Advice From the Desk of A Writer

10371504_1493211267560036_1559440155953801216_nThis February marks fifteen months since my first novel was accepted by a publisher.  Oh my, how much I have learned between then and now!  Since A Place to Call  Home was released last August, I have been asked countless times what advice could I give to aspiring writers.  I love how so many of the bestselling authors say things like “write every day,” or “just keep typing away and submitting,” or “you can do it if you work hard.”  Sure, all of those things are great, but here’s the reality: I could write a whole new book just on my experiences over the past fifteen months and what I have learned.  And believe me, I’m still learning.  Every day I read or hear something new that I think, I should do that, or remember that, or look into that.  So here are some things that I have learned that I hope will help others.  Feel free to comment below to open a dialogue on what YOU have learned. Read more

Celebrate and Aspire

DSC00647I’m sitting here this morning drinking my tea in the silence before the girls wake up, and I can’t believe it’s already New Year’s Eve.  Twelve hours from now, I’ll be hiding in my bedroom with Jodi Piccoult while twenty teenage girls sit here in this kitchen eating ice cream sundaes and talking about boys.  When did my baby get so old?  How did time go by so quickly?  Rebecca is already a sophomore in college, but it feels like she graduated yesterday and was just born the day before that.  Time marches on so fast, we hardly have a chance to take it all in.

This morning, I watched the year in review on the news, and I was amazed to think that all of those things happened this past year.  From three missing airliners to the rise of ISIS to the loss of the great Lauren Bacall and Mickey Rooney.  Less than a year ago, we were talking about polar vortexes, and this past summer, we witnessed a string of devastating tornadoes and wildfires.  Yet here we are; life zooms by, and we hardly notice.  We lose loved ones, and we go on; we see beheadings and mass kidnappings, yet we procreate and celebrate the joys in life.  People are an amazing creation – resilient and motivated despite all that we face and witness in life. Read more

Look Around

DSC02585These days, I am driving my daughters crazy!  You may ask, isn’t that normal for a parent?  Yes, but right now, it’s worse than normal.  You see, I love this time of year, from October through Mid-December.  No, not the holiday season, though I do love that as well.  It’s autumn that I love.  Okay, let me clarify that.  Do I love the drop in temperatures, the countless leaves in the yard, the frost on my windshield and the morning fog?  Well, no, I honestly don’t.  However, I do love the autumn, and I’ll tell you why. Read more

Puppy Love

IMG_3270Do you remember your first concert?  Depending upon how old you are, it may have been many years ago (Elvis?  The Beatles?), or perhaps just this past summer (One Direction? Taylor Swift?).  I remember mine like it was yesterday, and literally YESTERDAY, I got the chance to re-live it!

When I was six years old, my mother took me to my very first concert.  Though it wasn’t my mother’s kind of music, she knew just how much it would mean to me to see the man of my dreams live on stage.  So I donned my purple socks and favorite fan girl t-shirt and went to see a show I have never forgotten.  I don’t remember where it was or whether or not there was an opening act, but I do remember that when Donny sang Puppy Love, I knew, even at that tender age, that he was singing it just for me.

Last night, my girlfriend Laura (who has known me since I was six) went with me to the National Theater in DC to see the Donny and Marie Christmas Show; and yes, I wore my purple socks.  After the brother and sister duo opened with a few Christmas songs, guess what song Donny sang.  Oh, how I was taken back to that first night (especially when they showed the footage from his concert tour those many years ago).  I wanted to stand and scream “I was there!”  Of course, I maintained my dignity and enjoyed the show with the decorum that befits my age.  After all, that was 1976, and I have matured just a little in the years between then and now!  But as I watched Donny sing and dance like he hadn’t aged at all, I found myself thinking those words that all of us little girls screamed together those many years ago, “Help me, help me, help me please!”

Three Daughters

DSC00562-001This past weekend, our school community mourned the death and celebrated the life of one of our school‘s moms. She left behind three daughters, ages 11, 13 and 15.  Over the past few days, I have done a lot of thinking about my own three daughters and how I cherish every minute that we have together, so I hope you will indulge me this morning as I take a stroll down memory lane. Read more

Taking The Bull By The Horns

DSC00799Since most of my readers do not know me personally, I feel there is something you should know about me from the start: I do not go quietly into the night.  My family knows that, as do my friends, as well as everyone at the schools where my children attend, the parents of my Girl Scout Troop, my summer camp staff, my editor, and my cover artist.  I will fight to the end for what I believe is right, especially if it involves someone I love (and that includes my books and also you, my dear readers). Read more

Did You Miss It?

total-lunar-eclipseWhere were you between and 6:00 and 6:30 this morning?  I was standing on my sun porch with my husband and two daughters (I’m assuming that my oldest daughter was snug in bed in her dorm room).  We watched as the shadow of the sun traveled across the blood moon leaving just a sliver of light on the right side of the moon’s face.  We stood as long as we could before heading back upstairs to get ready to start our day.

How often do you take a moment to celebrate life with your family?  It’s not always easy!  As my thirteen-year-old groaned and complained that she didn’t want to get up yet, it would have been easier on her, and honestly on me, to let her sleep.  But somehow I knew that the real joy in standing on the chilly porch in our pajamas wasn’t seeing the cosmic phenomenon, it was seeing it together as a family.

Family is a big theme in my writing – losing family, searching for family, and ultimately finding or creating a family (while in the midst of running for their lives, of course).  Our time here is so fleeting.  We are here today and possibly gone tomorrow.  Take the time to do those little things that will make your family life memorable.  Then nobody will never have to ask you, “Did you miss it?”

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What Do You See?

truckUntil I began talking to others about how I come up with my stories, I had no idea that all of my life, I have seen things differently than others.  For example, when you go to an airport, what do you see?  Business people heading to their next meeting or convention?  Families going on vacation?  Couples embarking on their honeymoon?  Or do you just see people waiting for a plane?  Have you ever thought about?  Put down your phones and look around…. What DO you see? Read more

What if you did something different today?

DSC00481What if?  What if you hadn’t stayed in touch with your best friend when you moved and didn’t know today how great it was to still have her in your life?  What if you hadn’t transferred to a different college halfway through and met those amazing people?  What if you hadn’t taken that trip that led you to your soulmate?  What if you hadn’t decided to move into a house across the street from your great-grandparents and given them and your children the best years of their lives?  What if you hadn’t done something so small as to make that phone call just to say hi the day a beloved friend was suddenly taken from you?

Those little decisions that we make every day have a way of making a mark on our lives that sometimes take years to realize.  The advantage of being a writer is that we get to explore the “what ifs,” and try out all of the possibilities.  What if Susan O’Neil had never agreed to volunteer to teach a summer computer camp?  Where would Cassie and Ellie have gone for help?  It’s easy to change something in a book to create that opportunity for two people to meet and bond.  But what about in real life?  Are you open to all of life’s possibilities?  Take a chance.  Call that person you haven’t spoken to in years.  You never know when it might be your last chance.  Remember, life isn’t a novel that enables you to change the plot or the ending.