Archive for the 'mom writers' Category

This blog is moving to as of December 30, 2009

I know.

It’s sad.

I’ve been here for three whole years.

This was my FIRST blog and I loved every minute of being here.

I hope that WordPress will let it live on for a good long time.

What a wonderful context for Writer Mamas we created together!

But, sadly, it’s time to move on.

Come and find me at my new digs:

And while we’re both thinking of it, would you please update your links to

Thanks so much!

2010 is going to be an exciting adventure. Thanks for sharing the ride!

I’d love to hear what you think of my NEW blog. Meet me over there, okay?

And if you feel moved to share what this blog has meant to you, I welcome your comments!


And the recipients of the January 13th Writer Mama Scholarship are…

Writer Mama ScholarshipThat’s right. The applications were so promising this time around that I decided to select two WPSS scholarship recipients. And they are:

Robin Paulsen


Carol J. Alexander

Hearty congratulations, Robin & Carol! Happy holidays!

I look forward to working with you in class in a few of weeks. I will send you a class confirmation shortly.

Please note: This is not a giveaway. This is a scholarship. I don’t just hand these things out like…like…like I hand out books! 🙂

And, for the record, choosing scholarship recipients is  extremely challenging because I receive so many applications from worthy writers. Truly, this was tough choice. I received more promising candidates than ever this time around.

I encourage you all to apply again for the next WPSS class in March. Anything you can do to beef up the your traditional publication credits between now and the next application round is a good strategy.

Thanks to EVERYONE who applied!

The next scholarship offered will be for the March 2010 Writing & Publishing the Short Stuff class. Watch my new blog,, for all the details! I’m very happy to be able to grant one scholarship each time I offer this class (giving two this time was an exception).

Subscribe to The Writer Mama e-zine to stay abreast of when I’ll be accepting applications next time around. (Click on the envelope glyph in the upper right hand corner of the blog.)

And congratulations again, Robin and Carol! Please help me congratulate our recipients in the comments.

Writer Mama Success Rhythms: October Thoughts

By Christina KatzChristina Katz and daughter
Last month I drew tips from positive examples I’ve seen lately from people I know pretty well, namely, my former students. This month, I’m going to (carefully) point out some of the mistakes I see other writers making that none of us want to repeat.
Craft: A person I really like recently wrote a book that I cannot read because it’s not well written. I have tried on several uninterrupted occasions to plow through this book and I just can’t get through it even though I am genuinely interested in the topic. What a disappointment for both of us.
Would you tell your friends a book was well-written if it wasn’t? I’m sure you wouldn’t. There is no question that I want to support people I know and like who accomplish a task as huge as writing a book and getting it published. But when a person produces a poorly written book, I have a conflict. I can’t put my name behind this person’s book as a “well-written book” if I can’t even force myself to finish it.
So, here’s a lesson for all of us about professional responsibility. If you are going to write a book, don’t expect the editors at the publishing house to make it a well-written book. It’s the writer’s responsibility. Always.
Are there any exceptions? I can’t think of any. The quality of your writing should always come first. High quality writing should be your most important priority, no matter what genre you are writing.
Pitching: This may seem obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway: different genres of writing are pitched in different ways. For example, nonfiction and fiction books are not written or pitched in the same way. A nonfiction book is pre-planned to fill a niche and then a proposal is written to sell the (future) book. Whereas a (first) novel is written in advance and the pitch is fashioned around selling the completed manuscript with the assumption that changes can be made, if needed.
So, it stands to reason that if you want to become skillful at any one genre, you should plan to stick with that genre for a period of time. I’ve been focusing on nonfiction writing for over a decade now and I feel happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish in this genre. Nonfiction is a lot more creative than most people realize, not to mention all the creativity that goes into the work of nonfiction platform development.
The moral of this story is: if you want to succeed, stick with one genre and stay with it for the long haul and THEN branch out after you have achieved success in one groove. You’ll learn valuable lessons about yourself as a writer that will carry over into other genres of writing as well.
Platform Building:
When it comes to platform building, only one type of writer is in big trouble. And that’s the kind of writer who thinks that he or she is exempt or too good for self-promotion. I feel sad when I encounter this attitude (but don’t think it stops me from telling that person that they are not exempt) because really what the person is saying is, “I am the exception.” That kind of thinking never got anybody anywhere and it’s certainly counter-productive for writers. The message is getting out: writers need to learn basic self-promotion. Believe it.
Professional Development: One of the primary thrusts of professional development for writers, in my mind, is to get them out of isolation, away from dreams of grandeur and beyond fantasies of being discovered. There’s nothing like a little dose of reality to put a writer’s feet back on the ground where actual concrete steps can then be taken. Because writing careers are not “dreams that come true” (with all due respect to Walt Disney). Successful writing careers are the hard-won result of years of sustained hard work. And that’s good news because it means that success is available to anyone who is willing to put herself through the paces, find her success rhythms, and keep reaching those concrete goals.
Christina Katz is the author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Build an Author Platform and Writer Mama, How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids (both for Writer’s Digest Books). A platform development coach and consultant, she started her platform “for fun” seven years ago and ended up on Good Morning America. She teaches writing career development, hosts the Northwest Author Series, and is the publisher of several e-zines including Writers on the Rise. Christina blogs at The Writer Mama Riffs and Get Known Before the Book Deal, and speaks at MFA programs, literary events, and conferences around the country.

Blog Tour Interview with Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, Author of Thirsty, A Novel

Okay, so this is really, really fun!

Thirsty by Kristin Bair O'KeeffeYou may already have heard me mention (about a hundred times) how happy I am to see my friend and former Columbia College Chicago classmate, Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, out on tour with her newly-published hardcover debut novel, Thirsty.

But here are few things you may not know…I’m being mysterious now.

Kristin and I have known each other for a wicked long time. Like since 1992. That’s seventeen years, people!

Kristin drafted one of the scenes for Thirsty, all those years ago in a class on writing historical fiction we took at CCC taught by Wade Roberts. (That class was a blast by the way. Thanks, Wade.)

I played a role in helping to get Thirsty into print. You can read the story in Kristin’s words over at Editor Unleashed, if you like.

I think Thirsty is a terrific book. In fact, if you examine the cover, you’ll see that I have high praise for the book. But don’t take my word for it (clearly I am biased), check out what Meryl K. Evans has to say about the book instead. She writes a darn good review, too.

Or, you can find recommendations in the November/December issue of Writer’s Digest from Jordan Rosenfeld (on stands now), read the opening line over at Poet’s & Writers, read the first chapter in The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, or watch the book trailer.

And now, without further ado, here’s some of Kristin’s thoughts on the writing process:

What inspired you to write Thirsty?

As a writer, I’m deeply inspired by place so I wasn’t surprised that Thirsty, the town, came to me first. I grew up in Pittsburgh’s steel-making milieu. My maternal grandparents lived in Clairton, Pennsylvania, and my grandfather worked in U.S. Steel’s Clairton Works. This was in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and steel was everything in Pittsburgh. We talked about steel over dinner. My sisters and I chanted, “Rotten eggs, rotten eggs,” every time we took the twenty-five-minute drive from our house to our grandparents’ house and got close enough to smell the mills on the Monongahela River. And from my grandparents’ back porch, we watched flames and big puffs of steam rise from the smokestacks. Later we watched the demise of the steel industry.

Not long after I clearly saw the town of Thirsty in my head, Klara began to appear. Right away I saw the awful marriage she was in. I’m especially sensitive to women in abusive situations. When I began to see Klara both as a young girl and an old woman, I knew I was going to be writing a story with a long arc.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing the novel?

I faced two big challenges while writing Thirsty:

1)    I started my writing life as a poet so language and rhythm are important to me. I read everything I write (even emails) out loud…over and over again…until the language and rhythm of every sentence feels right. I must have read Thirsty a thousand times out loud before I felt I could let go of it. And even then…even now…given a few minutes to read out loud and rewrite…I’d probably change a few more words.

2)    Telling Klara’s story as fully as possible—including the scene in which Drago cuts off her hair—wasn’t easy. But I knew I had to. It was only fair to see the abuse as vividly as Klara lived it. Domestic violence is an experience shared by many, many women. Too many women. And it’s too easy to turn away from it in fear and shame…too easy to gloss over the most crucial, heartbreaking brutality. No woman escapes domestic violence on her own; Klara has Katherine, BenJo, and Old Man Rupert. I believe if we face it together, there’s hope.

How long did it take you to write Thirsty?

A total of about seven years. I started it in 1992 and completed a full draft as my graduate school thesis in 1996. I worked on it off and on for another three years.

How long did it take you to have it accepted for publication?

I took a circuitous, scenic route to publication. It took sixteen years from the day I wrote the first scene to the day I got the email from David Sanders at Swallow Press that said, yep, we want to publish this book. I’m a big believer in right time, right place. I always knew Thirsty would find its home; I just didn’t know when or where.

Describe your writing habits.

I do a lot of work in my head: subconsciously in my dreams and consciously when I’m walking around the world, taking care of the mundane responsibilities of life. When I write, I am very disciplined. Before I became a mom, I got up every morning before dawn and wrote (for hours and hours). Now that I have a little one, I have to be more flexible. I write before my daughter wakes up, when she naps, and after she goes to bed.

You live in Shanghai, China. What is it like promoting your first novel from halfway around the world?

Creatively cool: The fact that I live in China gets people’s attention, and attention when promoting a novel is (almost) always good.

Logistically difficult: Shanghai is twelve hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the U.S. (except during Daily Savings Time when it is thirteen hours ahead). In some ways this is good because I work when folks in the U.S. are sleeping. That means that I don’t get a lot of emails during my work hours (they pour in during U.S. daylight hours when I am sleeping), thus often I can write without too much distraction. But it works the other way as well. When I’m ready to Twitter about Thirsty (or anything else), many U.S. Twitterers are asleep. If I need to talk to my publicist or the events coordinator at a bookstore, I have to stay up until ten o’clock or eleven o’clock at night to catch them during their morning hours (and often I have to call them back around my midnight or one o’clock a.m.). Not conducive to a good night’s sleep.

You teach writing. Three things you tell students?

1)    Sit your butt down. Write.

2)    Writing begets writing.

3)    Read your work out loud.

4)    Sit your butt down. Write. (Did I say that already?)

Note: Obviously there’s more, but this is a strong first draft.

What advice can you offer to writers?

My mantra: Tell the best story you can…believe in your writing…work your arse off.

Favorite authors?

Here’s a sampling, though there are many more:

  • for language, rhythm, and soul: Toni Morrison and Gabriel GarcĂ­a Márquez
  • for writing about women’s lives in significant ways: Alice Walker and Toni Morrison
  • for thinking like me: Dr. Seuss and Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  • for keeping me centered: Thich Nhat Han and Pema Chodron
  • for writing inspiration: Natalie Goldberg and Anne Lamott
  • for writing craft: Christina Katz, Wendy Burt, Sage Cohen

Favorite books?

This list changes and grows all the time, but here are a few I love: Anaïs Nin’s diaries, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Book Thief, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Odyssey, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Sula

What’s next?

A memoir about my path to love, marriage, and mamahood (definitely not the usual path). And a second novel (mum’s the word).

Learn More!

News Writer Mamas Can Use: A Roundup From My Inbox

Hiya mamas,

I’ve been a bit scarce since the conclusion of The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway. But never fear because I’m gearing up for our second annual December Sell-a-bration! Not to mention all this other cool stuff that has landed in my Inbox lately that I’d like to share with you. Please feel free to grab and share any news in this post!

Sell-A-Brate Your Year Right Here In December 2009

Remember last year? I invited my students to share their success stories each day in December. Talk about inspirational! So, naturally, we’re doing it again.

If you missed the good stuff last year, click here to bring up all the posts. Happy getting inspired!

I hope you’ll start thinking about your 2009 success stories for this year’s round-up. More to come…

Wendy Burt Thomas Offers Inexpensive Query Feedback for Aspiring Authors

Trying to get your book published?

I offer flat-rate query letter consulting. For $50, you receive:

1. A review of your first-draft, one-page query letter with suggestions/edits

2. A review of a second draft with suggestions/edits

3. Five suggestions for agents/agencies that represent your type of manuscript

Wendy Burt-Thomas is the author of two books for McGraw-Hill and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Query Letters (January 2009, Writer’s Digest Books). Her credentials include more than 1,000 published articles, short stories, personal essays and greeting cards. She has worked as a magazine, newspaper and book editor. Learn more at Ask Wendy – The Query Queen

Call for Submissions for upcoming Anthology

Is your child easy to love, but hard to parent?  DRT Press is seeking personal essays written by parents of children with ADD, ADHD and/or other mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders for a book about the experience of parenting children with such conditions, for publication (expected) in January 2011.  Compensation includes 10 copies of the completed book and unlimited discounted copies.  Payment may be offered.  The book will be co-edited by author/editor/publisher Adrienne Ehlert Bashista, Publisher, DRT Press and Kay Marner, a freelance writer who contributes regularly to ADDitude magazine, and blogs for  Soft deadline for submissions is March 1, 2010.  For more information visit Questions may be directed to

The Articulate Conception: Outgrowing the Glass Slipper

Sage Cohen and Theo

By Sage Cohen
I’ll bet no one ever told Cinderella that once she was on the other side of pregnancy and birth, her foot would no longer fit the glass slipper. Like the rest of her body (and her life, for that matter), that elegant foot would be stretched out, flattened, varicose-veined and otherwise rendered entirely unrecognizable.

I, on the other hand, was fortunate. My friend Jenn Lalime broke the news to me over my first drink on my first night out at my first literary event since giving birth: “Don’t expect to accomplish much at work for the next six months. And expect the quality of what you do accomplish to be about 40 percent of what you were previously capable.”

I was just emerging from my three-month maternity leave where I was (supposedly) not working (but had proofed and polished my book in layout and secured permissions for nearly 40 poems), and getting ready to face my desk and my clients again. I was sleeping two, maybe three hours at a pop, for a total of five, maybe six hours in any given 24-hour period, which transformed my daily existence into a perpetual out-of-body experience.

Grateful to be leaving my son downstairs in the care of an endearing and trustworthy nanny, yet wrenched at being more than a few feet away from him, I trudged up to my office intent on establishing a sustainable rhythm for my three, full-time jobs: mother, writer/business owner and author/book promoter.

My office was not exempt from the baby bomb that had exploded through our house. The pristine calm and order I had cultivated for more than a decade was papered over with stacks of bills, hospital propaganda, health insurance documentation and all manner of outgrown or not-yet-needed baby paraphernalia. In three short months, my office had become a holding pen for my rapidly expanding life.

As I sat down at my desk, the elegant evening gown of my mind now plain and staid as a pumpkin, I started small-first sorting and organizing the piles. Then came the five-page to-do list. Next, a schedule detailing how everything was going to get done in far less time than I’d ever done it before. As I went through the old, familiar, getting-things-done motions, the pilot light of “professional Sage” flickered on behind my eyes.

I couldn’t be trusted to know what day or time it was, or to send a single email that made sense. And yet, as they days and weeks went on and my professional paralysis gave way to a slow momentum, my work was getting done. Client deadlines were being met. I was giving lectures and readings some evenings, attending a literary event or two and hosting my reading series once again.

While I felt like a fragmented imposter standing in for the previous, more cohesive version of me, no one seemed to notice that the glass slippers of this former perfectionista had been retired the back of the closet. I plodded along on flat feet, graceless and imprecise, doing the best I could. And remarkably, that seemed to be enough.

Next month: striking a balance between private and public life.

Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry (Writers Digest Books, 2009) and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. An award-winning poet, she writes three monthly columns about the craft and business of writing and serves as Poetry Editor for VoiceCatcher 4. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Cup of Comfort for Writers, The Oregonian, Oregon Literary Review, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University, co-hosts a monthly reading series at Barnes & Noble and teaches the online class Poetry for the People. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and awarded a Soapstone residency. To learn more, visit

A Big Thanks from Jennifer Applin About Our Fund Drive

Thanks so much to everyone who donated to our adoption fund and for the encouraging words! My family is truly humbled by everyone’s thoughtfulness and generosity.

We also look forward to the day when our children are older and we can explain to them that we were able to bring them home through the help of many, many people who cared.

A special thanks to Christina for hosting this fundraiser! You’re the BEST!!!

[Note from Christina: It’s not too late to give to Jen’s cause. In fact, you can give anytime! Read all about it here.]

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