Traveling thru Texas…

… and thinking of all the ways traveling applies to life and writing.

I’m on a new computer so I don’t have graphics today, but I thought I’d give you insight into my vacation as hubby and I travel America. We (hubby and I) left Indiana almost four weeks ago and are now in the great state of Texas, heading west in our RV (with a feral kitten on board… now folks, that is an experience!) and towing a Jeep. I can’t help but think of writing as I ponder the scenery.

Tumble-down houses that once shown bright with pride now sink into the dust. They remind me of writers who charge into the new year with great ambitions, only to find defeat another year. It’s better to seek a slower and more steady road. New Year’s resolutions and turning over a new leaf simply don’t work, but mapping out a plan by hand and rescheduling your time does!

I see bridges under construction and think of wannabe writers who are trying to restructure their lives, but don’t know how. If you fit in that category, I’ll give you one hint… ASK! I made a promise to myself a long time ago when a successful person wouldn’t give me the time of day. I promised I would never turn my back on a sincere writer asking for help. My email is, but if you won’t follow my advice, please don’t ask for it.  :-)  (My graphic for the day.)

Our vacation leads us through lush lands and desert, rough roads and smooth, ocean waters, lakes, ponds and streams. They remind me that I haven’t yet “arrived,” nor will I ever, because tomorrow I want to be better than I am today.

Horseback riders jog down the beach and through the forests, reminding me of my bumpy start in the field of writing. I wrote for ten years before I took a class. I had already written a novel and thought I should take at least one course before I sold it. LOL That one class served to teach me how much I didn’t know and almost overnight, I felt like I was drowning in the abyss. What a shocking reality! I didn’t know there were writing rules, that editors hang together like fleas, or that I should query nonfiction but not fiction. Yes, ignorance can truly be bliss, and the more I learned the more I saw how far I had yet to go. That’s okay. I have invested in a pair of good walking shoes.

Little trickles of streams empty into bigger streams that supply rivers that run to the ocean. There is no boundary on how far you can go if you have the persistence, steam and drive to get there.

Once upon a time, I submitted a writing analysis to xxx and thought to myself, They’ll tell me I have writing talent and then try to sell me classes. Well, sure enough, that’s exactly what they did. I scoffed at it, but somehow never threw that report away. A year or so ago I ran across that sample of writing and the report on it and you know what? They nailed it on the head! I do have talent and I did need those courses! Honest. No lie. (I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I had to become a writing school administrator to learn that.)

So now Creative Writing Institute offers honest and detailed free writing evaluations. Write a short story up to 1,700 words (no swearing, profanity, or adult scenes, please) in third person, past tense, and send it to me. It’s that easy. Mr. E. Lynn Carroll spends two hours analyzing stories and his reports are detailed and to the point, but be prepared. His job is not to pat you on the back and tell you how great you are, but rather to point out writing weaknesses and offer suggestions on how to improve.

And by the way, our newsletter offers a huge variety of articles and is perhaps the only newsletter that will start a new article just because you request it! Give it a try at (top right hand corner), and we’ll be looking for your sample story to evaluate. See you on down the road… and now that we are out of the desert and back into civilization and the world of the Internet, my posts will be regular.

*humming as I hunker down for the night near El Paso, TX…

*lights out

Deborah Owen

Finding Motivation in 2016!


It takes courage to embrace a dream.


In order to succeed, your desire for success must be greater

than your fear of failure.

Success depends on your courage – not your circumstances.

U are in control of your own destiny.

Confidence is a necessity. If it isn’t real, fine. Fake it ’til you make it.

Creativity is key. Approach articles and stories with a unique angle.

Evaluate strengths and weaknesses. Refresher courses motivate.

Stop making excuses.

Simple planning will yield success in 2016.

  1. Have business cards made. They aren’t expensive, so pass them out freely and declare yourself to be a writer. People will expect you to live up to your proclamations.
  2. Don’t try to sell anything without having it professionally edited.
  3. Trying to succeed without the proper education is a good recipe for failure.
  4. Learning to write is one of the least expensive vocations you can pursue. Most people can learn the basics with three courses, taken within a year. What other vocation can you learn in less than a year for under $800?

Thank you for ‘liking’ our posts. Like everyone else, we need encouragement.

Count on for all your writing needs. Personal tutors will guide you through the maze of writing rules step by step.

Join the NaNoWriMo Train – It Isn’t too Late!

Breaking Free to Write by Deborah Owen

I’ve been wanting to join NaNo for years but never had the time, so why did I wait for the hardest year of all to do it? Which of the reasons listed below is the answer? Guess.

  1. Not too smart
  2. In a weak moment, I decided to give it a try.
  3. I had no idea what I was getting into.
  4. No coffee to awaken my brain on the day of that dreaded decision.
  5. I wanted to help encourage others through Creative Writing Institute next year.

Which one did you guess? Actually, all of these reasons led me into National Novel Writing Month. In a way, I severely underestimated the daily challenge, but in another sense of the word, writing 1666 words a day doesn’t take all that long. You aren’t supposed to edit as you go – which I always do – so not doing that makes the writing fast.

When I first started writing (back when dinosaurs were first laying their eggs), I determined that I would not start a second story until I finished the first and ditto with novels. It took me ten years to write my first novel and I can’t go against my own rules, so I decided to use NaNo to REwrite the novel.

NaNo doesn’t care what you do as long as you write. You can write 50,000 words in a series of short stories, write a novel, or just make a feeble, puny attempt. They only ask that you WRITE.

I am as guilty as the next writer in putting the muse off until it doesn’t come courting any more. Think of your dating days. What did you do to prepare for courting? You got your act together! You put your life in order and you laid time aside to go courting and be courted. Do that again. Court the muse.

I don’t have a clue about the NaNo site and all the things they offer, but I’m making an effort and enjoying it in spite of myself. If you haven’t started with NaNo this year, it isn’t too late. You have until the last day of November to sign up at http://www. It doesn’t matter if you don’t meet your goal, but it DOES matter if you don’t even try.

Let’s make a deal. Try it for one week. Will you at least do that much? I have nothing whatever to gain by your joining NaNo. I’m just trying to help you get the same new vision that I have. It’s exciting! (Did I really say that? Um… I believe I did. I think I’m actually starting to enjoy this. Yeah!!!) Join me!

Huh? You insist on paying me back for this great favor? Okay. Drop in for a ten-second peek at and we’ll call it even. Happy NaNoWriMo!

Is this Public Figure a Charlatan?

Writer Dreads Daily Writing

by Deborah Owen

This is a true story, and you have a right to know about it.

A certain public figure has committed to write 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo this year, but just between you and me and the gate post, she dreads it. She can’t back out because she has made a public commitment. What is she afraid of?

This lady has done public speaking, been published many times, tutored writers, edited books and is a book coach. If she didn’t want to commit to 50,000 words in 30 days, why did she sign up for it? Better yet, why did she make it public? Is she a charlatan?

You would know her name if I told you. You and I have the right to hold her accountable. For that matter, I guess you also have the right to know her name. It’s Deborah Owen, but I’m not a charlatan. Let me try to answer the questions.

I made a public decision to join NaNo this year so I could make Creative Writing Institute a NaNoWriMo headquarters next year. To do that, I needed to know and understand the program, face the same fears and excuses other writers face, and choose a subject worthy of my time, but…

  • I told myself I didn’t have time to write every day.
  • I told myself the book didn’t have to show real effort. Just write about anything.
  • I told myself no one would know if I didn’t follow through.
  • I told myself I made the NaNo commitment in a rash moment.
  • And finally, I told myself the truth. Now I have the responsibility to write at least 1,666 words a day for… *gulp… 30 long days.

Okay, now that I have cornered myself:

  • I will make the time to write!
  • I WILL put effort into what I write because I won’t waste my time doing anything less than my best. This novel is going to be published.
  • Everyone will know if I don’t follow through because I will post my daily record on Facebook.
  • I did not make this decision in a rash moment. I just didn’t see the clock moving it up to my doorstep so quickly… although I knew the day of reckoning was bound to come too soon.

And now it’s time for you to face the truth, too. Why don’t YOU join the NaNoWriMo challenge to write 50,000 words in a month?

Huh? Do I detect a flutter in your pulse? A stammer in your speech? Does your Adam’s apple feel as big as a real one when you try to swallow? You were interested in reading about the charlatan woman who had made a commitment she didn’t want to fulfill. Why aren’t you willing to make the same commitment?

You’re a writer, aren’t you? Just because you haven’t made a public commitment doesn’t relieve your responsibility to write daily.

  • You’re busy? Me, too.
  • You’re afraid? Me, too. Maybe my book won’t turn out so great.
  • You don’t know what to write? Me neither. I can’t decide between three books.

Quit making excuses. Go to and sign up. Get brave. You expect it of me. I expect it of you! And, hopefully, Creative Writing Institute can be your host next year. Please drop in for a short visit.

Four Sure-fire ways to Reach your Social Media Prospects

Four Sure-fire ways to Reach Social Media Prospects

Art work and Article by Sola Johnson

Are you using the right techniques to convert “likes” to solid leads? Effective social media can be downright frustrating for beginners. Try these key strategies to give you an edge in marketing.

Good Communication: Most brands fail to define the purpose of social media. Don’t be too professional or too novice. Avoid flowery statements. Be brief AND persuasive in every post. Tell your Twitter prospects why they will enjoy your product in 100 characters or less. Give faithful fans the leftover 40 characters to engage and promote your tweets. Quality sells faster than quantity.

Post Frequently: What is your peak time to display engaging posts? Study Linda Ikeji’s blog to see how important it is to post frequently. Notice the placement of pictures and ads. Placing your brand in the public eye shows dependability. Top artists like Davido, Ariana Grande and other entertainers use Instagram to show what they do on their days off. If you are an up and coming entertainer, posting frequently will spur growth, especially when your contact details are open. All social media is good. Young Bieber uses YouTube. What do you use?

Regular posting will keep you on your customer’s mind, but posting too often can backfire and brand you an aggressive marketer. Some years back, studies showed weekly branding failed to engage prospects, but marketing twice a day overstretched their limits. So… how often should you post updates? Experiment to find the answer. Constant changes in social algorithms demand research, tests, and repeated tests until you really know your market.

Be Human: If you are going to use platforms like Buffer and Hootesuite to auto-post daily, do so carefully. Buffer lets you connect social accounts on its platform, but don’t ignore user experiences and customer interactions. According to an in-depth research by Convince & Convert, 42% of Twitter’s customers expect answers to a support request within 60 minutes.

Here’s a tip: Be prepared to hit the pause button. Automated troubleshooting is a bad idea. No one, not even the writer, can stomach conversing with bots and if a prospect sees carelessness in your marketing, you will be saying goodbye to them.

Pictures: A good picture is worth a thousand words, but use some text, too. Inserting a picture in a post is an awesome trick that will exceed the word limits of some social platforms. Imagine a Coca Cola text advertisement on a billboard that doesn’t showcase a picture of the product. Odd, right?  Billboard advertisements hinge on appealing to on-the-move clients, so share this emphasis when dealing with online prospects. Insert pictures to whet your customer’s appetite.

A photo of your employees relaxing, laughing, or doing some community work is a sure-fire way to humanize your brand by piquing interest and engaging minds. Eye-catching quotes and tips are excellent ways to boost online presence. What’s more, you don’t have to be a Photoshop guru to create good graphics. Digital marketers and social media experts use quick, fun tools like Picmonkey, Quotescover and Canva to achieve this task.

Follow @Epjohnson01 on Twitter for more tips.

Learn more about marketing your work at where every student receives a private tutor. Sign up for our newsletter!

How to Win a Writing Contest

Secrets to Winning a Creative Writing Contest

by Deborah Owen, CEO of Creative Writing Institute

Contests are like cars. There are a lot of them and no two are the same, but this is an overview of how Creative Writing Institute judges their annual writing contest. This year, it runs from July 15 – September 1, 2015.

First, the judges do a quick sorting. They place stories that might have a chance to win in one pile and stories that have no chance of winning in another. Needless to say, those in the latter pile hit file 13. Your first question should be, on that first sorting, what are the judges looking for? Among other things:

a. Very poor grammar
b. Very poor punctuation
c. Long, drawn out discourses that make no point
f. Not using the theme line, word for word!

The judges’ first scanning is not an in-depth reading. It simply sorts the big pile into a smaller one. There will be at least four full readings of each story by each judge.

You will win or lose a judge’s interest in the first paragraph, so be sure that first paragraph begins in the middle of an ACTION scene. Don’t lead up to the action. You don’t have time for that in a short story. Jump in with both feet. Next, develop that action until it reaches the climax about 2/3 of the way through and use the last 1/3 to form a conclusion and tie up loose ends.

Do all judges look for the same things? No. Each judge is as different as a snowflake. They may look alike on the writerly surface, but their thoughts and interests are as different as night and day, and that is what makes a good judging panel.

Here’s a clue. Our judges are not into romance. Does that mean you can’t enter a tactful romance story? No. Does it mean a romance story can’t or won’t win? NO. It was just a hint.  :-)

Another clue: the head judge would like to see some mystery stories this year. Does that mean the winning entry will BE a mystery story? No, but clever writers will certainly think twice before submitting to another genre (For newbies, genre means division – such as drama, fantasy, crime, etc.). But then again, some judges would prefer fantasy! In the end, the best, most captivating story will win, no matter what the genre.

Creative Writing Institute likes to run “themed contests” where the story centers around a certain phrase. This year’s theme sentence is, “I got more than I bargained for!” (You may choose your own punctuation, but those exact words must be in the story, in that order.) This is a fun theme!

The number one reason for disqualification is NOT FOLLOWING the RULES. Last year we had a winning entry that used one swear word. The judges were so into the story that none of them caught it, but I did and the instructions clearly said, “no swear words.” We even published a brief list of what we considered swear words (much to my chagrin) AND the address of the head judge in case anyone had a question.

Why do we have a “list” of swear words? Because we are an international organization that is based in the USA and even Americans hold heated debates on which words are or are not considered swearing. Why don’t we include swear words from other nations? Because it would be impossible to make a list of every country’s swearing slang.

The next question might be, “Why don’t you allow swear words?” One reason is… swear words are a form of telling instead of showing. (Note to beginners: a technique called Show, Don’t Tell means you should always show an emotion with action instead of description. For example, instead of saying, “Jarod was angry at the little boy and pushed him into a bush,” you could show his anger by saying, “Jarod drop-kicked the little runt into the shrub.”)

Another reason we don’t want swearing is because our anthologies are suitable family material. Believe it or not, not everyone swears!

We have already mentioned following the rules, which you would think would be a no-brainer, but to be sure you have conformed to the guidelines, read every single rule one more time before you submit. If we call for a limit of 2,000 words and you send 2,005, guess what? No matter what the quality of the story, it will hit file 13.

The quickest way to win is to write an original story totally based around I got more than I bargained for. The quickest way to lose (and embarrass yourself) is to pull a pre-written story out of mothballs, insert the theme line where it fits best and submit it.

I speak from experience. I tried this little number on a writing teacher years ago when she told me to write a story and insert a certain theme line. It seemed like a silly exercise to me and I was pushed for time, so I pulled an old story out, dropped the line in and submitted it. (*blushes… in my defense, this was the only time I ever did anything deliberately dishonest.)  I thought I was so slick and so smart, until I got her comment which read, “It almost looks like you used an old story and just dropped that line in. Rewrite it and make it blend.” Well… *duh, our judges are smart enough to figure that out, too!

On rounds 2 and 3, our judges usually grade each story from 1-10 and then they total the points for each story. It takes a terrific story to make it to 8, 9, and 10. By the time the judges get to round 4, bloodshot eyes are crossing, every person answers to any name, none are sure which way is up and the coffee has long ago run out so sometimes the head judge changes the method of tallying to, “This time we will deduct points for ________.”

All entries will be judged on originality, creativity, style and technique.


Plain and simple – how original your ideas are. There are no new stories, but there are always new angles. Day dream a little bit to find something spicy. Keep asking yourself, “What if… ?” That will open dozens of unique ideas.


Creativity is how you express yourself. You might use similes, metaphors, emotives, or all of the above plus a whole lot more.


Your writing style will reveal who you are, how you think, how you express yourself and what voice you use. (Hint: stories written in past tense, third person [using he, she and it] sell the quickest… and win the most contests.)


Writing technique includes the point of view, visualization of scenes and people, style of dialogue, how you write flashbacks (or if you use them at all), red herrings, foreshadowing, etc. It can also refer to the more technical aspects of rhythm, harmony, assonance, alliteration, personification and the like. All of these things equal your technique and the voice that is peculiar to you.

Seldom do we have a clear winner. We have ties more often than rabbits nibble carrots and when that happens, we pass the smelling salts and deodorant around and see how it goes. Under the careful scrutiny of our head judge, Ms. Jo Popek, judges may politely “argue” why “their pick” should win. By the time they emerge with a list of winners, it’s a wonder they are still friends, and an even greater wonder that they will return to the judging panel again next year!

Once you get contesting in your blood, you will have to enter at least two a year. Writing for a contest is one of the greatest, quickest ways to learn from your own writing.

Above all, enjoy the writing experience… and support our nonprofit charity by purchasing our anthology in December.

May the best author win!


Creative Writing Institute’s Short Story Contest

Creative Writing Institute’s Annual Short Story Contest

No Entry Fee

First place: a FREE writing course with a personal tutor, valued at $260 USD.

Second place: $50 Amazon gift card or a credit of $150 USD toward a writing course with a personal tutor, valued at $260 USD.

Third place: $25 Amazon gift card or a credit of $100 USD toward a writing course with a personal tutor, valued at $260 USD.

*Plus, two honorable mentions and TEN additional Judge’s Choice stories will receive publication in our 2015 anthology and Ebook.

This is a themed contest and this exact sentence must appear in the story:

“I got more than I bargained for!”

We would like to encourage mystery stories, but the genre is open. (See   for definitions and complete rules.)

  • Story must be 1000 – 2000 words.
  • No swearing, profanity, explicit sexual scenes, graphic violence, etc.
  • Entry must not have been published before.
  • ONE submission per person, please
  • Accepting submissions internationally from July 15, 2015 until August 15, 2015, midnight, USA Eastern Standard Time.
  • All entries must be in English