Four and a half years ago, at the age of 56, I left what looked like a fairytale existence and moved to a city where I knew exactly one person.
Some called me brave.
Some called me crazy, a few to my face.
I read somewhere that most of us only make big changes when the pain of staying in the known is worse than the pain of leaping into the unknown.
That was certainly my experience.
On the “before” side of my leap, I wouldn’t have called myself brave but I did feel crazy at times as I contemplated leaving a thirty-year marriage to a good man, a life that was financially secure and comfortable in more ways than one.
But one day when I finally got quiet and still enough to hear my own voice, the fog cleared. I wasn’t willing to go to my grave without having really lived my life. The pain of not living authentically was greater than the pain and fear of not knowing what was on the other side.
There’s no way forward without some...
Writers, let me introduce you to Dabble, my new best friend.
Dabble is a simple-to-use online writing tool that helps keep your writing organized.
It keeps you from spending hours hunting through hundreds of Word docs to find that one perfect scene you cut and now want back in your draft.
Dabble makes it super easy to play with scenes, moving them from chapter to chapter.
It’s like Scrivener without complications or frustration.
Sure, Dabble comes at a cost (there’s a monthly or annual subscription), but how much is your time and sanity worth?
As I wrestle with yet another major revision of my memoir, Dabble’s been worth every penny to me.
It’s funny what happens when you set aside non-negotiable time to write.
You get that chapter to your book coach.
You submit that essay and get included in an anthology.
You meet the deadline for submissions to an independent press and increase your odds of being traditionally published.
You actually get...
Margot, my fantabulous business mentor, is a woman of a certain age ... my age LOL. The other day, we were talking about my goals for my book coaching business and my goals for my own writing ... how much time I want to spend working each week, and what I want to spend that time on, in this season of life.
"I like to think of this as the third quarter," Margot said. The first quarter we grow up, the second quarter we build a career and/or take care of children, and the third quarter we get to choose ourselves and do what we want, if we are fortunate enough to be financially secure and healthy. The fourth quarter—85 +? We'll likely be reliant on others to help us manage our life.
"I figure I've got 25 years in this third quarter if I'm lucky," Margot said.
The same math for me. God willing, I have 25 good years left to write, coach writers, travel, spend time with my kids (and hopefully someday grandchildren!), hang out with friends, and continue to build a...
If you’re a writer, it’s impossible to banish doubt completely. I’m guessing you may have wondered:
But while you can’t banish doubt, there are ways to manage it:
Doubt will always be lurking, but it doesn’t have to get the upper hand.
Writing can feel like a slog. You would rather do practically anything else (dentist appointment, anyone?) than put your butt in the chair. But then there are those magical times when...
Opening lines are critical. Ideally, they grab the reader and entice them to read more. They can establish the theme of the book, something important about the main character, or both. “If you ask me where I’m from, I’ll lie to you,” achieves all these objectives. What do you glean from this opening line? Does it make you want to read more? Tell me some of your favorite opening lines.
LGBTQ+ coming out stories are important, especially for readers still in the closet or dealing with trauma from leaving the closet. They’re also important for readers to develop empathy for family members or friends in the process of coming out. And the best coming out stories tap into the deepest parts of all of us. Identity. Belonging. Love. As Lauren Hough notes, there’s more than one kind of coming out.
Not just nachos but nachos from 7-11 - not just chili, but Alpo-looking chili. These are known as...
For as long as I can remember, I’ve spent the 4th of July on the beach, mostly in Montauk, NY.
For those of you unfamiliar with Montauk, it’s the easternmost tip of Long Island,120 miles east of New York City. Originally a fishing village, it used to be known as a popular summer spot for middle-class families, especially compared to the glitzier Hamptons villages to its west.
That’s the laid-back Montauk I remember fondly. The place where I square-danced with my parents and sister at the Hither Hills State Park campground. Where I learned to drive our silver Buick station wagon. Where I called out orders for steamers and lobsters at the dockside clam bar. Where I wept over a break-up with my first love. Where I raised two sons. Where I committed to my writing life. Where I wrote words that turned my life—and my family’s life—upside down.
That streak of 4th of July’s in Montauk ended in 2017 when I left my old life...
Ironically with everything going online during the pandemic, many of us are now blessed with more writing community than ever before. Thank you Zoom! Online classes, online writing groups, online writing conferences, online co-writing dates—all good stuff and much of which I suspect will be available to writers permanently.
And still, there’s nothing quite like being with other writers in the flesh. The monthly writing group I attend is now meeting in-person outside. Hooray!
What type of online writing community worked for you? What didn’t? What in-person writing community are you most looking to resuming?
Having skin in the game helps keep me accountable. If I pay money for something, I’m more likely to follow through. If it’s a “free masterclass,” I’m likely to blow it off if something better comes across my desk. Maybe this is just because I’m “frugal” or as some say, “cheap.” Maybe it’s just...
Have you ever had one of those "Road to Damascus" moments when the scales fell from your eyes and you saw everything with new eyes?
I've had a few of them.
In the mid '80s when Duncan Kennedy, my property law professor at Harvard Law School, introduced "Critical Legal Studies," the then-controversial theory that the law wasn't "objective," that the rules were created by and for those in power.
After the May 2020 George Floyd murder when I began reading books like Waking Up White, White Fragility, and How to Be an Antiracist, which opened my eyes to how white supremacy is baked into pretty much everything in American society, a fact I hadn't fully understood before.
And, this past year when I read Craft in the Real World and began to understand that the "rules of writing" are nothing more than a set of expectations that a certain audience or reader has. The craft rules we've been taught to believe are "correct" or absolute—such as "show, don't tell," "make your protagonist...
We write because writing makes us feel alive.
We write because we have no other choice.
But sometimes writing is the last thing we want to do.
Don’t beat yourself up if you feel that way.
Sometimes we need a specific reason to put our butt in the chair and do the work.
Like finding out a publisher is accepting unagented memoir manuscripts for exactly 2 days this fall.
Yeah, that got my attention. It was exactly the push I needed to ramp up my revision from la-di-dah to full speed ahead. What’s motivating you to get your work done?
Writing a book is hard.
There will be many moments when you feel like you’re fumbling in the dark.
What’s my story really about? When does it start? When does it end? How should I structure it?
Who will read it? Will anyone really care?
But if you keep at it, a magic moment will happen—I promise!
You will see the light. You will understand what your story is really about. You will know how to structure your...
Tiny Love Stories: True Tales of Love in 100 Words or Less, edited by Daniel Jones and Miya Lee of Modern Love in The New York Times
We pick up books for many reasons: to be entertained, to forget our sorrows, to laugh, to learn something. Before you even read the first story in tiny love stories, you know what to expect. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be swept away—in less time than it takes to read this paragraph. This book of bite-sized morsels of goodness may be exactly what you need after (during?) pandemic life.
This tiny love story, “My Main Men as Meals,” made me LOL. It made me wonder how I’d describe my past lovers. And “my now and hopefully forever” person. All that in under 100 words. What does this story evoke for you?
This tiny love story, “He Tried So Hard to Remember Me,” gutted me, in a good way :) It brought back memories of my own dad who couldn’t remember what he had just finished...