Monthly Archives: March 2016


Today you should write about hope.  It’s raining outside and our backyard is full of yard toys and shoes and sleds and cups and chairs and bags and cardboard. I told my boys this morning that when a neighbor came to visit and saw our backyard, she started to barf all over the place.

Really? my oldest asked.

All over.


She was barfing here, over there, in the couch, on the piano, it was really sad.

They stared at me.

I stared at them.

Before they left for school, they went out and picked up a skateboard and a boot. It felt like a victory.

Write about the small victories that come from messes. That come from rain. That come from death. That come from trashy yards. That come from manipulating your children with vomit.

Every story deserves some hope.

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I love spring. I love the weather warming up, the flowers, the longer days.

I love the newness of life, baby birds, calves, baby babies. Spring is a good time to be alive.

This spring finds me working with Ann Dee, celebrating my divorce and my anniversary with my agent. And working on a book of my own.

A mid-grade.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a mid-grade on my own.

I have two characters I love and four adults I quite like.

Plus a teacher (based on my own 4th grade teacher, Miss Emery. She told the scariest stories.).

And a true life wrasseling star from the Olden Days.

Those are the players.

Then there has to be a plot. (Why? Why-oh-why must there be plot? Why can’t lovely words just make the story?)

So there’s the ‘borrowing’ of cars. Doing ‘naughty’ things. And a baby coming pretty darn quick.

And the wondering that I must do–what do these girls really want?

Will Miss Emery show up again wearing a wrasseling outfit?

Will Grampa Jo and Nanny find love?

Will Etta and Kat find themselves in the wrasseling ring?

Just what is going to happen?

We all know character moves the plot. What will my little girls and their grandparents do to make a story happen?

I’m ready to let them lead me.

There’s a murder in my next book and I gotta get words down for that.

But first.

First there’s the spring.

And a new baby in a book.

A new plot.

New characters.

Then the dark.





Filed under Character, CLW, Family, Life, Plot, writing process

Three Things Thursday

It’s been a while since I have posted, and not because my pals aren’t contributing.

So here we go. A few things from the amazing Cheryl and Brenda.



Last week, we had a party for my daughter’s 3rd birthday. 

She talked about that party for weeks beforehand. Every morning, the first question she would ask is, “Is it my birthday? Is everyone coming to see my birthday?”
If I was writing this situation into a novel, there’s a couple of ways I could have written the ending of this situation. Maybe her birthday comes and everything, from the cake to the decorations to the presents, goes wrong but she’s happy just to spend time with family. Or maybe a freak snow storm prevents anyone from coming and she sits at the window, waiting and crying. Or maybe everything is perfect and it’s a memory she’ll cherish forever.
But what actually happened?
She walked in, saw all the family and friends and decorations, then ran and hid in her room for over an hour.
We finally convinced her to come out to open presents, but only if she could wear a blanket over her head. Which she did.
Do you see how contrived all of my endings were in comparison? None of them had that human touch. Real people are so complicated and confusing. The things we think we want and the things we think we can do are so different from reality.
Our characters need to surprise us. They need to jump out and be themselves. We can’t force them to do things or be someone they don’t want to be.
And another!
I have an app on my phone called Timehop. Every day it tells me what I’ve posted on social media on that day in past years. 

Today I got a notification. Six years ago today, I announced that I had finished the first draft of my novel.
And what do I have to show for it? A published book? A contract with an agent? A finished, ready product?
No. None of it. I have nothing to show for it except a few notes that add up to, “I basically need to change everything because it all sucks.”
Every time I look at that novel, I get overwhelmed. First drafts are easy. Polishing is hard.
Will I ever finish it? I don’t know. I hope so.
Do you have any eternal works in process? Do you have any that stumped you for awhile but eventually finished?
And Dear Brenda:
The humorist and poet Phyllis McGinley periodically crops up in my brain. A family of my second cousins, like my own parents, were from Ogden, Utah. McGinley was born in Ontario, Oregon, but moved from there to a ranch in Colorado when she was only three months old. At age 11, with the death of her father, her family moved to Utah and lived in Ogden with a widowed aunt. Among other adventures, she studied musical theater at the U of U. Somewhere between the U and Ogden, she and my second cousins’ mother became friends.
My own mother loved reading the Ladies Home Journal and The New Yorker, and always had subscriptions to both. Whenever she found a Phyllis McGinley poem, I would be sure to read it as well. They were generally light, fun, easy to read and entertaining. McGinley became the first writer to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for a collection of light verse: “Times Three.”
So here’s just a tidbit from McGinley, so you get the flavor which was inherent in her children’s books, light poetry, and — I suspect — her life:
Oh, shun, lad, the life of an author.
It’s nothing but worry and waste.
     Avoid that utensil,
The laboring pencil,
      And pick up the scissors and paste.
One More!
So you’re taking a walk.  Or a shower.  Or a nap.  And you have this GREAT idea for a new story.  Or for your WIP.   Or for a poem.  When you stop walking, or showering, or napping, can you still remember the great idea?  With clarity?  With the same jolt of electricity as when you first thought of it, only moments (or minutes) ago?  Did you write it down right away?  If so, did it have the impact you thought it would?  Or had it changed?
Well, guess what?  YOU have changed.  From what you were moments or minutes ago.  Don’t grip the idea with an iron fist and choke it to death.  Maybe that poem you thought of in the shower was really supposed to be a personal essay.  Or that paragraph you were struggling with in your WIP last night.  Sit down.  Clear your mind.  Think wonderful thoughts, and whatever they are, start writing THEM down.  They won’t be the same as during your walk.  They may be more alive than the thoughts from your nap.  Let them be what they’re MEANT to be NOW, not what you WISH you’d had a pen to jot them down as you walked.  Or, next time, take a notebook and pen on your walk.
Girls, I love you both, Thank you for sending pieces even when I have let life stop me from blogging.

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The Wait and Make Game

Writing is the waiting/making game.

Waiting for those first ideas and thoughts and feelings to settle together, a fragile puzzle. Making those bits work when you get them so you can start a scene, the beginning of a novel, a part of the Icky Middles, the climax, the end, a character, a moment, an expression of joy–anything that sets you on the writing path. Or points you in the right direction. Or taunts you to ‘Come this way.’

Making time for this story, perhaps squeezed in between other novels you’re working on, all in different places, all requiring your attention.

Finishing a draft then waiting to hear back from your agent.

And then an editor.

Waiting for contracts, monies, covers, edits, back and forths, and all along you’re making your writing time work most effectively for you–perhaps even beginning another project–waiting for those first ideas and thoughts and feelings to settle together, like a fragile puzzle.

The truth is, I don’t believe in Writer’s Block (though I will give it a proper name) and I don’t believe in the Muse.

I believe in Verbs.

We work.

We write.

We sweat.

We worry.

We make writing work for us.

We make time.

We squeeze moments from our busy days.

We give up other things.

We do it.


With maybe only a glimmer of hope.

Waiting for those first ideas and thoughts and feelings to settle together, like a fragile puzzle.

That process all over again.

And again.

And again.

Here’s to joy in the process. Even when we find ourselves waiting.



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