Flight to Spain

July 8, 2014

This morning I watched my daughter’s plane taxi from the gate, bound for Spain. Like a bad Julia Robert’s movie, I bawled my eyes out. Ellie’s been gone before, but today felt different, more painful. Maybe it was because Spain is so far from Colorado. Perhaps it was because she’ll be gone all summer. Maybe it was because I have a crazy imagination that plays dirty tricks on me throughout the night. And perhaps, most likely of all, the pain was all mine, simply having a difficult time saying good-bye.


Ellie will be 17 next month. She’s ready to find her way. And yet, it’s hard to let go.


As I drove home, exhausted and red-eyed, I thought about my writing. The process of my work, putting pen to paper, has always helped me understand my life and vice versa. Recalling my choked good-bye made me remember that letting go is part of the work, both in life and in my writing.


Advanced writers craft pages upon pages, only to delete them and begin again. It’s never easy. We love our words. We love our babies. But for the health of the manuscript and the health of our children, it’s sometimes best to say good-bye.


No doubt that I’ll get teary again this summer as I think about Ellie, but I’ll have tools to help me cope. I’ll call, I’ll email, I’ll text. And before I know it, she’ll be back. By now I’ve got a tool kit for my writing to help me edit—I’ll scratch, I’ll copy, I’ll delete. And before I know it, they’ll be a chapter.


It’s okay to be sad. But we need to let go, words and kids included.


Why do we Write?

July 2, 2014

Why do you write?

For me, I write because I can’t not write. I realize that’s a cheat of an answer, but it’s true.

I’ve been writing in some form or another my entire life. When I was little, I wrote down my dreams and did creative writing prompts at school. As I moved into my teens, I wrote sappy poetry. I was, of course, the only girl in the world who was having boyfriend troubles and who’s family was driving me crazy. It was fine poetry. In my early twenties I began to write stories but didn’t do much with them. Twenties were a bit of a blur. I wrote professionally in my thirties, and after my kids arrived, I began writing in earnest. My first book, Soul Sunday: a Family’s Guide to Finding Faith and Teaching Tolerance, won seven national awards, and I continued to write articles and essays. However, once I found my voice in fiction, I’d come home. Now, it’s what I do.

In addition to writing professionally, I write for myself. My journal is a kind of therapy. There have been times that I couldn’t write—my brain too deep in a void to find words. Other times were too busy for journal writing. But both of these reasons are excuses. We should never be too busy to take care of ourselves, if we use writing to help clear our heads. The void can be filled with words. Writers should never be too busy to write, even if it’s only a few minutes to capture fleeting thoughts.

I finally know why I write, and so I do. Everyday.

Ask yourself why you write and then ask yourself why you stop. Write anyway.



June 22, 2014

A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing. –Eugene Ionesco

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you. –Z.N. Hurston

For me, writing is exploration; and most of the time, I’m surprised where the journey takes me. –Jack Dann


Plot Arcs in Oz

June 6, 2014

What’s a plot arc? In general, writers fall into one of two camps: those who are character driven and those who are plot driven in their technique and style.  As a character/voice writer, plot does not come easily for me. I’ve had to work at it.

A plot arc begins with a small introduction, maybe a chapter or two to get the story started, and then launches into an inciting incident. Although this event does not need to be action packed, it does need to affect the protagonist and change their direction or life path in some way. From there, the protagonist moves forward toward his/her goal or quest. The author must give them small challenges and obstacles along the way. The climax of one’s story is the protagonist’s final confrontation, and from there, the story winds down with one or two last chapters.

Still confused? I think it can be best understood by following a movie plot, like the Wizard of Oz. The first scene takes place in Kansas, introducing us to the characters. Once the tornado strikes and blows Dorothy to Oz, the plot’s hit it’s inciting incident. The yellow brick road is loaded with obstacles and challenges, pushing the story forward. The wicked monkeys that terrify young viewers are followed closely by the melting witch and the meeting of the great and powerful Wizard of Oz . Ultimately, Dorothy realizes that she need only click her heels together to find her way home. It makes for an action packed climax. The final chapter of the movie sets her back in Kansas, explaining her “dream”.

While not all plot arcs are as easy to chart as the Wizard of Oz, once you look for a pattern, you should be able to plot the arc of a movie or a book fairly easily. The tricky part is doing it on your own. Good luck!


Summer Reads: Contemporary YA

May 18, 2014

I love offering good reads. For me, the most difficult part is knowing when to shut-up already.  I have a hard time limiting my list. With summer here, I’ve chosen a dozen books to recommend in the same genre that I write: contemporary, young adult fiction. However, you don’t need to be seventeen to enjoy these reads. I’m not a book reviewer, so search the internet for best reviews, but I promise—you won’t be disappointed reading any of these books.


Two Boys Kissing:  David Levithan

Fangirl: Rainbow Rowell

Wild Awake: Hilary Smith

Hold Still: Nina LaCour

Virtuosity: Jessica Martinez

Just One Day: Gayle Forman

Roomies: Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Panic: Lauren Oliver

Doll Bones: Holly Black (this is actually middle grade)

Out of the Easy: Ruta Sepetys (this is historical fiction- but recent history)

Sex and Violence: Carrie Mesrobian

Charm & Strange: Stephanie Kuehn


Happy summer reading!


Fear of Self

May 8, 2014

I recently had an enlightening conversation with a new-found friend and fellow writer. My friend, let’s call her Jo, writes professional blogs and articles, does press releases for various companies as a freelance writer, and is a ghostwriter. She’s successful.

What Jo doesn’t do, is write for herself. Not only that, but she told me that she’s afraid to write her thoughts, her emotions, and her own stories for publication. Jo’s no dummy and knows she could and probably should write for herself. So what’s holding her back?


Fear that her voice is not worthy. Fear that her words will mean nothing. Fear that she’ll be mocked. Fear of her own self. Fear of her power. Fear of  success.

I too, suffered from such fears. For me, I was afraid to speak up, so I wrote instead. After good hard living and a few slaps of snow in the face, I can happily say, I speak and write with no abandon. Do I get mocked and rejected? You bet. It’s part of the process just like it’s part of life. I’ve also come to realize that my words matter. Everyone’s do. If fear is holding you back, embrace it and strike forth anyway!


Car Crashes and Rejection Letters

April 27, 2014

Recently, I crashed my car—not hard, but still. Fortunately, I was driving in a parking lot, and although I did jam my thumb, no one was hurt. Needless to say, it was not my best day.

After I had driven home, I crumpled onto the couch and wondered why this had happened. Despite it being April, there was snow and ice. The other driver had admitted that he was driving too fast for a parking lot. It was early in the morning. My list continued to grow, wondering what lessons I needed to learn from the experience.

As I pondered a few answers, I noticed that my feelings and emotions were similar to those I’ve had after a rejection pops up in my inbox. My immediate reaction is shock, then anger, and finally, self-doubt. There are always questions. In the end, I move on.

Rejection for a writer is part of the process. I’ve written about it before. It’s important to hide under a blanket for a while, feel the pain and answer the questions. There are things to learn. Bad things happen. But we can move on. Rejection is simply a chance to do something differently and find the right answers. What an opportunity to sink onto the couch and discover something new for my manuscript.

And this round, there will be no car-crashing days.


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