discovered Melissa Febos’ writing. I’ve been reading some of her essays online and have ordered her book ‘Body Work, The Radical Power of Personal Narrative.’ So I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it when it arrives. Her work is inspiring me to write about different themes in my own creative non-fiction writing.

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

Anne: Write for yourself first then edit and polish with your reader in your mind.


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Is the Party Over?

Thursday, July 04, 2024
“I’m always late to the party,” I told a writing colleague the other day. Sometimes it’s physically late to be at the place I promised to be. More often it’s not quite so literal: late catching on to a new trend, mastering a new skill or learning about a development in the writing industry.

Once I was early.

We all have a book (or two…or three) in the proverbial drawer gathering dust. Some are what I like to consider practice books. Yes, they’re bad but that’s OK. They showed us what we were doing wrong and give us the knowledge to do better next time. But some get stuck there for reasons that have nothing to do with our writing.

Years ago I attended my first writing conference, armed with my elevator speech and appointments with agents. One agent seemed like my dream agent. I was beyond excited. It’s a miracle my head didn’t just detach from my body and float away. Then came the moment of truth when I pitched my historical novel.

“It’s an interesting idea but can you switch it from World War II to World War I? World War II doesn’t quite qualify as historical fiction so I’d have trouble placing it. I would be interested in seeing it in World War I.”

I smiled. I nodded. Inside I was screaming, “But the premise this book is based on didn’t happen in World War I. I can’t just change 1942 to 1918 and call it good.”

So even though I continued to polish my novel it seemed futile. She was the agent. She knew the industry better than me. Her words kept echoing in my head. I shoved my novel and reams of research in the drawer and moved on to other things.

Unless you’ve been living in the drawer with my abandoned novel you know that World War II historical fiction is everywhere and has been for over a decade. There are authors that specialize in ONLY World War II historical fiction. I toy with the idea of taking out my old novel – focusing on an event I haven’t seen in a novel yet – and polishing it up. But I see agent calls begging for historical fiction NOT from World War II since so much has come across their desks. Can you be too late to the party?

Have you ever been at odds with what the writing industry told you? How do you balance advice from the experts with your belief in your writing project?

Hope everyone's enjoying a fun day full of picnics and fireworks! Stay safe.

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Interview With Winter 2024 Flash Fiction Runner Up Winner, Jordan Bass

Tuesday, July 02, 2024
 

Today, I'm excited to interview Jordan Bass, one of our runner-up winners in our Winter 2024 flash fiction contest. Before you read our interview, read her story "Sea Monkeys," then come on back!

But first, here's more about Jordan:

Jordan Bass is a fiction writer who specializes in comedy, adventure, magical realism, and surrealism. She is inspired by fancy coffee drinks and watching her dogs sleep peacefully in the sun. For more of her work, follow her ongoing short story series, “Monomyth,” on Medium.

--- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: I love the strange attachment that Brad has for this creature that came out of him. And I felt like this was a metaphor for something not quite being said out loud. Am I right about that? If so, can you elaborate? 

Jordan: Sea Monkeys is written as a critique of the patriarchal view of the pro-life movement. When Brad sees the creature, he very quickly takes on the responsibility of caring for it, while professing his love for it unconditionally. However, when the creature becomes too hard to take care of, he dumps it in a river, completely backtracking on the responsibility he promised. His promises to care for the creature were only words in the end. Some in the pro-life movement who are free from the burdens of reproductive ability make these same promises: that they will care for the child, that they will support a family unit, etc., but in reality they can leave when things get too hard without major consequences. Ultimately, it is the pregnant person who has to go through a changing body, possible medical complications, and being used as an incubator for a child that, for whatever reason, they cannot support.

WOW: Aha! I had a feeling that was the underlying message. So, I loved your story! It was so unusual and creative. What inspired this idea?

Jordan: The first thing I began to think about was a scene from the second Harry Potter movie, in which one character begins to barf up slugs as a result of a spell gone wrong. I thought it would be interesting to take that situation, but apply it to newly adult college fraternity brothers in a realistic world, where partying is frequent and barfing slugs is not something that should ever happen. From there, the hungover main character has to navigate this unheard of situation while trying to care for a creature he knows nothing about. 

WOW: I think it's awesome you used something from a scene of a book to inspire your own work! What is your approach with writing flash fiction? 

Jordan: I tend to think of individual lines within my chosen plot first, and then write the story itself around those lines. In this case, I knew what my concept was and the major story beats around it. However, much of the story itself was written around the line “I feel something, I think it’s unconditional love”. This helped me develop the personalities and motivations of my characters. My ultimate goal was to avoid making the story too complicated or adding too many characters/scenes. There’s a setting, an inciting incident, a climax, and a resolution, but each can only be contained in a few sentences. 

WOW: What a great approach. What inspires you to write magical realism? 

Jordan: While in college, I took a course in magical realism in which we studied works from popular authors in the genre (such as Franz Kafka and Gabriel García Márquez). I began to love the idea of framing stories in a way that is based in reality and adds a fantastical element, instead of rooting a story in the fantasy genre entirely. It helps to shift focus to how the humans in that scenario react to that fantastical element, generally with a more cynical approach towards humanity interacting with what we don’t understand. That blur between fantasy and reality is what I want to incorporate within my own writing, while taking a more humorous approach to the cynicism that magical realism often portrays.

 
WOW: I love that combination too! What are you working on now that you can tell us about? 

Jordan: I am writing a series of short stories in the humor/magical realism/adventure genres, under the overall title Monomyth. Each story will be published on my Medium account: https://medium.com/@monomythcompany. Monomyth is based within a world in which mysterious “veils” have begun to open out of thin air, releasing magical artifacts and animals into our world - or taking something (or someone) into theirs. In response, individuals from America (along with the U.S. government), start a company called Monomyth, which employs “adventurers” from around the country to find the veils and document their findings in order to study magical elements unknown to our world. Sometimes these investigations are harmless, but other times they’re exceedingly dangerous. A part of these stories will be standalone occurrences, while others tell the overarching story of four Monomyth employees and their adventures discovering otherworldly phenomena across a fairly realistic world.

WOW: That s sounds so amazing and creative. Thank you so much for joining us and congrats again on your story.
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Raising Jess by Vickie Rubin: Blog Tour & TOUR-WIDE GIVEAWAY

Monday, July 01, 2024
Raising Jess by Vickie Rubon
We're excited to announce the blog tour for Raising Jess: A Story of Hope by Vickie Rubin. This book is perfect for anyone seeking insights into the path of raising a child with disabilities. Whether you're a professional seeking to enhance your understanding of the families you support or a reader searching for a hopeful, heartwarming, and humorous memoir, the award-winning memoir Raising Jess offers invaluable perspectives and experiences. 

Don’t miss the tour-wide giveaway! Vickie is giving away a Grand Prize of Raising Jess and a $25 Amazon gift card as well as three other copies of her book. Enter to win at every stop along the blog tour. 

About the Book:

Raising Jess: A Story of Hope is the powerful story of one family’s survival when faced with adversity. Written with compassion, honesty, and humor, it tells of a family changed forever by the birth of a child with a rare chromosome deletion and their courageous decision to choose hope. Facing the challenges of caring for her daughter, marriage struggles, and the question of having more children, Vickie Rubin gives a glimpse in the world of her family and transformation while raising Jess. This beautiful, gripping memoir will delight and leave you wanting more.

PUBLISHER: Page Publishing
ASIN: B09BNYKK8N
ISBN-10: 166246052X
ISBN-13: 978-1662460524
Print Length: 250 pages

You can purchase a copy of the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop and Apple Books
Be sure to add it to your GoodReads reading list.

About the Author, Vickie Rubin

Vickie Rubin
Vickie Rubin, M.S Ed. is a three-time award-winning author of the inspiring memoir Raising Jess: A Story of Hope. The memoir encompasses overcoming marriage struggles, having more children, and the sibling experience. Vickie's debut memoir won the 2022 Readers' Favorite Gold Medal Award for Non-Fiction and was a Finalist in the Best Book Award and Books Excellence Award for inspirational memoir. 

She is an experienced public speaker and passionate advocate for families of children with disabilities. Vickie's essays are published in Newsweek and featured in the Buffalo News and guest blogs worldwide. She is a frequent Podcast guest sharing information about raising a child with a disability, inspiring hope, family dynamics, education, and advocacy. Her blog, Vickie's Views, gives a heartwarming and humorous view of everyday life, including raising a child with a disability, observing daily life, family, marriage, and RV travel. 
 
Before writing her book, Vickie was the director of the Early Childhood Direction Center (ECDC) for Oishei Children’s Hospital, Kaleida Health, a New York State Education Department grant-funded program. Vickie and her husband Mitch celebrated their 44rd wedding anniversary in 2023. They have three children, three grandchildren, and two very active dogs.

You can find her online at: https://vickierubin.com
Twitter/X: @vickierubin
Instagram: @vickierubin.author

---- Interview by Jodi Webb 

WOW: Congratulations on the release of your memoir Raising Jess: A Story of Hope. What was
the thing that finally made you decide to dive into writing a book?

Vickie: Jessica’s story, our story, was always in me – when I started writing, it just flowed every day; I wanted to share our story that even through all the challenges, we made it work – I think that is why it’s so hard for me to write a second book. Raising Jess is our story. (But I haven’t given up on the possibility of a second book.)

WOW: You mentioned that your mom spent decades bugging you to write your family’s story. After you got started, how long did it take you to actually write Raising Jess?

Vickie: The entire process took close to four years, which included daily writing. Once my draft chapter was complete, I set it free to my family members for feedback. This is also my husband’s story; I wanted him to check it for accuracy, humor, grammar, and authenticity. Next, my son gave his astute opinion. Once it passed my son’s stringent test, I felt confident to start the next chapter. When the book was complete, I hired a professional editor before sending it to a publisher. My book debuted during Covid in August 2021.

WOW: I admire anyone who can faithfully keep up with a daily writing schedule. Can you tell us a little about your writing habits?

Vickie: When writing the book, my alarm went off at 6:00 AM each day, even though I am considered retired.  I wrote for approximately two hours. The inspiration or fire inside me kept the words flowing, but once the fire receded, I stopped for the day. Now that the book is complete, I still get up at 6 A.M. to write my bi-weekly blogs. The laptop is my primary method, but I always have paper in the car or my purse for quick jots. Unfortunately, I often get an idea when my husband talks to me about softball (the idea is never related to softball) – yes, my mind wanders! And then I must sneak a text to myself….

I have participated in online writing courses and learned many strategies for creating new content, but once an idea strikes, it flows. Occasionally, I would wake in the middle of the night with a prompt and email myself under the covers to not awaken my husband.  Many ideas often interrupt my shower, which is a problem since I can’t write anything down. The other activity of inspiration is walking outside. I will frequently text and email myself with blog titles. I'm hoping I don’t fall since I am not paying attention to the path. Although that would be fuel for a new blog!

Writer’s block started for me after the book was complete; online courses have helped spark new topics and strategies to relight the fire. During Covid, I wrote daily about all the mishaps and experiences; again, it flowed. They were usually funny anecdotes; I often consider compiling those stories into a short book.

WOW: What was the most unexpected thing you discovered while writing your book?

Vickie: An unexpected occurrence happened when I completed the book. My Mom, who always said I should write a book, developed Alzheimer’s while I was creating Raising Jess. Mom, who lives 1300 miles from me, and I were no longer able to communicate on the phone due to her declining speech. As each raw chapter was completed, I sent the piece to my dad, who read the chapter to Mom. At the end of the book, Mom got on the phone and, in her halted speech, said, “Love….Your…. Book…” At that moment, I knew that she recognized her dream for me to write “that book!” was accomplished. It was an unexpected and heartwarming moment because Alzheimer’s takes away so much, but Mom could still communicate that she knew writing my memoir had come true.

WOW: Well, now I have to take a minute to cry a bit....I'm back! How about the rest of your family? I always wonder about the people portrayed in memoirs. How did they feel knowing they’d be the “stars” of your book?

Vickie: YES! A memoir differs from an autobiography because it is my memory, perspective, and portrayal of individuals and experiences. Whereas autobiography is a factual and historical account of events. I wanted my story to be accurate and authentic (and have humor). 

My first beta reader was my husband, Mitch. Mitch dislikes being in the spotlight, so I had some concerns. As I finished each chapter, he would read and provide feedback about his perspective of events (and his stardom; I assured him that he was not going viral!). There were moments when he considered whether he was comfortable with me writing about our marriage struggles. Mitch finally approved because he recognized that our experience is like other families, and knowing we got to the other side gives hope and encouragement to others. 

I also spoke with family members and friends, highlighted in the memoir, and received their approval. Jessica’s siblings and spouses all had the opportunity to read and comment before I published it.
 
Everyone was supportive and helpful. My son, Alex, was one of my editors before I sent the publication to an official editor. Alex is a tough critic, so when he said he loved the book, I knew I was heading in the right direction.

WOW: Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?

Vickie: UGH! Writing and publishing were easier than promoting. There are millions of books published each year. How do I get Raising Jess noticed? I have stellar reviews on Amazon and receive emails and communications from readers about their love for the book. But it is hard for an unknown author to get the word out. One strategy is keynote speaking engagements. I am a frequent podcast guest and talk about topics related to my book. My blog often has companion pieces to the book, and some of my essays are featured in newspapers and national publications such as Newsweek. Another strategy is guest virtual appearances in book clubs.

Finding a publisher was less stressful. A fellow author had a great experience with the Hybrid publisher, Page Publishing. I contacted them and sent a .pdf of my story. My work was accepted, and they have been a delight to work with. However, they do minimal promotion.

Sometimes, I feel like giving up on the promotion side of things, and then (almost every time) I receive an email, a post, or a face-to-face encounter with somebody who cherished my book and its message, which keeps me going. Last night, I met a young mom who read my book and said she saw so many similarities; it helped her immensely. With tears in her eyes, she said she would read it again.

WOW: Tell us what’s next for you. Another book or some other adventure?

Vickie: Currently, I am focused on my blog and Podcast interviews, where I talk about raising a child with multiple disabilities, advocacy, special education, and the importance of planning for the future.

During Covid, our book club invited authors via Zoom to join our group. Reading the book and speaking with the writers about their work was amazing. I have virtually visited (nice alteration) several book clubs and the discussions and personal stories were enlightening and heartwarming. Recently, I developed book club questions for Raising Jess and plan to reach out to book clubs everywhere. I guess I am starting here! So, if you are reading this and are interested in inviting me to join your book club to discuss Raising Jess, please contact me.

Writing Raising Jess: A Story of Hope came so easily for me. The stories flowed. I often think about writing a second book and have many ideas, but I am still waiting for inspiration to do it!

WOW: I look forward to the results of that flow of inspiration. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Raising Jess by Vickie Rubin Blog Tour

---- Blog Tour Calendar

July 1st @ The Muffin
Join WOW as we celebrate the launch of Vickie Rubin's blog tour of Raising Jess. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book

July 2nd @ Just Katherine
Katherine is bursting with questions for Vickie Rubin, author of Raising Jess. Stop by for and interview and review.

July 5th @ A Storybook World
Stop by for a spotlight of Vickie Rubin's memoir Raising Jess: A Story of Hope.

July 6th @ Boots, Shoes and Fashion
Learn more about Vickie Rubin, author of the memoir Raising Jess in today's interview.

July 10th @ Jill Sheet's Blog
Meet the author of Raising Jess: A Story of Hope during today's interview with Vickie Rubin.

July 11th @ StoreyBook Reviews
Vickie Rubin is visiting with a guest post about the importance of a Friend Network.

July 12th @ What Is That Book About
Looking for a great book for the weekend? Check out the spotlight on Raising Jess: A Story of Hope.

July 14th @ A Wonderful World of Words
In today's guest post What's Happening With My Baby?, Vickie Rubin shares what it's like to learn your child has a severe disability.

July 17th @ Create Write Now
Author Vickie Rubin writes about how her Failed Retirement led to her memoir Raising Jess.

July 19th @ Word Magic
Fiona welcomes Vickie Rubin with a guest post This Will Make You Stronger.

July 22nd @ Words by Webb
Author Vickie Rubin shares a guest post about rocking babies in the NICU.

July 25th @ Choices
Vickie Rubin shares her writing journey with the guest post: From "Gee, I should write a book" to "I'm writing a book!"

July 26th @ The Faerie Review
Looking for a new memoir? Today's spotlight is on Vickie Rubin's Raising Jess.

July 30th @ Chapter Break
Have fun with Vickie Rubin's guest post: Mh.D.: Getting My Self-Awarded Doctorate in Motherhood.

August 3rd @ Teatime and Books 
Stop by for a spotlight on Vickie Rubin's memoir Raising Jess.

***** BOOK & GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY *****

3 Winners! Enter for a chance to win a copy of the inspiring memoir Raising Jess by Vickie Rubin and a $25 Amazon Gift Card. The first winner drawn randomly will win a copy of the memoir and the gift card. Two more winners will win a coy of the book. The giveaway ends August 9 at 11:59 pm CT. We will draw a winner the next day via Rafflecopter and follow up via email. Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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When You Have to Cut . . . A Lot

Thursday, June 27, 2024

In my experience, tight writing is marketable writing. In part this is because I write for the school library market. A biography for fourth graders may be only 2500 words long. Some of you write essays that dwarf that word count! But flash writers also face tight word counts. The cut off for a flash piece may be only 750 or even 250 words. 

So, what do you do when your draft is too long? One of the things that I discuss with my nonfiction students is how to tighten their writing. If it is only a little bit too long, searching out problem words and phrasing may be enough. These might include: 

START and BEGIN. At one point in my writing life, these two words were my personal weakness. I was always announcing that something was about to happen. “As the admitting nurse started to process his paperwork …” Nope. Just let it happen. “The admitting nurse processed his paperwork and …” 

These aren’t the only words that announce something is taking place. In your own work, you might look for ALREADY, EVEN, EXACTLY, FINALLY, JUST THEN, NOW, and SUDDENLY. I’m not saying that you should never use these words. Just make certain they aren’t hiding wordy construction. 

Another group of words that you might be able to revise away are imprecise words. They include ALMOST, APPEARS, APPROXIMATELY, BASICALLY, CLOSE TO, EVENTUALLY, NEARLY, PRACTICALLY, and SEEMS. Again, I’m not saying you should never use these words. When something isn’t exact, I must use the word approximately. But in general, it is better to be specific. If the noise “seems really loud” why not say that it “is thunderous”? 

You may also need to cut -LY adverbs. “Quietly walk” could become tiptoe. Is something “largely unseen” or is it “hidden”? 

Sometimes I need to cut one-third or even half of the total. That’s the case with the chapter I am revising today. Each chapter should be 500 words long. The first draft of chapter five came in at 760 words. 

I know that I can do it. But one of the problems with cutting a significant percentage of the word count is that the final piece often feels choppy. The best way to avoid this isn’t to cut. It is to start over. 

Whoa! Calm down! 

When I’ve already drafted a piece, I know where it needs to go, and I know I don’t have space for anything extra. If I start over again, my draft will be tight, and it won’t feel like something is missing. Sometimes I open a blank document and start from scratch. Other times I open a blank document and copy over two or three paragraphs at a time. Then I set about finding shorter, tighter ways to give much of the same information. I’m not sure why, but it works. 

How do you go about revising when you have to make big cuts?

--SueBE

Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 55 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 July 1, 2024. She teaches:

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INTERVIEW WITH KIMBERLY CROW: WINTER 2024 FLASH FICTION CONTEST RUNNER UP

Monday, June 24, 2024

Kimberly Crow is an accountant living in Massachusetts with her two young children, husband, and roughly three billion LEGO pieces. When she’s not working or parenting (or picking up LEGOs), she writes novels and flash fiction, spends time outdoors with her family, and fantasizes about moving to London. Her flash fiction is featured in the literary journals, Every Day Fiction and the tiny journal.

interview by Sue Bradford Edwards

WOW: What was your inspiration for “The Chaperone?” 


Kimberly: I was at a local farm with my family one weekend. At the same time, there was a kid's birthday party--kids running everywhere. We were checking out the hay maze, and a random kid from the party said, "Here," and handed me his trash. I was a young mother then and thought, I must really be sending out mom vibes, or at least safe adult vibes. It got me thinking about how children view adults and strangers, and I knew this short experience would make it into a story one day. 


WOW: I had to laugh at your explanation.  Flash is such an abbreviated story form. Your story is rich in detail. How did you decide which details deserved a place in the story? 


Kimberly: I love detail, which is one reason I love flash. Every sentence matters, and as a writer, you get the opportunity to draw out details in unique and interesting ways. They're also a vehicle for characterization. For instance, at first glance, sea anemones are colorful and flowerlike. But from the mindset of a woman dealing with infertility, she immediately compares the tentacles to sperm. In a flash, I try to make each detail do double-time. That is, tell the reader about the setting and the characters. 


WOW: The setting can make or break a story. How did you select the setting for “The Chaperone?” How did you weave it into the story? 


Kimberly: Given that Ashanti had just come from a doctor's appointment, I needed a setting conducive to having kids around in the middle of the day. A field trip made sense, so then I had to decide where. An aquarium fit nicely because it's a contained space, unlike the sprawling layout of a zoo. Both locations have mamas and babies, but an aquarium also seems to correlate with gestation--life growing inside water. At the beginning of the story, Ashanti is trying to gather her thoughts, adjusting to the realization that she may never have kids. Enter a whole bunch of kids. As the story progresses, Ashanti is somewhat forced to interact instead of simply watching life behind the glass. Ultimately, the penguins allow her to act on her desire to be a mother. 


WOW: You’ve published two other pieces of flash in Every Day Fiction and the tiny journal. Writers often have themes that run through their stories. What do you see as the common threads that run through your work? 


Kimberly: Since becoming a mother, parenthood has been a common theme in my stories. The tiniest moments can make a huge impact. It's often a baby's giggle that makes everything right in the world or a tween's eye roll that sends a mother over the edge. Also, coming of age because that stage of life is so emotionally charged. There are moments from those years that everyone takes with them into adulthood. 


WOW: Tell us about your novel writing. How do the skills you’ve developed in writing novels play into writing flash? 


Kimberly: I'm (very slowly) writing my third manuscript. The process hasn't gotten any easier. If anything, I'm more "in my head" with this third one than with the previous two. The biggest lesson I've learned from outlining novels is that you have to think about structure—not only the beginning, middle, and end but also the character arc. As I mentioned, I love detail, so I often have to take a step back and make sure there's an overall shape to my story. Has the main character changed? Did I start the story in the right place? Is the theme coming across in an effective and/or interesting way? It's all fun, though. Thank you to WOW! for believing in me and for giving my story an audience!


WOW: And thank you for sharing something about your inspiration and writing process with us.  Good luck with Novel #3!

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Interview with Elizabeth Bird, Runner Up in the Q2 2024 Creative Nonfiction Contest

Sunday, June 23, 2024

 


A retired Anthropology Professor, Elizabeth Bird has published seven books (most recently Surviving Biafra: A Nigerwife’s Story), and now writes creative non-fiction. Her work appears in Under the Sun (winner, Readers’ Choice Award 2022), Tangled Locks, Biostories, Streetlight, Dorothy Parker’s Ashes, HerStry, The Guardian, Mutha Magazine, 3Elements Review, Heimat Review, and elsewhere. Her essay “Interlude: 1941,” was named a Notable in Best American Essays 2023. Her website is: www.lizbirdwrites.com










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

WOW: Hello Elizabeth, and welcome! I love how you wove in both Margaret Mead and Leonard Cohen into your essay, Making Peace with Cute." Did you work on the piece during your recovery from the bicycle accident or is it something you began after the healing process? 

Elizabeth: Thanks - I didn't necessarily plan to reference them both, but somehow they seemed to fit! I worked on the piece during my recovery, which turned out to be much longer than I had hoped. I had jotted down some notes about what it was like in the hospital, but I didn't really start writing until some time afterwards. It was in hindsight that I really felt the fracture was a kind of watershed moment in my aging process. 

WOW: You’ve published several pieces of creative nonfiction. What are some of the topics you find yourself circling back to the most? 

Elizabeth: I only started this kind of writing when I retired, so I suppose it's inevitable that a recurrent theme is the impact of aging, and reflections on the passing of time. Several of my essays address this theme directly or indirectly. As you get older, you tend to remember things that happened long ago, and so I've also written a few things about my childhood and youth. And with aging comes loss, and that is reflected in my work too. Although much of my writing is quite serious, I also like to write short, more humorous essays, like my pieces about brussels sprouts and my high school "scarf scandal!" 

WOW: I love this--writing humor is something I'd like to try more myself! Your essay, “Interlude: 1941” received a Readers’ Choice Award from Under the Sun and was named as Notable in Best American Essays. What first gave you the idea to turn a vacation journal from your mother into a longform piece? 

Elizabeth: My mother died quite young and very suddenly, and it has always made me sad that she missed so much, like meeting her grandchildren. I always wished I had asked her more about her youth, which she rarely talked about with my siblings and me. I had read the short, typed journal about her wartime vacation when she was 19, and I felt it gave me a little insight into who she was then. It's the only written thing I have from her younger days, and I'm not sure why it survived. The fact that she kept it made me feel it must have been important to her. It wasn't until years later that I decided to write about it. This piece was the first essay I published, so it was lovely to see it recognized. 

WOW: That's wonderful and a beautiful tribute to your mother. As a retired college professor, and after so many years of writing for academic journals and books, how has the transition been to the more creative side of publishing? 

Elizabeth: I believe academic writing is creative, at least in a field like mine. Much of my academic work tells stories, although in a rather different way. And over the years I have done other kinds of writing, like journalistic and opinion pieces. So changing gear wasn't completely new, though it did require some serious adjustment! As an anthropologist, I spent my career writing about other people, and it felt odd to start writing more about myself. That first published piece was still more about my mother than about me; the editors at Under the Sun encouraged me to add a little more personal reflection, which improved it. I also took a WOW essay writing class from Chelsey Clammer; her comments and encouragement were so important in strengthening my writing and giving me confidence to submit pieces. 

WOW: Chelsey is fabulous and I hear nothing but great things from her students! What advice would you give someone who wants to explore creative nonfiction but doesn’t know where to begin? 

Elizabeth: I think taking a class is a good start. It forces you to stop procrastinating and start producing. When I began, I kept thinking that I didn't have anything interesting to say, and a class helps you develop ideas and come to realize that anyone's life can be engaging if the story is told well. I would say choose something about your life that made an impact on you - but also remember that an essay is not just navel-gazing. There needs to be something about the story that engages the reader beyond one's personal experience, so that people can relate. Thanks for the opportunity to do this; it was thought provoking and fun.

WOW: We've enjoyed having you and learning more about your writing process! Thank you again for being here and we look forward to checking out more of your work.
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We're Not Competing With Human Writers Any More

Thursday, June 20, 2024

 


To tell you the truth, it's not so much that I really thought other writers were my competition throughout my career. Not really, anyway. It's more that I recognized who was in the same lane as I was, so to speak. In my earlier days of professional freelancing, I knew who was in my playground. I knew the kinds of writers who would be going for the same jobs as me. They had the skills I did for the most part. And what I didn't have, I knew I could learn and take courses if necessary. 

Since I've pursued writing professionally and creatively, I've known that it isn't a competitive sport as much as an endurance race. Sure, there are awards and prizes and coveted agent representations and ideal publishing houses to be gained. Yet, somehow, I knew about the competition. And as long as I knew they shared one trait (that every one of us had, too), whatever they landed seemed possible for me.

The commonality? They were human. 

About a month ago, I found out a writing job of mine dropped my rates in half. And I was baffled. I thought to myself: What could trigger this change? Then I saw the news that the company that owned the website I was writing for was incorporating more AI in their websites. I realized that was the secret sauce that led to my rates being dropped. I wasn't being replaced with a person they hired who had advanced marketing skills and degrees in SEO. I was slowly being replaced by AI.

Now, I know that many other people know that AI isn't all that cracked up to be. It really isn't, and I'm not just being sourgrapes about it. Google's latest endeavor to change up its search engine results to include AI written summaries is one of countless pieces of evidence of that. 

Yet, there is this ever-present piece of evidence that writers are slowly being cut out of opportunities. I'm thankful that I'm where I'm at now and not where I was 10 years ago. I wonder if there are even entry-level writing gigs available like I had access to in the past. Those low-level SEO writing jobs I landed so many years ago probably don't even exist these days.

And it's tiring. I have no advice except for my fellow human writers to keep at it. At this point, we're all in the sandbox together. Sadly, our competition isn't even human anymore.

Nicole Pyles is a tired writer living in Portland, Oregon. Follow her writing website for more at World of My Imagination.
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Interview with Amanda Smith: Winter 2024 Flash Fiction Contest Third Place Winner

Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Amanda’s Bio:
Amanda Smith is a budding flash fiction writer, aspiring children’s author, poet, and former high school English teacher. She finds time for writing after working her day job in philanthropy—and putting her toddler to bed. She lives in Silver Spring, MD with her daughter, partner, and two dogs. You can find her on Twitter @amanda-n-smith. 

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

WOW: Congratulations on placing third in the Winter 2024 Flash Fiction Contest! What excited you most about writing this story? 

Amanda: I was inspired by the challenge of brevity in the flash fiction form. One of my writing idols is Octavia Butler, particularly her bend towards futurism and perspectives about change. In this story, my imagination was captured by envisioning a future shaped by AI, specifically, how it might impact relationships and our experience of life and death. I enjoyed exploring a person’s emotional interior alongside a simulation of a human relationship. Hopefully, readers felt some emotional resonance with the main character, too. 

WOW: Oh, yes, as a reader I felt strong emotional resonance with the protagonist; there’s multiple levels to her experience which made it so compelling. What did you learn about yourself or your writing while crafting this story? 

Amanda: I’m falling in love with flash as a form. It suits my season of life and process well. A shorter form is wonderful since I often only have time to write after my little one’s bedtime. My process usually begins with a very sketchy free write and evolves through countless revisions into a fully realized story. Keeping the length contained still gets my creative juices flowing and helps keep the revision process tighter. I also surprised myself with the betrayal aspects of the story! Though I haven’t experienced anything quite like the main character, I’ve certainly felt the pain of not getting the answers you wish you could from someone you’ve lost and the shattering pain of someone not caring for you in the way you imagined. 

WOW: Because you’re a writer and your story is about AI, I’m curious if you have any thoughts, insights, or questions about how AI is currently being used in the writing and publishing industries? 

Amanda: In its current form, AI can be a helpful tool for a writer. I like to use it when brainstorming ideas, feeling stuck, or getting quick editorial feedback when polishing a piece. Like most things, AI is complex, and we need to resist our desire to reduce it to a binary “good for us v. bad for us” frame. Change is constant and inevitable; the writing community needs to harness and shape the direction we want this change to take. There are ethical and material intellectual property elements to consider, and the industry must pay due attention to them. While I believe AI will become increasingly integrated into the writing process, it is not a substitute for a writer. The richness and resonance of any kind of art come from it being an expression of our humanity, an experience that is messy—full of intuition and emotion that cannot be fully simulated; AI may be able to make a decent imitation, but it cannot create art. 

WOW: It is such a complex issue, for writers and other professionals, and I appreciate your insight on it. Thank you. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it? 

Amanda: I usually read more than one book at a time—a “nightstand” read and an audiobook for dishwashing, driving, and bouts of insomnia. Currently, I’m listening to City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book found me in the recommendations section of an app I use to keep up with an endless “to read” list. (AI has apparently learned that I enjoy stories about strong women.) I was in the mood for something a bit lighter after just finishing Chain Gang All Stars, and the fact that the audiobook version had good reviews sold me. This is a little jewel of a novel about a norm-shirking young woman coming of age in New York. I adore her. 

WOW: We certainly enjoy stories about (and written by!) strong women around here, too! If you could give your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be and why? 

Amanda: Writing is a form of freedom. Do it with abandon and rambunctiousness. Explore. Embrace the fear. It’s all part of the sublime experience of confronting the blank page and making sense of yourself on it. 

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

Amanda: Thank you to WOW for this community of writers. It is food for my soul. Also, love on your local public library! 

WOW: You’re welcome! And I love the shout out to local libraries. 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. 
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No Ordinary Thursday by Anoop Judge: Blog Tour & Giveaway

Monday, June 17, 2024
No Ordinary Thursday by Anoop Judge
Anoop Judge is back! She had so much fun with her blog tour for Mercy and Grace that she's back with No Ordinary Thursday. It's a book for readers who love the tale of dysfunctional families or the experiences of First Generation Americans. No Ordinary Thursday has a little bit of everything: romance, friendship, scandal, feuds, adventure, secrets. You'll find it tough to stop reading about the intertwined relationships of this close knit Indian community.

More About the Book

Lena Sharma is a successful San Francisco restaurateur. An immigrant, she’s cultivated an image of conservatism and tradition in her close-knit Indian community. But when Lena's carefully constructed world begins to crumble, her ties to her daughter, Maya, and son, Sameer—raised in thoroughly modern California—slip further away.

Maya, divorced once, becomes engaged to a man twelve years her junior: Veer Kapoor, the son of Lena’s longtime friend. Immediately, Maya feels her mother's disgrace and the judgment of an insular society she was born into but never chose, while Lena’s cherished friendship frays. Meanwhile, Maya's younger brother, Sameer, struggles with an addiction that reaches a devastating and very public turning point, upending his already tenuous future.

As the mother, daughter, and son are compromised by tragedy, secrets, and misconceptions, they each must determine what it will take to rebuild their bonds and salvage what’s left of their family.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (August 1, 2022)
ISBN-10: 1542037751
ISBN-13: 978-1542037754
ASIN: B09KLJTJJ2
Print Length: 335 pages

Purchase a copy on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Bookshop.org. Make sure you also add it to your GoodReads reading list.

About the Author, Anoop Judge

Born and raised in New Delhi, Anoop is the author of four novels, The Rummy Club which won the
2015 Beverly Hills Book Award, The Awakening of Meena Rawat, an excerpt of which was nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Prize, No Ordinary Thursday, and Mercy and Grace

Her essays and short stories have appeared in Green Hills Literary Lantern, Rigorous Journal, Lumiere Review, DoubleBack Review, and the Ornament anthology, among others. 
 
Anoop calls herself a “recovering litigator”—she worked in state and federal courts for many years before she replaced legal briefs with fictional tales. She holds an MFA from St. Mary’s College of California and was the recipient of the 2021 Advisory Board Award and the 2023 Alumni Scholarship. 

She lives in Pleasanton, California, with her husband, and is the mother of two admirable young adults.

You can find her online at:


--- Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Welcome back to WOW Blog Tours! We had so much fun with your first tour for Mercy and Grace. You have four published novels and another on the way. What made you choose No Ordinary Thursday for your second blog tour?

ANOOP: I loved how the Wow book team represented my latest published novel, Mercy and Grace—the questions the bloggers asked me were astute and insightful, and I enjoyed getting feedback from the bloggers about the book. I wanted to repeat the experience with my previously published novel No Ordinary Thursday.

WOW: I’m so glad because your books are on my TBR list. While reading No Ordinary Thursday, I noticed that the women mentioned a pivotal moment in their friendship that happened during a card game. That got me thinking about your novel The Rummy Game. Do the characters in No Ordinary Thursday and The Rummy Game crossover?

ANOOP: Yes, you are right, these are crossover characters from my first book The Rummy Club. When I first began writing No Ordinary Thursday I thought it would be a sequel to The Rummy Club, and that’s why you have the scene where the women are playing the card game—rummy—which originated from my first novel. Ultimately, I abandoned the idea of a sequel but decided to let the names stay the same as a fun fact. How astute of you to get that!

WOW: Fascinating, a great example of how writers have to be open to changes in the plan mid-writing. Another thing that stayed with me from No Ordinary Thursday was one section that was so frightening and realistic it gave me shivers. I don’t want to publish a spoiler so we’ll leave it at that. How do you make the events in your books so real?

ANOOP: The idea for this book actually came from a real-life story. I read about a young man, who left a young girl to die in a car that caught on fire because he was driving drunk, in the ethnic newspaper India West. That got me thinking as to how a sheltered, protected young man coming from a conservative South Asian background could behave like a criminal. I decided to make him part of a shattered family and a secret that led to alcohol poisoning for fifteen years and that’s how I came up with the character of Sameer. 

This is a very good question because, although I have not experienced any of these things personally, there is always YouTube videos to consider when you want to research your character. I also wanted to give the novel The Night Of vibes which is a drama miniseries (aired on HBO in 2016) that stayed with me for a long time after I watched it.

WOW: Oh no, now I have another series to add to my streaming list. Where will I find the time? But my schedule challenges are nothing compared to yours. Writing a novel, promoting another, teaching a class on novel writing. Not to mention a family wedding! How do you fit it all in? 

ANOOP: Thank you for finding out a little about me. Yes, I like to stay busy. Born to a professional family in New Delhi I was raised on the mantra of “Study hard. Get a job. Be financially independent. Get married.” In that order. I love attending Indian weddings but I also love writing, and teaching. As I grow older, I focus on the things that matter to me instead of cynicism, petty gossip, excessive criticism, and demands of any nature that drain me emotionally. I love this quote from Meryl Streep:

“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I've become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me . . . I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty, and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that's why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship, I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement.” 

WOW: Marvelous, we should all keep that in mind. Can you tell us a little about how you became involved in mentoring and teaching other writers? 

ANOOP: To write a novel and to be successfully published, takes not just one person, but a village. I have been lucky to be helped by many other writers, including my writing coach from my Amherst writing classes and various writing friends that I met along the way while attending writing retreats. Now that I know the tricks of the trade I want to help all kinds of emerging writers, young and old to make sure their stories find a place in the world.

WOW: I’m sure your students have so much to learn from you. Can you tell us a little about being a writing teacher?

ANOOP: Teachers and students of creative writing have a symbiotic relationship. Almost all authors teach because we learn so much from our students. Students bring a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints to the classroom, which broadens my understanding and challenges my preconceptions. Additionally, fresh and unfiltered creativity from students often introduces me to new narrative techniques, unique story structures, and original thematic explorations. Likewise, observing students navigate challenges and overcome writing blocks demonstrates the importance of perseverance and flexibility in the creative process.
Another takeaway is feedback and reflection. Engaging with student feedback on my teaching methods helps me refine my approach and adapt to meet their learning needs more effectively. And of course, the enthusiasm and passion students exhibit for storytelling reinvigorate my own love for writing and remind me of the joy and excitement that originally drew me to writing.

Overall, teaching creative writing is a reciprocal process that continually enhances my growth as both an educator and a writer.

WOW: Can you give us a sneak peek of your next novel?

ANOOP: My next book is about an open marriage between an Indian couple—secret from their family and friends, of course—which gets upended when all the rules are broken. The working title is Let’s Just See What Happens. I’m still in the process of researching and writing the book.

WOW: Well, here at WOW we can’t wait to just see what happens!



No Ordinary Thursday by Anoop Judge Blog Tour

-- Blog Tour Calendar

June 17th @ The Muffin
Join us as we celebrate the launch of Anoop Judge's book No Ordinary Thursday. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of her book.

June 19th @ Writer Advice
Novelist Anoop Judge stops by with a guest post about Ways To Begin a Story.

June 21st @ A Wonderful World of Words
Let's have some fun with a book giveaway and a guest post from Anoop Judge tracing her journey through four novels.

June 22nd @ A Storybook World
Make an addition to your TBR pile with this spotlight on No Ordinary Thursday.

June 24th @ My Beauty My Books
Author Anoop Judge visits with advice to her twenty year old self and a chance to win a copy of her novel No Ordinary Thursday.

June 25th @ Words by Webb
Read a review of No Ordinary Thursday at Words by Webb.

June 28th @ What Is this Book About
Stop by for a spotlight on a new book for a new month: No Ordinary Thursday by Anoop 
Judge.

June 30th @ Choices
Anoop Judges gives readers a peek at her writing life with today's guest post.

July 2nd @ Boys' Mom Reads
Karen shares her review of No Ordinary Thursday, a novel of love, friendship and family.
 
July 3rd @ The Faerie Review
Want to enjoy the July 4th holiday with a great book? The Faerie Review is spotlighting No Ordinary Thursday by Anoop Judge.

July 5th @ StoreyBook Reviews
Anoop Judge shares her thoughts on Crafting Dialogue: How Can You Best Give Voice to Your Characters?

July 9th @ Word Magic
Fiona welcomes novelist Anoop Judge sharing a few things you didn't know about her.

July 11th @ Knotty Needle
Read a review of No Ordinary Thursday, a novel about family and friendship.

July 12th @  Author Anthony Avina
Pop by the blog of Author Anthony Avina for a guest post about what inspires Anoop Judge.

July 17th @ Chapter Break
Ready to head for the hammock (or your favorite reading spot) with an engrossing summer read? Learn more about No Ordinary Thursday and author Anoop Judge.

July 20th @ Seaside Book Nook
Jilleen shares her thoughts on No Ordinary Thursday and a guest post on first memories from the author Anoop Judge.

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

Enter to win a print copy of No Ordinary Thursday by Anoop Judge! Fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win. The giveaway ends June 30 at 11:59 pm CT. We will randomly draw a winner the next day via Rafflecopter and follow up via email. Good luck!

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