Here’s to Summer

Posted May 6th, 2018

Here’s to summer evenings full of music and dance and play. And here’s to summer days full of creative energy. While most of us take on New Year’s resolutions, I’m going to make a summer resolution to immerse myself in the magic of all things creative. So, get ready summer! 

Let’s get this party started…..

Hey there!

I’m back. In fact, I’m back in so many ways — back to teaching for the semester, back to writing this blog, and back from the Wisconsin SCBWI conference which was the perfect place to gather my writer self and remember why I write. I taught a breakout session on beginning a novel – how to create characters, scenes, and inciting incidents.

In case you want to take a peek, I’m listing some highlights of my talk here for you….

Setting up the Big Picture or pre-writing….

Answer the following

  • Whose story is this?
  • Usually the first character the reader meets
  • What is the problem?
  • What is the inciting incident that sets the action in motion? The inciting incident is  “…a situation beginning, ” says Cheryl Klein, editor and author of The Magic Words.
  • Can the protagonist solve this problem?
  • What might the complications be?
  • As Cheryl Klein says, “…when readers open a novel, they should be able to see immediately that its world has been imagined and thought through in full, and it’s waiting there on the page to engulf us: We believe in it. Often this credibility is established via another principle: specificity. Did I mention you‘ll want to pick up a copy of Cheryl’s book, The Magic Words ? it’s amazing!
  • Only when we can see this clearly can you hook the reader with your first lines…

Additional elements to consider

  • Plot problems and inner need should be established in the first chapter..
  • Plot problem should be where the action occurs
  • Inner need is where the character discovers something about him or herself in a way that he/she evolves through the novel
  • Theme comes out of these…

Getting Started

  • Find your primary character (protagonist)
  • Find your antagonist and secondary characters
  • Define conflict
  • List possible scenes
  • List possible settings
  • Use the novel structure to plot out your story arc

The Hook 

  • It is a first line, a first paragraph, a first page….one leads to the other
  • The premise (conflict)
  • A statement of what is to come in the text
  • Establishes character, narrator or setting
  • Is often a shocking piece of information
  • A powerful first line


Okay, your turn…..write five first lines. Select the three best and write a paragraph. Pick the one you like best and write that first chapter… have the beginning of a novel!

What will you save from this burning building?

Posted January 1st, 2017

This is what I know about 2017. We’re still facing some of the same hopes, loves, fears, promises to keep, and problems we faced in 2016.
 I like Tennessee Williams’ take on the world. It’s mercurial and will have it’s way with us. So, although many of us left 2016–a year of fear for this country and the world–we also brought it with us into 2017. We have some serious work to do in the topsy turvy world we woke up to on January 1. We need to work to make this a place where goodness, hope, and promises are more than blind rhetoric intended to win points or votes or popularity contests (although false promises failed to win the popular vote). We need to support truth and honesty and doing the right thing for everyone.

I also think we need to reflect back on 2016 and find the good. I have grandtoddlers and a grandbaby. They’re like joyous bubbles. I have a novel that’s almost complete and I’m revisiting a proposal I wrote last fall and turning it into nonfiction stories. I have the most amazing family. These things carried me through 2016 and they’re still here with me in 2017. What’s in your life? What can lift you? Carry you? 

Let’s bring those glorious things and people into 2017. As parents, writers, painters, being friends, let’s save these from the burning building of 2016 and make these the love of our 2017 lives.