to top

Planting a forest

[caption id="attachment_1017" align="aligncenter" width="960"] The weed pile after about five hours of work last Sunday.[/caption] There used to be a white birch forest at the corner of Waynesville and Centerville roads. To my little boy eyes, I thought there couldn't have been a more beautiful spot in the world. Every time my parents drove past it, I wondered who owned the land, who'd taken the time to plant those trees. Last October, my wife and I bought a house with just over an acre of land. Overgrown with weeds and honeysuckle and a hundred scraggly little trees, it...

Continue reading

The most important story you’ll ever tell

Here's the secret goal of just about every therapist I've ever met: getting clients to change the voice inside their heads. They call it an inner monologue. The monologues say things like: my stomach looks like a bag of under-cooked pizza dough. My teeth are yellow. I have more wrinkles than a circus elephant. Why can't I think of anything interesting to talk about? My writing sucks. I need more friends. Dayton counselor Meredith Montgomery calls the monologue your mental tape. It starts playing the moment you wake up and doesn't stop until you fall asleep. Montgomery has an exercise that helps clients...

Continue reading

Join me at the Antioch Writers’ Workshop Spring Seminar

The amazing people at the Antioch Writers' Workshop invited me to be on a panel at their one-day spring seminar on March 25. I'm honored, nervous, excited to join Becky Morean, Grace Curtis and Ryan Ireland as we talk about "Finding Your Writing Tribe." This is AWW's second-biggest event of the year (second only to their week-long summer workshop), and it's phenomenal. Cathy Day (author of Comeback Season: How I Learned to Play the Game of Love and The Circus in Winter) will keynote the event. Last spring, AWW brought in Margaret Wrinkle. I blogged about Margaret's talk...

Continue reading

The death of my identity

Back when I was a smoker (Marlboro Lights in a soft pack), an old family friend told me how hard it was for him to quit. Smoking's not just a habit, he said, it's an identity. I sneered when he said it. Smoking didn't define me, it was just something I did. But, I couldn't get his words out of my head. And over the next few years, I started to wonder if he was right. I spent about 2 hours a day with a cigarette in hand. The habit determined who I took breaks with...

Continue reading

While We Fill Our Boxes with Shiny Golden Treasures

This list reminds me to stop my prissy bitching, to remember the world owes me nothing, to appreciate America, to thank the pharmacist for the pills that keep me breathing, to shake my head at the idea that we're spending $300 to clean our dog's teeth (I love you, Maddy, I truly do): 5: Number of earths we'd need if everyone in the world had the same standard of living as Americans [1] 13.8: Percent of girls who complete primary school in Malawi [2] 49: The life expectancy in Chad [3] 50: Number of American dollars required to buy a...

Continue reading

How I Wrote My First Book

I spent about a decade so obsessed with writing the next Great American Novel that I didn't finish anything. I wrote and re-wrote the same first chapter of the same failed book. I must have done it 50 times. I did it so often, I got sick of it. I eventually gave up fiction writing altogether and spent most of my free time overdrinking at $1 PBR nights, cigarette in hand while I had rambling, late-night, angst-ridden psuedo-philosophical discussions about the meaning of life and art with whoever (whomever?) was nearby. My come-to-Jesus moment happened a decade (and many...

Continue reading

My first-ever speaking engagement

Earlier this month, I got to speak to the Plot Sisters, a remarkable group of local writers who have been meeting every other week for nearly five years. Every writer should be so lucky to be part of such a supportive group! I was a little nervous, but mostly, I felt honored that anyone would want to hear me speak on writing. I don't think I said anything too stupid (something of a rarity for me), and I walked away envious of their great relationships with one another. Writing is a lonely art. When you...

Continue reading

5 things I hate myself for doing

1) Surfing Facebook when I should be writing 2) Writing a story because I thought it'd sell 3) Worrying what readers will think of me 4) Setting aside a story before I've finished it 5) Pretending I can't think of anything to write (aka "writer's block") because I'm too damn scared/undisciplined to do it I am a Cowardly Lion -- a sack of insecurities. I count each word a victory, a bone for the skeleton of some new me. Success is this: doing less of what we hate, more of what we love....

Continue reading

Drinking cat’s milk

I had to read this passage twice: "Once I put my face against the body of our cat as she lay with her kittens, and she did not seem to mind. So I pursed my lips against that full moon, and I tasted the rich river of her body." That's Mary Oliver, and she wasn't writing fiction. It's from her 2016 essay collection Upstream. My first thought: who the hell does that? My second thought: who does it and then writes about it? Apparently, the answer is 81-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning poets like Mary Oliver. I started reading her after...

Continue reading

Privilege

In the 1920s, a 17-year-old boy named Richard Wright was starved for books. Broke, black, living in the Deep South, he wasn't allowed to use the library. So he talked an Irish Catholic co-worker into letting him borrow his library card. Then, he forged a note for the librarian. "Dear Madam: Will you please let this nigger boy have some books by H. L. Mencken?" He "walked out with a copy of a book that would change the course of his life" (per Ryan Holiday). Not long after that, Wright caught a train to Chicago "before...

Continue reading
Latest Post