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…

Song List for The Ghost Daughter

My novel The Ghost Daughter released from Coffeetown Press last month. Here’s a little about it: In 1971, a wounded young man runs with his daughter in the woods at night. As he collapses, he tells the little girl to run, and she does. Eighteen years later, in October 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake buries twenty-two-year-old Angel Kelley under a collapsed building. Her adopted mother Judith is diagnosed with cancer while her deepest secrets surface in national news. In nearby Silicon Valley, Reese Camden loses her husband in an accident that kills him and critically injures their five-year-old daughter Madison….

The Day I Died

The person I was at 5:03 p.m. on Tuesday October 17, 1989 was not the same person at 5:05. That 5:03 girl was insecure, self-absorbed, and sad. She looked to others for validation and approval. She hated being alone but found making friends impossible. I guess you could say she died in the Loma Prieta earthquake, and that was in many ways a mercy. (5:03 girl did have magnificent hair, though): The only good thing about the day of  October 17, 1989 was that my long, lonely work hours at the Santa Cruz Ace Hardware downtown were broken up by making keys for…

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…

What I Was Thinking When I Wrote The Ghost Daughter

A few years ago I stood in the check out line at the grocery story, Casey Anthony staring at me from the cover of the People magazine. I don’t follow crime stories usually, but this one followed me. I couldn’t help it. I was fascinated.  A young woman claimed her little kid went missing a full month after anyone had seen her. The authorities found the thoroughly decomposed body of the child months later in a pile of duct tape. The prosecution was inadequate to the task of conviction and the judge let her go. Everyone thinks she did it. But…

Rock Star University: Pursue Excellence

In a fog of mourning last week, perusing every Prince interview available on Youtube, I found an odd little visit he made to The View some years ago. The hosts harass him until he leaves, but before he does he drops an important piece of wisdom. After Barbara Walters leans in to say that Justin Beiber had told them that he wanted to have a career as long as his, Prince just smiles. She says it to flatter him, but he isn’t flattered. His look is gentle but deeply knowing. Prince says, “The key to longevity is to learn every aspect of music that you can. I…

Trust the Process

Today is the last day of my 31 Days of Advice challenge. I started a day early, left out two days in the middle, and gave yesterday a break for Savasana. My last piece of advice for myself is a phrase we say to one another on Kairos retreats at the school where I work. On a Kairos retreat, the seniors go on a four-day self and God-discovery journey with their teachers and peer leaders. Sometimes the going is rough. Trust the process, we remind each other. It’s the best advice of all. Trust the process may sound airy fairy, but one…

Imagine

If you don’t believe in magic, stop right here. This post will just annoy you. Hello everyone. Let’s take a deep breath. We can speak easy now that the muggles have excused themselves. This is a story about notebooks that make the impossible come true. You can buy one of these notebooks for yourself from any purveyor of notebooks. You’ll know when you find a magical one. You might already have one in your possession. Probably it’s the journal you’re already using. Once in a magical notebook, I wrote that I would find for my family a specific kind of house with…

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,…