About Me

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I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I am an active member of the Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). I'm married and the mom of two great kids, three dogs, and two cats. I love books, movies, gardening, and animals.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

How is Walking Like Writing?

When I ask a question like this one, it might sound like a silly riddle alla Lewis Carroll's "How is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?" But trust me this isn't a silly question or riddle meant to confuse you. In fact, this question about walking being like writing came to mind while I was taking my own walk recently. It occurred to me that walking for your health everyday, or most days anyway, is very much like writing. Some days all the conditions are right for a perfect day out. The sun is shining, the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, but just right, and maybe you even start out going downhill. Other days, life is hectic, and the idea of squeezing in that daily walk just seems to add to your stress. But you know that if you don't get moving you'll feel bad later. Especially when you have that big bowl of ice cream at the end of the day to unwind, knowing you've done nothing to keep those calories from being added to your fat rolls.

Does any of this sound familiar in terms of trying to keep to a daily writing routine? Writing, whether it is something you aspire to do or something you must do for your own mental well-being, (those imaginary people in your head won't let you sleep otherwise) is something that only gets better if you do it as much as possible. Unfortunately, most days the stars don't align perfectly, and the inspiration you need isn't always readily at hand when you need it. Like the conditions for outdoor walking, the desire to write can feel like an uphill slog or on the hardest days, up mountain climb. Emerging writers often ask if they need to write everyday to be successful. The general wisdom is, "Yes." A writer should write every single day, especially if they ever hope to get published. But the truth of the matter is, this isn't always possible all the time or even for every writer. While most do stick to a schedule, they don't all stick to the same one or even follow the same tenants of conventional wisdom. In fact, I have heard most authors answer this question by outlining what works for them, but then honestly urging that hopeful writer to develop their own unique routine. The only way to do this is by trial and error. Sort of like the only way to find your favorite walking route, is to try many different ones until you stumble across the trek that fits your level in terms of stamina and agility. 

But what if you write and write and write, but never feel like you're getting anywhere? Or you find yourself staring at a blank screen and the words won't come? Should you give up? In the same way you must try to do things to stay healthy, if you want to be a writer you have to find ways to motivate yourself to keep at it. When I find myself procrastinating or talking myself out of going for a walk, I usually know it's because I need to change things up to keep myself motivated. So, instead of walking I think of other ways to get some exercise. Maybe that day I'll do pilates or yoga instead. 

The same strategy can work for tackling you're writing projects. Perhaps a change of routine or a different point of view might help. Often, I find ideas and inspiration come to me in the unlikeliest moments. I can be reading a book that is in no way related to what I am working on, and find a solution to a problem I've been having with my own work by reading a single passage that somehow gives me that "Eureka!" moment. Or some days I give myself a free pass on writing and do something else. Coloring, watching Netflix, or even playing a video game can often give my brain the rest it needs and while I'm doing these other activities, give it the chance to work through the issue that's been keeping me stuck. The trick is to know yourself well enough to know when you are doing these other things because you actually need some respite, and you're not just procrastinating. Sometimes that distinction can be hard. It's easier if you compare it to something else you've talked yourself out of doing, like say going for that daily walk, or working out at the gym. Staying in shape is hard work, and it gets even harder when you let your routine slide or stop altogether. Keeping in good writing shape can be just as difficult, but is no less important. So, I guess the take home message for both is, keep at it even when it seems hard. Don't be afraid to change up your routine occasionally to help motivate yourself, and know when you need a break to refresh and rejuvenate. 

So long as that break doesn't last too long. After all, you never know what breathtaking view might be waiting for you just around the corner. 

Now I guess I'd better take my own advice and get walking--errr...writing.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Delving into Adolescent Literature

In the past few months I've been very much at loose ends. Not just in my writing, but also in what to submit for publication, what to do next in terms of career choices, everything. Don't get me wrong. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. All of us have days, even moments, when we wonder if we're going in the right direction. It can be unsettling, though, to feel unfocused or directionless.

A friend of mine recommended a class to me that I could take with him at the same university where my husband teaches. Since I still work from home and have a pretty flexible schedule, and could take the class for free as the spouse of a faculty member, I thought, why not. I'd considered doing this before, but hesitated, uncertain how I'd feel about taking a class where the other students were only a few years older than my daughter. Taking a class with my book club friend, however, didn't seem so scary. Then the class I wanted to sign up for with my friend was cancelled. Fortunately, while I was perusing the class catalog I came upon another class that sounded intriguing. It was a course geared toward both English and education majors, a study of adolescent literature. Curiosity won out over my trepidation at not having someone I knew in the class with me, and I signed up for it. I figured I could learn about some of the adolescent literature that might be taught in schools, and hopefully read some literature I might not have read before and talk about it. I love reading and analyzing and talking about what I read.

A small selection of my adolescent reads

Within the first week of class we were asked to write an essay about what we read as an adolescent ourselves. This was a bit daunting for me. I haven't been an actual adolescent myself for, well, never mind. The point is, I was a voracious reader then, just as I am now. Talking about what I read back then, and why, was going to be hard to narrow down. However, our professor was helpful in the specifications she gave us for our assignment. She gave us a list of questions to consider as we wrote our essay. I think the reason she wanted us to think about what we read or didn't read as an adolescent was so we could remember our mindset at that period. For this course, adolescence spans not just the young adult spectrum, but ranges from 10 to 18 or even 21 years of age. As we read the books and short stories she's assigned us for this class we are being asked to read it as if we were still adolescents ourselves. It turns out taking this class might have been one of the best almost spontaneous things I could have done.

In the past, I've always been asked to think about books I read as a young person. But from the perspective of a writer, and how those books shaped and influenced me and my art. With this essay I was asked to delve into memories of what I read and why. There is, I think, an important distinction there. I've always known one of the reasons I loved reading certain things was because it appealed to my imagination. As I wrote my essay, though, I remembered that another reason I loved reading was because it gave me a safe and sometimes better world to live in for a while. I read to escape.

Part of my assignment also asked me to consider what my adolescent contemporaries read, or if any of them even liked reading at all, and what I remembered feeling about their choices in terms of reading. This again, was not something I'd been asked to consider before. It gave me another perspective on what shaped me as a reader and how I perceived others for their choices in what they read or didn't read.

You might be wondering why any of this is important or why it's so great that I decided to take this class. Taking this class has given me a whole new set of things to consider. As writers we have to consider our audience at some point, which for me falls in the adolescent spectrum. But how can I truly do this if I don't consider why the stories I write appeal to me in the first place? I guess I've just never thought about this from my own adolescent perspective before. But since I write for an adolescent audience I need to remember who I was at that age and what I liked to read and why I liked it, if I hope to engage readers in my own stories. Plus it is also helpful to consider what my friends and cohorts considered cool to read back then and why. Or why some of my friends never liked reading, and as far as I know, still don't. If I can remember these things on a personal level it might help me deepen the perspectives of my imaginary characters, make the worlds I create more appealing. Maybe it can even help me create a story for someone who might have never enjoyed reading before because they couldn't find anything or anyone to identify with in a book.

In order to better understand my craft as a writer, I need to first understand myself as a reader. Going back in time was kind of fun, and it's given me a new focus as I continue my reading and writing journey in 2018.

My assigned reading for this semester

Now, I have to get back to it. All those dystopian novels we're focusing on for this class aren't going to read themselves.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

What Now???

A little over a month ago I was asked the dreaded question almost every graduate faces, "What are you going to do now?"

The obvious answer to this was, "Find a job." Isn't that what most graduates say as they complete their degree? And it wasn't a glib statement. I have financial responsibilities which mean I do need to work to earn a regular salary of some kind. But as I've contemplated what I want to do next, the scariest thing I've faced is how to go on writing and being productive without the deadlines and expectations that I had to meet as I was working toward my Master in Fine Arts (MFA) degree.

It is an odd thing to feel adrift after two years of intense reading and writing. I miss the support and the deadlines to some degree. But I also feel like a kid again, free from school with weeks and weeks of summer vacation stretching out before me.

It hasn't been all goofing off. Not two weeks after I graduated I was recommended for freelance work as a transcriber. PAID WORK!!! A great thing, even better, paid work that I could do from home. But it was a job, which meant deadlines, and a regular committed schedule. That was followed closely by an email from another fellow graduate asking if I'd like to do a joint venture with her for the fall residency. "Yes!" I said. "Of course I'd love an opportunity to return "home" to Spalding a semester after graduating." With this, the work won't be direct income based, but there will be compensation for it. If the venture goes as we hope, it will mean more working, not alone this time, thankfully, but it will be a commitment. So in terms of earning income, things are looking fairly positive.

But in terms of writing, things aren't as clear cut. Yes, I have projects I'm working on. Yes, I've been trying to write some each week, if not everyday. Yes, I've been sending out queries for my work to be published or to find an agent to represent me. Still . . . it isn't quite the same. I don't have a mentor anymore. If I do go back to residency, it won't be with the classmates I graduated with or as a student.

How to get beyond that fear and embrace the skills I learned from Spalding? First by reading. I've been reading lots and lots of books. Mostly for pleasure, but a lot of what I've been reading has been in the young adult genre. It's been nice to read and be as narrow or broad in the scope of what I read as I want. I learned in my MFA program that while it's important to read in the genre you write in, which for me is fantasy, it's also important to be open to other genres and areas of writing. I've gotten great ideas in the past for plot or characterization from unexpected sources. So while I've been reading a lot of fiction it hasn't all been fantasy based fiction. I've thrown in mysteries and some magical realism into the mix. I've also been reading some nonfiction about ancient civilizations as well as some analyses of folklore and fairy tales.

Nori outfit for traveling to Gran's

The other thing I've been doing a lot of is exploring. Whenever I go someplace new or different from the norm I take lots of pictures, because you never know when an image might spark an idea. For instance I took time to go to the KY Renaissance Faire for the first time in several years and I got some great pictures of costumes that one of my characters could wear in one of my current works-in-progress, The Red Hood. Don't want to give too much away here, but this looks like a real kick-butt outfit for my Celtic influenced Red Ridinghood character.
Asian carving of the Virgin Mary

Another place I visited recently gave me a great idea for an artifact for my middle grade mystery. At the Cincinnati Art Museum in Ohio, which by the way has free admission to the public for most of their exhibits year-round, I found this interesting figure, and it got me thinking. Anybody can think of obvious magical artifacts for stories, like the Spear of Destiny, or Excalibur. But what if the artifact was just as powerful, but far less obvious to the untrained eye? Perhaps a small sculpted figurine like this?

To that end I've also been re-watching a lot of old episodes of Warehouse 13 and some Lara Croft Tomb Raider. I might also have to take up playing  Tomb Raider the video game. I think it could really help me figure out the aunt in my mystery better and think of some ways for her to train my main character, Josh, without him being fully aware of it. I also need to think up some creative ways for her to go on some secret missions without him knowing, at least at first. Hmmmm.

The point is, I'm learning to cope with being more independent as a writer, by allowing myself to enjoy the process. That's the biggest "what now" I've had to navigate. If I learned anything at Spalding, it was that every writer's path is unique. In order to keep doing this writing thing you must never stop embracing the endless wonder of the imagination. I still love what I do, writing. I also love that being a writer for young people means that a lot of my research involves exploring, playing, and reading stacks and stacks of books, continuing to live out my childhood, essentially. Embracing that endless and optimistic sense of wonder nurtures my soul and my imagination. Hopefully if I can continue doing that, no matter what happens on the practical job front, and I continue to write and get published I can open up worlds of wonder for others and nurture their souls and imaginations. How cool will that be in terms of what I do next?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

In Honor of National Flash Fiction Day Help Continue the Story

After a couple of years of not posting to my blog on a regular basis I am back! Now that I've graduated with my MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University I have a little more time to post entries for anyone who enjoyed following my blog before and for anyone who'd like to follow it now.

Today in honor of National Flash Fiction Day I'd like have any writer friends out there who feel moved to do so to help continue the thread to the story start I've posted below. There will be no monetary gain for doing this. It is all in fun. To continue the thread just add to the story in the comments section of this post. I'm also taking suggestions for story titles, as well. Next Saturday I will weave all the threads together into a post that will comprise our flash fiction masterpiece, and will list all the writers' names as co-authors to the piece in the post. So you will get bragging rights for the piece and the joy of seeing all of our words combined. If you choose to you can count it as a publication credit as a co-author, though I do not guarantee the quality of the work or that I have a enough blog followers to impress anyone with our co-authored piece. So help me continue the story and join in the fun to see where the threads take us.

Story Start: Ariadne followed the tug of intuition that led her down the narrow, cobbled alley. She stopped outside the dingy window of a coffee shop that also sold books. This was her only lead. Taking a deep breath she reached for the brass doorknob and stepped inside.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Winter Weather Doesn't Have To Be the Season of Gloom

I like many people am growing tired of winter and am looking forward to spring. But I shouldn't be. Wishing time away is a foolish venture since it is a precious commodity we only get to spend once.

Also, we often idealize the new, forgetting that with the return of warmer weather come those annoying little natty bugs. The ones that make it hard to enjoy the sunshine as they try to fly up your nose or into your mouth. .

So, this season of lent, a good time of self reflection, I am trying to continually remind myself to enjoy the moment and appreciate the positives of winter. For instance, even though it too cold to be outside for very long this means it's a good time to enjoy indoor pleasures without feeling guilty. These include watching my favorite shows on TV and whittling down my to-be-read pile of books.

And just because I'm indoors doesn't mean I'm not expected to play endless games of fetch with my dog who adamantly refuses to grow up and leave such puppyish behavior behind.

Another good thing about this season of cold, wet, sometimes snowy weather is the fact you can get your exercise indoors where no one can see you. This has the added advantage of not having to worry about sunscreen, bug spray, or how smoothly shaven your legs may be beforehand. Instead of giving something up for lent I agreed to be committed to getting in some sort of physical fitness six days out of the week.

So far I'm doing pretty good with my lenten promises. Though, I did grumble some about the snow as it came pouring down on Sunday. It didn't detract from my holiday, though. In fact, it probably helped me appreciate a day at home with my family more. We actually enjoyed a nice steak dinner at the table together. A luxury we're usually too busy to enjoy.

This winter, whether you observe lent or not. Whether the weather is bad outside or not, take the time to concentrate on the positives longer evenings and shorter days offer. It will be spring and the season of renewal soon enough.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Being a Charlie Brown

Picture taken of my son's DVD 

What word do you usually associate with Charles Schulz's character, Charlie Brown? Is it blockhead or is it maybe failure?

This past December the Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon based on Schulz's comic strip Peanuts celebrated it's 50th anniversary. Around the same time, a new movie came out about the Peanuts featuring the lovable odd ball, Charlie Brown. As I was watching the movie and listening to discussions about the Christmas special I pondered why it is that someone who never seems to succeed at anything has such an enduring legacy.

Let's consider a few things we know about this unlikely hero. First, he owns a funny, beagle with delusions of grandeur who is sometimes anything but Charlie's best friend. Second, Charlie's team has never won a single baseball game. Third, his therapist, Lucy is openly greedy, bossy, often mean, and highly narcissistic. Despite all of these challenges, Charlie Brown continues to play baseball, remains ever hopeful he will one day kick that football Lucy is always offering to hold for him, without being invisible to do it, and loves his dog despite his strange behavior.

Charlie Brown represents a lot of things to people, but the one thing he is in every incarnation is an underdog. A very sympathetic underdog. Even though he is considered to be a hopeless failure or as Lucy likes to call him a "blockhead" by most of his peers in the cartoons and comics, he isn't one. In fact, Charlie Brown is an enduring symbol of hope and success for everyone who has ever felt that they just didn't get it or at one time or another didn't quite fit in. Why is this? He never seems to come out the clear victor or hero in any of his story lines. 

Because Charlie Brown is true to one person, always. He doesn't follow the popular or accepted path in anything. He sees beauty in tiny, spindly trees and chooses them over the beautiful and elaborate fake ones. He flies kites in the middle of winter in the hopes they won't get caught in the kite stealing tree. When he finally gains acclaim in the recent Peanuts movie, he could continue to let people believe the fiction. He could accept the awards and adulation, it would be easier to do that and finally manage to impress the "little red-headed girl" he has such a crush on. But he doesn't. He admits a mistake was made in front of everyone and goes back to being unpopular and unappreciated. 

Charlie Brown never takes the easy path or makes the obvious choice toward acceptance. And he is repeatedly ridiculed for it. But children and adults alike continue to love him because he always does what is right or seems right to him. That is why Charlie Brown is such a hero and such an enduring success. He is always true to himself. He excels at being authentic, kind, even when it isn't warranted, and hopeful for the future. In a clever and subtle way that is the genius of Charles Schulz's creation. He isn't preachy or obvious about his character's attributes. In fact, he goes to great lengths to drown them out under the weight of all Charlie Brown's many flaws. Charlie Brown is far from perfect, but he is genuine.

It is easy to let the world weigh us down and make us feel like we shouldn't try, shouldn't hope, or shouldn't love who we are as individuals. Charlie Brown epitomizes this over and over again. Yet, in spite of this he keeps his optimistic spirit and continues to muddle through, ever positive in the end that next time things will work out in his favor. When the world makes you feel like you're a Charlie Brown sort of person, own it as a banner of success. If you've earned that status being true to yourself or doing what was right instead of easy, it means you've probably become an unlikely hero in your own story.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Keep Calm and Remember to Breath

Do you ever have days when it's impossible to focus? As someone who writes for a living, it is really hard on days like that to actually work. But if I want to sleep at night, most days I have to put my butt in the chair as the saying goes and do it.

However, there are exceptions to that rule. Sometimes you have so many things to remember and think about you get overwhelmed. This could be my problem right now, since I'll be leaving in a couple of days to attend my second 10 day residency at Spalding University.

Whenever things get this hectic, and I have to make lists, and then lists for my lists, I've learned that the best policy, for me anyway, is to give myself a few days off. I need that time to breath and try to keep focused on what most needs to get done so I can leave my family for a week and a half and feel okay about it. My kids aren't little, but they are still very busy. I'll have to write stuff on the calendar for my husband so he'll remember who has to be where and when. I also have to remind myself that this is good for all of us. It gives them a few days with just Dad. Something that my son especially, needs. He tends to rely on me the most of the two of us and he needs to remember that his dad is just as capable as me at helping him with stuff. It also helps them appreciate me more when I get home.

And even though conventional wisdom says it is important to write every single day, I feel rejuvenated when I give myself a little time off before going to an event that is going to fill me up and help me learn more about my creative process. I will be writing some there and reading too. With that in mind I worked hard last week and yesterday to catch up on my writing enough to feel okay letting it sit and percolate for a while. Instead of worrying about trying to get words on the page for the sake of doing it, I've caught up on my assigned reading. Gone through the work of others in my workshop group and commented on it, and I've given myself permission to play some by goofing off with my dogs, and catching up on some of my favorite TV shows. I've also kept to my daily exercise routine. As an individual it is important to remember we have to give ourselves time every once and a while. This is really hard when you are a working mom, which every mom I know is. It's also hard when you're an artist, to separate your life from your work. The two often are intertwined. But unless you want to exist as a human robot going through the motions you have to give yourself permission to rest.

I feel like this has really helped me keep my calm, my focus and my sanity. My mind doesn't feel all awhirl with too many thoughts all at once. So, I should be able to sleep tonight. Tomorrow it will be time to dust off the old backpack and start lining up what clothes to bring for my next big adventure with my Creative Writing Program.

I'm excited to see some old friends from last semester and to make new ones this semester. Huzzah! Let the residency commence!