Time to Write: Questions to See if You Want It

1. Is writing your job? Or is it a hobby?

2. Do you want it to your job? Do you treat writing like it’s your job?

3. How important is it that you publish?

4. Say three reason why it’s important to publish?

5. Do you set writing goals?

6. Do you keep them?

7. Do you sacrifice for writing?

8. What do you sacrifice?

9. What inspires you to write?

10. How do you get through the icky middles of your pieces?

11. What is the main thing you need to change to be a more committed writer?

12. Will you change that main thing so you can write?

13. Do you listen and take constructive criticism?

14. Do you read?

15. Do you love to have written?



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Three Things Thursday

I recently read an obit for a YOUNG man I didn’t even know that seemed to encapsulate his entire short life.  It said this adventurer and mischief maker was asked at age 3 why he was climbing up onto the washing machine.  “So I can get on top of the fridge.”  When asked why he wanted to get on top of the fridge he answered, “So I can jump through the doorway on to the couch.”  Under similar circumstances, what would you, the author, be asked, and how would you encapsulate your life and attitude toward it in 2 or 3 short sentences?  What would you ask your MC, and what would his/her answers reveal?

I read somewhere that an apprenticeship in writing takes ten years. Ten years from your first serious written word. Ten years to really absorb the intricacies of writing novels. 

I “published” my first book at eight years old. It was bound in scrap cardboard covered with wrapping paper and stapled computer paper inside. The story, you ask? An illustrated collection of horror stories, the most memorable being a killer doll.
My 28th birthday was on last Monday, so if that was my first serious attempt then I’m already ten years behind. However, I generally consider my start in writing to be when I entered Carol’s classroom, which is only seven years ago. Three to go.
I better start writing….
Just when I think it can’t get any worse for those I love, it does. Yes, more news that’s bad news. It seems that all I hear.

As writers, we can use good news and bad news to help us as we write. Those words can ease the pain around us. Touch the hearts of those who rejoice or mourn. Change a life.

This is our job.

We get to do it as novelists or picture book writers.

So dig deep, tell the truth, reach out.

You may be the only one there.

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Sometimes, when I drive down the road, I think how almost every single thing I see is backed by a real live breathing person.

The Dollar Cuts store. Someone had the idea. Started the business. Stuck their neck out. Someone else bought the franchise. Worked thousands of hours. Hired people. Managed them. Taught them. Paid them.

The grass in the median that someone planned. Someone planted. Someone mows. Someone oversees and decides when maybe they should put flowers there now.

The little house on the corner. Someone saw the lot. Maybe a field? Bought it. Found money to finance it. Found a builder. Watched it grow. Picked the colors. The carpet. The carport. The mailbox.

The mailbox. Someone designed that mailbox. Got the metal. Made the metal into a box (welded it?). Picked out the paint. Put it in a catalog. Wrote some copy.

Every thing. Every single thing you see has a story. Has a someone. Has risk and love and blood and sadness and joys and money and no money and relationships and heartache and people. Stories stories stories. People. People. People.

Ann Lamott turned 61 recently and posted something about it on Facebook. I loved what she said. Here are one of my favorite things she said:

Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared, even the people who seem to have it more or less together. They are much more like you than you would believe. So try not to compare your insides to their outsides.

We are more alike than we know. And when we read (and write) we get to hear people think, we get to experience their risks, their joys, their sadnesses, their everythings, intimately, and that makes our world bigger. It makes us understand more. It makes us kinder. It makes us smarter. And makes us love a little bit better.

I hope we write the hard things. I hope we write the stories we feel and and we see and we experience. I hope we don’t shy away from scariness or vulnerabilities. I hope we tell about the Dollar Cuts owner and her dog named Jimmy and how she lives alone and eats pancakes and drinks Sprite and watches HGTV and how she spent her life savings on that store. Her entire life savings and how maybe it wasn’t worth it. Or maybe it was.

So many stories waiting to be told.


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Today is the Beginning of Summer

For me, I mean. School’s out. I just have to submit grades.

And, as with any beginning, I have my goals.

The biggest goal of all is to enjoy.


I’ve never allowed myself to just live.


And I haven’t had the best of times the last few months. I’ve let this influence me. The sadness. The heartbreak.

Before me now is five months–with WIFYR (www.wifyr.com) stuffed in the middle–of enjoying being with Carolina. Taking a trip with a few of my girls. Polishing and organizing. Visiting Rick. Catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while. And writing.

How I love writing. And hate it, too.

And how I love rewriting.

How I love sexy new projects.

I’ve got all that before me.

Plus, guess what? I even jogged today. Not very far. And real slow. R-E-A-L slow. So slowly that Carolina walked beside me and said “Mom. ” And I was like, “Run. A. Head. Pl. Ease.”

I have second hand smoker’s lungs (thanks southern family o’ mine) and so I can’t breathe easily. Is this why I’ve had the cough now for years? (This better not be serious–but the allergy pills didn’t help. The asthma stuff didn’t help. The cough medicine didn’t help.)


What’s before you?

Is it dark?

Can you find light in that darkness?

Is it joy?

Does it include children? Lovers? Books? Friends? Food? Serving? Being served?


Perhaps is should include all of that.

And a good dog.



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Kyra Leigh, Queen Bee

Kyra is on her way, with her sister Laura and their cute friend, Katie, to Oregon.

So I’m writing since I didn’t say anything on Monday.

I’ve been visiting Rick in the hospital at the U of U. I’m happy to say that, today, he’s moving to Orem. I’m so grateful. He’ll be closer to me and Cheri and Ann Dee, and many of you. But mostly me. That’s what I’m thinking. All my classes–who is it all about? Who should be happiest? That’s right–me!

Rick is expected to be in Orchard Park Post-Acute Rehab sometime today. The address is 740 North 300 East, Orem, UT 84057. As I get more information on what his rehab hours will be, I’ll post here or on FB. He may be there as long as three months.

BTW, this place got the thumb’s up from our own Ann Cannon’s dad, Mr. LaVell Edwards. Did you know he’s a Hall of Fame coach? I didn’t until I read about that on the Orchard Park home page. Wow!

Rick’s cancer is the kind that can never be completely removed. Life expectancy is 6 months to 1 year. However, as many of you are, I’m praying for a miracle.

When I saw him a couple of days ago, Rick was moving his left leg much better. AND he was bossing me and Cheri around. You have no idea how happy this make me. When a nurse came in I told her, “Rick has been waiting 20 years to tell me and Cheri what to do.” She just laughed.

I think it might be good to let Rick get settled today.

Visits starting tomorrow? Call to make sure he’s not in rehab. Here’s the number: Tel: 801-224-0921

Our own sweet Amy Finnegan and Kristyn Crow came up with the idea of filming yourself reading to Rick–perhaps reading one of the books he wrote that has made you happy.

From the bottom of my heart I thank all of you who are praying, thinking good thoughts, and etc for Rick.

It’s all about me, and I need my pal around.

Love you, Rick. Love you all.


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Three Things Thursday


Miss out on going to college?  Didn’t QUITE get that degree you thought you needed?  Help is at hand. In keeping with April, National Poetry Month, you could always hit the CLASSICS on your own. Here, a few tidbits from a Haiku U. by David M. Bader “From Aristotle to Zola,” his cover declares, “100 Great Books in 17 Syllables” — read this and be the best-read Mommy on the block — Master’s Degree?  Who needs if you’ve got “Haiku U.”?
Plato: Phaedo
By Zeus, Socrates!
It seems you’re right once again!
Time for your hemlock!
Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice
Single white lass seeks
landed gent for marriage, whist.
No parsons, thank you.
Albert Einstein: Relativity: The Special and General Theory
Cherry blossoms fall
at light speed through curved space-time
and land with a thud.
Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe
Alone for twelve years,
Then a footprint in the sand.
Thank God!  A servant!
Louisa May Alcott: Little Women
Snow-drops hang like tears.
Shy, sweet, saintly Beth has died.
One down, three to go.



This past week I’ve spoken to a few teenagers, it surprises me how…young…they all seem. 

Was it really that long ago that I was like them? Did I really think like that? Was I really convinced that the boy I had a crush on was going to be “the one”?
Didn’t I know there was a whole world out there waiting to be seen? Didn’t I know that the girls making me cry today would be completely forgotten in a matter of months?
When writing YA, we have to remember to play by their rules. It’s true, teenagers don’t make much sense. They overreact. They have an incredibly narrow view of the world. They believe they’ll live forever and yet that they already know everything they’ll ever need to know. And they still believe they can do anything.
It’s this unique combination of attributes that make teenagers so much fun to write for. For better or for worse, the teenage years only happen once, and yet are some of the most memorable years in a person’s life.



Three Bests:

The best dying scene in a MG or YA novel.

The best first line in a MG or YA novel.

The best kiss in a MG or YA novel.

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Writing Through the Hard Times

As many of you know, my dear friend–our dear friend–Rick Walton, has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer called gliosarcoma. I’m heartbroken. Every conversation is about Rick and my worry and concern and sorrow. Anytime anyone asks me how I am, I want to say, “Not so great. My friend is really sick.” (Sometimes I do speak of this, sometimes I don’t. But I want to, every time.) As I sit here now, I’m having difficulty breathing. My eyes fill with tears. I’m worried and misspelling things–typing more badly than I usually do.

Part of me wants to sob–has been sobbing. Every day since the diagnosis. All day on Thursday. Any time I allow myself. Now.

I want to cry out to God. And I have. Tell Him how unfair this is. How, for the last nine + years, Rick has been so ill with Parkinson’s. AWFUL things happening with him. Why this, now? Why this, too? He wants to get married again. He wants chocolate ice cream. He wants to be able to talk, not just whisper in my ear over and over and over until I understand him.

Yes! I know this is the way of things. This is life. “Every true story ends in death,” Ernest Hemingway said. But I don’t want it to. In the last few months good friends have lost lovers, fathers, spouses and children. I know this is life!


A few months back, I was shaken up by something in the family that knocked my footing loose. I was sobbing all the time then, too. I became so sad I couldn’t write. In fact, I didn’t write fiction for almost three months. When more bad news came, I was brought to my knees. At the beginning of this family thing, I was too anxious to write. Then the desire to write left. I realized I had to repair my heart. Or at least try to.

I’m not a scientist, nor do I claim to be one. Going through grief is different for all of us. But looking back, this was my process during those three-ish months when I couldn’t write like I wanted. It may be different during this newer sorrow. I don’t know. Each grief is personal.

Be patient. You will write again.

If the urge comes, be ready. Don’t worry about how well you’re writing. Just write.

Push yourself a little if it feels okay to you. Five minutes might be all you do. Or you may sit at the computer and do nothing. That’s what I did. Sat there. It was how I pushed myself. It was all I could do.

Do only what’s necessary. I graded student papers and fell exhausted onto the sofa. I made short work of the extra work my teaching job brings.

Count all writing as writing. I wrote for the blog even when I couldn’t write fiction. I wrote a few words–or no words at all–with Ann Dee on our book. I took days off. I didn’t write on Sundays. I counted tweets. (Not so many of those as I still don’t know what I’m doing on Twitter!)

Think about your work. How was going I to end that middle grade I started a couple of years before? What about the book for Zondervan? That needed a huge rewrite. How would I get through that?

Let your brain help you through. I’ve solved more writing problems not thinking and worrying over them, but letting the troubles stew in the back of my head. When I get to the part of the book that’s troubled me, many times it’s worked out because my brain did the work when I wasn’t fretting over it.  I see the way.

Do that thing, whatever it is, that lets your mind veg. For me, that’s TV. For some, it’s cleaning. For some, it’s reading. (I had a hard time reading fiction, too, so this wasn’t a help for me.)

Complain. I bet my friends are good and sick of me. I whine a lot. About everything. And while I usually keep my mouth shut about serious family issues, this time I talked. A lot. Too much.

Shut up. I don’t even need to give an explanation for this.

I relied on God. No, the problems didn’t go away. I didn’t expect them to. But believing, having faith, hoping, it’s important to me. I needed that foundation to stand on.



These are just off the top of my head–some things I see when I look back over my life these last few hard, heartbreaking months.

By the way, when I finally eased back into my writing at the end of the three months, I finished two novels and began editing two more. I’m not sure if I could have pushed myself and written straight through my grief. Maybe I could have. But I didn’t have the creative energy I needed to even try. (Maybe just pushing along, no matter how hard, will work for you.)

Here’s another truth for me, for now: I know Rick wants me to keep on writing. “We’re going to make a million dollars,” he used to tell me. “We’ll build a writing commune. We can live there and writers can come and stay and create.” In fact, we spoke of this not so long ago.

Oh, Rick.

How I want that. With you. How I do.


Filed under CLW, Depression, Family, Life