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.
Read More »

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. 
Read More »

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
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 

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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Read More »

Interview with Barbara Y. Phillips: Q2 2024 Creative Nonfiction Contest Runner Up

Sunday, June 16, 2024
Barbara’s Bio:
Barbara Y. Phillips, a social justice feminist and emerging creative nonfiction writer, appears in Brevity Blog, Herstry, New York Times, Southern Cultures, The Citron Review, 2023 Anthology Aunt Chloe: A Journal of Artful Candor, Black Memoirs Matter Anthology of Memoir Magazine (forthcoming) and others. Her essays on democracy include Imagine and Create the Third Reconstruction in The Struggle in the South Continues (ed. Kent Spriggs, University Press of Florida forthcoming); Joaquin Avila: Voting Rights Gladiator, 18 Seattle Journal for Social Justice 1, 21 (Summer 2019); How I Became a Civil Rights Lawyer in Voices of Civil Rights Lawyers: Reflections from the Deep South, 1964-1980 (ed. Kent Spriggs, University Press of Florida 2017); and others. She was honored by the Mississippi Center for Justice in 2022 as a Champion of Justice and lives in Oxford, MS. 

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

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Q2 2024 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your essay and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? 

Barbara: I feel called to explore and make sense of my life through writing memoir. Fortunately, I have kept journals since I was fourteen years old. In one of those journals, I captured my experience recounted in the essay on the day of its occurrence. Reflecting upon it now, years later, my independent recollection was richly enhanced by my efforts at the time to capture the experience in the journal. My memory of the experience was sparked by a conversation with friends about the commodification of travel as yet another form of consumerism. 

WOW: I love that you have not only been keeping journals since you were 14 years old, but that you also re-read and reflect on them and use them to create new work. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating this essay? 

Barbara: Creating the essay gave me the adventure of marrying my memory with both craft and reflection. 

WOW: Reflective writing can be so empowering. In what ways do you see your social justice and feminist advocacy intersecting with your creative writing? 

Barbara: Because my creative writing is usually in the genre of memoir, the voice always carries the notes of my life as experienced by a Black woman in the United States – so the bass guitar is always playing social justice and feminism. 

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

Barbara: bell hooks and Toni Morrison inspire me to trust myself and value my life. Nancy Aronie’s writing inspires by making clear that the reward for vulnerability is powerful connection with other human beings and her workshop made writing safe for me. Nadine Kenney Johnstone has an unshakeable belief in the value of women’s literary voices. Joanna Acevedo, a brilliant poet and CNF writer, is now my coach and taking me on a deeper exploration of craft accompanied by sister-Critique Group members Ruth O’Dell, Bliss Goldstein, Pamela Jackson, and Susan Wadds – and they inspire me every week to do the work, to be brave, to grow, to show up on the page. 

WOW: How wonderful to have found an amazing and supporting critique group! Thank you for sharing about the many people who have inspired you. If you could tell your younger self anything about writing, what would it be? 

Barbara: I began creative nonfiction writing in my late 60s. From my current perch of 75 years old, I would simply reassure her that publication is not the biggest reward. I find that writing leads me to deeper understanding of myself and my life – and that’s the precious reward. 

WOW: That’s important advice. That end goal of publishing often mutes the many benefits of the writing process. Thank you for sharing it with us. Anything else you’d like to add? 

Barbara: It is one of the great fortunes of my life to be in this community of women writers. 

WOW: And we are so fortunate to have you in the WOW! community! 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 creates sports stories by, for, and about sportswomen and amateur athletes. Engage on Twitter or Instagram @GreenMachine459.
Read More »

Friday Speak Out!: The Savvy Reader

Friday, June 14, 2024
by Megan Staffel

When I first started to write fiction, I was afraid to read. I didn’t want to pick up a published author’s style. We writers are good mimics and often, I would slide into the voice from whatever novel was my current book. But a life without reading fiction would have been dreary indeed, so luckily, I learned that the bits and pieces of other writers’ work sifting into my work would ultimately be transformed through the multiple revisions that anything I write goes through.

And when I started to teach, one of the things I enjoyed most about working with MFA students was discussing a literary work in class. Together, we would deconstruct a scene to figure out what made it compelling, and I would always learn from my students’ input. When I retired, it was that shared discovery that I most missed. So, now, on my own, when I finish a novel or story, I examine it as though I were preparing it for that class. This practice has turned into a Substack newsletter called, “Page and Story.” I give a brief description of the book or story to entice my readers, and then discuss an aspect of craft that the author does particularly well, showing how it shapes the narrative.

This close examination increases my enjoyment and I believe it helps me as a writer because it widens the possibilities. When I begin to write a new piece of fiction, do I want to start with a long shot as Dominic Smith does in Return to Valletto, situating the town within its landscape as the narrator approaches, or do I want to start with a close up, a view from a character’s interior as Margot Livesey does in the opening to The Road from Belhaven when Lizzie thinks about her visions? Or do I want to begin with a story that appears in a newspaper as in Clare Chambers novel, Small Pleasures? There are endless choices and from the fiction I’ve read I have a sense of how each choice affects the reader’s experience. Paying attention to the craft of a story I’m enjoying is reading like a writer and opening myself to methods that are different from the ones that may have become my default.

In my next posting I’ll discuss Held, a novel by Anne Michaels in which the narrative is episodic and fragmented and the story is not about characters in a particular time and place, but in multiple locations at different time periods. What unifies them is the theme of love. It’s a wholly original approach to narrative and the elasticity and suppleness Michaels gives it is exciting. Held has suggested new tools to consider as I work on my next piece of fiction, but even if I borrow something, my revision process will make it my own. What I’ve learned over these many years is that reading fiction while I’m writing fiction is necessary, helpful, and enriching.

* * *

photo credit Brian Oglesbee
Megan Staffel's new novel, THE CAUSATIVE FACTOR, won the Petrichor Prize at Regal House Publishing and will be published by Regal House in October 2024. She is the author of two recent collections of short fiction, THE EXIT COACH and LESSONS IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE (Four Way Books) and two novels, THE NOTEBOOK OF LOST THINGS (Soho Press) and SHE WANTED SOMETHING ELSE ( North Point Press) and a first collection of short stories, A LENGTH OF WIRE AND OTHER STORIES (Pym-Randall Press). Her short stories have appeared in numerous journals including the New England Review, Ploughshares, The Common, and others. Her stories have been shortlisted in Best American Short Stories and nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Megan taught in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College as well as at the University of Iowa, Kansas State University, Rochester Institute of Technology and Vermont College. She lives with ceramic artist Graham Marks and has two adult children. She splits her time between Brooklyn, New York and a farm in a small town in western New York State. 

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!
Read More »

The Role of an Unreliable Narrator

Thursday, June 13, 2024


I have a love-hate relationship with the unreliable narrator literary device. I love that a story told from the POV from an unreliable narrator can keep you turning pages, questioning reality, or maybe, gasping in surprise at the end of a book. (This was me recently, when my mouth dropped at the conclusion of Lisa Jewell’s suspense/thriller None of This is True, followed by me shaking a fist at my Kindle). 

An unreliable narrator is a protagonist who cannot be trusted to share events and recollections pertinent to the story accurately. Edgar Allan Poe used this device in the short story The Tell-Tale Heart, where a murderous narrator tries to defend his actions. Charlotte Perkins Gilman wanted to share the dangers of placating women and not believing their health issues in The Yellow Wallpaper, where the narrator has gone mad after being forced on prolonged bed rest for what was likely postpartum depression. 

I never realized it until I did a bit more research, but there can be at least three different types of unreliable narrators. According to this article on Reedsy, a Deliberately Unreliable narrator is completely aware of their deception. Amy Dunne from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl comes to mind with this one. One that is Evasively Unreliable is a character that unconsciously alters the truth. Josie from None of This is True, could fall into this category, along with Charlie from Riley Stager’s Survive the Night. The Naively Unreliable narrator is one that is honest but lacks a traditional, “greater” understanding (think five-year-old Jack in Rebecca Donoghue’s novel, Room.) 

I’ve been trying to figure out if I have an unreliable narrator in the manuscript I completed this past year as I put together comp titles for my query letter. The book is about a podcaster trying to solve the disappearance of her sister from a summer camp years earlier. The only descriptions of the missing sister, named Addie, are given through the lens of the protagonist, her younger sister Nikki, and through Addie’s diary entries that are shared throughout the book. Addie is hiding a dangerous secret, so many of these entries are purposefully ambiguous, until the very end of the book, where she finally decides to leave a record of the facts behind. (Of course, this diary has been missing for many years and only the readers are privy to the information until the conclusion). I can’t decide if this makes her a Naively Unreliable narrator or not. 

Other books with unreliable narrators include One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and The Murder of Roger Akroyd by Agatha Christie. 

What do you think about using an unreliable narrator as a literary device? What books have you read where you thought it worked well? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer currently seeking representation for her suspense/thriller novel, “It’s a Miracle I’m Alive.” She also produces the weekly true crime podcast, “Missing in the Carolinas,” which receives more than 50,000 downloads per year. Learn more at FinishedPages.com and MissingintheCarolinas.com.
Read More »

Interview with Mira Fu-En Huang, 2nd Place Winner in the WOW! Winter 2024 Flash Fiction Contest

Tuesday, June 11, 2024


Mira Fu-En Huang is a professional musician who likes to tell stories through singing as well as writing. When she is not dashing about for concerts or working her day-job in the nonprofit sector, Mira enjoys reading, writing, café-hopping, crafting, and collecting stuffed animals. She is currently working on a young adult coming-of-age novel (which may or may not ever see the light of day), and is honored to have her first publication under WoW. To learn more about Mira’s other work, please visit mirafuenhuang.com

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

WOW: Welcome, Mira, and congratulations on your win! The imagery in “That Place Beyond the Sky” is beautiful and evokes so much emotion. How did you get the idea for this story? 

Mira: I had no idea what I was going to write about until I read Hannah's bio [guest judge Hannah Andrade], which said she was "interested in stories that explore the intricacies of multicultural identities." I'm Taiwanese American, and as I typically engage in writing sci-fi and fantasy, I figured this could be a good incentive to write more explicitly about my identity. So, I thought about something uniquely Asian American from my childhood, and I ended up landing on my late grandfather. I would visit his grave as a child with my extended family, and all my relatives would line up to whisper prayers in Taiwanese, a language I didn't and still don't understand. I'd helplessly tell my mother that I didn't know what to say, and she'd reply, "Just tell him you hope he's happy in that place beyond the sky." So then I thought about the sky, and wishes, and the things we lose before we realize we've lost them, and I remembered that the floating lanterns you see in "Tangled" are actually from the Chinese and Taiwanese tradition. That's about it, really. 

WOW: As a professional vocalist, how did you first discover your love for the art form? 

Mira: Sheer exposure. I arbitrarily sang in choir as my childhood extracurricular, and after years and years of doing that multiple times a week, I stopped being able to imagine a world I could live in without singing. 

WOW: You have such an amazing array of talents. Along with your day job and performance schedule, how do you determine which projects to focus your interests on at any given time? 

Mira: For me, music—and to some degree my day job—are my life partners, while writing is my on-again-off-again love affair. I love singing and I love my day job, but I'm never so passionate that I lose sleep over them. Writing is more extreme for me; sometimes I'm unable to write properly for weeks, and sometimes I'm on such a roll, I find myself jotting down scenes during gigs or writing at 3 a.m. Because of that, whenever I'm compelled to write, I let it happen, and in those moments I push through all my other obligations with the help of a little luck and a lot of practice in time management. 

WOW: I love that description of writing being an on-and-off again love affair. Can you tell us a little about the young adult novel you’re working on? 

Mira: Broadly speaking, it's a character-driven story about identity, prejudice, and what it means to be "human." It takes place in a fictional world that's post-telephones, pre-Internet, but with some soft sci-fi elements thrown in. There are six major characters—a warrior princess, a child soldier, a teen idol and her bodyguard, an assassin with a bomb in his brain, and a girl who will die in thirty days—and they all cross paths as they get sucked into various aspects of a political coup. Needless to say, chaos ensues. I'd say I'm about a third of the way through the first major draft right now. 

WOW: Sounds like a compelling plot and I'm sending you positive writing vibes! How has your study of music inspired or influenced your writing? 

Mira: I think my background in music is most obvious in the mechanics of my prose, as well as the kind of content I gravitate toward when writing. As a singer specifically, I'm hugely concerned with how my prose sounds—I often select words according to their rhythms first, and meanings second. More importantly, though, I think my musical background inspires my interest in eliciting emotion. I love building worlds and characters, and I'm an absurdly meticulous and perhaps overly complex plotter, but ultimately, I'm most interested in writing in a way that is equivalent to getting chills after listening to a song. To me, the highest compliment is when someone says my work gives them "the feels," be that from music or from writing.

WOW: Mira, thank you again for joining us today and we look forward to reading more of your work!
Read More »

Reader Review Wrap Up and Giveaway for Karen Jones Gowen's We Burned Our Boats

Monday, June 10, 2024
Today I'm excited to host a reader review event for Karen Jones Gowen's We Burned Our Boats

We Burned Our Boats by Karen Jones Gowen

About the Book:

Bruce and Karen Gowen are facing a retirement that neither one wants. Bruce can't imagine life without employment. Karen wants change, adventure, a chance to spread her wings and fly away after thirty years of raising their large family.

Their opportunity comes in a way they can both support: helping their daughter and son-in-law with a hotel project in Panajachel, Guatemala.

Never ones to do anything half way, the Gowens sell everything, including one of their businesses. What they can't sell, they give away. With their worldly possessions down to two checked bags and two carry-ons each, they fly one way to Guatemala City. Then on to Panajachel, a tourist town on scenic Lake Atitlan, in the southern highlands of Guatemala.

Here they begin their new life, a time filled with incredible experiences, tough challenges, and unexpected adventure in one of the most beautiful settings on earth. A place where the Maya culture permeates the land. A land and people that will transform anyone fortunate enough to encounter the magic of these hills in Guatemala.

Publisher: ‎ WiDo Publishing (January 18, 2024)
Language: English
Paperback: 306 pages
ISBN-10: 1947966685
ISBN-13: 978-1947966680

We Burned Our Boats  is now available to purchase in print and as an e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Bookshop. Add it to your GoodReads reading listing as well.

We Burned Our Boats by Karen Jones Gowen Reader Review Event

Here's what WOW! readers thought:

Sara says: When starting this book I felt like I might struggle reading it. I’m new to reading for fun and have found thrillers keep my attention. Picking up this catchy title surprised me within the first couple chapters. I found myself dreaming of being in the writer’s shoes. I envy how she was able to let go of her possessions and start over. I’m in my mid 40s and have lived in a small town all my life. I cannot even imagine a different country. This book was amazing. I felt hope, promise, fear, hurt, struggle, love, and so many more emotions. Although I do not see myself ever taking a leap as Karen did, this past week of reading gave me such amazing adventure. I didn’t like setting my timer and quitting when it went off. By the second night I wanted to read to the end. 

If you are feeling stuck in your life, pick up this book. It was so energizing. So much adventure in so little time. Family always wins. Karen, I envy how Bruce saw the light. 

Joan says: This is a realistic account of leaving everything behind and traveling to a new country upon retirement. Their experiences were not always the wonderful adventures they had anticipated. Be ready to encounter some difficult family tension. (Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/203123046-we-burned-our-boats

Linda says: I really, really enjoyed the adventures of Karen and Bruce in Guatemala. I loved Karen’s “warts & all” descriptions of life as an expat in a country that is so different from their life in the USA. The dynamics between Bruce, Karen and their son in law had me in hysterics at times, but I can understand how frustrating it must have been at the time. I think my favorite part was Karen’s first jaunt on the paddle boards with said son in law - although I admire Karen’s bravery for attempting paddle boarding in the first place. My friends do it down my local river …. I’m too much of a scaredy-cat! 😊 Being an avid traveler, for real and as an “armchair traveler”, it made a refreshing change to read about a country not on the main tourist track - maybe more popular with Americans but I am from the UK. I have been close to the Guatemala border, in Mexico, so I loved remembering my time there, whilst reading the Gowan’s adventures. The descriptions are such that I could almost smell the spices through the pages….all in all, an excellent travelogue/memoir. 😊 

Katherine says: I found the title of the book was mysterious and I wanted to know more. The synopsis made the book sound like it was full of exciting experiences. I was intrigued so and happy when I got an eARC. I've never been any area of Central, or South, America. I'm passionate about Hispanic culture and fluent in Spanish. 

We Burned Our Boats is told openly and honestly. It's immediately visual and immersive, and I felt as if Brain and Karen Gowan had invited me along for the journey. I really liked them and their family members. I was happy that they decided to put their family first and go on an adventure. 

We Burned Our Boats is truly a testament to what turned out to be an unforgettable experience and to Karen, Brian and their family and the people they met along the way. It shows what can happen if you take a chance to make a change. 

We Burned Our Boats is an excellently written memoir that I will not forget. 

5 stars but it deserves more. 

Melissa says: Many people - me included – fantasize about giving up everything we know and going on a mad adventure in another place. Most of us never do so, but Brian and Karen Gowan did, and their story is chronicled in We Burned Our Boats

Part adventure-travel memoir, part personal examination, part analysis of a marriage and a life, the Gowans' story has it all: love, fear, courageous acts, and international intrigue. Okay, maybe more like being intrigued by new customs and habits. It's an easy read, and very vividly related. Karen's writing makes you feel like you're with them on their journey. 

I've never really considered relocating to Guatemala (my fantasies typically involve Fez or Marrakech), but this book made me almost – almost – consider it. 

I recommend We Burned our Boats to anyone who loves memoirs or travel, or travel-memoirs. 

Goes well with tostados and Moza dark lager. 

Stephanie says: Karen and Bruce are facing retirement and made a drastic decision to move to Guatemala to help their daughter and son-in-law open a hotel in Panajachel. They 'burned their boats' and either donated or sold everything they owned and went all in on their new plan. There was no turning back. This book chronicles that story with such detail that I could see the termites, smell the tamales and hear the foreign sounds. Rather than a lofty memoir with messages of transformation and deep learning, it's a day-to-day account of what it was like to literally begin a new life together. I was struck by their adventurous spirits, their devotion to family, their love for one another and their attitude of living life to the fullest surrounded by what matters most. 

Crystal says: I absolutely loved the inspirational book We Burned Our Boats by Karen Jones Gowen. I was looking for a book that was well written and would provide inspiration and this read checked all the boxes for me. Take a risk, live your life, and keep looking forward – this was absolutely a 5 star book that I will tell my friends and family about!

About the Author Karen Jones Gowen


Born and raised in central Illinois, Karen Jones Gowen attended Northern Illinois University in DeKalb and the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. She transferred to Brigham Young University, where she met her husband Bruce, and there graduated with a degree in English and American Literature.

Karen and Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing in Panajachel, Guatemala. They are the parents of ten children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Gowen's writing. She is the author of eight books.

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

Enter to win a copy of the memoir We Burned Our Boats by Karen Jones Gowen! Fill out the Rafflecopter form for a chance to win. The giveaway ends June 23rd at 11:59 CT. We will choose a winner the next day and announce in the widget and also follow up via email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Read More »

Interview with Tess Kelly: Q2 2024 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Runner Up

Sunday, June 09, 2024
Tess Kelly

Tess’s Bio:

 Tess Kelly’s work has appeared in Cleaver, HerStry, Dorothy Parker’s Ashes and Sweet Lit, among other publications. Her essay, “Woman in the Covid Bubble” was the first place winner in the Women’s National Book Association 2021 writing contest, in the category of flash prose. A former public school teacher, Tess lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.

----- Interview by Angela Mackintosh

WOW: Welcome, Tess! I'm thrilled to interview you today about your beautifully written, award-winning essay, "Facade." What was your initial spark or "way in" to writing this essay?

Tess: First of all, thank you for this opportunity!

There wasn't an initial spark for the writing—it was more like smoldering embers. I spent a long time struggling to leave someone who could no longer suppress her desire to transition. I had grappled with the dilemma for years so the story had plenty of time to percolate. It was just a matter of re-reading pertinent journal entries and clarifying my thoughts in essay form. It was the second piece I'd written on the topic. The first was "Last Week," about our last week together, but I wanted to dig deeper into what it meant to be involved with someone whose attempts to be true to herself ultimately drove us apart.

WOW: Oh wow, thank you for sharing "Last Week"! I love the daily format, and it's so great to see the different ways we can write about a topic. With "Facade," I also loved your structure and pacing, and I was moved by your honesty. You've written a well-balanced, complete story arc—with rising tension and a climax—in so few words. And your theming is tight—how it starts and ends with the image of your partner's face and how it had changed, which also emphasizes your title. How long did it take to write, and how did it change over time? Did you have to cut a lot?

Tess: Over the course of a year and a half I went through about a dozen rewrites. This was a piece that didn't change much over time. The content was mostly the same, I just played around with the language. I actually added a little volume to it, instead of cutting. That's not how it always works, but it did in this case.

WOW: It's nice when that happens! So I looked up your essay, "Woman in the Covid Bubble," which won first place in the Women’s National Book Association 2021 writing contest, flash category. It really captures what life was like during Covid, and the use of second person amplifies that feeling for the reader. Well done! The structure is sharp, too. I can tell you study CNF forms. Who are some of your favorite creative nonfiction writers?

Tess: There are so many inspiring essayists to learn from! A few that I especially like are Eula Biss, Poe Ballantine, Samantha Irby, Heather Sellers, Brian Doyle, and Jamaica Kincaid.

WOW: Great essayists! I'm a fan as well. You've had your work published in a lot of wonderful literary journals. Do you have any tips or resources you can share with our writers for targeting potential publications for your CNF?

Tess: If I read an essay that resonates with me or seems to be similar to my style of writing I'll see where else the writer's work has appeared and research those publications. I use Submittable as a means to see who's looking for CNF or flash submissions. If I've never heard of a publication I'll check it out and read at least a few pieces to see if it's a good enough fit. It's a numbers game, as far as I'm concerned. I know writers who are far more accomplished than me that only get about one in ten pieces published. There's a lot of competition, especially with the better-known journals, but it's important to consistently submit in order to get accepted occasionally.

WOW: Agreed! It's very competitive out there, but we've got to keep submitting. What's your favorite piece of writing advice?

Tess: I don't know if I have an all-time favorite. I just finished reading Stephen King On Writing and one of the things I found fascinating is that he said he puts his first drafts in a drawer and lets them sit for six months before looking at the writing again. Six months! Apparently it gives King a perspective he wouldn't have otherwise and gives him the ability to more easily cut what doesn't belong. I've never waited six months after a first draft but I do sometimes put a piece aside for a few weeks. It definitely helps to give me the detachment I need as an editor.

WOW: I actually read On Writing for the first time last year, and I remember that piece of advice. Six months is a long time! So what are you working on right now?

Tess: I've been working on an essay on getting older that explores my fear of death. Fun stuff!

WOW: Ha! Sounds incredible, and I hope to read it when it publishes. Thank you, Tess, for chatting with me! Congrats again on your placement in the contest and for writing an incredible essay. It's such a pleasure to read your writing. 

Find out more about WOW's quarterly flash contests here: https://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php

Read More »

Reader Review Wrap Up and Giveaway for Elizabeth Maria Naranjo's What Was Never There

Friday, June 07, 2024
What Was Never There by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo

Today, I'm thrilled to share a reader review event for Elizabeth Maria Naranjo's short story collection, What Was Never There.  

About the book:

A mother and daughter lost in the woods must overcome their worst fears to find their way back. A father going through a divorce witnesses a seemingly impossible motorcycle accident, which forces him to question the truth of his own perceptions. A little boy with a terrible secret routinely steals away at night to meet a girl beneath a willow tree—only to discover she has a secret of her own.

What Was Never There is a collection of short stories with the common theme of memory, or rather, the way memory haunts us.

Includes Pushcart Prize nominated stories “We Never Get to Talk Anymore” and “The Dinosaur Graveyard” and the award-winning “Windows,” selected for Best Microfiction 2023.

ISBN-13: 979-8866571697
Publisher: Independent (December 2023)
Length: 276 Pages

What Was Never There is available in print and as an ebook at Amazon. Add it to your Goodreads list.

What Was Never There by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo Reader Review Event and Giveaway

Here is what WOW! readers had to say about What Was Never There by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo:

Rosh says: An indie short story collection with a mix of emotional and bittersweet tales. The writing is exceptional, but the endings could have worked better for me as many fail to provide resolution. A great option for those who are more about the journey than about the destination. (Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/6402014039

Katherine says: What Was Never There got me interested just from the title. The premise is gripping. I wanted to find out more. It sounded so mysterious. The first story was just perfect to start the book off and left me feeling warm, fuzzy and satisfied. I eagerly progressed through the book and enjoyed it so much. (Read the full review here: (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/6354395031

Beth says: I was pleasantly surprised to find variety in the collection and especially liked the varied lengths of the stories in this collection. The author has a beautiful talent for imagery and placing her reader in the scene. (I have a willow tree in my front yard and can attest to how magical it is to step under it!) (Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/6516657641

Angela says: What a captivating short story collection! I enjoyed the variety of stories in What Was Never There by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo. What ties them together is a cohesive style, which comes from Elizabeth’s sparkling prose, authentic characters, and atmospheric settings. Reading one is like having lived in a dream with all its vivid surrealism. I couldn’t stop thinking about these stories and their open endings, which are very much alive and breathing. (Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/6517803976

Leslie says: These stories are filled with wonder, too. There was really nothing off the table for this author. I really enjoyed how she wrote her stories to engage the reader (ok, me!), and this is an author that I wouldn’t mind reading more from in the future. (Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/6508736915

Lily says: A beautiful collection of short stories, many of which will tug at your heart strings. Each story is unique, and often deal with difficult themes. Memory and the past that shape us are complicated things, and change people differently. Naranjo did an amazing job of drawing you into each story, and while they vary in length, I wouldn’t mind spending more time with the characters in some. The stories that revolved around the memories of children were the most memorable for me, but each story sticks with you a bit after you finish. Overall, the short stories have a literary fiction vibe, but shorter than what you’d normally associate with that genre. Definitely recommend this if you’re looking for a collection of emotional short stories. (Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/6544848733)

Andrea says: As a reader, I find it difficult to resist the allure of a well written short story, so when I came across Elizabeth Maria Naranjo’s collection in her book, What Was Never There, I was thrilled. In this collection, Ms. Naranjo brings to the forefront the things we fear, the things that cause us to worry, the things that make our blood simmer with dread, and has spun them into tales woven deeply with both imagination and realism. From the first story to the last I was captivated - instantly immersed in worlds and scenarios that left me satisfied yet curious. All the while contemplating the fact that it is not the trials we face, but how we deal with them that truly matters. What Was Never There is a collection of short stories worthy of reading, and one that I will surely turn to again and again. (Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/6548270450)

Anthony says: Thoughtful, imaginative, and engaging author Elizabeth Maria Naranjo’s What Was Never There is a must-read short story collection. The fast pace and compelling storytelling instantly draw the reader in, and the emotional connection they make with each story will make them eager for more of this author's moving work. (Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/6556098409

Allie says: I am so happy that it was suggested that I read and review Elizabeth Maria Naranjo's book of short stories, What Was Never There. What a delight! Elizabeth has a way of writing that is lyrical and poetic. Each story was engaging and I was drawn in by her beautiful, descriptive words. While each story was different, her style remained consistent. I have read some reviews where the reader felt that the stories did not come to a clear conclusion. I, personally, like a story that allows the reader to think and, perhaps, come to their own conclusion. It is a good story, or book, when the reader is left thinking about what happened. I look forward to reading more from Elizabeth Maria Naranjo! (Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/6547033422)

About the author, Elizabeth Maria Naranjo:

Elizabeth Maria Naranjo

Elizabeth Maria Naranjo is the author of The Fourth Wall, The House on Linden Way, and What Was Never There. Her stories and essays have been widely published and nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best American Essays, and Best of the Net, and her short story, “Windows,” was selected for Best Microfiction 2023. She lives in Tempe, Arizona, with her husband and two children.

Visit her website at www.elizabethmarianaranjo.com.
Twitter/X: @emarianaranjo

What Was Never There by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo

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

Enter to win a copy of the short story collection, What Was Never There by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo! Fill out the Rafflecopter form for a chance to win. The giveaway ends June 20th at 11:59 CT. We will choose a winner the next day and announce in the widget and also follow up via email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Read More »

Creating a People List

Thursday, June 06, 2024
How do you keep track of all your writing related info? I have books about intriguing topics. Newspaper and magazine articles stuffed into the idea file in my file cabinet. I’m also a list keeper. Lists of plotlines. Lists of topics for essays. Lists of agents. Lists of publishers. 

There used to be business cards too. But business cards have gone the way of the Rolodex and with them, the memory of many interesting people I meet. In the past few weeks I’ve touched base – either in real life or virtually -- with so many unusual people:

  1. A race car driver
  2. A writer who accidentally wrote a blog that became a novel --- in Sweden
  3. A woman trying to open her own home bakery
  4. A kitchen and bathroom designer
  5. A fireworks technician
  6. Several marathon runners
  7. A tween who started his own business
  8. Someone who attended a Taylor Swift concert in London.
  9. A volunteer in a program introducing middle and high school students to careers in the medical field
  10. A blueberry salesperson
All have fascinating stories to tell but none fit anything I’m working with right now. In the past I would promise myself to file these people away in my memory for later. When I had time to find the ideal market or angle. The problem is that later never seems to come. I get busy with this or that and eventually that fascinating person is just a vague wisp of a memory of something I should have jumped on but didn’t. Names, places, contact information fades away.

For years I’ve been telling myself I have a terrible memory. I promise myself I will remember these fascinating people and for a time I do. Then I forget. Turns out I don’t have a bad memory.

According to researchers at the University of Southern California, forgetting isn’t a failure of your brain to work properly. Instead, it’s your brain working properly, weeding out what it determines is unimportant knowledge. That’s why you remember where you store the slow cooker but not the ant traps. You and your family rely on that slow cooker for some great stew every winter. You haven’t used an ant trap since the invasion of 2014 so although you know there are ant traps somewhere in the house, sometime in the past decade your brain did some sorting and tossed ant trap location information into the not needed pile. But now you need that info! So this sorting business is a little tricky.

One day the practical part of my brain (let’s call her Ms. Brain) is in the middle of the sorting process and realizes there are no articles about blueberries, fireworks or race cars in my immediate future. Obviously, she should jettison the blueberry salesperson, marathon runners and race car driver memories. Ms. Brain is certain she’s doing a good job kicking them to the curb. The difficulty occurs months later when the Writer decides to query a magazine with an article about dangerous jobs and can’t remember the name of that race car driver or fireworks technician! The Writer is frustrated with struggling to remember while I’m certain Ms. Brain is saying, “Seriously, you have never written anything about racing. You expected me to keep the racecar driver?”

Since Ms. Brain and The Writer can't agree, I’ve started a new list. The People List. Now, when I meet interesting people I immediately add them to my People List along with any details like how we met, their contact info, what makes them an interesting person. I’ve also found it’s a great way to encourage people to keep me apprised of updates in their story. “I don’t have any articles featuring fill-in-the-blank right now. However, you’re so fascinating I’d like to add you to my Interesting People List. Please let me know if you have any new developments.”

Now, when I come across a new writing market or need an idea for a story, instead of struggling to pull back discarded memories I have my handy People List to prompt me. I may have had no direction when I met these people but with time, sometimes an article idea begins to take shape. But it’s a lot easier if I remember people’s names!

How do you remember interesting people and facts that you may one day use in your writing?

Jodi M. Webb writes from her home in the Pennsylvania mountains. She is hoping to meet lots of interesting people this summer to add to her People List. She's also a blog tour manager for WOW-Women on Writing and a freelance writer for anyone who will have her. Get to know her @jodiwebbwrites,  Facebook and blogging at Words by Webb.

Read More »

Interview with Leslie Fiering: Winter 2024 Flash Fiction Contest First Place Place Winner

Tuesday, June 04, 2024
At the age of five, Leslie Fiering promised herself she’d live in California someday. At fifteen, she was horse crazy and wanted to live on a horse farm someday. At twenty, she got to California but didn't have a horse farm yet. Now, at the age of seventy-three, she has spent the past twenty-three years owning and happily living on a horse farm overlooking the California coast.

In the interim, she worked for a technology think tank writing about personal computing and mobile computing trends as well as their impact on work, play and business. Recent retirement has given her the luxury of spending more time on her farm as well as following her passion for writing both memoir and fiction. Her essay, “On the Road to Being” was recently published in the anthology, The Gift of a Long Life: Personal Essays on the Aging Experience (The Birren Center, March 2024).

interview by Marcia Peterson 

WOW: Congratulations on winning first place in our Winter 2024 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to write your story, "House Specials at the Castaway Grill?” Hope it wasn’t based on your own dating experience!

Leslie: The story started as an exercise in using a hermit crab structure. Like a real life hermit crab, this type of story grows inside an existing structure, maybe a list, an itinerary or a series of social media posts. I chose the courses from a restaurant menu.

Somehow the pre-existing structure made it easy to abandon my usual top-down, plotter approach. I had fun seeing what came up from imagining the most tantalizing course options and then inventing the most outrageous situations to prevent eating any of them. The story just rolled along from there. And yes, it’s totally fiction, except for the parts that aren’t.

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

Leslie: Remember that flash fiction’s limited word count won’t let you write War and Peace. Rather than coming up with a big idea and then trying to squish it into the flash fiction format, think small. Imagine a single situation, or a single person, or a single object or place, and try to work out what led to it or where things will go from there. Let the story unfold from that premise, but don’t tell us everything you know. As you introduce people, places or important objects, use a poet’s mind to distill their essence in a few telling details, especially details that you can reuse through the story with increasing intensity.

Over time, you’ll develop a feel for how much real estate flash fiction gives you, how much you can fit in. Surprisingly, as you get more comfortable with the format, you’ll find you can fit more details, more themes, more drama into the limited word count.

Writing flash fiction is a skill you can learn. Be patient. Persist.

WOW:  Since your story had a lot of delicious food and beverage references, what’s your favorite writing snack or drink?

Leslie:  Hot tea and dark chocolate.

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

Leslie: The most recent read was H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. While I’m an omnivorous reader, anything from 19th century novels to books on science, history and culture, to contemporary fiction and even YA novels, hard science fiction remains a life-long favorite.

Steam punk is a science fiction sub-genre that Wikipedia tells us “ incorporates retrofuturistic 
technology and aesthetics.” It’s often set in the Victoria era using existing steam-based technology to power analogs for our more modern gadgets. In other words, this style of writing brings its own 20th and 21st century assumptions back in time with it.

Published in 1898, War of the World reverses the trope by relying on contemporary Victorian political, social and technology norms. Taking place in rural England, one is struck by the limits in transportation.

People are fighting each other to acquire horses as the chief means of fleeing the alien invaders. More importantly, communication is limited.

Telephones, even household electrification, are scarce outside the major cities, leaving couriers, post service or word of mouth as the main ways to spread news. Someone living only two towns away might be totally ignorant of catastrophic events less than 20 miles down the road.

From a writer’s perspective, I was taken by the crispness and efficiency of Wells’ language. He quickly sets time and place then builds the level of uncertainty by revealing seemingly impossible and conflicting details. As readers, we learn what is happening at the same time as the characters themselves, following them to the very nadir of hopelessness and despair.

Wells’ understanding of how people in crowds and as individuals react in the face of emergency wouldn’t seem out of place today.

Overall, the work hangs suspended between the romanticism of 19th century novels and the modernism that would soon characterize early 20th century literature. Now, more than a century and a quarter after publication, it’s still a great read!

WOW:  Great recommendation and explanation! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Leslie. Before you go, can you share a favorite writing tip or piece of advice?

Leslie:  Anne Lamott famously said that no one has to read your first draft. The most important thing is to sit down and write. Get everything out without worrying whether it’s good or bad. You can always go back and revise or even start all over. The important thing is to show up and keep writing.

Of course, that’s also the hard part.

Read More »
Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top