Monday, November 30, 2009


Squeeze In That Writing Time!!

*The Following post is a version of one I'd written for Dianne Segan's blog. She gives some wonderful ideas and insight for writer Mamas everywhere so be sure to check out her blog.*
How many of you can relate to this question: “Where on earth do you find the time for writing with four young children?” Believe me, there are many days I wonder the very same thing. But I’ve come to realize that writing isn’t just something I love to do, it’s something I need to do. It helps keep me in touch with that part of myself that isn’t “Mama,” and that’s very important—for all of us. Allow me to explain.
I’m actually a late bloomer as far as getting into writing professionally. It’s not that I never had the time to write I was simply too nervous having my work out there for everyone to read. I mean, who the heck would have been interested in what I had to say? But as time went on, my courage increased with each story or article I’d let the world see until I’d made it almost a full-time gig. Then my Jaimie was born and writing had to stop temporarily.
I knew very early on that my miracle girl struggled with something. None of us knew what it was and she tried telling us in her own ways but we didn’t understand. After two years, we finally got someone—a fantastic OT named, Donna—to listen to our pleas. After a few hours with Jaimie she told us Jaimie had Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Now I’m the sort of person who can deal with anything as long as I have the information. I read every book available at that time, read articles, did online research and absorbed myself completely in understanding this mystery “SPD.”
You see there is much debate on whether SPD is a “real” disorder despite the fact that thousands of families are afflicted by it and tons of research backs it up. That made me angry. I lived with Jaimie each and every day watching how the tiniest things in her environment bothered her and caused her pain—things the rest of us take for granted—and yet it’s still considered “invisible.” That’s when I started writing again.
My passion to help my daughter by helping others understand her became my writing goal. Plus writing for me is therapeutic—it helps me re-focus on what’s important, calms me down when I’m not able to turn my mind off and gets rid of any of residue from the day’s stressors. Most importantly, it makes me feel like I’m doing something proactive in helping Jaimie since I can’t change the world so it doesn’t hurt her, cause her confusion or distress. I can, however, help that world accept her for who she is and see things through her eyes. And now you know how squeezing that writing time in is so important to everyone in my house.
Hey! You can do it too. Really. I used to get frustrated when I wasn’t able to sit for a writing session for a specified amount of time until I realized I still could. I just needed to write around my life. I took my little Neo keyboard with me to Jaimie’s therapy sessions, typing madly in the waiting room. I stole bits of time during nap or snack times or when the kids were preoccupied with their one half-an hour show I let them watch. Then I stayed up later after they all (finally) fall asleep. When you give yourself those snippets of time throughout the day, it’s like having an Espresso. It gives you extra brain energy until the next snippet you’re allowed to have. (Of course, if you’re writing a novel, you may want to wait until you get those larger blocks of time otherwise it will take forever!)
The most important thing to do is be easy on yourself. Don’t get frustrated if you have a day where the kids need you more than usual and won’t let you escape for a little while—it happens to me all the time. I just remind myself that for every nonproductive day, I get a couple of really productive ones in where I get tons of time to make up the difference.
I look at it this way: God gave me this amazing gift. I may not be the best writer in the world but darn it, I’m right up there with some of the most passionate! My writing has taken on a very specific purpose now, which helps me make that time for writing each and every day—even if it’s just for a few minutes. When I think, “I just don’t have the time today!” I simply look down on Jaimie’s earnest little face and think about how brave she was just getting out of bed that morning to face what her environment had in store for her. And that gives me strength to forge ahead.
Keep writing, Mamas! It matters and it’s so important.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Checklist for Freelancers

by LuAnn Schindler

You've submitted queries and you're playing the waiting game. Once the editor bites on your pitch, there are a few items you need to cover with the editorial staff. Clarity of expectations will help the project progress smoothly. Use this list when working with an editor.
  • Ask for a precise explanation of the project. What's the word count? Are photos necessary? Do you need a sidebar?
  • Note the deadline.
  • Determine what format should be used to submit the final product: an attachment? body of an email? mailed on a disk?
  • Learn what rights the publisher is asking for.
  • Discuss payment. Will you receive a flat rate? Are you being paid by the hour? Will you earn a certain amount for each word?
  • Decide what types of expenses, if any, will be covered as well as the payment procedure for expenses.
  • Review invoicing policies. Who should receive the invoices? When should they be sent?
  • Check if multimedia products (photos, videos, drawings) will be returned.

Many publishers will send a checklist of this nature when they decide to use your article. If a publisher does not use a similar form, a writer can send a form with her understanding of the project and ask for the editor to return it with an electronic signature via email. Protecting your bottom line and your projects will establish a solid relationship with an editor.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009


Making the ‘Write’ Connection on Facebook

By Jill Earl

Whether you’re a newcomer to Facebook, or know your way about the social networking site, you might be wondering if there’s an easier way to connect with writers. Take a peek at two of the resources I’ve found helpful.

First up is Creative Writing Sites on Facebook - an Index. Use it to look up authors' business pages, writing programs, writers' groups, writers' retreats and residencies, presses, magazines, workshop communities, the list goes on. According to the site, this index, which was established February 2008, is now at 840 listings.

Next is Creative Writing Blogs on Facebook - A Directory. Established December 2008 and comprised of 110 blogs so far, it’s great for locating writing-oriented blog networks and blogs.

Since both are open groups on the site, you’re free to list your own site or blog, useful for getting your name out there and networking with writing peers globally.

Keep in mind that you do have to join Facebook in order to access the directories and click through to the links, though.

Creative Writing Sites on Facebook

Creative Writing Blogs on Facebook

Check them out and make the ‘write’ connection on Facebook for yourself!

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Friday, November 27, 2009


Friday Speak Out: "Some Thoughts on Writing," Guest Post by Jayne Martin

Some Thoughts on Writing

by Jayne Martin

At 60 years old, I finally know what I want to be when I grow up. A writer.

This is actually the second time in my life I have realized this. The first was when I was in my 20’s struggling to be an actress despite my extreme discomfort in actually standing up in front of anyone and performing. This was about the same time that Sylvester Stallone was achieving his “overnight” success as writer and star of the first “Rocky.” I naively figured if he could write, how hard could it be and I started writing scenes for my acting class. To my great surprise, they were very well-received and I suddenly went from being the worst actress in the class to someone regarded with a certain amount of respect, it felt good.

While earning my living typing the screenplays of others, I became exposed to literally hundreds of scripts – some exceptionally good, like those by Alvin Sargent and Fay Kanin, and some exceptionally bad by writers never to be heard from again. I learned from all of them. My forté became the realm of the TV-Movie. I would either pitch an original idea or I would get an assignment to write a script from someone else’s idea, or from a true-life story, or adapt a book. The great thing about working on assignment or from a pitch is I got paid whether the movie got made or not and if it did get made, I actually get a bonus payment. My career as a TV writer spanned almost two decades and I was fortunate to have several of my scripts made into movies.

I wrote my last movie in 2004 and for the longest time I felt no creative drive to write anything. Until recently. It started with the discovery of a few new authors and the re-discovery of some old favorites, and their voices inspired me. So with the encouragement of some friends, I started a blog, injaynesworld, and darned if people didn’t start showing up, although where they got the idea there’d be refreshments served I have no idea. Oh, yeah, I might have said something about that in my shameless effort to lure readers. Most importantly, my creative juices are flowing again and I’m meeting and making friends with some wonderful writers.

Since I am no longer completely dependent on writing for a living, I am once again free to write for the pure pleasure and love of it, and I had forgotten how much I truly do love it. Not that I would turn money down. I’d love to get a paycheck for writing again and maybe I will. In the meantime, it’s such a joy to write directly for an audience and get that immediate feedback. A writer needs an audience. Because if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around, it really doesn’t make a sound.

Jayne Martin is an unapologetic, bleeding-heart liberal who loves good horses, good friends, and good wine. A TV-writer in a former life, her credits include "Big Spender," for Animal Planet, and "A Child Too Many," "Cradle of Conspiracy," and "Deceived By Trust" for Lifetime. Visit her blog, injaynesworld.


Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.


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Thursday, November 26, 2009


A Day of Thanksgiving

Today is not only a day for eating turkey, enjoying time with family and friends, and giving thanks for those in your personal lives, it's also a time to be thankful for your writing life.

I'm lucky to have a job where I get to work with talented writers who inspire me daily. These writers include our current staff members: Margo L. Dill, Marcia Peterson, LuAnn Schindler, Joanne Stacey, Jill Earl, Jodi Webb, Anne Greenawalt, Carrie Hulce, Cher'ley Grogg, Chynna Laird, and Elizabeth King Humphrey. And the many, many previous staff members (including most recently Alison Diefenderfer and Senior Editor Annette Fix) who've passed through the WOW! halls. Working with these ladies is such a joy. They're all excellent writers and I love hearing what they're up to in their writing lives and watching them grow as writers.

I'm also thankful for our instructors who've chosen to teach with WOW! Your knowledge and ability to help others with enthusiasm and patience is extraordinary. We're lucky to have you, and those that take your classes are lucky too!

I'm thankful for the Premium-Green community of women writers. This group has to be one of the most encouraging group of writers out there. Thank you for sharing your successes, big or small, and engaging in conversations about the freelance writing life on the group boards. You bring out my entrepreneurial spirit and inspire my pep talks! I hope they inspire you too.

To the multitude of contestants, I owe you a big thank you for always being gracious and understanding--even if we're late with prizes. I love reading your stories and learning more about you through interviews here on The Muffin. You're all such a talented bunch of writers, so creative. I'm still in awe at how you can come up with a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end in such a short word count.

I'm thankful for the guest judges we have each season, who donate their time and judge stories simply for the love of the written word. Thank you for dedicating yourself to our contests and for encouraging writers everywhere.

I'm especially thankful for those of you who visit and read WOW! and share your comments, stories, successes, and your passion for writing. It's this community that keeps me motivated and striving for the best.

To the freelancers and interviewees who've worked with WOW!, I'm thankful for your well written articles and for the advice you've shared with our readers. Without you, there wouldn't be a publication.

And last, but certainly not least, to my webmaster and partner, Glenn Robnett. Thank you for your dedication to WOW!, your expert tech savvy, and for always making our publication look beautiful and shine online.

So as you enjoy a day of family and friends, remember to give thanks to those in your writing life too. (Before you fall into a turkey-induced tryptophan-coma!) Happy Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Make Mistakes to Find Out What You Want

I was just reading the November issue of O magazine and thought this piece of advice would encourage you to take action in your writing life. Excerpt from the article Where To Start by Anne Lamott:

When I was a young writer, I was talking to an old painter one day about how he came to paint his canvases. He said that he never knew what the completed picture would look like, but he could usually see one quadrant. So he'd make a stab at capturing what he saw on the canvas of his mind, and when it turned out not to be even remotely what he imagined, he'd paint over it in white. And each time he figured out what the painting wasn't, he was one step closer to finding out what it was.

You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren't. You take the action, and the insight follows: You don't think your way into becoming yourself.


Sometimes we are afraid to try something new. Some of us fear rejection and others are so used to doing things a certain way it becomes comfortable and we don't want to break the pattern. Then there are still others that think about doing something so much it becomes overwhelming and we give up. We need to remember that we can't plan for everything. No matter how many times you play out a situation in your head, it will always come out differently in the real world. The important thing is to try. If you make a mistake, "paint" over it and move on. You'll be one step closer to discovering what you really want or who you were meant to be.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009


All the best laid plans...for next year's writing

I am a serial NaNoWriMo wannabe. Each year, I plunk onto the site as a willing and able writer. Blink and I find myself at the end of November. I've lost my train of...well, maybe I've just missed the train.
I spend time preparing for the monthly excursion and decide what I'm going to write. I find that the ideas are easy to come by, especially since, for me, it is an exercise in getting the words down. A cowboy story that morphs into a romantic children's book about frogs? No problem. To me, the beauty of NaNoWriMo is its function of writing that is important. Just like setting aside time for daily writing is important.
So, how many of you do just that? Every day, without fail?
Unfortunately, I find that I might make every other day...sometimes every third day. Please don't misunderstand me. I'm often writing, but I'm writing the stuff that comes in between the fiction. Sometimes I'm writing and I take a sideways glance at a book on the shelf and I'm re-reading a passage to help me through a writing dilemma. I count that towards my writing muscle, but not toward my fiction muscle. And none of it shows on the NaNoWriMo counter.
I like setting a goal and following through with thousands of like-minded strangers. But this November, with all the best intentions, my NaNoWriMo experience quickly derailed when a family member died. The funeral took place the first of November and it took a few more days to get back into regular life afterwards. Writing assignments piled up and, once again, I've spent a days getting ready for NaNoWriMo...2010.
I plan to be on the train with a first-class ticket and no derailments. In fact, I'm going to start practicing today and keep it up as long as I can and training so I can remove the wannabe title from above.
In the meantime, I'll stand here from the sidelines: Go NaNoWriMo writers! Make it to the finish line and I'll see you at the starting line next year.

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places. She is also kicking off the New Year's Resolution season early, to shake out all the ones that don't fit for next year.

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Monday, November 23, 2009


Remembering Rejections

On The Muffin, we've posted about rejections before. As a writer, you've probably heard all the standard rejection advice: personal rejections are good, a rejection is at least a response, and everybody gets rejected.

That's what I want to focus on today--during Thanksgiving week--

Everybody gets rejected!

I received an e-mail over the weekend, reminding me of this fact, and I thought it would be great to share it with my fellow women writers as a reminder not to give up, not to see one rejection as the end of your career. Look at this list:

Dune by Frank Herbert – 13 rejections

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 14 rejections

Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis – 17 rejections

Jonathan Livingston Seagull – 18 rejections

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle – 29 rejections

Carrie by Stephen King – over 30 rejections

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 38 rejections

A Time to Kill by John Grisham – 45 rejections

Louis L’Amour, author of over 100 western novels – over 300 rejections before publishing his first book

John Creasy, author of 564 mystery novels – 743 rejections before publishing his first book

Ray Bradbury, author of over 100 science fiction novels and stories – around 800 rejections before selling his first story

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter – rejected so universally the author decided to self-publish the book

So, when you open your mailbox and see the thin envelope OR open the e-mail and see, "Thank you for your submission but. . .", remember this list, don't give up hope, and be thankful that you can go back to the drawing board.

Happy Writing!
Margo Dill
Read These Books and Use Them

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Sunday, November 22, 2009


NaNoWriMo vs. NaBloPoMo

November is a crazy month where writers across the globe get a stranglehold of their muse and push their writing abilities to the limit!

Which is harder: NaNoWriMo or NaBloPoMo?

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) participants strive to write 50,000 fictional words in one month, and NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) participants strive to post on their blog every day for one month. I did some quick math and, considering a blog post is roughly 500 words in length, the word count for NaBloers would be 15,000 words in one month.

50,000 words vs. 15,000 words

A quick look at the word count and you'd assume that NaNoers have a tougher mountain to climb. One thing we need to remember is all the words are hidden from the public. You can write a terrible first draft and still win NaNo.

NaBloers, on the other hand, have less words to pen but their thoughts must be complete. Every day is a new post with a fully fleshed out idea (hopefully) that is visible to the public. You can't hide behind a veil of secrecy. The NaBloPoMo site checks to see if you actually posted every day before they award prizes. Skip a day and you're out of the game.

You can skip a day or two with NaNo, but it's not the days that matter, it's the overall word count at the end of the month. But in order to win, you do have to verify you wrote 50,000 words by uploading your draft to the site between November 25th - 30th. They also have word count widgets and a word-count box on the site to keep track of your progress and hold you accountable. I don't know if they award any prizes or not, but the real reward is knowing you completed a novel in one month.

Quality vs. Quantity

Both sites are all about quantity. There are no editors with red pens looming over your shoulder as you type. You can write a crappy first draft or you can write crappy blog posts. It's up to you.

The NaBloPoMo site even says that they ignore the quality of your posts and reward the quantity. You can enter their blogroll and get assigned a number in order to win a prize, and if you write drivel you can still win. But who wants terrible blog posts that stay online forever?

The same thing goes with the NaNoWriMo site. They say all you have to do is write more than one word repeated 50,000 times. But who wants to cheat themselves out of a real novel writing experience?

My Take

Personally, I'd rather participate in NaNoWriMo. I've done my own NaNo, but not during the month of November, and found it truly rewarding. When writing a novel, it's necessary to shut yourself out from the real world and delve into a fictional one full of your own characters, setting, and plot. Thinking about writing a blog post every day for a month makes my head hurt! It's hard to come up with a new topic daily that you have to edit, polish, and send out to the world. Either way, it's not an easy task for participants in either NaNo or NaBlo. I applaud all of you for taking the challenge this month and stepping up to the blank page. You are all winners for putting yourself out there and trying.

Now, I want to know:

If you're participating in NaNoWriMo, how is your word count coming? Are you happy with the way your novel is turning out?

If you're participating in NaBloPoMo, how are you coming up with new ideas every day? Do you find the quality of your blog posts suffering?

And to those rare birds that are doing or combining both: what are you thinking? LOL.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009


List of Universal Themes in Memoir Writing

What do universal themes have to do with memoir writing? If you are serious about writing a memoir, you need to not only tell your story, but have a story that others can relate to as well.

In Annette Fix' article on WOW, Memoir Writing: Drawing From Your Life to Create Your Story, she says, "You need to decide who your target audience is and what message you want to leave them with when they reach the end of the book. If you find that you have no 'point' to your story, it may be best to consider binding some copies for family members as a legacy or as an addition to your family's genealogy collection. If your intent is to see your memoir in the trade marketplace, you need to have a universal theme to which your readers can relate."

Here is a list of universal themes you can incorporate in your memoir: (in alphabetical order)

Accepting Change
Adjusting to a New Life
Appreciation of Nature
Being Gifted
Caring for the Environment
Coming of Age
Coping with Loss
Courage and Honor
Cultural Diversity
Customs and Traditions
Dealing with Handicaps
Death and Dying
Effects of War
Ethical Dilemmas
Gender Issues
Good vs. Evil
Growing Up
Intergenerational Relationships
Living in Today's Society
Making Choices
Morals & Values
Peer Pressure
Sense of Community
Sense of Self
Separation and Loss
Social Change
Taking a Stand

By incorporating one or more of these themes into your memoir you'll gain a universal connection to your reader. And that's the power of personal memoir.

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Friday, November 20, 2009


Friday Speak Out: I Wish I Were A Packrat, Guest Post by Rebecca Gomez Farrell

I Wish I Were A Packrat

by Rebecca Gomez Farrell

I lost six years of my life. Okay, I’m being a tad dramatic. I lost six years’ worth of word processor documents. They’re gone. They left for the great recycling bin icon in the sky and some jerk emptied it. I’m the jerk.

A few years ago, I decided the old college laptop had to go. It had been wacky since my roommate borrowed it for a night of feverish essay typing and spilled a mug of coffee on it. The keys sank down like molasses when you pressed them and came up 1. . . 2 . . .3 seconds later with a loud click. The down arrow key would possess the cursor, sending it on a race down the monitor, which no control-alt-delete combination could halt.

My new laptop came, with its shiny casing and fancy Windows XP. I installed the software, then made a cup coaster out of the AOL trial CD-ROM.

“Honey,” I asked my fiance when I finished, “we already backed up my files to the server, right?”

“Yep, they’re under Becca’s documents,” he assured me. “You click on the icon for My Network and—”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” I cut him off. I may not be a computer genius, but I thought I knew that much.

Stop! Check the files! The alarm bells go off in my head now, but they didn’t then.

A few months after that fateful day, I clicked through row after row of pixilated manila folders, hoping, in between my wedding guest list and hotel reservations, to catch a glimpse of Mr. Palen’s tan jacket as he held my hand while walking me the school office when I was 10. He was my teacher when my father died and I had written about him in a piece that I wanted to revise.

I still haven’t found him. Nor have I find my friend Ruth. I did a character sketch based on her once. When someone pissed her off, she would catch my eye and trace a checkmark in the air with her pointer finger. Then, she’d mime killing him or her, perhaps by pulling back a crossbow wire and releasing it. My personal favorite was her duck, roll, and rifle shoot. Her blonde ponytail would bounce with each trigger pull.

It’s most painful to accept the loss of my college papers. How many sleepless nights’ work are now gone? I’d tangled with Twain’s inner demons, battled the titan of Homeric verse, and analyzed depictions of African American manhood from slavery to OJ. Yes, I still have my degree, but none of the work that earned it.

In my dreams, I catch a glimpse of that lost folder of Word documents, just beyond my Excel spreadsheets and resume versions. It beckons me to double-click it, like a ghostly guide pointing toward a cave of treasure. If I just keep my eyes closed long enough . . .

Rebecca Gomez Farrell, a Californian with a bad case of wanderlust, migrated to the East Coast after college, thinking to improve her writing by gaining more life experiences. She presently writes, edits, and blogs from Durham, NC. Under the pseudonym, The Gourmez, she writes reviews of restaurants, cocktails, and wines as well as a weekly column on her lifelong obsession, General Hospital. She also writes modern short fiction, creative nonfiction, and is working on a fantasy novel.

You can view Becca’s work at,, and


Do you want to reach WOW’s audience? We welcome short posts (500 words or less) from writers just like you! You can include your bio, pic, and links to your website/blog for promotion. Our only requirement is that your post be about women and writing. Send your Friday “Speak Out!” post to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration.


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Thursday, November 19, 2009


Fonts and Writing Style

by LuAnn Schindler

When you're composing on your computer, do you tend to select one font more than another? Sure, Times New Roman is common in the publishing world, but do you long to use other fonts that express your personality?

At times, I do. And some times, I compose in those fonts because it makes sense in my mind. It adds an edge to my writing, especially when writing fiction. It's a visual cue that allows me to see how a character sounds. It's a personality trait that formulates a picture and maps the story arc.

Does a certain font describe your personality? I took a ten-question quiz on the Independent Lens webpage that discusses the history of print.

According to the quiz, I'm Edwardian Script. I believe that's fairly accurate: I'm a true romantic at heart; nothing gets my juices flowing more than flowery, flutterly love.

What font are you? Does it describe your personality?

Follow LuAnn on Twitter @luannschindler .

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009


One for the road...

Sometimes, we reach a fork in the road. Rather than deliberate and fret, sometimes, we just choose one road and hope it meanders back to a medium course or path later. If it doesn't, we know that we still made the right choice and that we gained from the journey.

I started interning with Women on Writing/WOW through an online program over a year ago. I had found out about the program through past participation in a flash fiction contest that I tried like a lot of things -- on a whim. I never considered myself a writer, and I'll admit, I only started entering contests and looking for writing opportunities when the job search (that still isn't fully over) hit a dry spell, and I needed something both as a reprieve and as a way to grow.

Through my time in this community, I have learned of freelance opportunities which helped out some, and also found more contests and areas to pursue. That said, however, the stuff I really learned and really gained goes beyond that.

First, I learned what amazing dedication those long-time WOWers have (from Annette and Angela of course, but even to all of those in charge of the blog tours and blogger schedules to those who handle the contest judging, all the way to those who write for and read this blog with regularity) and how much we all benefit from their tenacity. I learn from your successes and stresses, from your genres and fields of expertise.

From some of you, I learn from your wit and from your tech-savvy too. The things learned from this internship include all the cool features in Gmail, from how to use Google Docs, the calendar, and well, how to blog in this particular platform. These lessons I have shared with friends, classmates, and the occasional college student during tutoring sessions, depending on needs, wants, desires, and extent of collaboration. With regards to wit, I have found many days improved with a quick read of the latest blog post, cross-referenced hyperlink, or from a group email on the listserv.

More than anything, however, I learned from all of you what a true sense of community is over the Internet. I am in Pennsylvania/United States; where are you? The number of times I received instantaneous responses from West Coast WOW staffers, despite the geographic and time zone differences, made me chuckle. It likewise fostered a feeling that no matter what silly question I would have, I could find an answer with a quick email, a glance through the blog's archives, or by LinkedIn messaging another of the cohort. From the listserv messages, I feel a sense of us all being in a room, egging each other on, empathizing, or commiserating.

In retrospect, I think part of the reason I never considered myself a writer or that writing was something I would like to pursue stems from the fact that the job is a solitary pursuit, as someone famous probably said (as it looks like something I read somewhere, at some point). While I can be a solitary type of person, I went into anthropology for a reason. I like observing people and their interactions with the environment. As one of my bosses quipped the other day, I'm too human to go into some fields.

Through the course of the past year, I've realized writing does not have to be done while isolated from others and without a support system. The founders/creators of Women On Writing probably saw into that years before, but yeah well, I am a slow learner and it took that participant observation (using that loosely defined of course) to realize I could write and consider myself a writer. In this regard, I had all of you whether directly or indirectly inspiring and encouraging me onward. It took me a long time of reflecting to see how much I have grown and how truly much I have loved my time with WOW, even if I was only an online intern.

That said, it probably comes as little surprise to those still reading this tome of a post, I've come to a fork in the road. While I'm still working part-time, I'm finding more success with my writing and other endeavors and feel I need a little more time to ride the next wave so to speak and tie it back to my first loves - anthropology and teaching.

I no longer feel like I'm barely treading above water and I have you all to thank for that. I found how writing fills the void I feel in my slow transition to a professional life and how writing can in fact enhance my career options down the road. In the past year, I've sent a book review to press, written and had accepted two articles for a professional newsletter, entered and lost some contests (even entered the Washington Post pundit one too), and found myself jumping on freelance opportunities at a rate I never would have if others had not given me the idea to and even more so, the resources to do so.

I can only hope two things: that some how, some way, I was of a similar resource to you all (or that I could be in the future) and that even though it feels like a fork in the road that our paths (as I think it was Marcia put it) do pass again in the future. Maybe with some time away from Women on Writing intern duties, I'll get out of a dry spell when it comes to blog posts and too, will have the time to commit and dedicate myself to them fully and then maybe you all could let me back online once in a while. At the very least, this is not a definitive fork - after all, I can still lurk on the website, the blog, and the Twitter accounts, reading and gleaning gems. In short, I can still keep my eyes on all of you and cheer you on.

For me, the decision was not a true decision. I felt the time just was right to say my farewells and try walking down a path in part created by all the open doors from my time here with you all. I want others to have the experiences and chances to grow, to change, to evolve and find their inner voices, and too want to see what I can come up with. This is one of the first true gut feelings I have acted on in a while, which means it has to be the right thing to do. All I felt I had to do was to leave you all a note, one more for the road.

Best of luck and thanks from the bottom of my heart for all you have done for me. Your patience, dedication, passion, and drive is what makes this a true community, one I am blessed to have been selected to be part of this stage in life. May we cross paths again -whether it's your article staring me down at the checkout counter on a magazine, your screenplay on my television screen or at my local movie theater or your book sitting there on top of the bestseller list on Amazon. After all, you all deserve to gain the most from your own writing and life journeys too!

NaNoWriMo Stories: Joy V. Smith

I'm past the halfway point (32,000 words) on my novel that I'm writing for NaNoWriMo, but why does the homestretch look even longer?! Anyway, after passing that point, I decided to go back to the beginning. Yes, I know you're advised to keep writing, but I knew I had to do some cleanup and there was more information I needed to put in--that's not an info dump, is it?!--which would add to my word count so I went through my novel and rewrote parts, added stuff (not much description yet), and cleaned up typos, and then printed the new version. Partway through I ran out of paper and upset the printer, and that really slowed me down, and I was tempted not to try to make my quota, but I didn't like not doing that, despite other projects waiting their turn at the computer. Anyway, I made order out of chaos and added another chapter to make my quota. What next?! Now I've got to clean off my other desk, which is covered with paper.

I got to bed at five last night, but could sleep in. Now I've got piles of notes (written on random pieces of paper) to get on top of , research (what are American navy and British navy ranks?). Better check my air force ranks; I don't care so much about the militia ranks, but where the heck did my rank printout go? And then I have to work on the story... Someone suggested flashbacks and then a nostalgic look back. Someone else warned me about flashbacks because you lose immediacy. I know what she means by that! I've seen it in TV shows and movies. So, now I'll work on other chores and forget my novel. Wait, I have to do something with those notes before I'm buried in paper! Actually, I have a notebook I'm adding notes about characters, places, and names, timeline, etc. to. And last night (sigh), I put page numbers on the pages so I can start cross referencing... This is certainly a challenge; and, btw, this is the longest story I've ever written. Previously I wrote sequels and then sometimes stuck the stories together.

I've been writing stories since I was a kid. My stories and articles have been published in print magazines, webzines, and anthologies; and my SF has been published in two audiobooks, including Sugar Time. Recent books include Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook; a children's book, Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?; and my story collection, Aliens, Animals, and Adventure. I live in Florida on a registered backyard wildlife habitat with Xena the Warrior Puppy and Bryn the Flying Corgi.

Visit Joy's blog for helpful house hints and publication news.

We'll be posting words of encouragement for NaNoers and sharing stories here on The Muffin. If you'd like to share a story about your experience, please e-mail our blog editor Marcia Peterson at marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest - Got Humor?

Ever heard of the Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest?

Sponsored by Winning Writers, this contest was inspired by Wergle's creator, poet David Taub, who submitted a nonsensical poem to the former under the name Wergle Flomp. To his surprise, it was accepted, and inspired by Mr. Taub’s experience, the Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest was born.

There’s no contest fee and poets from around the world may enter. Poems must be in English, any length, only one poem per entry. Gibberish gladly accepted.

First Prize of $1,500 and publication on

Second Prize of $800 and publication on

Third Prize of $400 and publication on

Twelve honorable mentions will receive $75 each and publication on

Complete guidelines, along with examples can be found here:
Deadline: April 1, 2010

So, make ‘em laugh, groan, fall out of their seats, wince---you get the idea. And good luck!

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Monday, November 16, 2009


B. Lynn Goodwin, author of Journaling for Caregivers, Launches her Blog Tour!

& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

During the six years she spent caring for her mother, B. Lynn Goodwin found comfort in the journaling she did. She eventually began teaching journaling workshops and writing a book to guide other caregivers through journaling.

Lynn is also a teacher, editor, and writer. Her work has been published in Hip Mama; the Oakland Tribune; the Contra Costa Times; the Danville Weekly; Staying Sane When You're Dieting; Small Press Review; Dramatics Magazine; Career, Caregiving, and Self-Care NCDA Monograph; 24/7--a caregiving anthology; We Care; Families of Loved Ones Magazine (forthcoming); Kaleidoscope (forthcoming), and numerous e-zines and blogs.

Find out more about B. Lynn Goodwin by visiting her websites:
Book Website:
Writer Advice:

You Want Me To Do What? Journaling for Care Givers

By B. Lynn Goodwin

You Want Me To Do What? Journaling for Caregivers offers encouragement, instructions, and over 200 sentence prompts to help anyone start putting their thoughts on paper.

It is for current, former, and long distance caregivers. These are the people who take care of spouses, parents, children, special needs children, and themselves. It is also for professional caregivers including nurses, social workers, teachers, and anyone in the helping professions.

Published by Tate Publishing
Paperback: 160 pages
ISBN: 1606962973

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a copy of Lynn's book, You Want Me To Do What? Journaling for Caregivers, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end. We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!

Interview by Jodi Webb

Your book,
You Want Me To Do What? Journaling for Caregivers, is a book encouraging caregivers (everyone really) to journal. Can you tell us when you first started journaling?

I have been a sporadic journaler since I got my first five-year diary when I was in third grade. I have a journal from college, but stopped journaling once I began teaching English and directing high school and college theatre. Now, of course, I wish I had recorded what we did and how I felt about it. I slid back into journaling in 1997. I was turning Haven's List into a newsletter that would become Writer Advice, tutoring, teaching A is for Acting, and had begun caregiving. I'm glad I have my journals from that time.

WOW: How did you discover that journaling was helping you when you were caring for your mother? Did it make you a better caregiver?

I loved my mother but sometimes her needs seemed unreasonable. Sometimes I resented her refusal to accept outside help. I had a love/hate relationship with her line, "My Person will take care of that." I was Person and she was Missus. These private nicknames helped us remember that we loved each other, even though we sometimes grated on each other's nerves.

Sometimes it angered me that she preferred Lean Cuisine to my cooking, that she wouldn't let me put away the groceries without wiping off every single package, that she made me sit in her house and watch her struggle because she said, "I have to do some things for myself." Journaling helped me get past my anger and fear that drove it. It helped me analyze, process, explore, evaluate, and strategize. It allowed me to take my stress out on my journal instead of my mother, so absolutely it made me a better caregiver.

WOW: Not all of us are caring for an elderly parent. Can your book help those readers who aren't caregivers? Or are we all caregivers?

Lynn: Let me answer the last question first. All human beings are caregivers for someone. You might care for a spouse, parent, child, special needs child, or yourself--especially in the current economic climate. If you are a nurse, teacher, social worker, EMT, physical therapist, psychologist, or Hospice Volunteer, you are a professional caregiver.

Have you ever blown off steam at someone who did not deserve it? Have you ever wished someone would listen to you without interrupting? Have you ever needed a non-judgmental sympathetic ear? Who hasn't?

I can't promise that you'll never get angry or irrational if you journal. I can promise that you'll have a safe place to look beyond your immediate reactions. Journals are a place to record your history. Whether you make lists, write letters, write poems, blurt, or tell your story in traditional prose, your journal is the perfect vessel to receive your story.

WOW: Journaling (or lack of) is my guilty secret. As a writer, everyone tells me I should have a journal. I've started and abandoned more journals than I can count. So, tell me your secrets. How do you find the time to journal?

Lynn: Julia Cameron ( says that you should start your day with Morning Pages. I say it's always morning somewhere. Write whenever you want. I have been known to journal in my car, in front of the TV, and in the bathroom. I also journal in coffee shops, shopping malls, and occasionally at my father's old desk.

Do it anywhere, anytime. Try to write for 10 minutes if you are starting out. If your journaling runs on endlessly, try setting a timer.

There are no rules unless you make some up. Start over any time, day or night. Your stories are eager to come out, and as you release them you will find a wave of material rushing in to fill the space. Who but you can tell your story?

WOW: Are lives are so full of...well, everything and anything. Why do you make journaling a priority?

Lynn: I always feel better after I journal. I feel cleansed. I feel my creative channels opening up. I usually stop spinning my wheels and start moving forward. Since 1997, I have journaled pretty steadily. It keeps me sane. It opens ideas. Since I know it works and I get immediate satisfaction from doing it, why wouldn't I make it a priority?

WOW: You make a great case for journaling. I may have to pull out one of those half-filled journals of mine! But before I do, what about blogs? Are they this generation's journals?

Lynn: Many blogs are the equivalent of interactive journals. Instead of having my own blog, I've spent the last year responding to other people's blogs. That way, I'm putting my voice out to a wider audience and still identifying myself with my signature line.

When I reread old journals, I get to see how I've grown and how my concerns have changed. I get to see what issues I have let go of and what subjects continue to be obsessions. I wouldn't have that with a blog. I wouldn't have a record. If my journals survive me, if they wind up in a Thrift Station or garage sale or in a great niece's backpack, they could ultimately become one woman's view of life in the decades before and after the turn of the millennium. That's less likely to happen with a blog.

WOW: Tell us about your other writing experiences.

Lynn: I've been the owner of Writer Advice, and its predecessor, Haven's List, since 1997. I've had lots of experience with author interviews, book and website reviews, and other non-fiction found on the site. I've developed Writer Advice's Annual Flash Prose Contest. I've written numerous articles, stories, and personal essays and have been published in magazines, newspapers, e-zines, and blogs. I've also put in some time creating a young adult novel, which is on the back burner at the moment.

WOW: Did journaling help your other writing?

Lynn: Absolutely. My writing has gotten more specific and more sophisticated over the years. As I retell stories or reply facts, I hone in on what I really want to say. Journaling has also helped me clarify what I do and don't want to write about and provided the raw writing out of which many published pieces have grown.

WOW: You Want Me To Do What? Journaling for Caregivers isn't a traditional book in many senses. First, it isn't a "read these words" book, it's more of a workbook with writing prompts and advice. When did you decide to write this book?

Lynn: About 36 hours after a friend told me she was going to write a book of prompts for writers, I heard a voice, right outside my head, that said, "Journaling for Caregivers." Those three words articulated a cloudy idea that had been swimming in my head for some time. I realized that everybody could benefit from journaling, but most caregivers didn't know they could write. They didn't realize that everyone who writes is a writer. I made it my mission to introduce caregivers to the idea. I knew how to encourage writers and I had been writing sentence starts for my free writing group in Berkeley and before that for my high school students. Once I got this idea, the book started falling into place. Once I began marketing it, I realized that everyone is a caregiver for someone.

WOW: What portion of the book is taken up with writing prompts?

Lynn: Four of the nine chapters are filled with sentence starts. There are over 50 in each chapter. People should have choices. What appeals on one day might not on another. What speaks to one caregiver, parent, teacher, nurse, or professional might not to another. In my workshops I sometimes ask people to pick a sentence start that we all could write from. Giving them that choice empowers them.

WOW: Tell us about your road to publication.

Lynn: I found two agents who were very interested. One had moved from her New York agency to be closer to her ailing mother and was telecommuting. The other had a sister who was caring for aging parents in Florida. They knew what caregivers went through. They recognized this as a niche book that met a need, just as Sharon Bray, the author of When Words Heal: Writing Your Way Through Cancer did when she said, "As someone steeped in the therapeutic value of writing during pain and loss, I think B. Lynn Goodwin's book meets a need that has yet to be addressed."

Both of the agents' bosses said, "We have no way to market to caregivers." The agents validated that I had a book that would meet a need. They also made me realize that I would have to find a less traditional method to get it on the market. I began looking for smaller publishers and found one that believed the book was marketable. The concept came to me in 2006 and the book was published by the end of 2008.

WOW: As we can see from the reactions of those first two publishers, your book is not the traditional type someone walks into a bookstore and picks up on a whim--it's written for a very specific audience with a very specific need. Have you done many traditional bookstore signings and appearances or have you been thinking outside the box?

Lynn: It's safe to say that I think out of the box. Sometimes I'm so far outside the box that I am not sure whether to cal this a book or a service project. It depends, perhaps, on who I am sharing it with. I'm impressed by how much more outreach I have been able to do than I ever imagined. Nurses come up to me at bookstore signings. Even if they don't buy a book, they take a card for the office.

I've shared the book with all kinds of caregivers, volunteers, and organizations. I offer e-mail workshops called Journaling: Gateway to Self Discovery that give people a chance to try the process without leaving home. Day by day, I continue to reach out as many places as I can.

WOW: How about interviews, etc.--any outside the norm of book pages in newspapers, book review sites?

Lynn: I've done lots of interviews for blogs and special interest groups I've found through LinkedIn. One day I found a bill in my mailbox for the head of a Hospice support organization in Southern California. I have an article that will be coming out in their next newsletter. It will go all over the state. I took an ad in a publication that was given out at the AARP Convention in Las Vegas this October.

I've done radio interviews for all kinds of shows. I've made presentations in libraries. I've teamed up with someone helping teens and people marketing to seniors and I've developed an extra niche that I love, working with writers who want to find a way through writer's block and into the uniqueness of their own voice. I am putting together a continuing education class for nurses that will be done through e-mail, and that may lead to CEU classes for social workers and teachers. My existing e-mail workshops make it possible for anyone with a computer to try journaling without ever leaving the house.

WOW: For a book that publishers worried wouldn't be marketable you've found plenty of marketing options! And now the question everyone's dying to know the answer to--what does the "B" stand for?

Lynn: Ahhh--B stands for my first name, which is also my mother's first name. My mother didn't need a caregiver. She was fine to live alone as long as I was there every day to take out her garbage, get her mail, bring her her groceries, transport her... She was protecting her independence, and I wanted to help her do it. You Want Me To Do What? Journaling for Caregivers is dedicated to my mother, but I do not mention her name. I do that to honor her because she was a private person. Writing as B. Lynn Goodwin is one way I can include her in this project while keeping her identity anonymous.

WOW: She sounds like a very determined woman. Hearing about her reminds me of my grandmother. For many years, she had the same type of independent living arrangement with the help of my mother and aunts. So, in between interviews and workshops for Journaling for Caregivers what are you up to with your writing?

Lynn: I continue to interview authors, write reviews, facilitate the Writer Advice Flash Prose Contest, and run the e-zine, which you can read right now at In fact, I'm putting out a call for submissions of 50-500 words on the subject of dreams. I'll pick the best pieces and run them in the winter issue. E-mail me at Lgood67334[at]comcast[dot]net if you would like details.

I am also at work on a couple of other projects that are still in the formative stages. I enjoy carving my own path in the writing world.


Want to join Lynn on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.

Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!

November 16, 2009 Monday
Lynn will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! One lucky commenter will win copy of Lynn's book!

November 18, 2009 Wednesday
Lynn Goodwin, author of You Want Me To Do What? Journaling for Caregivers, stops by Spirituality and Self Help to share how journaling can save your sanity and save your life! Not to miss.

November 19, 2009 Thursday
Don't miss B. Lynn Goodwin's post about how journaling can help you become a better mom and a better you! Don't forget to enter to win her book, You Want Me To Do What? Journaling for Caregivers.

November 20, 2009 Friday
B. Lynn Goodwin stops by The Mental Fitness Center to share how journaling helped her as she cared for a family member with Alzheimer's.

November 23, 2009 Monday
Today B. Lynn Goodwin stops by Midlife With a Vengeance to tell us that balancing acts aren't just for the circus! Chime in and tell us how you manage to balance your needs with those of the person you're caring for. You also have a chance to win her book, You Want Me To Do What? Journaling for Caregivers.

December 2, 2009 Wednesday
B. Lynn Goodwin stops by Jan Lundy's blog, Awakened Living, to share how she manages to take care of herself while caring for others, and why we all need to take time out for ourselves. Don't forget to enter to win her book, You Want Me To Do What? Journaling for Caregivers.

December 7, 2009 Monday
Today, author and journal keeper B. Lynn Goodwin stops by Whole Latte Life to tell us how journaling can help you explore your life's passion--no matter what it may be.

December 11, 2009 Friday
B. Lynn Goodwin stops by The Feisty Side of Fifty to write about being a caregiver for that person we so often overlook--ourselves.

December 15, 2009 Tuesday
Today, Nessa and Lynn chat about why journaling can be so helpful for caregivers at Ramblings of a Texas Housewife.

We have more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE.

Get involved!

We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.

If you have a blog or website and would like to host one of our touring authors, or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at:

** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.

Be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a copy of Lynn's book You Want Me To Do What? Journaling for Caregivers. And check back in a couple of days in the comments section to see if you won!

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Sunday, November 15, 2009


Stolen Moment

We, as writers, know how difficult it can be to find times to write. With our busy life styles there never seems to be enough time to actually sit and write.

For many of us it is a matter of organizing our writing time around the lives of our families but that can even be difficult to do when you are a parent or when you are at work etc.

As many of you know, the best thing to do is setting time aside specifically for your writing. Which, of course, means early in the morning when the kids are sleeping or late at night after you have attempted to put them to bed about 12 times (okay 13 whose counting). Or how about before you go to work or after you get home? But by the time you have made dinner, cleaned the dishes, and all the other fun chores, you are almost to tired to even sit to begin.

What a lot of us don't realize is the amount of stolen time you actually have that is sitting around waiting to be used to your advantage. Although many of us now prefer to have a computer right in front of us to take care of our tasks, it isn't always necessary to have, a pad of paper and pen or pencil work great as well.

Here are some great times to steal for writing. You will be glad that you did.

1) Sitting in the doctors office- As you know your appointment is never at the right time, no matter how early or late you arrive, in many cases you have upwards of 45 minutes to sit and write. If you can carry a laptop with you, by all means do so, or have pen and paper handy. This is a great time to create a new character, get initial thoughts down for a new article or story or how about using some of your writing practices to get you warmed up for the next stolen moment of time.

2) Car repairs- Most of the customer service waiting areas now have Wi-Fi available, get some of that much needed research taken care of; you will be happy that you did. Not only that, don't forget the free coffee, this will keep your internal engine revved and ready to go.

3) Kids' practice time- Although we all like to socialize with other team parents, it is also a good way to get some writing done and maybe find some new story ideas. All the gossip can be a big help. SHHH... don't tell them what you are up to, do it covertly. There have been a number of occasions I have sat with my laptop sitting on my lap at the soccer field and had other moms wondering what I was up to.

4) Waiting at schools to pick up the kids- Oh, yes, you know how it is sitting in the long lines waiting to pick up the little ones from schools these days. There are times when you can sit in one place for 20 minutes or more. Grab that pen and paper and get to writing, this is your chance to jot down a few ideas before the kids jump in the car.

5) At the movies- We all know that we want to get the best seats in the house for the latest movie, but when you arrive 20 minutes before hand, you never know what to do, well, make sure you have a notebook with you, you can jot down more ideas while waiting for the movie to start. You can even do some while the previews are going. Sit in the very back for the best view, up top, no one will kick you in the back or put their feet up near your face.

6) Lunch break at work- Okay, it is time to get away from the office or not. Take advantage eat and write. That way you don't miss out on that precious time to do so. You have tons of ideas get them out and on paper, or if your boss doesn't mind, on your computer or a flash drive.

7) Bathroom break- Okay yes, go ahead and laugh, but there are times when we are "unavoidably detained" for a long period of time, use it to your advantage, keep paper and pen handy in your bathroom and jot down ideas or do a writing exercise. It is amazing how much writing you can get accomplished behind the locked door of your bathroom.

Think about all the stolen moments you may have just lying around and take advantage, you will be happy you did!

Happy Writing!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Reading aloud uncovers all sorts of treasures and pleasures

Perhaps it is the cooler, rainy weather fall has brought along, but lately I'm spending a lot more time cuddling and reading to my kids. The children's books I'm opening up are inspiring me...I love to hear the cadence of the authors' voices and see the brilliant colors and luscious brush strokes of the innovative artists.
In between cuddles and giggles, I ready my ear to focus on word choices and the authors' selections and pacing. Definitely it is a great exercise as a writer (and, as a mother, a wonderful experience).
My kids are old enough to pick their own books, but young enough to be able to enjoy our time reading together. Like hearing a new song, letting my kids' interests guide me has opened up new arenas for me and helped challenge my own writing. Seeing what books attract them, other than some action-packed comic books attractive to the almost-a-reader, the books have been fun, colorful and lively. It's been fantastic to discover or--in some cases--rediscover some children's books.
A few weeks back, when we bought boxes of books from our local library book sale, I selected a few that might be "reading-list books" in the future. However, my ulterior motive is that I might get a chance to read them. There are those I have never read, such as "Johnny Tremain" and those I remember enjoying (although the plot may be hazy to my 40-something mind), such as "Island of the Blue Dolphins."
On the flip side, I've been trying to interest my oldest in some classic Beverly Cleary. When I finally coaxed her to give "Ribsy" a try, she refused to put it down and, in short time, devoured it from cover to cover.
While she has been encouraging me with her titles, I have to pace our exchanges. As soon as she finished "Ribsy," I found other Cleary books at the library, but (so far) she has refused these. So I am reading them.
I'm now devouring "Dear Mr. Henshaw" when I should finishing an article for one of my clients, not to mention spending time with my own writing...and listening to my own cadence. But this reading has become a "guilty" pleasure I'm not willing to give up--whether reading aloud or devouring silently.

What's a recent reading "guilty" pleasure you've been experiencing lately? Or one you wish you could take time for?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places. Today might be another good day to visit the library, don't you think?

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Friday, November 13, 2009


Writers' Conference Anxiety

This weekend, I am going to a one-day SCBWI-IL workshop in Chicago called Prairie Writers' Day. Is it a good idea to travel to a writing conference on Friday the 13th? Let's hope so! But even it if was a different date with no superstitions, I would still have "writers' conference anxiety!"

I shouldn't have this problem--I've planned and taken part in writers' conferences before. I even wrote an article for WOW! about how to be prepared for a writing conference and get the most bang out of your buck. But I still seem to suffer from anxiety before every writers' conference.

Here's why I think this happens to me: 1. I'm too busy to properly prepare myself for the conference. So, I don't know the speakers, schedule, or venue as well as I should. 2. And this is the biggie. . .I worry about what I will do if I meet an editor/agent in the bathroom or at lunch or in the hallway. It's almost like meeting a celebrity, especially since this person, if she likes your work, has the potential to change your life.

So, while I am sitting in the workshops and lectures, dutifully taking notes, I am trying to come up with some sort of brilliant thing to say to this person, so that I do not sound desperate or pushy or weird. But I want to be confident and funny and leave an impression. Believe me, all the worry, anxiety, and half-eaten lunches have still not created a witty opening line. Usually, I say something like: "I really enjoyed your talk."

And she says, "Thanks."

That's it--that's it. Then another person at the lunch table will say something about one of their clients or the latest award-winning book or even the editor's favorite TV show, and the editor will eventually ask the writer, "So, what do you write?" If that could only be me. . .

When I follow with my query letter after the conference, I will write something personal about the talk or the lunch table (even though I'm sure I made no impression). Hopefully, my work can stand alone as it should!

So, I am telling myself this time, I am going to this conference, leaving on Friday the 13th of all days, with a new attitude. I am going to have fun with my writing critique group members, celebrate and talk about writing, and soak up as much information and inspiration as I can. If I meet a speaker in the hallway or in the bathroom, I am not going to worry about being witty or wise or standing out in the crowd. (I am also NOT going to picture the person in his or her underwear as is the common advice for people who suffer from anxiety when giving speeches.) I am just going to say the first thing that comes out of my mouth--just like I would say to anyone I meet while waiting in one of the longest bathroom lines ever when you are at a children's writers' conference. (For those of you who don't know--at least 95% women, at least.)

I really, really am.
(I'll let you know how it goes.)

Happy Writing!
Margo Dill
"Read These Books and Use Them"

photo by rhcrayon

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Thursday, November 12, 2009


SEO Blog Talk: What's a NoFollow Link?

If you have a blog and link to other sites (that don't link to yours back), you are giving your PR (Page Rank) away.

Why should you care? Page rank measures your site's popularity. It applies to each individual page and post on your blog. The higher the number you have (0-10) the higher up your blog posts will appear on search engines.

There's nothing necessarily wrong with giving your PR away; it's just what happens when you link to a site that doesn't link to yours. I'm all about mutual links--they're like a warm and fuzzy cyberhug and can help you exchange traffic with relevant sister sites. But if you have a blog with a high page rank and want to keep it that way, you might consider adding a no follow tag.

How to add a no follow tag:

Instead of linking to a site in compose mode, click on the "edit html" tag (for Blogger), or find the section in your blog where you can edit html.

You'll see regular links displayed this way:

Change to:

When should you use it? Let's say someone else is placing a link on your site--it could be a guest blogger or advertiser--and it's linking to something that may not be relevant or you think is somewhat shifty. That would be a good time to use the NoFollow tag. Additionally, some bloggers and site owners simply use the NoFollow tag to keep and juice up their own site's ranking so it's attractive to potential relevant advertisers.

Personally, I haven't used it much on the WOW! site or blog. I try to link to relevant sites of interest to our readers and, truthfully, I really don't remember to use it often! But now that I'm writing about it, it's something worth considering.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009


You Want Blog Idea Topics? WOW Gives You Blog Idea Topics!

Do you ever sit down at the keyboard ready to post something on your blog and draw a blank? I can't count how many times I've done that myself these days. In fact, things are so slow around here (including brain-wise) that the only things I have to blog about are sick kids, having no time to plow through my gynormous "To-Do" lists and how to function on two hours of sleep every night. Not exactly topics that will draw in crowds of people.

Last year one of our fantabulous former WOW ladies posted her list of 99 topics that writers can post about on their blogs. I thought it would be time to re-post this list because some of the topics are ingenious! (Personally, I've saved this list in my files. ;o) )

Have a great writing day and feel free to add your own ideas to the list!


1. The journey of a woman writer
2. Balancing family/work/writing
3. Write about your latest writing project
4. How the change of seasons harm or help writing
5. The impact of specific blogs
6. How to feed a woman writer’s muse
7. The best place to find a new blog topic
8. Eavesdropping on public dialogue
9. How exercise boosts energy for writing
10. The funny side to writing with kids
11. The funny side to writing with pets/husbands
12. Compliment another writer’s work
13. Use a quote and apply it to writing
14. How to ramp up a short story
15. How to cut out useless words in flash fiction
16. Review a writing course or publication
17. Call for help with a writing piece
18. Whet readers’ appetites for a new book
19. Promote your or another writers’ works
20. Give expert advice for boosting the ego
21. Pay something forward to a writer friend
22. Offer another writer a huge compliment
23. Announce another “Going Green” biz
24. Announce online writers conference
25. Post a writer’s contest
26. Discuss your favorite genre/s
27. Post a mini-memoir for publicity
28. Practice creating neologisms
29. Rant about writing stress
30. Highlight a literary magazine
31. Tell us how to get published
32. Expound upon the writer’s dream life
33. Teach the difference between active and passive voice
34. Express your biggest writing wish
35. Give WOW! feedback, suggestions, comments
36. Share a new writer’s resource or gadget
37. Donate a post to someone new to blogging
38. Praise another editor, writer, publisher, agent
39. Share your favorite blog post with a link
40. Write a plea to a presidential candidate
41. Tell a tasteful writer’s joke
42. Men writers are from ____; women writers from ____
43. Provide SEO and marketing tips for writer sites
44. Write a list of 101 potential blog topics
45. Do a humorous study on the best chocolate for writers
46. Navigate the Internet’s best writer sites
47. Highlight self-publishing information
48. Discuss experience with traditional publishers
49. Share experience with online publishers
50. Buzz your successful contest win
51. Toot another writer's horn in a contest
52. Apply an activity to writing
53. Close the gap between young & old writers
54. Interview an author
55. Interview an agent
56. Interview an editor
57. Interview a humor columnist
58. Tell us how to break into humor writing
59. Share a writer's faux pas
60. Talk about the writer's reputation
61. Talk about your goals as a writer/woman/mother/person
62. Give insight into a popular writing topic
63. Share your favorite writer's software
64. Explain how to find a writer's voice
65. Gift a story to a friend
66. Provide a list of fun anagrams
67. Provide a list of fun ambigrams
68. Share the first story you ever wrote
69. Define an exceedingly confusing word
70. Clarify a misunderstood writer
71. Weave a web of mystery
72. Create a scavenger hunt on your site for fans
73. Call for submissions from others
74. Post anonymously to a writer you admire
75. Be yourself and post to a writer you admire
76. List out the writer's web awards others should seek
77. Ask for camaraderie from others to help with a problem
78. Write a haiku poem, limerick, sonnet, or other
79. Write a cheer to keep writers moving forward
80. Provide blog traffic tips to others
81. Share how you sabotage your own writing
82. Shine the spotlight on a writing guru
83. Flash a beam on a cause that needs our help
84. Advise writers what not to do on queries
85. Advise writers how to do a smashing cover letter
86. Share an illustrator's experience
87. Double dog dare a writer to share an embarrassing experience
88. Give examples of awesome query hooks
89. Hook us with a fabulous introduction to blogging
90. Lift writers spirits with a list of quotes
91. Motivate others with a writing challenge
92. Explain creative nonfiction
93. Create a new genre and discuss it
94. Give a list of oxymorons
95. Share onomatopoeia terms
96. Describe how to capture life with sensory details
97. Discuss how to cope with rejection letters
98. Give tips for showing emotion in body language
99. Provide your own blopics (blog topics)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Interview With Michelle Dwyer - WOW! Spring 2009 Fiction Contest Runner Up

Michelle Dwyer’s love for writing began in high school. She’d studied creative writing and soon after, longed to become a published author. However circumstances arose, causing her to join the military while pursuing business classes instead.

Despite receiving high accolades for her military service, she felt incomplete. When the opportunity presented itself, she finished her first romantic/crime novel and enrolled in the writing course given by the Long Ridge Writers' Group, all while completing her MBA. When she graduates from Texas A&M this fall, she will pursue her MFA in creative writing.

Through all that she has overcome, Michelle realizes that every experience, good and bad, has led her back to what she is supposed to be doing—creating stories that compel people to think.

Between graduate school and rearing two beautiful kids, this single mother writes articles as a premier writer on the Helium website under the pen name Krymzen Hall. She invites you to read her work at

If you haven't read Michelle's entry, "Reflection", please check it out here, then come back for our interview with her.

Interview by Jill Earl

WOW: First of all, congratulations to you, Michele, for placing in our Spring ’09 Fiction Contest! How does it feel?

MICHELLE: Unreal, as if something good happened to me that only happens to other people. I was in a hotel room with my children when I checked my email and then discovered I’d placed. I started screaming and dropped my laptop. My kids thought something was wrong! To me, it was as if I’d won the lottery. Then, when I calmed down, and finished calling everybody, I had to check my laptop to make sure it still worked.

WOW: What a great response and we’re glad that your laptop survived your exuberance!

Reflection” was haunting, but also had me thinking. Our reflections see so much, and are probably the closest to us. What were the circumstances that led you to write your piece?

MICHELLE: It was personal. I went through a divorce that left me with emotional scars, and ultimately, I had to look inside myself to find the strength I needed to heal. “Reflection” has elements of physical abuse, as I’m sure you know, which did not happen to me, but the components of the story and the message are the same: No matter how bad an experience, we all have the strength to overcome, if we allow ourselves to. Change is scary, no matter how good or how bad. Moving on to better things is no different than any other change—the future is uncertain. Luckily, through writing and perseverance, I’ve been able to reclaim who I am and realize that change is good.

WOW: Glad that you were able to take such a painful situation and redeem it, so that you could heal. As you’ve alluded, writing can be a great help in this. Hopefully, someone will read this and be inspired to utilize what you’ve learned for themselves through their own writing.

Speaking of which, what kind of writing inspires you?

MICHELLE: Anything. That’s the beauty of fiction. Authors are only limited to their imaginations. I enjoy reading stories that evoke my sensual side, and once I tap into that, then I can write about love, sex, and chance encounters all night. But I can also read an article in the Wall Street Journal, and before I finish, I’ve created a character, perhaps a single father, who realizes he’s been set up by his peers through a phony insider trading scheme, and now he has to find a way out before his custody trial. Stuff like that.

WOW: I’m definitely in agreement with you regarding how fiction can give the imagination a workout, while providing sources of inspiration for future projects.

Let’s talk more about your writing habits. Have you established a writing routine or schedule for yourself?

MICHELLE: Lately, I’ve been so consumed in graduate work that I haven’t been able to devote the amount of time I want to the craft. But I never go to sleep until I’ve either finished at least one story of at least 500 words, or have begun a new story, even if it’s, just a few lines. Writers write, no matter what. If I stop writing, then I’m not a writer anymore. Needless to say I have a pile of stories.

WOW: “Writers write, no matter what.” I need to make sure I have these words before me all the time, especially during those times I'm tempted to pass on writing in my journal. And having those 500 words written before turning in for the night is a good habit to establish, I think. That way, you can be sure you won’t get rusty.

Now, what would you like to have readers take away with them as they read your work?

MICHELLE: As far as the story, it depends on the moral I’m trying to convey to my readers. In general, I believe in second chances and redemption, so I hope that my readers will end up falling in love with the same character they originally started out hating. As far as what I write, I want my readers to understand that I am not afraid of pushing the envelope with some things. And I want them to say, “Wow, that has never been done before.”

WOW: I did see the theme of second chances and redemption while reading “Reflection” and I felt that the transparency and vulnerability displayed was times difficult to approach. I think it was good that you pushed the envelope in creating your piece, because I believe sometimes it’s necessary to go to an uncomfortable place to reveal the story that needs to be told.

Let's switch gears. Your bio mentioned that you’re enrolled in a Long Ridge Writers’ Group course. What are you studying and how did you come to select them?

MICHELLE: I’m taking the Breaking Into Print course. I’d been looking into writing schools and one day, I happened to be reading WOW!’s ezine and I saw the link to Long Ridge. At first, I was apprehensive because the school is selective. I had to take a writing test just see if I was good enough to enroll. That is some scary stuff, let me tell you! For a couple of months, I put off the test. Then I decided to go for it, and luckily, the school accepted me. Now I am almost done. I think enrolling in Long Ridge was one of my smartest decisions and it will help me prepare for my MFA studies.

WOW: Sounds great, congratulations on nearing completion of your studies with Long Ridge.
it's always good for writers to continue improving our craft. Classes, workshops and seminars are fabulous ways to accomplish this!

Do you have a particular genre that you prefer?

MICHELLE: Can I say this on national Internet? I like many, but erotica is one of my favorites. I think some people lump this into the category of pornography, but it is far from that. Well-written erotica is actually some of the most beautiful and thought provoking prose a person can read. I also like a good romance with sprinkles of mystery and hints of action. I’ll write a good fight scene any day. I think what drives me, however, is the lengths that people will go for the people they love. How much can one man take to reconcile with his lady? How far will a woman go to spare her best friend’s feelings? In short, things that threaten our moral codes give me plenty of material to write a compelling story, regardless of what flavor the genre.

WOW: So, it appears that your tastes tend to be multi-genre, which can help in making a writer well-rounded. And I believe your words serve as encouragement for writers who may be interested in erotica.

Moving to your personal life, you’re raising two children as a single mother, completed your first novel, are finishing up your MBA from Texas A&M, and will pursue a MFA in creative writing soon after. Just going through that list wore me out! How do you manage it all?

MICHELLE: Yeah, I’m worn out too! Honestly, I don’t know how I manage. It has taken tremendous sacrifice to get to this point. I think sheer will, organization, and sacrificing sleep allow me to achieve my goals. I can’t do this forever, but I am close to the point where I can take my life in a different direction and start enjoying the fruits of my labor, and I can do more for my kids. I love the business world; however writing will always be my passion. So I am hoping my MFA studies will feel more like fun and less like work. All you MFA’s out there can chime in here and give me some pointers, hint hint.

WOW: (chuckles) Okay, Michelle’s put a call out to the MFA’s! She’s seeking advice on how to make her MFA studies more fun. Can you help a writing sister out?

Also in your bio, you mentioned writing your first book, a romantic/crime novel. More congratulations to you! Can you share with us how your book came to be?

MICHELLE: People say all the time, “Man, I could write a book about such and such.” Then they go on about their lives never again revisiting the thought. But “could” and “will” are two different things. I knew that a lot of feelings and memories caged inside me needed to be expressed, and in 2002, Understanding the Affair was born. I told somebody close to me, “I will write a book.” And there you have it. The story contains some racial controversy and at times gets gritty; but because of personal experiences, I am in a unique position to write about what I understand, can deal with what is not always pleasant, and relish in the fact that there are brighter days ahead of the drama.

The book is NOT a biographical account of my life. But there are elements in the story that have come from my personal experiences, some that will probably end up shocking the people closest to me. Writing is hard work. It entails a lot of late nights and research. But I must say I think I’ve done a pretty good job.

WOW: I'd have to agree! Looks like you’ve pushing the envelope again with such an intriguing novel! Do you have any other projects currently in the works?

MICHELLE: I am working on a few novels. Of course I had to do a sequel to Understanding the Affair, entitled Understanding the Trial, where one of my secondary characters will take on a more leading role. My next project, Girls Turning Into Women, Again, is the brainchild of one of my friends, and is the story of a few ladies who either need to grow up, atone, or reverse the fallout from not following their dreams. It was funny. My friend called me one night VERY excited. She gave me the title and said, “Please do something with it.” So I am honoring her request.

And then, of course, I have to throw in some interracial controversy with Connecticut, my third project. Stay tuned…

WOW: Oh, we will! Can't wait! Before wrapping up, what bit of advice would you offer to our women/aspiring writers?

MICHELLE: Don’t quit. Sometimes it’s the people closest to us that create our biggest obstacles. All we can do is respect their opinions but follow our own dreams. And those rejection letters? Sister, just get some tissue, cry it out, and move on.

And always remember this: It’s okay to think with your head while following your heart. The two are NOT mutually exclusive…risky maybe, but that’s the beauty of life…

WOW: Persevere and follow your dreams. Thanks for the reminder, more wisdom to tuck away for the future!

Michelle, you're such an inspiration to me personally and I'm sure to our readers! It was quite enjoyable talking with you today. Best of luck with your studies and your writing!

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Monday, November 09, 2009


Kristin Bair O'Keeffe, author of Thirsty, launches her blog tour!

& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

Kristin Bair O’Keeffe grew up in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania. Her maternal grandfather, a Croatian immigrant, worked as a steelworker in U.S. Steel’s Clairton Works all his life. Nearly every weekend as a kid, Kristin visited her grandparents’ home in Clairton on a bluff overlooking the Monongahela River. As she played tag with her sisters, the smokestacks filled the sky with their gaseous utterances and the barges toted their haul down the river.

Kristin’s articles and essays have been published in Poets & Writers Magazine, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Baltimore Review, San Diego Family Magazine, The Gettysburg Review, and elsewhere. Her column—The Fiction Writing Workshop—appears monthly in the popular ezine Writers on the Rise. In 2008, her work was translated into Chinese and published in China’s most popular weekly news magazine, Oriental Outlook Weekly, and she is featured in the Bylines 2009 Writers’ Desk Calendar.

With a B.A. in English and journalism from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago, Kristin has always combined her love of writing with teaching. She is a passionate writing instructor with fifteen years of workshop experience at U.S. colleges and universities, including Boston College, Endicott College, Montserrat College of Art, University of New Hampshire, and Columbia College Chicago.

Kristin lives in Shanghai, China, with her husband and daughter where she writes, teaches fiction and nonfiction writing, blogs about her adventures (and misadventures) around the world, and curates Out Loud! The Shanghai Writers Literary Salon. She heads home to Pittsburgh at least once a year to visit family and eat a few hoagies from Danny’s Pizza.

Find out more about Kristin by visiting her websites:

Book website:
Kristin's blog, My Beautiful, Far-Flung Life:
Author website:



Thirsty: a novel

By Kristin Bair O'Keeffe

It is 1883, and all of Klara Bozic’s girlish dreams have come crashing down as she arrives in Thirsty, a gritty steel town carved into the slopes above the Monongahela River just outside of Pittsburgh. She has made a heartbreaking discovery. Her new husband, Drago, is as abusive as the father she left behind in Croatia.

In Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s debut novel, Klara’s life unfolds over forty years as she struggles to find her place in a new country where her survival depends on the friends who nurture her: gutsy, funny Katherine Zupanovic, who isn’t afraid of Drago’s fist; BenJo, the only black man in Thirsty to have his own shop; and strangely enough, Old Man Rupert, the town drunk.

Thirsty follows a chain of unlikely events that keep Klara’s spirit aloft: a flock of angelic butterflies descends on Thirsty; Klara gives birth to her first child in Old Man Rupert’s pumpkin patch; and BenJo gives her a talking bird. When Klara’s daughter marries a man even more brutal than Drago, Klara is forced to act. If she doesn’t finally break the cycle of violence in her family, her granddaughters will one day walk the same road, broken and bruised. As the threads that hold her family together fray and come undone, Klara must decide whether she has the courage to carve out a peaceful spot in the world for herself and her girls.

Published by Swallow Press (Oct. 2009)
Hardcover: 208 pages
ISBN: 0804011230

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

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

Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: Kristin, I'm fascinated by the logistics of your writing career. You're the author of a book about turn of the century America but you live in China. I have so many questions about the challenges that presents. First, let's start with research. I think of Thirsty as a story about relationships, families and strength but it does take place at the turn of the century so you do have to include historical details about the time and place. I know you aren't a historian who specialized in the Pittsburgh steel industry. So you must have done some research to get the details how did you do research from China?

Kristin: Actually, I wrote Thirsty in the 1990s, long before I even thought about moving to China. I wrote the first full draft during graduate school at Columbia College Chicago, and although I am definitely not a historian or a steel-making specialist, it was very important that I get the details right (fingers crossed). I did a heck of a lot of research at the Harold Washington Library Center on State Street in downtown Chicago…cool gargoyles on the building, wonderful collections, helpful librarians, close proximity to the Ravenswood El, an amazing peach-blueberry muffin around the corner…you know, all the important things.

WOW: Well, Chicago isn't quite China! But you did still have the challenge of long distance research. Any advice on what sources gave you the most valuable information?

Kristin: Yes, being far from sources makes doing research more challenging, but there’s always a way. The Internet is a great place to start. After that, I love reading old newspapers…they are a great way to glean information and juicy stories. You can find out who was cooking what, who died at what age, cool names, strange happenings, etc.

WOW: Tell us where research fit into your book. Did you come up with the idea/outline then do research, did you research first, did you do most of your writing first and then go back and check the accuracy of historical details later?

Kristin: I’m not an outliner. Back in high school and college when I had to follow a teacher’s instructions while developing a project, I would work myself into a wild frenzy when asked to write an outline (hair standing on end, frantic pacing, not a single word on a page until the very last moment, even a bit of frothing at the mouth). I’m a much more organic writer; I follow the story wherever it takes me. With Thirsty, I’d write, write, write, then rewrite once I completed the necessary research (and then rewrite and rewrite and rewrite).

WOW: Thanks for that vivid crazy author picture! Now I know it isn't just me. Many writers (OK, we're talking about me here) use research as an excuse to avoid writing. Any advice on how to avoid the black hole called research and just get on with the writing?

Kristin: I have two responses to research, depending on where I am in a project:

a. I love it. I get sucked in as one discovery (such as open-hearth furnaces in the steel-making process) leads to another fascinating discovery.

b. I get annoyed. (This usually happens when the story is flowing. I don’t want to pause to verify a detail or track down a date.)

I’m a pretty disciplined writer (some say anal retentive, but I prefer the term disciplined) so I don’t ever have a problem ordering myself away from the research and back to the writing. If you do, give yourself a deadline. Set a time limit for research (one hour) and a word count for the day (1,500 words). Then stick to them. (Or call me…I’m pretty good at moving writers forward in their work.)

WOW: How does living in China affect your ability to get feedback on your writing?

Kristin: Since I wrote the first full draft of Thirsty during grad school, I had a built-in critique group. My fellow MFA students at Columbia were terrific (and tough) when it came to critiquing the manuscript. After I graduated in 1996, I worked on Thirsty for a few more years. I spent a good bit of time during these years on a 600,000-acre ranch in New Mexico, and since I saw more bears and elk than people, I didn’t have many readers. This was good for me; I learned a lot about editing my own work (a necessary lesson).

Even though I now live halfway around the world in Shanghai, China, I work hard to nurture a strong writing network—for feedback on my writing, as well as for marketing efforts. I have a great group of writers here that I depend on, but I’ve also built a small shrine in my office to the great god commonly known as THE INTERNET; I pray daily and give thanks for Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, blogs, and There are so many ways to connect with other writers today that living in the boondocks is not as isolating as it once was. You can join writing groups, take online classes, read reviews, chat live, and more. Thank goodness (now off to my shrine).

WOW: Tell us how you came to sign with your publisher Swallow Press.

Kristin: I did not have an agent when I made the deal with Swallow Press. (Ironically I got an agent within weeks of the deal for another project I’m working on.) For the publication of Thirsty, I owe a big thanks to my good friend and writing colleague Christina Katz (a.k.a. the Writer Mama). She has been one of Thirsty’s greatest supporters since we were in grad school together at Columbia. (She was also one of Thirsty’s first readers.)

In early 2008, Christina was at a writers’ conference in the U.S. As always, she was talking up Thirsty to fiction folks, and the timing was right. Someone said, “Ooh, Kristin should send the manuscript to Swallow Press. Sounds like a good fit.” I did. And voilà! It was a perfect fit.

WOW: Note to self: Convince all my writer friends to talk up my novel at the next writer's conference! Well, obviously you couldn't be at that writer's conference in person. What about marketing? Did anyone express doubts that you could participate in Thirsty's marketing campaign "in person"? How did you convince them that distance wouldn't be an issue?

Kristin: As we moved closer to the publication date (October 1), my publisher and my publicists often asked, “Are you really coming home for the launch? Do you have your flight scheduled? When will you arrive? How long will you be in the United States?” In response, I said, “Yes,” then I did what I always do: worked my arse off. It became clear very quickly that I was willing to do whatever it took to get Thirsty noticed and read.

WOW: They just have been nervous wrecks! And thrilled to death when you stepped off that plane! What types of publicity did you do on your recent U.S. visit?

Kristin: I flew home to the U.S. in late September for the launch of Thirsty. (October 1 was the official release date.) And from the time the airplane touched down, I was the (very exhausted, but very happy) marketing maven. I did an author’s feast at the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association convention in Cleveland, a flurry of radio interviews, a webcast interview with the books editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and a bunch more things that have become a blur. I also read and signed books at a number of bookstores in Pittsburgh, Massachusetts, and Maine, went back to my high school to yak with students in the creative writing classes, and talked to anyone anywhere who looked like they might be a reader. (I was the one in the international terminal at the airport calling, “Hey, hey, you! Yes, you! Do you read? Have you seen my debut novel Thirsty?”)

WOW: I can see the headlines: "Debut Author Jailed for Accosting Travelers." What about local publicity? Did you do any marketing events in China or is your publicity focused solely in the U.S.?

Kristin: We have a terrific reading/writing community in Shanghai, and folks are very supportive of fellow expats. So, yes, now that I’m back in China, I’ll be doing as many Thirsty events in Asia as possible. Right now I’m scheduled to speak to a handful of reading groups and give a talk at the most amazing Shanghai International Literary Festival (March 2010). More to come!

WOW: Have you done any interviews or appearances from China for U.S. audiences that involved you getting up at 3 am? While we're on that, what is the time difference between China and the setting of your book Pittsburgh?

Kristin: Right now there is a 13-hour time difference between Shanghai and the east coast in the United States. (Your 8:00 a.m. is my 9:00 p.m.) During the months before Thirsty was published, I stayed up until all hours of the night talking to my publicists and to events coordinators at bookstores. To keep myself alert and peppy before a 1:00 a.m. call (which was noon back in the U.S.), I’d hop up and down just before dialing and bite a slice of lemon. Most nights, it worked.

WOW: Actually, double wow! With that in mind I'd like to point out that when readers comment at a blog during one of your visits to check for your replies the next day. Remember, not only is this lady a budding author but she also has a little girl who can't have her mama up every night eating lemons at 1 a.m.! So be patient readers, Kristin is worth the wait.

How does your blog My Beautiful, Far-Flung Life fit into things? Did it start as a personal blog or as a platform for your novel?

Kristin: Writing and life are one for me. I don’t know how to write about writing without writing about my life. At “My Beautiful, Far-Flung Life,” I talk about everything: being a mom, being an adoptive mom, how to market a novel from halfway around the world, life with an Irishman, writing process, bizarre things that happen to me in Shanghai (of which there are many), etc.

WOW: When and why did you become involved with Writers on the Rise?

Kristin: I’ve been writing for Writers on the Rise (WOTR) since the beginning (which, I believe, was 2006). As I mentioned, publisher Christina Katz is a longtime friend and writing colleague. When she started up WOTR, she said something along the lines of, “Okay, so what is your column going to be about?” Right now, it’s about writing fiction. I’ve also written about writing essays. Stay tuned to find out what next year will bring.

WOW: Speaking of next year…what's coming up?

Kristin: I’ve got two big projects on my plate right now:

a. a memoir about falling in love with an Irishman, marrying him (um, rather quickly), moving to China, and becoming a mom

b. a second novel...which interestingly enough is very different than Thirsty…that’s all I can say for now

Check into My Beautiful, Far-Flung Life to find out more.

WOW: We certainly will! Thanks, Kristin, for taking time to chat with us today. It's been such a pleasure!

Want to join Kristin on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.

Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!

November 2, 2009 Monday
Kristin will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! One lucky commenter will win copy of Kristin's novel!

November 10, 2009 Tuesday
Stop by Beth Morrissey’s blog, Hell Or High Water, to learn why novelist Kristin Bair O’Keeffe is a “writerhead” and find out if you’re one too!

November 11, 2009 Wednesday
What does an American expat in China do with her spare time? She writes a novel that takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! Stop by WordHustler's blog today to learn more about novelist Kristin Bair O'Keeffe in a fabulous interview conducted by Anne Walls.

November 13, 2009 Friday
Novelist Kristin Bair O'Keeffe shares the Five Novels that Changed Her Life. Which have changed yours? Stop by Joanne DeMaio's blog, Whole Latte Life, and join in on the inspiring conversation.

November 16, 2009 Monday
Stop by Readaholic today and visit with Kristin and find out more about her novel, Thirsty.

November 18, 2009 Wednesday
Don't miss this visit from Kristin Bair O'Keeffe, novelist and expat, at Merl Evan's blog. Comment for a chance to win a copy of Kristin's novel Thirsty!

November 20, 2009 Friday
Talk about tough acts! Kristin shares her experiences marketing her first novel--from China!

December 1, 2009 Tuesday
Mary Jo Campbell has been waiting months for Kristin to finish her novel Thirsty! Stop by Writers Inspired today for a great interview and join in on the conversation!

December 3, 2009 Thursday
Today's post is coming all the way from China where novelist Kristin Bair O'Keeffe lives! Learn more about Thirsty and enter to win a free copy.

December 7, 2009 Monday
Stop by Ramblings of a Texas Housewife today for an interview with author Kristin Bair O'Keeffe!

December 10, 2009 Thursday
Today, Kristin will be on Beth Fish's Literary Road Trip that spotlights PA authors. Kristin will reveal how she created the memorable Pennsylvania setting in her novel Thirsty while living half way around the world in China. Not to miss!

We may have many more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE.

Get involved!

We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.

If you have a blog or website and would like to host one of our touring authors, or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at:

** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.

Be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a copy of Kristin's novel, Thirsty. And check back in a couple of days in the comments section to see if you won!

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Saturday, November 07, 2009


Writing Messages in Greeting Cards

Lately, at work, I have had to sign several cards for co-workers: birthdays, death of an in-law, get better soon, etc., and it got me thinking. What has been the most heartfelt saying you have encountered in a card, whether printed by the card maker or penned by the card giver? What has been the most humorous? What have you penned and still remember as being the right thing to say in the right way at the right time?

It seems to me that cards are one way that all of us see the same struggles as writers. Some card types and card recipients are so easy to pen something for, while others are nearly impossible. Group cards are one way around it, especially if there are enough people so messages of brevity seem as sincere and fill the space, but what manner makes an individualized greeting card as sincere? Is it leaving the same brief message and one name or is it the fact that you can write more at length?

To me at least, I find writing messages in cards to be pretty much impossible feats and always stick to the tried and true. The only exceptions occasionally arise in a card for a family member or particularly close classmate, where sometimes, an inside joke fits. Most of the time, I ignore all of the blank space I leave behind, but once in a while, I will throw in a quick doodle or something equally childish.

So, I ask of you writers out there, what makes a greeting card good, and more so, how do you find writing messages for use in cards or in cards themselves? Is it easy, hard, something you do in default mode, or some way you find yourself writing some of your best work? Any insights you can give can benefit writers like me who really struggle with expressing ourselves in notecards or those writers who may want to break into the greeting card writing niche.

Friday, November 06, 2009


Mining My Mind for Inspiration

By Jill Earl

I was pleased that this year’s Muse Online Writers Conference offered a workshop on pet writing. I appreciated the brainstorming assignments the instructor gave, where I could dig into some of those dusty memories. And since I belong to an online critique group, I’ve got a great way to shape them into submission-ready pieces.

So what am I working on? My time at a now-defunct pet store in a local mall, where animals ranging in age from a few weeks weaned to about a year old. Pair that with on-the-job training for very green employees (except for the managers) and workdays were seldom dull for this former kennel and bird technician.

For instance, there was Harry the mynah bird, who we discovered could tell the difference between human males and females. A male would walk by and the bird would call out a cheery, “Hello! Hello!” When a female walked by, she heard, “Hel-LO!” in a definite ‘come hither, baby’ way. Nothing like being hit on by a bird!

Then there was the time when a know-it-all new employee refused to heed advice on cleaning birdcages properly. A cockatiel escaped one day and shortly after, we heard a series of screams as women in various stages of pregnancy flew out of the maternity shop next door. That day, the new guy learned the joys of netting a frantic cockatiel.

We had killer hamsters too. They delighted in leaving---umm---souvenirs of their victims in their tank for us staffers to deal with. I leave the rest to your imagination.

Many more memories lie in wait for me to excavate and take note of, and my draft folder’s filling up with ideas ready to be worked on.

So when you’re at a loss for what to write, try a little mining expedition. You’ll soon be unearthing your own writing treasures.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009


Are you a procrastinator?

Some days I procrastinate more than others. You know those days. Five million assignments due and you decide it is the perfect day to clean the lint from your computer keyboard.
While, for me, one of the best ways to get through procrastination is to take small steps each day toward completing a project, I sometimes don't quite do as I suggest.
On those days with the to-do list bursting forth to a second page, take a deep breath and plunge in. What works for me is to take the one assignment I'm really dragging my feet on and pair it with one I'm excited to be writing or researching.
Then I promise myself that I cannot work on the "exciting" assignment until I've finished the one I've been dragging my feet on.
Re-ordering my assignments gives me a different priority list while allowing me to see the progress. Often I find that tackling a more difficult assignment also gets my writing muscles warmed up making the other assignments go that much faster.
What has worked for you when tackling a bout of procrastination?

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and creativity coach. Besides contributing to AOL's ParentDish, she blogs at The Write Elizabeth, delving into creativity in everyday places and is planning a series of workshops. She is planning to wrestle with her to-do list ... tomorrow.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009


Writing Children's Short Stories Dos and Don'ts Part 2

It's time for part two of "Writing Short Stories Dos and Don'ts." If you missed part one, you can find it here.

Now onto part deux:

Don’t use words like “she shouted” or “he exclaimed” or “she questioned” after dialogue. Don’t be afraid to repeat the word “said.” It is the best dialogue tag. Instead of having to use “said” all the time, you can also use action or setting details as dialogue tags. For example:

“When are you going to let me come into your clubhouse?” Martha stood with her nose at the door, trying to peek through a crack in the wood.

Henry sat in the middle of his clubhouse and thought about it for almost a whole second before he said, “Never.”

She stomped her foot and screamed. “I’ll just stand out here and scream until you let me in!”

Before Henry answered her, he put earplugs in his ears. “Okay.” He hummed and went back to carving his statue.

Do use humor in children’s stories. Magazine editors are always looking for humorous stories. They get tons of stories on divorce and other “serious” kid issues. These are important; but if you are a new author, try something that editors always need. (Usually, editors are looking for stories that appeal to boys, too.)

Don’t write a story for a magazine if you have never seen the magazine. Do read back issues or sample stories on a website before you start writing for the magazine. Try to find out what subjects their recent stories have covered and send something different.

Do send seasonal material at least six months in advance. Some magazines want it even further in advance. Also, check websites and magazine guidelines for themes. Brainstorm ideas to fit the themes, and think outside the box.

Don’t give up if you get one or two rejections. Look for new markets—online magazines or children’s newsletters that would be interested in publishing your fiction.

Do use Times New Roman as your font. Also, use 12 pt. font and double-space your fiction stories. Put a heading on each page—page number, your last name, and part of the title.

I hope these few dos and don'ts help everyone on their road to publication success with writing children's short stories!

Happy Writing!
Margo Dill

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Interview with Amy Perry, Runner Up in WOW!'s Spring 09 Flash Fiction Contest

Amy Perry is a graduate student for sociology and teaching assistant at the University of Missouri - St. Louis, as well as a part-time barista at a Barnes and Noble cafe, which has, if not inspired her love for coffee and reading, at least cemented it. She has previously been published in her university's two literary magazines, and won third place in the WOW! Women on Writing Summer '08 Flash Fiction Contest with her piece Ueno. When not writing, working or learning, she spends her time tending to the needs of her spoiled kitten Stark (pictured here clinging to her shoulders), and reading Marvel Comics.

Do check out Amy's entry, Much Like Flying, and then join us back here for a little one-on-one with her.

Interview by Jill Earl

WOW: First, congratulations to you, Amy! How are you taking in being selected as a runner-up in our Spring ’09 Contest?

AMY: I am extremely honored. It sounds pessimistic, but every time I enter a contest, it's with the assumption that I'm going to lose--I hate having my hopes hinge on any one thing only to end up disappointed. I've read quite a few winning entries and several interviews, and the skill of the individuals who enter these contests is astounding. Competition is fierce; I went into it expecting nothing, but ended up surprised and thrilled.

WOW: Your entry proves that your writing skill is comparable to that of the other entrants, and we’re so glad that your entered our contest! Speaking of your entry, you chose to focus on a rather difficult subject, a girl contemplating suicide and the outcome. Was there an event or person that prompted you to write this?

AMY: No specific event, no. I hesitate to say all, but I think a good portion of those who have weathered the storms of middle school and high school have experienced suicidal ideation, with varying degrees of intensity. And yet, in spite of that, we as a society are hesitant to discuss suicide without reverting to stereotypes. I wanted the focus of the story to be a more nuanced portrayal of suicide than one typically sees in mainstream media.

It's a difficult subject to write about without seeming to trivialize it, and I'm sure some would make the argument that I am trivializing it, because what is clearly a significant event (throwing oneself in front of an oncoming train) is treated as just a hiccup in the day's plans for all those who bear witness to it. It seems preposterous, but that's what I was going for. When the girl justifies her need to leave by claiming she has a math test, and the station attendant accepts it, I want people to stop and go "wait, what?"

The girl is clearly troubled, she suffers from a profound sense of alienation, and that alienation is a result of an interplay between active neglect, passive disinterest, and well-meaning naiveté. As a society, we like answers that can fit into a newspaper headline. Who's at fault here? The mother? The teacher? The station attendant? The girl? Society? The truth is it may be all of the above or none of the above, but in our knee jerk attempt to digest the story we're apt to grab and cling onto the answer that, if it isn't the most obvious, at least makes the most sense to us as uninvolved observers. But in doing so, we tend to whitewash all other contributing factors out, and that stunts our understanding.

This story is just the corner piece to a much bigger puzzle; it contains no obvious answers, and the hows and whys are largely absent. Readers have to fill in the blanks, and in doing so, it makes them think. That was my intent, anyway.

WOW: I think you were successful, for I did find myself saying, “Wait, what?” more than a few times. I can’t recall reading a story concerning suicide portrayed in this way. I found it refreshing, actually, and didn’t feel that the subject had been trivialized. It didn’t have a neat ending and that was appreciated. As they read, I hope our readers will enjoy filling in the blanks for themselves.

What about the title for your story, how did you come to select it?

AMY: The title came to me shortly after the idea to the story did, which is unusual, because the typical short story process for me includes a teeth grinding session at the end while I try to come up with some word or phrase that embodies the piece as a whole. This time I had the title in mind as I wrote, and my writing was somewhat shaped by it. It's a powerful image to me, the distinction between jumping to end one's life and learning to fly. The difference, of course, is that we're not built to fly. And then there's that pesky thing called gravity. But just because we can't, doesn't mean we don't try.

WOW: ‘Teeth grinding session’. I think that’s a perfect description for what many writers go through when trying to create titles for works. It’s encouraging to know that others may have similar struggles in this process.

Amy, you’re not a newcomer to our flash fiction competition, you previously placed third in our Summer ’08 Contest. What do you think has helped you in producing winning contest entries?

AMY: Well I almost feel like flash fiction is a cheat for me, because it emphasizes the things I think I've got some degree of skill at (strong ideas, clear voice), while at the same time downplaying my weaknesses (story abandonment). I guess one thing that helped me was having a good feel for the kind of story you can tell with only seven hundred words. Not every idea can be adapted successfully to flash fiction, and with both this entry and the one prior, there were several unsuccessful attempts that I quickly realized just didn't have the right feel for the type of story I was trying to write.

WOW: I continue to be a great admirer of those who can write flash fiction! You need to be successful in capturing the reader’s interest by conveying strong ideas and a clear voice. Flash fiction truly is a great exercise in writing short and tight.

Your bio mentions that you love reading Marvel Comics. How fun! Which are your favorites? Have you found inspiration from any of them for your writing?

AMY: My comic book reading comes and goes in waves. As a child, I grew up on X-Men (with a father who collected Marvel Comics as a child, what hope did I have?), but I've since moved on to other series. I'll read just about any series (except Spider-Man, which comes out too often for me to keep up, and Hulk, which just can't keep my interest), but the ones I really enjoy, the ones that I consider to be reread worthy, are the ones that strike the right balance between action and characterization. Brubaker's run on Daredevil and Captain America, Bendis' Alias, and Fraction's Iron Fist are at the top of my list.

Inspiration-wise, it's hard to say. There's a big gap between your typical super hero comic and the type of story that I tend to write, but I do take note of writers that successfully make the absurd (a grown man wearing red leather adorned with devil horns) interesting and relatable. Since I do tend to write characters that fall outside the mainstream, I guess you could say I take inspiration from the way some writers handle masked men in capes.

WOW: Your father collected Marvel Comics when he was little? Guess you had to have some liking for them. I love your comment about being inspired by writers “making the absurd interesting and relatable.” There was absurdity in your piece, making it all the more intriguing.

Now, let's talk about themes. Are there specific ones you like to explore when you write?

AMY: Boundaries. Ethical boundaries, moral boundaries, gender, religion and other social boundaries. If I'm not prowling back and forth along the edge of what is taken for granted, I tend to get bored with my writing, and if I'm bored, I know there's a good chance other people will be too. I like that the process of writing makes me think.

WOW: So, as you're challenged by exploring various boundaries, you challenge your readers to come along with you for the ride. I think that’s a great way for both readers and writers to stretch and grow. I thought that you achieved a good balance in making your story so descriptive. How were you able to achieve this?

AMY: When you're writing flash fiction, you have to budget your words well. In this story I wanted to leave a strong image of the subway station, which I did by closing the story with some of the same descriptions I opened with. It gives the story a sense of continuity out of what is otherwise a very brief encounter between station attendant and girl.

Beyond that, I wanted to experiment with hyphenated descriptions. Just doubling the word (black-black and blue-blue) emphasizes it in a way that might otherwise take seven or eight words. The same with tying a color to a word (red-wet, grease-black). It's all about budgeting, and there was some degree of agonizing over which word to use, what images to keep, and which to throw out.

WOW: What a great technique you’ve utilized with hyphenated descriptions. Helps a lot with trimming word count. Maybe I’ll try that with my own writing.

Earlier you discussed achieving balance in creating a descriptive story. Speaking of balance, in your day-to-day life, you’re writing, pursuing graduate studies in sociology, you’re a teaching assistant at the University of Missouri, and you work part time at Barnes and Noble. Add to all that, hanging out with your kitten Stark. Pray tell us your secret for keeping your head together in all this.

AMY: I'm not so sure I always manage to keep my head together, to be honest. There are times (midterms, finals) when everything is coming at me all at once that I feel like tugging my hair out. But I try to keep it all in perspective, and remind myself that winter break (or summer break) lies just beyond that next hill. Stark helps me get from point A to point B, and I have a hard time believing there exists a more spoiled kitten in the world.

WOW: Breaks are beautiful things! And, it’s always good to have an assistant to help one keep her perspective, human or otherwise. (laughs)

What about current writing projects? Can you share with us what you’re working on now?

AMY: What, you mean besides schoolwork? Although I don't have any concrete projects to date, I am working on steadily increasing my portfolio of short stories, and I have a few ideas for novels kicking around in my head, but mostly I'm trying to keep ahead of my schoolwork so that it doesn't all pile up on me come November (if I succeed in doing so, it will be the first time since I set foot in college).

WOW: Here’s hoping you’ll stay ahead of your schoolwork, while building up that portfolio. You’ve offered some great advice for our readers. Is there anything else you’d like to pass along?

AMY: Never be afraid to improve. By that, I mean take constructive criticism for what it is--a chance to get better. Writing is intensely personal, and having someone tear apart a story that means something to you is a lot harder than having someone edit your English paper, but you have to put some distance between yourself and it in order to get better. Unless you wrote it for yourself, the ultimate goal is for other people to read it, right? Their opinions matter.

But at the same time, remember: you're the writer, you know what works best. If someone proposes a change to your story that you think would just absolutely ruin it (or at least lessen its intended effect), then don't listen to them. Get a second opinion. Remember that no one is the be all, end all authority of writing, there are as many opinions on writing as there are writers.
And adopt a cat. At the end of the day, it's nice to come home to a friendly face, even if that friendly face tries to steal your sushi.

WOW: Glad you pointed out how helpful it is to get a second opinion when it comes to constructive criticism because of varied opinions on writing. I’ve had to learn that myself, along with growing a thicker skin. As you said earlier, this process helps writers improve their craft.

One last question. Is your kitten named after Tony Stark, Iron Man from Marvel Comics? If so, would that make her “Iron Kitten”?

AMY: Yes, my kitten Stark is named after Tony Stark (Iron Man). I enjoyed the Iron Man movie much more than The Dark Knight, which was touted as the super hero film of the year, the decade, or all time, depending on who you asked. But I've never been a DC girl. When I adopted a new kitten last year, I was stumped when it came to a name, but somehow Stark just seemed right, despite that kitten being female. And yes, the way she flings herself at the dog, who's in a completely different weight class, you'd definitely think she was "Iron Kitty".

WOW: I admit to being a former DC Comics girl who saw The Dark Knight and really liked it. Still want to see Iron Man too!

Amy, it was such a pleasure chatting with you today. Best wishes to you in both your academic and writing career and to “Iron Kitty” too. Looking forward to see more of your work in the future and good luck!

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Monday, November 02, 2009


Fiona Ingram, author of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, launches her blog tour!

& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

Born in Durban, South Africa into a family of five, reading and adventure were always a big part of Fiona's life. Fiona's book has been in the works since she developed a passion for Egypt at the age of eight after her mother gave her the encyclopedia Time-Life Ancient Egypt. That passion led to a trip to Egypt with her two nephews, a short story about Egyptian adventures, and ultimately her first book for children, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab--the first in a series called Chronicles of the Stone.

But it's been a long and winding road to the release of Fiona's first book. Along the way, she spent several years in France earning her Master's degree in French-African literature, teaching drama, working in community theater, and working as a journalist. She now lives in Johannesburg where she's working on the next book in her series, The Search for the Stone of Excalibur.

The Secret of the Sacred Scarab was nominated as a Finalist in the Children's Fiction section of USA 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, as well as the USA National Best Books 2009 Awards.

Find out more about Fiona by visiting her websites:

The Secret of the Sacred Scarab

By Fiona Ingram

A 5,000-year-old mystery comes to life when a scruffy peddler gives Adam and Justin Sinclair an old Egyptian scarab on their very first day in Egypt. Only when the evil Dr. Faisal Khalid shows a particular interest in the cousins and their scarab do the boys realize they are in terrible danger.

Dr. Khalid wants the relic at all costs. Justin and Adam embark upon the adventure of a lifetime, taking them down the Nile and across the harsh desert in their search for the legendary tomb of the Scarab King, an ancient Egyptian ruler. They are plunged into a whirlpool of hazardous and mysterious events when Dr. Khalid kidnaps them.

They survive terrifying dangers in a hostile environment (such as a giant cobra, as well as sinking sand), pursued by enemies in their quest to solve the secret of the sacred scarab. They must translate the hieroglyphic clues on the underside of the scarab, as well as rescue the missing archaeologist James Kinnaird, and their friend, the Egyptologist Ebrahim Faza, before time runs out.

They must also learn more about the ancient Seven Stones of Power and the mysterious Shemsu-Hor. With just their wits, courage, and each other, the boys manage to survive...only to find that the end of one journey is the beginning of another!

Reading level: Ages 9 - 12
Paperback: 272 pages
ISBN: 0595457169

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

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

Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: So many times we hear that old chestnut, "Write what you know." You're from South Africa and have an adopted daughter (and were once a young girl yourself). So why didn't you write an adventure story about two young girls in South Africa instead of an adventure story about two young boys in Egypt?

I have four brothers, grew up with all their friends, and was happier playing cricket and football and climbing trees than playing with dolls. So, I guess I am more comfortable with the idea of boys...possibly since three of my brothers are younger and were naughty little beasts growing up.

Then, of course, the deal maker...we took my two nephews to Egypt. That trip was the spark behind the whole series. It was such an exciting and eventful trip that on our return, I decided to do something different...write them a short story about two boys who went to Egypt and had an incredible adventure. I modeled the heroes Justin and Adam very closely on the characters of my nephews. They are very different: the older one is bold, feisty and adventurous. Perfect to lead the expedition. The younger boy is more spiritual, imaginative, creative and discovered heroism within him. Perfect for the role of Adam, who is the bearer of the sacred scarab. The short story just grew into a book, and by the time I had added the whole mythology behind the seven Stones of Power, I knew it couldn't end with just one book. I had created a series.

To return to your question, why boys? Egypt is a 'guy' place if you have any aspirations of heroism. I think girls would be uncomfortable with being kidnapped, tied up, thrown over the back of a camel, dragged through the desert, and faced with an enemy (waving a gun) while the whole place comes crashing down. It's a guy thing. That said, there's a feisty young girl who joins the boys from Book Two and she shows them a thing or two.

WOW: That sounds fantastic! I can't wait for Book Two. So what made you decide to take the story you had written as a "souvenir" for your nephews and decide to publish it for a larger audience?

Fiona: The cute story ended up being a book, so I had to publish it. Imagine an inexorable force that just keeps pushing you from behind, even when you are thinking, "No...I can't do it...I will never get anywhere...this is nonsense!"

WOW: So tell us how you defied those forces of doubt. Tell us about your road to publication.

Fiona: Talk about a 'long and winding road!' The story just became a book without me trying very hard. Once that was done I thought fame and fortune were just around the corner. A very long corner as it turns out...I was so naive. I got the Writers & Artists Yearbook which leans heavily on British publishers and agents. I found about 35 British agents who said they accepted children's book proposals, sent them three chapters and a really polite (a.k.a. groveling) letter as per the example chapter in the Yearbook. Thirty-three sent back the letter that says, "I haven't actually read it" formulaic response. Two bothered to give me an analysis of my writing (very positive) and said I should cut the book in half and persevere. A friend then suggested I go with a self-publisher and showed me a book she'd been given. Hey, it looked like a real book! I contacted the USA publishers (iUniverse) and the rest is history. From writing to rejections to acceptance to book production--about three years (feels like three centuries).

WOW: Those three years are going to be affecting the next decade of your life since The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is the first in a series: Chronicles of the Stone. What was the tipping point that turned this from a standalone book to a series?

Fiona: When I began researching the 'mythology' behind the Book of Thoth, the Stone of Fire, and the seven Stones of Power, I discovered such a deep and wonderful world of legends and ancient teachings that the book began to grow almost a 'super identity.' This back history became so compelling that by the time I actually fixed the legend of the Book of Thoth into the story, I knew that it wouldn't end with the first book.

Luckily, my decision came at the right time. I think my choice of Egypt and the legend behind the Book of Thoth as a starting point laid a very strong foundation. The fact that I knew so early it would spill over into more books made me write with a different 'eye.' In fact, I took quite a chance in giving my first book a 'cliffhanger' ending, letting readers know the books would continue. Everyone who has reviewed or read it says they want to read the next one.

WOW: Who could stop with just one of your books! Can you give us a sneak preview? Will the same characters be returning in the next books or will each feature new characters?

Fiona: The two heroes, Justin and Adam, are fixed for the series, as are Aunt Isabel and James Kinnaird (the archaeologist), and several of the other characters will pop up again in time. Now that James and Isabel are totally dedicated to the quest of retrieving the seven Stones of Power it will be easy for the heroes to go with them on their travels. New characters: Kim, Aunt Isabel's African foster child, causes a stir with the heroes who don't really want to share the fun with (horrors) a girl! In each book the heroes need someone to help, to guide them along the way, and these characters will appear.

Each adventure takes them to new countries, and they meet new people who are in some way linked, either historically or materially to the quest. These places are already planned. Countries--next is Britain (The Search for the Stone of Excalibur), then it's off to South America and the impenetrable jungle and lost cities (The Temple of the Crystal Time-Keeper). I won't tell you more but there are some wonderfully exotic places, steeped in myth and legend, and ancient ruins and some equally fabulous artifacts.

WOW: What do you think are the advantages of writing a series? Any disadvantages? Do you worry it will seem too "cookie cutter?"

Fiona: I am very conscious of the 'cookie cutter' problem because I have many favorite authors who just seem to churn them out after a while. I enjoy writing a series. One can really build upon characters, develop the underlying themes, and do justice to one's literary creation. The end of the story then becomes the beginning of another. Writing the second book has been quicker because Dark Ages Britain (the time when the historical Arthur lived) is not as complex or as well documented as Ancient Egypt. The themes are different, but the medieval world of ancient manuscripts and monasteries is as fascinating. Secret associations, poisons and cures...murder most foul...lots of good stuff. I don't get bored with the characters at all because their responses to each new story and situation bring out different aspects of them.

Each book has such a strong theme, an unusual artifact related to the stone of Power it contains, and a powerful message that goes beyond the mere story. For example: Book One emphasized the value of cultural heritage; Book Two will highlight the value of recorded history and (often dangerous) power of knowledge; Book three will uncover pressing environmental issues, and so on. Each country I have chosen also has a unique aspect that enables me to 'give more' to the reader without consciously hammering home a message. The underlying thread--uniting the seven Stones of Power--will keep the books focused on a final outcome.

WOW: Any advice for writers considering developing a book series?

Fiona: My decision to start the series came early, and I think it's because my 'back history' is so powerful. If the story is very strong (and elastic) and can be written to cover several books, then go for it. The Harry Potter series is possibly the best example. However, one can easily write a brilliant series based on heroic characters who then engage in different adventures/quests etc. Look at all the Patricia Cornwell, Ian Rankin, Kathy Reis detective series. They all go from case to case, with maybe a few personal threads that carry through to the next story. I think the story should tell the author where to go, not the other way around. Listen to your characters. Often I have ideas of where I want the plot to go and suddenly, the characters make another decision.

WOW: Do you have a favorite series (children's or adult fiction)? Any theories about why readers love a series?

Fiona: I love the Chronicles of Narnia the best. Maybe because I just enjoyed it so much on first reading. I think readers love a series when they bond with the character/s and don't want to let them go. You know the feeling when the book is coming to an end and you read slower and slower to delay the inevitable end. I loved the River God series by Wilbur Smith because I thought the main character was amazing. No surprises--it's set in Egypt!

WOW: Your nephews as well as a pet duck named Charlemagne made appearances in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. Will any more family members or friends be turning up in future books?

Fiona: I will possibly run out of animals soon because Jasper and Chloe (my two new dogs) and some of the cats (who didn't get a part first time round) appear in Book Two. I like to put familiar links into my writing to make it more real for me. My adopted daughter Mabel appears as Kim. She came to live with me soon after our return from Egypt and her friendship with my youngest nephew inspired me to put her in the stories. My mother (the boys' Gran) may have to curtail her activities in the quest because some of the places are just not designed for elderly people. However, her words ring in the boys' heads quite often, so she remains in spirit. The characters are all set for Book Two and Three already.

WOW: So what can we expect next? Is Book Two finished?

Fiona: I am nearly finished with Book Two and struggling at the moment to juggle all the marketing for Book One with writing time. Some good news: an agent has requested to represent me based on reading Book One, and all the reviews and book nominations it has received. (Tip: get reviews and enter as many book competitions as possible.) So I am writing as fast as I can to get the next one out there. I have already written two historical 'Regency romp' romances (not published) and some short younger children's stories. I have six more books to go in The Chronicles of the Stone so any other projects will be shelved for a while.

WOW: Book nominations? Don't hide your light under a basket--tell us more.

Fiona: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab was a Finalist in the Children's/Juvenile Fiction category of the 2009 USA Next Generation Indie Book Awards and in the USA National Best Books 2009 Awards.

WOW: Congratulations! We're looking forward to more books and more awards!

Want to join Fiona on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.

Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!

November 2, 2009 Monday
Fiona will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! One lucky commenter will win copy of Fiona's book!

November 3, 2009 Tuesday
Fiona Ingram who just launched her children's adventure series, Chronicles of the Stone, stops by Cathy C. Hall's blog, Finders & Keepers, to tell us what it's like to commit to writing not just one, but an entire series of books.

November 4, 2009 Wednesday
Stop by 5 Minutes for Books today to read a great review of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. Fiona will also return to the blog on November 8th to tell us about her journey into rediscovering children's classics.

November 5, 2009 Thursday
Need help transforming a non-reader into a reader? Fiona Ingram, author of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, has some ideas that she shares with Write For a Reader. And don't miss the review of her thrilling new book for young adventure seekers!

November 6, 2009 Friday
Fiona stops by WordHustler's blog today for a candid interview with Anne Walls! Anne's interviews are always fun and informative, so be sure to stop by.

November 8, 2009 Sunday
Fiona's back at 5 Minutes for Reading to tell us about the joy of rediscovering children's classics with her daughter. What's your favorite children's classic? Stop by and share your thoughts!

November 9, 2009 Monday
Stop by The Motherhood Muse today for an interview with Fiona about how nature gets her creative juices flowing. And don't forget to enter to win a copy of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab!

November 10, 2009 Tuesday
Fiona stops by Write Like Crazy today to share some advice with young readers.

November 11, 2009 Wednesday
Need suggestions on getting your child to read more? Stop by fellow children's book author Christine Verstraete's blog, Candid Canine, and read Fiona's post today.

November 12, 2009 Thursday
Stop by Mom-e-Centric today for a fun visit to Egypt with Fiona Ingram!

November 13, 2009 Friday
How can you tempt your child away from video games, televisions, and computers and interest them in a great book? Stop by A Book Blogger's Diary and get a few ideas from children's author Fiona Ingram.

November 16, 2009 Monday
Stop by Booking Mama and read a review of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab today, then come back tomorrow for a guest post by Fiona and a chance to win a copy!

November 17, 2009 Tuesday
Fiona is back at Booking Mama to give readers a few ideas on transforming their non-readers into readers. Be sure to comment today for your chance to win a copy of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab!

November 18, 2009 Wednesday
Ready for adventure? Stop by Margo Dill's blog, Read These Books and Use Them, for a chance to win a copy of Fiona Ingram's children's book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, and learn some great activities you and your child can do while reading!

November 19, 2009 Thursday
Stop by the Friendly Book Nook for a review of Fiona's book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab.

November 20, 2009 Friday
Fiona stops by Jerri Ann Reason's blog, Education Uncensored, for a surprise guest post!

November 23, 2009 Monday
Stop by Misadventures With Andi today for an interview with Fiona Ingram and a review of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab.

November 24, 2009 Tuesday
Can't get enough of the mysteries of Egypt? Author Fiona Ingram tells you where to go to learn anything and everything about this fascinating country.

November 25, 2009 Wednesday
In today's busy world, how do you find time to read to your child? Fiona Ingram has answers--and a great book your family can read. Stop by Readaholic today and enter to win a copy of The Secret of the Sacred Scarab!

December 4, 2009 Friday
Wonder about developing your own children's series? Fiona Ingram stops by Day By Day Writer to tell you how she's doing it.

We may have many more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE.

Get involved!

We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.

If you have a blog or website and would like to host one of our touring authors, or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at:

** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.

Be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a copy of Fiona's children's book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab. And check back in a couple of days in the comments section to see if you won!

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Sunday, November 01, 2009


NaNoWriMo a Go Go!

It's official. Today is Day 1 of National Novel Writing Month! Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year?

If you've decided to take the challenge and are "nanoing," I applaud you already for making the commitment! Now, you just have to plant your butt in chair and write. It doesn't matter whether you outlined, are finishing a W.I.P., or are writing by the seat of your pants, the important thing is to just do it. Tell your friends and family about your plans and ask them to respect your writing time.

NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty says, "Taking care of everyone's needs while still finding time to buy groceries and bathe every couple of days can be a feat." LOL. Let's hope you can still find time to bathe! But he's right about cutting back on everyone's needs. This is you time. You deserve it! Chris also adds, "Think of November as an all-expenses-paid, 30-day vacation to novel-land. It's a place where you can whoop and holler and dance the crazy dance. A place where you conjure new worlds, dream oversized dreams, and explore the wilds of your imagination. For one month, you get to orient your life around your creative spark, rather than vice versa." Here, here.

If you are new to NaNoWriMo, WOW! had an issue last November focusing on novel writing, called A Novel Idea. In that issue, Suzanne Pitner, a three time NaNo winner, wrote a great article called NaNoWriMo Applied. It's full of wonderful resources and encouragement for Nanoers.

So celebrate today. Grab your favorite snacks and open up a blank page or your W.I.P., and have fun. You can do it!

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