Week 61

Since the invitation came only the day before the party, Holly was, at first, going to refuse it but then changed her mind.


"The joy is in the surprise. It can be as small as a felicitous coupling of noun and adjective. Or a whole new scene, or the sudden emergence of an unplanned character who simply grows out of a phrase. Literary criticism, which is bound to pursue meaning, can never really encompass the fact that some things are on the page because they gave the writer pleasure. A writer whose morning is going well, whose sentences are forming well, is experiencing a calm and private joy. This joy itself liberates a richness of thought that can prompt new surprises. Writers crave these moments, these sessions. If I may quote the second page of Atonement, this is the projects' highest point of fulfillment. Nothing else - cheerful launch party, packed readings, positive reviews - will come near it for satisfaction."

~ Ian McEwan from The Art of Fiction interview CLXXIII, The Paris Review

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays everyone! May the New Year be filled with health and happiness and the best writing you've done yet!

Week 60

Last year's Christmas gift from Earl was still fresh in Alice's
memory so she warily eyed the large box he was excitedly pushing towards her now.

First Drafts

Writing first drafts never gets any easier. Sorry, to be the one to break it to you. It just doesn't seem to matter how many stories, poems, essays, even novels, you write, that blank white page or flashing cursor never loses its power to intimidate.

But just because it doesn't get any easier to write flowing sentences or perfectly plotted dramas in a first draft doesn't mean the process can't be made more enjoyable. A simple change in the expectations you have of yourself and your writing may make the difference between suffering and celebrating.

Remember a first draft is an exploration, a journey. It is you discovering your story. It doesn't matter that the writing isn't perfect at this stage. When working on a first draft it is important to silence your inner critic. You'll need that critic later on during the rewriting process, but for now ignore that voice. I always give myself permission to be the worst writer in the world when I start a first draft. It helps free my creativity. I tell myself I can fix all problems in later drafts. That first draft is when I give myself permission to play. So the next time you sit down to write a first draft try abandoning your expectations. It might not make putting the actual words down any easier, but the time at your desk will feel more like an adventure. Adventures are exciting. And that excitement will infuse your writing with an energy it wouldn't have had otherwise.

Secret Diary Writing Exercise # 7

Pretend that you are a struggling actor and for the Christmas season you have been hired to play Santa at the local mall. Write an entry in your secret diary describing your new job.

Bonus: After writing your secret diary entry, or before, or even instead of writing it, (who am I to tell you what to do?) you might want to read "SantaLand Diaries", the hilarious essay by David Sedaris describing his experiences working as an elf at Macy's one Christmas. It's in his collection, "Holidays on Ice" and possibly other places as well. An audio version that is absolutely hysterical of Sedaris reading this story also exists - not sure where you can find it, but it is worth the effort. I have it on cassette tape - remember cassettes? I know, I know, that pretty much makes me as old as Christmas.

*Update - I found it on You Tube. It is in four parts. To find it search under David Sedaris Santaland Diaries - it's the one with the blue screen. I can't seem to get a link to work (sorry).

Week 59

Annie Toll was ten years old the first time she saw Jimmy Duddle's penis.


"First drafts are for learning what your novel or story is about."

~Bernard Malamud

Book Recommendation

As I mentioned before, I am a bit frazzled trying to not only promote my novel, "The Last River Child", but LEARN how to promote my novel. Well, I've discovered this great book that is quickly becoming my manual on all things book-promotion-related. It is called "Get Known before the Book Deal" by Christina Katz and I wish I had read it a year ago. But I've got it now and I'm grateful. If you intend to one day launch a book into the world - read Katz's advice. And if you already have a book published and are feeling confused and overwhelmed about how to get anyone to care in the least about your opus (I hear your pain) read it too! Though the book is aimed mostly at nonfiction writers there is plenty in there for fiction writers to think about.

And speaking of promotion I have finally done the dirty and signed up for facebook. Actually I don't know why I resisted it for so long, it's like one of those parties you were dreading but once you got there you had a great time, you know? So if you're on facebook come and join me!

Week 58

Andy had been a patient of Dr. Gregory's for seventeen years and until this revealing, and rather shocking day, the dentist had never spoke about anything other than Andy's steadily rotting teeth and the never quite satisfactory weather.


Read an interview with me about my novel "The Last River Child" and other writerly things here.

Week 57

When that great ocean liner, the Empress Henrietta, sailed into the harbour for the very last time, gleaming with the glamour of an almost forgotten era, only one person among the crowd of thousands wept real tears of sorrow.