I’ll be honest with you. The idea of WOW! Women On Writing started as something completely different.
As you faithful readers may know, I’m a member of the OC Writers Meetup Group #10—a fairly small, but dedicated group of writers who hold a critique twice a month geared toward fiction writing. It was by chance that I attended this meeting—at the time I was working on my novel in progress, “A Woman Cut in Slices.” And no, it’s not in the horror genre, nor has anything to do with a woman getting hacksawed to death or something equally gruesome—it’s a metaphor for my broken life.
I got the idea from reading Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. In this book he mentioned a certain window display he would pass by on his nightly strolls along Paris’ La Sienne. There was an oversized book in the window entitled, “A Man Cut in Slices.”
Henry would walk past the window for free entertainment, and each night there would be another page turned with one sentence on it. The first one read, “Through the eyes of his mistress,” and the second, “Through the eyes of his wife.”
Miller fans may remember this—and although his works are quite the opposite of WOW! material, I’m a sucker for the classics. (Especially those banned for twenty-seven years!)
But all this is off topic; I digress.
I showed up to the meeting a tad late. A group of older writers were curled over photocopied manuscripts, fanned out in front of them, and a spread of various beverages: coffee, soda, and water framed the skirt of the table. An enormous Subway sandwich, cut in slices, consumed vast amounts of real estate as a centerpiece.
I walked into the room and plopped myself down on the nearest available chair, grabbed the bottle of merlot I had concealed in my backpack, and planted it firmly on the table.
“Anyone want some?” I asked, and whipped out a corkscrew opener, ready to fill their paper cups. They all looked up in shock, like I was some anti-Semitic relative crashing a bat mitzvah.
Then the silence passed. “I’ll have some,” said a lady with long auburn hair that hung to her waist.
“I’ll take a sip.” An elderly lady with piercing blue eyes and sterling silver hair thrust her paper cup across the table.
The older gentleman beside me checked his watch and got up uncomfortably. “I’ve really got to leave now.” He glanced at my backpack as though I could be holding other mysterious concoctions that were in grave violation of his twelve-step program. He grabbed his walking cane and hobbled out the door.
As soon as he left his seat, the woman across from me got out of her chair and quickly rounded the table to sit next to me. I didn’t know it at the time, but her name was Beryl.
She held out her paper cup and I gladly filled it. As I did this, Teresa Trujillo, the meetup group’s organizer started to speak. And what a dynamic group leader she was! I was in awe of her prowess.
After that, a lightening round-table critique incurred. Writers read from their novels, short stories, and memoirs—at the end of each reading, which Teresa was happy to do for the timid writer, opinions were touted, suggestions made, comments voiced, and dislikes ballyhooed.
When it came my turn to read, I passed my short fiction piece to Teresa. The story was a contract job I was in the midst of tightening for the skateboard industry. What a piece to choose for a writer’s critique group where I didn’t know a soul!
The story, “The Pool Sharks,” was about a bunch of young hoodlums who cruised foreclosed homes in search of empty pools. It contained a lot of slang, skater-terms, and situations that left the whole table utterly perplexed. Imagine a bunch of older ladies who’d brought their sprawling memoirs to read, and here I am with a dynamic short story of young thrashers doing alley-oops and nosegrinds over the deathbox.
Teresa stopped the story in mid-sentence and put it down. “What?!” I protested, “You were just getting to the best part! Aw-come on.”
The ladies around me let out a long-winded sigh of thanksgiving.
After the meeting ended, I caught up with Beryl in the parking lot, and she said she would read my story. We exchanged emails and not too long afterward I received an email from her telling me how much she enjoyed the ending. “It was a story about someone wanting to win at all costs,” she said. I liked her already.
Several weeks later Beryl and I went out to lunch. I had an idea that I wanted her to help me out with. We’d been going back and forth on critiques for a while and had gotten to know each other fairly well. So when I met with her that afternoon, I wanted her to help me write an e-book, as a means of quick cash. After a few drafts and conversations, we both decided that we didn’t have the gumption to be that cheesy. So it was back to the drawing board.
I knew I wanted to start a business dedicated to my writing—at the time I had a very successful freelance graphic design business (and still do)—but writing had always been my passion, and at that time, I felt it was something necessary that I had to incorporate into my life.
Shortly thereafter I came up with the idea for WOW!, purchased the domain name, and began to design the website, features and columns. The rest, as we say, is history.
Noah Lukeman Fiasco
One of our favorite stories was from Issue #2: “No One is Born Published,” a term coined from one of our favorite authors, Mary Rosenblum.
It was almost the end of the month and we didn’t have anything for the Review Column. Beryl and I asked each other, “Have you read anything lately?” We’d decided that we weren’t going to have fiction book reviews in this column (although that has changed), for we didn’t want to favor one author interviewee over the other.
“I read Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages,” Beryl said.
“Great, go for it!” I told her, but didn’t really weigh the consequences. If I had, perhaps I would’ve thought, you must be crazy for reviewing a book from a precise, not to mention straightforward and somewhat harsh, literary agent, but the thought didn’t occur to me. It did occur to Beryl though as she was writing the piece... at the last minute, I might add.
So in my continuous marketing attempts to make people aware of WOW! I came up with a bright idea. The day after the issue rolled out, I went on the search to find Mr. Lukeman’s e-mail address. Well, if you visit his site: http://www.lukeman.com you’ll notice that it’s not an easy task to find this man’s e-mail addy.
Upon further digging, I managed to traverse the Lukeman labyrinth to find a method of contact. After e-mailing him at some address meant for some other means of contact, I went through a series of anti-spam examinations to make sure I wasn’t a bot. Here’s what I wrote:
My partner, Beryl, reviewed your book, The First Five Pages, on our website. Ever since I met Beryl, she's continuously talked about how your book inspired her to learn more about the craft of writing.
You can see the review here:
I apologize for writing you at this e-mail address, but didn't know how else to contact you.
Every Issue we do a review, and Beryl admitted she was crazy for reviewing your book, since we are fairly new to publishing... and you're such a pro. And when I told her I was going to email you about the review, she nearly died!
Hope you enjoy it, and thanks for being an inspiration to writers of all levels.
Co-Editor of WOW! Women On Writing
Well, that was the initial e-mail, and yes, at the time we were still fairly green. Here’s his response:
Thank you very much, and please thank Beryl for me.
The review is lovely, and I think your site is wonderful.
I was surprised when he responded personally, seeing that he’s an uber-famous literary agent! Both Beryl and I didn’t know that the word “lovely” was in his vocabulary! And to say our site was wonderful... gee, what a compliment.
But wait! Stop the presses!
After I forwarded Noah’s e-mail response to Beryl, she noticed something... the review that was published was her rough draft, and littered with spelling and grammar mistakes. Neither of us had checked it since it went online, and assumed the final version was the one that was live. (Cringe) Um, talk about being embarrassed—the very first sentence was incomplete, and didn’t make sense, like part of it got cut out, or eaten by Beryl’s dog. Mr. Lukeman talks about the first five pages... but how about the first sentence?
Even though Beryl wanted to beat me with a stick, we still laugh about this today. It was a moment of reality. You take this amazingly precise literary agent who writes books that can read like horror stories to aspiring authors, mix with a little womanly kindness, and you get him to say things like “lovely”.
Amy Tan Takes My Suggestion to Heart
Of course, you know what a HUGE honor it was for me to be able to meet Amy Tan. She’s one of my mentors, as expressed in the interview, How Amy Tan Saved Me From Drowning. In fact, half of the interview, or more, was edited due to lengthiness. Maybe sometime in the near future we’ll roll out a “WOW! Uncensored” e-book or podcast, which would include pivotal moments that we weren’t able to publish online–some due to dialogue, some due to content. That fun romp will be for another time.
But this time, when I interviewed Amy, she had her adorable little teacup-sized doggie on her lap, who lay there silently and well mannered, as Amy stroked the scruffy hair on top of his head. After we concluded the interview in her hotel room, Amy had to get ready to go onstage for her performance.
“What are you going to do with your doggie?” I asked.
She pondered my question, looked down at her dog, and said she didn’t know.
"Why don't you bring him onstage and put him in a chair," I joked.
Later on Beryl and I went to the performance, and Amy was absolutely captivating, funny, a comedienne, and the crowd went wild with laughter as she told witty stories from her memoir. A couple hours later after she finished her performance, fielded questions, and began to walk off the stage, she turned around and unzipped a duffle bag that had been sitting behind her the entire time she was at the podium. Then she walked off stage.
A couple seconds later, her little dog popped out, shook his head and peered at the audience, and then quickly trotted off to catch up with Amy. Beryl and I smiled at each other, the audience laughed and pointed, and the two of them disappeared behind the velvet drapes.
Kudos for WOW!:
Throughout the year we’ve received the kindest e-mails from professionals that make our efforts all worth while. Here’s a few quotes that still amaze me and make me warm and fuzzy inside:
“I just read the whole article... Thank you so much. For your sweet and kind words. I love the article...Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You both were so sweet and kind to me. And I loved getting to talk with you.
My best to you both!”
- Tiffani Amber Thiessen, Actress, Director/Producer, Author
WOW! Women On Writing Interviews Tiffani Amber Thiessen
“I know WOW! is going to be huge! Thanks very much!
Wow. I totally missed the beginning of this piece when I read it earlier, with my photo and the shoes and the pink rose. Long, long story, but I LOVE pink roses. They're my "thing," something all my friends know me for, so when I saw the pink rose . . .
Thank you again for everything! The article is absolutely beautiful!!!!”
- Jennifer DeChiara, Literary Agent
WOW! Women On Writing Interviews Jennifer DeChiara
“I have read the interview and I thank you for being so careful in being true to what I said. I hope this is helpful to your readers. Good luck and many thanks again.”
- Nan A. Talese, Editor/Publisher
WOW! Women On Writing Interviews Nan Talese
“Wow indeed. Women on Writing is an excellent source of information for writers—aspiring as well as established. And unlike so many sites these days, it has a personality.”
- Lissa Warren, Publicist
WOW! Women On Writing Interviews Lissa Warren
“I cannot thank you enough for the fabulous article! The layout is to die for! It’s masterful. And I’m speaking from having helped my students produce an award-winning literary arts magazine for 15 years.”
- Kathryn Jordan, Author
Kathryn Jordan’s Marketing Madness
“I am thrilled!! What a gorgeous job. You did a great job of making it feel like a live interview and not a Q&A! I’ll send my LR students to your website to look at good examples of interviews.”
- Mary Rosenblum, Author
WOW! Women On Writing Interviews Mary Rosenblum
“You did such a beautiful job with this. Take care of your lovely self, and again, many thanks for the interview. It has been a wonderful experience, and I am very grateful to you.”
- Pat Matsueda, Author and Managing Editor, Manoa Journal
WOW! Women On Writing Interviews Pat Matsueda
“Thanks so much for the interest in me and my work. I love the WOW! Women on Writing site -- what a wonderful resource you've created here for writers!”
- Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Author, Columnist for Writer’s Market
WOW! Women On Writing Interviews Debbie Ridpath Ohi
“You are so much fun, the best interview by far. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love the energy pulsing from the page. Smooches to you!”
- Kris Carr, Filmmaker and Author, Crazy Sexy Cancer
WOW! Women On Writing Interviews Kris Carr
As writers, we know how important it is to promote ourselves, and sometimes if you don’t toot your own horn, people will never know!
WOW! Women On Writing has been graced by some of the rarest interviews out there. Take WOW!’s Interview with Carole Stuart, publisher of Barricade Books, to the best of my knowledge there aren’t any interviews like this online. There are several with her late husband Lyle Stuart, founder of Barricade Books, one of the most controversial publishers out there, but not with Carole. We were definitely privileged to conduct this rare and enlightening interview. Barricade Books is best known for publishing, “The Anarchist Cookbook,” and the book which the FBI believes is associated with the Oklahoma City Bombing, “The Turner Diaries.”
WOW!’s Interview with Ann Moore, CEO Time, Inc. was also a rare interview. When researching the web for other interviews I only came up with one or two that were published in its entirety and that was from quite a while ago. Needless to say, we were honored when she responded to our request! She’s an amazing woman, and has a wonderful spirit, as you’ll read in the interview.
And of course, there’s our Interview with Nan A. Talese, which we are proud to say is one of three interviews linked to from Random House’s website. We were also lucky enough to chat with Nan on the phone, who is a gracious and extraordinary woman, and our conversation was an absolute pleasure. Insider’s Secret: Take a look at the header for the interview—do you see a slight map of Wales showing through? We’d just gotten off the phone with Nan, who was leaving on a trip to Wales for her daughter’s wedding. We thought it would be a nice gift for her celebration.
THANKS & CHEERS TO A NEW YEAR!
This year has gone by in a whirlwind, but every second was worth it, thanks to you, our readers. I’ve gotten to know most of you personally through your emails and feedback, which has opened my eyes to what wonderful women you all are! I’ve said it before—our growing community of women writers/readers are the nicest, most thoughtful, and warm-hearted women on the planet. I’m truly honored to be a part of the vehicle that helps bring us all together.
Another big thank you goes to our dedicated staff, and our talented editors, Jean Lauzier and Sue Donckels. Ladies, you’ve out done yourself! All of you are the voice and spirit of WOW! and are a joy to ‘work’ with.
So, let’s don our tiaras and feather boas, and celebrate the coming of a new year for WOW! There are many great things in store, and together we can achieve all of our goals.