Churchill yo self


“A professional is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

This quote is attributed to Richard Bach, but he claims he didn’t say it, that it’s just a popular maxim. I’m glad for this quote upon the receipt of a rejection letter–a nice one, as form letter rejections go, inviting me to submit additional work at a later date because the winds of change are unpredictable. What have you. I indulged in the traditional wallow, my heart hanging so low I trod its hopeful beats into the ground, and then the next day, Churchilled myself right up. You know, that other quote, “Never give up. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.” Yes, sir!  Onward! Because really, what else am I going to do?!  I love  writing with everything that is in me. Rejections aren’t personal, and they certainly aren’t an excuse to give up. Perish that thought! So if you are reading this and you’ve been laid low by the temptation to quit whatever art you love, don’t. DO NOT QUIT. Just don’t do it, man. By all means, shlub around the house in your worst bra, bemoaning your fate. But only for a moment! There are stories to tell, and no one can tell them except you.

I Am Not Beatrix Potter


Here is a quote from Beatrix Potter, (saw it on Goodreads and Tumblr):

“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.”

I want you to know, this is not my experience. At all. The first words of a story are fraught with danger, self-loathing, and enough second-guessing to make a superstitious man hug a black cat. The first words of a story have to hook the reader and set up that all-important first page of the story. The first page being the place where your reader forgets they’re in a bookstore and is transported to a magical place where the only thing they ever want to do is read your book until it ends, and then throw themselves down on a chaise lounge in a fit of despair because it’s over.

Like, no pressure or anything.

However, daydreaming the first words of a story, now THAT is delicious. It’s fudge-made-by-old-ladies delicious. No pressure, just dreaming, pondering, mixing all the different ways your character could strut onto that stage you’ve been building in your head. But again, here’s where I vary from Miss Potter (whom I love because she had that secret romance with Ewan McGregor in the movie and then married that younger lawyer, get it girl): I know where I want the first words to lead. I plan my stories, I plot them so hard, I track inner journeys on a hand-written chart and cover countless removable post-its with possible explosive disasters I can throw at my characters. Miss Potter sounds like more of a “write by the seat of your pants” person, which is totally fine for her and countless others. But if her quote fills you with confusion and arguments, which then lead to guilt because what kind of monster argues with Beatrix Potter about anything,  you might be a “planner” type. This is also cool.

I love quotes by other writers because they show me who I am and who I’m not, but we’re all still welcome at the same party. Party on!

Wait! That’s me!



This is the email I just shot off to a friend, the magical unicorn angel who sometimes begs for more pages; the kind of friend who, when you think about throwing in the towel and just writing maudlin fanfic the rest of your life, reminds you that she really likes your book, so don’t quit writing until after she find out what happens next.

Anyway, I am cracking myself up over here, because what happens next is that I have to write a kissing scene. A really good one. Like, the payoff of over 200 pages of UST. I think I should go do some research.


Well, maybe not. Okay, gotta go!






“Fantasy is my favorite genre for reading and writing. We have more options than anyone else, and the best props and special effects. That means if you want to write a fantasy story with Norse gods, sentient robots, and telepathic dinosaurs, you can do just that. Want to throw in a vampire and a lesbian unicorn while you’re at it? Go ahead.” Patrick Rothfuss


I know what you’re thinking. We’re all thinking it: unicorns are asexual. But that’s the whole point of the quote, isn’t it? In fantasy, you can write whatever you want and there will be a place for it. Nothing will seem out of setting. (Out of character is up to you.) I’ve chosen to write in the “speculative genre” because I like making stuff up.

When I read, however, I choose novels with a strong sense of place, regardless of genre: Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country novels, Alan Bradley’s post-WWII Flavia de Luce mysteries, and anything by Fannie Flagg. There are no fantastical bits in these novels but their settings are so wholly other to me that I’m transported, and I get the same feeling I get when I read an epic fantasy.

Anyway, I put up this Rothfuss quote because I’ve been feeling guilty lately about not reading enough in my genre. You want to make sure that the brilliant idea you just had hasn’t already been done to great acclaim. (oh, how sad I was to find out that Guy Gavriel Kay wrote novels starring mosaic artists!)  You want to find offensive tropes and avoid them. You want to find something you adore so you can write the author a love note. A lot of my guilt is assuaged by the fact that the library is not stocking mass-market paperback new releases in paranormal romance and my purchasing budget is a hefty null right now, but then I thought of all the books that sucked me in. Some of them are fantasy/sci-fi, but a lot of them are not. When I read, I am learning how to write something that transports the reader into the story I’m telling, and THAT is the best part of finding a good book.

And by learning, I don’t mean osmosis. I mean I take a notebook and write down what happens in Chapter One. Chapter Two. Midpoint. Climax. What swept me up, what I skipped, what dialogue I wish I’d written. It’s part of the journey and I am absolutely committed to getting a book on the “weird shelf.”

So I’m off to the bookstore to read the backs of books!  I am in the mood to read a fairy tale. Wish me luck!



In April, the first 250 words of my work-in-progress were featured as the “real life diagnostics” on my favorite writing help blog, Fiction University. I love the way this author teaches the craft of story structure. And it’s free! Anyway, it was an awesome experience and you can go check out my excerpt and the comments. (she said, nervously)

Squeeeeeeak! Microphone feedback. No one likes that nail-down-a-chalkboard sound. Most of us don’t like feedback on our art, especially when it is called by its professional name, “constructive criticism.” It also has a trendy, hipster name: “concrit.” Eventually, you get to a place in your craft where you can see the problems in your own work and you stop hating the gatekeepers. There are fantastic editors for hire (and some scammers, caveat emptor) and some great fee-based peer review groups. You can also enter contests for a small fee—-even if you don’t win, you usually get feedback from the judges, either in the form of a scorecard or notes written in your document.

But what do you do if you just spent your last three bucks to buy your kids donuts they can eat in the back of the minivan on the way to the thing you’re late for?  I’m glad you asked!  First, you find a few friends who are willing to read your writing. Not all of them will be honest, but ask them where they stopped reading and started skimming. This will at least show you where they got bored. Then, if you’re lucky enough to have family who will read your stuff, listen to their comments. Don’t disdain the family/friends feature. These are the people who will show up at your future booksigning so you don’t look awkward sitting at a table all alone.

Next, read reviews! Authors are not supposed to read their own reviews on Amazon because it turns them into vampires or something, but we can! Go read all those 1 and 2 star reviews and find out what readers abhor. Poor characterization, head-hopping, telling, endings that fizzle, poor editing, etc. Then learn what all these things really mean and avoid them in your work.

(At this point, you might realize WITH HORROR that the prose that seemed publication-ready to you and your friends is really awful drivel that should be shoved into a drawer forever. Mope and move on!  Really. If you skip the moping you’ll only be moping on the inside. So take an afternoon to listen to Chopin and cry because he was taken from us so young! And then MOVE. ON.)

Then, spy. Spy on other people’s critiques. You can do this at writer’s conferences, in blogs, podcasts, etc. That’s the whole reason I submitted my stuff for critique: I learned something every week from the constructive criticism of other people’s work. One time, I was at a conference where a panel of professionals critiqued five different anonymous, unpublished submissions. The twist was that you were asked to submit TEN pages of your stuff, but they only had time to read TWO pages out loud. Before then, I had heard the phrase “hook your reader” but had no earthly idea how fast you actually have to do that. Two pages. Two paragraphs, if possible. The experience was incredible. I still refer to the notes from that night!

All writers must seek to improve their craft. Even the published ones. Good luck. And go read my little thing at the place!!




“No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can’t put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better.”
ERIN BOW (via garnetglitter)


There is nothing like realizing you just wrote a thousand words of a scene that takes place in a commercial kitchen, say, and then realizing that the crucial bits of that scene really involve two different characters who are cowering under a water tower on the roof. Am I right?!  This quote (via Tumblr, which can be a huge time suck if you’re looking for every gifset from the “Civil War” trailer, but incredibly helpful for keeping all five hundred links to historical fashions in one place)  is true. Someone said you have to write a million words before you know what you’re doing. That is not a direct quote, it’s just how I remember it. And I don’t remember who said it, because I think it might have been Randy Ingermanson, who is just a fantastic human being, but I don’t know if it was his quote or if he was inspired by a different quote so I just paraphrased for the sake of effect which happens sometimes, but I’m copping to it now and if I find the source I’ll….ugh. Hang on. I got a case of the heebie jeebie quote-guilts. Lemme look it up for Pete’s sake.

Found it!

“To develop your voice, I recommend writing one million words.” (source)

In my search just now I learned that a lot of people think that’s malarkey. I guess it depends. I wrote a lot of fanfiction back in the day and I didn’t keep any of those words, thank God, because it was me and a notebook and a full-color poster of Catherine and Vincent from CBS’s 1987 show “Beauty and the Beast.” But those words helped me grow as a writer, for sure. Mostly I’m talking about the words that end up on the cutting room floor in a novel you’re writing for publication: that choice bit of dialogue you cut because it was too maudlin, the villain scene that didn’t fit, the “let’s describe every cobblestone as we walk along to the next scene” scene. Save them, because you might find a place for them later. Save them, because what seemed maudlin at first might be the roots for a future character. Save them, because it’s fun.

No writing is wasted on the journey!









My husband whispers snarky comments to me all the time. This is our love language. Sometimes I disguise my guffaw with a lighthearted, church-appropriate chuckle (because Lord have mercy but that man is even more hilarious in the presence of God and these witnesses) and sometimes I don’t. Either way, it’s just between us. Nothing to share with the class. That is how I’ve been feeling about this blog.  I have nothing to share! The truth is,  I have lots to share about my writing journey, but nothing, you know. Literary. Lofty. Legit.

Clearly, I had to rethink the purpose of my blog. The reason I have a blog is so that when I submit stuff to agents or meet a future colleague and they google me, it’s not a vast tundra of files not found. I don’t like teaching, but I like to encourage. I don’t like writing meta on books and media, but I like linking to those who do. I love pinning velvet chairs on my Pinterest page, and that’s some important stuff right there. So, I will stop writing as though I know what I’m talking about, which is what I thought you should do if you got yerself one of them thar blogs, and will write from a place of discovery and ambition.

Ambition! Remember in “Little Town On The Prairie” (or was it the next one, where she gets that horrible internship with the woman who wields butcher knives instead of post-partum depression meds…) Laura Ingalls had to write a last-minute essay on ambition and she copied the dictionary definition, scattered a couple of observations across the top, and got an A?  I’m like that. I don’t really know what ambition is. I would have to look it up, too. But I am writing every day to improve my craft and eventually be a published writer. That’s the goal of my heart.

Unfortunately, the road to publication is like infertility. Have I said this yet? Oh well, I’ll say it again. We told everyone we were going to start a family and everyone was like, woo hoo! You will make good parents! And then it DID NOT HAPPEN. Eventually, the “hey, are you pregnant/no, I am just fat” exchanges dwindled and died. Happy ending: it did happen! Woo hoo!  We are good parents! But we floated in a bizarre sense of timelessness, waiting for that dream to come true. It’s the same with this Writing Thing:  This is my vocation and I am working hard. It could happen next year, it could happen in ten years. I have no idea. I used to feel weird being so passionate about something that is garnering no goal-oriented results, but now I’m just enjoying being obedient to the call.

My goal for the blog is to share things that might help other writers, offer hope to those on the journey, and amuse readers. I will occasionally be funny. (I will occasionally think I am funny, realize I was only pretentious, and delete stuff.) I hope you like my new approach! This way, when IT HAPPENS and people flock to my blog like pigeons on spilled cheerios, I won’t have to suddenly become savvy and serene. I’ll already be there, carrying a watermelon.


p.s. today’s confident and positive blog post is brought to you by the feeling you get after you read Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly.”