Friday, December 31, 2010

Forecast 2011

The challenge, should you choose to accept it:

Summarize your 2010 writing world in three words.
Forecast your 2011 writing world in three words.

mine: 2010=searching, distracted, needed
2011=finding, focused, settled

Carl Sandburg said it best: "Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you."

Happy 2011 from the Inkpot.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Writer Recovering From the Holidays

Christmas anticipation, strategic planning, elaborate preparation, unbridled partying and tedious cleanup beat all the energy out of me. And we haven’t even taken down the tree. Despite the exhaustion, every year the holidays retain the sparkle of magic and allow for thoughts of writing BUT NO TIME FOR IT. Do I resent that? Yes, a bit. I know this is common; I know the alternate focus contributes to the memories of my children (including one who comes back from art school for holidays); I know the tree will soon be tucked away in its box. What I don’t know is how soon the muse will visit me again, in what form, and with what energy. I’m recharging in hopes that I can dive back in where I left off and make the words sparkle as brightly as did the Christmas lights. - best wishes for 2011 from the half-drained inkpot

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ghost of Words Past

I received an unexpected parcel in my mail last week. A column I’d written in 1995 was included in a glossy coffee table book of 20 years of “best ofs.” What a delight to open the slick pages and find my article about a man I hadn’t thought of in some time. Albert Hebbert was well into his 90’s by the time I spent one spring on a series of interviews with him. And here he was, in one condensed article on page 127.

My mind reeled back to the Nebraska Sandhills one rainy spring fifteen years and a whole other life ago. I’d pull up and Albert would be waiting for me. He’d climb in and direct me all around the countryside telling me tales of his life. I think we ended up with ten articles published in a regional magazine and collected for his loving family. He was a talker but we’d discovered he needed prompts to get him started so we drove the ‘hills he loved so much and he told me his stories.

I don’t think much about the Sandhills anymore, my leaving felt like an escape and the longer I’m away, the more myself I feel. But the book reminded me of good memories of that place, of people I love, beauty I found there.

Like the ghostly visits to Scrooge, these words, written so long ago, brought me a change of heart. Maybe a little forgiveness, for myself as much as for anyone else. Maybe a little closer to peace with my past.

Words are magic.


Have you ever been visited by your own ghosts of words past? How did you feel reading something you’d written many years ago?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thoughts on motherhood and writing

Is there a connection between mothering and publishing?

Yes! Early on there was a positive correlation, on the side of publishing. Every time a baby popped out a book did too. It only happened twice, as there were just two babies--but it looked like a trend.

Then the correlation, er, shifted. My first year without a contract was 2001, the year I home-schooled my daughter to save her sparkle from the bullies. At the start of September that year, I called my agent and pushed back the appointment in New York we'd set for September 11th. That appointment was never rescheduled. While this was a setback career-wise, it was an advantage for child-rearing: it's pretty hard to fulfill two full-time career obligations at once. One thing I know for certain: it's not about quality time with children, it's about quantity time. I was blessed with just two priceless and fragile lives to nurture, whereas on the other hand, "Of making many books there is no end." (Ecclesiastes.)

Some mischievous force often seemed to present direct choices between mothering and career. In the early years of my series my agent came to Colorado for a conference. It was the exact weekend my daughter received a surprise invitation to the National Ski Team qualifying weekend at Breckenridge. Anguished, I consulted our older and wiser Brother of the Quill Jim Hester, the father of three grown sons, about which to choose. He said, "I've never known anyone who regretted choosing family over career." Another year I was asked by Dartmouth to give an alumni seminar on my own work. I was thrilled until I realized it was the exact week our daughter would compete in the bagpiping World Championships in Edinburgh. Fortunately, by then I knew which was the better choice. Jim was right: I have no regrets.

Yesterday a feature on Jan Karon in the Wall Street Journal said her hugely successful writing career started at age 50, roughly my age now. My youngest daughter leaves the nest next year; perhaps the correlation will shift again.
-Storm Petrel

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Be hopeful; be very hopeful

My first eight books were written and published before I knew anything about writing. Now that I can almost distinguish good writing from bad, my ambitious, carefully crafted new novel languishes without agent or publisher. It's been eight years, but I'm still rewriting, more hopeful than ever. Writing is all about hope, because with it comes the confidence to sit down day after day with bottom in chair, hands on keyboard (BICHOK).

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. My trouble began when I paid a man to read my sixth Plumtree series novel for accuracy in British English. He pointed out an unfortunate "chime" in the prose, meaning the way words sounded in proximity to each other. At the time I had no idea what he meant, and as I sought understanding, my journey began into the depths of all that I didn't know. I undertook an ambitious novel that I wanted to make truly beautiful in a hundred different ways. It's taken a dozen drafts, constructively scribbled upon by fellow Sisters of the Quill--thank you sisters and brother--to raise my awareness. I'm too horrified now to go back and read the earlier books with all their painful mistakes. In writing as in other aspects of life, we can only forge ahead and use what we learn to do better next time.

Here's cause for hope: if an untrained, bumbling neophyte can stumble (unfortunate chime?) into publication, you who have apprenticed yourselves to your craft should be shoo-ins.
-Storm Petrel

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chew on Writing Goals

As we get closer to 2011, I taste and spice and chew earnestly on my writing goals. Signing with a new agent within a couple of months is one goal, as well as working on my new novel with the urgency it deserves. I'll continue to market screenplays, poetry and short stories when opportunities arise, teach workshops when invited, consult and edit for other writers. I will enjoy time with my writing friends, especially my sisters of the quill. Resolutions from the Inkpot

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

velvet imaginings

Overheard Lately between the SOTQ:

"Alas for my sisters' vast talents that lay obscured beneath the smothering velvet of their own imaginings."

"I'm having one of those days where I wonder why I'm even bothering. Frustrated. Feeling like a big loser. Just all around wondering if it's too much effort."

"Not that all the loserness has gone away, but I can see the good things, too. We must cling to the things that make us happy."

Request Full

I love it when an agent asks for a full manuscript! My Inkpot spilleth over.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


When you clean up your house, you clean up your mind. It may look like writing avoidance, but it allows the imagination to play while the hands are busy with the mundane. And it all looks better afterward. So says the unspilled Inkpot.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Craft versus Voice

A writer friend, Frank Dorchak, poses the question of craft versus heart of writing fiction.

I say both are important and many others have said it better:
“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” – Lin Yutang
“When a thought takes one’s breath away, a grammar lesson seems an impertinence.” – Thomas W. Higginson

Inkpot says: We don't write just to show off craft or just to share our voices and hearts with others. We write like addicts when it seems we should give up. Why? Because the writing itself is cathartic and cheaper than a psychiatrist and drugs – unless they are generic.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

2010 HOLT Medallion Contest

Soliloquy was selected as an Award of Merit recipient in the HOLT Medallion contest in the Best First Book category!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pulling Weeds

Our Dear Sister of the Quill, Folio, pulled weeds yesterday. She teased that it may be somehow bad that she calms when doing it. I'd say that is a very good sign for a writer. For what is more like pulling weeds than editing. Among the good words are those that just don't fit, that are disadvantageous, that choke the other words until they die on the page. So weed away, sister. You are letting the good plants (and words) shine through with all their colors. Inkpot admires many tools you have for pulling those pesky weeds!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Braggin' (not really bloggin')

A Four Star Review for Soliloquy! Just have to share it!

“You’ll be hooked from page one of this mesmerizing tale, which uses a beguiling method of transport to the past. The prose is smooth and satisfying, and the characters come alive. Passion and promise fill the pages, as well as fear and deception.” Donna M. Brown, RT Book Reviews, May 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Light My Shoe?

OK, some creepy guy on a flight to Denver sets his shoe on fire to cover up his stink. He gets national attention. So that's what it takes! Silly me. I thought writing a book (maybe also to cover up my stink), succeeding with contests, then marketing it with all my might, was the way to go. Silly, silly me. I'm getting out the matches! Oh, sisters, I may need to go into a pyromania 12-step program soon! Heat generating from the Inkpot

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dear Sisters:

I think I went through the same thought and emotional process with Soliloquy as you did with Ashes, Shannon. I was tired of querying agents and decided to look at small presses and see if I could sell my manuscript myself, and I'm absolutely content with having it published by TWRP. While I intend to look for an agent again when I'm finished Melting, if I don't find one, I'll probably look at small presses again. It's certainly fun to dream about a huge advance or an auction, but it's also quite fulfilling having my book on the bedroom shelf next to Harry Potter!

Sisters, we all have to be a half-a-bubble off to even write a book, don't you think? Then another quarter-of-a-bubble out of whack to keep pounding away in this crazy industry. But I also know that I am blessed. I'm currently traveling in space after my trip to World War II where I visited heroes of the highest caliber. I've learned from you three about the strength of family and delivering calves and the source of fine vellum, not to mention being terrified and brave and sometimes terribly amused. I've conquered evil and composed a musical lament. I've also found amazing sisters who buoy me up when I'm down, and give me a swift (but gentle!) kick upon occasion. I could go on and on. Our stories are waiting, pushing, shoving to be free. And I can't wait to visit them! Love. Folio

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Book signings!

With the long-anticipated and slightly-dreaded first book signings now tucked firmly beneath my belt, thought I'd post these pictures and reflect back for a moment.

Most importantly, I now view signings as a celebration, not a pressure cooker to worry about and sweat over. Even the signing that was poorly attended was pleasant as we visited with the book store owner and reminisced with the few friends who defied the slick roads to attend.

Having a "veteran" with two novices also served us well. Carol advised us as to what might work well for reading topics and she surprised us with a quick "Ten at Eight" at the end, when she posed quick questions for immediate answers - everything from "how long did it take to write this book" to "are you a pantser or plotter?" Fun for us and for our vast (Ha!) audience!

And then there were the delicious after-signing parties - champagne and pear-brie and a cupcake keyboard accompanied by conversation about books with good friends.

Hey! Who ate the A and Z and P and L keys?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Great Signings

I had the pleasure of attending two out of four of my sisters' signings for their debut books. So proud to report that Janet and Shannon (as well as Carol of course) were poised and perfect speakers. What a great celebration. Having a first book out is like reaching the top of Mount Everest. Hope you two (three) will find the oxygen canisters on the way back down from your celebrations. Breathe breathe breathe. Now get back to work on your new novels! Julie, that counts for you, too. You made the after signing parties so tasteful (double meaning) and wonderfully intimate! Love ya sisters!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Real Life Characters

I just finished reading Spirit Lens, another incredible fantasy novel by Carol Berg. The world and characters are still swirling in my head and I am now picturing everyone in my life in hues of magic, castles, royal court and above all, character.

What if my dear sisters were players in a fantasy world such as this? One sister would be the queen. She is regal, has an unwavering sense of duty and the unflinching ability to discern right from wrong. Head high, she faces whatever life throws at her and handles it with grace.

One sister is undoubtedly the high-spirited knight. Always open to laughter and teasing, she’s the first to action, standing in front with sword raised should any of the others be threatened. Her loyalty is unwavering.

The other sister is obviously the wizard. Wise beyond earthly measure, her counsel is sought in all matters large and small. Her magic calms nerves, soothes injured hearts, and grants courage to all in her care. She is able to conjure whatever tool or weapon is needed in any battle, saving the day over and over.

As much fun as it is contemplate these roles, the reality is messier and more delightful. At any moment the crown, sword and wand can be juggled from one hand to another and the magic of friendship sparks in our hearts.

The metaphor has gone on long enough. Just wait until I read a western!

Love to all,


Friday, January 29, 2010


Sister! I touched your new book...Firy! Eye-catching! And your name right there! So much has happened for you in the last few years...all well earned. You brave brave woman. I admire you so much. Can't wait to get my own and jump into your story. There aren't enough !!!!!!!!!!!!! on the keyboard to tell you how great your book looks! All! Ashes of the Red Heifer.... buy it! A thousand !!!! And a thousand rounds of claps congratulations from the Inkpot (see you soon sister)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Up One Side...

…and down the other.

Clearly amused, my husband wandered into my office yesterday, his copy of my novel, Soliloquy, in hand. He read this excerpt to me:

“I thought you did,” Daniel replied. He shifted into a lower gear to steer around the sharp curve in the road. “I visited the professor’s grave the other night, right after you and Mom were there, and Gerard praised your efforts up one side and down the other. He’s been wracking his brain, trying to figure out how to help you without endangering everyone else.”
I looked at Dick, waiting for the punch line. “Up one side and down the other!” he exclaimed. “That’s my line!” We both laughed. Dick does say that frequently, to describe an abundance or excess, and since I’ve never heard anyone else use it we agreed that he deserved credit for coining that particular phrase.

Writers are advised to “write what you know,” and that brief conversation with Dick made me reflect on our patterns of speech and use of favorite words or phrases as we write. I certainly try to give each character a unique voice, yet rhythms and phrases may be so ingrained that I now think I might need to study not only my own voice, but expend even more effort on the subtleties of my character’s voices. In other words, an effort that is up one side and down the other!


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Baby By The Side Of The Road.

Why, oh why, do pre-holiday preparations, holiday expectations, and post holiday recovery take so much time from writing? I feel like I've left my baby at the side of the road. This is one time when I can say without hesitation that I was too busy - not just avoiding the challenge of another chapter. This season was non-stop, rush-about trying to accomplish even 3/4 of what needed to be done. I'm hoping I can now relax and enjoy writing over lunches again, editing in the evenings, and wallowing in the nuturing presence of two sisters every Thursday again along with our out-of-town sister's spirit (in the chair next to us). Thank you sisters for being my super-duper, very bestest sisters. Now kick my butt if I don't get back to my suspense novel! In other words, if you see that baby by the side of the road, bring it home to me. Love from the Inkpot.