Sunday, October 7, 2012

Wendy's Best Writing-Related Tweets from the Week of October 1

* Fiction Writers, Skip the Paris Cafes and Get a Good Pen - Word Craft -
Not so sure I want to give up Paris cafes and I hate writing my novels in longhand!

* Women, Men And Fiction: Notes On How Not To Answer Hard Questions : NPR -
I love this: “Nothing is more vexing than a question where 10 percent of the public discussion is spent trying to answer it and 90 percent is spent arguing about whether it matters. Such is the question of why, in many major publications, far more books by men are reviewed than books by women.”

* Why the Internet and Ebooks Are Changing Publishing and Writing for the Better:
Vitriol, fear and reactionary responses abound around the changes going on in publishing.

* 90+ Published Novels Began as NaNoWriMo Projects - GalleyCat
Every month is NaNoWriMo for me but I’m all for people participating!

* Being a cartoonist is a bit like being a writer of very, very short stories: The New Yorker
There are some funny New Yorker jokes about writing here.

*In defense of #chicklit: "I wrote a book about a woman, for women, and I’m proud." - Slate Magazine
Still people are forced to “defend” chicklit.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Expat Women in Asia Anthology: Call for Submissions

Editor Shannon Young is seeking contributions from expatriate women in East Asia for a new anthology from Hong Kong’s Signal 8 Press. The collection will feature the writing of women who are currently expatriates or who have previously lived in an East Asian country. For the purposes of this anthology, this includes Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and the ASEAN countries. All submissions should be creative non-fiction and/or travel memoir pieces that speak to the expat experience in modern East Asia. Potential topics include travel, work, relationships, gender roles, safety, family and repatriation. Stories should have a strong and personal narrative arc, not just travel guides or descriptions of the places where the writer has lived. The anthology strives to be as inclusive as possible and welcomes submissions from women from different parts of the world.

Submissions should be between approximately 2000 and 5000 words in length. Each writer will receive two copies of the completed anthology and a percentage of the royalties to be determined by the final number of contributors. Please send all submissions, with a brief paragraph about the author to Shannon [at] typhoon-media [dot] com. Submissions should be in Microsoft Word, .doc or .docx format, and in a standard font. The deadline for submissions is February 28, 2013. The anthology will be released in paperback and e-book formats in the spring of 2014.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Today we’re celebrating the release of Julie L. Cannon’s novel Twang from Abingdon Press, about twenty-three-year old Jennifer Clodfelter’s journey from rags to riches as she pursues her dream of becoming a country singer in Nashville. Julie is the author of the award-winning Homegrown series, published by Simon & Schuster, described as “Southern-fried soul food.” Her novel, I’ll Be Home for Christmas made the CBA Bestseller Lit as well as Nielsen’s Top 50 Inspirational Titles. Her next novel, Scarlett Says, will hit the shelves in October 2013. Prolific Julie lives in Watkinsville, Georgia, and when she isn’t tending her tomato patch, she can be found listening to some great country music or teaching memoir-writing workshops. Recently she took some time out from her busy life to answer some questions…
Tell us about Twang and the inspiration behind it.
Conway Twitty said, “A good country song takes a page out of somebody’s life and puts it to music.” I’m a big country music fan and it seems every article I read from a star’s perspective has some bit about how their great songs spring from tortured times in their past. There’s a saying that you can’t be happy and write good songs. Then, I thought about how, for me, my writing is cathartic, and that is when I decided to write about a wounded girl named Jennifer Clodfelter, with a childhood straight from hell, who runs off to Nashville to sing and escape her past. But her manager convinces her to dig up those old bones and write hit songs from them. Ultimately, Twang is about how cathartic art is. My prayer is that this novel shows how the seemingly unredeemable things in life can be used for good. Fellow author Walt Larimore (Hazel Creek and Sugar Fork) says  – “Twang is powerful and moving . . . with profound insights into finding grace, even beauty in the ugliest memories and events.”
Who are your current favorite country music artists? And is there anyone in particular who Jennifer is based on?  
My current favorites are Alison Krauss and Josh Turner. But I feel as guilty saying this as I would naming any of my three children if someone were to ask: Which is your favorite child? I've got dozens of country music stars who are my favorites at different times for different reasons - from Glenn Campbell to Tanya Tucker.   

As for Jenny, she was inspired by Taylor Swift and Loretta Lynn. I borrowed Taylor Swift's intensity and Loretta Lynn's rags-to-riches story.

Which book(s) on craft have inspired you most throughout your writing career?
The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray, which relies heavily on dissecting one of my favorite novels, Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist to guide a fledgling writer in sculpting a story. Next, the Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Workshop (published 1996) which I poured over for years, and most recently, Donald Maass’s Writing The Breakout Novel.
Writers are usually big readers too. How do you make time for reading and what are you reading at the moment?
I rarely watch TV, and I steal time away from things like cleaning the house and cooking nutritional (time consuming) meals for my family. Here’s my motto: ‘A Tidy House is the Sign of a Misspent Life.’ Right now I’m reading Mia Farrow’s memoir, What Falls Away and Save Me From Myself by Brian “Head” Welch, former lead guitarist of Korn, and I just finished The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve. 
How do you approach writing a novel? Do an outline of the plot, start with a character or…?
I’m the belt-and-suspender type, and so I outline extensively. In The Weekend Novelist mentioned above, there’s an extensive examination of plotting which includes Aristotle’s Incline; a diagram/arrangement of the parts of your novel from the opening scene to the wrap up. I tape three pieces of blank paper together to make one long strip and then I hand-draw this ascending plotline and obsessively fill in each act and plot point and the catharsis, along with symbols and lists of scenes. Then, I write a long and detailed synopsis in the present tense.
Describe your writing routine and schedule.
I’m a lark married to an owl, and so, like today, I can hop out of bed while it’s still dark and get my 1,000-word minimum for the day done before noon, sometimes before my beloved even awakes! Then I try to handle stuff like marketing that uses another part of my brain. I’m not much good for writing or hawking my wares after 8 PM.  
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love, love, love reading, listening to music, and hanging out with my family and friends.
What is your advice for those who are looking to get their novel published?
Don’t be afraid to murder your darlings. By that, I mean to really LISTEN to criticisms from your writer’s group, from editors/publishing houses or agents who have rejected your work. When you do hear criticism, don’t get discouraged. Get right back up on that horse! Never stop studying your craft, read constantly, and write unceasingly.
What’s next for you?
Scarlett Says is coming out in October of 2013. It’s about a woman in her 30’s who suffers from extreme social anxiety. Here’s the elevator pitch: “Lonely, yet nervous in social situations, Atlantan Joan Meeler is the secret hostess of a wildly popular blog called Scarlett Says. She falls in virtual love, gets married on-line and enjoys much conjugal bliss in the virtual boudoir. When her husband decides to travel from Manhattan to Atlanta for the 75th anniversary of the film Gone With the Wind, Joan prays she can channel enough of her heroine’s feistiness to be able to come out from behind the keyboard.” It’s a story about the transforming power of words, both good and bad, and those vulnerabilities that hold us back from our potential.  
You can visit Julie at her website HERE, connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter at @JulieLCannon. Here’s hoping you go triple platinum with Twang, Julie!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I’m teaching another one of my “Strong Beginnings” classes on Saturday, July 28 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm at Book Passage Corte Madera! This class is geared toward all levels of writers who are working on novels. Memoir and creative non-fiction writers will also find it helpful.

Making a good impression in the first five pages is crucial for the success of your novel, whether you want to keep a reader reading or are hoping to get an agent to offer representation. Common mistakes include starting the story in the wrong place, giving too much backstory or using an action scene that serves no purpose. In this class, we do what’s called a close reading of first chapters of a variety of successful published books. We analyze all the elements (pacing, characterization, style, tone, voice, structure, etc.) to understand what grabs a reader. Then we take a look at the first five pages of students' novels to see what works and what needs improvement.

Over the years, students have responded quite positively to this class, citing its practicality and usefulness as opposed to other creative writing classes that emphasize more abstract concepts that can’t always be applied to a student’s specific work. And the things you learn in this class can also help you with revising your entire novel.

Looking forward to seeing you there! You can sign up here:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

His Wife and Daughters is FREE on Amazon!

Kirkus Reviews says about my novel, His Wife and Daughters: “A refreshing narrative with a strong sense of place: political scandal with an interesting twist that hits the mark.” And you can download it for free on Amazon as a Kindle ebook or read it on the free Kindle app on your iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC, etc. through Friday, June 15 by clicking HERE

More on His Wife and Daughters:

It’s 1988 and Trina Brath and her teenage daughters, Jill and Phoebe, lead happy and privileged lives as the wife and daughters of successful California Congressman Dan Brath. But that all changes when Dan, 52, is suspected of having an affair with Lesley Chisholm, a 19-year-old Washington DC intern who has gone missing. Soon Dan Brath is being accused in the harsh media spotlight of not only sleeping with Lesley Chisholm, but responsible for her disappearance. Despite Trina’s standing by her husband—yet keeping the secret that he has cheated on her many times before—the incessant media scrutiny puts a strain on the family, and their lives to go into a tailspin. Eight months later, when Lesley mysteriously returns home safe and sound, Dan Brath’s career is over, and his family is in tatters.

Fast forward to today and the scandal that rocked the Brath family continues to take its toll. Jill has food issues and can’t trust men, Phoebe leads a self-destructive life and Trina continues to blame Lesley Chisholm for everything. And now Lesley is breaking her silence with a tell-all memoir, which is sure to make Dan Brath’s wife and daughters relive the trauma all over again. Will Jill, Trina and Phoebe be able to cope, heal their wounds and move on with their lives? Told from the viewpoints of the three women, His Wife and Daughters is a moving story of how one family attempts to survive the ultimate betrayal.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Falling Uphill is FREE on Amazon!

Just wanted to let you know that my chick lit mystery e-book "Falling Uphill" is free through Friday, April 27 on Amazon HERE!  

You can download it to your Kindle, or on the free Kindle app for your smart phone, iPad, PC or Mac.

Would appreciate it if you could please spread the word!

And here's the blurb:

“Falling Uphill” by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

“Ruth Fenton is dead, but what does that have to do with me?” That’s what Candace Grey, 29, wants to know after receiving a puzzling phone message from San Francisco. A bright, but slightly absent-minded anthropology teacher at a small Michigan college, Candace is all set to leave for Los Angeles to conduct research on 1960s TV star Pamela Parrish—America’s Sitcom Sweetheart—for her Master’s thesis on television and female gender roles. But after discovering that Ruth Fenton is a long lost relative, she’s first off to San Francisco for her memorial service where she meets a crazy(?) old lady who claims Pamela Parrish didn’t commit suicide like everybody says—she was murdered. Now Candace has to get to the bottom of it, all while fighting the nagging feeling that her long-time professor boyfriend back home is getting a little too close to one of his students, and at the same time wondering if new-found friend Brandon, a newspaper reporter and budding painter who lives on a hidden stairway street in the hills of San Francisco, is really the guy for her. It’s a funny, but moving, uphill climb for Candace who finds that things are rarely what they seem in the ups and downs of love or in discovering a surprising secret about her not-so-perfect mother, or unearthing the truth behind the death of America’s Sitcom Sweetheart.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite

Today my guest writer is Ann Hite, author of the debut novel Ghost on Black Mountain published by Gallery Books. 

Tell us about your debut and the inspiration behind it.
Ghost On Black Mountain, my first novel, is a story about choices and how the decisions we make can ripple through generations. The book begins in 1938 when Nellie Clay meets Hobbs Pritchard and marries him, ignoring her mama’s warnings. The book is narrated by five women, who in different ways are connected to Hobbs Pritchard. Is it a ghost story? Yes, there are ghosts, but there are many layers to the book. This makes it a little hard to label. The reader will find folk tales, superstitions, and a little hoodoo between the book cover.

There are actually two answers to where found inspiration for the ghost story. The first: all the stories I heard my grandmother and great aunts tell settled in me and had to come out in some way. Ghost On Black Mountain is only the first of several books intent on telling these stories. The second answer is Nellie Pritchard. She showed up in my head one day as I cooked dinner. Often my books grow from a character who comes to me while I’m mowing the grass, walking, etc. Nellie showed up with the first two lines of the book. “My mama warned me against marrying Hobbs Pritchard. She saw my future in her tea leaves: death.”

What’s one piece of writing advice you’ve found valuable on your road to publication?
Put your behind in the chair and write every day.
Writers are usually big readers too. How do you make time for reading and what are you reading at the moment?
I am a confessed book junkie. I always find time to read. In my younger days, I was known to use food money for books. On most evenings, I read rather than watch TV. That’s one of the ways I make time to read. You can read anywhere. Now with e-readers, you can carry many selections with you. At this time I’m reading Shirt of Flame by Heather King.
How do you approach writing a novel? Do an outline of the plot, start with a character or…?
 My characters start with me. I begin seeing or hearing snippets of what will become scenes. A strong character will wake me up in the night with dialogue or some key element to the story. I do not outline. Each day when I sit down to write, I experience the story much like my readers will. This keeps me coming back to the page.
Describe your writing routine and schedule.
My writing routine varies from day to day because I have a rather large family. But I try to write first thing in the morning after the house is quiet. I turn off the Internet and hide my cell phone. I don’t stop writing until I produce at least 2,500 words. On most days I write more. I always read aloud what I wrote the day before. There’s something about hearing the sentences that helps me find the flow. I also use music when writing a first and second draft. This helps me with the emotions in the book.
What’s next for you?
My second novel, Barren Soul, will be released by Gallery Books in the summer of 2013. I’m now at work on the third novel in the Black Mountain series.
Thanks, Ann! We’re looking forward to the subsequent books in your Black Mountain series.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Online Course: So Not Chick Lit: Writing Novels About Women's Lives

Want to let you know that registration for my online class, So Not Chick Lit: Writing Novels About Women's Lives, for Stanford Continuing Studies Online Writer's Studio is open now! This is a fun and informative class for all levels of writers and, since it's online, you can take it from anywhere in the world!

Here's some info from the description:

Since women buy the most books and make up the majority of book groups, it’s no wonder that publishers are always looking for well-written “women’s fiction.” But what exactly is women’s fiction? In this course, we define it as novels by and for women that explore women’s lives and issues, often focusing on, but not limited to relationships between mothers and daughters, siblings, friends, spouses, and so on, and those that showcase female protagonists. Through lectures, specific examples from current novels, and extensive feedback on your own work, you’ll learn techniques that will enable you to write successful women’s fiction in fresh, unclichéd ways, while still maintaining accessibility and appeal. We will especially look at developing a strong voice, how to use humor effectively (when appropriate), and ways to avoid preachiness and pretension.
In this course we’ll be doing close readings of three terrific books about women’s lives, The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond, The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown, and Good Grief  by Lolly Winston, as well as looking at excerpts from some other fine novels. We’ll analyze the author’s voice, which includes attributes such as diction (the words the writer chooses), syntax (how she arranges and groups the words), structure (the order of how she presents events), and tone (the attitude toward the characters, subject and events of the novel). You’ll also discover choices you can make about point of view and past or present tense.

We’ll also be reading and discussing topics from an excellent book on craft, The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction, a book I think you’ll find to be a handy reference and inspiration not only now, but long after this course is over.

If you're interested, please check it out here. Class starts April 9!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Favorite Books on Crafting Fiction

Dusting off the cobwebs of this blog and hoping to keep it more active!

Over the years, I’ve found a number of books on the craft of fiction writing to be most helpful when I crave a creative boost or when I need a few reminders. Of course there’s the old standby, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, which I think everyone knows and is popular because it’s so good, especially if you feel like receiving a supportive and funny pep talk. And I know a lot of people like On Writing by Stephen King, and while I wasn’t particularly sold, it has many fans.

On this post I’m going to list a few books that may not be as well known, but are certainly worth looking at no matter what type of fiction you’re working on.

The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction by Stephen Koch – I use this book in my Writing Novels About Women’s Lives class for Stanford’s Online Writer’s Studio. It’s good for both beginning fiction writers and those who are more advanced. It takes you through finding your story, shaping it, and revision as well as really nice advice on finding and inventing your own style. And I especially like it because the author comes off as both knowledgeable and supportive.

Hooked: Writing Fiction that Grabs Readers at Page One and never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton – The title says it all. Many writers have problems with where to start their novel and this book covers everything about avoiding weak openings. It’s practical and informative. You might want to skip some of the examples, but there’s a lot in here that is quite helpful.

The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing – by Alice LaPlante – This is an ambitious and thorough book written by a well known writer and writing teacher. It takes on both fiction and creative non-fiction and important issues such as reading as a writer, why “show don’t tell” is such common advice (and why it’s not quite accurate), point of view, crafting effective dialogue, etc., etc. And it covers both short and long forms of fiction and non-fiction. There are many great exercises and excellent writing samples from esteemed writers that really prove their points. Well worth the high price tag.

Writers Workshop in a Book: The Squaw Valley Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction – Edited by Alan Cheuse and Lisa Alvarez – The Squaw Valley Writers Conference is well known and one well worth applying to (I attended twice!). This book has essays by writers such as Michael Chabon, Janet Fitch, Amy Tan, Anne Lamott and Diane Johnson, and covers a wide variety of topics from sense of place, historical fiction and how to make critique workshops work for you.

Lastly, I always recommend this book: The Resilient Writer: Tales of Rejection and Triumph from 23 Top Authors by Catherine Wald – These road-to-publication interviews with authors including M.J. Rose, Arthur Golden, Bret Easton Ellis, Amy Tan and Elinor Lipman, are inspirational and illuminating.

What books have helped you with your writing? Leave a comment and let us know!