Tuesday, June 30, 2009

 

Interview with WOW! Runner-Up Vera Constantineau

Vera Constantanieau is a runner-up in the WOW! 2009 Winter Flash Fiction Contest. If you haven't done so already, you should check out her award-winning story, "Ten the Hard Way."

Vera’s Bio:
I live in Copper Cliff in northern Ontario, Canada with my husband Ralph. We have one daughter, Chloe. The easiest thing in the world for me to do is to spin a yarn about the lives of my characters, but ask me about me, and I will stammer that I have been writing for fifteen years. The truth is I began writing when I was five years old; my first project was a cooking show script, spoken in gibberish which I pretended was French, as I concocted mud pies.

Currently, I write a humor column, From the Porch, published weekly in a Canadian newspaper. My work has been featured on CBC radio, Canada’s national radio broadcast, I have published features and personal essays in Canadian magazines and had short stories included in three anthologies. In the fall, my novella Diamond Day will be included in a new anthology along with several northern Ontario writers.

I read, I write, I breathe… it’s all connected.

Read Vera's prize winning story here, and then return for a conversation with the author.

Interview with Vera Constantineau:

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the WOW! 2009 Winter Flash Fiction Contest! Can you tell me more about your short story, “Ten the Hard Way”? How did you start this story, or what was your inspiration?

Vera: I wrote this story in an attempt to portray a woman acting purely on physical attraction, and then, have her pleasure in the resulting relationship eroded by the realities in his life, wife, children and his basic dishonesty. I wanted her to end it, as she began it, for selfish reasons.

WOW: What was the biggest challenge you faced and overcame while writing this story?

Vera: Allowing the woman to be sexual and selfish without trying to cushion the reader with some kind of apologetic behavior on her part was very difficult. The challenge was to keep myself from caring whether the reader liked her or didn’t like her. To let the character create the response I thought this spare style worked to keep her relatively one dimensional.

WOW: I see from your bio that you have variety of writing experiences. Is there any particular type of writing (fiction, non-fiction; novella, flash-fiction; etc.) that you prefer to write?

Vera: My column is creative non-fiction and for fifteen years it has been very satisfying to write, but I love fiction. With fiction I can manipulate the characters, take them to extremes, rescue them from the resulting mess, it’s all up to me – that’s power.

WOW: What excites you most about writing?

Vera: The development of an idea into a full blown story is exciting. Using the characters to support the idea, throwing in just the right mix of quirks and truth, raising the tension level to capture people’s attention, and supplying a moment where I hope they will gasp either in surprise or pleasure, and sometimes if I do it right, with laughter.

WOW: The twist in your story definitely grabbed my attention because I didn’t expect it. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Vera: Whichever type of writing you choose, read as much of that as you can. Read both the good and the bad. Learn to recognize what works and what doesn’t. Above all I think you have to be fearless, not everyone will like what you write but if you do then likely someone else will as well, stay true to your own style.

WOW: That’s great advice. Writers certainly do have to learn to be fearless! Thank you, Vera, and again, congratulations!

Interviewed by: Anne Greenawalt

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

 

Exploring and Finding What You Like In The Process

I am going to let you all in on a little secret...

I am finding myself liking to write more and more.

It was not supposed to be this way. I stumbled into writing, more or less, to keep my mind agile and to provide something to do in between job applications and job searches. It still does all of that for me, but now too, it opens a lot of little doors for me and gives me room to try different things.

I always was somewhat of an explorer. After all, I have always wanted to be an archaeologist and teach others about different cultures and global issues. At the same time, I did not want to be confined to one subject area. The interdisciplinary linkages between history and science drew me in, and that's where I found myself, exploring the great divide between subjects, between halves of the mind.

Now, I find myself doing the same thing as a writer. In the past few years, I've blogged, written a book review for an anthropology journal, edited for a science association newsletter, completed some freelance writing on all sorts of topics from math to archaeological sciences (to a diversity of predetermined by the editor topics). I have performed research, learned how embedded hyperlinks work, and how to insert comments and track changes.

In the process, I have explored different academic subjects and genres of writing, and have found not only another way I enjoy exploring, but have explored a little bit of what makes me who I am and do things that I do. I do not like to be confined; I live to be free. I love switching between editing someone else's work and writing my own. I like how I can be reading about the life of a biochemist one minute, then being able to write about algebraic concepts the next. The freedom of writing themes, topics, and styles helps me dabble, as I am not relying exclusively on writing to pay the bills, but maybe someday, I will.

So, now, I think when asked, I'll say that I am not only an anthropologist who is looking for employment, but a novice writer too. That said, this summer's goal is to get started on a book idea I've been sitting on for more than 2 years and watching idly as it evolved in my notebook from an article to something more. It's something a self-proclaimed writer I tutor with encouraged me about doing the other day when he was getting me to open up about what I think about. It only seems fitting to explore this interdisciplinary topic academically, intertwining my academic discipline of anthropology, with something I am finding myself more able to do and did not give thought to before, writing. Not to mention, it has bothered me sitting on this and not doing something about it beyond bookmarking websites and articles on my computer for use as a guide for writing proposal letters or as an academic source to reference.

Anyways, sometimes, a blog post has to be a little introspective I guess. Hope you've had a nice weekend and find some way to explore this week. Thanks for helping me find a new niche for myself over the past year or so. I've learned so much from you all (as I explore more or less uncharted waters myself), and I definitely look forward to learning more!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

 

What if a story could save your life?

by: LuAnn Schindler

A friend once asked me how many books I've read. Wow. I can't even begin to imagine the number of books I've read. Both of my parents were teachers, so I grew up in a family of readers. During elementary school, I remember trekking the block and a half to the library on Saturdays. I read every Nancy Drew book, some of them twice. By junior high and high school, my literary tastes changed, and I read everything required in school as well as multiple mysteries my parents had on the shelves at home. And once I went to college, I majored in English, so naturally, I read non-stop!

But the next question from my friend caused me to pause. "Have you ever read a story that saved your life?" Hmm. Well, there's... No, what about... How do you answer this question? I've read many books that resonated with me or what's happening in my life, but did these books save my life?

It depends on how one defines 'save'. To Kill A Mockingbird saved me from spreading prejudice and injustice. The Great Gatsby saved me from greed and misplaced love. Macbeth saved me from using ambition in the wrong manner.

Still, I'm not sure if I answered my friend's question. Is it possible for a story to save someone? Or do we simply relate to the ideas within the pages and apply it to our lives?

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Friday, June 26, 2009

 

How Americans Talk

Depending on where you live, you might call your submarine sandwich a “hero” (New York City area), a “hoagie” (New Jersey and Pennsylvania), a “grinder” (New England), or a “Cuban sandwich” (Florida).

This kind of information--the words and phrases used in distinct regions of the country--will be included in a new edition of The Dictionary of American Regional English next year. The compete series of five volumes will contain abut 75,000 entries, and will eventually be put online.

When my family moved from the East Coast to the West Coast, I can remember my new friends sniggering at my use of the word “sneakers” instead of “tennis shoes”. (Were we playing tennis? No. That still doesn’t make sense to me.) Some other regional word differences I can think of are soda vs. pop, sofa vs. couch, and iced tea vs. sweet tea. Apparently, there are many more!

Fiction writers may need to know about these regional variations, in order to create characters who speak the way they really would. I just think it’s fascinating to learn about the diversity of our language. What regional expressions did you grow up with?

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

 

Now, what was it that I was typing?

The calm summer months. From my youth, I recall the lilac blooms that heralded the oncoming weeks spent free and away from school. I still enjoy those calming images...and then I turn around and realize, I'm not the one who is supposed to be enjoying these months, my kids are.
But often these days, I find myself chained to my desk, trying to fit in my freelance writing business in the midst of my own kids camp, complete with 8-, 5- and 2-year old children running circles around me.
While I love being a mom, I dislike the constant battle to find the elusive, amoeba-like balance for a family. Balance such as slowing my marketing as we neared the end of the school year. Or the balance that precludes any of my fiction writing while I winnow down the paying assignments.
I left my job to stay home, take care of the kids and write. And while balance can be tricky (which is why I'm awake at 4 a.m. on days when the kids' swim meets will run into the night), I also tend to be more lax and willing to put movies on that will entertain, nonchalantly checking the running time.
"Great, an hour and 15 minutes? I can get at least get started!"
Sometimes it works well, sometimes I find myself drifting through the Internet when I last remember writing a blog post. Asleep at the keyboard, again!
I'm fortunate that I am able to work through how to start a draft while I make lunch or that I have some good friends who take pity on me, helping me to arrange a play date for one or two of my kids. Or that I can often mine daily struggles and write something about them.
However, there are days when I wish I could slow down and just enjoy my life as a mom, not only my life as a freelance writing mom. Or just maybe enjoy my life as a freelance writing mom who gets to hit the snooze button more often than not.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and freelance writer who enjoys the bubbly joys of life and parenting. She also blogs at CoastalCarolinaMoms.com and TheWriteElizabeth.com, where she contemplates finding creativity in everyday places. She's going back to bed now...hopefully.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

 

No Excuses


Yesterday, I did a silly thing with my laptop; and today, I am paying the price. It seemed no big deal to have a glass of water sitting by my computer while I worked on an article for a deadline. How many of you have a cup of coffee or pop sitting by your computer right now? We all do it, right?

I was packing up my laptop to take it somewhere else; and at the same time, I was trying to get my puppy to stop chewing my cord--and well, you can figure out the rest. . .the glass of water spilt right on the keyboard. Sizzle, sizzle, poof! It won't even turn on. There were tears, there were words of comfort from my husband and step-son, and a reminder that we do have an old desktop and a library a block away.

At first, I panicked. What would I do? How would I go on? How can I write? I took a break away from the computer to run the errand I needed to run; and somehow, clarity came to me. What was important here? Really? Would I still be able to meet my deadline? Yes! Would I still be able to work on my novel tomorrow? Yes! Would I still have e-mail? Yes! Sure, the desktop is slower and not portable, but it will do until we figure out something else.

I have two points with this post: 1. Be careful of your computer. Take care of it, and don't put your drinks near it. As writers in the 21st century, our computers are another family member. Aren't you with me on this? 2. If something happens with your computer or anything that you "usually" use to write, don't let it stop you from writing. Don't use anything as an excuse. I've heard them all--"Well, my office is being painted." or "There's too much family activity around where I like to write." or "My iPod is broken."

If you want to write, you will. You will find a way until you can get your technology going again.

AND WATCH THOSE DRINKS!

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


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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

 

Interview with Kimberly Zook, 3rd place winner in the Winter '09 contest


Kimberly's adventures of living alone in a hut in the middle of a Costa Rican rainforest for two years, bike riding throughout Japan, conducting research on tropical reforestation, and moving frequently as a wife of a Navy officer certainly fill her carpetbag full of experiences she draws upon in her writing. But it wasn't until she became a mother that the true adventure began. After winning 1st place in a Mom Writer's Literary Magazine writing contest, Kimberly realized one of her writing passions is literary essays on motherhood and writing. In addition to maintaining a blog on this topic, Zook Book Nook, Kimberly is a stay-at-home mom who is working on writing her first young adult novel, children's picture books and articles, and more essays on motherhood and writing. She and her husband currently live on the east coast, where they are expecting their second daughter to be born any day!
If you haven't had the opportunity to read Kimberly's story, Elements, head over to the winner's page.

WOW!: Congratulations, Kimberly! Elements offers a unique analogy by comparing chemical elements to a relationship. How did you decide to combine the use of chemical elements in your story?
Kimberly: As a writer, I find the use of symbols in writing challenging yet thought-provoking. I knew the characters and plot of this story before the idea of chemical elements popped into my head. As I thought about each character and what their personality represented, the idea of using chemical elements as symbols for each character came to mind since the narrator is a chemist. I think symbols add to the imagery of a story, and chemical elements paints a unique type of picture for each character.

WOW: It certainly does! What is the symbolism of mercury, magnesium, and manganese? What's the relationship between the three elements?
Kimberly: Science uses order and organization to facilitate our ability to communicate. In my story, I used these three chemical elements to help organize the story around "M" chemical elements that are commonly known. Each chemical element has properties that also describe the characters' personalities: Raul's smooth way of sliding into the narrator's life is like quicksilver (the liquid state of mercury), but he also adds a dangerous volatile state to the relationship; Raul's mother is portrayed as brittle and hard, which is characteristic of manganese; and magnesium seemed like the perfect element to represent a child who is light yet strong since it is an element found in a supernova star as well as the human body.

WOW: Fascinating! It's interesting how people certainly can resemble the characteristics of a chemical element. You've had the opportunity to live abroad. How did your experience living in Costa Rica play into this story's formation?
Kimberly: While living in the rainforest I began to understand the essential elemental basis of life and how it connects us to everything found in nature. From chemical elements to DNA to the complexity of a body struggling to survive, we're all related with all forms of life. This understanding is incorporated into my writing in many ways, and became the backbone of how I formed this story. In addition, I dated a man from Nicaragua for some time and learned a lot from this experience about the challenges of a relationship built from different cultural backgrounds. His family made me feel like an outsider, which eventually affected our relationship. But I wanted to also express the innocent existence of love and compassion found at the core of a relationship, so I chose to use a child to bring that out in the story.

WOW: That's so true! Children definitely bring out love and compassion in a relationship. You have a new addition to your family. How do you balance family time with writing?
Kimberly: I like this question, because I just gave birth to my second daughter! As a stay-at-home mom I've learned that setting priorities is the key to balancing family time with writing. It's important to me that my children and husband come first, but I personally need time to write to stay healthy and happy mentally, physically, and spiritually. With a toddler and newborn now in my life, I knew my time for writing would become even more limited, so I made a few small goals for myself: (1) write every day if even for only 5 minutes, (2) use my blog as a writing journal, and (3) take a writing course online. Although I do have manuscripts that I'm working on as well, these three goals are ones I keep up with daily because they are manageable and still allow me the quality and quantity of time I want to have with my family. The online course is structured and an investment, so I knew this commitment would not be one I would break and required a set time each week to write. It starts this week, so I'm excited to begin the course!

WOW: Sounds like you have established a great routine! That's an important step for all writers. You write a lot of literary essays. What do you see as the primary difference between the literary essay and the short story forms?
Kimberly: Good question! When I approach writing a literary essay I think about a particular concept on a philosophical level. I then spin out from the philosophical idea to tangible experiences, objects, and images that relate to the theme or concept. The seed of a short story starts out differently for me. I first imagine a character or an event and expand outward from there, developing a plot, a setting, a climax, and an ending that all tie in with the initial character or event that first came to mind.

WOW: Thanks for sharing how you structure a short story. Not only do you write essays, but you recently ventured into the blogosphere.What goals have you established for your blog? What demographic are you hoping to connect with? And finally, what type of information should readers expect?
Kimberly: The theme of my blog is "Crafting motherhood and writing together in the same pen stroke." In July 2007 I became a mom for the first time, and by April 2008 I realized I wanted to share my ideas and experiences as a writer and mother with others. The central goal of Zook Book Nook is to think outside the box about the relationship between writing and parenting. I take my daily experiences as a mother and think about how they relate to writing. In so doing, I hope this approach to blogging makes me a better writer and mother. I've found two types of audiences for my blog: some readers are mothers who blog about being a mom and some readers are writers who blog about being a writer. I like having the two different groups of readers, because we all learn from each other. When readers come to my blog I hope the daily blog entries I write will leave them with something new to think about in terms of being a parent as well as a writer.

WOW: Great idea! Good luck with that project! I'm sure many parents who are also writers will relate! You are a contest veteran. Any advice to writers who have never entered a contest?
Kimberly: I have been fortunate to have two contest writing pieces awarded, but I'm far from being very experienced as a contestant and winner. The only advice I feel I can give is about the approach to take with contests since I'm still in the early stage of entering various writing contests. When it comes to contests, I find myself unusually excited about writing a piece to enter, because I feel like all of the writers are using their creative minds to pool together different ideas or twists on writing prompts or topics. I ask myself what can I offer that is unique and will give the readers a new idea of how to approach the writing prompt or topic. If there is no writing prompt, then I think about the hosting organization's mission or focus and how my story my add to their mission yet give off a sparkle of its own. This approach makes me feel like I am writing with the other contestants instead of in competition with since I hope my piece of writing will give them something new to think about when it comes to writing. Well, I guess that's a lot of advice from someone who said I shouldn't give much!

WOW: LOL! You offer a lot of practical ideas for anyone interesting in entering writing contests. Any future projects you'd like to share with readers? What are you working on now?
Kimberly: My favorite project is a Young Adult novel I've been writing that incorporates my experiences of living in the rainforest. The focus of the novel is about a young man of mixed cultural backgrounds and the challenges he faces as he tries to find his place in this world. I hope this book will reach teens who struggle with connecting to different cultural groups and nature.

WOW: Your YA novel sounds quite interesting. Finding a place to fit in can be extremely difficult. Thanks for talking about your story and your writing experiences.
Kimberly: Thank you! I've enjoyed answering these questions, and I appreciate the opportunities WOW! has given me!

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Monday, June 22, 2009

 

Ann Whitford Paul, author of Writing Picture Books, Launches her Blog Tour!

& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

When an elementary school classmate read Ann's journal--including all the mean things she'd written--it put an end to Ann's first foray into writing. She went back to being a voracious reader, first on her own and then with her children. In a family of four children often the only quiet time was just before bed when Ann and her children snuggled together reading. It was those moments that inspired Ann to write books to help other children and adults recreate those cozy times. Encouraged by her family's love of books Ann has written 17 children's books, had her poetry published in several anthology and taught many classes on children's writing.

After years mothering her noisy brood Ann enjoys her quiet time. When not reading or writing she revels in quiet while quilting, knitting, doing puzzles or listening to the quiet rumbling purr of her cat, Mr. Darcy. Jane Austen is Ann's and Mr. Darcy's favorite author.

Find out more about Ann by visiting her website: http://www.annwhitfordpaul.net

About her book:

Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication

by Ann Whitford Paul

Have you ever thought you'd like to write a picture book, but don't know where to begin? Have you been submitting stories, but getting only form rejections?

Writing picture books is not easy. Picture books are a unique form of writing with a large audience of 2- to 8-year-olds, and they must appeal to both the adult purchaser and the child listener/reader. They are generally 32 pages long and must be tightly focused and told partly through illustrations. And novice picture book writers make a lot of mistakes--and get a lot of rejections from publishers flooded with inappropriate manuscripts. From this book these writers will learn the writing and revision process that will lead them to creating more salable picture book manuscripts. Ann Whitford Paul covers researching the picture books market, creating characters, point of view, plotting, tips on writing rhyme, and more-all the lessons writers need to write great picture books that will appeal to both editors/agents and young readers/parents. She uses a mix of instruction and hand-on exercises, often asking readers to cut, color and paste their way through revision.

This book covers picture book form, structure, language and the business side too. Learn how to revise your manuscript into a polished and publishable story from the award winning author of 17 children's books.

Genre: Writing/How-to
Paperback: 256 pages
ISBN: 1582975566
Publisher: Writer's Digest Books (June, 2009)

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are
holding a contest to win a copy of Ann's book, Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end. We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!

Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Ann. We're delighted to launch your blog tour for your book, Writing Picture Books. You've been a children's author and writing teacher for years. What made you finally decide to write Writing Picture Books?

Ann: I was, and continue to be, most grateful to the fabulous teachers, Sue Alexander, Myra Cohn Livingston and Sonia Levitin, who helped me along the road to publication. After I'd had several books published, I wanted to thank them by helping others who were just starting out in their careers. I've taught through UCLA Extension (http://www.uclaextension.edu) for over ten years and done lots of speaking and workshops throughout the country and the world. The idea of tackling a book about writing picture books never entered my mind until a student Molli Nickell (http://www.getpublishednow.biz/) encouraged me to do it. I put it off for several years, afraid of the work involved, but with support from many friends and students finally sat down to write it. As with almost all things, it turned out to be easier than I imagined. I loved the process and am thrilled with the results.

WOW: Did your experience with Writing Picture Books influence you to write Word Builder, a book about writing with a different audience—children?

Ann: It was purely a coincidence that these books came out at the same time. Obviously Word Builder directed to children is much simpler. It compares building a book to building and construction work. I hope it will take out some of the mystery and fear away from those elementary school students when they have an assignment to write their own books.

WOW: In Kindergarten this year my son did quite a bit of story writing—with his teachers' help. Each week a different student was "Publisher of the Week." What do you think we can learn from children that will make us better writers?

Ann: Children are fantastic observers. They squat down and watch a snail creep across the walk, or pick up a pebble and study its bumpy texture. All writers need to be observers. They need to spend time seeing what others miss and then writing about that in their books. Telling details are what make the reader feel as though they are in the scene unfolding on the book’s page. Also children have a wonder of the world. We adults tend to gloss over things we’ve become familiar with. Capture that wonder by exposing yourself to new places, new experiences and new people. It will only enrich your writing.

WOW: When was children’s book publishing a new experience for you? How has it changed since then?

Ann: My first book Owl at Night was published in 1986 at a time when the poor illustrator had to do color separation art. It must have taken her ages. Back then I submitted everything via snail mail. Now e-mail and fax have saved time and money submitting.

Obviously in these tough financial times, it's much harder to sell a book. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe only higher quality books will make it to the bookstores. Unfortunately, the time editors can spend on editing has also been drastically cut and many editors have been laid off. This is not a good turn of events as their expertise is critical to producing strong and compelling books. A lot of these laid off editors are now working as agents and I notice a trend toward agents doing the editing work that publishing houses no longer support.

WOW: Any secrets to getting a children's manuscript accepted by a publisher?

Ann: To get a children's manuscript accepted by a publisher today, it must be unique and have a strong voice and character. Picture Book texts must lend themselves to interesting and varied illustrations. Quiet books and mood pieces are harder to sell now, but fear not. Especially in these hectic times, books that encourage contemplation and peace will eventually be back in demand.

While times are tough, it would behoove writers to focus on their craft. Read as many books in your genre and about your genre. Enjoy the process and when things turn around, submit nothing but your very best work.

WOW: As a children's author you've participated in your share of public appearances. Any advice for those of us who get performance anxiety? What makes an appearance go smoothly? What makes it more enjoyable for the children in your audience?

Ann: I am no stranger to performance anxiety. But that's not a bad thing. It usually inspires you to work hard making sure your talks are good. Personally, I don't think you can ever over prepare. Remember that your audience is giving up their precious time to listen to you. Make sure you give them something new to take home with them.

For those of you who (like I used to do) start to tremble when speaking or feel sick to your stomach, the good news is that it passes. Pausing for a deep breath helps a lot and the more you speak in front of children and adults, the more comfortable you will feel.

One thing that helped me was to remind myself that whenever I spoke, I wouldn't do it perfectly. Wanting perfection will only increase the pressure you put on yourself and also it's impossible to achieve. It's easier and more helpful to consider each presentation, not as you being showcased, but as a learning experience. That way you always do well, because you always learn something about what to do in the future. Every time I present, I ask the audience for feedback.

When speaking to children, try to involve them in the presentation. Children like to act out books and they also love to sing songs related to your book. This morning I stayed for story time at my granddaughter's preschool. The teacher stopped frequently to ask the children what they thought, or to get opinions, or to listen to their stories. She was wonderful.

Visual aids are also helpful. I’ve made a quilt about my writing process that you can see on my web site at http://www.annwhitfordpaul.net/ProgramsSchools.html. You can download a picture and the explanation of each square. For the much younger children, I often bring stuffed animals.

WOW: That's fantastic advice! So, what's coming up next for you?

Ann: I was surprised how much I enjoyed working on Writing for Picture Books and am in the middle of another writing book that has less to do with technique but more about the life of being a writer. I write every day and am currently revising a collection of poetry and several picture book manuscripts. Hopefully you'll see one, or some of them, in a bookstore in the near future.

WOW: Thank you, Ann, for taking time to chat with us today! We wish you the best of luck on your tour for Writing Picture Books.

Want to join Ann 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!

JUNE 22, 2009 Monday
Ann chats with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. One lucky commenter will win copy of Ann's book!
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/blog.html

JUNE 23, 2009 Tuesday
Ann stops by Zook Book Nook for an author interview and book giveaway contest! She's giving away 2 books! Be sure to stop by and comment for a chance to win.
http://zookbooknook.blogspot.com/

JUNE 24, 2009 Wednesday
Authors have no time (or words) to lose. Ann stops by Donna's Book Pub to teach us how to "Grab Your Reader from Word One." Not to miss!
http://donnasbookpub.blogspot.com/

JUNE 25, 2009 Thursday
Walking the tightrope, eating cotton candy for dinner, dealing with clowns--we've all been there! Ann stops by Ann-Marie Nichols' blog, A Mama's Rant, and gives her take on the writing life with the post: Welcome to the Circus: Juggling Family and Writing.
http://www.amamasrant.com/

JUNE 29, 2009 Monday
Stop by Margo L. Dill's blog, Read These Books and Use Them, to hear Ann's advice for writers of all ages. For adults, she wrote Writing Picture Books, and for children, the picture book Word Builder.
http://www.margodill.com/blog/

JULY 1, 2009 Wednesday
With over a dozen books to her name and years of teaching, Ann's learned a few things about children's writing. Today she stops by Cathy C. Hall's blog, Finders & Keepers, to share her top five writing tips.
http://cathychall.wordpress.com/

JULY 2, 2009 Thursday
Stop by the WordHustler blog today and find out how Ann Whitford Paul became and award winning children's book author! WordHustler's interviews are fantastic--not to miss!
http://wordhustlerink.wordhustler.com/

JULY 10, 2009 Friday
Kristi Holl, children's book author and teacher at The Institute for Children's Literature, reviews Writing Picture Books. If you're interested in children's book writing, be sure to check out this fabulous blog!
http://institutechildrenslit.net/Writers-First-Aid-blog

JULY 15, 2009 Wednesday
It's a day for firsts! As the first guest author on the Teaching Authors blog, Ann will be talking about her first book about writing. And don't forget to enter to win a copy of Writing Picture Books! Also, be sure to check back for a review of Writing Picture Books in the future. ;)
http://www.teachingauthors.com/

JULY 17, 2009 Friday
Ann stops by Samantha Clark's blog, Day By Day Writer, to share her expert writing advice.
http://daybydaywriter.wordpress.com/

We may have more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE to keep up with the latest.

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 would like to host one of our authors, or are an author looking to schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at: blogtour@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 signed copy of Ann Whitford Paul's excellent book, Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

 

Writing: Pursue It 110 Percent

By Jill Earl

“If you have a passion for something, take no hesitation to pursue it 110 percent. It’s about focus, intensity, perseverance and believing in yourself and what you are capable of.”

I came across this quote from Alissa Augustine, a Native American deejay, while reading Language Is A Place of Struggle: Great Quotes by People of Color, edited by Tram Nguyen. Here’s a quick check-up to see how Ms. Augustine’s words can be applied to writing.

Focus. Making the time to actually write. Researching markets. Taking classes to acquire new skills and sharpen existing ones. Tightening dialogue. Getting out to network with fellow writers. That means putting down the remote when the new season of your favorite show’s starting. Or when your social networks are calling. Even when you’re about to reach a juicy section in that fab book you’re reading for pleasure.

Intensity. Do you live and breathe writing? Are you excited when you pick up a pen or turn on the computer, because you’re about to do your favorite thing? You can’t be lukewarm in this business and succeed. Well, you can, but do you really want that?

Perseverance. Are you willing to stick with your writing when the only thing you’re producing is blank pages? How about when the naysayers outnumber the supporters? And when the income is less than the outgo? Press through that wall. The ending to your novel might be waiting on the other side, along with payment from those articles you submitted weeks ago.

Believing in yourself. It’s a continual process. But if you don’t think you can be a successful writer, how can you expect anyone else to?

Look at the quote again. Are you willing to pursue the writing life 110 percent?

I am. How about you?

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Friday, June 19, 2009

 

Finding a New Groove

Here it is my birthday once again and boy, has my life changed again!

Over the past year, I personally have had a lot of changes happen in my life. These changes have affected my writing drastically. Which, I had promised myself at one time wouldn't happen. Well, like many of us, other issues in my life had taken over. A good example of this is the starting of a new family business, then it closing. In between, I would spend time trying to find writing jobs that could help pay the bills. I felt my writing was becoming a necessity in my world and not something I truly enjoyed doing at the time. I ventured out to find writing jobs that I knew I could do and would make me a few bucks. Most of the jobs were for advertising furnishings or something similar. It at least helped to keep my writing skills up to some degree. At least that is what I told myself.

During this evolution, I feel I managed to lose some really good friends in the writing industry, I feel as if I have some how made people mad at me and now, I have to try and regain those contacts once again. The fun now begins to get my "Groove" back within the writing community that I love so much. But, now comes the over whelming feeling of not knowing how to begin.

About a week ago, I attempted to get a hold of some of my contacts, people who I wanted to help. Those who I know are here to help all of us, I wanted to begin to be a part of that once again, alas, I feel that part of my "Groove" may be failing because of the lack of attention I have been able to give to my writing and those that I have worked with in the writing community off and on for the last few years.

If you are like me, trying to find your "Groove" again, it is very difficult, it is hard because of many different issues--it could be because of schedule changes, life change and so much more. But, the point is to TRY!!!! Don't rest and let it pass by you, grab a hold and drive yourself as much as you can to find your way once again.

Some of the ways that I have been getting my "Groove" back, may help you.

1) Go back to setting yourself up with a normal writing schedule. Even if it is for only 15 minutes, grab that time and use it to your best advantage. You and your writing deserve that time!

2) Get a hold of contacts that you once worked with, apologize, let them know you are trying to find your way once again and that you truly want to help. Ask what you can help and hope they will respond. (I must admit, for me this has been extremely difficult to get responses.) I have been in tears because I have felt I neglected a bunch of people due to my "life" changes.

3) Review what you like to write about, what is your niche. Find ways to get back into it. There are still a lot of different companies out there that are very interested in many aspects and more. With the recent turns and twists with our economy, it is nice to know that reading a book is one activity many people turn to as an economical way to relax for themselves or even for their families.

4) Try and keep a notebook with you, a small one works great to keep in your car. When you get an idea, write it down. Going to the doctor, while your waiting, take the notebook in with you, and WRITE!!! It doesn't matter what its about, JUST DO IT!!!!

5) Continue to put forth effort to contact people, get reacquainted with different sites for example; right here at WOW!. Find out what is new, if you belong to the PG, see what everyone has been up to.

I realize that not only for me but for the many that have lost their way in the writing community, it will take time. As we have all heard, "Take Baby Steps" it will be easier, you don't want to take on more than you can handle. You may wind up right back where you were just left off.

For all of you out there that have received my e-mails, I know you are probably extremely busy and are working hard to keep up with everything in your lives as well, please remember that there are a few of us that are trying to help be here for you! Once again!

Happy Writing!

Carrie

Thursday, June 18, 2009

 

Rain, Rain, Oh Please, Go Away!

I just do not understand. If so-called classics can start with an opening sentence like Poe’s The Raven and continue onto another sentence, why is it that my writing lately is stopping after the first sentence? Oh right, it is the weather. The weather sets the mood for those works, while it dampens my mood in front of the computer.

Honestly, I spent a few years in Florida and experienced the summer rains. I also traveled in Central America and had to retreat out of plenty of storms. My life has even taken me to London, a city notorious for the fogs and the rain described in the classics by Conrad, Eliot, etc. Those three months actually had me to the point that I rarely even opened an umbrella unless it is a long walk in a very cold downpour. One of my favorite smells is the air and damp ground immediately after a heavy downpour.

In short, rain rarely fazes me, but right now in Pennsylvania, it is wrecking havoc on my writing schedule. I just cannot fathom typical life in Seattle as a writer. This is only about the third week of daily storms, and I swear it is playing with my prose.

In the beginning, it was great. No outdoor distractions were possible and after the great night’s sleep (as rainstorms put me into such a restful slumber), I was focused. It was perfect, foolproof. Freelance writing, no problem. Blog posts, a cinch. I even pitched an idea to a professional newsletter and received a receptive and enthusiastic yes.

Then, the rain continued. By yesterday, I found myself with a little bit of writer’s block and a lot of restlessness. A restlessness where all I wanted to do was to go outside -- to a park or for a walk, just for a stretch of the mental and the physical capacities. However, the rain just would not let up at all! Writing was a futile effort, so by mid-afternoon, I gave up with my ambitious goals and set new ones just so at the end of the day, when my head hit the pillow, I could say, okay, so today, I was not completely useless. It consisted of assembling templates for a new batch of freelance writing pieces, finding some research links, but next to no writing at all.

Today, however, I am going full-speed again, taking advantage of the quiet house with others still asleep and with the end goals in mind. In short, I am making myself a mental image of the sun, because according to the forecast, the rain is here for at least another week and a half, and that is not going to stall my deadlines from approaching and passing. My thought is if I find other ways to satisfy myself, maybe I won’t notice how it has been raining continuously since last night; if the rain gets too loud and reminds me of how dreary today is, I have the iPod ready to go. I am just too eager and too otherwise ambitious to let the weather disturb equilibrium for a second day too; in other words, stubbornness better be a good raincoat, or I’ll be in trouble!

Ultimately, I only wish I knew what those in Seattle or those classic Londoners did when it came to blocking out the weather. Hoping the forecast for all of you serves you better when it comes to having a productive writing day! If you have some tips for “water-proofing” a writing schedule, do let me know!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

 

Guest Post: No One Ever Just “Says” Something, by Christina Hamlett

No One Ever Just “Says” Something

by Christina Hamlett

When I was a teen, I had an aversion to using “said” in a story. It was blah. It was ordinary. It was pedestrian. Why use “said”, I thought, when there were so many words that were way more expressive? Throughout high school English classes, my characters squealed, pontificated, reflected, mused and accused. As if that weren’t enough to liven up their dialogue, I was also generous in my deployment of adverbs. After all, who’s going to be a scarier villain: the one who “growled menacingly” or the one who said, “If you don’t give me the money, I’ll kill you”?

By the time I started publishing my work, I was fortunate to have editors who pointed out that the habit of euphemizing the word “said” was to the detriment of the actual dialogue. Its quiet obscurity, they pointed out, was what allowed readers to skip over it and pay attention to what the characters were communicating. Throw a word like “elucidated” into the mix and it either sends a reader running to the nearest dictionary or colors her view that the author is a snob.

As a screenplay consultant, I read a lot of scenes where writers have tried to explain exactly how a line should be delivered. This is problematic on two counts. The first is that actors don’t like being told what to do by anyone other than directors. Secondly, many of these instructions defy comprehension. How, for instance, does one “blanch uncontrollably”, “smile successfully” or “swear gracefully”?

Listed below are the most common – as well as some of the most bizarre – parentheticals I’ve encountered. At the end of the day, sometimes “said” isn’t such a bad thing after all.

1. laughing maniacally
2. cackling hysterically
3. grimacing furtively
4. laughing satirically
5. smiling aggressively
6. whistling angrily
7. blushing fiercely
8. glaring impassively
9. staring aimlessly
10. blanching uncontrollably
11. swallowing lazily
12. chuckling wistfully
13. shouting hesitantly
14. seething wholeheartedly
15. coughing defiantly
16. chuckling contagiously
17. leering mightily
18. shouting orgasmically
19. blinking rhythmically
20. shrugging moronically
21. smiling soberly
22. staring wildly
23. sighing incessantly
24. yawning cavernously
25. gloating boldly
26. sneering leerily
27. sighing soulfully
28. smirking ruefully
29. groaning disparagingly
30. nodding emphatically
31. stretching indifferently
32. smiling rhetorically
33. fainting forcefully
34. sneezing emphatically
35. smiling successfully
36. smiling diagonally
37. whispering haughtily
38. yawning seductively
39. grinning gnashingly
40. breathing darkly
41. thinking sporadically
42. whimpering mincingly
43. scowling convincingly
44. chirping amicably
45. fidgeting wildly
46. guessing blindly
47. grinning indifferently
48. listening suggestively
49. barking congestedly
50. swearing gracefully


Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, ghostwriter and professional script consultant whose credits include 26 books, 128 plays, 5 optioned feature films, and hundreds of articles and interviews. Her latest release, Movie Girl, is the launch book of a new humorous fiction series targeted to teen and tween girls. To learn more, visit her website at www.authorhamlett.com.

*** Christina is also a WOW! Women on Writing Classroom instructor. Sign up now for her six week online course, SEE YOU AT THE MOVIES: An Introduction to the Craft of Screenwriting.

*** For information on all of our current classes, please visit the WOW! Women On Writing Workshops & Classes page.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

 

Interview with Second Place Flash Fiction Winner: Theresa Mae Leitch


What a treat for The Muffin readers today--an interview with 2nd place flash fiction contest winner, Theresa Mae Leitch. Her winning story, "Mommy's Here," is the story of a new mom, trying to get her baby asleep and fight her addiction to cutting. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, you can do so here.

Theresa's bio:
Since I was a kid, I’ve been writing stories and ripping them up before anyone could see them. Now that I’m in my 30s, I’ve finally got the ovaries to share my work with others. It’s amazing what a fun career, two amazing kids, a loving partner and a prescription for Prozac can do for one’s confidence. Besides, I’m finding that it’s a lot harder to rip up my stories now that they’re on a computer.

I have a weird but enjoyable job as a lawyer who runs a library and implements knowledge management initiatives at a large Canadian law firm. In between work and family, I’m polishing my first novel and trying to learn about the crazy world of publishing.


WOW: Congratulations, Theresa, on your 2nd place win. Your story of a woman who uses cutting to get through raising her baby is so realistic and heartbreaking. What made you want to write this story?

Theresa: Thank you. I'm really excited about placing second, especially since this story means a lot to me.

I find it fascinating how self-destructive acts can seem utterly logical to someone who is suffering from mental illness, and I wanted to explore that. Depression is a horrible disease, all the worse because it affects the way you think. Often, the sicker you are, the harder it is to figure out that you need help. My character needs to take care of her baby, and cutting lets her do that. So to her, it makes sense to do it. Why get help? It's all under control.

WOW: You portray that very well in your story--how relieved she is when she finally cuts and how normal it is to her. You did a fantastic job! How hard was it to put such a gripping story into so few words? You manage to tell us a whole story and let us into the character's life.

Theresa:
That's a terrific compliment, thanks. It was tough keeping the word count so low, but what a great writing exercise it turned out to be! Flash fiction really makes you pause and ask yourself if you really need that sentence or that adverb. I've seen an improvement in my longer fiction as a result.

WOW: That's great to hear that winning this contest is also helping your writing. It's like winning two prizes! From your bio, it is easy to tell that you have a great sense of humor. Does this ever slip into your writing, or is it just how you deal with the life of a writer? :)

Theresa: It's how I deal with everything! Humor is the best defense mechanism in the world. I do try to incorporate some humor into my writing here and there.

WOW: So true--humor can help us in our everyday lives, too. Your bio also mentioned that you used to rip up your stories. What made you decide to finally start letting other people read your work, including entering it into contests?

Theresa: I got an iPod. Seriously!

A couple of years back, I made a big change in my life. I left practicing law to become a knowledge management professional. It's a fantastic job; and although there are stresses and occasional bouts of overtime, I have a lot more time for myself after work and family. That got me writing again, in a way I hadn't had time for in many years.

Then I bought the iPod; and at work one day, I was listening to one of my desert island albums (Haunted by Poe). I was struck by the lyrics to a song called "Walk the Walk:"

My mother spent 10 years sitting by a window
Scared if she spoke she would die of a heart attack
She listened as her dreams silently screamed
They drowned like little dolphins caught in a fishnet

I don't want my kids to be able to say that about me.

WOW: Those are powerful lyrics, and I'm sure many people reading those are thinking the same thing that you said about your own children. Isn't it strange how an almost unrelated event--getting an iPod--can change the course of your life? Tell us a little about your novel that you are polishing.

Theresa: It's a suspense thriller. Ally Stone is a serial killer who believes that she's the reincarnation of Medusa, destined to protect women from the men who abuse them. But she's not always right about the guilt of her victims.

I've put the first draft aside for a while so I can go back to it with fresh eyes; and in the meantime, I'm outlining a YA novel about a girl in love with a soul condemned to eternally walk the earth, and her fight to free him from his condemnation.

WOW: Those both sound fantastic. I love the plot for the suspense thriller, especially that the serial killer believes she is Medusa. Very interesting! What is your writing routine like since you are juggling your writing and a career as a lawyer?

Theresa: I do a lot of prep-work away from the keyboard. I imagine the scenes I want to write about and daydream myself as the different characters. I do this all the time - on the streetcar, when I'm watching Kung Fu Panda with my sons (for the millionth time).Then, when I sit down to write, I have a really good idea of what's happening in the scene and why, which allows me to bang it out pretty fast. When things aren't too busy at work, I'll do the physical writing at night four or five times a week. Other times, I'll only get an hour or so every few weeks.

WOW: It sounds like a plan that is working for you, and we hope it continues. Thanks again for talking with us today, Theresa. We hope to read more from you soon!

interview conducted by Margo Dill, www.margodill.com, http://margodill.com/blog/,

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Monday, June 15, 2009

 

Elizabeth Kirschner, Author of My Life as a Doll, Launches Her Blog Tour!

& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

Elizabeth Kirschner has published three books of poetry, Twenty Colors, Postal Routes and Slow Risen Among the Smoke Trees all by Carnegie-Mellon University Press. Her chapbook, The Red Dragon, was published by Permafrost, and My Life as a Doll was published by Autumn House Press.

In addition, she has a CD released by Albany Records wherein her own poetry, not a translation, has been set to Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe. Now titled The Dichterliebe in Four Seasons, it premiered in Vienna in the fall of 2005, followed by an American debut in Boston featuring soprano Jean Danton accompanied by pianist Thomas Stumpf. She has collaborated with many composers and taught at Boston College for over a decade. Kirschner also studied ballet with Boston Ballet. She now lives in a house on the water at Sea Cabins Retreat in Kittery Point, ME.

Find out more about Elizabeth by visiting her website: www.elizabethkirschner.com

My Life as a Doll
by Elizabeth Kirschner

The bleak ferocity of Kirschner's lines often comes nigh to overwhelming this narrative of an abused childhood but then the strength of the imagery, a richness for which this poet is known, seizes the nightmares and transforms them into events that can be handled, shaped and put aside. No, not a happy ending but one that locates dignity and the forever force of life. --Hilary Masters

These poems are dark, iridescent beads strung along a narrative of embattled childhood that supports but never overrides the lyrical force of Kirschner's voice and vision. The narrative begins with a mother's violence and follows its effects upon the daughter's inner landscape the visions, the bouts of madness, the circling smoke of memory -- as she grows older. It's the landscape that generates the force behind these poems, rendered as it is with stunning imagery at every turn, and with urgent rhythms that push towards a kind of exorcism. These poems confront hard things head-on, but far from being sensationalistic or depressing, they are lush, fierce, and lovely. --Leslie Ullman

Autumn House has nominated My Life as a Doll for the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets. The winner receives $25,000 and national publicity. (We're rooting for you, Elizabeth!)

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are
holding a contest to win a copy of Elizabeth Kirschner's My Life as a Doll to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end. We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!

Interview by LuAnn Schindler

WOW: Welcome, Elizabeth. Congratulations on the publication of your memoir, My Life as a Doll. I'm sure our readers are excited to learn more about you, your book, and your writing background. Let's get started.

One goal of the memoir is to tell the deepest truth. You definitely achieve that goal. Why is it so important to capture that truth and share it with others?

Elizabeth: My Life as a Doll gets at some brutal truths. It is deeply concerned with the retrieval of memory then transforming it, via the alchemy of art, into poetry. The catalyst of this book was spurred by a sudden and violent assault by memory. In it, my mother was whacking the back of my head with a baseball bat. I was only three or four years old. This memory lead to the denotation of other ones thus making My Life as a Doll a survivor's tale about abuse, madness and recovery. The writing of the book was an act of salvation meant to redeem others who are keeping their stories secret. That I survived my childhood is a miracle, that I wrote this book is another one. I bare such brutal truths because my words can help heal the wounds that so very many bear.

WOW: Words play such an important role in the healing process. The first element of style that captured my attention is that you chose to write your memoir in verse. What lead to that decision?

Elizabeth: First and foremost, I am a poet. I needed the compression of language, its insistent rhythms and music, to craft the harrowing narrative the book chronicles. The short story writer Raymond Carver once said, "Get in, get out, get your pain over with." Brevity is all. I wanted to make My Life as a Doll so violently compelling that a reader could plunge through it in a single sitting.

WOW: You've achieved that goal! Once I began reading, I couldn't put it down. I wanted to know how this young girl will survive and what her future holds. As a writing teacher, the use of symbolism is extremely important. While I'm reading My Life as a Doll, four separate doll visions come to my mind: a toy doll, a blow up doll, a Cinderella or princess doll and finally, a broken doll. Talk a bit about the symbolism of the doll in your memoir.

Elizabeth: When I first remembered my mother's violence, I also recollected a poem I had written in graduate school titled, "The Doll Collection." I pulled out that poem and worked the memory into it. Abuse turns the abused into objects. Dolls are objects. Children play with dolls, but I became one—hence a toy to be toyed with, a blow-up doll that pops back up when punched, a half mad Cinderella doll, a broken doll which was what I was as a broken woman. I was treated like a thing, thus became one and turning back into flesh and blood was exceedingly painful, but if I did it, anyone can.

WOW: And we're so lucky that you were able to reclaim your life and examine it honestly. My Life as a Doll contains such vivid imagery. Which comes first: the image or the theme to tie together poems into a collection?

Elizabeth: I am a lyric poet, hence the image and the music it employs comes first. The interrogation of images and metaphor reveal subject matter for me. I never go into a book with a pre-conceived notion of what it's about. When narrative asserts itself, I ride that pulse. I learned quite early what Flannery O'Connor termed "the habit of art." I write everyday, including weekends, making process rise out of practice.

WOW: That's great advice for our readers to follow, too. Thank you for sharing it. The publisher of My Life as a Doll, Autumn House Press, promotes poetry and its continued teaching. Have you worked with other small presses? What was the publication experience like with this publisher? What can authors learn from your experience with the industry?

Elizabeth: All of my books, with the exception of My Life as a Doll, have been published by other small presses. I courted Autumn House for years before this book was taken. The publisher, Michael Simms, is a brilliant editor and true visionary. The publication experience was exquisite, but it's only the first step. Writing is a labor of love, but so is getting a book out into the hands of real readers. Not every book is meant to reach the light of publication. I have had work rejected many, many times, but persevered in spite of it till I trained myself to reject the rejections. I think that’s essential to one's survival as a writer.

WOW: Very true. Writers must learn to push those rejections aside and continue writing. Elizabeth, not only are you a talented writer, you also have experience with another creative art: ballet. I had a dance instructor who said "Ballet is poetry in motion." How has dancing influenced your poetry?

Elizabeth: Early on, a teacher told me that ballets uses all four quadrants of the brain at once. I believe poetry does, too. Ballet has trained me to use my body as an instrument of expression. So has poetry, but the instrument is primarily that of the voice. Both require an intense focus and a profound musical sensibility. I have written that poetry is the dancing lyric that sings as it blooms. That feels right to me.

WOW: Such a beautiful analogy between two creative processes! You also find time in your schedule to promote writing. Recently, you started a mentorship program called: Wise Eye: Creating Poetry That Soars. Talk about your program and what you hope to accomplish.

Elizabeth: All poets need to be mentored, but I think this notion has fallen along the wayside, perhaps become a little old-fashioned. In the realm of the classroom, we teach, most certainly teach, but there isn't enough time for true mentoring to occur. I'm profoundly engaged with the desire to nurture poets over time, one on one, to give them as Juan Ramon Jimenez says of the poem, roots that fly and wings that take root. This means cultivating the entire sensibility. I want to enrich other writers with the riches I've garnered from both practicing and teaching my art for more than three decades. I have a highly trained eye, therefore a wise eye that can look into the depths of the poem which came from the depths of its creator. I was mentored, and now, in the fullness of time, I want to return the gift.

WOW: That's a wonderful idea! It's so important for writers to have someone who can serve as an honest sounding board and guide them through the process. For many writers, examining a specific time in one's life raises awareness of global problems while bringing it to a personal level by building a bridge of intimacy with readers. What do you want readers to take away with them after reading your memoir.

Elizabeth: There is a huge population of trauma survivors out there. My hope is to reach some of them, instill a genuine feeling that they are not alone. By telling my story I'm giving voice to many stories. Abuse, mental illness is very real and still taboo. Damaged goods can be durable goods and no one should be annihilated by the violence of violation. If abuse and mental illness is real so is the power to heal. Louise Gluck has a wonderful line that opens her book, The Wild Iris, which reads: "at the end of my suffering/ there was a door." I want my book to be such a door, an inwardly opening one that at last, alas, lets the light in.

WOW: Powerful sentiments! You will open the door for many of your readers. Thank you again, Elizabeth, for talking about your work, your words, and the power of creative expression.

Want to join Elizabeth 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!

JUNE 15, 2009 Monday
Elizabeth chats with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. One lucky commenter will win copy of Elizabeth's book!
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/blog.html

JUNE 16, 2009 Tuesday
Elizabeth stops by Carolyn Howard-Johnson's blog, The New Book Review, to share a great review of My Life as a Doll.
http://thenewbookreview.blogspot.com/

JUNE 17, 2009 Wednesday
Elizabeth stops by C. Hope Clark's blog to share an excerpt from My Life as a Doll.
http://www.hopeclark.blogspot.com/

JUNE 19, 2009 Friday
Poetry lovers are in for a treat! Elizabeth stops by Allen Taylor's blog, World Class Poetry Blog, to chat about her love for poetry. These two fantastic poets are bound to spur an interesting discussion. Not to miss!
http://www.worldclasspoetryblog.com/

JUNE 22, 2009 Monday
Elizabeth stops by Joanne DeMaio's popular blog, Whole Latte Life, to chat about the connection between poetry and music. This should be an inspiring post! Join in on the discussion.
http://joannedemaio.blogspot.com/

JUNE 23, 2009 Tuesday
If you dread public speaking, this is your day! Come learn from an expert on the subject. Elizabeth stops by Beth Morrissey's blog, Hell or High Water, and shares her tips for surviving public appearances--even making them fun! Not to miss!
http://hellorhighwaterwriter.blogspot.com/

JUNE 25, 2009 Thursday
Are you working on a manuscript based on your life, but unsure whether to publish it as a memoir or fiction? Sometimes it's better for those family skeletons to stay in the closet. Today Elizabeth stops by Cathy C. Hall's Blog, Cathy C.'s Hall of Fame, and discusses the choice NOT to publish a written memoir. Come and weigh in on the pros and cons of this interesting topic!
http://cathychall.blogspot.com/

JUNE 30, 2009 Tuesday
Elizabeth, who can claim the titles of poet, musician, and dancer, stops by Donna Volkenannt's blog, Donna's Book Pub, to tell us the advantages of having a creative force that crosses boundaries. And book giveaway comments contest! Stop by and comment for a chance to win a copy of My Life as a Doll.
http://donnasbookpub.blogspot.com/

JULY 7, 2009 Tuesday
Elizabeth stops by Mary Jo Campbell's blog, Writers Inspired, for a surprise guest post and author interview! Be sure to stop by for this fun day.
http://writerinspired.wordpress.com/

We may have more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE to keep up with the latest.

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 would like to host one of our authors, or are an author looking to schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at: blogtour@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 signed copy of Elizabeth Kirschner's memoir, My Life as a Doll.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

 

Seven Days Without Laughter Makes One Weak


by LuAnn Schindler


What happens when you go a day without laughing? C'mon, be honest. You can't do it. Even in the darkest of times, something triggers a reaction that causes us to laugh, even if the laughter is expressed only inside us.


For the next seven days, I'm embarking on a journey with 10 students as they discover their inner humorist, define their improvisation techniques, and develop humorous writing skills. It's part of the Great American Comedy Festival, a week-long festival saluting the best in the world of comedy, live from the hometown of Johnny Carson.

The great part of being the director of the comedy camp is that I, too, get to learn about techniques of comedic timing from our renowned instructors: Second City and the San Francisco Comedy College.
For writers, humorous writing tends to concentrate on creative essays or clever articles that provide that moment where readers utter "Ha!". But those of us who write humor articles can learn a thing or two by expanding our repertoire and stepping outside our comfort zone. Consider taking a class in stand up comedy, where the structure of a joke is explained. It really can help when you're writing that punch line in an essay. What about sketch writing? Sure, you may not end up being showcased on a comedy channel, but sketch writing teaches you to bring unlikely elements together in a format that makes sense. And those are techniques ALL writers can benefit from.
This week will undoubtedly create multiple cackles, produce several snickers, and generate many guffaws. I've got to get my suitcase packed. I don't want to miss a minute, because seven days without laughter makes one weak.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

 

RAND PUBLISHING HOLDING WRITING CONTEST FOR SKINNY ON BOOK SERIES

I received this press release the other day and thought I would pass it along to you ladies. This is a new book series by Rand Publishing inspired by Twitter and Manga--interesting concept! It's free to enter the contest, and the winner not only wins a cash prize, but the opportunity to join the publishing team as a permanent writer. Enjoy!

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“What job cuts?” asks Katie Rose Hope, CEO of RAND Publishing. “We’re actually hiring. We are looking for writers who can assist with our rapidly growing
The Skinny On™ book series and so we have created a contest to attract writers.”

The Skinny On™ book series now has four books in print and is moving quickly, adding a title every month or so. The four books now available are The Skinny on Credit Cards, The Skinny on The Housing Crisis, The Skinny on Willpower and The Skinny on Real Estate Investing. Books in the works include “skinnies” on income taxes, online dating, entrepreneurship and insurance.

The Skinny On™ books are unique in length, format and content. Modeled after the highly popular Japanese literary form Manga, these books are illustrated with story-line, dialogue, a moderator and humor. With changing font sizes, bold and italicized print and lots of white space these books can be read in about an hour or so. What is extraordinary, however, and why The Skinny On™ series is gaining universal acclaim among educators, journalists, bloggers and reviewers is the conciseness and precision of the delivery of content.

The Skinny On™ books are a synthesis of all that has been written and studied on a particular subject. The reader walks away with a general understanding of sometimes confusing and difficult topics. For those who want more information, there are bibliographies and suggestions for further reading.

Because of the growing popularity of the series, The Skinny On™ has six new books in production with the goal of 25 – 35 books within 12 months. “We are thrilled with the response we are getting,” says Hope. “We plan on being a major player in the production of substantive but easy-to-understand content. We work very hard at making it all flow so easily.”

Continues Hope, “It may be unconventional to utilize a contest as a means of hiring, but we don’t aim to be a conventional publishing company after all! We’re rapidly expanding our team because that’s what these books are all about: quick production, quick information, and most of all, quick reads.”

Contest Details:

Contest participants are to submit a ten-page sample which mimics The Skinny On™ book series’ simple and comical style of exploring a topic and educating characters Billy and Beth, as told through their point of view. Winner will receive a $1,000 prize and may have the opportunity to join The Skinny On™ writing team permanently. Participants can view sample writing and learn the books’ style at www.theskinnyon.com.

Deadline: July 2nd at 5:00 PM EST. The winner will be announced on Friday July 17th.

Submit: Send submissions to Mike Cassidy at mcassidy@randmediaco.com

Good luck!



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Friday, June 12, 2009

 

Friday Speak Out: Writing Goes Green, Guest Post by Joanne DeMaio

Writing Goes Green

by Joanne DeMaio

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. We’ve heard the mantra; we’ve seen the recycling symbol, three arrows comprising a circle. Going Green has never been so in vogue as we incorporate it into our lifestyles. Yes, even the writing life.

When I’d first started writing, a common credo in the manuals and how-to books was “Write what you know.” The concept draws upon our experiences, our ideas, our lives, giving plenty of fuel to our words. And so I did. After turning forty, I noticed friends and acquaintances who, turning the corner on that milestone birthday, celebrated with girls’ weekends out. Most of these involved trips to Manhattan, with a Broadway show, dinners, shopping, manicures. Together they celebrated a new chapter in life.

So I wrote what I knew. My fiction manuscript utilizes a Manhattan girls’ weekend out as the story’s springboard, taking off from there. After completing that manuscript, the Recycling process began … Reduce. Oh did I reduce. Manuscript revisions resulted in the elimination of several thousand words. Not a one went to waste. Each word had an efficient function in moving the story forward. Author Joyce Carol Oates says that “The daunting task for the writer is: what to include? what to exclude?” I’ve gotten reducing down to an art form.

My writing continued Going Green as I moved to the second step … Reuse. The essence of my story explores keeping our passions alive. It’s important to have our heart’s desire central in our days. I wrote this at a time when I was doing the same in my own life, trying to make writing central. Eventually, I’d penned a complete manuscript. Like my main character, I had finally become what I’d dreamt of being—a writer.

Talk about efficient Reuse. My words informed my character, and they informed me as I simultaneously explored our journeys. Our dreams became reality in sync. My words did double duty!

And now it’s time to Recycle. I’ll take what the writing process has taught me and share it with you.

Yes, write what you know. Then take it further. Write what you dream, what you wonder, what you long for. Through your stories and your characters, find your heart, discover your purpose. If it’s gardens or home or photography or horses, let your writing lead you there.

Reduce through revision. Reuse your passion simultaneously on the page and in your life. Make your characters’ triumphs, successes and journey parallel your own. Then Recycle, sharing the outcome with others.

Keep your writing green.


Joanne DeMaio is a published writer with freelance credits that include The Hartford Courant as well as literary journals. She maintains Whole Latte Life, a blog about living a full, choice life, keeping your passions close, and the rewards of doing so. Joanne lives with her family in Connecticut.

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

 

Fickle editorial love?

I love writing and I love my editors. Well, on most days. Sometimes, I guess, I feel a little fickle and want to reconsider the high school job counseling which said I should become a funeral director or a beekeeper. Now, I have nothing but respect for funeral directors or beekeepers, but chose not to follow those particular areas of work. (Although I often wonder…what is it about both of those that would have suited me?)

It’s not often that my thoughts turn to those careers, until I’ve had a particularly bad day with an editor. I’ve had two recent events—interspersed with an awesome experience. Nonetheless, the bad experiences gave me pause.

One editor requested such a serious re-write that I verged on crying out “But this reeks of being a new assignment!” While I swallowed my pride, re-wrote the piece and thought of career changes, I slowly came to realize that the editor had forced me to improve the piece. Just as a teacher wants you to reach into your skill set, this editor was challenging me to better my game. Begrudgingly, I appreciated the editor’s request and will probably cherish the clip for that experience.

I have a couple clips like that. Sometimes, for me, it is hard to discern if the published piece is very good or if I pull it out as one of my clips for sentimental reasons.

In the second instance, an editor alerted me to a published article similar to a piece I had turned in days before this other story appeared. In the e-mail, I was asked if I wanted to massage my piece, based on what the other writer had written. The published piece was a different take on the same thing. While I respect the direction the other writer took, it was not the way I interpreted my assignment. I responded to the editor that I trusted the editorial direction given and would make any changes upon request.

So, while I wait for this editor’s response, why do I feel the urge to search the classifieds for jobs in the funeral industry?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach. She writes about motherhood at Coastal Carolina Moms and creativity at TheWriteElizabeth. Find her on Twitter @Eliz_Humphrey to follow the saga: will she start applying for funeral jobs? Will she dive into beekeeping? Or will her editor *pay* for a massage instead of asking her to massage the article?

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

 

Interview with Gay Degani, First Place Winner of the Winter '09 Flash Fiction Contest


Gay Degani, a former community college instructor in English, lives in Southern California with her husband and ancient Labrador retriever. She's been published in two mystery anthologies, in THEMA Literary Journal and on-line at Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, Tattoo Highway, and Salt River Review. “Spring Melt” was a finalist for The 2nd Annual Micro Fiction Award and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. “Monsoon” was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s 2007 Fiction Open and “Wounded Moon” was short-listed for the 2008 Fish Short Story Prize.

Gay’s blog is Words in Place and she is the editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles for Every Day Fiction.

You can read her work online: Losing Ground at Tattoo Highway, The London Eye at Every Day Fiction, Listing Lisa at Salt River Review, and Spring Melt is a 2008 Micro Fiction Finalist and a Pushcart Nominee.

Interviewed by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Gay: Thanks for the congrats! It was most exciting to get an email from a friend with a capitalized “CONGRATULATIONS” in the subject line. I was wondering, what the heck? Then when I read why, I was jazzed! Wow! Literally WOW!

I found WOW! Women on Writing’s Flash Fiction Contest when a friend won a similar prize. I’m always on the prowl for places to submit my writing. Although there are many venues on the internet, much of my fiction seems to sift through without sticking. It seems to be too “on-the-nose” for many online lit sites and not genre enough for others, so I take advantage of every opportunity.

WOW: Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story?

Gay: This story was born when a woman from a nearby town was sideswiped by a car and killed while out for a Sunday bike-ride with her husband. I didn’t know her personally, but the suddenness of her death shook me. I began to think about how it would feel to have my life completely reversed by such an event.

As I do with everything that causes that little niggle in my brain, I asked, “What if that had been my husband?” My answer was “walls.” I’d build walls around myself and never go out. That was the genesis of this piece.

WOW: I loved "Beyond the Curve," and thought you created a great opening sentence, which is important in capturing the attention of your readers. I also liked the title, with its deeper, double meaning. How much work do you put in to your opening lines and story titles? Do you spend a lot of time tweaking them?

Gay: Since I started writing online flash fiction, I’ve learned the importance of first sentences. When someone reads on a monitor, he or she can click through to so many different sites with so little effort, it becomes essential for a writer to seduce that reader immediately with vivid images using specific detail. The reader wants a picture to see right away, the wart on a character’s face, the gleam of light off a skyscraper, a mangled bicycle. With that image, he or she willingly reads on to find out what next.

As for titles, I usually have a working title that comes from my first inspiration, but often it ends up being discarded because it tells too much too soon. I need the working title to keep me focused on the juicy parts of the story, but once I’m finished, I look for something more suggestive and symbolic.

One of the things I love to do most is to try to have double meanings where ever I can, but part of the challenge is that it must be subtle. It’s hard to find the right balance between the obvious and the obscure, and when it works, I’m thinking, “YES!”

WOW: It’s always interesting to learn about a successful writer’s process, thank you. You’re also the editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles. This looks like a great resource for writers. Can you tell us about the site and what visitors might expect?

Gay: I was lucky enough to find Every Day Fiction when I decided to try to publish online. I had a short piece I’d done as an exercise in Gordon Mennenga’s class at the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Festival ( a great place to spend a week surrounded by writers). When I read “One Question” in front of the group, it was first time Gordon said to me, “Now that’s a piece of professional writing!”

I sent it off to EDF and they published that piece and eventually more of my work. They even nominated “Spring Melt” for the Pushcart Prize. There’s a list of my online stories at my blog, Words in Place.

When the editors of EDF asked if anyone would volunteer to run a blog for the e-zine, I raised my virtual hand. They gave me carte blanche to do what I wanted, and Flash Fiction Chronicles was born. The site is dedicated to the discussion of the art and craft of flash fiction, fiction in general, and the issues of writing, marketing, and publishing today. I’m always looking for submissions from writers at all levels, from beginner to professional.

WOW: I found lots of great posts there, and I think others will enjoy it too. You’re doing a great job! Aspiring authors would probably love to know about your writing routines. For example, where do you write? How many hours (or words) a day do you write?

Gay: Oh-oh. I wish I could say I manage to bang out hundreds of words a day, but I’m somewhat sporadic. When a story has juice for me, I think about it all the time, write notes on napkins, tell my husband “shhhhh,” and hide in my garage office because if I don’t deal with that story right away, it might lose its juiciness.

I sit down at the computer every morning. I work on either a short piece of fiction or my novel. This is always a battle for me. The novel is long range gratification and is sometimes trumped by an email announcing a contest for a 1000-word piece. This provides INSTANT (relatively) gratification. I give in. New characters, new story. What fun!!!

But what I understand and what I say to others is finishing something is crucial. Get to the end while the juice is still dripping from my mouth. You can edit later.

WOW: Good advice! What writing projects are you working on right now? Do you have goals in mind for the rest of the year?

Gay: My goal is to finish editing my mystery novel, What Came Before. This is a must-do enterprise. I love the story which centers around a woman who investigates the murder of a sister she didn’t know she had and while doing so, uncovers the reasons for her own mother’s suicide.

WOW: Sounds like a great story, and we wish you luck with the editing work. Do you have any final words of wisdom for our women readers/writers?

Gay: Work hard. You have the power to learn what you need to know.
Don’t fall in love with your own words. There are more where those came from.
Write what you love to read. Write what you want to write.
Observe everything. There’s a story in every popcorn kernel on the floor.
Trust in yourself and don’t take anything too seriously. Be joyful.


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>Check back on Tuesdays for interviews with more Winter ’09 Flash Fiction winners.

>For details on WOW! Women on Writing's current contest, head on over to our contest page.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

 

The Joy of Reading Over Generations

Today is my little baby, Sophie's, first birthday. One of the gifts she opened this morning was a book called, "Goodnight Moon." I'm sure many of you remember this wonderful story about an adorable little bunny who says, "Good night!" to everything around him--probably in an attempt to avoid having to go to sleep (My kids have similar, although much less subtle tactics.) The book was from Grams who said, "Your Daddy loved me reading this story to him every night before he'd go to sleep. I hope you enjoy it as much as he did." I think that's awesome. I'm someone who believes you can never have too many books. And we have quite a collection in our house.
I was very lucky as a girl because my Uncle was a book wholesaler for Golden Books and gave us free samples often. My brother and I had shelves full of books and, because of my Uncle, I developed a deep love and appreciate for books and reading.

My favorite books were those that I knew my grandparents had read to my mom and Uncles when they were small--like the Dr. Seuss books, Richard Scarry books, Tales of Peter Rabbit and other classics. My desire to write sprouted from the love of reading I'd had planted and nurtured in my childhood and I'm so grateful.

I've read to each of my kids since they were only a few months old. They may not have understood what I was saying when they were very tiny but I know they loved the time we'd spent together--I can see it today:

*Jaimie isn't able to relate to other people most of the time but she can sit and read book--cover to cover--far beyond her grade level.

*Jaimie and her sister, Jordhan, write and illustrate their own books, which are hilarious and I plan to publish those creations for them some day.

*Xander, who isn't able to get two words out most of the time because of his speech struggles will sit and read book after book..in his OWN words.

*And even baby Sophie will sit down on the floor, spread a book across her lap, and check out the pictures.

Books also helped make a shy, quiet little girl break out of her shell and be brave enough to share her words with the world--who knew people would be interested in what I had to say? Books are a tremendous gift. I know I plan to hold onto many of the books I have in my own library so I can pass them on to my own little eager readers.

What books do you love from your childhood? What books have you passed onto your own children/grandchildren? Let's keep passing along the joy of reading. It's a wonderful thing!

(Happy Birthday Sophie!!)

Chynna

www.lilywolfwords.ca

http://lilywolfwords.blogspot.com

Saturday, June 06, 2009

 

Add Me To Your List For More Opportunity

I cannot overstress something I have learned over the last few years: the value of listservs. While many of us are aware of the importance of networking and getting to know people who know people when it comes to the job hunt (at conferences, on LinkedIn, etc.), listservs are another avenue online to find out about opportunities and to make connections. Listservs are online mass mailings, where you must go find the listserv, add yourself as a member, and only at that point, will you receive the group's emails. It is similar to subscription mailings, although there is no price to join, and you may quit at any time.

If you are not utilizing listservs, why not? Is it that you hate having so many emails hitting your inbox each day? There are two options. You could create a free email account just for listserver mailings, or sign up on digest mode. Digest mode means all of the emails are saved, compiled, then sent to you only once a day or once a week.

Listservs can include ones through professional organizations, clubs, and even just groups joined together for a common cause. For example, I am on a listserv for women writers through WOW, a social science graduate-degree recipient one through Duke (attending Duke is not a requisite to join!), multiple history and international affairs ones (related to internship work), ones through my alma maters, anthropology-related groups, and the list goes on.

Beyond finding people in professions I am interested in and being able to ask questions offlist, I have been able to volunteer on projects I would have never heard about otherwise. I have also been able to find and apply for jobs and internships not necessarily listed in job search engines like monster.com. Likewise, some short-term subcontracted freelance writing gigs have emerged. I have found new websites and software programs to help with my academic work too. Reading through the emails does not take much time, and many times, there is not anything of interest to me, but other days have made up for all of it and some, with great opportunities to get ahead.

Long story short, there are a lot of benefits to be found by joining some listservs. Feel free to share listservs you are part of which help with writing and freelancing, or your personal success stories from tapping into listservs.

Friday, June 05, 2009

 

Friday Speak Out: Writers and Their Finances, Guest Post by Michelle Dwyer

Writers and Their Finances

by Michelle Dwyer

Authors regard writing as sacred, fighting anyone who says it's not. They share the same goal, to be heard. With skill and a sprinkle of luck, they hope to make an impact on at least one person in this life while earning a living, or at least while supplementing the income from more traditional jobs. And as most starving artists would say, "Times are tough."

What I've learned about money has helped me tame money's excessive influence over me, thus allowing me to focus on what I love: writing. Maybe my life lessons will help you too.

It was a typical morning. The alarm drilled into my ears, and like a trooper, I got out of bed, dressed, then got my kids out of their beds, and we left for the day. After I dropped my children off at school, I went to Starbucks. The line was longer than an American Idol audition. But I waited. As I cursed and banged my knee against the car door out of extreme impatience, I remembered the words of an old marketing professor, "The mall has everything you want and nothing you need."

Those words propelled my thought process. Stores all over the globe entice us to spend money when our time, and our money, are better spent elsewhere. Starbucks is no exception. Please do not mistake my honesty for hate. Starbucks is delicious and a wonderful treat. But how could I be so weak-minded that I would choose to wait in a line for over forty minutes, be late for work, and then pay seven dollars for coffee and a breakfast that I can make at home for a dollar? I immersed myself in thought. And what I discovered was chilling. I needed validation in a world where I had none. I wanted to say that I had the power to buy anything at my choosing. But in reality, it was a form of self-sabotage. I loved Starbucks, true. But I hated my job more, and I was looking for some solace every morning, to help me survive the day. My own little piece of absolution.

Then I thought of another professor who'd said, "Leadership is the ability to make somebody act in a given way."

I did the math. Leadership plus desire equaled a person of awesome power, me. But I had given my power to my money and let it justify my being unhappy.
Now I'm betting on myself, living on student loans while going to graduate school and working on my writing. I plan to start my own business, maybe even a small publishing company. But I'm also being smart, saving at least 100 dollars a month. And you know what? I'm the happiest I've ever been, and I spend half of what I had spent before I quit my nine-to-five.

Through it all, I’ve learned that calculated risk, determination, and hard work will help me see my passions bloom...and my voice in print.


Michelle studied writing in high school and longed to become an author. But circumstances arose, causing her to join the military instead. However, she never gave up. She enrolled in writing school, finished her first crime novel, and will achieve her MBA this fall. She writes as Krymzen Hall at http://www.helium.com/users/421563/show_articles


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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

 

What is the Focus of Your Story?



I recently edited a picture book for one of my Editor 911 clients. Although the story was a great idea, it was all over the place. I actually found three stories in one, and that is way too many for a picture book. It might be okay for a novel but not for a shorter work.

I see this as a problem in many people's manuscripts for adults and children. With longer works, this out-of-focus problem usually rears its ugly head as the subplots take over the main plot of the story and confuse the reader. If you are suffering from writers' block, don't know where your story is going, or your critique group members say they are confused while reading your story, maybe you have lost focus on what your book is actually about.

With my client, I told her what I thought the three different plots were in her book, and I asked her which one is the most important to the story she is trying to tell. Once she figures that out, she can write a better book for kids. The other two stories do not have to disappear. In children's books, the illustrator can help with subplots, or the author can write another book--maybe a sequel.

Here is what you can ask yourself if you feel your story is losing focus. This should work on any story--long or short, for kids or adults.

  • When I first had the idea for my story, what was my original idea?
  • Why did I want to tell this story?
  • What are the plots and subplots I have in my story?
  • What is my story's theme?
  • What is my story's purpose?
  • Is there any scene in my story that does not fit with my answers to the above questions? (You know those scenes that you think are brilliant, but readers are wondering why they are in your story? Don't delete them--save them for a rainy day.)

If you do a little story soul-searching, then you should be able to find your focus again. If you are still having trouble, ask your critique group members if they will answer the questions above about your story and see what they think. Their answers will be based on the actual manuscript you have written. Sometimes, your answers are based on the manuscript on your paper AND the manuscript in your head--as writers, we know these are not always the same thing. Take a day or two to get your story back in focus. It will make finishing your manuscript easier and more enjoyable.

Happy focusing!

Margo Dill

http://www.margodill.com/

Read These Books and Use Them (blog): For teachers, parents, and children's book lovers.

photo by Capture Queen www.flickr.com

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

 

Read the Fine Print Before Signing That Contract

by LuAnn Schindler

A myriad of anthology titles exist: the Chicken Soup series, the Cup of Comfort series, Best of... series. You name it; there's probably a single anthology or an anthology series on the market or being pitched to a publisher that you may be able to write a story for.

I've had three stories picked up by different anthologies. One promised a royalty on sales divided by the number of authors in the book after initial printing costs were met. Yup, this contract came early in my career and I didn't see any problem waiting. And after 18 months, I had a check in my mailbox. Sure, it only totaled $25, but at that point, I was happy that I was published and actually saw money hit my hands.

The second and third anthologies practiced similar payment methods. One paid $100 upfront for the story. The other paid $150 after publication. Not bad for writing two two page stories. And let's face it, these stories were fairly specialized. One covered cooking disasters; the other, a favorite teacher. Would I be able to recycle the story anywhere else?

I read a call for an anthology recently, and I decided to submit a story. Yes, it was accepted. But when the contract came, you can imagine my surprise when it said I had to agree to purchase a certain number of books. There wasn't any stipulation that mentioned how much I would be paid for inclusion in the book. But that $3000 proposed investment in 'X' amount of books caught me off guard! Was I supposed to quadruple the asking price for the anthology in hopes of making a buck or even breaking even? Was I supposed to turn over all rights for a story that exhibited my trademark sense of humor and my brutal honesty of the situation? Was I supposed to believe this was for real?

The contract met the paper shredder, and instantly, the friendship between paper and machine was ripped into multiple pieces. I also approached the editor and withdrew my story. He mentioned how much the story would 'make a difference' and 'others would learn' from my experiences. With some gentle persuasion, he finally agreed and saw things my way. Ah, the power of persuasion!

True, others would learn from the essay I wrote. But they'll also learn a valuable lesson from this article. Not all anthologies are created equally. And neither are all contracts. Before signing on the dotted line in front of a notary, thoroughly read the contract. And if you have questions, ask the editor. Better yet, if you can afford a quick consultation with a lawyer, pay the fee and find out the real costs as well as the hidden costs of publishing.

Taking time to peruse the terms of a contract will make a difference. And, you will learn how to navigate in the murky waters that can sometimes surround the sale of a story.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

 

The long and short of it

Have you ever noticed how writing long may be easier than writing short? Seems counter-intuitive, I know. You would think that if you had a short amount to write, you could get it done and move on.
Longer pieces often don't need that inner editor fussing about. There is a beginning, middle and end, which is missing from the short articles.
I wrote a short for a magazine and spent a lot of time crafting it--and re-crafting--because I had a word limit. I condensed a 15-page report into a handful of words.
I once tried out for a project to do such mental gymnastics with great literature. Unfortunately, I found it difficult to trim some of the plot twists and turns.
However, I enjoy exercising my brain in such a way. It forces me to think of other word choices. It trims out some of the laziness that I feel creeps into my writing sometimes.
Try dipping into a type of writing you don't normally do: poetry, SEO writing, song lyrics. Flex that part of your mind, even just a bit to keep your ideas fresh.
Your brain will thank you (and maybe a few editors, as well)!

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and a certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach. She writes about motherhood at Coastal Carolina Moms and creativity at TheWriteElizabeth. She's cutting this short. Right. About. Now.

Monday, June 01, 2009

 

Mindy Friddle, Author of Secret Keepers, Launches her Blog Tour!


& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

Mindy Friddle is a native of South Carolina, where her family has lived for more than two centuries. Her people were lintheads who toiled in textile mills and hardy farmers with poems in their hearts. After earning a BA from Furman University, Mindy worked as a newspaper reporter for several newspapers before enrolling in graduate school at the University of South Carolina, where she studied with James Dickey and William Price Fox. She later earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. Her first novel, The Garden Angel (St. Martin’s Press/Picador), a SIBA bestseller, was selected for Barnes and Noble's Discover Great New Writers program in 2004, and was a National Public Radio (NPR) Morning Edition summer reading pick.

Mindy was awarded a 2008-2009 Artist Fellowship in Prose from the South Carolina Arts Commission. She is a two-time winner of the South Carolina Fiction Prize and the Piccolo Spoleto Fiction Open. As a Walter E. Dakin Fellow in Fiction at the 2005 Sewanee Writers' Conference in Sewanee, Tennessee, she worked with Alice McDermott and Mark Winegardner. She was awarded a residency at Ragdale in 2003 and attended Bread Loaf in 2000.

Her book reviews have appeared in the Charlotte Observer and her column, “Author to Author,” featuring interviews with authors, have been published in the Greenville Journal. A Master Gardener , she lives in Greenville, South Carolina where she directs the Writing Room, a community-based nonprofit program she founded in 2006 to bring writers to Greenville for paid seminars and readings. Secret Keepers is her second novel.

But her father was in the service, so she did get to see the world in her formative years. She moved in the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth grades—such a childhood encourages one to observe peer groups from a remove, cultivating the narrator within. As an Army Brat she lived in Germany, Virginia, and Washington D.C. before returning to South Carolina as a teen.

As a reporter she covered tobacco auctions, town council meetings, “grip and grin” check donations; she wrote obituaries, interviewed quasi-celebrities (Pat Boone, remember him?) and failed university presidents accused of embezzling (try to forget that one), and, eventually, wrote features on people who did interesting things (such as growing gourds that resemble world leaders.)

Her yard is a certified wildlife habitat. She composts and grows vegetables in her front yard. In the city limits. She is considering adding a few chickens.

Find out more about Mindy by visiting her website, http://www.mindyfriddle.com, and her blog, http://www.mindyfriddle.blogspot.com/

About her novel:

Secret Keepers

By Mindy Friddle

At age seventy-two, Emma Hanley plans to escape small-town Palmetto, South Carolina, and travel the globe. But when her fickle husband dies in undignified circumstances, Emma finds herself juggling the needs of her adult children. Her once free-spirited daughter Dora turns to compulsive shopping and a controlling husband to forget her wayward past. Her son Bobby still lives with her, afflicted with an illness that robbed him of his childhood promise.

When Dora's old flame Jake Cary returns to Palmetto with a broken heart and a gift for gardening, the town becomes filled with mysterious, potent botanicals and memories long forgotten. Soon enough, Jake and his ragtag group of helpers begin to unearth the secrets that have divided the Hanleys for decades.

Written with the warmth of Lee Smith and the magical touch of Alice Hoffman, Secret Keepers is a beguiling second novel by the acclaimed author of The Garden Angel.

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are
holding a contest to win a copy of Mindy's book, Secret Keepers, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end. We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!

Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Mindy. We're delighted to launch your blog tour for your book, Secret Keepers. As soon as I finished reading Secret Keepers I knew I had to read your first novel The Garden Angel. Could you tell us if the publishing road of these two books was entwined? Did you receive the coveted "two-book deal"?

Mindy: I started writing Secret Keepers shortly before The Garden Angel was published. That's late in the process, but I'm a late bloomer in most things anyway.

A few months before St. Martin's Press published The Garden Angel, I went to Ragdale--an artists' retreat outside of Chicago-- for three weeks. The purpose was to start on Novel 2, and at that time, I had no idea what that looked like yet. I read A LOT there, and started writing--taking notes, really--about an image I was thinking about: an older woman who was looking down at a family portrait with a sense of regret and nostalgia. That turned out to be Emma Hanley, a lead character in Secret Keepers. I began writing Secret Keepers, though I didn't have the title yet. The next year, as I was finishing up my MFA at Warren Wilson, the opening pages of Secret Keepers was part of my "thesis." I called it Palmetto. It took me--from first draft, through revised drafts, to book--about four years.

I didn't have a two-book deal with SMP, but they did have the "first-see option" clause--where they get an exclusive look at the manuscript of the next novel. Although the editor for my first book had left, I was delighted when George Witte at SMP acquired Secret Keepers.

WOW: You wrote The Garden Angel as a weekend novelist--any advice for all the other weekend novelists out there?

Mindy: The Garden Angel took 8 years from the idea--an image of a crumbling, beautiful homestead-- to publication. I didn't work on it every day in those years--I was learning HOW to write a novel, and that took patience. I would finish a draft and put it aside for a while, or have readers give some feedback, then revise. Figuring out the structure--how to tell the story--that I pondered, worked on, revised.

I wrote on weekends because I was a single mom for a number of those years, and I worked full time. I found that by writing 5 or 6 hours on both Saturday and Sunday, and one weekday morning or evening, I could keep a momentum going. A novel is a marathon. Someone once told me that, and it's true. So, when people ask my advice about writing and finishing novels, I tell them I find it helpful to do a couple of things:
  1. Set up a schedule. Write at least three times a week for two hours or more each session. Commit to a schedule.
  2. Have a daily word count goal--1,000 words, for example. For the first draft: Don't get up from your desk until you've met that goal. Even if it's wild sentences, or you find yourself on a tangent, write your 1,000 words, and don't judge just yet. You'll develop a habit of writing on schedule, and you'll at least have something to revise down the road. After 4 or 6 months, you'll have a big, baggy monster of a first draft...and you can put it aside for a while, and then jump back in to figure out what the story is, and cut away and revise, revise, revise. Think FLOW with your first draft. Keep the portal open.
  3. Save polishing for later. Resist the temptation to re-read and polish those opening pages. Some writers may work this way, but I think for many of us pushing through to the end is the best way to handle a first draft. You will be resistant to changing the opening if you invest too much time and energy in it. That first chapter or two will be reading better and better, but the fact is, the opening may eventually need to be discarded or moved.

WOW: You mentioned Secret Keepers took about four years from start to finish. Is it easier the second time around?

Mindy: I'm hoping the next one will take two years. Half-life, you know, like nuclear physics. [Now that's a subject I know a lot about!] Seriously, I didn't have a deadline, just a general sense of, "gotta make hay when the sun shines." My agent is terrific about not pressuring, and also being available to read drafts. It did help that my circumstances changed as far as work--I started freelance writing and teaching, which gave me a little more time. But most of all, I knew a little more about the process of writing a novel, the tenacity and discipline it takes, but most of all the pleasure as it starts to come together--as the characters reveal themselves through their actions.

WOW: Both of your books take place in a very distinct area. How did you capture the uniqueness of the South?

Mindy: Setting is important--I love setting. A sense of place often tells you loads about characters, and not just in the South, of course. Take William Kennedy's Albany in Ironweed, for example, and Steinbeck's California, Richard Russo's decaying textile towns in Maine, Annie Proulx's Wyoming, Stuart Dybek's Chicago. The characters have relationships and conflicts with PLACE as well as each other. The particular is universal--I think Eudora Welty said that. It's the common thread--that both snarls and binds--between human beings you try to capture.

WOW: How did you handle speech patterns? Did you attempt to recreate Southern speech or just trust that your readers' minds would fill in the Southern drawl?

Mindy: I write dialogue and conversations the way I hear them in my head. I probably don't always get them right, but I have fun doing it. I get to talk to myself and call it work. Syntax, the order and choice of words, is pretty powerful. "I was fixing to run up to the house" is what my grandmother says, instead of "I was about to go home."

I was born in the South, as were my parents and grandparents, but my father was in the Army, so we moved around some in my childhood. Lived in Germany for three years, then DC, then came back, plunk, in the middle of tenth grade. I'd been away long enough--and heard all sorts of regional speech patterns--that I was really hearing the southern accents with a stranger's ear. My first day back, in Homeroom, there was an announcement over the intercom and I laughed. I thought it was somebody doing an imitation or comedy routine. "Hey, Ya'll? There's gonna be a meetin' here real soon." But, after a while, I adjusted...picked up the Heys and Ya'lls all over again.

WOW: Did you learn anything the first time around that made you change how you publicized Secret Keepers? Aside from the wise choice of booking a WOW Blog Tour of course! ;)

Mindy: I learned to do everything I can to help readers know my book is out there. Because they can't read it if they haven't heard of it. Book touring, blog touring, book clubbing...I'm game. Publicity goes with the job description. It takes a whole different set of muscles from toiling in isolation at your desk with your gin & tonic.

Seriously, it's great fun to talk and correspond with readers--it's a real pleasure. People are so generous. I'm always amazed. The letters and emails from readers are so wonderful. I put them on my website. All I have to do is read them in dark moments, and I feel a surge of gratitude. My mother reads them, too.

Of course, there are those lonely days at a bookstore signing when you're sitting at the table with your giant stack of books and someone approaches you--and you get your pen ready--and they ask the most common question authors are asked on book tours: "Excuse me, but could you tell me where the restrooms are?" That's another reason I welcome blog touring, and am doing more of it this time around. The internet is your friend! Besides, speaking here as an author, a blog tour is a great way to meet a targeted group of folks who are readers, and who are interested in topics you are.

WOW: What's next? Another novel that visits the South? Or is it a deep dark secret--we know how much you and your characters treasure secrets!

Mindy: I'm drafting a novel that looks like it may be a prequel to The Garden Angel--about the life of the grandmother, Myrtle Ann. But I've got a couple of other ideas, too, so...I'm not sure what's next.

I'll probably go out and weed the lettuce and spinach this afternoon and come up with something.

WOW: Thank you, Mindy, for taking time to chat with us today! We wish you the best of luck on your tour for Secret Keepers.

Want to join Mindy 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!

JUNE 1, 2009 Monday
Mindy chats with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. One lucky commenter will win copy of Mindy's book!
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/blog.html

JUNE 2, 2009 Tuesday
Mindy stops by librarian-turned-author Jillian Clemmon's blog for an author interview! Find out more about Secret Keepers today.
http://jillianclemmons.com/

JUNE 5, 2009 Friday
Mindy stops by Donna Volkenannt's blog, Donna's Book Pub, to chat about writing and publishing. Fiction writers delight!
http://donnasbookpub.blogspot.com/

JUNE 9, 2009 Tuesday
Mindy takes a trip to Japan to Suzanne Kamata's wonderful blog, Gaijin Mama, to chat about the importance of her book cover. Did you know Mindy took the photographs for both her book covers? I have to say, the book cover for Secret Keepers is one of the most gorgeous covers I've seen this year. This should be a fascinating post!
http://gaijinmama.wordpress.com/

JUNE 10, 2009 Wednesday
Mindy stops by Mary Jo Campbell's blog, Writers Inspired, for an author interview and book comments contest giveaway! Stop by today and learn more about the inspiration behind Secret Keepers.
http://writerinspired.wordpress.com/

JUNE 12, 2009 Friday
It's time for Stacie Connerty, a.k.a. The Divine Miss Mommy, to tell us what she thinks of Mindy Friddle's Secret Keepers. Stacie's reviews are fantastic, so be sure to check out this post!
http://thedivinemissmommy.com/

JUNE 15, 2009 Monday
Mindy stops by Joanne DeMaio's blog, Whole Latte Life, for an inspiring chat about her book cover design. Mindy knows a thing or two about the topic--both book cover photographs were taken by her. ;) There's also a comments contest--the "Seedy Character" Seed Packet Giveaway!
http://joannedemaio.blogspot.com

JUNE 16, 2009 Tuesday
Mindy is ready for her close up! Stop by StartUpsLive.tv for a special treat--Mindy will be featured in a video interview today! Be sure to stop by for this exclusive.
http://startupslive.tv/

JUNE 17, 2009 Wednesday
Mindy stops by the PaperBackSwap blog to chat about family secrets and small town living. They are also holding a book giveaway contest! Stop by for a chance to win a copy of Secret Keepers.
http://blog.paperbackswap.com/

JUNE 18, 2009 Thursday
Mindy stops by BookPage magazine's official editors' blog, The Book Case, for a special surprise guest post! We love the mag, so be sure to stop by today for some lively conversation.
http://bookpage.wordpress.com/

JUNE 19, 2009 Friday
Mindy stops by one of our favorite sites, WordHustler, to chat with co-founder Anne Walls about the craft of writing, publishing, and freelancing! Not to miss!
http://wordhustlerink.wordhustler.com/

JUNE 23, 2009 Tuesday
Mindy stops by Joi Sigers' blog, Self Help Daily, to chat about how she turns to nature to relieve stress. She celebrates nature with her photography and snapped the shots that became the covers of both her novels.
http://www.selfhelpdaily.com/

JUNE 24, 2009 Wednesday
Mindy stops by Blonde Blogger's blog, So a Blonde Walks Into a Review, for a surprise guest post and Seedy Character Seed Packet Giveaway Contest!
http://www.soablondewalksintoareview.com/

JUNE 26, 2009 Friday
When she's not writing Mindy is enjoying the outdoors. Today she gives readers ideas for establishing a backyard wildlife habitat at Fatal Foodies!
http://fatalfoodies.blogspot.com/

We may have more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE to keep up with the latest.

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 would like to host one of our authors, or are an author looking to schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at: blogtour@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 signed copy of Mindy Friddle's hardcover novel, Secret Keepers.

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