Award-winning author
Unusual times, remarkable places

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

24 February 2010

Rose leaves are red

Spring is on its way. You may doubt it if you are in the frozen part of the country, but here in Southern California, we see the signs. Naked trees with tiny shoots of green exploding from branch tips. Finches brightening their colors in preparation for mating. Leaf clusters bursting out from rose bushes.

I love the new leaves on rose bushes almost as much as I love roses. New rose leaves can be red, burgundy, or bronze; flat or folded or frilly. Here, for your enjoyment, are some pictures I took last of new rose-bush leaves.








12 February 2010

Writers don't get snow days

I am not prone to jealousy, but I felt more than a touch of envy this week as snow fell on much of the country, and friends got day after day off. I wasn't so much jealous that they could enjoy the unmatched pleasure of seeing a pristine blanket of snow, blue-white and sparkling under the sun, and smell the crisp fresh-snow scent. No, it was their unexpected gift of days off with obligations put on hold, the gift of time to read or daydream or catch up on sleep or some chores, time to empty the mind of everything that weighs on it and focus on something—making a quilt, baking bread, mapping out a new story or novel.

Of course, we writers can give ourselves a snow day whenever we want, at least in theory, and it's good for us to set aside time to clear our heads and fill the well. In practice, though, I find it almost impossible to take a snow day. Week after week, my paying work and other obligations gobble up not only my fiction-writing days but also my evenings and weekends. Some of you have talked about similar difficulties on your own blogs.

Yesterday, I took a radical step: I asked one of my clients, my biggest one, for a six-month leave of absence. Once I turn in my current assignment on 1 March, I'll have space in my life for some snow days. First priority: Rest. I'm tired of being tired every day. I need to rejuvenate before I can be creative again.

Second priority: Do chores. A home should be peaceful and welcoming, but the papers and piles of books I have strewn about stress both me and my long-suffering husband and disrupt my creativity by their constant distraction and by making it hard to find story notes, background materials, and everything else.

Third priority: Once I have a clear head and a clear workspace, be creative again. Read. Write down story and book ideas on a notepad. Research ideas. Revise stories I've received comments on and send them out. Finish stories I've started and start new stories. Start a book. Get together with other writers. Make fiction my first priority again.

I have the luxury of taking a leave from my biggest client because my father left me a small inheritance. But I was too tired to realize it. It took the snow storms of the past two weeks and my desire for some snow days to prod me to search for ways to have some.

Is your writing getting short shrift in your life? Perhaps it's time to brainstorm ways you can work in some snow days. Like me, you may be surprised what you come up with.


Thank you, Dad, for everything. Two years and I still miss you terribly. Edward Arthur Roberts, 24 January 1930–12 February 2008.


The blog Allison's Attic will be giving away a copy of Linda Weaver Clarke's Melinda and the Wild West. Enter by February 14. (I interviewed Linda here.)

Other friends, if anyone features your book at their blog, please feel free to send me an email. I'll put a note about the interview, the review, or the give-away on my next blog post.

04 February 2010

You got to walk that lonesome valley

Like dying, becoming a writer is a journey you have to walk by yourself, and, as the old spiritual says, nobody else can do it for you.

Friends, relatives, and other writers can support you, critique you, encourage you, mentor you, advise you, nag you. They can pass your name along to agents and editors. They can praise your work to everyone who will listen. In the end, though, you alone walk the valley, book in hand, and discover whether it ends in failure or success.

It’s not only the dying and the writer who have a lonely path. So do those who watch on the sidelines. Remaining behind when a loved one dies or seeing a friend’s first book hit the bestseller list (or flop miserably) is a soul-searing reminder of how acutely alone each of us is in the world. We cannot selflessly take the other person’s place to save them pain; we cannot selfishly take their place to savor their joy. We are separated by a gulf so deep that no bond of love or hate can span it.

No wonder that a writer’s success creates such a wide range of responses. Friends may be proud, angry, ecstatic, or jealous, or take the writer’s achievement as a good or bad portent for their own future, or feel awkward about the new gap between them, or all of the above.

You’re probably wondering about now whether this meandering post has a point. Why, yes, it does. When we know how alone each of us is at some moments of our lives, doesn’t it make sense to help and encourage each other when we can? As J.K. Rowling proved, we writers are not in competition with each other for a limited number of book slots; good books create new readers eager for more good books. Any one of us, by being successful, can create opportunities for others.

Let’s be gentle on ourselves and other writers. We may each walk alone, but we’re in this together.