November 27, 2014 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself


1. My kids, my kids, and my kids. Always.

2. Good health, both my own and my loved ones. I am so thankful my kids are in good health and that I can still keep up with them, even with my advancing age. For those of my loved ones battling health issues, I am thankful for every day they conquer the beast, whatever it may be.

3. Good friends and family: I am thankful for every time they make me laugh, support me, bail me out of a jam, listen to me vent, and let me do the same for them.

4. Laughter: Is there anything better than the feeling of a laugh bubbling up inside of you when you least expect it?

5. Good books and the authors who write them. I read all the time, and I don’t know what kind of person I would be if I didn’t. I am thankful for every good book that pulls me and won’t let me go, and I have been lucky to read three such books in a row. Stay tuned: those book reviews are coming!

6. Good TV: How To Get Away With Murder (Best New Show), Grey’s Anatomy, The Mindy Project, The Killing, any Law and Order/SVU episode ever, Chopped, and the delightful Holiday Baking Championship, featuring bakers who compete in challenges involving baking pies, cookies, or desserts with swirls, all in the name of the holiday season. (On Food Network, Sundays at 9:00pm.)

7. Good music: My taste in music runs the gamut, although my current favorite songs are along the lines of moody acoustic guitar indie songs and Sam Smith, namely Riptide by Vance Joy, Stolen Dance by Milky Chance, I’m Not The Only One by Sam Smith, and Love Interruption by Jack White. You’re welcome.

8. Fitness instructors that recognize the inherent dangers of the upcoming holiday season and up the intensity of our workouts accordingly.

9. Naps: They are a gift, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

10. Dessert: Here are some good ones just perfect for Thanksgiving and beyond.

11. You: I am thankful that you have stopped by!

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!


October 31, 2014 in Adventures in Parenting

Taking all three of my sons with me to a store, whether it be a grocery store, a clothing store, or, heaven forbid, Costco, is one of my worst nightmares. If I’m at a store, I’m usually there for a reason. I have my list and a prescribed amount of time allotted to the errand before we have to be at the next event. My kids, unfortunately, usually don’t share my agenda. They may be tagging along because it’s a stop on the way to their soccer practice, and so the minute we cross the threshold of whichever store we happen to be entering, they consider it play time.

My kids scamper down aisles and hide in the center of clothing racks. They toss in large bags of Cheetos or 6-packs of soda in my shopping cart when my back is turned. They put one of their brothers in a headlock and merrily lead him around the store, oblivious to his protests. They do all of these things because they’re bored and they know that I can’t focus on what I’m trying to do and yell at them at the same time. If you’ve ever happened to be in a store at the same time as our family, I offer my sincerest apologies now. (Except to the man at Costco who rammed me—twice—in the back of my ankles with his shopping cart and then blamed it on the behavior of my kids, who, by the way, were nowhere near us.)

It goes the other way too. Whenever my kids clamor to go to the electronic game store or a toy store or even the toy aisle at Target, I am the one bored out of my skull. Everyone drifts to their own favorite section while I park my shopping cart in a central location and lose myself in my phone, scrolling through emails and the internet. When they’re still not done, I start hurrying them along, not because we need to be anywhere necessarily, but because I’m ready to be anywhere else.

However, there is one store that makes us all happy: the Halloween store. We walk in and they instantly start stepping on all of those black triggers taped down on the floor so that a skeleton will burst out from behind a gravestone or a stationary witch while start gyrating to her own cackling screech. Then they migrate to the masks, hats, and wigs, while I browse through the decorations aisle.

“How about this costume, Mom?”

“No blood. Look at this tablecloth…it’s like a spiderweb!”

“Mom, I want this costume!”

“No weapons stuck in heads. Check out these cool shot glasses. They’re like a miniature chemistry set!”

“This is the one, Mom.”

“No intestines hanging out of your body. Do you think we should get this bag of skeleton bones? We can make him look like he’s coming out of the ground. Or did you see this toilet seat cover? It makes it look like the toilet is covered in spiders.”

There are many reasons why I love Halloween, but being able to go to a store that makes us all happy is right up there at a top.






October 14, 2014 in Adventures in Re-Discovering Myself, Book Reviews, On Writing

If you are a woman and a writer and you haven’t yet read A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, then you should. It is based on two papers Woolf read to the Arts Society at Newnham and Odtaa at Girton in 1928 discussing the topic of Women and Fiction. It is a large topic, and Woolf endearingly meanders around it and in it and through it until she proves her initial opinion: “…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction…”

In Woolf’s time, circumstances for women had evolved. They had the right to vote, a married woman was allowed to own her own property, and there were at least two colleges for women in England. Women were beginning to enjoy a bit of freedom. But it wasn’t always that way. Woolf takes us on a journey of the history of women by pulling various books off of her shelves and studying them. For example, Professor Trevelyan’s History of England said this:

Wife-beating was a recognized right of man, and was practiced without shame by high as well as low…Similarly, the daughter who refused to marry the gentleman of her parents’ choice was liable to be locked up, beaten and flung about the room, without any shock being inflicted on public opinion.

John Langdon Davies wrote this in his A Short History of Women:

when children cease to be altogether desirable, women cease to be altogether necessary.

It is interesting to note Woolf’s take on these comments. Why are men writing about women? Why aren’t women writing about women, or women writing about men? She traces the political and social history of women to answer these questions, and finds that despite the limitations placed on women, they still found a way to write. George Eliot and George Sand, both women, adopted male pen names. Jane Austen had no room of her own, so she had to write furtively in the common sitting room, hiding her manuscript under a piece of blotting-paper whenever visitors or servants came in.

Woolf also delves into the quality of women’s writing as compared to men. Women were limited in their scope. They didn’t travel or participate in wars or hold down jobs. What they knew was comprised primarily of interpersonal relationships as observed in their sitting rooms, which Jane Austen wrote about adeptly. But how can you compare Pride and Prejudice to Leo Tolstoy’s epic War and Peace?

Women and women writers have come a long way since then. I am lucky to be living in a time where women are allowed to write out in the open without limitations, and yet, I still struggle. Although I have money and a room of my own in which to write, my problem is that I am never in that room.

I write at the kitchen table where I can be accessible to my kids during homework time. I write a sentence of my own, then answer a question of theirs. I write another sentence, and then correct a math sheet. I write another sentence, and then I break up an argument over something that isn’t even worth arguing about.

I write at the skate park. My kids scooter up and down ramps and bowls while I write a sentence in my notebook and then jump when I hear a sudden screech of metal slamming into concrete. I write a sentence and then cringe when I hear some of the language the older kids are using. I write a sentence and then run to the car to grab some bandages and a tube of Neosporin to fix up a skinned knee.

I’ve written in the car waiting for someone to be done with their soccer/football/lacrosse practice, on the couch during a Seahawks game, and outside on the patio because someone felt “lonely” and wanted me to watch them do tricks on the trampoline.

I am not complaining. As Virginia Woolf says:

When you reflect upon these immense privileges and length of time during which they have been enjoyed, and the fact that there must be at this moment some two thousand women capable of earning over five hundred a year in one way or another, you will agree that the excuse of lack of opportunity, training, encouragement, leisure, and money no longer holds good.

Perhaps in this day and age, a room of one’s own can be wherever it needs to be to get the writing done.




October 8, 2014 in Book Reviews

A “Name Your Top 10 Favorite Books” Challenge has been making the rounds on Facebook, so when my friend Lisa challenged me, I was excited to do it. But then came the hard reality of deciding which books would make the Top 10. Should it be comprised of books I’ve loved for years and thus have stood the test of time, or should it be newly found novels that have wormed their way into my heart? Should it contain my beloved books regardless of their critical acclaim or should it the best literary books I’ve read? Top 10 Beach Reads vs Top 10 Non-Fiction? Top 10 Children’s or YA books? And where do short story collections and mysteries and thrillers fit into the mix?

1)    The truth is I can never make this list. I have too many favorites because I have been an avid reader for years, ever since that intrepid detective with the titan-colored hair fell into my lap in The Secret of the Old Clock. Nancy Drew was my hero for many reasons. She was smart, pretty, and independent. She had great friends, Bess and George, and a hunky boyfriend named Ned, and she solved mysteries that involved cunning, danger, and travel to exotic locales. I wanted to be Nancy Drew, but in the end she gave me a greater gift than her identity: she taught me to love reading. Nancy Drew paved the way for my love of mysteries, such as anything by Agatha Christie, the A is for Alibi series by Sue Grafton, The Da Vinci Code, Gone Girl, and Case Histories.

2)    So I decided to make a list of the Top 10 Books That Made Me a Reader. When I think back, no book made a bigger impression on my young mind than Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.

This book was about as far away from me as you could get. It was about a young boy in the Ozarks who spent his nights raccoon hunting with his two dogs. I was a young girl in the suburbs who spent my nights safely tucked in my bed. Ultimately, this novel about love and adventure transcends gender, locale, and life experience. This novel taught me I could be carried away to worlds that I knew nothing about and then spit me out in a puddle of my own tears: books could move you. This paved the way for novels like Unbroken, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (World War II) and anything by Pat Conroy (the South), Maeve Binchy (Ireland), and of course, sad stories involving animals, like Richard Adams’ Watership Down.

3)   D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d’Aulaire and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire was my first non-fiction love. I read it about a thousand times, and then I read it aloud to my fellow second graders during class (I’m not entirely sure how that came about). Greek mythology was like nothing else I had ever encountered. Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and whisked away to the underworld. Athena turned Arachne into a spider and Hera’s servant was covered with one hundred eyes. Cronus ate his own children so they wouldn’t overthrow him. Wild, fantastical, and true! (As much as myths can be true.) This led me to Richard Feynman, Oliver Sachs, Malcolm Gladwell, Ann Rule and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

4)    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle was a revelation to me. How could something so magical and fantastical be rooted in concepts that were scientific? This novel opened my eyes to possibilities I hadn’t considered before, which is why I now enjoy the magical realism in novels by Alice Hoffman and Aimee Bender as well as straight science fiction with a human twist, such as anything by the magnificent Isaac Asimov.

5)    Visions of Terror by William Katz. There is no explaining this novel except to say that it was my first horror/thriller novel and I loved it.  I couldn’t put it down, despite the fact that I had read it multiple times. It introduced me to what a suspense novel should be and led me directly to Stephen King, Harlan Coben, David Baldacci, Robert Ludlum, and any other suspenseful thriller you can find at airport bookstores.

6)    Seven Days To A Brand New Me (or any of her other books) by Ellen Conford. Conford wrote what I’d now call YA chick lit. Likable, funny high school protagonists wind up in embarrassing/humiliating situations trying to get a boy to like them, and yes, they walk off with the boy in the end! I ate these books up. What girl doesn’t struggle with the age-old question of should I tell the boy I like him or lust in secret from afar? Conford planted me on the road to my most beloved chick lit novels of all time by Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes, and the fabulous Jane Austen.

7)    Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Oh, Anne Shirley! I wanted to be her too. She was adventurous and wholesome, funny and loyal, and when she finally realized she loved the dreamy Gilbert Blythe when he was at death’s door with thyphoid fever the agony of that long night nearly tore me apart. Every one of the novels in this series is lovely, and they led me directly to:

8)    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The unrequited love between Laurie (a boy), Jo (a girl) was filled with heartache and disappointment was nothing compared to Beth’s fragility and ultimate demise. (What? She died? That’s not allowed!) This may have been the first novel I read where a character who wasn’t an animal died, and it was traumatic, but it was something else too: a great story. This led me to other more sophisticated stories combining reality and tragedy like Sophie’s Choice and Of Mice and Men.

9)    The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pène du Bois. It’s hard to explain this Newberry award-winning novel, but it is a magical hot air balloon ride. Imagine landing on an exotic island named Krakatoa and finding 20 families, each named after a letter of the alphabet, like Mr. A, Mr. B, etc. They rotate making dinners for everyone on the island, so that the M family might make a Moroccan meal, and Mr. F would host a French night. The island is home to both a volcano and one of the biggest diamond mines in the world. The novel is rich in fantasy, so rich I might have referred to it as “out there.” Yet I read it many times, unable to stay away from this completely unbelievable world that I absolutely believed in.

10) The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. This is the classic battle of good vs. evil with fauns, Turkish delights, betrayal, mythology, religion, and magic added in. This one paved the way for all the great books in this genre to come, namely the Harry Potter series, The Hobbit, 100 Cupboards, The Passage and The Stand. 


October 3, 2014 in Random Thoughts, Reflections on Pop Culture


After summer, fall is my favorite season. Crisp apples and sweet apple pie, pumpkin with cinnamon and nutmeg, warm, cheesy casseroles to offset the chill in the air, leaves on the turn from green to brilliant reds and yellows, Halloween, entire Sundays on the couch under a cozy blanket watching football, and the promise of new TV shows premiering…what’s not to love?

Here are several fun fall things to help get you in the spirit!

Fall TV: How To Get Away With Murder

The newest offering from Shonda Rhimes is set in a law school with the incomparable Viola Davis holding court in the classroom. The premiere introduces us to several promising students interspersed with scenes of them trying to get away with an actual murder. The students all have their secrets, but I’m guessing Viola Davis’ character Annalise Keating has even more hidden behind her piercing stare that can pin you to a wall. There were plenty of twists and turns in the premiere to keep me hooked, plus a doozy of a twist at the end that made sure I’d tune in for the next episode. If this keeps up, How To Get Away With Murder could become my new must-watch of the season.

Airs on ABC Thursdays at 10:00pm PST

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Streusel Cake from Two Peas and Their Pod

Pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and chocolate chips all folded into a cake and sprinkled with a streusel topping…yum! This will be the next pumpkin dessert I make.

Cinna-Mini Cookie Bites from Bakerella

What could be cuter, or more delicious, than these little cinnamon rolls in a cookie form?

Candy Corn Smoothies from

These delicious ice cream smoothies are perfect for the season!

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

The Dread Pirate Roberts himself wrote this book about his experience making the iconic film The Princess Bride. It includes a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film and interviews with his co-stars Robin Wright (Princess Buttercup), Wallace Shawn (Mr. Inconceivable), Billy Crystal (Miracle Max), Christopher Guest (the six-fingered man), and the magnificent Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya). If you are a fan of The Princess Bride, the release date for this perfect fall treat is October 14, 2014. If you have never seen The Princess Bride, stop whatever you are doing and go watch it. It is a delight from start to finish!


Photo from

Tim Holtz’s September Tag 2014

Tim Holtz is a creative genius. He uses simple tags to demonstrate his signature products and techniques, like this ultra cool sepia and white tag with a pop of color and dimension with the butterflies. The best part is all the other creative geniuses in the world that riff on his techniques and create their own inspirational art, like this adorable skeleton that is perfect for the season.

Photo from Yaya Scrap & More


Happy Fall!


September 30, 2014 in Book Reviews

A friend of mine recently asked me if I had any recommendations for a light, fun read. As it happens, the books I have been reading lately have been dark and it doesn’t get any darker than Vietnam.

I am not a war story gal. The only reason I sought out The Things They Carried, a collection of short stories by Tim O’Brien, is because two different sources hailed its short story of the same name as an example of exquisite short story crafting: he tells an entire story through a list of what the soldiers in Vietnam carried.

Henry Dobbins, who was a big man, carried extra rations; he was especially fond of canned peaches in heavy syrup over pound cake. Dave Jensen, who practiced field hygiene, carried a toothbrush, dental floss, and several hotel-sized bars of soap he’d stolen on R&R in Sydney, Australia. Ted Lavender, who was scared, carried tranquilizers until he was shot in the head outside the village of Than Khe in mid-April. By necessity, and because it was SOP, they all carried steel helmets that weighed 5 pounds including the liner and camouflage cover.

Not only does he matter-of-factly relate the practicalities of the war in what they had to carry on their backs as they “humped” through the hostile terrain, he depicts the deaths of his fellow soldiers in the same way. In practical terms, Ted Lavender’s death meant rearranging their own packs to absorb his load before requesting a dust-off to retrieve his body.

But of course there is more to it than that: the tension, the fear, the dark humor to keep fear at bay, the guilt, the blame, the claustrophobia of investigating the tunnels, the loved ones back home, and the personalities of these soldiers in a war they were drafted to participate in come rolling in through the fog and the rain and the shadows of the jungles they trek through until the entire breadth of the Vietnam War is captured in a single short story.

I only intended to read the Things They Carried, but I ended up reading the entire collection of short stories and I am glad I did. It is a heartbreaking, powerful collection of fiction based on the author’s own non-fictional experiences in the Vietnam War. For me, several of these stories are standouts, and by “standouts,” I mean that they will haunt me.

The Man I Killed is a stunning portrayal of what a soldier feels when he kills the enemy, who turns out to be little more than a young man with the promise of the rest of his life ripped away like the star-shaped hole where one eye used to be. O’Brien’s meticulous and controlled use of repetition evokes a powerful picture of the immobility of shock.

Speaking of Courage and the following Notes speaks to how the moments in Vietnam cross the ocean with Norman Bowkar and won’t let him go. Just as he loops around the lake in his truck, so his life loops around his memories of the war and one incident in particular.

In the Field is about as real as it gets in terms of the relentless rain, the mud and muck of a river that has overflowed its banks, and the search for one of their own in the muddy, shitty river in the dark of the night where the enemy is never far away.

Don’t let the grittiness of the subject matter dissuade you from picking up this book of phenomenally written short stories. Try reading just one, perhaps The Things They Carried, and see what you think. I don’t think you will be sorry.






September 8, 2014 in Adventures in Parenting

My son, #5, plays cornerback.

Right on the heels of the first bell of the school year, the appearance of reddening leaves on the trees, and the arrival of honeycrisp apples in the grocery store, football season officially begins. Here in Seattle, we are beside ourselves with our Super Bowl Champions, the Seattle Seahawks. The 12th Man is loud and proud. Game Day finds everyone in their Seattle blue, sports bars filled, families in front of their televisions, and the roads jammed packed with fans trying to make their way to the game in time.

If that’s not enough, we are also home to the University of Washington Huskies. What they lack in rank, we make up for in passion and loyalty, especially if a stray Washington State Cougar slinks into our vicinity. We wear our purple and gold proudly on these fall Saturdays.

But I would argue that the best football around can be found not at Century Link or Husky Stadium, but at our local high school football field, where on Saturdays it is taken over by the youngsters, particularly my son’s Rookie team comprised of seven, eight, and nine-year-old boys.

The fans sit in the bleachers, the score is visible on the high school scoreboard, and we even have our own announcer calling out the play-by-play over the PA system, as well as noting who in the stands may not be sharing their Skittles.

It’s just like real football, except these boys are so little! They look like ants on the huge football field.

Their helmets are bigger than their bodies, making them look like a team of bobble heads, and when someone goes down hard, the tears follow come just as hard. But make no mistake: these boys are playing football.

Plays are being run, tackles are handed out right and left, and our team even came up with an interception, not to mention several PAT’s, even though these kids are so small their kicks not only have to go out but straight up to clear the goal post.

When out team makes a touchdown, we might not create a minor earthquake as the Seattle fans did during Marshawn Lynch’s legendary 67-yard playoff touchdown run, but with our cheering and stomping on the metal bleachers, we were close.

My boys have played a lot of sports, but this was the first time that the bleachers were occupied with people other than the parents of the players. My oldest son and ten of his closest friends came to watch. Fathers of high school football players came to watch their friends’ sons play, possibly scouting the next high school QB. It’s too soon to say which of these kids will have the talent and the perseverance to go all the way with football, but a new generation of football fans is definitely in the making.

I still love the Huskies, but this fall I will be donning the black and red of my son’s football team as my game day attire. I am looking forward to an injury-free season!

 Their first game and their first win: 43-26.



September 5, 2014 in Adventures in Parenting


Clip Art from: Clipart Pal

I had such a wonderful summer with my three boys that I may have been one of the few moms who wasn’t ready to send her kids back to school. Sure, there were little rumblings of discontent: the kids were bickering with each other more often, which drew me into arguments that tested my patience, and after an action-packed summer, none of us had any new ideas of what we wanted to do. Still, every day was sunny (a Seattle miracle!) and schedule free, which made us all happy.

But then school started. Everyone went off in separate directions and we didn’t see each other for roughly seven hours. When we all returned home, an amazing thing happened: my kids talked to me. Usually our conversations go like this:

ME: How are you?

CHILD: (grunt)

ME: How was your day?

CHILD: (grunt)

ME: What did you do?

CHILD: Stuff.

ME: Who did you see?

CHILD: Mom! Stop!

This week, however, I got real answers to my questions, and then some. From my third grader, I heard all about who sat in his table group, who he wished was in his table group, what he thought of his teacher, what he thought of the other 3rd grade teachers, and who his all time favorite teachers were. My gosh…another Seattle miracle!

My 6th grader told me about his I-Experience class, which appears to be a mini course of all the electives he can choose from in the next two years. They are beginning with technology and woodworking (weird, I know), and not only did I get the lowdown on the teacher, I also got rumors passed down from 7th graders on how she gives them a drill and a block of wood, but doesn’t instruct them on what to do with either. I now know that some anxiety is brewing in my 6th grader over this. I, too, am anxious: my 6th grader with a drill? Is that legal?

My 9th grader is about as introverted as you can get. He rarely talks. I have no idea what’s happening with him in school, but last night he spent 45 minutes explaining the League of Legends video game to me. That’s 45 minutes of non-stop talking! (We were stuck in traffic so he had nothing else to do, but still.). If you know him, then you know that this is the biggest miracle of them all.

As much as I love spending time with my kids, maybe there is something to be said for a little distance. I think it’s making us all appreciate each other a bit more, which is a wonderful thing. To those wise souls who invented formal education, I say thank you for creating a program that teaches so much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Happy Back to School Days To You All!


September 2, 2014 in Adventures in Parenting

First day

High School


Too cool



Grown up

Too Soon

First day of

Middle school

Laying down

The ground rules

Found his friends

Found his way

Found each class

Will be ok

First day

Grade three

Same school


Friends? Yes.

Work too

Knows what

To do

Wish you boys

A great year.

Need some help?

I’ll be here.

Do your best

Play some too

Always know

I’m proud of you.


August 29, 2014 in On Writing

Fairfield University’s MFA in Creative Writing sponsors an online literary journal called Mason’s Road, which combines literary excellence with education, as each issue is focused on both a theme and a specific element of the writing craft. Each issue features literature in the form of fiction, creative nonfiction, drama, and poetry, as well as Q&A’s with established authors in these fields. The hope is that not only will you be inspired by the stories, dramas, and poems in the journal, but you will learn something that you can take back to your own writing life as well.

Mason’s Road is currently accepting submissions for its tenth issue with the theme of Memory. The submission guidelines can be found here. So send in your most riveting fiction, your most poignant creative nonfiction, your most compelling drama, or your most moving poetry and because I’m in the MFA program, I might have a chance to read yours!

My official title is “Fiction Reader” and my job is to read the stories I am assigned and decide if they warrant a look by the Fiction Editors. This is much harder than I thought it would be. Some days I think I’m a big softie: “These are all great stories! They should all be seen by the editors!” Other days I think I’m being too critical: “Is it too much to ask for someone to proofread their submission?” Sometimes I ponder a story for a day and a half before I make a decision. But every day I read with hope and excitement: “Maybe this will be the story that rocks my world!”

Being on this end of the submission process has taught me a lot. For those of you writers out there, here are some tips that might make your story stand out above the crowd:

  • Proofread your submission.

I am a bit of a snob about correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation. When I see such an error, a lot of thoughts run through my head, but the problem is that not one of those thoughts is about your story. The error pulls me right out of the world you have created, and that is not good. Proofread, proofread, and proofread again. (My best proofreading tip: read your story out loud. You will be amazed at what you catch.)

  • For short stories, limit the number of characters.

There is not enough time to fully develop multiple characters in a short story. The more there are, the more confused I get. If you have a sentence that goes like this: “Eddie, Nancy’s oldest son by her first husband George who had an affair with Nancy’s sister Emily, resulting in the birth of Eddie’s cousin/step-brother Harold, was mowing the lawn,” it is time to go back and simplify your story. (My best keeping-the-characters-straight tip: have your characters’ names start with different letters. A family with three sisters named Emily, Ellen, and Elena is going to be harder to keep track of than Emily, Kelly, and Sue.)

  • Start your story with a bang.

A lot of writers (including me: that is about to change), like to start off with back story, such as a description of the character, the setting, or something else to help ground the reader in what’s about to happen. But the thing that is about to happen is so much more interesting! So use that first sentence to grab your reader by the collar and pull them in. The details can be sprinkled in along the way.

  • End your story with a twist.

Twilight Zone was a master at this. Those old black and white Twilight Zone episodes were short stories in television format, and they all had a twist. Some were sinister and some were heartbreaking, but they all ended in a surprising way. I still remember that episode with the man who only wanted to read. A nuclear war struck, and he was the only one who survived. All he had left were mountains of books and all the time in the world to read them. But then he broke his glasses…my God. The heartbreak of watching this man get so close to reaching his dream only to realize that it will never happen is still crystal clear in my mind. You want your story to do that to a reader too.

Check out  Mason’s Road and submit your best work. I can’t wait to read it!