In Honor of National Indie Bookstore Day.

Gertrude & Alice's bookstore

I admit, I’m a bit of a stalker when it comes to indie bookstores.

Whenever I visit a new city, the first place I look for is the nearest independent bookstore. I’ve even amassed quite a collection of bookmarks from The Tattered Cover in Denver, Crazy Wisdom in Ann Arbor and Shakespeare and Company in Paris.

It was in an indie bookstore in New Hope, Pennsylvania that I stumbled across a book called The New Diary by: Tristine Rainier. I had attempted to keep diaries over the years with many pages filled with the hastily scrawled words “forgot to write.” The obligation to write on every dated page was stifling. The New Diary opened up a new way of journal writing that was more spontaneous, deeper and even (gasp) fun. I began filling up blank pages with my words.

Then one day I was attending a seminar in Philadelphia. During the lunch break I browsed this amazing little bookstore off Sansom street. I can still see the table filled with this book called Writing Down the Bones. Just the title gave me goosebumps. I picked it up, stroking the image of ink spilling across the cover, already aware on some level that my life was about to change.

I began filling notebooks with what Natalie Goldberg called writing practice. Practice made it easier to approach. I wasn’t “writing.” I was practicing.

I was becoming a writer.

Of course, the flip side of writing is reading.

Read the rest of the article here.

Books Read in February, March & April

Descent book

“Descent” a novel by Tim Johnston

First sentence: Her name was Caitlin, she was eighteen, and her own heart would sometimes wake her—flying away in that dream-race where finish lines grew farther away, not nearer, where knees turned to taffy, or feet to stones.

All I can say is, don’t start this one at night. Or if you need to sleep. You’ll want to keep turning the pages to find out how it all ends. Plus, there’s so much suspense you may not even be able to fall asleep.

Caitlin and her brother, Sean go out for an early morning run in the mountains but only Sean returns. It’s a family’s worse nightmare. How do you stay together when the family is so violently fractured? How long do you keep looking and hoping?

Johnston gets into the dark knotty places of a family in crisis. We are allowed deep into each person’s secrets that they guard close to their heart. Each one struggles in their own way to deal with this loss, striving to balance hope with pragmatism, letting go with moving on.

Not only is this a thrilling suspense story/mystery, the writing is just, well, stunning. Whether he is describing the sun in the pines, the mountains or the relationships between the family and strangers, his language is lyrical and precise.

Here he is, describing curtains:

They belly out over the bed, rippling, luffing—and abruptly empty again, and for a moment everything is still.

He has a gift for creating the absolutely perfect verb in each and every sentence.

I borrowed this one from the library but may have to buy it at some point so I can read it again slowly, with pen in hand.

A sentence I love: The sunlit creases in the pines where some living thing might travel, bear or moose or hiker or daughter.

Yonahlossee book

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, a novel by Anton DiSclafani

First sentence: I was fifteen years olf when my parents sent me away to The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls.

Set in the beginning of the Depression, this novel is fraught with all kinds of tension: between families, between classes, the financial tension of the depression, the sexual tension that comes with being a teenage girl, the tension between a horse and its rider. Seriously, this story is steeped in tension and that is what kept me turning the pages.

After her part in a mysterious family tragedy, Thea is exiled to a horse camp for girls high in the Blue Ridge mountains. Far from the home she loves and separated for the first time from her family, including her twin brother Sam, Thea must find her place in this new world as well as come to terms with what got her sent away in the first place.

A beautiful, engaging story.

The Dead Lands book

“The Dead Lands” a novel by Benjamin Percy

First sentence: She knows there is something wrong with the baby.

So begins the new thriller, post apocalyptic story by Ben Percy. I was reeled into this dark, decimated, mutated world from the first sentence and hung on for the whole wild ride that included slavery, mutant creatures, the grappling for power and so much more.

It’s one thing to have an intriguing premise. It’s another to populate the premise with deeply flawed yet beautiful characters in a deeply flawed yet beautiful world.

150 years ago the world suffered a massive flu pandemic followed by nuclear war that left the world unrecognizable. A small group of citizens in St. Louis built a wall around their city, calling it the Sanctuary. There they lived in a prison of their own making, keeping the world at bay. Then a stranger rides into their midst, declaring that there is life beyond the Sanctuary—a life that that includes fresh water (which is very short supply within the walls of the Sanctuary). Do they trust her? Do they leave the safety of their own walls to explore what may lie beyond them?

“The Dead Lands” weavess together all of the dangers we face as a society, as a world: flu pandemics, nuclear war and fallout, climate change, water shortages.

Is there actually a reason to have hope? Is there ever a time to give in to despair? Percy explores these questions and more brilliantly in a novel that Stephen King describes as, “Good God, what a tale. Don’t miss it.”

I couldn’t agree more.

2 Sentences I love:

• The night is wrapped in many sheets of silence.

• Life might be a catastrophe, but it is a beautiful catastrophe.

30 WYA Challenge: The 1 Thing I Didn’t Do Taught Me the Most

Photo found on Pinterest via

Photo found on Pinterest via

I recently participated in the 30-Day Write Yourself Alive Challenge with Andrea Balt and Tyler Knott Gregson. I connected with so many amazing writers from around the globe. I connected with my words, my stories, my Self.

I showed up, I did the prompts, I put my words out there.

The one thing I didn’t do was show up everyday.

The one thing I didn’t do was give my writing top priority over everything else: yoga, meditation, dirty dishes, laundry, TV, internet.

Some days I didn’t write at all. Other days I wrote pages and pages, catching up by doing five, six or seven prompts in one sitting. And that was great—riding that energy that had built up over days, feeling those words simmering just below the surface of my skin, aching to find a way out. It’s fun to surf that wave of creative energy.

It’s fun but it’s not sustainable.

It’s fun but it is not dependable.

What is dependable is structure, routine, consistency.

Not fun words, are they?

But it is what I need. What my creative process needs. I’d rather sit down every day, not knowing what comes next, not knowing if I will eek out a few meager sentences or if pages will spill out of my pen than wait for the words to build up until they can’t be contained anymore.

So, for the next 7 days I am committing to show up each day. To work on my current WIP each and every day for seven days. To build up that muscle of dedication and consistency.

To have fun within the structure of discipline.

How about you? Are you an every day writer or does more sporadic work for you? I love hearing about your process. Please share.

Five on Friday


1. Save yourself the time it would take to read Moby Dick and read David Ebenbach’s interview with Ishmael.

2. What happened when one writer committed herself to the 30 Day Write Yourself Alive challenge with Andrea Balt and Tyler Knott Gregson.

3. Margaret Atwood has a new book coming out this year.

4. My new favorite TV show.

5. Add to your TBR pile with these spring releases.

Day 13 of #WriteYourselfAlive Challenge

(A short piece based on 3 random photos in my instagram feed)
A jumble of letters lay on your desk. Your baby rests at your feet, smiling and snug in her bouncy seat, just content to gaze up at you. But you break the gaze and it feels like a tiny piece of your heart snagged on the moment. That moment of turning away from her to your desk. From her to yourself.

Your palms press into the smooth wood. Sitting here feels foreign, like you don’t quite fit here anymore. Not like you used to.

Not like when you could stay up until 2 AM because the words were just spilling out of you and who would walk away from that for mere sleep?

But now.

Now sleep is precious. You hoard moments of sleep like a vagrant lost in the depths of the desert hoards drops of water.

Now you gladly trade words for sleep.

No wonder you no longer fit here.

You swipe up a handful of the letters, shaking them in your palm like dice, feeling and hearing the solid yet delicate clink of ceramic edges gently colliding. Maybe if you shake long enough actual words will emerge from the letters.

Maybe a whole story will tumble onto the desk like the elusive Yahtzee you played as a kid.

The misshapen cubes fall out of your hand, landing on the desk, scattering into an incoherent pattern. No story. No words. Just random letters adding up to nothing.

You glance down at your daughter and see her eyes have closed. She is asleep. You know you should follow the rule of new motherhood and sleep when she does. But rolling those dice in your hands has left your palms itchy. That familiar twitching of your blood and cells beneath your skin tugs at you to show up to the page. You remember it doesn’t matter what you write at this point. Just write. Just show up and who knows where you’ll end up.

Maybe in the skin of an old woman sitting on a bench in the grocery store next to the mechanical horse.

Maybe you’ll end up in a memory of your grandma knitting a pair of slippers with pom-poms that bounced off the front of your foot with each step.

Or maybe you’ll end up on a boat with children, gliding through space, parting the stars with the bow, leaving a swath of stardust in its wake.

You never know where you’ll end up unless you show up.

You pick up a pen.

You open a notebook.

You begin.

She Shows Up.

Image found on Pinterest via Free People Blog.

Image found on Pinterest via Free People Blog.

The snow slants to the frozen earth outside her window.

A wind comes and disrupts the precision with which the snow descends, scattering those individual particles of frozen atmospheric water vapor frozen awry, off the path.

Her path is on the snowy white of the paper beneath her hand. Or the glaring white of the screen on her desktop. Both waiting to be filled with the “breathings of her heart.”

They don’t care about the quality of the words, of the sentences, of the stories. They only wait for the presence of the words, sentences and stories she needs to tell in any given moment.

Sitting at her desk, her dog curled up behind her, the silence broken only by the soft hum of the space heater at her feet, she writes.

She claims this time as her own.

Claims the space as her own.

The space around her.

The space within her.

She claims the page.

The words.

She claims it all.

But mostly she claims herself as a writer.

And don’t ask if you can buy her books on amazon or find them in the library as if having her words bound and packaged and marketed for human consumption is the only proof available to back up such an audacious claim.

That kind of question diminishes her path.

Diminishes her claim.

And she won’t be diminished.

Each time she shows up to the page, she stakes her claim on this path of writing.

Of language.

Of stories.

The path is slanted like the snow outside her window.

It is easily blown off course.

It is filled with mud

And much

And potholes

And vast swaths of desert

And frozen tundra.

But she shows up.

Not for the so-called validation of having a book published but

because she must.

If she doesn’t show up

to the page,

she doesn’t show up

to her


This was written in response to Day 11 of the #WriteYourselfAlive challenge.