Sunday, March 30, 2008

 

Update On WOW! Winter '07-'08 Flash Fiction Contest

Tick-tock... I know you all must be waiting on pins and needles to hear the announcement of the Winter Flash Fiction Contest winners--and believe me, we are waiting patiently too. Right now your entries are in the hands of our fabulous guest judge for the season, Kristin Nelson, who is working diligently to deliver the final scores.

We had a great turnout this season (our biggest yet!), so it's not too surprising that this contest has been incredibly hard to judge. We wish you the best of luck, and are keeping our fingers crossed for all those who have entered. We've enjoyed reading your entries, and applaud you for hitting the send button. You are all winners in our hearts for getting your work out there and crafting amazing stories that resonate with our guest judges.

Please stay tuned, as the Flash Fiction Winners will be announced in a feature in WOW! Women On Writing's April Issue, which is due out in the first week of April.

Best of luck!
Love ~ Team WOW!

Visit our Contest Page for the latest Flash Fiction Contest ~ Now with Critique!

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

 

What About P.O.V.?

At my critique group on Tuesday night, we had a discussion on the elusive P.O.V. (Point Of View). One of the members of my group is writing a delightful children's fantasy story with two main characters--sisters--and a purple cat. She jumps in and out of the heads of all the main characters, especially the two sisters. Several of my critique group members said they were confused and asked, "Whose head are we in? Who is the main character?"


I had had the same reaction when I read the story, but I was thinking of a solution. What about omniscient p.o.v.? Wouldn't that solve her problem? She needs both the sisters in the story, and each of them knows certain parts. It wouldn't work to pick one sister to tell the story.


But my suggestion brought new questions for us. What is the difference between omniscient p.o.v. and third person? What makes it omniscient instead of head jumping? Many editors and agents complain that some newbie writers head jump between characters, and this is sloppy and confusing writing.


I suggested she check out The Series of Unfortunate Events as I was pretty sure that was an omniscient p.o.v. A narrator tells the story and knows what is going on inside all the character's heads. In fact, this narrator often stops and addresses the reader, telling us not to read on if we want to read a happy tale or helping us with vocabulary in the story. Everyone in my group agreed that this series was a good example for her to read, but I still wanted to clear up these questions for myself.


Then my ByLine (http://www.bylinemag.com/) magazine came in the mail, and it had a whole article on point of view written by Marion Tickner, a children's writer. She explained the difference between third person, omniscient, and multiple points of view. Third person is a lot like first person as the story is told through one character's eyes. Third person names the character and uses the pronouns he or she instead of I, like in first person. A common example of third person books would be the Harry Potter series.


Omniscient is when the person/author telling the story is god-like because this person knows EVERYTHING. This narrator will know information the main characters do not know and has a voice of his/her own. The narrator is like an unnamed character, telling the story to the readers.


Multiple p.o.v. is when more than one character is telling his or her story. This is often done in books by chapters. One chapter is the story of Character A through his eyes. The next chapter is the story told through Character B's eyes, and so on. I just read a great book with multiple points of view--The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier. This is an excellent example, and I highly recommend it!

So, what will I tell my fellow critique group member the next time we meet? I might suggest she try writing the story with multiple and omniscient points of view and see which one works best for her story.

Which point of view do you like to write in?
Happy writing!
Margo Dill
www.margodill.com

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Friday, March 28, 2008

 

Writing Terms

These are a few writing terms. Each contains a brief definition. Hopefully the terms will be beneficial when writers start talking about their books or hunting for an agent.

1. Anthology
A collection of short stories by different authors.

2. First Draft
The first draft is the first, full telling of the story. There may be pre-work in outlines, character sketches, world building, and various notes, but the story itself has not been fully told until this point.

3. Guidelines
Guidelines are what a writer needs to follow to be published.

4. Copy editor
This is the person who looks over the manuscript after the author has made it the best that he or she can. They are just an extra set of eyes that look over a writer's book.

5. Copyright
Copyright, is the right of the author to say who can publish the book. The copyright remains with the author, even when a publisher prints a book.

6. Ebook
An ebook is a book that is supplied in a format that can be read on computers or hand-held devices.

7. POD
Print on Demand is a technology and has nothing to do with who provides the book. The technology allows a person to print as few as one copy of a book at a time, so that there is no need to keep a stock on hand. The technology uses computer files, rather than offset printing which uses an inked plate as the starting point. Also self publishing is known as a POD.

8. First Publication Rights
These are the rights that most publishers are interested in buying from the author. It is the right to be the first to show the book to the public.

9. Galleys
Galleys are usually the bound editions that are the last step before publication. They don't have the cover art and they don't have some of the other extras. An author usually gets a galley copy to go over one last time before the book goes to print.

10. Advances and Royalties
When an author accepts the contract from a publisher, sometimes there is a set amount of money paid to the author. This is an advance toward the royalties that will be made on the book. Royalties are the amount of money the author gets per sale of each book.
Here is a link to a nice collection of terms: http://www.scribendi.com/advice/glossary.en.html#A

Cher'ley
http://www.freewebs.com/cherley
 

All things must come to an End



It is a well known fact that all books must come to an end, even the Harry Potter and the Left Behind series finally had a completed resolution come many books later. But how do you decide how you will tie things up when you are doing the first round of plotting.

Yes there is a high probability that your ending will change as you flesh out your characters and their motivations, but often there are times you have to come up with an ending when you’re pitching your ideas to editors and agents. And YES you do have to tell them the ending. Much of your command of how your story ends reveals your strength and capabilities as a writer. They need to know you can put together a complete story which means a completed resolution to the conflict.

Now comes the question of what type of ending do you use?

A lot of this depends on the genre, so be sure to spend time researching the market of books you’re hoping to slip your manuscript in with.

There is the Happy Ending.
The Bittersweet Ending.
The Surprise Ending.
The Twisted Ending.

Each of these endings and the many other out there have had success at one time or another. But with whichever choice fits your manuscript it is important to consider what you want your reader’s response to be. For most writers they want one of the following responses:

It puts me in a good mood
It makes me remember the book better
It makes me want to recommend it to a friend
It makes me want to read the book again
It makes me want to cry
It leaves me feeling satisfied
It makes me rethink my view of the world

Any of these responses is what’s going to draw your reader to pick up the next book you put on the shelf. Once again, expecting one of the responses above. And no matter your inner reason for writing, the draw of your readership is what’s going to keep you in the good graces of your agent and publisher.

So how will it all end? How will your Hero or Heroine solve the mysteries of your plot line? It is a question we must all face in our writing, cause all stories must come to an end.

For Commenting Fun: What type of endings do YOU enjoy the most?

Happy Writing!

For more on great endings check out Keys to Great Endings by Crista Rucker

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

 

Wedding Faces

On weekends, I usually scan the wedding announcements and accompanying photos in the newspaper. What are the couples’ stories? Which ones are going to make it?

Brooke and Gil from San Mateo who both went to UC Davis? Dana and Jason who were married in an outdoor ceremony in Lake Tahoe? Caroline and Eric who welcomed guests from as far away as Dubai, Singapore, Germany and the United Kingdom?

I wish them well, honestly. It would be nice if all of them enjoy long and happy lives together. Statistically though, some won’t.

In the novel The Pursuit of Alice Thrift, Alice comes up with the clever idea of revisiting the couples featured in the papers a year or five or ten later. What would the story be then? Alice says, “I’d enjoy that on a Sunday morning—scanning the wedding announcements stenciled with updates: NOT SPEAKING, DIVORCED, SEPARATED, ANNULLED, CHEATING ON HIM WITH THE POOL-MAINTENANCE GUY, GAVE BIRTH FIVE MONTHS LATER, IN COUNSELING, CAME OUT OF THE CLOSET—any number of interesting developments that reveal the truth about bride and grooms.”

Sometimes I think it’s a lottery, really. Who will get lucky and find the right person to spend their whole life with? To the faces in the newspaper, I say: Be kind to each other. Best wishes and good luck.


P.S. Today my husband and I celebrate our 15 year wedding anniversary! So far, so good. : )

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

 

New Classics

Remember all the serious literature we had to read in English Lit classes--books about whales, starcrossed lovers, law cases whose outcomes were a matter of life and death? I enjoyed some of the assigned reading, but in other cases, it took a lot of fortitude to make it through five pages (it seemed that long anyway) of a description of the sky over the sea at twilight. The books we had to read were classics and I sometimes got the feeling that my teachers didn't really care if we liked the books or not. That didn't seem to be the point. The point was, we read the classics and tried to make some sense of the symbolism, the themes and what the author was trying to say.

If the teacher did a good job, most of us could grasp why the book was considered a classic, but to this day, I just don't get Billy Budd.

I don't know if today's young students are required to read the same books, if the long-ago classics have truly endured for them. Have school systems chosen some new classics, I wonder? While a book like Sense and Sensibility may soar right over the typical 15 year-old's head, perhaps a book like Andre Dubus III's House of Sand and Fog would be more understandable, more concrete. Is Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale required reading in a large number of schools? If I taught English Lit, it would be on my list. What about Richard Russo's numerous odes to small town Americana?

Times change and while I hope that Great Expectations is still being taught somewhere, I also hope a more contemporary book is being taught alongside it. I have a short list of what I'd like my students to read, if I were a teacher or professor, books written in the 20th or 21st century and are new classics to me. What are some of your new classics?

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

 

Capturing a Writer's Life

by LuAnn Womach

I grew up in a "movie" family. My grandparents owned a movie theater - the Empress - in a small town in Northeast Nebraska. My parents - especially my dad - passed along the "I like movies" gene to me. When I was growing up, our family would attend at least one movie each weekend - sometimes more. Cinema offered a chance to escape reality and watch someone else's life - at least for two hours.

On Saturday night, I watched Beowulf, and was torn about whether or not this movie was good. The action/adventure definitely caught my attention, but the fact that the storyline of the classic was altered for the silver screen bothered me.

That's when I began thinking about how writers are portrayed on the big screen. Do movies about writer's show our inner conflict to find a topic, battle with writer's block, call upon the creativity muse? Usually, no, the movie does not focus on the creative process.

Instead, these movies delve into the psyche of the writer and weave the fabric of the writer's life into the plot because, after all, what is sexy about watching someone sit at a typewriter or computer waiting for inspiration. :)

But there are movies about writers and the writing life that have captured my attention, and I'd like to share 10 of my favorite movies about writers and/or the writing life. They are listed in no particular order.

  1. Shakespeare In Love - Young Will finds the girl of his dreams and pens one of his most famous plays. Shakespeare is one of my favorite authors, so perhaps that is the allure of the movie, but I'd also like to think that Will found his inspiration within the theater and brought that magic to the stage.
  2. Wonder Boys - Based on the novel by Michael Chabon. Story focuses on a creative writing prof whose life is less than perfect, one of his writing students who just completed a manuscript, and the prof's agent who becomes interested in the student's work.
  3. Finding Forrester - Maybe it's Sean Connery. Maybe it's the lure of New York City. Maybe it's the storyline where a young student possesses an unbelievable writing ability and the forging of a friendship. It's good.
  4. Adaptation - Definitely because of Nicolas Cage. Can a non-fiction book become a screen play?
  5. Leaving Las Vegas - Again, Nicolas Cage as a writer who loses everything - including his career and relationship with a Vegas call girl - to the bottle.
  6. Funny Farm - Chevy Chase as a sports writer turned novelist who moves to New England to write the great American novel, only to be bested by his wife's children's book. It makes me laugh every time!
  7. Henry and June - About the relationship between Henry Miller, his wife June, and author Anais Nin. I'm not sure if I remember the premise of the movie the most or the controversy surrounding what rating it should receive when it was released in 1990.
  8. The Shining - creepy, creepy, creepy.
  9. Capote - An interesting look at author Truman Capote when he was researching In Cold Blood.
  10. Bridget Jones - Of course, Bridget always says she wants to be taken seriously as a journalist, but it's her diary-writing confessions that make you love Bridget and her cigarette-smoking, alcohol-counting, food-munching, single-but-want-a-man antics!

Monday, March 24, 2008

 

When the Inspiration Strikes, Get Cookin'

By Jill Earl

Yesterday, I took time out from writing for a few hours to cook a special meal. I roasted a leg of lamb with carrots, potatoes and red onion, seasoning all with olive oil, rosemary, garlic, and balsamic vinegar. Dinner was finished with lightly steamed green beans.


This time, inspiration came from the Disney Pixar movie, ‘Ratatouille’. When I heard about the movie’s quirky plot, a rat with the dream of becoming a gourmet chef in Paris, I was thrilled. I expected great animation, but wondered how the animators would pull off the realistic culinary scenes necessary for the movie’s success.

Included in the DVD was ‘Fine Food & Film’, a conversation with the movie’s producer/director Brad Bird and chef Thomas Keller. Running 13 minutes, the pair discussed how they collaborated to merge food and animation. As Keller worked with his staff to create gourmet dishes, Bird worked with his writing and animation teams to bring those creations and the world of the chef to life on film.

At times when I cook alone or with others, I make notes of recipes, the actual cooking process, and kitchen settings for future reference. A few of my characters like to create desserts, and dabble in ethnic cuisine, and I’m only too happy to experiment on their behalf. Incorporating my experiences and knowledge into their lives helps makes them more well-rounded and believable.

Your writing may not be inspired by a meal, a well-known animator, a world-class chef and a determined rat. For you, it may come from an article in the paper or online. It may come during a family trip to the zoo. Perhaps it comes on your daily commute to work. Regardless of how it comes, when inspiration strikes, don’t just stand there.

Get cookin’ and write it down!

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

 

Reader Views Announces Best Book in Women's Literature, Sponsored by WOW!

It seems like ages ago when Reader Views asked WOW! Women On Writing to sponsor their 2007 Best Book in Women's Literature Award. Well, the wait is over! And we couldn't be happier with their choice. Congratulations goes out to Becky Bohan and Nancy Manahan, authors of Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully - A Journey with Cancer and Beyond, published by Beaver's Pond Press.

When diagnosed with breast cancer, Diane Manahan decided to share her entire journey openly. A professor of nursing, married to a doctor trained in both conventional and holistic medicine, Diane integrated complementary therapies with orthodox cancer treatments. She enjoyed a full, vibrant life for the next five and a half years.

This inspiring story describes her cancer years and extraordinary death at home, the care of her body by loved ones, and the family's powerful experience at the crematorium. The book ends with a glimpse of Diane's ongoing journey as friends tell of comforting lessons offered by her enduring spirit.

Vicki Landes, of Reader Views, says, "Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully is probably the most profound book on death I've ever read. Manahan and Bohan present a beautiful story of their loved one while offering hope to others facing similar circumstances." Read the full review here.

I had a chance to chat with these lovely ladies via email, and they were so wonderful and gracious. On the award: "...Diane would be thrilled, too, to have her story honored. We are sending a copy of this email to Bill Manahan, Diane's husband, who wrote the introduction to the book..."

WOW! would like to congratulate Bill as well, and wish you all a heartfelt thank you for sharing Diane's story. In sharing, we heal, and we help others to understand. You did a wonderful thing by honoring Diane's journey.

These ladies are an inspiration to women writers everywhere. To find out more about Nancy and Becky, please visit their site: www.nanbec.com and their blog, Full Life, Good Death.

Also, be sure to read this interview conducted by Reader Views to gain insight into the remarkable woman, Diane Manahan, as well as book, Living Consciously, Dying Gracefully - A Journey with Cancer and Beyond.

So, this holiday, remember to take notice, of friends and family, and cherish the time spent with loved ones.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

 

Get Ekphrastic!

Last year I sat in a living room with other writers staring at a welded piece of art in steel. The creator, a fellow writer, was in the next room contemplating an artistic collage that someone else had made. I’m not sure where the maker of the collage was, but I was told that there was photography to consider in the den.

What were we doing, huddled in small groups around each others’ art, pens in hand and pads of paper at our laps?

It’s call ekphrastic writing or ekphrasis. My writing group was using each others’ visual art to inspire poems and stories. The word ekphrasis comes from the Greek words for out (ek) and to declare or pronounce (phrasis). More and more ekphrasis is becoming associated with any kind of art that is inspired from a different medium of art. Photography can inspire a poem, the written word can inspire painting or visual art, a drawing or picturesque scene can inspire a song. There are possibilities upon possibilities for the way that one person’s art can inspire the art of another person in a different medium.

This may be a new idea to some (it was to me), but what is a soundtrack to a movie more than an inspired response to the content of the script? Actually, whether or not it has been called ekphrastic, art has been inspiring art for centuries. Homer writes about the shield of Achilles in the Iliad. John Keats wrote “Ode to a Grecian Urn”. More recently the novel Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier was inspired by Johannes Vermeer's painting the by the same name. Additionally, there have even been art galleries who invited local writers to create pieces of writing about the art in their permanent collections.

Ekphrastic writing is an easy and fun way to not only stimulate your creative juices but also include others in your writing experiences. Here are some suggestions.

  • Go to an art museum and choose the painting that draws your attention the most to write about. Bring friends and have fun sharing what you come up with.

  • Look around the city that you live in for interesting pieces of architecture and write ekphrasitcally.

  • Delve into modern ekphrasis and catch a local musician or band. Take notes on what you sense and feel as the music is playing. On the spot or at home write a poem or piece of prose to that would describe the music in a new way.

My last encounter with ekphrastic writing involved viewing and then writing about a friend’s photography after her debut at a local art gallery. For me, ekphrasis inspires me to interact with art on a deeper level. It also teaches me that the muse can touch me anywhere, even if it is from a medium outside the realm of literature and story.

by Susan Eberling

Friday, March 21, 2008

 

Local Writers’ Associations - A Worthwhile Investment

By Jill Earl

I just received my copy of Pen In Hand, the Maryland Writers Association’s newsletter. I decided to join as one of my birthday presents to myself last year and am glad for the decision. Within that period of time, I've had an article published in our newsletter, served on the meeting committee for our local chapter and participated in a panel discussion on broadcast media. Your local writers’ association can offer numerous opportunities to establish or further your writing career. Finding one in your area can start with your library, local arts council or check out the Internet for more information. Following are a few benefits to joining these organizations.


Joining a writers’ association can provide an abundance of networking opportunities such as social gatherings, meetings, lectures, and other events. Not only can you meet writers in your specialty, but you can also meet those who work in other genres. You'll receive much needed support through peer interaction, and build relationships.


Writers’ associations often have critique groups for members to hone their craft, while getting valuable feedback on works-in-progress. Group members decide on location, length and frequency of meetings, along with the focus of their particular group.


Many writers’ associations sponsor conferences where both members and non-members can attend seminars and workshops featuring local and nationally-known authors covering areas ranging from poetry to writing for children. One-on-one critiques with editors are frequently offered. Publishers appear to give advice on how prepare your submissions and insider views on the publishing process. And networking opportunities abound.


So if there’s one available, consider joining your local writers’ association, and let the benefits help grow you as a writer. It really is a worthwhile investment.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

 

Stressed? Try Journaling

Take care of yourself, especially if you take care of others. It is as essential as breathing. Because caregivers spend every spare minute driving to medical appointments, stopping at the pharmacy, cooking, answering questions, paying bills, and helping with matters that used to be private, they often lose site of that fact. They feel trapped in an endless loop.

Journaling relieves stress.

Imagine you are on an airplane. An oxygen mask drops in front of you. You are told to place it over your own nose and mouth and breathe normally before sharing it with anyone. Journaling works in the same way. It lets you breathe before offering help.
Journaling is a caregiver’s oxygen mask.

I began journaling steadily during my first year of “Mom Care,” a name I invented when my mother refused outside help. Journaling let me vent, process, and keep my mouth shut at critical moments from 1994 through 2001. At first, journaling kept me moving forward. Later, it kept me sane.

Journaling gives perspective and restores sanity. It is a lifeline as well as a record. Experts have documented that writing saves lives. Do not underestimate its power.

Use the privacy of a journal to vent, delve into issues, and untangle messes. Analyze and celebrate. Finish a thought without interruption.
Journaling eliminates mental toxins and deepens awareness. It enables you to strip away the daily crap and lets the strong, sane, safe, healthy, hopeful parts of you emerge.

What do you do if you think you have nothing to say? Start anywhere. Look around the room for an image or a sensory detail—the way the sun makes a path on the carpet, the way steam rises off a cup of coffee, carrying the aroma of morning with it. Listen to the high pitched whirring of an omnipresent machine, the tick of the kitchen’s black-and-white, kitty-cat clock—any image at all.

Be specific. Include sights, sounds, movements, smells, and the feel of the air. Describing the immediate environment will start your writing. Go wherever an image takes you. Explore fearlessly.

When you write in your journal, it can be all about you. The journal validates your right to be who you are and honors your worth as a caregiver. There is no wrong way to keep a journal. Write anything. Write often. Write every day if you can.

One participant in my first Journaling for Caregivers workshop said, "Writing from the heart seems to be all that is needed." She is exactly right.

Ready to get started? Here are two resources:

You Want Me To Do What? – Journaling for Caregivers is a four-week workshop, conducted by group e-mails. To find out how it helps caregivers process stress, e-mail for information. (Lgood67334@comcast.net) Put “Journaling” in the subject box.

A book, tentatively titled You Want Me To Do What? – Journaling for Caregivers, offers encouragement and over 200 sentence starts. It will be available towards the end of 2008.

Journaling relieves stress. Give it a try.

===

B. Lynn Goodwin is published in Hip Mama, the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times, the Danville Weekly, Staying Sane When You’re Dieting, Small Press Review, HeArt’s Desire, Dramatics Magazine and numerous e-zines. Her book, You Want Me To Do What? -- Journaling for Caregivers will be out in the fall. She writes reviews and author interviews for Writer Advice, www.writeradvice, and edits the zine.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

 

Back it Up – Free of Charge

I live right outside of Atlanta, where a tornado recently ripped through the city, causing extensive damage. A week earlier, another tornado tore through my subdivision, causing extensive roof and water damage to many homes. Though my home was spared, I had to wonder, among other things, what would have happened to my documents had my computer been damaged? Sure, I back up my important documents on a thumb drive, but then again, it’s just as susceptible to water damage as my computer. I realized that I needed a way to save my documents in a secure location that, hopefully, would not cost me a small fortune in storage fees.
So I decided to research my options. My husband recently purchased a new laptop that came with a free one-year membership to an internet based storage site. I thought that would be a great idea, until I saw that the storage fee rates started at forty dollars a month. For those of us on a budget, such cost rates can make off-site storage prohibitive. Then recalled how I saved my work while researching on campus during my college days – Email.

There are many free Internet based email accounts – Google, Yahoo!, and Hotmail are probably the most well known. You can set-up an email account just for storage. When you finish working on an article or story, simply email it to your off-site email account and viola! Your work is safe and secure. So even if the unimaginable happens – a natural disaster or computer virus – your work will be safe and you’ll be able to return to it quickly from virtually any computer with internet access.

Like anything else, off-site email account storage is not foolproof or one-hundred percent guaranteed. However, off-site email accounts are very reliable. I’ve maintained the same account with Yahoo! for twelve years and recently opened a Google account that I use for business. I’ve never had trouble with retrieving emails from either account. However, some email accounts require that you access the account at least once during a four to six-month period or the account and its will be deleted. Be sure to check for requirements such as this prior to setting up an account. For those of us living within a budget while safeguarding important documents, off-site email storage may be just the way to go.

Kesha

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

 

Marcia Peterson Wins First Place in the SouthWest Writers Contest


Congratulations goes out to WOW!'s team member, columnist, and blog mistress, Marcia Peterson, for taking first place in the Monthly SouthWest Writers Contest! Marcia's winning non-fiction article, "Get a Deadline and Get More Writing Done," took first in the January 2008 International Writing Competition.

You can see the announcement here:
http://southwestwriters.com/monthlycontestwinners.php

Each month SWW puts on a themed contest to sharpen your skills. Here's what's lined up:

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March 2008
Show, Don’t Tell

For this month, a cover sheet is okay. Write a two-part entire or portion of a short story or impression that demonstrates the writing adage: Show, don’t tell. Part I (up to 250 words) uses the passive technique of the author telling things to the reader (e.g., "He was angry."); Part II (up to 250 words) rewrites the same work, using strong, active verbs that show things to the reader (e.g., "He slammed the door.").

Up to 500 words total, double-spaced.

Cash Prizes: Prizes: $50 1st Prize; $30 2nd Prize; $20 3rd Prize + certificates.

Entry Fee: $5 SWW members/$10 non-members.

Postmark deadline: March 31, 2008

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April 2008
Poetry Month

A cover sheet is okay for this month. Write a poem of any style, form, format, spacing or subject matter. Polish those words. The sky's the limit. One page limit.

Cash Prizes: Prizes: $50 1st Prize; $30 2nd Prize; $20 3rd Prize + certificates.

Entry Fee: $5 SWW members/$10 non-members.

Postmark deadline: April 30.

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Find out more details by visiting:
http://southwestwriters.com/monthlycontest.php

Congrats Marcia!! We're proud of you!

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Monday, March 17, 2008

 

Lucky Query Letters

Since I am part Irish and it's St. Patrick's Day, I have to write about luck. But leaving our writing to luck is not a good strategy if we want a successful freelance career. Sure, there are those lucky few, who seem to just sort of wander into an on-going assignment with National Geographic or who just happen to query People magazine and get an assignment to interview Tom Hanks. But usually writing does not come down to luck, even on St. Patrick's Day. So, how can you get your query letter out of the slush pile and into the hands of the right editor?



The secret, which has nothing to do with luck, is not even that hard. All you have to do is find the name of the editor, who would most likely publish your article in her section of the magazine. For smaller mags such as Missouri Life, this would probably be the managing editor or sometimes the associate or submissions editor. For a larger publication such as Vogue, many of the individual departments, such as Beauty or Health, have their own editors.



The easiest way to find the name is to see a copy of the magazine. This is recommended, anyway, before you query the editor. Go to your local library, view a copy online, buy one at a book store, or send for a sample copy.



Once you have a copy, then look at the masthead. You will see the names of the editors and their job titles. Find the editor that fits your submission and send your query directly to them. If Nancy McFarland (had to pick an Irish name :) is the Health editor and your article is about a new exercise plan, then start your letter: Dear Ms. McFarland. When you address your envelope, put Nancy McFarland on the top line and the magazine name and address below. One way to end up in the slush pile is to address your envelope to Submissions Editor. (You can also use the Web site, www.mastheads.org , to view the masthead of many magazines.)



Some words of caution: If you are looking at a huge magazine such as Family Circle, do not send your submissions to the top editor. She is in charge of the entire magazine, and usually, her associate editors or department editors bring her ideas they love from the query letters they've read. Address your letter to one of them. Going straight to the top is not always the way with query letters.



If the name is gender neutral such as Riley or Kelly, don't assume the editor is a woman or man and address the person with Mr. or Ms. In these cases, I address the letter with the editors first and last name such as Dear Riley Smith. I've also heard of writers, who have called the magazine and asked if the editor was male or female. Writers also call and confirm the person still works there. I've never done this personally, but I do know a lot of successful writers who have. Don't ask to talk directly to the person. That is the kiss of death. Just ask the receptionist your question.



I also double check the name on the publication's Web site if possible. Most print publications have a Web site, and sometimes, names and email addresses of editors will be listed. This is only a tool for double checking. I do not email my query to the editor unless the guidelines say I can. I also use the Writer's Market guide to double check editors' names. Sometimes, the market listing will be specific and tell the name of the acquiring editor, but I like to check this with the Web site or masthead. Market guide listings are sometimes written a year in advance, and in the publication world, people change jobs often.



However you do it, find an editor's name before you address your query letter. This strategy gets you one more step closer to publication without relying on luck.



Happy Writing!
Margo Dill

http://www.margodill.com/

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

 

FROM ONE GREENHORN TO THE NEXT


So many times as I sit to write for WOW, I feel blessed that I have a chance to share some of my ideas about and for writing with you.

I have a secret to share, I am not as accomplished as so many of our WOW readers are, but, I do continue on a daily basis to strive for my dream and do the best that I can. It isn’t easy, but like all of you know, the best thing to do is to continue on. Push yourself as much as you can.

I have to admit there are days, that I want to pull my hair out because I have gotten stuck in a rut with my writing, this has happened so many times, that I have lost count. But, I always try to find something that I can do that ties in with my writing. There are several things that I might do that aren’t strictly writing, but it is all a part of writing. The following is a list of ideas that might help you along your path to becoming a stronger, better writer. They might also help you to reach your goals.

Research: If I have come up with a story idea about a distant place, I check out different websites, books, maps, etc, on the particular place. I will make notes on the information that I was able to find. You can even go to some of the weather sites and check out what the temperatures are like to give your readers more of a feel for the climate in that area.

You can also research information for an article for idea, for example maybe you are interested in daisies. You could find out how many different varieties of this particular flower there are, the best way to plant them, etc.

Character development: This doesn’t even have to be for a character in a story that you are working on. For example, say you see an older woman sitting on a bench in a park, she might make a good character for a story some time. Write down information about her, what color are her eyes, is her hair curly, short, long, is it white, gray? How is she dressed? What does her body shape look like? Does she resemble a pear or a big round grapefruit? Next begin to build her on the inside, how old is she, what religion does she practice, does she like chocolate, is she political.

Here is a website that I found quite useful, from this site, I was able to create a spreadsheet for myself that I could fill out with all the necessary information about my new character. http://users.wirefire.com/tritt/tip8.html

Another useful template that I found is the following:

http://www.pgtelco.com/~slmiller/charactertemplate.htm This template gives you the basic characteristics for your new characters.

Stemming on this idea of developing new characters, you can also check out some writing workshops on character development or building here are a couple of sites that offer classes on the subject. http://www.writeronline.com this site offers lots of information on ways to develop your characters. It breaks it down into different parts for you.

Go to a Book Signing: You probably looked at this and went, how does this tie into writing? Quite simply, talking to a published writer, gives you more connections. You will be amazed, especially during some of the slower times for the writer at the signing, they are happy to just talk to you about their work, how they got started, even how they themselves got published. Make sure you take a small pad of paper and a pen with you when you go, you might end up walking out of the signing, with an agent’s number, publisher’s number, heck, you might have just met a collaborator. I admit I always get excited when I can meet and chat with other writers, who have literally walked in my shoes.

Mini-work shops: Sometimes, you will come across writers, who have developed their own techniques. They might tie them in with a book signing and the location may require that you call ahead to sign up. These mini-work shops are usually free of charge. Free is always good in the world of the beginning writer. Make sure you have a notebook with you, you will walk out of there with tons of information and a new look at your personal writing perspective.

One author comes to mind that does a wonderful job with mini-workshops, her name is Natalie Goldberg. http://www.nataliegoldberg.com Recently, her new book was introduced.

One mini-workshop that I went to of hers was tied in with her recent book at the time “The Essential Writer’s Notebook” A step-by step guide to better writing. This book and the workshop were great for me, it showed me, that even though you don’t seem to have anything to write about, there is still a ton out there that you can write about. In the first sentences of her book, she states: “The Essential Writers Notebook is a place where you keep your hand moving, even if you think you have nothing to say. Stop your daydreaming; put pen to paper. Trust yourself. Write whatever is on your mind.”

It is amazing how much I have actually written and how many ideas have developed from her technique.

Store and Library Search: Depending on what genre you are writing for, it is good to check out what is on the shelves. This can be a plus and a negative. If you check out the new books, you might want to read through a few pages of the particular genre that you are interested in. This may give you some in-sight to the style of writing that the publishers may be looking for.

Read: I have found it useful to read books in particular genres that I am interested in writing. Not only to relax and enjoy personally, but it also helps give me a chance to see the different styles. For example; if I am interested in mystery, I might read some of Agatha Christie’s work, which gives me some nostalgia, then jump to one of the more modern day writer’s like James Patterson or Mary Higgins-Clark. This will give me an understanding of different styles that are interesting readers today.

Even though I have been writing for many years and the writings that I have gotten published have been very limited, I still consider myself a “Green Horn” in the writing world. I personally have not found my niche and will continue to reach for my dreams. I will hold tight to those dreams and continue to perfect my writing style and my knowledge of writing skills as much as possible.

I hope that this helps all of you in some small way. Happy Writing to each and every one of you!

Carrie Hulce

Saturday, March 15, 2008

 

The Writer’s Proving Ground: The Conference

By Valerie Fentress


This week I have had the privilege of attending a writer’s conference in California. Any conference is an amazing experience to open a writer’s eyes to new ways of thinking and new ideas coming to the publishing market. What makes conference such a priceless experience is that you truly find out what you are made of.

At most conferences you are surrounded by a large group of people in different stages of their writing career. There are editors, agents, multi-published, and the unpublished. Most people in this environment become the ever expanding sponge, but what is not known is how much you are going to learn about yourself.

Many times we can ‘talk the talk’ of writers, and have all the confidence in the world in our own homes. When it comes time to talk face to face with the people that can truly influence your career all that confidence can escape you with your next breath. There are some writer’s that could have a conversation with a wall if they choose, and then there are those that prefer to sit back and listen rather than get involved.

I would fall in that last category. I’m better in small groups rather than 400+ people all trying to pitch the next great thing. After my first day of introvertness, I had to dig deep to find that inner sales person, that inner socialite that can chime into any conversation. Where she came from I don’t know, but she had the passion for my work that I feel towards my writing but don’t always say to strangers.

If a contract comes out of this conference I will be ecstatic, but there is something more to say about discovering you CAN DO THIS. You can have a normal conversation with people in the biz, and glean information without selling your soul.

There is such a thrill that comes with sharing your passion for writing, to talking the talk with people that have made it. And there is nothing more exciting than learning more about something you’re passionate about, well maybe expect that contract.

But given all the things that you learn from a conference I would trade it all for the confidence and joy of stepping out of my comfort zone to really make steps toward my goal.

What makes stepping out of your comfort zone so hard is that fear of rejection. Now we could probably line up all of our rejection letters and cover the Great Wall of China, but no matter how tough your writer’s skin is there is something about being rejected face to face that can melt us to Jello. But just like those rejection letters it’s a badge of courage and another step toward your writing career. Cause conferences give you the chance to get critiques to find out why you received rejection, rather than just a form letter. Sometimes even gives you the chance to sit down and pick the brain of the person you got the rejection from. These opportunities are why it’s so important to go to conferences, and to choose your conferences wisely.

Take the time to review the options that are available. See if there is a focus toward fiction or nonfiction. Are there critiques available? Are there opportunities to sit down with editors and agents? Contact the organizers to get all the information you need, or even see if they have CD’s of the previous year’s workshops. But the most important thing is to GO. Go to learn. Go to network. But just go. Conferences are valuable resources and if you haven’t been to one yet. Check them out. If 400+ people freak you out then start small and work your way up. You writing can only improve.

Happy Writing

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Last Call Contests! From Winning Writers

Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest:

Postmark Deadline: March 31
Now in its 16th year. Prizes of $2,000, $1,000, $500 and $250 will be awarded, plus five High Distinction awards of $200 each and five Most Highly Commended Awards of $100 each. Submit any type of short story, essay or other work of prose, up to 5,000 words. You may submit work that has been published or won prizes elsewhere, as long as you own the online publication rights. $12 entry fee. Submit online or by mail. Winning Writers is assisting with entry handling for this contest. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest - No Fee:

Online Submission Deadline: April 1
Winning Writers invites you to enter the seventh annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. Fifteen cash prizes totaling $3,336.40 will be awarded, including a top prize of $1,359. There is no fee to enter. Judge: Jendi Reiter. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

 

Your Writing Space

Where do you write most often? At a fancy mahogany desk with carved feet? On your couch while the television provides background noise (and sometimes distraction)? In your favorite coffee shop, where other patrons provide company and inspiration?

People who don't write think that writers have it easy because we can perform our jobs and our craft just about anywhere. Even if you're camping in the woods with no electricity, there's always the option of writing on a legal pad with pencil or pen. We can work in our pajamas if we want. We can take the whole day off and work into the night if that's when we do our best work.

As writers, we know it's not always that easy. Sometimes ideas are hard to come by; the perfect turn of phrase is just out of reach. And then there's the dreaded Writer's Block.

We all have our favorite places to write. Some people find it easier to sit at a desk, while others would feel too confined and prefer writing at a sidewalk cafe. The space is not what matters most. What does is the fact that you're there more often than you're not. Many of you may remember this writers' riddle: What is the most important part of a writer's body?

My first guess was the hands. How else can you write without hands? But that's not the answer. The answer is: the butt.

If your butt isn't sitting in your writing space, no writing is being done.

So take a look at where you like to write the most, the area that makes you comfortable and provides you with all kinds of ideas. Where is this place? And are you in it right now?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

 

Proofreading

Don’t edit or proofread right away. Let it rest and then go back or so the advice says. Well, that doesn't work for me. I'm one of those writers who remembers exactly what it was supposed to say even after months, and that's how I read my manuscript.

The other main advice you receive if you Google proofreading is to get a buddy. Two sets of eyes are better than one, and three sets are better than two. This is great advice, but it is harder than it seems. I don't really know any other novel writers. I do belong to several critique groups, but they are made up of short story writers who are not interested in my novel. I kept searching until I found another person to exchange novel manuscripts with.

Proofreading is not an innate ability; it is an acquired skill. The following exercises will help you master it, or will impress you with how challenging it is.

Hints for Successful Proofreading:
  • Cultivate a healthy sense of doubt. If there are errors you know you tend to make, double check for those.
  • Read very slowly. If possible, read aloud. Read one word at a time.
  • Read what is actually on the page, not what you think is there. (This is the most difficult sub-skill to acquire, particularly if you wrote what you are reading).
  • Proofread more than once. If possible, work with someone else.

Most errors in written work are made subconsciously. There are two sources of subconscious error:
  1. Faulty information from the kinesthetic memory. If you have always misspelled a word like "accommodate," you will unthinkingly misspell it again.
  2. A split second of inattention. The mind works far faster than the pen or keyboard.

http://www.ucc.vt.edu/stdysk/proofing.html

Read Your Work Aloud
Any time your text is awkward or confusing, or any time you have to pause or re-read your text, revise this section. If it is at all awkward for you, you can bet it will be awkward for your reader. Reading your text aloud will also help you catch errors including missing words and incorrect grammar that you may have missed.

Examine Your Paragraphs
Examine the overall construction of your paragraphs, looking specifically at length, supporting sentence(s), and topic sentence. Individual paragraphs that are significantly lacking length or sufficient supporting information, as well as those missing a topic sentence, may be a sign of a premature or under-developed thought.

When to Seek a Professional
Although it is always necessary to proof your own work for basic mistakes, even the best writers can benefit from hiring a professional proofreader. If you already know you have difficulty finding the errors in your own work, it is better to hand the job over to someone who can make your material the best it can be.


Cher'ley

http://cherley.webs.com/index.htm
 

Walk the Line: Critiquing Another’s Work

by Susan L. Eberling

“ ‘. . . George took Christina into his arms as the sun set into the ocean. They kissed and they knew they would always be together.’ Well, that’s the end of my story. What do you think?”

A good friend sits before you, waiting for an answer. Her eyes are full of hope, expectation, and a twinkle of fear. This writer has waited all day, all week, maybe all month to come to writers’ group and hear what you have to say about her short story.

So what are you going to say?

Critiquing another’s work can feel like walking on a dangerous precipice. On one hand, no story in its first draft is complete or perfect, major revisions are always needed. But, if careful, you can point your friend towards tightening the plot, increasing suspense, or developing characters. On the other hand, a story just shared is like your friend’s baby, her emotions will be tied up in what you say about her writing, both good and bad.

So how do you walk this high road of giving honest criticism that makes a piece of writing better and while being sensitive to the writer’s feelings? Here are four suggestions for careful walking as you give feedback and criticism:

• Use a checklist

Plot, setting, point of view, conflict. These are objective aspects of any piece of fiction. You can evaluate the plot of your friend’s piece without foisting your opinion on her work. Plot is a literary device that needs to be strong and clear in any piece of fiction. Help your friend evaluate the strength of her plot, or the details of her setting, or the reasonableness of the conflict. By focusing on these devices that create good fiction, you will be giving her thoughtful, specific suggestions to consider. Victory Crayne has a great checklist and tips for critiquing at www.crayne.com.

• Admit your filters

Your friend just shared her romantic short story with you, but you hate romantic literature. Tell her. Crayne says, “Let the author know if this is not your favorite type of story. This may help them better understand your viewpoint. Things you do not like in the story may very well appeal to a fan of that genre.”

Let your friend know that in your world romance is not on your top 10 list of things to read. This way if you start to seem disdainful, she will know that it is not about her and her writing, it is about your own style and preferences.

• Create a safe haven

“It’s easy to easy to tear a piece of writing to shreds,” say Charlie Schulman in The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, “but being critical in a positive, tactful and constructive manner takes time and careful consideration.” Set aside a good chunk of time to hear the writer’s story or to read a copy of the story on your own. Simply skimming the piece or not listening attentively could lead to snap judgments or misunderstanding of the style or theme of the piece. Also, create an environment where risk is tolerated and even bad writing can be nurtured into good writing. Schulman encourages critics to “balance support with challenging suggestions”.

• Major on the majors

Unless your friend’s story is on the way to the publisher’s in the morning, use your critiquing opportunity to analyze the bigger issues of style, characterization, plot and theme. Leave grammar and punctuation until the end of a critique or a later draft.


Critiquing is about encouragement and calling each other out to be better writers. Everyone wins when you are honest about the faults and flaws of a fellow writer’s story yet able to keep her hope alive that someday, after revision, she will have a draft of a story that she can be proud of. Hopefully, through your example, others will walk the same line for you as you share your work.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

 

Interview: Fall Contest Runner-Up Maria Chythlook

I had the privilege of talking to Maria Chythlook, author of A Teddy Bear Prayer, which won honorable mention in the Fall WOW-Women on Writing Essay contest. The story centers around a promise Maria made to herself as a young girl and the application of her prayer in her current situation. Maria currently has several children's books in progress centering around a young character that has many adventures within Alaska.

LuAnn: Congratulations on your winning entry! Your faith boldly shines through your story. How did your faith help guide your family to make such an important decision?

Maria: Thank you. Our faith was the main determining factor in our decision. We asked ourselves a question, “What would Jesus do?” I know this may sound over simplified for such a big decision. Matthew 18:5 says, “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.” We live to love God, to love others as Jesus does and as we want to be loved. We felt then, as to this day, that Jesus gave us our son. It was an easy decision.

LuAnn: The power of prayer can be miraculous. What feelings did you experience after remembering your girlhood prayer to adopt children?

Maria: When I remembered my girlhood prayer concerning adoption, I literally had goose bumps. There are certain times in my life upon which I look back and see the hand of God orchestrating everything. This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest event like that. I still get goose bumps thinking about it.

LuAnn: Your story gives me goose bumps, too! As a former counselor, I've been involved in several similar situations. Sometimes, the foster system doesn't always move at a fast pace. Were there any difficulties in adding a new little brother to the family?

Maria: We had no difficulties at all adding a little brother. In fact, the Sunday I wrote about was the only day during which we had time to think. The next day, at 10 am, the state social worker came to our home. At 6 pm, eight hours later, I went to pick up our new son. We did not know it at the time, but that Monday was his second birthday. What a birthday present for us all!

LuAnn: You live in Alaska, which many people consider "God's country." Do you ever include the landscape of the land in your writing?

Maria: I love living in Alaska. I was born here and consider it a God given gift. When I write I love to include as much of Alaska as I can, especially in children’s stories. When I write poetry it always includes Alaska, the landscape, the wonders and the wildness of it all.

LuAnn: What inspired you to enter the contest?

Maria: I was inspired to enter the contest on a whim. I am a certified teacher, and have recently opted to home school my children instead of teach everyone else’s. As I have no income now, I was looking for writing jobs on the Internet. Little ones I could do on the side which would not detract from home schooling four children. I stumbled upon the WOW website and began devouring it. I did not even consider the contest at first. I later mentioned it to my children, who eagerly prompted me to write the story. They would not let it rest. So, I wrote and God has blessed me.

LuAnn: Kudos to your kids for encouraging your writing. Have you entered or won other writing contests or awards?

Maria: I have not entered any other contest, previously or presently. I do some local freelance work and web site content writing, and a few technical jobs over the Internet. My reward is reading what I have written to my kids.

LuAnn: You lead an extremely active life! How do you make time to write?

Maria: How do I have time to write? As it is currently 2:30 am, this may give a clue! I used to keep a notebook with me. Now I carry my laptop with me everywhere. I took it to the doctor’s office with me the other day and got in a whole 45 minutes of writing time, uninterrupted! Writing relaxes me, and as we have no television here, I write for my fun/free time. My mom has always encouraged me to write, especially about the antics that go on in our home. Thank God for giving me a talent which is also a stress relief. What could be better?

LuAnn: I understand you are a thespian at heart. I used to teach drama! Do you have any plans to adapt your children's books for the stage? Or perhaps, write a screenplay at some point?

Maria: Yes, I am a thespian at heart. The stage gets into your blood, like an addiction. When my children are older I am going to join our local playhouse. They have a wonderful time. For now, we are content to watch plays, both local productions and the ones that come up to the Performing Arts Center in Anchorage (a three hour drive from here). I encourage my children to participate as well. As for incorporating my children’s books into plays, I have never thought about it before. Most of the action takes place outside in the great Alaskan wilderness. That might be hard to put on the stage. I do think writing a play would be a blast. As with every true writer, I have my own set of ideas constantly running through my head. Time will tell.

LuAnn: Good luck with that project! I understand you are an ASL interpreter. How did your interest in American Sign Language develop?

Maria: My interest in American Sign Language has always been a part of me. I have family members that are deaf, and who taught me the basics at an early age. In college, I decided to take ASL courses as well. As time progressed, I have used my signing ability with the school district and in the community as an interpreter, with deaf friends, and in church with our worship team. ASL is a beautiful language. I think it is much more expressive than spoken languages.

LuAnn: What authors inspire you and why?

Maria: I have many favorite authors. I will mention four here, but they are by no means the only ones. When I was a child, my dad would read me Jack London stories. I still reread them today. His style of writing is so poetic and dramatic. The words bring your imagination to life. I can feel the air he describes, the sound of the snow is audible, and the tragedy is as if it were happening to my loved ones. His words can be daunting, but they are pleasurable to the ear. During my young adult life I began to read Anna McCaffrey’s works. I love her fantasy series Pern the best. Four out of six members in my family have read the entire series, and we relate life to them at times. We even call our coffee ‘klah”. Ms. McCaffrey makes her characters come to life so vividly, as if they were standing right next to you. She has created an amazing world in Pern, intricate to the last detail. Another author is Dana Stabenow. She writes Alaskan murder mysteries, which brings her work dear to my heart. Her Alaskan content is very accurate and she has depicted the social climate within Alaska very well. Growing up in Alaskan villages, I can appreciate this. Her characters are real, like the people I know here in Alaska. (Yes, we are a different world up here in the frozen north.) The next author I would like to mention is Max Lucado. His work has touched my soul. He writes so poetically. He delivers his message by enveloping you with his words, bringing you into the presence of Christ. His children’s books are some of the best I have ever read. I truly believe his gift of words comes from God.
The truth is, I can find the good in everything I read. When I find the works that move me, I feel satisfied, contented. When I read ones that don’t, I think to myself, “If this got published, then there is hope yet!” So, even the works I personally don’t like, they inspire me too. It’s all in how you look at it.

***

If you haven't done so already, check out Maria's award winning story A Teddy Bear Prayer.



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Monday, March 10, 2008

 

Revisiting Pen & Paper

A couple of days ago, fellow WOWer Del made a compelling case for writing with pen and paper, usually dismissed for email, text messaging and other Information Age tools. She reveled in the satisfaction she gets from seeing her thoughts and ideas on paper, how it connects her to the past.

I, too, get a kick out of seeing my writing on paper. In fact, I keep a notepad with me at all times. Sure, my PDA has a Notepad function, but the small screen can't hold all of those nuggets that might come my way while I'm out and about.

I recently started on my tenth journal. It's yellow with white daisies carved into the cover, textually and visually pleasing. While my thoughts do find their way to the lined pages, writing ideas rarely join them. For me, journalling clears my mind to focus on writing tasks, and those tasks (and the previously mentioned nuggets) are transferred to computer for further work.

I write letters too. Sometimes an email won't do and I turn to paper to jot down a note or pen a letter to a pal. I browse bookstores for blank journals and stationery sets, looking for those that eventually go home with me.


So, Del, you're not alone. Somehow, I think that pen and paper will hang in there a while longer.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

 

The School Book Fair – An Untapped Resource

Writers for children are challenged with creating engaging material for young readers, whose ages range from infants to young adults. The brave soul that decides to take a swim in these unforgiving waters has a lot of work ahead of him or her. The plot or text must be believable, the dialogue authentic, and the characters relatable. But how do you know what kids today find believable? What types of characters would they find relatable? And just what do kids say when adults aren’t listening? And what are kids reading nowadays?

Last fall, I stumbled upon the perfect way to answer all of these questions and more about young readers. My daughter’s elementary school needed volunteers to help run the school book fair, so I signed up. Now, as a former teacher, I’ve been to my share of book fairs, but this was the first time I looked at one through the eyes of a writer. What surprised me was the amount of discourse about books (and just about anything else) that takes place at school book fairs. They offer a treasure trove of ideas and information to the observant writer.

For the children’s writer, a school book fair is an opportunity to observe how children speak and interact in an informal an atmosphere. You’d be surprised at what kids are saying today – I was. It’s also an opportunity to talk to kids about books. Find out who their favorite authors are and why. Why do they choose one book over another? Which nonfiction books are in high demand and which aren’t? Remember, kids are spending their money (or their parent’s money) on books, oftentimes when they can spend it on something else. Why?

Also take a look at the books on the shelves. Which publishers are represented? What types of books are available? Which books are selling out?

School book fairs also give you a chance to interact with teachers, librarians, and parents. Remember, these are the people that buy and expose children to books. They know what kids like to read and what they are asking for more of. Take the time to build relationships with librarians and teachers – they may be interested in inviting you to read your book or work in progress to a group of students. As a former teacher, I would have loved to expose my students to a reading by a local author. Not only can a reading encourage students to read more, but it can also motive many students to become better writers as well.

Elementary schools aren’t the only place to find a book fair. From daycare centers to high schools, librarians are coordinating book fairs that address the needs of their readers. So, if you’re a young adult writer who’s looking for new ideas or fresh dialogue for that work in progress, what are you waiting for? Contact your local high school and sign up! A couple of hours of community service may breath new life into your work in progress.

School book fairs usually take place in the fall and spring, so now is the perfect time to make that call or send that email. Nervous? Don’t be - schools are always looking for volunteers and they’ll be happy you called. So, whether you write for pre-readers, young adults, or somewhere in between, there’s a book fair in your neighborhood that needs you.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

 

Good Ole Pen and Paper

I think many of us not only like to write, but we also appreciate the tactile qualities of sitting down with pen and paper at times. I know, pen and paper? How antiquated and quaint in this age of computers, e-mails, blogs, websites, etc. While I love the speed and convenience of typing on a computer (as well as never having to use White-out again), for personal journaling, I still use a book full of blank pages.

The pages can take on a somewhat mystical quality. They become more than paper; they turn into possibilities. Each blank sheet is ready to become filled with the best, or worst, ideas. There's something deeply satisfying about writing down my thoughts, venting about bad days, recording something nice that happened, all in my own hand. Some days, my writing is pretty neat. Other times, when I'm in a hurry or upset, it's almost illegible. But I always feel a connection to the past when I write like this.

Before e-mails, people wrote letters. I used to write a lot of letters when I was younger. Maybe you did, too. I even have some letters from high school friends and penpals and it seems each one contains more emotion and sentiments than the many e-mails I read every day, which can be deleted with one mouse click.

Tell me I'm not alone in my love of this almost outdated mode of communication. Will there come a day when we don't pick up a pen anymore, for anything? I certainly hope not.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

 

Diaries As A Starting Ground

by LuAnn Womach

Lately, I've been intrigued with novels that include diary entries as a means of advancing the plot or provided back story. It's not a new technique, but for some reason, the technique has drawn me in and made me realize how valuable a tool a diary can be in advancing both fiction and non-fiction.

I've written in a journal for nearly 20 years as a means of not only self-expression, but as a daily record of the world close to me: the weather, local news, a personal observation about my mood. Some of those personal observations have grown into magazine articles and newspaper features.

But I had been considering adding a diary segment to the young adult novel I've been writing, and I knew I needed help.

Inspiration hit when I was leafing through The Write-Brain Workbook: 366 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing by Bonnie Neubauer. An exercise entitled "Dear Diary - One" offers several choices for an age option and location option. By selecting one choice from each column, the writer becomes the person and lives at that location. The writer finds a diary from 1864. Let the story unfold. Start with: Some people might have have opened.....

After trying out a couple different options from both columns, I returned to the novel and experimented with the technique. What if a classmate of the protagonist found the diary and shared it with the coach? What if the protagonist's mother discovered the diary and found out that her co-worker - the coach - was harassing her daughter?

I'm still working on the novel, but the diary exercise let me add an important story element, and hopefully, that will entice and captivate readers.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

 

Bits & Pieces: Events


LA Times Festival of Books

Spring has sprung not tulips but book fairs. Well, OK. The tulips are coming, but on April 26 & 27, Authors' Coalition will present authors of genres from poetry to memoir to talk to you and sign their books at the LA Times/UCLA Festival of Books on the beautiful UCLA Campus . Find them all at the Authors' Coalitions and Red Engine Press booths, numbers 610 and 611. Featured authors include Barbara Crandall, David H. Jones, Joyce Faulkner, Poets Christine Alexanians and Sona Ovasapyan, Pamela Kelly, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Carol Wood, Dana Lee Buhler and WOW's very own Annette Fix with the debut of her new memoir, The Break-Up Diet. Learn more about the fair at http://www.latimes.com/extras/festivalofbooks/. Learn more about opportunities for your book go to: http://www.authorscoalitionandredenginepress.com/fair_booths.htm.
Visitors at this booth will receive free books with their purchase while supplies last.

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Fourth Annual New York Round Table Writers' Conference

Friday, April 11th & Saturday, April 12th
@ The historic General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen Library
20 West 44th Street in Midtown Manhattan

http://www.writersconferencenyc.org

The 2008 Conference will include: presentations by groundbreaking new authors - Joshua Ferris and Charles Bock; two luncheons with keynote speakers, best-selling novelists Alice Hoffman and Lincoln Child; a Friday evening gala keynote interview with acclaimed author, John Berendt, two cocktail receptions; as well as craft workshops and panel discussions on topics including:

- Writing Book Proposals
- Memoir Writing
- Writing a Winning Query Letter
- Writing Process
- Online Publishing
- PR and Marketing
- Independent Publishers
- Self Publishing
- Fiction Writing
- Birth of a Book

Speakers will include: Alice Hoffman, Lincoln Child; representatives from HarperCollins, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Broadway Books, McGraw-Hill, Soft Skull Press; The Permanent Press, Persea Books, Wiley & Sons, Autonomedia, bookreporter.com, A Public Space, Alimentum, Bloom; FOX TV; Allen O'Shea Literary Partners, FinePrint Literary Management, Sarah Jane Freymann Agency, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, Liza Dawson Associates and Sanford J Greenburger Associates and many more to be announced!

Visit their website to find out more details on event pricing etc.

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National Publicity Summit, March 26-29 in NYC

Meet over 100 national media face to face! Great for authors who want national media exposure. Only 100 attendees admitted.

Find out more: http://www.NationalPublicitySummit.com/?11025

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

 

The Dreaded Blank Page

A lot of writers dread a blank page, and it gives quite a few writers' block. A blank page gets a writer no where. One of my favorite sayings goes something like this: "You can revise a terribly written page, but you can not revise a blank page." Even Tim McGraw weighs in on this topic with his song, "Blank Sheet of Paper." McGraw sings of a poor sap who doesn't know how to write an apology letter to his sweetheart, and so she never knows he's sorry. It is a terribly sad song about an unwritten letter. We do not want blank pages in our personal lives and definitely not as writers. But what are some ways to avoid them?

Another one of my favorite sayings goes something like this, "Practice the ABCs of writing--Apply Butt to Chair." If our behinds stay at our desks in front of our computers, maybe we'll actually write something. This is no guarantee as computers have many wonderful time wasters on them such as checking email and playing solitaire. But with our butts in the chairs, that's a start.

Just the other day I was talking to a writer about this problem. She had a story idea but hadn't written in months. She had no confidence and was doubting she was even a writer. My advice to her was to just write the story that was in her head. It didn't have to be good. It didn't even have to make sense to another person. The most important thing was getting the story on her computer or in her notebook and getting rid of the blank pages.

Some writers will not stop writing for the day until they have typed a few sentences onto the next page. Then when they get ready to work the next day, they are not staring at a blank page. They are staring at a half-written page, and for some reason, this makes all the difference.

So, basically the best way to get rid of the blank page is NOT to throw it away or never open your word processing program again. The best way to get rid of a blank page is to write, even if it sucks. No one ever has to see that draft--except you after you've been busy revising.

No more blank pages!
Margo Dill

http://www.margodill.com/

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

 

Fall 2007 Runner Up! Ellen Murphy



Ellen Murphy is a runner up in WOW!'s Fall 2007 Essay Contest. Her entry, Time Together, is a touching story about her changing relationship with her dad. We congratulate this high achieving sixteen-year-old from Fort Myers, Florida, and chat with her about writing and the other activities that keep her busy.


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WOW: Congratulations for placing as one of the Runners Up in our Fall 2007 writing contest! How do you feel?

Ellen: I was incredibly excited. I didn't really expect to place this high in the competition since it is the first writing contest I've ever been entered in. It was really cool to be the only "kid" runner up, among a bunch of adults.

WOW: It's great to have a young writer in the winner's circle. What inspired you to enter the contest?

Ellen: My English teacher handed me the prompt and "suggested" I entered.

WOW: She had the right idea about you! When did you develop an interest in writing? Have you written other things as well?

Ellen: I honestly have not been interested in writing at all until this year. This year I feel like my writing has really improved and the pieces I've created this year are way beyond anything I've done in the past. But this is the first contest I have ever entered and had anyone besides my English teacher judge.

WOW: You definitely are doing well with your writing. What about future writing plans or goals? What would you like to do?

Ellen: A career in writing doesn't particularly interest me. I just hope I can write a killer college admission essay.

WOW: Absolutely. We wish you luck with that important project! Tell us about the trip that you took with your dad. How did it go? What were the best parts?

Ellen: The trip was amazing! We went to the beach (my favorite) and I got to get a little color in what is the dead of winter for my hometown. The game was awesome and the Bengals won which made the trip that much more exciting.

WOW: Sounds terrific. I'm sure your dad was pleased that his "surprise" turned out so well. From your bio, you seem to be a very busy young woman. First, you're quite an athlete! Can you talk about the sports you participate in, and what's involved with being on those teams? What do you enjoy about them?

Ellen: Well, I have swam since I was in the third grade and it has quite the schedule. I practiced everyday after school, and two days a week I got up at 4:30 am for before school practices. On Christmas break and over the summer practices were also twice a day, everyday. As you can see, it was quite strenuous which is why I have begun to pursue my running career. Running is great exercise and makes me feel good about myself. If I'm ever having a stressful day, I go out running which gives me an outlet to let out my frustration and gives me some time to myself to think. Despite how my mom hates it when I run at night because she thinks it's dangerous...it is my favorite time to go. It is so relaxing and peaceful. I run random races around where I live, but I'm also on my school's track team which practices after school. I like the track team because it is for my school, whereas the team I swam for was a separate club team.

WOW: Running is a wonderful stress reliever, and it's great that you've found something you enjoy. You're also a member of the National Junior Honor Society and the French club. What can you tell us about your involvement with those groups?

Ellen: In NJHS we collect canned goods around Thanksgiving and Christmas time to give to the needy. We also each adopt a less fortunate child at Christmas and fill a box full of presents, which for some is all they will receive at Christmas. We then go to the school and personally give them our gifts and spend an hour or so playing with them. It makes me feel really good knowing I have made this kid so happy. We also sponsor different events for our school and around the community.
In French club we sponsor different events for younger kids to get them excited about foreign languages.

WOW: Those are some wonderful ways to help and mentor others. I'm sure your efforts are appreciated. If there was one bit of advice you could pass on to other aspiring writers, what would it be?

Ellen: Write something that has meaning to you.


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If you haven't done so already, please read Ellen's story, Time Together.

And remember, every Tuesday we'll be featuring an interview with one of the top 10 winners from the Fall 2007 Essay Contest. So, be sure to check back and see who's up next!

For more details on WOW! Women On Writing's current contest, please visit:
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

 

A Day of Rest

By Valerie Fentress

For hundreds of years no matter your background, it's usually tradition to have one day of the week as a day of rest. But for writer's committing a day to step away from the grind is often hard to do because of deadlines, or internal and external pressures to make a goal.

Granted sometimes the creative process does require a nap or two during the week, but the 'Day of Rest' is not meant just as a day to sleep, but a day to step away, enjoy family, catch up on that book you wanted to read for fun.

Iknow you're saying, 'I don't have time for that. There's too much going on.'

But I ask you, how is the quality of your work?

I find my work to suffer greatly if I don't step away from it all and just let my mind be free. Free of the to do list, free of life's pressures, free to contemplate those crazy ideas swimming around up there. For some your greatest inspiration comes from the speed and pressure of life, but how are you feeling when you step away from your work? Tired? Drained? Unmotivated?

Not matter your personality or work style our human little bodies need rest both physically and mentally. So if you feel the pressure rising and the words aren't coming, take the day off. Go for a walk, read for FUN, chat with someone you've been meaning to. Your creative mind will thank you for it. :)

Happy Writing!

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

 

Start a Stampede to Your Blog

I'll be the first one to admit that I haven't got the faintest idea how to really use my blog effectively to promote my book. I know my key mistakes are: I don't blog as often as I should and I don't have a theme or a solid idea of what direction I want to go with it.

Initially, I had the idea of posting my quirky personal commentary and additional fun insights into the various scenes in my book on the exact days that they appear in the diary entry structure throughout my memoir. And that's what I have done, which you can see here: http://thebreak-updiet.blogspot.com/

But on top of not really being sure about whether this is the best way to blog about my book, I'm also a bit of a technotard when it comes to figuring out how to promote it. So, in my search to find resources to solve some of these deficiencies of mine, I've started to collect useful tips about blogging. And, instead of keeping all this great info to myself, I thought I'd share with our WOW! readers a very helpful article I discovered.

TAG, YOU'RE IT!
by Penny Sansevieri

One of the biggest questions I get from authors is: "I have a blog but how do I get people to it?" Well first off, you want to keep blogging, but there are other things you can do too, and we'll discuss two of the most powerful ones here.

If you've spent any kind of time online you've probably heard the terms: tag or social bookmarking. But what *exactly* do these terms mean?

If you think of the term "tagging" like you would a name tag at a party or networking event it will start to make much more sense. Generally, when you post a blog, it's recommended that you "tag" it with various terms appropriate to the message of the blog. The Wikipedia definition of "tag" is: A tag is a keyword which acts like a subject or category. This keyword is used to organize web pages, subjects, and objects on the Internet.

When you think of it this way, what you're really doing is organizing each of your blog posts so that folks can find and search them. By tagging each of them with specific keywords, you'll come up faster when someone searches those keywords than if you left your blog blank. Make sense? Ok, then let's get started learning how to tag. (I promise, it's very easy.)

When creating tags, there are two types that you can create. You can imbed your blog with tags using services like Technorati (more on that in a minute) or you can go to social networking sites and tag your blog as well. Honestly, I recommend a combination of both.

Social bookmarking is a way of "bookmarking" favorite sites (i.e. yours) so you can easily share them (via tags) with the Internet community and especially folks who are searching on your search term. I'll explain how to get your site bookmarked but, for now, take a look at sites like www.digg.com and del.icio.us.com - these are the top two social bookmarking sites you'll want to use. There are others but we'll discuss these in a minute.

Ok, here we go!

Simple steps to tagging:

1) Create a blog post: just write your blog, don't worry about doing anything different.

2) Identify some keywords you'll want to use: just pick some keywords, as many as you want. Don't worry about getting too scientific with this, just be thorough.

3) Create your tags: head on over to http://www.egmstrategy.com/ice/tag- generator.cfm and generate tags (this will be choice #1). Once you input the keywords make sure the default button is checked at Technorati. Then go to the bottom and click "generate code" - this code will get posted right into your blog. It's that easy! (tip: always post this code at the end of your blog) When you're done you'll see code in your blog like this: http://www.redhotinternetpublicity.com/blog/?p=45

4) Social bookmarking: simply put, you want to tag each of your blog posts in one or all of the following social networking sites. The one slightly time- consuming piece is that you'll need to set up accounts for each of these but once you do, it will take you a minute or so per post to add a social bookmarking tag to each of them. Here are some of the most popular social bookmarking sites you'll want to use: digg.com, Del.icio.us, myweb.yahoo.com (this is still in beta but I recommend using it anyway), blinklist.com, spurl.net, reddit.com, furl.net, and stumbleupon.com

5) Nuts and bolts: each of these sites has a different set of criteria for bookmarking your blog post. If you're blogging every day this might seem pretty tedious. If it's too much work to tag and bookmark each of your posts, handpick a few each week and focus on those. The idea is that you want to get these keywords out in cyberspace so folks can find you.

Ready for a final tip? If you want to impress customers with your endless list of resources why not share your Del.icio.us page with your readers/customers? Del.icio.us gives each registered member their own page with all of their bookmarks. Ideally you'll want to include other resources besides your own blog but a link to this page could be a fantastic way to gain additional exposure not just for your blog, but to your wealth of resources as well. (here's my page: http://del.icio.us/bookmkr)

Reprinted from "The Book Marketing Expert newsletter," a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com

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Now, all I need to do is carve out time to implement Penny's great tips! Give it a try yourself and let me know how it goes!


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