Crystal Love

IMG-0515“Crystal Love” earned third place in the Dayton Daily News/Antioch Writers’ Workshop Short Story Contest in 2011.

At six, Jade knew the best things were over her head. Candy in the top cupboard. Cookies on the refrigerator. Tiniest toys on her closet shelf. Prettiest statues above the fireplace.

When she saw Grandpa’s step stool next to the armoire in his room, she had to have a climb.

“Be careful,” said Grandpa. “And hand me that old light bulb.” He tossed it in the trash then sat on the bed, breathing heavily.

“Aw, Grandpa. You gotta dust up here,” Jade said. She sneezed a few times to show she was serious but giggled when she lifted an old framed snapshot of him and Grandma making angels in the snow.

“I make snow angels, too,” she said. “Is that you and Grandma? She’s just a girl.”

“She’s the best girl in the world, honey.” Grandpa stared at the tremor in his hands. “I would have given your Grandma the world if she’d let me. But we weren’t rich and never traveled far. Still, we laugh a lot and enjoy our time together.”

Grandpa pushed himself back toward his pillows and leaned against the headboard.

“We loved to take long walks together, especially in winter. Grandma always wishes she could hold winter forever in her hands. To her it is the most romantic time of the year.”

He shut his eyes and folded his hands across his stomach, waiting for his breathing to even out.

Jade put the photograph aside and reached for something else. It was larger than her little fists. And heavy. She knew she would drop it if she tried to carry it in her hands.

She got her fingers around its base and slid it to the armoire’s edge. It was a glass ball but so grimy she couldn’t see anything. She tilted it over and cradled it in her neck.



Grandpa hadn’t moved so fast in ages. He was off the bed and grabbing the globe from her.

“My god, child, you could have seriously hurt yourself. Now get down off of there. Go see what Grandma’s doing in the kitchen.”

Grandpa sat back on the bed and held the globe in the palms of his rough, steel mill factory hands.

“Grandpa, what is it?”

Balancing the globe on his lap, Grandpa reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a washed-out blue bandana. Like he was bathing a newborn baby, Grandpa cleaned the globe of its dusty film.

Jade waited.

Grandpa?” she whispered.

“Honey.” Grandpa lifted it up. “This is a snow globe. Grandma has loved this globe more than anything. She brought it with her when we moved in here after our wedding. She said her father gave it to her. She keeps it up on that armoire. Once in a while, I see her pick it up and shake it. She gets a little misty-eyed then puts it back.”

Grandpa turned it upside down and right side up again. “See?”

Jade leaned close and watched snow crystals sparkle as they settled over a bare tree and a bench. On a snowy pond, a boy and a girl, both in skates, stand close to each other, about to kiss.

“Who are the skaters, Grandpa?”

“Nobody in particular. Just two people in love. Grandma says it reminds her of us. We never had skates and I once asked her, ‘Do you want to go skating?’ But she just called me silly.”

Jade had better eyes than her grandpa. To her the skaters looked a lot like her grandparents. But she didn’t tell Grandpa that.

“Now, let me put it back.”


At ten, Jade stood in her grandpa’s room and stared at the snow globe.

Grandpa came in, drew her close and together they sat on the bed. “I miss her, too.”

He got down the snow globe and gave it a shake. “Look.”

The scene was the same except the girl skater was gone. The boy skater stood alone on the pond. His arms outstretched but no one to hold.

“Oh, Grandpa.”


At fifteen, Jade returned to her grandfather’s room.

“Jade?” Grandpa whispered from his bed. “That snow globe.”

No longer needing a stool, Jade reached over the top of the armoire and carefully pulled the heavy glass toward her. She wiped off the dust and shook it, waiting for the snowflakes to fall. The pond and tree were there, but the boy ice skater no longer stood on the pond. He sat on a bench, his chin in his hands.

She brought the globe to her grandfather’s bed.

“Take it” was all he could say.


At twenty, Jade unpacked the snow globe from a box. She gave it a shake before placing it in her first apartment.

The boy was gone. Two pairs of skates, their laces undone, leaned on their sides against the bench.


At twenty-five, Jade fell in love with Tony. When they moved into their home, Jade carried the snow globe up the stairs and into their bedroom.

Tony saw her give the ball a shake and watched with her as snow crystals floated around the two young lovers on skates.

“Where did you get this?”

“My grandfather gave it to me. It belonged to my grandmother.”

“Funny how they look a lot like us, Jade,” he said. He kissed his bride and left the room.

Jade’s eyes grew misty as she shook the snow globe one more time and gently placed it on the armoire.

“He’s the best, Grandpa. The best boy in the world.”


Images. All images are my own unless otherwise attributed here.






Winter: My Favorite Writing Season

IMG_0110January: Refocus. Move within.

Holidays are as chaotic as they are blissful. December is almost a writing washout for me as days are filled with making lists, checking them twice, fulfilling the merry expectations I’ve set for myself and responding to the ones asked of me by others.

When the last party invitation is met, final batch of treats baked and eaten, when the decorations return to storage, I go to my desk and sigh.

Winter is my favorite season.

The more snowy the weather, the angrier the skies, the better I write and the longer I write.

Why not Good Weather?

In good weather, the days in my neighborhood are filled with walkers, dogs with walkers, bikers, lawn mowers, etc. Cars are off to the grocery, church, wherever. I feel that scurrying.

My best writing accomplishments come when I look up and realize hours have passed when it felt like moments.

Bright sun, dry skies, active creatures can be intrusive. I become a clock watcher, forcing the words to come, anxious for a break. Making up excuses for a break.

Siren Songs.

I’ve come to believe that what is distracting me during good weather seasons is the energy people and critters give off.

Even if I see no one. Windows closed. Blinds shut. The energy waves come through the house and over my desk. Subconsciously, maybe, these energy waves are as distracting as if two people were playing ball in my room.

Siren songs calling me away.

Why Nighttime Works for Many Artists.

During the night, most people quiet down, head for sleep. It’s a time when many writers and other artists do their best work. Undistracted. Using my theory, outside energy waves are tamped, silenced.

Solitude is easier to achieve. Focus is easier to maintain at night.

The same happens to me, but I am not a night owl. Not most of the time. But the idea is the same.

Winter is My Nighttime.

Winter sunlight is cooler, darker.

Even without snow or ice, people are more apt are to be inside, settled into quieter activities from January through early March.

In winter, from morning to noon to evening, my ideas hatch faster. My stories grow quicker. My writing time increases.

My most productive writing season is winter.



“There is an instinctive withdrawal for the sake of preservation, a closure that assumes the order of completion. Winter is a season unto itself.”                     ~Haruki Murakami




Rejection: The Hard, Cold Emotion


What Can I Say That Hasn’t Been Said?

It doesn’t take long in the writing business to see what a tsunami of good writers are out there, every one hoping for the same submission approval and/or agent acceptance as I am.

With equal size and volume are the rejections. 

“Thank you for submitting, … ” is the usual opening line of a rejection notice. I see those first four words before I even click open the email. The fifth word is inevitably “however.”

I know what will follow. I know how I’m going to feel.


The key is what happens next?

Dealing With the Aftermath.

The first time I heard her advice, I knew it would work for me.

Kristina McBride, author of books for teens with her fourth book The Bakersville Dozen recently out in August 2017, showed her workshop session a stack of papers, about three inches thick. All held together by a very big, heavy paperclip.

What were they? The rejection slips for her first novel.

It looked like at least a hundred rejection notices to me.

And what did she do when each one arrived in her mail? She let herself wallow in self pity.

Within a restricted time limit.

After a day or two of “woe is me,” she went back at it again and again and again.

Feel Bad. Then Move On.

When my work gets turned down, I feel awful. I make up reasons why “they’ didn’t accept it. I argue with myself as to why I keep writing.

I move through the rest of the day knowing how subjective the writing world is and allowing myself to feel bad about being rejected by it.

I take it personally. But only for so long.

No later than a day afterward, I am searching through my list of submission sites and agents. I am sending my stories out again.

If I didn’t, how else will someone have the opportunity of accepting my work?

A Side Bar to Rejection.

I don’t always maintain a steady flow of submitting the same story or manuscript, mindless of the rejections.

After a certain number of “thank you but no thank you,” I pause and reevaluate my novel or short story. Maybe I do need to improve something within the text.

Once I am satisfied with how the story or manuscript sounds and feels, I send it out to more people.

One of my submissions will receive an acceptance.

One of these days, I will be riding the tsunami.


“When you’re following your inner voice, doors tend to eventually open for you, even if they mostly slam at first.”  ~Kelly Cutrone. If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You.

What’s Outside Your Window?

DSCN0712Creating Focus and Change

Two days before the New Year 2018. Social Media is ablaze with posts about trends, changes, resolutions. Friends and Strangers speak of what they will do differently.

Writers pledge to be better writers. Pledge to become the change they wish to see in themselves–the ones who write every day, who submit their work regularly, who stick to a plan for being published.

So much anticipation.

I am such a writer.

The longer I am away from writing, the longer it takes for me to get back into a routine, which I used to think was for physical exercise alone. No, for me, it’s for writing as well.

The key is how do I switch back into daily writing, especially when it’s been over a month (since Thanksgiving) when I wrote anything for myself?

Find a Focal Point

I am not inclined to write well in a space with moving distractions. A cafe doesn’t work. I am too fascinated with the lady in the stiletto boots ordering a giant hot chocolate and chocolate croissant. Time slips by as I imagine a story for her life and disregard the lives I’m creating in my own stories.

What works better for me is the view outside my window, one of mainly overgrown shrubs, gnarly cedars and a moss-ridden lawn. Today, over three inches of snow cover the neighborhood and the freezing temps keep most walkers inside.

The social media temptations are put aside. The window blinds go completely up. I begin by staring out the window then I open up my computer. When I get stuck, I stare out the window again in search of a word or image that always brings me back to my paper notebook or computer screen.

I can see why many artists prefer nightfall. The windows are dark. The outside is quieter. Distractions are minimal. My window is black now. That works, too.

Is It Change or Rerouting?

I know how good it feels when I work on a story everyday. When the blog posts are more regular. It feels very good.

Today is the day I return to my focus. To my window when I need to look up from my work. Back to my page when I must apply what I’ve created in thought and put down into words.

Is it a change? Maybe it’s more of a rerouting.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.”

~Barak Obama


January: A Prompt in Itself


Prompt Others; Prompt Myself

I first used the word “prompt” when teaching high school English as an educational tool for students to jumpstart their individualized, brainstorm-like induced stories.

“I remember….” is an often-used prompt for fiction and nonfiction.

A photo of a man standing by a human-made wooden structure with artificial eagles perched by a real eagle’s nest is a visual prompt.

After I left the classroom and pursued my own writing, I joined a newly-formed writers’ group with two former students. I made the third and was happy to follow their rules of organization. We met every Monday at Tim Horton’s. We came with copies, read our work aloud and offered verbal comments.

The final act of every gathering was my favorite. Each of us received a small strip of paper on which to write a prompt right on the spot. We placed it in one of the writer’s fedoras and picked a prompt that wasn’t our own.

The following Monday, we shared the story coming out of the prompt in addition to anything else we’d written.

Just Because I Taught English

Just because I taught writing and wanted to write a novel, I wasn’t exactly schooled in how to accomplish 70,000+ words of engaging fiction.

Short stories were practices in creating beginning-middle-ends, in characterization, in dialogue and narration and in showing description.

I’d take my writers’ group chosen prompt and spend a week on it and have a full story completed by Monday.

After nine months, the group broke up, but I came away with a portfolio of several short stories in various stages of polish. Over the years, I’ve gone back to that file and tinkered with some and submitted some.

A Prompt From Anywhere

Out my window, a dingy white car with a noisy muffler makes its second of a minimum of three daily stops next door. My neighbor is an elderly woman and the mother of the daughter driving up the driveway to check on her.

Or is she?

Prompts come from anywhere and everywhere. As seeds, they bloom stories and stories and stories.

It’s January.

The first month of the year prompts us to make resolutions to rededicate our energies toward specific goals.

I am prompted to exceed my number of accepted story submissions.

Many good memories remain of that early writers’ trio. One of the most significant is realizing the power in the prompt.

I am never without story ideas. And if I get stuck somewhere along a story line, I look around me in hope of a prompt to lead me forward.

“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.”  ~Orson Scott Card




Open Letter of Thanks and Gratitude



      A Simple Reading Request.

I was asked if I would read a few of my short stories to the members of a local philanthropic chapter. I was delighted.

The chapter is part of the P.E.O, a philanthropic organization founded by seven students in 1869. Today the membership numbers nearly a quarter of a million chapters in the United States and Canada.

Their motto: Women Helping Women Reach for the Stars.

This local group raised money that morning by auctioning off lunches made by each member. The funds build their scholarship program for high school senior girls.

While they ate, I read. They laughed at the funny parts, nodded in the right places and clapped when I was done.

They gave me a thank you note, a gift card and my own lunch. Later I ate chicken salad, fruit soup, mango juice, granola bar and candy in a small, round apple basket.

A Greater Sense of Gratitude.

Today, my written note of thanks was awash in gratitude as I realized how much I need, we need, this PEO chapter of women and all those like it.

More Than a Note of Thanks.

Dear Nancy and Your Friends in P.E.O.:

Please accept my gratitude for giving me an opportunity to share my stories with you.

Getting published is a far more challenging endeavor than in the past, and there are moments when I believe being a taxi cab driver in NYC would be easier.

But putting together the right words in the best place and provoking emotion from a listener is incentive enough to keep working at it.

Nancy and her daughter are perfect hostesses. It didn’t take long to gobble up my special lunch basket, and I think I’ve found a new taste for fruit soup. Your other gifts of thanks were also welcomed.

We’re all hurting.

The world, our country, this city are hurting in many visible and invisible ways. The balance to heal those difficulties comes, in part, from your optimism and effort. 

Thank you for your energy and time.

May your year find you in good health and much joy.



Finalizing the Final Draft

IMG_0412The final draft of my first (as yet to be published) novel is done. Or is it? If you are a future debut novelist, you know how vague the term “final draft” can be when it applies to your own work. Or at least, to mine.

Learning the Craft of the Draft

I hope not to embarrass myself by saying I’ve been writing this mermaid novel for at least four years. [Being Mermaid: From Out of the Sea]  The journey has included taking workshops, seminars, a webinar or two, having conversations with writers and reading or scanning lots and lots of books, blogs and magazines.

In spite of all the information, my early writing felt like a crazy, all-over-the-place groping for meaning and the only way I could go in order to A) learn the fiction writing process and B) get the novel done.

Was it the right thing to do?

Between Draft and Manuscript

Sara Megibow, an agent with KT Literary, spoke at a conference session entitled “Biggest Mistakes” that writers make when pitching or querying a work. In my paraphrasing, one of her reasons for not being interested is the work’s incompleteness. She said, “You’re at draft only. Your manuscript isn’t ready.”

The year was 2013 and I was preparing to pitch my completed manuscript, or was I?

The Early Draft

“A Four-Step Plan for Revision” by Raymond Obstfeld In The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing (Writer’s Digest Books. 2002) elaborates on draft distinctions:

“Early drafts lay down the basic story and characters while the final drafts fine-tune what’s already there.”

As I was writing this post, an article on my favorite blogger’s site, Jane Friedman, popped up. “How to Finish Your Book in Three Drafts” is great material and great timing by Stuart Horwitz who calls “the first draft the ‘messy draft,’ which is all about getting it [the story] down .”

I was definitely messy as I wrote, rewrote, ditched, scratched out a section of, scratched out a lot of sections of, returned old material to and started all over again.

The Final Draft

When the beta readers had done their work, I revised again and again.

At last, my final draft was done, the one Stuart Horwitz calls the “polished draft,” which [had been] all about making the story “good.”

I was ready to query and pitch my manuscript.

When the Story Goes Nowhere

My mermaid novel received mild interest.

One queried agent asked for the whole book after reading the first fifty pages before it was rejected. Another agent was excited about my pitch but later turned down the novel. An editor said it wouldn’t get past “acquisitions.”

I knew I was getting close but also felt something may still be lacking. Perhaps, as Sara Megibow had told a large audience of writers that year, the error may be in my thinking the novel was a manuscript when it remained a draft.

Final Draft as Plural

I was back at the books, blogs, workshops, etc., to seek an end to my story. To stamp FINAL on the final draft.

Raymond Obstfeld said, “Although the phrase ‘final draft’ suggests the last time you’ll revise, that really isn’t the case. Final draft really refers to the final process of revising.”

Seek Professional Help

A professional editor is currently reviewing my mermaid novel as the journey continues.

Afterward, I will be back at it again. This time will be the final, final draft.

Thank goodness, I really believe in my mermaid novel and will do all I can to learn how to tell her story most effectively.


“Edit your manuscript until your fingers bleed and you have memorized every last word. Then, when you are certain you are on the verge of insanity, edit one more time!”  ~C.K. Webb