Monday, April 30, 2007

 

The Power of Voice

A writer greets the world most often with her voice rather than a handshake or a hug. One wonderful aspect to every woman’s voice is the layers echoing behind it. Generations of multi-taskers tickle the words we choose whether we think about it or not. The women of our pasts, whether they were great-grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, aunts, older sisters, adoptive moms, or foster parents -- a few or a single one -- spoke into our minds when we were young and, without realizing it, conveyed to us their sensitivity, emotion, warmth, and love that lay behind their chosen words. Although these women may no longer be with us, face to face, their voices will never leave us.

For some of us, we might’ve soaked up a heavier amount of the type-A personality tones; for others we might’ve gathered a veil of shyness; yet for many women a fine potpourri colors our chosen voices, leaving a balanced mix of tones. I don’t think any two women writers could echo the same voice in their writings on the same subject anymore than any two people could echo the same identity anywhere in the world.

The best part about women writers’ voices is the innate understanding and warmth that lingers between their words, keeping each of us afloat, above all of life’s hardships in marriage, parenting, jobs, or illnesses.

This is a thanks to everyone -- this includes contest entry writers, freelancers, editors, agents, published authors, and anyone else -- who contributes to this website. Your voices echo in my mind long after I walk away from my computer screen and add meaning to my life in many ways like a cyber sisterhood of sorts. We don’t need to be face to face, as long as we can hear a true voice in each other’s writings.

Sue

Friday, April 27, 2007

 

Interview with Dawn Wingfield - Runner Up!

Dawn Wingfield's story Lucky stood out because she had such an original and inspiring take on the prompt. WOW! just had to find out more about Dawn, and discover the motivation behind her creative short story. Join us as we interview a wonderful writer who is quickly achieving her dreams.

***

WOW: Dawn, congratulations on placing in the top ten! What inspired you to write
Lucky?

Dawn: I guess I was reflecting on all the things in life we take for granted – the basic skills we’ve managed to grasp, our jobs, our cars, our love lives. We’re actually very lucky to have all these things. I was also thinking about how privileged I feel to have family and friends who, like Laurie Mae, don’t fit the general mold - the love and insights mentally disabled people can offer is often awesome.

WOW: That’s so true, and it’s what gives your story an endearing quality. We also appreciate how you managed to reveal so much about your two characters in such a short space. Did you do a lot of editing to manage the word count?

Dawn: I believe my first draft was about 1000 words, and I was a bit dismayed at the prospect of cutting it in half. But, as often happens, the result of doing this can be a stronger, clearer piece of writing.

WOW: Yes, it worked here. You did a fabulous job with editing, and you’ve shown that practice pays off! In your bio you mentioned that you have short stories in numerous US magazines and an anthology in the UK. Could you tell us about your overall experience with submitting your works?

Dawn: Well, it’s not as frightening as it used to be! I have developed a thicker skin and am no longer quite so gutted by rejections and take long waits in my stride. There’s nothing like the fantastic feeling of actually selling a story and getting paid!!

WOW: Thicker skin definitely helps, and so does a sale! Would you recommend any books on the craft of writing to help aspiring writers?

Dawn: I enjoyed the energy and advice in Stephen King’s On Writing. But nothing beats reading the sort of stuff you aspire to write, and belonging to a good critique group.

WOW: Well, we’d say you definitely show energy through your contest writing. What’s the best aspect about writing for contests in general?

Dawn: It’s wonderful to be placed in a competition, totally gratifying to know that your work has been read and judged and understood. Competitions can really give beginners like me something to aim for.

WOW: Isn’t it just wonderful to feel understood, especially through our writing? Has writing always been a part of your life or have you transitioned into the field through your own doing?

Dawn: I have always wanted to be a writer, but didn’t actually start writing regularly and working seriously at it until 4 years ago.

WOW: That’s often the case as we work our way through life and find the direction that suits us best. Do you have any long-term goals in mind for your writing? Any books bubbling through your mind or future works?

Dawn: My big ambition is to complete and publish a novel.

WOW: Well, you’re certainly on the right track, and we wish you luck in your endeavors! Do you have any parting words for our readers?

Dawn: Yes, keep writing and keep sending stories and articles out! Don’t give up, and continue to learn about the craft of writing, whatever point you’ve reached in your career.

WOW: That’s sound advice for any level of experience in the realm of writing. Thanks so much for your time.

If you haven't already, check out Dawn Wingfield's story, Lucky.
To read other contestants' stories, visit our Winter 2007 Flash Fiction Contest Winners Page.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

 

The Writer with a Thousand Stories

Christopher Vogler’s work, The Writer’s Journey, is based on Joseph Campbell’s, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. If you’ve read either one, you might appreciate the mythic structure underlying many screenplays and adventure stories. Although these texts are not funny in any sense of the word, my recent discovery from their application left me laughing, and perhaps others can relate. The journey into writing is a true adventure story. Applying the mythic structure to my world, for example, puts me on the same track as a Heroine’s Journey:

Writing has always been a part of my life, but it didn’t dominate my former career for any creative benefit; it was merely an underlying thread woven beneath the fabric of my work. Narrowing it down, this was my “Ordinary World.” By transitioning into the writing profession and taking courses through Long Ridge Writer’s Group, I walked down a new fork in life’s long road. This “Call to Adventure” came along with a second one when I volunteered to intern for WOW! Women On Writing eZine. Both helped me look more seriously at my writing. Just as heroines traditionally do, though, I hesitated, hemmed and hawed, and wondered if I should go for it. “Refusal of the Call” came as I resisted both of these challenges at first. But, ultimately, I raised the stakes by facing them.

“Ordeals” include writing high-quality, publishable pieces for my Long Ridge Instructors and learning new tasks for the magnificent editors at WOW! “Rewards” follow from working with writing professionals, learning about the world of writing from various angles, and increasing my self-confidence in the process. Sometimes, though, I find a false sense of completion when I’ve messed up; yet, coping always comes through blushing cheeks and humble chuckles.

The laughter comes when I reflect upon “Mastery.” It hasn’t knocked on my door yet; and, I’ve not come full circle by any means. But the best part is in the realization that I will. I’ve definitely changed my outlook, but my adventure isn’t resolved like a story and it may never be. It’s ongoing, and I find joy in it. Like many writers, I have at least a thousand stories. I guess this mythic archetype fits many writers’ lives; it’s just a matter of exchanging personal details. Thinking in these terms puts a new twist on an old perspective.

Can you relate?
Sue

Saturday, April 21, 2007

 

Interview with Stephanie Haefner - Runner Up!

Stephanie Haefner's short story, A Faded Oasis, is such a treat. We love stories that transport us to familiar, yet undiscovered places -- it's like receiving a mini-vacation!

We had a chance to chat with Stephanie and find out what she's been up to, the inspiration behind the story, and what she's working on right now. She's quite a dynamo! She's written two books, runs her own business, is a mom, and still finds time to write.

***

WOW: Stephanie, congratulations on being in the top ten! That's quite an accomplishment. What inspired you to write, A Faded Oasis?

Stephanie: I love visiting old places and imagining what it was like before time took its toll. We've visited Philadelphia, Boston, Salem, landmarks of our country, and I can easily imagine the people living their day to day lives in the infancy stages of our country. When I read the prompt for the story, my first thought was a girl jetting off and having a hellish (and hilarious) time at this run down resort. As the story evolved, it became a sentimental story about two people who obviously love what they'd done for years.

WOW: That's what we loved about your story. We also enjoyed your description. We could smell the cocoa butter, see the tattered resort, and the tanned old couple. What impressed us was how you ended the story, giving the couple a gift back. I can't imagine a better ending! But this wasn't what you intended when you set out?

Stephanie: I had originally planned on making the story a funny one, focusing on all the things that went wrong, broken mirrors and furniture in the room, maybe a rat or two, dry-rotted beach chairs, etc.... As I wrote the story and added the owners of the resort as characters, the story really evolved into a tale about the love they had for what they did for a living. These girls were their only guests and they were going to take care of them as best they could. As my main character envisioned what the resort was like in it's heyday, she realized how much this couple needed her and all she saw was the gorgeous sight before her. Nothing else mattered.

WOW: Did you do a lot of editing to get the word count down?

Stephanie: Oh yes!! Originally it was almost double the length. I had to edit out most of the funny stuff, but actually once I came to the ending, I didn't need it all anyway!

WOW: Isn't that great how that works out? The word count really tightens the story. In your bio you mentioned that you have 2 completed novels! Are you still working on them, or are you in the submission process?

Stephanie: Novel #1 is finished and sitting on the shelf. I submitted to over 40 agents with only a tiny request for the first 5 pages of the MS. I learned my query was really awful, so when I finished novel #2, I made sure I my query sparkled. It has so far done it's job pretty well..... getting 2 agents to ask for partials, 1 asked for the full manuscript, and the same agent from the first novel asked for the first 5 pages. Unfortunately, I received rejections from 3 of them....the one with the full has not gotten back to me....but I just emailed that to her yesterday. I still have tons of queries out there, waiting to hear back from about 22 more agents.

WOW: That's exciting! We wish you the best! In your opinion, do you think having an agent is necessary?

Stephanie: Oh yes! I've tried to learn what I can about how the publishing business works, but I feel it would be in my best interest to have someone who is 100% on my side when it comes to contract negotiations!

WOW: Most definitely. So tell us... how do you find time to write, take care of your little girl, be a wife, and run a floral design business?

Stephanie: Well, winter is my off season, so not too much going on that time of year with weddings...at least not in Buffalo anyway!! Our nice weather doesn't start until May, so neither does wedding season!! I steal whatever time I can during the day, but get my most productive writing done at night when husband and daughter are in bed! I'm a total night owl! I am planning on getting a laptop soon so my writing can come with me wherever I go!

WOW: That's next on my list as well. :-) Stephanie, you've had another flash fiction piece published in an anthology. What is the appeal of flash fiction to you?

Stephanie: Sometimes I find it hard to keep things short, seeing as I write novels, but I like writing little pieces that are a small snippet of life that can bring a smile to someones face.

WOW: As a novel writer, you must be an avid reader. Who are your favorite authors?

Stephanie: I love Ann Brashares and Judy Blume.....I compare my first novel to Summer Sisters. I guess I am a sucker for a coming of age story!

WOW: I grew up on Judy Blume! She guided me through many coming of age situations. So, in closing, how has entering the WOW! Flash Fiction Contest been for you?

Stephanie: I loved the experience! It was my first real publication (the anthology won't be out until Spring 08). I feel so incredibly lucky to be among such talented writers and can't believe I was chosen to be among them! I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me this opportunity!!!!

WOW: We thank you too! And please let us know when the anthology comes out; I'd love to read it!

Click to read Stephanie Haefner's story A Faded Oasis.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

 

How to Put More Creativity Into Your Writing

While preparing a speech on, “How to Present a More Creative Speech” for an audience of 800 Toastmasters in Dubai last year, I realized that not all people (and this goes for writers, too) are or feel they are creative. I thought that the exercises I devised for these Middle Eastern public speakers might be useful for writers.

According to a popular scientific theory, those of us who rely on intuition and who seem naturally creative, are right-brain thinkers. Those who are more analytical and logical, have a more well-developed left brain. For my audience in Dubai, I designed the following guide offering some activities to help my fellow Toastmasters to become more creative. I thought that you might like to try some of the activities on this list. In fact, if you feel that you are not naturally creative and you would like to loosen up a bit and feel a little freer, I suggest that you pursue all six of these activities often.

1: Go out and play. Join in with a group of kids who are playing a game, jump rope, play with a puppy or a baby or go out dancing.

2: Get involved in an art project. Work on a paint-by-number kit, do mosaic or weaving, pursue creative gardening, a needlework project or a craft, for example.

3: Read a children’s story out loud to a child. Exaggerate the voices of the characters. You’ll have fun and the child will love it.

4: Enjoy something without analyzing it. Oooh, this is a hard one for left-brain thinkers. But it’s an excellent exercise. Take cues from children or a kitten.

5: Solve a problem using intuition rather than logic. Here’s another difficult challenge. But you can do it—I know you can.

6: Find a role model/mentor. This might be someone who you feel is creative—observe this person, copy him/her and ask them to help you to become more creative.

Here’s a quote by artist Mary Lou Cook. I think it really sums up the definition of creativity. “Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes and having fun.”

Patricia


Patricia Fry is a full-time freelance writer, workshop leader, lecturer and the author of 25 books. To learn more about creating and producing a book, order her latest book,The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Bookhttp://www.matilijapress.com. Visit her informative blog at www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

 

Open Blog at WOW!

Here's your chance to Speak Out. Friday is open blog, step up to the mike day here at the WOW! Blog. Naturally your post must be about Women and Writing. Keep your post to about 500 words and be sure to include a short (about 100 words) bio. You can send them to our editor Jean (jean@wow-womenonwriting.com) in the body of an email. No attachments please.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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I am a writer!

And so are you. Yet so many times when asked what we do, we don't tell about being writers. I think that's because we know the next question will be "what have you published?" And it's really hard when we have to say nothing.

But you know what? You really are a writer, even if you haven't been published. Being published isn't what makes us a writer. Writing is. If you are learning your craft, writing and putting ideas on paper then you are a writer. Being published is just one of the things we do as a writer. Many writers don't even care about publication, they may just want to leave a bit of today for the future generations of their family.

It took me a long time to announce to the world I was a writer. The first time I admitted to being a writer, my mouth turned dry and my heart pounded so hard I thought my chest would burst. And yes, it was hard to say I'd not been published. But the more we think of ourselves as writers, the more writerly we become. Yes, I still have days when I don't feel like a writer but they are becoming fewer and far between.

Today I challenge each of you to tell someone that you are a writer. Start thinking of yourself as a writer and others will too.

Jean

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

 

Interview with Jodi Henry - Third Place Winner!

It's interesting to see the variety of writers who enter our quarterly flash fiction contest. Some are established writers and some are aspiring, and some are non-fiction writers like Jodi Henry! We love the diversity of writers who enter, and just because you come from one background or another doesn't mean you can't come up with a great story! In reading Jodi's story, Jag Meets Iguana, you'd think she'd been writing fiction for years, but that isn't the case, which you'll see in this interview. Amazing!

***

WOW: Jodi, congratulations on winning third place in the WOW! Winter Flash Fiction Contest! How did you feel when you found out you won?

Jodi:
I was absolutely thrilled! I am a non-fiction writer and this was my first foray into fiction so winning this prize not only pleased me beyond belief, but it has given me inspiration to delve into the world of fiction writing.

WOW: Well we hope you do; you have a real talent for it! In fact, Jag Meets Iguana has all the elements of a great story: fun characters, conflict, and a super ending. What was your inspiration behind it?

Jodi: I wrote this story while on a month’s vacation in Mexico. My husband and I have gone to Zihuatanejo for the past four years and we both manage to get a lot of writing there – no phone, e-mail, TV, etc – all the distractions of everyday life. Our condo was on the second floor and right below, on a stone wall, an iguana would sun herself every day. I guess that’s where the iguana thought came from. I live about two hours south of Portland, and the highway that goes up the Columbia Gorge is beautiful and the one you would drive on your way to Yellowstone. Briggs Junction is such a typical truck stop, I just had to include it! In a previous life, I was also married to a pretty controlling guy so a woman’s get-a-way sounded delightful.

WOW: That's the beauty of fiction. You can make this magical world to get away from the reality of controlling ex-boyfriends. ;-) So tell us, if you were to continue the story, do you think Sandra would meet up with Officer Reed?

Jodi: Good question. If she did, that would seem too predictable. And I’m not sure they’d be a good fit. I think he’s a pretty straight laced dude and she’s just beginning to feel her wings.

WOW: (laughs) That's cool you should mention that because our theme next month is "The Wings of Self-Promotion." I think we all need to feel our wings and remember to fly every once and a while. And that's what you did with the prompt, took it and soared! Did you find writing on it challenging?

Jodi: Well, having a background in journalism, I like structure, including deadlines and I like a certain guidelines. I guess that’s why I write non-fiction pieces. Fiction really makes you use your imagination, and trying to pull ideas out of the air was a challenge – guess I’m too structured. But after I did it, it really felt good – especially when I won a prize!

WOW: Considering your background, did you do a lot of editing?

Jodi:
Not too much. I brainstormed in my head, wrote a rough draft on paper and then wrote it in scenes on the computer. Being an editor, I tend to edit myself as I go along, not always a good idea.

WOW: That's right. From your bio we know that you and your husband are the founders of Writers Welcome. When did you start your website, and what kinds of services do you provide?

Jodi: We started Writers Welcome about six years ago. We are basically “book doctors”; we edit and critique manuscripts. John works with the fiction writers, mostly novel and some short story manuscripts. I work with non-fiction writers, a lot of how-to books, but some thesis’ and children’s books (though these are fiction).

WOW: That's super! I also noticed on your site that you have a Mentorship Program. Why is this good for beginning writers?

Jodi: The Mentorship Program is a comprehensive, personalized program designed for beginning writers. It is features one-on-one consultation and support and is available for one or three months time periods. (if this is stiff it’s because I took this from our brochure!)
I think this is a great program for beginning writers because, as writers, most of us are insecure and often lack support. This is especially true for beginning writers, who are also unfamiliar with a lot of the basic writing principles. But I think the best part of the program is for the writer to be able to call or meet face-to-face with either John or I for advice and encouragement.

WOW: That's a really great benefit. Most online writing workshops don't have the option of getting to talk on the phone, or meet for that matter! You also mentioned that you work as a journalist, copywriter, and publicist. Can you tell us about some of the projects you've worked on?

Jodi: I used to be a reporter for a small town daily newspaper. I was in the features department and covered mostly soft news. It was a great experience and I had a wonderful editor. After I left the paper I worked for a public relations firm that specialized in political campaigns – exciting, but not really the kind of PR I wanted to do. I moved on to a firm with a wide variety of clients. I worked with environmental firms and the one of the plumbers unions.

WOW: I can see why you have an editing website -- you have a lot of experience! What are you working on right now?

Jodi: Right now I am working with two clients, both of whom have similar books. One is a book about leadership and the other is a book aimed at business professionals about a different way of dealing with stress.
I’m also very much looking forward to attending the Taos Summer Writers Conference this July. This is my first writers’ conference, except for a weekend workshop I attended in the San Juan Islands several years ago on nature writing.

WOW: That sounds exciting! You're going to love writers' conferences. You'll have to tell us all the details... maybe even write an event recap for WOW!
In closing, do you have any tips for writers who may be hesitant about entering a writing contest?

Jodi: Just do it! I think most people are hesitant to enter because of the fear of rejection or that their work just isn’t good enough. But finding a contest that looks like it might be a good fit and is in an area of interest is something to look for. Your contest appealed to me because it was a quick turn around and I liked the prompt.

WOW: Thanks Jodi for taking time to answer our questions! We adore your story Jag Meets Iguana and expect great things to come from your corner of the fiction, non-fiction, and website worlds.

If any of you want to enter Jodi's Mentorship Program, or need editing or critiquing, please visit: www.writerswelcome.com

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Monday, April 16, 2007

 

Refueling Inspiration

Writers in search of inspiration need only look as far as a fellow writer or author’s words. A web of inspiration continually weaves its wisdom all around us, in books, on websites, in our memories of past readings. Maya Angelou once wrote, “Spirit is an invisible force made visible in all life.” It's always present, always there. This precious insight tells us that we're not alone. But how do we harness the ability to keep this in a constant perspective?

Unfortunately, life’s fast-paced, day-to-day challenges often block our view of the most important forces at work. If we’re feeling buried beneath a monstrous list of To Do’s, as a parent, spouse, writer, volunteer, professional, or more, then we’ve become nothing short of working drones. Like pushing a shopping cart of rocks up a steadily sloping hill, the cart might roll back and plow us over at any moment. When life's tasks build to this point, it’s mentally and physically draining, to say the least. It’s before this breaking point that we must let go of everything. Make the list wait. Sometimes we don’t realize that we can’t do it all, all the time. Our spirits, our minds, and our bodies need regular refueling.

This is easier said than done, but taking individual time to recharge every day should be the priority. When everything becomes a chore, I let my dogs take me for a walk. Other times I let my kids share their daily wisdom, before they defeat me in a game of hoops. Humility helps.

Maybe writing is about achieving our potential, evolving our souls, and defining our purpose while we’re here. To make the best of this ability we need to keep focus on the joys of life, not the tedious challenges we face everyday. I wonder how other writers keep perspective and feed the thoughts to keep the words flowing.

How do you fuel your Muse?

Friday, April 13, 2007

 

Interview with Donna Wilkins - 2nd Place Winner!


Donna Wilkins short story, Nearly Rich and Famous is one that you're not likely to forget. Who can forget a story about a talking dog? If you haven't read it yet, you'll have to check it out... it's bound to make you laugh!

Join us as we interview Donna and get to know the wonderful writer behind the story and find out what sparked her creativity.

***

WOW: Congratulations on winning Second Place in the Winter 2007 flash fiction contest! How does it feel to win?

Donna: Placing second in the WOW fiction contest was very exciting and encouraging. This is the first award I have ever received for my writing, so it means a great deal to me. This award, and being published on the WOW website, made it feel official; I really am a writer!

WOW: You mentioned you've only been writing for a year - that's amazing. What prompted you to start writing?

Donna: It only took me fifty years to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I finally began writing barely a year ago. It wasn’t any one thing that prompted me to begin a writing career; it was more an accumulation of stories and characters that kept running through my mind and I just had to let them out. I’ve always had a vivid imagination but had never felt an inclination to write when I was younger. I believe my reluctance to try writing was a result of the strict emphasis put on proper form that was taught in school. Not that proper form is a bad thing of course, but for some people, like me, creativity can be hindered because of fear of failure. I hope other aspiring writers will break out of their shells and forget about their old high school teachers or college professors standing over them with a red pen in hand and that look of disapproval. Just write!!

WOW: Oh yes, the dreaded red pen... Beryl has horror stories about that one! But your story is well-structured, and we don't believe in red pens. Did you do a lot of outlining?

Donna: I’m ashamed to admit that I have not been an outline person. Again, this is like breaking one of the ‘Golden Rules”, but usually I write short stories as the inspiration flows. And then, I do at least three rewrites. However, for a novel, I believe an outline is a must. I’m working on the first draft of my first novel and I learned the value of an outline the hard way. My first draft has serious plot problems (that I will resolve!) that would have been avoided by doing a detailed outline first.

I am also rather undisciplined with my writing time, although I seem to be the most inspired at night. That’s when I’m feeling the most creative, but then the next morning, when I’m fresher, I have to check on all that pesky technical stuff like format, sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation.

WOW: You have the same schedule as I do; I seem to be most inspired at night as well. Probably because it's nice and quiet. So as a free-flowing creative writer who doesn't outline or have a strict writing schedule, it must be hard to taper your creativity into the word count...

Donna: I found the limited word count for this story very challenging. It’s difficult to develop much of a story line with so few words. Actually the limited word count was part of what inspired me to write about a talking dog. Animals can speak volumes without saying a word. And the dog in my story was based on my daughter’s greyhound, Mickey. He dislikes dog food, and being unusually tall for his breed, if left unattended, he can easily steal food off the kitchen counter or table. I’m certain that if this animal could speak, he would give us a detailed, and probably persuasive, argument as to why he should not have to eat dog food while we get all the ‘good stuff’.

WOW: Yes, I agree. That's why your story is so funny! It had me laughing out loud. For most writers, it's not an easy task to write humor. Are there any 'craft of writing' books that have helped you write comic scenes?

Donna: For the past year I have been reading stacks of books on creative writing, but the most important one for me was a book titled ‘Write Great Fiction; Plot and Structure’ by James Scott Bell. Plot and structure was one on my weak points and this book has helped me a lot, so I highly recommend it. Writing comedy seems to come naturally to me; I’m not sure if it can be taught. I think you just have to have a ‘feel’ for it.

WOW: So, how about authors or genres, do you have any favorites?

Donna: Humor is definitely my favorite type of short story, but when it comes to novels my first love is fantasy. C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are two of my favorite authors and after them is the classiest romance writer of all time, Jane Austen. But she didn’t just write great romance, she also made important statements about the injustices of women living in her time. I believe in the statement that the pen is mightier than the sword, and the influence of authors like her have helped to change the world for the better. Young people today have many unwholesome and negative influences to deal with, and it is my hope to someday write novels that will have a positive effect on them. I think that the best literature is fun and entertaining to read while having a constructive message.

WOW: Well put, and I'm sure you'll do just that! Do you have any parting words for our readers?

Donna: I want to take this opportunity to thank Betsy Gallup for choosing my story, and a special thanks to the staff and editors of WOW. I heartily recommend entering contests for writers; it’s a great way to have contact with others in your profession, and reading the past winners’ stories is an excellent way to hone your own writing skills. Also, having a deadline to meet is good discipline, and of course the hope of scoring an award and some prize money can help to move a stubborn writer’s block. And, getting to see your story in print is awesome!

WOW: Thanks Donna! And thank you for taking the time out to answer our questions. Please keep us up to date on any exciting developments in your writing career! Be sure to drop us an e-mail when you receive your prize-pack. ;-)

Read Donna Wilkins' story and others in the Winter 2007 Flash Fiction Contest Winners Feature.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

 

Freelancers and Freedom

Freelance writers are an integral part of the writing world. We're the ones who fill magazines, report the news and make the world just a little bit smaller, a little bit friendlier.

One of the things I love about being a freelance writer is the freedom it allows. Freedom to write about things that interest me. Freedom to target the markets I consider to be important or those I want to support. But if I want to be published, there are still some rules I have to follow.

Most important is the "know your target market" rule. No matter how great your writing or how wonderfully informative your article...if you don't send it to the right place, you are wasting money, time and effort. One of the best ways to "know your market" is to study back issues. Read the articles to discern their style and tone. This lets you know what the editors are looking for. Next, check out the ads on each page. These tell you the target audience of the magazine... letting you know who your readers are. And be sure to keep in mind the topics since you don't want to repeat something that's been done before.

Naturally you want to check their submission guidelines. Everyone has them, even WOW! (We'll get ours posted on the website real soon.) Guidelines tell you all the little details that keep editors happy. These details include things such as format; what, how and where to submit along with when you should expect a reply. Following these "rules" allow me the freedom to be the stay at home mom, writer and person I want to be.

What are some of the things you like about being a freelance writer?


Jean


Oh...Saturday I'll be at the Jubilee Jambalaya Writer's Conference in Houma Louisiana. If you're there, be sure to find me and say hi. :-)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

 

Interview with Jane E. Johnson - 1st Place Winner!





Jane E. Johnson is All Heart


There are times when you read a story and enjoy it so much that you want to know about the person who wrote it. Sometimes that person turns out to be just as you expected, and other times that person surprises you! Jane is more than we expected and full of wonderful surprises. Getting to know her has been a gift.

Finding out the motivation behind Jane's story shows her true spirit. Listening to her 'speak' through her words is a blast! She's warm, caring, funny, and a down-to-earth person with a huge heart.

Join us as we interview Jane E. Johnson, our gracious first place winner, and find out why a fresh outlook like hers is bound to take her anywhere she wants to go.

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WOW: Jane, congratulations on winning First Place in the WOW! Winter 2007 contest! That's quite an accomplishment. In fact, you found out that you won before we officially went live! Can you share with our readers how you 'caught us in the act'?

Jane: Thank-you, it was really fun to win a contest put on by such fun and encouraging people. I feel like we are all winners. And I really love all of the entries. It's a funny story about my finding out that I won. I was up late and reading some great articles on the WOW! website. I clicked on an article and when the new page opened, all of a sudden I saw my picture. You can imagine my great joy and happiness. I immediately e-mailed the WOW editors that I was sitting right there and was so excited to have won.

WOW: I remember that... we were close to midnight (Pacific Time) and were scrambling, like always, to get the issue up. Then you e-mailed us! Now that reaffirms that people ARE watching... so we better make those deadlines! ;-)

Jane, we loved your story "Funding a Memory," which is loosely based on true events. Could you tell us which parts are true and which are fiction?

Jane: There is a lot of truth to it. I am like JB, and I have two brothers with names beginning with the letter M. I also really do have 9 siblings, "steps halves and wholes". We really did go on a family vacation back in the 70s in a VW pop-top camper. My step dad is very ill. And he really did answer that he would like to go to Reno, (before the doctors determined just how ill he is). His pet name for my mother is "Reb" because he is a 'Yamn Dankee' from Philadelphia Pa and she is a Rebel from Mississippi.

The fictional part is that it was my younger sister who was actually there with me and Mom in the hospital room with Pappaw. My real brothers and my little sister would probably be in the RV with me -- not giving me a hard time about taking him on a trip -- but I needed a conflict for JB. He really did call me Jitterbug when I was young. Probably because I couldn't sit still and I talked a lot. (Imagine that!) I don't get to take him on a trip, but I believe this fictionalized account really helped him to see how much I care for him.

WOW: I believe it has. Did he get a chance to hear it?

Jane: My mother read it to him just after I told them that I won first place. She said he got a tear in his eye. He's proud of me and happy to see that I am writing again.

WOW: We're proud of you too! Believe me, there were a lot of entries. And like most contests, we recommend that writers get their entries in early, but yours came in not too long before the deadline! Do you think the adrenaline helped to write the story, or was it emotion?

Jane: Adrenaline, emotion, anger and frustration that his life couldn't last longer. As I wrote the story I already knew that it would never come true. But it was truly the desire of my heart to take my parents on a trip somewhere. I have been talking about it with them a lot over the last year and we were planning to go to Branson MO, this summer.

I wrote the story the night before the night that it was due. I was in a hotel on my way back from just bringing him home from the hospital. I cried and cried as I wrote it. But it has been shown that some of the best artistic creations come from pain. It is fun to write things out the way you wish they could be.

WOW: That's the magic of stories... and they help heal the soul. As you were caught in the moment, did you have a tough time with the word count?

Jane: I went over by about 100 words. So I tweaked and edited and cut it down to just under 500. It was a great experience. I usually have a problem with ending my stories, but the word limit really held me in tight. It was a fun exercise because it really helped me to look quickly for a punch line. I believe what I cut was mostly details about the VW pop-top camper trip. It was about 1:00 a.m. when I finished and I was exhausted emotionally and physically, but felt a therapeutic relief from writing it all out and sending it to WOW!.

WOW: I'm glad, because you did the same for us. I remember when you wrote us the night you won, your e-mail couldn't have come at a better time. It was therapy for us in the midst of a lot of stress. Feeling your enthusiasm made both Beryl and I smile, even shed a tear.

You'd told us that one of your family's wishes was to see you become a successful writer. That shows the love between you and your family. We also know that you've written a 500-page middle-grade manuscript. Can you tell our WOW! readers what it's about?

Jane: When my six children were young, I would sit outside in the hallway at bedtime and make up stories for them. The characters in the stories where always ogres, fairies, wizards and other fantastic creatures. I have three boys and three girls, and a lot of times the boys were the ogres and other beasts, while the girls were the beautiful magical fairy princesses.

About six years ago, when my oldest was 16, she asked if I would write down some of those stories. I couldn't remember very many of them. But I sat down and plotted out a story where all six of them are wizards. It grew into this amazing tale that sends them out on a quest to conquer an evil dragon by the name of Gwandoya. My problem with the manuscript is that it is written in third person omniscient. I have been told that it really should have been written in third person limited and am on hold right now as I get some opinions and critiques and decide if I need to change it to just one child's point of view. (You try to tell the other five that they don't get to ride shotgun!)

WOW: That is a hard feat. Although, recently, I was reading a book where third person limited jumped from several characters' points of view throughout the story. As long as you change paragraphs and make smooth transitions, you can do it without the reader even realizing it's happening!

So, do you have an agent to guide you through this process?

Jane: I do not have an agent, but a few years ago I did contact Sandy Ferguson Fuller. Her assistant Lynn Volkens wrote back and let me know that she would love to take a look at my manuscript. They offer a critiquing/editing service and were recommended to me by an author friend of my other Dad's. That was about 3 years ago though. I just came across their name again and am most likely going to send the manuscript to them soon.

WOW: How has the submission process been going for you?

Jane: I haven't submitted my book anywhere because I know it needs a lot of work. But I sold 4 stories to children's magazines several years ago. I love getting the mail of a writer. Even if it is a rejection. If you are not getting the mail of a writer, you are not a writer.

WOW: So true... and with a positive outlook! The life of a writer includes many sacrifices. And we know from your bio that you have six children! How did you manage being a mom, a wife, getting a Bachelors' degree, and still find time to write?

Jane: I put my writing on a back burner for the past four years while I finished my Bachelors' degree. I just achieved that goal in December and immediately started to think about writing again. I pulled out old files and found at least 20 short story manuscripts waiting patiently to be sent out. I have already updated and sent out 2 short stories to magazines, entered WOW's flash fiction contest, entered another contest for Kansas writers, SCBWI Kansas, joined a critique group, and I'm going to the Poconos (back in my home state) for a writers' conference next week.

I love children and find that the best way to raise children is to take them on adventures with you. Many of my early short stories and two that I sold to a magazine with a younger audience were based on true events that happened with my children. So the laundry may not get done, but we have a lot of fun making memories together. Sometimes it is difficult to switch gears but now that they are all in school I try to write during the day and focus on them when they get home. I don't sleep much. I often do my best writing late at night. Sleep is overrated anyway ; )

WOW: We know that one personally Jane, and we admire your drive! It's not only sleep that's overrated, but laundry too! So, now that your children are in school, what are you working on?

Jane: I have sent the first 15 pages of my book out to be critiqued at the writer's conference I am attending. I'm also working on a new middle grade novel. This one is a historical novel based in Philadelphia in the 1970s. Can you believe the 70's are historical now! I am also researching magazines again and am looking into writing short pieces for assessment tests. I am a substitute teacher and will be entering a teacher prep program in June. I have a soft place in my heart for special needs kids and will go on to get my Masters so I can teach them. But one thing I noticed is the lack of materials out there for these children. They need text written in language that is more easily understood. And tests that don't confuse them or trip them up.

WOW: I totally agree. That's such a good idea, and one that NEEDS exploration.

Jane, you are a pioneer. You have a wonderful heart, a clear vision, and drive to accomplish everything you set out to do. Winning
First Place in the WOW! Winter 2007 contest is only the start in your adventures -- we guarantee it! Overall, how has entering the WOW! contest been for you?

Jane: This has been an amazing experience all around. I have told everyone I know to enter next time and especially to get on your website and read all of the encouraging words and wonderful informative articles. My sister just called me today and told me that she did write up an entry using the next prompt. She is so excited for me and I knew that she and my other sister and my two adult daughters would have a fun time with the flash fiction idea.

WOW: We sincerely thank you! We only hope that with more entries we can provide greater opportunities for writers. And Jane, when you get published, you have to grant us your first interview!

Jane: I love how you say When. I am sure with your encouragement it will be "when" and not "if". Thanks to Angela and Beryl and all of the contributors at WOW! I'm so glad I came across your website, just surfing along a couple of months ago. Wow.

Be sure to read Jane E. Johnson's first place story,
Funding a Memory.

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To contact Jane E. Johnson for kudos, interview requests, PR, or MS requests on her upcoming novel, please contact: janieness@sbcglobal.net

We hope you've enjoyed this interview with Jane. She's shown us the true spirit of a winner: gracious, honest, warm, self-sacrificing, and down to earth. A woman with a story of kindness. A woman going places.

Thank you Jane
for making this a wonderful interview, and we wish you the best in all your endeavors.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

 

Are Print Magazines Dying?

In a recent interview with Ann Moore, CEO Time, Inc. she had told us about her push for digital content. "We've actually been focusing on our digital strategy for some time, investing in our online assets since 2000," Ann said. She wasn't kidding!

April 20th will be LIFE magazine's last print issue, but readers will still be able to read LIFE online. Time started publishing the magazine in 1936, but this isn't the first time it was shut down. It closed its doors in 1972, but came back in 1978, before shutting down again in 2000.

When WOW! talked to Ann Moore, she gave freelance writers hope by letting us know online clips carry more weight than previously, and in fact, are now the same. "The print and online worlds are definitely no longer separated for journalists. Time Inc.'s biggest names in print are now writing for the web as well, and recognize it's a great way to have more articles published and seen by a growing audience." (Now I know exactly what she was talking about!)

Is this the fate of the magazine industry?

Meredith Corporation's Child magazine has also shut its doors, opting for online only. The same goes for IDG's InfoWorld, and Hachette Filipacchi Media's PREMIERE magazine.

Of course there are benefits to going online only: No more costly print, circulation, and operating expenses. But can they do as well with online advertising? It seems to me that if more magazines go strictly online it will raise the cost of online advertising. The market will need reevaluation.

What does this mean for freelance writers?

Good news for the future. With magazines moving to online and advertising rates rising, in turn, writers should be better paid and have more opportunities. Reasonably, it should create more openings, since online content needs to stay fresh and be constantly updated in real time. It may not be as glamorous for die-hard print fans out there, but online clips will be easier to buzz.

Still, there's nothing like holding a print magazine in your hand and seeing those beautiful glossy photos...

What do you think? Post a comment!

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

 

Writing for the Web

According to a recent research from Poynter's EyeTrack, online readers favor text to video and audio. This surprised me because of the popularity of websites like You Tube. But good content is what readers are really looking for, and that's great news for writers!

Chris Nodder, a web-writing expert for the Nielsen Norman Group, has a few helpful pointers. Because there's a difference between reading on print and online, Chris recommends the use of a lot of white space and grouping content.

Suggestions for Web Writers:

  • Use the inverted pyramid. Start with the conclusion.
  • Write abstracts or summaries for longer content.
  • Tell readers what questions they can expect an article to answer.
  • Make small chunks of content with one or two ideas in each chunk.
  • Group content that is similar.
  • Write unique titles, headings and subheadings.
  • Make lists, not paragraphs. Bulleted lists and white space can break up text.
The reason it works: You're looking at a low-resolution screen, and not a 300 dpi printed page. Also, when readers are looking for an answer to a question, they will scan a page for relevant information.

Makes sense to me!

That's why Q & A's are so popular. You can easily scan the questions and pick out one that's interesting to you. That's why we put all our questions in bold.


EXAMPLE:

This is something freelancers need to consider when writing for the web. For instance, in our last issue, copywriter Debbie Feldstein queried us on her article: How 2 Use Gender-Specific Skills to Write Better and Sell More

WHY WE LIKED IT:

Her article attracted us right away because of her use of bold to highlight points, her lists, headers for topics, catchy titles, and indented short paragraphs with underlines. Plus, her content is terrific!

We hope freelancers keep these ideas in mind when submitting articles to online publications. Simply formatting things a little differently can help you organize your ideas, and sell your work!

For thought-provoking fun: View this fascinating 5 minute video on Digital Text!

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

 

Interview with Emily Maroutian of Writer's Mafia


Emily Maroutian is co-founder of The Writer's Mafia, a writing website for young writers. She and her partner, Jenna Peak, launched www.writersmafia.org in February 2007 with the visionary idea of creating a much-needed haven and support group for burgeoning Gen Y writers.

Emily says that some call her an 'old soul', and others call her a 'free spirit', and on her website she is also known as "West." Born in Yerevan, Armenia, this twenty-two year old writer has already done a lot with her life.

Emily began writing poetry and short stories at the age of twelve. At the age of eighteen she began to write her first book, Disconnected. After experiencing a personal tragedy she grieved through writing. By nineteen she was a published author and had begun work on her clothing line, False Idol Clothing. She later majored in Philosophy and Religious Studies in college.

Now, Emily adds her new website, The Writer's Mafia, to her long list of accomplishments. She and Jenna Peak, a.k.a. Martini, make a dynamic team.

Jenna was born in Glendale, CA on Halloween, 1984. She is the co-founder of The Writers Mafia, and is an aspiring screenwriter, producer, and actress. She is also co-founder and co-owner of Burned Alive Entertainment, a new LA-based Production Company currently working on developing internal screenplays and expanding into other realms of entertainment.
Jenna is also very involved in humanitarian efforts, which include supporting Amnesty International, The Human Rights Campaign, iAbolish, and Save Darfur.Org.

Join us as we talk to Emily about The Writer's Mafia, her accomplishments, and learn why these two young writers will be the ones to watch in the future. With their drive there's no telling what great things are in store!

WOW: Congratulations on your new launch of www.writersmafia.org! What inspired you to start your website?

Emily: Thank you very much we’re very proud of our organization. The Writers Mafia can be defined with our slogan. Create. Influence. Change. We believe that if we can get enough creative and intelligent people from our generation who can influence, then we can start the process of change. Our generation is thought of as stupid, whiny, spoiled brats. I see it every time I turn on MTV. This is why I stopped watching it. Most of their shows portray us as greedy, vacant, bored and lazy. That ends up influencing this generation. They mimic it, thinking that is the way they should behave. It justifies and perpetuates the behavior. So we are determined to change the influence and therefore change the world. We’re not just tomorrow, we’re today.

WOW: Yes, it's true... TV has a way of sucking the writer right out of you! I had to curb my appetite as well, and now, I barely watch it at all. But that has a lot to do with our website... it pretty much keeps me busy full time. I'm sure it's the same with you and Jenna!

I know that working with a partner requires a delicate balance of business, friendship, and compromise. How do you manage to maintain a healthy working relationship with your partner?

Emily: Jen and I have known each other since we were eight. We went to the same elementary, middle school, high school and even college. We were writing partners in high school where we wrote many awful screenplays together that hopefully will never resurface. We partnered up on many projects and we worked well together on everything we did.

The most important thing to me is that she believes in me and she is very supportive of everything I do. She balances me out and I love sharing ideas with her. We empower and inspire each other every day.

We always make sure to include each other on all decisions and we work on communication every day.

WOW: I think everyone can learn from that. It's what makes a partnership successful. So, how does The Writer's Mafia differ from other websites?

Emily:
We encourage, empower and offer support, resources and opportunities. We offer amazing opportunities for young Gen Y writers to get published. We are currently doing a project titled, Essays from My Generation. We’re collecting essays on topics that range from violence in schools to sex to underage alcohol addiction to gender roles seen through the eyes of our generation. They are all personal stories, with factual statistical data along with opinions and beliefs. It’s all coming from the heart and soul of each writer. It is designed to wake up this generation and to show them that they are not victims of anything or anyone. The goal is to empower, first and foremost.

WOW: Do you accept submissions to other projects as well, or in general?

Emily: Absolutely, we are always accepting submissions on articles. Each project however has a submission start and end date so we don’t accept anything outside of that time frame.

We will, in the near future, also have projects for a book of poetry, short stories and a political book titled “Banned Thoughts: A Generation Uncensored.”

WOW: I also noticed on www.writersmafia.org you have a section called, “Writing Wrongs.” Can you tell our readers what this is about and why it is important?

Emily: Writing Wrongs is an op/ed blog about everything that is happening in the world. It’s a place to both educate other young people on what is happening and to blow off some steam. We’re currently looking for passionate writers who want to write their opinions and observations about what’s going on around them and in the world.

Writing Wrongs is written by us, for us. Every topic that is written about is important because it influences our generation. It is informative, sometimes very funny but always thought provoking.

WOW: Emily, in your opinion, what do you see as a trend with the Gen Y submissions?

Emily: A lot of the submissions we receive are very dark. Most of the poetry we read on a daily basis only talks about pain. There seems to be a lot of struggling and suffering. Most people we come across are into poetry. It was staggering to us how many of the writers we spoke to on a daily basis wrote poetry. Some people think poetry is dead but it is very much alive in Gen Y.

Our generation is unbelievably intelligent and talented. From what we’ve seen just by a fraction of the submissions we’ve received there is so much potential and a strong need to be heard. I think most of these writers don’t know what to do with what they have. Unfortunately that leaves them vulnerable to some of the scammers out there. We want them to know that they have a place that not only believes in them but is fighting for their right to be heard.

WOW: So, to avoid scammers, what kind of markets do you suggest young writers submit to?

Emily: We’re trying to create that market. We want to be that market that they know will listen to them, encourage them and give them a chance. They will not be turned away because of inexperience or their young age. Other places don’t have the time or the patience to deal with young writers, that’s where we come in. We will work with each individual writer on a one to one basis if needed.

WOW: That's great, and you'd be the one to do it, considering your accomplishments. You had your first book published when you were only 19! What was your book about?

Emily: I wrote my first book, Disconnected, when I was eighteen. It’s a psychological character study. It focuses on a seventeen-year-old isolated boy named Devon Wilkins who is very disenchanted by his life. It delves deep into his conscience to reveal all the insanity that rages through his mind on a daily basis. The book is in journal format and it follows Devon on his daily quest to find meaning and inspiration in a world he believes to be fake and worthless. How he sees things is a reflection of him and how you see him is a reflection of you.

WOW: You must have been excited when you first saw Disconnected in print! How did being published make you feel?

Emily: Originally when the book was published I didn’t feel any excitement or pride. It was about a year later that I even started to like my own book. I know that seems odd but when I was writing the book I was grieving and it all just spilled out. It wasn’t until the grieving process was over that I actually saw it as something completely separate from what I was going through. I guess you can say I had to disconnect myself from it to really appreciate it.

WOW: I think it was part of your healing process, and something you needed to do to get where you are today... So, besides your fantastic website, what projects are you currently working on?

Emily: I’m currently writing my second book titled, Excuse Me Sir; Have You Seen God? The first one was psychological and this one is philosophical. It focuses on a family that goes through an awful tragedy. The story is told through the eyes of an eleven year old boy who not only loses faith but goes on a search to find God. This is where all of the Philosophy and Religious Studies classes come in handy.

I’m also working on my clothing company, False Idol Clothing. I just recently split from my business partner and so it’s kind of on hiatus until I can kick-start it back up.

WOW: Well, we wish you the best of luck and much success!

In closing, where do you see
www.writersmafia.org headed in the future?

Emily: To space and beyond. Well, metaphorically speaking. We just launched a Writer’s Forum where writers of all ages can come together, communicate and share. We’re hoping that will become a long lasting community for all writers.

In the near future we will be holding contests for poetry and short stories where we will award the winners with prizes.

In the next three years we plan to start some form of grant program that we can award annually to a young writer.

We also plan to make Banned Thoughts: A Generation Uncensored a series which will be published annually.

There will also be a magazine and hopefully some workshops in the future.

We’re open to whatever opportunities the universe wants to throw our way. Our door is always open to suggestions, opportunities and anyone who wants to contribute or help.

WOW: Thank you Emily for a wonderful interview. I'm sure you've inspired some young writers by taking the time to talk with us. We look forward to collaborating with you in the near future.

If you haven't done so already, check out The Writer's Mafia and drop them a line! I'm sure they'd love to hear from you.





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Sunday, April 01, 2007

 

Best of Luck Placing this Elsewhere


By Nadia Ali


We have all received that SASE that’s not heavy enough to be a contract and appears to have one single sheet of paper in it. For me, it is a time of awe and excitement as I look down at my own hand written address – a way that I have devised to differentiate my return envelopes.
Fragments of a query letter or article flash through my mind as I struggle to remember what I had submitted all those months ago. A part of me jumps up and down saying, "open it, open it" while a larger part of me stares hard at the envelope wondering whether I should open it now or later. My finger begins to slide across the top ripping it gently as I unfold the letter therein.

It is a rejection letter. I always try and handle it like a "professional writer" after all every job has it’s disadvantage and the biggest one in our line of work is the fact that we have one shot to impress an editor through our writing abilities in order to receive an assignment.

To date, I have only received one personal rejection letter that actually gave constructive criticism as to why the editor did not like it. Most of the time they are just form letters with my name either typed or hand written across the top. Some delivered with dignity and hope, others like a screwed piece of paper aimed right at me.

Rejection letters do hit hard, they do have a way of bringing you down, but after a while and having received so many of them you tend to see them in a different light and not as just being a personal attack. Bear in mind, that it takes a lot of courage to become a professional writer. Particularly as we tend to put ourselves into our work, so when an editor sends a rejection letter it is obvious that there is an emotional effect.

Instead of making airplanes, paper mache projects or other such creative things with your rejection letters, use them to your writing advantage. They should serve as an instrument to encourage you to sharpen your skills, tighten your writing and better your query letter.

Don’t forget that editors receive hundreds of queries for one slot and only one writer gets the assignment. So develop a healthy attitude by realizing that he will receive similar queries to yours no matter how unique you think it is. So don’t despair. Pitch to another market.

The truth is, if you are going to be a writer, then rejections will be part of your life. If you want to stop receiving rejections, then stop writing. I knew that would shake you up, it seems one of those hard and cold truths that you rather not hear.

Before I go, I would like to share with you the greatest advice from a standard rejection letter that I have received over and over again. "Best of luck in placing this elsewhere" which is encouragement to go out and do just that. Keep submitting and surely your work will be placed somewhere!

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Nadia Ali ( nadiafreelancewriter@yahoo.com) is a freelance writer who works from the comfort of her home. As a mother of two, she tries to balance the schedules of her children and writing deadlines.

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