In pursuit of unbounded possibility

EXT. – DINER – EARLY MORNING

The camera moves across a parking lot with big sky in the background and sunrise clouds, toward a diner with a plate glass window. Through the slightly misted window we see A MAN sitting alone at a table looking down into a steaming cup. A WAITRESS approaches with a plate in one hand and a pot of coffee in the other. She puts the plate on the table. We see her ask the man something. He shakes his head. She goes away and he continues sitting in the same position.

A diner in Albuquerque, NM. Courtesy of Google Maps.

A diner in Albuquerque, NM. Courtesy of Google Maps.

Who is the man? Why is he alone in the diner? How long has be been there? Is he waiting for someone? What did the waitress ask? And, perhaps most importantly, What happens next?

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Now to lighten the mood

With everything going on in the world these days, I recently felt the need for some light entertainment.

That’s when my publisher sent me a first proof of What Remains Unsaid. After I finished jumping up and down with excitementsince this means the book will be coming in 2017I spent the rest of a rainy weekend reading the copy on my Kindle.

I was shocked.

Had someone slipped my publisher a counterfeit version? Or perhaps someone was playing a cruel trick and had inserted random extra words in certain places, while dropping essential ones elsewhere.

Sadly, this was not the case. I alone was responsible for the errorsNot only had I typed things incorrectly, but I had missed them on all of the several supposedly careful read-throughs of the manuscript I did before handing it off.

Oops!

This is why you are never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, no matter how good you are at catching typos in other people’s work, allowed to proofread your own work.

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My top 12 for 2017

Everywhere you turn this time of year you find a top this-or-that list: books, movies, political disasters.

I wasn’t thinking about lists or the new year when I sat down a few days ago for my morning writing session. What emerged was a contemplation, in the form of a list, of why I pursue the solitary, frustrating, and often painful occupation of writing. It’s not the first time I’ve explored this topic.

In the spirit of end-of-year lists, I share my reasons here. There are twelve—perfect for matching up one with each month of the new year. Maybe some of them will feel familiar, whether you are a writer or not.

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Being vs. doing

I’ve never had a problem accomplishing things.

I am the conscientious one. The one who never pulled an all-nighter in college because my papers were always finished days before their due dates. The one who organizes huge projects by breaking them into small tasks and knocking off each one until the big job is done.

Lately, though, I’ve felt that the driver of my life, my doing self, has turned into something of a monster. Instead of helping me feel competent and in control, she has turned me into her slave. Partly it’s because I have collected careers the way some people collect hats—marketing consultant, writer, editor, birth doula, not to mention my several volunteer gigs and being a spouse and parent. My life sometimes feels like nothing more than carefully sequenced blocks of time in my Google calendar.

calendar

To be fair, the pink blocks are my kids’ school schedules…

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Hands off my m.j.*

By Rotational - Own work, Public Domain (via Wikimedia Commons)

Cannabis sativa – By Rotational (Own work, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Every election cycle, Californians get to vote for their favorite stories.

True, these stories have all the reading appeal of stale cereal. They’re printed in two columns on the gray newsprint of the Official Voter Information Guide. But they are stories, these ballot propositions—stories of a future we imagine and then construct together.

This year, there are seventeen of them.

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How to write a novel

This is NOT how I write. But you get the idea.

No, I don’t recommend cigarettes and booze.

Certainly, this is more difficult than writing an essay. You will envy those youthful writers who not only did it in their twenties (or earlier) but got published—and famous. To keep from becoming too discouraged, you’ll have to look for writing icons who didn’t blossom until later in life.

Now that the envy is under control, on to the practical.

First, it seems obvious that you must begin with an idea. But this assumption isn’t so apparent as you might think. There are as many ways to begin a book as there are Myers Briggs personality types (sixteen, in case you’re wondering). You could begin with an idea, but you could equally well begin with an image, a character, or a setting, or in a dozen other different ways.

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Why Donald Trump needs to read poetry (and get a cat)

This is not a political blog post per se, although when I’m done you will probably be able to tell on which end of the political spectrum I fall. Nor is the title deliberate click-bait, though I wouldn’t mind if it attracted a few additional readers. It’s not even specifically about The Donald, but rather politicians in general.

So, why do politicians need to read poetry? Let me count the ways.

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