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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Margo L. Dill, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Wednesday Writing Workout: Putting Together the Pieces of Your Story


Today I'm pleased to share a Wednesday Writing Workout contributed by the inspiring and talented author Margo L. Dill.


I first met Margo some years ago at an SCBWI-Illinois writing conference. I believe she'd already sold her first novel, the middle-grade historical Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg (White Mane Kids), but it hadn't been published yet. With today's post, we join Margo's blog tour celebrating the release of her second novel, Caught Between Two Curses (Rocking Horse Publishing), a YA light paranormal romance novel about the Curse of the Billy Goat on the Chicago Cubs. Margo has two more books under contract--both picture books--one with High Hill Press and the other with Guardian Angel Publishing. Besides being a children's author, she is also a freelance editor with Editor 911: Your Projects Are My Emergency! and she is part of the WOW! Women On Writing e-zine's staff. There, she works as an editor, blogger, instructor, and social media manager. When she's not writing, editing, or teaching online, Margo loves to spend time with her husband, stepson, daughter, and crazy Boxer dog, Chester, in St. Louis, Missouri. You can learn more at Margo's website.

Here's a summary of Caught Between Two Curses:
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!
As a die-hard Cubs fan, I'm really looking forward to reading Margo's new book. (I'm hoping the main character solves not only her problem, but the Cubs' curse too!)

And now, here's Margo's three-part Wednesday Writing Workout.

Wednesday Writing Workout: Putting the Pieces Together

Writing a novel is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle with my daughter. I’ve been teaching her to do the edge pieces first and then fill in the middle. This reminds me of writing a novel because writers usually start with an idea, maybe a plot or an interesting character with a problem—in other words, our border. We build our foundation for a story by piecing together our ideas. But sometimes, that beginning border, even with a few pieces filled in the middle, is not finished or even sturdy. Here are exercises I use with my WOW! Women On Writing novel students to add more pieces to their puzzle and come out with a strong, final product—a finished, publishable novel! (These can also be used with short stories and picture books.)
  
1. Create characters with internal and external problems.
The characters I remember best are the ones that struggled with both internal and external problems. What’s the problem your character has that he must overcome in the novel? Trying to raise money for a new bike? Figuring out how to deal with a sibling? Tired of moving around and always being the new kid at school? These are all external problems, and the ones that our plots are built on. 

But your character also needs an internal problem! In Caught Between Two Curses, Julie has to break two curses; but while she does this, she also struggles with her self-esteem and confidence as well as what love means. These are her internal struggles. While she rushes around to save her uncle, the events in the novel help her grow and work through her internal problems.

Just ask yourself these four questions either before you write your novel or even during revisions:
     a. What is your main character’s internal struggle?
     b. How does he or she solve it?
     c. What is the external problem in the novel that affects the main character?
     d. How does he or she solve it?

2. Brainstorm problems
If you find yourself with a strong border for your novel—an exciting beginning and an ending that will leave readers talking for years, but you are stuck in the muddy middle, make a list of 10 problems that a person can have that’s the same age as your main character and in the same time period. For example, my novel’s main character is 17, lives in Chicago in present day. Problems she can have are: pressure to have sex, temptation to do drugs, failing classes, negative body image, disloyal friends, etc. 

Once you have this list, are there any of these problems that you could turn into a subplot for either your main character or a minor character or sidekick? Subplots can often dry up the muddy middle and keep readers hiking to the end.

3. "Then what?"
The last exercise asks a simple question, “Then what?” Each time you answer, make the problem or situation worse for your main character. You don’t actually have to use all of these horrible situations in your book, but they may help you push your main character a little harder. Here’s an example:

     Julie learns a curse is on her family.
     Then what?

     The curse makes her uncle fall in a coma.
     Then what?

     Julie’s grandma says her uncle will die before he is 35 if the curse isn’t broken.
     Then what?

     He is 35 in less than 5 months.
     Then what?

     She has no idea what to do to break the curse.

Using these writing exercises while you are piecing together your novel will give you a complete story in no time! 

Thanks, Margo, for this terrific Wednesday Writing Workout. Congratulations on your new novel. I look forward to reading it.

Readers, do let us know if you try these exercises. If you'd like to read about where Margo gets her inspiration, check out this blog post. And if you haven't already done so, be sure to enter our current giveaway for a chance to win The Poem That Will Not End: Fun with Poetic Forms and Voices (Two Lions). See April's interview with the author, Joan Bransfield Graham, for complete details.

Happy writing!
Carmela

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2. Margo Dill is today's guest author at Write What Inspires You!

I'm pleased to welcome Margo Dill as my guest author today at Write What Inspires! This is a terrific way to get me back into the groove of blogging and hosting regularly. Welcome Margo…


What Inspires Me by Margo L. Dill

Trying to figure out what inspires me to write is somewhat difficult. I tell people I write because I have to. It makes me happy. I now can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s hard to remember my life before I dedicated it to writing. (I think I used to have a lot more free time.) But what inspires me to write?

I really believe it’s the ideas that pop into my head and will not let go. That’s what happened with Caught Between Two Curses, my new contemporary YA novel. I have always wondered WHY some people survived accidents and tragedies and others didn’t. Then I heard two news stories in 2003—one about a Cubs fan that interfered with a foul ball and the other about a toddler that was the only survivor of a car crash—and I realized this question, this idea, is not letting me go. So, I was inspired and I wrote the novel.

The same thing happened with Finding My Place—I read one paragraph in a fifth grade social studies book about the Siege of Vicksburg and people doing anything to survive, including eating rats and living in man-made caves, and I had to know more. An idea seed was planted, and it wouldn’t let go until I nurtured it into a mature plant—a novel.

I am currently working on two novels—both are also ideas I couldn’t let go. One started as a short story, and it begged me to write a full-length novel for 9 to 12 year olds. The other novel, another YA, was inspired from a terrible tragedy that  killed a beloved high school friend—a community building shooting in Kirkwood, MO in 2008.

So what inspires me? I would say life—exploring interesting and sometimes heartbreaking questions that give me ideas that won’t let go and beg to be written.


Margo’s bio: Margo L. Dill is a children's author, freelance editor, and workshop leader, living in St. Louis, MO. She is the author of the YA book, Caught Between Two Curses, and also the author of the historical fiction, middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg (White Mane Kids, 2012) and the forthcoming picture books, Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire and the Case of the Missing Cookies and Lucy and the Red Ribbon Week Adventure. Caught Between Two Curses is her first young adult novel. She promises that she is a Cardinals' fan at heart, but the Billy Goat curse on the Chicago Cubs is too irresistible for a plot line. You can find her blogging on Tuesdays at http://www.thelitladies.com  and more about her work at http://margodill.com/blog/.

Margo, it's been a pleasure hosting you the last two days during your virtual book tour! Wishing you the very best! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Award-winning Children's Author

Connect with


A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist













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3. Creative Nonfiction: How Creative (Um. . . UNTRUTHFUL) Can You Get?

As the popularity of creative nonfiction increases, the genre brings up an interesting debate: is every word supposed to be true? If events are recorded in a memoir, were they supposed to happen just that way? If a writer is investigating a true crime, is it okay for her to make up dialogue between the criminals if she gets really close to what was probably said?  Recently, I read the book: You Can't Make This Stuff Up by Lee Gutkind, who is the editor and founder of Creative Nonfiction magazine. The book discusses what creative nonfiction is, provides popular examples done well, and instructs writers how to create a nonfiction piece.

Creative nonfiction is a nonfiction story that is told with fiction elements: dialogue, setting details, scenes, characterization (of real people), and so on.That's where the creative part is supposed to come in--not in the facts but in HOW the facts are revealed.

Part one of Lee's book would be interesting to anyone who loves to read and discuss what they read. The author writes about some of the most infamous cases of writers who claimed to write a true, nonfiction account of their lives; when in all actuality, it was false—sometimes the entire story made up.

The account most people know about is James Frey and his book, A Million Little Pieces, since Oprah chose it as one of her book club selections. Because of her recommendation, two million copies of his book sold, and Frey became a household name. Then it was discovered that most of his story was completely untrue. He did more than make up some dialogue or create a composite character for simplicity sake--Frey lied.

This is one of the extreme examples that Gutkind discusses in his book during the ethics section; but there are actually more writers (more than I realized!) that fudge the truth just a bit. But still, they claim that they write creative nonfiction. For example, David Sedaris admits that because he writes humor based on his life, that sometimes he must exaggerate or make up dialogue to get a laugh. Some of the funny lines in Naked? Completely fabricated!

John Berendt made up dialogue and rearranged the story chronology in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil!  Several people from Frank McCourt's home town claim that he didn't exactly tell the whole truth in Angela's Ashes, and they state they've found over 100 discrepancies.

A good example of the genre
On his blog and in his book, Gutkind writes that he can accept some "exaggerating an event or situation, or compressing time periods, or creating composite characters" and that it "may possibly help a nonfiction writer make his or her point more effectively—although I believe this is only rarely truly necessary."

It’s a crucial decision for writers to make if they are going to tackle the genre: are they going to tell the truth without embellishments?

Personally, I was disappointed when reading this section of Lee's book--so many writers don't stick to the 100 percent truth. But then I thought maybe it's really difficult to do this--I don't write much in this genre, so maybe I don't know. I have written some essays, and I have included dialogue, and I think I have the dialogue right; but it's as I remember it--so who knows for sure?

How do you feel about this issue? How much of a creative nonfiction piece is it okay to "make up"? If you write memoir or creative nonfiction, do you create dialogue or make up characters, etc, to smooth transitions? As a reader, how do you trust the writer?

I started thinking that perhaps books should say on the cover: Based On a True Story--just like many movies do. . .

Margo L. Dill edits, blogs, writes, and teaches for WOW! Women On Writing. To view her upcoming classes in spring and summer (writing for children/teens, writing short fiction, writing a children's/YA novel), please visit the WOW! classroom: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html



7 Comments on Creative Nonfiction: How Creative (Um. . . UNTRUTHFUL) Can You Get?, last added: 4/9/2013
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4. Shermie Rayne, Second Place Winner in Spring 2013 Flash Fiction Contest

I am excited to introduce you to Shermie Rayne, who won second place in the Spring 2013 Flash Fiction contest with her haunting, vivid, and amazing story, "Revolution." This is one of my favorite flash fiction pieces I've ever read--first because I love the genre, historical fiction, and don't read it much in flash fiction. But most of all, Shermie was able to take a terrifying event and show us less than 750 words how it affected the rest of the main character's life, as well as share the character's emotions and fears. If you haven't read "Revolution" yet, please take the time to do so now right here.

Shermie, a native of Kentucky, currently resides in Virginia with her husband and four children. Other than a futile attempt at penning a True Confessions inspired story at the age of eleven, she is a recent newcomer to the wondrous world of writing. A graduate of Bellarmine University, and a former registered nurse, when Rayne was confronted with the angst of middle age, she decided to try her hand at writing, instead of returning to hospital scrubs.

Although she still reads more than she writes, Rayne has completed a couple short stories and has several novels in various stages of development brewing, including her current project, Faye, a young-adult fantasy novel. If you’d like to follow Rayne along on her writing journey, please visit her blog: http://shermierayne.wordpress.com/.

WOW: Welcome, Shermie! What gave you the inspiration for "Revolution"?

Shermie: I believe the story seed for "Revolution" was planted when I became aware of certain events that occurred to some of the colonial women and girls during the Revolutionary War. Just prior to writing "Revolution," I had recently heard/read of a famous British Army quote from that time period: “The fair nymphs of this isle are in wonderful tribulation…” ~Francis, Lord Rawdon.

It bothered me, or more precisely the history behind the quote’s meaning…well, it angered me. Not because atrocities of that nature didn’t happen, or don’t still happen, but because it had occurred so ostentatiously, with such blatant disregard, here in America. I envisioned being a mother with a young daughter to protect, and from that place of desperation, "Revolution" was born.

WOW: I had never heard that quote before, and really, there are no words when you hear something like that. You responded to it like many writers would--pouring out your heart in a beautiful story. Do you write historical fiction often? Why or why not?

Shermie: While I do enjoy reading historical fiction, I’ve never written it. Because I have a tendency to be thorough and sometimes get “hung up” on the details, I have/had this conception that to write in this genre would be extremely time consuming and tedious because of the absoluteness it requires in authenticity. With that said, I’m a firm believer in the “never say never” motto. In fact, I couldn’t help myself and have a loose outline sketched and plan to continue with "Revolution" and see it through to novel length (someday).

My ultimate hope for my writing is not to be boxed into a genre or category—I want to allow the stories to define themselves and their own placement. The short story I worked on prior to "Revolution" was straight up horror. My current novel-in-progress is fantasy based, while the other stories in waiting range from dystopian to family drama.

WOW: I would love to read a novel version of "Revolution." So, was it hard to pack all that emotion & history into one less-than-750-word story? Why or why not?

Shermie: In all honesty: no, it was not hard. I believe when a writer feels emotion(s) with a piece, the reader will, too. I had an incredibly moving vision with this story and knew it was meant to be shared. I was affected by the unfairness of the circumstance and wanted to give the mother power--and her own form of revolution (which was to hide and protect her daughter). All stories need the element of hope, even in dire circumstances-- and its character(s) need the ability, or the possibility, to remain resolute.

So, I quickly scribbled what I had seen onto legal paper, and from there, added the historical details and what I call “senses layering”, followed by editing (and cutting my word count). I purposely wrote this piece in first person, present tense to accentuate that forward feel of urgency and distraught dismay.

WOW: Thank you so much for sharing your writing process with us. I bet that will help some of our writers out there! According to your bio, you switched from a career in nursing to a career in writing. What made you switch?

Shermie: I was actually in a hiatus from the nursing profession. I had spent the last decade producing and growing a nice, little crop of children. But alas, the time flew by until I had a horrific consternation of realization: my kids were not so little anymore, and they wouldn’t always be so needy. I racked my brain thinking of different avenues to pursue for myself. With my three youngest children, at that time, heading off to jr. kindergarten, third and fifth grades, respectively, I knew I still needed a super flexible schedule, and I just couldn’t see how returning to nursing could work in our busy family life. So, I considered making and selling crafts(I’m not really crafty), working at Lowe's, decluttering other people’s homes, and/or maybe picking out their next paint colors--and then painting their newly decluttered spaces. My list of crazy ideas was boundless! My then eight-year-old daughter had spent that summer continuously writing stories, really excellent and creative stuff—I was so impressed and enamored with her abilities. I became her reader and editor, cooing and gushing over her while also guiding her with pointers and corrections. And, then the big idea hit me: you could write, too! So, I did.

WOW: That is awesome--I love your list of things you could do AND how your daughter inspired you to write. Your bio also mentions you have novels in various stages. So, what's your writing process like?

Shermie: My writing process is ever evolving, But basically boils down to: imagining, writing, and editing. I have been blessed in that the material that I actually want to write comes to me quite easily (so far-- knock on wood). So naturally, this is the best part of the writing process for me, and the aspect that I love the most—there’s nothing like being sucked into a little scene that plays out in your head. So my process begins there and continues in this thinking/imagining mode until I have a loose, but solid, outline.

Inspiration often hits me at very inconvenient times (e.g., the shower or driving), so that by the time that I’m ready to start writing, I have a file folder full of a gazillion hand-written scraps of paper, napkins, Post-its, and sketchy outlines to integrate into the story. I don’t start typing until I have a decent understanding of key characters, and I’ve seen the story’s ending, beginning, and several important scenes (usually in that order). From there, it’s all about imputing the story into the computer. I’m always amazed that there are a lot of details and extra material that spontaneously adds itself to the story along the way. My least favorite aspect of writing would have to be editing (and typing)!

One new tool that I started using with my current novel-in-progress is to keep a novel journal. I read of Sue Grafton using this technique with her novels, so I gave it a try. And it has made all the difference to me. I can flip back to the earliest entries that were written well before I even considered typing, and I can really get a feel for my characters and the story’s needs and wants.

WOW: That sounds a lot like a "novel bible." It is so important to keep notes! It sounds like you are also an avid reader. Can you tell us one or two titles you've read recently that you've really enjoyed?

Shermie: I’d say I’m rather an odd reader, I suppose. Between audiobooks, my Kindle, and actual “real” books, I have to have at least five to seven different books going at once, perhaps this reminds me of my college days, but I enjoy the variety and a wide array of genres.

I was very reluctant to embrace audiobooks at first, believing that I was a visual leaner and I’d not enjoy it; I was completely wrong (thanks, Amy). Audiobooks account for roughly half of my total “reading” time, which allows me to increase the number of books that I’m exposed to. But the greatest benefit: I believe it helps me greatly in my own writing. While visually reading books, one can absorb structure and story flow (which is awesome, too); however, when listening to the cadence of the human voice through storytelling, you can gain the feel for the rhythm and rhyme of words—which definitely can help writers. I love this quote by Virginia Woolf, “Style is a very simple matter; it is all rhythm. Once you get that, you can't use the wrong words.”

I just completed my summer-reading log through my local library system. (You know, trying to set a good example for my kiddos.) From that list of twenty-four books, if I had to choose just two books, I’d say, The Color Purple by Alice Walker and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. The former not only because it’s written in epistolary-letter form (which I love), but because the voice of the story rings true; the latter book is actually a wonderfully encouraging and poignant book on writing, which I highly recommend to any writer.

WOW: I love Bird by Bird, too! Thanks for a wonderful interview, Shermie. We wish you the best of luck!

Interview by Margo L. Dill. To find out about Margo and her books, visit www.margodill.com.

2 Comments on Shermie Rayne, Second Place Winner in Spring 2013 Flash Fiction Contest, last added: 9/11/2013
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5. Book Birthdays, Sick Kids, and Selling the House

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:

  1. My 3-year-old has the stomach flu.
  2. 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)
  3. 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."
  4. 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! 

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6. Book Profile Announcement for Caught Between Two Curses by Margo L. Dill

I'm pleased to host Margo today and tomorrow for her latest book, Caught Between Two Cures. Margo and I are colleagues and I always find it easier  to "toot the horn" of a fellow author than my own horn. Congratulations Margo! 

Book Profile Announcement for Caught Between Two Curses by Margo L. Dill

Caught Between Two Curses (Rocking Horse Publishing, Released: March 14, 2014) is a young adult, light paranormal contemporary novel set in Chicago, IL, appropriate for readers 14 and up.
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!
It’s available from all major booksellers:




Autograph copies are available from Margo’s website at: http://margodill.com/blog/books/

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]-->
Margo’s bio: Margo L. Dill is a children's author, freelance editor, and workshop leader, living in St. Louis, MO. She is the author of the YA book, Caught Between Two Curses, and also the author of the historical fiction, middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg (White Mane Kids, 2012) and the forthcoming picture books, Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire and the Case of the Missing Cookies and Lucy and the Red Ribbon Week Adventure. Caught Between Two Curses is her first young adult novel. She promises that she is a Cardinals' fan at heart, but the Billy Goat curse on the Chicago Cubs is too irresistible for a plot line. You can find her blogging on Tuesdays at http://www.thelitladies.com  and more about her work at http://margodill.com/blog/.

Be sure to stop back tomorrow to read What Inspires Margo! 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Award-winning Children's Author

Connect with


A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist













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7. Check out BlogNostics: Poetry, Art, Contests, and Amazing Opportunities

Jessica Brant & daughter
If you haven't heard of the creative site, BlogNostics, for writers and artists yet, then you are in for a real treat today. BlogNostics is one of a kind, and we have Jessica Brant with us today to tell all about it, what you can do there, and the contests they are now offering. I won't waste any more of your time with a boring intro because Jessica has a lot to tell us!

WOW: Welcome, Jessica, to The Muffin. On the "About" page for BlogNostics, it states, "BlogNostics is for readers, writers, artists, and followers to get together, share, be supportive, and have some fun creating excellence." So, is this a membership site? Tell us a little more, including your role with BlogNostics.

Jessica: We want our readers, writers, and artists to feel like they are in a community, where they can socialize, making it feel like a growing art commune. As for membership--no, you don't have to have a membership, though it is best to sign up, otherwise it is like cheating yourself if you don't. What I mean by that is that you won't get the full exposure needed to get your work out there if that is what you so desire.

As for me, I am the mom of the house, supporting where I can to show off these amazing and talented people that arrive, attempting to help everyone grow with the site. I see so much unsung talent out there. Just like a proud mother, I want to see our artists create their dreams.

WOW: Okay, Mom (smiles), then let's learn more about how BlogNostics works. Once people create an account, what should they do next and how do they do it? (And is it free?)

Jessica: Creating an account on BlogNostics is completely free and fairly easy to do. I think the easiest, most effective and painless way is by signing up and then login in using one of the social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin. If you do not subscribe to signing up via social media, that's okay; it is just as easy to create your own account with your name, personal e-mail, username, and password.

There is a lot to do, see, and read on BlogNostics. Once you step into our little world of creativity, we have a vast array of contemporary artists and writers from around the world who contribute their works of passion to BlogNostics. We recently added a Poetry Corner, where Willow, our Poetry Aficionado, divulges how to write poetry and prose, in addition to lending guidance to writers that are new to poetry and just need some helpful hints or just a sounding board.

WOW: It sounds great--the free aspect and the support and creativity going on there! Another thing advertised on your home page is Lines Vol. 1. Tell us all about Lines!

Jessica: Lines is our first digital publication and truly a labor of love. We were kicking around the idea of getting into the digital publishing arena for a while but kept putting it on the back burner. We were catapulted into taking action after the sudden untimely death of one of our most beloved poets, Sancheeta Biswas, who passed away on April 6, 2012, leaving behind her young daughter Tua. As a hamlet of talented up and coming contemporary writers, BlogNostics made a call to action to some of our members. Our poets, Lisa Brandel, Neil Chatterton, Ron Reed, Willow, and my father Mickey Munday were saddened by Sancheeta's story and collectively decided to dedicate Lines to the loving memory of Sancheeta. Part of the proceeds from the sale of Lines is going into an educational fund for Sancheeta's daughter Tua (age 9).

We went on a frantic search to find a platform that would deliver more than just the run of the mill, static, black and white e-book. We found a platform that complemented our writers' words with the ascetics that BlogNostics is known for. Lines the publication is an interactive collection of twenty-five poems, stunning graphics from today's most talented photographers and digital artists. The majority of the poetry has been digitally recorded by the artists themselves. making Lines accessible to those who are visually impaired or for those who would simply like to sit back, relax, listen, and enjoy. We were lucky enough to have world renowned, Emmy award-winning producer Carlos Alverez help us with the audio production of Lines. We have included seven spoken-word videos, clickable links, and more. It is truly a revolutionary way to read, listen to, and watch today's most talented, modern day poets. It really is a stunning work of art for the digital world. For now, Lines is available on Amazon for the Kindle Fire as well as Android systems.

WOW: What a beautiful idea to honor a writer's life and her daughter. It sounds amazing! You are offering some contests, which writers can submit to before April 10.What are the categories that you are looking for in this contest? Do you need to be a member of the site to enter the contest?

Jessica: First off let me say, we are so excited to offer our first writing contest, and we are honored that we have an esteemed panel of enthusiastic judges.

We have four categories that writers can participate and they are in: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Prose.

Within the category of fiction, we seek the work to have: a strong character, authentic voice, originality, boldness of form, pushing the boundaries of contemporary fiction. The bn~Expressions in Fiction will be judged by Ray Garton who is the author of over sixty novels, novellas, short story collections, movie novelizations, and TV tie-ins. His work spans the genres of horror, crime, and suspense. Fiction has a limit of 10,000 words.

Lisa Brandel
In Nonfiction, we seek from all works: an authentic voice, originality, boldness of form, pushing the boundaries of contemporary nonfiction, good story telling in things that sound authentic and speak to the human condition or the world. Judged by Lisa Brandel who is known best from her successful blog the WidowLady. She began telling her story only weeks after her husband died and had only posted three times before her father died. Through the pain of losing her father, and then aunt, paternal grandmother, another aunt, and finally her uncle to suicide, she has continued to write not only her story, but also ideas and philosophies about how to make life happen against the odds. She also has a daily inspiration on her “Widow Lady” Facebook page and is currently in the process of editing three books for publication, the first to be published is Every Day Inspiration expected to be released in mid-2013. She is making it her life’s work to inspire people through words and images. Nonfiction has a 9,000-word limit.

bn~LINES in Poetry, seeks from all works: an authentic voice, originality, boldness of form, pushing the boundaries of contemporary poetry. Judged by Lana Hechtman Ayer who works as a poetry manuscript consultant and writing workshop facilitator. She runs two chapbook presses, Concrete Wolf and MoonPath Press, and is an editorial consultant at the literary journal Crab Creek Reviews. Lana is the author of two chapbooks and three full-length poetry collections. Her most recent collection, A New Red (Pecan Grove Press), is a contemporary re-imagining of the Red Riding Hood fairy tale. Lana’s latest work “The Ugly Pregnant Woman,” which is currently in the California Quarterly, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Poetry has no word limit.

Pamela Rossow
bn~LINES in Prose, judged by Pamela Rossow who is the co-author of Mind Over Body. Pamela writes for a variety of genres including, business, journalism, and higher education. She is an established blogger and is committed to integrity and excellence in her writing. Pamela’s poem, "Nothing Good About Good-Bye," was published in the 2010 issue of Coastlines Literary Magazine. The word limit for Prose is 3500-words.

To enter the contests, being a member of BlogNostics is not a requirement, but it is suggested. We would like for those who participate to register first with us on the site.

We are a community of artists and writers with a common goal in mind; becoming a member is a way to stay informed about up and coming events on BlogNostics. It is also required in order to have any works published on the site as well as in future publications.

WOW: The judges are wonderful. What a panel! Thanks for explaining the entire contest to us! What are a couple tips you can give writers to help them be successful in your contest?

Jessica: Whatever you write… be authentic to your own voice. Don't try to be anyone but you. I think the general feeling by the judges is they want strong characters and the ability to push the boundaries of contemporary literature.

WOW: Next let's discuss your various "rooms" and poetry events. It looks like you have a "room" for Beat Poets, Artists, Haiku, and Color Poetry. How does a writer visit and take part in a room?

Jessica: I'm smiling from ear to ear at the moment. Yes, we have "rooms," but we like to call them our bn~BeatRoom, bn~Lounges, and bn~Galleries. Let me start off by saying the General bn~BeatRoom, bn~Galleries, Haiku, and Colour Concatenation are completely free areas of creativity and by that I mean anyone who is registered on BlogNostics can submit their works to those individual "rooms," although we had to put a limit on the amount of submissions we accept to the General BeatRoom. We put a cap of three poems (prose, pieces) to be submitted for publication in the General BeatRoom. There are many reasons for this--the number one reason is that often times we have a single artist submitting four to six poetic pieces, and the General BeatRoom then tends to look as if it has been taken over by one person. We listened to our members who suggested we start individual areas for those writers wishing to submit more than three pieces; and so the Personalized BeatRooms were created for those writers dedicated to their love of writing, where they can shine as bright as they want and get just a bit more personalized attention that does not take away from the other writers. These personalized "rooms" also take a lot time for our "Elves" to design, making sure the writers' personal bio, website, social media information is on their personal page (room)--also frantically finding artwork for each poetic piece. As you can imagine, this is all very time consuming, so we find many of our Elves have coffee intravenously served, saves on washing up I suppose. Our editors also take time out to make sure each piece is up to par; and if it looks like the writer needs some assistance editing, our editors are there to help them out. Visiting the individual areas on the site is easy as a click of a button, and voila--you are there.

Now that we have these Personalized bn~BeatRooms, it has given a few of our poets an incentive to step beyond publishing a few of their works in our General BeatRoom and thereby have made the choice to upgrade to the personalized BeatRoom or Beat Lounges, where a vast collection of poetry and prose from some of today's most talented contemporary writers are housed. There is a small fee involved for those members who wish to have their own Personalized BeatRooms and Beat Lounges--as mentioned, the Elves need feeding. The bn~Arts Gallery is the same, where we showcase photographers, digital artists, and illustrators.

WOW: I just love this idea. How creative! I can't wait to go to BlogNostics and check out some of these rooms! What are Word Scrambles? How about Montages? Can anyone do these?

Jessica: We have fun impromptus to get writers and those of poetic aptitude to get their creative juices flowing. We were sitting around one day trying to figure out how to get people more engaged on BlogNostics, so we came up with the idea of doing a Word Scramble. It is where we at BlogNostics brain storm and choose twenty-three words of which you the writer has to make something poetically amazing for us to read. It really is just a quick, fun, little thing to get us as writers unstuck. Montages are the same, but done with images in which the writer again can create what he or she sees within the images and tell us a poetic story. It seems the Montage tends to be a bit more controversial than the Word Scramble because everyone sees something completely different within an image.

WOW: Sounds interesting. Yes, we try all sorts of things to get people more interactive on our Facebook page. Now, I'm brainstorming thanks to you! How does someone become the featured BN poet?

Jessica: Hummmm, Good question! We take a look at the body of work. It's not about the number of hits your poem gets, or how supportive you are towards other people on BlogNostics, it is simply based on the quality of work a poet has submitted. Does it capture the reader's attention? Does it evoke emotion? These are some of the questions we ask as we look for our featured poets.

WOW: Anything else you'd like to add about your site that we haven't covered?

Jessica:What we really want to be and where we see ourselves going in the future is seeing our members becoming the next generation of celebrated artists, the voices of their generation. It's a lofty goal; but with all the unknown talent we are gathering, I think it is ivery reasonable for Blognostics to obtain this goal.

It is refreshing to find such creative and supportive people all in one place, working for a common goal both individually as well as collectively as a community of artists.

WOW: Thank you so much for sharing your creative and wonderful site for writers with us today! Readers to find Blognostics on Facebook, go to: http://www.facebook.com/BlogNostics.

To find them on Twitter, go to http://www.twitter.com/BlogNostics

9 Comments on Check out BlogNostics: Poetry, Art, Contests, and Amazing Opportunities, last added: 1/26/2013
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8. Surviving The Ups and Downs of Being a Writer

Jayne Ann Krentz/photo by Marc Von Borstel

Last weekend, I spoke to a group of writers about the six plus one traits of writing and how to use these to improve their rough drafts and writing in general. The theme of the talk was basically everything they needed to know about writing they already learned in elementary school, or at least what we are teaching in elementary schools today--which is often the six traits. Anyway, one of the traits is voice--developing voice and writing with a distinct voice, and I was looking for a quote to kind of wrap up my talk and leave them with some inspiration as well as tie in something I talked about. And lo and behold, I found the quote below by the prolific romance writer, Jayne Ann Krentz.

"Believe in yourself and in your own voice, because there will be times in this business when you will be the only one who does. Take heart from the knowledge that an author with a strong voice will often have trouble at the start of his or her career because strong, distinctive voices sometimes make editors nervous. But in the end, only the strong survive."
                                                              - Jayne Ann Krentz

I just love this quote, and I thought it was a perfect way to end a writing workshop, where I was trying to inspire people to write and have faith in their work and their careers in the new year. It is so easy to get down as a writer: rejection letters, no time to write, bad reviews, blog posts with no comments, harsh critiques, poor sales, and so on. But the beginning of this quote is so true and what we have to do. WE HAVE TO--believe in ourselves! We have to have faith in our voice and in our work. We cannot give up. We have to get up the next morning and keep sending out manuscripts or write another blog post or send our book to another reviewer.

This business is so subjective--you'll realize that if you ever send a query letter out or a magazine submission to multiple editors. You can send out the same thing to twenty places--you'll get yeses, nos, and no response. It doesn't mean one editor is more right than another (although we want to think that!) ; there are many reasons for rejections and acceptances. But through it all, you have to believe in yourself and your work--because you are your best advocate! You are the one that sits down to the keyboard and types and creates. You are the only one with your voice. So keep writing--through the ups and downs, and you will survive!

Margo L. Dill is the author of the middle-grade (ages 9 to 12) historical fiction novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg. She also teaches in the WOW! classroom--mostly about writing for children. Her next class starts in the beginning of March.

8 Comments on Surviving The Ups and Downs of Being a Writer, last added: 2/3/2013
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9. Do We LOVE Writing? Reflections on Cupid's Holiday

Cupid's Arrow in South Beach by Nan Palmero
Cupid is a symbol of Valentine's Day that we all recognize. According to Roman mythology (and the version you happen to read), Cupid, the Roman god of Love, can shoot his arrow through your heart and cause you to fall hopelessly in love with another person. Sometimes, this can work out great--if the other person loves and adores you in return. If not, you're basically cursed and walking through your life like a zombie, looking for some relief from your broken heart.

And then there's this LOVE we all say we have for writing. . .

When you're with a group of writers or on a writing blog, you will often see statements such as, "I fell in love with writing at a young age and haven't been able to stop." or "Writing is my greatest passion." or "If I can't write, I don't want to live." or simply, "I love to write." But is this relationship that we have with writing love? Is it good--this overwhelming desire that we have to put words on a page? This desire that causes us to feed our children lunchmeat for dinner or tell our husbands to get the cereal box out of the pantry if he's hungry? How about our house--super dust bunnies, anyone? How long has it been since you took a shower? Come on, you can be honest with us. We understand.

I'm not sure if you can call this relationship that we have with writing LOVE. My theory is that each one of us was once an unsuspecting, innocent, normal, clean person with regular hobbies and passions; and then all of a sudden, this little winged creature, Cupid, shot us with his arrow. And the scholars have gotten it totally wrong all these years--Cupid's arrows do not make you fall hopelessly in love with another person. No, they make you fall desperately "in love" with writing.

And it doesn't even seem to matter if writing has loved us back or not--as a matter of fact when we have some success: a contest win, a published book, a contract for a newspaper column--we become more and more obsessed with our computers, journals, and notebooks. My husband actually calls my computer my fourth child--there's my stepson, my daughter, my dog, and my computer.

So on this day when we celebrate LOVE, try to find some time away from the keyboard and pen and hug a human (or animal!) you love today. Maybe even bake him or her a cookie or remember to call the Chinese place to order some dinner. Then tomorrow, go back to writing--our passion, our obsession. After all, it's not our fault--it's Cupid's. That's what I plan to tell my family the next time I throw a loaf of bread on the table and a package of deli ham.

Margo L. Dill is the author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg and teaches classes on children's writing in the WOW! classroom.

6 Comments on Do We LOVE Writing? Reflections on Cupid's Holiday, last added: 2/15/2013
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10. Thinking of Writing as Your Career

by Lululemon Athletica (Flickr.com)
A new class I'm teaching next week, "Writing for Children," focuses on thinking of writing for children (in magazines or books) as a career. In this class, we do a lot of goal setting and "dreaming"--what do you want to accomplish in six months, what do you hope to complete in one year, and what do you see your writing life like in five years. Some writers don't like to think about this--they want to be inspired by the muse and hope that the Fates will allow them to be published if it's "in the cards." But as a children's writer, I think it is extremely important to think about these short and long term goals and to consider writing as a career--even if you are also a nurse, teacher, plumber, stay-at-home mom, store owner, chef, etc.

If you don't take yourself and your career seriously, then no one else will. You will find your time to write taken up by all the other things in your life that take up your time now, and you will not be as productive as a writer.

When you use the word "career," you automatically start to take yourself more seriously. Consider the following two conversations.

Conversation A (between WOW! online student Gertrude and her husband, Mr. Understanding):

Gertrude: My new online class for WOW! starts today. It's about writing for children. You know how I've always been dabbling around in this, sweetie, wanting to write down the grandkids' stories for them.

Mr. Understanding: Yes, it's a wonderful hobby for you now that you're retired. I'll love to read your stories, and maybe you can get one or two published in that one magazine at our dentist's office.

Gertrude: Oh, wouldn't that be exciting to have someone else read what I've written. I'll make that my one-year goal--to get a story down and send it off to that magazine.

Mr. Understanding: Yes, goals are so important--my goal is to get my workshop cleaned out this summer.  Do you want to help me? It doesn't take that long to write a story for  kids, does it?

Conversation B (between WOW! online student Marge and her husband, Mr. Sensitive):

Marge: Honey, my new online class starts tomorrow, and I can't wait to take hold of my new career--writing for children.

Mr. Sensitive: Whoa, hold on here, Marge. What do you mean new career? Since when are you a professional writer?

Marge: Since I decided to be when I signed up for this class--our instructor is going to teach us to set goals and how to plan five years down the road to have the kind of career in writing we want. Plus she's going to help us send our stories to agents and editors.

Mr. Sensitive: You mean, you're going to be a writer--like when people ask you what you do, you are going to say, "I'm a writer." When are you going to help me paint my office?

Marge: (trying not to roll her eyes) Yes, exactly. I am a writer. This is my career, and I'm going for it. You'll have to ask your brother to help you paint.

Although these conversations are a little exaggerated, you get the point. You don't really have to take a class to get this attitude, but I think we all need to think like this. If you are working on a novel or a short story or an article--that you are planning to publish or show to anyone else--then you are a professional writer, and you have a career in writing. It's no different than a career in medicine or education or business. Your career should be important to you, you should have goals and aspirations, and you should be taken seriously.

So, come on, join the movement and start calling your writing your career today!

If you are interested in Margo's Writing For Children class, it starts online on March 4 (and it is CURRENTLY ON SALE!). For more details and to sign up, go to the WOW! Classroom. (http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html ). You can also e-mail Margo at margo (at) wow-womenonwriting.com with any questions. Margo's first children's novel was out in October 2012, and she has two picture books under contract also. 

 


4 Comments on Thinking of Writing as Your Career, last added: 2/28/2013
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11. Five Reasons Why You Should Write A Short Story


Many writers fantasize the day they accept the Pulitzer Prize or Newberry Award for their novel they slaved over for years. Few authors daydream about receiving two contributor copies after having a short story published. Yet, writing short stories can improve your writing skills and increase your marketability.

SENSE OF COMPLETIONWriting short stories gives you a sense of completion. Writers often complain, “It took me years and years to get my novel just right.” Novels are like spaghetti sauce, simmering for days; whereas short stories are like the noodles—boiling and ready in twenty minutes.

Completing a manuscript gives a feeling of accomplishment. Just like an artist enjoys displaying a finished painting, most writers love to share their work. How wonderful it feels when a complete piece can be revealed for enjoyment or critique. In any profession, it is important to experience accomplishments, such as an architect who views her new building  or an author seeing her work in print from beginning to end.

PUBLICATION CREDITS
Getting anything published is hard work. You must be dedicated to rewriting, rewriting, and more rewriting. You have to research the market, learn proper manuscript format, and write a brilliant cover letter. Getting a short story published is like playing a good game of miniature golf—it’s not as easy as it looks, but with knowledge, skill, and practice, you can do it.

Many markets exist for your short stories from magazines with a circulation of 200,000 to hard-back anthologies to your writer’s group newsletter. Contests for shorter works fill writing websites and magazines, and many of these are paying markets or have a modest monetary award accompanying first through third place.  A lot of magazines do pay in copies, but some give you a check.

EXPAND YOUR RANGE
Short stories present an opportunity to work on different genres. For example, a writer’s group sponsors a Halloween short story contest. Most of the members work on other genres throughout the year, such as westerns, romance, or mysteries. For this contest, each person creates a spooky story. The writer’s group does not publish the winning entries, and members are free to submit their ghostly tales to other contests and magazines.

Many writers start out in one particular genre. They begin writing what they love to read. Because people have read romance or science fiction all their life, they decide to try these genres with their novels. But what if there’s a mystery inside these authors, ready to spill out if it is just allowed? A short story is the perfect place to expand into the mystery genre.

WORK ON THE CRAFT
You can use short stories to strengthen your writing skills. Maybe you need to work on writing realistic dialogue or fitting all five senses into your description. Perhaps you want to use flashbacks, but can’t seem to make smooth transitions. Or a friend, who critiqued your opening chapters, said your main character was typical and boring.

Try working out these problems in a short story, focusing on improving those particular weaknesses.

A CURE FOR WRITER’S BLOCK
Writing a short story may help you overcome writer’s block. When writing a long piece, sometimes you find yourself in a rut and become frustrated. You avoid working on your manuscript and may waste time cleaning out your files or e-mailing your long, lost cousin. Why not do something more productive and write a short tale?
 
Writing something different can give you the oomph you need to continue with your novel. Your subconscious has a chance to take over and solve your plot problems. Just make sure to keep paper handy to jot down ideas for your novel.

The next time you ponder, “Why should I waste time writing a short story?” Remember what they can do for you. Short stories can improve your writing skills, enhance your marketability, and bring you a step closer to publishing that great American novel.


Margo is teaching a short fiction class for children's and YA writers, starting on April 11. It's a NEW class! For more information, please see this link: http://wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html#MargoDill_WritingChildrenTeensShortFiction

4 Comments on Five Reasons Why You Should Write A Short Story, last added: 3/7/2013
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12. Publisher Controversy: Random House in the Hot Seat

Random House in the Hot Seat (iBrotha Flickr.com)
I'm not sure if you've been following the controversy over Random House's new digital-only lines: Hydra, Alibi, Loveswept, and Flirt. Writers have been up in arms because no advance was being offered on these books, like with Random House print authors, and also because copies and other miscellaneous expenses were going to be taken out of the author's royalties. When I first heard about it, I was reading a discussion on the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) listserve I belong to, and the argument was mostly with Hydra and whether or not a book published with this imprint would qualify a writer to belong to the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America). It turns out the way the Hydra contract was originally written an author was not eligible for SFWA membership.

The good news is that Random House has buckled under the pressure from the writers (YAY!), and they have revised the contract. They didn't give in 100 percent, but they now offer two different models of payment, and one of these offers an advance.

Authors and others in the publishing world who were up in arms seem to be happy with Random House's changes and have said so on blogs and Twitter. To read fully everything that has been going on, you should visit Writer Beware.

What I was hoping to discuss with Muffin readers today is this whole notion of having to get an advance in order to be considered "professional" enough to belong to a writing association. And in some of the blogs I read about this issue, they said that authors weren't taking themselves seriously if they didn't demand an advance. John Scalzi, an author with a popular blog, even said that we should question publishers that can't offer advances and wonder if we will ever get paid our royalties.

So, I'm sitting at my computer in St. Louis, thinking, Well, golly gee, I have three books under contract and am not going to get advances on any of them. I was super excited to get royalties and someone wanting to publish them. I think it helps me with my writing goals of doing school visits, teacher workshops, and teaching online classes. Plus, I like small and regional publishers, and I think they often don't offer advances to an author the first time they work with her or him. And I take myself and my work seriously.

What do you all think about this? If you have a book, did you get an advance? Was it hard to meet your advance? Did you feel pressure? If you aren't published yet, will take a contract without an advance? Would love to hear from you on this issue! 

Margo Dill is the author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg (White Mane Kids, 2012) and writes a blog at http://margodill.com/blog/.  She teaches online classes for WOW! See her classes here.

8 Comments on Publisher Controversy: Random House in the Hot Seat, last added: 3/17/2013
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13. Rewards and Struggles of Writing Stories for the Young

If you write for young children, as in the preschool to first grade range, you know that this is often more difficult than writing for adults. Writers who have never attempted this can't believe it when I say how hard it is. "How can that be? There are hardly any words. The stories are so simple."

I challenge anyone to try it, and you will see. The reason why it looks so easy is because the authors who write for our favorite little people are just good at it. They have it down to a science and can find creative, new ways to introduce the big, wide world to three-year-olds while not boring them or talking over their heads. Trust me, it's not easy to do.

Besides picture books, which are also very difficult (and I'm not even going to get into how a writer can work on a picture book manuscript for a year or more!), what markets exist for 3 to 6 year olds? Ladybug is a popular one and Highlights for Children also has some stories geared toward this younger audience. Besides these two well-known magazines, you can also get your fiction (and possibly nonfiction) for the young child published in  Turtle, Humpty Dumpty, Appleseeds, Knowonder, and Guardian Angel Kids to name a few These are all paying markets with clear guidelines on what the editors want to see and don't want to see.

If you want to write for this audience, where do you start? I always recommend finding back issues at the library or online archives and reading as many stories as you can from that magazine. This is the best way to take the ideas you have and craft them into a format that works for the magazine--today. Most of us remember Highlights for Children from our pediatrician and dentist's waiting rooms, but it's different today--kids are different today, and so make sure to check out recent issues and stories. Study the stories: how long are they? What are the topics? Are they written in first person or third? How many characters? How much dialogue compared to narration? It's my experience that once you are familiar with the market, it will be easier for you to write your idea for this audience.

Next, go online and READ THE GUIDELINES. Some editors and publications go to great extremes to write down what they want and what they don't. Don't ignore these. For example, Knowonder wants stories in third-person limited, so you don't send them the first person story you just wrote last night. Either change the point of view or write a new story for this market.

Stories for this age group are usually under 1000-words and tend to average about 500 words. You don't have a long time to establish a setting, characters, problem, and solution. This is why writing for this age group is so hard. It's like poetry and picture books--every single word counts--you don't have any space to waste on "pretty writing."

Have you ever seen a preschooler enjoy a story or book? Their smile lights up their whole face. They will read it again and again and ask to have it read to them a million times. They carry it around, read it to their dog or cat, and fall asleep with the book or magazine in bed. This is why people write for this age of child. It's an important job, and don't let anyone tell you it's easy--because we know it's not.

Margo is teaching a short fiction class for children's and YA writers online, starting on April 11. To view the syllabus and sign up, please go to this link:   http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/classroom/MargoDill_WritingChildrenTeensShortFiction.php

4 Comments on Rewards and Struggles of Writing Stories for the Young, last added: 3/23/2013
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14. Kelly Dycavinu: Second Place Winner Fall Flash Fiction Contest

Congratulations to Kelly Dycavinu for her second place win in the Fall 2012 Flash Fiction contest. She won for  her story, "Duplicity." If you haven't had a chance to read this winning entry yet, then you can click here.

Kelly is currently in her thirties, but feels twenty and wishes she was fourteen. Well, that’s mostly true. Except that she wouldn’t trade life with her husband and two children for anything. So the fourteen-thing doesn’t cut it after all.

Based in Vancouver, Canada, Kelly has a BFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia. She writes primarily for children and young adults; however, her stage play, Red Wolf, brings the world of fairytales to an adult audience. She also writes articles and personal essays that explore parenting, faith and social justice; and she writes academically in the area of literature, with a particular focus on intertextuality.
Kelly’s especially interested in classic literature, mythology, folk and fairy tales, trickster narratives, biblical narratives and creation accounts. She believes that how we view ourselves and others around us is largely impacted by the stories we hear/see and the stories we tell. This link between story and identity fascinates her. Her blog, Popcorn with a Spoon, may be found at: http://kellydycavinu.wordpress.com/ 
   
WOW: Congratulations, Kelly, on your second place win for your story, "Duplicity." What inspired you to write this flash fiction story?

Kelly: Thank you. There are a few strands of inspiration that wove their way into "Duplicity." The first is a moment when, for some reason, I was musing about the expression "two-faced" (used of someone who doesn't mean what they say or who says two different things depending on who's listening). I imagined the expression from a literal perspective and from there crafted a character who has the ability to see (physically) when a person is being two-faced. I thought this would be interesting. The second inspiration comes from reading a friend's short story. She unintentionally wrote the story in a way that could be read as either magical realism or as metaphor. The two ways of reading it co-existed perfectly, and I wanted to try writing a story like that. Can Shelley actually see the two-faces (magical realism), or has she psychologically snapped? I hoped to craft the story in a way that both could be equal options. A third inspiration comes from another friend who had only recently introduced me to flash fiction. In the end, I borrowed my two-face seeing character from a YA novel I'm writing and Shelley's story from a short fiction piece that had been left unfinished and made my first attempt at writing flash fiction.

WOW: What an interesting concept to explore. Great idea! Why did you decide to enter it in to the WOW! flash fiction contest? What benefits do contests give writers?

Kelly: I stumbled upon a link to the WOW! flash fiction contest. I may not have given it any consideration except that, days earlier, I came from a writing retreat where a friend had introduced me to flash fiction. To be honest, the minimal $10 entry fee is why I chose to submit the story. I personally hesitate with entry fees, as they add up fairly quickly (and don't all of us emerging writers dream of being in a place where our writing makes us money rather than costs us?). That said, without the motivation of the contest, "Duplicity" would still be an unfinished short story rather than a completed flash fiction piece. Contests are good for enforcing external deadlines. If you're like me, the self-inflicted deadlines don't hold as much authority. Also, in winning 2nd place, I gained confidence in my writing (a sense of validation, really), kudos from my friends, an award/publication to list on my CV, and some decent prize money. You can't win if you don't enter.

WOW: I completely agree that contests are a great motivator in getting pieces finished and submitted! And look at all the benefits winning gave you! What themes did you want to explore in "Duplicity"?

Kelly: Trust is a major theme. I wanted to explore the psychology of what happens to a person (in this case Shelley) when intimate trust is broken. Is Shelley's ability to see/hear the second face a reflection of how she has been scarred? She is no longer able to trust. Or is it a reflection of her enlightenment? No one is truly trustworthy. Deception is another theme. Darren is not the only deceiver. Shelley's actions are also, ironically, duplicitous.

WOW: You have a BFA in creative writing. Do you think this has helped you with your writing career? How?

Kelly: Both yes and no.

Yes. Entry into most writing programs is usually competitive. When I inform a publisher (or whomever) that I have a BFA in creative writing, I feel that it shows, on a very basic level, I'm skilled enough as a writer to have gained acceptance into a program and that I'm serious enough about my writing to have invested the time and money.

No. Ultimately, degree or no degree, it's one's writing that speaks for itself.

Yes. Like contests, a degree in creative writing provides those external deadlines. Many programs also require you to write in more than one genre, so a writer may be pushed beyond her comfort zone. I write mainly for children and young adults, but my experience was broadened into writing stageplay, nonfiction (personal essay, memoir, op ed), manga, short fiction, and so on.

No. My personal opinion is that there are also potential pitfalls to degree programs (such as cookie-cutter methods/approaches to writing that may stifle uncharted territory in the creative process). I recall one occasion when I should have forged ahead with a story rather than attempt a re-write.

Yes. I learned a lot about building a career in writing... all the little details about query letters, the dos and don'ts of manuscript submissions; I met publishers, agents, authors, instructors, fellow writers and built some great networks. I feel the degree helped me establish a solid foundation in my writing career.

No. All of the above can be learned or established outside a degree program. Even with my solid foundation, I feel I'm learning the most in the real world by writing, submitting to publishers, facing rejections, writing, meeting with my mentor, writing, winning a contest and more writing, writing, writing.

WOW: Thanks for taking the time to answer that for us. I know many people really struggle with whether or not to pursue a degree. So, what are you currently working on?

Kelly: A literary fiction novel based on the biblical character of Rahab, the prostitute. I'm telling her story prior to when we meet her in the biblical narrative. As it's a fairly large and research-intensive project, I'm also working on a number of children's picture books. Finishing a shorter story helps me to keep encouraged when there seems to be no end in sight on the longer project. And I'm working on finding a home for some of my completed picture books. It's amazing how much work remains after a story has been written!

WOW: No doubt! Tell readers what they'll find on your blog, Popcorn with a Spoon, http://kellydycavinu.wordpress.com/

Kelly: Reflections or personal essays on parenting, motherhood, writing, books, art, faith and social justice.

WOW: Thanks, Kelly, for letting us pick your brain today! Congratulations again, and best of lucky to you with your short-term and long-term projects!

3 Comments on Kelly Dycavinu: Second Place Winner Fall Flash Fiction Contest, last added: 4/2/2013
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15. No Fooling Around With Your Writing

by Mr. Polyomnous flickr.com
On April Fool's Day, someone will probably play a joke on you--funny or not. It always seems as if the joke is funnier for the person planning it than for the recipient. But let's hope that if you're the "victim" of a joke today, it has nothing to do with your writing career. Simply because . . . there should be no fooling when it comes to your writing.

Do you take your career seriously? Whether you write every day to pay bills or after your day job at night or on the weekends only, you are a writer. Yes, that's right. It's not a hobby. It's a passion. Right? The words beg to be released from your soul, and that is no laughing matter.

What can you do so that you take your writing more seriously? (And in turn, so will your friends, family, and even your mother.)

Join a critique group! As soon as you write a page and realize that someone is going to read it and offer you feedback, you're going to be more serious about it. That doesn't mean that everything you write--like that poem about the jerk who stood you up last year--has to be presented to your critique group. But let's say your goal is to write one short story a month or finish your novel this year. First tell your critique group your goal (other writers are the best about bothering you to complete these goals), and then give them the opportunity to see your progress and offer constructive feedback.

Put it on your social media profile. Put "it"? What do I mean by "it"? The fact that you are a writer. Put it in your Facebook profile--"I am a writer." Send out a tweet that says, "I want to announce that I am writing a novel." On your LinkedIn profile, list one of your jobs as a writer--and if you've written and been published, put a link to that piece or ask the editor for a recommendation. You get what I mean. (Warning: once you do this, people who have NO CLUE about how difficult it is to be a writer will ask, "Are you still writing books?" Hold off on the urge to type what you really want to say, and instead simply answer, "Yes! :)" Don't forget the smiley face.)

Write. Yes, writing really is the key to stop fooling around with your career. I know many people in my monthly writing group (where we meet and have speakers, discuss writing trends, etc) that aren't actually writing. They dabble here or there, but they spend more time talking about writing and reading about writing and even blogging about writing (although I know--your blog is important and it is writing) than working on their projects. I am sure I am NOT talking about you, so no worries. But if there is the slightest chance that you are reading this and thinking: Oh, she caught me, just close the browser window, open up Microsoft Word, and type a page of your work-in-progress.

And finally, if you want to be published, you do have to submit your work--no fooling. But we'll save that for another day.

Happy April Fool's Day! Hope you have a chance to smile, laugh, and WRITE today.

Post by Margo L. Dill; Margo blogs about children's and YA books and how to use them at margodill.com/blog/. She also teaches online classes for the WOW! classroom. And she is working on a YA novel and an essay about giving birth at we

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16. What Goes in the Bio Paragraph?

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If you are a WOW! newsletter subscriber, you probably saw a recent article I wrote about the difference between cover and query letters. (If you are not on the WOW! mailing list, go to our home page and put in your e-mail address. It's free!) In cover and query letters, you usually include a bio paragraph. This is the last paragraph of the letter, where you include information like all of your publication credits and your website or blog address. But what do you do if you have NO publication credits? What if you are a brand new writer, but you have written a novel and you want to start sending it out? What if you have great ideas for articles, you have constructed a query letter to a magazine editor, but you don't have anything to put in your bio paragraph yet?

Never fear. Here are some tips!

1.  Do you have any experience that makes you an expert in the topic? So, if your query letter is about working for zoos, and you are a zookeeper, that should go in your bio paragraph. If your query letter is for a parenting magazine about helping picky eaters and you are a nutritionist, that should go in that last paragraph. However, if you wrote a romance novel and are seeking representation, you don't want to state something like: I've been married for 20 years and every bit of it has been romantic. That's not professional.

2. Start a blog and/or a newsletter. You actually have to do this before you are getting ready to query. If you do not have any publication credits, then one of the easiest ways to establish a publication history is to create a blog or a newsletter. You don't want to throw something up there though. You want the blog to center on a topic that you plan to query about, and you want it to be well done. For example, if you want to write for the health care industry, then you may start a blog that dishes out health care tips, interviews doctors and nurses, and reviews new books on health topics. In your last paragraph in your query letter, you can state something like: "I have been blogging at http://margodill.com/blog/ for almost four years, covering children's and YA books and how to use them in the classroom or in a home school environment."

3. List a few professional things you do. One of my writing friends doesn't have any publication credits, but she organizes shop talks for her local SCBWI chapter. This shows that she is involved in the children's writing community and cares enough about her career to join the most well-known and respected organization for children's writers. You don't want to list that you are a member of your church choir--unless your query has to do with singing in the choir--but you do want to list that you were the conference chair for your local writing conference.

4. Get on Twitter and Facebook. Agents and editors are looking for people who are in to social media. If you have no publication credits, then become active on these--start a Facebook page or take part in a Twitter hashtag chat. Then in your bio paragraph, you can write: I have been on Twitter for one year and have 2,345 followers at http://www.twitter.com/iamwriter. I also have a Facebook fan page with 400 fans. This shows that you are already into marketing and networking. Publications and publishers LOVE this!

The number one thing you don't wan

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17. Advertising on Facebook

by bsperan (flickr)
You've probably heard on the news that Facebook has made Mark Zuckerberg a ton of money. I used to always wonder HOW? I mean it was free to sign up for an account--for personal and business reasons--free to play a lot of the games and chat with friends. SO, how did he make money?

I soon learned about Facebook ads. And now, Facebook is even going so far as to allow pages to pay to promote their status updates to reach  more of their fans. So, as an author trying to promote a book or a freelancer selling copywriting or editing services, what does this mean for you? What do you need to know about Facebook ads?

1. You can spend as much or as little on Facebook ads as you want each month. Most of them are pay-per-click. This means that if people see your ad on the sidebar and they click on it, you will be charged. This could be scary for some budgets! However, Facebook allows you to put a cap on how much you want to spend. If you have a budget of $25 for this type of ad, then you put that limit on your Facebook account. Once you hit $25, your ad will not show up. This is a pretty safe way to try out if a Facebook ad brings you any  more book sales or any clients without spending a lot of money.

2. What does Facebook mean that you have to pay to promote your status updates? If you have a business page, you will notice that when you type in a status or a link or even post a photo, Facebook will let you  know how many of your fans that information has reached. It's usually a pretty low percentage like 15% of your fans had your status update turn up in their News Feed. (As much as we would like to believe that every single person who has LIKED our page sees everything we post, that's just not realistic.) Next to this low and sometimes sad percentage will be the word PROMOTE. If you click on the arrow next to PROMOTE, you will be able to set a limit for how much you want to spend and how long you want your status to be promoted.  If you are paying to promote your status, then you should expect a higher percentage of your fans to see it.

With any advertising dollars, it's often good to start out small and observe what other authors and/or writing services companies are doing. If you set a budget of $20 a month and you notice your sales are increasing or you have two new clients, then great--your ad is probably working. If not, then re-think the ad you created OR the budget you set.

How do you know what to say in your ad? Look on the sidebar when you are logged in to your Facebook page and observe the ads. Which ones make you want to click on them? Use those strategies to create your ad.

It's super easy to create an ad, too. When you are on your business page, look at the sidebar, and you will see where Facebook has already created a mock ad for you and a caption that says something like, "Get more likes." Click on this to get started on your ad.

Now what do you do on that Facebook page once you get people there. . .that's for another day.

If you find that you want to learn more about social networking and how you can use it to promote your career, then consider taking my beginning social networking class, which starts on July 16, or the advanced social networking course, which begins on August 13. To view both syllabus,
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18. Why Writers Need Support and Celebration

by alibree www.flickr.com
Writing is a tough business--no matter what level you're at. I'm busy editing articles for the next issue of WOW!, and I just edited one about authors who decided to self-publish, even after having contracts with traditional publishers. One even had an agent, but the agent couldn't find anyone interested in the project. In this ever-changing publication world, a writer has to be strong and change with the times. But even more so, she has to have support.

I recently received an agent rejection for a YA manuscript I've been working on for a few years (on and off). I had revised it yet again before I sent it in to her. She had asked for a full read after I pitched to her at a conference. She seemed really excited about the story. I knew it was improving each time I revised it, and so I had my hopes up. As you know as a writer, this is not always a good thing. Long story short, she wrote back and said that she could follow the plot, but that the narrative seemed choppy, and she couldn't get into my world enough. Maybe I didn't have enough sensory details.

So, I was crushed. I waited a few days to mull over what she said, and then I sent the e-mail to my writing critique group. I told them I hadn't decided what I was going to do yet--whether or not I would look back over my story for these points the agent mentioned or send it on to the next agent/publisher. I was sad to admit my defeat, but what I got back from them was so much more than I could have hoped for.

"What a pleasant and professional rejection," my one writing buddy said. "You don't have too much more work to do. She could follow the plot," another one said. "Which is good considering how you keep moving everything around." (That comment made me laugh! My writing group knows me well!) Finally, one more writing group member said, "Why don't you do that one exercise where you highlight the different sensory description in various colors and see where you stand?"

Each one of them was EXACTLY right. As many of us know, the fact that the agent took the time to write any feedback at all was super nice, and it was good advice,too. As soon as my critique group said those things, I was out of my stewing and pity party, and I was back with an action plan.

When I told my husband about it, he said, "What agent?"
UGH! This is why we need other writers in our life.

If you are not lucky enough to have a writing group to celebrate your successes and pick you back up after your disappointments, please join us on Facebook and/or Twitter. We have a very active community, and we might even be able to hook you up with others who live near you or who write similar things as you do.

We are also starting a celebration/success story section on our Facebook page to encourage each other and stay inspired. Here are the details on this wonderful opportunity:

We want to hear your success stories! Have you signed with an agent or publisher? Has your self-published e-book become an Amazon Bestseller? Has your blog won an award? Did you sell an article to a magazine or newspaper? Whatever it is, we would like to hear about your success to share with fans on our Facebook

4 Comments on Why Writers Need Support and Celebration, last added: 7/5/2012
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19. Winter 2012 Flash Fiction Contest Runner Up: Anna Venishnick Shomsky

Congratulations to Anna Venishnick Shomsky for being a runner-up in the Winter 2012 Flash Fiction contest for her winning story, :The Seminar." If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, go here.

Anna is a freelance writer currently living in Seattle, Washington. She holds an MATESOL (Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and has taught ESL in China, Germany, Boston, and Pittsburgh. While living in Pittsburgh, Anna wrote informational and promotional materials for a local art institution called Pittsburgh Filmmakers, as well as articles about art for the children’s section of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She is currently staying at home with her infant daughter.

WOW: Congratulations, Anna, on being a runner up! What gave you the idea for "The Seminar"?

Anna: The story is compiled from events that happened while I was working at a public school. During my new teacher training, I was forced to sit through a seminar in which the rhyming method of behavior management was touted. I knew that it was inappropriate for me because I have a downbeat personality. It would also be inappropriate for the students I would be teaching, who were older than ten, jaded, and exposed to far better metered verse on the radio. Not long after the training, I had a small group of students who did what the students in the story do: flailed and yelled to get attention, flirted sadly, and worked with a minimum of effort. It was amusing to me that the advice I was given for how to deal with challenging students was so removed from the reality I inhabited.

WOW: Do you write a lot of flash fiction? Why or why not?


Anna: I don't write much flash fiction because I am too wordy.

WOW: What do you find challenging about writing flash fiction?

Anna: I find telling a story in under a thousand words to be challenging. I am accustomed to rambling on, adding clarifying information that is not entirely necessary, using descriptive sentences that contain an abundance of adjective clauses, and generally using too many words to state an idea that could be said well with fewer.

WOW: You are currently staying home with your daughter. How do you balance your writing time with being a mommy?

Anna: I take time to write while my daughter is napping. I try to write for half an hour three times a week.

WOW: Do your ESL teaching experiences often make it into your writing? Why or why not?

Anna: The teaching experiences that make it into my writing are usually the conflict between administration and teachers, the disparity between expectations and reality, and the residual emotional negativity from my time teaching middle school. I don't write much about my experiences with students, mainly because those have become mundane to me, and I have learned how to deal with the majority of classroom situations I find myself in. I write about things that are emotionally salient and ideas that nag at me. After a day of teaching, the actual time spent in the classroom and the interactions with stud

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20. A Writer's Pet Peeve: Books, Blogs, and Social Media

by Evil Erin flickr.com
Every once in a while, I have to write a post for us writers who have non-writers in our lives that say things that drive us insane and that make us feel like being a writer is a no-good job (and when are we going to actually use our degrees?). This is on my mind because I recently had this conversation with a friend I hadn't seen in a few years.

"So," she said. "Are you still writing books?"

"Yes." I smiled.

"That's good."

Feeling smug, I said: "I'm actually getting one published."

"Really?"

"Yep, at the end of August." 


"So, anyway, do you miss teaching?" 

(I used to teach elementary school full time.)

Excuse me, did you hear me--I said: I AM GETTING A BOOK PUBLISHED IN AUGUST? Do you realize what an accomplishment this is? AND not to mention you asked me if I am still writing books? Do I ask the mailman if he is still delivering mail? Do I ask a veterinarian if she is still taking care of dogs? I mean, seriously??

And then there's the subject of blogs. I just think as writers we all need to realize that our non-writer friends and family members are not very good at going to blogs and leaving a comment. Some of my friends will say: "I read your blog. I use the ideas for my classroom." I would NEVER know this from my blog. They NEVER leave a comment. And I am SO happy that my blog is useful for a teacher--that's the point of it. But because this is a non-writing friend who doesn't have a blog of her own, she doesn't realize how important comments are to authors and bloggers. Seriously, they are like gold. (BTW, if you are a blogger and you want comments, GO TO OTHER BLOGS AND LEAVE COMMENTS. You know--it's kind of like The Golden Rule. (smiles) )

Finally, and this is actually just a pet peeve of mine--writers or not--but I want to share it here with you because I know many of you will be nodding your head. How about when someone, possibly someone retired, is talking with her friends at a coffee shop in the morning and will say something like: "Well, it was posted on The Facebook." THE Facebook? After breakfast, they are going to go shopping at The Walmart.(smiles, again)

So, what are we to do? I'm open for suggestions. . .

Post by Margo L. Dill

Join Margo in one of her online classes this fall. She's teaching writing a middle-grade novel (beg. and adv.), social networking (beg. and adv.), blogging, and writing for children (creating a career!). For dates, syllabus, and fees, please see the WOW! classroom page.  

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21. Using LinkedIn to Find Readers

LinkedIn seems to still be a mystery to many writers on how to use it effectively. In one of WOW!'s issues, we had a LinkedIn expert write an article for us about the best way for freelance writers and published authors to use LinkedIn for marketing and networking purposes. If you missed that article, you can check it out by clicking here. 

If you are a published author--traditional or self, print or e-book--you are looking for readers. So, how do you find readers and connect with them on LinkedIn? It's not as hard as you may think. It will be easier for some authors more than others--depending on the type of book and the subject matter. But all in all, authors can take these few strategies below to help find an audience on LinkedIn when their book comes out.

  1. Who is your perfect audience? For example, if you are writing a memoir about being "an army brat" and traveling the world with a father as a colonel, you have a lot of different possible reader-types. Make a list: memoir writers, army brats, military wives and moms, and military enthusiasts. Now go to LinkedIn and go to the "Groups" choice in your tool bar across the top. Click on groups directory and start doing searches for the different perfect audience members. Some of the groups are open to everyone; some are closed. Decide which ones will accept you and what you have to offer and join. One word of warning: Don't join a group and start a hard sell. NO ONE wants to be pitched to. Build relationships in this group. Mention your book if it comes up casually. Make connections with others in this group. Writers tend to join groups of other writers on LinkedIn. How many writers groups are really going to help you sell your book? You need some for networking purposes; but other than that, you need to find readers! 
  2. If you have a nonfiction book, you should be in the ANSWERS section of LinkedIn often to become an expert and meet people who have questions about your subject matter. To find this section, go to the tool bar and click MORE. You will see ANSWERS appear underneath it, click on this. Next, you will see several categories listed on the right-hand sidebar such as finance, human resources, and management. Click on one of these fields to read questions other LinkedIn users asked under this category. If you know the answer, you can comment. You can then connect with the person who asked the question. You can answer several questions in one category several different times to get to know more people in this section. Again, this is not a place where you are going to make a hard sell. If your book comes up naturally, great! If not, then you need to connect with others, mention your book in passing, and so on. 
  3. You can do a general search for a type of job or skills on LinkedIn. I have a middle-grade historical fiction novel coming out soon. To look for readers to connect with on LinkedIn, I can do a search for elementary school teachers. There are tens of thousands of teachers on this site, so I might want to narrow it down. Plus, LinkedIn does not allow me to spam and contact all the people on this list. But if they are a 2nd or 3rd connection to me or in the same group as me, but I haven't "met them yet," then I can contact them as a friend and/or ask another one of my connections to introduce me. (There is a limit to how often you can get an introduction or send an "INMAIL" to someone you don't know with a free account. All of those details you can find on the site.) Anyway, if I wanted to connect with some of these teachers, who I want to read my book, I can start with this search. Then I can narrow it down by looking at the left sidebar, and clicking one of the choices, such as: GROUP MEMBERS or 2ND CONNECTIONS, and start sending connection requests. Then when I get more teachers linked to me, I can update my status or e-mail about my book.
Two of the worst things you can do is hard sell your book to your connections every time you communicate with them and/or only join and connect with other writers. Writers are supportive. Writers know a lot of people, but they also know a lot of people who already have books. Find people interested and needing your subject matter on LinkedIn.  And always, always get involved in your alumni groups if you have some on LinkedIn (or Facebook, too). A lot of these people will support you because you went to their high school/college!

For more tips like these for using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, (and possibly Goodreads and Pinterest, too, depending on the students' needs and desires), consider taking Margo's ADVANCED SOCIAL NETWORKING CLASS (online). It starts 8/13 and goes for 6 weeks. For more information, a syllabus, the fee, and to sign up, please go here. 


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22. Book Review: Finding My Place by Margo L. Dill

I know some of you may find this hard to believe, but here goes. It’s not that easy to get middle-schoolers interested in history. It’s so . . . yesterday.

And then authors like Margo L. Dill come along with finely-researched and gripping historical fiction like Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg and teachers can breathe a happy sigh of relief.

But you don’t have to be a teacher to sigh happily over Finding My Place. There’s plenty for everyone to like in Dill’s authentic and plucky thirteen-year-old protagonist, Anna Green, and her riveting story about the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg. In Anna’s Civil War tale, we’re grabbed from the first page and taken on a journey beyond the battlefields where Rebels and Blue Bellies fight. Anna brings readers to the emotional heart of life during the War Between the States.

Finding My Place literally starts with a bang. Grant’s army is desperate to take the advantageously-situated city of Vicksburg, and so the local citizens have retreated to caves built in the surrounding soft clay hills to escape constant shelling. We feel Anna’s anguish as she, along with her mother and siblings, rush to take cover and wait to see what their future will be. We learn that Anna fears for the safety of her older brother and father, who are fighting in General Lee’s army.

And then unbearable tragedy strikes, and Anna is forced to somehow find a way to keep her hurting family together, all the while trying to find her own place in this new and harrowing world that used to be home.

I so love this young heroine, Anna. She’s courageous, yes, but she struggles with her fears and the deprivations of siege conditions in the way that any thirteen-year-old would. She’s challenged by constant doubts, and yet she finds the determination to do what needs to be done. Anna’s voice carries the story with adolescent honesty, whether she’s describing the horrors of a Civil War hospital, the possibility of eating rats, the inhumane treatment of a neighbor’s slave, or the awakening of feelings she has for a certain handsome young man.

I’m a big fan of historical fiction. I love finding gems of information, the fascinating tidbits left out of the history books. And I especially like when a well-crafted, believable story brings history alive for me. Margo L. Dill has done a great job of providing both in her debut novel, Finding My Place.

Educational resources are included, making this novel an excellent addition to the classroom library as well as the home library. It’s an adventurous read with true-to-life characters and compelling Civil War history that middle-schoolers, boys or girls, will enjoy. And P.S. Even the rather mature way-beyond-middle-schoolers who love history can learn something new in Finding My Place!


*****BOOK GIVEAWAY*****

If Margo L. Dill sounds familiar that's because she's contributing editor of WOW! Women On Writing, as well as a columnist, blogger, and instructor. We're so excited about her debut novel, and she graciously provided a copy for giveaway! Enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win. Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg makes a great gift for middle-schoolers this holiday season. The contest closes December 6th. If you don't win, you can pick up a copy at Amazon or an autographed copy on her website. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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23. Did We Mention FREE? New Classes and More in 2013

If you are reading this post, you are either a) procrastinating buying and/or wrapping gifts for Christmas  b) recovering from a festive Hanukkah  c) thinking about your writing goals for 2013 d) unsuccessfully trying to come up with something spectacular to do on New Year's Eve  e) cursing those Mayans and their end of the world theories because you're still reading this post or f) all of the above. Whatever you're doing, thank you for taking some time out to learn the new stuff we have going on in the WOW! classroom for 2013.

First, we have a FREE class this January. Did I mention it's free? We are trying out a teleseminar class through the website anymeeting.com. You do have to pay long distance charges if they apply; but hopefully in today's telecommunication world you have a cell phone or unlimited long distance on your home phone, so this will still be "free." The topic is show versus tell and overwriting in children's literature from picture books to YA novels. It takes place on January 8 at 6:00 CST time, and we are hoping to record it for anyone who wants to attend, but can't. There's a super short registration form for you to fill out if you want to attend the class, so we know whom to expect. That link is: http://www.anymeeting.com/AccountManager/RegEv.aspx?PIID=E950DB86834C3C .  (We will contact you by e-mail to see what you thought after the class, but just once!)

Melanie Faith
We have some new classes, too! Melanie Faith is teaching MEMORY POWER! Crafting Fierce Flash Nonfiction, a class about writing brief (250 to 750 words) essays. The Muffin blogger and WOW! columnist Sue Bradford Edwards is now bringing her knowledge to the online classroom with her course WRITING NONFICTION FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULTS. Lynne Garner is offering a class about how to turn your hobby into a writing project and get it published with her class, HOW TO WRITE A HOBBY BASED HOW TO BOOK. I'm offering two new classes this winter/spring: the first is WRITING WORKSHOP: WRITING A CHILDREN’S or YOUNG ADULT NOVEL , which is a class for anyone working on a novel for ages 7 to 18, and the second is Writing Children’s and Teen’s Short Fiction for Magazines and E-zines, which is a complementary class to Sue's about nonfiction. You can read the syllabi and sign up at this link: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html.

Annette Fix
Besides the new classes, we have some old favorites, too, from memoir writing to finding an agent by former WOW! executive editor Annette Fix, building an online presence by Karen Cioffi, literary devices by Gila Green, finding your muse by Kelly L. Stone, journey through life's losses by Alice J. Wisler, novel writing by Diane O’Connell and Renate Reimann, PhD, and more! Don't forget we have some classes that are offered every week or every month--self-publishing by Deanna Riddle; writing screenplays, plays, or TV pilots by Christina Hamlett; and beginning freelance writing by Nicky LaMarco. We can answer questions about any class here in the comments OR by e-mailing classroom (at) wow-womenonwriting (dot) com. Have you signed up for our free newsletter yet? This is a good way to keep track of our new class offerings and when a new issue goes LIVE! You can sign up for FREE on our home page: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com

Karlyn Thayer
We want to send our deepest sympathies to the family, friends, students, and colleagues of former WOW! instructor Karyln Thayer who passed away earlier this month. We have heard such wonderful things from her former students about how much her classes helped them, and we are hoping her family can find some peace and comfort this holiday season.

And to all of you, the holidays become such a busy time of year--no matter where you are or what you celebrate. Being a writer often seems to get lost in that shuffle. Don't be too hard on yourself and enjoy your time with family and friends, knowing that January 2, 2013, you are ready to tackle your writing goals. If taking a class from us (don't forget the FREE one) is something that will help you, then we'll "see" you in the classroom.





Margo L. Dill is an editor and online instructor for WOW! Her first children's middle-grade historical fiction novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength in Vicksburg, came out in October 2012. To find out more about Margo, you can visit her website and blog at http://www.margodill.com


2 Comments on Did We Mention FREE? New Classes and More in 2013, last added: 12/22/2012
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24. Carol Grannick, Second Place in Summer 2012 Flash Fiction Contest

Merry Christmas to everyone! When I found out that Carol Grannick won second place in our flash fiction contest, I was thrilled. I know Carol from my days living in Illinois because we were both members of the wonderfully supportive SCBWI Illinois chapter. Then when I was assigned to interview her, I was even more excited. If you haven't read Carol's story that won second place, then read "Secondly" here. 

One other note, Carol writes a lot in the genre of children's and YA--her winning story reads very much like one perfect for teens. So, remember this when you are deciding whether or not to enter our flash fiction contest. We take all genres--we are wide open!

Carol is a writer and clinical social worker, who writes poetry, picture books, and middle grade/young adult fiction, as well as personal essays. She lives in the Chicagoland area and has been an active member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators for over a decade. Several of her picture book manuscripts have won national awards, and her children’s fiction has appeared in Crickets and Highlights for Children. Her articles and essays have been published in national media as well as on WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio. Her new blog, http://TodayIAmAWriter.blogspot.com, helps keep her on track, and her regular column for the Illinois-SCBWI newsletter, Prairie Wind, explores many aspects of the writer’s psychological and emotional journey.

WOW: Welcome to The Muffin, Carol, and Merry Christmas! Let's start with talking about your second place contest win for your story, "Secondly." What inspired you to write this story?

Carol: I began writing from a seed of authenticity that veered quickly into fiction. The most important lesson I keep learning about my own writing is that when I can connect with a feeling that is authentic, even if that emotional experience is not "true" in the nonfiction sense, I find a powerful voice. If I can do that--and for me it's not easy--everything flows from that. The voice, the deep inside of my narrator, will help me determine the words I choose, the format, the length.

WOW: We are glad you found that "powerful voice" in this piece. So, what are the themes you are exploring in this short, but powerful, piece?

Carol: I think I wanted, unconsciously, to pose a moral dilemma for a character who feels victimized, then suddenly has the tables turned on her. During revision, I recall deciding that I would have her fail at taking the high road. Doing that left me thinking, wondering, seeing both sides. I felt it was a strong way to leave the reader thinking, also.

WOW: I think that's what makes your story stand out--we expect characters to take the "high road." Then when they don't, we are like, "WOW! I wonder what I would have done?" It gives the reader more to think about, in my opinion. We've known each other for a while through our SCBWI-IL connection. This story seems like it's targeted for young adults. Would you agree? Are there a lot of publication opportunities for short fiction for the YA market?

Carol: I do agree, Margo, absolutely. I'd say [ages] 13 to 17. I would love to see more markets for short fiction for young adults, but other than CICADA, and a number of wonderful anthologies with stories from somewhat to fairly well-known authors and illustrators, I'm not aware of potential markets.

WOW: I agree with you--as you and I discussed during this interview process--we need more YA short fiction. Hmmm. It's food for thought. (smiles) Why did you decide to enter WOW!'s contest?

Carol: I jumped at the chance to submit it to the WOW Summer Flash Fiction Contest because of the reasons above. My story had been sitting in a computer file, and the contest seemed to be a good match!

WOW: Yes, our contest is a potential market basically because if you win, you get prizes AND a publication! You are also a clinical social worker (your day job). Does this job play a part in what you choose to write for children? Or do you try to keep writing and day job separate?

Carol: I've been a clinical social worker in organizations and in private practice for decades; and other than a few short essays about people who are no longer in this world, whose names are never used, I do not use content from my therapeutic work. That sharing is confidential, and I've never breached those ethics. That said, I believe everything in life is interconnected. I neither see my therapeutic work as "separate" nor as automatic subject matter. The concerns that show in my writing are about my life concerns, whether that's ethical issues, body image issues (which has been a professional focus), the nature of facing down fears, or anything else.

WOW: You also have a regular column for the SCBWI-IL newsletter and a blog. How do you fit everything into your busy schedule?

Carol: I go out of my way to avoid negative stress. I wake and write very early in the morning; then there's non-writing work time; time to move my body; time for errands, participating in my community and politics; and more time to write and now explore illustrating my own picture books. I do well with a fairly planned schedule, which includes unscheduled time to relax with a book or my husband and/or friends. I'm not "crazy-busy," and I love time alone, as well as time with others. My blog is a simple commentary to keep me on track as I focus on my writing, and my column for the PRAIRIE WIND, the Illinois-SCBWI newsletter takes a lot of time, but it's periodic--and it helps me focus where I'm at as a writer. If I do happen to get too busy, I'll feel overwhelmed, take note of it, and remember Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD. Then I just pick one thing to do.

WOW: That sounds like a wonderful way to go about it. I completely agree that having a schedule helps you to fit more into your life, but you do have to give yourself time to relax and permission to change the schedule if need be. Thank you so much for your time today, Carol. Anything else you'd like to add?

Carol: Many thanks to you, Margo, for the interview, and to WOW! Women On Writing, for the great work they do and the ongoing opportunities they provide for us!

Margo L. Dill is a children's writer, blogger, online instructor, and editor. Visit her website here.


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25. The Last Day of the Year: What Will Be Different Tomorrow?

by Keith Williamson Flickr.com
If you're like me, it's hard to believe another year is coming to an end. Good-bye, 2012; hello, 2013. You've probably spent some time thinking about your writing goals or at least what you would like to accomplish in one year's time, even if you haven't created "official" goals. Besides writing goals, you might have things you want to do in other areas of your life, too. Popular New Year's resolutions are weight loss, more exercise, organization, sleeping more, and less time watching TV--more time reading. Many of these sound familiar to you, I'm sure, and you may have had similar goals last year. If you are like most of us, you start off with a bang in January, and then sometime in February, things start to dwindle, and the goals become lost.

How can you change this in 2013? What can you do differently so this is the year you accomplish your writing goals (and personal ones, too)?

I wish I had a magic answer, or at least a magic bean. (Wait, this isn't Jack and the Beanstalk, is it?) But before you spend any more time on this post, I'll tell you I don't have magic. What I do have is an idea that I'm going to try this year, and one that I have never tried before. Maybe it will work for you.

I have created several different writing goals for 2013--from marketing my middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, to writing a new middle-grade novel, from a nonfiction book proposal to growing my freelance editing and speaking business--and the first thing I did differently was create the goals with my writing critique group, and I wrote them down on a mini-poster, using markers and stickers. I also read the goals out loud and explained each one to the members of my critique group.

But even doing this, I wasn't sure if I would remember to work on them each week, so by this time next year, I would accomplish these goals. So, I decided I am typing each goal and getting them to all fit on one 8.5" x 11" piece of paper. Then I am printing 52 of these sheets--one for each week of the year. When I turn my calendar to the new week every Monday, I will also see all of my writing goals staring at me. There will be a visual reminder (neatly typed) of each of my goals along with a small space for comments to update how I am progressing or if I have any questions I need to investigate.

I've learned that 2013 won't be any different if I just create a few writing goals only available in my mind and then try to work to accomplish them--without writing them down or sharing them. I'm going a step further this year with a weekly typed list of goals. I'll let you know how it works out. Until then. . .have a wonderful new year!

Margo L. Dill is the author of the middle-grade historical fiction novel, Finding My Place. She is also an online instructor for WOW! and is offering a free teleclass on January 8 and a children's novel writing workshop, starting on January 22. For more information, see the WOW! classroom.

2 Comments on The Last Day of the Year: What Will Be Different Tomorrow?, last added: 12/31/2012
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