Category Archives: Interview

Get the 411 on Magazine Writing: Interview with Award-Winning Writer Meryl Davids Landau

*We’re interviewing award-wining writer, Meryl Davids Landau, whose work has appeared in GlamourO The Oprah Magazine, More, U.S. News & World Report, Self, RedbookThe Huffington Post and Whole Living and Reader’s Digest. Her work was nominated for a prestigious National Magazine Award. She is also a certified yoga teacher and recently became a debut author with Downward Dog, Upward Fog!

She’s here to give us the 411 on Magazine Writing! Without further ado, here is the interview:

1. Meryl, you’ve written for national magazines for over 20 years. Why did you decide to pursue a life in writing?

I’ve always loved to write. I adore that feeling when you’re plugged in and the words are flowing out your fingertips, and then (usually after a number of revisions), having something that will interest, inspire or intrigue people who read it. When I first got out of college, though, I figured I should aim for a more “practical” career, so I started in public relations. I found pretty quickly that what I most liked to do in that job was the writing, while the other parts didn’t excite me. After a few years I switched to magazine writing. I freelanced for magazines for more than 15 years before I started my novel. Today I do both fiction and nonfiction writing, plus blogging for Huffington Post and other sites. I think the combination of various types of writing keeps it fresh for me.

2. I think that’s one of the best facets of writing. It’s a a career that allows you to keep trying new things and expand into new areas of interest. Since you’ve written for so many famous publications, do you have any tips for pitching to a magazine like Reader’s Digest or O, The Oprah Magazine?

My advice for people who want to write for large national magazines is to first get experience writing for lesser known publications on the same general topics you want to write about for the big publications. (I often write about health, especially holistic health.) Then read several issues of the magazine so you can see the kinds of stories they favor. Finally, come up with several great ideas that fit their parameters and flesh them each out to several-paragraph queries. Magazine editors often assign articles to writers they don’t know because the ideas they’ve come to them with prove irresistible.

3. And how exactly did you contact these magazines?

The best way to find contacts is by looking at a magazine’s masthead. Editors are usually broken down by the topics they cover. (If they’re not, you can always call the main number for the magazine and ask who edits, say, their parenting or fitness (or whatever) stories. Targeting your query to the right editor is very important, because most are too overworked to forward a wayward idea, no matter how good, to the right editor. On the topic of rejections, it’s important to remember that rejection is part of pretty much every business, and magazine writing is no exception. The biggest scarcity for print magazines is space; they can’t say yes to every great idea because they don’t have the room. Don’t take it personally if a magazine rejects your idea; just send it to other magazines with similar styles and demographics. A “no” from one doesn’t mean a “no” from everyone. Over the years I’ve had ideas rejected from magazine editors I knew well, only to be eventually accepted by other publications where I didn’t have any direct contacts.

 4. There are two things a writer is always looking for: how to keep inspired and how to improve their craft. Are there any writing books or websites that you’ve found particularly helpful?

I think reading books on writing (my all-time favorite is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird) is always great, no matter what level of experience you have. I’m a member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors; they have an insightful website, and also hold a really good conference in New York City each spring. But my main advice to anyone who wants their writing published more broadly is to not get discouraged if you get rejections. Just keep at it. That’s as true for novelists as it is for magazine writers.

That’s very true. Rejection is something every writer always has to face whether its in magazine or book writing. Sad but true!

Over the last few months, I’ve recently become more and more in touch with mediation, yoga, and Zen teachings as a part of my job as a Healthy Living writer. I’ve been wondering at the back of my mind, that of it helps a ton for managing stress and daily annoyances, how can it help my writing?

5. I’d love for you to tell me more about your journey into yoga, mediation and Hindu philosophy and how it has helped you as a writer. 

Yoga and meditation play a huge role in my novel, and in my life. I personally got into yoga in my twenties, when I was at the gym, and a woman seemed to float by my exercise bike. Someone mentioned that that was the yoga teacher. I didn’t know much about yoga, but I knew I wanted that same serene energy she had, so I went to the class. I was hooked immediately, and eventually studied to become a yoga teacher. Yoga is so much more than physical poses; it brings you beyond your mind into that deep place within. I believe. as my character Lorna comes to see, that when you have a connection to your spiritual essence, life is richer. Lorna finds that mostly through yoga and meditation (and the philosophy behind those practices, which include love, forgiveness, and nonjudgment). But my hope is that readers feel inspired to do any spiritual practices that move them, not necessarily the ones that appeal to Lorna. It is my aim in writing Downward Dog, Upward Fog that women feel both entertained by the fun story and called to bump up whatever practices bring them more inner peace.

*I want to extend a HUGH THANKS to Meryl for visiting us at The Write Stuff! 

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I’m being interviewed + A $25 Beauty Prize Pack Giveaway

I’m being interviewed about my freelance writing experience and my blog on the fabulous Inky Fresh Press! Check out my interview and giveaway!

*Fast Contest: To enter for your chance to win a $25 Beauty Prize Pack Giveaway, you have to “Like” The Write Stuff’s Facebook page by Monday, January 30th!

Prize Pack includes:

  • No7 Boots Mineral Perfection Eye Shadow Palette in Heather ($8.99),
  • Sonia Kashuk Primer Vitamin Face Serum ($17.99), and,
  • Wet n Wild best-selling nail polish shade in Heatwave.

Interview with Author Mindy McGinnis + Query Letter Critique Giveaway!

Mindy McGinnis from Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire is represented by Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary, and her novel, which just sold to a publisher, is a YA dystopian titled NOT A DROP TO DRINK!

Mindy’s been in the business of seriously pursuing book publishing for ten years. She wrote a few books and had her share of rejections before writing her YA novel, Not a Drop to Drink and signing with an agent. She’s here to tell us all about what she learned!

*For a giveaway, read on for your chance to be one of the lucky writers to have their query letter for a book critiqued by Mindy herself!

1) When and why did you decide to write a novel?

Long and short of it is that I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer. Also, I double majored in English Literature and Religion in college, yet never went for a teaching license. So other than deciphering LOST episodes, I’m kinda unemployable.

2) Lol! Love LOST. So how did you get your agent? What was the query process like?

I landed Adriann Ranta through the good old traditional query process. Yes, it really does work sometimes. I did conferences, blog contests, all the things that are non-traditional. And yet, the query is what got me in. If you’d like to read the query itself, it’s up on my blog.

Um, the query process was like having your teeth pulled everyday only to have them grow back again overnight. Very Prometheus-ish.

3) Astute description…seriously perfect! How long did it take you to write your novel?

I’ve been writing for ten years, and querying on and off for the same period of time. I’d decided that if this wasn’t the ms that got me in, nothing would. So, I told myself 1k a day, and then I made that happen. I think I wrote NOT A DROP TO DRINK in about a month and a half, that’s not including edits.

4) Wow. Now that your book sold, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?

My first bit of clichéd advice is to never, never give up. Churchill style. My second piece of advice is that if you can see yourself doing anything else for a career, do that instead. Also, grow a thick skin. Like maybe even some kind of exoskeleton.

5) Tell me about your debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink

DRINK is set in the not-so-distant future when freshwater is incredibly scarce. My main character, Lynn, has spent her entire life on a Midwestern farm defending the small pond in the backyard. She’s basically been sniping people without questioning the morality of the situation since she was nine years old. After she loses her Mother – the only person she’s ever spoken to in her life – she has to decide whether she is going to reach out to some distant neighbors for  assistance to get through the winter, or if she’s going to stick to her upbringing and tough it out alone.

6) How did you come up with the idea?

I’m a fan of documentaries and I watched one called “Blue Gold” about freshwater shortages. Then I went to sleep and dreamed the novel. I happen to have a pond in my backyard, btw.

7) Are you working on a new novel…and can you give us any hints??!

I’m ¾’s of the way through the sequel to DRINK. It can stand on its own if needs be, but there was more story to tell, and it’s finding its way to paper.

8 ) Congrats! What else are you working on or do you in your spare time?

Blah. Everything. I work full time as a YA librarian in the public school system. I adore my job, and so few people can say that. I also blog at Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire where I have a few ongoing series of interviews with writers, agents, and industry bloggers, as well as book reviews. I contribute to a group blog at From the Write Angle, serve as a site moderator at AgentQuery Connect (which I credit with my landing an agent in the first place), and you can usually find me hanging out in the #yalitchat on Twitter most Wednesday evenings under the name @bigblackcat97.

So yeah in my spare time, I network.

I tried sleeping once. It didn’t go so well.

9) If you could meet any author (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

Great frackin’ question. I’m going to surprise you and say Charles Dickens, because that dude was funny. The classics are so not boring. Dickens is hilarious in a dry sort of way, which is very me.

**Mindy just sold her book, Not a Drop to Drink and it’s sequel, to a publishing house! CONGRATULATIONS Mindy!! We can’t wait to read it!

*To Enter for a chance to Win a the Query Letter Critique:

Simply leave a comment answering the following bolded question!

Rules for this contest:

*You can enter anytime from right now up to Sunday (Nov. 20th). Those who comment will be entered to win. This giveaway is open to everyone! When you comment, you will be asked for your email address. This information will not be made public. It will only be used to contact the winner. You must provide your name.

For additional entries and chances to win:

*Subscribe to this blog!

*Become a member on Facebook: The Write Stuff

*Follow me on Twitter

*Twitter, Facebook, or Blog about the contest (you must provide a separate comment that you did this with a link).

Every name is assigned a random number. The more you enter, the more numbers are assigned to your name. The range of numbers is put into a Random Number Calculator and the winning number is chosen! I’ll announce the winners on Nov. 14th! Once contacted, the winners will have three days to email me their mailing addresses. If I do not receive a reply within the allotted time, I will pick another winner. Good luck!

*When did you realize you wanted to write be an author?

For Example: I’ve always wanted to be one but it wasn’t until a year ago that I wrote my 1st YA novel. I’m just realizing I have a lot to learn! The Road to Publishing is a long one but it’s worth it. It’s my biggest dream 🙂

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Book Giveaway + Learn How T.V. Producer, Daisy Goodwin, became an Author!

*Author and T. V. producer, Daisy Goodwin, is here to tell us all about her novel and how she became an author!

*Read on to enter for your chance to win a copy of her novel, The American Heiress!

 –Giveaway ends Nov. 13th.–

1) Tell me all about how you got started in TV?

I joined a training scheme at the BBC and got my first break making a documentary about Raymond Carver.

2) Wow! What’s a typical day like for you as a mother, author, and TV producer?

Hectic.  On a good day I wake up really early, do a couple of hours writing before sending my youngest daughter off to school and then heading to my office.  It doesn’t often work out like that though.  I usually end up writing at weekends. I am too shattered when I get back from work and I need to preserve my mental energy so I can help Lydia with her homework.

3) A great mom and a great writer! In fact, you’re an author to numerous poetry books. So I have to ask….what do you love the most about poetry? 

I love poetry for the way that it crystallises the emotions that we cannot put into words ourselves – Coleridge called poetry, ‘the right words in the right order’.  I can’t write poetry myself, but I find it invaluable when I am going through any kind of strong emotion.  It’s cheaper than therapy!

4) What steps did you have to take to get a book of poetry anthology published?

I actually made a tv programme called the Nation’s Favourite Poem and it was such a hit that we published an anthology of Britain’s 100 favourite poems, which has sold nearly a million copies .  After that I found it quite easy to get 101 Poems that Could Save Your Life published.

5) That’s amazing! So when did you decide to write your first book?

My first book was a memoir, Silver River, which has a long section set in nineteenth century Argentina.  I found writing about the past mush easier than writing about the present, so I decided to write a historical novel.

6) Tell me about your fabulous debut novel, The American Heiress

It is the story of Cora Cash, a rich beautiful American who marries into the British aristocracy at the end of the nineteenth century.  It is a story of American innocence and European wordliness, New World money and Old World tradition.

7) Where did you get the idea?

I was walking round Blenheim Palace and I saw a painting of Consuelo Vanderbilt who married the 9th Duke of Marlborough in 1895.  She was very beautiful and clearly very unhappy and I thought that is good territory for a novel.

8 ) What’s the main message at the heart of your novel?

Money distorts all human relationships, and it takes great humanity to adjust for this.  Cora starts the book thinking that her fortune can solve all problems but by the end she knows better.

9) Are you working on anything new? Can we have any hints?!

Working on a book about the Last Empress of Austria, Elizabeth and her passion for hunting in England where she meets a young cavalry officer called Bay Middleton….

10) I wish I could hear more! Last but not least, everyone knows how much writers love coffee…so I have to ask, what’s your favorite coffee drink?

It is very British of me but I drink masses of tea – English Breakfast in the morning, Earl Grey in the afternoon.  I am really fussy – will only drink loose leaf tea made in a tea pot.

If I need the extra jolt of coffee, I tend to order a flat white.

Thanks for stopping by The Write Stuff!

*To Enter for a chance to Win a Copy of The American Heiress:

Simply leave a comment answering the following bolded question!

Rules for this contest:

*You can enter anytime from right now up to Sunday (Nov. 13th). Those who comment will be entered to win. This giveaway is U.S. and Canada only–sorry! When you comment, you will be asked for your email address. This information will not be made public. It will only be used to contact the winner. You must provide your name.

For additional entries and chances to win:

*Subscribe to this blog!

*Become a member on Facebook: The Write Stuff

*Follow me on Twitter

*Twitter, Facebook, or Blog about the contest (you must provide a separate comment that you did this with a link).

Every name is assigned a random number. The more you enter, the more numbers are assigned to your name. The range of numbers is put into a Random Number Calculator and the winning number is chosen! I’ll announce the winners on Nov. 14th! Once contacted, the winners will have three days to email me their mailing addresses. If I do not receive a reply within the allotted time, I will pick another winner. Good luck!

*What are your plans for Thanksgiving?

For Example: Now that my husband and I are back in CO near family, we’ll probably be attending 2 Thanksgivings. Therefore, we won’t be cooking our feast this year! But I’m going to miss that dearly!

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Learn How Singer Pamela Cory Became an Author + Book Giveaway

*Author Pamela Cory is here to tell us all about her award-winning novel and how she went from a singer and model to a published author!

Her book just won the USA Best Books 2011 Finalist Award for Chick Lit/Women’s Lit!

*Read on to enter for your chance to win a copy of her novel, Hassie Calhoun: A Las Vegas Novel of Innocence! –Giveaway ends Nov. 6th.–

 1) You spent 15 years as a cabaret singer, model and voice coach. What was that like?

My first love from the time I was a small child was music.  When other kids were playing games and participating in sports, I was playing the piano and producing talent shows in the back yard.  As a young teen, I started studying voice and instantly knew that I wanted to be a singer.  Although classically trained with a degree in vocal performance, my preference was the musical theater stage and I took every opportunity I had to work in local and regional theater.  This eventually led to the Cabaret circuit in and around the southeast US.  Through a local talent agency, I did television commercials and modeling, while teaching piano and coaching voice students on the side.  These were great years of my life and, despite the struggle as a “starving artist”, I wouldn’t trade them for anything now.

2) You were pursuing your dreams! When did you decide to write your first book?

Life as a performer was glamorous and exciting until reality kicked in and I had to think seriously about a more financially lucrative career.  I took an opportunity to relocate to London for a few years and set out to build a business that dealt with sourcing interior furnishings for hotels.  This meant that I traveled around the world, met some amazing people and experienced many things that I never would have done without this foreign adventure.

What I haven’t mentioned so far is that I also always loved to write stories and was regularly told that I had a wonderful way with words.  I had never really considered writing a book until I moved from London to Dubai with my husband almost seven years ago. He is a very busy architect in the region and I found myself looking for a new artistic outlet. I took a couple of writing courses online, out of which the idea for a novel was born.  The rest, as they say, is history.

3) What a great history. So how did you go from writer to published author? 

First, I should say that I consider myself very lucky to have become a published author so quickly. While visiting London a few years ago, I had the great fortune to meet a man who would become my writing coach.  He is also a writer, editor and publisher, but told me from the get-go that working with him did not guarantee a publishing contract. We worked very hard for a couple of years and turned my original novel into a trilogy. He loved the first book and took it to his partners in the publishing company.  Thankfully, they agreed with him and Hassie Calhoun: A Las Vegas Novel of Innocence hit the market this past June.

4) How long did it take you to write your novel? 

From start to finish, I spent almost five years writing and readying the first book of the trilogy for publication.  This involved a lot of re-plotting and revising and revising some more.  I never set a deadline for finishing the manuscript because I wanted to take all the time that was required to get it is as good as it could be.  But I did set personal goals for producing a chapter or a section and concentrated to reach those goals.

In the beginning, I followed the general advice to set a schedule for writing so many hours a day, at the same time every day, etc.  This didn’t work for me.  I am much more successful at writing when I am most motivated by a character or particular part of the plot or am simply just feeling creative. Sometimes I wake up ready to tackle the computer. Other days, I need to do something else in the morning and sit down to write at the end of the day. I do try to write something every day but if I’m really not drawn to the computer, I take the day off and read.  (Remember, writers must read!)

5) That’s very true, do you have any more advice for aspiring writers?

The most important advice I’ve been given for becoming a writer is to follow my bliss.  I think this is ultimately the driving force and affords the greatest reward in the end.  If you have a good story that you think others would like to read, make it happen. But don’t be afraid to get help along the way.  As you know by now, I did not study or major in journalism or creative writing so my passion for story telling came from within. But I needed help to get it on paper and finding an objective, talented writing coach was the best thing I ever did.

8 ) Thank you for sharing that advice, I think it’s important to note that every writer needs help in some form! Without further ado, tell me all about your debut novel, Hassie Calhoun: A Las Vegas Novel of Innocence:

The trilogy follows fifty years of a woman’s life. This first book deals with the very young Hassie as she leaves her home in small town Texas (age 17) and sets out to become a singer in Las Vegas.  She is immediately thrown into a world that she is not equipped to handle and spends five years learning lessons about life, love and loss. The story is set in the old Sands Hotel where Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack performed in the Copa Room.  It is a very rich time in the entertainment era of Vegas but ultimately, her propensity for making bad decisions forces her away from the opportunity to fulfill her dream.

There are several messages and subtexts in this unusual take on a “coming of age” story.  Ultimately, I think a lot of women can relate to Hassie at some time in their lives – though it’s not always comfortable to think about or admit, which is why readers are oftentimes frustrated with her choices or decisions. But just like real life, those early experiences help make the person that we become. Hassie leaves this book with the clear opportunity to correct her mistakes.

9) It sounds very compelling! How is the book rooted in your own struggles?

I am often asked if Hassie’s story is really my story. No, it isn’t but I don’t think I could convey the depth of her love for singing and her desire to succeed without having experienced the joy of performing myself.  I didn’t push myself to achieve great things and in some ways, I may want her to succeed in a way that I didn’t. But mostly, the passion that follows her through the trilogy is genuine and firmly rooted in her love of the audience and her desire to bring joy through her music, whether it be as a singer or a songwriter.  There’s no Cinderella story here. The entertainment business is tough and she meets it head on.

10) Since your novel is Book One of a Trilogy. Do you have any hints as to what’s in store for the next novel in your series?

One of the reasons that we decided to turn the novel into a trilogy is that it is such a big story. I am currently working on a serious revision of the second book, which takes place in 1985, set in NYC and possibly London. Hassie is in her early forties and in a completely different place in her life both personally and professionally. There is plenty of retrospective detail to fill in the years that have passed, some great new characters and a couple of twists and turns that readers of the first book shouldn’t expect. Does she achieve success as a singer and does she grow and learn from her mistakes? You’ll have to read it to find out!

11) I can’t wait! Before we depart, we want to know: If you could meet any author (dead or alive) who would it be?

I have read (and continue to read) a lot of great authors and love it when a book has the sort of profound effect that keeps it in my psyche for days.  I recently read Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, which had that kind of effect on me through his amazingly well drawn cast of characters.  Strong, enigmatic characters are the reason I read and write and, in that vein, I would say that I would most love to meet F Scott Fitzgerald.  He has created some of the greatest characters in fiction and I would particularly love to talk with him about Dick and Nicole Diver in Tender is the Night.  I’ve read that book several times and am still not sure that I get all that he intended.  Oh to have a smidgeon of his genius….

Love it! Thank you for stopping by The Write Stuff!

*To Enter for a Chance to Win a Copy of Hassie Calhoun: A Las Vegas Novel of Innocence:

Simply leave a comment answering the following bolded question!

Rules for this contest:

*You can enter anytime from right now up to Sunday (Nov. 6th). Those who comment will be entered to win. This giveaway is U.S. only–sorry! When you comment, you will be asked for your email address. This information will not be made public. It will only be used to contact the winner. You must provide your name.

For additional entries and chances to win:

*Subscribe to this blog!

*Become a member on Facebook: The Write Stuff

*Follow me on Twitter

*Twitter, Facebook, or Blog about the contest (you must provide a separate comment that you did this with a link).

Every name is assigned a random number. The more you enter, the more numbers are assigned to your name. The range of numbers is put into a Random Number Calculator and the winning number is chosen! I’ll announce the winners on Nov. 7th! Once contacted, the winners will have three days to email me their mailing addresses. If I do not receive a reply within the allotted time, I will pick another winner. Good luck!

*Are there any dreams or careers you would have liked to pursue (if you had the chance?)?

For Example: Acting. I’ve always thought I would have enjoyed theatre but I never had the guts to check it out!

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Learn how Author Karen A. Chase turned her blog into a book!

What would you do if you were turing 40? Author Karen Chase went to Paris for 40 days of adventure!

*Come back tomorrow to read my review of Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log (40 years, 40 days, 40 seconds) and have a chance to win a 5×7 print of one of Karen’s professional pictures of Paris from her book! 

Karen A. Chase decided to turn her 40th birthday into a month long adventure in Paris. While she immersed herself into a the City of Lights, she chronicled her adventures and vivid photography. Karen is here today to share us her story!

1) Tell me how your trip to Paris went from an adventure blog to a book?

I kept the forty-day blog for friends and family so they could experience my trip, through one simple post and photograph each day. The short blog posts allowed me to get out and really experience Paris. Five or ten days into the trip I realized that the posts were helping me to see Paris through all of their eyes too. The impact the trip and blogging was having on me, made it clear that it had to be a book. My original blogs were short–something that could be read in about forty seconds–and some events and moments required more detail. So when I got home I added in longer “reflection” pieces that delve into travel, photography, writing, turning 40, and more. Once I had added those, it truly felt like a book I could share with others. I especially wanted other women to read it. I was turning forty, having an adventure, and hoped more women could feel so fabulous at forty.

2) That sounds wonderful! How did you self-publish your book?

This has been a very educational, sometimes daunting, but mostly enjoyable experience. I did a lot of research about self-publishing, but also about what traditional publishers did. I asked a lot of questions through various writing groups on LinkedIn, and other online resources of the best way to self-publish and not look unprofessional or scream self-published. Then I made a logical, scheduled plan that used my skill sets, and allowed me to gather vendors for portions I didn’t feel I could do on my own.

I’m a professional designer, so I did the marketing materials, and the cover design. I designed my book and author websites and worked with programmers to develop them. Creating a professional book, regardless of self-publishing or not, means working with great editors. Kristen Weber developmentally edited the book for content, and April Michelle Davis worked on the final draft to edit for grammatical, spelling and other glaring errors. I found a company to do the e-book conversions for me, as I wanted the files to flawlessly work on multiple e-readers and for $150 they were done beautifully. I’ve personally handled the e-publishing to Amazon, and Barnes & Noble and iTunes that are soon to launch as well. I also hired BookSparks PR. They have the publicity experience and contacts to help me publicize the book in the right places. A traditional publisher would do what they are doing, but instead of paying royalties to cover those costs, we have a fee-based contract. Most importantly, I feel like they works as a team with me, and they are my go-to gals for ideas, plan development and social media support, too.

3) Golden tips! What else would you suggest to writers looking to self-publish? 

Take the time to research the process, and develop a comprehensive marketing plan. If you don’t know how to do that, hire freelance publicists that can help oversee your project and brand. The author and book platforms need to reflect a consistent brand and reflect the quality of the author’s writing. A poor book cover will indicate that the writing is mediocre, and a good design will capture readers before they turn a page. Lastly, make a budget based upon what you can do versus what you will have to hire out. Commit to the idea there is going to be an up-front investment. If I was going to be a lawyer, I’d have to pay to go back to school. I’m working toward being a full-time writer, not just publishing this one book, so I’m making the investment into this process. I think it’s also important to find other writers, and other self-published authors who can share their experiences, mistakes or successes about the self-published world.

4) Wonderful. You also have a fabulous book trailer. How did you develop it?

I’ve helped clients build TV spots, and so I built the script, designed the backgrounds, and found stock video and stock music to use. I built a storyboard template and worked with an experienced production editor to help me cut it, and get the timing, sound mixes and other components to work well. He is wonderful, and I’m very lucky in my self-publishing process that I have resources I can go to. I recommend to authors to take the time and money to build these types of trailers. Video helps readers become placed in the emotion of your story very quickly.

5) C’est parfait! Why did you decide to have an adventure in Paris? 

I had longed to visit Paris again since I first saw it fifteen years ago. I was there for a short time back then, and I’ve wanted desperately to return for a longer visit. Turning forty seemed like the right time to go. My business and my life could afford to have me take off a month to make the trip. What I had hoped to accomplish was to get some time to write on another book I’m still developing, explore Paris, and most importantly get the sense of living in the city of lights. I couldn’t do that in a week. A month seemed to be enough time. (It wasn’t by the way. There is so much to do and see in Paris, it’s mind-boggling.)

6) What was one of favorite memories from the trip?

There are a few. Riding bikes along the Seine. Walking endlessly from early morning until sundown from the Eiffel Tower on the west all the way to my apartment near the Bastille in the east. The moment my partner, Ted, came to join me on day twenty-eight was pretty spectacular, and it changed the trip. I went from having one pair of eyes to having two.

But honestly, it was the feeling of living in Paris that is most memorable. I turned forty, lived for a month in the city of lights and love, and felt rejuvenated and ready to fully leap into this writing career upon my return. I also made a couple nice friends and we still stay in touch. Every woman should travel alone and really take the time to explore a new place and herself at the same time. For me, I’ll always have Paris in my heart.

It sounds magical! 

*Come back tomorrow to read my review and have a chance to win a 5×7 print of one of Karen’s professional pictures of Paris from her book! 

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Learn How Author Nicky Wells Self-Published Her Writing!

*Author Nicky Wells is here to tell us all about her fabulous debut novel, Sophie’s Turn, and to give you the 411 on Self-Publishing! 

*Come back tomorrow to read my review of Sophie’s Turn and enter for a chance to win a copy!

1)Why did you decide to take the route of self-publishing?

That’s a really good question.  The market for my kind of writing (ok, let’s call it what it is: chick lit, aka commercial women’s fiction) is very crowded. Agents and publishers alike appear less than willing to consider new talent.  So, I decided to take matters in my own hands.  Self-publishing in electronic format is risk free for the author.  At the same time, I get to say where I publish, when I publish and at what price.  The royalty program for potential earnings is very transparent.  Moreover, if I change my mind on any content (or spot those dreaded typos after publication), I can overwrite the file as often as I like without even interrupting the sales process.  So I am 100 percent in control: what’s not to like?

2) That truly sounds wonderful for an author actually. So how did you do all of it?

I was lucky to have a fully complete draft of Sophie’s Turn before I decided to self-publish.  I had done several rounds of self-editing over the years, but also had friends, family and work colleagues review and proof my work.  That part of the process was iterative, and even then I’ve still found the odd mistake here or there after I published (but… I’ve corrected them all, as per above!).

When I decided to self-publish, KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) was an obvious choice.  The company’s link to Amazon meant that I could reach a global market, but it also made it trustworthy for potential customers.  The next step was to take my beautifully and traditionally formatted file and strip out anything that looked remotely ‘book-like’: for conversion to e-book, you need no page numbers, headers, footers… not even page or paragraph breaks, except to mark chapters.  That turned out to be surprisingly labour intensive!

My husband designed the cover for me following a joint brainstorming session, using traditional methods (i.e., pen and paper) here at home.  The result was a beautifully crafted—and it really is crafted—cover page that made my heart sing.  We scanned it, converted it into the right format and size… and there it is! Can I just comment that covers are somewhat contentious issues for female romance writers at the moment, as quite a few writers (and publishers) seem to distance themselves from the classic ‘chick lit’ design (pinks, pastels, that kind of stuff).  I have to confess, I went the other way: I wanted a pink background, purple writing, a flower, a butterfly. I wanted to signal that this is a cheerful, happy book that will entertain and make you smile.  And never mind the battering chick lit is receiving in the press right now, I stand by our cover design for Sophie’s Turn.

Once I had the text file and the cover image sorted, I needed to convert everything into e-book format.  For Kindle, I used an application called MobiPocket Creator which was really easy. And that’s it! Upload the whole thing onto the KDP website, put in all your details… and you go live within about 24-48 hours.  I nearly cried (well, ok, I did cry) when I first saw my book appear on Amazon for the world to see!

3) You have such a beautiful cover–way to go! Congratulations on becoming an author. Now that you’re work is out there, have there been any challenges that you’ve faced?

The biggest challenge, and one that I naively didn’t anticipate at all, is having to promote my own work. When I uploaded Sophie’s Turn to Kindle, I didn’t have a Facebook account (let alone a Twitter one) and I didn’t really know what a blog was meant to do.  That all changed within two weeks, and it was an overwhelming learning curve. I’m still not sure I’m quite there!

That accomplished, I kind of assumed I’d get on with writing the next book.  O-ho, not so! Turns out I need reviews, lots of them. And interviews. And give-aways… the whole virtual book tour!  Little did I know how much work and mental effort would be involved. That was a complete shock!  Now that I have started to establish ‘my platform’, things have calmed down a little.  The challenge is to keep the promotional side of things ticking over while getting down to writing the sequel!

4) I’d have to say that online promotion is one of the hardest challenges facing authors today. It takes a lot of effort! What’s been the best part so far being an author?

Absolutely the best part of being an author is when people get back to you and tell you, not just that they really loved your book, but what they loved about it! One reader told me a particular scene set in a particular place here in the UK made her realize after eight long years that that time when her date didn’t turn up, she wasn’t being stood up…. She and he were in different (but very similar sounding) places! Another person told me she really loved the slugs extermination scene… and yet another person felt she was ‘there’ with Sophie in that hotel with Dan… That level of feedback makes it all worthwhile!

5) What tips would you give to writers who want to self-publish?

Acquire a thick skin, fast! Don’t expect too much, too soon. Build your platform before you self-publish (not after, like I did) (still works, but it’s much harder). Find out about bloggers that review books of your genre, and send them preview copies—have reviews lined up before you publish!  And don’t give up!

6) Hear, hear! How did the idea for your book come to you? 

The idea for Sophie’s Turn was born one night when I was watching TV with my husband.  I should tell you that I’ve always had a soft spot for rock bands (especially singers) and do still to this day.  So when a program featured one of my all-time favourite movie stars or rock stars (can’t remember now who it was), I made some delighted noises, and my husband teasingly said something like, ‘oh dear, if he ever proposed, I wouldn’t stand a chance!’ I laughed it off, but it did get me thinking: what would I do, if…? And suddenly, I had the core conundrum at the heart of a beautiful story.

 In terms of taking the plunge, that wasn’t such a big deal for me. I’d always wanted to write a book, and the time was right for me to do so, especially after I found my story.  I spent several weeks planning the plot (in several layers of detailed drafts) until I had a ‘storyboard’ that I could put up on the wall.  That was a complete blueprint of everything that would happen in the novel, from start to finish. Obviously there were changes along the way, and my characters took me for the odd ride or three…. But that’s in broad terms how I worked. Full length wasn’t hard to achieve! I’m chatty and prolific… so once I get going, I just produce.  In fact, the book you are reading now is actually… ooh, I’d say, a good 10,000 words shorter than the original first draft!

7) Wow–way to go! So did you tell everyone you were writing a novel?

I told a few people when I first started writing.  My husband obviously knew, as did my mum and his parents.  We’d only recently moved into our new house, so I didn’t really know any local people then and it was a pretty secluded time for me—which worked out just fine.  It wasn’t a big secret, but I felt a bit self-conscious about it all until it was actually done.  By then, I’d made loads of mummy-to-be friends and met most of the neighbours, so I had a little ‘coming out’ season when the first serious draft was ready to be presented to the world.  Which means, I printed out five copies (that was a lot of paper), whole-punched them, stuck them into folders… and distributed those copies far and wide.  I got some invaluable feedback from that, and quite a lot of curious questions.

8 ) That’s a brilliant idea. What’s it like being a mom of two boys and a writer at the same time? 

Busy, I think is the overriding reaction here.  The boys are both full-time at school now, so I get most of the day to do my own thing. That said, I do volunteer in a local primary school and I’m also having to find some sort of paid position as a teaching assistant somewhere soon to help with the bills… 🙂 But when I’m at home, I write.  Simple as that! The hard thing is stopping in time to collect the boys from school, and then switching out of writer mode into mummy mode. When you really get immersed in your writing project, it tends to be with you at all times and has no respect for clear-cut boundaries. I get around that by carrying a little notebook so I can scribble down ideas at least when they come to me.  I do find that I can be really distracted, and I have been known to hold conversations with my characters… no wonder some people think writers are a little… mad.

9) Lol! Tell me all about your debut book, Sophie’s Turn:

I see Sophie’s Turn as a modern day fairy tale, and it would make a terrific film in the vein of Notting Hill! I call it a ‘rock star romance’ because it involves a rock star, but it also rocks! (sorry, bad pun!) (but very true!).  Sophie’s Turn tells the story of one young woman’s entanglement with a rock star… never mind her very recent, but very prior, engagement to her boyfriend Tim. The novel describes how Sophie gets into this impossible situation and how she turns it around. It will make you laugh, and just occasionally it might make you cry.

10) Love it! Are you writing a sequel or working on anything new?

Yes, I am working on the sequel.  It features Sophie and Dan, as well as Rachel and someone else… I can’t give away too much here so I don’t spoil Sophie’s Turn for folks who haven’t finished reading it yet!  Rachel will have a much bigger, and not always pleasant, role to play.  And there will be at least one wedding… possibly two. But who’s marrying who, and why?  You’ll just have to wait! I’m hoping to bring the sequel to market within the year.

11) Now I can’t wait for the sequel, thanks for the extra hints! You live in Bristol! What a lovely place, can you tell some of your favorite things about it? 

Where to start? The air smells of the sea, even though we’re technically only on the Bristol Channel.  There’s a lovely harbor in the city which means you can get that holiday feeling any day of the year, taking ferry boat trips, licking ice creams…. The Downs (a huge expanse of wide open grasslands open to the public) are a fantastic place for walks, picnics, kite-flying, that kind of thing.  And Bristol is a really friendly place with a relaxed pace of living.  When we first moved from London, I felt I was on a perpetual holiday!

Thanks, Brittany, for your amazing questions and for hosting a stop of my virtual tour for Sophie’s Turn on your blog. I really appreciate the support! 🙂

 You’re more than welcome!

*Come back tomorrow to read my review of Sophie’s Turn and enter for a chance to win a copy!

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Learn Author Bethany Ramos’s tips on writing Fiction and Freelance!

Debut Author Bethany Ramos is hear to share all her tips on writing fiction and working as a freelance writer! Check out my interview with her and be sure to check into her fabulous chick lit novel, 5 Stages of Grief!

1)When did you decide to pursue a career in writing, was it always a dream or interest of yours? 

I decided to pursue a career in writing three years ago. I was working in laser hair removal as an aesthetician, and I decided that I wanted to write on beauty and health instead of doing it hands-on. My career spiraled from there. I started writing on a variety of topics and began pursuing fiction writing.

2) Congratulations on pursuing and achieving your dreams! You’re also a freelance ghostwriter? How exactly does that work?

I work through, where I bid on freelance writing jobs on an individual basis. I can take on as many or as few jobs as I want and am paid individually by each client. It keeps me really busy since I’m working with multiple clients at one time!

3) Thanks for the tip! So how did you become a published author?

I decided to start pursuing fiction writing because I love chick lit. After I finished my manuscript a year ago, I started sending it out to hundreds of agents and publishers, until I finally got some interest.

4) You also have a children’s book coming out! How is that process different or similar to publishing women’s lit?

My children’s book idea was totally random, but I decided to pursue it because it was an interesting idea. And it helped me break into the publishing industry and better understand how literary agents and publishers work. The children’s book publishing process is similar to women’s fiction publishing – except it’s much more competitive.

I sent out my manuscript to hundreds of agents and publishers, until I finally found a small publisher that was interested. I was just happy to have any interest because it is a very competitive industry.

5) It’s hard for me to find time to write both as a freelance and fiction writer. How do you make time for all your avenues of writing? Is it difficult for you as well?

It can be difficult to make time for my personal writing career – i.e. fiction, since ghostwriting is paying the bills. I try to write a little bit when I can, especially on the weekends. I’m working on my second novel now.

6) Tell me all about your debut chick lit novel, 5 Stages of Grief

This book came from the idea of what it would be like to find out that someone had cheated on you after they had died. It sounds a bit morbid, but there’s nothing sad or depressing about the book at all. It’s supposed to poke fun at the whole grieving process. The book contains a bunch of details from my life when I was living in Denver and experiencing the whole dating scene.

7) That sounds hilarious and I just love Denver! CO is my favorite state. So…is there any relevance to real life?

The idea came to me randomly, but the book is full of personal life experiences based on all the weirdos I’ve dated. 😉 In retrospect, it’s funny, but at the time, it was pretty stressful!

8 ) Lol! So who do you draw your inspiration from as a writer?

I love to read chick lit, so that’s my main inspiration. I believe you have to read much more than you write if you want to be any good. I love chick lit authors like Emily Giffin, Marian Keyes, and Candace Bushnell.

9) What tips do you have to give aspiring writers?

My biggest tip is to stick with it! You have to be willing to start out small and get the ball rolling before you have any hope of doing something bigger.

10) We want to know more! Tell me 5 random facts about yourself:


  1. I’m not very good at typing. I actually use voice recognition software instead!
  2. My husband is my best friend from high school.
  3. Weird claim to fame – I have worked as a makeup artist and did makeup on a shoot for one of the Dallas Cowboys.
  4. My husband and I also own an e-commerce business that sells coffee and espresso products, The Coffee Bump.
  5. I make really awesome homemade sushi.

11) And finally…Everyone knows how much writers love coffee…so I have to ask, what’s your favorite coffee drink?

Haha, funny you should ask. I’m obsessed with the Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks!

No. Way. I’ll be drinking that same drink until the season is over! It’s my all time fav, except in the off season when I get a 1/2 white mocha 1/2 vanilla iced latte!

Thanks for stopping by The Write Stuff!

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Interview with Poet Dave Lucas

Do you love poetry? Then check out this interview with Poet, Dave Lucas, and learn more about how he publishes his own poetry and how he published his book, Weather!

1) The million dollar question: How do you publish a book of poetry?

“Poetry in mass” may be an oxymoron except for a small handful of the most successful poets.  I don’t know the numbers, but I think I can safely say that most of the books of poems in this country—including my own—are published by university presses and independents.  Their print runs are modest, their sales more so, but they publish these books because they believe in the importance of the art.

In my own case, I spent about five or six years entering first book contests and submitting versions of a manuscript to various presses. And so I spent five or six years receiving kind rejections or sometimes receiving nothing at all.  In 2009, Ted Genoways, who had published my work in The Virginia Quarterly Review and had become a friend, asked to see my manuscript.  A few months later he accepted it for the VQR Poetry Series, and the book was published about a year and a half afterward.  o reduce the whole experience to these few sentences belies how long and frustrating—but also educational—the years of writing and waiting were.

2) Do you have an agent? Did you need one?

I don’t have an agent—nor do most of the poets I know. But this can be a good thing, because it means I’m ultimately responsible for where my poems go and when.

3) How do you promote a book of poetry?

Giving public readings is the best way I know. I also believe wholeheartedly that poets need to be involved in promoting not just their own work but poetry in general, whether that’s in the classroom or auditorium or blogosphere.  Self-promoting induces far less guilt when you’re promoting others whose work you admire as well.

4) What tips do you have for poets who love to write?

I recommend sites such as Poetry Daily ( and the Poetry Foundation (, where readers can access any number of poems by terrific poets, living and dead.

5) What steps do you suggest for poets at home who want to publish a book of poetry?

The only advice I know to be true is to read voraciously and to be stubborn beyond the point of reason.

6) You’re in a PhD program for English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan. How has that helped you as a writer?

My life as a doctoral student both complicates and benefits my life as a poet.  Much of the energy that would go into reading, writing, and revising poems, for instance, instead goes into reading and writing scholarship and criticism. But I suspect this shift in energies is true of any work that requires intellect and creativity: it was certainly true of my previous life as a high school English teacher.  When it comes to graduate school, an aspiring poet could do much worse than to spend several years reading, thinking about, and debating books and ideas with people who are similarly invested.

7) You have a wide selection of poems that have been published. How do you get a poem published exactly?            

Too many beginning writers—and I was guilty of this as anyone, and probably still am—worry too much about getting work published and not enough about improving the work itself.  So in answering this question I want to offer this caveat: publishing my work satisfies me insofar as it means other people are going to read it, but that fact is never enough. Alan Shapiro, himself a magnificent poet, writes that “even at its best, that sort of ‘reward’ or ‘recognition’ is like cotton candy: it looks ample enough until you put it in your mouth; then it evaporates.  All taste and no nourishment.”  In my experience, he’s absolutely right.

On the other hand, it’s only natural that if you write, you want to be read, and that you’d prefer to be read by a wide audience and in prestigious places.  So you keep knocking on doors until someone opens one, and that can take an agonizingly long time. When you are being told No, you have to refuse to accept that your work is not good enough.  If and when you begin to be told Yes, you have to refuse to believe that your work is any more worthy than anyone else’s.  And more than anything else you have to be satisfied in doing the work.

When I send out my work, I tend to submit three to five poems at a time to a publication I admire and would want to read regardless of whether or not my own work were to appear there. If you want to publish your own poems, send to the magazines you already enjoy reading.

8 ) Tell me about your book, Weather:

The fifty-something poems in Weather revolve around the natural and human landscape of my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.  I find a certain ruined majesty in Cleveland (and its sister cities in the Midwest), as if everything about it (them) is already past tense. I wanted to write poems that would honor these places that too often feel inferior or forgotten; I want to make them feel inarguably present tense without losing a sense of their history.  At the same time, these are the poems of someone attempting to make his own way in the world, so while the book begins and ends in one specific place, I hope it varies in its topical and emotional landscape in between.

9) How did you become a poet?

I’ve always been attracted to poetry at least in the sense that I’ve always been             attracted to the sounds of words, whether in bits of slang I picked up and threw             away as a kid, or in the rhymes of hip hop music, which particularly occupied me as an adolescent.  I didn’t start reading what gets labeled in bookstores as poetry until I was in high school and found that the wisdom in pop music was not quite sufficient to my own attempts to understand what it means to be alive.  I love fiction and nonfiction, but what I love far more than a story well told or an argument well articulated are the words themselves.  Poetry is language pushed to its edges as far as it can stand, where the language we use to order a hamburger meets and mixes with the language we use to pray.

10) Last but not least, if you could meet any poet, who would it be and why?

It would have been a thrill to meet Walt Whitman, if only he could have lived another hundred years.  But the person is never quite as interesting as the work anyway, and I hope that’s true of me and mine as well.

If you’re a big fan of poetry or reading in general, you must check out Dave Lucas’s book Weather!

Here is the first poem in his book:

Midst of a Burning Fiery Furnace

Let the foundries burn the whole city then.

Black the edges and the brazen joints.

Let the salamander sleep in his well of flame.

Because the worst has happened, and yet

so much more remains to be burnt,

smelt and milled and cast.  These remains.

Suppose this blistered city would smolder

well after all those who live by the blast

of the furnace have left themselves to ash.

I have heard of that alchemy of steel—

I am familiar with the dying arts.  Let them burn

the dark night livid, my poor republic

of ingot and slag.  I am also seething

in my depths, I too have come to forge.

Interview with Author Lucie Simone + Giveaway

The fabulous author Lucie Simone is here to gab about her latest novel, let us in on why she choose to self-publish, and what tastes like Christmas in a cup!

Read on and enter for a chance to win her novel, Hollywood Ending!

1) How did you become a published author?

I tried to go the traditional route. After finishing (and revising and editing) my manuscript, I sent it out to 51 agents. And despite getting several requests, and lots of praise for my writing, my voice, and my story, no one bit. But I wasn’t ready to give up. So, I formed my own small press and published it myself!

2) That’s wonderful-why wait?! What has been your favorite author experience so far?

Honestly, just having my book published and available for others to read is pretty dang awesome. Seeing it go from a digital file on my computer to a cheery paperback in my hands was rather fantastic.

3) In contrast, were there any less than thrilling part of being an writer?

Rejection has to be right at the top. Really, no one wants to hear that the manuscript they’ve spent years crafting and revising and editing didn’t please someone. But, I’ve learned that it’s part of the process, and I try not to let it get to me. Having a stash of chocolate nearby is also handy at smoothing ruffled feathers.

4) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. If you’re a writer, write. Don’t let rejections or bad critiques or writer’s block or lack of time or anything stop you from writing. And then I’d also add, focus on one project at a time and finish one project at a time. It’s easy to get discouraged and abandon your manuscript for something you think might be better. But I say finish it. Maybe it won’t be the one that you sell, but at least you’ve finished it. That alone is a major accomplishment.

5) That’s a great point. But what do you do when your trying to write and you need more motivation. 

I just sit and stare at the monitor until something comes. It usually does. It might take a few hours, and I might delete it all the next day, but at least I got words on the page. Writing is all about butt in the chair, fingers on the keys and words on the page. Without that, you got nothin’.

6) Tell me about your latest novel, Hollywood Ending

Hollywood Ending is a romantic comedy about life in Hollywood for the not-so-rich-and-famous. Trina Stewart is desperate to find a proper Hollywood job and finally quit teaching ESL, but after ten years in Tinsel Town, things are looking grim. That is, until she sets her sights on sexy new neighbor, Matiu Wulf, a New Zealander of Maori origin who is only in Los Angeles to get some scene design experience to beef up his resume, and then he’s headed back home to Auckland. He manages to thwart Trina’s advances, but when she falls under the spell of a toothy-grinned thespian, he’s desperate to win back her heart. But when Hollywood gets in the way, these two soon discover that life in Tinsel Town isn’t all red carpets, after parties and celebrity gossip. In fact, Hollywood can be a downright beeyatch!

7) I’m hooked! What is it really like living in Hollywood?

 I think Hollywood is a great place to live. It’s got a bit of a gritty aspect to it that probably surprises most tourists when they visit, but I think that’s what I like most about it. Shabby souvenir shops line the very same boulevard that hosts red carpet premiers and the annual Oscar awards. Lamborghinis zoom by while the downtrodden panhandle in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater. Celebrities get down and funky at posh nightclubs right next to the Greyhound Bus Depot where Hollywood hopefuls arrive daily. You never know what you might see or who you might meet in Hollywood, but I can guarantee you it won’t be dull!

8 ) Lol! Who has been your biggest influence?

In terms of writers, by far my biggest influence has been Marian Keyes. I really love her work! But truly it is my friends who have made the biggest impact on my writing. They’ve always supported me and believed in me even when I didn’t. And they sometimes end up influencing characters or situations in my stories.

9) Tell me more about you, what are a few things you can’t live without?

My friends, my cats, my phone, my computer, my yoga mat and my bike. I could probably live without chocolate, but I’d really miss it!

10) Every one knows how much writers love coffee and coffee shops. So I have to ask…what’s your favorite coffee drink?

I am that rare breed of writer that doesn’t drink coffee, but I do love a good chai latte now and then. It’s like Christmas in a cup!

*To Enter for a chance to win Hollywood Ending:

Simply leave a comment answering the following bolded question!

Rules for this contest:

*You can enter anytime from right now up to Sunday (August 7th). Those who comment will be entered to win. This giveaway is U.S. & Canada only! When you comment, you will be asked for your email address. This information will not be made public. It will only be used to contact the winner. You must provide your name.

For additional entries and chances to win:

*Subscribe to this blog!

*Become a member on Facebook: The Write Stuff

*Like Health Daily Online on Facebook!

*Follow me on Twitter

*Twitter, Facebook, or Blog about the contest (you must provide a separate comment that you did this with a link).

Every name is assigned a random number. The more you enter, the more numbers are assigned to your name. The range of numbers is put into a Random Number Calculator and the winning number is chosen! I’ll announce the winner on August 8th! Once contacted, the winner will have three days to email me their mailing addresses. If I do not receive a reply within the allotted time, I will pick another winner. Good luck!

*What was your favorite memory this summer?

For Example: Moving back to Colorado. I couldn’t believe how much I missed the mountains and all of my family!

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