A List of Hobbies I Gave Up When I Got Serious About Writing

Baking Gardening Thai food cooking Garage sales Beadwork Jewelry making Watercolor painting T-shirt painting Apron painting Hot gluing used coffee filters to the tops of glass jars and stamping them with Amish-style stamp designs Hot gluing cotton balls to the tops of glass jars and then gluing fabric over the cotton balls to make the lids puffy and then filling the jars with candy Wreath-making from vines I cut from random bushes on the side of the road Knitting Cutting hearts out of the pages of old books and Mod Podging them to glass jars and putting candles inside Mod…

To You Who Are Doing Rejection Wrong

I’ve been rejected more than you. I don’t know, maybe I haven’t. But I’d be willing to bet I have and I hate gambling. I’ve been a writer knocking on the door of the publishing game for nineteen years, nine books, dozens of short stories, articles, and poems. My failure to success ratio is about one hundred to one and that’s all I’m going to say about that.  The only reason I’m mentioning my rejection rate now is because my long history of hearing “no thank you, not at this time” gives me authority to say to you this: You are doing…

True Lies: The Truth Behind The Ghost Daughter

I’ve been asked enough times lately if The Ghost Daughter is autobiographical to want to address the question before the official release of the novel on July 1. Yes, it is. No, it isn’t. The Ghost Daughter is a novel. A work of fiction. It’s a piece of imagination, woven together in an effort to make a pattern in a chaotic universe. But some of it really happened, though. If you’re interested, here is a short list of scenes in the novel drawn whole cloth from reality: 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake:  Del Rio Beach is a stand-in for Santa Cruz…

Here

Catch the cool Q and A I did with the wonderful Catherine Warmerdam in the month’s issue of Sacramento Magazine. It was a fun conversation over tea on a blustery January day outside Tupelo in East Sacramento. Ever since I first moved to Sacramento, I’ve perused the pages of Sacramento Magazine looking for mention of people I knew. I usually know at least one person per issue in the society pages or within the features. I’ve always considered knowing people in Sacramento Magazine a good sign that I was connected to my community. Here’s the thing with Sacramento and me. This…

Remember Savasana

Today is a Sunday with no plans. Nowhere to be. At some point I’ll need to venture to the grocery store for lunch fixin’s for the week. That will take maybe thirty minutes. I did a little laundry. Made eggs for my daughter and her friend. Straightened up a bit. Putzed. Now I’ll write a few letters. Read. Think about things. Wander into the backyard and marvel at the plants and trees. My sweetheart is a good gardener. Two of my favorite TV characters when I was little were Farmer Green Jeans from Captain Kangaroo and the Professor from Gilligan’s Island….

Just Say Thank You

This was me when Sue, the wonderful organizer of Sacramento Stories on Stage, first asked me to send her my work for consideration: “Oh, no.  Are you sure you really want it? I’m not that good.” My friend Valerie grabbed my arm. “When someone asks to see your work, always just say thank you.” Thanks, friend. I needed that. My first reaction to a compliment, a gift, a favor, or an offer, is some kind of waffle-mouthed “Oh no, surely you don’t mean it, I don’t want to be a bother, I couldn’t possibly accept.” Reader, it’s bullshit. I never…

Be Generous

2016 is going great so far. Amazing great. For example, this month a friend gifted me with a two-day writing workshop with the author of the truly excellent short story collection Refund, National Book Award Finalist Karen E. Bender. I am an enthusiastic fan of Ms. Bender’s work and vision, and I was going to have the chance to work with her in a small group format. In the two-day workshop, we listened to Karen Bender’s wisdom about the craft of writing fiction. All of the participants read one another’s work and came prepared with notes on each story. Everyone got a turn for…

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 I Do to Raise a Conscious Child

Listen to New York Public Library podcast programs with her on the way to and from school. My twelve-year-old daughter is too young to read Beloved yet, but after listening to Toni Morrison’s reflection on the writing of it, she deeply gets why, for example, the success of  a children’s book glossing over the horrors of slavery is dangerous for young readers. Read together. According to a 2013 study appearing in Science magazine, reading literary fiction has a tendency to improve a reader’s empathy for other people in complex social situations. In my house, we set aside regular time to read…

5 Ways I Find Time to Write

1. I found a day job that respects my boundaries. I am a full-time English teacher. Any teacher knows that this is a job that can take over a life. The best thing I ever did for my writing is find a school community that allows me to enjoy the ever elusive work/life balance. 2. Stop doing hobbies. Here is a list of hobbies I had before I finally focused on writing for good: beading, jewelry making, knitting, gluing sticks onto glass jars to make votives, making books (not writing them), gluing pictures onto notebooks and giving them to my friends, baking,…