Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Purrfect Christmas

by Lisa Weaver from the December 21, 2009 issue

Tagline: For Dan and his daughter, it looked as though this Christmas would indeed be wish-come-true time.

In a Nutshell: Dan, a widower, isn't having any luck finding a kitten for his daughter for Christmas. A co-worker helps him out by giving him the name of a friend who has kittens to give away. Turns out the friend is a woman Dan helped a few months ago. She'd been having trouble coaxing a hurt stray cat out from under a car. Of course, one of the kittens is thereby earmarked for Dan's daughter, and they make a date.

Observations: I was told once that you can get away with one big lie in a story, but after that you have to tell the truth, otherwise you risk losing your readers. Often in WW stories, the one big lie you have to swallow as a reader is a coincidence. In "A Purrfect Christmas" the coincidence is that when Dan meets the kitten purveyor, she just happens to be the woman he helped a few months ago.

Luckily, Weaver doesn't push the envelope like Hickerson did in "Fairy Tale Beginning."

Also, it's worth noting that the hero in this story is a Nice Guy. In romance novels, the aggressive, virile man dominates. Often he has a lot of emotional baggage. Here, in WW stories, not so much. Dan is a good example.

1. He's a widower, but isn't beating himself up over the loss of his wife.
2. He is a great father. You see it in the snippet of dialogue he has with his daughter and how he's bending over backward to find her a kitten.
3. He helps total strangers rescue injured stray cats.

What more proof do you need that he's relationship material for any woman found between the pages of the WW magazine??? :)

I didn't have a favorite part. This story was solid, but not particularly moving for me.

Question: What did you think of the character of Abby?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Home Again

by Andi Renskoff from the December 14, 2009 issue

Tagline: Matt was happy to be back home--and running into Dana made him happier still.

In a Nutshell: Matt has moved back to his home town to take care of his aging parents. He runs into Dana at a flea market. They used to go to the same high school. After renewing their acquaintance, he admits he was afraid to ask her out, way back when. She admits she wished he had.

Observation: Stories in which the hero and heroine share a past are common in Woman's World. It's a handy way to get your reader to connect with your characters because we all have someone in our pasts that we remember with wistful fondness.

In this story, Renskoff gives Matt a very brief memory of Dana painting a tree on the lawn of the high school. In the memory, they don't even really interact, but the author paints it with a sentimental brush when she explains how that memory had "resurfaced years ago in the trenches of combat training and again during a lonely breakfast in an airport restaurant." So even though their relationship was almost non-existent, we still understand Matt's feelings about her.

There is no rising action or climax in this story, which is also common. Wait a minute. I just reread the end and see that there's a moment when Dana is paying for the toy chest when you might think they're going to say goodbye, but any worry the reader might feel that they're never going to see each other again is slight and brief.

Note: The painting shown is "Storm in Home Park" by John Walsom

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dear Santa

by April Knight from the December 7, 2009 issue.

Tagline: Tory's letter to Santa helped her discover what love is really all about...

In a Nutshell: When Tory's co-worker at the Dollar Store suggests she ask Santa for a man for Christmas, Tory writes a letter requesting a gorgeous, fantasy man, but she immediately feels wistful because that type of man would probably never be interested in her.

Then, in walks an average guy who wants gifts for kids at the school where he used to work as a teacher, but because of layoffs, is now working as a custodian.

In the course of conversation, he remarks, "I keep hoping some nice lady will put me on her wish list, but I don't think anyone would be interested in an unemployed teacher." He invites them to a holiday program his school is putting on and leaves.

Tory realizes the custodial Santa is more in line with what she really wants for Christmas.

Observations: This story follows the classic three act structure. Act One: We start out with the convo between the friends, setting up the goal: Tory wants a man for Christmas. After she determines that she wants someone rich, handsome, and strong, we get the conflict: she's feels she's undesirable (short, 20 pounds overweight, has a sucky job.) And immediately, probably every woman who reads Woman's World identifies with her.

Act Two: The hero comes in. We find out he has sparkly brown eyes. He's not married, which is always a fact that you have to establish in these "first meet" stories. He's dedicated to his (ex-)job. Through some clever conversation, Knight gets him to confess he's wanting a lady for Christmas, just like Tory is. Lastly, he leaves the flyer for the program, which acts as the plot device so that Tory can contact him/see him again.

Act Three: Tory realizes how shallow and insincere she was when she jotted that letter to Santa, hence the character grows during the course of the story. Each of her worries about her own flaws, the hero has. She's short and so is he. She's overweight and he's losing his hair. She's insecure about her job, he's a custodian. There is no real climactic moment when we fear all is lost. We only get a little devil's advocate conversation with the co-worker, but the story still works.

My Favorite Part: Even though Tory is sad when she says this, I laughed: "I wonder if some man is writing a list of things he's looking for in a woman. Do you think he'd say he wanted a short, brown-haired woman who's twenty pounds overweight and who works in an 'everything's a dollar' store?"

My Nit-Picks: Political correctness often rubs me the wrong way, especially when it's contrived. For instance, in the first Twilight movie, Bella's circle of friends was so perfectly, and implausibly, racially balanced. I fully embrace multi-culturalism but don't think it's necessary to twist a story in order to appear all-inclusive.

In "Dear Santa," Knight (or the editor) chose to list three holidays:

"I made it a tradition to give each of my kindergartners a Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwaanza gift."

*sighs* Don't get me wrong. I respect everyone's choices as to religion and/or holiday. To each his own. But wouldn't it have just been easier to say, "a holiday gift?"

Also, the ending line is "I guess I do believe in Santa after all," and I think Knight missed an excellent opportunity to make the story come full circle if she'd had Rose say she didn't believe in Santa at the beginning of the story.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Subscriptus Interruptus

Well, it appears I've let my subscription lapse. LOL. You know how they start sending those "Your subscription is going to run out!" notices like six months before your subscription really runs out? Well, apparently I misjudged when I truly had to send in the moola.

Review/analyses will resume when my magazines start coming again.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fairy-tale Beginning

by M.L. Hickerson from the October 26, 2009 issue.

Tagline: The last person Jim expected to meet in the park was a real-life Show White!

In a nutshell: Jim is dressed as a prince for the Halloween party in the children's ward at the hospital where he works as a doctor. His car breaks down near the hospital and he's forced to walk the rest of the way across the park. On the way, he surprises a woman dressed as Snow White. When she hits her head after falling, he convinces her to come to the hospital with him. Her daycare class (the seven dwarves) join the hospital party and Jim and "Snow" make a date to see each other again.

Observations: Making the Snow White story come to life is an adorable idea for a story, but challenging. Jim has to dress as a prince because there were no other costumes left. Check. I buy that. I can believe that he has to trek into the woods of the park to get to the hospital. I can even believe he happens upon Snow White in the park, with her dwarf-like charges. However, my imagination was stretched a tad too far when I saw her name was Miss White. I'll admit to rolling my eyes a little there. Otherwise, I thought this story was very cute.

Woman's World Stand-bys: Car trouble

My Favorite Part: I laughed when I read, " he locked his car and took off into the woods." Oh, brother, that cracked me up. It was that classic, "What NOW?" moment for poor dressed-in-a-puffy-shirt Jim.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Cup of Joe

by Lori Hoffman, from the October 12, 2009 issue.

Tagline: A chance encounter in a coffee shop convinced Kat it was time to put the past behind her...

In a Nutshell: Kat is divorced. Her brother convinces her to go on a blind date at a coffee shop. She drops her cup, splashes coffee on her sweater, makes a mess, is embarrassed. A kind man comes to help her out. She assumes it's her date, but it's not. She gets a call from her brother saying the friend had to cancel and didn't have her cell number. It's okay with Kat because she's having a nice time with the mystery man, Joe.

Observations: Divorce is common in WW stories. It's a handy way to make a character older than twenty-something, and yet not seem like a "loser" for not having settled down yet. It also gives a character some backstory, making them a little more sympathetic to the reader. Kat is divorced and hesitant about entering the dating world again.

This story is interesting to me because it has two climactic moments. The first is when she drops the cup and breaks it. I know that doesn't sound like much of a "big black moment" but Kat sees that as a sign that she's not ready for dating yet. The reader fears she's going to spurn love before she even gives it a chance.

Then the hero arrives!

He demonstrates caring (helping her clean up), an interest (he's been watching her and even knows how she likes her coffee now), and attractive. He also turns out to be honest, even if he's a little late in showing it.

This is when the second black moment occurs. She finds out this guy isn't Ben, her blind date. He had dodged her first attempt to identify him as her blind date deftly, but comes clean when she asks the second time, as a true hero should.

The story ends with the two of them enjoying coffee together, so it's your typical HEA, WW style, which is HOPEFULLY Ever After, not HAPPILY.

Favorite part: Hoffman made me laugh with this line: "...and I'll try to keep my coffee in my cup while I listen."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Plan for 2010!

I'm proud to announce that I'll be presenting my workshop, "The Secrets of Selling to Woman's World Magazine," via the Colorado Romance Writers in February, 2010. More details to come!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Save the Date

by Gina Vasquez from the June 15, 2009 issue

Tagline: Krissy couldn't care less about her ex-husband's upcoming wedding. In fact, she was looking forward to the

Stream of Consciousness Analysis:

As you can tell by the tagline, the ex-husband invites her to his wedding--his and Krissy's former best friend's! Wow. The gall of some people!

Krissy's sister phones to commiserate about the invitation and the tacky fridge magnet that was enclosed. Krissy, admirably, chastises her sister when she tries to bad-mouth the ex-and-soon-to-be-again hubby.

After hanging up, Krissy goes to the hardware store to look for a solution to her dilapidated fence. The author manages to get a physical description in there for Krissy.

It was cute how the boys "literally bounced off a tall man coming out of a side aisle and landed on their bottoms."

Wow! was Krissy's first thought. I wonder if he's single? This establishes the heroine's interest.

Oh, we find out the guy's a fire fighter because her sons boldly ask. YUM. Why can't my sons find me a hunky fire fighter? Maybe because I'm married. LOL

Of course the man is divorced. He invites her to attend the Firefighters Chili Cook-off, which happens to be on the day of the wedding, and smart girl that she is, Krissy opts to taste chili with the hunk rather than suffer at the wedding.

This was a well-written story. Tight, real, sweet. It follows a basic formula: set up the backstory, move into the humorous meeting, establish the fact that he's single, set up a future date.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Kiss for Juliet

by Lauren Andreano from the June 1 issue.

Tagline: Allie had always known who the real Romeo was...

I'm liking the Stream of Consciousness method of analysis. So here we go again.

It's funny because my son was recently in a school play, but it was nothing as high-falootin' as Romeo and Juliet. It was called "Who Killed Elvis?" and was a comedy.

Two parents are dropping their daughter and the daughter's friend off at the high school. They're performing in Romeo and Juliet. The dad, Gary, launches into a oft told story of how the mom also played Juliet and how he fell in love with her back in the day. I laughed when the girls started quoting his story verbatim.

It's clever how Andreano tells the romance story through the girls retelling. I laughed when they referred to Gary as Montague #5.

The girls leave the car and Andreano lays a surprise on me that I didn't see coming. Gary whips out a present, a gold rose pin, as a token of his love.

I only have one question. Where can I get a man like that??? LOL

This was an excellent example of a story showing an already established couple rather than a first meet.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Setup

by Anna Jo Christopher from the June 8, 2009 issue.

Tagline: Sara realized that her big brother had an ulterior motive for the dinner invitation...but she didn't mind.

This week I'm going to do that stream of consciousness analysis. I'm pressed for time these days and it's faster. :) Hopefully, it's as valuable.

It's a first person, present tense. That immediately invites your reader to be your friend. The tone is intimate, chummy.

Sara tells you a little anecdote about big brother Mark coming to her rescue when a schoolmate, Gary, scared her with a spider. Hmm. I'm immediately wondering if Gary ends up to be the love interest.

She tells about how he gave her dates the third degree. I read this with wistfulness, wishing I had had a big brother, or even a dad, who did that for me.

We move to act two of the story. Mark and his wife have invited Sara to dinner. Christopher makes me laugh when she give Sara the excuse of needing to organize her closet. It's cute when Mark gives her a guilt trip by saying her niece will be disappointed.

Sara arrives at dinner and Mark springs a surprise male guest on her. I didn't like how he put her on the spot saying, "I'm sure you remember this guy." Way to make her feel awkward if she doesn't remember!

Oh, of course, it's Gary the spider boy. Point for Kate.

Christopher has done such a good job, that in the third act when Gary walks Sara to her car, I feel like I'm intruding. LOL

Okay, the story does not end with them making a date, which is surprising. We actually go into what amounts to an epilogue in which we see they're still dating seriously after six months. Christopher brings the story full circle by ending it with Sara thinking about how lucky she is to have such a great big brother.

This is the first story in a couple of months that I really liked. I think I just have a soft spot for protective males. What did you think?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Some Enchanted Afternoon

by Joyce Soule from the May 25, 2009 issue.

Tagline: Alayne realized that magic was everywhere. She just had to let it into her life again.

In a Nutshell: Alayne is a widow trying to get her life back on track. She visits a bookstore looking for information on France, a place she'd always wanted to visit. There she meets a French widower on vacation himself. They strike up a friendship.

Observations: Usually, I read and analyze the story, then write my observations. This week, I'm going to try something new and do a sort of running commentary on the story as I read. Here we go:

Oh, the story is set at a bookstore. Bookstores are one of my favorite places. And she's doing that park far away from your destination thing so you get more exercise. I've done that. This helps me connect with the character.

In the bookstore, she went to the travel section to look for guides to France, then grabbed a copy of Paris Match magazine and walked back to the cafe section of the store where the comfy chairs beckoned.

Hmm. It kind of bothers me that she apparently intends to just read the books and magazine without paying for them. At least she buys a drink.

Soule does a good job of making the man sound foreign.

At one point, Alayne flounders a little in trying to think of what to say next, and I feel for her. Haven't we all struggled through an awkward pause at least once in our lives?

The last line in the story is,"My name is Alayne. Now how do you say that in French?"

Alayne took French in college, but she doesn't remember how to say, "My name is Alayne?" Sheesh. Here at the end she appears (to me) to be either not so smart, or connivingly coy.

So, even though Alayne grows as a character, taking the first steps in leaving mourning behind, I personally found her somewhat unlikeable. I think Denis, the love interest, could do better.

Woman's World Standbys: A widow and widower, moving on

Monday, May 18, 2009

As Sweet as Chocolate

by Kate Karyus Quinn

Tagline: Molly's mom was right: Sometimes you can't get too much of a good thing...

In A Nutshell: Molly figures if she eats chocolate 24/7, it will cure her of her cravings. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. When her mom comes to visit, she confesses both her diet failure and her crush on the neighbor across the hall. Mom convinces her to share her final chocolate treat--a cake--with him, with excellent results.

Observations: Roberto is a pretty ethnic name for Woman's World. I wonder if we'll be seeing more of those.

Molly grows as a character when she conquers her fear about knocking on Roberto's door. That's always a nice element in a Woman's World story. It helps the reader identify with the character because we've all felt that uncertainty regarding the opposite sex.

Woman's World Standbys: A matchmaking mom

In My Humble Opinion: This story didn't quite work for me on several levels. The eat-chocolate-'till-you're-sick diet was a cute idea for a story, however, I doubt that anyone could eat only chocolate for five entire days and not become disgusted. I don't think they'd even last two days.

I also found it a little contrived that Roberto just happens to mention that he loves to tango, after Molly just said to her mother, "Go over there and say what? 'Hey here's some cake, and do you know how to tango?'"

Monday, May 11, 2009

Collision Course

by Ruby Perry from the May 11, 2009 issue

Tagline: Brad spotted the pretty woman walking down the sidewalk--and just couldn't keep his eyes on the road...

In A Nutshell: Everytime Brad sees this brightly dressed woman, he becomes distracted and has a fender bender. The insurance company wants to cancel his policy. When he meets the claims adjustor, it's that self-same woman! He asks her to dinner.

Observations: This story was heavy on backstory. Almost the entire story was set-up. By the time I got to the insurance office, I could see what was coming, but I liked it anyway.

When you're writing a "first meet" story, there are a few things you usually have to cover, and one of them is to establish that both the hero and heroine are single. Here, Perry does this with this passage:

He noticed there was no ring on her finger, and all the photographs around the room were of smiling old people and children.

Also, Brad had a small character arc. In that backstory, Perry established his careful approach to life:

Brad had also been careful in love, so careful he had rarely worked up the nerve to ask a woman out--which was why he was single in his mid-30s.


"I wonder," he said as decades of careful, cautious living slipped away from him, "I wonder if you would allow me to tell you the story over dinner?"

Monday, May 4, 2009

A New Tradition

by Connie Cox from the April 27, 2009 issue.

Tagline: Jenna was happy she had decided not to eat dinner at home--and so was Patrick...

In a Nutshell: Jenna teaches at a preschool. Not particularly enthused about eating alone in her quiet apartment, she opts to stop by Pizza Town. In the parking lot she sees a car with a flat, a man in a sling, and one of her students, Dylan. She deducts from what Dylan has told her in school, that this must be Uncle Patrick. She offers to change Patrick's tire, since his arm is broken and the garage isn't answering their phone. After she plays mechanic, Patrick invites her to pizza. She, of course, accepts!

Observations: When you're writing a "first meet" WW story, it's sometimes a challenge to introduce the characters to each other without eating up too much of your word count. You don't want to waste space with names, handshakes, etc. if you don't have to. Cox worked it out so that, even though she'd never met him, Jenna already knew who this guy was from info her student had shared.

Woman's World prefers beta heroes, those proverbial nice guys, and Patrick is a good example. First, because of his broken arm, the man can't even fix his own flat! No opportunity there for him to show his manliness, poor thing. Second, he looks sheepish when he accepts Jenna's offer to change the tire. (An alpha would have scowled or growled or grunted.) Third, he channels a little alpha when he asks her to join them for pizza, but readily accepts it when she seems to reject him. Fourth, and perhaps the most telling evidence that he's not an alpha male, Patrick broke his arm at an ice skating party! Watch out Brian Boitano.

Question: "Well, thanks, then," Patrick said, looking a bit sheepish as he accepted her offer.

Jenna put the jack together. She was impressed that Patrick accepted her help and also liked that he didn't try to supervise the repair.

Test your editing skills. How could you tighten that passage?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Believing in Magic

by Nell Musolf from the May 4, 2009 issue

Tagline: Since her divorce, there'd been no room for magic in Lucy's life. Maybe that was about to change...

In a Nutshell: Recently divorced Lucy is at her niece's birthday party, at which a magician is putting on a show. Her sister informs her that the man performing is Matt, whom they knew in high school. Sister also made sure Matt is single and knows that Lucy is, too. After the show, Lucy almost works up the courage to ask Matt to coffee, but can't do it. A random playing card on the floor, the queen of hearts, and Matt's sincerity convinces her to accept when Matt himself asks her out.

Woman's World Standbys: a matchmaking relative, a heroine that needs to move on with her life, and a shared past.

Observations: This story showed a heroine with a character arc, which only makes sense considering it's about her getting on with her life after divorce. However, Lucy is a little reluctant still. Her reason for not asking Matt out? She had stopped believing in magic. If this were a longer, more complex story I would have wanted to slap Lucy upside the head and said, get over it! But, we only have 800 words to get this story wrapped up, and I thought that tying in the magic show and her not believing in the magic of love and fearing re-entering the dating arena was a nice idea.

There is a nice black moment when she almost turns him down, but of course, she accepts, showing her growing as a character.

In My Humble Opinion: It bordered on cheesy for me when Matt said, "You said you don't believe in magic. Maybe you'd give me the chance to help you believe again?"

Favorite Part: Matt says, "...In real life I'm a high school math teacher." Lucy replies, "Which explains why you got an A in geometry and I got a C."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Love Is in the Air

by Krista Weidner from the April 20, 2009 issue

Tagline: The world looked beautiful to Daphne and Rick as they floated over it in the hot air balloon...

In A Nutshell: Daphne's best friend, Kate, gives her a hot air balloon ride for her birthday. Kate is afraid of heights, but figures she'll be able to conquer her fear in order to share this special gift with her friend. However, when faced with getting into the balloon, Kate chickens out. Daphne goes up in the air anyway with Rick, the balloon operator. Turns out, Kate "strongly expected she wouldn't make it," and arranged the whole thing as a quasi-gift/fix-up.

Woman's World Standby: Yes, yet another matchmaker story.

Question: We readers want to believe that they will live happily ever after, so what signs does the author give you that Daphne is attracted to Rick? (You'll have to have a copy of the actual story to answer this question.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Little Chocolate Cake

by D.M. Dickey from the April 13, 2009 issue

Tagline: The bride had no doubt her big sister, Jennifer, would make the right choice...

In a Nutshell: Beth is getting married and is so busy that she asks her sister Jennifer to choose her wedding cake for her. At the bakery, Jennifer realizes she knows the baker, Mike, from high school. They'd had home ec together. On the day of the wedding, Beth reveals that she planned for Jennifer to "re-meet" Mike, thinking they'd hit it off. She was right.

Observations: While Woman's World is a somewhat traditional publication, it was interesting to see this story go against tradition in a couple of ways. First, the heroine was older than the hero by a couple of years. Also, the hero was the baker and she was the semi-professional.

There was one part I thought was strange:

Mike arrived early at the reception hall. Jennifer greeted him, then went to help her sister.

"Beth," Jennifer said, as she buttoned up the wedding dress. "It's about the cake."

Beth turned. "No, Jennifer, it was never about the cake." She smiled into her sister's eyes. "It was about the baker."

When Jennifer brings up the cake as a topic, it seems odd, like something was edited out. Other than that, I thought the story was cute.

Woman's World Standbys: Matchmaker Relative, Shared History/Old Flame

Question: Notice anything interesting about how the author handled point of view in this story?

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Face in the Crowd

by Terry Van Meter from the April 6, 2009 issue

Tagline: Anna was drawn to Eli--even before they spoke a word.

In a Nutshell: Anna is a portrait artist working the local art fair. To attract customers, she usually chooses a face in the crowd, snaps a picture, then draws that portrait during the fair. Today she chooses a handsome man and later, after conversing with someone standing behind her, observing, she discovers it's that handsome man she is drawing. He offers dinner in exchange for the portrait, and she accepts.

Observations: This story had a leisurely pace. Despite only being around 800 words, we get time to know Anna and see why she's attracted to this stranger. They even have a fairly long conversation, during which you can see the relationship start to develop.

This story also had a secret, but it was only a secret kept from Anna. Of course, the reader knows immediately that the man she's talking to is the man she's drawing, so that makes the story all the more fun to read. Readers LOVE being let in on secrets before the characters in the story. And isn't that true in real life? Isn't it fun to know in advance that Greg's going to propose to Lisa?

Finally, I thought I'd point out that this story is written in first person. The advantage to first person with these short stories is that it makes the reader feel as if the heroine is a friend, telling her story over coffee, perhaps. It's subtle, but it's there.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Love Letters

Story: Love Letters by Lisa Weaver from the March 30, 2009 issue

Tagline: Grace had no idea who her secret admirer was. Or did she?

In a Nutshell: Tom is a mail carrier who has a friendly relationship with a widow on his route. Determined to lighten her outlook in the wake of losing her husband a year and half ago, he secretly writes and delivers letters to her. One day, he's about to ask her out via one of the letters, but she had long ago guessed he was her secret admirer.
Woman's World Stand-bys: The secret admirer is one of those plots that WW likes. After all, what woman wouldn't like to have a (harmless, not stalking-type) secret admirer? The only drawback I find to secret admirer stories is that I always kind of wonder about the manliness of not just coming out and stating his interest in the woman. Then again, alpha heroes don't show up much on the pages of WW. You'll more commonly find the shy, humble, dependable guy.
Also, this story is a good example of the traditional character names they prefer. Grace, Alice, Evelyn, Pete, Tom--these are good, solid, old-fashioned names. Nothing trendy. Editors will read until they find a reason to reject, and why make them hesitate over a heroine named Nevada?
In My Humble Opinion: I found this a little too corny for me.
"What gave me away?"
"Your heart did. You put a piece of it in each of those wonderful letters."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Soccer Guy

Story: Soccer Guy by Stephen D. Rogers from the March 23, 2009 issue

Tagline: Laurie realized that first impressions aren't always the ones that count...

In A Nutshell: Laurie decides to get her car washed by a soccer team needing to raise funds. The coach turns out to be a weekly customer of hers at the restaurant where she works as a waitress. She's surprised at how different he is--loose, fun-loving, and patient with the boys. He even winks at her. After her car is clean, they discover that each of them is single, and he asks her out.

Teaching Points: This story moved along for a couple of reasons. First, all the action happens over the course of a few minutes. Second, the dialogue and prose are snappy. There's a slightly military feel to the way Michael handles the car washing mob, but it's done in a fun way. Also, Rogers uses short sentences and fragments to great advantage, especially here about halfway through the story:

The kids ran in a circle around my car. Wet pavement. Hoses. Puddles of soapy water. A mess, I thought, but a fun mess.

In My Humble Opinion: The only thing that rubbed me wrong about Michael, the hero, was that he tipped only 15%. Come on, Mikey! You couldn't spare 20% for a lady you're attracted to?Heh heh. But then again, I have to admit, I'm in the service industry, so I'm highly tip conscious. :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Smiling Eyes

Story: Smiling Eyes by Ginger Hanson from the March 16, 2009 issue

Tagline: Would it take more than the luck o' the Irish to get Patrick annd Shanna back together?

In a Nutshell: Shanna needs an Irishman to march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. She knows she should ask her Irish fiance to help her out, but they had a fight. She swallows her pride and apologizes for her behavior. He agrees to march in the parade but only if they get married directly afterward!

Teaching Points: This story is the perfect example of the 3-act structure. The first act occurs when we find out Shanna's problem and her backstory. The second act starts when her friend helps her realize what she needs to do to solve the problem. Lastly, we see Shanna follow through.

Woman's World stories often don't have climaxes, but this one does. I love a climax in a story. Here, it's when Shanna apologizes and reconfirms her love, but Patrick doesn't say anything at first. We wonder if he still wants to marry her or if her pride ruined everything. Of course, Patrick still loves her. Good man, Patrick!

There was also a nice character arc for Shanna. During the course of the story, she learns to apologize and admit she was wrong. This makes me optimistic about her future with Patrick.

My Favorite Parts:

"Wait, you're saying that Mr. Maguire can't do the parade?" I heard myself, well, shout.

The "well" was funny.

I also laughed when she moaned softly at the beginning of the story.

But my favorite part was Patrick's response to Shanna. "Are you calling to apologize or because Mr. Maguire is in the hospital..." He didn't let her get away with anything, rightfully so, but he also smiled to soften his strong stance. That's when I thought to myself, "Shanna better not let this one get away."

Monday, March 9, 2009

Sweet Reunion

Story: Sweet Reunion by Tracie A. Hill from the March 9, 2009 issue

Tagline: When Meg met up with Jeremy again, it was just like old times--only better...

In a Nutshell: Meg goes to her high school reunion and sees her ex-husband. After spending the evening together, they decide to give their relationship another chance.

In My Humble Opinion: Sometimes Woman's World publishes stories that hit me wrong. Although well written, this was one of them. When I finished reading it, I wondered what made Jeremy and Meg think that their marriage would work this time. Twice Jeremy is distracted from her.

People crowded around us now, and I turned away from Jeremy to greet some old friends. When I turned back, he was gone. Just like the old days.


Another friend joined the group, and once again, Jeremy's attention drifted away.

Furthermore, neither seems able to gauge the other's emotions at all. Jeremy thought Meg had been unhappy during their marriage, but she wasn't. She thinks he's unhappy at the reunion, but later she asks him, "Are you happy, Jeremy?" "At the moment," is his reply.

Finally, when Jeremy says, "You were a great wife and mother," Meg says, "But that was ALL." Meg was dissatisfied with those roles, and she has every right to be. Many women can identify with Meg. But not me. Right there my connection with that character was severed. Although I work part time, I consider being a good wife and mother the most important job I've ever had or ever will have. I'd wager a good portion of WW's readership feels the same way.

There's a very sweet moment when Jeremy whispers in her ear, "I miss us," but it was too late for me. I'd already disconnected with the characters. :(

But that just goes to show you, you never know what will turn a reader off. I'm only one person. Obviously, Johnene Granger, the fiction editor, liked this story.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Workshop Syllabus

Lecture 1
• Overview of Woman’s World Magazine
• Reasons to Submit

Lecture 2
• Differences between romance novels and WW stories

Lecture 3
• Research

Lecture 4
• Generating Ideas

Lecture 5
• Writing Short
• Tone

Lecture 6
• Story Structure
• Endings
• Titles

Lecture 7
• Submitting
• Cover Letters
• Keeping Track of Business

Lecture 8
• Response Expectations
• Rejection

• Woman’s World Guidelines
• Common Woman’s World Plotlines
• Sample cover letter
• Blank Tracking Sheet
• Stories “Third Time’s A Charm,” “Her Lucky Stars,” “Hot Stuff,” and “Heaven Sent”

Change of Plans

Story: Change of Plans by Randy Taylor-Irwin from the February 23, 2009 issue

Tagline: Barry thought he knew exactly what he was looking for...until he met Paige.

In a Nutshell: Divorced Barry plans to move to California. He yearns for a change. While at the travel agent's to pick up his one way plane ticket, he meets Paige, the travel agent's niece. A few days later, Paige delivers a "going away" pie from her aunt. The two have a great time and decide to go to dinner.

Teaching Points: It's always a challenge to show feelings and/or an attraction developing in such a short story, but it needs to be done. In this story you can see it here, "He was struck by how soft her hand was and by her pretty smile." And here, "As he walked by the window, he turned back for a last look of Paige's pretty smile." Then, the moment of truth is here, ""Paige, this pie is really amazing..." he paused. "And so is your company." Good job, Barry! Way to be a man and make that first move.

"Change of Plans" ended with, "Yes, home really is where the heart is." More often when there's a saying or adage at the end, it's usually tied with the title. Taylor-Irwin might have titled it "Where the Heart Is," or "Finding Home," or something similar. That can really give a story that "coming full circle" feeling.

In My Humble Opinion: "Her smile was sweet as sugar." I thought this was a little cliche, even if we were in Barry's point of view. Maybe Barry thinks in cliches. Who knows? But I thought the author could have chosen to compare her smile to the apple pie they'd just shared, maybe, or something other than sugar.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Just the Right Fit

Author: Patrice Howell

Issue: February 16, 2009

Tagline: Lizzie was attracted to Michael, and Michael was attracted to Lizzie. They just needed a little push...

In A Nutshell: Lizzie has a wedding to go to and needs a second opinion on a dress she's trying on. As she emerges from the dressing room in search of the saleswoman, she meets an admiring man (a doctor, no less!) His mother easily manipulates the situation so that Lizzy and Dr. Right go to that wedding together.

Teaching Points: Lizzie is all of us, unsure about how attractive we are in the hell that is the department store dressing room, which helps the reader identify with her right off the bat.

Loveable heroes are a must, and Michael is a man we'd love to meet. Quick-witted ("I would've noticed you.") Humorous ("I can give you [a second opinion]," the man said. "I'm a doctor.") A good wage-earner (see above). And he treats his momma right (even if it's his medical obligation. LOL)

This plot moves along, showing the characters making a connection via the jokes, his obvious interest in her, the deft establishment of Lizzie's bachelorette status. Then, when the two potential lovebirds might have taken much longer to get around to a first date, Matchmaking Momma hustles them along.

As often happens, you see a Woman's World Happily Ever After in the form of a first date. So many of the features in Woman's World aim to uplift and their romantic fiction is no different. After every story, you want the reader to be content in the knowledge that the hero and heroine of the story have a bright future.

Woman's World prefers more middle-class characters, but once in a while a professional will sneak in, like this story's orthopedist. So, don't completely ban lawyers, and the like from your stories.

WW Standbys: a matchmaking relative, a wedding