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Ah...I’m feeling relaxed and inspired already! The word “escape” makes me think of freedom, wide-open spaces, and creative writing time.

As a writer, it’s important to expand your knowledge of the writing world around you and work on your craft. Attending a writing conference will certainly give your creativity a boost as you garner writing advice from professionals and network with other like-minded individuals. If you haven’t attended a writer’s conference, make it a priority to discover what conferences are nearby and attend. The articles in this issue will provide you with all the information you need to ensure that your first conference is a positive and fruitful experience. And if you’re familiar with conferences, you will delight in new finds and delve deeper into the conference scene as you read interviews from conference founders and participants. Feel the energetic buzz that only a writing conference can bring!

Another great way for a writer to escape is by journeying to a writing retreat. Retreats are the ultimate vacation for writers! Imagine having undisturbed writing time in a gorgeous setting—what could be better? This issue we unearth hidden retreat treasures—from the portable writing retreat to exotic locales—all of them bound to inspire your inner muse. So, pack your bags and come along as we explore the possibilities.

A big, warm, thank you goes out to our freelancers and staff members:

We welcome Karon Goodman, a new freelancer, to the WOW! family. Karon shares her expert advice and teaches us how to create a writing retreat. If you’ve ever wanted to create your own retreat, this article is an excellent resource!

We welcome back Cathy C. Hall this issue and thank her for providing us with the cheap writer’s guide to conferences. Cathy shows us that we don’t have to break the bank to get our conference fix.

To WOW! columnist, Marcia Peterson, for her fun and informative interview with author Jennifer Musselman. This is an excellent interview and a must-read for anyone interested in purchasing a home, focusing on finances, collaborating with another author on a book, or juggling a day job and a writing career.

To WOW! columnist, Susan Eberling, for providing us with two fantastic articles this month! Susan interviews Elizabeth Ayres on the portable writing retreat, and she provides readers with delicious eye-candy in our Must-Have Writing Retreats column.

We welcome Barbara Hudgins, a new freelancer, to the WOW! family. Barbara heads up the How 2 column this month and teaches us how to create a travel piece from your visit. If you’ve ever wanted to break into travel writing as a freelancer, this is your article!

We also welcome Empish J. Thomas to the WOW! family. Her interview with author and licensed writing therapist Carol Celeste, will inspire you to use writing for healing and growth.

To WOW! columnist, Margo L. Dill, for providing us with two articles this month! Margo interviews Carolyn Yoder, senior editor of Highlights for Children, on the Chautauqua Writing Workshops. Margo also shares an exciting recap of the Words in the Woods Retreat she recently attended. Check out this fun article at the bottom of this page and feel the positive energy!

To C. Hope Clark for guiding shy writers through the conference scene. Hope makes any shy writer feel proud and points out the strengths of being an introvert. It’s about time, hooray!

To WOW! team member, Jill Earl, for her informative article on conference basics for newbie writers featured in the Freelancer’s Corner Column. This article is not only for the new writer; it provides solid resources for the intermediate and advanced writer as well. Great job Jill!

And last, but certainly not least, to senior editor, Annette Fix, for her excellent editing skills and attention to detail.


As you may have noticed, the Spring 2008 Flash Fiction Contest Winners feature is still not live. We have a placeholder for it on the homepage, and are working swiftly to critique stories and deliver the final results.

The Spring ’08 season was the first contest to run with the critique option, and we underestimated the time it would take to complete the critiques, but you can be assured that your stories will receive the extra attention they deserve. This month, July 2008, we will be posting the contest winners in a feature on the homepage. Be sure to bookmark it, and please check back often. Thank you for your patience and best of luck!

Onto the issue! Enjoy!






Angela Miyuki Mackintosh is Publisher, CEO, and Art Director of WOW! Women On Writing. She has been published in Maxim, Transworld Surf and Skate, Vice Magazine, and numerous trade publications for the action-sports industry. She is an award-winning artist whose works have been commissioned for public art by the city of Long Beach, and has received grants from Funds for Women.

Angela lives in Placentia, California with her husband, Michael, and her cat, Noodle.


Annette Fix is Senior Editor of WOW! Women On Writing. She began her writing career hawking her feature film spec scripts in Hollywood, nearly killed her muse by working as a freelance copywriter for various boring companies, and finally found her way to narrative writing, which feels like “dancing naked in a field of flowers” compared to her previous writing ventures. Annette is an author and a spoken-word storyteller who regularly performs in L.A. theaters. Annette's memoir, The Break-Up Diet is available in bookstores and online.

She lives in Southern California with her husband, her son, and two dogs.





Words in the Woods Retreat Experience

I attended the Words in the Woods retreat near Springfield, Illinois on June 20 - 22, and it was more than I could have ever hoped for. My creative juices flowed, my imagination soared, and my mind wrote stories. Seriously, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. on the last morning of the three-day retreat and wrote a rough draft of a picture book, revision ideas for my YA novel, and a picture book idea. Can you believe that? And all before breakfast.  So, let me try to explain why this retreat was so amazing, and why if you have the chance to go for a weekend retreat (or one that is even longer), you should do it!

An Illinois chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) put together this event and invited some funny, knowledgeable, and honest speakers. Agent Barry Goldblatt, Senior Editor Namrata Tripathi (Hyperion Books), and believe it or not, yes, this is so exciting—Holly Black—co-author of the Spiderwick Chronicles. Also speaking were two gracious and intelligent picture book authors, Julia Durango and Alice McGinty.

Let me explain how this retreat worked. It was held at a Lutheran Church Camp, and we stayed in large cabins with dorm-like rooms. When we arrived on Friday evening, we ate pizza, which is always the best way to win writers’ hearts—through their stomachs. The speakers did a session introducing themselves and reading some query letter don’ts, and then we met with critique groups. We had submitted a manuscript to a group of writers before the retreat, and this was our small critique group for the weekend. We supported each other throughout the retreat and offered help with one manuscript.

The next day, we ate a delicious breakfast of pancakes and sausage. Make sure, if you go to a retreat, you are offered meals. This is one of the best parts of a retreat. Someone else is cooking and cleaning, and you are spending your time either talking about writing, thinking about writing, learning about writing, or even actually writing. You have to admit, that is worth the cost alone.

Back to what we did on Saturday. We had three sessions with the three main speakers. One was about plot, one about characters, and one about voice and the submission policies and desires of Barry and Namrata. Another great thing about a retreat or a conference is that sometimes closed houses and agencies will take a submission from conference attendees for a period of time after the event. I received two golden tickets (in the form of Words in the Woods stickers) that I can place on my envelopes to send in to the speakers. This is not the first retreat or conference I’ve attended where manuscript submissions have been allowed, so this is definitely a perk of retreats.

Photo: Barry Goldblatt, Namrata Tripathi, and Holly Black

Holly Black said amazing things about plot. She explained how she often uses a time-limiting factor and a personal plot line woven together when she writes her novels. This was my A-HA moment. I wanted to bow down and maybe even offer my first born child because this simple explanation, which took maybe five minutes, solved the entire problem I was having with my novel. (Well, hopefully.)

Namrata shared a fantastic picture book with us called Dinosaur vs. Bedtime. This book will be out on September 9th. She talked to us about how picture books do not have to have a complex wrapped-up ending, and I had another A-HA moment. When Julia Durango showed us her very funny and cute picture book, Dream Hop, I understood what they meant. The wheels in my brain couldn’t stop after this session. Julia also gave an informative talk on promotion and school visits while Alice McGinty covered the basics in submitting manuscripts. There was something for all levels of writers at this retreat!

In between sessions, we ate, met with our critique groups, and had open mic sessions. Open mic sessions are unbelievably nerve-wracking, but they are so valuable. The first page of my YA novel was read aloud to Barry, Namrata, Holly, and Julia (and all the attendees), and then the speakers told everybody in the audience what they thought.

Now, I knew the first chapter of my work-in-progress was a “big, hot mess,” as Mr. Goldblatt would say, so I purposely sent this page in to get feedback and some help. But it was still hard to take when he said he wouldn’t get past the first page. OUCH! But I have thick skin and have already started revising my first chapter based on their suggestions and the suggestions from the audience members. I knew there was something wrong, but I was too close to my own work to figure it out. Thanks to the retreat—I think I am on the right track now.

This Words in the Woods event even had camp crafts. This was important quiet time to focus on what I had learned about my craft and mull over ideas that were stirring in my head. I painted a rock for my garden. You could also make a voodoo doll critic to stab with a pin every time your inner critic came out and said nasty things like, “You’re too old to be a writer,” or “Do you really think anyone is going to publish this junk?” and so on. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to make a voodoo doll, but I loved the idea.

Saturday night ended with the scent of bug spray and smoke while we sat around a campfire, roasting marshmallows, and eating s-mores. We even threw handfuls of Cremora (yes, Cremora) into the fire while we announced what we loved about the weekend, what we were no longer afraid of, and what we were grateful for. Did you know Cremora causes a huge spark in the flames? Be careful if you try it at home. (Although, it’s really not dangerous. I always feel like there should be some sort of disclaimer when dealing with fire.)

Sunday morning, everyone seemed exhausted, and I felt like my brain was done, especially since I had gotten up so early to write. We listened to one more session about setting, talked with our critique groups some more, ate (of course), and received door prizes and our valuable out-of-the-slush-pile stickers.

So, what was the best part about the retreat? Well, I can’t seem to pin down one best part. But here are a few closing thoughts. It is a very rare treat to spend an entire weekend around people who totally get you and want to talk about your characters and your books. The second was meeting Holly Black. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak or read or even meet her, do it. You will be inspired by this gracious and wonderful author. Third, I admit it, I am motivated, I am inspired, and something good will come out of this experience. I can just feel it.


Margo L. Dill is a freelance writer and elementary school teacher, living in Mahomet, Illinois. Her work has appeared in publications such as Grit, Pockets, Missouri Life, ByLine Magazine, and The News-Gazette. Her first book, Finding My Place, a middle-grade historical novel, will be published by White Mane Kids in 2009. When she's not writing, she loves spending time with her husband, stepson, and two dogs—Charlie, a boxer, and Hush Puppy, a basset hound. You can read more about Margo at

Margo is a columnist for WOW! Women On Writing.


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