Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What I'm doing

Vicki Caine asked me to post my answers to the following questions:

Here's my post:

What am I working on?

I have a deadline of Labor Day to finish Diamonds of August.  This novel began as a class exercise long ago ... too long ago ... and has been written, re-written, thrown out, killed several characters and renamed other.  It is time to be satisfied with what it is and let the world respond.  

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My story delves, not only into the mid-life crisis of the wife, but also the inner voice of the spouse.  Two good people whose marriage has hit the wall of indifference.  

Why do I write what I do?

Who knows.  I write to challenge myself.  I write to know myself.  I write to escape.  I write to entertain.  I write because I am a story teller.  

How does your writing process work?

It changes over time.  What once worked now is stale so I try new approaches.  Right now the system that works for me is as follows:

Write daily.
Five minutes of silent meditation.
Ten minutes of prompt stimulated writing using a pen.
Five minutes of staring at the blank page.
Setting the timer for forty-five minutes of story writing.  
Set the timer for a fifteen minute break.  In that fifteen minutes I might walk, eat, or do a house hold chore.  During that time I do not check the internet and try not to make phone calls.  
Then I repeat the above for the number of hours I have set aside to write.   It is important for me to have the pre-determined amount of time I will work for the day or I will be distracted by the sun rising, or the tomatoes growing.  I try to write at least three days a week.  I need to change the work try to do.

Thanks Vicki for reminding me of process.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Often the hardest task we face as writers is knowing what our stories are about.  I'd like to think my writing has an emotion that you the reader can connect with.  

Some time back our mentor, Elnora, assigned us the job of writing a short piece to demonstrate our struggle of knowing what our story is about.  This is my attempt.

Exercise On Finding the Essence of the Story (January 2005).

The skillful surgeon placed the scalpel blade under the patient's friable skin peeling it back in search of the his essence.  It wasn't that close to the surface.  He examined the fat pads that once filled him and gave way to dimples.  But that wasn't the essence.  Then the Doctor sawed down to the bones, still solid in the middle and moveable at the joints.  That wasn't where this man was defined.  He pushed on muscles, cut a nerve or two and pulled on a heartstring ... all important to the life of the patient but not his life essence.  The veins pumped red and blue with life and still didn't tell the story.  Then the Surgeon saw the tear in the man's eye and knew that is where the true story hid.  The Doctor pulled down his mask and cried in understanding.

We are the surgeons of our stories.  Take you time to give it life ... but find the essence that we all can connect to.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


This past weekend I spent in Los Altos, San Mateo, and Gilroy (ignore the garlic smell).  On Saturday morning I attended Ellen Sussman's BASS (Best American Short Stories) class.  I am always amazed how writers read.  If a story moved us in some way, we pick every paragraph, then every word apart. We search for the verb, or adjective, that moved us the reader.  We study the structure and timing.  Did we want - or need to know - the protagonist had green eyes?  When did we, the reader, ‘know’ what was going to happen? What made us like the hero?


There were ten of us and it amazed me as each student read the same letters on the page and how much of our own lives we projected into the story.  Mind you these are Tom Perrotta's choices for "Best".  So there is something in each story that was done right.  As a writer/reader, we used microscopic eyes to examine how simple words became prose.  


In the afternoon I brought my work to the critique group I joined.  We are four women who wrote a novel in a year ... and realized what we really did was write a first draft in a year.  Now the real writing and critiquing begins.  


There are days that I want to toss every piece I've ever written.  Some days my critique group agrees I should.  Some days they point out a good sentence sharing the page with a lot of bad writing.  I have never felt criticized.  I always feel grateful.  


I return to the silence of my office where only the sound of my fingernails tapping the keyboard keeps me company.  I throw words on a blank page, shuffle them, hunt for the noun and verb, and then let them rest.  I will come back to them later and see if they sing and if that song might move another.


Then on my very brave and rare days, I let it fly to you the reader.  I hope you read with your heart and are moved in some way.  


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why Go Deeper?

My teacher said you can always go deeper into your character.   Once you think you know them step back and explore other parts of their character.  I have enjoyed doing that.  I once discovered my main character who I portrayed as an innocent woman whose husband ignored her.  One day, in my go deeper mode, I asked her, "so why did you marry him?"

Surprise!  She had to because she was pregnant.  That gave depth to a rather boring novel.  All of a sudden she didn't know if he ever loved her or just did the right thing by marrying her.  

I also like to go deeper with in my self.  I love to explore the parts of me that I think I know.  I am always surprised at what is hidden behind layers of denial.  It amazes me when I examine a trait I like about myself to find the blemish.  

My son read the last post about my father and challenged me to write about my mother's kitchen.  Interesting he didn't ask me to write about my mother ... a complicated relationship ... but about her kitchen.  In thinking back to the days I spent in that room - both good and not so good - what I discovered is I have painted (without knowing it) my kitchen cabinets the same color as my mom's.  All this time I reveled in how different we were.  In the end I acknowledge how alike we are.  Both of us women growing because of the challenges we faced.  

So go deeper friends.  Question everything, and when you think you have it, go deeper.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

And now I am a writer... my first written piece

It is that sublimely strange time of day, when the sun is setting and the stars are not yet in their appointed place.  It is the time of day that in the valley, the heat dissipates and the breeze is born.  She comes gently off the Western slopes of the Sierras and gathers in her arms the fragrance of the foothills transporting it to the vineyards below.  I breathe it in, a strange combination of orange blossoms, alfalfa, ragweed, and rich fertile dirt.  It is an old, familiar and well-known smell.  I stand in the vineyard and drink it in.
I remember the first time this smell was introduced to me.  I was with my father as we went to the fields to irrigate.  I was perhaps three or four, aware of all around me and hungry to memorize it.  I remember the breeze kissing my cheek, blowing the hair from my face and the soft earth, like sifted flour, puffed around my toes as I walked.  I absorbed the aroma.  
“What is that smell, daddy?” I asked.
“That is the smell of God and his earth,” his only reply.
I had heard of this God guy before, but till that moment I never knew how sweet his breath could be.
At dusk as the sun turns the Fresno sky red and seems to suspend timeless, before the stars take over, the aroma of God hangs like a satin comforter over the vineyards trapping the perfume bouquet beneath it.  It is in the silence of that moment that earth, God and innocent little girls are one.
I would grow up to pick grapes in those fields, to love in those fields, to fight in those fields, but mostly I learned to be one with God in those fields.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


You've found your way to my new blog.  I'll be posting from time to time. But The Next Big Thing - will be my answers to the New Big Thing Blog Hop.


 I'll post my answers to my current work in progress so - stay tuned!!!