Monday, December 18, 2017

The Power of the Pen

From Kate's Writing Crate...

          As a writer, I love pens. I have two favorite brands, but I’m open to trying new ones.

          I’m always looking for light-weight, fast-writing pens. My thoughts come to me more quickly than I can write them down so I don’t need a heavy pen that slows me down.

It also helps if the pens are nice to look at as I often stare at my writing hand while I wait for inspiration.

Recently, I discovered a set of six ballpoint pens, sold in two-packs. They range in color from white to pinks to blue to purples. But that isn’t the only reason I like them. Each one has a message on the barrel.

When I look down and see FIERCE AND FABULOUS or BADASS AND BRILLIANT or RISK TAKER, I’m motivated to write fearlessly. MAKE IT EPIC, UNSTOPPABLE, and GET IT DONE work well at deadline.

They make me feel more powerful as I write with them.

They also make great gifts. A friend just said to me that she wants to be a Badass in 2018. Well now I have the perfect gift for her as well as some of my other friends. Who doesn’t want to be a Risk Taker and Unstoppable?

Here’s to a fierce and fabulous New Year!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Bonus Post: Perfect Gift for a Writer

From Kate's Writing Crate...

          It’s the gift-giving time of year—so what to buy for the person who has everything, or an office gift, or something for a writer? How about a wall clock? I discovered some fun ones online.

          If you know a dancer, there’s a clock that says only “and 5 6 7 8.” For those who enjoy adult beverages, a clock with all 5s as it’s 5 o’clock somewhere. For musicians, a clock with various notes that equal the usual numbers. Also, a Dr. Who spiral of numbers clock for Sci-Fi fans.

          There’s a Who Cares, I’m Retired clock and a Whatever, I’m Late Anyway clock both with all the numbers in a pile at the bottom of the face of the clock; ones with math equations instead of numbers; and one that has the word Now in every spot instead of numbers.

For writers, the clock has no numbers just “write now” across the face. Of course, that’s my favorite. Genius! 

You name it, there seems to be a clock perfect for everyone. Gift shopping done!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Be a Fearless Writing Warrior

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

Fearless Writing in action: Don’t write what you know. Write what you love.

According to William Kenower, author of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence, “Love is the foundation on which every successful writing career is built.” (page 43)

I can attest to this. I love my over-15-year-long writing career.

Every month for two magazines and their Facebook pages, I write at least five essays and every topic is one I love. While the word counts run from 450-1,000, I can write them on demand simply because I choose topics I love. Words just flow out onto the page. When the words stop, then I rewrite, revise, edit, and polish until I’m happy with the essay and it meets the word count. This doesn’t even feel like work, but it does take a lot of time.

I also write several articles monthly. While I don’t always get to choose the topics, I love writing these articles so readers discover something new or are entertained, or, hopefully, both. In truth, this feels more like work, but it’s work I love so I count myself lucky.

Added to that, I’ve spent over five years writing weekly posts for this blog. It’s never felt like work because I’m writing about writing—a topic I love.

In another example, best-selling author Louise Penny notes she had spent five years writing a book she thought she should write. Frustrated, she looked at her nightstand and saw only murder mysteries, which she loved, and realized she was writing the wrong book.

Now writing a book a year, she is thirteen books into her Inspector Gamache series. She has won five Agatha Awards and the loyalty of legions of fans as well—including me.

Write what you love and you will never be afraid of a blank page.

You’ll also be a Fearless Writing Warrior.

Next post will be on January 1, 2018.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Fearless Writing Warrior Moves to Monthly Posts

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

As I wrote last week: I’m at a crossroad. Do I continue to encourage others to write even though Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence by William Kenower is the best book on writing/being a writer I’ve ever read? (Frankly, if you want to be a writer read that book. If it doesn’t help you write I honestly don’t know what will.) Do I stop writing the blog and concentrate on my writing projects that have been planned, but now, motivated by Fearless Writing, I’m raring to complete and generate income? Or do I also write the blog as a Fearless Writing Warrior (FWW) as Cheryl now calls us?

I have decided to continue writing the blog as a Fearless Writing Warrior. I am changing this blog to a once a month post as I have a lot of writing to do for my income-generating projects.

Please check in on the first Monday of each month to see fearless writing in action.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Becoming a Fearless Writing Warrior

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          Cheryl and I started this blog to encourage others too scared or scarred to write. We shared thoughts on every aspect of writing we knew from experience: remembrances as newbies and as current writer/author and writer/editor to show readers they could have writing careers, too.

          I am proud of our posts. When we started, we had long lists of topics which we exhausted. However, the pressure of a weekly blog squeezed thoughts out of us so we didn’t disappoint our readers. Many of those are my favorite posts.

I wasn’t sure when or if I would run out of topics so reaching the fifth anniversary was fun and surprising. I thought I could keep going, but then I read Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence by William Kenower.

Frankly, if you want to be a writer read that book. If it doesn’t help you write I honestly don’t know what will.

So I’m at a crossroad. Do I continue to encourage others to write even though Fearless Writing is the best book on writing/being a writer I’ve ever read? Do I stop writing the blog and concentrate on my writing projects that have been planned, but now, motivated by Fearless Writing, I’m raring to complete and generate income? Or do I also write the blog as a Fearless Writing Warrior (FWW) as Cheryl now calls us?

The writing advice that we all first learn—show, don’t tell—makes me think I have told you about Fearless Writing, but I haven’t shown you.

I’m going to give some thought to changing the focus of this blog to Fearless Writing Warrior. I’ll let you know what I've decided next week.

In the meantime, read William Kenower’s book Fearless Writing and become a Fearless Writing Warrior, too.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Reads for Writers: Fearless Writing by William Kenower 2nd Review

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

As a reader, I always love finding books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when the authors also provide masterclasses within their books.
          Masterclasses take place when performance artists and musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don’t generally have this option, but I have found some books to be masterclasses for characters, backstories, plots, settings, voice and/or creativity.

          In a previous blog, I explained how I decided whether a book was worth a review. First, I mark up a book as I read it. I underline. I score paragraphs. I write notes. And if there is an excellent point made, I dog ear the bottom corner of that page.

          If there are marks, notes, or dog-eared corners on 25%-30% of the pages, the book gets a good review; more than 30%, a great review.

In the two decades I have been reviewing books, I never hit 50%. I never expected to as that’s an almost impossibly high bar. Then I read Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence by William Kenower which came in at near 100%.

I felt a bit ridiculous dog earing page after page after page, but Kenower’s truths, descriptions, points, and advice were worth every mark, note, and folded corner.

Quite simply, this book is the Masterclass for writing.

Kenower recommends that readers start with chapter 1 “A Writer’s Worst Fear”  and chapter 2 “The Flow”  then choose which chapters interest them. I think beginning writers should follow his direction, but if you are a more experienced writer you might want to start with either chapter 10 “Finding Time to Write Or Why Procrastination Makes Sense” or chapter 13 “Don’t Fear the Cliché Or Relax—You’re an Original”  as these are two big fears of most writers. Once read, fearless writing can begin.

From my marks, notes, and dog-eared corners, I found every chapter important. I’ve read chapters 1-8 twice and chapters 9-18 three times. I feel like reading them all until they are a part of my DNA.

I’m a fast reader, but I had to put Fearless Writing down to give myself time to absorb what the author was sharing. It’s his story, but it’s also a universal one for every writer filled with insights and truths.

I recognized many of the truths Kenower discussed because I’ve experienced them too, but sometimes so briefly I hadn’t realized until he named them. But even more important were the truths I hadn’t thought about—just accepted—without realizing some, like discomfort and procrastination, have their own purposes. (Read chapter 8 “Creative Discomfort Or How to Love What You Thought You Hated” and chapter 10 “Finding Time to Write Or Why Procrastination Makes Sense” respectively.)

The other chapters are: “Feel First,” “Write What You Love,” “Accuracy,” “Critiques and Workshopping,” “The Intentional Arc,” “Writing is Listening,” “How Thought Works,” “Fearless Marketing,” “The Talent Myth,” “Fear of Failure,” “Evidence,” “Becoming the Author of Your Life,” and “A Good Ending.”

I am so grateful and excited that William Kenower wrote this book. It is life-altering.

Here are just a few insights from Fearless Writing:

“…the only two questions a writer should ask are “What do I want to say?” and “Have I said it?” If you are asking anything else, you’re not writing—you’re just worrying. (page 53)

“…You must embrace the reality that your curiosity is curious enough, your perceptions are perceptive enough, your humor is humorous enough. Get comfortable with that, and you will always know what you most want to say—and if you have said it.” (pp. 70-71)

“,,, There is a great distinction between an idea as it appears in my imagination and what that idea becomes on the page…I must trade in that initial excitement for the patient pleasure of discovery.” (page 106)

“How interested I am in the questions I ask my imagination determines the speed and power of the answer I receive. I must remind myself of this often…” (page 107)

“…when you accept the confidence you already possess and understand that writing’s immediate payoff is the pleasure of finding the next sentence, and then the next, you will discover that you have plenty of time to write…” (page 127)

“…The Flow is the experience of pointing your car toward something you love and are authentically curious about, and then riding the momentum of thought that ensues…” (page 135)

“…Writing, after all, is such an intuitive business. Writing is all about knowing what has no evidence for being known. Writing is all about following a path only you can perceive, that is felt and not seen…” (page 196)

“…If I am deliberate with the stories I tell myself away from the desk, I become the author of my day-to-day experience. Now life is a story I am telling rather than one I have been made to read.” (page 219)

          I hope all writers read this book so they can become not only authors, but the authors of their own lives.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Reads for Writers: Fearless Writing by William Kenower (A book all writers need to read)

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          On September 18, 2017, I listed about 80 favorite books. Then on October 2, 2017, I picked the one book I would recommend to all writers—The War of Art by Steven Pressfield—and I still recommend it highly, but I just read Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence by William Kenower and now this is the book I’d first recommend to all writers.

          As Garth Stein notes on the cover of this book, “This isn’t a ‘how-to’ book about writing. It’s a book about how to be a writer.”

And that is the truth. I recommend all writers rush out and buy it or get it through their local libraries.

In the Introduction, the author recommends chapters one and two should be read in order then readers can choose which chapter appeals to them next. They all appealed to me, especially Chapter 13 “Don’t Fear the Cliché Or Relax—You’re an Original” and Chapter 10 “Finding Time to Write Or Why Procrastination Makes Sense.” I’m not ready to go on a book tour yet, but Chapter 12 “Fearless Marketing Or How to do Your Job and No One Else’s” has eased my mind for when I need to sell my book.

I have only just finished reading the book. Without reservation, I think it’s the best book for writers that I have ever read and I have reads hundreds and hundreds since I decided I wanted to be a writer, while working for national book review magazine for small publishers, and reviewing books for other magazines as well as on this blog. Lots of books do not make the cut to be reviewed, but Fearless Writing deserves reviews, honors, and awards. It is on top of my must-read book list now.

Fearless Writing is the Masterclass for me.

I cannot do justice to this book by writing a review in a few hours as I just finished it. However, I wanted to get the word out immediately that Fearless Writing should be in every writer’s office and personal library.

I will write a proper review next week. In fact, I revere Fearless Writing so much I may write three or four.

Cheryl just finished reading Chapter 10. She emailed me to say it took her breath away. 

I think that is a terrific review for this book.

See what you think.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Writing Quotes 7

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

Quotes that inspire me:

Books take on a life of their own and they find their own destiny. That is the sorcery of literature.
                             --Elena Poniatowska

The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new.
                             --Samuel Johnson

Every piece of writing you enjoy contains a lesson for your own writing.
                             --Kim Stafford

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say.
                             --Sharon O’Brien

The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.
                             --Edwin Schlossberg

Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.
                             --E. B. White

Putting words together in a way which is unique, to me, is something I still think is one of the most thrilling things that one can do in one’s life.
                             --Seymour Simon

Monday, October 16, 2017

My Screenplay Update

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I’ve had a full week preparing for deadline for the magazines, preparing for company, entertaining company, and welcoming a new puppy. I was so busy, I didn’t even think of this week’s post until 11:04 PM Sunday. (With a midnight deadline looming, I don’t have time to waste.)

          I also had a huge week working on my screenplay. I was inspired by the TV show This is Us when Sly Stallone was encouraging one of the characters, coincidently named Kate, to follow her dream to become a singer even though she was in her late 30s. He told her not to listen to other people who said she wouldn’t make it. Nobody believed that he could write the screenplay for Rocky in three days, but he did.

          I had never heard that before. He wrote a great screenplay in three days. I’m guessing he had been thinking about it for some time, but he wrote it in only three days.

          I’m not shooting to write mine in three days, but I want it done by the end of this year. So I worked on it among all the other things I had to accomplish this week.

          Along the way, I came up with an excellent tangent project that should make the screenplay a more enticing project.

          I wrote all this down in my monthly notebook. I know I harp on this, but filling a notebook a month enriches my writing. The empty space allows my thoughts to wander and wonder—and come up with brilliant and creative ideas.

          You meet your muse on the page. I’m not the first to say that, but it’s the truth.

          If you are serious about being a writer, you have to write. If you don’t have assignments or a book or other project that you are working on diligently, then pick up a notebook and fill it in a month. See what you have to say. You will be pleased and surprised as well as following your dream.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Writing Vehicles 2

From Kate’s Writing Crate…   
          Writing careers go in all different directions. There is no straight line, only individual paths.

          I always wanted to be an author, but the first professional writing offer I received was intern at a magazine. I had never considered writing articles, essays, columns, and book reviews, yet I learned on the job and have been published regularly since then. I worked my way up to editor, another job I had never considered, but found I had a talent and a love for it. I started blogging, too. Now I’m working on a non-fiction book—I tried writing a novel and failed spectacularly—and I’m also working on a screenplay.

          Recently, I had lunch with a friend who is the author of 16 books. She was an early reader who knew she was going to write books. She writes young adult novels now although her first love was children’s books.

For the latest issue of one magazine, I interviewed an author of three historical novels. I learned that she was a history major in college. She started out as a playwright then turned one of her seven plays into a screenplay. While writing those projects, she had an idea for a novel and started that, too. Several of her plays were produced. Her screenplay garnered some attention, but novels won out in the end.

Bestselling author Louise Penny was a respected journalist who started to write a non-fiction book. Five frustrating years later, she switched to the mystery genre. Her award-winning Inspector Gamache series is 13 books and counting.

Until you try writing a certain format, you won’t know if it’s a good vehicle for you. Try writing what appeals to you, then branch out. Find what works for you. Hone in on those vehicles. See where they take you. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Favorite Book Recommendation for Writers

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

(Please see posts dated October 30, 2017 and November 6, 2017 as I have updated my recommendation. I still love The War of Art, but if I can only pick one, it would be Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence by William Kenower)

          I recommended over 80 books or series in my post on September 18, 2017. Some of the questions I answered wanted only one book listed, but I shared two or three or more because there are so many excellent books to read.

          When I talked to a new writer recently, she asked me to recommend the best book to get her started on either her children’s book or her non-fiction book. Pinned down, I still couldn’t recommend one book. I told her The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Battles by Steven Pressfield (excellent for writers at every level) and Writing Down the Bones (excellent for new writers) by Natalie Goldberg.

          She told me she could only afford to buy one so I had to choose. I said The War of Art because overcoming resistance is the most difficult part of any project. It applies to writing and all creative projects especially because society does not usually support them so there are more battles to fight.

This book is not a step-by-step writing instruction manual. It’s a kick-you-in-the-pants, there-are-no-excuses-not-to-write book. (One note: read page 165 first. If I had been the editor of this book, “The Artist’s Life” would have been on page 1. It’s the most important thing to remember as you create and write.)

As I have written in other posts, I have three copies: one by my desk where I work, one in my informal writing spot, and one in the car so I’m motivated to write every moment especially if I am early for an appointment, if my appointment person is running late, or, sadly, if the car breaks down.

Time is in short supply for writers so put every moment you can to good use. Carry a pen and a notebook or 3 x 5 cards with you at all times. Again I don’t limit myself to one. I carry three or four pens in my purse and at least two in the car. I have a notebook in my purse and another in the car.

If you want to write, then be ready to jot down ideas and observations at any moment, but you also have to put in the hours and hours to hone your craft and find your voice. Inspiration is great, but it’s best to meet your muse on the page as your write regularly.

Getting the words down on paper or screen is was it takes to be published. Rewrites will take care of mistakes so don’t worry about them until later. Write whenever and wherever you can.

Once you are a professional writer, you need to meet deadlines so you still need to be motivated by a kick in the pants. Open The War of Art to any page and you will be back to writing after reading a few pages—sometimes only one!

Writing profusely and regularly is what it takes to become an author or successful in any writing career.

Start now!

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Writer's Voice & Vehicle

From Kate’s Writing Crate…  
Writers need two big things to succeed—a voice and a vehicle.

You will find your voice by writing often. There is no other way. Some people find it earlier than others, but you have to put in the time and effort to see what you have to say and how you say it—not what you think other people want to hear. Believe in yourself!

Vehicles can only be chosen by trial and error. Just because you want to write a novel or a play doesn’t mean you can, but you have to try to find out. Take classes. Read writing books. Whatever it takes to get you writing what you want. Be prepared, you may succeed or fail. Be open, another type of writing might be your vehicle—and you may have more than one.

Filling a notebook a month is a great way to find your voice and your vehicle. Look back and see what ideas you have for projects? Are you good at capturing details? Creating characters? Dialogue? Plotting? Organization? Research? Are you funny? Good at turning a phrase? Do you like interviewing people and working with quotes?

Try writing a short story, essay, article, or book review. As shorter vehicles, you can assess quickly if any of them feels right for you.

Feeling ambitious? Go for a novel, play, screenplay, or non-fiction book. This is all about you so write what you want.

Do not throw away anything you write. It might not appeal to you now, but maybe it will later. You never know.

          In the end, of course, writers need more than just voices and vehicles. They also need talent, craft, good grammar, and good fortune. However, having a strong, unique voice in a perfectly-suited vehicle will take you a long way towards success.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Answers to Questions About Favorite Books

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

           Last week I had just come across a delightful book, a perfect gift for a reader or a writer, entitled I’d Rather Be Reading: A Library of Art for Book Lovers by Guinevere de la Mare.

As I noted, the artwork is mostly fun and colorful. The accompanying text consists of clever slogans, book-related poetry, and essays including “Cheating” by Ann Patchett, which included a list of interview questions about her favorite books. Her essay first appeared on her blog “Musings” which appears on the Parnassus Books web site, her bookstore. To see Ann Patchett’s answers, you will need to visit her blog or buy this book.

Here are my answers although I didn’t confine myself to the rules and I added a list of my favorite books about writers and writing as this blog is about writing. Since many of my favorite books were included in other questions, listing 25 more at the end was fun. I reviewed many of these books under Reads for Writers, Writing Book Recommendations, essays, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and some by author if you want more information.

Name your 25 favorite books about writers and writing.

(Please see posts dated October 30, 2017 and November 6, 2017 as Fearless Writing by William Kenower belongs at the top of this list.)

A New Kind of Country by Dorothy Gilman

Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing by XJ Kennedy and Dana Gioia

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well by Paula LaRocque (Also, Championship Writing)

The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase by Mark Forsyth

Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence by William Kenower (Also, Writing Within Yourself—An Author’s Companion)

For Writers Only: Inspiring Thoughts on the Exquisite Pain and Heady Joy of the Writing Life, From Great Practitioners by Sophy Burnham

Handling the Truth: On Writing Memoirs by Beth Kephart

Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories That Resonate by Brian McDonald (Also The Golden Theme)

The Little Black Book of Writers’ Wisdom edited by Steven D. Price

My Writer’s Life by Ellen Gilchrist

On Conan Doyle by Michael Dirda

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron

Six Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure edited by Larry Smith, founder of Smith Magazine

The Soul of Creative Writing by Richard Goodman

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield  (Read page 165 first.)

The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling by Charles Johnson

Winter: Notes from Montana by Rick Bass

The Writer’s Devotional by Amy Peters

The Writer’s Home Companion by Joan Bolker, Ed.D.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

Zen and the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury


Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus

The Synonym Finder by J. I. Rodale

(You should already own The Elements of Style by Strunk & White)

What are you reading now?

I read multiple books at a time. Right now: The Long Way Home by Louise Penny (10th book in murder mystery series); Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld; Books for Living: Some Thoughts on Reading, Reflecting, and Embracing Life by Will Schwalbe; and born bright: a young girl’s journey from nothing to something in america by c. nicole mason. Still working on summer reading list, Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes by Michael Sims; Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, and Screen by Robert McKee; and Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin.

What was your favorite children’s book? Why?

I can’t pick just one. Harold and the Purple Crayon (and all the Harold books) by Crockett Johnson—adventures and solutions all through a writing instrument, great book for future writers; The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney—a tight-knit family faces adversity cheerfully as well as with the help of a German shepherd which is why I now have two of my own; the 199-page novel A Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith (NOT the children’s picture book)—always loved dogs and this has the happiest ending ever for a dog lover; and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster—such a clever use of language as well as teaching life lessons. None were new when I first read them. They are classics.

What book do you most often reread? Why?

I reread these four books the most: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig—made me consider how I see the world. Each time I reread it I reconsider how I see the world. (Also, the sequel Lila.); Running From Safety by Richard Bach—trust yourself! Be who you were meant to be; Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion selected and edited by Diane K. Osbon—discusses many of the myths, ideas, and beliefs in the world and what we have in common and what we can learn; and all of Robert Fulghum’s humorous and thoughtful essays about life—they make me laugh and cry, especially It Was on Fire When I Lay Down On It (pp. 9-15), Uh Oh, Maybe, Maybe Not, and True Love: Stories Told To and By the Author. Having a bad day? Read one of Fulghum’s books.

What book would you want with you on a desert island? Why?

Blue Pastures by Mary Oliver. I can remember the plots of my favorite books so I could replay them in my mind. Mary Oliver’s prose and poetry would make me think and remember and write—because I wouldn’t be on a desert island without notebooks and pens! I would also want the complete works of Henry David Thoreau as I would be without society.

What book would you recommend to a friend? Why?

It depends on the friend. I guess he/she would have to choose one from all that I have listed in the other questions, especially the next one.

What is your favorite biography? Why?

I read more memoirs than biographies. My favorite would be Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell about her best friend, Caroline Knapp, who died at 42. Both writers, Caldwell captures the essence of friendship and loss so beautifully I’m tearing up as I write this. I recommend it to everyone.

What is your favorite holiday book? Why?

The Sweet Smell of Christmas (a scented storybook) by Patrica M. Scarry. More than anything else, aromas bring memories rushing back. This story about a little bear is delightful as is the hot chocolate, peppermint, and orange scents (and more) in the book which I first read as a child. I’m glad it’s still in print as the scratch and sniff patches don’t last as long as the book.

What is your favorite summer read? Why?

The Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter. It was my grandmother’s favorite. I read her copy and remember the discussions we had about the characters and the spring and summer wilderness settings as my grandmother was a botanist.  

What is your favorite mystery? Why?

Almost any book by Agatha Christie as well as the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny who has won five Agatha awards. They both have deep insights into how humans think and why they commit murder—that frightens me more than the actual mystery.

What book did you think made a better movie than it did a book? Why?

Hasn’t happened yet for me.

What book most influenced your life? Why?

Many have influenced me in different and important ways—so the four I listed under books I reread for a start.
Most important was Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg as it started me on the path to my writing/editing career with her guideline to fill a spiral notebook every month without fail. I wrote regularly and met the deadline—best training for a writer. When I became an intern on staff at the magazines where I’m now the editor, I was ready to write articles on short deadlines as I had no fear of a blank page.

What is your favorite classic?

Again, can’t pick just one. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and the Emily series by L. M. Montgomery (Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily’s Quest) all about a young girl who wants to be a writer.

What is your favorite coffee-table book?

Our Home, Too by Schim Schimmel. I love his artwork. Also, The Life & Love of Dogs by Lewis Blackwell given to me by my dad, a fellow German shepherd owner, and one every dog owner will love.

Name your 25 favorite books on top of the ones listed above.


At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson

Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy (unforgettable)

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and every other book written by Malcolm Gladwell

Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day and every other book written by Diane Ackerman

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brian by Betty Edwards (Also, What Really Matters? with Tony Schwartz)

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett



The I-Team series by Pamela Clare

The Last Enemy by Pauline Baird Jones (thriller) (Also, The Spy Who Kissed Me—funny)

Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas


The Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

The In Death series by JD Robb  (PLEASE NOTE: Adult themes & graphic violence)

(Don’t forget The Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny from my answers above.)


Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie (Also, Fast Women)

Dying to Please by Linda Howard

The Wallflower series by Lisa Kleypas


The Dresden series by Jim Butcher

The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs


Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

The Quiet Center: Women Reflecting on Life’s Passages from the Pages of Victoria Magazine, Katherine Ball Ross, Editor

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (includes “The Getaway Car” an essay about how the author became a writer) by Ann Patchett. (The title refers to one essay. It is not the theme of the essays.)

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed


Poems by Billy Collins

Poems by Mary Oliver

Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World by Jane Hirshfield


Confessions of a Closet Master Baker: A Memoir—One Woman's Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado. While the original title seems more true to the author's outlook, it's been repackaged as My Life from Scratch: A Sweet Journey of Starting Over One Cake at a Time. Take note: the recipes cover more than cakes and the text tells wonderful stories from her childhood and life with her mother and her sister, actress Sandra Bullock.