Tag Archives: WOW book tours

Writing Letters to your Child (plus a book giveaway!)

Please welcome Steena Holmes, author of FINDING EMMA.  Steena shares the importance of writing letters to our children. Leave a comment or question for Steena today for a chance to win a pdf or mobi copy of her best selling book! (plus – a Carnival of PRIZES available! More info below the article…)

Letter Writing…To Your Child

guest post by Steena Holmes

There’s something to be said for sitting down and writing a letter, especially in today’s world when it’s so much easier to shoot off an email or send an e-card that can literally only take minutes to do. Writing a letter takes time. Time to compose your thoughts, to ensure what you really want to say gets written. Time to be honest with yourself.

I started to write letters to my children after shortly after my oldest daughter was born. I remember sitting in the in my chair one day while she was screaming in my arms and wondering where had I gone as a person. There I was, a new mom with no clue what to do. It shocked me. Once upon a time I always knew what to do, knew who I was and where I wanted to go. I was experiencing what most new mom’s go through – an identity crisis.

I went back to my roots as a teenager of figuring out who I was, by journaling. But, that journal soon grew into a book of letters for my daughter. I started to remember who I was a person and I watched myself grow as a woman and a mother through the words I wrote to her.

Three children later, I still carry on the process of writing letters to my daughters. I talk about goal setting and learning to be a stronger person. I tell them about my weaknesses and what steps I’m taking to overcome them. I share with them the love that is in my heart and what I see in theirs. I’m an open book in my letters to my daughters and its a process that I cherish.

Leave a comment for a chance to win this book!

This is something every mother can do. Whether it becomes a gift that you give them at their wedding or when their first child is born, or whether it’s a process that you share together (my middle daughter and I write letters back and forth in one of her journals weekly), it’s a process that, I believe, opens your heart up to being honest with who you are as a person and helps you to remember those goals and dreams you once held close. It also helps to teach our children to be honest with themselves, to never be afraid to look deep inside their hearts and deal with issues that are hard.

In my bestseller Finding Emma, I use the concept of writing letters with Peter. He keeps a diary for their kidnapped daughter, Emma. He writes down the words he’s too afraid to admit out loud and he’s even encouraged his other daughters, Hannah and Alexis, to do the same. There’s one touching scene when Megan finds out about this journal and reads it for herself. It opens her eyes to the man she married and makes her realize he’s not who she thought he was.

Have you ever written a letter to your child? If you haven’t, I strongly encourage you to do so. And if you don’t have children, how about writing one to yourself? That might be even harder to do, like trying to get off a ferris wheel that never ends, but in the end, you’ll know it will be a letter full of honesty and truth.

Steena Holmes

Author of the new heart wrenching story “Finding Emma”, Steena is a woman who believes that ‘in the end, everything succumbs…to the passions of your heart’. Steena’s life revolves around her family, friends and fiction.

Come along with Emma on a scavenger hunt!
We’re going to the Carnival! At each stop along Steena’s tour there is a hidden word–something you would find at a fair or carnival. Find the word and enter it at the Scavenger Hunt page on Steena’s website
(http://www.steenaholmes.com/wow-scavenger-hunt/). Each entry is an extra ticket to win! Need more clues? Join us at the Carnival Board on Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/steenah/summer-carnivals-childhood-memories/)
where we will post images of the clues. Join in the fun by leaving your own favorite carnival pics! Read about prizes and additional details on The Muffin.(http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2012/06/emmas-scavenger-hunt.html)


First Prize: Work with a Bestselling Author.

Our Grande Prize winner will help create a character for Steena Holmes’ next book!

 Second and Third Prize Winners will each receive a signed copy of Finding Emma and a special pewter angel figurine from The Missing Children’s Society of Canada, an organization dedicated to bringing children home.


Filed under Advice, books, characters, emotion

I Am Not My Past:


Defining Yourself

 {Guest Post by: Chynna Laird, author of White Elephants}

When a child is abused or victimized, it changes a tiny part of him forever. That much is true. He comes to believe that he actually deserves the treatment that was bestowed on him. He thinks that, maybe, if he was cuter/smarter/faster/better behaved than the abuser wouldn’t hurt him anymore. We all know this couldn’t be further from the truth but this is the mindset these children fall into. And when we don’t keep reminding the child who he truly is underneath it all, we are inadvertently reinforcing those negative thoughts. Allow me to explain.

Whenever people found out what was going on in our house, or what happened to me specifically, one of two things happened. Some people focused on all of the statistics that say people who abuse become abusers or that we have to be watched closely because we’ll become addicts or hurt ourselves or, God forbid, commit suicide. This is a dangerous stereotype because, as with all stereotypes, they exist due to misinformation and misunderstanding. And when a person hears these stereotypes often enough, they end up believing them and living up to them. This line of thinking keeps these children living as victims rather than as a child who just happened to go through this horrible thing but who was brave enough to go on.

Others simply became so uncomfortable they wouldn’t interact with me. They didn’t know what to say to me or how to act around me and avoided me. That hurt tremendously because it made me feel like, maybe, I did deserve what happened to me if no one else wanted to be around me either. Again, this happens because folks just aren’t informed or understand the situations well enough. Taking the time to understand what these kids go through in general, as well as the child’s specific situation, will help ease any discomfort. Avoiding or ignoring them only intensifies their own insecurities.

I understand that not everyone knows what to do when finding out a child they know has been abused, neglected or otherwise victimized. The main thing you can help with is restoring the three basic things every child should have: self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence. All of these are broken down next to nothing when they’ve been abused. And those are the main components of helping these kids define their own paths.

A dear friend of mine, and the CEO of a local child protection charity I work closely with, told me once that she never reads the files for the children that come to her center before she’s met with them. She sits down with the child, playing games with them or talking about what they enjoy doing. Once she’s gotten to know the child inside and out, only then does she finally read the file to learn his or her history. Think of the significance of that for a moment.

By sitting down with the child first, my friend is seeing only the child. She’s understanding who he is, what his interests are and what he likes or doesn’t. She takes the time to figure out what that child is good at and draws that out. She relates to him at his comfort level, treating him like any other child she might meet up with. And doing this without knowing what he’s gone through is what she calls, ‘Defining him by who he or she is rather than whatever labels are attached to the child through their experiences.’

I can’t tell you how much that means to these kids. We can’t change or erase those experiences as much as we’d like to. But what we can do is remind him of all the good in him because no person can take that away from him completely. The way you can do that is to follow what my friend does above.

Plant the seeds of self-esteem by reminding her she is worth spending time with. Let her know that her presence matters and that she is still just a kid—a fantastic kid. She needs to see and believe that in order to keep going. Don’t worry, she will.

As that grows, nurture it so the first signs of self-worth start to sprout. Remind her of all the great things she can do, helping her to draw on that for courage and strength when things get tough. Show her that despite what’s happened to her, she is supposed to be here and get her to see all of her ‘Can Do’s’.

Once you see those take strong root, you’ll finally see the blossom of self-confidence develop and grow. When he knows others believe in him, he will believe in himself. Self-confidence isn’t just thinking you can do something, it’s what gives us the tenacity to try, and keep trying, until we feel bigger, stronger and more powerful than what’s trying to scare us from moving forward.

We aren’t born with any of these things. We’re supposed to learn and develop them from our caregivers. But when a child is abused, they don’t have the chance to develop properly and neither does the child. But children are resilient when given the proper support. Trust me on this. I wouldn’t be here today without my loving support network surrounding me each and every day.

Even if you don’t know what else to do, you have the ability to make a difference by helping to nurture these traits in these kids. We can all do that. By doing so, you’re giving them a most precious gift of all: the ability to define themselves and to say, “I am not my past!” And that is powerful.

Chynna Laird

CHYNNA LAIRD – is a psychology major, freelance writer and multi award-winning author living in Edmonton, Alberta with her partner, Steve, and their three daughters [Jaimie (almost nine), Jordhan (six), and baby Sophie (three)] and baby boy, Xander (five). Her passion is helping children and families living with Sensory Processing Disorder and other special needs.

You’ll find her work in many online and in-print parenting, inspirational, Christian and writing publications in Canada, United States, Australia, and Britain. In addition, she’s authored an award-winning children’s book (I’m Not Weird, I Have SPD), two memoirs (the multi award-winning, Not Just Spirited: A Mom’s Sensational Journey With SPD and White Elephants), a Young Adult novel (Blackbird Flies), an adult Suspense/Thriller (Out Of Sync to be released March 2012), and a Young Adult Suspense/Mystery/Paranormal/Sweet Romance (Undertow, to be released 2012). She’s also working on a sequel to Not Just Spirited called Not Just Spirited: The Journey Continues and a few other projects in the works for Middle Grade and Young Adult readers.

Please visit Chynna’s website at www.chynna-laird-author.com, as well as her blogs at www.the-gift-blog.com and www.seethewhiteelephants.com, to get a feel for her work and what inspires her.


Filed under Advice, Believe, books, emotion, Inspiration, Perseverance, writers

Standing Tall…Even When You Want to Hide -Guest Post & Book Giveaway!

Leave a comment or question for our guest author, Meredith Zeitlin and you can win a copy of her book: Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters


Win this Book!


Designer clothes. Parties with champagne corks popping. Limousines. Dreamy guys falling at your feet. Oh, the glamour of New York! Isn’t that what being a teenager in New York City is all about? After watching teenagers compare their NYC lives to those of the stars of hit TV shows, Meredith Zeitlin decided to write a YA novel capturing what it’s really like to live in NYC as a teenager. Sweaty gym classes. Descending into the bowels of the city—also known as the subway. Having people hate you “just because.” Living with annoying younger siblings.

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters explores stepping off the precipice from “just school” into “high school.” Kelsey decides she’s going to abandon her personality from middle school and become a new and improved version of herself. Better love life. Better sports career. Better social life. Better after school activities. But something happens along the way to “new and improved”…and Kelsey has to live with the sometimes hilarious results.

Standing Tall…Even When You Want to Hide


Over the years I’ve had this experience a bunch of times: I’ll be with other people who are all upset about something that’s going on – something small, like a random person being rude for no reason, or something bigger, like a superior treating her entire staff terribly, or something really big, like a family member making awful discriminatory remarks… and then I always think we’re going in as a group to take a stand. And every time, what happens?

I find myself all alone, my cohorts’ mouths glued shut and their eyes wide, leaving me to be the spokesperson and the “bad guy.” Which isn’t really surprising, right?

I mean, let’s face it: hiding is SO MUCH EASIER than standing tall!

Seriously, choosing between huddling safely behind a nice, sturdy tree instead of confronting someone who’s being a jerk, or admitting you made a mistake, or holding your head up when you’ve just embarrassed yourself in front of the entire world? No contest. Tree wins every time.

Unless… you actually want to change things in your life – or in someone else’s. If you always hide instead of speaking up, you’re encouraging a pattern of not getting what you want or what you think is right.

And that sounds about as much fun as crouching behind a tree, frankly.

In Freshman Year…, Kelsey has a lot of experiences that are embarrassing, and in the case of a certain party, a little bit dangerous. It’s so hard for her to stick to her guns and have confidence in herself – and she isn’t always able to do it, either. (No one is. Not even me. I know, I know – that’s almost impossible to believe, but it’s true.)

But ultimately she realizes it’s more worthwhile to be true to herself and push forward, even if that means standing up to a horrible bullying junior, or confronting a friend who really hurt her, or sticking out her role in the school play even though she KNOWS it’s going to be humiliating. And while there are no magic solutions, and sometimes the outcome is not what she expected, Kelsey always ends up in a more interesting place than where she started out.

And that – to me, at least – is the whole freaking point of life.

What do YOU think?


About the Author:
Meredith Zeitlin is a writer and voiceover artist who lives in Brooklyn with her two adorable feline roommates. She also writes a column for Ladygunn Magazine, changes her hair color every few months (we’re taking bets on what color it is to celebrate launch day!), and has many fancy pairs of spectacles. In case you’re wondering whether any of Kelsey’s experiences are based on Meredith’s own, the answer is NO WAY. When she was fourteen, Meredith looked and behaved perfectly at all times—just ask her mother!—was never in a single embarrassing situation, and always rode to school on her very own unicorn.

Find the Author Online:
Meredith Zeitlin’s Website: www.kelseyfinkelstein.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FRESHMANYEARBOOK

Twitter: @zeitlingeist

Meredith’s voiceover site: http://mzspeaks.com/home.html


And next on the blog tour Meredith will be at…

March 14 @ Callie Kingston http://calliekingston.blogspot.com/     Interview

March 15 @ Words by Webb http://jodiwebb.com Review

March 16 @ Reader Girls http://www.readergirls.blogspot.com  Quiz/Review





Filed under Uncategorized

Tuesday with…author, Nava Atlas

Follow the tour to win this book!

Ever wonder what hurdles women writers in history had to endure? And what might we learn from them? Today I’m sharing my  interview with Nava Atlas, author of The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life, a book of first person accounts from women writers in history who broke the mold and paved the way for us.  Enjoy the interview – and please, leave a question or comment for our guest. Nava will be popping in to respond throughout the day!

Don’t forget to follow the rest of Nava’s book tour sponsored by Wow! Women on Writing, for a chance to win a free copy of The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life!

Interview by: Mary Jo Campbell

I’m so excited to read The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life! What gave you the idea for this book?

As both a writer and a visual artist, I’ve long been fascinated with the creative process and love to read artists’ and writers’ biographies. A few years ago, when my sons had hit their teens, I had the crazy notion to go back to grad school for a Master’s degree in Art Studio so I could update my rusty design skills, study theory, and learn how to make limited edition hand-made books.

One of my classes was called Printed Books and I worked on making a little book of brief passages on the writing life that I’d started to collect. The book, a rudimentary version of the one we’re discussing now was also called The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life. and how it ended up being published is a story unto itself, but it goes to show that if you believe in an idea, and are willing to persevere and go deeper with it, it can grow in surprising ways.

After researching for this book and undoubtedly learning about the struggles these ladies had to endure in their writing careers, what can the modern woman writer learn?

That’s a great question and truly the point of the book. We look at our favorite literary icons and think that with their talent and achievements, they must have burst forth from the womb fully destined for their successful outcomes. In truth, most of the twelve authors I focus on in the book (as well as other classic women authors) each had particular obstacles and struggles to overcome.

One of the great lessons learned from this book is that no one had success handed to them; all these authors worked incredibly hard and kept going despite setbacks, and life’s large or mundane problems. Even someone like Edith Wharton, a wealthy heiress, struggled with a crippling lack of self-confidence and a whopping inferiority complex. We see in these classic authors a mirror of our own experience, and that’s quite comforting.

Do you see any parallels with the writing process and life balance between the Literary Ladies and modern women writers?

Striving to find one’s voice (as well as the confidence to use it), learning to be disciplined, facing rejection, finding time to write, dealing with self-doubt—these are amazingly universal experiences. The contemporary woman writer reading the Literary Ladies’ first-person narratives on these very issues and others will take courage from the fact that she’s not the only writer struggling with them. Of course, what’s more important is to overcome issues and obstacles, which the twelve Literary Ladies did gloriously; and that’s where the inspiration kicks in!

Fewer women writers of the past were also mothers than I think is true today. Only four of the Literary Ladies had children, and that’s pretty representative of female authors of the past. Madeleine L’Engle and Harriet Beecher Stowe were two of them, and they directly addresses their balance issues in the chapter titled The Writer Mother. Stowe was burning to write what ultimately became Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and lamented, “As long as the baby sleeps with me nights, I can’t do much at anything, but I will do it at last.” Sound familiar? Others who didn’t have children, like Louisa May Alcott, still had to work to support themselves or their families. Alcott did a lot of anonymous hack writing to support her mothers and sisters. Perhaps she felt a bit compromised by it, but on the other hand, doing nothing but writing for a living helped sharpen her writing skills and voice.

Writing to me means thinking, digging, pondering, creating, shattering. It means getting at the meaning of all things; it means reaching climaxes; it means moral and spiritual and physical life all in one.

— Anais Nin

How do you think we’ve changed as a society to help or hinder women writers today?

Women authors had greater odds and prejudices to overcome in the nineteenth century; and by this I mean white women authors. Because of the way things were, women of color as well as women of other ethnic descent didn’t gain much traction until after the civil rights movement, with the exception of a small number of  pioneers like Zora Neale Hurston (who I wish I could have made one of the Literary Ladies, but couldn’t find enough in her first-person narratives about her writing life). So that has been one positive development.

I wish I could say that women writers have made huge strides since the earlier part of the 20th century, but surprisingly that isn’t true. I compared the best-seller list of the 1930s with today’s and it was such an eye-opener. Women—including some of those in this book, like Willa Cather, Edna Ferber, and even Virginia Woolf (plus other renowned authors like Pearl Buck and Margaret Mitchell were not only topping the best-sellers lists, but reaping Pulitzers like crazy. According to a National Endowment for the Arts survey, professional women writers are making 80% of their male counterparts’ earnings, which is pretty much what it is across the board these days.

One other change that’s not so positive is that in the age of proliferating media and the internet, sources of paid writing have shrunk dramatically. While it’s great that the internet has fostered the democratization of writing, there is also a sense that everyone who writes is a provider of free content, for the glory of promotion or a link. Several of the Literary Ladies worked as journalists, others editors, and still other cut their teeth by writing sketches, articles, column-fillers—print media, after all, was all their was. This allowed them to sharpen their writing skills with the very same effort as making a living.

Which Literary Lady’s story inspired you the most and why? Which of these ladies do you most resonate with?

Though I’m no heiress like she was, I really appreciated Edith Wharton’s  honesty about her struggle to overcome lack of self-confidence. I’ve had to face that as well. And when you do experience that moment of revelation that others do appreciate and respect your creative efforts, it’s really liberating and gives you the courage to do much more than you ever imagined. I haven’t received a Pulitzer or gotten an honorary doctorate like she did, but I can dare to dream now! And I also really like Charlotte Brontë. She was self-described as “small and plain” (like her heroine, Jane Eyre) but she seemed so formidable. She was the ringleader of the trio of talented sisters which included herself, Emily (Wuthering Heights) and Anne (Agnes Grey). She seemed like the kind who wouldn’t take flak from anyone.

“At last I had groped my way through to my vocation, and thereafter I never questioned that story-telling was my job … I felt like some homeless waif who, after trying for years to take out naturalization papers, and being rejected by every country, has finally acquired a nationality. The Land of Letters was henceforth to be my country and I gloried in my new citizenship.”

— Edith Wharton, From A Backward Glance, 1934

Tell us what is next in your writing and promotion projects!

Aside from the WOW blog tour, I’m connecting with others in the vast writing community to do guest posts and interviews; this week I’ll also be doing an interview on the BlogTalk radio show Feisty Side of Fifty (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/feisty-side-of-fifty/2011/03/30/nava-atlas-on-feisty-side-of-fifty-radio), readings, library events, and I hope in the fall to speak to college classes on my travels. I hope I can participate in literary festivals and book fairs. There are so many ways to go with a book about writing and classic authors!

To keep up with events please visit the book’s site, http://www.literaryladiesguide.com and click on Events. Or connect with me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nava-Atlas/67621864858?ref=mf) for up-to-the-minute Literary Ladies sightings and events!

In one of my other two lives (aside from writing, there’s visual art, and vegan food), I have a vegan cookbook coming along this fall, Vegan Holiday Kitchen (late Oct., sorry, no link yet). Years ago, I tried twice to write novels but gave up when it started to feel too hard. I put it out publicly in the preface to The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life that I want to do a graphic novel. Now that I understand that even for the true giants of writing, the effort often felt arduous and lonely, I’ll be less likely to give up! Even if nothing comes of it, I’m going to see the project through. Check back with me in a couple of years on that!

Mary Jo, thanks for these thought-provoking questions, and for hosting me on your site today.

You are very welcome, Nava! Thank you for visiting Writers Inspired!

About the Book:

In this celebration of twelve remarkable “literary ladies,” Nava Atlas reveals how such pioneering authors as Louisa May Alcott, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Willa Cather, Edna Ferber, Madeleine L’Engle, L.M. Montgomery, Anais Nin, George Sand, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf pursued their dreams of becoming a writer–and how the lessons of their lives can inspire today’s writers. Drawing on the personal journals, diaries, memoirs, and letters of these brilliant, unique women, Atlas explores how they balanced their own individual literary voices, dealt with rejection, struggled with their own inner demons, and basked in the triumphs of success.

The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life is a lively and incisive look at what it takes to be a writer and to hold onto belief in one’s own talent, sometimes despite enormous obstacles. Sumptuously illustrated, this book brings to life these twelve classic authors in their own vividly compelling words. Nava Atlas accompanies their quotations with fascinating biographical details and her own insightful reflections on the writing life. As she says in her introduction, this book is “a treasury of intimate glimpses into the unfolding creative process across twelve brilliant careers.” Atlas includes the voices of other female writers as well, ranging from Zora Neale Hurston to Colette to Anne Lamott, to capture a spectrum of literary wisdom. For all who dream of living the writing life, this is a book to treasure.

About the Author:

Nava Atlas Nava Atlas is the author and illustrator of many well-known vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, including Vegan Express, Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons, The Vegetarian Family Cookbook, and The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet. Her first book was Vegetariana, now considered a classic in its field. In addition, she has published two books on humor, Expect the Unexpected When You’re Expecting! (A parody), and Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife.

Nava is also a visual artist, specializing in limited edition artist’s books and text-driven objects and installations. Her work has been shown nationally in museums, galleries, and alternative art spaces. Her limited edition books are housed in numerous collections of artist’s books, including the special collections libraries of The Museum of Modern Art (NY), National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, DC), National Library of Fine Arts, and dozens of academic collections.

Learn more about Nava’s work at VegKitchen.com and NavaAtlasArt.com, in addition to LiteraryLadiesGuide.com, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


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Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, Inspiration

Laughing at the Tough Sell: guest post by Kristina McMorris

In the midst of World War II, a Midwestern infantryman falls deeply in love through a yearlong letter exchange, unaware that the girl he’s writing to isn’t the one replying. Woven around this tenuous thread are three female friends whose journeys toward independence take unexpected turns as a result of romance, tragedy, and deception, their repercussions heightened by an era of the unknown. “Ambitious and compelling…[a] sweeping debut” (Publishers Weekly), LETTERS FROM HOME is a story of hope and connection, of sacrifices made in love and war – and the chance encounters that change us forever.

For a chance to win your own copy of LETTERS FROM HOME, follow Kristina’s tour through WOW! Women on Writing





By Kristina McMorris


After the first dozen times I was informed that women’s fiction set during World War II would be a tough sell, I laughed at the idea. Ha, ha, ha.


Okay, not really. I actually cringed.


Obviously, I wasn’t very, shall we say, “up-to-speed” on the literary business front when I wrote my initial draft of LETTERS FROM HOME. It was my very first book. I had big hopes, a surplus of blissful ignorance, and the premise of a promising book. What more does a newbie writer need?


My grandparents’ wartime courtship letters, which still sit beside my

Kristina McMorris

computer, had provided the inspiration of my story, but also my motivation for charging onward. If nothing else, Kinko’s would serve as my publisher, and every relative—oh heck, every friend I’d made over the course of my life—would receive a copy for Christmas. But first, I was determined to at least attempt the traditional yet arduous trek to the sparkly land of New York publishing. (Cue the choir of angels.)


Thankfully, by the time I learned that my story’s setting wasn’t “hot” in the industry, it was too late; the manuscript was done. So, I sent out queries to agents. While waiting, I revised, I networked, and I read. (I was essentially a non-reader before penning this book, so had a lot of catching up to do!) The rejections streamed in, mostly as form letters. Then, applying my marketing background to querying, I gave my pitch an overhaul and sent out another batch.


More rejections—this time personalized, at least—more “World War Two is a tough sell” replies. Kinko’s remained a mere call away, but I’m a bit stubborn when it comes to striving for my goals. (My husband undoubtedly has thoughts on this.) Thus, refusing to give up, I worked on my craft, I attended conferences, and yes, I revised some more.


At long last the market shifted, the planets aligned, and gems like Those Who Save Us and the Guernsey Literary book skyrocketed in popularity, widening the path for books like mine to reach the shelves. And for that, I’m ever grateful.


"Costco display" - can you imagine your own book here??

My debut novel was officially released to the public a few weeks ago, and still the sight of my book displayed on tables in such stores as Barnes & Noble and Costco continues to be surreal. It wasn’t an easy journey, but one worth every step.


When I look back, am I laughing at the obstacles overcome from a “tough sell”? Nope. But I’m certainly smiling—just as widely, I hope, as my late Irish grandfather from up above.



Kristina McMorris lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. She has garnered more than twenty national literary awards since writing her first novel, Letters from Home. A graduate of Pepperdine University, she spent twelve years hosting weekly television shows, including an Emmy® Award-winning television show at age nine. Prior to her literary career, she was the owner of a wedding/event planning business and public relations director of an international conglomerate.


Find out more about Kristina by visiting her website: www.KristinaMcMorris.com.


More guest posts and Book Giveaways to come in the near future…SUBSCRIBE today and you’ll receive an email reminder !


Filed under Advice, books

Short Fiction vs Novels (and a Book Giveaway!)

Short Stories vs. Novels

a guest post by Sybil Baker*

Runners often identify themselves as either sprinters or marathoners. They may do both, but are usually better at one or the other. The same is often true for writers—some like Alice Munroe, Flannery O’Conner, and Donald Barthelme did their best work in the short story form, others like Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, and Cormac McCarthy seem to be particularly suited for the novel. Of course some writers like William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were gifted enough to write masterpieces in both forms.

Most writing workshops are geared to the short story, and as a result, most aspiring writers start with the short story form. The problem is that writers often think that the short story is just practice for novel writing, and I was no different in suffering from that delusion. The truth is both forms are exacting and demanding, but in different ways.

A short story is a concentrated effort—its energy must work toward what Edgar Allen Poe called a singular emotional effect. Every sentence, every word must count. A story can be deceptively simple and yet must work on many levels and layers.

When I first started trying to write a novel, it was because the idea I had was too large and too complex for a short story. Naively, I thought that if I just wrote more pages, that I would magically have a novel. Instead, what I ended up with was a mess. I knew nothing of a novel’s structure, the importance of plot points or the building blocks of scenes. I also found that the more I wrote, the weaker my writing got—I did not have the sustained energy to make sure each sentence was carefully crafted the way I did with my short stories.

Only when I decided to learn and study the structure of novels did I successfully write one. Novels require stamina—you have to love your characters enough to live with them every day for a year or longer. With short stories, I love my characters but don’t have a desire to learn about them beyond the confines of the world of that one story.

My linked short story collection, Talismans, started off with one story. Years ago I wrote a story about Elise and her mother and thought I was done with them. But then a few years later I found myself writing about a character living in Korea trying to understand her past. To my surprise, that character was Elise. I discovered that Elise was not a one-story character, but rather someone I wanted to learn more about through the short story form. And so I wrote more stories about her, which ended up spanning her childhood to her early thirties. And yet never once did I consider writing a novel about Elise. Her life seemed to be best told through stories—each one separate, with its own arc and singular emotional effect.

With Talismans, I was able to experiment with point of view, voice, tone, and style in a way I did not think would work in a novel. But I was able to follow Elise’s emotional and physical journey not just through each story, but her journey into acceptance and adulthood. Each story allowed me to focus on a different time and aspect of Elise’s life. I was able to write about her childhood in Virginia, her falling in love in South Korea, then traveling through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar as she tries to understand her past.

Writing a “novel through stories” is not easy. You have to make sure each story stands on its own yet also contributes to the overall themes and narrative arc of the work as a whole. Whether you are a sprinter or a marathon runner, inclined to short stories or novels, its useful to respect the similarities and differences of the forms and to appreciate their own special artistry and beauty.

*Leave a comment or question by midnight tonight (Dec 13) for a chance to win a copy of TALISMANS


Win This Book!

by Sybil Baker

Elise understands her father–a Vietnam vet who abandoned her when she was an infant–about as much as she does her church organist mother and the rest of their suburban Virginian town. When even that thin thread of connection is suddenly severed, Elise is flung across the world, to Southeast Asia. Tracing the steps her father took through the war, Elise searches for a connection–with his ghost, with other travelers, with the foreign culture and environment she experiences. In a series of linked short stories, Talismans follows Elise’s journey to learn what she must hold onto, and what she must leave behind.

Genre: Literary Fiction/Short Story Collection
Trade Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: C&R Press (December 2010)
ISBN: 1936196034

Talismans is available through C&R Press, SPD (Small Press Distribution), and forthcoming on Amazon.



Sybil BakerBIO: Sybil Baker grew up in Northern Virginia and graduated from Virginia Tech where she was the features editor and humor columnist of the student newspaper, The Collegiate Times. After a few years working around Virginia, she moved to Boulder (Colorado) where she earned her MA degree in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

After five years in Colorado she moved back to Virginia and worked there as a technical editor before moving to South Korea in 1995. For the next twelve years she lived and taught English in South Korea and traveled extensively around the world, especially in Asia. So far she’s been to more than thirty countries, including Mongolia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Indonesia, Peru, and Turkey.

During her travels, she became increasingly interested in the allure and alienation ofAmerican travelers and expatriates, and this has heavily influenced her writing. Her novel, The Life Plan, was published by Casperian Books in spring 2009. Her short story collection, Talismans, was just published by C&R Press this month, December 2010.

Sybil Baker’s fiction and essays have appeared in numerous journals including Transnational Literature, Upstreet and Segue. Her essay on American expatriate literature appeared in AWP’s Writer’s Chronicle in September 2005. In 2005, Sybil completed her MFA in Writing from The Vermont College of Fine Arts, and in 2008 moved to back to the States to teach creative writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where she is an Assistant Professor of English. She currently lives with her husband, Rowan Johnson, in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Sybil Baker’s website: www.sybilbaker.com
Sybil’s Blog: An Ex-expatriate’s Musings on Writing, Teaching, and Travel


Filed under Advice, books, Fiction, Give Aways, Novels, writers

Guest Post & Giveaway: “Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey”

Today, we have a special guest post by Diana M. Raab, MFA, RN, author Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey. Ms. Raab talks about the affect depression has on our writing.  Please leave a comment or question (to be entered in the book giveaway drawing!) and Ms. Raab will be stopping in to reply. Winner will be announced on Friday!

Creativity and Depression

There’s no doubt that the numbness and sense of helplessness which accompanies depression can have a profound affect on the creative impulse. Psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison of Johns Hopkins who herself battles with bipolar disorder and is the author of the wonderful book, Touched With Fire, says that depression does not necessarily promote artistic talent, but in some people it might enhance or otherwise contribute to creativity.

Historically, many esteemed and creative individuals have been plagued by depression, including Charles Darwin, Vincent Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, William Styron, and more recently the novelist, David Foster Wallace. Earlier this year, a feature in the New York Times Magazine section entitled, “Depression’s Upside,” by Jonah Lehrer offered a fascinating new slant on the subject. A study by a Yale Psychologist, Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, showed that those with ruminative tendencies are more likely to become depressed. I found this to be an interesting factoid depicting those prone to this illness.

The article certainly validated some of my own depressive moments. When everything is going extremely well in my personal life, I am more prone to writer’s block. As a journaling advocate and writing instructor who frequently lectures on the healing power of writing, I was thrilled that Lehrer referenced a recent study citing that ‘expressive writing’ leads to a significantly shorter depressive episode.  Writers are well-aware of this, but it’s refreshing to see it addressed in this reputable reference, for the masses to read.

Depression is common in the general public and the article states that seven percent of the population will be affected by depression and this number tends to be higher amongst creative types.  So fellow writers, don’t worry so much about your depressive moments  or disregard your analytical ruminations, because you just never know what the outcome will be! Oh no, a literary drought!

Learn more about Diana Raab by visiting: (She has a really cool website!!)

WEBSITE: http://www.dianaraab.com
BLOG: http://www.dianaraab.com/blog
Weekly blogger for http://wwwbloggingauthors.com
Bimonthly blogger for http://www.dolcedolce.com


Want a very special wake up call in my deep raspy morning voice? How about a cuppa coffee made the way you like it? Kidding. Seriously, though if you want to be one of the first to know when I’m hosting authors and book giveaways – Subscribe to this blog!


Filed under Author Interviews, books, Creative Essays, Give Aways

Guest Post and Book Giveaway: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas, author Gogo’s Dream

Today, we welcome author Linda M. Rhinehart Neas, as she shares ways to educate with your blog.  Linda’s latest book: Gogo’s Dream, is a collection of poems which is dedicated to those who work to aid the peoples of Swaziland. Linda will be stopping in to respond to your questions and comments, and you will have a chance to win her book! (Randomly selected winner will be posted here tomorrow.)

All book sales proceeds go to Possible Dreams International

How Your Blog Can Educate 

By Linda M. Rhinehart Neas

The phenomenon of blogging has developed in several ways.  First, it is used by many as an online, open to the public journal; however, as time went on, it has developed into a tool for sharing information, ideas, and causes as well as educating others.

Sharing what you know with others is a basic function of humanity.  Long ago, young people would spend hours with the wise people, the artisans, and/or the warriors to learn how to continue the crafts and arts of their community.  Formal education took this learning to a new level, unfortunately, making knowledge more of a privilege than a right.  Those who could afford an education could learn while those who lacked money, remained behind.  However, with the advent of the computer, this all changed.  Now people around the world are able to learn online.  The gap between those that have and those who do not have, has closed considerably.

Blogging allows writers the opportunity to take their knowledge on a particular subject and share it with the world.  It is an amazing experience to write something in the US and have someone in Australia or India respond to what you wrote!

Some tips on writing to educate others:

•       write about what you know best – if you have never built an engine, then don’t start a blog on rebuilding your Model T!

•       be accurate with your information – readers will not appreciate assumptions on a subject – if you don’t know, don’t guess

•       remember that when you teach something, you must share the language of whatever it is you are teaching, also – for instance, those that knit may know what a purl stitch is, however, non-knitters may simply think you are a poor speller!

•       respond to comments – if someone is thoughtful enough to write to you, you should at least thank them, even if you disagree with what they say

•       take criticism as an opportunity to grow, not as an attack

•       when appropriate, add humor – everyone learns better when they can laugh

Blogs that educate are one of the best tools we have to share our knowledge.  I have been blogging for some time now and have used my blogs both as an educational tool to share thoughts on poetry, social justice causes and life lessons as well as to develop my students’ English skills.

Most recently, I have used my blog as a vehicle to educate others on the work being done in Swaziland by Possible Dreams International (PDI), a non-profit organization that works in the poorest communities, helping to bring independence through education, healthcare and community-building. It was through my blog that I began to formulate the idea of doing more to help fundraise for PDI.

Then, through an educational blog on poetry, I entered the Poem-a-Day challenge that led finally to my book, Gogo’s Dream: Swaziland Discovered.  The rest is, as they say, history!

BIO:   Linda M. Rhinehart Neas self-published her first written work at the tender age of seven on the cardboard she gathered from her Dad’s shirts when they came back from the laundry.  Since then, she has written extensively in various venues, publishing and performing her work throughout New England, including her own column in two newspapers in Southern Maine and as an online writer and contributing editor at BrightHub.com.

In February 2008, she self-published her first complete book of poems, Winter of the Soul.  She recently published, Gogo’s Dream: Discovering Swaziland, a collection of poems dedicated to those who work to aid the peoples of Swaziland.  Currently, she is working on several children’s books.

Ms. Neas lives in an enchanted cottage in western Massachusetts with her Beloved.


Filed under Author Interviews, books, Give Aways

Book Giveaway & Guest Post: on Essay Writing

Please give a warm welcome to today’s guest author, Barbara Barth. Barbara shares with us her passion for Essay Writing.

Barbara Barth likes a lot of things: turquoise jewelry, surfing the ‘net, margaritas. Then there are the dogs. Six at last count. But who can keep it straight with all those tales wagging? This Georgia antique dealer and jewelry maker published a hobby newsletter for 13 years. After her husband died she recorded the year that followed in a series of essays. When she isn’t writing you can find her at the local thrift shops or pounding another nail into the wall to hang the paintings she can’t resist.

The Unfaithful Widow is the memoir of a 59-year-old wife who suddenly finds herself a widow. She’s the member of a new club where she doesn’t fit in, trying to create a new life for herself. Along with the grief there are plenty of awkward situations, new experiences and just plain silliness. The Unfaithful Widow delves into everything from condoms to memorial services to dog companions(and a few human ones).

Leave a comment or question for Barbara before the end of the day and be entered to win a copy of her book: The Unfaithful Widow: Fragmented Memoirs on my First Year Alone

Discovering I Was An Essayist

I like to observe the world around me. I make mental notes of what I see. If I were better organized I’d have paper and pen handy at all times so I could have written notes to refer back to when I start to write. As a member of the senior moment generation not having a hard copy could be a problem. But somehow I manage to keep my impressions fresh. A talent I’ve relied on many times over many years. When I was an antique dealer I didn’t keep a log of what I paid for an item, but I could tell you to the dollar what it cost me. I remember most conversations word for word. Yet I can’t find my keys after unlocking my door. It seems I only remember what interests me and the rest is catch as catch can.

After my husband died I started writing late at night to have something to do and to clear my head. My house was so quiet I couldn’t relax. The title widow seemed surreal to me. It was shocking to me that I was suddenly alone. The mental images in my head were overwhelming me. I had to write to come to terms with the changes in my life.

I kept a journal of my feelings and experiences. Sometimes I would write the same thing over and over trying to purge the loneliness and sadness I felt.  As time passed my journal entries grew and became short stories. I decided to write a book about my first year as a widow but had trouble trying to figure out how to expand my stories into a novel.

Then one afternoon I had a quick critique session with A New York Times Best Seller Author. She read the first twenty pages of my book, put down her pen and looked me straight in the eye. “Barbara, you are not a novelist, you are an essayist.”

I wasn’t sure how to take that. So I asked her. “What is an essayist?”

I really knew the answer to that question, but I had to quiz her since she was so emphatic with her statement.

She answered, “One who writes essays.”

Cool, I thought. Now let’s go to Google for some details and figure out how this applies to me.

An essay can be defined as a short literary composition on a single subject, usually presenting the personal view of the author. It can include observations of daily life, recollections and reflections of the author.

The essay is, first and foremost, essentially true, a piece of non-fiction. Once the author starts making up characters, and fabricating a plot, the piece is no longer an essay it becomes a fictional story.

Most essays are short and all essays have definable beginnings, middles and endings.


She was absolutely right. The burden that I was trying to write a novel was taken from my shoulders. My book, The Unfaithful Widow, is a collection of essays. Each chapter is a separate story. I would finish one, then move on to do another. Once I realized that I was writing essays on my life everything fell into place for me to complete my book.

The Unfaithful Widow is my first book. I was not an English major and my writing experience was limited when I started my book.  I like to think I have a flair for words and I am a storyteller at heart. Always have been. Friends used to tell me I should have been a stand up comic. I knew that wouldn’t work, I like to sit too much.

My writing style was developed through a screenplay course I took midway through my book. I happened on a class at the back of an independent bookstore close to my house with the help of a bad online date. I didn’t get a second date, but I signed up for the rest of the class.

The teacher was a horror/zombie writer, which was intriguing to me the gal who was writing a widow book.  His genre may have been a world apart from mine, or not of this world, but his writing skills and teaching style were just what this widow needed to give life to her essays.

Arrive late and leave early, the phrase which stuck with me. Start your story with something to pull the reader right in and then wrap up and leave before it gets stale. It was like a light bulb flashed in my head and I got it. I knew how to work my essays.

As I went through my journals at home they were pretty boring. I changed my writing style to catch the reader’s attention with my first sentence, weave my story and then wrap it up tying the ending in with the beginning.  That kept me from rambling and tightened up my essays. The addition of dialog gave the punch I was after. My book flows with my fragmented memories of that first year. Each essay stands alone as a small short story, but together they form a book that is my story of that first year.

Now that I’ve finished writing my book I have time for some changes. Time saving changes. I have finally purchased a laptop so I can be mobile. There is a pencil tucked in my purse and a small pad for notes. An antique hook is screwed tightly in the wall next to my kitchen door. I can toss my keys on it when I enter and find them when I leave.

 Armed and dangerous I am going about the business of writing essays on life as I see it.

Barbara will be answering your questions all day! Leave them in the comment box.

Barbara’s website: http://www.barbarabarth.net/

Barbara’s blog:     http://theunfaithfulwidow.blogspot.com/

If you would like to receive email updates of the latest guest posts and giveaways – subscribe to this blog! (Click the link at the top of the page and chocolate morsels will rain down from the heavens)


Filed under Advice, Author Interviews, books, Creative Essays, Give Aways

Author Tour: Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

CarynMirriamGoldberg-736394Writers Inspired gratefully welcomes  guest post by touring author, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, author of The Sky Begins at Your Feet.

Please enjoy her insightful post on how to write the “hard stuff” we endure in our lives and leave a comment and/or question as Caryn will be stopping in to reply throughout the day. And of course there’s a giveaway! Random.org will select one lucky winner who comments  today to win a copy of The Sky Begins at Your Feet. (US addresses only, please!)TheSkyBeginsAt Your Feet_cover

Writing the Hard Stuff

In my new memoir, The Sky Begins At Your Feet, I get to write about a lot of hard stuff: cancer, intensive chemotherapy, losing my breasts, my father’s death, and cancer genetic mutations. Yet the spirit of my book isn’t seeped in hardship, but rather, finding humor, spirit, community and new love for living in a body, all on the premise that whoever we are, we can use life’s hard stuff to cultivate greater joy and meaning.

Which brings me to the topic of this blog: how do we write and help others write life’s most challenging moments without losing the overall intention of our story, watering down or overdramaticizing? I’ve come to realize that the strongest writing, even and especially about difficult topics, comes from writing in your own native voice. Here are some suggestions:

* Listen to the writing, not our ideas about the writing: No matter what we’re writing – whether it’s a 600-page memoir or a one-stanza poem – we need to listen to what the writing itself wants to be. Sometimes we have ideas in our heads, particularly when it comes to writing about traumatic or stressful situations, that can get in the way of the writing. The writing knows more than we do, and if we can let go of controlling the writing with an idea of what we thought we were doing, and instead, put our ear to the page, we can find our way to our strongest writing.

* Forget trauma-drama: We all know people who tend to turn a headache of a situation into an inoperable brain tumor of a moment. In writing, especially when we have dramatic material, we need to be extremely mindful of not trauma-dramatizing what’s already vivid. If we get too heady with high drama and piles of adjectives, our readers will feel hit over the head and may get even get too depressed, angry or anxious to read on.

* Use precise details and small gestures: Garrison Keillor, in one of his monologues that has stayed with me for over a decade, tells of, when experiencing great grief, putting his head on an embroidered pillow. At that moment, he felt enormous gratitude and tenderness for the work that went into the embroidery. His gesture and details did more to convey the depth of his loss than a pile of exclamatory statements. When writing of serious illness, overwhelming loss, or deep caverns of fear, put your head on the pillow of specific detail. Here is a moment from my memoir describing how my five-year-old son encountered my cancer: “He was wearing his Harry Potter T-shirt backwards to hide the stains on the other side. His hair was sticking straight up in front, probably because of the bad hair cut I’d given him, and the double cowlick he had. ‘Mom, if they have to take those things,’ he said, shyly pointing to my breasts, ‘would you get something to wear under your shirt so it would look like you still have, you know….’ I told him yes.”

* Dress the extraordinary in the ordinary: A story, poem, memoir or novel with one breathless moment after another often waters down the real story. Landing on the little ordinary stories within the big drama is a way to create a world with enough air and light that a reader can walk right into it and actually feel what’s hard in your book as well as sometimes in their own lives more acutely. Here is an excerpt from my memoir, telling of the moment I just began to hear that I had cancer: “The parking lot seemed larger, and the sky, already dimming on the edge, seemed more overcast. Amazingly, I walked right to where I parked the car, drawn to it like magnet to magnet.” I describe an ordinary moment to show the vastness of what I had learned.

* Read other writing in your genre about the hard stuff: Writing poetry about grief? Check out Paul Monette’s 18 Elegies for Rog or John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud.” In the middle of a novel about surviving childhood abuse? Read Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina. Yearning to write a memoir about surviving long-term chronic illness? Pick up Mary Swander’s Desert Pilgrim. Who you are and whatever you’ve lived or imagined, there are probably some great books, poems or essays you can read to see how others have written effectively about the hard stuff. While some new writers feel like reading others will diminish their voice, nothing could be further from the truth. Reading others shows us how to open up our voice, and also how to find the sheen in the storm, the water in the desert, and the fire in the cold night of our lives and writing.


Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is Poet Laureate of Kansas and the author or editor of ten books, including her recently published memoir on cancer, community and coming home to the body, The Sky Begins At Your Feet. Her fourth poetry collection, Landed, was also recently released. She founded and coordinates Transformative Language Arts – a master’s degree in using writing, storytelling, drama and more for community building and personal transformation – at Goddard College (www.Goddard.edu)  where she teaches. She facilitates writing workshops widely, and with singer Kelley Hunt, writing and singing workshops through their business, Brave Voice (www.BraveVoice.com). Learn more at www.CarynMirriamGoldberg.com.


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