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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment #361

A Little Bit About Our Vacation

Some of you asked last week about our vacation, looking for some details, and so, in abridged version, here we are.

There really isn’t much to tell. We traveled to Leavenworth, Washington, a small tourist town in Eastern Washington which has a Bavarian theme. We have both been there several times before and we love the quaintness of the town, and the weather is always gorgeous there, unlike often-rainy Western Washington, where we live.

We took our two dogs (of course), and we stayed at an Airbnb owned by a wonderful couple who made us feel like royalty. It was a 750 square foot dwelling, with wonderful amenities, a hot tub, and a private beach on the river. For three days we pampered ourselves, did the tourist thing, relaxed, and reconnected with each other. The town was very welcoming, dogs were welcomed, we ate at sidewalk cafes, and the business owners pampered us, happy to see cash-paying customers after the long pandemic winter.

It was perfect and exactly what we both needed.

Now, let’s get to that mail! Thanks to all of you who asked questions this week. It’s much easier when I have questions to answer; it requires much-less imagination on my part. Lol

We have a heavy Mailbag this week, so let’s go it.

The Mail Room

The Mail Room

More on Audio Books

From Liz: “I wonder whether lockdowns have contributed to the rise in popularity of audio books. Do you think the pandemic and all the lifestyle changes it has caused might contribute to a change in how readers access the written word and how frequently?”

Liz, I don’t have any statistics on this (none have been posted yet, that I could find, for 2020), but I suspect audio books did rise during the pandemic. Ebook sales increased by 20% during the pandemic year, and audio books also saw a big increase. It is reported that audio books are expected to outsell ebooks by 2030, so they are definitely increasing in popularity.

None of this bodes well for traditional publishing and, by extension, writers who are hoping to land a traditional agent and/or publishing firm. I’m afraid the physical books are declining in sales, and that trend does not seem to be changing anytime soon.

Experience and Empathy

From Liz: “I agree that experience counts for a lot in writing. How much importance would you also attach to the ability to empathise with others and also the value of reading widely to gather experiences from others?”

I think empathy is a great tool for a writer. Quite frankly, I can’t imagine being a successful writer without empathy.

I am also a strong supporter of reading for the purpose of broadening a writer’s personal encyclopedia of knowledge to draw upon. So much of my writing is based upon things I have read about. There is no way I can travel everywhere or see everything, but I can sure “sound” like I have based upon what I learn from reading books. I do believe a good writer can make a scene come alive, even if that writer has never been in that particular situation before.

Writing a Short Story

From Pamela: “When you are writing a short story should you ease into the basis of the story or jump right in? I hope this question makes sense. I am never sure how to begin a story.”

Pamela, the question made perfect sense, but the answer, me thinks, is one of those “whatever works for you” scenarios.

All of my books began with a writing exercise, writing an introduction to an unseen book. I just write a scene. I put characters in that scene. I call upon my muse to take it from there, and a book is borne from that exercise. The same is true for my short stories. I have no guiding light for my stories. I start writing about a scenario and let the story grow from there. Sometimes it doesn’t happen, and that’s fine too.

About My Vacation Destination

From Bill: “Here’s a question for you, any plans to write a hub about your visit to Leavenworth? If not, any thoughts on Leavenworth and your long-weekend there? I’m curious as I’m sure others are.”

Bill, I think I just wrote about the trip above. I don’t know what else to say about it, but I am going to write an article about the history of Leavenworth, because I think it is fascinating how that town rose from the dead to become one of the leading tourist destinations in the Pacific Northwest. Stay tuned!

The previous photo challenge photo

The previous photo challenge photo

Photo Challenge

From last week’s photo challenge, using the picture added here.

Scroll to Continue

From Pamela: She sat on the stone ledge with her two children on this cloudy day. Rain was not far away. She wondered where she was going to get money for their next meal, let alone find a place to sleep tonight. The baby was asleep in her arms. Even her four year old son knew there was nothing to be happy about, and he was hungry. Their clothes were old and in poor shape. Her son had no shoes that fit properly. The future looked bleak, and solutions seemed non-existent.

From Ann: 'The baby sleeps, sheltered in her mother's embrace, blissfully unaware of the hardship on that face. Little boy gives all the comfort he knows, resting his cheek on her shoulder, "I'm here Mum, I love you." She looks into the future's possibilities, some hope just out of reach, though determined courage will see them through. Then maybe she will afford a smile.'

From Brenda: Her eyebrows pinch together with a worried frown, exhausted from the arrows of light heating up the day, hoping to hear that last nail pounded in the roof board giving them safe shelter for the night.

Writing to Your Audience

From Denise: “As for similes and metaphors, I can't get past just writing the way I think and talk myself. Many times I'm not using proper grammar and sometimes I think in run-on sentences. But I still write the way I think and talk. This is why I will never be a popular author. Also, for children's books I can't use some of the $50 words I love so much because kids wouldn't get it. I have to stay simple. It all depends on who your audience is, doesn't it?”

Most definitely, Denise, it should all depend on your audience. One reason I will never write a children’s book is because I can’t simplify my written language enough to appeal to younger kids.

There is nothing wrong with writing the way you think and talk, as long as it communicates with your reader and fits the genre you are writing in, and proper grammar be damned!

Who is your audience?

Who is your audience?

Revamping Old Work

From Rodric: “I have written a few books. My writing style changed and improved since those projects to the point I want to rework the old. Here is the question: When is it appropriate to go back and revamp old work? Is it ever? Have you done it? Assuming you have, has it helped?”

Rodric, you asked about revamping old work, but you also mentioned books, so my answer is in two parts.

If you are talking about revamping an old book of yours, I tend to agree with another HP writer here, Heidi. I don’t think, in most cases, that it is a good idea. Your original book was you, as an author, at that time, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Let is stand as a part of your history as a writer, and write another book as a current author. In other words, move on.

If you are talking about articles, I think revamping is a good idea, if for no other reason than to give you a better chance with the Google gods and SEO. An update makes an article current, and that’s rarely a bad thing.

Kindle Vella

From Miz B: “I got an email from Kindle Direct Publishing this week. It was advertising their new program for publishing series, or as we used to call them "serials" called Kindle Vella. I've been thinking about turning one of my unpublished short stories into a series because it needs more than an ordinary short story but I didn't want to write a novella. I haven't checked into it yet. Have you, and if so, what do you think about it?”

MizB, I had to go look it up. Here’s what it said on the Kindle Vella website:

“With Kindle Vella, U.S. based authors can publish serialized stories, one short episode at a time.”

Sure, whatever, why not? I have nothing against doing it. Seems like it’s as good an idea as self-publishing a book. It’s just one more in an endless line of publishing options, but with the Amazon name behind it, I’m sure writers will flock to it. Evidently anything that Jeff Bezos touches turns to gold, thanks to our shopping preferences.

Other than that, MizB, I know nothing about it. If you do use it, let us know what you think, okay?

Short Vacations Are Good for the Soul

My wife and I had not taken a vacation for ten years, so those three days were special for us. I’m sure it won’t be ten years before our next one. We needed it!

Thanks, again, for all of the questions. The Mailbag only works if you submit questions, either in the comments below or by emailing them to me at

Thanks a bunch, and have a superb week!

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Nithya, I'm far too old school to switch now. My wife loves audio books, but because of her busy schedule. She still prefers to sit and read.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 24, 2021:

Thanks, Heidi, for your thoughts on Kindle Vella. I hope it doesn't take off, simply because I don't like Jeff Bezos. LOL How's that for an irrational reason. I just think he's a little, smug weasel. :) And that's my rant for the day.

Happy Monday! Knock them dead this week in business.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on May 23, 2021:

An interesting and informative mailbag Bill. So happy to know that you and Bev enjoyed your vacation with the dogs. Audible books are great to listen but I still love to read holding a book in my hands and feel the pages as I turn - old school style I guess. I enjoyed reading all the responses from the picture prompt.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on May 23, 2021:

More catching up!

Re: Audiobooks, Part II and Pandemic Reading Changes. Yes, the pandemic did have some influence on the sales of eBooks and audiobooks. Actually, more on audiobooks. But not so fast on assuming it's all doing digital!

According to Statista, 22.7% of the US population bought an eBook in 2020 and 44.5% bought a print book. Nope, print is far, FAR from dead.

So, no, I don't think that we're going to see a massive shift to digital formats anytime soon.

Re: Revamping/Rewriting Old Work. As you noted, I say leave it as is. Last week's YouTube video was my rant on rewriting fiction.

Re: Kindle Vella. I have a few author friends who are trying it or considering it. I think it's an interesting concept. But I don't think it'll take off as Amazon expects (now I'm on the record for that opinion). Why? Because it adds an obstacle to readers. There is too much good fiction at good prices everywhere. Kindle Unlimited gets you access to at least 10 complete books every month for one price. And readers have to buy coin tokens? Seriously? They can read a lot of free books (or chapters) on Wattpad, Google Books, even free Kindle books. I feel a rant coming on.

Anyway, sorry for my Mailbag tardiness. I'll try to do better next week. Wait, that's tomorrow! Have a great week!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 22, 2021:

Thank you Kathleen! I will put it on my reading list, for sure. Best wishes on your sales.

Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on May 21, 2021:

Haven't looked at your mailbag in a while, but it is good to see you still have a vibrant following. Thought you might like to take a look at my latest book just released and available on Amazon: Unintended Consequences - Wallis & Edward by Kathleen Cochran. Would love to hear your feedback!

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 21, 2021:

Yes. And that's cool.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 21, 2021:

Welcome back, Bobbi, like Miebakagh said!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 21, 2021:

Thank you, Bobbi! I hope you and your sister had a fun shopping trip. I am refreshed, thank you! The nicer weather helps my mental aspect for sure.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 21, 2021:

Thank you, MIebakagh! I don't see another vacation happening until next summer, but I may be wrong about that timetable.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 20, 2021:

That I agree. But welcome back to Hubpages.

Barbara Purvis Hunter from Florida on May 19, 2021:

Hi Bill,

My first time reading this hub since I've been back writing on HubPages. I enjoyed the questions and answers--I will read your mailbag again it is 12:40 am and I am tired from shopping with my sister--I am happy you and your sweetheart took a vacation to refresh your body and mind.

Take Care,

Bobbi Purvis

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 19, 2021:

Bill, you're always welcome. All loves you. And I look forward to reading about your next trip. But how soon or later? Stay safe.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 19, 2021:

MizB, I'm not sure there is a cure for lack of desire. Maybe it will never return. Maybe it will. It would take someone far smarter than me to answer that quandry, but I hope this finds you well and healthy. Take care, my friend, and have a great week.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on May 18, 2021:

Thanks for using my question about Kindle Vella, Bill. Now you know as much about it as I do. I've been toying with the idea of turning a short story that I wrote into a series on HP. I may go that route to test the waters first. It is tedious to self-publish on Amazon, ya know. I've written a few things since my stroke in 2019, but I haven't published anything anywhere yet. It isn't laziness, it's lack of desire. So I guess I'll try anything to get out of this "who cares" mode.

So glad you and Bev enjoyed your vacation. Now that the world has started to turn again after covid, maybe we can all look forward to vacations again. Have a good rest of the week, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2021:

No worries!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2021:

I am happy, Gyanendra, that I can provide that service for you. Best wishes to you, and thank you for always being here.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2021:

Thank you, Alyssa! You do the same. Have a happy week filled with love.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2021:

True words, Flourish! True words indeed!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2021:

I love it, Sha! I love the remembrances, the obvious love, the realization of the importance of a mother's sacrifices. Well done, my friend. You cracked it out of the ballpark.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2021:

Mr. Happy, it's hard to believe we had not taken a vacation for ten years. The last place we visited was Yellowstone National Park, and we had a wonderful time, talked about our next vacation, and then life got in the way, and other interests and obligations, and now I'm 72 and I need to gear it down a bit, my friend. It's time to make relaxation a priority, don't you think?

Blessings to you always, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2021:

That is very kind of you to say, Devika! Thank you so very much for your very nice words.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2021:

Thank you Peggy. I had to research Kindle Vella. I had never heard of it. Just one more tool for us to use should we choose to do so.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2021:

Thank you Peggy! I have found that three or four days in Leavenworth and I'm ready to leave. I love the town, but I grow restless with window shopping and being a tourist. Still, I will return to it sooner rather than later.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2021:

Pamela, I have not met anyone who disliked Leavenworth. It can be a bit hot there in the summer, but nothing a Florida gal can't handle. :)

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2021:

It does indeed, give depth, Mary! I hope you start writing again soon.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2021:

Denise, thank you for your thoughts. I think there is an obvious place for proper grammar, but it is not the be all do all of writing.

Have a wonderful week, and blessings to you always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2021:

Thank you, Brenda, for your wonderful comments. Best wishes and good luck with the rewriting of your poems. Blessings to you always, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 18, 2021:

I am very happy to hear that, Miebakagh! Thank you for your kind words.

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on May 17, 2021:

Sorry typo read.

gyanendra mocktan from Kathmandu,Nepal on May 17, 2021:


Thank you for sharing your valuable experience of the writing world.

I reade and redead your article to learn English.

Thank you.

Alyssa from Ohio on May 17, 2021:

Sounds like a wonderful trip!

What an excellent mailbag :) Thank you Bill! Have a wonderful week!

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 17, 2021:

Not everyone writes crisply and cleanly like Hemingway. There is Faulkner. Just strive to be one’s authentic self in writing.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on May 17, 2021:

Bill, I'm late, but I'd like to offer something for last week's photo challenge:

Funny how your perceptions change.

In looking at this old photo of Ma, my baby brother, and me, I see pain and worry furrowing her brow.

Yet, my memories of our life back then are warm with love. Ma always made everything okay. We were loved, never really went hungry, and always felt safe.

Ma was our rock.

But looking in those eyes now, I see she was so much more.

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on May 17, 2021:

"I do believe a good writer can make a scene come alive, even if that writer has never been in that particular situation before." - And if You're the Margaret Atwood type, You just pay people to do the research for You and bring You all the information You need on any given topic. Then, You combine it in a book and seem amazing on how You did it all lmao

"I am never sure how to begin a story.” - “Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” - Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland. In my opinion, as long as You have a good hook at the beginning, You should be fine, wherever that beginning is.

"I think I just wrote about the trip above. I don’t know what else to say about it" - You're not exactly a travel writer, huh? I will take a historical perspective on that town though. I like history.

"proper grammar be damned" - I think I heard a crack in the sky. (My Dacian ancestors it is said only feared one thing: the sky to fall upon them.)

"Most definitely, Denise, it should all depend on your audience." - I gotta say, I do not write for a specific audience here on Hub-pages. I obviously know the readers who leave comments but other than roughly 20-30 people, I have no clue who reads what I write. So, I write as I write. Let the chips fall where they may.

"My wife and I had not taken a vacation for ten years" - That's a type of punishment I do now wish on anyone but I am certainly happy that You broke that spell, even if it was only for three days.

Okay, enough of me. You have yourself a wonderful week ahead!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 17, 2021:

Hi Bill glad you had some free time and enjoyed it. You share the best work here and I learned lots from your informative hubs. The first time I discovered your hubs I knew then I had found not only a good writer but the value in your writing.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on May 17, 2021:

Loved today's mailbag, Bill. It answered a few questions I had, like whether to rewrite our breakout novels and also about Kindle Vella, which intrigues me. Thanks as always for sharing your insight.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 17, 2021:

I am so happy for you, Bev, and your fur buddies that you all enjoyed your short vacation in Leavenworth. That charming town would be a fabulous place for a short stay. We only toured it in one day but would happily go back.

Even though I have never attempted to write a book, I still find your answers to questions of interest. Reading and writing go hand in hand.

Enjoy the week ahead!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 17, 2021:

The questions is today's mailbag were very interesting. Thank you for answering mine, Bill. I had not heard about the Kindle series program and that is very interesting.

I am glad you, Bev and the dogs enjoyed your vacation, and I hope your won't wait so long next time. Leavenworth sounds like a town I would enjoy visiting. I enjoyed today's mailbag, my friend.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 17, 2021:

This is a very substantial mailbag today. First, I'm delighted about your wonderful vacation. Second, I agree how important empathy is for a writer. It gives depth to whatever we write.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on May 17, 2021:

I had to laugh out loud when you said to let the grammar be damned. I would not have put it that way but that's the way I act when I write in run-on sentences or change a thought in mid sentence. Somehow it works for me even if it isn't proper.



BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on May 17, 2021:

I'm glad to hear you enjoyed your vacation to Leavenworth, Washington.

I'll look forward to reading your article on it.

I do believe as a writer we can put ourselves in situations or places by simply using our minds.

I do this alot when I write poetry.

I try to sense how I would feel.

Thanks for sharing my little piece on your challenge. I think Pamela & Ann both did a wonderful job...very descriptive.

I would love to write children's books, but learning to simplify is a bit challenging.

I am currently rewriting my poems and adding a few quotes, pictures, etc.

Thanks for your advice.

Great mailbag.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on May 17, 2021:

Bill, welcome back from your vacation. I see that you enjoy every moment of it. As for the questions and answers, they're compeling. Answers to the photo challenges inspires me.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 17, 2021:

Good morning Misbah, and Happy Monday to you. I love that quote. It is so true of my first works. I simply don't have the time to go back and rewrite so many of them, but I have definitely grown as a writer and find satisfaction in my current works. That will have to be enough for me.

I hope you stay healthy and find happiness at every turn during your week. Blessings to you always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 17, 2021:

Happy Monday to you, Chitrangada Sharan, and thank you very much. I hope this finds you healthy and happy.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 17, 2021:

Linda, the projects never end around this house. I have painting to do, but I'm dragging my feet on it. I'm imagining the mess the dogs will create. lol

Have a great week!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 17, 2021:

Bill, I'm so busy with outdoor projects, I don't know when I'll get around to finishing that Leavenworth article, but it's on my desk top page, staring at me, daily, so it won't be long.

Happy Monday to you, my friend, and thank you.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 17, 2021:

Thank you Rosina! We are already planning our next mini vacation, later this year. No more waiting ten years for us.

Happy Monday to you, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 17, 2021:

Thanks, John, for taking on the challenge. It is first-rate, as I expected it would be.

Have a great week, my friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on May 17, 2021:

Thank you Liz! No, I can't imagine Dicken rewriting his novels. But I wonder, when he published them, if he was sure he would be successful? I think all writers carry doubts within them.

Happy Monday to you! Stay safe and healthy.

Misbah Sheikh from — This Existence Is Only an Illusion on May 17, 2021:

Happy Monday, Mr. Bill. I am happy to hear that your vacation was perfect and that you enjoyed it very much. I appreciate the questions and the responses, as always. It is so pleasant to read your words of wisdom. I am so thankful for your friendship here. I really respect you.

When it comes to rewriting, I would say. I love a quote and I have added it to my profile bio as well so none of my readers can get disappointed by my old writings ever... Lol! Here's the quote: “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” -- Octavia E. Butler

Stay safe and enjoy life to its fullest. have a blessed and wonderful week ahead. Peace and Blessings always

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 17, 2021:

Hello Bill, Happy Monday!

It was good to know about your short and much needed vacation. Surely, one gets rejuvenated after a short trip.

Useful answers to this week’s questions, and nice response to the picture prompts, by fellow writers.

Thank you for sharing another interesting and helpful mailbag.

Have a wonderful week.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on May 17, 2021:

Good morning Bill. That was quite a hefty mailbag with an interesting collection of questions. I hope a few more people take up your photo challenge. Each offering has been unique.

I think you're absolutely correct that reading makes one a better writer. I used to tell my girls when they were little that with books they could go anywhere, and beyond.

I'm glad you had such a wonderful, relaxing time in Leavenworth. It's probably been 20 years since I've stayed there. Perhaps in a month or so (we have a HUGE anniversary coming up).

Enjoy the rain this week my friend; there's work to be done inside the house.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on May 17, 2021:

Thank you for touching on your visit to Leavenworth, I look forward to reading about its history. Short vacations are a wonderful idea and we need to do this more often also. I tend to always be looking ahead to the next big vacation, which is great, but a few long weekends here and there would definitely provide a much needed break and chance to recharge. Have a great week, Bill.

Rosina S Khan on May 17, 2021:

Nice to know about your vacation. Hopefully your next vacation would be closer.

Interesting mailbag full of questions from fellow hubbers and great answers too. They were educative and informative to me.

Happy Monday to you and a great start to the week.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on May 17, 2021:

That sounds like the perfect short vacation to me, Bill. I enjoyed the questions and answers this week.

I was drawn to your picture prompt, but hadn’t got around to it until now. So here goes, better late than never.

I rested my head on my mother’s shoulder to try to offer some comfort. She didn’t smile anymore. It seemed so long since she had. My baby brother slept a least when he wasn’t crying.

I am grateful for the canvas shelter that protects us from the sun and rain, but I’m hungry. Mom says we have to stretch what little we have and make it last.

At least father will be back soon. He left three or four weeks back to look for work on the railroad. He said not to fret, when he returns he’ll have money, food and presents for us all. He will be back soon.. tomorrow I think..or the next day.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 17, 2021:

I am pleased you enjoyed your vacation and I look forward to reading about the history of Leavenworth. Thanks for the answers to my questions. As usual you make interesting and helpful comments in all your answers. HubPages encourage us to update articles to keep them current. But can you imagine Dickens rewriting his novels on a regular basis?

I hope you have a good week and that you won't have to wait so long for your next vacation.

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