Sunday, July 06, 2008

 

Read Any 'Books That Make You See Red' Lately?

by Jill Earl

Just finished reading the July 3 issue of the Writing World newsletter, edited by Dawn Copeman (which I recommend, by the way). Under the ‘News From the World of Writing’ section, I was intrigued by one of the listings, ‘Books That Make You See Red’. The article, which appeared in The Sunday Times’ (London) June 22 issue, featured a number of authors and critics who listed books that they not only hated, but couldn’t bring themselves to read again. They sought feedback from the paper's readers, too.

Of course, I had to check it out for myself. If there’s any doubt that reading can ellicit strong emotions, those doubts will vanish! Comments such as "harrowing and pedestrian", "putrid morass of unreadability", and "waste of time" came from readers, authors and critics regarding various known and lesser-known works peppered the article.

Now I’ve read some books that I couldn’t get through myself, but I have the tendency to forget what they were. Subjective amnesia, I guess. I do recall two that I came across in my teen years. The first was Herman Hesse’ ‘Sidhartha’, a required read for our English AP Honors class. We tried everything to get through that novel, but 11 of us hit the wall. Even Cliffs and Monarch Notes did nothing for us. However, John, the 12th student, was able to breeze through. We were astonished. He was our rescuer, helping his brain-addled classmates through the text. We couldn’t wait to celebrate once we finished the thing. Can't say that I hated it, though.

The second book was ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert, which I received as a Christmas gift. I tried, but after a year, I gave up, surprised that I hung in for so long. I didn’t even make it to the middle. As for the whereabouts of the novel, I couldn't tell you. As with 'Sidhartha', there was no love, but definitely no hate either.

It was amusing to read The Sunday Times article and experience such strong responses, but I've yet to encounter books that made me see red. I would add the pair of books I mentioned to that list, though.

Want to take a peek at the article yourself? Go to:
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article4170954.ece

Let me know if you find ‘favorites’ among the trashed tomes or any you’d like to contribute to the list. I'd be interested to hear what you think.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

 

Do You Offend When You Hit Send? - Part Two

By Jill Earl

Back in April, I wrote a post about an article that appeared in WOW!’s April 08 ‘The Freelancer Union’ issue. Written by WOW! columnist and Funds 4 Writers editor Hope Clark, the article advised new writers entering the writing business. My post dealt with the ‘When to Argue’ section, and how delaying your angry response (or waiting until the anger subsides) can save relationships with writing professionals and readers.

A couple of days ago while checking out Erika Dreifus’ Practicing Writer blog, I was intrigued by her mention of marketing expert Seth Godin’s E-mail Checklist. Primarily addressing business emailing, he provides a set of questions designed to make you really think about the emails you send out, and whether they’ll help or hinder your business. Definitely worth bookmarking for future reference, I think.

Ms. Dreifus also referenced Judith Kallos and her Business Email Etiquette blog, where you can find more tips on producing consistent, quality business emails. I bookmarked Ms. Kallos’ blog too.

To see Seth Godin’s E-mail Checklist: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/06/email-checklist.html

Judith Kallos’ blog is found here:
http://www.businessemailetiquette.com/

You can bet I’ll be a frequent visitor to both of these sites. How about you?

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Monday, June 16, 2008

 

Need Some More Inspiration? Go Fly A Kite

By Jill Earl

On a Saturday earlier this month, I found myself up before the crack of dawn heading to the outskirts of Ocean City, a resort town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I’d been invited by Lynn, a close friend, and jumped at the chance to get away for an overnight to her parents’ place. Great opportunity for inspiration to strike, which it did of course.

Now, I don’t do the beach, prefer to take it in small doses. Actually, I don’t do summer---the heat, the humidity---the heat. In fact, if I could hibernate from June until the end of September, I’d be fine.

Anyway, Lynn, her foster son D’Andre, Paul and I reached the retirement community Lynn’s parents’ live in and settled in to luxury. We rested, had great conversations, ate wonderfully big breakfasts like waffles and french toast in the sun room, saw a great blue heron as we explored the nature reserve, and went to the beach. We were caught in a huge thunderstorm on the boardwalk, trapped in a chocolate shop for an hour or so. A chocoholic’s fantasy, with samples.

Sunday found us heading for the dunes of Fenwick Island in Delaware, a short drive away. Under the gaze of curious sunbathers, we launched the trio of kites Lynn always keeps in her car’s trunk. I got the seagull one, and after some false starts, it soared skywards. It was so very cool watching it catch the air currents, rising higher and higher. Even better, the kite caught the attention of real gulls, who drifted in the check out the newcomer. The kite stayed airborne for a good long time, and when I was done, it glided to a perfect landing on the sand. We headed back late, sad to return. But I came back with some great ideas.

Take advantage of inspiration, keep that notepad handy to jot down ideas. You’ll never know when it’ll strike.

Maybe even when you’re flying a kite.

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

 

Are You An 'Intentional Reader'?

By Jill Earl

Not too long ago, I came across a too-long forgotten article that really got me thinking about what and how I read. Titled, ‘The Intentional Reader’, author Bob Hostetler discusses what he calls his “Writer’s Reading Plan”, where he sets a goal to read a perdetermined number of books annually.

A few of the categories Mr. Hostetler included in his reading plan are biography, memoir, classics, writing, poetry, children’s and history. He always makes sure that his selections are from a number of genres, authors and forms, while allowing for flexibility to add and delete categories as his interests change.

His goals are not to only read for pleasure, broaden his horizons, and become familiar with his particular genre and others, but improve the quality of his writing.

Like many writers, I do a substantial amount of reading throughout the year and attempt to read a number of genres and authors. My list seems a bit hit-or-miss at times, though. So I really appreciate Mr. Hostetler's plan, and have started using it myself.

The “Writer’s Reading Plan” can be found at http://www.bobhostetler.com/writing/favorite009.html.

How about you? Do you have your own reading plan? Has it helped you improve your writing? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

 

Do You Offend When You Hit 'Send'?

By Jill Earl

In ‘The Freelance Union’, WOW!’s April ’08 issue, columnist Hope Clark strikes gold once again by offering valuable advice to new writers making their way through the writing business in her column, Funds 4 Writers: Dodging The New Writer-In-The-Headlights Look. What really opened my eyes was the section entitled, ‘When to Argue’, for when you’re online.


How many times have you received an email or found yourself scrolling through your favorite forum or chat and someone posts something that leaves you speechless, in a negative way? And, baby, you’re ready to rumble, typing up a response guaranteed to sear eyebrows! But, should you jump into the fray?


Hope's answer is no, that it’s never a good time to argue, and offers solid reasons for putting careful thought into your comments before you send them out. For me, a key reason for holding your cyber tongue is to keep from destroying a budding career.


Nowadays it takes nothing to Google a name and come up with links to everything that person’s name is attached to, even negative content. That could be a possible turn-off to potential editors, publishers, even future readers.


Check out the rest of Hope’s column by surfing over to
http://wow-womenonwriting.com/20-Funds4Writers.html

Thanks, Hope!

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Friday, October 26, 2007

 

Pssst... Have You Heard of PREMIUM GREEN?


It's the latest secret club to hit WOW! Women On Writing!

It's for Women Writers ONLY.

If you don't subscribe to our "Market's Newsletter" then you have no clue what we're talking about. But that's okay... only truly dedicated freelance writers need subscribe!

What is it?

Well, if you've subscribed to our FREE "Market's Newsletter" you'd already know.

How do you subscribe to our Free Market's Newsletter (AKA: Think Green)?

Go to our home page and subscribe or update your subscription in the gray box -- actually, it's at the top of all of our pages. If you're a long-time subscriber, you may have missed this option because we recently added new newsletters in the past few months. And our Think Green! Market's Newsletter is free, but for the truly dedicated we offer an ultimate newsletter for freelancers called PREMIUM GREEN.

Here's what it's all about:

Support WOW! and we'll support you!

We at WOW! want to keep providing you with the best content out there for women writers and keep our free publication alive and well for many years to come.

The WOW! online magazine will always continue to be free as long as we exist, and we will continue to provide jobs and freelance gigs for women writers. It's our goal to support the blood, sweat, and tears of your writing efforts.

And we know that even in this day and age there still aren't as many places for women to have their work published -- as our monthly columnist C. Hope Clark observed in her September article. "Other than in the romance arena, men writers outnumber women. Or let's say that published men writers outnumber women."

That's why we continue to strive for the best and create needed markets for women writers. By subscribing to
Premium-Green Markets we will guide you through the rough waters and help you get those published clips!

When I first started WOW! I made myself a promise -- that I'd NEVER ask for a donation from any of you ladies. To me, that defeats the purpose of helping women writers, and I've always found those things to be cheesy! I'd rather offer you a valuable product for your hard-earned dollars. So, let me tell you what you'll get when you subscribe to the Premium-Green Markets:

Select Markets Especially for Women Writers!

Pink & Green

This selection of Premium-Green called, "Pink & Green" goes in-depth to bring you the BEST in writer's markets for women.

And we don't just list them, we ask the editors what they want! This way you'll always get up-to-date information of what these editors want to see in their inbox TODAY! This increases your odds in finding a fit for your work, which is our goal.

Columns found ONLY in Premium-Green:

In the Trenches by Chynna Laird

Editor Chynna Laird lives 'in the trenches' -- as a full-time freelancer, she knows what it takes to make a living from her writing. Chynna shares her personal experiences in the world of freelancing: publications she's submitted to, responses to her queries (both acceptance and rejection), and tips that have worked for her. Written in conversational journal-style entries, Chynna lets you step inside her world by sharing her secrets. Grow your freelance career with Chynna!

Tips & Tricks by Angela Mackintosh

Angela loves to write How-tos, and step-by-step articles. If you're familiar with her blog posts or features on WOW!, Angela breaks down complex topics in easy-to-grasp language.

Topics include: How to win over an editor's heart, how to start and maintain a successful website, blogging for bucks, how to set up your business structure for your home-based freelance business, promotion and guerilla marketing, & more!

Get Writing, Mamas! By Chynna Laird

As a mother of three children under the age of five, Chynna takes you through the process of writing around life and what you have to do to make it work for you. And YES you can make a living and be a mommy too!

Topics include: workspace organization, prioritizing, anecdotes about motherhood and writing, inspiration for writing moms, networking, and motivation. This is not to miss!

Interviews with Editors, Publishers, and Freelancers:

Meet Your Mentor

Each issue we'll spotlight a particular subject and ask an expert for their advice to help guide you through the waters of freelancing. You never know, you may meet your mentor or life-coach!

Inter-Activities for Freelancers:

Workbook

Here you will find interactive exercises to help get you inspired, motivated, and provide feedback. It may be in the form of a quiz, or a worksheet that you can print out and fill in. We urge you to save these to track your writing progress over the year. It's a journal of YOU and your writing career. At the end of the year, we'll ask if you want to submit your wild notes and scribbles to "Project Workbook" -- an ebook compilation. We compile it and send them out to Premium-Green subscribers at the end of the year so you can read through your fellow freelancers notes and be inspired!

Your Questions Answered:

More than you Magic 8-Ball

Submit your question on anything you'd like to know the answer to, and we'll publish it in our Q&A column. Anything goes here. You can ask questions about life, freelancing, writing, editing, or personal issues. We'll answer all of them!

All signs point to yes!

Markets, Markets, and More Markets:

Besides our fabulous columns to guide you through your freelancing career, we bring you a top-notch selection of markets tailored to your tastes.

  • Pink & Green Markets
  • Fiction Addiction
  • Nonfiction: Freelancer's Delight
  • Contract Jobs: Writer's Wanted
  • Anthologies
  • Contests
  • Niche Markets (such as slogans, greeting cards, etc.)

All served up fresh to bring you the Green!

Bonuses and Bunches for your Bucks:

At the end of the year you'll receive two ebooks:

Fueled by Premium-Green: A compilation of a whole year's worth of the Premium-Green newsletter's columns and markets in ebook form. Plus additional articles and resources for women freelancers not found anywhere else!

Project Workbook: This is all about you! (See the above section under "Workbook") This ebook combines all the worksheets given throughout the year that you filled in. It'll be put together in 'slam book' momento for all subscribers. This tracks your progress and your fellow freelancer's progress all in one fun and inspirational slam ebook!

Specials only for Premium-Green Subscribers:

At times we'll have specials that will only be offered to Premium-Green subscribers. These may be discounts on books, products, services, or giveaways offered to PG subscribers only. You will not find these elsewhere. Lucky you!

What are you waiting for?

Subscribe today and let us walk you through your freelance writing career!

And most of all, we'll help you have fun along your journey!

Cost: $24 a year

That's less than $2 per issue. With all the bonuses, you can't go wrong. And you'll be supporting women writers, WOW!, and giving us the fuel to keep striving for the best!


Premium-GreenSubscribe to the Premium-Green Markets today!




Support WOW! Women On Writing and we'll support you. Thank you in advance for your consideration. Let's make this a banner year!!!!

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Monday, August 20, 2007

 

Going Green

In light of Chynna's hilarious post on how to annoy prospective editors and provide solid craft tips, I hope to do the same next week...


But today's post I reserved for a new company. Have you heard of the new way to "go green" with regard to books? Here's a letter we recently received:

My name is Raz Godelnik and I thought WOW! readers might be interested to learn about Eco-Libris , a new green biz I co-founded that lets book readers balance out the paper used for the books they read by planting trees. An interesting fact is that although balancing out books is relevant for both men and women, we received so far much more attention from women. So without further delay, here's an introduction to Eco-Libris:

About 20 Million trees are cut down annually for virgin paper used for the production of books sold in the U.S. alone. What we want to do is to raise awareness to the destructive environmental impacts of using paper for the production of books and provide people with an affordable and easy way to do something about it.

The process itself is fairly simple - upon entering our website (http://www.ecolibris.net/), customers decide how many books they would like to balance out. They then pay for it online and a tree is planted for each of these books. Customers also receive a sticker made of recycled paper for every book they balance out saying "One Tree Planted for this Book." They can later display these stickers on their books' sleeves. In the few days that we have been online we already had people from all over the world balancing out their books and planting trees. The feedback so far is very encouraging.

We have partnered with three highly respected US and UK registered non-profit organizations that work in collaboration with local communities in developing countries to plant the trees. These trees are planted in high ecological and sustainable standards in Latin America and Africa, where deforestation is a crucial problem, and planting trees not only helps to fight climate change and conserve soil and water, but also benefits many local people, for whom these trees offer many benefits and an opportunity for a better future.

Eventually and hopefully sooner than later, books will be made from recycled paper or other eco-friendly materials and logging for paper will stop. On that day we'll happily move on to a new cause, but until then we think every book reader should take action. We also don't forget the responsibility of the book publishing industry to the current situation and we intend to become a strong voice in a call for change towards printing books in an eco-friendly manner.

Please check out our website (http://www.ecolibris.net) and let me know what you think. You can also check our news release.

Like any new green business we try to spread the word about us to all the greenies, book lovers, and everyone in between. If you could feature us at your site that really would be great! I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have. Thanks!

Best regards,

Raz Godelnik
Eco-Libris
http://www.ecolibris.net/
raz@ecolibris.net

Way to go Eco-Libris! Once I checked out their site, I "planted" trees without a shovel or even a drop of sweat. I just donated a little money to the cause. What a novel idea! No pun intended.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

 

Webinars for Writers

For writers who can’t travel to conferences, for whatever reasons--family issues, expenses, or time away from an “other” career--webinars make for an insightful, fun, and educational diversion. Webinars provide fast, focused training on specific topics. If you attended the Women’s Writing and Publishing Summit over this last weekend, then you know how beneficial they can be through learning at a distance, yet feeling like you’re in the same room.

I received information about upcoming webinars from In the Company of Writers. See the information below and find one that fits your interests. The first one fits right in with this month’s theme on self-publishing and the following ones might be right up your writing alley. Check them out:

NEED INFORMATION ABOUT PUBLISHING?
INTERESTED IN IMPROVING YOUR SKILLS?
WANT TO KEEP GROWING AS A SUCCESSFUL WRITER?
In The Company of Writers
DISTANCE LEARNING AT ITS FINEST!
Webinars
CAN HELP

GETTING PUBLISHED
Simultaneous Publishing - The New Book Model
August 1, 2007 from 7 to 8:30 pm (EDT)$47
Tips and Secrets You Won't Find Anywhere Else
Presented by World Famous DAN POYNTER
Register at http://www.inthecompanyofwriters.com/Poynter.htm

WRITING FOR THE (LUCRATIVE) YOUNG ADULT MARKET
Tuesday evenings, August 14 - 21 - 7 to 8:30 pm (EDT) $137
Next Generation of Decision Makers, Parents, Politicians, Movers & Shakers...
Presented by Prize-winning Author SHELIA MOSES
Learn: To Create: Compelling Characters, Subject Matter, and Story Line plus
Dilemma-Conflict and Solution That Inspires and Attracts Young Adult Readers
Register at http://www.inthecompanyofwriters.com/Moses.htm

THE PLAYWRIGHTS SERIES A Five-Week Webinar Course
September 11, 18, 25 and October 2, 9; $257
Presented by PAMELA TURNER, Ph.D. and HANK KIMMEL, M.S., J.D.
Session 1 - Getting Started
Session 2 - Building Structure
Session 3 - Developing Story
Session 4 - Finding Voice
Session 5 - Navigating the Biz
Tuesdays, 8 - 10 pm (EDT)
Register at http://www.inthecompanyofwriters.com/Playwriting.htm

Soon to be Announced
HOW TO GET PUBLISHED AND MAKE A LIVING AS AN AUTHOR
A Twelve-Week Webinar Course Fees/Dates/Times TBA
Presented by VALERIE CLARK

Intro: Being a Writer vs an Author
From Book Concept to Manuscript
Components of the Writing Process
Manuscript Structure
Finding an Agent; Getting Published
Branding and Marketing
Financial Overview
Achieving the Dream to Write
How to Write and Pitch a Screenplay

In The Company of Writers LLC, 1071 Steeple Run, Lawrenceville, GA 30043, USA.

Geri Taran is the creator and the President of In the Company of Writers. She is a poet, a writer, an editor, and an artist. Her written works have ranged from business and corporate publications, newsletters, reports, interviews, articles, and essays, to stories and poems for both young people and adults. Find out more about her at the website.

Have a fabulous WOW week! ;-)

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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, March 25, 2007

 

Mandy Vicsai Writes on our Contest Prompt!

As you may know, we don't allow the First, Second, or Third Place Winners to submit to our flash fiction contest for three seasons. It keeps things fair that way and also takes the pressure off the contestant who won! But of course, we're always interested in reading your stories, so even if you did win the whole enchilada and want to submit your story to us to keep those fingers tapping, we'd be happy to publish it.

Next Sunday will be April 1st, and we're excited! Not just because it's April Fool's Day, but because that's when all our contest winners are published. And no, there will be no joking around about that! So, to warm you up and get you in the spirit of the wonderful entries you're going to be able to read soon, Mandy Vicsai gave us her permission to post her take on our Winter 2007 prompt. Of course, she cannot win anything, so this is just for fun. Enjoy!

To refresh your memory, the prompt: You have made the last payment on your car. You want to celebrate in a unique way, because...well, what would be more unique than paying off a vehicle these days? You have your credit card in hand, decide to pick one person and take off for a week. Whom do you choose and where do you go?


Independence Day

by Mandy Vicsai


I beep the horn three times. Ida Forsyth steps onto the porch.
“She’s all mine,” I tell her, running a loving hand over Betsy’s steering wheel. Betsy is a 1998 Dodge Neon. Sure she’s got over 85,000 miles on the dial, but she was priced right. And she’s my new favourite colour – silver.

“Your first car,” Ida coos.
“Exactly!” I say. “Cel-e-bra-tion time! Let’s christen this baby. Pack a bag and leave a note. We’re goin’ down the highway!” I wave my credit card.
Ida disappears inside.
“Only ten pieces of make up,” I call after her. “That’s individual pieces, not suitcases full. You don’t need to hide every wrinkle you think you have.”

Ida needs a take-it-as-it-comes, anything-goes road trip after those idiots at the grocery store told her she was too old to price cans of beans. I swear if you’re old enough to earn more than three bucks an hour you’ve priced yourself out of employment. There’s a trucker’s bar just out of town. Quite frankly we could both use a drink.

It’s my family that’s driving me nuts. Ida’s are over-protective; like she’d snap in a light breeze. Mine list isolated instances of youthful exuberance and claim they’re proof I can’t manage my own life.
“The civic fountain is not a swimming pool.”
“Fried taquitos and chocolate cake are not dinner.”
“And stop making gooey eyes at the new pastor. It’s embarrassing.”

“I’m just their live-in babysitter,” I tell Ida as we cruise. “I baby sit for other folks on our block too; seems nobody has time for their kids anymore.”
“Still, you’ve earned enough to buy a car,” she says.
“Yes, I’ve at least done that.”

I park at Trucker’s Rest. A sign reads, “No Minors.” Ida and I giggle. Inside we plonk ourselves on two bar stools.
“Bartender, we’ll have Sex on the Beach, please.”
“Mary Clare!”
I can feel the warmth of Ida’s blush and whisper, “It’s a drink.”
“I’ll need some ID,” the bartender says seriously. He examines my driver’s license then peers at me.
“Just got that last month,” I tell him.
“Congratulations,” he says.
“Bought her first car, too. Paid off and everything,” adds Ida proudly.
“Had to,” I explain. “I need my independence. Family can be very . . . confining.”
The bartender nods and sets our drinks on little white napkins. He winks playfully.
“On the house.”

“Ida,” I say thoughtfully. “Move in with me.”
“What about your daughter and her family?”
“It’s my house Ida. They’ll have to leave.”
“They think you’re still grieving.”
“I’m not,” I say. “Life’s too short. One year’s enough. Drink up. Let’s hit that road.”

We settle into Betsy’s charcoal seats. A pimply youth in a rusty pick-up honks his horn and shouts, “Come on Grandma, don’t die with your foot on the brake.”

I shake my silver curls. Young people today. I flip the whipper snapper the bird and singe his adolescent nostril hairs with the acrid stench of burning rubber.

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Mandy Vicsai's Bio: Mandy divides her professional time between copywriting and creative writing. She aims to entertain, inspire and empower with her stories and is currently finishing her first novel. Mandy believes you are never too young - nor too old - to fulfil a dream. In fact, she has recently begun the journey to a long-held ambition - learning karate. Together with her husband Peter and feline friend, Pussycat, Mandy calls Melbourne Australia home.

Note: Mandy is the First Place Winner in the WOW! Women On Writing Fall 2006 Flash Fiction Contest. She also wrote an article for our March issue's HOW 2 Column. She continues to amaze us with her creative fiction and non-fiction writing.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

 

Who's Going to BEA?


BOOK EXPO AMERICA: MAY 31 - JUNE 3, 2007
Jacob Javits Convention Center, NY, NY

Book Expo America is HUGE, and the WOW! Women On Writing Editors and the WOW! Alumni (contributors, writers, agents, authors, editors, publishers, readers) will be there. Want to meet up with us? We'd love to get to know you! If you're attending, drop us an E-MAIL and we'll do lunch, brunch, or schedule a special Girl's Night Out! We will be covering events, awards, showcases, conferences etc. Join in on the fun!

Some of the WOW! Alumni will have booths that we urge you to check out. What better way to network with your peers? We'll be posting them in the following weeks, so please check back often and schedule your *hit list* of fabulous women you'd like to meet and connect with at this outstanding event.

Note: If you're a WOW! reader/contributor and want us to write about your booth or your attendance at BEA, please e-mail us and we'll be sure and post it. It's going to be a literary bash!

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

 

Interview with Colleen O'Brien - Runner Up in the Fall 2006 Flash Fiction Contest


As you may know, we interview the top 10 contestants of each season and post the interviews as they roll in. Well, we just heard from Colleen O'Brien, runner up in the Fall 2006 WOW! Contest! And we're happy to hear that she's doing well. So, join us in a treat as we complete our interviews for our Fall season, as we chat with Colleen and find out what she's been up to.

WOW: Colleen, we loved your bitter-sweet story, Pom-Poms and Promises. Can you tell us what inspired you to write it?

Colleen:
The prompt! Ok, seriously, I enjoy writing about teen angst, and I thought it would be a great exercise for me to help improve my writing skills.

WOW: Well, I think the 'exercise' paid off; congratulations on a great entry! How much editing did you have to do to get the word-count down?

Colleen:
A lot! I wanted to say so much more! Having a 500 word limit makes you realize the value of every single word. I do a lot of copywriting with word count limits, so the "word count" feature in MS Word is my best friend!

WOW: I must agree, and I often wonder what writers did before computers. You mentioned that you do a lot of copywriting, and in your bio you said that you own a marketing consulting business. How do you find time to write for yourself? Do you have a schedule?

Colleen:
It’s not easy! I try to make it a priority, but sometimes it doesn’t work, as I enjoy a roof over my head and regular meals. I don’t write as often as I should, but I’m hoping to change that this year. I don’t have a writing schedule, but I desperately need one!

WOW: How far along are you with the novel you're writing? And how has the process been for you?

Colleen:
I have about 90% of it written. Throughout the process, I’ve been plagued by such self-doubt, which I’ve learned is typical of new writers. It’s been a great experience, though. One during which I’ve learned a lot about myself.

WOW: That's what it is... a learning process that is also very spiritual, because you're really digging inside and pulling out. Self-doubt is normal, but try not to read too many how-to-write-a-novel type books, it can be discouraging. One thing I do suggest though, is to read novels that interest you. You can never go wrong with that. Do you have any favorite authors?

Colleen:
I love Marian Keyes. Her work is so engaging and relatable. And no one can suck me into a story like Maeve Binchy. I also love Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris. They’ve had life experiences that might make lesser men curl up and die, but they manage to communicate their stories with irony and humor.

WOW: Oh, I love David Sedaris' stories, especially hearing them on This American Life, which ignites my writing and ignites my soul. How about you... what does writing do for your soul?

Colleen: It reminds me that I actually have a voice. I become more self-confident when I can write something I'm happy with. (But are we ever really completely happy with what we write?)

WOW: Good question, but sometimes you just have to jump in with both feet! Although I must say, novels are the hardest to let go, especially if you're a perfectionist. It's almost like raising a child, or a pet... and speaking of furry friends, we noticed the picture of your canine companion! Can you tell us a bit about him/her?

Colleen: Since the last contest, I have taken in another dog, and been elected to the board of the organization from which I got him. (How’s that for jumping in with both feet?) Both of my golden retrievers have come from one of the largest golden retriever rescue organizations in the country. Peyton is 1 ½ and Seamus is 2. Though their personalities couldn’t be more dissimilar, they’re best pals! I don’t know what I ever did without them!

WOW: Aw... you'll have to send us pics! So, do you have any writing goals for this year?

Colleen:
Write more! I’ve been procrastinating when it comes to finishing my book, but I absolutely have to do it this year.

WOW: Somehow, I think you will get right on track with that... WOW! may just have some surprises to announce very soon. Sorry, I don't mean to be a tease... but, just know that we're here to support you all the way! ;) So Colleen, how has the Fall 2006 Flash Fiction Contest been for you?

Colleen: It was unbelievable! I’ve written for a while, but just for myself. I certainly never called myself a “writer.” I entered the contest on a lark, and when I heard I was in the top ten, I was so excited! It’s really helped me realize that I can do this. This whole experience has provided a much-needed confidence boost for me! Thank you!

WOW: That makes us smile from ear to ear.

If you didn't get a chance to read Colleen O'Brien's entry Pom-Poms and Promises, CLICK HERE, you won't be disappointed!

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Monday, March 05, 2007

 

Carolyn Howard-Johnson Launches New Website

Award-winning author Carolyn Howard-Johnson presents her new website just in time for the launch of her new book, The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. The HowToDoItFrugally site features the author, her literary work and how-to books, but it is also designed to give both readers and writers information they want and need.

Of particular interest to the editors of websites, blogs, e-zines and newsletters is the "Free Articles 4 Writers and Editors" page where Howard-Johnson regularly posts articles on writing, book reviews, and essays. General readers will appreciate the "Links for Readers" page that not only lists books by category but also websites that specialize in reviews to help readers select their reading and reference materials. A similar page for writers lists resources writers need for everything from tekky stuff to book promotion to writers' conferences and tradeshows.

Howard-Johnson was named Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment this year by the 43rd and 44th District of the California Legislature Her first novel, This is the Place, and her book of creative nonfiction, Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered, are both multiple award winners. She speaks frequently, is an instructor for UCLA Extension Writers' Program and has appeared on TV and hundreds of radio stations nationwide.

The author's first book The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't is the first in the HowToDoItFrugally series. It was named USA Book News' Best Professional Book and given the Book Publicists of Southern California's Irwin Award.

On www.HowToDoItFrugally.com visitors will find a media room, downloadable media kits and even information on Authors' Coalition, an organization the author founded.

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To read one of Carolyn's articles we featured on WOW! CLICK HERE

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

 

The Query Letter: Your Tool For Success


By Patricia L. Fry

If you want to get published, you have to make a good first impression when approaching an editor or publisher. How? Write a good—no, write a great query letter.

Why is the query letter so important? It saves everyone a lot of time. Editors are more likely to look at a one-page letter than an entire manuscript. And you don’t have to write the piece until you know there’s an interest. Often, an editor will suggest changes to your initial idea. If the article is already written, you’ll have to do a rewrite.

For example, two years ago, I queried Technology and Learning Magazine about an article on preparing girls for careers in technology. Instead, the editors asked me to write about public relations programs in American schools. I recently queried Children’s Voice about an article highlighting the healing powers of gardening for at-risk children. The editors saw more merit in a piece featuring specific gardening programs for kids, however. These are only a few examples showing the benefits of querying first.

While there is plenty of room for creativity when writing a query letter, there are also certain standards. Following is the anatomy of a query letter:

1: Date your letter and address it to the appropriate editor. If the source you’re using for contact information is over six-months old, I suggest confirming the information. Use a current issue of the magazine or their website, for example. If you’re not sure how old your information is, send an Email or call to verify the contact information.

2: State your intent. Identify your correspondence as a query letter. I typically write, “I’d like to propose an article featuring…” Or I might start my letter with an attention-getting statement. Here’s an example: “Do people often interrupt you when you’re talking? Are your comments sometimes ignored? Do you feel inadequate when expressing your ideas in a business meeting? In a recent survey, over fifty-percent of the women polled said they do not feel as though they’re taken seriously at work. My article, ‘Be Heard: How to Get People to Listen When You Speak’ could change your life.”

3: Give a synopsis of your proposed article or book. Briefly and succinctly describe your story and your slant. Introduce your experts and/or supply a list of research sources and one or two sample anecdotes. Avoid inundating the editor with details, but don’t play guessing games, either. Be straightforward in your presentation. Give the editor everything she needs in order to make her decision while keeping the synopsis portion within a paragraph or two.

4: Demonstrate that you’ve done your homework. Hopefully, your article or book idea is on target for this magazine or publisher. That’s the first indication that you’ve done adequate research. If you believe that your article is a good fit for a particular column, mention it. Also, state your proposed word count based on the magazine’s or publisher’s guidelines

5: List your qualifications. If you have a particular expertise related to your proposed topic, mention it. In a query letter for my article on handling the irate customer, I revealed that I worked for two years in customer relations and attended workshops on this subject. When querying for my article about helping instead of criticizing neighborhood kids, I told about my affiliation with a youth mentoring organization and a Neighborhood Watch program. When querying about a writing or publishing-related book, I would provide my resume as a freelance writer/author/publisher.

6: Give your writing credits. This is no time to be modest. List your most significant and pertinent works. If you’ve sold anything similar to this topic, say so. If you’re hard-pressed to come up with appropriate writing credits, go ahead and mention your work on the church newsletter or the fact that you’re a 4th grade teacher. Send a couple of published clips, if available.

7: End it. I generally close with something like, “Please let me know if you’re interested.” In the case of a rather complicated piece, I might say, “If you’d like to see a more detailed outline, please let me know.

8: Keep things simple. Make it easy for the editor to work with you. First, find out how the editor prefers that you send your letter—regular mail, email or fax, for example. This information generally appears in their Guidelines for Writers (usually available on their web site or by request through the mail). Send just what the editor requests (a query letter and 3 published clips, for example). If he or she wants more later, they’ll ask.

Like many writers, I have a web site. At the end of my letter, I often add my website address and write after it, “for more about me.”

Keep your query letter to one page if at all possible. I’ve been known to spill over to a page and a half when I have several experts and research sources to list and that’s forgivable.

Additional tips (and these are important, too):

• Neatness counts.
• Always include a self-address-stamped envelope (SASE).
• Log every transaction. List date sent, magazine/publisher name and article/book description. Leave a space to record any notes.

The Waiting Game

Waiting for a response is sometimes difficult. With the advent of email, however, the waiting period can be eliminated completely in some instances. I’ve been rejected (or had an article accepted) just minutes after emailing a query. But expect to wait for anywhere from 10 days to 3 months after sending a query letter by mail. The average wait is probably 4 – 6 weeks. Before using email to query, make sure this is okay with the editor. While some editors adore this mode of communication, others will not look at anything that isn’t sealed in an envelope.

I like to use email, because, generally, an editor will respond more swiftly. Some editors and publishers never respond. My records indicate that nearly one-third of the query letters I sent last year were ignored. It’s frustrating, isn’t it? And the waiting game can be most annoying.

New writers, especially, often lose patience with editors who take their time to respond. One way around this discomfort is to avoid putting all of your hopes and dreams into that one query letter.

I don’t wait for query responses anymore because I’m too busy sending out new queries.
Send your query to more than one editor. Write new queries on different topics. Be productive and you won’t get stuck in wait mode

Here are some additional tips:

• Wait at least 4 – 6 weeks before inquiring about a query or a manuscript. Then send a tracer letter stating, “According to my records, on January 12, 2002, I queried you about an article featuring techniques for attracting birds to your patio garden. I’m writing now to inquire as to the status of that idea.” I’ve sold several articles by following through like this. Editors misplace letters. Sometimes queries are never received.
• Set goals. Send a query on a new topic every day or submit three queries per week, for example. I send between 30 and 50 queries each month.

For those of you who are still a little overwhelmed by the idea of writing a query letter, I’ve devised this guide. Ask yourself the following questions to help you write that query.

1. To whom shall I address this query?
2. What type of material is this publication requesting? (How-to articles, essays, exposes, inspirational pieces…?)
3. What do I have to offer them that might meet their current needs?
4. What aspect of my idea will appeal to them most?
5. How can I let the editor know that I’m familiar with his publication/publishing company?
6. How can I convince the editor/publisher that I can create a good and credible story from this topic?
7. How can I convince the editor/publisher that I am the person to write this piece?
8. How can I make it easy for the editor/publisher to work with me?

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Patricia Fry is a full-time freelance writer and the author of 25 books. Her latest book contains sample query letters. Order, “The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book” today at CLICK HERE. Visit Patricia’s BLOG often.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

 

Interview with Andrea Uptmor - Runner Up in the WOW! Flash Fiction Contest


Andrea Uptmor's story, 500 Words About Sally Rincker, was such a fast-paced adrenaline rush of words and images, we had to get to know the woman behind the story. Here's what Andrea had to say:

WOW: We loved your experimental story -- I say experimental, because it was all one sentence! What inspired you to write this story?

Andrea: The prompt, of course! The image of the lost pom-pom, all faded and crinkled, was a powerful one. The rest of the narrative sort of worked backwards from there.

WOW: Have you written any other stories that are all one sentence?

Andrea: I have, actually, and I'm beginning to think it's because I drink so much coffee while I write. The text takes on a sort of jittery, caffeinated quality that appeals to me.

WOW: Well, it appeals to us too, as does your detail to description. You received the Union League of Arts & Civics Foundation 2006 Fiction Prize -- can you tell us about the foundation, and what you wrote to receive this prize?

Andrea: The Union League club of Chicago has a great annual contest for the city's young writers and musicians. I won the fiction competition for a short story called, "Hives." It's so important to encourage young writers to just keep doing what they're doing, and organizations like the Union League club can really make an impact.

WOW: Currently, you're finishing your Masters of Arts in Creative Writing at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL. We think that shows tremendous dedication. What do you plan to do after you get your degree?

Andrea: Good question! The very first thing I'm going to do is consolidate my student loans, peek at the final number, and faint.

WOW: LOL. Well, whatever you do, we know you'll be successful! You sure were up to the challenge of writing for the WOW! 2006 Flash Fiction Contest. What did you find most challenging about it?

Andrea: I've never worked from a prompt before, which is challenging in itself, because you've got to push yourself even harder to make your piece unique. If everyone's starting from the same point, how can you work with structure to make yours stand out?

WOW: Well, you definitely did that! Can you tell us what you're working on right now?

Andrea: I'm finishing my capstone project at Northwestern, a collection of short fiction.

WOW: Since you're majoring in creative writing, do you have any writing exercises that you can share with us?

Andrea: I love freewriting, especially if you can type quickly. If you can type fast, it closes the gap between your first inspiration and the hesitation that always comes afterwards. Just spit it out - fast!

WOW: Good advice. So, how has entering the WOW! contest been for you?

Andrea: Incredibly worthwhile. Thank you!

If you haven't done so already, check out Andrea Uptmor's short story: 500 Words About Sally Rincker

Since we talked to Andrea, she sent us this kind e-mail:

"Angela and Beryl,

Thank you so much for the box of gifts you sent! What an incredibly generous gesture. I am really looking forward to indulging in all of the prizes - especially Amy Tan's book. Thanks again for an amazing experience.

Andrea Uptmor
Flash Fiction Runner-Upper"


Your welcome Andrea. We look forward to reading more of your work in the future! Please keep us updated on all your projects. :-)

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

 

Interview with Jeri Rafter - Runner up in the WOW! Fall 2006 Flash Fiction Contest


Jeri Rafter is an amazing woman with a wonderful vision for creating imaginary worlds. Just read her story, Death By PomPom, and you'll see why. Her writing is raw, edgy, and in tune with the underground scene. It's no wonder that her guilty pleasure is 'indulging in dirty gossip rags' because she writes with a fashion-vibe (to coin a term), and I could easily see her creating the next girl-version of the uber-popular "Fight Club."

In an e-mail from Jeri, she had told us that she hadn't entered a contest since high school, and we were amazed. In fact, this is how the interview starts...

WOW: Jeri, is it true that you haven't written anything since high school? You're such a great writer, we find that hard to believe! What made you decide to enter the WOW! 2006 Flash Fiction Contest?


Jeri: Of course not! Did I say that? Seriously, I don't know where my brain goes sometimes. I have been writing everyday since high school, but not until the WOW! 2006 Flash Fiction Contest have I ever had anything published since 2001. I think it's important for women to have support out there in this literary world, and WOW is an amazing source of that support.

WOW: Thank you! And 'my bad' -- I assumed when you said you hadn't entered a contest since high school, that you weren't writing. Okay, it's my brain that's going places!

Jeri, one thing we love about your short story, Death By PomPom, is your ability to transport the reader into this other world -- an underground subculture of Goth Anti-Cheerleaders. What inspired you to write this story?


Jeri: I'm all for anti-heroes of any sort. I think black comedy is the best comedy, and the 'pom-pom' theme just generally leads itself into this dark subculture that had already existed in my mind.

WOW: That's great! And you look like such a sweet girl ;-) No really, I tend to be drawn to that kind of writing myself... you should ask Beryl about my short stories!

Anyway, let's move onto your bio. You were born in Montana and recently moved to L.A. How do you like it so far? Is it different from where you grew up?


Jeri: I love LA! The energy, people, and ideas here impress me every day. Back in Montana, you have to slow way down and learn to be patient and take things easy. Nothing happens in a day, but that is the beauty of it. No high heels either, there isn't a whole lot of pavement.

WOW: Oh no! I don't know if I could survive. I'm 5'4" and have to wear high heels if I don't have time to tailor my jeans. LOL. So tell us, what are you reading right now?

Jeri:
Nine Plays by Sam Shepard

WOW: And what was the most challenging thing about entering the flash fiction contest?

Jeri: Making myself edit.

WOW: Yes, that 500 word count can be a bear. So, do you have any writing, or other, goals for the New Year?

Jeri: I want to finish my screenplay and get it out to the world.

WOW: That's a great goal. We can see this happening for you. Please keep us up to date! Thanks again Jeri, and we hope that all your dreams come true.

If you haven't already checked out Jeri Rafter's short story, Death By PomPom, check it out HERE.

Side Note: Since we talked to Jeri for this interview, she sent us an e-mail about her prize-pack:

Dear Beryl and Angela-

WOW! is right! I can't believe how sweet and beautiful the package was that I received yesterday! I had no idea that was coming, what a nice surprise. You two are doing a great job, keep up the good work. I really appreciated all of the little touches, it was an amazing gift and I thank you so much!

With kindest regards,
Jeri Rafter


WOW's comments: You're so welcome Jeri, you deserve it and much more! We know you will go far with your writing.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

 

Interview with Sarah Jane Stratford - Runner up in the WOW! Fall 2006 Flash Fiction Contest



Sarah Jane Stratford had such a unique take on our prompt, we just had to find out her motivation behind it. Join us in a discussion with this very talented writer and find out just what she's up to!

WOW: What inspired you to write, The Cat Toy?

SJ: In thinking about a lost pom-pom, I remembered a house I used to pass on my way to school that had an elaborate English garden, even though it was surrounded by hideous modern LA apartments. We called it 'The Enchanted Garden' and occasionally tried to sneak in - just to walk around, very 'Alice in Wonderland'. So I just took the mental leap over the wall and lost a pom-pom in the process.

WOW: And during that leap, you managed to create some very interesting characters: Auntie Ellen who became a nudist, and a scary cat lady who grows exotic vegetables in disturbing shapes. What visuals! Were these characters based on anyone you know?

SJ: Hee-hee! Er, well, yes, but since I'm running the risk of being barred from all family gatherings into infinity, I'd best just say they're an amalgam of people I've had run-ins with over the years.

WOW: Okay, we don't want you to get in trouble, so we'll gracefully change the subject... How did you get into writing screenplays?

SJ: I think very visually and discovered that my written dialogue is much more eloquent than anything that actually comes out of my mouth, so I became addicted to the process of spinning out the sort of conversations I'd rather like to have in real life but rarely do. It's weird, because my real passion is theatre, but I was in LA and it was very much a Roman thing.

WOW: Ah yes, when in Rome. You wrote a contest-winning screenplay entitled, "The Tale of the Torturer's Daughter," a medieval farce about torture, romance, and good hair -- what contest did you enter, and how important do you think having good hair is?

SJ: I entered several - it was a semifinalist in two others and winner in the Comedy category of the Fade In contest. Good hair is one of the pillars of life. It's a goal I strive for every day. That I often fail is of little consequence - it's still a primary force in my life.

WOW: As good hair should be! But from your pic, I can see that you DO have good hair. So, Sarah Jane, what are you working on right now?


SJ: Hoo boy. I'm busy. In addition to sundry strange stories, I'm writing a novel about vampire espionage, a comic script about stalking and reality TV, and the teensy tiny extremely amorphous beginnings of a play that may or may not involve time travel.

WOW: Sounds like you have a ton of interesting projects and plots whirling about your good hair. ;-) Writing seems to come easy for you; what did you find most challenging about entering the WOW! Fall Flash Fiction Contest?

SJ: Getting it polished and sent in time - seriously, I sent it in a whopping 14 minutes before the deadline. What a night that was!

WOW: That's crazy! But you definitely pulled it off. Many writing websites recommend that you get your work in early, but we had quite a few that slid right under the deadline and they did very well. So, do you have any tips on prompt-writing that you'd like to share with other writers?

SJ: Try to plan your time better. It's loads of fun, but 500 words is much trickier than you'd think. No joke - you've got yourself a beast of a page and a half. You might need a whip and chair. (and we all need the fabulous leather boots)

WOW: Yes we do.

Thanks Sarah Jane for a great interview! If you haven't got a chance to read SJ's story, check it out HERE.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

 

Interview with Valerie Maczak - Runner Up in the WOW! 2006 Flash Fiction Contest


From talking with Valerie, we've learned that she's a free spirit, an extraordinary person, and a dedicated writer with tons of talent. Over the years, Valerie has worked many jobs, yet, throughout each one of them, she still finds time to write. When we first read her short story, Rolling Along, we wondered if she actually spoke the way she writes! After receiving our first e-mail from her, we immediately deduced that it wasn't the way she speaks; it was a true manifestation of her writing voice.

WOW: One thing that impressed us most about your story, Rolling Along, was your ability to stay true to your characters' voices. How important is voice to you?

Valerie: Extremely. I have a frightening gift for finding a character's voice. In my professional life, I work for a financial publishing company that represents investing "celebrities," so every day I become a 50-year-old, white male who is worth $4 billion. I get to "say" things like, "McDonald's posted a phenomenal 37% earnings surprise in the third quarter, and the currency tailwind we saw in the fourth quarter means another stellar report is ahead." It's VERY exciting.

WOW: Sounds like it! So tell us, what inspired you to write a story about a roller derby girl? (What an original take!)

Valerie: Jim Croce's "Roller Derby Queen," and quite honestly, I figured you would be overwhelmed with cheerleader pom-pom stories, so I hoped it would make me stand out.

WOW: I know that song! In fact, down here in San Diego there's a restaurant I go to every once and a while. It's called Croce's Restaurant & Jazz Bar. It's owned by Ingrid Croce, and is a tribute to the memory of her late husband Jim -- and the place has excellent food and a great music scene... it's also a fabulous place for drinks.

In your bio you said that you're 'a recovering bartendress, a reformed flight attendant, and a beauty school drop out.' What a colorful resume! While working these jobs did you still manage to find time to write?


Valerie: Always -- my professional life is the best fodder for my work. In fact, while I was flying the friendly skies, I was also attending college. I would work trips Friday through Monday then take classes on Tuesday and Thursdays. It worked well -- I'd pack my text books along with my underpants and polyester frock, so I did a lot of writing on the road, though much of it was academic. I did that for about 2 years, but I eventually had to take classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and the fallout from the September 11 sadness became more intense, so I quit in 2003, but I have missed it ever since.

WOW: Yeah, the September 11th issue has been coming up a lot lately in our interviews. Check out what Amy Tan told us about where she was at the time... it's too strange...

In your bio, you also said that you take on freelance writing in your spare time. What kinds of projects do you get involved in?


Valerie: Oh, good Lord, what kind of projects DON'T I get involved in? I've written product reviews and "how to" articles for an adult Web site. I've ghost written freelance articles about chandeliers, Chinese real estate and home improvement loans. I also transcribe Congressional hearings. Earning a living from writing, even when you're writing about money, simply isn't very lucrative. I've accepted that I will probably always have a side job, which is alright because it keeps me out of trouble and out of the bars.

WOW: Val, that's quite a diverse selection! Do you have a day job now?

Valerie: Indeed, I work for a financial publisher. I'm low on the totem pole but high in spirit.

WOW: The photo of you with the guitar is great. What type of music do you like to play?

Valerie: Anything with easy chords. I do write my own songs, but I'm very private with them, so I tend to perform unusual cover songs -- things that probably shouldn't be played acoustically, such as A-Ha's "Take on Me" and a lot of Air Supply songs. Outside of that, I love Bob Dylan, Ray Lamontagne, James Taylor, Paul Simon -- I could go on an on.

WOW: (laughs) I grew up in the 80's so I'm all too familiar with A-Ha's song and their infamous video/cartoon. That must be very hard to play acoustically, I'd imagine!

Speaking of childhood, your article about Walt Disney was published in The Daily Jeffersonian when you were in the third-grade. Is that what encouraged you to take your writing seriously?


Valerie: I'm still struggling with taking my writing seriously. It seems very pretentious to me to refer to myself as a writer. I tend to tell people that I "like words," but each time I get something published, whether it's an article on caring for older horses or a very generous mention on your Web site, my confidence builds.

But, it was actually a high school English teacher, Carlene Jackson, who told me, point blank, "You write very well." That sentiment was later reiterated by several college professors whom I respected very much and my friend Sean P. K, who acts as my editor. It's a bit Lifetime movie-ish, but they inspired me with those simple words. Or maybe I'm just a sucker for compliments, but either way, I will always appreciate
them.

WOW: I think encouragement is definitely needed for all of us to grow as writers -- it seems to be a theme; actually, in the answers we're receiving. Someone somewhere in school or life has been encouraging, providing a catalyst for talent. So, do you have any writing goals for the New Year?

Valerie: To master hyphen usage. I always get tripped up on the hyphens.

WOW: Even the Fowler brothers (the first editors of the Concise Oxford Dictionary) had trouble with that one. Check out their explanation HERE.

So, how has entering the WOW! Fall 2006 Flash Fiction Contest been for you?


Valerie: Fantastic -- I love prizes! I'm currently working on my submission for the next contest.

WOW: That's great to hear. We can't wait to read it! Thank you Valerie for inspiring us and sharing your unique outlook on life.

If you missed Valerie's story Rolling Along, you can read it HERE. Enjoy!

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

 

Interview with JeanMarie Olivieri - Runner Up in the WOW! 2006 Flash Fiction Contest


It's interviews like this that make our world go around. Not only did we enjoy reading JeanMarie's short story, but we loved learning about the fantastic woman behind the story. It seems that no matter what JeanMarie writes, her voice is fresh, unique, and full of truth -- a rare quality that we can all be inspired from.

WOW: The ending of your story sure packed a punch! We were surprised and didn't see that coming. That's always great when reading a short story. What inspired you to write, Pom and Circumstance?

JeanMarie: Well, I'm a lazy writer. I need to be prodded a bit. I have a writing buddy and we take turns coming up with story prompts but sometimes an outside source is the way to go. While surfing craigslist I saw an ad about the contest and went to the site. I was immediately inspired by the prompt, in particular the part about no return address label on the box, because to me it just fairly screamed "revenge!" Also it would give me a chance to go dark!

WOW: And it did get real dark there at the end, which came as a surprise! How much editing did you do to get your word-count down?

JeanMarie: Well, the story pretty much came to me whole, and I was fairly close to the word limit. Years and years of writing the company newsletter taught me to write-tight. However, I had two beta-readers tell me they didn't or couldn't believe a husband would leave his wife over cheerleading. That was where most of my editing time went. With only 500 words I can't change the mind of a reader who won't go along for the ride, but I can sway the one on the fence! I felt it worked out well because addressing that issue gave me a stronger finish.

WOW: That's interesting that you say that, because that was one of the points that hit us while we were reading it (about the husband leaving her because of cheerleading), but by the time we got to the end, we thought, Whoa... what a knockout!

In your bio you mentioned that you're an unemployed technical writer. How long did you work in that field?


JeanMarie: I worked for a company in Colorado for 10 years as a technical writer. Then in 2005 I relocated to North Carolina and I worked a few short-term writing contract jobs.

WOW: Can you tell us what types of projects you worked on, and how you found the experience?

JeanMarie: Working long term for one company gave me opportunities to do some different things, including training, and some fun special projects. However, the bulk of the work was newsletters, reports, minutes, work instructions a.k.a.standard operating procedures (SOPs), reports, and, YAWN, SOPs. The bulk of my contract experience involved editing SOPs.

WOW: You're making my head hurt! It seems like a lot of tedious work. So, how has the new career search been going for you?

JeanMarie: Well, I'm still looking for a career, but I did find a job! I realized that when I relocated across the country, I changed everything about my life except my career. I really don't know what I want to do but I'm done with technical writing - at least for a little while. I just started mid-January as an Administrative Assistant. It's not my dream job but I'm going to hang out for a while and see where I want to go from here.


WOW: Well, we wish you the best of luck, and hope that you continue writing fiction. Speaking of that, you have any new fiction projects in the works?


JeanMarie: Technically.... No. But I am mulling over a story about a cardboard box that crosses the country multiple times as it is given away from one moving customer to another.


WOW: That's an interesting concept... I could see that being a great film as well. (Special Note: JeanMarie's copyright pending!) So, do you have any other writing goals for the new year?


JeanMarie: I want to enter another WOW contest! Actually, I tend to write more non-fiction and poetry than fiction and I have some ideas brewing in those directions.

WOW: We'd love it if you entered another contest! Or perhaps, you may consider submitting a non-fiction article to us? But whatever you decide to do, we encourage you 100%!

So overall, how has entering the WOW! Fall 2006 Flash Fiction Contest been for you?


JeanMarie: Wonderful! It was just the antidote to a year filled with rejection (employment) and endless resume rewrites. Also, as soon as I saw the results of the contest posted online, I sent out an email announcement to my friends who were appropriately impressed!

WOW: As they should be JeanMarie. We admire your spirit, and the way you stuck to your guns about your piece. Writing groups and writing partners are wonderful (and we do advocate them in all ways), but it's always up to the writer to decide which advice to take and which to, ahem, recycle. Thanks for being yourself and bringing us into your life. We hope that you check in with us from time-to-time and let us know how your writing career is going.

If you haven't done so already, you can read JeanMarie's short story, Pom and Circumstance HERE.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

 

Interview with Deb Kincaid - Runner up in the WOW! Fall 2006 Flash Fiction Contest


It's always interesting to hear where a story comes from. We think that motivation and the person behind the story is as interesting as the story itself. In this interview, we got a chance to ask Deb about her motivation and her writing goals.

WOW: Deb, we loved your story; especially the letter and the touching portrayal of the grieving widow. Can you tell us what inspired you to write Game Over?

Deb: People and circumstances change as they experience life. A high school romance that never developed for some reason could, if circumstances were favorable, be successfully pursued years later, in this age of the internet and classmates.com. This particular prompt worked well with this premise.

WOW: What kind of freelance writing do you like to do?

Deb: Because I'm an extremely curious person, I'm open to all sorts of freelance work (other than copywriting). Uncovering information, or discovering persons' motivations, are equally fascinating to me. I'm also interested in sustainable living and recently created a column titled PLANET HABIT. It's in a Q&A format and explains, persuades, and motivates those who may be new to this sort of green mindset.

WOW: Your column sounds great! I'm always interested in sustainable and green living. In your bio, you also said that this was the first short story that you had published. How does it feel to have your writing recognized?

Deb: I felt happy, satisfied and validated! Less than six months ago I decided I wasn't any good at fiction, but this particular prompt enticed me. I just had to try. Making the top 10 was especially sweet.

WOW: And well-deserved, I must say. Have you entered any other writing competitions?

Deb: I've only been learning to write for about two years, so I haven't entered too many contests yet. In two different Byline magazine contests, I placed 3rd in the short feature, and 2nd in a poetry contest. It is a goal of mine to enter at least one contest per month. I'm especially interested in flash fiction right now. This form is excellent training in making every word work as effectively and concisely as possible, which is beneficial in all sorts of writing.

WOW: That is an interesting point and one that writers continually have to deal with. What were some of the other challenges you experience when entering the WOW! flash fiction contest?

Deb: The biggest challenge to me is to make it different. The expected can be boring, but neither do I like freakish, edgy stuff, nor negative, depressing stuff. Life is scary and sad enough; I don't want to contribute to it. I want my readers to feel better afterwards -- not disturbed. I think "making it new" and different is harder to achieve in a positive setting, than in a negative one. And, admittedly, there seems to be more markets for edgy writing. Still, I think my efforts are worthwhile.

WOW: Yes, I believe there is a place for all sorts of writing, and as you can see from the entries, they are quite different. Keep doing what you're doing because it works. Do you have any advice for writers who may be unsure about entering writing contests?

Deb: Regarding entering contests? Just do it. Contests force sincere writers to do their best work. Constantly striving to improve writing skills is worthwhile whether we win or not. Contests are a deterrent against lazy writing habits. For new writers like myself, I recommend entering small, free or low-fee contests. Going up against writer's with MFA's in the bigger contests is a real killjoy and self-defeating. Trust that you'll get there some day. Give yourself time to grow; be patient, you're an apprentice. Enter contests where you could realistically succeed. Try to enter one or two each month, and try a variety of genres and word lengths until you know your strengths. You may be surprised if you keep your mind open.

WOW: Deb, I think that's good advice that we all can learn from. So tell us, what's next in your writing career?

Deb: I've set some realistic goals for myself this year: be published in webzines, and in regional publications (I live in the Northwest USA, Washington specifically); learn to write travel and nature articles; get my website up and running; take an online fiction writing course; join a writer's group; and attend my first writer's conference. I will also send a thank you note to my college professor who encouraged me to take a year off from school to learn writing by doing writing.

WOW: Sounds like you've got your plate full! But as you said, they are realistic goals and we are here to help you achieve them, in any way we can. I think your college professor was right on. Tell him thanks from us as well!

If you haven't already read Deb Kincaid's short story Game Over you can read it here: Fall Contest Winners

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