Thank You.

I started blogging weekly, more than five years ago. October 20, 2011– to be exact. I was just finishing up grad school and my first book, Neverending Beginnings, hadn’t even been published. I had a different non-writing job than I do now. I hadn’t met Julia Kelly & Alexis Anne and therefore, had no idea I’d co-host a monthly podcast. I’d never attended a huge national conference, much less presented at one. Five years ago I’d maybe run a couple of 10Ks, but if you’d told me I’d a half marathon once, let alone twice, I’d have swiftly dismissed that as crazy-talk. I had never been to Paris, or Belgium, or Portland, or Austin, and I’m sure there were countless beers I hadn’t tried, books I hadn’t read.

Five. Years.

The thing is though, when you do a thing for so long, it’s easy to just keep doing it because it’s that thing you do, right? You roast chicken every Monday, and make quinoa bowls every Wednesday. You go to happy hour at that one brewery every Thursday. You meticulously move things from this week’s to-do list to next’s every Sunday night. You always brush your teeth before you wash your face. And then maybe one day, you forget and wash your face before brushing your teeth, and you realize it’s no big deal. Or you can’t get to the chicken on Monday and realize it’s just as good cooked in the slow cooker on Saturday. And maybe you break your brewery routine to join a friend for jazz at the cafe around the corner and realize there’s this whole other world of things to do on Thursday nights. And that to-do list? Well, perhaps if it’s not getting done there’s no sense in re-writing it.

Five years. Thirteen weeks. But today, I break my routine.

I don’t know what it will feel like not to publish a blog next week. I haven’t not spent some of the hours leading up to Thursday preparing a blog post for the last 273 weeks of my life, so I imagine I’ll feel like something is a bit out-of-order. However, for some time, I’ve been feeling like this whole thing has just become a little too habitual for me, just one more thing to check off the list and write down again on the next week. Like it’s missing a bit of soul. I’m quite certain there is a whole other world of writing to do out there just waiting for me to breathe some life into it and better serve readers.

So that’s my plan. I’m going to take some space and explore some other venues and new projects. But I can’t step away without saying thank you for spending a few precious moments of your day with my words. Whether you’ve been here for all 273 weeks, or are finding yourself here for the first time, I am so very grateful.

Five years. Grateful.

 

Since I won’t be blogging every week, I will no longer send a weekly e-mail. However, I’ll still be sending a message on at least a quarterly basis with an update on the progress of my latest novel, including excerpts,  release dates and pre-orders, so I do hope you’ll stay on my mailing list (or sign-up for the first time, below). And again, thank you.

 

What’s On …

Just a few little notes about what’s on my playlist, my nightstand, and my stove these days.

On my playlist: I just got back from a trip to Austin, TX! On the plane I listened to Norah Jones’ new album. The whole thing is really lovely, but, this was one of my favorites:

On my nightstand: Last week I blogged about my intent to put my writing first this year; to start the day creating art. As a part of this, I’m kicking off 41secwnbauleach writing session by reading a short passage from Barbara Abercrombie’s A Year of Writing Dangerously, 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement. Only twelve days in, but I’m loving it so far!

On my stove: Super, super simple slow cooker pork. We had frozen half a pork shoulder last month when we over-bought for pork mole (which I like to call Roast Beast around the holidays– because Dr. Seuss). Anyway, this week seemed like a good time to thaw it out, make some pulled-pork barbecue in the slow cooker, and try to hold on to our Texas vacation feeling just a bit longer. This recipe was easy and delicious!* We served with pickle slices and roasted potato wedges. (*Full disclosure: we skipped the green peppers, because we didn’t have them, and used a more vinegar-y sauce.)

So– what’s on in your world these days?

Bookends

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My October weekends have been filled with all sorts of writer-ly, bookish goodness! Two weekends ago I did a reading at the Slover Library in Norfolk, this past weekend I moderated two panels at the James River Writers Conference, and tomorrow I’m headed to Philadelphia to attend the Women’s Fiction Writers Association’s regional conference. It’s odd how things lump together like this, isn’t it? How you’ll go months without any weddings, and then have three friends getting married in the course of five weeks. Or you’ll go six months without seeing your extended family and then seem them repeatedly in the one month span between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Seems like fall is the season for book events, at least in my little section of the east coast. Therefore, I’m officially renaming October weekends: “bookends.” (Get it, like books and weekends …)

Anyway, bad wordplay aside– in celebration of this bookish season, I thought I’d share img_2674some pictures and the excerpt of How to be Alive that I read at Slover, just for fun.

Setup: The scene takes place not long after the death of the main character’s fiancé. She’s trying to reach a panini press on the top shelf of a closet to make herself a grilled cheese sandwich (comfort food): Continue reading

Care & Feeding In Albuquerque

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At the end of September, I retreated. I spent four magical days in Albuquerque, New Mexico surrounded by other authors, learning and editing and talking and listening and laughing and writing and just being… still. Which is something I’ve talked a lot about14457348_10211129525020922_5240464678755916991_n here lately– this idea of rest and stillness, and the fact that it seems simultaneously necessary and a bit out of reach.

Leading up to the trip, I was very aware of what hadn’t happened since I attended last year. Most specifically that I hadn’t finished a book. I felt a little queasy about admitting I was still working on it. That it had been a slow year. That I still wasn’t quite sure where the whole thing was 14354956_10211120518395762_4196198396467923707_ngoing. And then suddenly I was in the Atlanta airport and there were familiar faces. People that I had become accustomed to seeing only as tiny square profile pictures were right there, in person. Giving hugs. And I knew instantly that this was going to be everything I needed.

Post retreat, Jessica Topper, wrote a lovely reflection in which she described the experience as “the care and feeding of writers.” I keep coming back to that phrase. About how really when I talk about rest and stillness, I think I’m talking about being kind to myself and seeking experiences that nourish instead of tearing down. I didn’t sleep all that much more than usual in Albuquerque, but I was heard, understood and encouraged. And I have rested. Now to finish that book …

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Huge thanks to Women’s Fiction Writers Association for creating this fabulous tribe (and especially to Orly Konig and the conference committee) and to Barbara Claypole White, Jessica Topper, and Mindy Miller for the photos in this post (because we all know I’m terrible at documenting my travels, or mostly anything except food & beer).

On Daisies in Beer Bottles Outside Hotel Rooms

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Look closely at that picture of a door above– see those daisies in the lower left corner? They are in a beer bottle and placed very intentionally outside a hotel room door. My husband and I happened across them very, very early this past weekend (i.e. before 5:30am), as we were leaving to check in for a race we were running. There’s a story there — right? How could there not be? Here’s my version:

He watched her pick at the corner of the label on her bottle and thought about teasing her about drinking cheap swill, but decided it might not be funny just then.

She took sip of the beer long gone warm and narrowed her eyes at him, “You let me order this?” She nodded her head toward the bottle, her nose crinkled in disgust.

He’d never had the slightest bit of influence over her decisions. Ever. But now didn’t seem the appropriate time to mention that, either. “You insisted it was the perfect night-cap,” he replied instead, then added “An hour ago.” Continue reading

Why I am Not A Travel Writer (Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls)

In my novel HOW TO BE ALIVE, the main character, Jen, is just beginning to pursue her dream of being a travel writer. In the book she travels to Rome and Venice. I picked these places because I had visited them relatively recently and could draw on my experience.

Guess what some of the hardest scenes to write were? You got it– the Rome and Venice ones. Travel writing = not my thing. Continue reading

Bad Dates & The Magic of Community Tables

I’d be hard pressed to find a writer who hasn’t had the experience of someone asking if a character in their book is based on them, or if they really do write the people they know into their books. I can assure you that I’ve never written an actual person I know directly into my books.

Unless you’re sitting across the communal table from me at a coffee shop and happen to be talking about that bad date you had. And I also just happen to be writing a book where the main character is going to go on some terrible dates. That might end up in my book.

Speaking of which, a huge thanks to the ladies across the table at a coffee shop in Portland, Oregon who gave me the amazing material below the other day. Because, truly, sometimes you can’t make this stuff up: Continue reading

To the Creative Writing Students I Met Last Week

Dear writers,

First and foremost, a huge thank you to the teachers who work with your club at the high school for coordinating my visit last week. They are some pretty amazing folks. Did you know, they teach all day, then attend your meeting, then coach various and asunder sports before going home, where I’m sure they also have adult life sorts of things to do? You probably knew this, but I’m not sure I did when I was in high school. (So, yeah, umm… a hearty thanks to all of my teachers/coaches, some twenty-ish years ago, for all of that. *blushes in embarrassment*)

Anyway, I digress. Though with good reason, as gratitude is always a worthy side ramble.

What I wanted to say to each and every one of you, is that you are amazing. And you have stories. And I’m going to need you to write them. Whether they take the form of poems, or songs, or plays, or short stories, or novels, or screenplays, or essays, or doctoral theses, or graphic novels, or some other form that doesn’t exist yet (perhaps because you haven’t invented it).

Continue reading

So… How’s the Writing Going?

I hated that question for most of last year. Why? Because the writing wasn’t going. As in, not at all. (I talked about why in this post.) However, I didn’t want to say that, because that would have been hugely discouraging. Discouraging to whom, you might ask? For starters, it wouldn’t have been the best news for the readers who have told me that they are excited about my next book. And it certainly wouldn’t have been at all encouraging to any of those just-starting-out authors I met at conferences, classes or other events.

But also, it would have felt profoundly discouraging to me. Continue reading

The Long and Winding Road

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I attended the James River Writers Conference for the very first time in 2006. I was just beginning to explore this idea that perhaps I could write something (hesitant to call myself a writer). I was working on my first story (hesitant to call it a novel). Last weekend, nine years later, I attended the conference as a writer who has written two novels and two novellas. I taught a master class, moderated two panels and participated on a third. I was busy preparing to speak and speaking and meeting other authors that I “knew” only in the online world, and so, as often happens in the most significant moments in life, I missed the gravity of this weekend until well after it was over. Continue reading