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…

The Time I Fell Down In Dance Class

I fancied myself a dancer when I was a kid. Flashdance was important. I watched a lot of the television show Fame. I listened relentlessly to my Flashdance and Fame records every single day, filled with longing. I made my friends call me Alex for a while. My perms were tight as screws. I wore leg warmers long after they were stylish. I mean, long after. Even in the summer. I badgered my dad to take the car out of the garage so I could practice tap dancing on the smooth concrete. I made up my own dances, dancing for hours, practicing…

Rerun: To You Who Are Doing Rejection Wrong

I was reminded today in an email about happy I am being a writer, working with other writers and publishing professionals who care deeply about excellence in literature.  As a reader, some of the most rewarding and amazing books I’ve read have been published in the past five years. As a teacher, I am especially grateful to the gatekeepers and writers of the YA world.  Today’s September Back-To-School Issue challenge is a rerun of a post I wrote a couple of months ago in response to an incident of online abuse hurled at a literary agent by a disgruntled writer. I was angry when…

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…

Rock Star University: Show Up

If you haven’t yet, check out this clip of Prince sharing a stage with several other musicians at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2004. I get chills watching this. Prince is doing anything but dialing this performance in. Can you predict what I’m going to say? Prince is teaching me here to show up one hundred percent. No matter what everybody else is doing, no matter the occasion, no matter what, have the courage to show up with everything. Be overdressed rather than underdressed. Be enthusiastic rather than apathetic. Show the courage to revel in the full joy of the moment….

One to Watch: David Pino

I love hearing the news that a former student is making waves in writing. In my One to Watch series, I highlight up and coming former students who are using writing to do great things. David Pino was in my Advanced Placement English Class seven years ago at a school called Sacramento Charter High. He knew more about most of the curriculum than I did, and was an encyclopedic resource for our Mythology and Archetype unit.  Also, I can never read Frankenstein again without thinking of his brilliant dramatic presentation of the Monster. He was a wonderful student in a…

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…

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,…

The Best Writing Advice Ever

Here is my writing advice: Whatever you do, don’t ask me for writing advice. Asking me for writing advice is like asking a thrasher in a mosh pit for ballet lessons. Ask Janet Fitch, writing professor and author of White Oleander and Paint it Black: 10 Writing Tips That Can Help Almost Anyone Listen to Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods, The Sandman series, Ocean at the End of the Lane, and so many more wonderful stories: Advice to Authors Be inspired by Joyce Carol Oates: Writing Advice from Joyce Carol Oates Get off your butt according to Cheryl Strayed: Dear Sugar…

Open Letter to Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer (Rock star, performance artist, author. I love her.) recently published an open letter in response to a fan’s anxiety about the effect that Amanda’s burgeoning motherhood will have on her art. The fan worried that Amanda Palmer’s renegade method of freely asking fans to fund her projects would just raise money for her kid now. The fan evoked vague examples of other female artists whose work became less “gritty” as a result of motherhood. See the original fan letter and Amanda Palmer’s gorgeous reply here. Amanda Palmer doesn’t know me. She has this handled. She doesn’t need my advice. Yet in our culture the…