Defining the “writer.”

Had an interesting discussion with someone recently (a fairly famous someone) about the concept of writing — the romanticized, “oh I want to be a writer!” people versus the actual writers. It wasn’t a pretentious conversation. You don’t call someone a doctor simply because they’re a WebMD enthusiast.

Long story short, writers have a refined craft. Aspiring writers may diagnose you with leprosy when you have dry skin.


Everything, nothing, somethings, sometimes, maybe so.

I hate cliche writing. Nothing pisses me off more than verbs and adjectives tumbling from sub par storylines– creaking floors, “perfect” this and that. That’s not writing. That’s spelling and sentences and coherence, but that’s not creative writing.

The busyness (or lack thereof) in my life always seems to vary between the cliche and the outrageous. For months and months — or even years — I’ll meander along, decisions presenting themselves as unavoidable. That’s just the natural next step, yes? Yes. The cliche of decisions — the creaking and the perfects of the world.

And then fortunately, thankfully, I’m sabotaged by a great story. The floor isn’t creaking — it’s groaning under the weight of a century of footsteps carelessly traversing its weathered slats. Nothing is perfect. It’s excellent or terrifying or satisfying or fading or childlike or any other myriad of possibilities in the well from which I can take a sip and digest slowly.

I’ve been living in a sweeping succession of these digestible moments lately. One magnificent mistake sent me spinning, and I’ve yet to recover. I never will. This is my new reality. But in this new reality I am braver, stronger, more willing to try…and more susceptible to the outrageous.

I feel myself being pulled toward the unavoidable, but it’s not cliche this go-around. I’m baffled and astounded and shocked and feeling the tug toward an exciting proposition, a pivot point in my life drawing me to something more.

I don’t care what that damn groundhog says. Spring is here.

It didn’t happen.

I had these lofty ideas about finally completing NaBloWriMo.

Then my friend died.

We weren’t great friends. I can’t even really say we were good ones. We were coworkers. Comrades. We didn’t throw back margaritas after work or flip our boss off behind her back (1. We work remotely; 2. Our boss is wonderful).

What we did do was share an understanding. Our Slack messages were always funny, our lighthearted complaints about work the silly back-and-forth banter that makes work, even in its most mundane moments, breathable.

Then, on an otherwise plain November morning, our boss called an emergency meeting. Through sorrowful tears that made her voice barely audible, I heard the words, “I have horrible news — Amanda died.”

Amanda? How? Why?

Amanda — the one who brought the laughter to our meetings. The one who made me feel welcome when I started at this job two years ago. The one with whom I had a special understanding, our child-free lifestyles making us more comparable than other teammates.

I didn’t get a goodbye. We didn’t get a goodbye. Life is cruel like that.

One day we were discussing repurping content and filling in for each other during upcoming vacations…the next minute I’m seeing pictures of her memorial service and taking over part of her line up.

For the last two months I have been writing in real journals, exploring my feelings in the primal, private way only pen and paper affords you. What I have discovered about myself — so far — is that my passion for life is starting to spill over.

Life is fast and short, and if you don’t inhale it now, you’ll lose it forever.

I get it.

I used to think you had to absorb the old pieces of yourself, chew them up, spit them out until they were no longer a part of you. Clean breaks, perfect lines. No baggage on the other end.

I was wrong.

Chew them up. Swallow them whole. Make them so intricately woven into your being that the work of art that is your collective experience is a garden of yesterday, today, tomorrow, and forever.

On desk diaries and To Do lists. 

I love To Do lists, and I’ve kept a desk diary since I was eight years old. I think it’s one of the more compulsive sides of my INTJ nature, but it also serves the very practical purpose of helping me accomplish my goals. It just makes me want to do more. 

Gym? Check. Laundry? Check. Book query? Check. Blog? Working on it. 

I’ve had too many things on my list lately, which initially made me very frustrated. I like the satisfaction of closing out a week or even month with an entire list completed. But life has had other ideas, the result of which has been a large and ongoing list of longer-ranging goals.

After several weeks of frankly being entirely ticked off, it occurred to me that these longer items were the result of two primary things: A full life and bigger dreams.

I have a good career that keeps me busy. I have words in my heart that constantly need put on paper. I have a gym to go to, a venture that is giving me immense satisfaction, a full travel schedule, beautiful fur babies, family to see, and dreams to soak in, soak up, and realize.

So, while I still love my desk diary, it’s no longer my leader, but rather a complement to my life. A friend who reminds me that even though life isn’t always what I think it should be or easy or even fun, it is so very worth it.
NaBloWriMo Day 2? … Check. (Kidding! Sort of.)


“I closed my eyes and just let go.”

It’s one of my favorite lines in my novel, Sixteen Days. A simple statement that reflected emotional nudity. A complex decision that reflected an inability to ever go back. 

As we enter this NaBloWriMo season, my goal is to share tips of this trade, secrets and tricks to improving your writing, as well as explore my own journey as an editor and author.

Care to join? Close your eyes and just let go.

An exercise in passion.

I am tired of thinking about you. Feeling about you. Of waking up in a cold sweat, broken because the dream wasn’t true. Broken because it all comes crashing back to me — the way you broke my heart and stole so many pieces of me.

Everyone says time is the great healer, but it is also the great reminder. This is the day we did this. This is the day we did that. The fucking calendar won’t let me escape you even when my mind begs.

I accept the mistake. I accept it repeatedly. I accept it and blame myself and tell myself I should have been better. And then I am angry, because your behavior has made me spiral into phases of self-loathing.

Who do you think you are? Who the fuck do you think you are?

The High.

It’s the hustle and bustle at the departures drop off point.

The moment I show my passport.

It’s the never-ending queue, the overpriced shops, and uncomfortable seat I curl into whilst waiting at the gate.

It’s handing my ticket to the check-in agent, the breeze I feel as I make my way down the long corridor, the sardine seating, and the click of the belt across my lap.

It is the high of travel I can never. get. enough. of.

I want my feet to wander across new and old ground, my eyes to marvel at a thousand cityscapes, and my heart to quicken — and stop — at a million rich sunsets.

My home is everywhere and nowhere at all.

I wander, I look, I live, I learn.

I travel for the moments, the memories, the high.


Live like a local.

I’ve been in England for a little more than two months now, and whenever the “why are you here?” question inevitably pops up, it’s also tied in with this qualifying-statement-meets-question-that-we-hope-is-not-true: “I don’t mean to be rude; it’s just that — don’t less than something like half of Americans even have a passport?”


It’s mostly asked with complete innocence. A few people have even defended Americans: “But America is so huge that you can travel your own states and have covered as much ground as Europe.” Others are noticeably disappointed, suggesting that many Americans live in an imperialistic bubble, because they’ve never ventured out of their safe zone.

When you’re in the U.S., there’s a false sense of security. Millions would like to think it’s the safest, cleanest, freest, bestest, most awesomest place ever. To challenge that is entirely un-American. That’s why this clip resonated so intensely with people around the world. Internationally, there were cheers because someone — even if it was on a TV show — finally validated that there are multiple amazing, safe, clean, freedom-filled places to live on this planet. Americans with a more expansive worldview appreciated that. Those who are decidedly less so, pretty passionately did not.

I love America. I love that country roads still have pick-ups and that we all patriotically sing the Star Spangled Banner whenever the familiar tune is heard. I love that we fervently support the causes we believe in, that gas station nachos are still a thing, and I really love that the entire autumn season is a celebration of comforting nostalgia: fall trees, cool breezes, pumpkin spice everything, baked apple pies, knitted sweaters, corn mazes and hayrides, time with family and the introduction of cheesy holiday-themed Hallmark movies that just make you feel good.

What I’m less fond of is the fear that is etched into us from the time we are born. The fear that tells us we are the only good place, the only safe place, the single best place. I guess I want to have my Red, White, and Blue slice of cake and eat it, too. I want to sing about how great and awesome we are, but I also want to feel the awesome robustness of many places around the world. I don’t want to live with the belief that the American Way is the Only Way.

So I suppose it is fitting that my latest life lesson came in the form of a haircut, the second time a haircut has taught me something this year.

I’ve been eyeing my roots for the last week. They’ve looked horrendous. I tried a box dye in desperation, which wound up giving me passable chocolate roots that blended into my dyed black hair. My cut had grown out almost three inches in two months. It was time. It was just time.

I knew the day would come, but it’d been a little fear in the back of my mind. Will they understand what I want? Will they do a nice job? Will I look stupid? It doesn’t matter how many times you travel — comfortable or not, there is a sense of foreignness, a realization of cultural nuances that are — and should be — there.

The thing is, you can tailor those nuances to be a benefit or a detriment. You can embrace them, have fun with them and go with the flow or you can be fearful and resistant. I had to be brave and choose the former.

So, appointment made, I went into the small, local salon with slight trepidation and confirmed my arrival at the front counter. I was led to my seat. I was asked what I wanted. I was welcomed. I became an active participant in the conversation. I laughed, I asked questions, answered questions, and made a friend. By the end of it all, I’d enjoyed a nearly two hour salon experience alongside lovely British ladies, our heads all wrapped up in caps like the 1950’s while we relaxed and chattered and did nothing of particular importance.

It was a human interaction and one that left me humbled. Not only do I now have an adorable black bob, but I have also conquered a social fear and can’t wait to go again.

If there’s one, single lesson I hope I can convey through my blog and Instagram, it’s that people are people, and the more you see of the world, the more you realize there is beautiful diversity but also a strong, common thread of humanity that unites us all.


Life has been quiet lately. I seem to vary between work-walk-sleep. I feel a little bad that I haven’t devoted this month to tons of travel, but I’ve frankly needed the downtime, and considering what September will entail, I’m sure I’ll look back and be glad I spent my days walking the ways of a Mancunian.

I’m learning that not everything in life has the movie credits ending. You know — the awesome conclusion, fireworks, and complete closure. There’s not always a pretty little bow to seal things up. This is a hard lesson for my brain to learn. It wants the crumbs swept up or it goes into shock — rage, deny; deny, rage.

So I’ve used August as a time for reflection. I feel like Thoreau, observing the changing of the leaves from my humble tree-lined view. As if you could kill time without injuring eternity. I really need to get a tattoo for that. I guess the truth is I’m slowly emerging from my cocoon, realizing that humans carry scars long after the wounds are healed. And it’s true: a scar can last a lifetime. There’s plenty of religious rhetoric about that, but I’ve found it’s far easier to quote something than to actually understand the depth of a person’s plight and realize what they are like, what they have struggled with, and — why, perhaps — their pain cannot be sealed up as nicely as an outsider opinion would like it to be.

Funny enough, I think I’m becoming the person I always wanted to be. More thoughtful, more reflective, and yes, a little more jaded.

It’s a quiet, chilly night, and I’m thinking of things that no longer exist. I’m reflective and full of memories, embracing a handful of emotions society wants us to think should only be discussed in hushed whispers. I’m sad, and I am allowed to be.

“It’s okay to be sad sometimes.”

Truer words have never been spoken.




His name was Yoda.

It was the spring of 2004 and, in what seems like a lifetime ago, I was a teen newlywed setting up my first home — a humble one bedroom in a sleepy city along the Columbia River. My then-step-sister’s cat, Grace, had two kittens but rejected one shortly after birth. As a result, Dory became a satisfyingly obese fathead, while her little brother starved. His eyes were wide and round, his ears slightly too large and pointy.

We named him Yoda.

When it became clear it was a failure-to-thrive situation, I took him from my parents’ house and down to my grandmother, the beautiful, beloved Cat Lady who knew how to save any life no matter how destitute or fragile. Grandma was my hero.

She fed him goat’s milk and nursed him until he was the wild, bouncing flame point Siamese he was born to be. It was then my grandpa, the burly man of steel, fell in love. Grandpa was a hard man. Tough and gritty, he’d never understood Gram’s penchant for cats and merely managed to tolerate her decades of cat ownership and neighborhood reputation for taking in any and all strays.

But with Yoda, he transformed.

Each time we went down to visit my grandparents and check in on little Yoda, Grandpa boasted of the kitten’s adventures. He laughed, telling stories about Yoda using a towel on the arm of the couch as his personal swing and motioned his arms all over the room, animatedly describing Yoda’s antics — hanging from curtains, bolting around the house, climbing onto Grandpa, and sleeping with him. Grandpa was smitten. I was delighted.

Even so, they already had a house of cats,  so once Gram had sufficiently brought the little guy back to health, I took him home as my own, though I still brought him over for Grandpa visits, which made them both very happy.

Yoda was beautiful and intelligent,  but he was a tortured animal. I have always believed his mother’s abandonment hit him hard, and he struggled to connect to humans because of it. Though I tried — so hard — I was never able to replicate the relationship he had with my grandfather, which only served as salt in the wound when Grandpa passed away two-and-a-half years later. Yoda never connected to a human the same way again.

That is … until he met Erin.

When business growth merited a move to the east coast, I realized Yoda was going to struggle to thrive again. I was exchanging my house for a condo, and he would no longer be able to roam the yard, roll in the grass, and be left to his own devices, which he had come to value to an extreme in the wake of Grandpa’s passing. I fretted, realizing he was going to be upset at having to share a small condo with my other cat and dog. I debated, not sure how I was going to make his life on the east coast a happy one.

Then my sister texted me.

“Erin is moving to Texas for grad school, and she wants an adult cat to keep her company. One that is independent and okay when she’s gone, but also a good companion. I thought of Yoda.”

It was an answer to a prayer I’m not quite sure I’d even yet uttered.

I thought about Erin — sweet, smart, capable Erin. Introverted but solid. That same sort of personality young Yoda had loved in my grandfather all those years ago: a person who could patiently love him while he did his thing.

Within a week, it was settled, and I prepared to give my Yoda up for adoption in the midst of listing my home and prepping for a 3,000 mile cross-country move.

The night before she picked him up, I spent nearly three hours with my boy. We curled up on the couch, and I brushed his long, white coat while telling him how much I loved him. I thought about my life and asked myself if I was selfish for giving him to Erin. I cried. I cried a lot.

But even as she lovingly secured him into her small SUV and drove away with him the next day, I knew I’d made the right decision. I thought of Grandpa, I thought of Yoda, I thought of Erin, and I let my boy go.

For the next five years, I watched Yoda transform. Thanks to social media, I was able to keep up with Yoda’s new life via Erin’s Facebook page and watched in wonder as my once-antisocial cat found a love he had not felt since Grandpa died. He sat with her while she knitted. He played with her. He responded to her. He loved her — I saw it in his eyes. And with every photo I looked at, I knew I’d made the right decision. For the first time in many years, Yoda had a person again. The right person. The person he’d needed all along, the one to love him the exact way he needed to be loved.

When I woke up this morning and found out that Yoda died, my heart was broken. Yoda was the first “baby” I had when I became an adult. He was such a weak little kitten that I always felt fiercely protective of him. He was an important connection to my grandpa, which only made my tether to the wide-eyed cat that much stronger. But while my grandfather was Yoda’s first love and I was his first mother, it was Erin who was his last love and meant-to-be mother.

Erin, thank you for loving our boy. Thank you for being his mom. Thank you for being his person. Yoda, baby, I love you. I hope you’re with Grandpa, swinging from the highest curtains and stealing all of the ponytail holders, my sweet baby.