When I was a young teenager my family made a road trip from Minnesota to Texas to visit my father’s parents. The long trip south mostly featured one kind of civil war: the endless bickering of my two brothers and the male cousin who’d come along for the ride. For the trip back north, I staked out a hidey-hole in the far back of the station wagon and crammed myself in amongst the luggage, still-wet-from-the-hotel-pool swimsuits, and snack foods.… more
As a kid I was the one who instigated a lot of the fun. It might be playing pirates in the tree house, or cops and robbers in my mom’s parked station wagon, or spies who wrote secret code in lemon juice (later revealing the message by holding it over the toaster). Often our make believe reﬂected whatever section of the library I happened to be working my way through at the time.… more
When I was a little girl and my Minnesota grandparents came to visit, we shared them around for sleeping purposes. One night I would share my double bed with Grandma, and the next night my brother and I would switch places, and I’d sleep on his top bunk while Grandpa settled into the bottom bunk.
Grandma was a bit of a night owl like I am, so it was never hard to keep her talking.… more
All freshmen at my college had to wear beanies at the start of school. Besides the obvious fashion quandary, the problem was that students from the town’s rival college gloried in stealing beanies.
And I knew if any of my upper classmates caught me sans beanie, they had the power to make me stand on a table in the cafeteria and sing my high school fight song.… more
I was thrilled when Teenage Nephew 1 grew old enough to mow my yard.
We negotiated a price and then headed outside. I knew that at his house, his father was King of the Riding Mower, so mowing was a completely new skill to Teenage Nephew. So I carefully reviewed the basics with him: mower operation, safety issues, how he shouldn’t plow over my rose bushes.… more
After my ﬁrst book was published, one of my friends gave me a knowing look and said, “I’ve ﬁgured out exactly what your story means.”
I nodded wisely, two of us in on the same secret together, but truthfully? I was eager to hear what she had to say. Because in all the time I’d spent writing, revising, and talking about the book to other people, it had honestly never occurred to me to ask myself what the story meant.… more
So what’s the perfect game for somebody who lives in a state with lots of dairy farms, spends a huge hunk of her time writing or reading, and has been known to insert a butter head into a novel as a red herring? Why, it’s Cheese or Font, of course!
If you’ve never played, please remember to come back and ﬁnish reading after you’ve wandered here to check it out.… more
I’ve found there’s an alarmingly close correlation between the topsy-turvy emotions of a high school crush and a writer’s feelings during the process of submitting a manuscript to publishers.
As the writer waiting for an answer from The Perfect Publisher, you go through the same hopeful highs and “why doesn’t anyone love me?” lows. The manuscript that just last week looked pretty darn good has somehow overnight developed a hideous zit.… more
Some of the best advice you can give student writers is also some of the easiest for them to carry through on: to write better, they should read better.
Read better, as in: Read more. Read widely. Read outside their usual reading “type.” Read carefully. Read for fun.
Read ﬁrst for story, and then read as backseat writers.… more
It wasn’t so unusual that my teenage nephews were sending me signals that translated to: “Will you take us to the store right now so we can spend these Christmas gift cards from Grandma?”
What was new this year was that they also wanted to do the driving. Brand-new permits in their pockets, I agreed to let one twin drive us there, and the other drive us home.… more