Embracing 2018

Monday, January 1

alice popkornI have spent a lot of time thinking about this past year and trying to decide what my word for 2018 would be. That’s when I realized I never picked a word for 2017. I’m not sure I could have come up with a word that would have fully encompassed all that 2017 has held. It started with so much uncertainty: Physically—was I ever going to make significant progress in getting stronger and reclaiming some of the vitality I used to have? Professionally: Would I truly be able to write a full length book again? Did I even remember HOW to write a book? And then personally, was I ever going to stabilize and feel like ME again.I had no words, only questions. Maybe that was my word for 2017—simply a ?

The year held many things—some sad, some harrowing, some discouraging. But it also held great joy and progress and hope and lots and lots of baby steps.

My father in law passed away after a long struggle with Alzheimers.

My son got married to a wonderful girl whom we adore.

My other son found a job a career tailor made for him where he is happy and challenged and is able to make a contribution.

Not only did I remember how to write, but I wrote six drafts of the longest flippin’ book I have ever written.

Wildfires raged through the area, evacuating tens of thousands—including us—and came far, far closer to our house than we would have wished.

And then, on Winter Solstice, my stepfather of 35 years passed away.

So many goodbyes, but so many new beginnings as well, proving that life is nothing if not change.


Finally, just this morning I settled on my 2018 word: Embrace. Even as the word slipped into my consciousness, I saw all the ways it would apply. Embracing change was simply the beginning.

Embrace—to hold close, to pull towards oneself, to accept or support, to include.

As 2017 drew to a close, I found myself longing to do precisely those things.

Embrace myself. My weaknesses. And yes, my strengths.

Embrace my limitations, not as a way of giving up, but in an act of radical acceptance that will allow me to find ways to thrive in spite of those limitations.

Embrace my wildly disorganized and messy writing process.

Embrace others. Even those I disagree with or struggle to understand.

Embrace new experiences and challenges, something I have shied away from for the last couple of years.

I find I am even open to embracing conflict, not because I have suddenly changed into a combative person, but because I am beginning to see just how big an opportunity for growth it truly is.

I want to embrace even the ugly stuff—professional envy or personal resentments—and use them as opportunities to transform the way I think or approach those people or situations.

I want to embrace those I love and let them know how much they mean to me. I want to embrace and foster the friendships and connections that have languished the last few years while radical self care had to be my top priority.

The cool thing is, by embracing that self care and honoring my physical and emotional needs (aided by a body that wouldn’t let me do anything else) I have come full circle, back to where I am eager to embrace all the things I once had to jettison. I cannot tell you how much joy just typing that sentence brings me.

Embrace. The word conjures up love and nurturing and acceptance. It’s a big word for a big gesture—far more encompassing than a hug. And of longer duration.

It is a way to say yes to life in a way I have missed greatly.

So that is the true north I am setting this year’s compass to. What about you guys? Do you have words you have chosen for 2018? Is there anything you hope to embrace in the coming year?


Some Updates

Tuesday, August 1

Taking a quick break from revising the fourth HFA book to bring you a few updates:

The first draft is finished!
It has a title! (And no, I can’t tell you yet quite yet.)
It will publish in Fall of 2018.
The 5th HFA book is scheduled to publish in Fall of 2019.

Secondly, now don’t faint, but I will be doing an event this fall! I’m so excited to be participating the Pasadena Teen Book Festival! It takes place on Saturday, Sept 16, 2017 from 11am – 4pm. I’m not exactly sure what time my panel will be, but I expect it will be at the earlier end of the range. I’ll update when I have the exact time.
Where: Pasadena Public Library, 285 East Walnut Street Pasadena, CA 91101
Cost: Free! No tickets are necessary.

And lastly, after an over two year hiatus I stopped by Writer Unboxed today to talk about The Perils of Perfection. While the post is geared towards writers, I think it might be helpful to anyone who battles with perfection.

I’d like to promise I’ll be better about checking in here, but the truth is that likely won’t be happening until I finish the revisions. But once I do, I have some fun things lined up!

Until then . . .


On Writing: Frog Marching the Muse

Tuesday, November 22

3340067512_83836dee8f_b-525x350(From the Writer Unboxed archives.)

Here are eighteen tips I use to help me produce words when my creative muse packed up and left me, leaving no forwarding address. You can, in fact, get an entire book written this way, although it is not the most joyful of processes.

Some of the things on this list are about assembling the raw materials you will need to write the story. Others are about priming the writing pump to get the words flowing. Often, the suggestions will do both. But all of them are about building forward momentum and finding a way—any way—to get those damn words on the page.

I tend to think of them as the equivalent of hauling the bricks, bag of cement, mortar, etc. over to where I am going to build the wall, assembling all the things I will need. Sometimes, having them all there and ready provides motivational juice. Other times I still have to build brick by brick, but at least I don’t have to go hunting for all the parts. [click to continue…]

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On Writing: Spackle

Sunday, November 20

A lot of us are feeling woefully behind on our word counts right now and doing anything we can to move forward. One of my the things I rely on in these sorts of situtations is the literary equivalent of spackle.

Spackle, you might ask? You mean like that weird, white plastery stuff that you use to cover holes in the wall?

Yes. That is exactly what I mean.

Spackle when writing is just what it sounds like: a flimsy lick and a promise to get back to a spot and create something better. Stronger. Heftier. When I am in the zone and the story is unfolding before me, if I take too long in trying to capture the words, they’ll disappear before I can get them down. For me, always, the race is to get the story down while I’m in the heated flush of that writing zone. I can linger and dally over language all I want later, once the bones of the story are firmly in place.

Or, conversely, if I am having a hard time getting the words to flow, or flow in a jumbled, out-of-order sort of way, I use spackle to fill in the blanks so I can at least maintain my forward momentum. Sadly, this is the situation I find myself in this month. [click to continue…]


On Writing: What’s In A Name?

Monday, October 31

For me, naming is a huge part of character. In fact, I cannot get very far in a novel until I have the correct name. I can be brainstorming and jotting down plot notes and some basic character sketching but until the true name clicks, I’m rudderless. The character doesn’t become real to me until that name solidifies.

The truth is, names matter. A lot. Both in real life and in fiction. So much goes into a name; parental hopes, ancestry, gender, ethnicity, and social status.

Because names carry all that weight, they can also be a hugely valuable tool in terms of world-building, setting an emotional tone, creating an integrated setting, and of course, characterization. The right name can also help anchor us in the story world, whether it be historical or contemporary or Other. Think how different the name Araminta is from Jennifer, or Carradoc is from Justin.

Plus all words have connotations, even names. The way they sound, feel, roll around in our mouths as we say them. All those elements affect how we perceive a name as well. As writers, we can use that, make it work for us. The names can do a significant amount of “showing” so we don’t have to waste time “telling.” [click to continue…]


On Writing: Managing a Cast of Thousands

October 30, 2016

Someday, I will write a book that does NOT have a cast of thousands. Some day. But for now, that seems to dog me with every book I write. Here then, is a trick I devised to not only help me keep track of the characters, but to help the ones that need to be […]

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On Writing: Arcs

October 20, 2016

Okay, I’m going to get all math-ish on you here, but bear with me a moment. And I say this as a person who hated geometry. (I liked algebra because it mimics life–in life we are always trying to solve for the unknown–but that’s the subject of a different post…) In geometry, an arc is […]

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On Writing: The Basics–Now Make It Worse

October 14, 2016

Let’s say you’ve spent some time and come up with this perfect conflict for your character. There is even something at stake if she fails. Go you! Now think of a way to make it worse. Seriously. I had an opportunity to attend one of Donald Maass’s all day workshops, and he asked this question. […]

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On Writing: The Basics–Speaking of Conflict

October 13, 2016

Conflict drives the story. It’s pretty much that simple. If you don’t have conflict on some level, you don’t have a story. The good news is, conflict comes in many shapes and sizes, flavors and colors. The bad news is, most people tend to avoid conflict, so it can be difficult to grab it with […]

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On Writing: The Basics–Plotting: Baby Steps

October 12, 2016

Okay, so let’s say you’ve figured out—kind of—what your characters motivations and desires. You even have a pretty good idea as to what is standing in their way—a bad guy, a raging storm, a stalking fae, a lovesick werewolf, whatever. Now how do you take what you know and shape it into a plot?

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