Blog

(or at least, this writer)

A non-comprehensive list.

  • "What should I do? Take up a hobby, go to Africa, write a book.." While it's perfectly fine for people to "write books", I wish there was the same level of professionalism to being an author as there is for other professions. For example, I don't say, In retirement, I think I'll do brain surgery. I feel like people believe that writing is easy and anyone can do it.
  • Reading a blog, essay, whatever with obvious errors. It's not "Wah La." It's not "Per Say." It's not "All in the Same". There's more! I... Read More...

That's the amount of copies Fire in the Heart has sold. You can look at it in a positive way--Yippee! 2500 people have bought my book! Or, like this: Dang! I still haven't earned back my advance. And Geography sold even less! Why am I even doing this?

It's times like this that test a writer's soul. Yes, like the park ranger I once was, who was "paid in sunsets," you can tell yourself you are "paid in appreciation." The emails and responses I have gotten from former firefighters and present ones have been priceless. At the same time, you are basically writing for free. You'd better... Read More...

I always tell people: those fragments, those flashes of brilliance, should be kept. Throw them in a drawer, in an electronic file, let them marinate. You never know when these can be repurposed. In this way, writing can be the ultimate recycling.

Something happened this week. An opening sentence came to me (this is the same thing that happened with Geography). I typed it. The next sentence came. And the next. I now have 51 pages, some of which I mined from previous false starts. I have no idea where it is going--I just have the bones. I don't write outlines. I just let things flow.... Read More...

I think every writer goes through this. It can be a hard slog. Much like postholing through old snow (which I did yesterday--see the hiking blog). You start to wonder if it's worth it. Do I really need to reach this lake, write another book? 

In my case, I haven't heard from my agent in a long time, which generally means no good news on the manuscript. You can't bug these people--that doesn't endear them to you. You are on a need to know basis. That's different than my working life, where if I don't return an email within a few hours, someone will call and ask if I got their email.... Read More...

After having banged out 3 long manuscripts in about the same amount of years, two of which became books, and one of which is looking for a home, I find myself adrift. I have some ideas for a novel, but they aren't coming together. It's frustrating. Plot should be the easiest thing, but nothing seems interesting enough to write for more than a few pages. Am I done?

At a book reading, someone asked if I had considered writing a book that would sell more commercially. And the answer is no. I can't write without having my whole heart in it. I don't see a point in writing just for... Read More...

Where did this come from, I wondered as I started reading the novel Piano Tide, by Kathleen Dean Moore. How did I not hear about this book before? As I read it, I was back in Pelican, Alaska, a boardwalk only little village reached by boat only, houses lined up above the tide, one bar around which most social life revolved. When I was there, we walked to a small cabin perched in the cove, and even this cabin seemed to appear in the book. There is also a similar bear enclosure in Sitka, where I used to live. How did someone who didn't live in Southeast nail it? But she did. 

There's... Read More...

Recently, I was asked to read for Women's History Month. I'm sure the attendees were expecting something from Fire in the Heart. I mean, what could be more historical than firefighting in the dark ages (Okay, the 1980s)? I looked at the book and sighed. I am sure I haven't done especially well by it. I've not been too proactive for book signings, and I haven't marketed like I should. I did a lot of that for Geography and I am not sure it paid off. Without a full time job, you can do a lot better, I'm thinking. When you are awake for only three or four hours of the day that don't involve... Read More...

It finally happened! I got to write a blurb for another author (of course, I volunteered to do it, but still!). 

Blurbs..does anyone read them? It's hard to say, but publishers sure want them. They issue the command for you to go out and find them, preferably from authors with big platforms. I have been fortunate that everyone I asked, with the exception of one person whom I thought would, but said no, and the famous people, who never answered (Pam Houston! Call me!) did indeed come through. There are a couple of people whom I thought for sure would write one after getting a free... Read More...

This was the question asked by a local poet as he ran unhappily on the treadmill at the gym. As I slogged through an elliptical session, commiserating with our mutual dislike of the gym, but also its necessity in an icy world, I pondered his question. Was I writing very much?

Well, no. It feels like I've been wrestling my latest novel forever. I've bounced wildly back and forth with plot ideas. I had to kill a darling and some great prose because the concept just did not fit with the story. I've tried first and second tense. I got rid of a character. It's exhausting!

But that... Read More...

This is such a great description of how to write a good essay.

https://brevity.wordpress.com/2018/01/08/cut-to-bleed/

People tell me all the time I am brave to put personal things out there on the page. I don't see it as bravery. I see it as essential, if you want your readers to believe.

Of course, I don't write about everything. There are things I will never put on a page. You have to choose.

You can't have a wall around you as a memoir or essay writer. People will call you on it, as my... Read More...

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