Category: Tips for writing

Writing Quote o’ the Week

“I write because I think the experience of being a conscious human in the world is absolutely unbelievably remarkable, and that the way to draw attention to that – for me — is by looking at human beings lovingly, and being aware of language, which is the great communal art form, and you know, basically that’s it.  It is a psalm.”

~ Marilynne Robinson

From an interview broadcast live, Nov 3, 2008, on “Live From Prairie Lights,” that you can stream here, and why not?



How to be a writer

After you write you should feel like a demi-god, or at least like a son-of-an-angel. You should glow, at least from the neck up. Your feet should scuff less on the pavement, because you are hovering (in your flipflops) about one inch off the ground.

After you write you should feel better than the guy who just walked past you, looking for the library restroom. You should feel superior, blessed, wanted, and a part of things. After you write, you should look in the mirror and find that the shorts and t-shirt you threw on hurriedly before you ran out the door, now suddenly appear svelte and polished. You should get a discount when you buy spinach at the farmer’s market. After you write for just one small hour, everything should be good and new. All things should appear more golden or rosy, (depending on your preference). You are godlike, or at least, you should feel so as you write, and especially after writing. It was your conversation with the universe, after all — at least, that’s what they say, and sometimes you say that too.

Only today you wrote about your cat. And you wrote about him the other day too, about that scratch he has on his nose. Just that. You wrote about your cat. And now you are done.


I was going to end there, because originally that’s all I wrote on the subject.  But actually, the truth is (and as a memoirist I’m just sick-silly-serious about telling the truth) the above isn’t true at all. Yesterday I wrote a lovely/weird passage that may eventually wind up in the next book, which I am currently calling “The Project” or on occasion “Tarzan. (I’m not writing Tarzan, but I do enjoy referring to my next project as Tarzan. Try it. It’s fun. The next time you are cleaning the house, say to your friends and relatives, “I’m going to spend the evening working on Tarzan.” See if it doesn’t make the experience a little better.) So it’s not true at all that I wrote about my cat for several days in a row. (Although, apparently, by mentioning my cat, I am now, indeed, writing about my cat.)

But instead of posting a blog regularly, I am apparently writing little drafts of blogs, saving them under the name “draft” and then not posting them. So the above doodle about writing about my cat was actually written several months ago, perhaps in mid-July. I think. I’m not sure. I’m not good at keeping track of time, and it should be Time’s job to keep track of me, that’s what I think. And truthbetold (which I’m into, as I mentioned) instead of writing a blog I’m working on Tarzan (which is to say, the next project).

(And now, if you think you’re confused, you should see my husband).

All this to say, Hello. How are you? I am fine. I am writing. And thanks for visiting this blog. What are you writing? It’s okay if you are writing about your cat. I do too. And one day he did (not too long ago) have a scratch on his nose. Today he weighs 19 pounds which is slightly less than the 20 pounds he weighed half a year ago.  Two weeks ago we went on vacation to Mesa Verde National Park and had a super lovely time—with my husband’s gorgeous daughters. (They live in Colorado.) And now we’re back home, and its September in the woods, which happens to also be gorgeous. Tomorrow I’m speaking to a book group who has journeyed all the way here from Minneapolis for the event.  I get a free dinner out of the deal, and that is nice (no cooking).  And that’s the news for today!

The purpose of a hot dog

Well, I didn’t realize that I hadn’t posted anything here in a ver-r-r-y long time.  Good gracious. I wrote something I thought I had posted here.  But apparently the cat (who was also supposed to fold the basket of laundry I left on the couch several days ago) did not post this little blog entry for me.  Bad kitty.  Shame.

In summary:  It is spring (or at least it was before we got a foot of snow yesterday.)  And I am working on New Writing–some fun and weird short stories.  And next month, April, I have a number of book events.  Read more details about events.

And now, The Purpose of a Hot Dog

The purpose of a hot dog (as far as I am concerned) is to provide a nesting place for the sauerkraut, sweet relish, ketchup, and mustard. You hold the bun—or in my case, the piece of bread—in the cup of your hand to balance all of it there together. The purpose of a vegetarian hot dog is to imitate the delicious taste of a real hot dog. The purpose of eating vegetarian is to lose the weight you gained while you were finishing the writing of your first book. The purpose of finishing the writing of your first book is to satisfy the thing you’ve been saying: “I’ve always known that I would write this book.” The purpose of saying “I’ve always known that I would …. xyz ” is that you realize it’s a bit of a manifesto and your friends/colleagues are going to hold you to it, and it’s such a grandiose statement that it’s going to stick in their minds, and then you are trapped: you’re going to have to do it. The purpose of doing something-you’ve-always-known-you-were-going-to-have-to-do is to “get to the other side” that is, to get to the moments afterwards when you anticipate feeling great satisfaction. You will sit down on the couch and the cushions will feel more softy. You will lie back on the bed, and the pillows will conform to your back more perfectly. After you have finished doing something-you’ve-always-known-you-were-going-to-have-to-do you will smile during your lunch even if you are only eating hot dogs.

And the purpose of hot dogs is to hold the sauerkraut, sweet relish, mustard and the like. It all comes back to hot dogs. I think that must be why we are fed them when we are children—so we will come to know the beauty of a hot dog lunch once we are on “the other side.”

Your Friday quote — May 9, 2014

Doris Lessing, back in 2008, at age 90, offered this advice for writers,

“I don’t have any energy anymore. This is why I keep telling anyone younger than me, don’t imagine you’ll have it forever. Use it while you’ve got it because it’ll go; it’s sliding away like water down a plug hole.”

Sorry, this quote doesn’t seem very upbeat, you know, but actually it is. She’s telling you to get off your ass. Write! Do it now! That’s inspiring, don’t you think? Just do it!

Don’t imagine you’ll have it forever….. and you are invited to insert whatever noun you like in the spot held by the word “it.”  Do it!  Get out there and churn out the stuff!  Even if it’s crap!  Write crap!  Paint crap!  Make a lot of crap!  To create anything good, you have to allow yourself to be utterly terrible…

So maybe that’s me quoting me now, which is less interesting than quoting Doris Lessing…. but there I go…

(My source, if you want to read the obit here:

Friday quote for a writer (or just a person, you know, doing something artsy)

Don’t write out of your civilized self, the self who goes to restaurants and knows which fork to use, the self who’s so ambitious about holding the right opinions on every subject under the sun, the self who went to college and panted after passing grades — leave that upright citizen at the voting booth. There has to be something truer than that. 

— Charles D’Ambrosio

Yup. That’s Charles D’Ambrosio. I don’t remember where I got this quote. I took a class from him at the University of Iowa, so it’s possible that I might have written this really really quickly one day while he was talking , or else I read it someplace and cribbed it down and then have forgotten who should get credit.

Anyway, he’s a wicked writer. I like his short stories and his essays equally well. They are both work looking at, and why not?

The Dead Fish Museum -stories

I also highly recommend The Point.

Whoah!  A giant bird just flew past the window over the ridgeline.  Wow!  Was that a turkey?  A bald eagle???

Have you seen our famous bald eagles?? (I’m not saying that the one that just flew past my window is this one you’ll see on camera, but it could very well be an eagle the famous eagle would invite to a family reunion, perhaps a cousins, or even a son or daughter … The webcam is located about, oh, ten miles from here.)

Introducing: Quotation Friday

Whenever I teach creative writing I start the class by writing a quote on the blackboard (also, I really like blackboards vs. white boards, but that is a topic for another day!) Usually the quote is from an author, or it’s from an artist talking about being an artist, or creativity, or … well, you know, the kind of thing that would inspire someone who wants to write or just be more creative in their life.

Secondly, I have been lucky to be collecting followers to this blog–slowly, very slowly, but seems like really cool people–some are from the U.S., but there are quite a few from the UK (for reasons I don’t know!)  And when I have the time to check profiles I have discovered what many of the blog followers have in common:  they are writers.  YOU are writers.

Wonderful! I mean, I am so flattered to be read by writers.   I mean, anyone who takes the time and trouble to express themselves and this bewildering life is just tops in my book.  And so I have decided it would be super fun to post a quotation once a week.  Maybe it would be inspiring, or maybe it would just be fun for me–which is another objective here, doncha know.   (Insert sound of tongue vibrating between the lips while blowing, like the sound that is made by a toddler in a car seat.)

So, without further ado, let me introduce Quotation Friday.

Each week I’ll post a quote that I hope will be inspiring or just… you know, fun. And sometimes I might include a link to the author I’m quoting, you know, in case you would like to see what they have written.

So, to get started I’m going to start with the same quote I use on the first day of class. (Sometimes people write it in their notebook.) I always start with this quote. I don’t know why, I just do, doncha know…  I guess its awesome that someone so famous an someone who’s known for being a curmudgeon would be so inclined to urge on other people…..

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
~  Mark Twain

That’s all.  And there will be another one next Friday.

In other news, the snow is melting! Wow! Yesterday when I drove to the gym I sat in the car in the parking lot for almost ten minutes. It was so warm in the car, and the sun was shining, and the bald eagle flying over head. (We have famous eagles here.) And so I sat in the car like you might sit out on your back deck looking up at the blue sky. Soaking it in.  40 degrees perhaps… Ahh… spring. It’s coming! (One foot of snow in the woods, but it’s melting!!!)