Writing Out of Our Comfort Zone

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t,

you’re right.”

-Henry Ford

My late writer friend Thelma Wyland used to tell me, “I was born without the poetry gene.” Of course, I knew that wasn’t really true. Despite her preference for short story writing, she created such evocative Haiku that musician and composer Frank Richmond was inspired to create a deeply moving original composition.

Still, I’ve always felt I lacked the “short story gene.” Ever since I’d written “Woman in the Dugout” in seventh grade, all my ideas for fiction seemed to naturally gravitate toward novel length.

So when Beth Schmelzer, who was kind enough to adopt me at my first Malice Domestic convention this spring, invited me to join with middle grade author Cynthia Surrisi and her in working on short stories to be considered for an upcoming Malice Domestic anthology, my initial thought was “No way! I’m not a short story writer—I write novels for young adults.” Of course, the theme of “Mystery Most Theatrical” intrigued me, since my background is in dance.

And then an idea lodged its way into my pea brain, and I actually wrote a rough draft of a short story. It needs tons of work, but I know I’ll get helpful critical feedback for revision from Beth and Cynthia. Plus, I get to read their stories (which are really good) and enjoy this emerging tiny online writing community.

Writing short forced me to be economical in a way that’s different from novel writing. And all writing practice helps us grow in our craft.

All in all, I’m really glad I took the chance of writing out of my comfort zone. Trying something new has been so stimulating—and fun! And one of the nicest parts is building relationships with fellow writers like Beth and Cynthia.




  1. Beth Schmelzer on July 5, 2019 at 11:14 am

    What fun it is to be in a critique group with you and Cynthia! We are all learning and improving. Taking a break from novel writing to pen short stories is recommended by many writing coaches.

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