Monday Morning Musings: When Life Throws You Lemons, Add Sugar and Whiskey


If you’ve been following the blog over the past year, you’ll know I originally set out to have a rough draft of my debut novel ready for revisions by February 2017.

And then life promptly threw us a few curveballs. I battled a medical issue. We let a foreign student move into our home. Work got stressful.

I kept changing my story setting, and topic, and characters, and genre. Eventually, I had four or five projects going. I lacked focus, to say the least.

That’s when things really got crazy for a few months. When we finally came out the other side, I was no longer a high school mom. I was a kindergarten mom with a houseful of little ones. I had just published my first gourmet cooking column, and now I hardly had time to warm up leftover mac and cheese. None of my kids wanted to eat my fancy food, anyway. My column went on temporary hold, although I’ve maintained the connection well enough to revive it when things calm down.

In the past year, I’ve gone from a childless wife working from home to an exchange parent to a foster mother of three. Yet somehow, I’ve dreaded having to admit failure on this one. I didn’t get that dream project done by my self-imposed deadline. I can’t stand blown deadlines.

What I do have is a handful of miniature beta readers. The children’s market is the fast

est-growing segment  of American publishing. While my primary goal of completing a full-length novel that anyone will actually want to read remains unmet for now, my secondary desire–to pursue a publishing deal this year–is still achievable.
To that end, I’ve pulled out an existing project, run it past my tiny critics, revised the story, and begun querying agents. A children’s picture book proposal isn’t exactly the same thing as a full-length manuscript, but it’s a start, anyway.

You know what they say. When life throws you lemons, add sugar and whiskey.


Freelance Friday: Pitch Freelancing Jobs You Want


If you want it, you’ll have to pitch it. Photo via

A short time ago, I reached out to an old business contact on a whim and pitched an idea that I’d been mulling over for a few months.

I got an enthusiastic reply and found myself setting up a meeting with the contact’s managing editor. By the end of that conference, I had talked my way into a paid freelancing job. It’s a small one, but it’s recurring work I didn’t have a month ago.

As I drove home, I was struck by a simple truth.

You don’t land the freelancing jobs you don’t pitch.

Don’t misunderstand. You can certainly get good-quality work through referrals and word of mouth, if you’ve built a solid reputation for yourself and your output. Any skilled freelancer can. None of that work, however, is particularly likely to be any of the dream assignments floating around in your head, especially if you’re just starting out. Your clients are coming to you with their own agendas, needs, wants, and ideas. If you’re content to keep taking whatever projects are sent your way in order to keep the lights on, terrific. That is a perfectly reasonable, pragmatic position, but today’s post is not for you.

Today is about your goals. Your client list. Your dream projects. Your career five or 10 years from now. What do you see yourself doing?

You don’t land the freelancing jobs you don’t pitch.

If your answer is not, “The thing I am doing now,” what are you doing to get yourself there? Truthfully, you must do something. The jobs you really want are highly unlikely to simply land in your lap. You must organize your portfolio, take stock of your skill set, and identify the clients you want to work for and the jobs you want to take on.

You must do your homework. Then, you must pitch. Present your case to the target client. Why does the client need this assignment done, and why should you be the person who gets hired to do it?

Your prospect might say “no” to today’s pitch, but you won’t know for certain until you ask.

When you don’t ask the clients you want for the work you want, the answer will always be “no.”

If you want to land your dream freelancing jobs, you’ll need to go out there and pitch them.



Writers Wednesday: A Media Call to Action


Freedom of the press has been attacked from all sides this week. By the public. By a glorified public relations rep. By the newly minted President of the United States of America.

I’m angry, and, like many others in my profession, I’m reeling both from the audacity and the vitriol. Make no mistake. Americans would not have the president they do today without the so-called “lying media” he’s doing his best to discredit. We kept his name and his messages at the forefront of conversation for months on end. We played right into his hands, and we helped put that person in that office.

Press freedom is writing freedom.

Collectively, we all did it. No, I haven’t been a beat reporter in years, but journalism is still my field. It is my heartbeat. These are my people. This is my world. And if we don’t all push back hard, now, it will be torn apart right in front of us.

Press freedom is writing freedom.

It’s intellectual freedom.

It’s dissenting freedom.

Where did we go wrong? Was it the campaign? No, it started much earlier than that.

When we turned to social media to find quick stories instead of going out and finding real people and issues on our beats, we alienated readers.

When we emphasized perceptions of fairness and equality of coverage time over facts, we invited the public to do the same.

When we began pandering to viewers with “viral video of the day” segments and harping ad nauseam about insignificant things somebody famous said, we cluttered the airwaves with meaningless chatter.

We fed the beast, all right. We stuffed it with as much cheap junk as we could possibly find. We shouldn’t be surprised that it’s grown into a raging monster.

The only thing we can do to weaken it now is cut off its diet, and that requires a return to reporting basics:

Is it true?
Is it impactful?
Is it relevant?
Is it prominent?
Is it timely?

It’s time to stop mindlessly parroting everything a famous person chooses to say online, time to stop jumping in with calls for the ax to fall every time someone misspeaks, time to stop rushing to publish “scoops” that aren’t.

It’s time to go outside.

It’s time to talk to human beings.

It’s time to point out when things aren’t adding up.

The president and his fellow politicians can yell all they want to on Twitter.

We don’t have to keep listening.


Weekend Ramblings: Back to the Drawing Board


How do we respond to this election, writers? Do we embrace escapism, or dive down the rabbit hole? 

Photo credit: Smath. via / CC BY



We’ve been off for two weeks, in part due to travel and illness interrupting my regular schedule, and in part due to the insanity that was the American election last Tuesday. Getting anything productive done on the writing front has been all but impossible; instead, I’ve been venting my frustration and purging the germs with Christmas shopping and cleaning fits. Multiple rooms in my home are now freshly rearranged, scrubbed, or filled with holiday miscellany. Yet the mental turmoil continues.

Since we’re hosting a foreign student this fall, the election and its implications for the rest of the world have been top of mind in our home. After all, it was not only we Americans who watched another spot on the televised map light up in red every few minutes on Election Night, but also our counterparts across the pond. The subsequent conversations among my parent and minority friends have all been variations of the same theme: What does this outcome say about our country, and what do we tell our children?

To tell a story authentically, we must endeavor to understand those who are not like us.

Perhaps the events of the past week have jerked your writing, like mine, to a standstill and tossed your concentration out the window. Perhaps, too, you were focused on telling stories about a particular part of the world–one whose inhabitants you are now struggling to respect. Is your exhaustion from the election–be it result or violent protest–sapping your creativity? Worse, is it causing you to second-guess everything you’ve been working on?

It has for me. I am, quite literally, back at the drawing board this week, sketching out new story ideas. How do I write sympathetically and objectively about people I’m fighting not to hold in contempt? How do I work with a character whose interests and abilities are so fundamentally different from my own?

For some of my friends, the response has been to channel those emotions into art. Recording themselves singing their favorite songs. Drawing cartoons. Writing poetry. Chaining themselves to their computers for NaNoWriMo. For others, it has been more of an existential crisis: We’re questioning everything we’ve created.

The election did not cause this. It only highlighted an existing artistic conundrum. To tell a story authentically, we must endeavor to understand not only those who are like us, in thought, ability and action, but also, and more significantly, those who are not.

Right now, I do not understand. And so, the story waits.

It waits as I wrestle through the media overstimulation. It waits while I listen to friends and family as they vent. It waits during the afternoons when I find new things to scrub and throw away, in vain hopes of clearing my mind as well as my environment. It waits while I browse Pinterest in search of anything pretty or happy or beautiful to take my mind off the growing pains of this horribly divided nation.

It waits because for writers and creatives, this is a pivotal moment. Do we turn to light, escapist pieces? Or do we go down the rabbit hole?


Taking the Fictional Leap