Monthly Archives: December 2017

Holiday Letters Make Terrible Fiction

My grandson Milo has the best Christmas spirit! Our friends and family are far flung, so every year, I make a special effort to do a holiday newsletter and send pictures of our grandkids. This year, we’ve had wonderful things in our family to celebrate—a new grandbaby on the way, one of our sons being named head basketball coach at the high school where he teaches, and for me, the publication of It Should Have Been You on January 30. But as I looked over my latest letter from a fiction writer’s perspective, I had to admit it was a total bore. Edited out are all the things that haven’t gone so great in our lives—the losses, disappointments, struggles, and inevitable conflicts and challenges. I left them out partly to protect my family’s privacy, and partly because they are painful and don’t qualify as much of a holiday spirit pick-me-up for folks we send cards to. Does anyone really want to read about how heartbroken I am about my mom’s progressing dementia? All the stuff I’ve left out of our newsletter, however, is the meat of fiction. How lovely to immerse ourselves in a story where characters we care about are experiencing their own set of struggles and conflicts. It’s not only a glorious escape from our own stuff, but a way to process things we may be going through, however different the circumstances. Writing fiction is an immersive experience as well. My husband often complains that when [...]

By |2017-12-28T13:13:33-05:00December 28th, 2017|Holidays|1 Comment

Real Men Eat Quiche– and Sometimes They Cry

The year our son Eddie was in third grade, I was on the dance faculty at the University of Oklahoma, while my husband held down the home front. Bruce Feirstein’s satirical Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche was a best seller at the time.  Ed thought the title was very funny, especially since he dashed home for lunch each day to inhale one of my husband’s specialties, homemade quiche. A few years earlier, Eddie and I were checking out a nursery school when we witnessed the director admonishing an upset little boy for shedding tears. “Big boys don’t cry,” she announced. I grabbed my son and said: “We’re outta here.” No way did I want him being in a place where it wasn’t okay for him to cry or express his feelings. The fact is real boys and real men do eat quiche, and they do cry. And that’s a good thing. I was reminded of this last week when I was having dinner with my sisters and brother-in-law. He was recounting the time his grandson’s single parent mom was temporarily unable to care for him. My brother-in-law got on the next plane to California to retrieve his grandson before Social Services took over. He teared up as he recalled the little boy flying into his arms and saying, “I knew you’d come for me, Grandpa.” In that moment, I saw so clearly who my sister’s husband really is beneath his light-hearted banter —a man who deeply cares about his loved [...]

By |2017-12-19T14:48:01-05:00December 19th, 2017|Family, Gratitude|2 Comments

Writers: We’re a Supportive Group!

When one of my dear writing friends, Ellen Birkett Morris, got an agent the other day, I think I was almost as excited as she was. Despite being an award-winning short story writer with an outstanding reputation, it wasn’t easy to find an agent for her first novel. I can definitely relate! Yet, in the midst of doing all her own work, which includes being a regular columnist for, Ellen took the time to write to Doris Booth, her editor at AuthorLink, and inquire as to whether Doris might consider assigning someone to interview me about my YA novel, It Should Have Been You. With the publication date of January 30 rapidly approaching, Ellen wanted to help me get the word out. Doris invited me instead to be a guest columnist for their Writer Insights column. I was delighted, and I hope you’ll check out the piece I wrote which was published on December 8, “Confesssions of an Accidental Novelist.” We writers know the time, energy, and passion it takes to produce creative work, and the tough road we have in finding the right place for it. I suppose you could call us a tribe. As tribes go, I think we’re a mighty supportive one! One of the nicest things about getting my MFA at Seton Hill University was becoming part of an amazing community of writers eager to encourage, console, and cheer one another on through the inevitable ups and downs of the writing life. The other day, [...]

By |2017-12-10T18:12:34-05:00December 10th, 2017|The Writing Life, Uncategorized|0 Comments

End-of-Semester Blues

            It’s the last week of the semester, and my college students stare at me bleary-eyed. Loaded down with upcoming exams and final projects, sleep is definitely high on their wish list for the holiday break. “I just want it to be over,” one of my students told me. “I am so freakin’ tired!”             Me too. Facing the last blast of papers and projects coming in and final grades to submit, I’m more than ready to push the pause button on school. Not only am I eager to spend time with my family and savor the holidays, but I also can hardly wait to have a block of time to focus on my own writing.             Still, I have to admit that I always have mixed feelings about the ends of semesters. The truth is I invariably get attached to my students, and the thought of not seeing and working with many of them anymore makes me sad.             Maybe it’s because I teach English composition and we do a lot of sharing of our work in class, but my students start to get to know each other and I get to know them—and pretty soon, we’re a community. I know that long after this semester is over, I will still think about the student athlete who spent his eighth grade year homeless and dreams of getting his mom a nice house one day. And I’ll wonder about the biracial young woman who sits next to him and wants [...]

By |2017-12-06T10:10:46-05:00December 6th, 2017|The Teaching Life|0 Comments