Thursday, December 20, 2007

 

Miss Misunderstood

I was estatic. Ifelt like I had just won the lottery. I was jumping up and down, gawking at an e-mail announcing I had received an honorable mention in Women on Writing’s summer flash fiction contest. I told my husband, my best friend and my two-month-old son. Then I paused. Should I call my parents?

Most people would say “Of course, call your parents!” But let’s just say that my family is – er— complicated. Whether or not to call them and let them read the story deserved at least a bit of consideration. My story was about a tender moment between a daughter and her dad, and there is almost no mention of a mom. Little did I know that this fact would become a pertinent issue to my mom.

Since I was high off the news of my award, I went ahead and called my parents. They were excited, in their own way (I think I interrupted their British soap operas on PBS). I told them I would e-mail the story to them that night.

Lo and behold, the next day my mom called. I had a sixth sense that we were going to talk about my writing. And we did. The conversation went something like this:

Mom: Hi. Well, I read your story.

Me: Great, what did you think?

Mom: Oh, it was good. You always have had good relationship with your dad . . .

Me: (I knew where this conversation was going.) Well, it wasn’t actually something that happened between dad and I. I made it up.

Mom: Oh, I know, I write sometimes, too. But we always pull from our experiences when we write. . .

Me: When I was writing it, I was actually using other peoples’ parents as my muse. It’s called fiction, mom, it’s not real.

Mom: Well, maybe next time you can write something nice about me and enter it in a contest.

Me: (Sigh) Yes, maybe next time. . .

(Thinking to myself: Yeah, just wait for my memoir, ma, you’ll definitely make it in to that piece of work.)

Obviously, there are tons and tons of issues behind this little conversation between my mom and I. (What mother/daughter relationship is simple?) But has anyone else handed over their writing to someone else, just to be completely misunderstood?

Two big questions loomed up in my mind as I sat considering this conversation with my mother. First, is it normal for the people in writers’ lives to be a little bit nervous? Are there writers out there who have started family feuds because of something written in a piece of fiction that struck too close to home? Second, how do we write about the nitty-gritty in our lives while protecting, or at least not angering, those closest to us?

I think I will be nervous if my daughter (now two-years-old) becomes a writer, especially a reflective, introspective writer like me. My writing does draw from my life, but the fun part is putting a new spin on a person or situation to make it portray the same theme in a new light. I think this is also a good way to protect real people from resembling my characters. Let’s pretend I have a stuffy old aunt from San Francisco who calls me to gossip about her the people at her bingo club. If I need this aunt’s character as part of my story, I could turn her into a young, interior decorator who gossips about her neighbors. The essence of the character is the same, but her identity is disguised.

I decided I am not going to censor myself as I write to alleviate these concerns. The interactions I have with people in my life will add vigor and believability to the characters I create in my stories. So much good material, no matter how much I need to disguise it, cannot go to waste.

-Susan L. Eberling

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

 

Interview with Daniella Barsotti – Summer Contest Runner Up!

WOW: Daniella, congratulations! You must have felt great when you learned the results.

Daniella:
I was happy to be a runner up. I hadn't written in a while and I thought contests were a great way to "get back into it" so it meant a great deal do so well.

WOW: I bet it did! So, tell us what encouraged you to write "Sea Breeze Revisited."

Daniella: I instantly thought about the best vacations of my childhood and now that everyone in our family lives in the same province it was easy to remember those good times I had with my cousins and my sister. I am very influenced by my childhood in Trinidad and Tobago. It shows up in almost everything I write. Sea Breeze was the name of a house in Toco in North Trinidad. My Uncle and Aunt rented a house there for something like a month and invited the cousins to come up for a couple weeks at a time. I remember loving being there with no TV and just a few music tapes and just loving being by the beach every day. My teenage cousin and I, who are nine months apart, talked about everything from boys to movie stars to skin care tips. We were on the beach sun up to sunset and everything about being there is fresh in my mind. I can taste the food, I remember the people and a lot of what is in the story is true--and yes, Ralphie could move a huge rock with his bare foot! If I had to re-live a vacation it would not be the one to Disney or to New York or Barbados--it would be to Sea Breeze because it was just pure simple fun. Bugs and lizards and all. It was good clean childhood fun. Childhood is getting shorter and shorter and I like to reflect on mine because it was an easier, happier time for sure.

WOW: That sounds quite memorable! In your bio you mentioned many points that help you with your writing. I’ll begin with “the culture and natural beauty of [your] native Trinidad and Tobago”; how does the culture and land inspire you?

Daniella:
I think the lush beauty of Trinidad, the different ethnicities, religions, cuisine, music and of course Carnival all blend together to make me realize that I came from a small island with so much to offer. There is a relaxed nature about Trinidadians and Tobagonians that bring a calming sensation to people whenever you meet them and no problem is ever a problem. Whenever I need to re-focus my life I take a trip home if I can and I return refreshed and ready to take on North American life again. The culture of Trinidad and the scenery is always alive in my mind and whether it is a story for a kid’s magazine, romance writing, fiction or nonfiction, I can pull anything from my memories of home and come up with something to write about.

WOW: Sounds like an abundant resource to tap into for your writing! You mention, also, that your “biggest inspiration” comes from your family, especially your autistic child. How has your child made you a “much better person,” and how does this feed into your writing?

Daniella: When my son was diagnosed I think I spent a long period of his early years in a place of grief. I was not the person I used to be and, in fact, I had become a pretty rotten person. Then as life always does, something happens and you can either go down the toilet or you can rise above it and go to a better place. Therapy after therapy was not working for him and then we found the Son Rise Program in the US and I changed. When I returned home after the first conference, I was able to let the not so good parts of myself go and turn my family around and got us all to a better place and our son responded so well to the new methods I had learned. He has achieved so much in such a short time that sometimes I forget he has autism.

I decided to write something positive about autism because there are so many books out there that are so clinical or so sad that I hardly finished any of the ones I'd read. Since Adam's great turn around we decided to move from out west to be closer to family. We made some big changes--sold our house, quit jobs, and packed the moving truck and drove across the country in an RV. There is something about a family in a small space with just each other for a whole week. We made several stops and saw quite a bit of the country and the kids got closer, our autistic kid spoke more, and we just enjoyed being alone after all the years of therapists in and out of the house, and the team meetings, the individual program plans, and all the intrusion that comes with autism--we were alone to just enjoy being a family.

When I look at my son and my entire family, for that matter, I realize that in life everybody gets something and you can either go with it or let it crumble you. Looking at my autistic kid and how hard he works sometimes at the simple things in life inspires me to be a better person. I see so much beauty in him and what he does and sometimes the way he does things are so interesting and unique. I feel fortunate to witness the workings of his mind. He is funny and thoughtful and innocent and simply good. My other child is an old soul who is the younger sibling, but is already a kind and sensitive person who says the most amazing things, many of which I have written down and will quote in my book. From the mouth of babes as they say. My husband is my strength and is this bright light that sparks just when I need it the most. I could not do this (autism) without him or at least I could not do this as well as I do. I feel that we were blessed to have a child with autism because it has uncovered parts of everyone in my family that I would never have otherwise seen. It has made my life full and has inspired me as I lived through my lowest lows and my highest highs. I have also met some of the most wonderful people in the world, none of whom I would have met if my son were not autistic. It is strange, but I am actually grateful for every moment in my life and I take pieces of it all and write down everything that comes into my mind. Piecing this book together is taking a really long time.

WOW: You have come a long way. It’s great to hear so much encouragement that’s grown from something that began so bleakly for you. Have you found encouragement from other books or authors you could recommend?

Daniella: Books that have inspired me (Re-autism) are not those that detail the misery of autism. I tend to prefer humor and books on hope. I love Son Rise: The Miracle Continues by Barry Neil Kaufman and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. I like Mel Levine`s A Mind At A Time and The Myth of Laziness.

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

Daniella: I want most of all to get my book on my experience with autism published and I want to link it somehow with the foundation we are starting in Adam`s name to help other families like us. As for the rest of my writing I will keep at it, writing in the genres I fancy and hopefully I will get my stories published. If I don`t, I will still get pleasure from writing and I will write for the rest of my life because I just love to do it.

WOW: Do you have any advice for our readers?

Daniella: Hmm. Advice--A teacher I had in University said, “Do what you love and the money will come later.” His name was Gerry Good and he taught a course in our Radio and Television Arts program in Toronto. If you are doing something you don`t love, why not try doing something you love and are good at? Chances are it was what you were meant to be doing. Writing is not an easy way to make a living but if you enjoy it and work at it, it can perhaps be financially rewarding but mostly it will fulfill your soul.

WOW: For readers who haven’t read Daniella’s winning entry, go here.

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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 13, 2007

 

Summer Contest Runner Up--Shannon Schuren

WOW: Shannon, congratulations to you for earning a Runner Up space! How does this make you feel?

Shannon: Thanks so much! I can’t even describe it. When I received the news that I was in the top ten, I screamed so loudly I scared my husband. This is the first contest I’ve placed in, and really the first recognition I’ve received for my writing, so it’s very special for me.

WOW: We’re honored to be part of the excitement! What was the motivation behind "Wilde Women"?

Shannon: The experiences that the sisters share in “Wilde Women” are a mixture of memories I have from different vacations we took when I was a child. I wasn’t really sure where I was going when I began writing. I just had these recollections in my head that I wanted to get on paper. The story grew from there.

WOW: It grew well! In your bio you state that you’re the author of several short stories and two novels. Could you describe these accomplishments?

Shannon: All right, but feel free to stop me if I ramble on too long. I had always wanted to write, and had always kept a file of my dreams, newspaper clippings, and other sparks of ideas that I thought I could develop into interesting novels one day. Well, the file kept getting bigger, and as I was about to turn thirty, I realized that if I kept putting my writing off for “one day,” one day would never arrive. So I sat myself down and wrote a novel titled BEDEVILED GLASS. It’s a paranormal/gothic mystery about an architectural preservationist who is called in to restore an old stained glass ceiling. During the project, she discovers that the ceiling is tied to the previous owner’s disappearance. It took me three years to write, but I learned so much along the way, about writing and about myself. Now, I am in the process of looking for an agent, which has been a whole different learning experience!

I also took part in NaNoWriMo for the first time last year, and successfully completed a middle-grade novel titled How to Host a Ghost. The characters are loosely based on my two daughters, and because they inspired the book, I made the decision to self-publish on Lulu.com, so I could give them a copy as a Christmas gift. It is available for sale at major online bookstores and also at some local retail stores. I’m certainly not getting rich off the sales, but it is rewarding to know that my book is in print and being enjoyed by readers.

Most of the short stories I’ve written were for contests. My own ideas tend to be more geared toward novels, so I wanted to see if I could actually tell a story in less than 80,000 words. This led me to some of the prompt-based online contests, like the Writer’s Weekly 24-hour fiction contest, and the WOW! quarterly contests. I have only entered those contests where I felt like I could do something original with the prompt, so I really owe this success to whoever wrote the summer prompt. Thanks for a job well done!

WOW: You’re very welcome from all of us at WOW! You also mentioned that you spend your spare time working on your next book. Would you like to tell us about it?

Shannon:
I’d love to! I’m currently working on a suspense novel about a woman who is pregnant with her third child and believes that someone is stalking her. However, she suffered from anxiety and depression in her first two pregnancies, so she has trouble convincing people--including herself--that the danger isn’t all in her head.

I tend to be an anxious kind of person, especially when it comes to my children. Writing this book has been a lot of fun because I’ve taken some of my obsessive tendencies and fears and magnified them about 200%.

WOW: You are definitely energetic. You must find encouragement from other books or authors, right?

Shannon: Absolutely. I love authors. I go to book signings the way some people go to rock concerts. I’ve gotten to meet Lisa Scottoline, Janet Evanovich and Michael Perry in person (though not at the same time!). They were all fabulous and inspiring, although my meeting with Lisa was my favorite; it was a small gathering, and she actually gave me some personal encouragement about writing. I also love to go to other authors’ websites. I have no idea why, but I find it endlessly fascinating to read about each of their unique writing processes. Some of my favorites are www.suegrafton.com, www.evanovich.com, www.lisascottoline.com, and www.louissachar.com. Often, when I’m experiencing writer’s block, I get online and peruse their websites for some little bits of wisdom.

WOW: I’ll have to try that some time. Good advice. Do you have any other goals for your writing career?

Shannon: Just the usual. Find an agent, get published, make enough money so I can retire and write full time and hire a maid! Honestly, right now I’m just happy to be writing, and very grateful for my husband, children, and friends who are so supportive of my literary endeavors. And, of course, to WOW! for giving me the opportunity to have my first story and first interview published online. Thanks, WOW!

WOW: That’s sweet! In addition to the authors you’ve listed above, do you care to recommend any craft books on writing?

Shannon: I highly recommend Writing the Breakout Novel by literary agent, Donald Maas. I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in one of his workshops this past spring, and it was the most intense, insightful, and useful workshop I’ve ever attended. I came home with thirty-seven pages of handwritten notes for my current novel!

WOW: That’s fabulous! Could you end on some writerly wisdom?

Shannon:
If you have the desire to write, then write. Don’t make it a “one day” activity. Don’t worry that it won’t be any good, or that no one will want to read it.

For those who would like to write a novel but don’t feel you have the time or willpower or imagination, consider taking part in NaNoWriMo this November. It’s exhilarating to attempt to write a novel in 30 days, and it really pushes your creativity and imagination to the next level. At least it did for me. Plus, if you finish, you get a cool icon you can download and add to your email signature! You can find more information at their website: www.nanowrimo.org.

Thanks, Shannon. You're an inspiration. I think I'll get right to my writing!

Readers, please check out her winning entry 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, October 30, 2007

 

Meet Runner Up – Judy Fancher

WOW: Judy, congratulations for earning a Runner Up space in our WOW! Summer Flash Fiction Contest! How did you feel when you read about it?

Judy: I was shocked and honored to be in the company of such experienced writers. This is the first time since college that I have put writing out for public review. I kept reading the email on my Blackberry to make sure it wasn’t a dream.

WOW: That’s a big compliment to all our writers. Please tell us the inspiration behind “Summer Sons.”

Judy: My brother, Russell Traughber, sent out an email to the family and said, “Go ahead, write.” So I did. The storyline is a tribute to my parents, who still live in Idaho, and my five older brothers. Now that I am able to put some perspective on my early years, I appreciate more the world of my youth. The boys’ fishing trips were always a mystery to me (I would take a book and read if I went), but I realize now what a treat it was for my brothers to spend time with my dad--a very busy and dedicated minister.

WOW: Well, I’m sure your parents are proud and pleased by the tribute! In your bio you mentioned that you’ve been an educator for twenty-one years. Do you think teaching contributes to your desire to write?


Judy: Literature is the greatest teacher of all. Growing up in a small town with three television stations meant there was an entire world out there to be discovered: I expanded my universe through books. I once told my superintendent that every predicament of human nature can be found in Shakespeare’s works. Teaching was a venue for me to share life’s wonders, troubles, and triumphs with young adults about to venture out on their own. Now that I am an administrator, I have the time to create some of those worlds.

WOW: I certainly hope you continue to build those worlds for your students. But let’s switch subjects for a bit. You said that various writers found in a local public library are your “companions of composition”; can you name some for us?

Judy: When I studied in England I fell in love with the Romantics. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, John Keats’ poetry, and Dylan Thomas (not a Romantic, of course) were my favorites because of their ability to capture the complexity of human nature. Hemingway’s clean style and flawed heroes inspire clarity in writing. I would be remiss not to mention my favorite mystery writers, P.D. James and Carolyn Keene (the Nancy Drew series), because I love to look for clues.

The Ontario, Oregon, public library spawned my eclectic love of reading. Somehow I skipped juvenile literature and moved right to the grown-up part of the library. I can’t recall a single author’s name, but I read (to name a few) a series on Queen Victoria, a book about the crucifixion of Christ from a Roman soldier’s point of view, and books on the Occult (which scared me so much I couldn’t sleep). I read a lot of Ellery Queen mysteries along with historical fiction. It is worth mentioning that my first exposure to literature was the Bible: the poetry, stories, and lessons influence all aspects of my writing.

WOW: Eclectic is definitely a key word in your reading background. That adds a lot to the “well-rounded reader” aspect! In addition to reading, could recommend a couple of authors who’ve encouraged you to write?

Judy: Milan Kundera (The Unbearable Lightness of Being) is magical and brutally honest. Kundera, an expatriate of Czechoslovakia since the 60’s, didn’t begin to write until his late 30’s. He said he needed that much time to have the maturity to write: his “late start” gave me hope as I worked and raised a family during my twenties and thirties. I still have a middle-schooler at home, but with his increased independence comes more time for me to write.

Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite American authors. Although I have enjoyed all of her books, The Poisonwood Bible is the most compelling as literature. Nadine Gordimer of South Africa is not afraid to confront societal issues and, of course, Maya Angelou’s writing is artistic whether it is poetry or prose. All of these authors create life through the power of language: they serve as an inspiration for the female voice.

WOW: How true. I certainly agree with you there. Tell us, do you have any other specific goals for your writing career?


Judy: To make writing a career would be a dream come true. I will take this one step at a time as I reconnect with poetry, my first love, and other genres. In addition, I intend to write essays and journal articles that reflect hope and respect for educators and students.

WOW: Educators have one of the toughest careers. Having a supportive network helps in this career, just as much if not more than in a writer’s career. You mentioned in your bio that you have a supportive family. Could you describe how they respect your writing wishes?


Judy: Working as a teacher and then a school site administrator, work consumed my life. My family has always encouraged me to have a hobby, and they are proud that I am trying my hand at the art I have loved and studied for so long. Through my master’s degree and my doctorate, my husband and children supported the time I needed to research and write. Now, at a more creative phase of my life, they wholeheartedly afford me a room of my own.

WOW: Virginia Woolf would be so proud! Okay, let’s move to craft books--which ones do you find the most helpful?


Judy: This question is truly embarrassing. I have never read a book on writing (other than textbooks) or publishing. I am at the beginning of this journey. My only comfort is that I am sure most of the writers I admire did not take writing courses or read how-to books; I do know the authors and poets I admire wrote almost every day. To understand the power of storytelling and mythology, I recommend Joseph Campbell’s series on the evolution of the hero and his mantra to “follow your bliss.”

WOW: That’s a sound mantra for anyone. What advice would you like to leave with our audience?


Judy: Today is the day to start writing. Afraid to put on paper the thoughts and stories in my head, I ignored for twenty years the voice that always called me to write. Now, when I sit at the computer, I regret the years that have passed unchronicled. Humans have always relied on stories to provide knowledge, perspective, and interpretation; therefore, now is the perfect time to add our voices to literature.

WOW: Today it is! Thank you for your time and for sharing a little about yourself. Readers, if you haven’t yet checked out Judy’s story, “Summer Sons,” go here.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

 

Spotlight on First Place Winner: Alicia Stankay

Join us as we get to know our top winner!

WOW: Alicia, kudos to you for taking 1st Place in our Summer 2007 Contest. How did you feel when you learned? Did you see it online first, or did someone tell you they saw it first?

Alicia: I was incredibly excited when I found out I placed first in the WOW summer contest. I was on the phone with my mother when I checked the website and I nearly screamed in her ear. Nothing compares to scrolling down under the Summer Flash Fiction contest headline and seeing my picture under the 1st Place! Of course, I sent her the link to the contest immediately, so that she could read it for herself.

WOW: So, you shared your success instantly! Now, please tell us what encouraged you to write “Thanks for the Memories." Is there a story behind the story?

Alicia: Strangely, when I first saw the prompt, I immediately thought of the day my family rented a pontoon boat when I was about twelve. I have no idea why that was the first thing that popped into my head, but as soon as it did I could see the possibilities for humor. Our day on the water was probably a little crazier in some ways since I had four siblings younger than myself, but I don’t think any of the story incidents took place. I’ll get back to you on that after I check with my mom. . . .

WOW: That’s fine, either way. You did a fine job creating the incidents. In your bio you said you’ve been bit by the contest bug. Could you elaborate? Also, could you share what makes contests so beneficial for writers?

Alicia: A few years ago I was at a low point trying to get anything published. In the early to mid 80’s I had published some children’s short stories in several magazines, such as Discoveries, Counselor, and Pockets. I even made one sale to Highlights for Children, which was very exciting. Then, I got busy raising my kids and working and didn’t get back to writing until the late 90’s. At that time I discovered many markets had either dried up or accepted less fiction, and I turned to writing young adult mystery books. I did it partly to prove that I could write a longer work, and I was pleased with the results. However, when I tried to interest a publisher, I only managed to get a few nibbles, but no offers.

That’s when I read an article in Writer’s Digest about trying out contests to give a boost to your ego. At first I doubted that would work because if I entered contests and never won, then I’d feel even worse! But I decided to take a chance and ended up entering my first adult short story contest for the Taproot Literary Review and a children’s story for Children’s Writer. I continued writing and sending out to other contests, and then within two weeks in May I was amazed to find out that I had placed second in the Taproot contest and first in the Children’s Writer contest. Since then I have gone on to win several other contests and, honestly, the excitement of winning never diminishes. I believe that the contest categories and deadlines help to give the writer a focus, allowing the mind to open and creativity to flow, all within a limited time frame.

WOW: I agree. Let’s move into your other written works. You’ve written three young adult mystery books, which are in search of a publisher. Our summer Guest Judge, Jennifer DeChiara, is a literary agent. We hope you plan to make contact with her.

Alicia:
I noticed Jennifer DeChiara’s name immediately when I saw she was a guest judge because I had just recently printed out some information on her. It said her agency specialized in children’s literature and that’s what caught my interest. Since I’m thrilled that she was the judge for this contest, I definitely plan on contacting her very soon.

My young adult mysteries grew out of my need to prove I could write a book-length manuscript and my love of mysteries. I attended a writer’s group for several years where I received encouragement in writing a short series of teen novels. I used the seasons and began with Seagull Island Summer with the main character, Leah Wavering, a 15-year-old sent to live with her aunt for the summer while her parents traveled Europe on a photoshoot. Leah’s determined to hate everything because she wanted to stay home and enjoy the summer with her friends. Before she knows it, she’s found a new friend, is involved against her will with a young man who’s always underfoot, and entangled in a surprising number of mysterious incidents. By the book’s end, Leah had not only grown up a little, but used her love of photography to help solve a murder and stop the drug ring that was using the island.

My second book, All-for-One Autumn, has Leah and her friend, Ginny, working at a camp in the mountains for two weeks teaching inner city kids. Leah finds herself challenged because now she has to guide kids not much younger than herself and somehow form her group into a united team. Problems arise when one girl’s brother gets into trouble and hangs around the camp trying to hide. As danger creeps ever closer, Leah has to keep her head and again use her photography skills to bring a killer to justice.

In the third book in the series, Winter Whispers, Leah and her friends find themselves at the Victorian Inn and Playhouse during a snowstorm. Not only is the inn populated with an odd group of characters, but the play is dogged by a series of accidents. This time, not only does Leah have to save herself from a murderer, but she also has to free a young woman who was accused of murder and suicide over a hundred years ago.

WOW: Leah’s world sounds exciting in all three books. Congratulations on finishing three! What about other books you enjoy? Could you recommend authors who encourage you to write?

Alicia: Since I’m a mystery writer who loves history, some of my favorite writers are Anne Perry, especially the Thomas Pitt and Monk books, Ellis Peters, her Cadfael series, Elizabeth Peters, her Amelia Peabody series, and a recent writer I’ve discovered, Lauren Belfer. They all provide excellent blueprints on how to write a mystery, build suspense, draw interesting characters and capture a reader’s imagination. I also love the Alfred Hitchcock idea of the surprise endings, so I occasionally read the Alfred Hitchcock Magazine and recommend anthologies such as the World’s Finest Mystery & Crime Stories, published annually, which includes mystery and suspense short stories from around the world.

WOW: Thanks for recommendations. I’m sure our mystery lovers will check them out, if they haven’t already. Getting back to your writing careers, do you have any other long-term goals?

Alicia: My ultimate goal is still to publish a book, possibly one of my young adult mysteries or maybe even an anthology of all the mystery or ghost stories I’ve written so far. One of my favorite stories I’ve published is “Twin Paradox,” a ghost story that won first place in a Writers’ Journal contest last year. I’ve also considered publishing a nonfiction book about the bed and breakfasts my husband and I have stayed in the past few years. Each one of them has a unique background, description, and location. Instead of staying at your typical bland two-bed with dresser, table and chairs, Holiday Inn room, why not set out on a new and exciting adventure every time you travel?

WOW: The B & B’s sound like they have stories within stories, too. I bet there would be a few mysteries among them, too. In terms of writing as a craft, which books do you find the most helpful?

Alicia: For children’s writing, one of the best helps for markets, ideas, and careers is the Children’s Writer Guide, published yearly. It also includes information on conferences and contests. Some of the other books I have on my shelves are 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias; Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America, edited by Sue Grafton; Writing to Sell by Scott Meredith; and The Art of Compelling Fiction (How to Write a Page-Turner) by Christopher T. Leland.

WOW: That book about plots sounds like a big help for the upcoming NaNo Competition! Thanks for sharing your favorites. Before we go, could you end on a little wisdom for our readers?

Alicia: I guess it all boils down to the fact that a writer writes because she has to. It’s there inside ready to boil up at a moment’s notice. I sometimes compare it to giving birth--you might want to ignore it or pretend the need’s not there or even hope it will go away, but just like that baby in the womb, eventually it’s got to come out.

I was once asked in a writer’s group, what was the one word that described my writing? After I thought a moment, I came up with liberating. Writing gives me the freedom to put down my deepest thoughts, or entertain with humor, or frighten with ghost tales, or any other possibility that enters my mind. It’s exhilarating when it all comes together, and characters speak to me or plot points appear out of some deep recesses of my mind. I don’t even mind editing myself and paring down to word counts because it gives me a thrill when I know I’ve strengthened and honed my story to the best that it can be. As commercial wisdom proclaims--Just do it!

WOW: You’ve been an absolute inspiration, Alicia! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips.

If you haven’t read Alicia’s top entry, go here. Do you have any feedback for Alicia? Feel free to write to her at: alicia0228@verizon.net. Thanks!

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

 

Summer Contest 2nd Place Winner—Tiffany Chartier

WOW: Congratulations, Tiffany, for your 2nd Place Win! How did you react once you learned?

Tiffany: When I found out I placed 2nd in the WOW! Women on Writing Summer 2007 Flash Fiction Contest I immediately jumped around the house and started doing the happy dance. I am a passionate and purposeful writer who sincerely appreciates the opportunity WOW! has given me to challenge my writing skills and showcase my work. Thank you!!

WOW: Well, we’re excited for you, too. Of course, now we want to know what encouraged “The Pale Yellow Vase”?

Tiffany: Looking around my house at the pictures and decorations that adorn the walls and furniture, I have come to understand that my style doesn’t fit into any one category; rather, I am a combination of my memories and dreams – a collection of trinkets and captured smiles that surround my family as we live in the rooms that make up our home. These memorable times and feelings represented within tangible souvenirs is what encouraged me to write “The Pale Yellow Vase.”

WOW: What a wonderful inspiration! That says something about you, too. But let’s get to know you a little better. In your bio you mentioned that you’ve just finished your young adult novel. Do you care to share a little or a lot about it here?

Tiffany: I would love to share with you the young adult novel I recently finished writing! I have just started the process of trying to find the right agent for this project. I would certainly appreciate any help, guidance, or advice you are able to offer!

Page by page, this 49,164 word young adult novel, The Walking Stick, is a smart, captivating, and surprising discovery filled with magical realism and inspiration that will leave the reader cheering for more! Pearl Winters knows something is terribly wrong. The only thing that seems clear is that her dream of becoming an artist is no longer obtainable. At the age of fifteen, Pearl is told she is losing her sight to an eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa. While on a camping trip the summer before tenth grade, Pearl discovers a mysterious stick hidden in the roots of an ancient tree. This stick becomes Pearl’s cane, mental crutch, and ultimately, the key to exploring a life she never thought possible. On the same trip, Pearl has a brief encounter with the ever-so-handsome Landon Livingston. Pearl berates herself for being attracted to Landon, telling herself that someone that wonderful would never be interested in her if he knew she was going blind.

As Pearl’s vision digresses and her senior year fast approaches, Pearl retreats both physically and mentally from the outside world. In a surprising twist, Pearl’s walking stick jolts her out of seclusion. The result is an unlikely encounter with the most popular girl in high school - Katherine Sparks. Their time together teaches them how much they have in common regardless of first-impression differences. Katherine introduces Pearl to Landon – the same Landon Pearl met a few years prior. But something is drastically different, Pearl is now completely blind. Will Landon still find Pearl attractive? Will Pearl be willing to find out? Pearl’s story culminates in a courageous moment during senior prom when Pearl lays down her walking stick, embraces Landon’s hand, and boldly takes center stage.

This novel has an authentic voice because I have Retinitis Pigmentosa, and I persevered through many of the teenage challenges Pearl battles in The Walking Stick.

I am positively thrilled about The Walking Stick and hope to put it in the right agent’s hands soon!

WOW: Tiffany, your book sounds positively engaging and intriguing! You’ll have to keep us posted on your progress and let us know when it gets published. So, tell us, how is your agent search coming along?

Tiffany: Searching for an agent has proved to be a more challenging task than what I first imagined. Regardless, I am hanging in for the long haul. As Churchill said, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” I have definitely not lost my enthusiasm for The Walking Stick. I believe in this story, and I will see it through with gusto!

WOW: You have a type of enthusiasm I’d love to harness and channel into me! Kudos to you. Since you’ve quoted Churchill, I’ll move right into the next question. Have you found inspiration from other books or authors you could recommend?

Tiffany: I enjoy all types and styles of books. Three of my favorites are as follows: “Living, Loving & Learning” by Leo Buscaglia, “The Enchanted April” by Elizabeth von Arnim, and “Driving Over Lemons” by Chris Stewart. I am inspired by these authors’ simplicity and sophistication – they are obviously passionate about their topic, making me want to turn the page.

WOW: From all your answers to this point, I’d have to say you’re a passionate person in general. This trait will serve you well. So, please tell us, do you have any other specific goals for your writing career?

Tiffany: I made a New Year’s Resolution several years ago to have my first book accepted for publication before my fortieth birthday. I have five more years to go, and I am determined to make this dream a reality!

WOW: I’ve never known a person to be that far ahead of her goals! You’re well on your way. Plus, we learned in your bio that you’ve met other goals. Could you tell us a little about your short stories?

Tiffany: Writing short stories is like eating chocolate cake to me – I love it! Writing takes me to another place, outside of the daily routine and stresses. I get lost in my imagination, and delight in putting a short story to life on paper. Most of the short stories I write have an inspirational, Christian base. I write as a thank-you for His unconditional love.

WOW: I think many writers share your delight. But we know you’re a parent, too. How do you balance parenting with writing? Do you only write when they kids are asleep?

Tiffany: Being a parent of an 11, 9, and 4 year old makes finding a quiet place and time to write a creative work of patience and persistence. My family comes first, and I have an amazingly supportive husband that recognizes when I need help. We are a great team, from the oldest (my husband) to the youngest (my daughter). The time they are with me is primarily devoted to them. After they are in bed or at their activities is when I begin typing. My husband and kids are very supportive of my desire to write, and they encourage me to follow my dreams!

WOW: I’d say you have a fabulous family! You definitely have much to be thankful for! And your answers, by themselves, are a source of inspiration. Your attitude just shines through. I wonder if I could ask for one more--could you end on some motivating words to our audience of writers?

Tiffany: There is always work involved in making your dreams come true. Surround yourself with people who support you, and keep your focus on the positive. It only takes one “yes” to turn it all around. A little faith can make a world of difference. Decide that you are worth the effort, time, and fight – go for it!! The process only stops when you decide to quit.

WOW: Tiffany, thanks so much for your motivating words, your upbeat attitude, and your willingness to share. You’re an interviewer’s gem!

If you haven’t checked out Tiffany’s winning entry, go to The Pale Yellow Vase.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

 

To agent, to agent, to get a big sale...

As a writer one of the standards of success we sometimes use is the approval of an agent. So, don't miss out on this chance to get your writing in front of a agent.

Enter our Summer Flash Fiction Contest. Here's the prompt:

Growing up your parents always tried to have an exceptional vacation during your summer break. Now your parents are older, and as a special summer vacation for your parents, you are going back home and tell them which one was your favorite, most memorable summer vacation of all. Which vacation did they give you that you treasure so dearly, and why?

Story slant: Geared toward women readers, light-hearted to funny, imaginative, creative—you get it--*original*.

You can find all the details on our "Contest" page. Deadline to enter is Aug. 31st. Don't miss it!!!

Remember the winners are published on WOW! and be sure to check out our very cool prize packages.


Jean

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED CONTEST QUESTIONS

The WOW! Women On Writing Summer Flash Fiction Contest is open, and here are a few FAQs you might have:

Where do I find the rules for the contest?The rules are available to download. Just look for the PDF eBook of terms & conditions on the contest page, pay for your entry, then email your entry to: contest@wow-womenonwriting.com. Be sure to include your Paypal Transaction ID# at the bottom of your entry, so your work can be sent to the judges as soon as possible.

How do I pay for my contest entry?To pay by credit card, go to our contest page:
http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/contest.php
Click on the "Buy Now" button.
It will take you to Paypal. From there you have two options:

1. Pay Fast with Paypal (If you have an account, choose this option)

2. Don't have a Paypal account? Pay by credit card (If you'd rather not create a paypal account, you can pay by credit card here).

Do you accept entries from outside the US?Yes, we do. We accept globally.

Do you allow attachments?No, please submit your contest entry in the body of your email, along with your PayPal Transaction ID# at the bottom of your entry.

Is it okay if I go beyond the word limit?No, please stay within the word limit for your piece. If you do this, you’ll most likely have to cut out unnecessary details and words. After you’ve let your work sit and you come back to it, cutting out extra words might be simple. It’ll make your entry stronger in the end, more tightly woven, and probably much easier to enjoy.

This is just a small sample of the frequently asked questions we receive here at WOW! Please download and use the eBook for the contest instructions. Hopefully, it answers most of your questions. If not please email us.

Please, also remember, the prompt for each quarterly flash fiction contest must be included in your story. If your story doesn’t involve the prompt, answer the prompt, or seem related to the prompt, your entry is automatically disqualified. We don't like disqualifying anyone. We know how much hard work is involved.

We here at WOW! know how difficult contest writing can be, but contest writing is a wonderful way to hone your writing skills and follow instructions.

Thanks so much for your interest! We wish you well with your writing endeavors!

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