This morning, my husband told me that if I wrote 2,000 words by 7:00 PM, he’d get up early with the baby tomorrow morning.

I finished four hours early.

What’s your best incentive?



Hope in the form of Shiver

So here’s the thing: I love Maggie Stiefvater.

My journey with Maggie Stiefvater began with The Scorpio Races which I picked up honestly because I thought the idea of man-eating horses was absurd. I was not predisposed to like that book and began reading it with a sort of detached amusement. “Hunger Games with horses,” I remember smugly telling my husband. After the first three chapters, I was hooked and humbled. Her style was simultaneously grandiose and simple. The island was magical. The characters were deep and identifiable and three dimensional. It was really the writing that got me- as if high fantasy had met reality.


I scanned the bookshelves the next time I was at the library and found out she’d written fairy books. No dice there- fairies freak me out. Also saw her werewolf books- Shiver and the like. I actually reached out to them, but I just couldn’t bring myself to actually pick them up. Werewolves aren’t really my thing either.

So I read The Raven Boys and fell in love all over again. She took the timeless style from The Scorpio Races and modernized it. Everything felt ancient and worn but fresh and modern. The characters were… exciting. Not a single stock character among them. Not. A. One. They were enticing and perfect and flawed and dangerous. I sighed and waited for the sequel.

dream raven

After reading The Dream Thieves I was convinced: Maggie Stiefvater is a writing goddess. She is brilliant and innovative and oh-so-deep. Each sentence is crafted, honed, and tested. Each plot is an intricate spiderweb I’ve never seen before. Each book is steeped in magic. There is no way I could ever write like her.

So I went back to the library and picked up Shiver. Despite my attitude about werewolves, I needed a Stiefvater fix. What I got was way, way better: hope.

You see, Shiver is a pretty good book. That’s it- just a pretty good book. The characters are fine, the plot is okay, the setting is alright. The writing serves the story well but doesn’t blow me out of the water. I’ll probably read the other two books but I’m not rushing out to get them. And it was written by the almighty Maggie Stiefvater. It was written before she wrote The Scorpio Races and before she wrote The Raven Boys. Which means one all-important thing: Maggie Stiefvater was not born a writing goddess. She became one.

And if she can do it, maybe I can too.

And maybe you can.

So go- write. And I’ll write too. Promise.

Update: I’m writing a new book- about 12,000 words into it. I love it so much but it’s hard to keep going with daily grind stuff happening. Speaking of the daily grind…

Here’s your cute picture:


Congrats and quick update

My book, Yellow Bike, is set in the real life towns of Westfield NY and Chautauqua NY, and Smithsonian magazine just named Chautauqua the #1 small town in America! Congratulations Chautauqua!

So sorry it seems like I’ve been absent. Long story short, I’ve shelved the beard book for now and am starting a new, top-secret, super-awesome book. Don’t worry, it won’t be top-secret for long. I’m flirting with an outline (I know, it’s kind of a blow to my Pantser pride) and loving it. It’s just so much more conducive to my new schedule which involves writing during Google’s naps. Speaking of Google, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a picture, so here you go!

Selfie smile!

Selfie smile!

HE WON!!!!!!!!!!

HE WON!!! Kent Knappenberger, my high school music teacher and friend, won the first-ever Music Educators’ Grammy Award. He is officially the best music teacher in the country.

Praise the Lord!

At a loss for words, so I’ll refer you to the ones I wrote when he was going from the quarterfinals to the semi-finals.

How did Kent Knappenberger make a measurable difference in my life? Ask my students.
I’m an actor, writer, and former student of Kent Knappenberger, and for as long as I can remember, my goal has been “to be the Mr. K of Theatre.” I thought I would follow his path: I would enter a tiny school and, through hard work and a drive for excellence, change its identity from victim to victor. I would take working-class farm kids and teach them that they are valued and they are valuable. Like many of my friends in Kent Knappenberger’s music program, they would be the first in their families to go to college, the few of their friends who don’t do drugs, the rare teenagers who embrace their differences as well as those of their classmates. And then I realized that inner-city kids need to learn the same lessons. The lessons I learned from Kent Knappenberger- that we are all unique and have valuable gifts, that lofty goals inspire hard work, that hard work breeds success and, most importantly, that WE HAVE STANDARDS- are universal. I use them in an inner-city setting every day, as I teach urban at-risk youth to embody the words of Shakespeare. If you ask my students, they will tell you: We have Standards. I learned that, and much more, from Kent Knappenberger.

This man is the reason I sing Green Finch and Linnet Bird to calm my baby. He’s the reason that I wrote Yellow Bike. He’s the reason I had some amazing harp played at my wedding. He and his wife have changed the small community where I grew up, and I just can’t get enough of people recognizing that.

Congratulations, Kent Knappenberger. You are a champion.

Kent Knappenberger is so close to getting a Grammy! Watch his students perform!

Last night my high school music teacher and inspiration for Yellow Bike, became a finalist for the first-ever Music Educator Grammy Award. He’s in the top 10 out of 30,000 entries! And Kent Knappenberger has shaped and changed my life in so many ways. (I’ve written a little about it here and here if you want to read some) One of the huge ways that Kent has changed me is that Robin, my main character in Yellow Bike, is an incredible folk musician, under the direction of Mr. Knappenberger (or Mr. K, as his students call him). She’s part of a group called “The McClurg Street String Band,” which is a real folk ensemble made of high school students in the tiny town of Westfield, NY. Keep in mind, this high school graduates classes of 65 people. Kindergarten through 12th grade are all in the same building. But amazing music that comes out of this itty-bitty school, thanks to Mr. Kent Knappenberger. See the fantastic community that Robin comes from!

This video is the girls chorus, the Firecrackers, and the McClurg Street String Band itself! (skip to 6:24 to go right to the McClurg Street String band) Remember: these are high schoolers. I was so blessed to part of this program.

This video is the select choir, the Westwinds, and the guys’ chorus, the Ape-Men. Any guy who wants to be part of Ape-Men is welcome to join. (skip to 6:57 to go right to the Ape-Men). And speaking of Ape-Men, it’s too bad they’re not throwing bananas at the audience in this clip, because they’ve been known to do that.

And this video is the 120-voice, anybody-can-join chorus performing Rock Lobster by the B-52′s. Not particularly challenging, but a WHOLE LOTTA FUN! (and it’s being accompanied by students, too) If you want to see them perform more challenging stuff, go here. And for some holiday music, go here. PS- In the youtube links, the guys’ suits are bought and owned by the music department, because many of the guys in the community don’t own one and Mr. K wants to show them what it feels like to dress up and perform. Because it’s special- it’s a privilege.

And for a little more impressive fun: here’s the handbell ensemble. And seriously, this is one to watch:

Winning vs. Succeeding

It is with a heavy heart that I announce that I will not win Nanowrimo this year.

This was a huge decision and I did not make it lightly. After all, I could have done it. I’ve pulled myself out of worse word deficits than this one.

And it’s not the word “losing” that gets me. Winning and losing don’t usually matter to me. I’m not a competitive person, I’m a successful person.

In the past, Nanowrimo has resulted in two very successful first drafts. Each was almost exactly 50,000 words, each was a complete story, and each novel was a Nanowrimo “winner.” The root of my apprehension about “losing” Nanowrimo was not that it’s called “losing,” it was my fear of failure. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to write a successful first draft without it. Once I came to that realization, I saw how silly it is.

I do not need to write a first draft in one month. Not if that means writing when I’m physically and emotionally exhausted for days on end because my baby won’t sleep for more than half an hour for some crazy biological reason (Hello, wonder week). Not when it means that I’m living in chaos, with a 2-month-old and a kitchen-less, sometimes laundry-less house, with used spit-up rags stashed everywhere and dishes drying on the dining room table. Not when it means that I’m giving up precious time with my husband who spends all day and most evenings working with urban kids and most of his nights building me a kitchen.

So maybe this is a little bit dramatic, but, come on, I’m a trained actor and I miss the stage. I’m allowed to be dramatic from time to time.

The rough draft of Bearded is going to be the first one that I write in more than a month.

But it will get written.

And it will be stupendous. (Well, not the first draft. The first draft will probably be kinda sucky. But after I revise it a few times and then a few more times it will be stupendous).

With that, I’ll leave you with a cute picture and a word count (don’t worry, I won’t give that up- I need some kind of accountability!):


Word count: 24,092

Harry Potter Ate My Nano

I’ve got another excuse to add to my Nano list (in addition to the new baby, the kitchen renovation, and the cold).

Here it is: Harry Potter is eating my Nanowrimo.


You see, on Halloween, I dressed Google as Harry Potter.

Thanks to one of my students for the idea!

Thanks to one of my students for the idea!

This sparked the idea that perhaps, while I’m feeding little Google (not his name- I’m not that weird), I could read some Harry Potter! It’d been a while since I’d read HP but I’ve read them so many times (I even took a college class before book 6 came out), I thought it would be nice to re-read them while I’m feeding the baby. My reasoning was that they would be entertaining, but I could easily put them down since I’ve read them so many times before.

I have never been so wrong.

The Harry Potter books are just as addictive the umpteenth time through them as they were when I first started reading them in 2001.

I’m currently about 2/3 of the way through book 6, and it’s all I can do to rip myself away from it when I’m done feeding the wee babe.

Here’s a hint: If there are any major projects in your life that you’d like to get completed before certain milestones like, say, Thanksgiving or Christmas or THE END OF NOVEMBER, don’t touch a Harry Potter book. Just don’t.

*sigh* Time to write. This book won’t write itself.

Word count: 23,144.


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