Collected Wisps of Thought

{April 25, 2007}   New Interview!

I’ve posted a new literary agent interview on my web site for anyone who is interested. This time, it’s the fabulous and talented Jennie Dunham of Dunham Literary. She provided great responses to my questions, so be sure to check out all she had to say.

You’ll find the interview at on the Writer’s Resource page.


{April 18, 2007}   Virginia Tech

It’s very difficult to write about tragedy when it happens in real life. Young adult novels often deal with tragedies, but when it strikes in our own world there aren’t words powerful enough to express our grief and anger. Yet to ignore it, to go on as if something profound has not happened in our midst seems wrong as well.

This week and in the weeks to come, many people will be on television and on the Internet giving advice and commenting on events. There’s not much I can add to this media mix. I am not Dr.Phil or Anderson Cooper. What I do want to add are my condolences to all those who lost loved ones, for all those who experienced the voilence first hand, and for all those whose lives have been disrupted in a horrible way. My heart breaks for you.

The only other thing I can offer are my prayers. I pray for our nation. We are still a great nation, and I truly believe we would like to stop the violence in our midst if only we could figure out how. May our citizens and our leaders be granted wisdom. I pray for the people who live on this planet with me. We are so diverse, and every one of us wants to feel safe and loved. Safety and love should be infinite resources, yet too often they are scarce. May we someday reach the point where every person in every nation receives their share. I pray for empathy. May each one of us know in our hearts that other people are real and that their suffering matters. Let us be challenged in big ways and small ways to eliminate the suffering of others.

No good can come of tragedy, but people can be moved to do good in reaction to what they see and experience. Let each one of us be moved. Whether it is through not calling someone a derogatory name in person or on-line, or reaching out to help someone in need, taking a deep breath and trying to understand someone’s point of view with whom you disagree about gun control or any other inflammatory issue, or making a donation so someone else has the resources they need to feel that much safer, take action. For all the suffering that others will inflict, let yourself be someone who eliminates it.

{April 14, 2007}   Full House Anthology
Full House Anthology
I just got my advance reader’s copy of Full House, an anthology compiled by National Book Award winner Pete Hautman. There are ten stories about poker included in the anthology, and one of them is mine! The book looks great with an eye catching cover that should appeal to almost anyone — male, female, young, old…

The funny thing is, I don’t really know how to play poker. How does someone who doesn’t play poker manage to get a story included in a poker anthology? Good question.

Research is one of my favorite parts of being a writer. You get to learn new things all the time. I think for many adults, learning can get put on the back burner once you’re out of school, but for me, it’s part of my job so I’m constantly researching every topic under the sun. Sometimes it’s how to play drums. Other times it’s world cultures, or poetry, the effects of methamphetamine, or apple orchards. Once I remember asking someone very obscure questions about talking parrots, but darned if I can remember why.

Poker was a fun thing to research. This is how it happened: you see, Pete Hautman asked if I’d like to be included in his upcoming anthology and I really didn’t want to say no. I mean, it’s Pete Hautman! I love his writing. So I started to think that there must be some way to use my ignorance to my advantage. “What if…” I wondered, “I were to write a story about someone who gets caught in a poker game but doesn’t really know how to play?”

Armed with this one idea, I said yes to writing a story, confident that I could pull off the poker scenes because the character would NEED to mess up. All mistakes would be justified, right? HA. Wrong.

In order to write a convincing poker scene, even if your character is making mistakes, you still need to be able to show what’s happening in the game. In fact, in many ways it was probably more difficult trying to write those scenes because I not only needed to know the RIGHT way of doing things, but I also needed to know how mistakes would be perceived.

Thus, my poker lessons began. They started off at a rest area half way between Maine and New York, then continued through numerous how-to books, endless episodes of the World Series of Poker, and finally through editing where Pete would make gentle suggestions like, “Perhaps there should be a buy-in.” he he.

But you know what? In the end, I’m happy with my story, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be included in the anthology. I learned something new, and even though I still would not call myself a poker player, I could probably hold my own in a round or two.

Guess that means it’s time to research something new. Mud bathing, anyone?

et cetera