Spinning Tales

Now this king and queen had plenty of money, and plenty of fine clothes to wear…

I’ve been thinking about the Brothers Grimm tale of Briar Rose—better known in our time as Sleeping Beauty—in a new light.

The fairytale, true to form, comprises many farfetched aspects, but until I took a spinning wheel class, I’d never before considered the biggest hitch in the plot’s logic.

To refresh your memory:

Causing the whole brouhaha was the queen (always blame the mother) failing to invite the thirteenth fairy to the birthday celebration of miraculous newborn Briar Rose, for good reason—the king and queen didn’t have enough dishes.Read More »


Not exactly scarf weather

RIGHT: Hematoma Scarf (14 days)
LEFT: Anemia Scarf (4 days)

The day after MIM’s birthday, though I had yet to get him a present, I sent him to the craft store to buy me yarn. I was on my back in bed with my suddenly severely swollen leg elevated on a stack of pillows. “Just buy me something soft and puffy, like Kathryn’s sample yarn,” I instructed, handing him the small ball Kathryn had left the night before after she’d taught me how to knit.Read More »

The Lousy Cook Decorates a Cake–Redux!

Practicing rosettes
Practicing rosettes, stars, beads, and what my classmates called “poops”

Six months after my cake decorating fiasco and with cupcake-decorating and cookie-decorating classes under my belt, I was ready to try again: this time with adult supervision. I signed up for a two-part, six-hour cake decorating class. I’m not sure why I ever thought I could casually decorate a fabulous anniversary cake. Like brain surgeons who decide they’ll write a novel “when they retire,” my goal was a bit of an insult to pastry chefs.

There are only four great arts: music, painting, sculpture, and ornamental pastry. –Julia ChildRead More »

The Lousy Cook Decorates a Cupcake

POTENTIAL! (The Blank Page)

There’s something to be said for starting small, so a noncredit (shocking, I know) cupcake decorating class at the local college caught my eye. Scaling down expectation while learning a new craft might be a good idea. Surely I could take the skills learned on a cupcake and inflate them for use—like, the next day—on a multi-tiered wedding anniversary cake with a bottom layer as big as a garbage-can lid?Read More »

What a Writer Does on a Peaceful Island Writing Retreat in a Cabin Nestled in the Woods Overlooking a Harbor

Surveillance team behind my cabin
Surveillance team behind my cabin
Focaccia on Facebook

She lies awake at 2:15 a.m. wondering about those gunshots in the distance. Large caliber gun. She’s no firearms expert, but this she knows. Eight gunshots, exactly. Not equally spaced out. She counts, because she is a writer, and details matter. Also so that she can inform the sheriff when he arrives to ask, “Did anybody hear anything suspicious?” and he will be impressed enough with her answer that he will suspect she writes mystery novels about an amateur sleuth. Perhaps, though, the gun is fired by a hunter? But who hunts in the dark? Is it an escaped felon who has fled to the island and is feeding off deer while living in a cabin whose inhabitants he has mutilated? Why don’t more convicts escape to this island? It would make a lot of sense to escape here. If the writer were a nasty criminal, she’d hop the first ferry to this island. Nobody locks their doors, she’s been told. She has left her ground-floor bedroom window open because it’s hot. She gets up and locks the window, trying to fumble at the unfamiliar latch in the dark so that the felon doesn’t see inside the cabin to detect a lone, short, Weeble-ish inhabitant, easily overcome by prison breath. The criminal has seen on Facebook posts that she makes excellent sourdough focaccia. He will not kill her. He will keep her alive and force her to keep the sourdough starter alive, but he will become irritated because she puts too many vegetables but no salami on the pizza.Read More »

Land: A Toy!


A gated community!
Gated community!

Ah! My first writing retreat since becoming a mother five years prior. Alone in a cabin in the woods for four days with nothing but my notebook and pens, laptop, and books. Creaking trees outside. No television, no internet, no cell phone service, no mail delivery. No neighbors in sight. I would use this quiet time to cogitate, meditate, create—no interruptions, no chaos, no needs other than those of my own stomach and an occasional wash under my arms. Just my own unfettered thoughts and ideas to run amok without time restrictions or crises.

I wasn’t going to blow it this time, as I had the year before when a friend had lent me her house for two nights near an out-of-town teaching gig, and I’d been so guilt-wracked that I gave myself the shingles. I’d learned my lesson. Why did I not think I deserved this and that the boys wouldn’t burn the house down without me around? Scratch that. If the house burned down, it wouldn’t help if I were there, although they’d probably forget about the safety ladders.Read More »

First Place!

certif 001nsnc desc

I wish I could have been there in Indianapolis to receive my award from Miss Manners herself (Judith Martin received a Lifetime Achievement Award, then handed out the other awards). I like to say that I am very well qualified for the under 100,000 monthly readers category. I am thrilled and honored with this recognition.Read More »

Birth of a Family, Birth of a Book

The Little Monster
The Little Monster, 2008

Thanksgiving , 2008: less than three months since the Little Monster became our son at age six.

That autumn, the Man I Married worked several afternoons and evenings a week, leaving me home alone for nine-hour stretches with a boy who would spit at me, try to kick me, and shout, “I’m going kill you, fɥ¢kin’ bitch!” Locking bedroom doorknobs were not permitted in foster homes, so MIM rigged me a small noose: not for me (though there were nights where it tempted me like the HOV lane in a traffic jam) or the monster, but to rope the Little Monster’s bedroom door shut lest things get too out of hand. I never used the noose, but simply having it to caress like rosary beads reassured me enough to keep a lid on things.

MIM and I had deep, hacking, lingering coughs, which we ignored, and miraculously, weirdly, hid from the Little Monster: If we had a cough, LM had a cough. If MIM had a hangnail, LM had a hangnail. If I had a yeast infection, LM had a yeast infection. Thus, we most assuredly did not have coughs. Just some dust in the air.

I flung the liquor cabinet open once the Little Monster finally wore himself out and passed out in his little bed, mouth foaming like Old Yeller. We had sworn off booze when we became parents, but swiftly amended that to “no self-medicating until after the child’s asleep.” Gin and Sudoku got me through my first fall as a mother. Fall as in autumn, fall as in Scarlett tumbling down a grand staircase: take your pick.Read More »

My Favorite Rejection Letter

MidAmerican Rvw 2008 2007 2006I’ve been submitting my writing for publication for exactly fifteen years now. My first ever submission, to a small local journal, was mailed on January 10, 2000. On February 1, I submitted a short piece to a local contest. I never heard back from either.

On February 12, 2000, I mailed a submission to another local contest. I received a phone call shortly thereafter that I had won. I still remember playing the message back several times on the old answering machine. You know the kind that beeps and clicks and rewinds the miniature cassette tape, which ceaselessly fascinates the cat?

My 8th submission that year resulted in a Hedgebrook residency. My 14th resulted in being published by the esteemed journal Calyx.

Not bad for a first year. But consider that with three acceptances, I also collected eleven rejections.

Georgia Review 2005 2007 2008Over the last fifteen years, I’ve collected many more rejection slips than I have acceptance letters: about 85 acceptances out of 775 submissions (I should have cracked 1,000 by now, but I’ve had a couple of slow years, because, you know, the Momster thing). Not all of the other 690 were outright rejections: I had to withdraw some pieces after an acceptance when I’d sent out simultaneous submissions. Still, that’s a heck of a lot of rejection for even the most self-actualized adult to handle. I have a binder crammed full of rejection letters, with a supersize bag of Cheetos consumed for each one received. I know writers who have burned their stack of rejections, or who never kept them in the first place.Read More »