Author Archives: CLW

Merry Christmas Day 8

One Christmas, there was a surprise blackboard where Santa had written my sister and me a note.

“That’s Nana’s handwriting,” I said. I looked squint – eyed at my mother and grandmother. Then I shrugged off that coincidence and went to open all of my presents, which happened to be Barbie stuff. Including a toaster that really popped the toast up.

I believed in Santa like a crazy gal. I argued with first graders, and when I went to second grade, I argued with second graders, and when I went to third grade, I argued with third graders. According to my mother, I believed in Santa until I was 12-years-old.

I still sort of believe. And while I never taught my own children that Santa gave them presents, I did tell them there was someone who gave to people who didn’t have anything and that he lived long ago and he is the real Saint Nicholas. And because I love Him, we talked a lot about Jesus.

By the way, Mom said when she told me Santa wasn’t real, I cried for hours. Then she said I ran back in to the living room, and asked, “Well, what about the Easter Bunny?” It was a rude awakening.

So what do you believe?

Who is your hero?

What means the most to you at this time of year?

How does your character celebrate?

Write 25 adjectives  showing how your character celebrates Christmas.

what would your character fight to the death for?

And finally, if there were a Santa Claus, and there may be, what would he do for you?


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Merry Christmas Day 7

When I was little, my beloved Nana had a silver Christmas tree. It was as big as the whole room and there were pink-bulb ornaments and Santa-faced ornaments and I loved that tree. It was a dream. There were promises tied up in it. When it came out of the box and the lights went on and you turned out all the ceiling lights, you couldn’t help but gasp. The whole room twinkled.

What memory do you have, that may be a little different? Is it your grandmother, cigarette smoke a wreath around her head, sitting in a darkened room, smoking? Does she have a cold beer in her hand? When she laughs, does she mean it?

How can you change your memory, or the feeling of your memory and put it into fiction? Can you write an essay? Can you make someone your children never knew, live? Can you almost touch the image you create?

That is your writing exercise today. Write about someone, without being sappy, and make them breathe.







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Merry Christmas Day 6

We all have secrets.

These secrets are hidden from most others and are sometimes hidden from ourselves. Some secrets may be harder to hide during The Holidays. They may make a person more generous or more Scrooge-like. Whatever, our secrets are a part of us. And when we are writing, secrets can make for a more interesting character.

I just realized one of my characters was wildly in love with a guy she’s dated behind her best friend’s back. Secrets complicate plots, make for a juicier read, and give you something to write about. And while this isn’t a big secret in my book, it’s one the character has carried for a decade.

What are your character’s secrets?

Write three.

Make each one more dark than the one before.

Part Two of Merry Christmas Day 6:

Imagine this secret is revealed on Christmas Day, without the main character wanting it to be known.

What happens next?


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Merry Christmas Day 5

Ann Dee always makes it snow on our site at this time of year. Have you noticed?

Once, when I was in Florida (which is where I grew up) is got so cold the water dripping from our hose (to keep the pipes from freezing) formed a four-foot icicle. Mom and I were so surprised, and excited, we took a picture by frozen water.

Imagine your character has never seen snow. It’s her very first experience. In 250 words, write about this event, using all the senses. If you only know snow, you are going to have to stretch. If you’ve never touched or walked through snow, or seen 25 foot snow drifts on the side of the road, you’re going to have stretch, too.

Here’s is the second part of the challenge. Think outside the box. No glistening. No freezing. No sparkling (Geez. Am I describing a vampire?). Make this new and original.



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Nana and the Last Days

Anyone want a little Bantam rooster and his best friend? Tiny and Runny need a new home. Tiny lays one little white egg a day. If you’re interested, please email me at

Okay you NaNoers! We have today, tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday to finish up our 50,000 words.

Where are you? Me? I’m pretty far behind. But I’m trying for a big 4-day push. And why not try? “It’ll be fun,” she said.

I’m writing a little with Ann Dee, a very little with Kyra (she’s pushing to rewrite her fabulous Mermaid book) and then more on this adult novel. This mystery. That plays with time. And several characters. Including more than one killer. And a ghost. And . . . I chose this for NaNoWriMo?

What I’ve found interesting is as I’ve settled into the story (or sorta settled), a favorite character of mine showed up. My grandmother, Nana. This time she is a very fancy Southerner. Wealthy! But it was such a relief when I realized old Grandmommy is based loosely on someone I love. November 26 is Nanny’s birthday. She would have been 100 years old.

If you have followed the NaNo plan, you are right in the place where the character makes (or is getting ready to make) another choice that will change her life forever. You’re building to the reveal of that choice. What makes her say, I won’t do this anymore?Whatever this choice is will propel you into the climax of the novel.

And if you’re writing a mystery, you’re character is narrowing down and getting closer to the killer. Her life is literally at risk. Tension is rising in both stories. Characters are making decisions. All are life and death, as far as character goes. All are life and death, as far as genre. This part of the novel matters that much.


Slow and steady wins the race. Keep writing. You’re almost to the finish line!

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My Friend, Chris Crowe

I haven’t been writing lately. My grief for friends lost and parents and children mourning has been overwhelming.

This is no different today as I write a note of sorrow for Chris. He lost his oldest grandchild. Ella’s funeral is tomorrow.

Lots of you know Dr. Crowe.

He’s a husband, father, grandfather, friend, teacher, writer, jokester. He’s hilarious. Compassionate. Loving. Devoted. The adjectives are endless with him. If he were reading this as I wrote, I know just what his expression would be. There’s be a little bit of a smile and then zing! A joke from him. Chris is who he is, in part, because of wife Elizabeth. She is just so good.

Many years ago, Chris came to me and asked, “If you could run any kind of writing conference or workshop, what would it be?” With John Bennion we brainstormed what became Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. For several years we ran the conference together. And sang If I had a Million Dollars, Oops, I Did It Again, and Paperback Writer for everyone (agents and editors included). The words changed, of course.

Here’s the thing. With all the joking, all the teasing, all the tricksies you almost miss Chris’s kindheartedness.

He loves babies and I remember when my youngest was born. Anytime we were together and I brought Carolina, he took her from me and held her. He should have been the father to a hundred kids. The grandfather to a million. One day, I’m sure he will be.

But for now, I am heartbroken he’s doing this. Ella was a baby the Hughes fought to get. I remember when she was born. She was a beautiful girl. And she grew into a talented young lady. Not unlike her grandmother and grandfather, not unlike her stunning mother, Christy, and her artist father, Daniel. And Chris adored her. Has adored each of the children and grandchildren that have come into his family.

There are no words for this kind of loss. I haven’t been able to say the right things to any of my friends who have lost parts of their hearts lately. I wonder at my inability.  My frozen fingers, weeping heart. Shouldn’t a writer know how to say the right things? Be able to reach out? Soothe?

Some of you (of the 8) who read this post know I am a faithful Latter-day Saint. A few days ago, as I wept for Stephanie Moore at the loss of her baby, something came to my mind that offered me insight and comfort to lots of what’s going on now. And while I won’t share that here, I have a feeling Chris and his family already know what I learned during prayer.

Chris, thank you for believing in me as a writer and as a possible conference organizer. Thank you for the jokes, even though I did go and tattle on you to Elizabeth. Thank you for being an example –by loving your family and God more than the writing or teaching or anything else you do.



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My Friend, Stephanie Moore

The children’s writing community is pretty cool. There are a lot of good people here. WIFYR has helped me socialize. (Yup. I’m not very good at that.)  And I can’t believe it’s been 18 years. My youngest was two. And still nursing. The reason I’m telling you this because I want to tell you about somebody who stepped up a few years ago when my assistant at WIFYR had to cancel because of health issues. Stephanie Moore took over my class for that assistant. She organized, emailed, contacted me, contacted the class, checked in, asked how she could help. And it may have been her very first year at the conference.

Stephanie very quickly became my right hand gal. That hasn’t changed. She’s an amazing woman. The two of us work very differently (and that means sometimes there is a butting of heads) (but that also means that there is an amazing product at the end). Together, we’re sort of a whole person. I love and adore Stephanie. (Just an FYI, she won  second place in the Utah Arts Original Writing Competition with her YA. Woot woot!) She has an incredible laugh. She shares my awkward sense of humor. She is a dedicated writer, a dedicated friend, and a dedicated Mom.

Day before yesterday, Stephanie’s daughter died. It was unexpected and, as you can imagine, horrifying to anyone who knew Rory and anyone who loves Stephanie. I’ve been crying since I found out. I don’t know why terrible, crummy, crappy things happen to good people but I will tell you this: the dedication Stephanie showed in helping me run an amazing conference is nothing like the dedication she has for her children and her husband. She is a perfectionist at many things. This includes sharing her love.

I cannot imagine how she must be suffering. And I wish I could take that pain away. There are no words I can offer my friend. But I can ask this incredible writing community to please pray for Stephanie and Lance and their three boys. Their lives will never be the same again. And the only chance for peace for them now will have to come from our God.


PS Dear Becca Birkin reminded me there is a gofundme for Rory’s funeral expenses.


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