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Writing Out Loud: "Craft in the Real World"

writing out loud Sep 17, 2021

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...

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Let's Get Real: We All Need an Extra Push & Waiting for the Magic

let's get real Sep 13, 2021

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...

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Readers Corner: Tiny Love Stories

readers corner Sep 06, 2021

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...

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Writing Out Loud: Is Your Story Worth Sharing?

Is Your Story Worth Sharing?

My new book coaching clients are on fire right now! They have a story or a big idea they are burning to share with the world. We're digging in together to further focus their idea so they can write forward with purpose.

This is the fun part, y'all.

But inevitably there will come a time (or two) when doubt will creep in. When writing feels like a slog. When they will start comparing themselves to more established writers.

When they wonder if it's all worth it. When they wonder if they have anything new to share with the world. When they wonder if anyone will even care.

I get it. I've been there.

Those kinds of doubts creep in when I'm in the messy middle of a draft ... or in the middle of a revision.

Truth be told, those doubts have crept in recently for me.

I thought I'd be further along with my memoir by now.

But instead of getting a book deal, I'm back in the middle of a major revision. I'm tearing my draft apart to write a better book.

And it will be...

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The Writer's Life: Tools of the Trade & Setting Aside Time

Tools of the Trade: 

Dropbox or Google Drive? Or some other organizational system? 

What matters most is you have a cloud-based system to contain and organize your writing. Otherwise you risk wasting hours of precious time hunting down drafts and bits and pieces of writing. Set up a folder and subfolder system with categories that make sense to you.

Factors to consider: 

  • Cost & Storage Capacity: Google Drive and Dropbox both have free and paid options. How much storage do you need? How big is your project?
  • Ease of use: Which system feels most intuitive to you? Which system feels frustrating?
  • Sharing Your Work: Are you sharing your pages with an editor or a book coach? What system does she prefer?
  • Cloud-based: I can’t emphasize this enough. It will only take one hard-drive crash for you to never make this mistake again. Save yourself the heartache. Choose an organizational system that is cloud-based—TODAY.  

What’s your favorite...

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Let's Get Real: Words of Affirmation & Avoiding Comparison

let's get real Aug 16, 2021

Let's Get Real: Words of Affirmation & Avoiding Comparison

Avoiding Comparison: The Struggle is Real 

When you’re a writer, it’s hard to avoid comparing yourself to other writers.

You know, the ones who have agents. Book deals. Thousands of Twitter followers. Reviews in The New Yorker.

Meanwhile, you’re toiling in anonymity, just trying to get your draft done.

The struggle is real and so are your feelings.

Acknowledge the envy and don’t beat yourself up for feeling that way. We’ve all been there.

Then get back to the page and get that draft done.

Who knows? Maybe someday you’ll be the one with the agent and the book deal. You’ll never know until you do the work. 

Need A Pat on the Back? 

Writing is largely a solitary pursuit without a lot of validation or “attaboys” or “attagirls.” For writers who thrive on praise (anyone else here whose “love language” is “words of...

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Readers Corner: The Part That Burns

readers corner Aug 09, 2021

The Part That Burns, A Memoir by Jeannine Ouellette

Memoir writers need to uphold their bargain with the reader to be trustworthy, to tell the truth as they remember it. See how deftly Ouellette does that here. She states a fact but says she doesn’t remember it happening. Only her sister does. With that one simple statement, we know we can trust this narrator. She’s not going to lie to us.

Memoir writers need to choose their perspective. Who is narrating this story? The adult author looking back on her life? The child as she is experiencing events? Jeannine Ouellette does both in this fragmented memoir, which can be tricky but she’s got the writing chops to do it. Can’t you just hear the young Jeannine here?

There’s a principle in writing known as Chekhov’s gun. “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” Everything you include in your...

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Space to Create

all about suzette Aug 03, 2021

Yoga Gives Me the Space to Create: What Works For You?

Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I’m back on my yoga mat, in the yoga studio, five days a week. Boy, did I miss this during quarantine!

The sweat. The breathing. The realization that I am clenching my jaw and then trying to relax those clenched muscles. The drishti, the gaze on one thing. The community. The beauty of discipline. The beauty of just showing up and doing the thing.

And truth be told, I get some of my best creative ideas while I’m on my mat. Kind of like many of us experience in the shower. Maybe it’s just the mind’s way of telling us we need more time away from the phone and laptop. Time to allow our minds to wander, to open up to new possibilities. Time to see a story we’ve been telling ourselves in a new light, to see a new way to structure our book. 

I can’t pretend to know how the mind works but I know that getting on my mat regularly helps me create.

I know that...

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all about suzette May 26, 2021

Guess what happened this week? I got Shot #2! I’m going to continue to be careful—wear masks in public, physically distance, and wash those damn hands—but this is a hallelujah moment! Freedom on the horizon! Have you had your hallelujah moment yet or is it on the horizon? What’s the first thing you’ll do once you’ve got the “all clear”?

I’m a sucker for legal shows. Anything Law & Order. The Good Wife. Now I’m watching its spinoff, The Good Fight. These shows make me wonder whether I gave up on the law too soon, but trust me you’d never see me prancing around in the stilettos those female TV lawyers wear. Maybe I was meant to be a writer and a book coach after all. Birkenstocks suit me better. 

Somebody’s going to be a June bride—actually two somebodies are going to be June brides. LOL. And guess who’s walking down the aisle with us?

 I still marvel at how a single decision can change...

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Readers Corner: In The Dream House

readers corner May 12, 2021

In the Dream House is an extraordinary, genre-breaking memoir.

“Chapters” range from multiple pages to one with a single sentence.

Fragments, slivers, shards of memory.

Leaps back and forth in time, in point of view, in place.

But it works because the author knows what she has come to the page to say. 

She lets us know her point from the very opening pages:

“I enter into the archive that domestic abuse between partners who share a gender identity is both possible and not uncommon, and that it can look something like this.”

Skillful writers can break conventions but they still have to have a point.

The structure a writer chooses needs to be in service of that point. 

What’s the last genre-bending book you’ve read? What did you think about it?

Interspersed between chapters that are more narrative in nature—i.e, they follow the real-life story of the abusive relationship between the author and her girlfriend—are chapters that...

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