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.