Ask the Quarterback to the Prom

I have a novel coming out in July of this year. My publishers asked me if I knew a few authors who would be willing to give a blurb to help promote the book I know a few authors. I attend workshops, a writer’s group, and every literary event in my vicinity that I can. I’ll stand in line for an hour to exchange a few words with someone whose books have meant something to me. (My students have suggested I am overzealous in my admiration of authors. To that I say, I am always respectful of boundaries and if anyone minds my…

5 Things Exercise Taught Me About Writing

I can do more than I think I can. When I begin, I can’t imagine finishing. Just go for ten minutes, I say to myself. Just give it a try. Focus only on this rep, this workout, this page. I try not to notice that it is five in the morning and dark outside. I once wrote ten thousand words in one day. Most days I work out before the sun rises. This isn’t the Army. This is my life. I can do more than I think I can. I can ignore the inner (and outer) naysayer.  Getting up at 4:30 in…

6 Smart How-To-Write Books

I don’t give writing advice very often, but I know good writing advice when I hear it. The following six titles are a sample of some of the best. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King When I was in college in the eighties, a classmate announced that some day Stephen King would be considered a genius. Everybody scoffed but I knew she was right.  The author of Salem’s Lot, The Stand, and The Shining has forgotten more than most of us will ever know about weaving great stories. In On Writing, the master  is generous with advice,…

A Great Yes: Geminid Press

When I was in grade school, I took the short bus once a week to a special day class for gifted children. The program was called MGM for Mentally Gifted Minors, and our MGM teacher was an evangelical woman named Mrs. Sturtevant who really hated my ideas. My nine-year-old Mentally Gifted Minor brain intuited the deliciously thin ice Mrs. Sturtevant’s sense of the appropriate skated upon. I broke through it during our art unit when we fashioned paper mache masks to go with creative stories we had written. The other children gooped strips of newspaper and flour glue into the…

Fun with Archetypes: Guidance Cards

As a writer of fantasy, I love twisting my knowledge of mythology, folklore and ancient archetypes around to make something new. Fiction isn’t the only thing you can make using mythology as material. I invented a craft idea that every now and then I put together for a friend or group of friends using very personal mythologies and archetypes. It doesn’t cost very much, and it creates a fun guidance card game that’s sort of like your own private Tarot deck. Here is a picture of a pack of goddess archetype cards I made for a group of my friends. Ready…

7 Labor Day Thoughts

My students’ daily homework assignment is usually to frolic in the clover. When I write frolic in the clover on the board where the homework assignment goes, new students want to know what I mean. Students:  Is that a book we are supposed to read? A website we’re supposed to look at? Me: No. Just find a patch of clover and frolic in it for a second. Students: What do you mean frolic? Me: Why does the forty-five year old lady have to tell the teenager how to frolic? Just find a patch of clover and do this (takes off shoes…

To Not Flinch

Sacramento is in a quiet golden literary age, in my opinion. We enjoy an embarrassment of riches of independent booksellers, a poetry community, regular spoken word, poetry series and open mic events, and a bunch of critically acclaimed, courageous, badass writers doing great work. I say it’s a quiet golden age because Sacramento is not famous yet for being a hotbed of literary courage. Yet whenever I attend Sacramento Stories on Stage on the last Friday of the month, or a book launch at Time Tested Books, I leave inspired and amazed that I share at least a day job zip code with these…

Patti Smith on Youth and Friendship

The Patti Smith on Youth and Friendship podcast from the New York Public Library kept me company today while I chipped away at an enormous domestic chore that my husband and I have been working on for weeks. In this 2010 interview Patti Smith discusses her education, her early days in New York City, and her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe. That was the year her memoir Just Kids was released. It’s a brilliant conversation but has left me feeling skinned and with a headache. Readers have begun to officially follow my blog now with this impulsive crashing into September I’ve done, vowing…

Friday Free Topic

My writing students write in their journals almost every day. Daily journal writing is the crux of skill-based writing instruction in my book. Natalie Goldberg said it best in her book Writing Down the Bones. If you want to write and don’t know where to start, Godlberg’s work might help. I outlined my own practice of using journals in the classroom  in the article “Building the Habit of Writing” for Educational Leadership magazine. If I were a physical education instructor, I would not expect students to run a marathon on the first day. A responsible teacher would give students time to exercise and…