Cinderella’s Misunderstood Strength

When someone says Cinderella, what do most people think? Weak, pushover, pathetic, damsel in distress? Perhaps those are accurate, from a certain viewpoint.  Perhaps she is a terrible role model for young girls. It’s easy to see her as moping around waiting for her prince to come rescue her. But consider her story from a different perspective – a perspective that’s hard to see beneath all the girl power rants, a perspective I believe Kenneth Braunagh captured well in the live action film – and maybe you’ll begin to see her a little differently.

Hollywood has become obsessed with a specific type of heroine. Sure, she might look a little different from movie to movie, but at her core she’s much the same everywhere. She’s outspoken, sometimes even opinionated. She doesn’t run from a fight, whether she knows how to fight or not.  She doesn’t give up on what she wants, no matter what obstacles land in her way. Strong women like Eowyn, Wonder Woman, and Buffy, would never put up with Cinderella’s treatment. The “strong woman” wouldn’t have stayed. Heck, the “strong woman” would have found a way to kick her stepmother and stepsisters out of the house and made her own way in the world. Probably sans prince, too. And that’s great.

But that does not make Cinderella weak.

Consider the story, for a moment, from the stepmother’s point of view. She’s lost not only one, but two caring husbands. Men she loved, even if she didn’t always show it well. Try as she might she cannot keep her grief from poisoning her daughters’ attitudes.  And, as if that doesn’t make it hard enough to forget her grief, she has another daily reminder of it in the form of her second husband’s daughter.

Now, if we were to cast the stepmother as our “strong woman” would it not seem reasonable that she would find it difficult to be kind to Cinderella? And more than that, Cinderella refuses to rise to the bait.  No matter how awful the stepmother’s grief makes her, Cinderella does not respond in kind.  Is it too much of a stretch to suggest that the stepmother may have been itching for a fight? After all, how many of us wind up hurting the ones closest to us when we’re in pain?

The truth is, I have seen this very story line in many books and movies. Did not Anakin try to kill his own son? Did not Callahan try to kill Alastair Krei and Hiro? Did not Gollum threaten to kill Bilbo and try to kill Frodo as well? Each of the heroes had every opportunity to kill their adversaries. Some might say they had every right to. And yet, each found it within himself to show pity. Luke fought to save his father. Hiro risked his own life to save Callahan’s daughter. Frodo took care of Gollum, saw the simple hobbit he was before the ring corrupted him. They all chose compassion over anger.

So why is Cinderella’s compassion for her stepmother and stepsisters seen as weakness? Why are Callahan, Anakin, and Gollum worthy of compassion, but Cinderella’s stepmother is not?

This is why Cinderella’s strength and courage is so hard to recognize.

If we fail to see the grief and hurt that drives her stepmother’s anger and hatred, then we also fail to understand why Cinderella chooses to endure their treatment rather than give as good as she gets. We expect her to be a “strong woman,” fighting for freedom or justice like Eowyn, Wonder Woman, or Buffy. So we are disappointed when she does not live up to those expectations. And that disappointment blinds us to her real strength.

In a world where standing up for oneself now often means tearing others down, Cinderella shows us another way. As the world becomes more and more individualistic, Cinderella shows us how to look outside ourselves. While strong women like Eowyn, Wonder Woman, and Buffy encourage us to fight adversity, Cinderella shows us how to hold onto compassion in the midst of it.

Cinderella shows us how to see the hurt the bullies hide.

May I make one more comparison? Maybe to another princess that many find much braver? Someone who saw a man worth loving within the ferocious body of a beast?

It’s odd that Belle is seen as brave while Cinderella is considered weak when they both model the same lesson. The primary difference is that the man inside the beast is easier for the audience to see than the heart-broken woman inside the stepmother. While Belle had to learn to see what lay beneath physical ugliness, Cinderella was able to see what lay beneath hurtful words and actions from the beginning. And seeing the pain beneath hurtful words is not only harder to do, but harder to recognize in other people’s situations.

It is admirable to stand up for ourselves and to fight for what we want. But not every conflict should be solved through confrontation. Not every bully needs to be locked up. Like the hundreds of cops who have turned lives around by replacing knives or guns with a friendly cup of coffee instead of a pair of cuffs, Cinderella chose to treat her stepmother and stepsisters the way she wished them to treat her. She was able to see the grief stricken woman inside her stepmother. She was able to see the hurting, confused girls inside her stepsisters.

I’d like to think that Cinderella’s kindness helped them to find a better way of living. That perhaps they went on to become kinder individuals because Cinderella was kind to them when they deserved it least. And that is what makes Cinderella brave. She chooses to treat everyone in her life with respect, whether they deserve it or not.

She chooses to be kind when she has every right to be angry.

How often can we say that of ourselves?

So, before you add to the litany of complaints regarding this timeless fairytale, consider that not everyone is cut out to be a “strong woman.” Consider that some girls might need a Cinderella to show them that it’s okay to prefer kindness to ambition. Consider that someone who looks like a pushover, might just be a lot stronger than you realize.

Meet B.B. Swann

This week I’m introducing B.B. Swann, author of the adorable young adult novel Breaking The Bro Code.

B.B. Swann wanted to be a writer when she realized writing words was easier than saying them out loud. Still, somehow, she became a teacher, too and talks quite a bit.

B.B. Swann lives in Southern Illinois with her two- and four-legged family members. She loves to run, binge watch Netflix health documentaries, and talk to her three teens when they have a minute to spare.

Most nights you can find her reading or writing into the wee hours of the night. She believes in the almighty power of caffeine and battling old age with purple hair and lots of sarcasm.

It’s the 80’s. Hair is big, styles are bitchin, and Molly Mason must run for her life. Her plan is simple—race fast enough to get a cross country scholarship. Hayden Bishop has a different idea—convince Molly, his best friend’s girlfriend, that he can treat her better.

Hayden and Molly find themselves entangled in a relationship with more twists and turns than a Rubik’s Cube. Friends interfere. Lies are born. Molly’s scholarship is put in jeopardy and Hayden’s chance to win her is slipping away. Only the truth will save them, if they can both find it in time.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

Well, I’m originally from a small town north of Chicago called Winthrop Harbor. The cornerstone of Illinois is our claim to fame. I grew up with my older brother and parents. Middle class, little pink houses, that kind of life. My parents were both hard working and passed that trait onto me. I went to college and received my Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, then my Master of Education in Language and Literacy. I’ve taught pre-school special education, at risk pre-school, kindergarten, 1st, and 3rd grade. Now I live in Illinois across the river from St. Louis. I moved here when I met my husband (in Florida on a vacation by myself—but that’s a whole other story) I have three children, two sons (both in college) and a daughter who is a junior in high school this year. I also spend a lot of time alone with my furry children—three cats and a dog. They know all my secret plot lines because they’re the only ones home most of the time to bounce ideas off of. They give tremendous support but aren’t much help with critiques! 

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books? 

I’ve always been a reader. I learned to read when I was three or four (thank you Big Bird!) and I’ve been reading ever since. My parents always valued education and wanted me to do well. I remember when we would visit family on the weekends and my cousins would want to run around outside at my aunt’s farm. I did plenty of that, but mostly I would lay on her bed and read romance novels. She always had a paper grocery bag filled with them and I would take one, read it, then put it back and get another. That’s probably why romance is my favorite genre. Sometimes I look back and wonder if my parents knew what I was reading because some of them were pretty racy. I’m not sure a ten-year-old should have been reading adult historical romance, but I loved it. I still remember some of the plots lines and characters.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

Not historical romance! Actually, my favorite book was called Scruffy, I can’t remember the author or the plot but it was about dogs, one of my favorite animals. I remember one dog in the book named Hamlet, a bull dog. He was the pet of a barman at a bar named The Prince of Denmark. That character stands out now because at the time I got a new puppy who looked like the Hamlet in my mind’s eye and I named him after the character. Funnily enough, my dog was a terrier and didn’t end up looking anything like the bull dog in my mind. Being the precocious child I was, I told everyone I named him Hamlet because I liked Shakespeare. Who’s going to argue with an eleven-year-old who claims a love of the Bard?

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

So many books became a part of me in little ways, and big ways. Everything I’ve read shaped the way I think and view the world. Maybe I’ll sound like everyone else on the planet but the Harry Potter series affected me the most. I didn’t read a lot of fantasy prior to Rowling’s series and I fell in love with her world right away. As the years passed and more books came out, my own children grew old enough to enjoy them too. That’s the part I loved the most, sharing those words with them. First reading out loud then, when they were old enough, reading along side them. My oldest son and I were the biggest fans, and I remember having to buy two copies of the final book because neither one of us wanted to wait for the other to finish reading so we could share the book. Years later, when Universal opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, we booked a trip and went two weeks after it opened. I remember the look on my son’s face when we walked in that first day and stood next to the Hogwart’s Express train engine. The look of wonder and excitement he had was probably on my face too. He looked at me and said, “Whoa.” One little word that held all the memories of reading the books to and with him. Those books will forever remind me of my kids and those special times.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

The last book I read was Vice City, written by a friend of mine, S.A. Stoval. It’s a crime thriller about a mob muscle, Pierce, who contemplates his purpose in life and considers retiring, but is faced with solving one final problem for his boss, Nick Vice. It’s filled with suspense and even a little romance between Pierce and the man he was supposed to work over for the boss. The plot kept me turning the pages to find out what would happen. The second book is due out next year and I can’t wait!

As for favorites, that’s hard. My favorite adult author is Dean Koontz, his Odd Thomas series is the best. I like a lot of John Greene’s YA’s, Rainbow Rowell, Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die series, Jen Mann’s People I’d Like to Punch in the Throat. If I keep looking at my kindle library you’ll know them all soon. I also write picture books so I have a few favorites there, too. Dr. Seuss, of course because he was a rule breaker. He wrote books with references to the problems faced by society during his time that still apply today. I respect that, and it’s what I hope to do with my books. Chris Van Allsburg is another favorite. His thought provoking illustrations and stories always leave the reader saying what if? That’s important because it makes us think beyond the story and forces us to use our imaginations. As a teacher, I like to encourage my students to always keep thinking and learning, his books are great for that purpose. Though this past year, one little girl told me she had nightmares after I shared The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, so I might want to rethink using that one this year. In this book, Van Allsburg has pictures suggestive of a story and one open-ended line captioning the picture. Readers are supposed to “fill in the blanks”. Her imagination filled them in a little too much I think.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

Could I just attach my kindle library here? I would love to meet any of the authors I mentioned, and so many that I didn’t. One of the best and scariest things about writing is that you put a piece of yourself into every story, and the pieces of others that I’ve seen makes me want to meet them all. But if I had to choose one, I think it would be J.K Rowling. I admire her integrity and how she does so much for others despite the fame her books have given her. She understands the importance of having empathy and paying it forward. To go from where she was, on welfare and struggling, to having everything she could ever want and still be an advocate for those in need, that’s impressive, and I’d like to have a chance to thank her. She gives writers a good name.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

Growing up in the 70’s, I can remember watching Sesame Street as a child. My mom didn’t work outside the home until I was older so I never went to pre-school, and Big Bird was my teacher. I learned to read before kindergarten and I think it was from a combination of that show and my parent’s reading habits. Writing is a natural extension of reading for me. I used to make up stories in my head, but I never actually wrote them. When I played with my friends, usually with Barbies, (forgive me if you’re a feminist but I loved my dolls) I created the scripts for each one. Looking back, I guess those were my first leaps into romance writing. Barbie and Ken had lots of conflicts.  

More formal writing began when I was a junior in high school and I took a creative writing class. Our teacher was wonderful. She let us call her by her first name, Sarah, and I can remember more than once when she was there as a shoulder to cry on. She was the first one to tell me I was a writer, and that what I had to say was important enough to write it down for others to read. Mostly then I wrote poetry. It was a great avenue for getting out all that teenage angst.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

Do I really have to confess to this? Well, I started a story in class junior year. It was terrible. I don’t remember much, but I do remember I spent a whole page describing what my main character looked like and what she wore. It’s embarrassing to think about. The first “real” story I wrote is a picture book named Katie Comma. It’s a story inspired from my time working with young children about a comma who gets blown from her book and tries to find her way back to where she belongs by diving into sentences. I wrote it last year after deciding it was time to get serious. I joined an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) group and took the first step toward becoming an author. It’s currently with a publisher and will hopefully be published in a year or so. I can’t wait to see it published and be able to use it in my own classroom when I teach about proper uses of commas. And yes, I am team Oxford!

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?

The most difficult part is having the confidence needed to deal with rejections. Each book or story is a part of me that I am sharing and that can be scary. It’s hard to let critique partners or agents read your work when they might (and should) tell you what needs to be fixed. Writers need skin a mile thick and that takes a while to develop. When I send out a query or manuscript to a beta reader, I remind myself that all critique is good, and brings me closer to the success of sharing my stories.

The best part is when someone reads one of my books and tells me “I couldn’t stop reading!” In August, that happened and I finally got an agent, Cathie Hedrick of the Purcell Agency. She and I have been working to get my YA romance, Romancing Death, ready to sell and it’s been fabulous! Probably one of the most important things I can say about her is that she loves my book almost as much as I do and will do everything she can to get it out to readers.

That’s what writing is all about for me, making other people happy and sucking them into my story. I want others to love them, too, and when they have something positive to say, it warms my heart. 

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

I’ve had some great advice from some incredible writers and it’s difficult to choose one solid piece, but I think the best advice was from my friend Chris. I had written Katie Comma and wanted to know how to get published. Chris has a pretty successful YA series about dragons, so I asked her what the steps were to get published. She told me the first thing I needed to do was join a critique group and have other writers read my writing. And she was right, of course. I have my local SCBWI and RWA (Romance Writers of America) groups where I share, but also several online CP’s (critique partners) I’ve met on Twitter. It’s great to have that many people reading my work and improving it. But you have to take everything with a grain of salt, as they say. Sometimes your partners don’t see the whole picture and you may know something works even if they don’t see it yet. But typically, if three or more CP’s suggest a change in a word or plot point, I take that as a sign that I need to rewrite.

The things I’ve learned from my CP’s have helped me become a much better writer. Sometimes their comments are hard to hear because writing is so personal. It’s a piece of you on the page, and to hear someone say you did it wrong, well, it’s not always easy to take that constructively. But without their help, my writing would stagnate and never get better so I welcome the comments, good or bad.

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

I have a YA romance called Breaking the Bro Code, about Hayden and Molly. He likes her but she’s his best friend’s girlfriend. When the best friend turns out to be a jerk, Hayden decides to show Molly that he can treat her better. We see their struggle to overcome the lies and drama from their classmates and her ex.

There is plenty of teenaged angst and drama, and, because I have lots of experience with them, sports; both running and soccer. My daughter and I are runners and my sons and husband played soccer. I had lots of experience to draw on and my kids made good critique partners, too. What teen doesn’t love telling Mom she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, right? Bro Code is available now on Amazon and Createspace. Aside from Katie Comma, I have several completed picture books that I am trying to find a home for, too.

My next project is a short story anthology I am working on with several other authors. I’m not sure I can mention the title yet, but I will say it involves fairy tales with sci-fi and fantasy twists. I’m excited to be a part of it and can’t wait to share it. We plan on publishing it in November.

I have a YA sci-fi I wrote early on that needs lots of revisions. It was my first ever novel and I have learned a tremendous amount since then that I would like to apply to this story. The biggest change being a complete POV change from third to first person. 

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

If I’m not reading or writing, which is rare these days, I like to be outside. Running is my favorite sport and I try to do it as often as I can. I’ve run five full marathons and thirteen halves, along with several shorter races. Running the holy grail of races (Boston) is out of reach because I’m not fast, but I did run in Boston this summer when we took our daughter there for a Leadership Summit at Harvard University. That counts, right? My favorite part is how I feel after a long run. Covered with sweat, tired legs, thirsty as hell, but knowing I carried myself eight miles, ten miles, fifteen miles, it’s incredible. It makes me think If I can do that, I can do anything.

Spending time with my family is most important, though. I have three children and anything they do interests me. For some reason, they aren’t totally against hanging out with mom some of the time. But that might be because mom pays for things. 😊

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

I don’t think I’d want to be an expert at anything. I love learning new things and finding ways to share that knowledge. I think if I were an expert, the thrill of learning would vanish. I mean, if you know it all then there’s nothing left to learn. That’s not a place I’d want to be in.

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?

This question is easier to answer! I sort of have this goal to visit every state in the US. I’ve got plenty covered but the more remote and expensive ones may be harder to reach. An all expense paid trip to Hawaii or Alaska would be great! Hawaii in the winter and Alaska in the summer. I hate to be cold. Outside of the US I think I’d like to travel to Europe. My great grandparents immigrated from Germany and Denmark. I’d like to visit those countries for sure and maybe trace my roots.

Final Thoughts

15. How can people connect with you?

I do all the typical social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram) and have a website with links to my media. ( But I like to meet people in person, too. I’ll be at a reader’s conference September 29th and 30th called PennedCon St. Louis. It’s a great time to meet hundreds of authors and have a chance to purchase books. The organizers, Amy and Rick Miles, have hosted the conference for the last four years as a fundraiser for Autism Speaks, an organization that helps families with autistic children. I went last year as a reader with a friend and it was inspiring. This year, I will be there as an author, so I’m super excited to share my books. If anyone is interested in supporting Autism Speaks or checking out the conference, the information can be found on their website,

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Yes, thanks for having me on your blog. Your questions forced me to think about something I usually don’t—myself. Sometimes self inspection is necessary to be a better writer. And it was fun!

Thanks for stopping by and sharing a little about you. I’m loving Molly and Hayden’s story and can’t wait to see how it ends. They’re so cute!

If you’d like to read Breaking The Bro Code, you can find it on Amazon and Createspace.

Breaking The Bro Code – Amazon

Breaking The Bro Code – Createspace

Meet Emily Wendell

This week I’m introducing Emily Wendell, author of The Inventor series. They’re steampunk romance and the first book, The Inventor And His Muse, is available now.

The year is 1855. Since the Great Exhibition, steam has taken the world by storm and destroyed Gemma Hayslip’s engagement. It’s fine; he clearly wasn’t good for her. Her life returns to the mundane until a man from New London, who is a Lord of somewhere, falls out of the sky (literally), promising to make her rich if she’ll come back to New London with him. With two younger sisters and a failing farm, Gemma agrees to Lord Winston Winchester’s terms. Caught up in his web of power, Gemma finds herself in an inventor’s paradise until someone starts threatening their lives. Now, Gemma and Winston must outsmart a killer before she loses everything she was trying to save.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

My name is Emily, and I live in San Francisco. I have a degree in computer science, so I’m a pretty technical person. I enjoy seeing the confusion on people’s faces when they find that I also write sci-fi/romance.

I’m currently working on the third book in my Inventor series. It’s a Steampunk series set in New London and follows a group of inventors. It’s the last one in this story arc and with these characters, so I’m slow writing it as I don’t want to say goodbye to them yet.

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

My mom always read to me as a child, so I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with books. I loved the stories and their silly characters.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

As a kid, I liked The Cat in the Hat (really anything from Dr. Seuss). As I grew older, I loved the Goosebumps series.

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. It’s an empowering and enlightening book, and I was not expecting it to blow my mind as much as it did. I highly recommend it.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn is the last book I read. My current favorite is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

Jane Austen. She’s written several of my favorite books, so it would be interesting to talk to her about them and her life.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

Despite writing short novels in high school, I didn’t really consider myself a writer until college. That was when I started taking it more seriously, becoming more descriptive and learning how to create emotion in my stories. I paid more attention to plot and crafted deeper characters and themes.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?  If so, what was it about?

When I was a kid, I wrote a few pages about a girl, her sister, and her crush. I remember that she wore a fuzzy sweater and they went ice skating, but that’s it. I thought I printed it out, but it was either lost in a move or was thrown away as I’ve never been able to find it.

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey?  The best part?

The most difficult part is putting my writing out there. Novels are such personal works, pieces of our souls, so it’s tough exposing that to everyone and receiving criticism. The best part is the writing itself, the excitement when inspiration strikes and my fingers fly across the keyboard. I love all my characters, and I enjoy spending time with them.

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

Just write, even when you aren’t inspired. It’s almost forcing yourself to write, but that’s the only way to create a habit. Creativity breeds creativity, so you can’t give up or wait until you’re inspired to write. You have to try every day or a few times a week.

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

The Inventor and His Protege is my current WIP. As I mentioned earlier, it’s the third book in my Inventor series, and it’s going pretty well. Book 2 (The Inventor and His Scourge) is being reviewed, so I may have edits for that, but it’ll be published hopefully before the end of the year. I also have other WIPs to edit and of course a million new story ideas, haha. The ideas never stop. It’s a mixed blessing.

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

I play a lot of video games and enjoy watching sports. I’m a big Star Wars nerd and love most things sci-fi. I also attend a lot of comic cons and cosplay.

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

History! I love learning about different time periods, civilizations, and cultures. It’s fascinating and why most of my novels take place in another era. I spend a lot of time researching and hope to be able to travel more in the future.

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world.  Where would you go?

Oh, this is tough. I’m watching a show on Egypt, so that would be at the top of the list. I would tour the pyramids and see all the monuments and temples.

Final Thoughts

15. How can people connect with you?

I’m on Twitter @empress_emily, Goodreads, and I have a sort of active blog,

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Thanks for having me, and thanks everyone for reading!

Thanks for sharing a bit about you! I can’t wait to read more about Gemma and her adorable Winston!

If you’d like to read Emily’s book you can find it on Amazon. And keep an eye out for the second book, The Inventor And His Scourge.

The Inventor And His Muse

Podcast Ponder 2: Writing Excuses

Writing Excuses: 9.13 Three Pronged Character Development

First let me introduce this podcast. It’s one of my favorite writing podcasts, put together by published authors Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and the creator of the hilarious comic Schlock Mercenary, Howard Taylor. Since I started listening to this podcast, the quality of my writing has skyrocketed.

This particular episode, along with its companion episodes (links at the bottom), introduced a brand new concept for me that I have since used multiple times. The Three Pronged Character Development concept is comprised of three sliding scales: 1. Sympathy Slider, 2. Competence Slider, and 3. Proactivity Slider.

Since listening to this episode, diagnosing character problems has become so much simpler and quicker. In this first episode, they introduce the concept and give a few examples of characters with varying Slider levels to start off. It helps to show why we like certain characters and not others. It’s a fun exercise to try yourself, too.

For example, they explain how Harry Potter’s Competence Slider and Proactivity Slider are both low while his Sympathy Slider is quite high and how JK Rowling accomplished that. They do the same for other well known characters as well.

When they get into moving sliders around to improve characters, it instantly helped me understand what I was doing wrong with my own characters and how I could fix it. Which brings me to another big point they make. This concept is not necessarily ideal for developing characters from the beginning, though it can help. It works best as a simple diagnosing tool and I can attest to its value and usefulness.

So if you’re having trouble figuring out your characters, or you want to make them more relatable, or you’re just curious about character developement, then I highly recommend giving this episode a listen. Then check out the companion episodes where they talk about each Slider in depth. I guarantee your characters will thank you.

Ep 9.25: Adjusting Character Sympathy
Ep 9.26: Adjusting Character Competence
Ep 9.32: Adjusting Character Proactivity

Meet Willie Handler

This week I’m introducing comedy writer Willie Handler (yes that’s his real name, so don’t ask).  He’s the author of the political satire, The Road Ahead as well as several short stories published online on CommuterLit and Show Me the Funny.

What’s my plan to get my novel published? Plan A is to contact every literary agent in the English speaking world.

If that doesn’t work? Plan B is to pull a Rupert Pupkin (King of Comedy, 1982) by kidnapping a publishing executive and holding him or her ransom until my book is published.

I finally went with Plan C, I self-published.

Rick Tompkins, a suburban Toronto insurance broker, never considered a career in politics until a good friend, who happens to be the leader of the Conservative party, asks him to run for office. He accepts the offer, with the understanding that he would probably not win, but can use the opportunity to gain some visibility for himself and his business. Jerry Switzer, a veteran party worker, is sent in to guide Rick through a campaign in a riding that hasn’t elected a Conservative in years. 

Rick fumbles his way through the election campaign and manages a surprise win but at the expense of saddling his party with an impossible commitment. What makes matters worse, Rick is anything but politically correct. He offends everyone in his path and stumbles from one political scandal to another. Still, Rick has one saving asset: a political party machine that is able to spin scandals to its advantage.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

I’m Willie and I got involved with creative writing less than three years ago. I had a long successful career working for the Ontario government. I left the government just over five years ago and decided what I wanted to do was take my sense of humour and put it to use doing creative writing. Last fall I released my first novel, The Road Ahead. The book is a political satire, which makes sense considering my background. As they often say, “write what you know” (some attribute the quote to Hemingway). What the quote says to me is that you use what you already know to explore new worlds and places you don’t know. I did a better job applying that while working on my second novel. It also falls under humor but takes place on Mars where a permanent colony has been established. The protagonist, Dix Jenner, is a chef in the colony and the only survivor after an explosion destroys the colony. He is picked up by two Martians, Bleeker and Seepa, who agree to shelter him because they would like to study him. I really like this story because it has allowed me to bring out my creative side. 

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

I began reading at age 4 and became an avid reader. I remember going to the library on Saturdays and checking out the maximum number of books allowed and returning the next week to sign out another stack of books. I kept this up throughout school. I read fiction and bios. When I started working, I began to read less. I found I was spending so much time on reading related to my job that I had little time for pleasure reading. Later in life, I returned to reading.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

I don’t have a favorite book from my childhood but I remember I read a lot of Hardy Boys books

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

This is a difficult question to answer because I have read books for entertainment or to learn. Two very different outcomes. Looking back the book that stands out most in my mind would the The Diary of Anne Frank. My parents were both survivors of the Holocaust and I’ve read many books, both fiction and nonfiction, dealing with the Holocaust. But Anne Frank’s book speaks on many levels.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

The last book I read was for my book club. It was Our Little Secret by Roz Nay. The book is a psychological thriller with a terrific twist at the end. There’s a review on my blog and I highly recommend. My favorite book has always been To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

I would love to meet Philip Roth. He is such a prolific writer and so much of his work I can relate to. I’m not even sure what I would ask him but I’m sure I would come up with questions about a some of his books.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

When I finished the first draft of The Road Ahead. I remember looking down at the 155-page  manuscript that I had just printed and told myself – I guess you are a writer. When I started writing the book it was more of a personal challenge. I never considered myself a writer. I’m still not comfortable with the label.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?  If so, what was it about?

I did write some funny stories when I was young. All I remember was that they were fantasies but don’t remember any more than that.

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey?  The best part?

I went into this with no experience, plans, strategy, nothing. I just sat down and wrote. I had no network of other writers. I wasn’t using social media. Consequently, while writing my first novel, I felt very isolated. I went from working in a busy office environment to sitting alone at home in from of my computer. That was a difficult transition for me.

Yet, I also really enjoyed it. In particular, starting a new project. The start is the most creative part of the process and I find it exciting and exhilarating. I have all these ideas and images in my head and you can’t get them down on paper fast enough. After several months, a fatigue begins to settle in. But the early stages of the process can be so much fun.

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

Me take advice? Ha! Never.

I have too much of an independent streak. The only advice I have for other writers is don’t listen to anyone. It’s your book so don’t let anyone tell you how to write it.

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

I mentioned earlier that I’m working on a humor novel about a chef on Mars. It’s called, Loved Mars, Hated the Food. I should point out that despite the premise, this is not a science fiction novel. I’ve nearly completed the first draft and I’m very proud of this novel. I think it’s funny and unique. I’ve let my imagination run wild on this one. I have a few projects that I’ve been thinking about and can’t decide which one I will tackle next. But it will be nothing like anything previous. I would never write a series or a sequel. I always want to try something fresh and new.

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

I love sports. I used to play and coach hockey and other sports. I was a competitive runner. However, health issues have ended my athletic activities. I still cycle and swim to keep in shape. But I really miss running. I also enjoy gardening, preferably in the spring and summer. Cooking, eating out, crosswords, politics, making a fool out of myself, hashtag games and traveling. The summer of 2017, I went on a river boat cruise of the Danube River.

13. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world.  Where would you go?

It would have to be somewhere exotic. I used to say French Polynesia but two years ago I finally made it. I think I would choose South East Asia – Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia.

Final Thoughts

14. How can people connect with you?

I’m very accessible. I love connecting with other writers on my blog,, on Twitter, and Facebook.

15. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Thank you for profiling me. The online community is very supportive and this is just another example of how amazing it is.

Thanks for sharing a bit about you. I look forward to reading Dix’s story!

Do his stories interest you? You can find his first novel, The Road Ahead on Amazon in paperback and ebook.

The Road Ahead

The 4 types of knitters

I learned to knit when I was about 10 and have dabbled with it off and on ever since. I’ve made wash clothes, scarves, hats, gloves. At one point I even learned to crochet (gasp!).

I also know quite a few knitters and I’ve learned that there are basically four different types.

Type 1: Pattern required, fiber snob

These knitters yarn shop in two interchangeable steps. 1. Find perfect yarn. 2. Find perfect pattern. Sometimes they find the pattern first, sometimes they find the yarn. But rest assured, they cannot leave the yarn shop without both (or at least not without plans for fulfilling the other step). There is hardly ever any free styling for these knitters. If it doesn’t have a pattern, they won’t be knitting it.

They are also yarn snobs, or as my mother says it, fiber snobs. There is nothing fake in these knitters’ projects. You’ll never catch them fingering anything acrylic, polyester, or synthetic. If it didn’t come straight from an animal or plant, they won’t even notice it. (Unless the tags are missing, but they don’t talk about those embarrassing moments.)

These are the most organized, structured knitters you’ll ever meet. Give them a pattern and they’ll find the exact yarn needed for it, then churn out a perfect sweater that looks just like the picture. (Don’t tell my mother, but fiber snobs also find the softest yarn.)

Type 2: Pattern required, fiber opportunist

These knitters need patterns as much as Type 1s. Give them a skein and tell them to knit whatever comes to mind and they’ll panic.

However, give them a pattern and they will knit with whatever is available. Oh sure, they love exploring yarn shops as much as any knitter (it’s a therapeutic experience, feeling all the delicious yarns), but they aren’t picky about what it’s made of. If they like it, they’ll take it.

These kind of knitters almost always go for the pattern books first. They love feeling the yarns, but are rarely inspired without a pattern to look at first. They’re also a lot of fun to explore yarn with since they touch first and read tags second.

Type 3: Free spirit, fiber snob

These knitters are commonly seen sitting in waiting rooms, bus stops, and coffee shops while their needles seem to have a mind of their own. They never need a pattern, and some actually find patterns too confining, but they will knit from one if they happen to like it. They also never knit with anything fake and a good chunk of their wardrobe they made themselves. (It’s not uncommon for these kind of knitters to be health foodies as well.)

They’re constantly creating and often find ways of putting discordant things together to make something surprisingly beautiful.

Type 4: free spirit, fiber opportunist

These knitters are generally hobby knitters. They find patterns confining and overwhelming and almost always prefer to knit without them. They’re less concerned with learning new stitches and techniques as simply knitting whatever they feel like.

These are the knitters you see most often in Michaels and Walmart (though they’ll wander a boutique yarn shop for fun too), and they aren’t nearly as familiar as fiber snobs with the horror of needing more of a particular yarn only to find that it’s been discontinued. Any kind of yarn will do for them and they don’t really care if what they’re making doesn’t come out just right. They simply enjoy the experience of making something with their hands.

For my part, I’m an occasionally snobby Type 4. It’s unavoidable when your mother is a brilliant Type 1. (Love you mom!)

Any other knitters out there? What type of knitter are you?