Tuesday, April 06, 2010

 

Martha Katzeff, Fall '09 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up

Martha Katzeff is very excited to have her first submission to a WOW! contest be among the top ten finalists. She has been writing for several years and takes classes at the Gotham Writers’ Workshop. She wrote an essay for Masters Cycling called “My Clown Bike” about her hot pink bicycle and recently had a piece of flash fiction titled “The Farm” published in 365 Tomorrows. Martha swims competitively with a Masters Swim team and wrote an essay about being a slow competitor called “Life in the Slow Lane” for the USMS website. She is married with two grown children, lives in the Bronx and likes to knit, read and travel.

interviewed by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on placing as one of the Runners Up in our Fall 2009 Flash Fiction contest! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Martha: I have a good friend who is also a relatively new writer and we're both always looking for contests to test our skills and storytelling abilities. I like the challenge of competing against other writers in a contest. It levels the playing field.

WOW: Could you tell us a little about your story and what encouraged the idea behind “Get a Fresh Killed Chicken?"

Martha: I initially entered a contest open only to Bronx writers and I wrote a memoir about shopping with my grandmother and mother. When I didn't win that contest, I re-wrote the story as fiction, throwing in a little bit of a speculative fiction/ghost story twist to it.

WOW: Great idea to play around with the story—it worked out well for you. Since you've taken several writing classes, we'd love to know which ones have been your favorites and why?

Martha: My favorite writing classes have been through Gotham Writers' Workshops. I started with Science Fiction I and moved to Science Fiction II which I've taken a few times (online). The instructor for most of the classes has been Michaela Roessener—the author of several wonderful science fiction/fantasy novels. She's very encouraging and loved the idea that one of her homework assignments morphed into this prize winning story!

Science Fiction (or speculative fiction as it's called now) allows me to express my outrageous opinons through fiction in a way that mainstream fiction does not. In sci fi, there are unlimited worlds and experiences to write about.

WOW: It's always interesting to learn about other people's writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Martha: I'll probably get into trouble for this, but I do most of my writing at work. Whether for better or worse, I have a low stress job with lots of down time. (I will absolutely not divulge where I work!) Sometimes I write on Sunday while my husband is watching some sporting event. I like the distraction—it helps me think. I wish I did have favorite tools or habits that get me going. I'd write more. That's why I like taking classes—it’s good impetus to keep going.

WOW: Too bad you can’t tell us where you work! I agree that taking writing classes is a great way to force yourself into action. Finally, is there if there was one bit of advice you could pass on to other aspiring writers, what would it be?

Martha: Don't get discouraged by negative criticism. Recently I was told that a story I'm writing isn't really Science Fiction, to which Michaela replied: give 'em the old Bronx cheer!

Ignore unhelpful critiques and keep writing!

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Check back on Tuesdays for more contest winner interviews.

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Monday, September 07, 2009

 

Spring '09 First Place Contest Winner, Teresa Davis!

Teresa Davis, an accounting graduate from the University of Alaska, spent numerous years as a CPA until she turned her focus back to her first love: writing. Her work has appeared in a trade newsletter and several online magazines. She has also written teaching curricula for GoTeachIt.com. She now lives and writes in Germantown, TN. This was her first contest accomplishment, and she was honored to be among the finalists.

You can read Teresa's winning story, "The Girl," here.

Interview by Marcia Peterson

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

Teresa: Thank you! I believe entering contests is an invaluable writing tool. I especially love the WOW! Women On Writing contests because your authors tend to write the kind of stories I enjoy reading and writing. The savvy writer can experiment with new voices, story ideas, and even different genres, by entering contests. An important step is to be sure to go back and read the winning entries so you can compare and contrast you own entry to those. This is a fun way to critique your own writing because it allows you a more objective look at your story.

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

Teresa: When a story idea comes to mind, I usually sit down and write about it immediately, but this time was different. Someone I knew was killed in a car accident eighteen years ago. Another driver reported seeing my friend just moments before the wreck. I have often wondered what that moment must have been like. It took eighteen years, but the basic idea finally found its way into a plot.

WOW: You did a great job with the story. Have you written other flash fiction? What type of writing do you most prefer?

Teresa: Yes, I have written other flash fiction, but this is the first of this type to be published. For as long as I can remember, I have preferred reading short stories over novels; therefore, when I began writing, I naturally gravitated toward smaller pieces such as articles, essays, poems, and short stories. I had never heard of the term flash fiction until a couple of years ago, at which time I promptly fell in love.

WOW: And now you've won first place in a flash fiction contest! According to your bio, you were a CPA for many years before focusing on your writing. How did you orchestrate that change, and how would you compare your life then and now?

Teresa: It sounds strange, doesn’t it, to go from rigid math rules—tax laws, no less—to something as free and creative as writing? I enjoyed both in college, but I already had accounting experience and felt I was better suited for that. Although I enjoyed my accounting years, the long hours left little time for anything else. In the midst of preparing tax return after tax return deep into the night, I found writing a story or two was helpful to clear my head. It didn’t take long to figure out that writing is much more fun! After the first few pieces sold, I was hooked. I eventually dissolved my tax practice and put my license in inactive status, and I’ve never been happier.

WOW: Good for you! We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Teresa: I write late at night when the world is dark and quiet. I know a lot of writers say that, but I guess it just works for some of us. There’s something about being surrounded by darkness that entices my ideas. I hide out for hours with my laptop in one of several favorite nooks in our house. Often, I become so engrossed in a project that I won’t make it to bed until three or four in the morning. I’m not sure why, but writing during daylight hours turns my voice flat. I also play the same song over and over on my iPod while I work. Hearing the same song repeatedly helps me stay grounded in the mood of a story.

WOW: It's always interesting to learn how others writers make it work. One final question, Teresa: If there was one bit of advice you could pass on to other aspiring writers, what would it be?

Teresa: There is not a universal formula for becoming an established writer. The only real “trick” is finding the right audience for each story, and that’s just a matter of research and persistence. Regardless of the number of rejections, keep honing your writing skills, rewrite constantly, seek out new markets, and never give up.

***

We'll continue getting to know the Top 10 contest winners every week on Tuesdays. Be sure to check back for more interviews!

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Monday, April 13, 2009

 

Update On WOW! Winter '09 Flash Fiction Contest

Hi Ladies,

I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend!

As some of you know, we already sent out First Round notifications for the Winter '09 Flash Fiction contest on March 29th. If you received an email, you know that we will be announcing the final results of the contest in the May issue of WOW! Women On Writing (feature article).

We've received confirmation from our guest judge of the season, literary agent Janet Reid, and will be sending out Top 10 announcements later this week! If you receive an email, please get your bio and head-and-shoulders photo (.jpg) ready to go. :)

We will also try to send out an announcement to the Honorable Mentions as well, if time permits. It should be later in the week.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them here.

Best of luck!

Team WOW!

Please visit our contest page for our latest quarterly flash fiction contest. Deadline: May 31, 2009, or when 300 stories are submitted.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

 

Interview with Doris Wright, Runner-Up for Summer2008 Flash Fiction Contest

Born in the Canal Zone (which is where the resemblance to Sen. John McCain ends) to a Panamanian-Catholic mother and a Lithuanian American-Jewish father, Doris Wright has lived and traveled throughout the United States and the world: in the last two years she has enjoyed the beauty and diversity of China, Senegal, and Mali (including spending the better part of a day in wind-swept Timbuktu), and is just back from France and Spain.

Besides traveling, Doris and her husband Don, an African historian, enjoy gardening, exercise, and their family and friends. They love to learn and to write, respect the precision and beauty of language, and they are passionate about world equity and peace--as well as the occasional microbrewed beer.

Doris recalls beginning her first story on a manual typewriter at age six, and writing steadily through high school and Spring Hill College, where she majored in English. She was a teacher and a newspaper reporter/feature writer before marrying, and then writing took a back seat while she raised her three sons. In the last few years Doris has taken graduate courses in English and participated in the Algonkian Novel Workshop, the New York State Summer Writers Institute at Skidmore College, and Colgate University’s summer writer’s novel workshop.

In addition to writing short stories and poetry, Doris recently has finished a draft of her first novel, “Cabbagehead.”

Today, I was given the wonderful privilege of sitting down with one of our fabulous runners-up for the 2008 Summer Flash Fiction writing contest. She is the author of As if I could forget. Please read her touching story and see for yourself why we chose Doris as one of our top 10.

Interviewed by Carrie Hulce

WOW: Doris, Congratulations, and thank you for sitting down with us today to talk about your wonderful story, As if I could forget. How does it feel to have placed in the WOW Summer 2008 Flash Fiction contest?

Doris: It feels wonderful! Though I've had good feedback in the past, this was my first contest "win." It came at a good time--it is hard not to get discouraged, as most fledgling writers must know--and added a boost to my will to keep going.

WOW: We agree, it is difficult to keep going, but we're so happy that you did and hope that you continue writing--you have a talent that should not be hidden away. Have you entered in any other writing contests recently?

Doris: Yes, I have entered other contests recently. I entered the Glimmer Train competition in the "Family Matters" contest in the fall of 2008, but was not successful.

WOW: It's great that you continue to enter into contests, and we hope that you continue to do so. You have a great writing style. What is your biggest inspiration for your stories?

Doris: I would have to say that the biggest inspiration for my stories is my own life experience, followed by the books I read and enjoy, and my take on life--that it is an experience where all things are possible and not everything can be explained. Thus, most of the things I write are a combination of mundane events with a bit of the bizarre or unexpected woven in (perhaps Anne Tyler with visitations from Franz Kafka?--in feeling, though not in quality).

WOW: Bizarre and unexpected is what keeps things fresh and original. Was your story based off of something that happened in your life?

Doris: In As If I Could Forget, the character Henry is suffering from dementia, without realizing it--his wife though has the full and painful realization and the loss of his love and companionship. Both of my parents, now deceased, had dementia, and, especially in my mother's case, I felt that I had lost my mother, long before her death.

WOW: You've woven your story so eloquently and with so much care. We are sorry about the loss of your parents. In the future, I hope that they will find a cure for this illness and help us all to understand it better. What genre do you typically write?

Doris: Mostly short stories. I also write poetry and am almost finished with revisions of a novel, "Cabbagehead."

WOW: That was going to be my next question! Please tell us about your novel.

Doris: Cabbagehead, is about Bradley, a 50 year old man, who has lived his life, careful not to be noticed or engaged; he has retreated to an uninspiring, interior life, finding his only contentment in gardening...until the day a plant, looking much like a giant cabbage, speaks to him…and everything changes. His new friend, in conversations both humorous and profound, has much to teach Bradley about life, the world, ecology, friendship and love; and sends him off on a mission to connect with his family, and, incidentally, to save the planet from global disaster. It's written in the tone I described above in question 3--my hope is that readers will find it subtly amusing and touching with characters they get to know and care about.

WOW: That sounds like a wonderful story. It almost sounds along the lines of the author Douglas Adams with his trilogy Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy--one of his books entitled, So long and thanks for all the fish. But, the description of your story, sounds so much more captivating. I hope it is a success and I personally can't wait to read it. How long have you been working on your novel?

Doris: For about four years--most of the work on it has been in the last two years.

WOW: I also noticed from your bio you've traveled quite a bit. Out of all the places you've been, where would you say is your favorite place to visit?

Doris: My first impulse was to answer Africa (though I realize that it's a continent, not a country), because of the unique, stimulating feel of it--the vivid colors, the smoky, rich smells, the unique geography, all the while experiencing the reality of desperate poverty and difficult living among people who are generally generous and happy and full of life. It seems impossible to be there without experiencing an increased concern for the others of this world and a change in your attitude about acquisition, and needs versus wants. And then there's Italy…ah, Italy!

WOW: Thank you for sharing that with us. It is amazing how different each country is, and there is so much to learn from each one. Have you ever written anything about Africa?

Doris: I have written a short story in an African setting, a piece much more lyrical and descriptive than what I usually write. On our recent trip, I began another short story set in Africa about western academics traveling by bus to a conference and beset with difficulties--it's based on an actual experience.

WOW: Traveling is such a great way to gain material for writing! I bet you have a lot of interesting stories to tell. If you could choose one valuable lesson to pass on to new writers, what would it be?

Doris: To overcome my fear of writing, I had to accept that I was not going to write the great American novel--having such high expectations freezes one into non-action--nor was I the world's worst writer (terrible! vile! horrid!), another action freezer. It's okay to be okay and enjoy yourself. I would also suggest reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and putting this Latin phrase in a prominent spot near your computer: Begun is half done.

WOW: Doris, that is wonderful. We are sure it will help inspire writers all over the globe to strive for their dreams. Thank you for spending time with us and sharing your wonderful knowledge.

If you haven't done so already, please check out Doris' story As if I could forget.

To find out more about WOW's quarterly contests, please visit: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php


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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

 

Spring 2008 Flash Fiction Contest Update


Phew... What a marathon! We definitely took on more than expected by critiquing entries this season. Pages of the Chicago Manual of Style and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers are officially dog-eared and bookmarked. It's strange to say, but reading and scoring entries is much different than actually critiquing them. When critiquing, you aren't simply reading for pleasure, you're looking for mistakes. It puts you in a different mindset. When you think you find a mistake, you have to make sure you're correct by referencing one of the aforementioned books. Don't get me wrong, it's fun and all...but add impending magazine issue deadlines, Premium-Green Ebook deadlines, editorial, and day-to-day operations, and...wholly guacamole sister! We probably spent over an hour on each entry: formatting, reading, critiquing, deliberating, and emailing. I know Annette wants to beat me with a wet noodle--the whole thing was my idea. Well, we gave it a shot. And perhaps, when we get more womanpower in the future, we'll be able to pull it off without holding up the contest results!

Oh, and if you slid under the deadline, before we removed the critique purchase option for the Summer '08 Flash Fiction Contest, you'll still get a critique. We had the option up for the month of June, but had to take it down. We don't want to be late with the contest results again!

Okay, here's the good news: we've sent out all the critiques for the Spring 2008 contest. If you purchased a critique, you should have received it already. Oy! There were so many wonderful entries this season! We are proud to have such a talented bunch of contestants! If you didn't receive your critique, for some odd reason, please let us know and we'll check into it.

We have officially notified the Top 10 and Honorable Mentions for the Spring FF Contest. We sent out email notifications this morning (around 8:30 AM EST), so check your inboxes. If you did not receive an email...I'm very sorry. Those of you who know me, know how much that kills me. Like I said, there were so many wonderful entries that little things like punctuation etc. made all the difference. Our Webmaster will be working on formatting the contest winner's page, and our esteemed guest judge, literary agent Wendy Sherman, is choosing her top three as we speak. When we get the contest page up, we will send out an email announcement to those on our "Contest Newsletter" with a live link to the page. We will also post an announcement here.

Thank you to all who participated in the Spring 2008 Contest. We truly enjoyed reading your stories. Please keep writing and working on the craft. You are all winners for completing a story and entering. You have what it takes, so write on!

--------------------

Remember, this is the last season for the OPEN prompt! Enter the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest with guest judge, Elise Capron, here: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php
Deadline: August 31, 2008 (Midnight, Pacific Time)

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

 

Spring 2008 Contest Update!

Critiques:
Just a quick note to let Spring 2008 Flash Fiction Contestants know that we finally finished critiquing your entries! Hooray! Those of you who requested a critique will receive an email sometime this week with your scores and your critique pasted into the body of the email. It will come from a WOW email address.

Notifications:
We also will be notifying Honorable Mentions and Top 10 winners this week. Top 10 winners will be asked for their bios and picture so we can begin formatting the contest winner's page. After the page is formatted, we will send out an announcement via email to those who signed up for our "Contest" Newsletter. If you haven't signed up for this, please visit our home page and enter your email addy in the gray box located in the upper right hand corner. If you get our regular monthly newsletter, please note that these are not the same. You can sign up for the "Contest" newsletter by following the instructions listed above. There are also other newsletters to sign up for (Workshops, Markets, Store, Events etc.) so take advantage!

Thank you all for being so patient. We're almost there!!

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

 

Update on WOW! Spring '08 Flash Fiction Contest

As you contestants know, the Spring 2008 Flash Fiction Contest has closed. Many previous contestants know the drill, but for you newbies, here's the skinny:

1. We are working on formatting the entries to send to the guest judges. This means we remove awkward email formatting (strange spacing, odd characters) only. We also format the entry into Verdana 14 pt, to make it easier for our judges to read, and remove any contact information (names, addresses, etc.) to ensure blind judging.

2. Scoring: Your formatted entries will then go to our guest judges, who will be scoring them on the categories of Subject, Content, Technical, and overall impression.

Here's a breakdown of the categories:

Subject: Topic choice. Is it original? Appropriate for WOW! readers?

Content: Is it fiction? Is the story well developed? Is there a plot/point to the story? Is it compelling? Are the characters well drawn?

Technical: Is there a title and proper word count? We also check for spelling, punctuation and grammar, correct tense, active not passive sentences, overuse of adverbs, and use of "wrylies."

Overview: General impression about the writing style, how the story affected the reader, etc.

These categories are judged with a 1-5 score (5 being the best) by a round-table of 4-5 judges over the following weeks.

3. First Round Judging: At this point, if your story isn't disqualified and scores well, you will receive an email confirming you made it through First Round judging.

4. Top Scores: Then, the entries are narrowed down by top scores and sent to our guest judge of the season. In this case, literary agent, Wendy Sherman.

5. In the third week of June, we will notify the Top 10 Contestants that they placed in the Top 10. This means your entry will be published on WOW!, although we don't know yet who the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners are yet. We like to leave it as a surprise! At this time, if you are among the top 10, we will ask you to submit a brief bio & head shot. Note: depending on how fast our guest judge decides, we may send out an email informing honorable mentions of their win. We will try our best to make this happen, although we cannot guarantee it.

6. July Ezine Issue of WOW!: everyone is notified! All winners will be in a feature article on WOW! Women On Writing, media releases will be sent out, an announcement will go out in our monthly newsletter, and many, many kudos will go out to all who participated.

7. Critiques: those of you who purchased a critique, will be receiving your critique via email during the month of July. We have to wait until after all the winners are chosen and published on the website to ensure fairness. We wouldn't want anyone leaking their scores to others (not that you would!), but that's the reason why we have to wait until the winners are officially published. This is very exciting, since this is the first time we're offering critiques. When you receive yours, please let us know how we are doing.

8. Prizes: if you are in the top 35, you will receive a prize via snail mail, or, if you are international and in the top 35, you will receive an Amazon gift certificate via email. Prizes are typically sent out late July/early August, depending on the expedience of our sponsor and our manufacturers.

9. Interviews with Top 10 Contestants: After contest winners are announced in our July issue, we will be sending out interview questions for the top 10 entries via email. Interviews will then be posted each Tuesday over the next few months (on The Muffin, here) on a first-come, first-serve basis. This is a great chance for promotion! So if you are in the top 10, get your links, clips, and important info together and we'll promote you. Tuesdays are Contest Winner days!

So, that's about it! I hope this has shed some light on the process. We will be posting updates and other information here on The Muffin, so be sure to check back.

Also, if you missed this contest, or want to enter again, the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN. This will be our last open prompt contest until the Winter season (we're not sure if that will be an open prompt or not), so take advantage, polish off those WIPs (works in progress), tailor them to the word-count, and get moving! Remember, our guest judges love to read entries early, when they are fresh and unstressed. Visit our contest page, and enter the Summer 2008 Flash Fiction Contest with Guest Judge, Literary Agent, Elise Capron!

Cheers, and happy writing!

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Monday, April 14, 2008

 

Mom Writer's Literary Magazine Contest

We received a contest listing call from our friends at MWLM that we thought you would enjoy!

From the Editors:

Mom Writer's Literary Magazine is currently accepting submissions for our first-line writing contest, from 3/31 - 5/16/08, with a $10 entry fee. It may be creative non-fiction or fiction and should be between 700 - 1,200 words.

The first line of your entry must be, "I knew what I was supposed to be doing, but my desires distracted me..."

The work will be judged by MWLM Editors, and they will choose one grand prize winner to receive $100!

Please visit their website for more details: http://www.momwriterslitmag.com

Good luck and happy writing!

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

 

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

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

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

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

Best of luck!
Love ~ Team WOW!

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

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

 

Interview with WOW! Runner Up Julie Anderson Slattery



Julie Anderson Slattery enjoys a good challenge. This WOW! Fall Contest runner up moved from Missouri to New York City. She also changed jobs from trade magazine writer, to editor of consumer magazines and now writes fiction. “Ferry to the Show”, her beautiful, rhythmic personal essay about the Big Apple and being alone in the big city, drew us in and touched our hearts.

*****



WOW: Julie, in your winning story, you write about your first impressions of New York City. Was it therapeutic to write about “your city” in light of the 9/11 tragedy?

Julie: Always! I've written about 9/11 several times. My husband was working in the World Financial Center and we were on the phone when the second plane hit. Our call was disconnected and I didn't talk to him again until he arrived home just after lunch. We were really lucky, but so many others, including people in the town we lived in, were not. In addition to the loss of so much life and humanity, I mourn the skyline a great deal. The towers were the anchors of gold I would see on a sunny day on the ferry, and their outline had enabled us to see the city more clearly from New Jersey. It had been so reassuring to see those twin rectangles and know that even if I'd left the city I loved so much, it was close by and visible.


WOW: That was a tragic day for everyone, especially for those living so close. In reading your essay, I felt like I was there with you experiencing the city through your eyes. Do you feel like your experience as the new girl in New York City is pretty typical?

Julie: Certainly, it's typical for the girl who is a stranger to the city. Many of the friends I made had grown up near the city, or were being subsidized by parents, and I think their experience was different; they had a safety net. While these friends are savvy and fun, my bond to the friends who arrived like myself, clueless and alone, is probably stronger.


WOW: Well put. Being alone without a safety net is pretty scary, but it causes you to toughen up pretty quickly. I bet that experience fueled other areas of your writing as well. Julie, you said that you have written in the horror and young adult genres. What draws you to those two categories of fiction? What other genres do you write?

Julie: I was raised on Stephen King. I remember trying to study for an exam in college, and alternating a half hour of review, with an hour of "The Stand." There is something about horror and supernatural themes that help me escape more completely. Perhaps I find life a bit mundane? I always love believing that anything can happen; that anything might be out there. I've written hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles and still feel compelled occasionally when a topic entices me. I've also written two children's books that I'm trying to publish. The first is about a reluctant flowergirl who learns that weddings are about more than the chicken dance; the second, ironically, is a humorous book written to help young girls with divorced parents see their romantic futures with more...um, optimism. While there are many divorce books out there, I think older girls need to know that romance isn't a one-time shot. As a child of divorced parents, I feel pretty strongly that girls need consoling in this area.

WOW: Definitely. When I was growing up, I had several friends whose parents got divorced, but at that time, I don’t remember a book out there on the subject for girls to relate to. Surely, not a down-to-earth humorous book. What a great idea! You also said in your bio that winning a short story contest propelled you into fiction? What did winning that contest do for your writing career?

Julie: I entered the contest as a writing exercise. I'd always thought about writing fiction, but hadn't had the time and more importantly, the confidence. I saw the announcement for the contest, sat at my computer and tried to think of what really scares me. "The Quarry" wrote itself and I sent it in, and forgot about it. I was absolutely overcome when I won, but still so insecure that I placed the critiques I received in a drawer for a few days. When I had the nerve to read them, I was thrilled that the judges, (published writers!) wrote such encouraging comments. It gave me the confidence I needed to try a longer project.

WOW: We’re glad you did. It takes a lot of determination! In fact, you now have a young adult book that you are marketing to publishers. Can you tell me briefly what it is about?

Julie: "The Visitor" is about a Manhattan teen and an alien. Think a sexier "E.T." for today's more sophisticated kid. It's almost finished, and I anticipate a rather painful rewrite. As I've progressed, from say page 30 to page 200, I've read a lot more young adult fiction, and my character has matured a bit. I'm trying to follow the adage of plowing through before perfecting. Hope it works.


WOW: That’s the best way to do it. It’s always good to read others’ works, as long as it doesn’t cause you to doubt yourself and stop progressing on your own work. If you get that first draft down, you can keep your original train-of-thought and rework it later. So, was transitioning from non-fiction writing to fiction writing difficult? What resources did you find that helped with the transition?

Julie: Completely difficult! I have a hard time with voice. I had thought that pulling everything out of my head, and not having to interview experts, would be cake. What I didn't realize is that my brain can go in about a thousand directions at once. I have to follow the strongest ideas and not question the path. I also learned that good writing takes research, no matter what genre. Probably the best resource I've found is reading other writers' suggestions and always, always finding the time to read the kinds of books I want to write. I also joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and their workshops are wonderful. I read Writer's Digest, too, and find the interviews with writers very encouraging.


WOW: Those are great resources, and author interviews are definitely inspiring! But what ultimately brought you out of the journalism/trade journal world and into the world of fiction?

Julie: Well, I almost got back into newspaper writing when my son was small. I did a few pieces for our local paper and they liked them a lot, started assigning tons of stories. I was swinging with my son in our backyard, he was probably five, when I realized I'd been ignoring him as I thought about an article I was writing. All day as I looked at him, I couldn't focus because I was excited about the piece. I finished it and decided only to write non-deadline work while he was in my care. Maybe a stronger person can separate her life better, but I tend to get married to projects and block everything else out. Of course, with fiction writing I need some work on my self-discipline, just about ALWAYS. With no strong deadline, I tend to dawdle to an amazing degree.

Another reason fiction was a natural choice is that I had lots of surgery after my son was born, and I knew I could only handle the parenting aspect of my life while I recovered. (Parenting, not domestic, if you could see how I keep and have always kept my house! Plus I don't cook. Not well, anyway.) Fiction is something I can do when I want, without pressure.


WOW: (laughs) Well, that’s one tip I’ve heard often from NaNoers—let the house go! So, do you think that your experience as a journalist has helped you with your fiction? Will you ever go back to writing non-fiction?

Julie: Absolutely journalism was helpful. I learned how to research, write dialogue and introduce myself to anyone at anytime. If the cause is important enough to me, I could see writing a feature here and there. I would like to get back into travel writing a bit, because I love to travel anywhere anytime. Again, though, I have trouble separating my attention, and on a writing "vacation" I tend to get a bit obsessive about seeing everything. My husband and son are pretty laid-back, so they're not keen on my agendas. I may travelwrite on my own, sometime. I also write columns in my head just about everyday, on parenting, my dog, marriage (in that order!), small town life, politics...maybe I'll get industrious one day and actually type them up. For now, they entertain ME.


WOW: That’s the mindset of a writer, always crafting possible stories throughout the course of a day. Hopefully, we also write about them! What is a typical writing day for you? How do you juggle writing and family?

Julie: I used to fill my days with a few hours of writing, walking my dog and trying to keep up with the house and learning to cook a bit (it didn't take). I was also a room mother for five years (do you need cupcakes for this party? okay, I can bake) and I initiated and led a newspaper club at my son's elementary school for three years.

As my young adult book grew, and my son grew older, I decided to become a substitute teacher and learn the slang of today. Even though the story is in New York, my character is a bit unsophisticated, so I'm hoping that suburban slang will work for him. I didn't know that working with middle and high school students would be so much fun, so engaging. I find that I write more and with a more authentic quality after I've spent a few days listening to teens slam and adore each other. It does take a lot out of you, however, so my days are varied. I seem to be always sneaking in an hour or two here and there on my laptop, when I know it should be my priority. I haven't grown up enough as a writer to claim my time. I also help my son (7th grade) with homework and transport him here and there a lot, and I am always, always, always sneaking off with two or three good books (I rotate according to my mood, a mystery, an award winner, a teen novel) and losing hours in them. Somehow, I'm back to where I was in college, one more chapter and I'll open the laptop, or do the laundry, or maybe try cooking dinner and if it doesn't work this time....!

I'm really lucky that my writing isn't essential to my income, but that's also a negative, because my writing isn't essential to my income....if it was, I think I'd be just super successful by now! Ha.

WOW: I think many of us can relate! But it’s good to set small goals and accomplishments as well. What are your short and long-term goals for your writing career?

Julie: I have to finish and publish this science fiction novel. It has haunted me for so long and must be birthed. Just writing it isn't enough. I really want to publish it: probably it's vanity, but also I want to share it with kids who think like I do, and I want to show my family that I haven't been typing nonsense all day. I also want to add to my short horror story and perhaps write it as a screenplay. This was a suggestion by one of the judges in that contest and I think it would make a fun horror movie. Of course, I'd need to take a quick course in script writing and that will have to happen after "The Visitor" is finished.

And when both of those projects are finished? I have an absolutely thrilling time-travel story in my head, that's just dying to get out.

*****



If you haven't done so already, please read Julie's story, Ferry to the Show.

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

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

*****



by Susan L. Eberling

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

 

Interview with WOW! Runner Up Sheryl Winters

If you believe that everything happens for a reason (whether we ever understand what that reason is or not), you’ll love Sheryl Winters’ short story about what happens when a thunderstorm reveals more about the main characters than they ever expected.

Bio:
Editor-in-chief of her high school's weekly newspaper, Sheryl dreamed of a career as a journalist. Fate had other plans. Her life's journey instead took her down paths as an employment counselor, legal assistant in her husband's law office, and innkeeper of their bed and breakfast.

Now retired and living in Florida, she writes poetry, song lyrics, children's stories, and enters fiction and non-fiction writing contests. Several of her poems have been published. She is currently seeking a recording contract for several of her song lyrics. Sheryl loves to travel, read, swim, and has recently become addicted to knitting. If you'd like to on-line chat with her, she can be contacted at sherylwinters@comcast.net.

We welcome Sheryl and offer a big congratulations on her runner-up story in WOW!’s 2007 Fall Flash Fiction contest. If you haven’t already read Sheryl’s intriguing story with an unexpected twist, please do so: A Flicker in Time. And don’t forget to come back and read our interview with this talented woman, who not only writes stories and songs, but extends her creativity into the crafty endeavor of knitting as well.

* * * * *

WOW: A theme of your story “A Flicker in Time” is that things happen for a reason. Do you feel there’s a reason Fate deferred your plans of being a journalist?

Sheryl: Yes. I never did become a journalist. Instead, I found my career niche as an employment counselor and later as a legal assistant. Also, I had problems with balancing my sleep disorder (narcolepsy) and college to the point that I never finished getting a degree.

WOW: I imagine that narcolepsy would be a serious impediment to your education, but you seem to have handled it well. You were able to find your niche in other areas and as a result, experience an event that landed you here. Because you express such honesty in your feelings toward the ex-convict in the story, do you also try to create fictional characters with such complex emotions?

Sheryl: Yes. I am an extremely sensitive and emotionally charged individual and it does translate to my fictional characters.

WOW: That’s wonderful and very important for writers to possess. Did you learn any lessons from the encounter described in your story?

Sheryl: Yes. We cannot let our own personal prejudices keep us from assisting others. Being judgmental and opinionated only creates roadblocks in our life's journey.

WOW: That’s a powerful lesson to learn. Because of this, do you wish your story could have had a different ending?

Sheryl: Yes. I would have loved to have found him a job not only to earn a fee, but to support his efforts to return to society and a successful career.

WOW: Your writing covers a broad range of genres. What kind of song lyrics do you write?

Sheryl: Country western is the type of lyrics I write. I have 3 of them currently on the Empire Music Company website. Here is one of them:

Forgivin’ Yourself

© 2007 Sheryl Winters

Verse I:
You’re doin’ the best you can and that’s no crime.
So what if you didn’t pay those darn taxes on time.
No one’s walked in your shoes or carried your load.
Someday you’ll reap all the good that you’ve sowed.

Chorus:
Forgivin’ and forgetting, once you get it down pat,
You’ll no longer hate the in-laws, or the neighbor’s cat.
You’ll wake up one morning realizing something else,
Hardest thing to do is forgivin’ yourself.

Verse II:
Let go of feelings of never being good enough,
Got wrenching memories of divorce court stuff.
Of cashin’ in bottles to get money for the bus.
Bill collectors, overdrafts. God, times were tough.

Repeat Chorus.

Bridge:
Don’t wait till golden years to watch pretty, pink sunsets.
Take trips to Rome to see churches with two hundred steps.
Cause you ain’t gonna enjoy all the fruits of your hard labor,
Feeling guilty ‘bout the tool you didn’t return to the neighbor.

Repeat Chorus.

Verse III:
Quit stewin’ ‘bout the money ya could’ve but didn’t make,
And fretting ‘bout mistakes ya made and risks you didn’t take.
Yesterdays are gone. Tomorrows are comin’ near.
What matters is today, and hey, you’re still here.

Repeat Chorus.

Demo available. Direct all inquiries to:

© 2007 Sheryl Winters
c/o Empire Music Co.
PO Box 2145
Newburgh, NY 12550
Email: jstone3216@yahoo.com

WOW: Great lyrics, Sheryl. They’re very traditionally country. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Sheryl: My earliest recollection of wanting to write was daydreaming stories as I soaked in the bathtub as a kid. Later, a brilliant high school English teacher further inspired me with his requirement for a theme a week. This, along with my experiences as editor of my high school weekly newspaper further reinforced my writing ambitions. However, it wasn't until I was seriously injured in a pedestrian/motor vehicle accident that I began writing in earnest. My husband said that the brain injury I sustained must have started the creative juices flowing. As a result, I wrote a poem on "courage" which was later purchased by The Courage Center, a rehabilitation center in Minnesota, as part of a contest.

WOW: That’s an interesting way to come back to being serious about writing. You mentioned in your author bio that you’ve recently become addicted to knitting! Do story ideas form while you’re engaged in your craft?

Sheryl: I am a beginner knitter and still need to concentrate on the stitches. I find the craft extremely relaxing and look forward to the time when story ideas will come from those tranquil moments.

WOW: Since you’re such a creative person--writer, songwriter, knitter--do you believe creative people have a natural desire to explore as many creative avenues as they possibly can?

Sheryl: Yes, I do believe creative people seek out multiple avenues of creative expression. Owning and operating a bed and breakfast gave me many opportunities for this as I orchestrated events including Victorian teas, quilting weekends, murder mystery dinners, chess tournaments, class reunion slumber parties, to mention a few. We "creativity creatures" are constantly searching for new ways to convey our ideas. It is our passion.

WOW: Can you explain how you set aside time to write?

Sheryl: I write when the moment moves me...no matter what time of day. Some of my best writing has been done in the middle of the night when it is quiet and there are no distractions. (Having a sleep disorder sometimes is not all bad). It also helps being retired and having a fluid schedule. I always carry a pen and paper in my purse in case a light bulb goes off in my head.

WOW: If you’d been able to become a journalist when you were younger, do you think your life would have been as rich as it’s turned out to be? Or do you believe it may have been richer?

Sheryl: I never regretted not becoming a journalist because my life has been filled with excitement and remarkable experiences. A friend once told me, "compared to yours, my life sucks." I took that as a compliment. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the events of my life but then I stop and listen to the words of my own poem:

Relax, enjoy the day.
Without the worry of work or play.
Yesterday is gone.
Tomorrow is near.
But TODAY - TODAY is why we're here.

* * * * *


If you haven't done so already, please read Sheryl's story, A Flicker in Time.

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

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

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

 

Meet Deborah Sharp--Summer Contest Runner Up!

WOW: Congratulations to you, Deborah! How did you feel when you learned you were a runner up?

Deborah: I was thrilled my story was chosen. There were some terrific entries, so I felt like I was in good company.

WOW: We always have amazing writers enter our contests. Please describe the inspiration behind "The Worst Vacation Ever."

Deborah: I wanted to turn the prompt around a bit, because sometimes a truly awful vacation makes the best memories. Also, as a Florida native, I've always wondered what people do when they come on vacation to the Sunshine State and it rains non-stop. In my story, they sat on a soggy carpet at the putt-putt golf and laughed about the worst vacation ever.

WOW: I agree with you there. We always talk and write about our worst vacations for years afterward. Speaking of writing, you mentioned in your bio that you used to write for USA Today. How would you describe the transition from journalism into fiction writing?

Deborah: I joke that I'm a "recovering" journalist. I've found that my background as a reporter really helps in writing dialogue and meeting deadlines. Plotting was a bit trickier for me, since journalists get fired if they make things up. I've also had to learn how NOT to reveal my entire story in my first paragraph.

WOW: That makes for a challenge. You also mention that you're hard at work on your first mystery novel, MAMA AND THE MURDERER, which will be published in Fall 2008 by Midnight Ink. Can you tell us about the book and the path to the publisher?

Deborah: Actually, I'm now hard at work writing my second one, MAMA RIDES SHOTGUN. I obtained a two-book deal with Midnight Ink after I met the company's acquisitions editor at the mystery conference, Sleuthfest. (See? It can happen. Keep signing up for those conference pitch sessions!)

Midnight Ink will publish my first novel, MAMA AND THE MURDERER, next fall. They're currently reviewing my revisions on that one. The second one comes out in Spring of '09.

My books are cozy mysteries with a dash of comedy and romance. They're set in a down-home, southern-drawl slice of Florida that most people don't even know exists. Tiny Himmarshee, Florida, is mythical, but the region of the state is absolutely authentic. It's all cattle ranches and citrus groves; sweet tea and church suppers.

In MAMA AND THE MURDERER, Mace Bauer is just settling in to look for ex-boyfriends on TV's "Cops,'' when her mama calls, frantic. Mama's in trouble, which isn't unusual. Her antics drive Mace and her two sisters to distraction. But this time the trouble's for real: She's found a body in the trunk of her turquoise convertible, and the police think she's the killer. Unless Mace finds the real murderer, her mama goes to prison--just like the lyrics to a country-western song.

And, even though Mace is the main character in my books, Mama demands attention. She loves handing out advice, especially unwanted advice to Mace on how to find a man. So, I gave Mama her own advice column.

Check it out (and send Mama a letter, if you're brave) at: http://ask-mama.blogspot.com/
I blog about writing and life at: http://mysterygal-mysterygal.blogspot.com/

WOW: Thanks for sharing. Your works sound intriguing. So, let’s switch gears. Which craft books on writing do you find the most helpful?

Deborah: Ansen Dibell's book, Plot (Elements of Fiction Writing), helped me understand the basics, like how to get from here to there in plotting a story, and the tricky business of point of view. I also love John Dufresne's fiction-writing guide, The Lie That Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction. Other than those, my reference shelf has some volumes that scare my husband, such as Book of Poisons and Murder and Mayhem.

WOW: Wonderful. Do you have any other goals for your writing career?

Deborah: After a long stint as a reporter, writing other people's stories, I'm just happy to be writing my own.

WOW: I bet you are, and it appears that you’re doing a fabulous job of it, too. Tell us a little about the books and authors that continue to encourage you?

Deborah: I've found mystery writers and other authors to be amazingly generous in giving advice and counsel to those just starting out. All it takes is the nerve to ask.

As for those who I read, I'm a big fan of the late Anne George's mysteries. Her books were warm and funny and, like me, she wrote a Southern-flavored series about sisters. I also like Elaine Viets, Nancy Martin, and Sarah Strohmeyer, all mystery authors with a comic edge. Laura Lippman and Margaret Maron are good when I'm feeling a bit more serious. But usually I like to laugh when I read fiction. Covering news, I wrote stories for too many years that made me sad.

WOW: I can understand that comment. I don’t watch news on a regular basis, simply for that reason. What words would you like to leave with our audience?

Deborah:
I like this quote from Paul Theroux: "You can't want to be a writer. You have to be one."

WOW: How true! Good quote. Thanks so much for sharing a little of your writing self here with us today, Deborah. Good luck to you in all your writing!

Readers, check out Deborah’s winning entry here.
--
Deborah Sharp
"The Mama Mysteries''
In 2008 from Midnight Ink

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

 

Interview with Runner Up--Beth Blake!

WOW: Beth, Congratulations for winning a spot in our summer flash fiction contest! How did you feel when you read about it?

Beth: I was so excited! It’s always nice to know that people enjoy your work. “Magic” was fun to write, and I’m so glad it was enjoyed by others as well.

WOW: It’s always great to hear that fun was involved in the writing. So, what inspired “Magic”?

Beth: I wanted to explore the idea that you don’t have to go anywhere, or spend a lot of money to have a great time together as a family. My parents were masters at this. We never had a lot of money growing up, but still we did so many “magical” things that have left me with so many memories. In fact, the tents out of sheets and encyclopedias and “popcorn snow” are two of the things we did frequently.

WOW: What a wonderful family environment! The way people spend their time together matters most. In your bio you mentioned that you’ve just graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in family studies and creative writing. That’s quite an achievement. Do you feel that the degree helps you when you write for contests and publications?

Beth: Definitely. I received some wonderful instruction in classes about creative writing that have made me the writer that I am. I feel blessed to have the family science background in my writing as well. Family is the core unit of society and if a story can somehow strengthen a family, then that to me is worth more than any monetary compensation.

WOW: That’s true, and kudos to you for acknowledging it so openly. Your viewpoint must help you with your writing. You also said you do freelance writing. How is that going?

Beth: Great! I am gaining wonderful experience and having so much fun! I have a few stories out in the market right now and more in the works. As for the type of writing I prefer, I like to write stories about relationships and how human beings connect with each other--whatever the specific genre might be.

WOW: You sound like you have fun with everything you do. That shows you have a truly upbeat attitude. Have you found inspiration from other books or authors you could recommend?


Beth: I love Jan Karon’s Mitford series. I discovered these books this summer and read the entire series in about two months. She inspired me to realize that in a world where so much of the media is about sex and violence, there can still be a simple, honest, story about life and family that ends up being a bestseller.

WOW: Good. That’s definitely inspiring! Do you have any other specific goals for your writing career?


Beth: My goal in life is to help strengthen the family, and I would love to do that through my writing. I’ve got a few ideas for a novel circulating in my head and am working on writing those down. As a writer, I feel one of my strengths is in detail, so I’m working on longer projects.

WOW: That’s fabulous. Let’s switch back to your bio. We learned that you love pouring over both classics and cookbooks. That’s an interesting combination. Do you think you’ll write a cookbook?

Beth:
I would love to write a cookbook! I am a recipe nut. I will be 85 years old before I try all the recipes I want to try!

WOW: (Laughs) Yes, the world is overrun with recipes! On a different note, which classics do you find the most inspiring?

Beth: I would have to say any of Louisa May Alcott’s works. They have been good friends ever since I was a little girl. When I read them, I feel happy and behave differently. That to me is the mark of a good book--when I’m a better person because it was written.

WOW: Great! Could you end on some inspiring words to our audience?

Beth: All authors are actors. One of the greatest things I ever did for my writing was take an acting class. I learned how to get inside my characters’ minds, and write as if I were really that person. Make your characters live, just as if you were Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts.

WOW: That’s new and sound advice. Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with us. We appreciate it! Good luck with your writing!

Readers, if you haven’t read Beth’s summer entry, go here.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

 

Meet Amanda Frederickson--Summer Contest Runner Up


WOW: Congratulations for placing in our summer flash fiction contest! Could you describe how you feel?

Amanda: When I got the email saying “You’re in the top ten,” I was ecstatic! I was bouncing off the walls. I even printed the email and taped it to the front door.

WOW: We love to hear details like yours! Please tell us, what encouraged you to write “Remembering Georgia”?

Amanda: When I read the prompt, I started thinking about my past summer vacations, and we really had gone down to Georgia one summer to help rebuild houses after a tornado had torn through (it may have been more than one, but I don’t remember a lot of the details). We really did meet the man and his son, and the son played with my brother and I since we were the only kids.

WOW: That’s a good use of the past to create the fiction. In your bio you mentioned that you recently graduated from college with a double major in Creative Writing and Communications. Congratulations on your achievement! Do you think these degrees play a huge role in your desire to write? Do they make it “easier”?

Amanda:
“Easier”? Not by a long shot! I don’t think the degrees themselves have really made much of an impact on my life (yet, at least). Going to college, on the other hand, was something that I’m only really just now realizing I had desperately needed. Not for the classes (the sum of what I truly learned directly from a class is this: don’t staple a manuscript), but for the experience. I ended up with the second major in Communications because there were so few Creative Writing classes. But the friends I made and the experiences I gained were priceless.

WOW: That’s great. You also said that this is your second time to get published. Would you like to share the first?

Amanda: The first was winning our college press’s chapbook contest, which was open to juniors and seniors. That win completely blew me away, because my school is rather infamous for poetry, and my skills for poetry can be summed up in what I think is the best poem I’ve ever written:

Writing poetry
Is as simple and painless
As pulling teeth.

My chapbook entry was not only prose, but science fiction. The acceptance letter even said “your poetry submission has been chosen…” So, at first, I was half convinced it had to have been sent to me by mistake.

WOW: That’s funny. But it was obviously not a mistake. So, have you found encouragement from other books or authors you could recommend?

Amanda: I highly recommend Holly Lisle’s book Mugging the Muse. It’s a lot of helpful, down-to-earth advice on not just writing, but on a writer’s life as well, like dealing with agents and critique groups. Another really good one is No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty, who started NaNoWriMo (which is coming up in November, and which I really strongly recommend anyone who writes to take part in. It’s the craziest writing binge you’ll ever be on, and it’s a blast to boot). It’s an awesome book for just pushing through and writing.

WOW: Wonderful suggestions. Thanks. Do you have any additional goals for your writing career?

Amanda: The ultimate goal is to be a novelist. Technically, everything else is candy, though I’d love to see my name on a bestsellers list. One day. Over the rainbow.

WOW: Rainbows happen! We also learned in your bio that you you’re working on a website for your jewelry. Are you an artist first, or a writer first, or both?

Amanda: I am a writer to my bones. I finished my first book manuscript in 5th grade, before I even considered “being a writer.” My jewelry feels like a hobby (though I’ll probably never make as much writing; it’s the sad fact of that profession).

WOW: Yes, but it’s a satisfying career. In terms of the craft, which books do you find the most helpful?

Amanda: In addition to the two I already mentioned, another good one is The Plot Thickens, by Noah Lukeman (and I’ve heard his other book, The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, is really good too, though I haven’t read it). Also, Orson Scott Card’s book on writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and David Gerrold’s book, whose title slips my mind and seems to have slipped from my bookshelf. (A lot of the basic principles translate to other kinds of writing, even if Sci-Fi and Fantasy aren’t your genres).

WOW: Thanks again for more suggestions. As we near the end, would you like to add any advice to our audience of writers?

Amanda:
Write! Nothing will happen if you don’t put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

WOW: Well said, Amanda. Thanks for sharing a little about your writing self here on WOW! We wish you well with your endeavors.

If you haven’t yet read Amanda’s winning entry, go here.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

 

Jill Buckwald, Runner up



WOW! chatted with runner up Jill Buckwald about her contest entry, Honker Brooks.
Jill, congrats on being runner up. Honker Brooks was such a cute story. What inspired it? Just imagination and the prompt or something from real life?

It really was just the prompt and some creative thinking. I actually started to write a second story, but chose this one because of the humor.

WOW: Humor is always great in a story, I think. How did you react when you got the news you were the winner?

I was ecstatic! This was the first contest I had ever entered, and the first piece that anyone besides my husband, children and instructor from Long Ridge, had ever seen. I must admit, I think I checked the website a hundred times after I got the news that I was in the top ten.

WOW: How cool to be your first contest win. (I bet there will be many more.) What about your family...were they excited for you?

Absolutely! This is my first published piece! My husband has been singing my praises all week long.

WOW: Your husband sounds like a great guy. It's so nice when they support you and your writing. What kinds of things inspire you to write?

Most of the pieces I have written are for children. My own children, and the ones I look after during the day inspire my writing. Watching them interact and play, I come up with so many new ideas. I also look to my own childhood and pull out my most fond memories.

WOW: If there was one bit of advice you could pass on to other aspiring writers, what would it be?

Keep going. I am new to this whole writing business, but the one thing I know for sure is that I am passionate about it. You have to keep trying if you want to succeed.

WOW: That's such great advice. What projects are you working on now and is there anything we should be looking for soon?

I am still working on my course through Long Ridge, and have just decided I have enough market research to send out one or two of my stories. I hope to have some publishing news in the future!

WOW: Good luck with those submissions. I'm sure you'll be sharing good news soon. Be sure to let us know so we can share your good news with everyone.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

 

Amy Smith Linton - Runner Up


WOW! chatted with a very excited Amy Smith Linton about being a runner up in our Flash Fiction Contest. Here's what she had to say.

Congratulations Amy. What inspired your story for the contest?

Amy: The prompt was excellent! I love flash fiction, but when I think about romance, I don't imagine I can do justice to true love in so few words, without compressing it into one unconvincing stereotype or another. Instead, it seemed as though there were two ways to go with the story prompt: with a fable or with humor to invert the stereotypes. (Like what Marci Mangham did really well in The Wedding Zinger "It was, honey. It was!"). Then I thought about what sort of person could be coming home (from where? why?), and how s/he might be surprised by the groom, and poof! There was my narrator, telling me about the Peace Corps.

WOW: What was your reaction to the news you had placed as runner up?

Amy: I did a little happy dance around my computer. Kind of unfortunate that I was checking e-mail in public at the time, but heck, people gave me plenty of personal space afterwards.

WOW: How funny...and exciting. What about your family, are they supportive of your writing?

Amy: My family has been great about supporting my writing. They don't always get why so much of my time and attention goes into a glowing screen and made-up characters, but they cheer me on. I can say, "Hey, great day, 6 pages!" but when I say, "Hey, great day, WOW is going to publish a story!"? Measurable results!

WOW: Where do you get your ideas? What influences your writing?

Amy: I don't know what DOESN'T influence my writing, either positively or negatively. I have a great writing group (Hey gang!) and I read a great deal, and I often find myself thinking, "I wish I wrote that paragraph!" or "Note to self: never do THAT!"

WOW: What one bit of advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Amy: Go ahead and do stuff; write about it afterwards.

WOW: That's great advice. (Amy told me she was going to Greece for a sailboat race. Can't wait to see a story about that!) What other projects are you working on?

Amy: I am hoping to find an enthusiastic, talented, and wonderful agent for my novel! It's a story about two sisters, and the secrets they keep from one another until something dreadful happens. It's kind of a love story without a romantic lead, a mystery without a crime, and it has not one but THREE enormous English mastiffs. Naturally, I have several short stories out, I'm playing with two longer stories that might turn out to be novels, and in the next few months, my website might be up and running (amysmithlinton.com).

WOW: Congratulations again Amy. And...how'd that sailboat race go?:-)

Remember the deadline for our Summer Flash Fiction Contest is Aug. 31st. You still have time to enter. Check out the details on our website.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

 

Spring Contest Update: On Prizes!

Ladies,

We appreciate your patience through the rough waters this past month. Our issue coming out later than expected, and our switch to the new server, oy! Thankfully, now we're smooth sailing and moving much faster. ;-)

Our normal prize schedule allows winners to receive prizes within the month notified. Since our issue went up late last month (July 16), we are one week behind in sending out the prizes. But, don't fret! They are scheduled to be shipped out Tuesday July 31.

I know you all are anxious to receive your goodie bags, and you can be assured that you'll receive them in a weeks time -- as fast as UPS can deliver.

Thanks again for your patience, and be sure to give us a shout when you receive them.

Warmest regards,

Angela & Team WOW!

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

 

Spring 2007 Contest--1st Place Winner!



Lauri Griffin has three children, one husband, one dog, and a variable number of guppies. She works with gifted children and manages a literacy program for struggling readers. She also writes regularly on the subject of family fun at http://www.families.com/lauri/. Visit her blog, Lauri’s Reflections for her thoughts on writing, creativity, motherhood, and fun websites that catch her attention. She is working on several writing projects.

WOW: Lauri, major Kudos to you for your 1st Place Win! How does it feel to take the top spot?

Lauri: Winning is fun! I like it! I'm still a little stunned. I had to look at the site a few times before I really believed it said I won.

WOW: I’d bet you’re not the first winner to double check the site. Now that reality has set in, could you tell us what inspired the idea behind “It Would Mean a Lot”? Was there anything from real life inside your story?

Lauri: I mulled the prompt over for a couple of days. I wanted a good surprise of an ending. We've had some good friends divorce so the emotion is true, but none of the circumstances in the story are from real life.

WOW: But your writing makes it real. You obviously have experience. In fact, in your bio you mention that you’re working on several writing projects. Would you care to share your favorite one (or more than one) with us and our readers?

Lauri: I've got two short stories that I'm currently submitting with ideas and starts for lots more. I'm revising two novels. One I've worked on for years. My writing friends are starting to yell at me to send it out. Deadlines are good for me. Otherwise I keep tinkering with things and getting ideas for making them better.

WOW: Yes, tinkering is wonderful for a while, and then every writer needs to determine that critical “breakaway” moment to leave their work alone. You’ve brought us to a good point for encouragement. By the way, have you found any books or authors who you deem more helpful or encouraging than others for your writing?

Lauri: Early on I couldn't have kept writing without Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. She very honestly pegs so many emotions and weird mental stuff that go into writing. I remember laughing wildly the first time I read the book. My own copy is highlighted, underlined, and lent out a lot. The book I don't lend out is A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves. The book has great daily prompts for writing, but also lots of encouragement and ideas for bringing all the senses into writing. The Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass is also a favorite. He takes writers through all kinds of exercises designed to make characters multi-layered, to connect themes, and to build tension. He's very big on having tension on every page. I know my writing has grown a lot due to following the exercises in the book.

WOW: Isn’t it great to have mentors, even when they exist in books? They help us directly or indirectly with our focus and our goals. Do you have specific long-term goals?

Lauri: I have so many goals. But I also have children who tend to get in the way of getting things done. Most of the time that's okay. I consider myself a mother first. As it is they are all growing up way too fast.

WOW: They do that, don’t they? Way too fast. Time spirals out of control the older they get, and this is one great reason for writing our thoughts down, to keep track. You mention your Blog, LauriReflections, for your thoughts, creativity, motherhood and fun. Has your Blog motivated any of your writing projects or ideas?

Lauri: Blogging has helped boost my confidence level. Getting comments from people all over the world is so fun. I love knowing that my thoughts or even just cool websites I've found have helped someone, or made someone think, or prompted them to get out that journal or notebook, or just smile. It's also led to some paid non-fiction writing on parenting and education.

WOW: Congratulations for getting paid from Blogging. Payment also helps boost confidence and I bet you, in turn, boost a lot of kids’ egos. You mention in your bio that you manage a literacy program for struggling readers. How did you get involved with such a worthy cause?

Lauri: Even though my twins are quite bright and we had done everything "right" they struggled with reading. So I started to read about literacy and theories on how the brain learns and works. I was also looking for a part time job with family friendly hours. I happened to meet a woman at a class on brain theory who was leaving this position. I love helping kids learn to read. And our program’s goal is to actually make the kids love reading, not just be good readers.

WOW: A love of reading is a key to learning. I’ve been involved with classroom reading skills, and it’s so important for growth. On a side note, is your literacy program inspiring for your writing? I refer, actually, to the children in the program.

Lauri: I would like to say that it does, but if anything it hurts my writing. Not only does it take time, but also a lot of mental energy. I'm always trying to find the answer for each child. So I read up on dyslexia and different learning disabilities and theories of things. I think that teaching and working with the literacy program use up the same mental energy as writing. So instead of letting my mind daydream about a character, I'm busy wondering if a certain program or another one will work better, or I find myself thinking about books they would like.

WOW: That’s understandable. I think many parents and teachers can completely understand your position. But your devotion to the children is commendable. Speaking of devotion, do you have any final words for everyone in our devoted audience?

Lauri: Give the WOW contest a try. When I thought of a story idea for the prompt I thought it must not be original or it wouldn't have just popped into my head. And I thought for sure that anyone reading it would see the ending coming from a mile away. But people told me the ending surprised them. I'm very glad I gave it a try. It's hard to judge your own writing. I'm incredibly fortunate to have a marvelous online critique group and several local writing buddies. They inspire me with their writing and encourage me with my own. Finding people who support you and believe in you is crucial.

WOW: That’s a great perspective to leave with everyone. Thanks so much for sharing your time and yourself. We wish you the best of luck in your future writing dreams!

If you haven’t read Lauri’s winning entry yet, check it out here: Spring 2007 Contest Winners.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

 

WOW! Flash Fiction Contest Testimonials

Our editors, Angela and Beryl, add a personal touch to each of the WOW! Quarterly Flash Fiction Contest prizes. Read on for randomly selected winners’ notes from the Winter 2007 Contest.

Donna Wilkins earned 2nd Place for writing Nearly Rich and Famous. When she received her package she wrote: “I have scanned the check you sent and enlarged it to fit in an 8x10 frame. I'm hanging it on the wall in the room where I write. Whenever I get discouraged, I will look at that check and remember that I can succeed. Thanks again for the prizes, the encouragement, and for simply being really nice people!”

Jennifer Daniels, a Runner Up for June Bugs n’Ice Cream, wrote: “The candles, the wrapped little treats, the Wow hat, the manicure tool kit, the Upton Sinclair book The Jungle! I was especially touched by that personalized gesture as I had mentioned I really liked that book in my interview . . . I really did just want to cry as I touched my hand to my chest (I'm a writer as you know, so bear with my swooning over here). I opened it up and looked for your autographs (wink, wink) but alas, no. I know you put a lot of work into making these gifts very special and I could tell right away. You guys are somethin' else. I'll cherish these gifts always and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Linda R. Cook, Honorable Mention for Mama Rose and her Flower Children, said, “The UPS man just brought the package from ya'll at WOW! I am so thrilled... this is better than Christmas. The tote, hat, manicure set, book (Alice Munro is a favorite author of mine) treats, candles, and more... all awesome. I love your site and receiving these gifts for my honorable mention is over the top. Once again, my thanks for the prize package, and the fine work and services you provide. WOW rocks!”

Charity Tahmaseb’s TP-ing Casa de Clooney earned an Honorable Mention and she wrote, “Thank you so much for such a generous prize. It was such a nice surprise, arriving as it did on a Monday after a long day at work. I'm thrilled. Thanks again, not just for the great prize, but also for such a well-run contest.”

Jeanne Oravec, Honorable Mention for Aloha, Elayna, realized that our editors “obviously put much thought and effort into preparing the goodies. I will certainly use the hat and bag...and all the other little niceties...My poodle, Buddy, stood over me as I opened the box (he is very spoiled and thinks that every package that arrives has something in it for him) and when he smelled the little marshmallow cones, well, they were history. I thank you on his behalf. I am looking forward to the next contest.”

Their words prove the worth of writing contests. Currently our Summer Flash Fiction Contest is in full swing. Read the Contest Terms and Conditions and get going! Ready, set, write!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

 

Carrie Hulce, Runner Up



Today we visit with another of our runners up. Grab a glass of iced tea, pull up a chair and enjoy.

WOW: I've loved seeing how others react when they found out they had placed in the top ten. What about you. How did you react when you got the news?

CARRIE: Oh my gosh! I was so excited I ran into the kitchen and told my husband, he gave me a huge hug and praised me. Even though it was 7:00 am, I picked up the phone and began to call everyone to let them know. That made my day to receive the email, that I placed.

I have to admit, I had gotten discouraged about my writing for quite some time.

WOW: The car in your story reminded me of one I had long ago. What inspired your contest entry, The Sign?

CARRIE: My inspiration was actually multi faceted. My first inspiration came from my college days. I bought my first car, an Olsmobile Toronato. A big huge boat (Dad wanted me to be safe). I went to the bank to make my final payment on my car; it was if the car actually knew what was going on. Shortly after, I started having problems with it.

My next inspiration was my cute mother-in-law. I can’t say enough about her. She is just so fun to be with. Her name is Tina. Every time I spend time with her, I want to be around her more. She was my lead character for this story.

My final inspiration was a conversation that I had with my girlfriend; she and I were talking about what we would do if we were to take a trip some where. She came up with this crazy idea that she wanted to go to Montana someday. Blew my mind. I started to laugh. I finally asked her where she got a crazy idea like that. She laughed and said because she had never been there before.

WOW: That's a lot of inspiration for such a short word count. Do you enjoy writing Flash Fiction with the shorter word counts?

CARRIE: Yes, I have to say because I love the challenge. By nature I am the type to fill a page with words, as you have probably seen just with the first question. It makes me stop to think and help me to understand that in writing you can get a story across as long as you are descriptive enough and can make the story run smooth.

WOW: I noticed in your bio, you work in a homeless shelter. Have you ever used an incident from your volunteer work with the homeless as inspiration?

CARRIE: I am currently working on one story that did come from a woman from our shelter. Her story hit home for me. She was the mother of 3 small children, had been married to her husband for many years. Her husband and children were killed in a car accident, it was a DWI. After the funerals and everything, she found herself on the streets, she had never worked before and didn’t know what to do or where to go. She finally came here, where she was able to finally get some help. Today, she is working, has a new place to live, is even involved in a new relationship.

She looked at me one day, saw how stressed out I was, she grabbed my hand pulled me aside and said; “ What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.” She’s right. After contemplating what she had said to me. My stress level went down and I was able to focus on my day.

That evening I began to write a story about her.

WOW: Do you have a favorite genre you like to write and where do you get your ideas?

CARRIE: I am a very eclectic writer. I have come up with all sorts of stories. It can be from a dream that I have had, someone I’ve seen shopping, or even about a bird that just landed on my window sill.

WOW: I think all writers at one time or another get a bit discouraged with their writing. What one piece of advice would you give other them?

CARRIE: No matter what you do, continue to write. Even if you feel you are to busy or think you can’t come up with any ideas. They are there for you, you just have to grab them and hold on tight.

WOW: Great advice:-) What are you working on now?

CARRIE: I have to laugh. First off, I can finally admit, I am a published writer, thanks to WOW! If it weren’t for you guys, helping me when I was down. I probably would have never written again.

I am currently working on a mystery story for children, plus I am working on an adult science fiction story. I have to admit, editing is the hardest part when it comes to writing a book. I hope I can find someone interested in publishing my stories.

WOW: I have the feeling you won't have much to worry about when you are ready for that publisher:-) When not writing, do you have any favorite author you turn to?

CARRIE: I am a book worm all the way so I have a few.

For mysteries, I like to read the work of Lillian Jackson Braun. She has written a series of books that are all entitled The Cat Who……?

For romance, when I’m feeling on the mushy side, Jude Deaveraux and Johanna Linsey. They both are historical writers; you can tell they have done their research.

Finally, another great inspiration for me picking myself up and dusting myself off, a local author here that has done some small writing work shops, Natalie Goldberg. She has written a lot of poetry, but also has some great ways of helping writers look inside themselves. The first book, that I highly recommend to other writers is her book called “Writing down the Bones.”

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us and sharing your writing. You get the final word. Anything you'd like to add?

CARRIE: I just want to say THANK YOU! To everyone at WOW! for helping me find myself in writing and inspiring me once again. Everyone involved with Women On Writing, have been just absolutely wonderful. Words can’t always express how grateful I am for having all of you in my life!

For all of you writers out there. KEEP ON WRITING!!!! NEVER GIVE UP!!!!

Happy writing to everyone!

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