Tag Archives: on writing


“Are you a writer?” asked the woman in the park. She’d seen my yellow field bag with the Ray Bradbury quote: You must stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you.

“I like to write,” I equivocated. It was my standard answer. It was true, after all, and got me out of committing to the word. And I had never published a thing, except for poetry and flash fiction on my own blog, which maybe fifteen people ever read.


“Who here is a writer?” asked the panel moderator.

I was at Long Beach Comic Con with the rest of the Yeah Write crew. It was the first time most of us had met in person. Rowan and I were sitting in on a panel about queer representation in the writing and publishing world before we went off to our own panel about storytelling in the internet age. The question took me by surprise. We looked at each other for affirmation or validation or moral support, and raised our hands.


“Are you a writer?” asked the man sitting next to me on the plane.

I was head down in my computer, wrestling with the final pages of edits on The Jade Dragon, the novel Rowan and I had been working on for years. The man was watching the World Cup quarter-finals streamed to his seat-back TV.

I looked up, a little irritated at the interruption. “Yes,” I said, and went back to work. Only fifteen more pages to go.


Some stories come gently, drifting in and settling on the page.

Others stories fight the telling. Tooth and claw, they snarl and bite.

I wrestled a wolverine into a cage and left it on your doorstep. I dare you to open it.


There’s a house I pass four times a day: twice in the morning and twice in the evening. It’s on the corner of a quiet side street between the bike route and daycare. It’s one of those grand Portland houses with a wide front porch, old-style double-hung windows, and rosebushes and rhododendrons planted along the front. Most evenings (and some mornings) there’s a woman sitting on the porch.

She’s got a great setup. A café table and comfortable chair. A funky chandelier hanging overhead. Extra throw pillows. In the mornings there’s an oversized mug on the table. In the evenings, a martini glass. Whenever I see her, she’s got her computer open and she is completely, utterly intent on what she is doing.

I don’t know this woman. In my head I call her Linda. Linda, I imagine, is a novelist. She gets up every morning, makes a pot of coffee, and goes out to her front-porch office ready to dive into her latest book. She checks her e-mail, answers messages from her agent and her fans. Pops into a couple of forums just to rile the newbies up (“OMG Linda was here and she totally agreed with my post about casting Benedict Cumberbatch as Daniel if her book was a movie!”). Sends out a couple of tweets: “Finishing up chapter 12. Deadline’s been moved up 3 weeks. #fml #amwriting #furiously” “There goes that crazy woman on her giant-ass bike again. At least her kids aren’t screaming this time. #pdxlife” She writes for a few hours, getting up only to stretch and refill her coffee mug.

In the afternoon she makes herself a sandwich, maybe does a little laundry or some yard work, just for a change of pace. She snips a few roses to put in that vase on her little café table. A little bit of busy work is exactly what she needs to untangle the next bit of plot. Around 4:00 she makes herself a drink and settles in for another few hours of writing. By the time I ride by, kids in tow, sweating from riding three miles uphill into an east wind, she’s back to being immersed in her characters’ lives.

What can I say? I want to be Linda. Or my fantasy of Linda. My house has a porch – two, actually. The upstairs one is right off my bedroom. I have a café table and an Adirondack chair, a few throw pillows. No chandelier, but there’s a ceiling fan. I could have a front-porch office too, but would that make me a writer like Linda?

Linda-the-novelist represents to me an unattainable ideal. She’s like the Mona Lisa, attractive because of her mystery. As long as Linda is a novelist in my head, it means that I’ve got something to dream about. It makes the hard reality of trying to be a writer on the side a little more palatable.

I can’t actually see her screen, not from the street, so for all I know she’s not actually working on that novel. Maybe she’s taking a break for a few minutes or hours or days. Maybe she’s commiserating with her novelist friends about coming up with the next plot point. Maybe she’s not a writer at all and is goofing off on Facebook and Pinterest like the rest of us. Sometimes I think I’d like to stop and ask, but honestly, I’d rather stick to my version.

A Side Quest

This week I have the honor of leading a small team of guest judges for the Trifecta Writing Challenge! This makes me happy on a number of levels. First of all, I get to work with some fantastic writers: Uneven Steven and Kate R. of Robbo Writes.

Steve has blown me away since the first time he posted on Trifecta. I wish I had half the gift for poetry that he does. Here are a couple of the first posts that grabbed my attention: Dinosaur and Absence. And here’s my latest favorite: Freak.

Kate has a talent for giving us a little slice-of-life-with-a-twist. To give you an idea of what I mean, check these out: Pie, Anyone?, Twins, The Perfect Couple. I mean, seriously – I never know how her posts are going to end.

But the main reason I wanted to participate as a guest judge was for the opportunity to give something back to the Trifecta editors and community. I discovered Trifecta in January of 2012, and from my very first entry found myself welcomed and encouraged at every turn. I’ve said it before: not writing is easy; writing is hard. Trifecta makes it easier, and I can’t be more grateful.

Here’s this week’s challenge. If you haven’t participated before, go ahead and give it a try. Anyone can write 33 words, no?

1a : a heavy usually tapering staff especially of wood wielded as a weapon
b : a stick or bat used to hit a ball in any of various games
c : something resembling a club
2a : a playing card marked with a stylized figure of a black clover
b : plural but sing or plural in constr : the suit comprising cards marked with clubs
3a : an association of persons for some common object usually jointly supported and meeting periodically; also : a group identified by some common characteristic <nations in the nuclear club>  
b : the meeting place of a club <lunch at the club>  
c : an association of persons participating in a plan by which they agree to make regular payments or purchases in order to secure some advantage  
d : nightclub  
e : an athletic association or team
4: club sandwich

Please remember:

  • Your response must be between 33 and 333 words.
  • You must use the 3rd definition of the given word in your post.
  • The word itself needs to be included in your response.
  • You may not use a variation of the word; it needs to be exactly as stated above.
  • Only one entry per writer.
  • If you know your post does not meet the requirements of the challenge, please leave your link in the comments section, not in the linkz.
  • Trifecta is open to everyone.  Please join us.

For more information, visit: www.trifectawritingchallenge.com

On Writing in the Interstices

Pencil“I can’t not write.” I hear people say it all the time. To this I say, “Bullshit.”

Not writing is easy. Writing is hard. Writing well is insanely difficult. And writing well with a family and a full-time job and all the day-to-day concerns of life seems nigh on impossible.

That’s why I write – if you can call it that – in those stolen moments of solitude: fifteen minutes standing nearly catatonic in the shower, tasting different word combinations on my tongue; ten minutes walking to the bus stop, drawing lines between characters and events; twenty minutes rocking a discontented baby in the middle of the night. An hour-long lunch break is a surfeit of time that almost takes my breath away, when it happens.

At the same time, there’s a symbiosis that occurs between the desire to write and those tiny interstices between life’s mundanities. Daily constraints force me to sharpen my focus, hone my intentions, and pare my thoughts down all the way to the core. The result is that each word I entrust to paper is precious: carefully considered and weighed. With all the time in the world, would I take such pains? I think I would not.

So I can “not write.” In fact, just this past week, I did it twice, skipping two writing prompts that both intrigued me and sparked some interesting ideas. The trudge through the fog seemed particularly daunting, and I gave in – sat down in the middle of the road and rested. The trick is to remember why you set out in the first place, as Mr. Gaiman puts it, and to get back up. It would be the easiest thing in the world to continue not writing. Not writing is easy. Writing is hard.