Where do stories come from?

When I was searching for an upstate New York setting for my new novel, What Remains Unsaid, I couldn’t find the perfect town. So I made one up.

I grew up in a small—very small—town. One traffic light, one grocery story, a post office, and a population of 1,500 or so spread over fifty square miles. But the real town of Hillsdale wasn’t quite right as a setting for the book.

Hillsdale’s traffic light (from Google maps)

For one thing, it was too far from Syracuse, where much of the book’s early action takes place. Also, I wanted no confusion about the fact that this book is fiction, not memoir (you’ll see why when you read it). So I came up with the fictional town of Dyerville. I conceived of it as Hillsdale transplanted a couple hundred miles to the northwest, about halfway between Syracuse and Ithaca.

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5 things you never wanted to know about me

Working on marketing for “What Remains Unsaid” after attending two births in three days for my day job as a birth doula. (Okay, day AND night job.)

The five things

I’ll make this quick, because I’m kinda fried.

  1. I snore, which I would be doing in the photo above if it weren’t an awkwardly posed selfie.
  2. I dislike emptying the dishwasher but try to turn it into an exercise in mindfulness, which works only sometimes.
  3. I get cranky when I’m tired.
  4. I love weeding my garden. Unlike when I’m emptying the dishwasher, I am able to be fully present with my hands in the dirt.
  5. I’m a morning person, except after I’ve been up all night.

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Join me to march for art

On April 22, I marched for science in San Francisco along with an estimated 15,000 in that city. More than 600 marches were planned worldwide, though I couldn’t find after-the-fact estimates of total participation.

If I hadn’t become a writer, I’d probably have become a environmental scientist. Also, I’m the descendant of scientists and the parent of a likely future scientist. I’m alarmed, as many are, by plans to shift government resources from programs and agencies designed to preserve, support, and protect to ones intended to destroy, divide, and plunder.

In Justin Herman Plaza (photo by Audrey Kalman)

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Woman behind mask

Do you doubt? I do

I never considered myself to be someone who has a problem being vulnerable. After all, I put myself out there every day—as an editor, a speaker, a teacher, a birth doula, a parent.

But my self-conception may be, like most people’s, somewhat inaccurate.

This becomes evident as I count down to the release of my next novel, What Remains Unsaid, on May 15.

Woman behind mask

Hiding behind an inaccurate concept of myself

Suddenly, as I review the finally proof, I fear the writing is terrible. I can’t believe I’ve had the hubris to create such a dreadful book. I can’t believe I am asking people to read it, never mind buy it and review it.

Doesn’t that make you want to rush out and pre-order a copy?

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My inner chicken

Talk to your inner chicken

Four writers sat around a table, commiserating.

“I write a lot about what I’m going to write. I have pages and pages of notes.”

“I have so many ideas… but I just can’t get started.”

“The story I end up writing is never as good as the one I imagined.”

“I get so antsy when I sit down—it’s impossible to concentrate.”

Believe it or not, these are all symptoms of writer’s block.

Before I began researching this affliction for a mini-workshop I was facilitating after the March meeting of the SF-Peninsula Branch of the CWC, I didn’t think I had ever suffered from writer’s block. My vision of a blocked writer was someone sweating in front of a blank page or screen, unable to write the first word. I never have that problem. But it turns out that, as with so many modern afflictions, the disease category is a lot bigger than we thought.

Please don’t stop reading if you don’t think of yourself as a writer, because the symptoms, causes, and potential cures apply to almost any creative endeavor.

Writers around a table

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Let you be the judge of you

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Once a year, award-winning and nationally recognized health and sexuality writer August McLaughlin invites bloggers to participate in her Beauty of a Woman BlogFest. This year’s, BlogFest VI, happens the week of March 6-11. Fittingly, International Women’s Day (March 8) falls right in the middle.

I don’t regularly write about women and beauty but I always welcome the opportunity to do so as part of August’s wonderful roundup. To read more entries, and potentially win a fun prize, visit the fest page between 9 a.m. today and 11 p.m. March 11th (PST).

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From You to all of us

Pity the poor Second Person. The name alone is enough to puncture its self-esteem. Second fiddle, second best, second rate.

No wonder this voice in literature gets no respect. Actually, it gets less than respect. It is reviled! “I won’t read anything written in second person.” “It’s fingernails on a blackboard to me.” “The writing was good but I couldn’t stand the POV.” So say ordinarily easygoing readers and critics.

But hey—it’s just a voice, like any other. And I think we can all agree that in these times we shouldn’t be in the business of shutting voices down. So let’s ask the much-maligned Second Person to speak, to give us a little insight into its utility. Then maybe the you-haters out there can open their minds enough to listen.

I’ll turn it over to You. But first, a word from our sponsor. (Note: Diaz”s reading is rated R for profanity and references to naked body parts.)

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