We Have a Winner

fireworksIf you are in the U.S., I wish you an Independence Day full of laughter and good noms. And if you do not celebrate the 4th, hoping you have a happy and restful weekend.

It is the mid-70s here on the island. Perfect weather.

And now (if I had drum, this is where I would “roll” it), I’m announcing the winner of our book giveaway.

Rafflecopter did its magic and, based partly on the number of entries and partly on random pick,  selected Claudia Anderson Simeca as winner of a brand new copy of The Moon Sisters, Therese Walsh’s page-turning novel about two sisters determined to understand their mother’s life and death.

Congratulations to Claudia!

And a special thank-you to Therese and her publisher, Penguin Random House, for donating a copy of this amazing book for the contest.

If you entered and didn’t win, here is what you can do.

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‘The Moon Sisters’: A Satisfying Summer Read

summer reading

“The night before the worst day of my life, I dreamed the sun went dark and ice cracked every mirror in the house, but I didn’t take it as a warning.”

And with that, the first sentence of Therese Walsh’s new book, The Moon Sisters, we know we are in for a ride.

Set in a small town in West Virginia, her novel is about tragedy (Mama dies, leaving a husband and two daughters, Olivia and Jazz), intrigue (was it an accident or suicide?), unfulfilled dreams (the girls’ mother left an unfinished novel, the only book she had ever tried to write), and grief (and the different ways people deal with it).

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When ‘Sensitive’ Kids Grow Up: Curse to Blessing

emotional boyI was that kid. You know, the one who watched and listened and stayed inside her head? I paid attention to things that shouldn’t have been on a 10-year-old’s worry list but were.

The sensitive child.

I fretted that the Russians would drop the atomic bomb and destroy all life on the planet, including our house on Wishkah Road. The world could end at any moment and people didn’t seem to care.

When I watched the evening news, the stories about the earthquake in Chile and the American U-2 spy plane shot down over Russia frightened me enough to keep me up at night.

I railed at life’s injustices—whether on the playground or in a Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth’s. The night Walter Cronkite reported that four men who wanted to buy lunch were not allowed to sit at the lunch counter, I asked Daddy, “Why?” When I heard that it was because of the color of their skin, I swore that someday I would help right those wrongs.

As soon as I got big enough. [Read more...]

Celebrating Readers, Writers and Late Bloomers



You may have been writing forever. It’s possible that you can’t even remember when you started.

Or, like me (and the main character in that delightful children’s book), you might be a Leo the Late Bloomer.


Maybe you were so curious about the world that you had a hard time deciding what you wanted to be. You went here and there, did this and that. Until, finally, you woke up one day and it struck you.

What you really wanted to be was a writer.

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11 More Signs You May Be a Writer


Writer DogA while back, we had a little fun on the blog talking about the weird things we writers (and would-be writers) do that make our friends, spouses and children wonder about us.

In the comments, there were some, “Yeah, I do that, too,” and “Have you been spying on me?”

As I thought about it, more ‘crazy writer’ behaviors popped into my head. If you are a published author, an aspiring writer, or newbie, you may recognize these warning signs. Some may be just my personal idiosyncrasies (because, really, who else makes candles talk?) and others may haunt you from time to time, too.

Here they are then:

11 More Signs You May be a Writer

1. You forget how many tablespoons you’ve already put in the coffeemaker.

I put in one tablespoon (or was it two?) when a fabulous idea for a new story pops into my brain. I look into the innards of the coffeemaker, trying to guess where I was in the measuring. But, of course, I can’t tell. So I have to dump it out and start over. The other day, I even knocked the open container of newly filled Starbucks dark roast blend on the floor.

We go through a lot of coffee in our house.

2. You obsess over the deleted scenes in your movie CDs.

I can’t watch deleted scenes without puzzling over them. Why was this particular scene cut out? It illuminates the craziness of that character. And that is essential to the plot.

Bob refuses to watch deleted scenes with me.

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Writers and Risk Taking: My Role Models of the Week


One of the most heartwarming discussions I have ever had on this blog was when I asked, “Is writing with vulnerability a sign of low self-concept?”  The comments from my readers were full of wisdom and insights.

I especially liked the way Shakira Dawud of DeliberateInk.com linked vulnerability and risk taking to humility. She said:

“When we show our vulnerability to others, they get a glimpse of how much we love what we’re doing, and how much we care that it be the best. They see that we don’t care how good they think we are—that we’re human, and we can be better. There’s something to admire in that kind of humility, I think.”

And my friend Beth Buelow over at The Introvert Entrepreneur felt that, on the contrary, vulnerability tells her that the writer has a good self concept. Beth said:

“IMHO, showing vulnerability is a sign of high self-esteem and confidence in one’s self. You know you’re opening yourself up to judgment, yet you know you can handle it. You’re secure in your experience and feelings. You’re grounded in your truth and are willing to share it with the world for mutual benefit. That makes thoughtful (not whiny) vulnerability an extremely powerful thing!”

So why, then, is it so hard to push that “publish” or “send” button? I think it might be because we are never totally happy with what we have produced.  We want to it be good—no, we want it to be the best.

And we want it now.

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What’s All the Fuss About Headlines?

Ebook How To Create Sticky HeadlinesAs a blogging coach, I got many questions about how to write catchy headlines. So many that I decided to put all the knowledge I’ve accumulated over 20+ years of copywriting and editing into one place, my new ebook.

I am excited to announce that How to Write Sticky Headlines: Secrets of the Copywriters is rolling off the digital press today!

You’ve heard it before. Your headline is the gateway to your content. If it doesn’t make your readers sit up and take notice, they will never get to your main article or blog post. Whether you are selling a product or service or trying to get more traffic to your blog, your headline matters.

A lot.

You can’t judge a book by its cover?

Actually, that’s wrong. You can— and people do every day. At the Barnes and Noble megastores, at your neighborhood book shop, on Amazon.com. A book may contain the secrets to the origins of the universe, but no one will read it if the title doesn’t hook them.

Same thing with your blog post. When it lands in your subscriber’s inbox or their Google Reader, it’s competing with every other message, every other blog post, every other headline. Your readers will skim and scan, looking for the one that catches their interest enough to click through. If that doesn’t happen, you have wasted all the heard work you invested in writing the post.

In the business, we call it a “sticky” headline. It’s one that reader can’t get out of her brain. It intrigues her. It calls to her. Makes her just have to read your article.

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Rock Stars and Writers: How Our Hometowns Shape Us

kurt cobain

Late last year, the childhood home of Kurt Cobain, the tragic lead singer of Nirvana, hit the auction block. I followed the story with interest, mostly because  he and I grew up in the same town. And we were impacted by that— sometimes in similar ways, sometimes very differently.

Today, the home town we share, quiet little Aberdeen, Washington, celebrated Kurt Cobain Day, in honor of his birthday. It is hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since he took his own life.

How our hometowns shape us

In a novel, the setting sometimes has deep meaning—to the characters, plot and theme. And so it is with memoirists, except, perhaps, even more so.

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100 Writing Women Celebrate the Seasons of their Lives

seasons of our lives winter

Sometimes a project comes along that catches my eye. Several months ago, Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett over at Women’s Memoirs put a call out for stories for their Seasons of Our Lives writing competition.

I was in the middle of the first draft of my memoir and the timing was perfect. Matilda and Kendra asked for memoir vignettes about a turning point in our lives. An event that changed the way we see the world and our place in it.

I  wrote my story, emailed it and promptly forgot about it. [Read more...]

Why I’m Skipping New Year’s This Year

judy and bob

Every year it happens. The ‘New Year Crazies.’ The frenzy of The Best of and Worst of lists. The resolutions. The breathless waiting for the marking of the first second of the new year, as if nothing can be done to improve our lives until that precise moment.

Because, after all, it is a new year.

But when we are always looking ahead, we miss the important part, the living part.

Are we living or just marking time?

On the night before Christmas Eve, Bob started feeling a tightness in his chest and a slight dizziness. Because the last ferry to the mainland would be leaving in fifteen minutes, we took no chances and got him to the hospital.

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Things I Love Part 2: Some More Thanksgiving Inspiration for You


Did you ever write a post that connected with people in a way that motivated them to apply the theme or topic in a post of their own? Last week, I published a little post called Can You Name 99 Things You Love in 10 Minutes? This week I was delighted to see friends (and several ‘strangers’) step up to that very challenge.

My friend Gini Dietrich of the popular Spin Sucks blog heard about this little game and said this on Twitter:

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Can You Name 99 Things You Love in 10 Minutes?

Girl Kissing Boy

It’s November, and some people are taking the 30-day Gratitude Challenge, that is they are naming one thing they are thankful for every day through the thirty days of the month.

It’s a cool idea and I may try it one of these months (I definitely do not have to wait until next November). The thing about these kinds of events is that it makes you dig below the surface and recognize things you weren’t even consciously aware of about yourself.

An exercise I call “Name 99 Things I Love,” can help you in all kinds of ways, too.  You get a sense of what’s important in life, where your priorities lie and what brings you joy. For a writer—of memoir, fiction or straight nonfiction—it can also help you find your personality. Your distinct voice.

I keep this list on the wall by my computer screen. When I need a break from writing, it reminds me of all the things in life I take for granted. So, in a way, it’s a gratitude list, too.

 99 Things I Love

  1. Feeding peanuts to squirrels
  2. Watching 1930s screwball comedies
  3. The smell of a bold roast coffee brewing
  4. Writing my life stories
  5. Learning how to juggle
  6. Teaching something new, to anyone
  7. Going on a day car trip with Bob, with no business involved
  8. Painting with watercolors [Read more...]