Tag Archives: fiction

How I Woke Up My Muse: Writing Fiction in 2014

Calliope, the muse of poetry

Calliope, the muse of poetry

In my  writing life I’ve been searching for a BIG IDEA. I mean, I’ve had a bunch of ideas over the years. I have an idea for an historical YA which I may never write. The research and “getting it right” is very daunting, because it’s such an important story to me. I’m not sure I have the writing chops for it yet either. And I’m ok with that. I’ve been searching for another idea, something that I feel I can do.  I’ve been sending messages to my muse, who happens to be a lazy little bitch, and she just hasn’t been answering. I hate when people (or muses) do that! Just answer! Well, when I least expected to hear back from her, she chimed in… (on a side note, I’m pretty sure my Muse doesn’t look anything like Calliope. I suspect my Muse wears ripped jeans, Doc Martins, and a Grateful Dead t-shirt, stinking of patchouli, drinking coffee, and smoking clove ciggies… or that might just be teenage me…)

Joe McGee in a great green room.

Joe McGee in a great green room.

Aaaaaaanyway. Last week I went to see The ABC of it: Why Children’s Books Matter at the New York Public Library, with my client Joe McGee. Joe was breezing through NYC on his way up to his residency at The Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he’s almost done with his MFA in writing for children and young adults (you’re welcome for the plug, Joe!). What was particularly great about seeing this exhibit with Joe, besides the fact that he’s fun and great company, was that we really dug in and talked about writing for kids and I didn’t have to be the “expert” on it. We had the exhibit to stir our imaginations and I had Mr. McGee who was primed for thinking about kid lit, as he embarked on spending 2 weeks immersed in more learning about it. And we had such a great time at the exhibit, which you should definitely see if you’re anywhere in the New York area before March 23rd (SCBWI Winter Conference attendees: make the time for it!).


I love Ferdinand.

I love Ferdinand! Don’t you?

So on my way home, inspiration struck! Was that the faint scent of patchouli I smelled? An idea came to me and I texted Joe with a title and a “what do you think?” Now that was a role reversal! He and I riffed back and forth with it via text, laughing all the way, while the aroma of clove cigarettes got stronger. And now, BIG IDEA in hand, I get to squeeze in time to write every day. Rather than spending time gazing at an empty page on my computer or in my notebook, cursing that little bitch of a muse of mine for being an absentee-parent of ideas, at the very least I know what I’m trying to write about. Don’t be surprised if you see blog posts in the future from me replete with complaints and/or advice on how to move through writer’s block, or the suffering and anguish of trying to write and be an agent, or whatever… But for now, for today, I’m riding the high of starting the year off knowing what I’m writing.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I’ve learned something, and when that happens I like to blab about it all over the place so maybe others can get something from it. Here it is:  My muse lives in the space of conversations about writing and creativity and talking about great books. I immersed myself in some of the finest children’s literature written (see the pic of Joe above; the one of me in “the secret garden” didn’t come out…sorry), in  a (concrete) way that I hadn’t done before, and voila! La Muse peeked her head around a corner and whispered in my ear.

How about you? Is your muse out to lunch, on vacation, in absentia, or otherwise being a deadbeat? What do you do about it?


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True Story Flash Fiction Contest: When a Lot of Nothing Happens

Silhouette-policeofficerEarly yesterday morning,  I was still in bed in my pajamas, and my teenaged kids were still in their pajamas, and my son tentatively knocked on my bedroom door.

“Mom,” he said, “there’s a police officer outside the house.”

Curious, I went downstairs to see what was happening outside. I live in a very quiet, suburban neighborhood, where a lot of nothing happens. But what my son meant was that there was a police officer at our front door! My heart started beating faster as I opened the door.

“Can I help you?” I said.

I hadn’t heard a siren and the light wasn’t flashing on the top of his car. What was wrong? Did something happen with one of the neighbors?

He said, “I found this on the sidewalk in Sea Cliff and it has your name on it.”

Oh shit. What did I do? What was he handing me?

“Did you write this check?” he said.

A check? Did I write a bad check?

I took the check he was handing me and looked down at it.  I had indeed written this and given it to somebody the day before.

“Um, yes,” I said. (As you can see, first thing in the morning I’m  loquacious and bodacious in my verbal skills!)

I felt the blood pounding in my ears as I looked back down at the check.

“They must have dropped it,” he said.

I don’t know why, but I blushed as I looked up at the tall uniformed police officer.

“You drove from Sea Cliff all the way to my house, to give me a check that you found on the sidewalk?” I said.

He said,  “I thought it was the easiest way to get it back to you.”


“Um, thanks.” I said (still astounding everyone with my verbal skills).

“No problem,” he said, “Have a nice day.”

And he turned and went back to his police car. I closed the door and faced the group of pajama’d teenagers who were now clustered behind me, trying to hear what was going on.

“He drove from Sea Cliff to our house, to give me a check I had written to somebody yesterday, which they had apparently dropped on the sidewalk.”

There was a moment of silence as we all just stood there taking it in.

Ok, writers and kibbitzers and know-it-alls: How would you have written this true story? E-mail me your version by noon Friday (EDT), July 19th and the “winner” will have the pleasure of having their story posted on my blog on Monday! Must be 400 words or less and please include a 3 sentence bio with your entry. (E-mail entries only. Don’t send me a story in “comments.”)

Thanks to all the people who played with me! The contest is now closed.

Check back on Monday, July 22nd to see who won! 


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Friday Ramble: Adventures in Not Writing Fiction

blue typewriterHa! So there I was, all inspired by the fabulous keynote address given by Sharon Creech at the writing conference I was invited to. I come home, all jazzed. I’ve got an idea! It’s middle grade. Lots of boys and dads and problems to overcome. I have characters. I give them names. I work out the relationships in my head. I ask a couple of folks I know some researchy kind of questions, just to make sure I’ve got a viable story . I download Scrivener. I think: I. Can. Do. This.  I can write one page a day, until I have a manuscript!

Or… I can write one page a day for three days and then be so riddled with doubt about whether I even have a story  that I stare at the blinking cursor on my computer screen and wonder why I thought this was ever possible. I can happily dive back in to editing some of the client work that’s waiting for me, read some of the manuscripts that are piling up, answer queries. Anything so I don’t have to face that blank page.

Holy crap, people. How do you do it?!


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