Category Archives: Writing

Creativity Boost

I’m always looking for ways to silence the critic in my head–that meanie who loves to tell me “Girl, you SUCK.” (Does it talk to you, too?) I also love experimenting with different approaches to the writing process. The books in my featured image–The Artist’s Way and Walking on Water–have each been calling to me for some time now. I’m finally ready to listen.

(Both books have been around for a while, too — around 27 and 36 years respectively.)

It’s early days yet, but already I’m addicted to Morning Pages. For a year now I’ve had a morning journaling habit in which I report on the details of the previous day, sometimes including insights but mostly just a recap. Morning pages are different. They’re just three pages of…whatever. Just keep writing. Have a conversation with yourself. Write nonsense. Write a scene. I personally cannot seem to write stream-of -consciousness passages. In my morning pages I usually write in response to a task or affirmation offered by the author, Julia Cameron. But I don’t even try to make sense or sound smart. I just write. Three pages each day. After this warm up/affirmation, I turn to my regular journal, and then to work. All in all the journaling part takes a little over 1/2 an hour. So far so good, but I’m still very much at the beginning of this process. I plan to report back after twelve weeks.

(If the idea of Morning Pages intrigues you, learn more by reading this blog post from Marisa Mohi: How Morning Pages Changed my Life)

When I posted a photo of Cameron’s book on Instagram and Facebook, I heard from a few people who have gained so much from reading (and re-reading) the book. Writers, artists, musicians, and performers. If you’ve used the book, I’d love for you to share something–even if it’s just a little thing–that worked for you. I also heard from an artist, Gracie Hogue of Woodland & Wing, that Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water is “a wellspring of wisdom for the creative person.” Of course I had to track down my own copy, and what a pleasant surprise that one of my favorite authors, Sara Zarr, wrote the introduction to this edition!

Both books link our human creativity to a connection with the Creator, but L’Engle is specifically Christian in her analysis, just so you know.

Time to wrap up. I’ll report back when I’ve finished both books. (Which means I CANNOT get sidetracked by shiny new craft books.) Don’t forget–I’d love to hear your favorite things about The Artist’s Way, Walking on Water, or any other book on creativity that has made a difference in your work/life. I’m so hungry for inspiration!

Journaling goals for 2019

I have long wrestled with journal lust. I even wrote a blog post about it in 2014.

Last year I decided to get serious about this problem and committed to buying fewer journals and writing more in the ones I have. In fact, I set the goal of journaling every single day. I didn’t demand anything particularly thoughtful, elegant, or poetic of myself. I only committed to recording what happened each and every day.

To facilitate this goal AND improve organization and productivity, I made a detailed to-do list in my daily calendar and checked off tasks as they were completed. Next morning I’d write my journal entry with the help of that checklist. Occasionally I would express thinky thoughts, but mostly it was just recap.


I ended up filling two largish Paperblanks journals (Brontës ftw!) and 1/3 of a smaller one that I use as a travel journal.


At the end of last year I reorganized my office (a never-ending process) and decided to do something about those motley fruits of my journal lust. Above you see my collection of journals from adulthood. The four in front are the ones I’ve completed. The stack directly behind them is comprised of partly-filled journals. The stacks on either side are blank journals. (Yes, I do have a Paperblanks fetish.)

My journal goals for 2019 clarified over the next several days:

Goal 1: Somehow consolidate pages from partly-used journals into one volume
ACHIEVED! It’s not pretty, but all the pages are collected in a binder with clear pocket inserts.

Goal 2: Donate usable journals
ACHIEVED! I sent my friend Susan a big box of partly used (with written pages carefully torn out) and unused blank journals to use in her classroom. I’m hoping she’ll set aside a few for herself.

Goal 3: Incorporate prompts into 2019 journaling
Hmmmmmmm… I’ve done a little of this. I didn’t want to require it every day, but I was hoping for at least once or twice a week. Part of my problem is that I’m looking for the best book or website of journal prompts. Ones that are perfectly suited to me. There is no such thing! I did find these pages somewhat inspiring, however:

19 Daily Journal Prompts that Will Change the Way You Begin 2019

2019 Daily Journal Prompts by Month

Journal Prompts to Inspire you in 2019 (short, simple, reusable prompts)

What about you? Do you know a good source for journal prompts? Any funny journaling stories? Do share!

Celebrating new web design with a GIVEAWAY

This past fall I decided to update the look of my website. As always I wanted something Gothic and a bit creepy, but I also yearned for warmth and color. Again and again I came back to this image:


It struck me as both bleak and beautiful. Moreover it reminded me of the Yorkshire moors (like you see here) and thereby brought to mind all the Gothic tales of the Brontës. My genius web designer Maddee at xuni.com boosted the color and added my name. I love the final result, which you can see simply by scrolling to the top of this page.

To celebrate my new website, I’m giving away the Brontë-related items featured in the photo at the top of this post, each of which I enthusiastically recommend to Brontë fans! Read on to learn more about them:


Praise for Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life:
“I thought that everything had already been said about the Brontës. But Samantha Ellis has looked at the family from a new angle, and in doing so brought Anne out of the shadows and placed her front and centre amongst her splashier siblings. I was wowed and moved” (Tracy Chevalier)
“A fascinating and compelling read… what Ellis does extraordinarily well is to convey the emotion of her own deeply personal voyage of discovery about Anne and herself… [makes] you long to rush off and reread Anne’s novels and poetry: what more could you ask for?” (Juliet Barker)
–my take: This book brought me to tears more than once, and my perception of the youngest Brontë is forever altered by reading it.


Praise for The Glass Town Game:
“A throwback to classic children’s literature: it has the cleverness of The Phantom Tollbooth, the imagination of Alice in Wonderland, the whimsy of Edward Eager…A lovely, fanciful piece of middle-grade fiction about the worlds we make, and the lives they can take on.” (Booklist, starred review)
“The story’s real delights come from the wit and cleverness woven into every description and conversation, as well as the sharp insights Valente brings to the children’s insecurities, longings, and hidden desires, which burst to the surface in this magical and perilous world.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
–my take: A gorgeous tribute to the Brontës and the fictional worlds they created.

Also included:


Just for fun I’ve added a small Paperblanks journal decorated with Charlotte Brontë’s signature and lines from Jane Eyre. (These journals are no longer in production and are therefore pretty hard to find.) You’ll also receive a Brontë mug featuring Branwell’s drawing of the four siblings AND a volume of poems from all four Brontë siblings, along with a timeline and endnotes.

INTERNATIONAL ENTRANTS WELCOME!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Finding Community at the SCBWIOK Spring Conference

The 2018 Spring conference for SCBWI Oklahoma, “Striking at the Reader’s Heart,” will be held on April 6-7 at the OKC Embassy Suites on S. Meridian. If you write/illustrate for children and young adults, I highly recommend you check it out. You’ll certainly gain useful information about the craft and business of writing, but perhaps even more importantly, you’ll find community.


Attending a writing conference is a great way to connect with other writers who are working in the same genre and/or looking for a critique group. I met my writing group at an OWFI conference well over a decade ago, and it didn’t take long for three of our group to realize we were particularly interested in writing for children. We knew that SCBWI was the best organization for kidlit writers, and thus in 2007 we made a trip to the national conference that takes place every winter in NYC. What an eye-opening experience!


It was only after attending a national conference that I attended our Oklahoma regional events. (I do things backwards sometimes.) Since these local meetings and conferences were a little smaller, the prospect of “networking” was much less daunting, especially for a somewhat socially anxious person like me. The above photo actually was taken at the 2008 SCBWI summer conference in Los Angeles, but how nice it was to find my Oklahoma tribe whilst there. The national conferences can be a bit overwhelming, but connecting with affiliate members makes everything more manageable.


And when, after countless rejections and heartbreaks, I finally got a book deal, my Oklahoma SCBWI buddies celebrated right along with me. No matter where you are in the process, there’s always someone in your regional affiliate who has been there, too. A conference like SCBWI can help you connect with people who understand the particular challenges of this path.


More often than not, these new connections help boost mood and confidence, sometimes even leading to DELIGHTFUL SHENANIGANS. (Writers are weird in the most wonderful ways!)

Hope to see you in April!

Darkly Gothic Poems for Halloween

Welcome to my new WordPress blog!

My Blogger blog is now an archive, but you will find all my old posts dating back to 2010 here as well as there. As a reader, I find WordPress blog posts so much easier to read and comment upon — I hope you enjoy this new interface. Now, on to a little “warm up” for Halloween. . .

Way back in 2006 I found the Goth-O-Matic Poetry Generator and created a Feeling Very Sorry for Yourself Darkly Gothic poem entitled “Alone in Darkness.” With Halloween just around the corner, this seemed the perfect activity to resurrect from the past, especially because the link still works. I’d love to see your Goth-o-Matic poem!

Here’s my new poem of Supernatural Horror & Violence:

Dark Betrayal

Around, all around, the shadows gather.
My dread grows as the Dark One’s touch falls against my neck.
It smites me, and darkly my
essence drips
to the broken ground.
In horror I call your name
while Death’s shadow looms.
Now alone, my cry of mercy falls upon darkened eyes.

This is my doom

So fun! Do try it yourself and post in the comments if you like. Teachers, I think this activity would be great fun to use in the classroom.

STAY TUNED — my 2017 edition of Spooky Film Recommendations is coming soon.