28 Days of Play

Play and the Generation Gap

What I remember about my mother is this: she was there. She was there for band-aids and kisses and snacks. She would help us build tents in the backyard where we would hoard stacks of books, and she would pull down the trunk of old baby clothes from a high shelf so I could dress my dolls. She would unstick zippers and tie scarves in my hair and search for a beaded necklace to add to my dress-up ensemble. She made sure to foster an environment where play was encouraged, and when I needed her, she was there, but I don’t remember ever playing Barbie or baby doll with her.

I’m honored to be featured at You Plus 2 Parenting as part of Rachel Cedar’s 28 Days of Play series, and you can read the rest of this essay here. I’d love to hear your thoughts over there and keep the dialogue going on why it is we sometimes struggle with engaging in play with our children.

28 Days of Play

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What is voice?

finding your voiceAh, voice. As writers, we hear about it a lot. Lately, I’ve seen discussion of it crop up on social media, and I’ve been scribbling a lot of notes about voice in the margins of the manuscripts I’ve been editing.

We’ve all heard the advice: Write what you want to read. And this, I think, has just as much to do with voice as is does plot. A lot of finding your voice has to do with telling the story you want to tell in such a way that only you could tell it. Your voice is the particular tone, style, technique, and word choices you use to tell your story, but it’s also the unique perspective, personality, and flavor that only you can bring to it. How you approach the world, how you interpret your surroundings, and how you filter it all onto the page is your voice.

You’re totally clear on what voice is now, right?

This is why we can procrastinate and resist writing. This is why we’d sometimes rather comb the cat or clean toilets than park our bums and just write. Because if you start to think about voice, or more precisely, if you start to wonder what voice is and how does one find such a thing and what if you don’t have one, not much writing will get done because panic will open the door for that inner critic, and the inner critic will win.

First of all, you have a voice. You do. But we always talk about finding that voice. Here’s a trick: go back and read old writings, whether they be journal entries, blog posts, whatever, but read them chronologically. Start with the oldest piece of writing and work your way to the present. I bet you’ll see a thread of recognition in each one, and I bet that thread gets more vibrant the closer you get to your most current writings. That thread of recognition? Those telltale signs that some bit of writing is yours and yours alone? That’s your voice. And it’s not your voice because it’s brilliant or quirky or offbeat or astoundingly new, though it may be. It’s your voice because, even when taken out of context, it’s your style — your particular makeup of word choice, flow, rhythm, cadence, personality, and perspective.

A good voice is original and credible. A good voice has the ability to remain consistent even as the plot shifts. A good voice carries the reader through to the end of the piece, essay, novel, etc. but doesn’t overshadow the story.

So here’s how to succeed in finding your voice: don’t overthink it. This is why freewriting can be so powerful. Get out of your own way, write a lot, and most likely your voice will find you. Be mindful of the narrative techniques you tend to gravitate toward (metaphors, hyperbole, foreshadowing, backstory, etc.) but don’t obsess over them*, and try not to veer wildly off course. (i.e. Sophie Kinsella said that she once tried to write a thriller wherein she had written a cast of really nice people who suddenly started killing each other.)

*In the process of finding and cultivating your voice through journal entries, first drafts of novels, picture books, essays, etc. it’s fine to fall back on devices like metaphors and backstory, etc., but once you move on to subsequent drafts you’ll need to take a critical eye to the piece and try to recognize when something is overplayed.

Discovering our voice means we have to write the story we want to read in the most authentic way we can, which is the only way it’s going to be a success. Scratch that. It’s the only way we’ll write to the end.

If you’re interested in learning more about the editing services I provide, click here. I’d love the opportunity to work on a project with you. 

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8 blogs that rock (and why)

Originally posted on :

Blogs that Rock

*This post was originally published in March of 2013. The original post gets quite a bit of traffic so I decided to update it now, in February, 2015, to reflect some of the blogs that I currently read regularly.

This post is in response to a homework assignment for Holly Becker’s e-course titled Blog Boss. The objective is to feature 8 blogs that rock, two of which need to be fellow classmates’ blogs. I follow so many blogs (and rarely keep up with them on a daily basis), so this task seemed monumental at first. While there are plenty of blogs I check in on from time to time for their eye candy or crafty inspiration or practical purposes (for example, the more technical aspects of photography and writing), I decided, finally, to focus on the ones that speak to me. The ones that pull me in through writing or…

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Questions for Writers

Last week Kristen at Little Lodestar unintentionally set off a firestorm with her post, Nine Things I Wonder About Other Writers. She asked readers to answer these questions in the comments section on her blog, but many found the answers to warrant a post of their own. Nina Badzin, Lindsey Mead, Andrea Jarrell, and Justine Uhlenbrock are a few that I know of and whose answers I loved reading. I’m endlessly fascinated by the writer’s process, and any peek into the way others approach it is often eye opening for me.

Below are my answers to Kristen’s questions, and I would love to hear yours, whether in the comments here or on Kristen’s original post or on a post of your own.

1. Do you share your work with your partner or spouse? Does it matter if it’s been published yet?

I don’t usually share my works in progress with my husband. Certainly not blog posts. If I’m working on fiction or nonfiction, I’ll sometimes ask for his opinion or perspective, but this is usually to help with a sticky plot point or help me understand something like a scientific theory or historical event with more clarity. (Most of my freelance writing is for educational publishers.)

2. How much of your family and/or closest “friends in real life first” read your stuff…let alone give you feedback for it?

Like Lindsey, my feelings about this are complicated. I’m thrilled when someone in my personal life reads my stuff, but I certainly don’t expect them to do it regularly. Having said that, my mother, a children’s author, reads almost everything I write. She reads all my blog posts, and she’s often my beta reader for other writing projects. I know of a handful of friends and family who read pretty consistently. They might not always comment, but knowing they’re taking the time to read anything I’ve written means so much to me.

3. What do you do with pieces that continually get rejected — post to your blog? Trash? When do you know it’s time to let go?

I haven’t started submitting pieces to other sites yet but it’s something I’m thinking about doing in the New Year, so I can’t answer for personal essays or blog posts. I do have a few fiction pieces that have been rejected. Some I gave up on and some I’m still fiddling with because I still believe in them and something about them keeps pulling me back. I think that’s the thing for me. If it still lights a fire in me, I know I’m not ready to let it go.

4. Are there pieces you write for one very specific place that, once rejected, you just let go of, or do you rework into something else?

For me, this would pertain to the educational writing I do, and I would have to say that it just depends. If the editor is open to revisions, or seems excited by the idea but it just isn’t working as is, I almost always try to “get it right”. If it’s flat-out rejected, sometimes I let it go if it’s an idea specifically for that editor/project, but sometimes I find through the process that I fall in love with a character’s voice or the idea in general, and I’m almost happy that it’s been rejected because I can keep these pieces for my own and try to develop them into a picture book, chapter book, or middle grade novel.

5. What is your main source of reading-based inspiration (especially you essayists)? Blogs? Magazines? Journals? Anthologies? Book of essays by one writer?

Everything. I read almost anything I can get my hands on. Sometimes the reading takes over and before I know it, I’ve spent two hours reading blog posts and articles and dipping into books on my shelves when I should have been writing and/or working. For blog writing, I think I get the bulk of my ideas from other blogs. Something I read will spark a thought or a memory and I’ll go from there.

6. What tends to spark ideas more for you: what you see/hear in daily life or what you read?

Again, I have to say almost everything. Along with the inspiration I find through other writers, it’s about remaining open and present in my daily life. Aidan Donnelly Rowley posted a photo to Instagram the other day that I think captures this sentiment perfectly. She was looking up at a lit Christmas tree in a corner window from her vantage point on the sidewalk and remarked that for just a moment she paused and wondered about the life that resides inside. That’s it in a nutshell — wondering, asking “what if”, allowing your mind and imagination to wander.

7. Who have you read in the past year or two that you feel is completely brilliant but so underappreciated?

This is a great question, and I’m afraid I might fail at answering it. There are so many bloggers out there whose words inspire me more than a lot of bestselling authors, but I’m going to say my mother. My mother is a brilliant writer and poet.

8. Without listing anything written by Dani Shapiro, Anne Lamott, Lee Gutkind, or Natalie Goldberg, what craft books are “must haves”?

I don’t know about “must have”, but I love Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like an Artist” and Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art”. I haven’t yet read “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” by Mason Currey, but I’ve heard it’s a good one. I also enjoyed a little known book called “Writing Begins with the Breath” by Laraine Herring. And I think Stephen King’s “On Writing” has been mentioned, but that is also a great read.

the writing life

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Surely the stars are sketching a plan

I caught myself in a moment last night.

I failed.

I failed today, and I failed yesterday, and I will undoubtedly fail tomorrow.

I could write a list of all the ways in which I failed myself and those who depend on me to make this phone call…pay this bill…Watch me, Mommy! Are you watching?…this cheese, not that cheese…one likes oranges, the other strawberries, or is it blueberries?…One more book?…meet this real deadline and this arbitrary deadline…spend time with meplay with mewatch a movie with mehold melay with merub my backfollow me around so I know where you are in case I need you.

I fail on a regular basis, and on a regular basis I focus on all the ways in which I failed instead of celebrating little successes.

Last week was a week full of failures, full of power struggles and battles of wills and mighty tantrums of three year olds, and kids who push boundaries, which is what they’re SUPPOSED to do….And I was going to segue here into some of those beautiful moments of motherhood and womanhood and life splintered among the gritty/mundane/tireless everyday, but the truth is I’m struggling to see those moments lately. No, that isn’t right. I’m struggling to feel them.

Here’s the truth. “Because it’s Christmas, and at Christmas you tell the truth.” And at Christmas this truth is more garish and gloating, it seems, than at any other time of year.

I’m stuck. We’re stuck. We’re failing, and our failing is breaking me. Because as much as we work it’s still not enough. And it sucks. Wholly, firmly, unbelievably sucks. I try to tell myself that it’s only money and it’s only a phase and surely the stars are sketching a plan, but we’re expending all our energy, all our everything just to stay afloat, and it’s all stifling and suffocating and sometimes I snap because they’re fighting and I just need them to stop. Just stop. Stohhhhhp!

Today I am tapped out. I surrender. But I can’t surrender because I have three little people who need me and even with their whining and asking and pulling and crying and taking and arguing, they’re my world. They’re the shoreline to which I’m tethered, the driftwood that keeps me above surface. And today I need to work because I have a deadline to meet. I have to meet the deadline because we need the money. The money is already gone. Why do I not see this on blogs? On Instagram? On Facebook? Why is this subject so fucking taboo? Is anyone else drowning out there? Hello?

Yesterday I wrapped presents that I bought for a family who has less than we do. I gave up my time–the only time I had to work–to do this because I’m realigning my perspective to one of giving in the midst of needing. Because I have this theory that by giving of ourselves we can find peace amongst worry. Because when we give, we open ourselves up, and when we open ourselves up we can sit more peacefully among the questions and the vast grey space.

So I failed, and I will fail again. I’m failing as I type this. Always failing. But here’s my little success: I’m here. And I’m working my ass off and I’m opening myself up and I’m not going anywhere.

Today I will shove my worn-thin heart back into the drawer and I will rally because there are these three people who know nothing of worry and mess and mending pieces and carrying on, not now anyway. Someday, yes, but not today. Today the world is magic — tinsel strung on trees and paint splattered across paper and marshmallows in hot chocolate kind of magic. And so it will be for me if I will it so.

Here’s another little success: I won’t delete this post. I know I will want to, but I won’t because maybe someone needs to read it as much as I needed to write it.

So at the risk of feeling exposed and deleting this entire blog and disappearing from the WWW forever and ever, I’m hitting publish. The only thing I ask is that if it helped you in any way, whether minute or grand, please let me know. Please let me hear you.

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