What do you give up for your writing?


“Regardless of what the advertising campaigns may tell us, we can’t have it all. Sacrifice is not an option, or an anachronism; it’s a fact of life. We all cut off our own limbs to burn on some altar. The crucial thing is to choose an altar that’s worth it and a limb you can accept losing. To go consenting to the sacrifice.”

–Tana French, The Likeness (aka the greatest book I’ve ever read)

It wasn’t until I (finally) decided to get serious about writing that I fully understood there would have to be a decent amount of sacrifice involved. It’s not possible to hold down a full-time job and be a full-time writer without giving up something, and in most cases, many things. So I’m curious: what do you give up to write? What don’t you give up? My list below…

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Friday things


So I promised this blog would be about writing, reading, and traveling and I haven’t done a post on any of those things in a very long time. I’m sorry! All I can say is that I’ve been too busy writing, reading, and traveling to post about them. But I’m going to do better. I promise.

Here are three things I’ve learned this week:

1. The solace I find in favorite stories is like no other. How do people who don’t read books get through hard times? I’m going to write more on this later.

2. If you’re cooking something and it tastes kind of bland and you’re not sure what to do–add smoked paprika. It’s the most delicious spice I’ve ever come across and it makes everything taste better.

3.I cannot stop laughing over this. Laughter is good for you.

Above photo from my travel days of yore: Bratislava, Slovakia, taken by me February 2007.

On Grief


Grandma died two Fridays ago. Last week we had the wake and the funeral. And now we are back to ordinary life. Without her.

Aging and dying–is there anything more cruel, in this world? Grandma had 93 years on earth, almost 94. But it’s still not enough. I haven’t gotten married yet, and she would have liked to be there for that. I haven’t published my book yet, and that would have made her so proud. I haven’t had kids yet, and now they will have to come into a world without her.

People generally sugarcoat during eulogies, but everything we said about Grandma was true. She loved to read. She was a great storyteller. She loved us. She lived for us. We didn’t visit often enough. Or call often enough. And now we have to live with that.

The wake and funeral were not too bad. Then again, they never are. Flowers and old photographs and wine and endless amounts of pasta (at Italian funerals, anyway). There are hugs and smiles from people and relatives you don’t always get to see. Everyone who knew her and loved her, coming together. One last time.

The worst part is when the afterglow fades. It’s going on with life, without Grandma in it. It takes getting used to, mostly because we don’t want to get used to it.

The flowers are wilting, the lasagna is eaten, friends and family have all gone home. And I go back to normal, mostly. Soon I will stop waking up in the morning only to be hit with it, just as I’m regaining consciousness. Soon it will be just another loss to live with. Soon my eyes will stop prickling with tears when it really gets through to me, that I won’t get to talk to her again, at least not for a very long time.

They read this poem, at the funeral, by Henry Scott Holland. I hope it’s true.

Death is nothing at all

I have only slipped away into the next room

I am I and you are you

Whatever we were to each other

That we are still

Call me by my old familiar name

Speak to me in the easy way you always used

Put no difference into your tone

Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow

Laugh as we always laughed

At the little jokes we always enjoyed together

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me

Let my name be ever the household word that it always was

Let it be spoken without effort

Without the ghost of a shadow in it

Life means all that it ever meant

It is the same as it ever was

There is absolute unbroken continuity

What is death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind

Because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you for an interval

Somewhere very near

Just around the corner

All is well.

Above: me, my sister, and Grandma, circa 1987.

On Opening Lines (from MY favorite books)


I love those posts where you have to guess the opening lines of classic novels. I’m usually pretty good at it, despite the fact that I’m actually not a huge classics person.

So when trying to figure out the perfect sentence to start my own novel (after having written most of it), I compiled my own list of opening lines from my favorite novels. It’s quite eclectic: everything from classics to children’s to YA to the probably obscure. If you can get them all, let me know! That means you have shockingly similar taste to me, and we should be friends.

Here you go! You can click through to the answers below!

1. Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest.

2. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

3. Some nights, if I’m sleeping on my own, I still dream about Whitethorn House.

4. Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.

5. The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning.

6. Dear friend, I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have.

7. First the colors.

8. Picture a summer stolen whole from some coming-of-age film set in small-town 1950s.

9. Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.

10. It’s hard being left behind.

11. It was a dark and stormy night.

12. Hapscomb’s Texaco sat on Number 93 just north of Arnette, a pissant four-street burg about 110 miles from Houston.

Image found here

Answers: 12. 3. 4. (obviously) 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12.