Character-Driven Writing

Over and over again in the process of writing my novel, I’ve stumbled across things about my characters that were unexpected. This is what I love about “literary” or character-driven fiction. It means letting the characters take you a little off-track from your plot outline, because you might discover some really cool things. A recent chapter I was writing felt … Continue reading

Published Again!

I’m excited to announce that my personal essay, “Silence,” has been published in the Summer 2014 issue of the Michigan Quarterly Review. This essay is an excerpt from my full-length memoir, A Half-Painted House. Many, many thanks to the editor, Johnathon Freedman, who said, “…normally I don’t take much creative non-fiction, but I really had to make an exception for … Continue reading


By the way, some other juicy nuggets I learned/got reacquainted with at the Antioch Writer’s Workshop (I want to write these all on my whiteboard, but I’d run out of room): We write what we don’t know we know. “All first drafts are shitty.” (Anne Lamott) What sort of writer would I be if I wrote every day? Time is … Continue reading

Character Motivation

This past spring I attended the New York City Pitch Conference and pitched my memoir to four editors and agents. I successfully got the interest of one editor from St. Martin’s Press, and he requested the manuscript. He loved the writing, but said that memoir is hard to sell right now. It has to be either really unusual or really … Continue reading


Writers trying to get published need a thick skin. There’s a lot of good competition out there, and different agents are looking for different things. You have to hope your query letter sparks interest and then put up with a lot of rejection. My opinion is that writers who seem gracious about rejections are just pretending. Deep down, it’s wounding. … Continue reading

Getting Past the Blank Page

One of the scariest things for most writers is that first blank page. I like to start with an actual sheet of paper because I can doodle. A blank screen is worse. The blinking cursor seems impatient, and the screensaver keeps reminding me I’ve been chewing my fingernail and typing nothing for ten minutes. The “delete” key is wimpy, anyway. … Continue reading

Writing a Full-Length Book: Story Structure

Other than an almost-but-not-quite-finished adventure I wrote when I was thirteen, I had never written a full-length book before this past year. That adolescent adventure story was about a young boy from Canada who owned sled dogs. I knew very little about Canada or sled dogs, and even less about boys. I wish I still had that manuscript. I’m curious … Continue reading