You’re Not Writing a Novel, You’re Building a House

Someone is going to live there. They’re going to open the front cover seeking a warm place to curl up for the night. And, like any homeowner, they’re going to trust that there aren’t gaping holes in the basement waiting to spew roaches and sewage all over their mother’s fine china. The house can’t collapse halfway through the night. This is your job.

terrifying-mass-of-wires

Oh Sweet Mother of Secure Foundations, is this fiery bundle of wires really beneath my house?

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How to Write a Character Sketch

how-to-write-a-character-sketchI always start novels with a character, not a setting or moment or storyline. My writing process is pretty much just me following figments of my imagination around their worlds and keeping track of the shenanigans they get into. I let myself see what they see, and they’re not always on earth. “Are you sure you’re looking at a gigantic cylindrical tube?” I ask my new character, “And it has gelatinous organic material growing from the sides?”

“Yeah, write this down,” he says, “this is good. I think this is what beds look like in this world.” He licks the tube. I wince but write it down. My characters do whatever the heck they want (in the first draft anyway).

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I got a little job!

I am now a content writer for Cambridge.com! You may be thinking, “what’s an Ohioan doing writing about Cambridge? She hasn’t even lived there long enough to watch the leaves change yet!”

Well, my friend, I write about events and attractions so I’m able to come at everything with the mindset of a giddy tourist! It’s been quite fun so far. Check out my article on an illuminated manuscript at the Houghton Library! 

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P and historiated U with personifications of Ecclesia and Synagoga marking the Canon Leaf from the Noyon Missal Noyon, France, 1225–50 Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Typ 120, f. 4r

Gentle Thought For The Day

play ground

The world could be so gentle if we let it.

Today a woman beside me on the train spent our twenty minute ride professionally contouring her face. I spent the time watching her. I was transfixed. She knew it too. She kept smiling at me as she whipped out a never-ending stream of lipstick tubes from her handbag.

 (Okay, they weren’t all lipstick. But I don’t know anything about makeup so this is my only comparison). There were long, skinny tubes and squattier ones with twisty ends. There were brown tubes and tan tubes and tubes with brushes on the end. Tubes with powder that puffed into the air and floated gracefully into her pores. Tubes with matte cream and shiny balms. She was in complete control of everything. It was magical.

 If you ever wander out into a city park or coffee shop, you’re bound to come across artists painting the skyline, or pedestrians, or some epic battle from inside their mind. This lady was the same. She turned her head this way and that as she studied her pocket mirror, adding lines and taking them away, always a little cleaner than before. She slapped on a bottom layer that looked like absolute chaos to me, and then she stroked and tamed it into a subtle balance of shadow and light. She was an artist. And she paints backwards, using only the grimy mirror in her hand as guidance.

 Now I don’t know her; we didn’t speak. But I am a quiet writer and I can recognize an artist in her element. In that moment, on the train, she wasn’t doing it for anybody’s appreciation but her own (and maybe mine, I guess. Since I was watching so intently). She was putting on her game face. If a man got up in the morning and spent two and a half hours crafting an intricate portrait in the street using only chalk, you might question his location or his medium, but ultimately, the transient nature of his art would heighten its beauty. You would never tell him he was wasting his time. (You also wouldn’t turn the corner and berate the remaining sidewalk for being lazy and plain).

 For me, makeup isn’t something I really enjoy that much. I couldn’t contour my face if you gave me four hours and an instruction manual, let alone a twenty-minute train ride. I probably wouldn’t even want to. But you know what I do enjoy? Women supporting women.

 You go, fierce train lady. You rock those cheekbones.