Reader. Writer of Fiction for Young Adults.


Calling RVA writers: The Writing Show this week


“Write about what you don’t know about what you know,” instructed Eudora Welty. But how exactly do you dig deep into the familiar to create an extraordinary experience for your readers?

Veteran novelists and professors—and husband and wife—Carrie Brown and John Gregory Brown talk about mining your own geographical and personal history as writers, as well as tools and techniques for finding out more about what you already think you know about your place—or places—in the world.

Virginia Pye, author of River of Dust, will moderate the discussion about anchoring your writing through environment and experience. The second half of the panel welcomes questions from the audience.

Coloring Between the Lines: Using What You Know and Where You’re From in Fiction
Thursday, April 24, 2014
6:30-8:30 p.m., with complimentary hors d’oeuvres
The Broadberry (note the new location we’re trying out for April’s show!)
2729 W. Broad Street
Ample parking available in the Children’s Museum parking lot across the street, on street, and in the lot adjacent to the Broadberry

$10 in advance, $12 at the door, $5 students

 I’m looking forward to learning techniques I can use in my rewrites. Will you join me?  Register now.

Visit James River Writers for more information.


#FridayReads: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Dreams of Gods and Monsters: I waited for it with twitching fingers and palpitating heart. I pre-ordered early in 2014, even had the release date (April 8th from Little, Brown and Company) on my office calendar. Fountain Bookstore, my local indie, tweeted a reminder to pick up my book early on the 8th.

P!nk gif I borrowed

I couldn’t get by there fast enough…except Tuesday became Wednesday became Saturday. But I finally had it and I didn’t want to emerge.

gif I borrowed

Even when the phone rang.

Golden Girls gif I borrowed

Then Sunday, while dog sitting for a neighbor, the adorable Ewok-looking, 7-month-old cocker spaniel sailed onto the couch in an ecstatic bound and peed on my book.

Peed. On my. Book.

Even drenched in dog pee, Laini Taylor’s writing is green-monster-provoking good. I read lines out loud to Adam, avoiding spoilers, of course. I want to be Laini Taylor. Well no, I’m rather fond of my own husband, family, friends, and even my wonky right knee. I want her writing brain: her weird imagination where gods slumber in teakettles. I want her writing ability, the alchemy that turns paper into Prague snowflakes. But I can’t be Laini Taylor. That’s not my voice or style. And it breaks my heart.

That heartache becomes part of my writing life, so it’s all good, and I read on.

So far it’s nail-biting awesomeness.

gif I borrowed

And I’ve been like this a time or two:

Neil Effing Gaiman gif I borrowed

Other #FridayReads

Every year on Good Friday, I read John Donne’s “Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward.” It’s been a while since I went to a Good Friday service, but I faithfully return to this poetry. It might be 401 years old, but the words stir me more than modern devotionals and sermons:

There I should see a Sun by rising, set,

And by that setting endless day beget;

But that Christ on this cross did rise and fall,

Sin had eternally benighted all.

Yet dare I almost be glad I do not see

That spectacle, of too much weight for me.

Who sees God’s face, that is self-life, must die;

What a death were it then to see God die?

It made his own lieutenant, Nature, shrink;

It made his footstool crack, and the sun wink.

Could I behold those hands which span the poles,

And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes? (11-22)

People say don’t discuss religion in polite society (why not, if it is respectful of all?), but I hope you’ll forgive me for poetry. If you’re interested in the entire poem, you can find it here.

Sadly, I must write of another passing. We lost Gabriel García Márquez yesterday. His work will touch the world for many lifetimes to come. I’ll likely read one of his books this weekend. What’s your favorite?

Photo by Reuters

“I owe him the impulse and the freedom to plunge into literature. In his books I found my own family, my country, the people I have known all my life, the colour, the rhythm, and the abundance of my continent.”

-Isabel Allende

Find #FridayReads



Know a teen looking for a good book? Or maybe you’re looking for a free Friday read? Yesterday I joined Katharine Herndon and Bill Blume, friends from James River Writers, to #rockthedrop in honor of Celebrate Teen Literature Day. Check out ReaderGirlz explanation of Rock the Drop. We left favorite books by Malinda Lo, Kristen-Paige Madonia, Erica Orloff in Patrick Henry Park and across Church Hill.

#FridayReads from around the web

Publishers Weekly shared the unique and utterly fabulous way audience questions were picked at New York Public Library event on April 11th. (Click the link for video.)

LIVE from the NYPL photo. Click for more photos.

Thanks for getting through the long post. At least I gave you P!nk, David Tennant, Bea Arthur, John Donne, Benedict Cumberbatch, Gabo, Isabel Allende, and Neil Gaiman in a single post. Happy Friday!

Sherlock gif I borrowed

*#FridayReads is the brainchild of the fabulous Bethanne Patrick (@TheBookMaven on Twitter). It’s a Twitter conversation for every bibliophile to share loves and find new ones.

Failing as a writer


Sherlock gif I borrowed

Let’s reshoot this scene. I’ll be the disgruntled bridesmaid. My manuscript stars as the boutonniere-wearing sociopath.

Yesterday I had a long editorial phone call. I walked away (literally, I walked three miles after) with a firm conclusion: I know the story I want to tell and this ain’t it.

Authors claim they share my struggle.* The only solution is another draft. So back to the desk I go. Revise. Revise. Revise.

The dysfunction could end up being sexy.


Another borrowed gif

*I hope this is true and not a ploy to keep me from hurling myself into traffic.

UPDATE: I’m so grateful for the writer friends who are encouraging me during revisions. You all are amazing! Thank you. It’s been a great experience–start to restart–and I hope to have many years ahead of editorial feedback and revision.

A League of Our Own

Sharing A League of Their Own quotes with LynDee Walker over on Facebook reminded me of this scene, one of my favorites.

Perhaps I enjoy it because I played ball growing up. I know variances in bats by the ounce, the aroma of red dirt and leather in the air, and how spray chalk will never feel or smell as good as the powder poured from bins. I can still get a gut-punch of nerves recalling walking onto a field full of girls taller, stronger, faster, and more precise than I was, no matter that I spent far more hours at practice. Dozens of girls. Maybe 15 slots on the team. One little me, smaller and with a batting average several points lower than last season.

It’s a lot like walking into the publishing industry.

There’s the comparison, intense pressure, unsympathetic criticism, and competition. Some are naturally talented. Some won’t see their names on the list.

“I receive about 15 query letters daily and request between 10 and 15 full or partial manuscripts in a year. The maximum number of authors I sign out of my slush pile per year is four. That would be maximum; I usually only sign between two and four.”

-Michelle Brower of Folio Literary Management

“Some of you are going home.”

Like all those years ago, I’m lacing up my cleats* and heading into the game. I’ll get cut for a few years. I’ll sacrifice things I enjoy for more practice time. I’ll keep going back because I’m too stubborn to give up. I’ll watch the metaphorical tapes and visualize the plays.

I’ll make sure I’m not one of those going home.

Diamond Fever softball player (I played for this team many moons ago.)

*Actually, mine were sometimes boy’s cleats inherited from my cousin, who went on to be a pro ball player.


#FridayReads: Small Town Spin by LynDee Walker


Tuesday I picked up Small Town Spinthe third in LynDee Walker’s Headlines in High Heels series. I love LynDee as a person. I love her writing. I love how she conducts herself at events. (She’s a rock star writer, a la my Monday post.) I met her last year at James River Writers, right before her debut novel, Front Page Fatality, came out from Henery Press. It’s been a big year for LynDee and an even bigger year for her books: Front Page Fatality is nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel!

This week has been all about Small Town Spin, and I can’t wait to dig into it this weekend.

Kitten Heels and Killers

When a superstar athlete’s son turns up dead in a tiny town on the Virginia coast, crime reporter Nichelle Clarke gets the inside scoop. But she quickly spies a gaping hole her inner Lois Lane cannot ignore.

Determined to unravel the mystery, Nichelle fights off paparazzi cameras and an unexpected rival. She uncovers an illegal moonshine operation, a string of copycat suicides, and a slew of closets stacked with more skeletons than slingbacks. Chasing a killer who’s a breath from getting away with murder, Nichelle realizes too late the culprit has her number—and it might be up.

Sherlock gif I borrowed


Sherlock gif I borrowed


Murder by death launch day

 LynDee’s book launch at the Library of Virginia

You can start the series for a steal.

FPF sale graphic


A few other #Fridayreads from around the web

J.T. Glover adds to the motherf*^#king rockstars debate by brining in MFA vs NYC.

Lately I’ve noticed a surge among my fellow writing people in discussion of writerly behavior. Not the “have a sweet business card to impress important people” behavior, but the “go out and drink seven vodka sours before 4 p.m., shoot an elephant, and hump wildly before writing” writerly behavior. 

Debut author Lindsay Cummings does the DanaFuching rock star thing right in her post about her first book signing.

And for the 45 minutes in sat in that chair, scribbling my name over and over in my own books, fragments of myself placed into pages, it was this moment where all the noise and the chaos disappeared, and it was my voice in my mind, saying over and over again, “this is real, Lindsay. You made it. You really, really made it.”

And if this is only the beginning…’s going to be a beautiful, wild ride. I’m so grateful. I’m so humbled and blessed and overwhelmed by the fact that this is my career. This is my life. God gave me a talent and a love for writing, and my agent noticed me, and she helped HarperCollins notice me, too.

To everyone involved in this journey….Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I couldn’t be more grateful.

Today, I am the luckiest girl in the world.

University of Virginia students join hands in response to hate speech during Pride Week. Wa-Hoo-Wah!

Speaking of love, Paige Wheeler of Folio Literary Management shared “13 Kickass Literary Power Couples” from Huff Post Books.

Though [Zadie Smith] rocketed to literary fame in her 20s, early in their friendship they competed for the same writing prize and were a part of the same crowd of budding student authors, and Laird edited her breakout debut White Teeth. Now Laird may seem to struggle with being in Smith’s shadow, but he’s emerged as a talented novelist and prize-winning poet in his own right. And while being married to such a celebrity can’t always be easy, he and Smith have made it work splendidly, supporting and editing each other’s writing as well as occasionally collaborating.

I was intrigued to note that they talk about a man being in his wife’s shadow and the tensions it might cause, but praise novelist Tabitha King for being “unsung but invaluable” to husband Stephen. Hmmm. Your thoughts?

Have a great weekend. Happy reading!

gif I borrowed

*#FridayReads is the brain child of the fabulous Bethanne Patrick (@TheBookMaven on Twitter). It’s a Twitter conversation for every bibliophile to share loves and find new ones.

Check out DrainSpotting


DrainSpotting on FaceBook has damn fine photos of drains around the world. Like the page. I was surprised they shared my cover photo, which was taken by Steve Duncan. Thanks!

Of rock stars and writers

Dana Fuchs & Kristi at Annapolis concert

Kristi & Dana Fuchs at Annapolis concert. Adam Austin photo.

“May I get a photo?” I ask, embarrassed by my own fangirling.

Dana Fuchs, goddess with a whisky voice, pushes back from the table. “Come here.” She pats her leg. “Sit down.”

I sit on the lap of an honest-to-god rock star and movie star. She kisses my cheek, wraps her arm around me, and presses her face to mine for the photo.

Dana Fuchs had just poured herself into her performance on stage, singing and dancing for almost two hours, yet she was tireless while meeting fans after the show.

Dana’s been on Oprah and headlined concerts across the US and Europe. She’s a blues musician, rocker, and movie star. She starred as Sadie in the Beatles musical Across the Universe. She was the lead in Love, Janis, an off-Broadway play about Janis Joplin.

Bono, Dana and director Julie Taymor watching Across the Universe playbacks. Dana Fuchs photo.

Dana on Oprah:

If we want to talk about reasons people could think they’re hot shit, the 6-foot-tall singer and songwriter has plenty. (Picture the love child of Janis Joplin and River Song.) Yet she’s the most approachable person I’ve ever met. During the night’s performance, she serenaded a fan with ‘Happy Birthday’ and gushed how honored she was he spent his birthday with her. After the show, she asked about me. She wants to read my book, she said. We both laughed at our propensity to cuss in public. When a lady offered vodka shots, Dana passed one to me. We three toasted and tilted back our glasses. (Dana sipped white wine instead.) She thanked me profusely, hugged and kissed me goodbye.

Dana Fuchs Band concert at BB King’s in NYC. Dana Fuchs photo.

What writers can learn

I’ve been fortunate to meet hundreds of writers. I’ve seen writers love and connect with readers, and I’ve shaken my head as aloof authors ignored the people who make their living. For instance, three young authors were touring. Instead of greeting readers as we arrived for their event, they clustered in the staff area of the bookstore, in sight but off limits. One reader confessed she’d traveled almost four hours one way and stayed overnight to see one of the authors. “Thanks,” the author said flatly. That was it. The reader left after the signing with no one-on-one time with the author. I didn’t hear the author ask about the reader. She didn’t shake the reader’s hand. There was definitely no lap sitting.

I’m an introvert. I’m shy. I can sympathize with all sorts of social awkwardness. But I’ve got no patience for writers who can’t show a little love. There’s no room for aloofness in a writer’s life. Get over it.

Chuck Wendig jokingly encouraged authors to get in snits and trash hotel rooms and generally act like motherf*^#king rockstars. I want authors to act like DanaFuching rock stars and show a little more love and gratitude.

If my day ever comes, you better believe I am.

Listen to Dana

See more and listen at Dana Fuchs Band website.

Dana Fuchs as Sadie in Across the Universe.

Don’t forget

Elle Blair is blogging her writing process today.




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