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WOW! Women On Writing is an e-zine that promotes the communication between women writers, authors, editors, agents, publishers and readers.
Our blog (AKA: The Muffin) posts about women and writing, publishing industry news, and updates for our quarter
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First, a note. This is not the blog post I had planned to write. It was inspired by Margo’s post, Book Birthdays, Sick Kids, and Selling the House. She asked what we do when we feel overwhelmed by our good fortune. How do you cope when there is just too much going on in our personal lives and our writing careers?
Here is what works for me:
- Admit you are overwhelmed. Good things, bad things, it doesn’t matter. Stress is stress and writing moms can only handle so much. Let your partner know that you are at your wits end. Seriously. My husband will pitch in and take over any number of tasks – if I ask. Otherwise, he buys into my Superwoman routine and assumes I’m coping just fine. Spot someone who will help, give them something to do, and . . .
- Let them do it. This means not micromanaging or insisting that something be done your way. When I’m up against a deadline, my fifteen-year-old will make dinner. I taught him to cook about five years ago and at fifteen I’ll let him take charge. He’s baked Christmas cookies, made pasta for lunch and even brings me chocolate when things get intense. Whether the task at hand is decorating for your book launch or putting a meal on the table, let someone else do what they can.
- Turn the electronics off. Between our computers, tablets and I-phones it is way too easy to be connected 24/7. For this reason, I don’t have an I-phone. I don’t do e-mail on Sundays. And when I go out of town? Yep, I’m gone. The lake we visit in Southern Missouri has truly wonky connectivity. In the winter, you can get a cell phone signal anywhere in the lodge and at our cabin. When the trees are leafed out, you can still sometimes get service at the lake. At the lodge, you have to stand on the roof of an SUV or pick-up or stand in one square foot space in the parking lot. When I’m on vacation, I’m truly out of touch. Three days without e-mail can be a glorious thing.
Good time, bad times. They can both be stressful. When it happens, ask for help, accept help and periodically disconnect to recharge. What you do to recharge will depend on you. I read and knit and walk, walk, walk. What do you do to recharge?
Find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards’ writing at her blog,One Writer's Journey
. Sue also teaches our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults
. The next session of this course is scheduled to begin on April 7.
I received the sad news last week that a writer friend had died.
To be honest, we weren’t very close friends. We’d attended the same weeklong workshop and had been in the same small critique group. I had read her work-in-progress and been impressed—and even after these two years, after reading hundreds of books and blogs, I remember her story. But we hadn’t kept in touch except for an occasional note in the social media world, a comment on a blog. And yet, she lay on my heart, and I grieved for her, leaving much too soon.
I started skimming her last blog posts, reading comments of those who knew her well. She had been writing, working on a manuscript, all through the challenges of her illness. I read where many of her friends were buying her books and donating them to schools and libraries so that her legacy would continue, and I loved that idea.
She was a children’s writer and loved making school visits, so I thought of the SCBWI Amber Brown Fund,
too, and how donating to that fund would surely please her. But mostly, I thought the best way I could honor her was to work hard at writing.
She was passionate about her writing; it was a passion that came through from the first day of that workshop, from the first moment we spoke. It drove her to work on being a better writer, even though she had several published books. In fact, I wondered why she needed the workshop. She’d already accomplished her dream.
But that’s not the way she saw it. She wanted to be a better writer, wanted to get her new stories out there. She wasn’t ready to rest on her laurels; she was ready to work, and work hard!
Remembering her drive brought that iconic shoe slogan to mind. You know the one I mean, right? I think it could’ve been her motto.
And so now, I’m taking you to task, friends. If writing is what you really want, do it.
Quit talking about how you want to write when you have the time, or when you can quit your day job, or when you have a really good idea. Put a plug in that endless stream of excuses and plug into your heart’s desire.
You know what? It doesn’t have to be writing. Whatever is in you, whatever it is you really, really want to do, start working on it. You can start with small goals, little steps, day by day.
As long as you start today.
~Cathy C. Hall
April is National Poetry Month, and although it’s not quite April yet, I wanted to post this now so you have enough time to dust off your poetry-writing skills and get started on time with this nation-wide celebration!
To get in the mood, check out the performance poetry by Sarah Kay below, as well as the rest of the performance poetry playlist.
I often get so busy that it is half way through the month (or sometimes half way through May or June) when I realize National Poetry Month has come and gone and I had done nothing to participate.
Although I am a poetry appreciator, and I have about a half-dozen journals full of poetry written in adolescence, I don’t know if I'd consider myself a poet. I fell out of touch with this art form when I steered towards prose and academic writing.
Last April, however, I discovered the Poem-a-Day (PAD) Challenge on the Writer’s Digest website and tried it. I did not quite write 30 poems in 30 days (I may have written 11...), but the experienced tapped into my inner poet and helped me to find ways to write more expressively in my creative fiction and academic writing.
All people – writers/non-writers, poetry enthusiasts/poetry neutralists – can benefit from taking a moment to read, write, and/or think about poetry, whether it is in April...or at a later date.
What Is National Poetry Month?
According to the Academy of American Poets,
“National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. The concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. We hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated.”
Poets.org answers this question and many more on its National Poetry Month FAQ
page.How Can You Participate?
The American Academy of Poets has created a list of 30 ways to celebrate poetry
- Read a book of poetry
- Put poetry in unexpected places
- Put a poem on the pavement
- Write a letter to a poet
In addition, Writer’s Digest is again hosting its PAD Challenge
(which I will be attempting again this year).
And the Poetry Foundation
is offering back copies of Poetry Magazine
in April, which are free for individuals, classrooms, and reading groups.
A quick Google search may also announce other opportunities in your hometown. How do you plan to celebrate?Written by: Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor
By: Crystal Otto,
Blog: WOW! Women on Writing Blog (The Muffin)
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Bette Lee Crosby
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Bette Lee Crosby is one of my favorite authors. She writes books you’ll want to share with friends and each book is filled with characters that fill your heart and leave you wanting more. Bette has a new book set for release in April 2014 and you’ll want to add it to your TBR (to be read) pile as soon as possible. There is no question Previously Loved Treasures
is a five star story!
The twists and turns in Previously Loved Treasures
ensure you won’t want to put it down. There’s a little something for everyone in this particular story. There’s drama, longing, romance, mystery, deceit, and a little bit of magic! Each character is written in true Crosby style. You feel you’ve known them your entire life and they stay with you long after you’ve closed the cover and placed the book back on the shelf.
Crosby has a way of engaging readers from cover to cover. There has never been a point I have thought ‘get to the point already’ and I find the time passing quickly as I am unable to put the book down. Previously Loved Treasures
is no exception. My only complaint is I finished the book too quickly and can only hope there will be a sequel so I can continue my journey of friendship with the delightful characters I have grown to love.Book Details:Previously Loved Treasures
- A lonely widow and a young woman trying to rebuild her life discover a family connection and a run-down second hand store where the clairvoyant owner anticipates every need. When a pocket watch is stolen, he warns of the danger ahead, but will the young woman listen and heed his advice?
Being Released in April; Watch Bette’s Website for Details - http://betteleecrosby.com/books/previously-loved-treasures/
Length: 191 pagesAuthor Details:
Bette’s website: http://betteleecrosby.com
Bette’s Bio: Bette Lee Crosby, originally from New Jersey now living in Southern Florida, has written seven novels, won fourteen literary awards and with well over 2,000 reviews her average rating is 4.5. Her 2011 novel Spare Change is a USA Today Bestseller, a #1 Barnes and Noble Bestseller and an Amazon #1 Literary Fiction Bestseller. Her other novels consistently rank in the Amazon top 100 for their genre. An active public speaker who makes frequent appearances to support various charities and women's groups. Schedule permitting she will join the discussion of book clubs by phone or by computer teleconference. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, three young children (Carmen 7, Andre 5, Breccan 6 months), three dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
Each month my fifth grader’s class gets a “big project”. Last month it was to write a poem. A rhyming poem. And, as luck would have it, my son’s topic was squirrels. Nothing rhymes with squirrel. Have you ever tried to pull a poem about squirrels that rhymes and makes some sense from the brain of a ten year old? It’s safe to say no one was happy during this project: my son, my husband, me…I think even the dog ran away to hide around the third stanza. But somehow he managed to create eight lines for his first – and I was pretty sure his last – attempt at being a poet.
Until last week. He was working on this month’s project when he looked up at me and out of the blue said,
“The squirrel jumped in an acorn pile,
And looked at me with a great big smile.”
“For my squirrel poem. It just popped into my head. Wouldn’t that be great?”
My son is living proof of a writing belief I’ve always held –that you should never be working on just one project. If you spend all your writing time musing on one WIP you can become overwhelmed. Going over the same problems or weaknesses in the piece, in the same way, it seems almost impossible to find solutions or new ideas. the answer isn't to toil away until you puzzle out the solution. The answer is to start another project!
If you’re working on two projects, many time as you work on one an idea for the other will pop into your head. Trust me, it’s happened to me (and apparently my son). I believe that even when you’re totally focused on something some small part of your brain is still working on the other piece. Strangely enough, this phenomenon work best for me the more divergent the two pieces are: a humorous essay and a dramatic scene in my novel or an article and a children’s story. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon have even done studies on the subconscious continuing to work on one problem while occupied by another totally unrelated problem. So it’s official – never stick to just one WIP!
Have you ever found the perfect snippet of dialogue or essay ending while working on another piece?
Jodi Webb is still toiling away at her writing in between a full-time job, a full-time family and work as a blog tour manager for WOW-Women on Writing. Right now she's looking for blogs to promote Sue William Silverman's memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club and Barbara Barth's debut novel The Danger with Words. You can contact her at email@example.com. For Jodi's take on reading and writing (no 'rithmetic please!) stop by her blog Words by Webb.
by Carol Hogan
I’m currently editing the chapters of my first book while simultaneously checking email, posting on Facebook, and reading about writing and publishing books. I know there are helpful suggestions out there so I rationalize by telling myself it takes a lot of reading to write a book. However, sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever finish the book itself?
It’s the same feeling I had when we were blue water cruising. Often we’d be at sea for twenty or more days where the only marker ticking off the passage of time was wave, after wave, after wave.
“Will we ever arrive in port?” I’d think to myself. It’s a similar question to the one children ask on a long car trip, “When are we gonna’ get there?” Finally, after twenty-one or twenty-two days at sea we’d sight land, and then I’d wish the passage wouldn’t end.
Writing a book is like sailing long distance, running a marathon or pedaling a bicycle across country. You put one foot in front of the other, pedal one full rotation, and write or revise one sentence at a time.
While I’ve been doing that, I notice that the Lynden tree outside my office window has subtly marked its own passage of time with the changing color of its leaves and finally the lack of them. Each day as I sit at my computer and move through the sentences my tree moves steadily through the seasons; it’s leaves turning from spring buds to summer green, then autumn red and finally to winter’s bare branches, leaf, after leaf, after leaf.
And I know I must move through the sentences and chapters as steadily and patiently as that tree moves through the seasons. I can’t hurry, or fill up sentences with words that aren’t quite right, just to make the work go faster. I search for exactly what I want to say, no matter how long it takes, and at the end of the day I pray have written words worth reading.
* * *
Carol Hogan a freelance photojournalist and reporter in Hawaii, California, now living in Washington, not far from the Canadian border. She attended Western Washington University late in life and received a Bachelor's Degree in Creative Nonfiction, graduating in 2012. Hogan is currently editing her first book, In the Wake of Discovery: Two Adults, Two Children and 25,000-Miles on a Small Boat, and hopes to publish it soon.
web addresses: InTheWakeofDiscovery@wordpress.com, or ByCarolHogan.com.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
If you don't want to listen to a writer who is completely overwhelmed go on and on about being completely overwhelmed, then stop reading now. Don't read one more word. But if you want to read and find out why this really nice writer is feeling stressed out and why she posted on Facebook, "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade or use them to squeeze into your vodka tonic," then please keep reading.Full disclosure: I am a very lucky girl. I know this with all my heart. But sometimes, sometimes, life is so overwhelming.
On with the story. . .within one week, actually within four days, these events did and/or will occur:
- My 3-year-old has the stomach flu.
- The young adult novel I worked on for 7 years is finally born into the world. (Title is Caught Between Two Curses, and you can check it out here: http://www.rockinghorsepublishing.com/new-release.html)
- The closing date of the house we have been trying to sell for 3+ years is finally going to occur, and we are thankful we didn't lose "too much money."
- A book launch party
Here's the deal. I'm just going to admit it. I have a hard time with balance anyway. Being a writer and editor and a stay-at-home mom are all full-time jobs. I have help from my husband and grandparents, but it's still difficult to balance and keep the guilt in check. When I have a thousand things to do this week with the closing of our house and the book launch party--both happening at 4:00 on Friday!--I am well. . .feeling a little crazy.What can I do?
Here's the part of this post where I am supposed to come up with some words of wisdom for you. Something like: take care of my family first, ask for help with the closing and book launch party, do as much as I can and focus more on book markeing next week, etc. This is good advice, right? This is what I am telling myself; but really, did you come to this blog post to get advice from me? OR would you like the opportunity to give advice? How often do you really get asked for your two cents? I am asking you for your two cents! What do you do when you are feeling overwhelmed with your writing career and your personal life? How do you manage? Please share with me. I will be forever grateful. I will try your advice! I bet others will benefit from your advice, but they are just too scared to ask.
And if you want to check out Caught Between Two Curses
--well, that would just make my day. It's a young adult novel for ages 14 and up. It's about: Seventeen-year-old Julie Nigelson is cursed. So is her entire family. And it’s not just any-old-regular curse, either—it’s strangely connected to the famous “Curse of the Billy Goat” on the Chicago Cubs.
Julie must figure out this mystery while her uncle lies in a coma and her entire love life is in ruins: her boyfriend Gus is pressuring her to have sex, while her best friend Matt is growing more attractive to her all the time.
Somehow, Julie must figure out how to save her uncle, her family’s future, and her own love life—and time is running out!I'll owe you one!
Anthologies are always a treat, introducing us to dozens of authors thoughts on one theme. And what theme could be more multi-faceted than sin, specifically southern sin? Dorothy Allison gives you a peek at what Southern Sin has to offer in her introduction. "Sin dances words across the page, telling all those lies that sound like truths, and disguising terrible truths in a language we want desperately to believe."
Southern Sin: True Stories of the Sultry South and Women Behaving Badly
Editors: Lee Gutkind and Beth Ann Fennelly
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: In Fact Books (March 18, 2014)
In the steamy South, temptation is as wild and plentiful as kudzu.
Whether the sin in question is skinny-dipping or becoming an unlikely porn star, running rum or renting out a room to a pair of exhibitionistic adulterers, in these true stories women defy tradition and forge their own paths through life—often learning unexpected lessons from the experience.
As Dorothy Allison writes in her introduction, “The most dangerous stories are the true ones, the ones we hesitate to tell, the adventures laden with fear or shame or the relentless pull of regret. Some of those are about things that we are secretly deeply proud to have done.”
A diverse array of contributors—mothers, daughters, sisters, best friends, fiancées, divorcees, professors, poets, lifeguards-in-training, lapsed Baptists, tipsy debutantes, middle-aged lesbians—lend their voices to this collection. Introspective and abashed, joyous and triumphant (but almost never apologetic), they remind us that sin, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Let me be upfront and tell you that I am a tried and true Yankee. My experience with southern sin is limited to several readings of Gone with the Wind and a college boyfriend who hailed from the great state of Georgia. So let me just say, "Goodness gracious." The heat and humidity must do something to these people!
True, there are several hot and heavy essays on sin of the sexual nature but don't assume this is an anthology of erotica. The surprising part of this anthology is that explores so many other facets of sin. Gluttony, envy, coveting your neighbor's husband. Sin in past centuries, just considering the possibility of sin, the joy of sin, catching a glimpse of another's sin.
Southern Sin contains twenty-three essays that run the gamut of less than virtuous behavior. You'll find yourself rushing through the pages, wondering what's next. But aside from giving you a bit of vicarious thrill at witnessing all this misbehaving, Southern Sin will make you think. What is sin? Is there a universal definition? Is sin different for each person? Considering sin and doing sin...where is the line? Is it a sin to make people feel guilty for the joy they find in life? It's a fascinating subject to consider.
Where to Find More Southern Sin:
One luck reader will win a copy of the anthology Southern Sin
. Just enter the Rafflecopter form below to be entered in the drawing.a Rafflecopter giveawayJodi Webb is still toiling away at her writing in between a full-time job, a full-time family and work as a blog tour manager for WOW-Women on Writing. Right now she's looking for blogs to promote Sue William Silverman's memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club and Barbara Barth's debut novel The Danger with Words. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For Jodi's take on reading and writing (no 'rithmetic please!) stop by her blog Words by Webb.
Spring is almost here, and that sense of spring - rebirth, renewal - has me thinking about making new vows for my writing career. It seems like every time I establish a goal, something unexpected happens and I end up off track.
That's why my first - and perhaps my only - vow is to get thee to a writer's conference ASAP. My only problem: the writer's guild workshop I want to attend is the same weekend as my state's press association convention. Since I'm the managing editor of a weekly newspaper, I feel like that should be the choice I make. Yet, our state's writer's guild is hosting some big name freelance and fiction writers who I have read (translate: adored and devoured every word) for years.
What's a writer to do?
No matter which conference I end up attending, I have three reasons why I am ready:
- Expand my horizons. I'm a freelancer by design and enjoy the newspaper and magazine business. Still, I've written two plays and I am intrigued with flash fiction. Attending a conference, especially one with a variety of classes, will let me investigate other types of writing that I may not have considered.
- Practical, hands-on experience. One conference I'm contemplating offers direct instruction instead of roundtable discussions. I like the idea of being given certain elements that I can twist and stretch to create a new piece. I'm considering it an experiment, of sorts, where I can try out the latest, greatest technology and decide if it will streamline my writing process.
- Opportunities to listen. One of the main reasons I'm excited about one of these conferences in particular is because several authors are reading their work. There's something intimate about an author sharing his or her creation, hearing the rhythm and intonation they give each word and sentence. It makes me think about phrasing and structure and how they cram so much information and power into a single word or section.
Sure I'm looking forward to networking, meeting new people, and ok, having a weekend getaway, but the selling point, for me, is the opportunity to get excited about writing once more and know that what I write makes a difference.By LuAnn Schindler
A few years ago, I received an assignment from a local magazine I write for that made me take pause. The editor wanted me to visit the home of a woman living with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and interview her about a foundation she had started after her diagnosis. I’ll admit that when I found out the woman communicated using an eye-tracking technology connected to a computer, I hesitated. I worried that I wouldn’t know the best way to communicate effectively with her. But I was also up for the challenge, so I accepted the assignment. I e-mailed her a list of questions ahead of time and arrived at her home on the day of the interview with my laptop and a notepad and pen so I could take notes.
I can honestly say that interview was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. She showed me how the device on her headband allowed her to communicate through her computer, compose e-mails, search the internet and turn everything she “typed” on her screen into speech so we could have an actual conversation. But what struck me the most was how gracious she was even while confined to her wheelchair with limited means of movement and communication. She asked me questions about my family and me and even complimented my work. It turns out she had researched me as much as I had researched her before our interview.
In my work as a blogger, journalist and magazine editor I’ve conducted countless interviews over the years. Some of them went very well like the example above, others did not, leaving me scrambling to pull together a polished article with less quotes than I had originally planned. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years that make interviews run more smoothly:
1. Send a list of interview questions ahead of time. I always like to come up with at least four to five questions to least get the conversation started. I e-mail the person the list of the questions and tell them approximately how long the interview should last so they can plan accordingly.
2. Don’t go into an interview cold. We all have assignments that turn up at the last minute, but if you’re conducting a phone or in-person interview, spend some time researching the person you’ll be interviewing if at all possible. Focus on the areas of their life that align with what you’re writing. Is the person the head of a foundation? What other volunteer work are they involved in? How has their life path led to them to this point in time?
3. Be present and prepared. I often conduct interviews and then spend a few days soaking in the experience before I actually start to work on the article or profile. The best advice I can give here is to be a great listener. I either take notes by typing on my laptop (usually with phone interviews) and in person I use a combination of a recording app on my iPhone and notes by hand. If you are recording with a device periodically check to make sure it’s working and still recording. While it’s great to find common ground with the person you’re interviewing, strive for a balanced conversation. Try not to spend a lot of time talking about yourself and your interests unless the subject asks. If you’re interviewing in person, look around at your surroundings and takes notes on what you see. This can often provide a great introduction to your article.
4. Follow up. If you have any follow-up questions, e-mail them a soon as you think of them so your subject has enough time to send responses back to you before your deadline. And finally, be courteous; send the person a link to the article (or hard copy if applicable once the interview is published along with a “thank-you” note or e-mail.
What other tips can you offer when conducting interviews for blog posts and articles?
Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works as a blog tour manager for WOW-Women on Writing. She’s currently looking for a few more blogs to promote Frances Caballo’s book Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers Who Want to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write. You can contact her at email@example.com.
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For my editing, I generally use the Merriam-Webster’s
or the American Heritage
online dictionaries. My books collect more dust than they used to, which means I spend less time distracted by perusing nearby entries. My rate for learning new words has plummeted.
A few months ago, I bought myself a calendar with a word for each day. I hadn’t owned one in several years and this one became lost in a sock drawer until well into January, but that’s for another post.
In addition to writing, I figured I might find the calendar useful to challenge, in the words of the fictional detective Hercule Poirot, the “little gray cells.” (Granted, many online dictionaries
provide some way to push out a word per day, but I like the tactile experience of a page to rip off.)
Without any space to write down appointments or accomplishments, I enjoy the daily calendar as a way to mark the passage of time and I’ve saved many of the words I’ve torn off. I keep a stack on my desk. When I have time, I flip through and try to learn some unfamiliar words, such as calenture, moiety and nyctalopia. I position the calendar where I can easily see it and I look forward to the task each day.
It is a gentle reminder to keep learning, while giving me a different challenge than writing, researching or reading gives. And, although there is no vocabulary quiz each week as happened in elementary school, I like to try to keep my word muscles exercising and stretching.
You never know when you’ll get to use trichotillomania (an abnormal desire to pull out one’s hair) in a sentence. Knowing how unique puissantis compared to power and potent, even though they share a common Latin parentage, can help when choosing the perfect word.
With the tens of thousands of words we learn as we grow, I’ve been amazed at how many words and definitions I’ve forgotten, misused or stopped using through the years.
As a writer, I know that words are my business. The calendar reminds me of that each and every day.
Do you try to keep your vocabulary growing? If so, how do you do it?
Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor. Her The Feminist Movement Today (Mason Crest, 2013) was recently selected for the Amelia Bloomer List.
By: Cathy C. Hall,
Blog: WOW! Women on Writing Blog (The Muffin)
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, Cathy C. Hall
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, God Bless Our Easter
, Hannah C. Hall
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, Sally Apokedak
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Spring arrived a few weeks early here in my little corner of the world when I found God Bless Our Easter
by Hannah C. Hall
And no, Hannah is no relation to Cathy C. Hall. But I’d love to share a cup of tea and talk writing with her. Too bad Hannah’s all the way in Arkansas! Thankfully, her lovely book is here on my doorstep, so let’s take a look.
In God Bless Our Easter
, the most adorable baby animals ever
playfully romp through a spring day. The rhyming text tells of their discovery of God’s blessings in rain puddles and shady naps, in sunny daffodils and soaring butterflies. God Bless Our Easter
is the perfect book for a toddler’s springtime basket, though it’s sure to find a place in your child’s heart through all
And thanks to the blessing of email, I did have a chance to chat with Hannah and ask her a few questions.When did you begin your writing journey?My mom predicted when I was a very little girl that I was going to grow up to be an author. I was always, always reading. I didn't get serious about writing, however, until college. When a professor I both respected and was terrified of told me I should to switch my minor to Journalism, I did as I was told! I wrote for my college newspaper and then transitioned into freelance writing for a few small magazines after graduation.When I started having children, my mom again encouraged me that I should write for kids. Having never taken a creative writing course, I didn't think I had the imagination to do it. However, as my kids and their imaginations grew, I found my inspiration.My "official" writing journey began after I pitched my first manuscript for a picture book at a conference. Though that particular story has yet to be published, I met an editor at a meeting there that resulted in the God Bless series, of which I'm now in the process of writing the fourth book. Moral of the story: go to conferences and listen to your elders! What’s your writing process?My process is certainly not very technical or structured. I'm a stay-at-home mom, so I do a lot of writing in my head while I fold clothes or wash dishes. I always keep a pad of paper and an ink pen by my side or in my purse. There is something about gliding a good ink pen over nice paper that inspires my creativity in a way a computer screen never can.Since I write a weekly blog, I am always thinking on that as well. What am I learning in the day-to-day from my children or about parenting or marriage that might be useful to someone else? I would hate to have these experiences (good and bad) and someone not get something out of it. I want to be real with people, and I really want them to learn from my (many) mistakes!
How did you find your agent?I queried many agents, and I'm not sure I got even so much as a rejection letter from any of them. They simply never responded. It was very disheartening. I stumbled on to the amazing Sally Apokedak while checking out a conference that she happened to be speaking at. (Conferences, again!) She responded to my query very quickly, and I appreciated that so much. She is a writer herself, so she respects writers and the time (and nerve) it takes to send out queries. She is down-to-earth, truthful, and truly a blessing to me.
A big thank you to Hannah Hall for sharing her blessings with us here at the Muffin!
And P.S. Sally Apokedak
is our amazing judge for the Spring Flash Fiction Contest
. So if Hannah’s inspired you today, why not pick up your
pen and give springtime writing a whirl? You might be blessed with a winning story!
~Cathy C. Hall
by Jessica Bell
I don’t believe in writer’s block. Well, not entirely. I do believe that we run out of ideas or inspiration on occasion, but I honestly think that’s a result of a starving muse.
What do I mean by “starving muse”?
Sometimes, when you are working on one particular manuscript, your brain becomes lazy or trained to think a certain way. It slips into the routines and personalities of what you believe your characters to be, and creates, what I like to call, an inspiration shield. This means that you could be cutting yourself off from new creative stimulation that could improve your work, and help grow new ideas.
If you think you have a starving muse, here are a three writing exercises that might provide it with some nutrients.Exercise One
Think about the person you are in love with. If you are not in love with anyone, think of someone you love unconditionally, such as a parent, sibling, child, or pet. Write a scene between you and this person that illustrates the extent of your love through action. You must not use the word love at all, any synonyms of love, or any declaration of your feelings. The reader must see that you love this person from the way you behave. Avoid clichés such as cheek stroking, and looking longingly into one’s eyes. Use at least one simile/metaphor in your scene that relates to smell. Use 1st person, past tense. Write no more than 1000 words.Exercise Two
Write a one-page memoir from the point of view of an inanimate object. Don’t think about it too long. Just choose the first object that comes to mind. Think about its function. Does it need another object, or a living being, in order to efficiently serve its purpose? If so, what kind of relationship would this object have with this other object/living being, and how would that relationship shape the object’s life? Try to avoid giving the object supernatural abilities. Be as realistic with it as possible, but be sure to give it a “voice.”Exercise ThreeStep one:
Grab a newspaper (or your iPad!) and open to a random page. Read the first headline that catches your eye. Write it down. Do not read the article.Step two:
Write a fictional article with the same headline. If you know the real story from the news, choose another one. If you know every single story that has been in the news lately, make up your own headline.Step three:
Use the people mentioned in your article, and the things that happened to them, or the events they are associated with, to write a short story or vignette. Try to “show” as much as possible.Have random writing exercises ever helped you overcome the elusive writer’s block? If so, how? If not, why do you think that is?
***** BOOK GIVEAWAY*****
Jessica is excited to give away a free copy of her writing skills book, Writing in a Nutshell: Writing Workshops to Improve Your Craft
to one lucky winner! Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below and leave a comment for a chance to win. Open internationally. Winner is chosen randomly and announced within the widget on March 21.a Rafflecopter giveaway
* * *Jessica Bell, a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/ guitarist, is a the Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
By: Crystal Otto,
Blog: WOW! Women on Writing Blog (The Muffin)
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, humorous approach
, The Opposite of Everything
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I remember my topsy-turvy life after my husband broke the news he didn’t love me anymore. I couldn’t remember exactly when things started going wrong and I was plagued with questions and an overwhelming sense of confusion and frustration. I started retracing my steps in hope of finding myself again. I felt like a fragile figurine from the gift shop and I kept thinking “why didn’t you just leave me where you found me since you didn’t want me anyway?” I took myself back to a time and place of safety…I went back to the friends I had ten years prior in hopes of doing it all again and getting it right. Until I read The Opposite of Everything by David Kalish I didn’t realize just how funny that type of re-creation could be! I was immediately drawn to The Opposite of Everything and felt kindred with main character Brooklyn Journalist, Daniel Plotnik and his humorous approach to a difficult situation.
Of course, I don’t claim a divorce is as traumatic or life-altering as a health crisis, and yet an emotional crisis certainly feels just as real. I love the laughter in the face of tragedy approach Kalish’s character takes to aid in his resurrection after disease, divorce, and a tumultuous relationship with his father. The thought of new beginnings, choosing a different path, and a better ending appeals to many of us, and Kalish does a fabulous job of making this journey entertaining and downright hysterical!
Believe it or not, Plotnick’s own father pushes him off the George Washington Bridge and instead of sulking, Plotnick devises a plan to turn life around by doing the opposite of everything he had done before. This first novel by David Kalish is humorous, real, and a story you’ll want to share with friends. The Opposite of Everything was named a finalist in the Somerset Fiction Awards and will quickly climb the best seller lists. Get your copy today and enjoy every twist, turn, and laugh! Congratulations to Kalish on a fabulous book – definitely 5 stars from this reader whose only regret is not meeting character Daniel Plotnik in the real world – he is a character I’d love to have coffee with!Book Details:Amazon Link
Length: 191 pages
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (February 17, 2014)
ASIN: B00IIUUSKGAuthor Details:
David’s website: www.davidkalishwriting.com
David Kalish will be touring with WOW! beginning April 21st to help promote The Opposite of Everything, find upcoming dates on our Events Calendar. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.
Get Involved! If you have a website or blog and would like to host David Kalish or one of our other touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, three young children (Carmen 7, Andre 5, Breccan nearly 6 months), three dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
Do you take chances with your writing? If not, maybe you should.
One of the funny things about my email program is that it likes to warn me if it thinks I’m being potentially offensive. It gives my messages from one to four chili peppers to let me know just how edgy it thinks I am being. Sometimes I tone it down, but normally I just laugh it off because Eudora is frighteningly cautious. “Ooh, maybe you shouldn’t say that. You might offend someone.”
The sad thing is that many of us do this in our writing whether we are writing fiction, memoir, or straight up nonfiction. If we write for children, we worry that someone will say that we are setting a bad example or talking about something that is in some way verboten.
I once had an editor pull the stops on an amazing article. I found a program that was working to save endangered horse breeds. In part, they were doing this through careful breeding. Because it is easier to fly a vial from point A to point B than it is to trailer or fly a horse, this program involved artificial insemination. Halt! Do not proceed! She was afraid that her magazine would lose the homeschooler market if she published something this edgy.
Edgy? It’s science. Zoo programs use it all the time. But she was right. It could cost her those sales.
Once this happened, I questioned every idea I sent her. Play it safe. Don’t rock the boat. My ideas lacked pizazz and she let me know it. I had to quit censoring myself if I was going to come up with something interesting enough to print.
How often do you do this with your own work? Instead of having your character take a chance, she plays it safe.
Write to your passion. Take a chance. You need to know your audience but if you come up with the right idea, they won’t object to something new.
Find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards writing at her blog, One Writer's Journey
. Sue also teaches our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session of this course is scheduled to begin on April 7.
LeeAnne Joseph grew up a stone’s throw from Seaside Heights and was deeply influenced by the brash and nihilistic fairyland of her childhood haunt. She is heartbroken by the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy, and recent fire, and wishes the Jersey Shore a full recovery so that it may continue to capture the public imagination and serve as a home, livelihood, and playground for all those in the Garden State, and beyond.
LeeAnne wants her readers to know that she is thrilled that “Geepus” has made the WOW!
Top Ten and that this flash fiction is a preview of her dystopian dark comedy to be completed by Summer 2014. (Muffin readers, you can read LeeAnne's award winning story by clicking right here.)
If any agents out there would like to learn more about Beck Carter and her evil GPS, LeeAnne would be glad to oblige.
When the author isn’t secretly writing stories and poetry, she serves as an Energy Policy wonk who writes respectable things like conference presentations, public relations copy, and super-cheesy environmental ads with baby ducks and terrible puns.
Again, she thanks the wonderful WOW!
readers and judges whose lit-love keeps her motivated even on the dreariest autumn days in the Pacific Northwest! WOW: Congratulations, LeeAnne, in winning third place in the WOW! Flash Fiction contest. What made you want to enter your story, "Geepus," in the contest?LeeAnne:
Hmmm. I suppose I was inspired by the neurotic potpourri that intoxicates many writers, a heady blend of boredom, validation-seeking, guerrilla test marketing, masochism, and a touch of schmaltzy greeting-card-esque hope. I had a good feeling about "Geepus" and wanted to see if others felt the same way. It makes me truly happy to see that it was well-received.WOW: Your story is wonderfully funny (great last line!), and in your bio, it states, "This flash fiction is a preview of her dystopian dark comedy to be completed by Summer 2014." Can you tell us a little more about the novel-length work?LeeAnne:
Thanks for the kind words—truly! I’m so glad you liked the last line. My husband and I actually debated whether adding “smart ass machine” at the end was overkill. Glad I kept it there!
My novel Geepus
is a dystopian parody, the bastard child of Ghost World
and Brave New World
with a snarky dose of 1984
added in to lighten the mood. It follows Beck, a teenage journalism drop-out who would have been the height of alt-rock, badass coolness in the 90s. In the 2045 Surveillance State, she’s considered dangerous and out of line. Beck skulks around her family’s vacant farm and tries to “rage against the machine.” She soon finds herself sucked head first into a world of skeevy reality stars, crooked cops, perky anarchists, scary psych exams, and a post-apocalyptic Seaside run by a woman who suspiciously resembles Snookie. Oh, right—
Beck’s also pretty sure her State mandated GPS is trying to kill her…WOW: Sounds very intriguing! What made you want to write dystopian and/or comedy?LeeAnne:
It’s only now occurring to me that I wrote a comedy. I mean, yeah, I use the label, but honestly the book just came to m,e and I wrote from my heart—which is troubling if you think about it. It means deep down, I am a dark, cynical lady.
As for the dystopia—a colleague and I were driving to a conference, and the GPS kept giving us bad directions. Finally it told us to “pull to the side of the highway and proceed to our destination.” It sounded ominous. Shortly after that, my Geepus struck again and drove me in circle through this tiny town nestled in the Cascade Mountains. It was about 11pm, and no one was on the streets. It was creepy as hell, and I am not kidding, I turned on the radio and the old song “Flying Dutchman” came on the air. So that inspired the evil GPS. From there, it was just a matter of deciding what genre worked best. Dystopia seemed like a good fit, especially if you pay too much attention to the news…WOW: Maybe it is time for you to get a new GPS! (smiles) How do you manage the balance between your full-time job writing "respectable things" and your love for writing poetry and fiction? LeeAnne:
I have no choice, really. Words are my oxygen. I write for business because I can use my words to affect change and convince others to enact good policy that helps the environment. I write at home, curled up in bed with my laptop to detangle all the hopes, frustrations, and snarky thoughts lurking around my brain. That way, I can be the calm, seemingly perky and optimistic go-getter I look like to the untrained eye.WOW: Writing is saving your personality, then! (laughs) Your bio sounds like you are possibly on the search for an agent? What's this process been like?LeeAnne:
Truth be told, I haven’t sought one out yet. I want to get my novel looking its Sunday best. That means, I’ll add in a little more glue and duct tape before I send it out to prospective agents. In the meantime, I’ve had a lot of peer-review on several critique sites (more test marketing) and have had an editor work with me on the first two chapters to weed out any particularly annoying habits I might have. I had an ellipsis exorcism performed that makes the piece a great deal more enjoyable. That said, by Summer/Fall, I will likely start pursuing agents in earnest. Of course, if someone approached me sooner, I would gladly speed up the process. I’m in this to win this, man.WOW: Those ellipsis can often be hard to get rid of! Any words of encouragement for writers reading this interview?LeeAnne:
Finding your voice as a writer is one of the most magical feelings in the world. It takes time; but if you listen very carefully, you’ll hear the little throb inside your gut that whispers to you as you drift off to sleep. That’s the voice that you have to harness. Once you do, the words come so much easier. So as they say in Finding Nemo
, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” (It helps if you picture that in a sing-song voice). Seriously though, treat your words as an extension of yourself, keep building, keep growing. If you do, you’ll have something beautiful to show for it.WOW: Thanks, LeeAnne, for the fun interview. Best of luck to you in your agent search and with your future works!
This week my son was in his basketball playoffs – five games in four days. And since it was the play-offs, these games weren’t at the elementary school gym. Oh no, we were traveling 20 minutes to the “big” gym at the high school. So we logged a lot of car time and passed the time posing questions to each other. One of my son’s questions was: If you could have any wish, what would it be? My answer was three months of uninterrupted writing time. No job, no laundry, no walking the dog. Oh, the luxury!
In light of my wish, when I received an email from Louisa Stephens of the Associates of the Boston Public Library about their Writer-in-Resident program I couldn’t resist learning more about it. According to Stephens, the fellowship provides a $20,000 stipend, an office in the library and nine months of writing time to a children’s writer. Now, the commute from Pennsylvania to Boston would be a bear for me but for another WOW reader out there it could be a possibility. If you could see yourself as the eleventh Children’s Writer-in-Resident, applications are open until April 1. You can find the application here. And if not, why not start searching for writing fellowships in your state? I know I am!
To learn a little more about what it’s like to be a Writer-in-Resident, I interviewed Annie Hartnett, the current Writer-in-Residence and Elaine Dimopoulus, a former Writer-in-Residence.
WOW: Tell us a little about what you were doing before winning the Writer-in-Residence award with the Associates of the Boston Public Library?
ANNIE: Before the fellowship, I was studying for my MFA in fiction at the University of Alabama. Before
Alabama, I got a MA in English literature from Middlebury College's Bread Loaf School of English, and I worked several odds jobs, including one at the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, which ended up being a big inspiration for my novel.ELAINE:
I had earned my MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College, and I was teaching children's literature as an adjunct professor at Boston University and Simmons.WOW: How did you come to apply for the Associates of the Boston Public Library Children's Writer-in-Residence appointment?ANNIE:
During my thesis defense at Alabama last spring, there was some talk by the professors on my committee as to whether my novel-in-progress, Rabbit Cake, was for a young adult audience or not. My MFA program was not targeted at writers of young adult literature, so it was an interesting conversation, one I hadn't had before. Then I saw the fellowship with the Associates of the BPL posted on Erika Dreifus's blog and thought: why not throw my hat in? Let someone else tell me whether it's a young adult book! (And actually Rabbit Cake probably isn't going to end up as a young adult novel, but more on that in a moment…) I'd also been to a psychic who told me there was a big creative opportunity coming my way soon, which I know makes me sound totally nuts. Still, it would only be really nuts if she'd been wrong...right?ELAINE:
I had previously earned an emerging artist grant from the St. Botolph Club in Boston. My writing teacher and mentor at Simmons, Hannah Barnaby, was the inaugural writer-in-residence at the Boston Public Library. She encouraged me to apply to the residency and recommended me. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude!WOW: Walk us through your average day as the Writer-in-Residence.ANNIE:
The fellowship requires me to spend nineteen hours of the week in the office at the library, divided however I choose. I'm also a bookseller at Newtonville Books, so I work around my schedule there.
The office is magical. It's a quiet, beautiful room, with a marble staircase and mahogany panels. And a window! Plus a computer and a desk. The resident before me (Hollis Shore) kept a bean bag in the corner, but I can't imagine bring a bean bag on the subway with me, so I just sit at the desk. No one can see me working, which is how I like it. I need absolute quiet to work. I don't even listen to music. I never write in public spaces, because I hate talking to people when I'm in the fog of my own world. Before you think I'm a big grouch, I do go into the main library often, but only to read.
As for community outreach, I am going to be holding a free workshop for teens at the library during the month of June. (if you or someone you know would like to participate, please email me: email@example.com
). I am also teaching some classes this spring at Grub Street, including a six-hour course called "The Adult in Young Adult: Writing Sex and Violence for Teens." I'm excited about that one! I'm trying to incorporate more teaching into my writing life.ELAINE:
I would take the train in after rush hour -- usually around 10 a.m. -- and write until 3 or 4 p.m. I usually ate lunch in the BPL's Map Room Cafe. It's quite delicious! I changed offices midway through the year, but both were fairly secluded. I did participate in outreach, though: I met with the head YA librarian and conducted some college essay writing workshops for teens, at the main branch and at a Roxbury branch. I also held "office hours" in the teen room, so I could chat with some of the kids.WOW: How do you feel the award has helped with your novel? Was it mainly having the financial aid or did having that title give you additional motivation to finish your novel?ANNIE:
The financial aid was great, I'm not going to lie. It's given me a lot of time to write that I would not have otherwise been able to afford. But the title of writer-in-residence was motivating, and very validating. It gave me hope that someday people other than my own mother would want to read my book. The welcome reception the Associates of the BPL held for me in October was so wonderful too. It was so fun to hear people laugh at all the parts of the book I read that I wanted them to laugh at.ELAINE:
The title was amazing -- I felt like Miss America for the year. The accountability piece, having to hand over a completed manuscript at the end of the residency, applied a gentle pressure, but the most valuable way in which the residency helped my novel was making me come in every day to get it done.WOW: What is your novel about? Can you tell us how the idea for this novel evolved?ANNIE:
Rabbit Cake is a darkly comic coming-of-age novel. It is narrated by Elvis Babbitt, a very precocious ten-year-old girl obsessed with animals. The book begins as the Babbitt family copes with the strange and tragic death of the mother, who recently drowned while sleepwalking. Elvis’s older sister, fifteen-year-old Lizzie, is a sleepwalker as well, with tendencies towards nighttime violence. When the father sends Lizzie away to a mental hospital, Elvis find solace at the zoo where she volunteers. Lizzie is released from the hospital three months later, her wild spirit seeming broken. With Lizzie on the couch all day, Elvis tries on the “bad sister” role, until the day Lizzie reawakens, emerging badder than ever. The novel ends two years after the mother’s death, when Elvis is twelve. It is a novel that plays with the concept of a “normal grieving period” after a loss.
Some of the novel came from my own obsessions, with animals, and with Elvis Presley. When I was little I used to say my prayers to Elvis. I don't know why my mother didn't have me locked up then.ELAINE:
Eco Chic is told from the points of view of two characters – Ivy Wilde, a Miley Cyrus-type manufactured pop star, and Marla Klein, a talented fashionista who has been elevated to being an arbiter of taste and trends for the masses – the story explores high fashion and the cult of celebrity, in a world where staying young and trendy are the keys to success.
The novel's title is now Material Girls. The idea originated observing fashion trends at a private girls school in Pennsylvania where I taught... and watching a lot of Project Runway!WOW: Was your novel started before you began the writer-in-residence program? Where are you in the writing process? ANNIE:
Rabbit Cake was my MFA thesis at Alabama, and when I defended last April, I had 40,000 words completed, and a rough narrative arch. Last year it was a finalist for the McSweeney's Amanda Davis novel-in-progress award, which was another big motivator for me to keep working on the book. As it stands now, the novel is 80,000 words, and it's been rewritten and overhauled several times. I signed with an agent this January--Katie Grimm at Don Congdon Associates--and she helped me revise again and now the book is nearly ready for submission. I feel a little sheepish about this, but my agent hopes to sell Rabbit Cake as literary fiction, and not as a young adult novel. I trust she knows what she's doing, of course, but I certainly am hoping it will have crossover appeal to teens. I think I would have loved this book when I was sixteen, and I hope other sixteen-year-olds that share my weird, dark, sense of humor will love it too. Rabbit Cake is sort of similar in some ways to Carol Rifka Brunt's "Tell the Wolves I'm Home," which is a great novel for either teens or adults. I think teens should read adult books, and adults should read young adult books. The categories are not exact prescriptions, just a shelving category in the bookstore.
Truly, one of the best things the fellowship has done for me is that I've read so much young adult fiction this year, which I wasn't doing during my MFA. One of my favorite recent reads was "No One Else Can Have You" by Kathleen Hale. It's so dark and funny and smart. It's about the murder of a teenager girl in Friendship, Wisconsin. Five stars.
Oh and as for the question if would I be at the same place in my writing process without the fellowship? No way! Finding an agent in itself was a full time job. Anyone who is querying agents right now, my heart is with you.ELAINE:
I had written six chapters before I started the residency. I finished the draft in March or April of my term, revised it, and submitted it to agents. I was offered representation, and the novel went through two further rounds of revision before being picked up by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for publication in Spring 2015. I'm thrilled. It's hard to say whether I'd be in the same place had I not earned the residency, but the confidence of knowing that esteemed writers and editors believed in the project was a huge boost.
Now I’m preparing for my book launch! And writing and teaching, still. I primarily teach courses in writing for children and young adults at Grub Street, Boston's nonprofit creative writing center. I'm working on a picture book and a middle grade novel, which I'm hoping will be published after Material Girls!WOW: What did you learn during the writer-in-residence program? ANNIE:
I can write a book! That was a great surprise!ELAINE:
I would say the best benefit was that the award taught me how to be a writer. I had to come in and write even if I wasn't in the mood, even if I had no idea how to begin a scene, even if I would rather have stayed in bed. Because of this training, I don't fear writing the way I used to, and I don't procrastinate as much. I know if I sit down in front of my computer, I can find my way around problems in my writing projects, and I know that I will, eventually, finish them. It's empowering.Jodi Webb is still toiling away at her writing in between a full-time job, a full-time family and work as a blog tour manager for WOW-Women on Writing. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For Jodi's take on reading and writing (no 'rithmetic please!) stop by her blog Words by Webb.
How often do you blog?
It's a valid question for writers and one worth thinking about. Honestly, I used to blog one main story a week - generally my newspaper column that's printed in several weeklies - and I would add a post or two to promote work in other publications.
I didn't have the time to blog daily because- here goes - I feel like I'm spread thin the way it is, so squeezing time to blog every day, plus promote it on social media sites, makes me even more tired.
It's not that I don't want to blog, but I manage a weekly newspaper (which means I write multiple articles a day), I teach journalism classes, and I have family responsibilities. Something has got to give; unfortunately, it looks like it's my blog. I haven't posted anything since the day after Christmas. Yikes!
But I've been thinking, and reading, that a writer's blog is a writer's new form of resume. It showcases your work and in some respects, shows how much time, thought and effort you put into a piece.
It's true. Your blog (or website) is your calling card, your introduction to the world, so you want to make a good first impression. Otherwise, why would you expect an editor or agent to take interest in you and your work?
Looks like my Saturday will be spent updating my resume. What about you?
by LuAnn Schindler
by Sioux Roslawski
In March I'm going on a writing retreat. A self-made one. Two other writing friends and I are going to cram our laptops and our bodies into my car and head to Conception, Missouri. Specifically, to Conception Abbey...the place where monks create a blissful aura over all who stay there.
No teachers. No frills. No schedule. So if that's what it doesn't have, what does this writing retreat have?
Loads of uninterrupted writing time. A lack of distractions because I don't have to sweep or mop or do dishes. I don't have to cook. I don't have to run after my dog as he hunts for poopsicles to eat in the backyard. And no internet unless I go to the abbey's library (and their hours are limited).
This is what I need now. I'm in the finishing stages of my manuscript (first draft) and am hoping to have it finished by this retreat and get some feedback prior to going...so I can then slash and burn the unnecessary parts and build up what I need to bolster while I'm in Conception.
What I want from a retreat—at least this one—probably differs from what you would desire. However, I do think writers should dig deep to discover what they need from a retreat before signing up for one.
Can you create your own?
If your constructive writer friends can dole out great critique, perhaps you can plan a DIY retreat. Rent a cheap cabin. Beg one of the attendees to give up their basement for a night. Check out the retreat centers—they'll feed you and give you a bed, and the rest is up to the group.
Before packing your bags, agree to what is going to happen. Are there going to be scheduled critique sessions? Where is everybody—are some polishing while others need some inspiration to begin something new? And what distractions/nonwriting activities are going to happen—if any?
Big or Small?
You might benefit from a large regional or national retreat, where you'll be able to network with writers and make new connections. Or, you might be better off working with your writing guild/circle of friends and paying a locally-known writer to lead a small group. Survey what everyone is looking for and where they are. Is everyone working on memoirs and they need a gifted memoir writer to help them fine-tune their voice and create an unforgettable place? Or is everyone a novelist and they would each love to have a pitch-critique session with an editor/publisher?
If time and money are at a premium, think outside the box. Your local library might have a room that they'd let you use. Many art museums have education wings. You could reserve one, and when anyone needs a break from their writing, they could wander through the galleries for more inspiration.
So—don't retreat too deep into yourself and miss out on some productive experiences. Go on a retreat...and watch what happens.
* * *
Sioux Roslawski is a St. Louis third grade teacher and a freelance writer. She's been published in
Sasee magazine, eight
Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, as well as several
Not Your Mother's Book collections. In her spare time she's working on a novel and rescues dogs.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!
The 30-day Writing Challenge
claims to help readers begin or enhance their daily writing habit. Whether you are a writer, blogger, or journaler this book is for you! Author Sara Crawford encourages and inspires writers of all skill levels by challenging us to ‘stretch our writing muscles’ and create a daily writing habit. The daily writing exercises and prompts focus on technique, inspiration and craft while covering the different genres of writing.
Crawford does an excellent job being real with readers. I fell in love with her book after reading the following paragraph:
I would like to acknowledge that in my own writing, I constantly do the things that I say
you shouldn’t do. I am far from perfect. Every writer has room to grow and improve, and I
include myself in that. However, I strive to be a better writer each and every day, and I live by
these rules, principles, and ideas in my own creative life.
I really admire someone who can be themselves and I felt encouraged instead of judged after reading this small tidbit. It made it much easier to move forward with the exercises and I felt like Crawford understood me. I missed a day here or there but feel this is the type of book I can pick up again and again. This isn’t something you do once and forget about.
In many ways The 30-day Writing Challenge
reminds me of a diet. Sure, I can lose weight quickly, but if I don’t continue with good eating habits, the weight is going to creep back on. If I want to be successful, I need to stick with it, even after the initial success. Similarly, if I use The 30 Day Writing Challenge to get on track and then set it aside instead of faithfully writing and practicing my craft, I am going to falter.
Thank you Sara Crawford for providing a fun and encouraging book to help build successful writing habits. The 30-day Writing Challenge
is a great book for anyone who enjoys writing, blogging, or journaling!
Sara Crawford has a BA in English from Kennesaw State University and an MFA in Creative Writing (emphasis in Playwriting) from the University of New Orleans. She is represented by Marie Brown Associates, and she is the author of upcoming young adult novel, The Muses.
Previous publications include her play, The Snow Globe, from YouthPlays, Driving Downtown to the Show (Lulu Press) and Coiled and Swallowed (Virgogray Press). In addition, her poetry has appeared in Burlesque Press, Cermony, Share: Art and Literary Magazine, and Illogical Muse.
Find out more about Sara by visiting her website: http://saracrawford.net/
Crystal is a church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, three young children (Carmen 6, Andre 5, Breccan 5 months), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/
In a textbook called The New Literacies
, I read the following sentence:
“It is even possible to conceive of a future in which all paper-and-pencil literacies are replaced by digital literacies.”
We have seen the advent of this already…How many of you have a Kindle? (My hand is raised. I, in fact, LOVE my Kindle. And not only do I have a Kindle Paperwhite, I have the Kindle app on my Android phone and Android tablet. But I digress.)
What this sentence is saying goes beyond the shift from paperbacks to e-book readers. These authors suggest that in the future, humans will no longer write long-form essays and stories. They will create content digitally through photos, other graphics, music, and sound…maybe with the assistance of some words, but not necessarily in sentences. And not necessarily lines of verse, either. Possibly just a word here or there to accentuate the other media being used.
This prompted me to look up the definition of “to write”: “to form (as characters or symbols) on a surface with an instrument (as a pen).”
This could also be applied to typing letters on a computer, and I suppose it could also cover the process of putting other types of symbols together (other than letters) to communicate a message. In this case, using digital media to communicate a message or story could be like a form of writing. Will digital media eventually replace writing as we know it?
|"Borneo: Memory of the Caves"|
My first reaction to this is "No! We cannot and we will not lose writing!" When I pause to reflect on it, this doesn't seem like an outrageous trajectory for the writing process. Human's written communication skills have evolved from cave drawings
to what it is now because of new tools and technologies, so it makes sense that it will continue to evolve.
If that is the case, what do you suppose that means for the future of writers? Do you think in the future, instead of writing this blog post, I will communicate it to you in a series of photos and audio? Some blogs and websites already do this.
In the future, instead of writing a novel, will it be read aloud (like an audiobook) with a companion series of images or video (maybe like a really long movie)?
What might the future hold for writers given the changes in technology? I do not anticipate that in my lifetime I will see the demise of the novel as we currently know it…but what might it look like in a 100 years from now?
By Anne Greenawalt
: writer, writing instructor, and Adult Education doctoral student
Last week, I heard an agent refer to the importance of a “thoughtful online presence” and at first, the phrase zipped right past me. Yeah, yeah, a website. Got it.
But then, I needed to check a list of author websites. And as I pulled up each name, that phrase came back to me. It was easy to see who had a thoughtful online presence—and who did not. By the time I’d finished checking a ton of websites, I’d learned a few things. But mostly, I learned that a little bit of thought can make a big difference in what people think when they see you on the web.
Like what, you say? So
glad you asked:
If you want people to think you’re a dependable writer who’s on top of things, then keep your website information updated
. That means posting regularly if you have a blog. If you just can’t get around to posting but once or twice a year, then do yourself a favor and take the blog off your website. (But if your blog is
your website, make it static with no dates.)
If you want people to think you’re a professional, skilled writer, then keep your website free of spelling and grammar errors
. It’s fine if you have a misspelling as a play on words or if your writing style is conversational in a blog post. But if you have “Welcome to This Writers’ Home’s” in your web title, in big, block letters, you might need to brush up on those pesky possessive rules.
If you want people to think you’re witty or urbane or spiritual or any number of other interesting things that you are
in real life, then put your personality/interests into your website.
With a blog, it’s easy for your voice to come through. But people don’t often stop to read a handful of blog posts. They will, however, click on that “About Me” tab, so there’s your chance to make a good impression. And if you’re not sure what kind of impression you’re making, ask for honest feedback from friends. (Or better yet, ask someone who doesn't know you well.)
Finally, choose the kind
of writer you want people to see. When a person lands on your website, will they know instantly that you’re a romance novelist? Or a children’s writer? A poet or an essayist? Have you honed in on your niche, and does your website reflect that focus?
I think this might be hard for those of us like me, who might pen fiction as well as non-fiction, or write for children as well as adults. But it doesn’t mean we can’t keep writing whatever we want; it means accentuating what we want the world to see--and think--when they first meet us.
I suppose, then, that a website should get to the heart of the writer. That's what matters in a thoughtful
online presence. So, yeah, I've got some website work to do. How about you?
~Cathy C. Hall
The Moon Sisters is about will-o-the-wisps, trainhopping, and unrealized dreams…but mostly it’s about sisterhood. So we’re celebrating the release of this novel by gathering some of our favorite bloggers to share their take on sisterhood. First up is Therese Walsh, author of The Moon Sisters, who is visiting The Muffin to tell us about sisterhood in her family.
|Sisters Forever: Aimee, Therese, and Heather|
On Sisterhoodby Therese Walsh
I have two beloved sisters, both younger, and our interactions with each other—the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful—are all reflected in the story of The Moon Sisters
. They’ve also helped to create some of the most memorable moments of my life.
I was eight when my first sister was born, and shortly thereafter—which trying to figure out the mechanics of a diaper—I stepped away from the changing table and my sister rolled over (a new trick!) and fell onto the floor. She wailed as I panicked. I lied to my mother about what had happened until guilt got the better of me, and then I fessed up and apologized.Earliest lesson:
Sisters can get you into trouble. Also:
Never step away from a changing table.
Once, when that same sister was older, she took our youngest sister’s favorite pair of pants and drove them to an embankment and threw them into a stream. Our youngest sister had been driving her crazy for one reason or another, and retaliation had seemed a good option at the time. But somehow, some way, my youngest sister knew—just knew—that our middle sister had taken the pants. Not only that, she had a feeling where those pants had ended up. She actually found them, filthy, wet, at the bottom of the ravine.Lesson:
Sisters know things. Don’t try to prevent this knowledge.
Life with sisters is made up of a million little moments when you’re all living together under the same roof. Waiting together for the ice cream truck. Trying to cheer one another up with crazy antics like dancing stuffed animals. Food experimentation. Secret-telling. Talk of love and sex and politics and health and family and life and death. Everything. Secrets are rare, and the bond can be extraordinarily strong, even when sisters are miffed with one another.
Honesty—it’s the way of sisters, even when it causes conflict.
Now that we’re all grown, we’re just as close as ever. Maybe closer. We’ll never again wonder if that missing CD is in someone else’s bedroom or what happened to that pair of pants!
Last summer I had a health scare, which thankfully turned out just fine. While one sister, in town, visited with me and soothed with face-to-face contact, my other sister, from away, communicated by phone and sent a constant stream of positive thoughts in my direction. Both strengthened me during one of the most tenuous times of my life.
Sisters can be maddening and nosy, and supportive and loving. My sisters are a vital part of my bedrock, and my life with them has helped to define me in complex and significant ways.Do you have a sister story to share? I’d love to hear it.About The Moon Sisters
In The Moon Sisters
, her second novel, Therese Walsh
wanted to write about one sister’s quest to find will-o’-the-wisp light, which was her mother’s unfulfilled dream. Also called “foolish fires,” these lights are sometimes seen over wetlands and are thought to lead those who follow them to treasure. Despite the promise, they are never captured and sometimes lead to injury or even death for adventurers who follow them. The metaphor of that fire – that some dreams and goals are impossible to reach, and that hope itself may not be innately good – eventually rooted its way into deeper meaning as the Moon sisters tried to come to terms with real-world dreams and hopes, and with each other, in their strange new world.
Olivia and Jazz Moon are polar opposites: one a dreamy synesthete, able to see sounds and smell sights and the other controlling and reality driven. What will happen when they are plunged into 24/7 togetherness and control is not an option? Will they ever be able to see the world through the other’s eyes and confront the things they fear the most? Death. Suicide. The loss of faith and hope. Will they ultimately believe that life is worth living, despite the lack of promise?
The writing of The Moon Sisters
was a five year journey and at times author Therese Walsh felt like it was her own “foolish fire.” But remember, some fires are worth the chase!
Hardcover: 336 pages (also available in e-formats)
Publisher: Crown (March 4, 2014)
Read a review of The Moon Sisters
on the Muffin here
***** BOOK GIVEAWAY *****
Thanks to Therese who is giving away a print copy of The Moon Sisters
. Just enter the Rafflecopter form below to be entered in the drawing.a Rafflecopter giveawayWant more chances to win? Visit all the other bloggers talking about sisterhood today to enter. Who else is talking about sisterhood?
The blogs listed below have all decided to share their stories, essays, poems, photos, or other means of creative expression on the topic of sisterhood. We really have no idea what bloggers will come up with, but we can't wait to find out! So check out the blogs listed below and see what they're up to!Lit LadiesDeal Sharing AuntThe GaGa SisterhoodThe Unfaithful WidowCaroline ClemmonsA Ponderance of ThingsChoicesLaurie HereThoughts in ProgressMe and ReadingOne Sister’s JourneyWords by WebbMother-Daughter Book ClubVickie S. MillerOne Writer’s JourneyRenee’s PagesCassandra M’s PlaceA Book Lover’s RetreatBrooklyn Berry DesignsBibliotecaI Love to Read and Review Books!Traveling with T.
Molly Harper has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and the stranger the better.
It worked—she’s turned her quirky sense of humor and magical characters into one successful book series after another. After working as a reporter and church secretary in her native state of Kentucky, she decided to try her hand at paranormal romance, landed an agent and has been writing prolifically ever since.
Molly is the author of How To Run With a Naked Werewolf, A Witch’s Handbook of Kisses and Curses
, and The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires
as well as many other paranormal romances. She also writes the Bluegrass series of contemporary ebook romances, most recently, Rhythm and Bluegrass
. A former humor columnist and newspaper reporter, she lives in Kentucky with her husband and children. Visit her on the web at MollyHarper.com or at SingleUndeadFemale.blogspot.com.
We were thrilled when Molly agreed to chat with us about her work, where she gets the ideas for her stories, and the television show cancellation that she is still mourning to this day.Interview by Renee Roberson-----WOW:
Molly, welcome! First of all, I want to point out how much fun I had browsing through your website, and I love that you include different music playlists inspired by your different books. I like to do that too when I’m writing fiction. And the Half-Moon Vampire Name Generator was a blast—I have now been christened Morgana, Princess of Darkness. We’d love to hear about what you were doing when you first found out an agent wanted to represent you. And did you pitch that first book as a stand-alone or as a series?Molly:
I was working as a secretary for a Baptist church at the time and when my agent, Stephany, called I ran out to the church parking lot. I didn’t think the pastor would want to overhear me discussing my vampire romance novels outside of his office. I pitched Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs
as the first in a three-book series. I knew when I wrote the first title that I had much more to say about Jane. I just didn’t know it would go on for four books and even more spinoffs.WOW:
I love it. One of the things that first struck me was your impressive catalogue of books. Wow! Can you give us an idea of what your writing schedule is like? Do you have any fun "working from home" stories you can share with us?Molly:
I just started working from home in February 2012. I wake up around six, check my reader emails and try to take care of my social networking stuff. I get my kids up and ready for school, then run to the gym or jiu jitsu lessons. Then I write from 10 to noon, have lunch, and then back to writing until my kids get home around 4. If I have a deadline, I usually write during the evenings after dinner. I set a writing minimum of 2,000 words each day. I am just now getting my own office. I have written all of my books from a couch. I am really looking forward to having a desk!
I guess my one funny “writing from home” story involves my hair. I hit my rebellious phase late in life and have dyed the “underside” of my hair bright purple. I went to volunteer at my kids’ elementary school about a week after I dyed it and one of the little girls from my library group gave me the “deer in headlights” eyes.
“Miss Molly,” she gasped. “Did you know the back of your hair is purple?”
“Yes, sweetie,” I told her. “I dyed it last week.”
“Who told you that you could do that?” she asked.
“Well, I’m 35 and can pay for the hairdresser to dye it, so…”
“But won’t you get in trouble with your mom or your boss or somebody?” she asked.
“I work from home, so I don’t have a boss. And my mom isn’t really surprised by anything I do anymore.”
“Oh.” She nodded. “OK, then.”
And off she toddled, assured that my hair wouldn’t get me fired.WOW:
You eventually transitioned from vampires to werewolves. Can you tell us a little about how you got the idea for your popular Naked Werewolf series?Molly:
There was a huge ice storm in January 2009 that knocked out power to thousands of homes, including my own. I packed up food, essentials, my infant and my preschooler and moved over to my in-laws’ house, where they had a gas fireplace. We slept on a mattress in front of the fireplace for two weeks while my husband worked twelve-hour emergency shifts at the police department. I was cold, exhausted and I could feel the walls closing in on me. After the kids went to sleep, I would sit down and write about my weird, claustrophobic feelings. I knew I wanted to write a book about werewolves and I thought, why couldn’t the werewolves be from a cold environment like Alaska? And why couldn’t the main character be a Southern girl who wasn’t used to living in those conditions? By the time the lights came back on, I had more than twenty pages of notes that became How To Flirt With a Naked Werewolf
I love it when writers can turn even the most difficult of circumstances into works of fiction. I know I was stuck in an ice storm about ten years ago and did nothing but wallow in my misery! You started out your career working for a newspaper in Kentucky. Did any of the stories you covered there ever find their way into any of your books?Molly:
Not so much specific stories, but the overall weirdness of the stories I covered. I covered school bus crash derbies. I covered the escape of a fully-grown brown bear that a man kept as a pet in his basement and was on “Bear Watch” for almost two weeks. I covered the arrest of a Florida man who faked his death by shark attack, hit the road and ended up working for a pizzeria right down the street from my office. That quirky charm oozed its way into my story-telling and heavily influenced the way I write about Half-Moon Hollow, the setting of my vampire stories. I often say that Half-Moon Hollow is my hometown with all of the normal people removed.WOW:
I love the story on your bio about the first book you ever wrote at age eight. Could you please share it with our readers?Molly:
I was always fascinated with my mom’s manual typewriter from college. When I was eight, I set up a little writer’s office on my parents’ couch (foreshadowing) and pecked out a short story about my class taking a trip around the world and losing a kid in each city. One boy fell off the top of the Eiffel Tower. Another girl fell into the canals in Venice. Mom was concerned, but entertained.WOW:
I read on your website that you are a big fan of vampire movies and TV shows. What are some of your favorites?Molly:
I wrote Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs
because I was in mourning for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” I also love “Angel,” “Lost Boys,” “Moonlight,” the original “Fright Night,” “From Dusk 'Til Dawn,” and the Keanu Reeves version of “Dracula.”
Don’t judge me.WOW:
Somehow I knew Buffy was going to come up in that answer . . . And as someone who is completely addicted to current CW show “The Vampire Diaries,” I also cannot judge! You’ve turned writing about the paranormal into a successful career. What advice can you give writers about writing paranormal romance?Molly:
Keep it grounded in reality. Yes, it’s great to write about fantastical creatures and magic, but your characters have to share common ground with the reader. I enjoy writing about paranormal creatures with everyday problems because there’s something weirdly funny about a vampire worrying about taxes and shopping for dental floss. I think that has allowed my readers to put themselves in my characters’ shoes and enjoy that skewed reality.WOW:
In the FAQ section of your website, you mention you speak to book clubs and schools "Advice For Writers." Can you elaborate on the section called "Don't Act Like a Lunatic?"Molly:
Almost every agent I know has a story about an aspiring writer doing something extreme, like sliding a manuscript under a bathroom stall to them or sending an absolutely insane response when their manuscript is rejected. Writing is a business. Yes, it’s a dream come true to have a book published, but it’s still a business. If an agent or publisher rejects your work, it’s not personal. It’s business. So behave in a professional manner and avoid becoming a cautionary tale that industry types tell over lunch.Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also works as a blog tour manager for WOW-Women on Writing. She’s currently looking for blogs to promote Frances Caballo’s book Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers Who Want to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write. You can contact her at email@example.com.
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by Stephanie Romero
Anyone who is a parent (or knows one—which would qualify all of us), is well aware of the mommy wars that can happen. You know the ones I’m talking about…homeschooling versus traditional schooling, stay-at-home mom versus working mom, co-sleeping versus let ‘em cry it out and well, the list could go on and on.
But there’s another battle that can emerge when it comes to mothers who are writers. It is the pull between parenting and pursuing your passion. Somehow we’ve been convinced that we must choose one or the other. Or we have to wait until a “season” or “stage” in our child’s life has passed. Yet the next one could prove to be more difficult and time-consuming than the last. So we remain stuck. Or we end up feeling guilty because we’ve made what we perceive as the wrong choice.
For too long, mothers have been convinced that when they choose something else to pursue (other than parenting), they should feel guilty. As if being a mom is the only identifying factor in her life. When the truth is that we are so much more. We have passions that go beyond motherhood, so why not embrace them?
Do you ever feel guilty about writing? I have been there. When I’ve been holed up in my office downstairs for hours at a time, knowing my full attention isn’t always with my children. So I have to remind myself—this is not only my passion, it’s my job. I get paid to do this—which means someone is expecting me to produce. I’m teaching them responsibility and something about hard work.
But the same thing can happen when we want to take time to break away and work on that novel, polish up the manuscript or write a blog post. The guilt monster sits on our shoulder, needling away at us. “What kind of mom are you?!” And we’re back to believing that in pursuing our passion as a writer, we have somehow failed as a mother.
Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we do it to other women? Because we believe the lies. We have fallen into that trap, the one that tries to convince us we are not being a good mom if we are passionate about something other than our children. Of course, it’s all about balance. But that’s a different topic for another day.
The point is, I feel like women need permission to be excited about something else in life. To understand that the beauty of being a woman extends beyond motherhood. You can be a mother AND a writer. You might have to write during naptime, in the middle of the night or while they’re at school. But for heaven’s sake, don’t wait until the “right time.” Do it now. You really don’t have to choose between parenting and pursuing your passion for writing—there is a way to have both.
* * *
Stephanie Romero is a professional web content writer for "We Do Web Content." Her personal blog, "REAL Inspiration for the REAL Writer" provides weekly encouragement to writers of all genres. But her biggest passion (and what she hopes to one day turn into a book) is helping other moms (and even dads) learn how to treasure every moment with their children. Through her own candid experiences in parenting, she shares how faith has helped her navigate the ups and downs of parenting. In addition, she is the writer/instructor of "Recovery from Abuse," an online course currently being used in a correctional institution's character-based program.
Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!