Category Archives: Writing

Collaging a story – Jenny Crusie’s Latest

I have tried the collage method to get a story to gel, but I have never broken out the construction tools or built anything like Jenny Crusie’s creation for her current WIP.  

crusie 1crusie 2

This is amazing and I cannot wait to see what she does with the frame.

Take a look at some of her collages and visual planning for past books.  Some days I really want to be her when I grow up.crusie 3 crusie 4
Do you have a process for getting a story or project to gel as you are writing?

Hibernation (a poem two ways and a poll)


(Image courtesy of Michael Sullivan – check out his post on editing here)

I have a love/hate relationship with editing (please tell me I am not the only one!).  Sometimes I feel that I am invested in every single word I wrote like I gave birth to it. As a result I hang on to words and entire scenes that should have been relegated to the virtual recycle bin in the sky.

But sometimes I really feel that all of the words, the detail, matters.  Not in a Dickensian getting-paid-by-the-word kind of way but in a rounding out the story, the poem, the message that I am trying to capture and share kind of way.

And so, I would like to ask a favor of you.  Please read the two following versions of a poem from my recent feral writing class (they are short, I promise) and just indicate in the poll below whether you prefer version one (longer) or version two (minimalist).  Which speaks to you or resonates?  If you would be willing to leave specific notes on why you prefer one over the other I would be eternally grateful, but if you only have a second please click on the one question poll – and thank you!

Hibernation (Version One – Long)
Fall is in the air.
Walks through the park
Crunching leaves beneath our feet,
Pumpkin-spice lattes
And bonfires
Will give way
To hearty soups,
Strong black tea,
Wool sweaters,
An extra down comforter
Heavy on the bed.
Coming soon
Snowbound afternoons
Reading away the hours
Or the days.
Rich colors
And textures of
Cashmere, flannel
And velvet.
Night falling early
With long, fire-lit
To write
Or linger with each other
Long touches,
Unhurried kisses
In the long dark
Of our hibernation

Hibernation (Version Two – Minimalist)
Fall is in the air.
Hearty soups,
Strong black tea,
Wool sweaters,
An extra down comforter
Heavy on the bed.
To write
Or linger with touches,
Unhurried kisses
In the long dark
Of our hibernation

Simple: A Meditation


Simple: A meditation
A scone on a china plate. A fire in the fireplace, or a fan, lazy in the window. Sheets on the clothesline in the yard. A notebook and a smooth flowing ink pen. A stack of library books yet to be read. The scent of Downy fresh laundry. Kids laughing in the other room. Sitting in church on the hard pew in the spare white sanctuary. The music of a single instrument; piano or oboe, cello or native flute. An a cappella choir. Family and history. Holding hands. My children’s voices on the phone. Belly laughs and inside jokes. Quotes from books or movies shared with secret smiles.


Simple truths
We resist the simple truths. Not “father knows best”, but “you will miss him when he’s gone”.

Love one another. Respect others; their beliefs and their belongings. Be true to your word. Be true. Be on time. Don’t be afraid to love. Don’t hold grudges – forgive others as you would be forgiven. Forgive. Listen more than you speak. Take the time. Put your heart and soul into what matters most to you.

Poem: The Neighbors

The neighbors

It was hard to learn again
To trust the neighbors
She spent the war years
Walking softly
Being quiet
Smiling, but not often
Meeting the neighbors’ eyes

She still cleans the room
Every week,
Dusting the small shelf
With the books
Of poetry
And the vase
She tried to keep full of flowers
In the summertime.
Sweeping the floor,
Keeping the bed linens fresh;
Although no one has slept
Behind this hidden door
In seventy years.

She remembers the stories
Shared in the dark
Evenings during the blackout
About Mme. Broussard
And how she whispered to her brother
In the gendarme
About the people in the neighborhood
That she didn’t like
And no one saw those neighbors again.
And M. Cloet, the school teacher
Who would ask his students
To tell him what their parents spoke
About the Vichy government
At home.

It was hard to learn again
To trust the neighbors
She spent the war years
Walking softly
Being quiet
Smiling, but not often
Meeting the neighbors’ eyes.


Sitting sentry in the hallway
Rough with wear and dirt
Symbol of her father’s strength
But sometimes
They frightened her
Dark and waiting
Full of his essence
Resting by the door.
In his dark times
There were no smiles
Or stories
No great booming voice.
He would sit alone
In the dark and quiet.
Then she would tip-toe
Quickly past
Not wanting to wake
The darkness
That seemed to linger
In her daddy’s boots

My grandfather died well after I was an adult.  My memories of him are of warm, rough hugs against wool work shirts, the scent of hand rolled cigarettes, strong fingers grasping ours, or our shoulders, always working with his hands on wooden bowls, or stone jewelry.  He was a warm, loving man and just thinking of him fills my heart.  But like many of us he had dark times.  When my mother was a small child she remembers running past her father’s boots sitting by his chair.  She was afraid of them, but only when they were off and waiting.  On him, they were just a part of Daddy.



I find solace and
Infinite quiet joy
In the liturgy
Blessed be God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit
The ancient words,
The rhythm
As much my worship
As the words
The ritual
Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open,
all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hid
I fall to my knees
Bow my head
Talk to The One I believe
With all my being
Created this earth
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
The Lord, the giver of life
In the morning
With lessons and prayers
For unto thee will I pray
My voice shalt thou hear in the morning
Oh Lord in the morning will I address my prayers
Unto thee and look up!
And in the evening
With hymns
I love you Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship you
O my soul, rejoice!
I find my way

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.



Very rough draft…

The page pulls at me
As I work
And cook
And plan for tomorrow
I read a chapter in the business book or the biography
All the while the other page calls to me
I know that when I pick up the book
And settle in
Turning pages, skimming words
To find the place where I left off
My world will fade away
And I will be in
Another time
Another country
Another body, mind and soul
Another world entirely
With Magic or dragons or trolls
My skirts will be long
And my thought patterns change
I will be a rancher
Or a debutant
A politician or a teacher
A suffragette
Or a slave
The page calls to me
And I pick up the book
And I am gone


Maybe (or Gasrden’s Fall Ballet)


I mentioned previously that I am taking Maya Stein’s feral writing class right now. The approach is unique and different for me which is resulting in some notable (to me) differences in what I am writing. There’s a rhythm that keeps repeating, night after night, as I work on the day’s assignment. A word or short phrase followed by an expansion on that word. It makes for a distinct rhythm that I can recognize. The feedback that Maya gives each day is incredibly specific and constructed in such a way as to make you look at your writing and your process from a different perspective, asking questions, challenging more work in a certain area. What she doesn’t provide is a critique or guidance on certain poetry forms or mechanics.

It’s a very different experience for me and one that I feel stretching me.

The wind off the garden
Is chilly today
And damp
Fall is in the air.
Petals drop
Like tiny ballerinas spinning to the ground
And stick
Flattened by rain drops
Layers of fading color
Like a stained glass window
Muted in the early morning sun.
Maybe I’ll take a picture
Or try to capture the wet light in water color
Or write a poem
Or maybe,
I’ll just sit and watch the garden’s Fall ballet.




I am on day 5 of Maya Stein’s Quick and Dirty Poetry class.

What Maya defines as “feral writing” is a new approach for me. On her website she says “Do you remember those moments in childhood when you “ran wild,” the times you were encouraged to explore and engage with the world around you on your own terms?

Feral Writing taps into this same joy of spontaneity and discovery, seeking to explore the electric connections and currents of our hidden world, and to follow that journey with words. More than a traditional writing workshop, Feral Writing workshops offer participants the opportunity to let loose and take risks, while at the same time refining writing instincts, developing better editing skills, and developing a writing practice that sticks.”

One of today’s writing prompts was Blessing.

Grace be unto you, and peace…

We wake and leave our homes
Unafraid, for the most part
Eating the ripe peach
At lunch time, forgetting to wash it
Or not caring, not worried
We sigh
At the grocery bill
As we fill the pantry to overflowing
Hunger, to us
Is running late to dinner
Or skipping lunch because we are busy
We have never felt the hunger
Of not knowing where our next meal will come from
Or not remembering when we had our last
We don’t know the fear
Of our own government
Or the filth of not having clean water.
Sweaty after planting flowers in the garden
We duck our heads under the hose
Never doubting the plentiful, cool, clean water
That will gush forth
Life giving
Security providing

I am making an effort to recognize my blessings.