Writerly Feedback

Most people have a wonderful critique group they rave about. I am jealous of these writers. I recently joined SCBWI and have only attended two events. I haven't met anyone yet who is in need, as much as I am, of a group of writers to meet with and read with and talk with. I'd love to have an in-person group to hold me accountable, to hold my hand while querying, and to hold me while crying over rejections. I've been writing for five years, maybe closer to six, and for the first time, I'm ready to give up.

I have a handful of wonderful online friends who chat about writing and swap work and who support each other, and without these friends maybe I'd have given up months ago. But when I'm down, lately I find I avoid the internet. I also find that I avoid the internet and writing when life is really, really busy, as it almost always seems to be with work and three sons who are all involved in more and more events and sports, but I don't squeeze my writing time in as I used to. Or, maybe I'm just old and I need to squeeze in those five extra minutes of sleep where I didn't used to need to.

I also don't have the time I need to read the work of others, even when I want to so much, so then this let down, me letting down others, is an added feeling of neglect and failure. The feeling of failure is so much responsible for squashing the creative spirit.

Summer's just around the corner and I'm hoping for that burst of energy to edit and rewrite and draft, because even with my down-and-out spirit, I've got a new shiny idea...and maybe, just maybe, THIS will be the one.

I'm doubtful, but at least the idea is still there and my writing flame, though nearly, isn't completely extinguished. Not just yet.

How do you feel about in-person critique groups, online writing groups, online feedback forums, or even online reader feedback communities such as Swoon Reads? 

Where do you find your inspiration, and what gets you most down?


Books and Grieving

Long before my mom got sick and long before she died, I wrote a book with a character who was grieving. Reading it over while grieving myself I was sad at how accurately I had understood an emotion I'd never really experienced prior to writing it. And yet there were things I'd missed. My character had moved shortly after the death she dealt with and she never returned to visit the grave. I didn't find this realistic, because even though I know my mom isn't at her grave, when I first drove to see her there, I felt myself racing, as if when I got there, I'd see her. I say, I'm going to go and see my mom, when driving to visit her grave. I needed to add this in to my character's story.

There were books I'd read long before and shortly after losing my mom that have always stayed with me. My favorites are KISSING IN AMERICA and THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE.

Do you have others to suggest? 


Adrift after her sister Bailey's sudden death, Lennie finds herself torn between quiet, seductive Toby—Bailey's boyfriend who shares her grief—and Joe, the new boy in town who bursts with life and musical genius. Each offers Lennie something she desperately needs... though she knows if the two of them collide her whole world will explode.

Join Lennie on this heartbreaking and hilarious journey of profound sorrow and mad love, as she makes colossal mistakes and colossal discoveries, as she traipses through band rooms and forest bedrooms and ultimately right into your heart.

As much a celebration of love as a poignant portrait of loss, Lennie's struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often uproarious, and absolutely unforgettable.


Acclaimed writer Margo Rabb's Kissing in America is "a wonderful novel about friendship, love, travel, life, hope, poetry, intelligence, and the inner lives of girls," raves internationally bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love).

In the two years since her father died, sixteen-year-old Eva has found comfort in reading romance novels—118 of them, to be exact—to dull the pain of her loss that's still so present. Her romantic fantasies become a reality when she meets Will, who understands Eva's grief. Unfortunately, after Eva falls head over heels for him, he picks up and moves to California without any warning. Not wanting to lose the only person who has been able to pull her out of sadness—and, perhaps, her shot at real love—Eva and her best friend, Annie, concoct a plan to travel to the West Coast to see Will again. As they road trip across America, Eva and Annie confront the complex truth about love.
In this honest and emotional journey that National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr calls "gorgeous, funny, and joyous," readers will experience the highs of infatuation and the lows of heartache as Eva contends with love in all its forms.


five. grassy skies and hair boob

I walk across the purple sky.

I gaze up at the blades of green grass waving down at me from where I stand on this cloudy earth.

we made the most amazing oceanman out of salty waves.

the girls swam in the snow until their skin was as wrinkled as their grandmother's.

my mom is dead.

my mom died.

no matter how much I say any of those sentences, they just don't make sense. they are all unreal.

sometimes I repeat the fact that my mom died over and over in my head, and it makes less sense the more times I say it.

as I said, I don't often talk about hear death, or my sadness, but when I've tried, the conversation has been a flop, so it makes me more and more nervous every  time.

for example,

I have really short hair, so I have to get it cut often. I can't stand when the hair on the back of my neck gets long--what a mom at school calls "hair boob"--so I need to go in and get my hair boob razored off every 4-6 weeks.

going to the hairdresser is a near-painful experience. it's a half an hour of small talk. I loathe making small talk. plus, i'm awkward and terrible at it.


I went to a hairdresser the morning before my mom was helicoptered to the hospital she died in. months later every time I went the to get my hair boob shaved off, I thought about telling that same hairdresser, because she was always asking about family and plans and so it was always relevant to explain why I was sharing what I was, but the thought of telling her made my palms break out in a panic until they were all sweaty and shaking each of my nervous little fingers. finally, one time--i'd just walked from the sink back to her chair--I said it. "my mom died last march."  she didn't comment. so then I didn't know if she hadn't heard me or didn't want to respond. the last thing I wanted was for her to feel uncomfortable or pity me, so I didn't try again.

this school year I started going to a different girl at a salon really close to my house. it's easier to slip away from the kids and husband on a Saturday. I can return before they notice I've gone.  this girl is young. really young. I won't even guess on her age because i'm terrible at that, but I realized something. time passes differently for young people than middle-aged people. here's how I made that discovery:

me: I didn't know you guys changed the name of the store.
her: really? it's been periwinkles for forever now.
me: seriously? I drive by this all the time and I only just noticed. wow, I guess I don't pay attention.
her: oh, yeah. it's been since, like, august.
me: uh huh. wow. that has been a while seeing as it's already October...

two months for her was forever. two months for me is blinking my eyes.

so we were approaching holiday season by the next time I visited her. thanksgiving. the anticipation of thanksgiving 2015 was...hell. i'm sure i'll do a blog post on that one. (you do all realize you're my grief counselors, right?) so she makes her usual small talk with me, the customer in the chair. and I decided, since I was feeling really low and particularly angry at the time, to try out my announcement again.

her: so, are you looking forward to thanksgiving?
me: not really. my mom died in march and my dad and I are fighting about where we're going to hold it.
her: oh, yeah. my family is a mess right now, too. my aunt who, like, never shows up for anything just announced she's coming, and my dad can't stand her so he doesn't want to be around, and then my sister,...
me: well, I hope it all works out.
her: I don't care. i'm going to the packer game, so I don't have to be there for any of it.
me: ah. that'll be fun.
her: yeah. so, are you looking forward to Christmas?
me: no.

so, this is where I learned that hairdressers are not the right choice for letting out my innermost secret emotions.  perhaps I should try the local bartender, you say? no, thanks. this is what you guys are for. insert smiley face emoji.

i'll leave you with this:

my mom died last march
she's really gone.