Sunday, December 27, 2015

Unseasonably Warm

The Midwest is experiencing a warm winter. Michigan is mostly brown and muddy, so I haven't taken many pictures. Here's a few sights from yesterday's walk.

This seedpod wrapped itself around the branch from a different plant. Decorating for the holidays. 
The Milky Way
Maybe this one is a little weird, but I like it.
The first ice of winter. Starbursts.
Maybe a bird.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Overheard #313

"You're on the horse. Eventually, you'll go somewhere."

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Walk through the Neighborhood

Today was the first snow of the season.

I might use one of these for my holiday card. Please feel free to vote for your favorite. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Planning a Critique Group Retreat

My post about planning a critique group retreat is live at The Mitten today. Thanks to Debbie Diesen for the photographs. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


The past week has been one of high intensity and low productivity. I always find reflections of leaves in water soothing. I hope you do too. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015


I'm just getting around to looking at vacation photographs now. We went sunset hunting in Charlevoix. The body of water is Lake Michigan. It was a windy evening.

The next night we went down to the other end of Fisherman's Island State Park. 
We found some Petoskey stones too. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Harp Day

The main character in my work-in-progress is a high school girl who hopes to attend college as a harp major. Yesterday, I went to Harp Day at Michigan State University. It's a recruiting event to attract prospective harp majors to the MSU College of Music and also a chance for local harpists to get together. Attendees can sign up to get a lesson with Dr. Chen Yu Huang, take a master class and participate in Harp Jam. I went as an observer.

I had a chance to hear two of MSU's freshman harp students perform. It was like my character came to life and played for me. I chatted with a high school student from Grand Rapids who hopes to attend MSU as a harp major. "You're writing a book about me?" (direct quote) I asked several young players why they chose harp as an instrument, and their answers were close to what I’d written for my main character.

The Master Class provided ample material for the harp lesson in my novel. The revised version will likely come to next month's critique group. I enjoyed the variety of music students brought to the master class. I was impressed by the students’ talent and skill.

I also got to hear the fabulous Modern Harp Quartet. If you click through the website, you can hear excerpts from several of their pieces.

I came home inspired, perhaps more as a writer than a harpist. But that’s what I am, a writer. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Overheard #312

"Being a genius is largely a measure of your own self-worth."

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The First Charlevoix Pictures

We went on vacation earlier this month, and I've been slow in posting pictures. Here are some. More will follow as will some posts on writing or creating or something. 

Probably everyone who goes to Charlevoix, takes a picture of the lighthouse.
Round Lake
a carp in Round Lake
dune flowers
forest flowers

Monday, September 7, 2015


Last winter, I ordered two dozen caladium tubers to start inside. They sent forty three, so I now have caladium all over the yard. The sun hit the leaves this morning. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

What Work Does It Do?

The first few drafts of a novel generally result in a large conglomeration of words. Here is a quick and easy way to initiate revisions.
  1. Write a short description of each scene.
  2. Note what work the scene does.
Scenes work by:
  • advancing the plot
  • introducing characters
  • elucidating characters
  • showing how characters react to their world
  • eliminating characters
  • laying a foundation for an upcoming event
  • building or releasing suspense
  • building or destroying relationships between characters
  • laying a clue
  • exposing a red herring
  • advancing or thwarting the protagonist
  • advancing or thwarting the antagonist
  • ratcheting up the tension
  • creating a turning point
If I missed something, please tell me in the comments.

If you can’t identify what work a scene does in about two seconds, the scene probably has to be cut. Go ahead, re-read that scene. Try again to answer the work question. Any luck?

At this point I often come up with excuses: It provides backstory. It has a great description. It’s funny. Bah.

If you want a tight novel, every scene has to work for a living. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Overheard #311

"If there's a ninja, there's a way."

Monday, July 27, 2015

My Camera is Back

The service department at Canon mailed back my camera today, so I went outside to feed the mosquitoes and try it out.

cranesbill geranium and unidentified insects 
shasta daisy

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Art and Craft of Children’s Book Writing: my recap at last

photograph by Krista Dondero Rausin

On July 5, I arrived in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard for a week-long workshop with Emma Dryden. It was held at Noepe Center for Literary Arts, a non-profit organization that offers both writing residencies and workshops.  I was delighted to be part of the first Thursdays in the Garden at Noepe when they open the doors to the public for evenings of music, readings and camaraderie.

On the first day of the workshop, Emma led us through a discussion of first pages. I was confident about my opening when I walked in. Since then, I’ve rewritten it at least six times, and it’s not done yet. The second day was devoted to voice. Emma gave us worksheets and exercises to help us discover the unique voices of our characters. I have worked through the questionnaire for every character in my novel. I learned much about the people who have lived in my brain for over a year now. The third day was devoted to world building. How hard could that be? My characters live in modern day Michigan. Again the workshop and worksheets pointed out many ways I can enrich my novel. The fourth day was all about revision. I plan to leap into these techniques during my upcoming writing retreat with The World’s Greatest Critique Group. The last day was questions and answers, but not until we delved into the inner reasons why we wrote our stories.

Best of all, I spent a week at a beautiful place, got to know nine fantastic writers, and had the privilege of being tutored by a genius editor who knows how to get authors to dig deeper and find new meaning in their writing.

And I ate some lobster.

Thanks to Krista Dondero Rausin for generously sharing her photograph. My camera is broken, so I have no pictures of hydrangeas, lighthouses or sailboats.

Friday, July 3, 2015

An Adventure

This blog has been neglected. My photography has too. I've been writing a lot (revising actually), riding my bike and playing my harp. I am now supposed to use two fingers and the thumb on each hand. Sure.

Tomorrow, I embark on a grand adventure!

First, I fly to Boston to spend the Fourth of July with Jeremy. On Sunday, I take the ferry to Martha's Vineyard for a workshop called The Art and Craft of Children's Book Writing, led by Emma Dryden. I'm very excited and a bit nervous. Certainly, I will learn much. I hope to post some pictures when I get back.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


The protagonist of my work-in-progress has a giant, impractical dream. She wants to attend the Julliard School as a harp major. Will she get there? Probably not, but my character will become a harp major at some college or conservatory. Many of the students I tutor dream impossible dreams as well.

As I worked on my manuscript, I realized I didn’t know much about the harp, so I contacted a local harpist and asked if I could hire her as a consultant. She agreed and told me I should take harp lessons as well. She offered to lend me a small folk harp for practicing. In the two lessons I’ve had so far, I’ve learned far more than I expected.

Here’s a progress report:
  • It would have been better if I’d learned to read bass clef as a child. I’m getting better.
  • My rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is often recognizable.
  • Sometimes when I see notes on the treble staff, my fingers still feel imaginary clarinet keys. (I played clarinet for about ten years.)
  • The arthritis in my left thumb makes it lazy.
  • Jeremy and his friends love to remind me to practice.
  • Most importantly, I’m learning which questions to ask my teacher to improve my manuscript. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Pollen Festival

We get so few honeybees these days, if one stops by the yard, I go full paparazzi. 

A bee fly enjoyed the peonies too.
The wasp preferred the strawberries. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Maass Moment

If you’ve fought your way through Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook or heard Donald Maass speak, you know what I’m talking about. The Maass Moment is when the protagonist goes beyond burning bridges; he sets himself adrift in a burning boat. All is lost.
As Thomas Wolfe wrote in You Can’t Go Home Again, “Son, son, you have been mad and drunken, furious and wild, filled with hatred and despair, and all the dark confusions of the soul – but so have we. 

There is no going back. The character and his world have changed.

Writing a Maass Moment is hard. The writer should not (in my opinion):

Spring the Maass Moment on an unsuspecting readership. In the workshop I attended in January, Donald Maass led us through a series of steps where the protagonist continues to undercut her goal until she comes to the point of no return. (Click here for Charlie Barshaw’s awesome review of that workshop.)

Allow the protagonist achieve the Maass Moment by being drunk and disorderly. Sure, people do that in real life, but the novel is much more effective if the crisis occurs through emotional strain rather than debauchery.

Let the character off too easily. By nature, I’m a peacemaker, so my characters tend to resolve conflicts. I go through the steps outlined in the workshop and rewrite each appropriate scene. But I note the page. The following day, I revisit that scene, and make it worse, forbid the characters to kiss and make up, make them to say hateful things, and force them to do the unforgivable. Then I revise again. And again. I never make it bad enough on the first few tries.  

Once the character has lost everything, she is free to do what was impossible before. 

Friday, May 22, 2015


Zach working, and the sun coming through the trees. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

This Week's Insights

If you have to write a query letter pitch, assign yourself a hated household task. Tell yourself you cannot work on that letter until the task is done. Inspiration magically arrives.

Stepping away from a manuscript away can be a huge relief.

Coming back to a manuscript always brings insight. Sometimes it offers pleasant surprises.

Spring is an optimistic time of year.

Don't hesitate when spring bulbs bloom. Grab that camera before the deer find them. (There will be no chionodoxa or "glory of the snow" pictures this year.) 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Before the Snack

These crocuses won't last long, but I snapped a few pics before somebody ate them. 
You know I can't resist a backlit petal. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Signs of Spring

Spring comes slowly to Michigan. 
An animal bit off the crocuses but didn't eat them.