Friday, October 31, 2008

 

"Hallowed" Words

The other day, I was inspired by a radio station up in the Poconos/Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area (WKRZ)*. They were having a call-in survey that seems apropos to discuss, both in this blog and on this particular day.

"What words out there make you cringe/think eww, gross?"

Respondents chose a lot of words I never thought about being gross, or even, cringe-worthy, but I'll disclose to see what you think. Granted, I missed part of the survey since they must have started before I was off from work, but still, nevertheless...

"moist," "gush," "soiled," "gurgle," "chunk"...

How about it? What words do you find particularly gag-inducing?

As an archaeologist, even though I do know the other contexts that make some of these words gross, I'm not too easily fazed by any of the words proffered by the listeners. Actually, I can't think of ANY. This is a shame, since I do like to make people gag with lame jokes and puns. Words could be another happy medium (pun noted). I'll avoid the cringe-worthy verbiage, but only if you let me know what makes you wish you could take a Sharpie to an OED (Oxford English dictionary) or good ol' Webster's.

Although I don't think Stephen King will stop anytime soon.

To that I conclude this entry. Happy Halloween and if you can't gross anyone out with your costume, by all means, your vocabulary could!

* WKRZ, (C) 2008 Entercom Wilkes Barre LLC, Intertech Media LLC, October 21, 2008 Broadcast.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

 

Update on WOW! Summer Flash Fiction Contest

Hi Ladies,

I know you're anxious to hear the results of the Summer '08 Flash Fiction Contest!

Here's the skinny: We sent out an email yesterday notifying the Top 10 contestants--so please check your inboxes, there are still a few of you we haven't heard from yet. The faster we get bios and pics, the sooner we can put up the contest winners' page.

Since we're busy working on the November issue, we won't be sending out email notices to Honorable Mentions. You'll have to wait until the issue goes live--most likely, next week--to find out the full results. We are working as quickly as womanly possible. ;)

Thank you for sharing your wonderful stories with our guest judges. It was not an easy task! Check back next week to see your name in "lights."

Have a happy Halloween and don't eat too much candy!

Hugs,
Team WOW!

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Momma Said Enter the Housewife Awards


Isn't it time you got a pat on the back for a job well done?

Every two weeks, MommaSaid awards one lucky mom for her daily duties as a mom. The Housewife Awards recognize moms for the relentless, exhausting, incredible and often amusing things they experience--and endure--daily.

Enter the Housewife Awards for a chance to win a signed print copy of Murder Takes the Cake by Gayle Trent! Read Gayle's interview on MommaSaid HERE.

Instructions for entering the contest:

What are we looking for? We're not looking for Mother of the Year. We're looking for a funny story or situation that sums up the occasional craziness of at-home motherhood. We want to hear what you put up with on a day-to-day basis, not that you're coming up with the cure for cancer while the baby naps (though I would appreciate it).

PLEASE BE SPECIFIC. Don't tell us you cart four kids around in your mini-van, clean floors and volunteer at school while taking night classes. We're all doing that! Tell us a story of something that happened to you that shows how exhausting and confounding motherhood can be. Humor is a plus. Poop is fine, but really not necessary every single time. Check out the awards archives for examples.

Share your story and enter to win!
http://www.mommasaid.net/housewifeawards.aspx

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

 

Celebrate Rockvile's Favorite Son at The F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference

By Jill Earl

Last Saturday, I hopped a train to Rockville, Maryland, a short distance from Washington, D.C. for the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference (FSF) at Montgomery College. Now in its 13th year, this annual day-long event gathers area writers and readers together to listen to and learn from industry professionals, meet the FSF contest winners and celebrate the 112th birthday of Rockville’s favorite son, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Attendees began their morning with writing workshops such as poetry, novel structure, the author/editor relationship, screen adaptation and short story to get the writing flow going. Following welcome remarks, attention was turned to ‘Crime and Mystery--A New and Yet Familiar Genre’. Washington Post writer and columnist Michael Dirda moderated the lively discussion as panelists George Pelicanos, Laura Lippman, and 2008 FSF Literary Award recipient Elmore Leonard shared their experiences in this popular genre.

Emmy nominated for HBO’s The Wire, Mr. Pelicanos defined himself as a crime novelist interested in the ‘why’ rather than the ‘whodunit’ and “showing people the way things are” in his novels set around Washington, D.C. Former journalist and author of the Tess Monaghan mystery series, Ms. Lippman remarked that she “aspired to noir writing”, but “I’m not dark enough.” An acclaimed novelist and screenwriter, Mr. Leonard frankly declared, “I don’t care for cute, comfortable mysteries”, evident in works ranging from westerns to modern writings such as Get Shorty and Freaky Deaky, a favorite of Mr. Pelicanos.

The best advice to writers was offered by Ms. Lippman, “You have to grow a really thick skin and learn to get over bad reviews. If they say your work is bad, so what? Move on!”

Added to this year’s conference was the opportunity to pre-register for 20-minute manuscript consultations with editors from journals such as Narrative, The Gettysburg Review and Blackbird. All meetings were on a first-come, first-served basis.

After lunch we moved on to keynote speaker Susan Cheever, who led us through ‘The Mystery of Great Writing from 1850 to the Present’. Interspersed with tales from her early days of writing, Ms. Cheever spoke of her lifelong love and fascination for Louisa May Alcott’s writings, noted that there's more of a writers’ community today than there used to be and how “the writer’s nap is a very important part of a writer’s life”, a belief near and dear to my heart. At the end, she reminded attendees, “The only way to learn how to write is to read.”

During the awards ceremony, winners of both the high school and adult short story contests accepted their prizes and read excerpts from their works. And Elmore Leonard, winner of the 13th Annual FSF Literary Award (recognizing outstanding achievement in American literature), joined a most distinguished group of past recipients, including John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, Norman Mailer and Edward Albee. Mr. Leonard continued to delight attendees with his wry humor as he read from one of his many novels. As an added surprise, his wife presented him with a candle-topped cupcake as attendees wished him a happy 83rd birthday.

The afternoon continued with a panel on wisdom from writers, editors and publicists; the Fitzgerald Haunts in Rockville Tour, including his and wife Zelda’s final resting place; and more writing workshops, among them memoir, short story, and personal essay.

I signed up for the personal essay workshop led by Kim Dana Kupperman, managing editor of The Gettysburg Review. Since we had limited time, we jumped into learning how to develop persona writing about first kisses from not only our own perspectives, but also from those of philosophers, thieves and martyrs. A fun way to end a rather relaxing day.

Reading, writing and learning from the best on a beautiful October day. What more could a writer want?

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

 

Interview with Donna Volkenannt, Runner Up

Congratulations Donna!


Donna Volkenannt is thrilled to be a winner in the WOW! Women On Writing and Seal Press Spring 2008 Flash Fiction Contest. She has learned that entering writing contests and belonging to a good critique group are the best ways to polish her work, which has appeared in: A Cup of Comfort for Women, A Cup of Comfort for Christmas, Sauce, BookReporter.com, Storyteller, The Ozarks Mountaineer, Mid Rivers Review, Mysteries of the Ozarks, Echoes of the Ozarks and Cuivre River Anthology.


She is a retired management analyst, a full-time grandmother and the website editor for Saturday Writers http://www.saturdaywriters.org/. In her spare time she plugs away at a young adult novel set in historic St. Charles, Missouri. Through the grace of God--and with lots of caffeine--she hopes to complete a first draft by the end of the year.

In November, her story, “Welcome Home,” will be included in A Cup of Comfort for Military Families. She lives in Missouri with her husband and their two grandchildren, who fill her heart with joy. Contact her at dvolkenannt@charter.net.

Read Donna's winning story, Ida's Rocking Chair.


WOW: You have some great publishing credits. Congratulations. Tell us how you feel when your stories are selected to appear in these publications. How did you learn about the WOW contest and how did you feel when you found out you were a finalist? Does it feel different to win a contest verses having your work accepted for publication?


Donna: I'm always excited to learn that something I've written has been recognized for an award or accepted for publication. That feeling never grows old. I learned about the WOW website and contests at a Saturday Writers' meeting. Saturday Writers is a chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild that meets near my hometown of St. Peters, MO. Margo Dill, one of Saturday Writers' founding members, brought in a handful of post cards about WOW to one of our meetings and placed them on our 'freebie table' in the back of the room. The freebie table is where members share with others submission guidelines, contest announcements, and other items of interest. Both winning a contest and having my entry published are exciting experiences. Being in the top 10 in the WOW contest is a double treat.

WOW: Isn't it great being a Grandmother? Tell us a little about your grandchildren. Do they influence any of your stories? One of your upcoming stories is going to be published in A Cup of Comfort for Military Families, do you have someone in the military?

Donna:
Being a grandmother is a wonderful blessing. After my daughter Julie and son-in-law Mike were killed in a motorcycle accident almost four years ago, my grandchildren, Cari and Michael, came to live with my husband Walt and me. Raising Cari and Michael has been a joy that came from the tragedy of losing our daughter. So, Yes, Cari and Michael have a great influence on my stories--and my life.

No one in the military right now. The story in the Cup of Comfort for Military Families is about the Vietnam War experience.

WOW: We're so sorry to hear about Julie and Mike. Please accept our condolences.

WOW: The Saturday Writers website is very nice. www.saturdaywriters.org I see in addition to being an editor, you are also one of the founders. Can you tell us your primary mission on The Saturday Writers website? I was delighted to see the children's contest you are running right now.

Donna: The motto of Saturday Writers is "writers encouraging writers." In January 2002, a few of my writing friends and I got together and founded Saturday Writers as a chapter of the Missouri Writers' Guild. We wanted a place where local writers could meet each month to support and learn from one another or listen to guest speakers--writers, editors, agents or publishers. Over the years we've had New York Times best-selling authors, Pushcart Prize winning or nominated writers, and winners of the Western Writers of America Spur Award speak to our group. At selected meetings members also read from their works in progress, which is always a wonderful time.

Saturday Writers also sponsors an annual short story contest and a poetry contest for adult writers from across the nation--and overseas. To encourage local students in three rural Missouri counties to become writers, we sponsor an annual children's writing contest for grades 3 and 4 and one for Missouri students in those same three counties in grades 7-12. We also publish the Cuivre River Anthology, which includes stories, poems, and essays from award-winning writers as well members.

WOW: Tell us a little about your YA novel.

Donna: The YA novel grew from a series of bedtime stories I used to tell Cari and Michael to help them fall asleep when they were younger. While they're now able to fall asleep without bedtime stories--although they still getting tucked in each night after prayers--it's taken me awhile to get the crux of the main story outlined and down on paper. I'm still working on it but hope to finish the first draft early next year.

WOW: Missouri is a beautiful state. My company's main terminal is in Joplin. Have you always lived in MO? How does the state influence your writings?

Donna:
Missouri is a beautiful state, and the people are genuine and welcoming. I was born in North St. Louis less than a mile from the Mississippi River and live about thirty miles from where I was raised. When my husband and I worked for the U.S. Government, I lived in several states, as well as overseas. No matter where I've lived, Missouri has always been home and a part of me. When we lived in Southern Arizona and in West Texas, I missed the four seasons--except maybe the bitter cold Missouri sometimes get in the winter. When we lived in Massachusetts and in Germany, I missed the St. Louis Cardinals and the hot summers--really!

WOW: Is Ida's Rocking Chair based on a true story? As I read your story, I cried tears of sorrow and then tears of joy. You did such a wonderful job in bringing the chair to life. Sometimes we say, "If only that chair or whatever could talk…", but you bought those emotions to life and I thank you for this wonderful, warm story. Do you have a rocker? I have a porch swing and every time I sit on it I think, what stories will this swing be able to tell.

Donna: "Ida's Rocking Chair" is a work of fiction, but the emotions in the story are real.

WOW: What do you believe the most important quality is for a management analyst? Did you use your writing and editing skills a lot during your career? Does retirement put a new slant on your writing career? Is it a second career, a hobby or a fulfillment of a dream?

Donna: As a management analyst, I guess the most important quality is to be organized and analytical. It's very much a left-brain career that involves skills such as data collection and analysis, which is different from using my right-brain creative side for fiction writing. I did a fair bit of writing and editing as a management analyst on projects I was assigned. That writing was mostly detail-oriented or related to studies and surveys; however, some of the managers I worked with knew I liked to write, so they frequently asked me to help them write awards for their employees.

Retirement has been a double blessing. I have more time to spend with my grandchildren and to write. Not to sound flip or arrogant, but writing isn't just a hobby or something I do; a writer is what I am.

WOW: How old were you when you started writing? Did you always want to write?

Donna:
I got bit by the writing bug in Most Holy Name of Jesus Grade School when my eighth grade teacher (if memory serves, her name was Sister Mary Johanna) assigned the class of 63 students to write our autobiographies. In mine I wrote about my life and my dreams. On the front cover I drew picture of a girl walking down a path with a globe in the background. The title was not very original--"My World." But I do remember the first line. It started off, "The sun shone brightly in the clear blue sky . . ." Thus, began my writing career. I was one of two eighth graders selected to read my autobiography to the entire school. Afterwards, several teachers commented on what a good writer I was. In essence, what I thought was a writing assignment changed my life. In high school I wrote for the school newspaper, the yearbook, and was a reporter for a local teen magazine. After I got married, while my kids were growing up, I attended night classes in college, where I wrote term papers, but I took a couple of creative writing classes and got to stretch my writing skills there. So, I guess I've always wanted to write.

WOW: I'm sure you have a short term goal of finishing your novel, which at one time was probably your long term goal, so now do you have another long term goal? Other short term goals?

Donna: Someone once called goals "dreams with deadlines," and that's what this project has turned out to be. It's a dream I have, but the deadline keeps changing. While finishing my YA novel should be a short-term goal, because it's taking me so long to write it, the novel has taken a life of its own and become more of a long-term goal. In the near-term I hope to outline several other connected novels in a series. One immediate goal I have is to finish these interview questions (smile) and to work on a few deadlines which are due next month.

WOW: I'm smiling. We're almost done. I only have one more question. What advice or secrets can you share about winning contests and getting published in so many sources?

Donna:
Though not really secrets, here are some tips I've learned over the years:

1. Follow the rules. This probably seems obvious and unnecessary, but I've not only entered contests but have also been a contest judge. The entries that follow the rules stay in the game. Same holds true for publishing; follow the submission guidelines.

2. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you're unsure of what you're supposed to do, ask, but don't be too pesky or pushy.

3. Be genuine. Write from the heart and put yourself into your work. Let your unique writing voice shine through. When you read your story and it makes you feel some emotion--whether joy, happiness, sorrow, fear, or love--it most likely will do the same for your readers.

4. Use active voice, strong verbs, and concrete nouns, but go easy on the adjectives and adverbs.

5. Don't rely on spell check. Print out your work to check for errors and read your work out loud before submitting.

6. Join a critique group or writers' organization. If you can't find one, start your own and invite other writers to join. Members of my critique group and Saturday Writers have not only helped me improve my writing, many of them have become cherished friends. Being around other writers--not just 'networking' which I think can be impersonal, but becoming friends with other writers and getting feedback and support from them and giving feedback and support to them--has enriched my personal and writing life.

7. Share with others. It really is better to give than receive. My experience is by giving I've received much more in return.

8. Respect your words, yourself, and others.

9. The true purpose of writing is to EXpress--not IMpress. That's a piece of advice I read somewhere that stuck with me.

10. Take your writing seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously. Be persistent, but have fun and be yourself!

WOW: Thank you Donna and best wishes in all your projects.




***

If you haven't done so already, please read Donna's award-winning story Ida’s Rocking Chair .


Interview by:
WOW Intern Cher'ley Grogg
http://antiquesandapparitions.blogspot.com/
http://www.freewebs.com/cherley/

To check out WOW! Women On Writing's latest contest, please visit:
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php sponsored by skirt! books with guest judge, literary agent, Jennifer DeChiara.




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Monday, October 27, 2008

 

Collection Tips

by LuAnn Schindler

A freelance writer assumes multiple roles. Not only do you determine editorial content (you ARE the writer and editor), but you also are responsible for researching topics, finding a home for your work, marketing your stories AND yourself, and devising an accounting system that works.

Within that last role, not only are you responsible for sending invoices and paying the bills, but at some point, you will have to be the collections enforcer. Establish a system for accounts receivable and share it with potential clients before you find yourself chasing the money trail of slow paying clients.

Here are some tips that will make collecting payment an easy endeavor:
  • Get it in writing. A contract needs to spell out the terms of payment, including if you need to send an invoice, when the invoice should be sent, and how much you will earn. Also ask if the invoice should be sent via mail, email, or fax. If you write for a foreign market, ask the publisher to include how the payment will be sent (company check, international money order, PayPal). You might also want to include language about the exchange rate so there aren't any surprises when you receive your payment.
  • Ask for payment in advance. This is especially applicable for copywriters. Explain you require a retainer before you begin work on a project. Some magazines might balk at paying for an article sight unseen, especially if you are new to the magazine. But, if you have established yourself with the publication, they may consider the advance.
  • Submit contracted articles on time. You are a professional, and you need to meet the deadline agreed upon.
  • Invoice on time. Submit invoices per the contract language. This should assure that the check will be in the mail. If you invoice past the deadline, payments will naturally be delayed; writers should not expect a company to adjust its accounting system because the writer did not meet this deadline.
  • Follow up on a late payment. Most publications work on a Net 30 system. If payment is not received within the specified time, call the publisher and work out a time frame when you can expect to receive payment. Be polite! It is possible the missed payment is a simple oversight. If you do not receive a response (or check) within an agreed period of time, work through the accounting chain of command to receive payment.

The writer-as-collection-agent isn't always a fun aspect of your creative mindset, but it is a necessary role that needs to be filled, especially if you want to receive payment.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

 

Ten Tips for Choosing a Good Domain Name

If you're thinking of setting up a web site or blog, here are some tips to help you pick a good web address. -MP

Ten Tips for Choosing a Good Domain Name

by Tim North

What makes a good domain name? Well, it's a subjective issue, of
course, but here are ten tips to point you in the right
direction.

1. Good domain names are easily memorable and easily typed.
Generally this means keeping them short.

2. Hyphens should be avoided if possible. When I chose
BetterWritingSkills as a domain name, I deliberately didn't
include hyphens. I agree that it would have made it easier to
read (Better-Writing-Skills.com), but the problem is that it
is more difficult to *say*.

If someone asked me for my web address and I said
"better hyphen writing hyphen skills dot com" I certainly
wouldn't expect them to remember it.

The bottom line with hyphens is that most domains don't
include them. So, when you tell someone your domain, they'll
probably try typing it without any hyphens.

3. Use a plural form if this seems more natural. If you're
selling toy trains, I'd go with "toytrains.com" instead of
"toytrain.com".

4. Domain name search programs can help you to choose variations
on a name. One such program is "Mozzle Std 2.30" which you
can download for free from this address:

http://www.simtel.net/pub/pd/54228.html

Programs like this are a great help when you're trying to
think of a new domain name. (Mozzle's "Advanced Search"
feature is particularly useful.)

5. If you're marketing your products and services primarily to
users in a single country (other than the US) then seriously
consider using that country's top-level domain.

For example, if you're retailing products primarily to New
Zealanders then choose to end your domain with ".nz". In
Australia, use ".au" etc. This will help to identify your
site as a local one.

On the other hand, if you're marketing your products or
services globally (or if you're in the US), use ".com" as
your top-level domain.

6. Don't use words that are tough to spell. Similarly, don't use
words that are spelled differently in some countries. For
example, "ColorChart.com" may confuse those of us in the
Antipodes who would probably expect "ColourChart.com".

7. Ensure that there will be no trademark or other legal
problems with the domain name you choose.

8. Brand names (e.g. BarnesAndNoble.com) may be preferable to
generic names such as "books.com". For many years, it was
assumed that generic names were hugely valuable. (Indeed
during the late 90s, some generic domain names were selling
for millions of dollars.)

These days, many analysts argue that a domain name that
features your brand name is more important. For example, if
you've invested time and effort building up your brand name
(Toyota, for example) you'd be better of using Toyota as your
domain name, rather than something generic like "GreatCars".

9. Avoid domain names that are too similar to existing ones. Not
only do you want avoid legal issues (tip 7), but you want
your brand to be distinct from that of your competitors.

10. Remember, you don't *own* your domain name. You're merely
renting it for a specified period. Don't let your domain name
expire, or your competitors may snatch it out from under you.

-----------------------------------------------------------------
You'll find many more helpful tips like these in Tim North's
much applauded range of e-books. More information is available
on his web site, and all books come with a money-back guarantee.

http://www.BetterWritingSkills.com

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

 

Be Strong and Know Thyself!

I was recently catching up with an old friend on Facebook (which is highly addictive, by the way), and he said to me, "Last time I talked to you, I think writing was more of a hobby." And I racked my brain trying to remember when I ever thought of writing as a hobby--when I was 8? I didn't even know what a "hobby" was. At 16? No, too involved in my other hobbies--drama and basketball. When he "talked" (which in this age means emailed/instant messaged and so on) to me last, I was in the middle of writing my mid-grade historical fiction novel, sending in articles for publication, and entering short story contests--that's a hobby???

I don't blame him for being out of tune with me--I blame myself. This post goes a long with what LuAnn wrote on October 10 with her post "Get a Real Job? I HAVE a Real Job." Maybe it's us--us writers--that send off this we-are-unsure-of-what-we-are-doing vibe. Or we are "scared" to call ourselves WRITERS. Or we love to write and write a lot but we're not--A WRITER.


I call now for us to STOP this nonsense. If you are reading blogs about writing, then you have the passion, the bug, the call, the desire, or whatever, and you are a writer--well if you pick up your pencil or type on your keyboard, too. You are a writer. Say that to yourself 1,000 times in the mirror. Say it to your mom, your husband, your kids, your dog, shout it from the rooftop--I AM A WRITER.


You don't have to be paid to be a writer. You don't have to work full-time at writing to be a writer. You don't have to even be published to be a writer--no matter what anyone else thinks. You just have to write and love it and watch the words pour out of your veins.


Know thyself--know you are a writer, and the next time someone asks you, "What do you do?" or "Oh, so you are still writing?" or something like that, answer them with confidence. . ."Yes, I am a writer, " and tell them about your latest project.

Happy Writing!
Margo Dill
http://www.margodill.com/
Read These Books and Use Them! blog

Friday, October 24, 2008

 

FieldReport.com Will Award $250,000 for Best Personal Essay: Deadline Nov 15th

We received an email from the folks at fieldreport.com about their amazing contest that will award a single writer $250,000 for personal essay writing.

Mario writes: "Competition remains exceedingly scant, and it's killing me that more writers don't know about this thing. Or maybe they assume they won't win? All I can say is that the odds are quite good, especially if you've never put pen to paper before. So dig out whatever you stuck in that drawer. Or heck, write something new. This is not the New Yorker..."

From WOW: Mario, I think the reason why you haven't received as many entries as expected is because many writers are skeptical of such a large prize, especially since we're used to being duped by the multitude of scam contests out there. That said, I know your contest is the real deal, and that's why I'm posting this here for our women writers to take advantage of. Enjoy, ladies! Enter while you still can.

Contest Details:

Deadline: November 15, 2008

Description: FieldReport is taking a new, deeper approach to internet communities that seek a more substantive form of communication. This new approach involves giving out gobs of cash to writers of personal essays. Every month, 20 essays rated highest by the community win $1,000 each, and in January, someone wins $250,000. "I believe it's the biggest payment ever awarded for a single piece of writing. That's right, category winners each get $1,000 monthly."

Enter: Visit http://www.fieldreport.com and sign up as a writer (it's free), start writing, and have your pieces voted on for a chance to win. Good luck!

Press coverage for FieldReport:

Time Magazine: A Writing Prize for the People, by the People
SF Chronicle: Who knew it would be hard to give away a $250,000 prize for good writing?
London Telegraph: Follow the Money

Question to WOW! readers: Have you entered this contest yet? What are your thoughts about the contest? Do you think it's too good to be true?

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

 

Finding a Gift for the Writer

Have you got a writer on your gift list? If you have (even if that writer is YOU), and you don't have a clue as to what gift to buy, Gayle Trent is here to help.

For the third stop on Gayle's blog tour, she visits Beth Morrissey's blog, Hell Or High Water, to chat about gifts for writers. If you are a freelance writer, be sure to check out Gayle's list of submission trackers! I never knew some of these existed. What a great find! There are also great ideas for greeting cards, bookmarks, literary calligraphy, writers' journals, and of course, books about writing. Stop by for a visit!

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Exposing the Layers of the Season

In the spirit of cold, windy days, and early sunsets, I hereby propose the following exercise for all of you writers out there.

Let’s expose the layers of the season. Exposed skin to cold temperatures is not always recommended, but getting those brain cells warmed up on an auspicious autumn day of writing is. The idea of exposing the layers comes from an anthropological theory on “thick description,” that in order to fully start to comprehend and appreciate something, you have to peel back the layers one by one like that of an onion (Geertz 1973).

With that said, let us go into the current landscape and environmental surroundings of October to hopefully appreciate both the scene and see what material this simple exercise offers us writers. First, there is describing the air. Cool, crisp, smelling of cut farm fields, smelling of burning leaves, maybe of falling leaves, flowers, and achoo, pollen and ragweed.

Then, the next layer is what you see. Perhaps, it is the changing of the hues of the ocean waves (oh you lucky duck) as hurricane season starts to close on out for another year. Maybe, it’s the hues of the trees, which for me being in Pennsylvania is certainly true. It could be the scene of footballs being thrown by fathers, brothers, and sons on the weekends.

Next, what is it you feel? Is it cold? Are you reminiscent as the year nears an end? Are you enthused by the cooling temperatures? Are you confused with how it is dark so late in the morning and so early at night? I know that I am. Is it the feeling of dread because a child’s Halloween costume is yet to be found? Or, are you comfy and content, wrapped in hooded sweatshirts, flannel, or fleece?

Now, what do you tend to taste this time of year? I know some of the cohort has already blogged about candy and we all seem to have our preferences on that. Do you like your bobbing for apples or a glass of cider or eating warm pumpkin pie?

Lastly, I hear the geese on their annual migration, and the children and neighbors alternating between playing with and raking the leaves to the curb. I hear the intercom of the local school’s football field as the little league football players scrimmage, and the marching band is practicing for competitions.

With that said, I hear, see, feel, smell, and taste a great source of inspiration for us all this time of year. We have a lot to be grateful of, reflective upon, and lastly, influenced by in this changing season. Therefore, as the temperatures drop, energy levels fall, and before the post-sugar buzz stage of Halloween time lulls us towards sleep, it is essential that we get the brain exposing the layers of something. Today, for me, it was the time of year.

Geertz, Clifford.
1973 The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic Books.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

 

Bits & Pieces: Gayle's Giveaway, Voice Recognition, Contest Updates

Winners of Gayle's Comments Contest!

On Monday, we held a random drawing for those that commented on Gayle's book launch interview. I took all the names from the comments, put them in a hat (well, actually a bag), and picked two winners. Congratulations goes to Cheri and Carrie! Hmmm...that rhymed, how odd. ;) To redeem your prize, email Gayle with your snail-mail addy at: gd830@hotmail.com

Follow up to Gayle's post about voice recognition software:

I asked Gayle about what type of voice recognition software she has and this is what she wrote: "As for the voice recognition software, it's just part of Word. I discovered it pretty much by accident. To see if you have it (and you should, my version of Word is 2003), open Word. Click on Tools in the Toolbar and you'll see Speech. Then your computer will take you through "speech recognition training." It takes about 15 minutes. It's really cool. For me, when I'm stuck on a writing project, it helps to talk it out. In the case I mentioned in the blog, it didn't work out great, but it did work. I think if I used it more often, it might work better. Let me know if you give it a try!"

Waaaaa!! Here's the part where I cry. I have a Mac with Word 2004, and it doesn't have this capability, or at least, not that I can find. It has speech software, which I use all the time to hear my work read aloud, but not voice recognition. Does anybody know of a good program to use with Mac?

Contest updates:

Summer: I know many of you are anxious to find out the results of the Summer Flash Fiction Contest. We have NOT sent out any announcements yet, and are still in final-round judging. So, sit tight. It should be any day now.

Spring Prize-packs: The Spring prize packs are almost ready to be sent out. Thank you for being patient. We are once again waiting for one thing to be printed--tees! You're going to love these ones. They're better than last season's. So, please know that your prizes are coming very, very soon. We also received a bunch of prizes for our Summer Contestants already, so when we find out the winners, those will be expedited pronto.

Today's Writing Quotes:

Here are some quotes to inspire and motivate you!

"Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer."
~ Barbara Kingsolver

"You can't say, I won't write today because that excuse will extend into several days, then several months, then...you are not a writer anymore, just someone who dreams about being a writer."
~ Dorothy C. Fontana

"If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write."
~ Stephen King

"Never let inexperience get in the way of ambition."
~ Terry Josephson

~~~~

PS. Visit Gayle Trent today at Whole Latte Life! The second stop of Gayle's blog tour. See you there!


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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

 

Interview with Grace Marcus--Runner Up in Spring 2008 Contest


Today, we are lucky enough to talk with Grace Marcus. Her story, "86th & First," was a runner-up in the 2008 Spring Contest. If you haven't had a chance to check it out yet, make sure you read it here.

Grace's Bio:
Brooklyn native Grace Marcus’ poetry has been published in The Bucks County Writer Magazine, Calyx, and Journey. Her novel, Visible Signs, was a semi-finalist in the 2007 William Faulkner Writing Competition. She holds a master's in theatre arts from Montclair University and has worked as an actress, newspaper editor, TV and radio producer, social worker, and waitress. She lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where she is working on a collection of short stories and a second novel.

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Grace, and congratulations on your win! Where did you get the idea for "86th & First?"

Grace: It began with a sense memory of that hallway, which triggered a series of free associations that suggested both the content (the urgency and intensity of first love) and the structure (the rising and falling movement up and down the staircase).

WOW: So, your prize winning story came from an actual experience you had! I think many authors have similiar experiences where something happens to them, and they just have to write a story, poem, essay or whatever about it. The last line of your story is exceptional. Was it hard to write an ending to such a short piece?

Grace: In some ways it was easier than gathering up all the threads in a long piece, compressing her experience and completing the circle by imagining the exact opposite (and highly unlikely) outcome, the two of them standing there, remembering together.

WOW: That's what makes your ending so great--the highly unlikely outcome--which is a technique I think a lot of writers use throughout their entire stories. It's what makes us keep reading. In your bio, you mention that you are working on a collection of short stories. Are these short stories longer than "86th & First?" Are they a similar style or theme?

Grace: Yes, but they're still fairly short. The longest, so far, is only 3,000 words. There is an emphasis on language, and emotional truths, both of which have the power to move me. It's why I read, to be moved. It's also why I write. Each of the stories centers around loss, either of a physical ability, a new love or an old one, of the possibiilty of a reconciliation with a parent, perhaps even one's freedom. A door slams shut and becomes the defining moment between 'before' and 'after.'

WOW: These stories sound really interesting and moving as you said. We will look forward to reading more from you in the future. Congratulations on being a semi-finalist in the 2007 William Faulkner Writing competition for your novel! Tell us a little about your novel and if you are seeking publication.

Grace: VISIBLE SIGNS is set in the aftermath of the 1960s when social conventions such as gender roles and cultural institutions like the church and marriage were in upheaval.
It's the the story of two women who made their choices before the 'revolution,' a disillusioned Catholic nun and her childhood friend, an abused mother of three, who break faith with their vows, cast their lots in together and attempt to reinvent their lives. Yes, I am seeking publication. And I am working on a second novel in which the protagonist is (literally and metaphorically) a runner at odds with her grown children and her reckless past.

WOW: We wish you the best of luck in finding a publisher for VISIBLE SIGNS. The story sounds intriguing and the type a lot of WOW! readers would enjoy. So, do you enter your work in a lot of contests?

Grace: Lately, yes. I have more work to submit since - at the urging of my partner, a writer himself - I've started writing short stories this past year.

WOW: Now, that is something we can all learn from, and you said it in just a few simple words. If you write more, you have more work to submit! You have had a lot of interesting careers, according to your bio. What made you want to write? Do these other careers help your writing?

Grace: I've had a lot of interesting jobs, too many to count. Not careers. I felt like a malcontent, a misfit, until I realized, rather late in life, that writing was my heart's desire. Beyond a doubt [these other jobs helped my writing]. Each one is a window into a universe with its own culture, jargon, etc., which lends a verisimilitude to characters like the husband in VISIBLE SIGNS, who is an aspiring, talented actor.

WOW: Thank you, Grace, for taking the time to share an insight into your writing world with us today. Good luck to you with your future projects, and we hope to read more soon!

Interview conducted by Margo L. Dill, www. margodill.com

Monday, October 20, 2008

 

Gayle Trent, author of Murder Takes the Cake, launches her Blog Tour!

WOW! Women On Writing is thrilled to be hosting Gayle Trent on her author blog tour. We are the first stop in a month-long journey that takes readers across the U.S., Canada, and even into Ireland--all in celebration of Gayle's latest book, Murder Takes the Cake. If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a copy of Murder Takes the Cake on CD to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end.

Meet Gayle:

Gayle Trent is a full-time author. She is currently at work on a new cozy mystery series involving her hobby, cake decorating. The series features Daphne Martin, a 40-year-old divorcee who has begun the second phase of her life with a new home and a new business venture--Daphne's Delectable Cakes. Gayle lives in Bristol, Virginia with her husband, daughter and son.

Gayle previously worked in the accounting and legal fields, and her last such job was as secretary to a Deputy Commissioner in the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission. Though she enjoyed the work, it was a long daily commute and she felt she wasn't spending enough time with her family. Now she writes while her children are at school; and thanks to a crock pot and a bread machine, can often have dinner ready when everyone gets home.

"I think it'
s important to be here for my children...to take part in school functions and to be an active part of their lives," Gayle says. "I can certainly sympathize with moms who work outside the home--been there, done that--but I would encourage everyone to make time to visit their children's schools, to have lunch with them [at school] occassionally, to get a feel for who their friends are...little things like that."

Gayle loves to hear from readers who can contact her via e-mail at gd830@hotmail.com or via one of her websites: http://www.gayletrent.com or http://gayle24202.tripod.com/. If you share an interest in cake decorating, please visit Daphne's website, available via click-through from either of Gayle's sites or at http://gayle24202.tripod.com/id9.html.


About Murder Takes the Cake:

Murder Takes the Cake
By Gayle Trent


ISBN: 978-0-9802453-6-3

Murder Takes the Cake is the first book in the Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Mystery Series. Murder Takes the Cake was a semi-finalist in Amazon.com's Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.

"Yodel Watson was dead. And some people blamed my spice cake."

When the meanest gossip in Brea Ridge dies mysteriously, suspicions turn to cake decorator Daphne Martin. But all Daphne did was deliver a spice cake with cream cheese frosting. And find Yodel's body. Now Daphne's got to help solve the murder and clear her good name. Problem is, her Virginia hometown is brimming with people who had good reason to kill Yodel, and Daphne's whole family is among them.

***

WOW: Welcome to WOW!, Gayle, we're thrilled to be launching your blog tour for your latest novel, Murder Takes the Cake. Last January, we featured you in our Premium-Green Success Stories for placing as a semi-finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Awards. In that competition, your excerpt beat out 4,000 other entries--that's quite an achievement! What was that experience like, and what did you learn from it?

Gayle: It was wonderful, but it was also sobering. I was thrilled with the accomplishment, of course; but Amazon provided us with a message board, and my heart went out to those who didn't make the cut. Art is so subjective. I was lucky that such a wide range of people enjoyed Murder Takes the Cake. And I felt lucky to have such a terrific support system. Many of the people who enjoyed MTTC were from cozy groups and writing groups, such as Premium Green.

WOW: Aw...Gayle, you are too modest! Yes, I learned about the contest from PG, but when I read your story, I fell in love with your writing. Not only did it make me laugh, but I was riveted also. I wanted to know what would happen to Daphne! So, did you already have the whole novel completed at the time of entry, or was it still a work-in-progress? And how long did it take you to write the book?

Gayle: I did have the entire book completed at the time of entry. I was able to write Murder Takes the Cake rather quickly. It took only four months to complete the first draft. My agent had helped me come up with the concept; and I think I was afraid that if I didn't get it to her quickly, the offer might expire or something. "Here's a coupon for marketability, good for six months from date of request." LOL!

WOW: (laughs) So true! When I get an acceptance letter, I wonder if it's for real, and fear it has an expiration date. But Gayle, you're an excellent writer, and truly prolific. I'm always amazed at the dedication it takes to actually complete a novel. My patience only allows me to be a short story writer myself, although I hope to write a novel someday. What was your writing schedule like? And do you have any tips for someone like me who likes to complete one project and move on to the next?

Gayle: I wrote like mad and neglected pretty much everything else work-wise. These days, I have a part-time job to juggle along with two or three other writing commitments in addition to freelance articles. It gets fairly crazy sometimes, but I find one of the best times for me to write is waiting in the car rider line at school for my children (you have to get in line almost an hour before dismissal to avoid the traffic jam--it’s a horrible system, but I don't know how they could improve on it) and at night after everyone else goes to bed. I did once try to "write" while using my laptop's voice recognition feature while baking brownies and peeling potatoes. Great multi-tasking, right? BUT, there is a drawback to using voice technology gadgets when you have a Southern drawl. Although, the exercise helped me get unblocked and continue on through the chapter I was struggling with, the computer misunderstood most of what I said. AND, to add insult to injury, when I read back over what it said and laughed, the computer translated that as “a a a a a a a a.” (Eye roll.)

WOW: (laughs) OMG! That's hysterical.

Gayle: So, this might not be the advice you want to hear with regard to being able to complete projects quickly, but when I get that antsy feeling that goes along with a really long or stressful project, I channel that energy into another creative endeavor. For instance, I like to decorate cakes, and I like to do embroidery projects. I have a book of two-hour cross-stitch patterns which provide almost instant gratification. I can watch a movie with my family, and make a Christmas ornament or a little thank-you gift for someone and feel that what I've done is constructive, and to quote Martha Stewart, "a good thing." It's the same if I take time to decorate a cake. I'm making my family happy, and I'm practicing something I can incorporate into Daphne's next book. Plus, fondant has the consistency of Play Dough. You can have lots of fun with it! ☺

WOW: That does sound like fun. I can't wait till you visit some of the other blogs and share your cake decorating tips. I'm sooo there. Now, I get this question a lot, so I'm going to ask it. Tell us about the cozy mystery genre. I know what a mystery is, but what makes it cozy? (Besides curling up with a blanket and hot tea to read it.)

Gayle: Cozy mysteries usually take place in a small community and involve a relatively small number of people. The reader knows that someone within the intimate group will turn out to be the killer. Think Desperate Housewives with one of the cast turning out to be the killer as opposed to Criminal Minds or CSI. Cozy mysteries also feature an amateur sleuth as opposed to a professional detective, and the heroine has an interesting profession or hobby.

WOW: Gee, that description makes it so easy to understand. Thank you! So are there any other cozy mystery authors you draw inspiration from?

Gayle: Wow, there are so many! Nancy J. Cohen does "The Bad Hair Day Mysteries," such as Permed to Death and Died Blonde which feature the customers of Marla Shore's Palm Harbor Beauty Shop; Diane Mott Davidson has a wonderful series that began with Dying for Chocolate featuring Goldie Bear, a caterer who makes everything "just right"; and Jill Churchill has some of the best titles in the business with her Jane Jeffry series: Grime and Punishment, A Farewell to Yarns, From Here to Paternity, A Quiche Before Dying, Silence of the Hams, and even War and Peas!

WOW: (laughs) Those sound like so much fun! I think you just may have turned me on to a new genre. Now, one thing that's hard for an author is choosing the right publisher. What made you choose Bell Bridge Books?

Gayle: I'd worked with Deborah Smith and Belle Books (the parent of Bell Bridge) in the past when I'd written a short story for Blessings of Mossy Creek. Then I got an e-mail from Deborah in the spring of this year telling me they were looking for submissions with a Southern flavor for Bell Bridge Books. So I submitted Murder Takes the Cake.

WOW: What has your experience been working with them so far? And would you recommend them to other authors?

Gayle: Bell Bridge Books is like the best of both worlds insofar as it is a small publisher with big publisher distribution and connections. Some of the owners, including Deborah Smith, are NY Times bestselling authors in their own right. They understand each book's importance to its author. If you're willing to market, they'll help you any way they can. Plus, they have a good distribution system in place and many of their books are picked up by book clubs and large-print publishers. Before Murder Takes the Cake had even been released, I got word that some of their foreign agents (in Germany and France, I think) had requested to see the manuscript for possible translation rights. I haven't heard anything about that yet, but I think that would be so cool! So, yes, I would definitely recommend them. They do have fairly specific guidelines, so look at those before sending a query.

WOW: They sound great, and so do those foreign rights! (wink) Let's move on to craft. From reading your excerpt, I have to say, you are masterful at creating characters. Where do you draw your inspiration from? And in your opinion, what are the essential elements to crafting a believable character?

Gayle: First, thank you for the complement! Where do I draw inspiration from? That’s a toughie. I would have to say from the situations my characters get into. Here's an example: In Murder Takes the Cake, Daphne divorced her abusive husband after he shot at her and missed (in the book, he is currently in prison for that). However, her mother ranted about the sanctity of marriage and berated Daphne for divorcing the man and hinted that it was probably Daphne's own fault that he took a shot at her because "you know how you can be." I've been in situations--and I'm sure you have, too--where someone important to you thinks "Betsy at school is great; why don’t you be friends with her?" when you know full well that Betsy is a manipulative little backstabber. I took that to the extreme in this case; but I was once in an abusive situation where everyone thought--partly because I pretended--that everything was fine. Then I visited a shelter and met a beautiful woman with a black eye and bruised face who would barely hold her head up to look anyone in the eye. I found myself thinking, "I can understand why someone would be mean to me, but why her?" And then I had to give myself a mental shake and ask, "Why me? I don’t deserve that either!"

I suppose it does, then, come back to writing what you know to an extent. I felt that to live with an abusive spouse for so long, Daphne would have had to have felt inferior or have been abused by someone else. The reader can get this undercurrent from Daphne's mother's attitude.

The second essential element in creating a believable character is empathy--not just for the main character, but for all of them. In each situation, even when you're writing the villain, put yourself in that character's shoes. It was easy to identify with Daphne, but how did Daphne’s mother really feel? What drove her to act like Daphne was the cause of her husband's abuse? If I couldn't answer that question, then Daphne's mother would have become a caricature of a wicked mother rather than an actual character.

WOW: I totally, and unfortunately, know that experience first hand. It was a long time ago, but I will never forget it. In fact, when I was working on my novel it crept into my story. What insight. I really like that last part about caricature. That makes a lot of sense. Another huge part of mystery writing is coming up with a great plot. I've seen two types of authors: those who outline their plots and subplots intensely, and those who let things happen organically. Which do you prefer? And what tools help you achieve this?

Gayle: I outline a little. I don't mean for that to be intentionally evasive, only that I know parts in advance (usually the beginning and the end) and I come up with other "Eureka" parts as I go along. And I think the "Eureka" parts are what make it interesting, at least to me. I get stuck a lot when I'm writing. Then I'll do Scenario A, Scenario B, and Scenario C. Let's say your story is about Lucky Lucille. Lucky Lucille just won the lottery and has a million dollars at her disposal. She immediately books a flight to Paris to connect with an old flame. If I was writing this and became stuck at this point, I would write "What Now?" at the top of my page followed by three paragraphs:

Scenario A: Lucky Lucille misses her flight to Paris but strikes up a conversation with the janitor at the airport. They realize they share a common interest in Egyptian history, and LL decides to take the two of them on a trip to the Pyramids.

Scenario B: LL takes the trip to Paris and reconnects with her old flame. He is so different from the man he used to be that LL is no longer interested.

Scenario C: LL’s plane crashes. She becomes intrigued with two very different men who also survived the crash, Jack and Sawyer...

WOW: Those are excellent examples. I love playing with the "what if" aspect of fictional writing. I think that's where creativity can truly shine. Gayle, I have to say, I'm extremely proud of you and can't wait to read the rest of your book! I urge everyone to read your excerpt that can be found on the Bell Bridge Books site. I guarantee you're all going to love it! So, do you have any book signings or special events coming up to promote your book that we should know about? (Besides this blog tour--see tour dates below!)

Gayle: This past weekend I did the Women's Expo in Kingsport, Tennessee. I think one of the best things about signings is the new people you get to meet. Plus, I got to reconnect with some author friends who were also at the event, and that is so much fun. I forgot my camera, but one of my new friends (P.J. Ausdenmore of Romance Novel TV http://www.romancenovel.tv.) took lots of photos and she's going to send me a link to them. When she does, I'll be putting those up on my site. Oh, and I got invited to be on a local TV show at the Expo. That's exciting but nerve-wracking because I look like a total idiot on TV (I've done two spots in the past and they were disasters). I’ll probably do it anyway, and tape it, and be mortified. ☺ I’ll be doing some other things, too, and will put them up on my site at http://www.gayletrent.com.

WOW: That all sounds exciting! I'm sure you'll do awesome. Thank you so much Gayle for taking time to chat with us today, and we'll be following you on this fantastic tour! I can't wait to read your cake decorating tips on the other blogs, and all the other wonderful topics you'll be talking about. So, do you have any parting words of wisdom you can share with our women writers?

Gayle: Don't give up and don't let someone else define you. My son introduced me to a wonderful song by Weezer called Pork and Beans. When you feel like beating yourself up, listen to that. One terrific line: I'm a do the things that I wanna do; I ain't got a thing to prove to you. I said it was terrific, not grammatically correct. ;-)

WOW: Want to join Gayle on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.

Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!

OCTOBER 20, 2008 Monday
Gayle will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! The best comment will win copy of the ebook on CD!
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/blog.html

OCTOBER 22, 2008 Wednesday
Visit Gayle at Joanne DeMaio's blog, Whole Latte Life. Gayle will be talking about how cake decorating inspires writing and leads to a choice life.
http://joannedemaio.blogspot.com/

OCTOBER 23, 2008 Thursday
Are you a freelance writer? Then this is not to miss! Gayle stops by Beth Morrissey's blog, Hell Or High Water to chat freelance writing.
http://hellorhighwaterwriter.blogspot.com/

OCTOBER 25, 2008 Saturday
Gayle visits Allie Boniface's blog, Allie's Musings, to talk writing. Allie's interviews are always a lot of fun, as well as informative.
http://www.allieboniface.blogspot.com/

OCTOBER 27, 2008 Monday
Interview and Book Giveaway Contest! Gayle will be visiting Jen Singer's blog, Momma Said! Be sure to read her interview and enter the Housewife Awards Contest to win a signed copy of Murder Takes the Cake. This contest runs until November 10th, when winners will be announced. Don't wait for the last minute to enter!
http://www.mommasaid.net/

OCTOBER 27, 2008 Monday
Gayle has another stop today, and this time she's visiting C. Hope Clark's blog, Funds for Writers. Funds for Writers has been a Writer's Digest 101 Best Web Sites for Writers - 2001 through 2008. Come join Gayle and Hope as they sit down and chat about mystery writing.
http://hopeclark.blogspot.com/

OCTOBER 28, 2008 Tuesday
Want to learn some fun ideas for cake decorating with the kids? Gayle stops by Anne-Marie Nichols' blog, My Readable Feast, and dishes her cake decorating tips!
http://www.myreadablefeast.com/

OCTOBER 29, 2008 Wednesday
Want to find out more about Murder Takes the Cake? Visit Carolyn Howard-Johnson's blog, The New Book Review, and find out the thrilling details of this cozy mystery novel just in time for Halloween!
http://www.thenewbookreview.blogspot.com

OCTOBER 30, 2008 Thursday
So, what is a cozy mystery anyway? How do you write one? That's what Gayle will be discussing today at Writer Unboxed, a Writer's Digest 101 Best Website! This is a fantastic blog I urge you all to visit. Here's a little more about the blog:

Writer Unboxed is a blog dedicated to celebrating genre fiction. Blog mamas and 2009 debut authors Kathleen Bolton and Therese Walsh conduct weekly interviews with a wide array of novelists and publishing professionals to help empower others on craft and business issues. They also provide instructive and inspirational essays on writing along with WU's esteemed slate of contributors, including bestselling authors Allison Winn Scotch, Barbara Samuel, Juliet Marillier and Sophie Masson, and respected editor Ray Rhamey. Look for legendary literary agent and author Donald Maass to join WU in April of 2009 as a monthly contributor!
http://www.writerunboxed.com

NOVEMBER 3, 2008 Monday
Readers delight! Gayle will chat with readers today about their favorite subject: reading. Come visit her at Wendy Runyon's fabulous blog, Musings of a Bookish Kitty, and dig in to a good read.
http://www.literaryfeline.com/

NOVEMBER 4, 2008 Tuesday
Gayle Trent shares her best craft of writing and book promotion tips with Carolyn Howard-Johnson's award winning blog, Sharing With Writers, a Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers. If you're an author looking for the inside scoop on book promotion, this is not to miss!
http://www.sharingwithwriters.blogspot.com

NOVEMBER 5, 2008 Wednesday
If you're a mom, Cate O'Malley's blog, The Voice of Mom, is a must-visit. This blog dishes the truth for moms, uncensored. Gayle will be stopping by to talk family and cake decorating, straight up! Get your sweet fix here.
http://www.thevoiceofmom.com

NOVEMBER 6, 2008 Thursday
Gayle stops by Lauri Griffin's blog, Lauri's Reflections, for an interview covering everything from writing to parenting twins!
http://www.laurireflections.blogspot.com/

NOVEMBER 11, 2008 Tuesday
If you're a fan of Debbie Ridpath Ohi's popular cartoons on writing, you have to check out her blog, Inky Girl. Gayle stops by Inky Girl to chat about writing. Debbie's interviews are the best! Stop by for a visit.
http://www.inkygirl.com

NOVEMBER 12, 2008 Wednesday
Do you believe in happily-ever-after? Gayle stops by Allyn Evans' blog, Happily Ever After Today, to chat about life lessons and overcoming obstacles. Get ready to be inspired!
http://www.allynevans.blogspot.com/

NOVEMBER 14, 2008 Friday
If your reading preference is for a throat-clenching thriller, a page turner crime/suspense, or a can't-put-it-down cozy, look no more. Gayle Trent will be talking about the craft of mystery writing at Murder By 4, a group blog that features four published authors: Aaron Paul Lazar, Kim Smith, Marta Stephens, and S.W. Vaughn. Stop by for a thrilling ride!
http://www.murderby4.blogspot.com/

Get involved!

We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.

If you have a blog or website and would like to participate in Gayle Trent's tour for Murder Takes the Cake, or schedule a tour of your own, please email angela[at]wow-womenonwriting.com

** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.

Oh, be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a copy of Gayle Trent's latest novel, Murder Takes the Cake, on CD!

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

 

Proceeding to Checkout: The Response

By Jill Earl

Last week in her post, ‘Like to Proceed to Checkout?’, WOW! teammate Alison got me thinking about my own book-buying habits, which can be found below.

My book buying habits are determined more by interest and how discounted they are. I’ve set up wish lists at a pair of online bookstores, with copies saved on my computer. Once I’ve made my choices and factor in the genre(s) and/or author(s) striking my fancy at the time, then I move on to the purchase.

Topping the list is my local library. It’s here during my Saturday visits where there’s often a lack of self-restraint. They have a darn good sale section, with frequent overstocks of new releases, all for ridiculously low prices. This is the place where I seriously get my book on!

Writers’ conferences are in the mix, coming in second. This is where I pick up the how-to’s and other resources every few months or so. And sometimes, back issues of journals and magazines are available for reduced prices , great opportunity to research new markets.

Third would be good old brick-and-mortar bookstores. Definitely don’t rush me here! A friend tried that once---twenty minutes, can you imagine? Fortunately for him, the cheesecake smoothed things over. Barely. I seldom leave without my trade magazines at least. And some chocolate. Gotta keep one’s strength up while wandering the aisles!

And last for me are online bookstores. Like Alison, I receive online sale ads with coupons from these places and have recently used them to place a couple of orders. I usually do more virtual window shopping than ordering, though.

Even though I do try to budget, it’s getting a bit out of hand. For one, no one’s been able to sit on my loveseat for ages, so I need to think more about budgeting for a couple of bookcases rather than books.

One thing’s for certain, I’ll be more careful with future book buying. Accountability is always a good thing.

Thanks, Alison!

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

 

Lazy Fall Afternoons = Sports Writing Opportunities

by LuAnn Schindler

I enjoy Saturdays in autumn. College football games fill the day and evening. For a sports lover, every Saturday is a football frenzy at its finest.

I went to my first Nebraska football game when I was in the fourth grade. My parents still have those season tickets, and now, I attend and sit in those seats. (Thanks, mom and dad!) Growing up, we not only attended the home games in Memorial Stadium, but we would travel to cities in the Big 8, and eventually the Big 12, to watch this team of young men play for 60 minutes. I witnessed rambunctious routs and lousy losses. And in the Cornhusker state, I learned about pride, tradition, honor and dedication.

Yes, I grew up living and breathing college football.

So what does that have to do with writing?

Everything.

How many sporting events do you attend? Are your kids involved in club or high school athletic competitions? If so, you have plenty of sports writing material in front of you, waiting for your experiences to be shared. Think about it. There's the atmosphere of the game or a lesson you learned while in the stands or your child learned while on the field. Write a personal essay and share your insights. EXAMPLE: I am writing a YA novel about an unscrupulous coach who ruined a young girl's basketball dreams. Part fiction, part truth, but I'm taking lessons I learned with my own daughter and applying those to the book.

There's the possibility of a gender gap in learning the rules. Why not write a Football 101 for Females. Or if you know someone who is into fantasy football, how about explaining that phenomenon to a female audience. EXAMPLE: I once wrote an article about joining a fantasy baseball league. Since I didn't really know how to play and didn't change my lineup very often, it was amazing that I finished first in the league.

Where are the best spots to eat or grab a brew before the game? Write up the best spots and submit it to a magazine or newspaper close to one of the opposing teams that will visit your college town. What sets these places apart? And why are they fun to attend. EXAMPLE: I wrote a blog post listing the top five restaurants in downtown Lincoln and the top five "hot spots" with pre- and post-game specials. It got picked up by a regional sports magazine.

And it wouldn't be fall or football season without some kind of tailgate party. Have any recipes that would be a hit at a gathering? Think recipe writing, food and food safety articles, with a sports-season twist. EXAMPLE: I came up with some recipes that are family favorites when we tailgate before the game or at "the spread at halftime" during out-of-town games. Several have been published, and one finished 5th in a state-wide cookoff.

Know a player that makes a difference off the field? What about a profile for a local paper or magazine? EXAMPLE: Last year, the regional newspaper I write for asked me to interview a young man who led his team to a state football championship. Interestingly, his years of service at his church were what really stood out.

The possibilities are endless!

Don't let the world of sports writing intimidate you, especially if you aren't a huge sports
fan(atic). There are plenty of other sports-related sidebars and stories to pen. And then, you'll score and be on the board!

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Friday, October 17, 2008

 

The Curse of the Candy

I was going to wait until much closer to the end of the month to buy Halloween candy.

The problem is that our family got "Boo-ed" early in the month. This is a game played in our neighborhood where you place a goody bag on someone's doorstep, along with a bright orange paper that says "Boo!" on it, which you tape to the front door. According to the attached poem, once you've been tagged, you must Boo! two more neighbors within the next 24 hours.

So I had to go out and get the candy. Even if I wanted to break the chain, my kids knew it was our turn, and they were into it. Now, you may be thinking, why doesn't she buy some candy that she doesn't really like? Danger averted!

Don’t get logical on me. Of course, I had to buy "good" candy. I need to pass out the first-rate stuff on Halloween night; we all know each other here in town.

We completed our "Boo-ing" earlier this week, so the candy sampler bag is open for business (two different kinds of sampler bags, actually). My house is a minefield of temptation. When I'm here, the little candies beckon me for an afternoon pick-me-up, or small dessert after dinner, or just to say, "Hi, eat me," as I'm walking by the dining room where they are.

Well, that behavior is going to stop today. I'm announcing it here and now. A writer can't write well with a sugar-addled brain. That's how I'm tying this in to be relevant to you. Writers must eat well and stay hydrated to produce clear copy!

No more candy for me during this Halloween season. Let the kids have their fun, I've got skinny jeans to fit into and articles to write. Wish me luck!

--MP

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

 

Do You Have An Internal Critic?


Recently, my friend, Julie, whom some of you may have read about in a recent issue of Premium Green (which by the way is a terrific, inexpensive e-book through WOW!--check it out), sent me an interesting email about a writer's internal critic. The article was by Mary Anne Hahn and titled, "Coping with Your Internal Critic and Editor."

She started her article with a great quote by Dr. Seuss--"Everything stinks till it's finished." Isn't that the truth?

Anyway, in this article, Hahn writes that if you are a writer with a lot of unfinished projects and notes around your desk or office, you could be suffering from your internal critic beating you up and telling you that you aren't a good enough writer to finish a project or submit it to a publisher or even write at all. Obviously, this internal critic is a HUGE problem if she is sending you these negative messages and messing with your self-esteem as a writer. So, what do you do?

1. First, listen to your internal critic, and write down the negative messages you are hearing. If you ignore them, but they are still playing in your head and stopping you from completing projects or creating freely, then you have to face her head on!

2. Look at each message objectively. If you one of the messages is: "You are a terrible writer because you can never finish anything you start," then think of a project that you have recently finished--a blog post, an article for a newsletter, a page on your website, a poem, anything! If you haven't finished a writing project, then think of a home project you have finished. Look for a success to contradict the negative message playing in your brain.

3. Set a goal to create another success as soon as possible. For example, if your internal critic is saying, "This story will never be accepted by a magazine." Revise your story one time, and send it to at least one magazine or maybe a few that take simultaneous submissions. If you never send your work out, which is what your internal critic is telling you to do,then you will never know if your work is ready or not. So, send it out! Do the exact opposite of what your internal critic is saying.

The only person that can get rid of these negative messages in your writing career is you! Most writers have these messages at one point or another going through their heads. The successful ones have faced them, ignored them, worked through them, talked to other writers about them, and listened to the optimistic voice inside that says, "I know I can do this, " or "She did this, and so can I!"

Happy Writing!
Margo Dill
http://www.margodill.com/
"Read These Books and Use Them" blog
photo by the trial www.flickr.com

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

 

Interview with Rachel McClain, Runner Up

Today, we're talking with Rachel McClain, who won 3rd place honors in the WOW! Women on Writing Spring Flash Fiction contest.

Rachel McClain is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom currently living in Los Angeles but has vowed to find something to love in every new place the Air Force sends her family, even if the next place isn't so sunny. She was recently selected as an honorable mention in WOW! Women on Writing’s Winter Flash Fiction contest and has short stories published in Fuselit and in the forthcoming Cup of Comfort volumes for Breast Cancer Survivors and for Military Families. She has just finished work on her first young adult novel.


WOW:
Congratulations, Rachel, and welcome to The Muffin. Your story, Ode To A Grecian Urn, really hit home with me for several reasons. Can you tell us about the inspiration for your story?

Rachel:
This one came to me after some time of being blocked and I’d read a list of prompts, one of them about finding something on a kitchen table that didn’t belong there. I was dealing with some medical issues of my own and having to sit on crinkly paper on medical tables and in E.R. waiting rooms watching all kinds of patients walk by, young and old, creating their back stories in my head. The two things just meshed: the prompt and the experiences I was going through.

WOW:
That's amazing! The two experiences fit together so well. My husband passed away five years ago and his request was to be cremated. I understand the man in your story wanting to keep his wife close by. How did you go about finding a way to combine the elements of grief and the symptoms of Alzheimer's?

Rachel:
First, let me express my deepest sympathies for your loss. I can only imagine the pain that must be associated with such a thing. There is so much emotion tied with the idea of aging. When we are young, we think of growing old together as some sort of joyous thing but in a bittersweet way, like a romantic ideal. But, the idea of love gets twisted a bit when you throw the realities of aging into the mix, especially with something like Alzheimer’s. We want to believe that we’d never forget ourselves, what makes us who we are in our hearts or who completes us, but would we? When we do, would we grieve for the loss of not only ourselves, but for the loss of our partner all over again…again and again? I wanted to find something that would represent this loss in a physical way. I wanted it to be very real, something tactile and inescapable.

WOW:
Thank you. You do an outstanding job of making the situation realistic. I see so many themes intertwined to create the final product. What message do you want readers to take away from your story? What advice can you give a writer who likes to incorporate multiple themes in her stories?

Rachel: This is one of the reasons that I love flash fiction so much. While it's important to tie it up and not leave everything open-ended, you can do so much with so few words, explore so much and leave so much to the imagination, open so many doors for your readers. It's like imagining a road through the woods and taking a reader along with you, and while you stay on one road, you point out that there are a bunch of pretty paths veering off to the side, and some dark ones too. So, all that can be in your narrative in flash and you can tie some of it up, or leave some of it open. I think my main message, or the path I stayed on, has to do with commitment. It's about not forgetting who we are now and who we were when we were at our best and made our best promises to ourselves and each other.

WOW:
That level of commitment shows throughout your story. On a personal level, you've made a commitment to fine tuning your craft. You won Honorable Mention in another WOW! writing contest. Any advice to writers about what makes a good contest submission?

Rachel:
Cut. Cut. Cut. Oh yeah, and cut some more. Write your story in the first draft without thinking about anything except getting it out, and then cut a third of it. It sounds harsh but cut at least that much on your next draft. Someone once told me that and I didn’t believe them. I thought that it would be impossible; all my words would be too important. Of course the tree needed to be verdant, green and lush with vegetation. Right? Wrong. Not only does cutting make for a good contest submission, it makes for tighter prose and all around tighter writing. Your writing can still maintain your voice, your beautiful language and be tight. If the words, scenes, dialogue, etc don’t move the story forward, make a point, have some intrinsic narrative voice or say something to a reader other than you, they don’t belong. And, unlike me, never submit it the same day you write it. I’m terrible about that. I just get so excited about finishing and being certain that it’s “done,” that I can’t wait. I sometimes think I should tie my wrists so I don’t hit that send button too early.

WOW:
That is great advice! I'll have to see if I can follow it! Have you taken any writing classes? How did your writing career begin?

Rachel:
I haven't taken any formal writing classes, unless you count my English degree. But, I've been writing here or there, all my life. My current career began when I got out of the military to raise my son. I felt a little lost without the job I'd dreamed of since I was a little girl, which was the military. And, while the other job I'd always dreamed of, raising my child, was fulfilling, I felt like I needed something else. I started journaling and getting creative again, and bang, it hit me that this is what I should be doing with naptime. Screw the dishes. It all snowballed from here.

WOW:
I certainly relate to the snowball effect! You are part of a military family. Do you incorporate parts of your travels into your stories or use any experiences as inspiration?

Rachel: Yes, definitely. It’s hard not to. You meet so many interesting, wonderful and not so wonderful people when you travel and move all the time. There are certainly characters in this nomadic life of ours. I’m sure one of these days someone will come up to me and be either flattered or horrified to recognize themselves in something they’ve read (hopefully meaning I’ve been widely published). Plus, a family like mine gets to see so many wonderful and interesting places and have such a wide array of experiences. It’s like a treasure trove of ideas sometimes, even just for background details.

WOW:
That is great fodder to build upon! I imagine you've used some of those details in your stories. You are published in several anthology series. Do you have any secrets you'd like to share about what editors are looking for in a story for these types of publications?

Rachel:
It pays to know who you are submitting to. If you are submitting to an inspirational series, don’t write a story that’s got a downer ending, even if the rest is uplifting, and expect to be selected. I suggest that if you are trying to get into an anthology series that has been published before in other volumes, read them, or at least selections thereof to get an idea of what they are looking for. It just makes sense to know your market. If you don’t think you’ve got time to read, then you really don’t have time to be a successful writer.

WOW:
That's very true! Good writers are also good readers. It's a matter of balance. What's your writing routine like?

Rachel:
First, I turn the baby monitor down so I can’t hear my son crying. Just kidding. Seriously though, my son is eighteen months old, there is no real “routine” except carrying a notebook and a pen around with me. I jot down notes when ideas strike me and revisit them when I have time to explore them more fully. The closest thing I have to a routine is the few hours I get in the afternoon when he naps and that usually consists of a soda on the end table, my laptop and the sofa, with a comfy pillow behind my back and me just banging away on the keyboard until he wakes up. Sometimes I’m typing so fast my fingers are flying and some days, it’s dead silence because really, the mouse is just trolling eBay and I’m blocked. But then, three days later, I’m flooded with ideas again and I’m begging my husband to take my son to the park when he comes home so I can have extra “mommy time,” which really means writing time, to get all those words out of my head.

WOW:
Great! You seem to have found a balance between your family and your writing schedule.

Rachel:
I waited my whole life to meet my son. I can’t put it more simply than that. But, I also didn’t realize that I waited my whole life to meet the person that being a writer has made me. So, sometimes it’s hard to balance those two desires: wanting to hang out with myself and wanting to bang on pots and pans with my toddler. Truthfully, banging on pots and pans usually wins. He’s going to turn fifteen one of these days and stop wanting to hang out with me. That will be a sad, sad day. But, one thing that doesn’t seem to happen is the influx of ideas. There are drier days than others, but the ideas come back nonetheless. So, if I bang on pots and pans more than I write every day for a while, I think that’s okay. So, right now the balance weighs more heavily in favor of family. I think that shows in my writing, which often has a lot to do with family. For now, I try to make the simple commitment that I write every day and if that means some days it’s only a few minutes, so be it. So, long as I’m happy and my family is happy, that’s all that matters to me.

WOW:
I agree! When you find something that works, stick with it and keep everyone happy! What projects are you currently working on?

Rachel:
I’ve just finished my first young adult novel and I’m alternately going through the motions of trying to find an agent and berating myself for believing that it was good enough to send out in the first place. It’s an educational and fun process if you can take the pain! I am also working on short fiction and have finally joined the almighty blogosphere (http://thelaundryfairy.blogspot.com/) after much prodding.

WOW:
Thanks, Rachel, for taking time for us to get to know you and learn more about your writing. Again, congratulations!

Rachel:
I’d really like to thank WOW, the staff, Angela and Annette, the judges, Wendy Sherman and Seal Press for putting on such a wonderful and supportive contest. It’s an honor to be a part of community of such writers.

-----

Check out our latest personal essay contest, sponsored by skirt! books:
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php


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Monday, October 13, 2008

 

Like to Proceed to Checkout?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I get a coupon or come across a sale, I’m really bad. Right now, the problem seems to book companies sending me online coupons and advertisements about their sales (I mean, who can turn down a good read, especially when it’s on clearance?!). See, when I am in a store, I have unusual self-restraint. However, the click of a mouse and the advent of more limitless inventories on the Internet, well, bad news!

This weekend got me thinking.
Where do you female writers tend to get books to read?
Are you more of the library visit type, or do you hit up yard sales and recycled book vendors?
Do you stick to the traditional establishments?
How many of you do your shopping online?
Lastly, what determines your buying habits? Is it how many books or how discounted they are?

Likewise, what do you do with a good read when you’re finished?
Give it to a friend,
Donate it to a library or book drive,
Re-sell it,
Or keep it forever?

I suppose what it comes down to is some of us need to find cheaper avenues, and also ways to find what we are looking for, yet not at a source where we can easily go overboard or end up with more books than we can store in our cramped personal library corners. In closing, I guess that I’ll bookmark this blog entry. That way, the next time that online coupon hits my inbox, I could be reminded to try to hold out or practice that same self-restraint I do in the store. Then, I could be making it to the checkout without having to spend an hour shortening the list of books in my online shopping cart!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

 

It's Cube-Breaking Time!

By Jill Earl

I’m about to step into a new genre of writing, that is, new to me. A local screenwriting competition has just begun. The early deadline is about a month away, but I’m going for the late deadline next January. Think I’ll need the time.

Screenwriting has been in my thoughts for some time apparently. I’ve only just realized that I’d been reading books on the genre, and had attended sessions at past conferences. I’m signing up for another workshop at a conference next month and have looked into taking classes.

I’m definitely doing something new with my writing life. Fits in with the theme of WOW!’s September/October issue, ‘Breaking Out of Your Cube’. As mentioned in the ‘Editor’s Desk’ section, it’s about ‘taking a chance on writing, believing in yourself, and shifting your focus’.

Did I feel the need to do some cube-breaking? Not really. I’m taking a chance on trying a genre I’ve never written in before, and entering the contest because I want to see what I can produce. The competition will be intense and it would be great if I place or received an honorable mention. More than likely, that won’t happen and that’s okay.

Then again, my screenplay may win another screenwriting contest. Or I might place in the local competition in the future. For any of that to happen, I have to believe in myself. Take classes. Attend workshops and conferences. Write and gain experience.

What about you? Have you broken any cubes in your writing lately? Tell me about it!

And, don’t forget to check out ‘Breaking Out of Your Cube’, the September/October issue of WOW! for some great ideas and inspiration!

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Friday, October 10, 2008

 

Get a Real Job? I HAVE a Real Job!

by LuAnn Schindler

Today, after substitute teaching, I went out with one of my dear friends who teaches full-time. We discussed how teaching is more than an 8 - 4 job. It means being at school at 7:30, if not earlier. It means extra duty assignments that pay little of nothing yet require hours of extra work. It means grading papers, sometimes until midnight, because state standards tell you what must be taught and when to teach it.

Another person at our table turned and said, "We could get a writing job like LuAnn has. Then we can work when we want to."

Excuse me. I have a real job. I begin writing at 7:30 A.M, and I write until my husband comes home after a hard day of laboring on our farm. Quitting time for me is around 7 or 8 p.m. Sure, I might take an occasional break to make dinner or run an errand for him or even take an entire day to substitute teach. But when I finish there, I enter my office when I get home and I write. Why? Because it is what I enjoy doing. And yes, it pays the bills.

I turned to said colleague and asked why people don't consider my writing job a real job. After all, I have publishing credits. And they are from publications in our area, so it isn't like they don't see my work.

My friend said that maybe these other people consider writing a glamorous job and they find it odd that I can do that from the confines of my home office while I'm traipsing around my house in my PJs, if I so choose.

Maybe they won't consider my writing a real job until I have won the Pulitzer or Nobel Prizes. Maybe they won't consider my writing a real job until I have written about them. Or maybe they won't consider my writing a real job that I thoroughly enjoy because they are not happy with their position.

It reminded me of a poem by Marge Piercy entitled For the Young Who Want To.

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume of
remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask you why you don't have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.'s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions, and some-
body else's mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you're a certified dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

Reprinted from The Moon is Always Female, Alfred A. Knopf, Middlemarsh, Inc., Copyright 1980.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

 

The Top 2 Secrets for Writing a Book in 30 Days

by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

[Note: National Novel Writing Month is only a few weeks away, and almost 20,000 participants have already signed up. If you're going to take the challenge, here's a great article with two tactics you can use in order to have a successful NaNoWriMo experience. Good luck! --MP]

Is it really feasible to write a book in 30 days? In a word "Yes," but there are some secrets you need to know beforehand to be successful. In my book, Book in a Month: The fool-proof system for writing a book in 30 days (Writers Digest Books, 2008), I discuss all the secrets in detail. Here, I share the top 2 secrets to get you started.

Secret #1: Working "As If"

Working "as if" means that you keep writing, you keep moving forward with your story, and as new ideas or changes come to mind, you jot them down on your notes sheet (in an organized way of course!) and keep writing "as if" you've made those changes already. Because ...
You cannot write and rewrite at the same time if you want to finish a book in 30 days!

Character example
Let us say for some reason you want to change the name of your character from Anne to Barbara and you want her to be a pianist instead of a waitress. Instead of going back and changing every page that contains a reference to Anne or her occupation, you just jot down on the notes sheet:
"Change Anne to Barbara and make sure she's a pianist in all of her scenes, check pages x — xxx."
Then you use the name Barbara from this point forward and write as if she is a pianist.
You can also do this for character background changes. If you would like to change the childhood issues for one character so you can make her "gritty and jaded" when she goes home for Christmas, just jot it down on your note sheet and write her as if she were gritty and jaded from this point on. This type of change may also affect other characters, like her parents, so make sure you make any necessary notes on them as well.

Plot example
You are absorbed in your writing and all of a sudden realize you should have included a fight scene between Chris and Mike two chapters ago. It is the only way this current scene you are writing will make sense. No problem. Jot down on your notes sheet:
"Fight scene between Chris and Mike in chapter x. The outcome is xxxx because xxxxx. The point is xxxxx. See page x."

You can also get out your red pen and write on the page you wish to include this scene:
"Insert fight scene here — see notes sheet."

Subplot/Situation example
You suddenly get an idea for a great subplot. Or, when you have dull moments in the plot because you need to convey information (or you are facing the pains of the second act!), select one of the dramatic situations found in my book Story Structure Architect: A writer's guide to building dramatic situations and compelling characters (Writers Digest Books, 2005) and create a placeholder for it as a subplot to liven things up. Either way, jot it down on your notes sheet so you can add any preliminary pieces needed to set up the subplot in the previous chapters, then go ahead and write it.

Why is this Note Sheet so Valuable?
Now all these changes you came up with while writing are no longer taking up valuable space in your brain and you are free to keep moving forward, free to generate more ideas, free to keep getting those pages done.

Secret # 2: Subplots — Leave 'em?

You may also want to avoid working on the subplots all together. Many writers churn out a quick version of their story with subplots to be added later. It all depends on your writing style and level of mastery. Most of us do better if we can just focus on the main characters and plotline, and race through to the end. There is nothing wrong with that.
As you write, you can type in big letters:
"Subplot — Cari meets with hero about surprise party plans. Alex doesn't know."
And then continue on with the main plot. This way you know where you want the subplots to fit in and how they will progress but you don't waste a lot of time and brainpower working on them just yet. Because...

Subplots are always the first thing to go or change during the rewrite!
Once you get to "The End" you will be able to see:
• Where the story is a little slow
• Where things don't make sense
• What new information needs to be added
• How many characters need to be changed or dropped

Can you see that working too much on subplots can be a waste of time? Even if you keep all the subplots you create during these 30 days they will, nonetheless, change; the main plot will require them to change because it itself will change and grow as you write: new settings, characters, information, transitions, purpose, goals, subtext. The subplots will have to reflect these changes.
I hope you find these secrets helpful. Writing a book in a month is all about getting that first draft down on paper. You cannot expect to churn out something that is all ready to go to print in 30 days, but you will have your book completed, and that is what it is all about.

Copyright 2008 by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. All rights reserved in all media.
Victoria Lynn Schmidt is the author of 45 Master Characters (Writer's Digest, 2007) Book in a Month: The fool-proof system for writing a book in 30 days (Writers Digest Books, 2008) and Story Structure Architect: A writer's guide to building dramatic situations and compelling characters (Writers Digest Books, 2005). Victoria also teachers writers how to hone their craft and become published writers. She can be reached at Info@CharactersJourney.com.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

 

Getting in Touch with the Current YA

At my critique group, which seems to often be a topic of my blog posts, we had another lively discussion. This time it centered around my recent submission to my group members of the young adult novel I am working on. The controversy was over a recent scene I added where my wonderful, beautiful main character (okay, so I'm a little biased), who is a 17-year-old girl, is being pressured to have sex by her boyfriend of 2 1/2 years, and she doesn't have her shirt on. In fact, she likes making out with him, but she is not ready for sex, and she might not be until she is married.

One of my critique group members, who I love dearly, said he thought I should take the whole scene out because my main character was acting immoral. I said I thought teens who read the book should see that they can say NO at any point, and it is okay. It is hard, but it is okay.

This led to a discussion of the current YA market, and I asked how many YA books he had read in the past year. He said he didn't need to read YA books to know what was moral and what wasn't, and I agree with that. (I don't think she is acting immoral, but that's a whole other discussion.) But I think if you are going to write for teens, you have to know how to reach them where they are at today--OR they are not going to read you. They are not going to believe you. And they are not going to relate to your characters.

I am no expert---I've just read a lot of YA books for my blog, "Read These Books and Use Them" (http://margodill.com/blog/). I have to admit at first I was a bit shocked by some of the language--the "f" word--and the sex and the drugs and any of the other teen issues that pop up in YA books. But now I've read and listened to many, many current YA books, and when I recently read Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, I was refreshed by the fact that two teens chose not to drink and have sex in an all-night adventure. Instead, they had an adventure--plenty of the "f" word to go around, but that was it.

I was lucky enough to hear Holly Black speak at a conference in Illinois in June. She is the author of the Spiderwick Chronicles and Tithe series. I am going to paraphrase because I don't remember her words EXACTLY, but basically she said:

Don't write for the teen you wish or think you were, or you wish your children were. Write for the teen you were!

In other words, you probably weren't a perfect angel--did you ever sneak out of your house to see your boyfriend? Did you ever go to a party and drink alcohol before you were 21? And so on? And if you are reading this now, you made it through your teen years and turned out okay.

One last thought, if you are in your 30s or older, you probably remember the ABC After School Specials. Weren't they scandalous in our time? Society has changed, and those specials wouldn't relate to teens anymore. This doesn't mean there are no morals or good teenagers out there. It just means they are dealing with the same problems that we did or our grandparents did--drugs, alcohol, premarital sex, fitting in, looking at the future, dealing with peer pressure, and so on. It is important to be in touch with how today's teens face and struggle with these issues if you are going to write for them! YA books are fascinating. If you haven't read one lately, pick up one soon.

Happy Writing!
Margo Dill
www.margodill.com

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

 

Interview with Gerry Cofield: Second Place Winner, Spring 2008 Flash Fiction Contest!


Gerry L. Cofield’s love of stories and books started on the knee of her Paw-paw, the ultimate story-teller, when she could barely talk. She has won several contests, been published in trade magazines and The Magnolia Quarterly, and writes a weekly column for the local newspaper about the animal shelter where she volunteers (www.randolphshelter.org). She has enjoyed several classes from Gotham Writers’ Workshop, Writing It Real with Sheila Bender, and currently from The Write Helper.

Gerry’s degree is in Child and Family Development and she spent 12 years working with young children and families. Two years ago she moved to Woodland, Alabama to operate the family business of manufacturing church steeples (yes, really). Her experience working in a domestic violence shelter prompted this submission to the WOW!flash fiction contest. She finds that the rural South is a constant source of interesting and unusual characters and hopes to work her way into writing a book within the next few years if she can just narrow it down to one topic.

She enjoys traveling, baking, gardening, hiking, and volunteering for the animal shelter and a charity dedicated to serving those who have experienced tragedy (www.willsway.org). She lives with Shadow the mostly-Lab, Buddy the St. Bernarder Collie, and Luckie the German Chowbrador (don’t look for these breeds on the AKC list), as well as a fuzzy cat named Samson who snores.

She is grateful to be included amongst such talented and spirited women writers and welcomes correspondence from you at glcofield[at]Hughes[dot]net!


If you haven't done so already, please read Gerry's award winning story, Questions to a Friend, then come back to our interview with this talented and gracious writer.

*****


WOW: Congratulations on winning second place in WOW!'s Spring 2008 writing contest! How do you feel?

Gerry: Thank you. I feel honored and elated.

WOW: What a wonderful reaction. The inspiration for your story came from your experience working in a domestic violence shelter. Can you tell us about that?

Gerry: I began as a volunteer at a shelter while attending college and was later hired as the children’s advocate. It was quite educational. Domestic violence is way too common and often misunderstood. I had some harrowing experiences and, in the end, became emotionally drained. Seeing how those situations affect the children was the most disturbing part.

WOW: That would be very difficult to bear. Your help and kindness was surely appreciated. Gerry, I love the unique approach you took with the story, style-wise. Every sentence in the story is a question! How did you get the idea to create a story that way?

Gerry: Well, I wish I could take credit for coming up with that idea myself, but…. In a wonderful class with Sheila Bender (www.writingitreal.com) one of the writing prompts we were given was an experimental fiction/short-short story by Bruce Holland Rogers (www.shortshortshort.com) written in this style. I liked the intensity and brevity of it.

WOW: I've taken one of Sheila's classes as well, and loved it (Note: I had a chance to interview her for WOW!'s August 2008 issue.) Since you've won some other writing competitions, you must have a secret or two. Could you share some tips for writing contest success?

Gerry: No secrets here. I just try to learn what I can from books, classes, and conferences and by reading as much as possible. The only thing I can offer is the obvious: write what touches people and do it with style in a well-polished manner. I always read previous winners’ stories and there are many truly talented writers out there.

WOW: Great advice. You've taken several writing classes. Which ones have been your favorites and why?

Gerry: I honestly haven’t taken any classes that I didn’t enjoy and learn from. Each instructor has his/her own methods. I found that it can be uncomfortable getting used to different styles and systems, but definitely worth it to “stretch” yourself and allow the creative juices to flow. Often the other participants in the class are as important as the instructor and the material.

In the class with Sheila, I worked with the best group of ladies! We really learned a lot from each other. The Gotham Writers’ Workshop Fiction classes were very helpful as well. A big benefit of online classes is exposure to others from all walks of life and geographical areas. I’m currently working with Amy Harke-Moore (www.thewritehelper.com) in my first one-on-one class. Amy provides candid feedback- suggestions, corrections, and ideas- that I feel has improved my writing.

WOW: We'd love to know about your writing routines. For example, where do you write, and how often? Do you have any favorite rituals?

Gerry: I have a little workspace in front of a window set apart by an oriental screen at my house. My materials are spread all over an old drafting table that belonged to my Paw-paw. I truly believe it improves my creativity.

I try to write each day, but life sometimes gets in the way. My writing tends to be concentrated on the weekends. I do better in the morning after massive quantities of caffeine or when winding down in the evenings. I don’t really have any set rituals besides yelling at the dogs to stop barking so I can concentrate. I really admire the moms who write--it must be a real challenge to handle all their responsibilities and still find time to devote to writing.

WOW: It's helpful to hear about your methods, and what works best for you. Have you found inspiration from other books or authors you could recommend?

Gerry: There are so many! A particularly good book for writers, in my opinion, is Peter Selgin’s By Cunning & Craft. He does an excellent job cutting to the quick of how to produce great writing without seeming preachy or condescending- plus he’s witty.

I have a habit of buying books like crazy and then taking forever to read them. I just read my first YA fiction (since becoming an adult), Teach Me by R. A. Nelson, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it- the characters and pace kept me reading start to finish without stopping. I’m probably behind the crowd, but I recently finished Tobias Wolff’s The Night in Question. This collection represents my favorite aspect of truly amazing short stories- the ability to provide a group of diverse and vivid tales in one book. It’s like buying a CD with many styles of music and loving each one. I’m also proud to recommend Alabama writer Ravi Howard’s novel Like Trees, Walking which is honest, tender and powerful at once.

WOW: Good recommendations, thanks. One final question, Gerry: If there was one bit of advice you could pass on to other aspiring writers, what would it be?

Gerry: I don’t feel very qualified to provide advice, but I can tell you what advice I’ve received that has been useful. Keep writing, keep submitting, don’t be afraid to try new things, do you’re best, and don’t give up. It seems that many of us women writers tend to doubt ourselves and I think that’s a shame. We have to support and nourish each other, and I think WOW has provided a wonderful opportunity for us to do that. I am just so excited to be a part of this network of awesome ladies!

Thank you, Marcia, for this interview. Please share my thanks with Angela & Annette, and the WOW staff. Everyone there does such a great job! And thank you to Wendy Sherman and Seal Press for this opportunity. This is such an honor and I really appreciate it.

*****

Every Tuesday we'll be featuring an interview with one of the top 10 winners from the Spring 2008 Flash Fiction Contest. 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

--MP

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Monday, October 06, 2008

 

Copywriters, Be Proud

Allena Tapia, of About.com Freelance Writing and Garden Wall Publications, shared this video with the Premium-Green Writer's Group, and I had to pass it along to you all.

The power of a few words can move mountains. So touching...especially the ending. You don't have to understand Spanish to enjoy it.


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Sunday, October 05, 2008

 

Sink, Swim, or Fly?

What do you do when your to-do list is longer than your intestinal tract? When the amount of work on your plate is so heavy you feel like you need a catering cart?

Sometimes we sink

It's easy to sink when you're drowning in work. I tend to get overwhelmed, and even downright depressed, when too much is put on my plate. When that happens, I fall into a workload coma, unable to complete the task at hand because I'm thinking about the task ahead. I watch TV, check email, and do a million little things that don't help me get closer to accomplishing anything--all the while feeling I've lost my passion for work. When that happens, you know you need to change something. But what do other people do? I found some advice on several forums somewhat amusing:

"I do a pajama day or throw a pajama party, if I can."

"Maybe take a shower, if that's important to you."

"Listen to soundtracks and eat Chinese food."

"Cry. Wallow in self-pity."

So, the internet may not be the best place to find advice, LOL. But I do get what they're saying. It may be necessary to fly, to escape from your problems for a while and clear your mind.

Sometimes we fly

Last weekend, I escaped to one of my favorite places in the mountains--a sleepy little town called Idyllwild, located in the San Jacinto National Forest. There's a cabin I rent every so often, nestled deep in the woods, where cell phone service and the internet are not an option. Unplugging for a couple of days was such a relief! I woke up to fresh air and a bunch of animals that were practically everywhere--a woodpecker storing nuts in a tree for the winter, bunny rabbits casually eating young blades of grass, and fluffy-tailed squirrels literally going nuts foraging for food. That doesn't happen where I live, and it was nice.

If things get too overwhelming to the point where you can't function, you definitely need a break. Don't consider it a sign of weakness. I know, as women, we tend to think we can handle it all. We are the ultimate multitaskers. But if you are overwhelmed, it's not time to multitask. That will only put you in deeper.

So, like the forum posters, if having a pajama party, taking an important shower, listening to soundtracks and eating Chinese food, or crying is your thing...then go ahead. Well, I don't know about the crying and self-pity thing...that seems counterproductive, but you get the idea. Take a walk, read a good book, retreat to a place you love, take some time off and recharge your batteries.

It doesn't matter if you don't have a lot of money, you can find something that will relieve stress. The whole trip to the mountains only cost me a couple hundred dollars. The cabin ran around $98 a night--super cheap for a whole cabin with a full kitchen, two bedrooms, a deck with a BBQ, and a pool. I brought food from home, barbequed, meditated, and read books by the pool. It was inexpensive and just what I needed.

One thing I do regret: the trip was too short. Be sure to take enough time to fully recharge. Then you can come back refreshed and ready to swim.

Sometimes we swim

When you are ready to swim, remember, you are not alone. If you seriously have too much work on your plate, ask for help. Don't be a martyr. Most likely, there are people around you who can help take some of the burden off of your chest. You just have to take time to delegate some of the responsibilities. It could be family members, coworkers, or putting a call out on a writer's group. There are so many people willing to help out in a time of need. Don't think of it as selfish. I know it's a terribly hard thing to grasp, and I battle with that myself, but, if you are doing something good for others, or yourself, it's worth the effort. Flying solo will only hinder your goals and hurt the people around you. So, to do this, ask yourself these questions:

What can I do to lighten my workload?
Examine your to-do list. Is there anything unnecessary? What can you eliminate?

Are there any tasks I can have someone help me with?
Many times we think, I'll just do it, it'll take too much time to explain to someone else, but that's the wrong way to think. Working with someone not only reduces stress, but also helps motivate you to do a better job.

Now, I want to know: What do you do when you are overwhelmed? Do you sink, swim, or fly?

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

 

Come on and aMUSE me!

Sometimes, we all need to travel into a world of tangential thought. For today, let’s allow that tangential thought go into what (or who) we tend to write about in our work. We often have a source of inspiration or a muse, don’t we? Someone who says a line we work into our writing, or a character whose name has the same initials or rhymes with the name of someone we went to school or work with? Now, think about it for a moment - how many of you have given thought to being one of those muses? Have you ever given someone a manuscript or been asked who inspired the main character in your poem/short story/book and been excited to have someone peel away and expose your inner inspiration? Have you ever wished your muse read your work and put two-and-two together? I’m curious to see what you all mention in response to this post as someone who has never shown my people of inspiration any of my writing just yet, and, who in a moment of tangential thought, pondered if she could have possibly been reproduced in a fictional facsimile too.

Friday, October 03, 2008

 

Reading 'Letters To a Young Artist'

By Jill Earl

I’m about to re-read ‘Letters to a Young Artist’ by Anna Deavere Smith, noted actress, teacher and Tony-nominated playwright. The book is a series of letters written to ‘BZ’, a fictionalized teen painter who, through an auction, won her services as a mentor for a number of years. The author candidly shares her thoughts, heart and wisdom and readers are invited along in the process.

Ms. Deavere Smith is succinct, while challenging both the reader and ‘BZ’ to consider the cost of a creative life. With sections such as ‘Basics’, ‘Work’, ‘Keeping The Faith’ and ‘Art & Society’, she offers her own struggles and victories to educate and encourage.

The best part? You don’t have to be a young artist to read the book. Artists of all ages and stages can benefit from not only the author’s insight, but artists from a range of disciplines. Photos of their works are included, along with their thoughts on how the process worked (or didn’t work) for them. And Ms. Deavere Smith closes her book with resources to assist artists in finding financial support for their art.

One of my favorite passages can be found in the ‘Relationships’ section. Under the ‘Struggling Artists’ chapter, Ms. Deavere Smith writes about her arrival in New York City in the 70’s, and how her friendship with fellow artist Randy helped her to adjust and grow into her new life. She ends the chapter with these words, “Find a spiritual twin to walk the city streets with, to waken the dawn with, to construct a world with.”

Those words resonate deeply. Connection to the spiritual twins in my own life have truly made the writing path less lonely, as we've walked those streets and constructed worlds together.

So, check out ‘Letters to a Young Artist’ to be encouraged and challenged in your pursuit of writing.

Because sometimes we all need some ‘straight-up advice’ from one who’s been there.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

 

Writing Lively Copy

by LuAnn Schindler

Want to turn a bland piece of prose into a piece that's filled with life? Substituting similes and metaphors for adjectives, replacing generic nouns with specifics, and varying sentence length will result in lively writing. Try this exercise to spice up your words.

Write a long paragraph about eating a favorite piece of fruit, using all five senses. Make sure you write a simile and a metaphor in the paragraph. Just for review, a simile compares two objects and uses 'like' or 'as' to make the comparison. Example: "The blackberries in the bowl were lumpy, like dirt clods on a dusty road." Metaphors directly compare one item to another. Example: "The clumps were soft and squishy, melting into sweetness in my mouth."

After you've finished writing the paragraph, review what you've written. Replace generic nouns with a specific noun. Instead of writing 'a conglomeration of berries', be specific. Red raspberries, blueberries, and gooseberries. When you use a specific noun, it is easier for the reader to visualize what you mean. The generic word or phrase leaves a lot to the reader's imagination, which can sometimes lead them in a different direction.

Review your work once again and consider sentence structure. Are all sentences one length? Do you always start with a phrase? Adjust and vary the length of your sentences, because variety helps keep the reader engaged.

Not only is this exercise good for developing lively copy, but it is also an effective revision tool.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

 

Fall into Writing

Today is the first day of October, a great time for writing. I have to agree with Writer's Digest blogger Kevin Alexander, who says, "The fall is my prime writing time, friends." He goes on to joke that during this time of year, his productivity goes up (unscientifically) around 67%.

Summer, with its distractions (read: kids), is a tough time for heavy production. The demands of the winter holiday season also tug us away from our writing time. Right now is a great time for writing. October in particular is a nice long month to pursue writing goals.

What is your favorite writing season? Is there a time of year when you're most creative or hard working?

--MP

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