Friday Speak Out!: Why I Write

Friday, February 26, 2021
by Anne Marie Scala

I write because I can’t not write.

Anyone who gets as wildly excited as I do when Staples has notebooks on sale for $.25 has to write. Finding my favorite pens makes me feel like a kid on Christmas morning.

Writing is part of who I am.

Almost a decade ago, I attempted to turn my writing hobby into a profession. Despite initially having success, I couldn't find a rhythm to sustain it for long. A year of overwhelm and exhaustion followed and I concluded my energy would be better spent elsewhere.

Recent events propelled me to revisit my dream of being a writer. Hoping to avoid my previous missteps, I signed up for a course offered by an experienced writing coach.

Before diving in, she encouraged me to explore these inquiries:

Why does writing matter to me?

Why do I feel compelled to write?

Writing matters to me because it is the primary way I care for myself. When I can’t find my footing, it grounds me. When I’m stuck, it sets me free. Without a writing practice, I'm lost. Wherever I am in the world, it brings me home.

Writing expands my self-awareness. Scribbling sentences sets a stage for emotions to safely speak. Journaling reveals invaluable insights and riveting revelations, celebrates joy and love, and sheds light on negative patterns and choices that may change them. These discoveries allow me to show up in the world as a better version of myself.

My coach invited me to dive deeper: Why do I want to share my writing? Particularly when the process of getting published can be excruciating.

I want to share because I believe in the power of words and their unmatched ability to uplift, encourage and empower.

I want to share to honor all the writers whose stories changed my life. Growing up, I felt different from those around me. It was words written by people I never met that made me feel seen and understood. Had these courageous authors chosen not to share, I don’t know where I would be right now.

I want to share because I am raising artists. I want to set a good example by experiencing all the emotions that accompany an artist’s journey. The exhilaration of accomplishment; the agony of unmet expectations and everything in between.

This inquisitive writing exercise has proved invaluable. My responses anchor me. ‘My whys’ tether me to my truth and hold me steady so I can stay the course as I navigate life as a writer.

* * *
Anne Marie Scala is a freelance writer who has been published in the Elephant Journal, Scary Mommy and Her View From Home. She’s also an educator and community volunteer who appreciates a good book, a good run, and a good football game. Anne Marie lives in New Jersey with her husband and two teenage daughters. You can follow her on Instagram @ anne_marie_scala
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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3 Reasons to Keep Writing

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Not long ago, I attended a webinar on writing concept books. For those of you who don’t write for kids, a concept book is a picture book about . . . a concept. Alphabet books, counting books, and books about the Fibonacci sequence are all concept books. Yes, there are picture books about the Fibonacci sequence. Check out Joyce Sidman’s Swirl by Swirl and Sarah Campbell’s Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. 

The presenter for the webinar was Liz Garton-Scanlon and she recommended a long list of concept books. When they arrived, I eagerly sat down to read. I had to laugh after I finished One Dark Bird by Liz Garton-Scanlon and Counting Crows by Kathi Appelt. Both are counting books about black birds. 

I couldn’t help but wonder what Garton-Scanlon thought if she discovered Counting Crows (2015) while she was working on One Dark Bird (2019). The good news is that she both found publishers because they are very different books.  There is room for both. 


How often do we put an idea aside when we hear someone is working on something similar? What we need to do is keep writing and here is why. 

Imaginary Dragons 

Writing is tough enough without us creating imaginary problems. When you hear about a book in production that sounds like your own idea, a counting book about birds, it can be easy to become discouraged. "Someone beat me to it!"   Maybe yes. Maybe no. If the piece hasn’t been published, you may be assuming it is too like your own work, because your work will be told through . . . 

Your POV 

When you write, you tell the fiction or nonfiction story through your individual point of view (POV). No matter what you are writing it will somehow reflect your unique take on the world. That other author? Even siblings have different experiences and look at things differently. What is the chance that this author will see things just like you do? Pretty slim. So keep writing. 

Reslant or Reimagine 


If you can read the other writer’s work, do. Although it probably isn't very like your own idea, it may be. And if it is, you can reslant or reimagine your own work. A nonfiction picture book could become fiction. Or you might write it for older readers. A book for an educational publisher will be different than one written for a trade publisher or a regional publisher. A picture book? It may be fully illustrated but it is different from a graphic novel.

Whether you are writing a counting book, a book about birds, or even one about the Fibonacci sequence, there is almost always room for more than one book. You simply need to find your unique point of view and the piece that only you could write. 


--SueBE


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 27 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.


Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins March 1, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins  March 1, 2021). 

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When Size Matters

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

         Sometimes bigger is better. A bigger paycheck. A larger brownie (which results in a bigger butt, which is not a good thing). A bigger spot to parallel park into.

And sometimes smaller is better. A smaller waist (for me, that train left the station decades ago). A gift in a tiny box from your SO at Christmas. A smaller credit card bill.

Sometimes, as writers, we dream of running with the big dogs. Signing with a big publisher. Getting a big advance. Getting big, splashy promotion events set up.

I thought about this after I read Cathy C. Hall’s post. It came at the perfect time, because recently my manuscript was accepted by a small publisher. Margo Dill began her press not long ago. I think she’s published around 10 books so far. As far as I know, it’s just Margo. She doesn’t have a staff (although her daughter might do some reading of the kids’ books to give her official “thumbs-up” approval). Her business is small, and the way she does business is personal… which I love.

Here are some things that are happening with Margo that I think would be impossible if I had been accepted by a bigger publisher:



Google image


  • Our contract--The publishing contract went through some changes. There were things I didn’t understand. She rewrote it to spell things out to me. After much thought, I decided I didn’t want to make any money from this book. Margo altered the contract to reflect that, and made arrangements to collect my proceeds until they amount to something… and then I’ll decide what Tulsa-based group will benefit from the book sales. I don’t think a bigger publisher would be as flexible or as accommodating as Margo has been.


  • My book cover--I knew a talented artist, and I hoped she would be able to create the cover. Margo was happy to let that happen. Of course, she would have to approve the cover, and she suggested some minor changes with the title (she was so right) and now the cover is real and it’s spectacular (if you’re a fanatical Seinfeld fan, you’re welcome). With a bigger publisher, most of the time they arrange for an artist, and it’s their choice. If a writer is lucky, they’ll have some input. Sometimes, they have none. The cover--the first thing a prospective reader sees--is out of the author’s hands.


  • Editing--A few nights ago, I got an email about the edits I’m going to have to make. Margo wasn’t quite ready--hadn’t finished yet--and wondered if the timeline was too tight for me. Would I be able to do the editing by the end of February? If she was asking too much, she said she could change the timeline to accommodate me. How thoughtful. I don’t imagine a bigger publisher would consider my needs and my responsibilities. I imagine with a big press, I’d be left with footprints on my back as they ran over me, hurrying to the next project.


Okay, to be completely honest, if my manuscript had been accepted by a big publisher and I had the chance to get a cushy advance and I was getting into the Stephen King stratosphere of success because of the contract, I would have loved it. However, I like being part of a small press. Margo doesn’t have dozens of authors to promote. I appreciate being one of the fish in her just-right pond…


How about you? What experiences have you had--with publishers, agents, writing conferences, critique groups? Were they big or small? What size is “just right” from your perspective?


Sioux Roslawski is a middle school teacher, a freelance writer, and in April she’ll have her middle-grade historical novel debut. Henry’s Story: Greenwood Gone is about the Tulsa Race Massacre. If you’d like to read more of Sioux’s writing, check out her blog.



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Success Is Yours To Share

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

We write a lot about success on this blog—last week on Wednesday, Cathy C. Hall wrote about the seduction of the spectacular. Sometimes, we're chasing the spectacular—an agent, the best-sellers' list, a no. 1 badge—and we don’t celebrate success of all kinds, like a published book with a smaller publisher or a story published on a website. 

I nodded my head the whole time I read Cathy's post because I'm the worst offender of this. I'll look at all I've accomplished so far and constantly be disappointed in myself that it’s not enough--there aren't enough reviews or followers or national publications on my bio. I had a book review column in the Sunday edition of The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana IL) for six years, which is pretty cool, but my brain will say: Well, it wasn't The Chicago Tribune.

Sometimes, this type of thinking serves me well because it helps with my drive and persistence. These thoughts keep me achieving more and more. But it's also exhausting and probably not very mentally healthy. I'm always telling everyone else that we should celebrate every success from accomplishing a short-term goal to getting twenty reviews on Amazon to making the New York Times Best Sellers List.  Celebrating success helps to keep us going with our writing. It gives us an "attitude of gratitude." And success—big or small—is something to turn to when we're feeling down about a rejection or a one-star review.

This is why I LOVE that I am the collector of success stories for WOW! If you're a Facebook page member or Instagram follower, you've probably seen a post like the one I posted yesterday:


But if not, (and this past week, I received the nicest email from one of my e-newsletter subscribers who reminded me that everyone is not on social media) you may have missed these posts. I try to ask for success stories every month (especially when Ang, our fearless leader, reminds me!) for the Markets eNewsletter, and this is one of my favorite parts of the social media manager job. I love reading your success stories. They are so inspiring--from someone saying she finally got the courage to submit her work for the first time to someone landing an agent--I love them all. 

The other thing this Success Stories column does (while I put it together and then hopefully for you if you read it in the Markets Newsletter) is show you all the opportunities there are out there for writing. You don't have to fit into a box. There's not even a writing box any more. There are so many ways to get your words out in the world, and each one of them matters--from your own blog to self-publishing to literary magazines to traditional publishers. 

So...if you have a success story and you're reading this column today, please put it in the comments below or email me at margo (at) wow-womenonwriting.com and put SUCCESS STORY in the subject line. But to make it in the February Markets eNewsletter, do it today, February 23, or save it for March! 

The other fun post we had on social media the other day, which I would love to put in the Markets Newsletter with the Success Stories column, is this writing "exercise" we posted with a photo, asking for a caption. (If you are on social media and you haven't connected with us yet, we do post a lot of reminders about classes and book tours; highlight our contest winners, bloggers, and freelancers; and we also post encouraging quotes, poll questions, writing exercises, and questions where we ask for answers in GIFs or one word--so what are you waiting for?) 

If you'd like to leave a caption below in the comments for our photo below (from Shutterstock), then please do! You can do both your successes and a caption in the same comment if you choose to do both, but separate comments are also fine:

What's your caption? Put in the comments!



 
Even if you decide to do neither one today, I hope that you'll take some time to celebrate anything you've accomplished during an almost year-long pandemic. If you've sat down at your keyboard, taken a writing class, been reading in your genre, that's amazing, and all of those put you one step closer to whatever your goal is for your writing. 


We hope to hear from a lot of you either below or on social media or in my inbox.

Here's to success! 

Margo L. Dill is the managing editor of WOW! Women on Writing and the collector of success stories! Plus, she teaches the novel coaching class which starts on 3/5. You can reach her at margo (at) wow-womenonwriting.com. To find out more about her books for kids, visit margoldill.com. To discover more about her publishing company, Editor-911 Books, and to enter their recent warm-up winter contest for a $25 gift card (before 2/28), visit the website here


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Save the Cat! Online Class & Story Cards Blog Tour & Giveaway

Monday, February 22, 2021

We are excited to announce the launch of another Save the Cat!® blog tour. If you are finally ready to outline your novel or screenplay, you'll want to follow along on this tour. We'll be talking about their Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course and their Story Cards

First, what is Save the Cat!®? 

Save the Cat! provides writers the resources they need to develop their screenplays and novels based on a series of best-selling books, primarily written by Blake Snyder (1957- 2009). Blake’s method is based on 10 distinctive genres and his 15 story beats (the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet). Our books, workshops, story structure software, apps, and story coaching teach you everything you need to unlock the fundamentals and mechanics of plot and character transformation. 

Find out more about Save the Cat! by visiting their webpage at https://savethecat.com/.

About the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course

Behind the Scenes at Save the Cat!

This course is designed for writers to turn their idea into a movie or novel. This learn-at-your-own-pace online class helps you develop the 15 key “beats” or “plot points” of your story. Strung together, in the right order, these 15 beats make up the blueprint to a successful screenplay or novel. 

You'll Turn an Idea into a Story by Learning to:

• Create a solid beat sheet that will serve as the road map, and “backbone” of your story 
• Identify and know the key components of your story genre 
• Learn the clichés of your genre so that you can break them like an artist 
• Plot your hero’s journey and “transformation” 
• Troubleshoot your story idea for viability 
• Write a compelling logline or elevator pitch 

This Course Is for Those Who:

• Want to troubleshoot an existing story 
• Have so many great ideas and struggle to choose "the one" 
• Are ready to write but not sure how to start 
• Are determined to finish a half-written story 
• Want to learn 

This Course Includes:

• Over 3 hours and 17 minutes of original video production 
• 9 downloadable worksheets • 3 reading assignments (book not included) 
• 4 homework assignments 

Course Value: $59 

Find out more information about the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Online Course by visiting https://www.savethecatcourses.com/courses/cracking-the-beat-sheet.

About Save the Cat! Story Cards


Save the Cat Story Cards

Introducing Save the Cat!®Story Cards, consisting of Save the Cat! Beat Cards and Save the Cat! Scene Cards, all designed to outline and develop your story. 

Save the Cat! Beat Cards 

Crack your story from the “Opening Image” to the “Final Image.” Save the Cat!® Beat Cards provide writers with the 15 key plot points to map out your script or novel. Every set contains 15 individual index cards with helpful explanations of each beat to form the foundation of your story. 

Save the Cat! Scene Cards 

Every scene of your story needs to communicate “place,” “basic action,” “emotional transformation,” and “outcome.” The Save the Cat!® Scene Cards help writers nail the purpose of every scene. Each set of cards contains 40 color-coded cards broken down by act, with 10 extra cards because we know you’ll need them. 

Cards Value: $10.95 

Find out more information about Story Cards at https://savethecat.com/story-cards.

More information about Save the Cat!:

-- Interview by Nicole Pyles

WOW: First of all, I want to say how excited I am to have you back and see what new amazing thing Save the Cat is bringing us! What inspired you to create a writing class based upon the Save the Cat! books? 

Jason: Thanks so much for the great question – as you can imagine the pandemic has hit so many of us incredibly hard, especially the isolation; however, the unforeseen upside we found was that so many of us wanted to use that time and energy to become creatively productive. This inspired us to do the same. Save the Cat! is the world’s best-selling storytelling method from novels to screenplays, so why not play our part and bring our method to life in an on-demand, learn at your own pace course called Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet – an incredibly productive set of videos with assignments designed to organize and focus the writer’s creative energy into their story. 

WOW: I really love that you used the pandemic to inspire you to create something so creatively inspired. What can people expect from the course? 

Jason: There are a lot of classes out there, most feel-like academic exercises with tons of fluff – not us! We created something completely different, a course that clarifies where there is confusion with a core goal of having fun! Yes, fun! Writing is an exercise in learning and creating, and when done right, it brings a huge smile. We hit it all in this course!

WOW: Fun is so important when it comes to learning! Who is this course ideal for? 

Jason: The Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Course is designed for all those who want to create or tighten a screenplay or novel. No matter if you’re new or a professional writer, you’ll learn how to straighten your story spine, nail a title, and crack your story’s beat sheet or outline. Feel free to connect with me directly at jason.kolinsky@savethecat.com with any questions about how it’s right for you. 

WOW: Thank you so much for that! So, how can this course help writers figure out which story to write? 

Jason: The Save the Cat! Beat Sheet helps any writer figure out if their story has legs. It guides writers to truly break story. Come to the course with an open mind and you’ll finish the course with a fresh understanding of your creative journey. 

WOW: That would be so helpful. So, how do the story cards help writers develop their writing? 

Jason: So happy to be introducing the Save the Cat! Story Cards. Blake Snyder, author and co-founder of Save the Cat!, liked to say that the Board is the most vital piece of equipment a writer needs to have at their disposal—next to paper and pen. To help all writers deliver on that statement, we created two sets of cards that would make Blake proud. The Save the Cat! Beat Cards to help map out the beats of your screenplay or novel and the Save Cat! Scene Cards which guide you to identify the meaning of every scene. Included in every set of cards is an example card that shows how you fill out every section. The scene cards are conveniently color-coded and the beat cards are numerically labeled for when you’re ready to lay them out on your board, wall, or table. 

WOW: Storyboarding writing is so helpful. What advice do you have on how to approach the story cards? 

Jason: The writer’s board really is the best tool for a writer. It’s used in writers’ rooms all around the world for a reason, it allows you to see where the story is going and if you’re getting there. These cards are so helpful and they very much work as intended. I can’t wait to hear more stories of how writers applied the cards. 

WOW: That's so amazing! What type of feedback are you seeing on both the course and the story cards? 

Jason: Game changing. Seriously. The positive reviews and personal emails have been overwhelming. We’ve heard from established pros who are using the cards. Ideas are turning into stories, structure is being applied creatively, and writers are feeling more organized with the ability to troubleshoot with ease. It’s really great.

WOW: How cool is that? What is Save the Cat! working on next? 

Jason: It’s not been released yet, but it will be on March 30th – so it’s news you’re getting ahead of most… and it’s going to be ground breaking. It’s our latest book, Save the Cat! Writes For TV: The Last Book on Creating Binge-Worthy Content You’ll Ever Need. 

Early reviews are in from some of the most respected writers like 9-time Emmy winner Steven Levitan, Co-Creator of Modern Family who said “While I wish it were called Save the Dog!, I believe Save the Cat! can open eyes and demystify some of the biggest challenges TV writers face on that daunting blank page.” You can pre-order here

WOW: Lastly, what advice do you have for writers wanting to finish their novel this year? 

Jason: The best advice comes from Blake Snyder: “The worst thing that can happen in storytelling is not to finish. Half-written screenplays and novels never sell.” This means so much on so many levels. Finish what you start, so that you can move forward!

WOW: That's such good advice. Tell me about the impact of Save the Cat! on the writing world.

Jason: That’s a deep question – one that I think about everyday – and I think it comes down to language. Save the Cat! has become the shared language of storytellers. It’s the connective tissue in writers’ room and meeting rooms – it’s how writers, directors, producers, and executives all communicate and fundamentally understand each other. It’s what we are most proud of. 

WOW: I completely agree! It's transformed the writing world completely. Thank you so much for joining us today and I can't wait to see this tour launch.

  --- Blog Tour Dates

February 22nd @ The Muffin
What goes better with coffee in the morning than a muffin? Grab a cup and join us today over at our blog, where we launch another blog tour for Save the Cat! We talk about their online course and their story cards, interview the Save the Cat team, and host a special giveaway you don't want to miss.

February 23rd @ Cathy Stucker's Selling Books
Join Cathy as she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Course. Perfect if you want to finally outline your novel!

February 23rd @ And So She Thinks
Join Francesca and read her review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Course. You don't want to miss this!

February 24th @ Chapters Through Life
Visit Danielle's blog as she reviews her experience with the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet Course.

February 24th @ Margay Leah Justice
Join Margay as she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Story Cards.

February 25th @ Author Anthony Avina
Join Anthony as he shares a Save the Cat! guest post about why the title of a story matters.

February 26th @ Writer Unboxed
Join Therese as she reviews the Save the Cat! writing course Cracking the Beat Sheet and the story cards. Don't miss it! 

February 27th @ Jessica Samuels
Join Jessica as she shares her insights into the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

February 28th @ The Faerie Review
Visit Lily's blog as she reviews the Save the Cat! Story Cards and shares her insights into the Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

March 1st @ Michelle Cornish
Join Michelle as she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

March 1st @ Memoir Writer's Journey
Kathy shares the Save the Cat guest post discussing stress testing dialogue and scene.

March 2nd @ Cathy Stucker's Selling Books
Visit Cathy's blog again as she reviews the Save the Cat! Story Cards! Find out how this item will help you storyboard your novel.

March 3rd @ Knotty Needle
Visit Judy's blog as she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet and the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

March 4th @ Author Anthony Avina
Visit Anthony's blog where you can read his experience with the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

March 5th @ Quill and Books
Visit Kathryn's blog and read her review of the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

March 7th @ Sioux's Page
Join Sioux as she reviews the Save the Cat! Story Cards and her experience with the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

March 7th @ Help Me Naomi
Visit Naomi's blog today and you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Story Cards and the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

March 8th @ World of My Imagination
Guest writer, Stephanie Anne, reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and Save the Cat! Story Cards on Nicole's blog World of My Imagination.

March 9th @ Cathy Stucker's Selling Books
Visit Cathy's blog again where you can read a guest post from the Save the Cat! team about why structure is a friend, not a formula.

March 9th @ Sandy Kirby Quandt
Sandy shares her review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

March 10th @ Brooke's Reviews and Sweeps
Join Brooke as she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

March 11th @ Jill Sheet's Blog
Visit Jill's blog today and check out her insights into the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

March 12th @ Finished Pages
Join Renee as she reviews her experience with the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.

March 14th @ The Margate Bookie
You'll definitely want to catch today's guest post where Save the Cat! discusses the power of the writer's board.

March 15th @ My Heart is Booked
Join Danielle today where she reviews the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course and the Save the Cat! story cards.

March 15th @ LM Harley
Visit Laura's blog and check out her review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

March 18th @ Cathy C. Hall Writes
Join Cathy as she shares her thoughts about the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

March 19th @ One Writer's Journey
Visit Sue's blog today as she shares her insights into the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.

March 21st @ World of My Imagination
Join Nicole and read her review of the Save the Cat! Story Cards.

March 22nd @ Mint Miller Writes
Mint Miller treats us to a review of the Save the Cat! Story Cards. Don't miss it!

March 23rd @ Karen Brown Tyson
Join Karen as shares a Save the Cat guest post discussing the benefits of using a board.

March 25th @ WOW's Editor Blog
You don't want to miss WOW's editor-in-chief, Angela Mackintosh' review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.

March 26th @ World of My Imagination
Writer Kate Mahony is a guest reviewer at World of My Imagination and she shares her thoughts about the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet course.

March 27th @ Joyful Antidotes
Visit Joy's blog today where you can read her review of the Save the Cat! Cracking the Beat Sheet online course.


***** SAVE THE CAT! CLASS GIVEAWAY *****

Enter for your chance to win free access to the Cracking the Beat Sheet course.  Fill out the Rafflecopter form by 11:59 pm CST March 7th, and the winner will be announced on the Rafflecopter widget the next day. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Interview with Leah Olson: Q1 2021 Creative Nonfiction Third-Place Winner and Runner Up

Sunday, February 21, 2021
Leah’s Bio:
Leah Olson is an aspiring writer (mostly by night) and an attorney currently working as in-house counsel for a nonprofit network of charter schools (by day). After graduating from the University of Maryland with a degree in journalism in 2007, she put her passion for writing on hold as she entered the professional abyss otherwise known as “being a Millennial in her twenties.” She spent two years working as a third grade teacher in Las Vegas with Teach For America before going to law school. She graduated from Harvard Law in 2012 and then spent four years working at two different corporate law firms in New York and San Francisco before moving on to the education sector. While she greatly enjoys her work, she has also recently rekindled her writing flame, primarily in the form of personal essays. She is currently working on a memoir about growing up as a biracial girl and transracial adoptee in white America. Her writing has appeared in HuffPost Personal, on the popular blog Scary Mommy, and in many publications on the platform Medium. She is a Maryland native but thoroughly enjoys living in Southern California with her husband and two young sons. 

If you haven't done so already, check out Leah's third-place story "I Want Dark Brown Skin Like You, Mommy!" and "Bushroot in the Flesh," which won runner up, and then return here for a chat with the author. 

WOW: Congratulations on placing both third and as a runner up in the Q1 2021 Creative Nonfiction Contest! How did you begin writing your third-place winning story “I Want Dark Brown Skin Like You, Mommy!”, and how did it and your writing processes evolve as you wrote? 

Leah: The second part of this question really speaks to me as an emerging writer in that I am still learning to accept that evolution is indeed a part of the writing process! My first iteration of this essay was so different and for a while I was almost embarrassed of that. But the more I write, the more I appreciate that writing is like peeling an onion. At first, I was writing about this experience with my son in comparison to my own memories of growing up with a mother who had a different skin color. As I touch on in the essay, I was adopted at birth by white parents. I didn't exactly expect to have that experience in reverse when I became a mom to biological children! But as I wrote, I realized that there is so much more to this. It's not just about comparing skin colors with a parent; it's about racial hierarchy and societal prejudice and my own identity issues. I went a lot deeper than I had originally expected – and yes, just like when I peel an actual onion, I may have shed a few tears in the process! 

WOW: I love to hear how writers’ stories evolve, so thank you for sharing your process. It sounds like it was a powerful experience for you. I have the same question for your story “Bushroot in the Flesh.” How did you begin writing it, and how did your process evolve? 

Leah: At the risk of coming across as over-the-top cheesy (or lazy!), I can extend the onion analogy to this piece too, but in a different way! This one STUNG when I first put it on paper. I seriously did not tell a soul about this incident until this year. This year! I'm a 35-year-old married mother of two and I still felt humiliated by something that happened to me as a teenager. So at first, I just wanted to get this story out and take a moment to see it on paper. At that point, it was basically a narrative recount of the incident in the dorms along with a lot of details about the psychological downward spiral that happened to me afterwards. As I wrote, though, I found my emotions about this starting to level out. The sting lost some of its power. I began to see it as something that I could learn from. I began to see this as something that not only can, but probably should, be shared. Writing has healing powers! 

WOW: Yes, writing can do such amazing things! It’s wonderful that it can give and take power away from memories and experiences. We are so fortunate that you shared your story with us! What else did you learn about yourself or your writing by creating these essays? 

Leah: I learned that it's okay to share your feelings even if you don't consider them to be final, or smooth, or pretty. I've spent so much of my life trying to come across as polished and put together and the explosion of social media during my formative coming-of-age years only exacerbated these tendencies. But there was something empowering about disarming that mindset through writing. 

WOW: Both of your award-winning stories have themes of race and privilege. In what ways have you written on these themes before? Or if you haven’t written on these themes, what prompted you to write and publish them now? 

Leah: I have written a lot about this on my Medium account. I've really appreciated that platform as a way to write and to connect with others who want to explore these topics (among many others). That platform has the option for reader comments and while I have encountered my fair share of trolls, most of the feedback has been constructive and I appreciate that. I have also been working on my memoir. That's maybe what prompted this whole essay writing pursuit in the first place. 

WOW: Can you tell us more about the memoir you’re writing? 

Leah: Thanks for asking! Writing can sometimes feel lonely, and talking about the work is motivation to keep going, right? My memoir weaves back and forth throughout my entire life in the form of stories. In these stories, I attempt to bring to life some of the biggest issues/struggles/conflicts that have been a constant part of my life as a biracial transracial adoptee growing up in predominantly-white, privileged America. These issues include: dating and making friends; appearance (in particular, styling my hair); fitting in with and getting ahead in elite, cutthroat competitive schools and then professional white worlds; my disconnect with various Black communities around me; choosing places to live; my perceived role and my identity challenges growing up in my multiracial family of eight; raising my own multiracial kids with my white husband. My first draft was linear – more like a life story on the theme of race. That was the only way it made sense to me. But as it has evolved, I've realized that there are issues that have grown up with me and by grouping them together more by topic, I - and hopefully my readers - can track my identity development (and, in some cases, lack thereof). It's also just fun to switch back and forth with my voice and my memories - sometimes writing as I feel right now, sometimes as my twentysomething early adult self, sometimes as a younger child. It has been a fun challenge and I am trying to make it become something that exists outside of my own computer hard drive! 

WOW: That sounds like such a fun process! And you’re touching on so many important issues. I would love to read this, so I hope it does find a way out of your own computer. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you? 

Leah: Oh gosh, it would be the total honest truth to say "so many" because I have read so many raw, vulnerable, powerful stories that bring a complete stranger to life and make me feel a full spectrum of emotions while sitting in my office, or car, or bedroom. I've read essays on subjects that I didn't think people were able or allowed to put on paper. I've read stories that make me weep or literally laugh out loud or think in my head, OMG I swore I was the only one who did/thought/noticed that!! All of that inspires me. But to call out a couple of these incredible pieces by name: 
  • "Who Gets to be Afraid in America?" by Ibram X. Kendi: A personal essay plus commentary centered on the fear of a Black man who wants to go out for a run, written in the aftermath of the Ahmaud Arbery murder. As a runner and the sister to four Black brothers and a woman of color, this gave me chills. It forced me to take a hard look at my own attitude as a person who has lived in comfortable worlds, largely "passing" as white. It did not sugarcoat and I felt like I needed to see this. 
  • "I'm on the bus to go see my son Henry at the hospital" by Rob Delaney, published on Medium. This is the harrowing account of a dad losing his two-year-old to a brain tumor. My son was two at the time I read this and I did not want to read it at first. I thought, I am going to spiral into anxiety about my absolute nightmare. And then I thought, tough sh*t, it's not always about you! I came across this essay and now I have the chance to meet a person who is surviving what used to be his nightmare, too, and he has the strength to share his story with us. Human to human. I really appreciate that bravery. 
  • "Moving On" by Nora Ephron, published in The New Yorker. I am inspired by Nora Ephron's ability to insert humor into an emotional, sensitive, heavy subject (starting over with her two young kids after a divorce). Sometimes it just feels good to laugh, even about the things that hurt. 

WOW: Thank you so much for those vivid descriptions of those inspiring essays. You’ve talked me into putting each one on my to-read list! If you could tell your younger-writing-self anything, what would it be? 

Leah: Don't be embarrassed! Be willing to learn and revise and revisit things but don't assign so much judgment against yourself if you end up changing something. If everyone waited to write until they felt like they had everything completely sorted out, we'd have nothing to read! 

WOW: So true! Anything else you’d like to add? 

Leah: A sincere thank you to all writers who take the bold move of sharing their personal stories and all of the readers who take the bold move of reading them. So many experiences can be triggering in so many different ways. But the deeper that we go as writers and readers, the more we learn about ourselves and each other. 

WOW: Thank you so much for sharing your thoughtful responses! We’re so glad you took the chance and submitted your writing to us. Keep it up, and happy writing! 


Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, book reviews, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen. She is actively building her writing community on Twitter and would love to connect with other writers there!

 

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Becoming a Servant-Leader

Saturday, February 20, 2021



Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about my leadership style, and after reading an article my husband plucked from his files and gave to me, I’ve figured out I aspire to be a servant-leader. 

Servant leadership was coined by an author and business consultant named Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970. He first began formulating the idea after reading a novel about a mystical journey by a group of people on a spiritual quest. A servant-leader is one whose primary motivation is “a deep desire to help others.” 

Here are 10 characteristics of a servant-leader: 
  1. Listening intently to others. 
  2. Having empathy
  3. Helping oneself and others to heal
  4. Awareness in understanding issues involving ethics and values. 
  5. Using persuasion rather than positional authority when making decisions. 
  6. Balancing conceptualization with a “day-to-day” focused approach. 
  7. Using foresight to understand lessons from the past and realities of the present. 
  8. Practicing stewardship and serving the needs of others. 
  9. Commitment to the growth of people. 
  10. Building community.  
Here are ways I consider myself a servant-leader. I try to be more than an editor to writers I work with. With new writers who are interested in contributing to the magazine, I let them know specifically what we are looking for with a detailed set of departments and article topics our magazine seeks. I created this guide myself when I found out we didn’t have one for the magazine. I try to let each writer know something specific I learned or enjoyed from their articles once they’ve been turned in. I also try to match writers with assignments I know they’ll enjoy working on—and they are appreciative. When they ask me if I have other suggestions of publications they can write for, I send them my ideas, along with market resources I think could be helpful. If I sense someone is unhappy, I get to the root of the issue and try my hardest to help solve the problem, whether asking the publisher to track down a missed payment or finding more money in the freelance budget to increase the pay of longtime writers. When I visit local businesses to take photos or get information for an article, I also try and make a small purchase before I leave (see photo above). I can support our economy that way, create goodwill with our publication and forge positive relationships with business owners. 

Sometimes being a servant-leader can be hard, because it’s a lot to take in and I worry about doing things perfectly and making sure I’m treating others fairly. But I also know it’s worth it to nurture a group of writers so that they can create their best work possible. 

As I was writing this post, it occurred to me that this philosophy is one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed working with WOW! Everyone I’ve ever worked with here has a giving heart and a true desire to see other writers learn and succeed. Every day we see servant-leader editors and writers lifting one another up in these blog posts and in the comment section. 

 In the article I read, Practicing Servant-Leadership,” by Larry Spears, I found the following quote: 

"Servant-Leadership is providing a framework from which many thousands of known and unknown individuals are helping to improve how we treat those who do the work within our many institutions. Servant-leadership truly offers hope and guidance for a new era in human development, and for the creation of better, more caring institutions.”  

How have you been a servant-leader, or been served by one of these types of leaders? 


Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and magazine editor who also hosts the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Learn more at FinishedPages.com.
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Friday Speak Out!: In the Beginning

Friday, February 19, 2021

by Anne Leigh Parrish

My first short story was written on brown paper using a second-hand Underwood typewriter I picked up at antiques store. I felt so writerly, perched on my stool at my kitchen counter, banging away. My husband was studying for the bar exam, and had trouble concentrating with the noise I made. Luckily for him I wrote in spurts, lasting no more than fifteen minutes at a time. Then I’d get up and wander off, overwhelmed with doubt and a growing sense that I had no idea what I was trying to say and why it mattered.

I persisted. “Among The Bohemians” was an uneven, heartfelt ramble about a recent party we’d attended which read more like an essay than a piece of fiction. It was one long description, what my mentor at The Atlantic Monthly would later call “a how things are story.” Not much happened. The narrator, who looked and thought a great deal like me, stood at the window of the funky artist’s loft where her husband’s friend lived and gazed forlornly at the old carved buildings that characterize Seattle’s Pioneer Square. She concluded the buildings were inspiring and the company wasn’t. She felt like an outsider. The friend’s husband was an artist, not a very good one, and his paintings hung everywhere. She/I wandered past them, trying to discover or impute meaning to the deep lines, sharp corners, and muted colors he favored.

The beginning of my writing life lasted a long time, even though I improved and was more deft on the page. People came to life, said funny things, and were plausible. But they were stuck in murky place, floating and hovering just on the edge of meaning. It was only when doubt gave way to revelation, when the narrator’s understanding of her situation changed, or the reader’s understanding of it changed, that my stories resonated. This moment often came at the end.

Endings became key for me. I had to know how a story ended before I could write it. The beginning could be redone to fit that ending, and so could everything else. It’s what you leave the reader with that came to matter most, and I carried this belief into my novels and later my poems. How a reader experiences us is crucial. But even more important is how we’re remembered.

Maybe that’s my sixty-something self, talking back to my twenty-something self. What I’m certain of as a writer with decades under my belt is good craft comes from both of skill and confidence. That’s the long version. The short version is know what you want to say, then know when you’ve said it.

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Anne Leigh Parrish's novel, A Winter Night, arrives this March from Unsolicited Press. Also forthcoming from Unsolicited Press, An Open Door, a novel, will be available in October 2022, along with The Moon Won’t Be Dared, a book of poems, in the fall of 2021. Previous titles are: What Nell Dreams; Maggie’s Ruse; The Amendment; Women Within; By the Wayside; What Is Found, What Is Lost; Our Love Could Light The World; and All The Roads That Lead From Home. She lives among the evergreen trees in the South Sound region of Washington State. Learn more at Anne Leigh Parrish Fiction Writer Pacific Northwest – Award-Winning Writer and Poet
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
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The Gift of Falling Forward: Interview with Karen Brown Tyson

Thursday, February 18, 2021


 By Margaret Buapim


Karen Brown Tyson had been here before, wondering how to recover professionally and personally after a lay off. Multiple layoffs in fact. With it came the need to reframe what was once seen as a career failure and relegated to a place of silence. It was what drew me to Karen’s work in the first place and the works of the growing number of writers who are addressing the shame that can block one from authentically moving forward after a job loss, goal fail, or repeated rejection.


Here at WOW, we’ve come to recognize it as a serendipitous chance to “fall forward” and writers like Karen Brown Tyson are taking the lead in showing us how.  


In Time to Refresh, her debut title, Karen shares her journey of allowing herself to “fall” into purpose.  Written as a 21-Day Devotional guide, she simultaneously encourages readers to reflect on their own experience, discern their purpose and anchor their motivation for a new path to success. 


Previously featured on the WOW! Muffin Blog, Karen enthusiastically agreed that the new year is the perfect time to start over. 


WOW: Thank you again for agreeing to share a little more with WOW readers on how to begin again after the unexpected happens. I'm currently reading your devotional, Time to Refresh. I’m intrigued with how you were able to turn the obvious pain of job loss into motivation for beginning a writing career.  Can you talk about the decision process to try something new rather than a focus on the familiar path - speaking and speaking tours? 


Karen: It’s interesting that you asked me why I decided to write a book versus going on tour.  Throughout my career, I have been blessed to travel extensively to places like London, Spain, Germany, Belgium, France, and Ireland.  However, my dream has always been to write a book to share with the world. I found it hard to focus on writing throughout all of my travels. The issue was that I didn't have a writing routine.  Once I got laid off, it was easier for me to slow down in order to find the rhythm of my writing routine.  Once I slowed down and changed my mindset, that’s when I was able to start managing my writing life. 


WOW: Great advice for us to slow down and find the rhythm of our writing routine.  Along with that, you mentioned a changed your mindset. Can you share a little more about the need for a changed mindset?

    

Karen: Sure. For too long, I put my writing and creative dreams on the backburner. Instead, I spent all of my time and energy focused on work, school, family commitments, and friends. By the time I helped everyone else, I never had time for my writing. Once, I made the decision to stop allowing other things to get in the way of my writing dreams, I was able to move forward. Instead of finding time to write. I made time to write.


WOW: I’m hearing a changed mindset that involved commitment. At the time you began writing, this topic of a career fail was rarely written about or acknowledged publicly by those who have experienced it. What gave you the confidence that there would be an audience receptive to your work in this format and with this theme? 


Karen: Besides being a lover of devotional books myself, I firmly believe God calls us to inspire one another. Everyone goes through tough times. Once we go through our experiences, I think we grow by sharing with others. I realized that so many people were getting laid off.  In talking to people, I could see that some were okay while others were really struggling to find answers so I wrote Time to Refresh to help people find hope. 


WOW: Definitely needed especially after what we’ve been through in 2020. It resonates and validates where we’ve been and gives the opportunity to heal while planning the move forward. So, the process of writing Time to Refresh was a labor of love, but one that you also took full ownership of publishing wise. Was that a conscious decision or did you seek representation and publishing through traditional means?


Karen: No. From the time God gave me the idea to write the book, I saw myself self-publishing rather than going the traditional route. Self-publishing allowed me to publish the book within my timeframe.


WOW: Dealing with your own experience so authentically that makes a lot of sense. It’s certainly a great book birthing experience. I love that not only have you been able to find an audience for Time to Refresh but you’ve been able to build a solid platform that continues to expand. I’d describe that as a successful authorpreneurship. When you think of that term what comes to mind and how have you applied it in your writing career?


Karen: When I think of an authorpreneur I think of someone who operates their writing career like a business. An authorpreneur is responsible for everything from writing to marketing to paying the bills. In my role as authorpreneur, it also means always thinking about the next book idea or writing project. In terms of writing, I have decided to make Time to Refresh part of a three-part series. I am also enjoying running my own writing and coaching business called Constant Communicators.  

 

WOW: Wonderful reminder in your business name that is also a marketing caveat – As writers, we are always telling our story platform-wise and in connecting with our audience. It takes courage! What can you tell other writers about the process of writing and the lessons you’ve learned since publishing Time to Refresh?


Karen:
 I never wanted to use Time to Refresh to call out my previous employer for laying me off.  I chose to focus on my response to the layoff as a way to help my readers overcome similar challenges in their lives.  I would encourage writers to focus on what’s inside - how they feel about overcoming the obstacle without spending too much time focused on the people that may have caused it. Also, although I have come to enjoy everything about building an author platform, the most important lesson learned is it takes time. Building an author platform is more of a marathon than a sprint.


WOW: Great advice. You don’t have to pressure yourself to try and make it happen overnight!  So, we’ve processed the experience of a layoff, firing, sidelining experience, what do we do next to start over? 


Karen: I encourage my clients to honestly assess where they are today and where they want to be tomorrow with their writing goals. I ask clients to take inventory of what’s going on in their life right now that requires their time and attention. From there, I encourage them to make small changes that allow them to fit writing and creativity into their daily routine.



WOW:
Thank you so much Karen for agreeing to share these tips with us - honest reflection, a changed mindset, prioritizing and then executing our writing goals – a solid foundation to build with. Any teasers you would like to give regarding your new release?


Karen: Certainly! My newest book, Time to Reset: A 21-Day Devotional to Renew Your Mind After Being Sidelined, Disappointed or Knocked Off Course, just released in print at the end of January 2021 and as an ebook this month.  


WOW: Great. We’ll be sure to check it out!


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Think 2021 may be your year to begin a writing career, refresh your initial dreams to be an author, or enhance your goals in writing by getting specific about goal posts?  Try these suggestions to get started:  Reframe your view of obstacles as a chance to revisit your goals. Reframing how we view an experience allows us to remain unstuck and open to opportunities; Journal as a way to dig deep and gain clarity in order to discover the why and how of your journey. Your journal entries can be the starting point for great writing material as well as motivation reinforcement; Share your story as part of building your author platform. You may find that it helps you discover a niche and audience previously overlooked.


Remember, this is a marathon rather than a sprint! If you have not already started your writing journey, life may be hinting its time. 


Karen Brown Tyson is the author of Time to Refresh, A 21-Day devotional to Renew Your Mind After Being Laid Off, Fired or Sidelined, and Time to Reset, A 21-Day devotional to Renew Your Mind After Being Laid Off, Fired or Sidelined.

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Margaret Buapim is the author of Ring Envy. She has contributed to Guide Magazine (2000) and WOW! Women-on-Writing’s Friday Speak Out (2017). Her interview with New York Times Best Selling Author, Mary Monroe is featured in the June 2020 WOW! Women-on-Writing Ezine and Newsletter. Margaret recently edited The Shameless Plug: Curse of My Father, Series Book II by author Taunishia Zoa and offers ghostwriting and editing services for fiction and memoir. She is currently querying for her second novel. Feel free to connect with Margaret on social media at @YBuapim or on her website, https://www.authormyb.com.


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