Leave your garret and come to my party

Nighttime on the road. Photo credit: Harrison Kalman

Being a writer can be hard sometimes. All alone in your garret, scribbling away. Not to mention the often depressing news about how hard it is to make a living in this business.

That’s why I’m having a party. I can’t take credit for this idea. Over the years, I’ve so enjoyed the drop-and-hop events hosted on Susie Lindau’s Wild Ride blog that I decided to steal her idea. (Thank you, Susie!)

Your invitation

Here’s how it works:

  • If you’re a published author, comment below with a link to your book’s marketing page, whether on your web site or an online retailer. Try to be succinct. Hook us with a few sentences.
  • If you’re an aspiring author with a blog, comment with a link to a post that makes you proud. Brevity will serve you well, too.
  • If you’re a humble reader (we love you!), comment with a link to your favorite summer reading material so far—book, article, someone else’s blog, etc.

Note that all the bullet points above mention ONE LINK. I’ll steal another idea from Susie: one link only please, or you’re disqualified!

I hope we’ll end up with a rollicking party and lots of new ideas for reading material. Invite your friends!

Resources on mental health

At the back of What Remains Unsaid I included a short discussion on mental illness/mental health issues with statistics and resources. If you’ve read the book, you know that mental illness plays a role in the lives of many of the characters. I’ve now added a resources page to my web site so readers can easily navigate to some of the many sources of support and information available online. You can find them here.

The summer of free books continues

Don’t forget to enter my Goodreads giveaway for one of five signed copies of What Remains Unsaid. (U.S. only, through August 8.)

In person

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay area, I hope you can come to the reading by local authors at The Main Gallery in Redwood City on July 26. I’ll be there reading from What Remains Unsaid.

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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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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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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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1-2-3-4-5: How to write an essay

First, you must obtain a topic. They are not hard to come by. They are everywhere: in the cafés, on the sidewalks, in the muggy offices of bureaucrats. If you lack one, your taskmaster will supply it for you in the form of a piece of literature to which you must respond.

Next, formulate your thesis. A thesis says “This is what I am setting out to prove,” as if all truths were immutable.

Then, if you are a student, you begin the five-paragraph essay. Pay no attention to the words themselves. This is about the container, the scaffolding on which you hang the words. Learn form before content; don’t break the rules until you know what they are. These are the beliefs upon which the delicate scaffolding of pedagogy rests. Upon that, civilization balances.

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Carry it home with you

Less than a week has passed since I returned from the Sonoma County Writers Camp, organized by two amazing writing teachers—Ellen Sussman and Elizabeth Stark—with an appearance by Angie Powers and panels of writers and agents. It was held at an equally mind-blowing location: The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in Occidental, California.

While there, in the company of 23 other mostly fiction writers, I got down to business. Lots of writing, workshops, exercises, lively discussions, and information. I’ll save those for another post. Here I want to share a bit of the magic, in the form of daily writing, and my plans for bringing the magic home.

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