Mom’s Gift

My mom has always been all about stories. When I was little, she read and read to me: Winnie the Pooh, Ramona the Pest, the Book House books (which, heartbreakingly, were lost in a move.) She was, and is a teacher, and she made sure I became a reader. But there was another gift she gave: she […]

That Character You Love to Hate

Sometimes it’s the little things… Writing antagonists can be almost too much fun. Of course, we don’t want to make the ALL bad. We need to show them as balanced human beings. But when you first introduce an unpleasant character, how do you show he’s unpleasant? I thought we’d take a little stroll through The […]

I have never told you

“I have never told you.” Five words that can deepen your characters, add page-turning plot elements, and shed light on motivation. When I talk to my characters (and yes, I do this frequently–it’s a relationship that must be maintained), I’m gratified when they talk back. And they will, if you know what to ask them. […]


  Frantic. That’s how I used to feel all the time. Like there was no room to breathe. Anyone who’s known me for years will tell you that balance was a struggle for me. Sometimes it still is. I’ve searched hard for equilibrium, and I’m still a work in progress, but I do feel a […]


I remember the day my friend, Tina Chen showed us the cover of her gorgeous new novel: a lush, moving story written by a generous soul. Her success (and the book was award-winning) was well-deserved. And I was JEALOUS. Jealousy’s not a regular thing for me. Usually my friends’ successes give me hope. So this […]


Great stones they lay upon his chest Until he plead aye or nay… It were a fearsome man, Giles Corey. –Arthur Miller, The Crucible   There’s more to Dad’s legacy than this— There’s his resonant voice reading Tennyson, There’s John McCormick on the record player, The immigrant great-grandparents, Who passed their Irishness down like a […]

The “Why” behind Epicwrite

  In December, 1995 I gathered four teenage writers in our living room and began the wild odyssey that would grow into Epicwrite. Recently, I had the honor of being nominated for the Roslyn S. Jaffe Award for that work, and while the winner has not yet been announced, the extensive application process allowed us […]

Teens Ask “How Do I Get Published?”

And no, it’s not a silly question! In the Teenage Novelist: Publishing class, I always start by saying, “Read and read and read; write and write and write.” It’s pretty hard to write publishable material if you’re not reading. That sounds like a no-brainer, but I know plenty of people who want to write books, […]

Go Where the Longing Is

Perfectionism is a thief of time. I used to be plagued by this wily thief—I’d let it into my mind and give it full access. There it would scold and prod and criticize. And I would go slower and slower as my muse slogged toward mirages of excellence. After all, isn’t excellence what we are […]

The Violin Diet

With the Full-Bodied Novelist Retreat coming up this weekend, I’ve been playing the violin again. There is a connection, so stay with me here. I usually let months go by without my music. I play only to prepare for performance, thinking I need an “excuse” to play. But lately I have played for the sheer […]