Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Does the Library Help You? Enter this Woman's Day Essay Contest

Tricia Sanders, one of my good writing buddies, posted this essay contest from Woman's Day and The American Library Association on her blog, "A Novel Approach." The prompt is:

"If the library has gotten you or your family out of a tough financial crunch, helping you save in unexpected ways, tell us about it in an essay of 700 words or less."

For all the rules and details, you can find them on the Woman's Day website.

I would love, love, love to read these essays. I love to use the library. I check out audio books for the car, picture books to read for my blog, and my book club novels. For writers, the magazine section is one of the best parts of the library. Where else can you go to find all those back issues of magazines the editors are always asking you to look through before you query?

But I can't say the library has helped me out of a tough financial crunch, although I wish it could or would or did because I would love to write about the library. I think in today's society, the library is often a forgotten resource. So, these Woman's Day essays could help us all, not only the writers who win the contest.

Maybe the library has helped you during these hard economic times. If so, enter this contest and let your love for the library shine through!
How does the library help you? Do you use it often as a writer?

Happy essay writing!
Margo Dill
Seattle Public Library photo by jeffwilcox

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Monday, September 15, 2008


WOW! Women On Writing Fall 2008 Essay Contest Sponsored by skirt!

WOW! Women On Writing announces the new Fall 2008 Essay Contest, sponsored by skirt! books. We've raised the word count to give you more words to tell a compelling story. We've also put a limit on the number of entries, so be sure to get your submissions in early for inclusion.

Word Count: up to 750 words

Deadline: November 30, 2008
The contest may close early if we reach 300 entries.

Prompt: This season’s prompt is inspired by Jill Butler’s book, Create the Space You Deserve: An Artistic Journey to Expressing Yourself Through Your Home.

Jill offers a favorite quote from Winston Churchill: “We create our dwelling and afterwards our dwellings create us.” Jill believes it runs both ways simultaneously. As we create ourselves, we create our homes, and in the creating of our homes we have the opportunity to recreate ourselves.

In less than 750 words, tell us how recreating your personal space has changed your life, or how by making changes in your life, it has moved you to express yourself and recreate your home. These can be personal stories of love, loss, moving to a new area, or anything that has affected or inspired you to recreate your life and your home.

Guest Judge: Literary Agent, Jennifer DeChiara, of The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency

Jennifer was the guest judge for last year's Summer 2007 Flash Fiction Contest. We also interviewed Jennifer in WOW!'s November Walking in an Agent's Shoes issue.

Entry Fee: $10 per entry

Entry Fee Plus Critique: $20 per entry. Yes, you heard it right, due to popular demand, we added the critique option once again! We have critiquers ready to go, so it won't hold up the results of this contest.

Limit: 300 entries

Prizes: 35 Winners total!

1st Place: $200 cash prize; skirt! Books Goodie Bag (worth over $50 per goodie bag) including 3 books; entry published on WOW!, a year's subscription to Premium-Green Writer's Markets ($48 value); interview on The Muffin.

2nd Place: $150 cash prize; skirt! Books Goodie Bag (worth over $50 per goodie bag) including 3 books; entry published on WOW!, a year's subscription to Premium-Green Writer's Markets ($48 value); interview on The Muffin.

3rd Place: $100 cash prize; skirt! Books Goodie Bag (worth over $50 per goodie bag) including 3 books; entry published on WOW!, a year's subscription to Premium-Green Writer's Markets ($48 value); interview on The Muffin.

7 Runners Up: skirt! Books Goodie Bag (worth over $50 per goodie bag) including 3 books; entry published on WOW!, a year's subscription to Premium-Green Writer's Markets ($48 value); interview on The Muffin.

25 Honorable Mentions: skirt! Books Goodie Bag (worth over $50 per goodie bag) including 3 books; name, title of story, and city/state published on WOW!

Find out full details by visiting our contest page:

Be sure to download the free ebook of terms & conditions, as well as FAQs on our contest page.

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Monday, February 04, 2008


Interview with WOW! Runner Up Marketa Oliver

Runner Up: Marketa Oliver
Des Moines, Iowa
Congratulations, Marketa!

Marketa's Bio:

Marketa George Oliver has a background in writing, but it is in writing reports, budgets and capital plans in her role as a City Administrator. Creative writing, though, has always been an interest. Marketa is fortunate to have many interesting adventures and travels on which she can draw. She loves travel and has studied overseas in both Austria and Australia. She enjoys movies, backgammon, cards, The Cure and the Iowa State Fair. What brings her the greatest joy, however, is spending time with the colorful, passionate characters in her life.

We welcome Marketa and congratulate her for placing in the Fall 2007 Essay Contest, sponsored by the Globe Pequot Press' skirt! books. If you haven't done so already, please read Marketa's inspirational story, Scrounging for Schillings.

Then come back and join us as we chat with a well-traveled, well-versed writer and a dynamic woman.


WOW: I was reading about your position as City Administrator and saw that you've been very successful and you've been honored with many prestigious awards. How does winning the contest compare to your other successes?

Marketa: I was shocked to find out that I was a finalist. Once I read the bios of the other runners up and the winners, I was even more surprised and very excited. To be included in a group of writing professionals was truly an honor in itself.

WOW: What inspired you to enter the contest?

Marketa: I have always been interested in creative writing, but have not pursued it much in recent years. Last year, I met up with 5 of my other partners in crime in Vienna and we wined and dined around the City in a fashion that we may possibly have not truly appreciated 20 years ago and certainly could not have afforded. Shortly before I entered the contest, I had also been to a reunion with the full group of people I studied with in Vienna a few months before I saw the contest. We shared many stories. Those memories were all fresh in my mind when I stumbled on the Women on Writing website.

WOW: You've certainly had some wonderful experiences. How exciting it must be to spend those adventures with friends. WOW is fortunate that your trip to Vienna refreshed your memories. I'm sure you took many photographs and perhaps made some journal notes while you were there. Does this give you a lot of material for creative writing projects?

Marketa: Traveling has been a cornerstone of my life and my personality. I love the adventure of discovering a new place or new language and the comfort of visiting old ones. The best experience is when you get to share that adventure with a spouse or close friend. When my husband and I got together last year with friends in Vienna, one of the most interesting aspects of that trip, was the chance to see the city through their eyes.

WOW: In your bio, you stated that you've always had an interest in creative writing. Is this the first time you've pursued creative writing?

Marketa: I used to write poetry when I was much younger. I also have recently developed some skeletal children's books based on some experiences I have had with my daughter.

WOW: Talking about the experiences you shared with your daughter bought to mind, The American Doll collection. My granddaughter collects the dolls and the storybooks that come with them. I was thinking your traveling experiences could make some very interesting stories for little girls. Now that you've placed in the contest, will you be writing more essays and entering more contests?

Marketa: Depending on the subject area, I think I would enter more contests. This experience will definitely make me interested in pursuing creative writing on a more regular basis. This experience also bolsters my confidence to enter another contest.

WOW: You mentioned the colorful people in your life, how supportive are they when it comes to encouraging you to write?

Marketa: They are fabulous people who support me in whatever I aspire to do.

WOW: You are so fortunate to have fabulous people in your life. Sometimes our friends and relatives don't realize how much of a role they play in our creative lives. It seems that you are very busy in your position of City Administrator; do you still get the opportunity to travel?

Marketa: I still have opportunities to travel, but not as extensively as before I became a City Administrator. Although, as part of my CA position, I attend at least one national conference each year and they are quite often held in places I would not naturally think of visiting. In that sense, my current position has helped me discover new places.

WOW: To me, "Scrounging for Schillings" was a very inspiring spiritual experience. I too have learned to appreciate that miracles do not always come in epic proportions. Is spirituality still a big part of your life?

Marketa: I do not have perfect attendance in church, but I consider myself a spiritual person. I try to instill values of kindness, equity and compassion in my daughter each day and try to exhibit those qualities myself.

WOW: Spirituality is a big part of my life too. In my writing career, I plan to tidy up some lose ends. Have you set any writing goals for 2008?

Marketa: I want to finish the skeletal children's book(s) that I have written and find an illustrator for them.

WOW: Good luck on finishing your children's books. With your organizational skills and enthusiasm, I'm sure you'll reach your 2008 goals. Do you have any advice for other women writers? Would you recommend they enter writing contests?

Marketa: I would recommend to any of the women that are interested in writing to pursue it. It does not have to be the great American novel, it can simply be writing about a special memory. Our stories are threads that connect generations. A few years ago, I bought my father a book that had a prompt per day for a special moment in life. It asked the owner to write about a first kiss; the day a child was born; a special childhood activity; etc. I treasure reading those short answers. I know my daughter loves to hear about the day she first walked or what we did when we found out she was on her way, so I know that I need to get busy with my pen to stay connected.


If you haven't done so already, please read Marketa's award winning story, Scrounging for Schillings

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

For more details on WOW! Women On Writing's current contest, please visit:

Cher'ley Grogg
My website:

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Fall 2007 Third Place Winner! Dianne Greco

Dianne Greco's story, It Could Be Angels, won Third Place in WOW!'s Fall 2007 Essay Contest. Not bad for her first ever contest entry! Today we chat with her and find out why she entered, what it's like to score big on your first try, and what's next for this Port Jefferson, New York writer on the rise.


WOW: Congratulations on winning third place in WOW!'s Fall 2007 writing contest! How do you feel?

Dianne: I am surprised, excited and ecstatic!

WOW: What a great reaction! You mentioned in your bio that the WOW! contest was the first essay contest you ever got up the nerve to enter. How did you convince yourself to do it?

Dianne: In the past, I have written to authors of books that I enjoyed and have always received wonderful responses. I asked the author of the fabulous book, Around the Next Corner, Elizabeth Wrenn, how she got started and what advice she would give to an author wanna-be, and she suggested writing contests. Well, after searching on the internet, I found the WOW! website, liked the upbeat feel of it, and decided to give the essay contest a try. I figured I had to start somewhere, and WOW! seemed like a good fit. Boy, was it ever!

WOW: Thanks for the kind words about WOW! We appreciate it. Your essay about a good deed resulting in good karma was both touching and laced with humor. Has your good luck continued since the wallet incident?

Dianne: I consider myself very blessed with good things in my life. I can't say that the wallet incident changed anything, but perhaps it has helped to continue the path to good karma!

WOW: Well, that's a good path to stay on. What were some of your biggest challenges in writing your essay? What did you do to overcome them?

Dianne: I think my biggest challenge was my own fear. Fear of the unknown, failure and/or rejection. You know, normal every day stuff! But they say nothing changes unless something changes, so I bit the bullet and submitted my entry.

WOW: Common fears, indeed. What a great outcome for your bravery though, a third place win! You've also completed a novel. Can you tell us about that? What did it take to complete that big goal?

Dianne: My novel, The Hands of Grace, is about a recently widowed woman who is just starting to get her life back on track with her high powered job in NYC, her teenage son, and a new residence on Eastern Long Island, when out of the blue, she gets fired. The story tells of her rebirth into a new life at the hands of her very dear, eccentric and elderly neighbor, Grace, and she learns some tough lessons about life, love and trust along the way. This was a labor of love started years ago, dropped and picked up again many times, depending on what was going on in my "other" life.

WOW: Sounds like an interesting book! What other projects are you working on?

Dianne: I am currently finishing the sequel to The Hands of Grace, titled The Heart of Grace. I am in the editing stage right now, which, as I'm sure you know, could take forever...

WOW: Yes, that can be a long process. Good luck with the revisions. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Dianne: I work full time, so I usually write at night. It is my relaxation. I find that if I just do a stream of consciousness thing, ideas flow at random and then later on I can organize them into the story.

WOW: That's very motivating for writers who may only have time in the evenings for writing. You've accomplished a lot despite other big responsibilities. Have you found inspiration from other books or authors you could recommend?

Dianne: Oh yes! As I mentioned, Elizabeth Wrenn. I also enjoy Jan Karon (the Mitford series) Joan Medlicott (another dear who actually answered an e-mail!) There are so many wonderful authors, new and old, who give me such joy. I would have to compile a long list to include them all.

WOW: Great recommendations. Do you have any writing goals for the New Year? How's it going so far?

Dianne: My one goal is to finish the edits on The Heart of Grace, but I will take it slow to be sure I do it right. I also wouldn't mind getting my first novel published! That would be the cherry on top!

WOW: We hope that wish comes true for you, Dianne! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. One final question: If there was one bit of advice you could pass on to other aspiring writers, what would it be?

Dianne: Write, write and keep on writing. Ask questions of authors that have been where you are, and then (and here's the rub) LISTEN!


If you haven't done so already, please read Dianne's award winning story, It Could be Angels.

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

For more details on WOW! Women On Writing's current contest, please visit:


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Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Fall 2007 First Place Winner! Nancy Wick

Luck? Coincidence? Does it really exist? What about karma, serendipity, or missed opportunities? These were some of the questions posed by WOW! Women On Writing's first ever, essay contest. And now we have some answers!

Nancy Wick has been a writer and editor for 30 years, working in newspapers and magazines, and has won both regional and national writing awards. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Speech and Drama from the University of Missouri and is a former film and theater critic. She also earned a doctorate in communication at the University of Washington. Now that she is nearing retirement from her job as editor of the faculty/staff newspaper at the UW, she has started a small editing business, EnLightened Edits. She enjoys working on many kinds of writing, but is especially fond of character-driven novels (both genre and non-genre), psychology/self-help books, essays and memoirs.

We welcome Nancy and congratulate her for winning First Place in the Fall 2007 Essay Contest, sponsored by the Globe Pequot Press’ skirt! books. If you haven't done so already, please read Nancy's award winning story, Cookie Magic. Then come back and join us as we chat with a talented writer and a remarkable woman.


WOW: Congratulations on your First Place essay, Cookie Magic! Nancy, your story is truly inspiring. I want to thank you for sharing your journey as a single mother—I know it’s a tough path to tread, but your story remained upbeat and inspirational, despite what you were probably enduring. After your break-up with Bob, what made you choose Seattle, Washington as a place to move to?

People laugh when I say this, but I actually chose it in part for the weather. I’d been living in the Midwest, where the summers are terribly hot and humid, and I HATED that. I wanted someplace that was cool year round, but without a lot of snow. I was also looking for a more liberal place with lots of cultural outlets, such as live theater. I considered several cities, but Seattle was the one that had everything. And no, I don’t mind the rain.

WOW: Well, you're a better woman than I am! I'm a little spoiled from living in Southern California—we don't get much humidity, or much rain. But I do love Seattle, the culture there is vibrant. So, how did you first get into editing for the faculty/staff newspaper at the University of Washington?

NANCY: A friend of mine’s co-worker was the neighbor of my current boss. She told me about the job opening—at that time as assistant editor. Back in the Midwest, I’d worked for a daily newspaper, so I had the relevant experience. Working for the university allowed me to stay in journalism, but without the evening and weekend hours.

WOW: That's definitely a bonus! And now that you’re nearing retirement, you’ve started a new business, EnLightened Edits. I’m sure our readers would love to know more about what kinds of services you provide.

NANCY: I provide a variety of editing services. I can, if people want, simply read what they’ve written, correct all the spelling and grammatical errors and suggest clearer ways of saying things. I also can offer what is called developmental editing—an evaluation of a whole manuscript that points out strengths and weaknesses and makes suggestions for improvement.

WOW: In your bio you mentioned character-driven novels—do you write fiction as well?

NANCY: I’ve tried to write fiction, but unfortunately I’m not very good at it! But I read fiction constantly, and in my business I especially enjoy working on novels. It turns out you can be good at evaluating the kind of writing you’re not good at doing.

WOW: True, but it takes an avid reader. Since we’re in the midst of our January, “Reader’s Issue,” who are some of your favorite authors?

NANCY: There are so many, I hardly know where to start. I love Marge Piercy, Alice Hoffman, Anne Patchett, JoAnne Harris, Anna Quindlen, etc., etc. For mysteries I love Elizabeth George, whose work transcends the genre.

WOW: Oh, I love her! To me, your story, Cookie Magic, could work as fiction, although, it's more dynamic as an essay. From reading your story, I have to ask, are you still in touch with Brenda today? She seems like such a fabulous friend.

NANCY: No, Brenda moved to Tacoma a couple of years after I moved out (which I did because she’d gotten a job in Tacoma and was selling her house), and I lost touch with her. I’m very grateful to her for her help at that time.

WOW: And how about your son, Ian? What is he doing now, and has he had a chance to read your winning story?

NANCY: Ian is a computer guy who is working with databases. He hasn’t yet read the story, though I’ve told him about it.

WOW: Well, I'm sure he'll be proud. We had a lot of entries this season, how does it feel to win First Place?

NANCY: I’m thrilled, of course. When I read the other two winning essays, I was very impressed and thought maybe they should have won. Pam and Dianne, kudos to you. I felt as if I’d really met Pam’s boss when I read her essay, and Dianne – what an experience, to find the owner of the wallet in the manner you did!

WOW: There were some very good stories, and I enjoyed them all. It's always such a tough decision for our guest judges...and for the writers. When you first saw the prompt, did you automatically know what you were going to write about?

NANCY: There are many “coincidences” in my life that I could have chosen. I gave it some thought, and decided that this one fit the prompt the most closely—the idea of coming upon something by accident that made a real difference in your life. From there I simply sat down and wrote about the incident as I remembered it. Fortunately I’ve always kept a journal, so I was able to go back and get some details about that time.

WOW: Journaling is something I totally recommend as well, but sometimes you look back at your casual writing and notice it would take a lot to make it into a story. Did you have to do a lot of editing to tailor your essay?

NANCY: I did quite a lot of editing. I have a friend, another writer, to whom I show most of my stuff—especially stuff that I intend to submit somewhere. It was her suggestion that I start at the bank. My initial draft started with the background of how I got to Seattle. Once I changed the lead, the rest followed, which is kind of how it always is in journalism. Getting the opening right is really important. After that it was a matter of cutting to make it tighter and making sure I was using the most effective words to tell the story.

WOW: I agree, the hook is the most important, and you did it so well! You really captured the reader with the first sentence. It's no wonder you've also won regional and national awards for your writing. Please tell us more about those—you have bragging rights!

NANCY: There are two organizations that evaluate writing such as I do in my job—the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ). Both have regional and national competitions. I’ve won regional SPJ awards in various categories —best magazine article in education, for example. (I write for the alumni magazine as well as the newspaper.) I’ve also won an award in the national CASE Best Articles of the Year category. And last year, my assistant editor and I won a national CASE award for writing in an internal publication.

WOW: Congrats on those, Nancy! And from your bio, I know you were also a former film and theater critic. Many of our freelance writers would consider that a dream job. Do you still do this today? And do you have any tips for breaking into the business that our freelancers should know?

NANCY: No, I don’t do it anymore. I think anyone considering this should remember that as a critic, you get to go to everything—the stinkers as well as the great films. The newspaper I worked for only used staff writers as critics, so it was a matter of being on staff and continuing to ask for those assignments. Larger papers sometimes hire freelancers. I’d say the best approach is to find out from the paper’s entertainment editor whether they hire freelancers. If they do, attend a few movies and send in sample reviews so they can see what you can do.

WOW: I think I'll use that advice the next time I'm at the movies. So, what do you do when you have some free time?

NANCY: I read, of course. I go to movies and live theater. I used to do line and square dancing and would like to get back to that.

WOW: Do you also have a set writing schedule?

NANCY: I get up at 5 a.m. every morning so as to have time to write before going to work. My goal is to do something five days a week—even if it’s only 10 minutes worth.

WOW: That's an excellent goal to have. So, what are your goals for 2008?

NANCY: To get my website for Enlightened Edits up. It’s nearly ready, and to do more editing, which I really enjoy. I also want to keep submitting essays to publications and competitions.

WOW: Thank you, Nancy, for taking the time to chat with us today! Do you have any tips for our ladies who are entering writing contests?

NANCY: Just keep entering. Don’t take a loss to mean your writing is worthless. I’ve lost more contests than I’ve won, but I keep trying because I know every judge is different and you never know who will respond to what you do.


If you haven't done so already, please read Nancy's award winning story, Cookie Magic. And stay tuned for Nancy Wick's award-winning story to be published on the skirt! magazine website:

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

For more details on WOW! Women On Writing's current contest, please visit:

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Sunday, October 21, 2007


Lucky You

When we put up the new contest in September some of our regular flash fiction contestants scratched their heads and wrote us. "Wow, that is a departure," one of our previous winners wrote. "It's going to take a lot of thought on my part, if I end up entering at all. What do I write about?"

As I responded to one of these emails I remembered a story of how something strange changed my life. Off the top of my head, I wrote:

I just remembered something that brought me good luck once -- I was in Santa Monica with some girlfriends, and they kept saying, "Oh, we gotta go see this psychic, she's unbelievably accurate." Then they would snicker. O-k-a-y... I thought, sounds kinda fun, but I'm not shelling out a bunch of money I don't have to go see a psychic!

They took me to the pier and led me inside a room that had a carousel in the middle, and pushed up against the wall in the corner was this gaudy old mechanical fortune teller. Of course they burst out laughing, and I was just glad they weren't taking me to see a real psychic. So we all put in a dollar fifty, and the creepy lady moved her fingers over a crystal ball until the machine spit out a thick card.

The picture on the front of the card had a woman falling and screaming. I walked away to read it, fearing that it would say something bad. At the time I was not doing so hot with my finances to put it mildly. I was broke, in debt, jobless, and going nowhere fast. I feared that the card would predict another grim tale to add to my list. But to my surprise, the card basically said that the troubles I've been having with my finances would soon be over.

So I tucked the card away in my purse and carried it with me wherever I went, and a week later, I landed a contract for my graphic design business that paid a hundred grand a year.

Of course after that I called up all my friends and we celebrated!

I have no idea if the card really worked or not, but it just seemed like too much of a coincidence to dismiss.

When I think about all the experiences that have happened in my life, they all can be attributed to some form of luck, serendipity, or karma. Events happen in a series, connections lead from one experience to the other. If you step back for a moment and examine the most important times in your life... what event, action, or coincidence led up to that point?

I met my husband when my ex-boyfriend and I moved into an art studio four doors down from his. If I hadn't moved in and broken up with my ex soon thereafter, I probably wouldn't have met my hubby. That move to the studio put me in close proximity, and even before that, I was forced to move out from the apartment I lived, and so on and so on.

An easy way to find your "lucky you" moment is to write a list of monumental events in your life. Take a look at that list and hit rewind. What event started that ball rolling?

In my story with the mechanical fortune teller, I could've just said, that was a year I started making a lot of money because I got this really great contract gig -- but that wouldn't have made for a good story. By retracing your steps and the series of events that led up to that point, you will be able to find your "lucky you" moment... and you may even be lucky enough to win our essay contest!

So to get started, can you write a list of some major events in your life? Please share them here and we'll encourage each other!

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