Think I’ll write a poem.

September 23, 2018 § 3 Comments

You can tell it’s

a poem

by how it



Even if it doesn’t rhyme—

poems don’t rhyme

all the time.

Verse is terse.

And imagistic.


Leafless trees are

gaunt old men standing

homeless in the snow.


Tomorrow is a page


–or better yet,

a page unturned. « Read the rest of this entry »

Morning pages.

June 24, 2016 § 6 Comments

IMG_0194Writers struggle with…well…writing.

Committing beliefs, dreams, and ideas to paper, making the word flesh, takes courage.

What will people think when they see, in black and white, what goes on inside your head?

That’ll keep you from writing. But to be a writer you have to put words on paper.

Begin by writing for nobody. Grab your pad and paper and write something, anything. Toss words like confetti!

Still can’t?

That is because your inner writer, that blind-wanderer, has a traveling companion, the critic within who whispers, “Everything you write sucks.”

When you write can make a difference. Try writing first thing in the morning. The inner critic armors-up as the day goes on, but as you leave sleep you are less guarded, less self-censoring.

Your inner-critic sleeps later than your imagination.

Wake up and write something every morning. Something that doesn’t matter.

IMG_2207_edited-1Make it a habit and pages will fill. You will also come to know yourself better as themes recur. I was unaware of how much I think about tomatoes, my messy house, aging…

I do this wandering form of writing every morning. It is nothing like the work I do later in the day when I continue the long march toward a finished novel.

My morning pages are a no-fault opportunity to try things out, to be foolish or serious, to stand up on the bicycle seat. « Read the rest of this entry »

The secret life of the alphabet.

December 7, 2014 § 2 Comments


I spend most days creating characters out of words—which is pretty abstract.

Even more abstract are the words themselves, figments of the collective imagination of a set of symbols called the alphabet.

Each letter is translated to sound in the mind, but a letter also exists in its own right as a shape on the page, a shape with an attitude, a personality.

Take A for instance. A is confrontational. Note the wide stance, the arms crossed on the chest. A is adamant, stubborn and tough. Being a writer who struggles with confrontations I’d diffuse A’s anger by bringing B into the scene.

B is that bosomy older woman who will hug the mad right out of anyone, even a hot head like A.

C shows up in my stories a lot. Open, receptive, a good listener. Having C in a story allows the writer to turn exposition into dialogue making critics less likely to ding them for loading up on exposition and backstory.

D is that dandy who thinks he’s all-that—note the straight back and the thrown out chest. Writing D I’d like to give him a secret fear, something to make him, if not likable at least more human, but I have a hard time getting past the smell of his cologne. « Read the rest of this entry »

Gulliver in five minutes.

June 29, 2014 § 2 Comments

Gulliver's Travels.Thursday was the last day of my summer workshop for young writers.

Starting with props as varied as a pair of old shoes, an ancient Roman oil lamp, and a whale vertebra, we had already tackled the elements of fiction with three days of structured exercises.

It was time to turn the antic mind loose with some free writing.

“See that scrap of paper in front of you on the table? Write a noun on it and pass it to the person on your right.

“You have five minutes to put down any thoughts that word triggers.”

I scrawled “hamsters” on a yellow slip of paper and passed it to Grace.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Eenie Meenie.

June 1, 2013 § 4 Comments

tumblr_static_thumbsup.php[1]As humans we look for meaning.

Even when things are random, we search for pattern, imposing order where there is none.

The idea that “things happen for a reason” is so much more reassuring than “things happen.”

As a writer of fiction I take this one step farther. I construct the pattern in which “things happen” so that everything “happens for a reason.” And as the God of that small world I supply those reasons.

A writer, like a runner, has to build the necessary muscles for the task, so I’ve filled notebooks with writing exercises. For one that I do regularly I grab a dictionary. Yes, the old-fashioned kind that feels heavy in your lap.

I open it and take a random stab at a word. Archaic, bland, or esoteric, I’m stuck with it. I continue to play the literary equivalent of pin the tail on the donkey until I have a noun, a verb, and an adjective (if I get a second of any one of them I throw it back).

« Read the rest of this entry »

On becoming a writer.

March 1, 2013 § 9 Comments

Words.Before we write our first word, we listen.

Think back to the early voices you heard, the stories they told, the expressions they used.

Can you hear them?

My own childhood was hung between the Italians and the Swedes.  The older Swedes had a lilt in their voices, an inability to pronounce the letter J.  When my grandmother proudly told one of the uncles that her younger son was going to Yale he slapped a hand on his heart, and said, “They’re putting him in Yale?  What did Bobby do?”

« Read the rest of this entry »

The Workbook.

November 29, 2012 § 10 Comments

Each night at about three, I am suddenly awake, with no transition between dream and full alertness.

It is an artifact from being a young mother who had to go from dead asleep to wide-awake in the moment when my baby drew that deep jagged breath and began to cry.

With no baby to run to in that wakeful moment, I begin to think. The world is dark and, aside from the quiet mantra of my husband’s steady breathing, almost silent. It offers few distractions.

Sometimes, I wake up, not to an empty brain, but to an idea.

The other night, I woke up to the clear picture of a workbook, the kind in which a kid might practice the loopy letter L. I could almost smell its grainy acidic pages. The wire spiral that held it together had the slightly crushed look of a notebook carried in a backpack.

« Read the rest of this entry »

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