Friday, February 19, 2021


It's Lent. And I can already feel the spiritual battle intensifying. Memento mori. The prayers for Ash Wed. Mass are so beautiful, reminding me what I am--dust, but God's beloved dust, and so He redeems me. I always remember my mother whenever this Gospel (Matthew 6:16-21) is read because she lived it. She had this beautiful secret life of prayer and fasting and giving, not out of her excess, but in her poverty. Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas influenced her hugely. It was the first adult novel I read at the age of 12 and although I had already lost my faith by then, I still understood this secret life of hers. But now, as a grown woman of faith, I can only say, she lived an extraordinary life, hidden.

Another mother I have to gush over is Daniel Nayeri's mom. Everything Sad is Untrue (a true story) is a memoir like no other I've read and it resonated deeply because although we've never been refugees, we've had similar experiences being poor in the US (it's hard but you have the freedom to work hard to rise out of poverty), some of the same feelings regarding poop (haha, there's a lot of poop in this book and it's all true), the stories of your ancestors that you carry with you (numbered, mythic) and what it means to convert. There are a thousand reasons, but his mother says the simplest thing: because it's TRUE. It's brilliant. Read these two pages for yourself. I want to put this book in everybody's hands because it's that wonderful. I laughed; I cried. 


I've been praying for discernment, especially when it comes to my writing, and I'm halfway through Jumpstart and Efficient Creativity and what an explosion of ideas. I'm actually feeling a bit scattered because there aren't enough hours in the day to write. What has helped is clearing my desk of all the scraps of papers and dumping them in an ideas folder. There are only five things now--the polishing of my historical fiction, a short story that I've not written a single word but just daydreaming (and I love how perfect it is at this stage), and three little picture books in various states.

I have to share a couple of PBs I've been reading because they are so poetic and gorgeous: All the World by Liz Garton Scanlan and Marla Frazee (the picture with the rain reminds of the beautiful photos Max took of raindrops); Dreamers by Yuyi Morales. I'm a sucker for immigrant stories but to have it in PB form invites you to look again and again.  

May you all have a blessed and fruitful Lent. If you have special intentions, write to me and I will pray for you.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Jumpstart on Writing

Many of you know what a difficult time I've had after my shoulder surgery. Although I couldn't do much for the first two months, I was healing, though I couldn't tell at the time (too much pain). Physical therapy is when I started feeling it. Every week, a milestone! Music is what sustained me during those days, both listening and singing. Pain really and truly recedes when you are focused on something else. But I missed writing. And with limited energy/strength I wanted to save it for writing Christmas cards and letters to as many people as I could think of because how difficult the lockdowns have been for so many. After the kids left for school, I thought it's time to get back to my own creative writing projects. 


I was rusty and hated everything I wrote. I was more interested in cleaning house and tidying up because it was like PT--I could see results! And all the books I read only made me feel inadequate. Why bother writing? But I was missing it and getting crankier by the day. But luckily, I remembered Julianna Baggott had some things on creativity so I signed up for her 6 week course: Jumpstart. And also Efficient Creativity


What a difference it is to take a structured course, remembering why I am so desperate to write. She begins at the beginning--memories. This is the best $10 I've spent this year, the best thing I've done for my writing life in a long while. I don't usually suffer from writer's block but I knew something broke with that surgery.  

Julianna is amazing. I'd already read a few of her books. Why does she not have a book on process? I hope someday she writes one because she's a fantastic teacher. Her advice on musing/day-dreaming is gold. She also asks good questions and makes demands and as I was writing about my own process, I realized what a blessing the migraines have been. So yes, they prevented me from doing many things, but they afforded me that all-important time for daydreaming. Maybe this is why, when I could write, I was in a good place. I'd already done a lot of pre-writing imagining. 

Anyway, if Christmas holidays and lockdowns and kids at home all day have put a dent in your writing, I highly recommend you take Jumpstart and/or Efficient Creativity. You can do them at your own pace even though Julianna has them both structured for 6 weeks. Please do share in the comments what you do when you've gotten out of the writing habit, if you ever have had trouble writing. 

The Christmas cycle ended with Candlemas. We had a beautiful High Mass at Sacred Heart (Part 1 and Part 2) and it's already the season of Septuagesima--a three week preparation for Lent, which will arrive Feb. 17th. I love the traditional calendar for this period. Book group has started for Michael and they're reading Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed. I'm reading these other books. Capturing Music: the Story of Notation by Thomas Forrest Kelly is gorgeous. I might even begin to understand some of the markings on that last page that we sang for Candlemas :)