Volume 22 Number 1

How does a 62-year-old woman who's never been married find happiness with a two-time widower seeking his third wife on . . . Craigslist?

Oct – December 2018

Managing Editor: B. Lynn Goodwin

Webmaster: Paul Goulart

Do you blog about books?

Do you have a Northern California book club?

Want to interview me about Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62?

I’d love to talk with you.

Please use the contact box.

I’ll get back to you quickly, and thank you.

If you are enrolled in any creative writing or MFA program or are a creative writing blogger or book reviewer and would like to contribute to Writer Advice, please e-mail Lgood67334 AT Comcast DOT net.

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Writer Advice’s Annual SCINTILLATING STARTS Contest

Curious about how the opening of your book might sound to an agent or editor?

Enter Writer Advice’s SCINTILLATING STARTS Contest for fiction, memoir, and creative nonfiction.


Grab and hold us with your opening paragraphs. Send us up to 1250 words of your first chapter by 12/01/18.


We are known for our feedback, as you can see in the tan box at  www.writeradvice.com, and would love to tell you what's working and what an agent might say.


How? Maybe it’s my acting training that makes it easy for me to imagine myself as an agent seeking a book that is new, original, compelling, and marketable. I assume the role of a hungry agent who knows there is no one formula that works. I (the agent) want to make money, but unlike some agents, I’ll take the time to tell you what will and won’t work.

I’ll pick the finalists and guest judges will be last year’s winners. Complete details and the Submittable link are in the tan box on the home page at www.writeradvice.com


If your work is shared on Writer Advice, you’ll be able to tell prospective agents, publishers, and book buyers that you were one of the winners of Writer Advice’s Scintillating Starts Contest. A cash award of $300 will be split among those whose work is shared. This is usually 2 or 3 writers. The submission fee is $16.50. 


This contest is open to anyone who has not signed a contract for the book submitted. That means your book does not have to be completed for this contest, though it should be before you submit it elsewhere. It should not be published.

Tips for Success:

1. Start in a place where high stakes exist.

2. Let readers care.

3. Write a flawed hero we’ll empathize with.

4. Give me a reason to keep reading.

5. Leave out details that don’t help you tell this story.

6. Know why your story is unique. (If you don’t know, ask your characters.)

7. We only need your contact information instead of your whole query letter, but if you want to send your query, we won’t stop you. It counts in the word total though. NOTE: We had an excellent piece in the last contest that did not win an award because it was too long. The length matters. Following directions matters. 8. We prefer double-spaced manuscripts with standard, one-inch margins.

9. We prefer an easy-to-read font.

10. Please use the Submittable box on the home page. Manuscripts sent in other ways will not be read.


Questions? Please write back using the contact form on Writer Advice. 


B. Lynn Goodwin will write a detailed response to every piece, telling what she loves and what trips her up. She’s won awards for her last two books, owned Writer Advice for over 20 years, and has been giving detailed responses to contest submitters for over 10 years. The judge who will help her determine the winners will be announced soon.


“Just a quick note to say THANK YOU for this feedback. It’s such a refreshing experience to have some exchange — as most submissions disappear into the either like rogue satellites.” --Charles Watts 

“Your insights are excellent” --Dan Dubelman

“You are the first professional to offer feedback and your encouraging words have given me additional motivation!  It is reassuring to know that I was on the right track; you have a remarkable ability to give constructive feedback in a positive way (and you are absolutely correct). I look forward to submitting more stories and continuing to improve.” --Jamie Fouty

“I learned about this contest from the Submittable page. I then checked out your website and felt comfortable submitting my story as you seem like someone who genuinely wants to help and advise others." –Roger Yetzer

“Thank you so much for your feedback! I really appreciate you taking the time to give me your thoughts. I'm always striving to improve my writing, and feedback from editors like you make it much easier to do so.”  --Margarite R. Stever

“Many thanks for your response, from it, I can tell you're very good at what you do.” --Kisa, Visually Versed

“Thank you so much for your detailed feedback!! I can't tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to read and analyze my work . . . It's not every day a contest gives you comprehensive feedback instead of a simple yes/no!” --Lena Crown

“Thank you so much for your feedback, it always makes me feel inspired and motivated.” --Elizabeth Cockle

“Thanks for the wonderful feedback, never, never, got that before in thirty years.” --Jenny Hickinbotham

“I thought that “real writers” didn’t need to rewrite and edit their work. Little did I know!”
~~Ann Steiner, Ph.D

An interview with Ann Steiner, Ph.D.

by B. Lynn Goodwinn


Make It Easy To Read


Have you ever tried to run a group and been faced with arguments and disagreements? You are not alone. Fortunately, Ann Steiner, Ph.D. has created a wonderful guide for making groups work, Help Your Group Thrive: A Workbook and Planning Guide. Filled with advice, anecdotes and agreements to assist you, this is a book you should use as a resource, whether you’re running a counseling group, a writing group, or any other group. She’ll keep you on task and on target, help you problem solve, and give you the tools to make any group work.

Below she focuses on her journey as both a writer and a group leader.

BLG: The book tells us about your background as a psychotherapist, so please tell us about your background as a writer. How did you get started, and when did you know you were a writer?

AS: Like many of you, I have been writing as a way to sort out and express my feelings since I was a teenager. I kept my writing private until my arthritis got worse.  As I learned to be more comfortable with my limitations, I started writing for the public.  In the 1990’s I started giving workshops about dealing with chronic illness and training therapists to be better group therapists.

I thought that “real writers” didn’t need to rewrite and edit their work. Little did I know! Plus, since I had been trained to write “academese,” I needed to write more accessibly. I began attending writing workshops to learn how to write the way I spoke for my talks about coping with chronic pain. I joined the California Writers Club-Mt. Diablo Branch and began a weekly writer’s group. Both challenged my belief that good writers are born that way. I’ll never forget Bonnie Hearn’s advice at the California Writer’s Conference: “Put a Post It on your computer to remind yourself of these key words: Rewrite! Rewrite! Rewrite!” After I was invited to contribute a chapter to a book for psychotherapists, I admitted that I was a writer. Yes, admitted. Going from admitting, to accepting, to embracing being a writer was a slow process.  

Trainees and workshop attendees kept asking for more information about the healing power of groups and how to make them safe. So, I self-published my book for group therapists. Self-publishing that first manual was a great decision – it gave me the freedom to do more revisions and additions.

BLG: How did you get the idea to write a book about groups for others in addition to therapists and how much research did you do before you began writing?

AS: I had been leading groups and teaching workshops about the Nuts and Bolts of Groups that Thrive for years. Since I believe in making it easy for people to lead effective groups I was always sharing resources and handouts. Each year there were more handouts and worksheets. And each year people who couldn’t come to the workshops asked for copies and encouraged me to put them all in a book.  

I took my collection of handouts to a local printer and within a year self-published my book for therapists – which “got legs”.  I wanted to write a similar, more comprehensive book for the general public, that also included templates and sample group agreements to help everyone, from book club leaders to work team managers, improve their groups.To give you an idea, the number of sample group agreements in my current book went from 4 in-person agreements to 12, and from 7 online agreements to 9. Tracking down and getting permission from all the organizations I wanted to quote was time consuming and challenging. For example, to get permission to quote the Toastmasters Promise took almost a year - I had to go through countless people to get to their international attorney. I did the bulk of the heavy research after I got the contract with my publisher and kept finding wonderful examples I wanted to add.

BLG: Organization can be a huge issue in “how to” books. How did you approach this?

AS: Great question! My priority was to make the book easy to use either as a book to read or a resource to be returned to. I started out wanting to give the basics and then built on each category of group. Based on my years consulting for and teaching leaders of a wide range of groups, I wanted each chapter to end with a recommended reading section.My British, more academic publisher disagreed. It took a lot of persuading to reach a compromise: the end of the book includes Recommended Reading sections for each chapter in addition to the End Notes and Reference sections.

BLG: Based on your experience, what suggestions would you give to people who want to write a “how to” book?

AS: First, read or re-read “how to” books that you found helpful. Here are some other suggestions:

  • Pay special attention to what does and doesn’t work for you as the reader.
  • Read these and other similar books with an eye to understanding your competition and thinking about how your book is different.
  • Record, in a central place, like Notes on your smart phone, ideas you have for your book.
  • Make it easy to read!
  • Keep your sentences short, crisp and clear.
  • Many self-help books try to consolidate learning by summarizing the material presented in each chapter.
  • Keep your target audience in mind and create chapters that will best meet their needs. For example, consider keeping your chapters short.

BLG: What criteria did you use for selecting the quotations in the gray boxes?

AS: Self-help and “how to” books need to be filled with short, catchy phrases, so I felt strongly that sidebars would be a good addition.  Reviewing the text and picking out sections that captured the message and might catch the reader’s eye, was challenging.Remember the phrase “Kill your babies”? Let go of your favorite phrases that don’t serve your larger message! I had to force myself to pick sections I thought were either important or would be useful for a broad range of readers.

BLG: How do you hope writers’ groups will use the advice in Help Your Group Thrive: A Workbook and Planning Guide?

AS: Since many writer’s groups start with enthusiasm and fizzle out, my main hope is that leaders or some of the core members will read and use the book as a resource. The book describes various types of writing groups, and Chapter 12 includes suggestions for dealing with common challenges in groups. Successful groups need to be clear about what members can expect, how they will choose new members, and keep to or revise their expectations.

BLG: Tell us about finding your publisher.

AS: I have had the pleasure of being invited to give workshops for the American Group Psychotherapy Association for years. Three years ago the booksellers at the conference commented that my self-published book, How to Create and Sustain Groups that Thrive: Therapist’s Workbook and Planning Guide, was their best seller. Armed with that information, I felt emboldened to ask the bookseller to let me use his name in my pitch to their publisher.
Things moved rapidly after that initial introduction, and I quickly found myself signing with a prestigious publishing house. The important takeaway here is to ask people who have made positive comments about your work to use their names and comments in marketing and finding a publisher.

BLG: What else would you like readers to know?

AS: Writing and publishing a book is a major commitment. Gone are the days of publishers sending authors on book tours and handling all the marketing. If we want others to read our work we need to have a marketing plan and budget in advance of the book being released.Join your local writers group, like our California Writers Club--Mt. Diablo Branch – the support, guidance and comradery are invaluable, especially when you are starting out.Being an active member of the National Speakers Association of Northern California has helped with my speaking, marketing, and social media. Non-members are welcome to come to the meetings so check out their events at www.NSANC.org

BLG: What are you working on now and how can readers learn more about you? 

AS: These days I am working on marketing the book, venturing into social media, a radio tour, expanding the therapist’s version of Help Your Group Thrive, and returning to final rewrites of The Rollercoaster of Chronic Illness: How to Add Joy to the Ride. I will be doing more workshops, author talks and signings, including talks about the wide world of publishing, so sign up for my mailing list to get announcements about my upcoming speaking engagements and a free tip sheet about leading groups. (Did you catch that marketing-ese, Call to Action?) Since authors are advised to include a call to action when marketing, please note how I did that in this paragraph.
Readers can learn more about me on my website, www.DrSteiner.com or my Author’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DrAnnSteiner/.

BLG: Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom.

If you’ve ever thought about starting a writing group, or any kind of group, read this book. This book will make your life easier and enhance your leadership skills.