‘The Ten Things That Must Happen’---in Your Writing
By Jill Earl
I’ve never been one for outlining. Even back in school, I found it more of an effort to create an outline for a particular assignment than to just write my thoughts and ideas out. I applaud those who find it useful, though.
Then, I came across the latest issue of OnceWritten.com’s Writing Sparks Newsletter, where editor Monica Poling offers up an interesting way to incorporate outlining into your own work.
Titled ‘The Ten Things That Must Happen’, she suggests starting with the ten most important events that should happen in your piece, making your outline as brief or detailed as needed. After that, she lists a number of questions to help you plot out your next steps, like what scenes to use or eliminate or what does your list show about your writing. Once you’ve figured out what to do and what direction to take, you can pick up your pen or get back to tapping on the keyboard again.
Reading through this, I realized that I’d been doing this outline informally with a couple of pieces I’ve worked on for my critique group. Now that I’ve been formally introduced to this particular method, I’ll be using it for sure in the future. The rest of the article's here.
Reached an impasse in your writing? Work through those ‘ten things that must happen’ technique and bust through that block in no time!
Friday Speak Out!: "Voice," Guest Post by Jodie Gonzalez
by Jodie Gonzalez
I have always been a writer. Letters, diaries, speeches, To Do lists. I love words. And the feel of ink on a clean sheet of paper. But recently, I have become a different kind of writer. A conscious writer. I have begun to study craft, read mountains of books on the subject of writing, taken a class, started a blog.
Through these experiences I have become aware of voice. As a speaker, this was obvious. Years of communication courses, business presentations, teaching public speaking to teens, I was always conscious of my voice. But in my writing…I didn't seem to make the connection. It has only been through my study that I've come to appreciate the value of an authentic voice. And though not as strong as the sound from my lips, I am beginning to stand shakily on writer's legs.
Through our writing, we are invited to explore our true selves, and from that journey emerges a new voice. One wise with tales from the road, a bit ragged from unexpected bumps along the way. And it propels us forward, further on our quest for authenticity. Through my writing I offer myself, my individual perspective—as a woman, a social worker, sister, wife, a resilient soul in search of connection. To do this, I must be vulnerable, honest, open to possibility in my writing.
Each of us writes for a different reason, from a myriad of perspectives, with a symphony of voices. It is this unique piece of ourselves which we offer to the world, it is this that gives our words power.
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!
The same week I read about a German author who is defending her plagiarism, J.K. Rowling is being mentioned in another case of an author who believes Rowling heavily borrowed from his books. In the instance of the first case of plagiarism, the author Helene Hegemann believes that her use of another's author's work is an art form. According to the Salon article I read, Hegemann reportedly told a German newspaper: "I myself don't feel it is stealing, because I put all the material into a completely different and unique context and from the outset consistently promoted the fact that none of that is actually by me." However, as Laura Miller points out on Salon, Hegemann did not give the author of credit for the passages taken from "Strobo." Please note that I have no first-hand knowledge of either case of alleged plagiarism, but I am interested in how reading someone else's work can or might influence my own work--maybe even creeping into my writing? Many writers state that by reading the masters, they improved their own writing. When studying the greats, often a professor will suggest copying the words of the master to learn the cadences, word choices, and rhythms. I'm sure my novel writing career would do much better if I were to borrow heavily from the greats. I also understood that as civilization has moved along, we build on the shoulders of those who came before us. Some even argue that there are no original stories, just a re-hash of stories that have come before. But sometimes, that line blurs. I have taught college students whose academic careers could be destroyed due to one instance of plagiarism and yet the students seem unsure what constitutes plagiarism--and why it would be such a big deal. I think that as an exercise and to understand the world it is vitally important to be aware of the work of those who have come before. From the standpoint of creativity and our own interaction with creativity, I'm not sure that plagiarism is the best method of rising to the occasion and meeting our muse. Or is it?
Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.
WOW! is happy to announce our first ever photo caption contest. A few weeks ago, we were in the middle of another Facebook contest when luckily one of our Premium Green members alerted us that Facebook didn’t allow these type of contests any more. So, we put our heads together, and we decided to do this fun contest on The Muffin instead—so let’s get to it!
1. Think of a photo caption for the photo on this blog post. 2. Write your photo caption in the comment section of this post. 3. Please include your name, e-mail address, and where you heard about the contest. (a friend, another blog post, blog subscriber, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
4. You may only enter the contest two times with two separate comments. 5. One photo caption per each comment, please. 6. Comments should be for a family audience. WOW! team members reserve the right to remove any comments from the site and disqualify the writer from the contest. 7. The photo caption contest goes until Friday, February 26 at 11:59 p.m. CST. 8. Two prizes will be awarded for this contest: a. THE BEST CAPTION: Members of the WOW! team will choose the best caption—the best could be clever, witty, or funny. This writer will win a WOW! prize pack, which includes a year-long subscription to Premium Green ($48 value), a WOW! t-shirt, a WOW! sweatshirt, a book, and a WOW! tote bag. b. PARTICIPATION PRIZE*: We will also be awarding one participation prize. This prize will be given to a writer who wrote a caption that we randomly choose from all the comments. This writer will be awarded a WOW! tote bag, a WOW! t-shirt, a WOW! sweatshirt, and a book.
(*Facebook fans who were already notified of being entered into the Facebook #3 contest before it was canceled will be automatically entered into the participation prize contest.) 9. Winners will be notified by e-mail and announced on The Muffin on Wednesday, March 3.
Okay, we can't wait to see these captions! Make us smile, makes us laugh, make us wish we could be so clever. . .
by LuAnn Schindler Writers discover inspiration in the strangest spots. Actually, stretching intellectual limits beyond the typical-article-idea mill will result in increased sales. It may also mean you guide your creative juices in a new direction and work in a new genre.
One of my favorite ways to increase the bottom line and develop timely stories and articles includes perusing lists of monthly holidays and celebrations. Some are sponsored by organizations promoting an idea or cause while increasing awareness; others are fun days that may only be celebrated by a handful of observers.
But, for writers, these celebrations are the perfect fodder for a researchable and marketable idea, and sometimes, they allow me to write something for fun...and still get paid!
Need examples? Let's take a look at some of February's celebrations. The second month of the year isn't just a time to celebration Valentine's Day or the Super Bowl.
Adopt a Rescued Rabbit Month - Sponsored by House Rabbit Society (HRS) and Petfinder, the group encourages the adoption of rabbits that have been rescued. Possible story angles: interview someone who adopted a rabbit for a local paper, create a list article showing why rabbits make wonderful house pets, write a children's story about an adopted rabbit.
National Cherry Month - Why not write a health article touting the health benefits of cherries? Have a great cherry recipe? I do. I had my recipe for Cherry Pie Cake published in a cookbook. Or what about settling the argument about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree in an article or prose piece for a children's magazine?
Just Say No To Powerpoint Week (February 7 - 13) - Pen an article for a local newspaper showing the pro's and con's of using PowerPoint in the classroom. Or submit an editorial piece of work to a business magazine that shows how the presentation software is misused in the business world. Or, why not write a how-to list that shows the best methods for creating a presentation for an educational outlet.
Cowboy Poetry Week - (February 23 - 28) - Know any cowboy poets? I do, and let me tell you, they have many funny stories about rural life. Interview one for a writing magazine. Or better yet, try your hand at penning the poetic form.
National Condom Day - February 14 - The American Social Health Association recognizes this day for promoting healthy choices. How about a factual article with relevent examples for a teen magazine. What about a comparison of condom types and brands? Sounds like an good article for both men's and women's magazines.
National Tooth Fairy Day - February 28 - Use the tooth fairy to explain why dental hygiene is important. For a children's magazine, why not compare and contrast mythical do-gooders (the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, etc.). Write a personal essay about when you figured out how the tooth fairy made the money-for tooth trade.
Don't feel limited to writing something in your usual genre. Use these creative and informative celebrations to build a lucrative database of ideas!
Can you create flash fiction, memoir, and creative non-fiction that grabs, surprises, and mesmerizes readers in fewer than 750 words? If you have a story or memoir with a strong theme, sharp images, a solid structure, and an unexpected discovery, then the fifth annual WriterAdvice Flash Prose Contest is one to look into.
You can submit up to three stories, typed and double-spaced. Email submissions will not be accepted. Entry fee is $10 per submission. All entries accompanied by an SASE will be returned with brief comments.
PRIZES: First Place - $150; Second Place - $75; Third Place - $50; Fourth Place - $25; Honorable Mentions will also be published. Names of all winners will be announced in the summer issue of WriterAdvice.
CONTACT: For questions only, please email editor B. Lynn Goodwin at Lgood67334@comcast.net
A complete listing of submission details can be found at WriterAdvice.com. Good luck!
Friday Speak Out!: "Three Easy Steps to Getting Back on Track," Guest Post by Connie Hebert
Three Easy Steps to Getting Back on Track
by Connie Hebert
Who are your "Side-trackers?" You know, the experts at derailing your creative goals. The detractors who create storm centers and disrupt the focus of creative beings like yourself.
Often long on problems and short on answers, many of these rabble-rousers are famous or frustrated artists themselves. In the wake of your Side-tracker's latest drama, your creative work gets placed on the back-burner...again.
Don't let these trouble makers get the best of you. It's springtime––a time for new beginnings. Here are three easy steps to help anyone get back on track.
First, learn to recognize Side-trackers. Here are some specific behaviors common to this group:
~ Disrespect for your reality i.e. calling with a problem even though you have a deadline of some kind, and they know it.
~ Break agreements by being late (or too early) and demanding allowances which wreck havoc with your schedule
~ Spend your money and/or time by needing to be rescued, often in the middle of a workday
~ Blame others (you) when something goes wrong
~ Go ballistic if someone points out one more broken promise
~ Deny they are Side-trackers
Second, learn how to diffuse Side-trackers.
~ Admit you are involved with one. Denial only prolongs the agony.
~ Be brutally honest. Why are you entangled? Are you getting anything out of it? Does your Side-tracker enable your procrastination? Are you afraid of failure?
~ Accept that keeping them around is self-destructive.
~ Ask yourself what creative work you'd be doing if not involved with your detractor.
~ Stop dancing to the Side-tracker's tune. If you can't, get help such as counseling or support from friends who've been through the process.
~ Keep in mind the consequences of putting your needs aside such as cheating your of your birthright, devaluing yourself and your talents, holding back your Gift to a world badly in need of it, and losing out on the richness of an existence filled with peace and the joy of self-expression and self-fulfillment.
Finally realize it's your choice. Choose wisely. Your creative life depends on it.
* * * Connie Hebert, MSW, is the owner and author of her "True Inklings" website. (See link below.) Retired from a successful career in psychotherapy, education, and seminar training on human behavior, she now writes full-time. Her current work in progress is a nonfiction novel with the working title of "Converting the Maiden; a Memoir of Surrender." She's also published short pieces in trade magainzes and in "The Shine Journal," an online publication.
Follow "Connie's Blog" on her website: www.trueinklings.com Connie can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
Social Networking for Authors: Tips from Margo L. Dill
This was the first year WOW! branched out into social networking by creating Twitter and Facebook profiles, and it's already done so much for our site. We get to interact with our readers, really get to know them, and obtain feedback instantly. Our traffic has increased from links coming from the networks as well, and it's also a lot of fun!
At the head of our social media campaign is WOW! contributing editor, columnist, and instructor Margo L. Dill, who launched our campaign from scratch. She knows a great deal about using these sites to your advantage, so I caught up with her to ask her a few questions about her upcoming e-course Social Networking for Authors: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more!. If you want to learn how to effectively use social networking platforms for self-promotion, there's still time to sign up for her course, which starts next Monday (February 22nd).
Welcome, Margo! Who should take your social networking class? Is it only for authors?
Margo: My social networking class can help anyone who has something to promote--a blog, a website, a book, a magazine, or a newsletter. The class will give tips on how to find other writers on social networks; find clients, customers, or readers; and how to interact on these sites so people get to know the "real" you. This means, you are a real person with a personality sending out tweets or promoting your Facebook profile or fan page--not a marketer or a spambot!
That's great to know. It sounds like it would be useful for freelance writers and small businesses as well. You teach your students how to use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Why is it important to use all three platforms? What are the major differences?
Margo: In my opinion, each social networking site offers writers, or anyone really, a different audience, format, and way to connect with others. On Twitter, you can follow almost anyone who has similar interests as you, provides useful information, or makes you smile and laugh. In turn, anyone can follow you. People expect you to share information on Twitter about yourself and your work as well as share other useful tidbits you come across on the Internet and on Twitter itself.
On Facebook, you can connect with people who you once knew, that you met at a conference, or through an online group as well as your family and friends. You can belong to writing groups on Facebook that provide information and where you can network with other writers such as on the WOW! Women On Writing Facebook Fan Page. On your Facebook wall, you can promote your latest blog post or book just like you can on Twitter, but you do it with posts on your wall or status updates or fan pages. I get a lot of response from my family and friends on my blog from my Facebook page. These people wouldn't know what I was up to if I didn't have Facebook to tell them. I am reaching a different audience here and on an even more personal level than on Twitter.
LinkedIn is a completely different network all together. It is for professional connections more than personal ones. You can connect with others and find freelancing work or discuss the publishing business in a LinkedIn group. You can find editing clients or promote your magazine or business to find customers or even employees. It's like having a resume online with recommendations right there for people to view. LinkedIn is great for networking.
That's a really great explanation. And it's so true...people wouldn't know what you were up to if you didn't have Facebook to tell them. I guess you could send direct e-mails to everyone, but people get annoyed with too much e-mail, and I think Facebook is far less intrusive. Plus, it's pretty effective! I've personally seen a great response from WOW's social networking campaign. Thanks, Margo! It especially works well for us since our e-zine is a static website and these additional platforms allow for interaction. Do you recommend students have a website, blog, or portfolio page set up somewhere to link back to before they start networking?
Margo: Not necessarily. It helps to have a blog or website, but some people will link to their book on Amazon if they want to tweet about their book or include a Barnes & Noble link in their status update on Facebook.
You can also take part in Twitter chats in all sorts of subject areas such as general writing, YA literature, children's writing, romance writing, and so on. You just have to know the hashtag (which you'll learn all about in my class) keywords such as #YAlitchat, know the time it takes place (which is easy to find on the Internet), and then log on to Twitter and get started. You just take part in the conversation, usually about a hot topic, and give your opinion with the hashtag included. You don't need a blog, website, or profile page to do this, and you can learn from other writers about marketing, writing, querying, or any number of subjects and connect with other writers in your field.
You can easily network on Facebook by starting a fan page for your book or business, and you don't need your own website to do this. Your fan page becomes like a type of website or profile page.
That's genius! I mean, why not, right? It's really all you need come to think about it. But when someone just starts out with a social networking site, it can often feel like a ghost town because they don't have any followers yet. What's the quickest way to build a following?
Margo: I suggest allowing the site to go through your e-mail address book and finding your contacts who are already on the site. This is the easiest way to get started with people that you know will help you through the beginning stages of the site. With Twitter, there are directories you can use such as Twellow to find people who have similar interests to you. On Facebook, you can join fan groups and meet people that way as well as searching by your college or high school. On LinkedIn, you can ask your connections to introduce you to others. I have several more tips and ways that I built my personal followers as well as WOW!'s, which will be part of the tips and lessons I share in my class.
Those are some fantastic tips! I definitely want to check out those fun Twitter hashtag chats. It sounds like a mini-conference! Thank you so much, Margo, for sharing your tips with us today. :)
Readers, if you're interested in promoting yourself through social networking or simply want to learn how to use the different sites effectively, remember, Margo's class Social Networking for Authors: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and More! starts next Monday, February 22, 2010. It runs for 4 weeks. Visit the classroom page to view what you'll be learning week by week. Enroll today to reserve your spot. Happy writing!
Perfection is one of the most, well, perfect writing distractions. It is well suited for the creative person shaping and molding. After all, don't we all want something we create to be perfect? How many of us write a draft, only to find ourselves stuck over a word, a phrase or the perfect shade of ink. We're seeking, searching for something perfect. One of the elements in improving our own writing is to move past some of the distractions that crop up. Wrestling with perfection seems to work against what we truly want to do. But what is perfection, really? Who dictates what is perfect? One of my graduate school professors discussed The Great Gatsby as the perfect novel. I have some perfect novels in a desk drawer, but a few literary agents didn't think them so perfect. The Great Gatsby, my professor explained, may be perfect, but it is a flawed perfection because no writing can be absolutely flawless. That's what keeps me at my computer tapping away or taking hours to scratch out my ideas in my notebooks. The search for perfection, even with some marred facets. Do I think I'll attain perfection in my writing? I don't know. I do know that I won't let it get in the way of my sitting down to write. How about you? What are your biggest internal distractions when you look at the blank page in front of you?
Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.
For those of you who keep up with the Muffin’s daily posts, you may remember a post I made back in December about the writing goals I wanted to achieve for 2010. One of my goals was to branch out into another genre that I don’t normally dabble in. Well…I did it! At the time, I was just finishing up a manuscript for a YA novel and not only did I finish it, I entered it in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. And now I’m so nervous.
I don’t usually enter contests. There are so many out there and competition can be stiff. But I thought the Amazon contest would be a great one. Hey! I know I may not have the highest chances of winning it but I know that I’ll get some valuable feedback I can tuck away for future projects. Plus contests like this one also give you an idea of whether you need to polish up your pitching skills.
The story is a personal experience from my early adult life that I wanted to tell but not from a Nonfiction view. So, I created an awesome fictional character to tell the story for me (He is about ten years younger than I was when I went through the same experience and, I think, made much better choices than I did.) Once I created a ‘storyteller’ so different from me, I found it was much easier to let go and tell the story. Fiction is a lot harder for me to write but, in a way, the element of telling a story is the same whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, right? You still have to capture your audience, make sure your facts are accurate and tell your story just right. Hopefully, I’ve done that. I guess we’ll see!
I have a lot of admiration for you fiction writers out there. Thank you for giving the rest of us some inspiration to give it a try!
So, how is everyone else’s writing goals going? Has anyone else entered the Amazon contest? I’d love to hear from you.
Romancing with Kristan Higgins, author of The Next Best Thing
Happy Valentine's Day! We have the perfect author, Kristan Higgins, on The Muffin today--one who knows plenty about love, romance, and food (which just goes hand-in-hand with romance, right?). Kristan is here to talk about her new book out from Harlequin and to share her knowledge about keeping story lines fresh and interesting when writing genre books. So, without any hesitation, let's get right to Kristan!
WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Kristan. We are so happy to talk with you today. Your book, The Next Best Thing, is out from Harlequin this month. What do readers need to know about your latest book?
Kristan:Thank you, Margo! It’s lovely to be here today. The Next Best Thing is about Lucy, a young widow trying to find a not-so-bad guy to marry, so she can have kids and move on with her life. She’s not looking to fall madly in love again — she was obviously devastated when her husband died five years ago, and she doesn’t want to be that vulnerable this time around. So, the first thing she does is distance herself from Ethan, her best friend and more recently, her friend with privileges. Their relationship is complicated, and he’s pretty much the last guy Lucy would pick as husband material.
One of my favorite things about this book is Lucy’s profession and her family, which are very much intertwined. Lucy’s a very talented pastry chef, but she works in the family bakery in the bread department while her aunts make these rather tired and uninspired pastries, cookies, and cakes. Lucy loves the family bakery and adores her aunts; but they’re all widows, too. And in Lucy’s family, you don’t remarry. You get one shot at love; and if he dies, well…that’s your bad luck. So Lucy’s bucking tradition, as it were, and it makes for some very funny scenes. And of course, it was really fun to write about all those gorgeous desserts.
WOW: What a great premise with the aunts! I love it, and I'm sure readers get hungry reading your book. I hear there's a great recipe in this book AND in your book Too Good to be True. How much does cooking play into your plots and love stories?
Kristan: Well, food is a great part of life, don’t you think? One of the things I try to do is create a character the reader can really feel she knows and an important detail is favorite food. In Too Good To Be True, Grace consoles herself with Disgustingly Rich Chocolate Brownies, which she also brings to the hero to apologize for an unfortunate incident involving a field hockey stick and the police.
In The Next Best Thing, Lucy’s profession revolves around food, of course. Her late husband was a chef, and her in-laws own an Italian restaurant; so yes, food is very important! One of the things that hints at my characters’ feelings is what they eat…and what they don’t. And yes, I’ll be posting more recipes on my website…I do love to bake, so these are all tried and true.
WOW: Just the name of those brownies from Too Good to be True sound absolutely delicious! Food and romance just seem to go together--you're right. You have several contemporary romance books out from Harlequin and more to come. How do you keep your story lines fresh and interesting since we all expect the happily ever after at the end of a romance?
Kristan: I think the first thing I do is try to be honest about the pitfalls of relationships. My characters are very real people — no one is a billionaire, staggeringly beautiful, or breathtakingly talented…in other words, they’re us! I also try to focus on the heroine’s immediate dilemma, then pick the guy who seems to be the very worst choice for her. Of course, he’s really the right guy, but I want the couple to have to earn their happily ever after. And I focus a lot on family. Families shape us into the people we are; they know our best qualities and our weak spots, too. And weaving them into the story feels very natural for me.
WOW: I like that idea of the family being involved in your books because families are so involved in our love lives whether or not we want to admit it. I love the animals on the cover of all your books. The Next Best Thing has a gray cat, looking ready to eat some of whatever your heroine is mixing in that bowl. Where did the idea come for animals on each cover? Do animals play an important role in each novel?
Kristan: The amazing people in the Harlequin art department design my covers, so I can’t take any credit, though they give me a little preview, which is always thrilling. Personally, I’ve always had pets (mostly dogs, a few cats thrown in to keep me on my toes); and making my heroines pet owners wasn’t so much a conscious decision as just a normal part of life. But I choose the heroine’s pet very carefully, and that pet reflects something about the character. In The Next Best Thing, Lucy’s cat, Fat Mikey, is a very independent animal. Dogs, in my opinion, require a lot more attention and devotion. And when Lucy acquires Fat Mikey, she’s still really hurting over her husband. It felt like a dog might be too much. So Fat Mikey keeps her company, but he doesn’t get too sentimental, either.
WOW: What a great way to reveal things about the characters through their pets. That's genius! (I'm a big pet lover, too.) You also have a blog that you regularly update. What types of information will your fans find on your blog?
Kristan: My blogs on my own websiteare just little vignettes about my life as a writer and as a person. I’m pretty normal…married to a real sweetheart, mom of two great kids. I’m very close with my siblings, adore my nieces and nephews, have lunch with my mom, volunteer in
our town, carpool the kids around. If anyone has any illusions about the glamorous life of the writer, they need only check in with my blog and get a reality check! There are no silk pajamas here…my dog would drool all over those, and the cat would shred them in a heartbeat.
WOW: I'm sure your fans love to read about your life, and that's a good idea for blog posts! What are you working on next?
Kristan: Right now, I’m finishing up the edits on All I Ever Wanted, which comes out
this August, and working on another romantic comedy. One of the things that’s most fun about being a writer is figuring out which of your ideas is ready to be teased out into an entire book…you never know which seedling is ready to sprout.
WOW: We are so excited, Kristan, that you shared your insights about your books and your writing life with us today. We look forward to many more great books from you to keep us reading and smiling!
by LuAnn Schindler When I write, I like to listen to music. OK, I usually enjoy listening while I write. Other times, like when I'm on a tight deadline, I prefer the peace and quiet of our farm. Sure, there's the occasional 'MOO'........
Seriously, music ignites my writing muse. My musical choices vary as much as my writing topics. Some days, 80s and 90s rock blares, keeping my energy focused on the page. On Saturday mornings, I need the Kings of Leon and The Fray to jumpstart my morning pages. If I'm working on a creative endeavor, such as poetry or flash fiction, slow tunes by Sara Barilles, Howie Day or Tim McGraw or classical pieces like Moonlight Sonata help me keep an even writing pace.
And some days, I let iTunes decide what's up next.
The rhythm and words formulate the emotional connection between musical rhythm and written word.
It works for me, but does it work for all writers? What artists, music genres or songs keep you connected to your writing muse?
Friday Speak Out: Why I Write, Guest Post by Susan Remson
Why I Write
by Susan Remson
I never really retired. I just stopped working. After forty-five years of work, including all the years while raising my family, I was ready. Over those years, my jobs ranged from my first as a Christmas gift wrapper to Operations Manager of a clinical laboratory. A few years ago, when my husband’s work took him to different cities for extended periods, I decided to accompany him. I quit my job, and except for the lack of income and the social life work had always provided me, I was not sorry. But what would I do with my time?
It was about then that I heard a speaker ask folks on the verge of retiring, who were dealing with the same “what will I do” question that I was, “What did you like to do when you were a child? What gave you pleasure when you were eleven or twelve years old?” The speaker went on to suggest that whatever that activity was, retirement might be the time to go back to it.
When I was a child, I loved to write.
So I began writing again. I had written in my professional life, but that writing was all technical. I journaled, too, but I began to write essays and short stories. I wrote fiction and non-fiction. I wrote poetry. I took classes. I went to workshops. I spent hours reading writers website. I read books about and by writers. But when people asked me what I was doing now that I wasn’t working, I couldn’t yet say, “I am a writer”. I didn’t feel like a writer; I felt like a wannabe.
When I finally got up the courage to read at a writer’s conference, I was terrified. I know my voice was shaking when I read my brief essay. In my piece, I compared my son’s life with an afghan my mother had made for him, and told how his life, filled with substance abuse and antisocial behavior, and the afghan were both unraveling. I pondered whether either of them would ever be whole again. When I finished reading, the room was silent. I remember thinking to myself, “Well, Susan, so much for being a writer”.
But I was wrong. I later learned the room was silent because of the impact of my words. Afterwards, several women came up to tell me how they could relate to what I was saying. Their words delighted me, and saddened me, too, because it meant that others were dealing with the same issues that I had been only a few years earlier. Still, if I could touch someone with my words, I was happy.
Their comments also made it possible for me to say, “I am a writer.”
Since that time, I have shared, in writing, other experiences, including stories about my mother and her knitting, my son and his struggles, and my daughter and the year planning her wedding. I write two blogs. In one, I am sharing my thoughts on being 64 years old and “muddling through to Medicare”. I also have thick file of short stories and essays, and two half-written novels.
These days, I have no problem calling myself a writer. I still love to write, now more than ever.
* * * Susan Remson is retired from a career in health care and biotechnology and now devotes herself to her writing. She lives on the shore of Lake Michigan in Kenosha Wisconsin . where she writes two blogs. In Great Lakes Views (www.greatlakesviews.blogspot.com) she comments on environmental, political and cultural issues of the Great Lakes . When I’m 64 (www.whenim64-susan.blogspot.com) she is documenting what it is like to be a woman of a “certain age”.
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!
Hey, WOW! readers, take a look at this competition for the fiction writers among us, which appeared in the February 2010 issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine.
Milkweed Editions, an independent, nonprofit literary publisher, will award the National Fiction Prize to the best work of fiction Milkweed accepts for publication during each calendar year by a writer not previously published by them.
They’re accepting manuscripts anywhere from 150 to 400 pages in length and the following categories are eligible: novels, short story collections, and novellas. Works previously published in book form in the U.S. are not eligible, but individual stories or novellas previously published in magazines or anthologies are.
The prize winner will receive publication by Milkweed and a $5,000 cash advance against royalties.
For complete details, surf over to Milkweed Editions site here.
The e-book Revolution: Publishing Wars, Kindle, and Readers
Until recently, publishers didn't take e-books seriously because they only accounted for less than 1% of books sold. But now, according to Jonathan Kirsch, host of The Politics of Culture radio show, everyone in the publishing industry is paying attention to what he calls the "e-book revolution." He says it started with Amazon's kindle e-book reader--a product that did for e-books what iPod did for music. And last Christmas, e-book sales outnumbered print sales for the first time in history!
Early adopters or mainstream? Where e-book readers used to be for early adopters, it appears they have migrated to the general public. And surprisingly, these adopters are not the young and tech savvy, a lot of them are in their fifties and sixties and simply love books. With over three million sales in e-book reading devices (e-book readers) it's surprising to me that I don't see people using them in the general public. You'd think I'd catch people reading in restaurants on their lunch break, in the doctor's office, or at a bus stop. But although e-book sales represent the fastest growing proportion of the publishing market, they still only represent about 5% of total book sales, according to Motoko Rich. Rich also says that even though e-book sales occupy a lot of mind space and are the leading cause of anxiety among publishers, it isn't the way the majority of the world reads. In fact, three million e-book readers is small potatoes compared to the forty plus million print sales.
So what's the attraction to e-book readers anyway? Author Dora Levy Mossanen talked about how she loved the ease and speed of the kindle--being able to carry twenty books with her at all times to fill the small pockets of her day by reading, being able to download a book within 30 seconds from any location, and having her newspapers delivered to her each morning. On the downside, she missed having a book cover and an author photo, which she often sought out in her local bookstore.
Will kindle stay on top? While kindle is the industry leader, Peter Kafka argues that a multi-purpose devise (such as Apple's forthcoming iPad)--with its ability for web browsing and video in addition to book reading--will eventually displace a single-purpose device (such as the kindle). But for readers, committing to one e-reading product is pretty much the only option we have right now. There are many e-book readers--Barnes & Noble's Nook, Sony's Reader, Amazon's kindle, Apple's iPad--but as far as I know, they have format issues and aren't truly compatible with one another.
As far as reading quality, the kindle seems to be far superior except for the fact that it doesn't have a backlight option, like some others, which would be ideal for reading at night, say, in bed, where you'd still need additional lighting without waking up your hubby.
Publishers, Pricing Wars, and Consumers For the book-buying audience, purchasing a new book at $9.99 as opposed to a hardcover print book at $24.95 is an attractive option. According to Motoko Rich, Amazon was actually losing money because they currently pay publishers a wholesale price that is about half the list price of a hardcover book, which typically ranges from $25-$35. So, Amazon was losing about $2.50-$4 every time they sold one of those $9.99 books. That freaked publishers out because they thought the $9.99 price was an eroding of value of what a new book was worth. NY publishing houses were concerned that they couldn't sustain the current business model that requires editing, copyediting, marketing, overhead, author advances, etc., so they wanted to take control of pricing. But they came to an agreement with Apple so that when the new iPad comes out in March '10, publishers will be able to set the consumer price according to hardcover book pricing. What that means to the book-buying public is that books bought on the iPad will most likely be a little more expensive than the kindle--approximately $12.99-$14.99. It's still less expensive than buying a new print book, but it will be interesting to see how current e-book buyers react to the increase.
From an author and writer's standpoint, Dora Levy Mossanen says, with price points and publishing wars, she feels the pain for her writer friends who have a hard time finding a publisher in an industry that's turned upside down, but at the same time she recognizes the value of e-books and knows that the trend cannot be stopped. She feels that the new digital trends and formats allow authors to tap into an audience they might not otherwise reach.
Another good point for authors and publishers is that with e-books they have very low overhead and no worry of book damage or returns, so that may make up for the reduction in price in the end.
My take? The e-book revolution is here and in full swing! I'm happy to be on the verge of a change in publishing and can't wait to see the advances in technology. Like anything, there will be a standard model set in place soon and e-book reading devices will become synchronized in formats in the future and, hopefully, will continue to offer low prices and eco-friendly options to hungry book lovers.
Now, I want to know: do you read e-books? Do you have a kindle or another e-book reader? What's your preferred reading device?
Interview with James Tipton, Summer '09 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up
James Tipton lives in the tropical mountains of central Mexico where he writes short poems and short fiction. He is also Associate Editor of the monthly magazine in English, published in Mexico, El Ojo del Lago (The Eye of the Lake) and Book Review Editor for the on-line magazine, Mexico Connect. He has published more than 1,000 short stories, poems, articles and reviews in North American magazines, including Esquire, The Nation, Christian Science Monitor, American Literary Review, and Field.
His book of poems, "Letters from a Stranger" (with a Foreword by Isabel Allende), won the Colorado Book Award in 1999.
His most recent collections of short poetry are published in bilingual (Spanish and English) editions: "Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village" (Lavando platos en el antiguo pueblo) and "All the Horses of Heaven" (Todos los Caballos del Paraíso). He is currently completing a collection of short stories set in Mexico.
Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village is available through Bread and Butter Press/1150 S. Glencoe/Denver, CO 80246, $10.95 plus $3.00 shipping & handling. All the Horses of Heaven is available through http://www.themetpress.com/, $12.95 plus $4.00 shipping & handling.
He is currently completing a collection of short stories set in Mexico.
WOW: First of all, congratulations on placing again in WOW’s Flash Fiction Contest! What do you think has helped you in producing winning contest entries?
James: I think I was initially helped by reading lots of the past winners on the WOW site. I liked some of those stories and I thought, WOW!, maybe I can write stories like that as well. I like short forms of literature, whether fiction or poetry, and I have published hundreds of short poems, many of them as haiku or tanka, including two collections in 2009: “Washing Dishes in the Ancient Village”, and “All the Horses of Heaven”, both in bi-lingual editions (English and Spanish) incidentally.
WOW: Studying the entries of past winners is a great way to get a feel for what judges are looking for, not just for our competition, but for others as well. Great advice for future contestants to follow.
Speaking of entries, I thoroughly enjoyed reading “And To Think That Only Yesterday”. The imagery was so vivid and rich. What was the inspiration behind it?
James: I like vivid imagery and living here in Mexico life often seems to me to be more vivid, or perhaps I simply have more awareness of how vivid it is.Reading lots of Latin American literature, novelists like my dear friend Isabel Allende (who wrote the introduction to my book, Letters from a Stranger) and Gabriel García Marquez, opened me up to images, including unusual ones, that seemed to penetrate more deeply into reality, so that reality itself shifts, becomes something very fascinating.
WOW: Looks like you studied well. You’ve captured the country’s essence in such an appealing manner, I think.
Switching gears, you mentioned in your previous interview, that among your many publications, your tanka “All the Horses of Heaven” has been published by Modern English Tanka Press. For those who may not have heard of it, can you explain what tanka is?
James: Yes, basically a tanka is a five-line Japanese form of poetry, unrhymed, usually about aspects of love, and initially written by court ladies in Japan in the 6th or 7th century, and sent in secret to potential lovers. They (the lady and the lover) often communicated or understood their relationship through tanka poetry. Usually there are three lines that are followed by two more than often sum up or comment or expand the first three. The form is much older and in Japan is more popular (I have been told) than haiku. You might enjoy “All the Horses of Heaven” (www.themetpress.com).
WOW: I’ve read a bit about this poetic form, and found it more appealing than haiku. Thanks for the explanation and I’ll be sure to check out “All the Horses of Heaven”.
Let’s talk about your writing process. Are there specific themes that you like to explore when you write?
James: I like to explore the age-old themes: love, sex, God, death, what are we doing here in these bodies on this beautiful planet, where did we come from, where will we go? How can we live our lives more deeply?
WOW: Amazing how those themes endure, waiting for a writer to approach them from their own unique perspective, and share their findings with the world. It never gets old.
What about your writing schedule? Is there a specific one that you follow?
James: I write every day, often in the morning, rarely in the afternoon, often in the evening. When I write I like to focus on writing and really like to be totally alone, locked in my room, so to speak. When I eat, although often with others, I like to focus on food. When I make love, I like to be totally focused on the woman I am with. People have always told me I listen well, but that probably only means I focus on the person talking with me. When I walk, I like to pay attention to walking. So, I guess, attention and focus are important things to me, both in writing and in living.
WOW: I agree with you on that. I believe they’re key to the creative process, helps get that story, script, article, poem or whatever you’re writing down and hopefully, published.
In your bio, you mention that you’ve been working your collection of short stories. Can you share how that’s coming along?
James: My collection of short stories, tentatively titled "Three Tamales for the Señor", is almost complete. I have three or four story ideas I want to get down into words and include in the book. I hope to have it finished this year, but I have lots of other writing projects including a monthly column called “Hearts at Work” that I write for a magazine in English published in Mexico called El Ojo del Lago, and I review a book each month for Mexico Connect, and I write lots of articles about Mexico for various magazines, like International Living, and I write lots of short poems, some stories.
WOW: You’ve definitely stayed busy, James! Is there anything else you’d like to share with WOW! readers?
James: Advice? I’d say keep reading WOW! I have found it stimulating and useful. I like, for example, the January piece by Gretchen Rubin, “20 Questions.” I like going through Premium Green now and then.
WOW: Thank you for your insightful interview, James. And again, congratulations, we’ll continue to be on the look out for your work. All the best to you!
To read James’ Summer 2008 interview and contest entry, click here:
And to find out more about the poetic form known as tanka, check out the American Tanka website.
Laura Cross, author of The Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent, Launches her Blog Tour!
& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
Laura Cross's family and friends in Detroit, Michigan knew she would move on to bigger and better things when she began writing and performing plays for them as a child. Actually, they hoped she would move on to bigger and better things--they were tired of being her only audience!
When Laura packed up the moving van it was to head to California where she earned Certificates in Writing and Feature Film Writing for the UCLA Writer's Program. Laura's writing life has included magazine writing, script reading for production companies and literary agencies, leading writing workshops and blogging about screenwriting and non-fiction writing. She's also written some absolutely fabulous nonfiction books but sadly, as a ghostwriter, she has to keep the titles under wraps! Laura divides her time between Los Angeles and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent By Laura Cross
This book is for every prospective author who has sought to have their manuscript transformed into a printed book. It guides you through the process of contracting a literary agent and convincing them that you are in fact the next great bestseller. From formatting a query letter to ensuring your manuscript looks presentable, every step of the process from inception to execution will be laid out in vivid detail for you.
Both published writers who have successfully found and acquired an agent and literary agents who are inundated with manuscripts and requests in the thousands every year, have been interviewed for this book and have provided their personal stories, tips, and tricks as to how you can get into the publishing industry through an agent. Finally, once you have found your agent, you will learn how to read contracts, accept offers, and understand what details will be handled exclusively by your agent.
Notes: The print version comes out in June 2010 and you can pre-order it on Amazon. The e-book version is available for purchase on Laura's site, where you can also download a free sample chapter.
Book Giveaway Comments Contest! If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a copy of Laura Cross's book The Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end. We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment.
Interview by Jodi Webb
WOW: You mentioned that, although you've written over 30 books, this would be the first one with your name on it. Could you tell us a little about that path that led you to so many books, although without the byline?
Laura: I was working with friends and associates--line editing and researching, and helping them organize and outline their books--and somewhere along the road it developed into ghostwriting a complete manuscript. I loved the whole process of bringing a book together and I began offering ghostwriting services--from there it developed into a career.
WOW: What types of books do you ghostwrite?
Laura: Most of my books are prescriptive nonfiction. Initially I specialized in what I knew about (business, entrepreneurship, and marketing) and that gradually grew into additional topics as I began attracting specific types of clients. Now I also write about social media and branding, finance and investment, self-help and relationships, lifestyle and motivation, and health and fitness. I’ve written two travel guides, which were fun, though that’s not a large part of my business.
WOW: I love the possibility of so much variety. As a ghostwriter you don't have the luxury of waiting for a muse to tease the words out of you. People are expecting you to deliver on deadline. Maybe we can all learn a little from your writing habits. Paint us a picture of where and how you write.
Laura: I’m not sure there is a creative muse for prescriptive nonfiction. When it comes to developing a client’s book I’m like a doctor who lines up her daily appointments--every hour of the day is scheduled. Mornings are spent on marketing, social networking, reading blogs, writing posts, answering emails, and developing my own projects. Afternoons I spend on client projects, whether it’s writing or editing or working on a book proposal. My projects are lined up several months in advance, if I didn’t follow a strict regiment I would wander off course and wouldn’t be able to begin the next project on time. Milestones and deadlines are essential.
I have a nice home office with an attached patio (for taking much-needed breaks). It’s a quiet space with no distractions, which allows me to focus. I have a rustic refurbished six-foot wood plank table where I write. I had my eye on that table for three years before I could afford to buy it. It was expensive but it was one of the best investments I ever made--it’s large enough to hold all my papers, notes, and books, and most importantly, my cat, who likes to curl up near me when I’m typing. It creates a romantic, nostalgic atmosphere. It makes me feel like I stepped into an author’s studio in the 1940s. I can’t help but be inspired to write when I sit at that desk.
WOW: Your desk and working space sound wonderful! Do you have any hints for getting the job done? Do you set daily goals for yourself?
Laura: I absolutely set daily goals. Every writing project has a timeline. During the writing phase I try to complete five pages per day.
WOW: Five pages is a good goal. Many of our readers write fiction and debate whether outlines improve books or stifle creativity. Since your books are non-fiction maybe you can add to the debate on outlines from a non-fiction perspective. Do you think they're useful when you're writing?
Laura: I break my projects into three phases: development, writing, and editing/revising. Most of my time is spent on preparation: refining the idea, researching (and interviews), organizing the material, and outlining. I always work with a detailed outline, which the client approves before I commence the writing stage. Sometimes the outline will fluctuate a little once I begin writing, but it usually doesn’t stray too far from the initial direction. Once the detailed outline is developed and approved, I use it as the blueprint or map to follow during the writing stage. I basically lay it out as the foundation of the book and fill in the content. For me, this method makes the actual writing process super easy. I can’t imagine working without an outline.
WOW: I'm in the middle of a non-fiction book and find that I'm not writing in order: first Chapter One, then Chapter Two, etc. Do you write "in order" or find that you jump around from section to section?
Laura: I’m the same! I jump around all the time. Since I complete all the necessary research before I begin writing I’m aware of which sections may be more challenging and which will be easier or more enjoyable. I tend to write the easier or more enjoyable stuff first because I know it will go faster and will allow me to have more time to spend working on the difficult sections.
WOW: Thank goodness, now I know I’m not the only one! Do you ever find you become bored with a project? Do you work on more than one project at a time to avoid losing the enthusiasm for a project?
Laura: I don’t work on more than one client’s project at a time, except during the period of time between finishing the first draft and beginning revisions when the client is reviewing the project and making any notes--I’ll use that time to work on a smaller project, such as editing another client’s book. But I do split my days between working on clients’ projects and my own projects, which helps keep me motivated.
Laura: Absolutely! I do acquire plenty of clients on my own who initially approach me to develop their book proposals and they turn into ghostwriting projects once they land book deals, but the best ghostwriting projects and much of my gigs come from literary agents and publishers. It’s rumored that more than 80% of traditionally published books are ghostwritten. Many celebrities, experts, motivational speakers, doctors, attorneys, sports figures, scientists, and business leaders lack the time or the skill to write a compelling book and they require ghostwriters or co-authors. And it’s not just nonfiction, some bestselling fiction authors don’t have the time to produce the volume of work released under their names and they hire fiction ghostwriters to write manuscripts "in their style" based on their ideas or story outlines.
WOW: I knew James Patterson worked with ghostwriters but I had no idea it was so widespread! What's next for you? Will your next project have your name on it or be shrouded in the mystery that is ghostwriting? What is your dream-writing project?
Laura: I have a few client book proposals lined up and, of course, those are ghostwritten, but as far as larger book projects right now I’m focused on writing my own book. I really enjoy mentoring other writers and sharing what I’ve learned on my writing path, so the next book will be another one for writers. I’m also focusing on teaching writing classes in a new online platform I’m launching this spring that encourages participants to engage with one another and recreates the live workshop experience.
I’ve adapted a few scripts for clients as a hidden writer (I earned my certificate in Feature Film Writing from UCLA’s Writer’s Program) and my "dream-writing project" is a screenplay adaptation of a specific book I’ve been interested in for a while. I’m still trying to option the film rights, which just became available earlier this year when a producer let his option lapse...so fingers-crossed.
WOW: Everyone at WOW! will have their fingers crossed for you and we’ll be watching for your name n the credits at our local movie theaters--keep us updated.
Want to join Laura 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!
February 8, 2010 Monday Laura will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! One lucky commenter will win copy of Laura's book! http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/blog.html
February 9, 2010 Tuesday Break out the hammer and nails--today Laura Cross tells us how to build a writer's platform. She's also holding a Winner's Choice Giveaway! Winner of the contest wins a PDF of her book Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent or membership to one of her online classes ($369 value): Writing the Non-fiction Book Proposal, Writing the Non-fiction Book, or Establishing Your Writer's Platform. http://www.meryl.net/section/blog/
February 10, 2010 Wednesday Author Laura Cross tells readers how a good synopsis can get a novel published. And don't miss today's super giveaway! The winner gets to attend one of three online classes ($369 value) Laura is teaching this spring. http://writerinspired.wordpress.com/
February 12, 2010 Friday Today Laura will be answering questions sent in by readers. Do you have a question for Laura about agents, ghostwriting, writing platforms, or another writing subject?Submit a question and you might win a PDF of her book Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent. http://daybydaywriter.wordpress.com/
February 15, 2010 Monday Laura Cross, author of Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent, tells readers about her life as a ghost--ghostwriter, that is! Don't miss her post How To Land High-Paying Ghostwriting Book Projects. http://freelancewrite.about.com/
February 16, 2010 Tuesday Writer Laura Cross will be sharing Five Secrets Every Writer Should Know About Query Letters with Thursday Bram. You can also enter to win membership in one of Laura's writing classes ($369 value). http://www.thursdaybram.com/
February 17, 2010 Wednesday Stop by for a great interview with Laura Cross, author of Guide to a Literary Agent. http://www.sellingbooks.com/
February 18, 2010 Thursday Laura will be stopping by Hell or High Water Writer with 5 Tips for Polishing Your Pitch and a chance to win a PDF of her book Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent. http://hellorhighwaterwriter.blogspot.com/
February 22, 2010 Monday Are you ready for an agent? Laura Cross, author of The Complete Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent, helps you answer that question today. She's also giving away an e-copy of her book. http://www.adventuresinthewritinglife.blogspot.com/
February 26, 2010 Friday Stop by Words by Webb for a review of Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent by Laura Cross. http://jodiwebb.com/
March 3, 2010 Wednesday Laura Cross, author of Guide to Hiring a Literary Agent, is telling all her secrets today...secrets about query letters. She's also giving away an electronic copy of her book. Don't miss it! http://writerunboxed.com/
To view all of our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar HERE.
We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.
If you have a blog or website and would like to host Laura Cross or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at: email@example.com
** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.
With freelance we tend to find ourselves writing informational pieces quite regularly. It can be a piece on how to repair something (DIY), or maybe in the creation of a craft item.
I was reading some information about a craft project that I wanted to try and I actually got bored with the way the article was written. To be honest, it was rather dry and I felt like the writer was telling me what to do. Hello, that's not nice!
Then I remembered one of my favorite authors and how she always talks to you and helps literally kick you in the butt, Natalie Goldberg. If you've read her books you know exactly what I am talking about. Just like standing in one of her mini-writing workshops, she talks to you with her writing.
Recently, I gave her techniques a try while doing a how-to piece on making a memory quilt. I must admit, it was at least a start and I am finding that more people have been interested in reading it. It has actually led to some readers asking additional questions and for ideas. This has helped me then construct my answers for each of them as if I'm sitting across the table from them having a conversation and enjoying the project that we are working on.
It's difficult to do considering that you don't have the person right there in front of you. But, I have found that if you sit there and think about your friends and how you would try to help explain to them how to do something or by visualizing and wanting to show them, it can help you to write a better piece.
Yes, like all of us, I am still learning the technique and still have a ton of kinks to work out. But, by talking to our readers, it gives them a sense that you care and want to help. As our society has changed a great deal in the last 15 years with the onset of this wonderful internet, many of us are now home-bodies and social butterflies of a different nature. We don't leave our homes like we did to socialize. Many of us only socialize through the internet. With this in mind, we need to find ways to humanize what we are writing, to make our readers feel that they matter and are in many aspects a part of our lives as well.
Last year, as I started a blog for myself and was hired to blog for someone else, I decided to go to a blogging conference. When I mentioned my intentions, one friends quipped: "Shouldn't a blogging conference be held online? And why, if you are a writer, are you going to a blogging conference? That seems so techy." I really didn't have an idea of what was in store for me when I did arrive at last year's BlissDom. I mainly selected it because Nashville is closer to my North Carolina than other blogging conferences (Texas, Illinois or California). And the timing fit with my start of my creativity blog and a parenting blog. What I never expected was how excited I would be to return--so much so that as soon as the dates were announced, I let my husband know not to count on me for this weekend. Why shouldn't I be trying to go to a writers' conference instead, my friend asked me. I enjoy writers' conferences, but there was an energy at the blogging conference that was infectious. At a gathering of writers who are trying to make a living as writers, sometimes the feeling be less congenial. After all, many of your fellow writers are your competitors for a finite number of editors. Even if they may not pitch one editor, they are certainly going to stand in line for some face time. In the social media world/blogosphere, bloggers visit and comment on each other's sites. Many become virtual friends and finally meet up at blogging conferences. After last year's conference, I had a renewed focus and energy towards the Web--and I think that helped my writing. I need some of that again. Now. And it doesn't hurt that they are bringing in Harry Connick Jr. for entertainment. I'm still looking forward to attending a spring writers' conference. But, for now, I'm going to have a little fun. Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach, who suspended the search for her copy of Bird-by-Bird to attend this weekend's BlissDom. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places.
Friday Speak Out: Bookmaking—For You, For Me!, Guest Post by Patricia A. McGoldrick
Bookmaking—For You, For Me!
by Patricia A. McGoldrick
I have to confess that bookmaking has become a bit of an obsession to me. Not cooking the books or becoming a bookie, but actually constructing and compiling books.
Right now, you might be dismissing this new-for-me activity as somewhat of a childish hobby in which to be engaged; however, as a poet writer, I assure you that it is a worthwhile one, one that has not only captured my imagination but that of other visual and word artists. They have, as I will discuss, inspired me to publish my poetry and stories in book form, of all shapes and sizes —creatively and sustainably.
As a bookmaking newcomer, I have been positively inspired to make books by visual and word artist, Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord at http://www.makingbooks.com/. On her website, in free, PDF file format, plus a You Tube link, Susan provides user-friendly instructions for making these small books. As a poet, one of my favorite Gaylord titles, available for purchase, is Homes for Poems: Making Books for Poetry. This “home” concept for my writing appeals to me.
I am not the only one who has been drawn to Gaylord’s popular, informative, website. Poet, Kay Day, mentions it in an article "Publish your poetry; there are more options than ever," as she urges writers to publish their work in these small venues in order to promote and share their words. Day is an encouraging voice in tough times.
Making small books is an opportunity not only to share one’s writing creatively. It is also a means of practicing sustainability by reusing resources that are often right in front of us. This is clearly a focus at Gaylord’s website and it is also a focus of Jill Magi, a poet with a visual flare for reusing paper and other goods for publishing her works. This wordsmith urges readers to "Make a Tiny Book" in the 2010 January/February issue of Poets & Writers. As a web search reveals, the creative Magi, with her sustainable use of materials, is a tremendous source of inspiration for making those homes for your words as gifts to others, recorded memories, a library of your own works.
Last year, I wrote, designed and published several books (See Figure 1): two memorial books, one posted on my blog at http://pmpoetwriter.blogspot.com/; an easy-to-carry book for Poetry-in-your-Pocket month; gift books about my Mother, a little child, spring, basketball, and our puppy, Cody (Figure 3); a chapbook of my completed Poetry Month venture to write a poem-a-day based on some literary prompts during April (Figure 2). Covered with a navy sheet of cover-stock paper and spine trimmed with burgundy ribbon, this chapbook now sits in my writing area for inspiration to persevere.
I would like to conclude by assuring you that these books are not difficult to make. For inspiration, I recommend checking out the websites I have listed; then, gather some colorful paper, yarn, glue, pictures plus your words. Make a book!
The sense of accomplishment is wonderful as you see your words being published in a book, designed by you! National Poetry Month is coming up soon—you might want to give bookmaking a try—that’s my plan!
Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.
Chynna's Insightful Chat With Author/Writer/Blogger/SUPERMAMA Rebecca Eckler
One of the best parts of my job is meeting other writers or fascinating people who work in the writing industry. Those of you who know me well know that I don't really like being in the spotlight but I LOVE being a person to bring folks to the information or resources they need. So when I picked up my issue of Chatelaine magazine last month and read the fresh and fun contribution of author, journalist and freelance writer, Rebecca Eckler, I just KNEW I had to talk to her.
Rebecca is a Canadian-based writer but has also worked in New York and has done some pretty amazing work. I LOVED our chat and thought I'd share it with our WOW readers. Enjoy! (And THANKS SO MUCH Rebecca!)
CHYNNA: I’m so glad you had some time to chat! Okay, for those readers who may not know about all the amazing stuff you’ve done, can you give us a bit about your background?
REBECCA: Well, my background is quite simple. I’ve always loved to write, wasn’t sure if “writer” was a viable career. I never knew any writers growing up. But, in my family, not going to university was NOT an option. So I chose journalism school, where I actually studied television, because most of my friends chose to study that. In the summers I would intern at newspapers, like the Calgary Herald, and I just loved it. I started by working in the entertainment section and I was hooked. I got to interview celebrities and write about them! It was a dream job! I worked for Pamela Wallin (now a senator) when she had her own nightly talk show, as a producer, for three years and then the National Post came onto the scene and I took a job there. I was writing numerous columns a week and it was so much fun. I even got to move to New York for a while to write from there! I got engaged, and became pregnant on the night of my engagement party – for that part of my life, people can read my first mommy memoir Knocked Up. Then I wrote Wiped! (About the ups and downs of raising a boddler – half baby/half toddler) And then I wrote Toddlers Gone Wild. I also wrote a teen book called Rotten Apple and I have a children’s book coming out in March, called the Mischievous Mom At The Art Gallery. I just love writing. Because I’m a single mother, it’s a good career to have. Not only do I love it, but also it’s definitely a job with more flexible hours! (I’m writing this now, and then I’m going to see my daughter skate, then I’ll come home and write a bit more, before she comes home!)
CHYNNA: Wow! What a great background (and pretty inspirational for those fellow Canadians wondering how they can ‘break in’ to the Canadian market!) And I also enjoy the flexible hours with writing at home. =) With your fiction and nonfiction books, as well as working as a columnist both in Canada and the US, you’ve pretty much covered all the bases in the writing industry. What sparked your interest in writing? How easy/difficult has it been “making it” in both countries? (Rebecca, you won’t believe this but I’ve done waaay better in the US than here in Canada! I think it’s inspiring that you’ve done so well in both countries!)
REBECCA: That’s so funny you say that! But I’m super proud for you! What sparked my interest is basically that I loved to read. I’m very blessed that I managed to make a living writing. It is almost impossible to do so. I always tell people, “Make sure you LOVE it. Because if there’s something else you’d like to do, you probably should do that!” My books have sold in many countries. I’m not sure how to measure success in America. I know, for example, that Knocked Up did very well there. Meaning, it sold more copies there than it did in Canada. However, America is ten times bigger, so more readers! I think I’m quite big in Germany and Spain, which I find funny. Honestly, the bottom line is that it’s hard to be a success outside Canada, if you’re Canadian. There are a ton of writers in America – or in every other country - doing the exact same thing us writers here in Canada are doing.
CHYNNA: ABSOLUTELY! Thanks for that insight. Have you reached all your writing goals yet? If not, what would you still like to tuck under your writing belt?
REBECCA: I have so many ideas for books. My brain just works that way. Actually, it’s pretty annoying. Late at night I’ll wake up and think, ‘That’s such a good title for a book!’ Obviously, I’d love the success of Stephanie Meyers, for example. What writer wouldn’t? I think I have a great work of fiction in me somewhere (fingers crossed.) But, again, writing is sometimes a crapshoot. You could write five books that do all right, or not, and then maybe the sixth book you write will really take off! Who knows? Here’s hoping! One needs faith to be a writer!
CHYNNA: I totally agree with you. (And I hear ya with book titles keeping you awake at night. I can’t keep up with all the ideas! LOL!) I think your blogs are amazing. You post about things that women want to know, need to know or maybe even forgot about since they became Mamas. In fact, I just loved the article you did in ParentsCanada about how Moms can keep their cool. Can you talk a bit about how you came up with each of them, what their purposes are and how you come up with such great stuff for each one! (I have trouble doing my one main blog! Ha!)
REBECCA: I love blogging because it’s like talking to a friend. And that’s what I do, when I write. In my head, while my fingers type, I am talking to a friend. Whenever I end up in a conversation with a friend about something that lasts more than twenty minutes, I know it’s a good idea for a blog! And I will blog about it. Sometimes what I write is controversial. I love that too, because it shows that everyone has his or her own opinions. Also, I love hearing other mother’s stories. Something happens when you become a mother. Your priorities change. And you actually are VERY interested in how other mothers’ parent, or what they go through. Simply being a mother bonds you to women in a different and good way. Raising a child is like being in a relationship: same universal highs and lows. So all mothers love talking about mothering and their children. I also do like to tell the truth about things. For example, I was in a conversation last night with a mother who’s a friend of mine. Our children go to the same school and we were moaning about this one kid who is making our children’s lives miserable. She’s sort of a sneaky bully, this kid. What mother can’t relate to their child being upset because something another child did to them? I will definitely have to blog about that one!
CHYNNA: I think that’s why I love your blogs so much. You aren’t just giving information or writing ‘advice’ pieces; you’re chatting with people. That’s refreshing! You know, you are someone I’d call the ultimate “writer Mama” because you are hard at work but still so devoted to your child. Do you work at home or do you have an outside office to escape to? Is it hard having the two jobs? How do you divide up your time between them?
REBECCA: I work at home. I have not, and don’t think I ever will, find that balance, where it’s calm and I feel that I’m a great mother and a great writer. When I have a book due, and my child is sick, or it’s March Break, it’s very hard. But sometimes, I’ll put a movie on for her, and I’ll be writing right beside her. But, actually, now that she’s in school full days, she’s out the door at 8:20 a.m. and I can start working at 9 a.m. Before Rowan, I used to love working late at night. Now, I stop work at 4 p.m. Haven’t worked at night forever. I also used to work on weekends. Don’t do that anymore either. I constantly feel guilty about everything! I feel guilty that I’m not working hard enough. I feel guilty that I don’t spend enough time with her. Face it, most mothers have to work, or want to work, and, most of us are torn. We feel guilt about everything!
CHYNNA: AHHHHHH ‘Mommy Guilt.’ Yes. LOL! I do most of my writing right beside my kids too---until a WWF Smackdown starts and I either have to referee or I get tired of being jumped on. I mentioned earlier that you’ve written both fiction and nonfiction books—a YA novel and three books about parenting. Did you want to talk more about those works?
REBECCA: See above! I like to write all sorts of books, obviously. I’m very excited about my children’s book, because that’s something Erica and I did for our children to be proud of us! Other mothers, of course, will love it and so will their children. Most of all, I just love readers! I love people who love to read! I’m so sad when I hear people say their teenagers don’t like to read. I’m like, “How can someone NOT like to read?”
CHYNNA: I know! I’m constantly reading something. I think it makes us better writers when we’re busy readers. Now, do you have a preference writing in either fiction or nonfiction? Was it difficult going from one to the other, if so, in what way(s)?
REBECCA: I loved writing the mommy memoirs. I didn’t find it easy at the time, until I started writing fiction. Then I was like, “Oh my God. It’s so much easier to write non-fiction because it’s about your life. You don’t have to make things up out of nowhere and create situations and characters!” It was more difficult than I thought to write fiction (I have an adult fiction book coming out in the Fall.) In theory, I would love to be a great fiction writer, because I love to read fiction. But I do love to write non-fiction because I think other’s can relate to them and they know it’s real life. I think my next book will be a non-fiction, to shake it up.
CHYNNA: You know, I totally understand wanting to go back and forth. It gives us fresh energy for the new project. How important is it, do you think, that women, especially mothers, have some sort of creative talent or hobby to focus their energies on once in awhile?
REBECCA: Well, personally, I think it’s important. I think the world needs writers and painters and dancers and art. But mothers are busy! If they really want to do it, then, hopefully, they’ll find the time. I actually love mothers who have started their own businesses after becoming mothers, like the ones who make jewelry or blankets.
CHYNNA: Absolutely. I’ve always said that having a positive, creative distraction once in awhile is essential to our overall functioning. You and your daughter seem very close. You must miss her like crazy if/when you have to be away from her. How do you maintain that closeness, even when you’re hard at work? Does she go on tour or travel with you?
REBECCA: I hate not being with her. I HATE it. I miss her like crazy even when she goes off to school for the day! If I have to leave her for work-related events, than I don’t stay away for more than two days. I refuse to. But, when I travel for fun, she definitely comes along with me. I think she may have more air points than me!
CHYNNA: HA! That’s hilarious about the air points! And you aren’t the only Writer Mama who doesn’t like working too far from home. ;) Do you have any final pearls of wisdom for our writers, authors and Mamas out there?
REBECCA: For writers, I’m not going to lie. It’s hard work and you don’t make a ton of money (Except if you’re Stephanie Meyers. Ha ha!) But the hardest thing I find is that writers don’t realize how HARD it is. The number one thing in writing a book is to actually FINISH the book. If you are a writer who has finished a book, you’re half way there. This is hard because most writers do need day jobs to support themselves, so you have to be so dedicated. For mamas, make sure your child is safe and happy, and grow up being good people.
CHYNNA: That’s fantastic advice, thank you. I hope it inspires our readers to keep plowing forward. Last question: Do you have any projects, appearances or other works we should watch out for?
REBECCA: The children’s book with Erica Ehm, called the Mischievous Mom At the Art Gallery comes out in March. And in the Fall, my adult Fiction, Clover, comes out. People can keep up with my life on my blog at Sweetmama.ca on Thursdays, and on twitter @rebeccaeckler.
Thank you so much to Rebecca for chatting with me and for letting me share her wise words with all of you. I hope everyone has a chance to check out Rebecca’s Website, her blogs and on Twitter. She has some wonderful advice and tips for both Mamas and writers (or both!)
Look at this--you could have your very own Twilight purse! I'm sure there are a few million teenage girls who would love to open that up as a gift; and that's what Michelle Pulis, owner of A Spoonful of Chocolate Hope, hopes, too. At her online store, she sells these super-cute handmade book handbags, bookshelves, book passport holders, and chocolate stirring spoons. And she started her company to help her family! So, we're interviewing Michelle today to get the full story on the cutest purses around and the reason for starting her business.
WOW: Welcome, Michelle, to The Muffin. We are thrilled to have you with us today. Why don't you start out by telling us a little about your business, A Spoonful of Chocolate Hope. What types of products do you make and sell?
Michelle: Everything you see in my shop is made by hand! I originally started my shop making chocolate stirring spoons for your coffee. However, that idea backfired in the sweltering Arizona heat, and I ended up changing my product completely to making and selling handbags created from used books. Initially, I would just donate the pages to a local refugee placement committee here in Arizona; however, I noticed many of my customers also wanted the pages. So, I started giving the buyer's the option of re-binding the book with the matching fabric used for the handbag to make a unique gift set! Another product I offer is passport holders/wallets disguised as books to keep the pick-pocketers away while traveling. And my newest product is making a bookshelf out of used books. It makes a great addition to any home library.
WOW: So, you create handbags made out of books? What an awesome idea! They are super cute and great for book lovers, but how sturdy are these?
Michelle: Very sturdy actually! I have tested the purses for sturdiness and quality. Each book is made from a good quality recycled book. I put finish on it to prevent any rips and tears. I have been carrying around my book handbag for about a year now and have had no problems whatsoever!
WOW: That's great to hear that the products are cute and sturdy! Why did you start your company?
Michelle: Spoonful of Chocolate Hope was created to help my father save his house. It's a long story, so I'll try to make it as short as possible. My father is a simple man who immigrated from what is formally known as Czechoslovakia in 1969, searching for a better life. Growing up, I watched him build our house with his own two hands, constantly adding things that reminded him of Czechoslovakia. A couple of years ago, my mother's brother (Frank) asked for my father to co-sign a loan for a business he was starting. My father wanted nothing to do with it; he had worked hard to get out of debt and didn't want anything in his name. My mother and uncle constantly asked about the loan, until my father finally gave in.
Uncle Frank is now basically homeless; his business has gone into bankruptcy and is now unable to pay off the loan. My parents are now forced to pay $3,000 a month with a combined income of $27,000 a year. So I created this site to give my parents 100% of the profits. Wanting to give my father back some of the life he worked so hard on achieving.
WOW: What a great reason to start your business. Not only do you offer a unique product, but it's also for a fantastic reason. So, you have to be an awesome time manager because you work a full-time job, and you come home and make all your products for customers by hand! Give us some tips. How do you do it?
Michelle: Well, I manage to do my book and fabric shopping during my lunch breaks or immediately after work. I go to the post office in the morning on my way to work. I typically spend a few days a week and my weekends, sitting in front of my TV with fabric and books spread all over the floor. I actually really like making them. It relaxes me. And sometimes in between, I manage to spend some time with my very supportive boyfriend. (Even though he refuses to help. . .) (smiles)
WOW: It's easy to see that you are very dedicated to your cause and your business. It reminds me of the saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way." I think some of us, as writers, can learn from your time management skills! That's for sure. Why do your book handbags and other products make perfect gifts for family and friends?
Michelle: Because they're so personalized! You don't even have to like to read. Just think of a hobby your loved one has, and I can find a book related to it. I have made cookbook handbags for the chefs of the house, Van Gogh book handbags for the artists, Atlas briefcases for the World travelers. . .and the list goes on!
WOW: Those are great examples! What are your future plans for us to look forward to?
Michelle: I'm actually hoping to start making table lamps out of books, and maybe even branch out to furniture and start making side tables out of books. I always have something brewing in my head!
WOW: Thanks, Michelle, for talking with us today! Okay, women writers, we know you love books, so if you want to check out all that A Spoonful of Chocolate Hope has in store, visit here!
interview conducted by Margo L. Dill, http://margodill.com/blog/
Interview with Norma Bishop - Summer 09 Flash Fiction Runner Up
When in the fourth grade, Norma began her passionate journalism career with a piece about whooping cranes for her class newspaper. She has written poetry for as long as she can remember, and years later, took up nonfiction as a regular contributor to Santa Barbara's Coastal Woman magazine. But through her careers in the U.S. Navy, as an attorney specializing in non-profit law, and most recently as a museum director, she never submitted her fiction or poetry for publication. With the encouragement of receiving WOW! final status in her first contest, she appeals to other writers who hold their personal writing close to their hearts to let go. Share what you create. You never know when someone will read your work and relate to its message.
Norma's story, Bluer, shares some a positive message about taking chances. If you haven't had the opportunity to read it yet, head over to the contest page and peruse the story. You'll be glad you did!
WOW: Norma, welcome to The Muffin. Congratulations on receiving runner up honors in WOW!'s Summer Flash Fiction contest. Your story, Bluer, talks about taking risks and having faith. What led you to use the horse racing term?
Norma:I love learning new words and turns of phrase, especially when they have a story all their own. I heard the term "bluer" somewhere, and at first it conjured up a pretty predictable cast of characters, the stereotypes you'd expect to hang around a race track. But eventually, I broadened my perspective . . . the horse racing term and environment led to the realization that we all continually weigh the risks in life. Holding back because of fear, bad experiences, is true of people as well as horses.
WOW: I agree wholeheartedly! Many people hold back because they are afraid or have had a negative experience. Likewise, many are afraid to take a chance because they are afraid of change. Why did you decide to write a story that explores the possibility of a happy ending?
Norma: I'm not so much of a Pollyanna that all my stories must have a happy ending. Claire and Jim aren't married in the end, but the "happy" ending is that Claire stepped out of the claustrophobic little cell she lived in. She got on the bus without the safety net of a return ticket. Who knows? Maybe Jim had left Vegas with a stripper by the time she got there . . . maybe, Claire got a job in a casino and fell in love with a math genius who was working as a part-time dealer while he planned to scam the casino out of millions. I won't tell.
WOW: (Smiles) So, happy endings can take a few twists and turns of their own. Norma, you've written a fair share of poetry. How does that process compare to flash fiction?
Norma: For me, poetry and flash fiction, after the initial inspiration, become something of logic puzzles. Poetry should be lean, just enough meat on the bones for the metaphor to hang together. Flash fiction is a similar challenge; every word counts.
WOW: That's so true. Word count and precision can make or break a piece. Would you wind sharing your writing routine?
Norma: I wish my writing were "routine." I have a demanding career, so I try to write on weekends. I keep a notebook by the bed. And I'm fortunate . . . at home I have a lot of quiet time. The best ting any writer can do is to "kill your television." I decided the last thing I want is my head filled with other people's stories. TV steals your imagination. The other thing I do is read great writers. Right now, I'm working my way through the Man Booker Prize winners. I just finished White Tiger, a first novel by Aravind Adiga. It's an incredible read.
WOW: Writers need to make time to read. It helps writers stay sharp, and it allows writers to see and experience other styles of writing. It's a great source for ideas. I know you're career path has been an interesting journey. You've served in the Navy, been a non-profit lawyer, and now you're a museum director. Plus, you spread your nonfiction wings writing for a magazine. Do you draw on any of these experiences for your poetry or fiction endeavors?
Norma: Ideally, my life and spirit would be so integrated that "drawing on my experiences" would be like breathing . . . inhale, exhale . . . but it's a little more work than that. I've been fortunate to have traveled, met many people, and seen them facing varied challenges, sorrows, and joys. But more important is your inner journey, traveling toward your own complete soul. Writing is putting that soul down on paper, and as you do so, more and more of it is revealed to you. You can be a writer without ever leaving your hometown. Emily Dickinson is proof that the greatest inspirational well is within us.
WOW: Jim, one of the characters in Bluer, is a retired Navy man. Is he based on someone you knew in the Navy?
Norma: Jim is a composite of men I knew in the Navy . . . smart, honorable, and forthright . . . and a risk-taker, but a wise one. I think Claire will be all right, don't you?
WOW: Claire will be just fine with Jim. He has good intentions. I enjoy museums, and one of the best I've visited is the U.S.S. Midway in San Diego. There's so much history and knowledge that most people probably don't consider. At the Maritime Museum you direct, what's the most unique piece or your favorite exhibit? What lessons should visitors take away from touring the museum?
Norma: The Wisconsin Maritime Museum has so many exhibits and incredible artifacts, including the most completely restored World War II submarine in the country and a beautiful 1917 Burger yacht, Lady Isabel, formerly named Swastika - imagine the stories she can tell! But my favorite items in the museum's collections are personal diaries, letters, and photos of people who sailed ships on the Great Lakes, our inland seas, perhaps vanished on them, went to war on submarines built here in Wisconsin, or stayed at home imagining the lives of their loved ones so far away in conflict. Those are the things that touch me most.
WOW: The museum sounds incredible. I hope I'm able to visit some day. The intimate stories of those who live in a our neighborhoods intrigue me, too. Norma, what projects are you currently working on?
Norma: I'm always working on short stories or "modular chapters of an undetermined longer work or works". (How's that for saying whatever my brain cooks up!) I am working on a specific novel, constantly writing poetry. I'm enchanted by haiku and the epiphany or "ah-ha" moment each haiku contains; I've found it a great way to get my creative juices going.
WOW: Brilliant! I enjoy haiku and the challenge of creating a visual image. What advice would you offer aspiring writers? Also, for writers who have never entered a writing contest, what hints can you offer to "take a risk" and enter?
Norma: KILL YOUR TELEVISION. READ GOOD AUTHORS (and the New York Times bestseller list may not be the best way to find them). Do whatever you can to give yourself the gift of quiet. WORK OUTDOORS. . . I think plein air writing should be as common a concept as plein air painting. ENTER CONTESTS. They give you a time goal, a structure, and the promise of a reward. I can't guarantee a happy ending, but don't live your life always buying the round-trip ticket. STEP OUT . . . and HAVE FUN!
WOW: Wonderful advice! I especially like the idea of writing outside. Norma, thank you for sharing your thoughts about your stories and writing. And again, congratulations on the runner up honors in our flash fiction contest.
Elisa Lorello, author of Ordinary World, discusses genres
Author Blog Tour & Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
Elisa Lorello grew up on Long Island, NY as the baby to six older siblings. Growing up during the '80s, Elisa covered her walls with Duran Duran posters and used lots of hairspray. She explored many passions, including drawing, tennis, and music, but in her early 20's, exercised her gossiping skills while working as a manicurist.
In 1995, Elisa left Long Island to attend the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth for both her bachelor and master's degrees. In 2000, as part of her graduate education in Professional Writing, she became a teaching associate, and met two professors of rhetoric and composition who took her under their wings. This union of teaching, rhetoric, and writing ultimately became Elisa's calling, and remains so to this day. She now lives in North Carolina where she teaches academic writing at North Carolina State.
In 2004, Elisa began her first novel, Faking It. Since then, Elisa has written a sequel, Ordinary World, and is currently co-writing a third novel with a friend and former student. That is, when she can tear herself away from her favorite form of entertainment--Facebook.
Andi Vanzant had everything she wanted--a husband, a home, a job she loved, a cat named Donny Most. Then a drunk college student plowed into her husband's car and she lost everything...except the cat.
Andi's faced with a nightmare world and the work of trying to transform it into an ordinary world. She's certain that life will never be ordinary again but begins to find her way with the help of an unlikely support group that spans the world--a widowed mother on Long Island, a supportive boss in Massachusetts, an old boyfriend in Italy, and a fortune telling housewife in Peru.
Ordinary World is the story of a woman accepting losses and embracing gifts. To some degree it is the story every woman fears and every woman must some day live.
Genre: Chick Lit/Women's Fiction ASIN: B002VECPYM Ordinary World is available in both print and Kindle versions.
Video (below): Elisa reading an excerpt from Ordinary World at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina. I had to include this video clip because Elisa is fantastic! You'll definitely want to read her book after hearing this. Enjoy!
Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a print copy of Elisa Lorello's book, Ordinary World, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end. We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment.
Interview by Jodi Webb WOW: Welcome, Elisa! Ordinary World, the sequel to Faking It, has a female protagonist and touches of romance, but also has more serious issues like the loss of a partner. From my point of view, it could fall under several categories: romance, chick lit, women's fiction, literary fiction. But what do I know! If I headed to my local bookstore under what category would I find Ordinary World?
Elisa:Great question. An agent or editor or even marketing director of a publishing company might tell you otherwise, but I categorize Ordinary World as women's fiction. Although it's a sequel to a romantic comedy, the characters and story are a bit more complex and contain more depth. The protagonist is dealing with issues of loss and relationships, not only with men but also her mother, and trying to reclaim her authentic self. And yet, by far one of the most touching responses I've received was from a widower who really related to Andi's stages of grief.
WOW: The narrowness of some categories confuses me. For instance, what differentiates women's fiction from chick lit?
Elisa:I'm going to quote directly from AgentQuery.com (a great site for writers seeking an agent!): "Chick lit often has light-hearted, amusing tales of dating woes, career foibles, and personal antics as they relate to the problems of average female 20- & 30-somethings: finding the right career, the right man, and the right attitude. The stories are usually fun, down-to-earth, quirky, and entertaining--a good beach read... Like chick lit, women's fiction often explores similar themes related to women's struggles with men, their friends and family, or their own sense of self. Unlike chick lit, women's fiction often delves into deeper, more serious conflicts and utilizes a more poetic literary writing style."
Many of my readers characterize Faking It as a beach read, and Ordinary World as something you curl up on the couch with, along with a cup of tea or hot cocoa. Others call Faking It "chick lit with oomph." Moreover, I have quite a large male readership for both books.
(An independent bookstore in Raleigh, NC shelves Faking It in Southern Fiction because they consider me a local author--makes me laugh, however, since Andi is such a New Yorker!)
[Note: Elisa is originally from New York City, as is her main character Andi. However, Elisa recently moved to North Carolina for work.]
WOW: Do you feel that categories are perceived differently by critics and readers?
Elisa: There's always been a divide between literary fiction and popular fiction. Some readers/writers of literary fiction look down on popular fiction as being too formulaic or simplified, while some popular fiction readers/writers think literary fiction is too snobby or elitist. I've read forums where readers call popular authors like John Grisham and Stephen King "hacks," and Jennifer Weiner is often hailed as the Queen of Chick Lit. And yet, these writers are quite talented and have a solid grasp of their genre. Their prosaic styles are quite different from more literary writers like Theodore Sturgeon, but I don't think it's fair to call one better than another.
I think chick lit definitely receives less respect than women's fiction because it's seen as more shallow, but I don't think it has to be the rule. In Faking It, Andi definitely spends a lot of time fixating on who's wearing what and is constantly reacting to Devin in very physical ways, but there's something else happening under the surface. She's coming to terms with who she really is and making peace with it. She makes peace with her body, her sexuality, and her way of relating to men.
WOW: From a writer's viewpoint, are very specific categories a good or bad thing?
Elisa: The categories seem to be getting narrower. The genre of romance can be broken down into historical romance, paranormal romance, mystery romance, Christian romance, and gay romance, to name a few. On one hand, it makes it easier to query an agent and have a specific category to describe your work. It's also easy for the average consumer to target his/her interests. On the other hand, I think it's getting to the point where it's so specific that an author or an agent may have difficulty determining where the work fits, and that could hinder the ability to sell it.
Faking It topped three different best-seller lists in Amazon's Kindle Store: Humor; Love, Sex & Marriage; and Contemporary Romance. However, if you'll look at what else is on the humor list, for example, you might be surprised to find it there. Ordinary World is also topping the Contemporary Romance list. WOW: Sounds like the publishing gods that fit books into slots can't agree about your novels. What would you call Ordinary World?
Elisa: I call it a "dramedy," even though Barnes & Noble doesn't have that section in their stores! The term is usually reserved for film or television (M*A*S*H* or The West Wing, for example), but I think it applies to Ordinary World. Despite the storyline being so much about loss, there's till quite a bit of humor in the novel. Even the opening chapter has comically absurd images, although the protagonist is really suffering.
WOW: What types of books do you read?
Elisa: If you were to ask me to name the primary genre of books that I read, I don't think I could give you just one. My favorite writers range from Richard Russo to Bill Bryson to David Sedaris to Marian Keyes to Jennifer Weiner to Nora Ephron to Aaron Sorkin. Bill Bryson is known as a travel writer, but his books are hilarious. Sedaris is primarily nonfiction. Aaron Sorkin is a playwright, first and foremost, and doesn't write books. Nora Ephron was a journalist before she wrote screenplays. What these writers/authors have in common is a sense of language, wit, humor, timing, story, description, and character. Their characters are smart, as are they. Every time I read (or watch) something that these authors have written, I think, I wish I'd thought of that! and I get motivated to work on my own story. Better still is when I read something from Jennifer Weiner, for example, and notice that I did, in fact, think of something similar!
WOW: As writers, should we be considering these pesky categories as we write? I've read that if, as an author, you can't point exactly to where your book should be shelved in a bookstore you need to refine your subject. Do you agree?
Elisa: Yes and no. I think the first obligation you have as a writer is to write the best story you can, and write it well. The last thing on my mind while drafting both Faking It and Ordinary World was where it was going to be shelved. Andi's story needed to be told. However, it's very important to get reader feedback before you start querying agents or independently publish, and list to agents' feedback if they give you any. That will help you refine your writing, which will ultimately help you with genre placement.
I worried that Ordinary World was too different from Faking It in terms of style and tone, but so far it hasn't been a problem.
WOW: What's coming up next for you? And, in keeping with today's theme--under what category will we find your new book?
Elisa: My next novel is called Why I Love Singlehood and it's about a coffee shop owner who blogs about the benefits of living single--all while trying to get a date. I'm co-writing it with a dear friend and we're having a blast with it. We would definitely call it a romantic comedy--more chick lit with oomph!
WOW: That sounds fun! Thank you, Elisa, for chatting with us today, and for sharing your wisdom on genres. You really helped clarify the puzzle of book categories. :)
Want to join Elisa 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!
February 1, 2010 Monday Elisa will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! One lucky commenter will win copy of Elisa's novel! http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/blog.html
February 2, 2010 Tuesday What makes you a book lover? Today novelist Elisa Lorello, author of Faking It and Ordinary World, shares her thoughts on books and reading in the "Because of a Book" feature on Write for a Reader. http://www.writeforareader.blogspot.com/
February 4, 2010 Thursday What do you collect? Share your hunting and gathering instincts with Elisa Lorello, a novelist who gave the characters in her novels Faking It and Ordinary World collections of art and...bobbleheads! http://www.misadventureswithandi.com/
February 5, 2010 Friday The blogosphere is alive with opinions about e-books. Good, bad, or ugly? Elisa Lorello, who is releasing her second novel in both print and e-book, shares her opinions about Kindle and print books with Susan Johnston today. What are your thoughts on e-books? http://www.urbanmusewriter.com/
February 9, 2010 Tuesday Could you bow to another's muse? Elisa Lorello, author of Faking It and Ordinary World, writes today about her experience collaborating on her third book with a former student. Readers also have a chance to win a copy of her latest novel--print or e-book--winner's choice! http://writerunboxed.com/
February 10, 2010 Wednesday Today novelist Elisa Lorello shares her tips on leaving the humdrum behind and making your next bookstore reading fun, fun, fun! Elisa's latest novel Ordinary World is the sequel to her debut novel Faking It. http://hellorhighwaterwriter.blogspot.com/
February 12, 2010 Friday Novelist Elisa Lorello will be writing on "How to Mix Comedy with Grief" at Writer Inspired today--something she's done in her latest book Ordinary World. Stop by for a chance to win a copy of Ordinary World. http://writerinspired.wordpress.com/
February 15, 2010 Monday Elisa Lorello will be visiting Fresh Fiction for a surprise guest post! Stop by today for a chance to win a copy of Ordinary World. http://www.freshfiction.com/
February 16, 2010 Tuesday The interesting people from Elisa Lorello's debut novel Faking It have returned in Ordinary World. Elisa talks about "The Evolution of Character" in today's post. You also have a chance to win a copy of Ordinary World. http://www.meryl.net/section/blog/
February 18, 2010 Thursday Get a peek into the world of novelist Elisa Lorello with an interview by Cathy Stucker. http://www.sellingbooks.com/
February 19, 2010 Friday Stop by for reviews of Elisa Lorello's Faking It and the sequel Ordinary World. http://jodiwebb.com/
February 22, 2010 Monday Novelist Elisa Lorello will be writing about e-books and, in celebration of blog host Michelle Fabio finally getting on the e-book bandwagon, Elisa will be giving away an e-book of Ordinary World and one of Faking It. http://bleedingespresso.com/
February 24, 2010 Wednesday Elisa Lorello calls her latest novel Ordinary World a 'dramedy'. Find out why she thinks a combination of comedy and grief can make a book stronger. Also, don't miss the last chance to win a copy of Ordinary World! Elisa's giving away a print and e-book copy and an e-book or her debut novel Faking It. http://inkthinkerblog.com/
February 26, 2010 Friday Elisa Lorello, author of Faking It and Ordinary World, guests posts about how characters go from wisps of idea to full fledged people. And this is your last chance...drumroll please...to win an e-copy of Ordinary World. This is Elisa's last stop. What fun we've had! http://romanticjourney.wordpress.com/
To view all of our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar HERE.
We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.
If you have a blog or website and would like to host one of our touring authors, or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Be sure to comment on this postto enter in a drawingfor a signed copy of Elisa Lorello's novel Ordinary World! (In the print version.) And check back in a couple of days in the comments section to see if you won!