Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Market for a Poem

My poem. In 2013 Poet's Market.


A super and humbling honor for me. A huge thank you to Robert Brewer, editor and poet extraordinaire who does so much for the poeming community.


Monday, January 30, 2012

You've Got a Friend

Wondermous blog and writing buddy Cathy Olliffe-Webster is running a series called Letter froma Friend.

She has the nicest friends, likely because she is such a ang super, generous, funny, courageous, heart-on-a-sleeve woman. She posted MY LOVE LETTER for all to see.

I am humbled and honored to be in her circle of friends, to be one of her BCFFs.


Friday, January 27, 2012


A very small story (53 words long) featured at Press 53, winner of Pokrompt #1. What a challenge for a prompt: sneaker, blue x 2, all in a tight 53 words.

Read SNOW JOB Here.

Take a look, accept next week's challenge, and support your small press!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

10 Things I Love to See in Submissions

1. A story that opens in any place other than a bed, a bar, or a bordello.

2. An adverb/verb ratio < 1:100.

3. Family stories that do NOT involve incest or physical abuse.

4. Typo-free pages.

5. Paragraphs shorter than one page.

6. A paucity of passive voice.

7. An adjective/noun ratio which does not exceed 1:1.

8. Stories where every word deserves its place.

9. Characters I wish were real.

10. Anything that keeps me reading because I have to find out how it ends.

And you?


Thursday, January 19, 2012

10 Minutes to Launch Your Week - Simple Gratitude

Watch this TED talk featuring film-maker Louie Schwartzberg. Your heart will sing. You might even cry. It is Oh. My. God.

The ten minutes best minutes of the week. Do it.Zap the Monday suckiness...


Skaal Smorgas!

I hosted a smorgasbord this past Saturday for church friends. Another friend cohosted, and we had a lot of fun researching and shopping and preparing the foods. I started thinking about what to serve over a month ago, and spent time writing down my mother's recipes, handed down from her mother and grandmother and, most likely, their mothers before.

And this was the unintended benefit of the smorgasbord--the connection with my family and my heritage. Both families were represented--my mother's Swedish side, my father's Finnish line--and while I could draw on memories from my own travels in Finland and Scandinavia two decades ago (!), I had never prepared these foods myself. Slow, hand-crafted foods take time, and patience.

THE MENU included:

>SOUP: Salmon chowder, chock full of red potatoes and smoked and fresh salmon

>FISH: 4 types of herring, cucumber rounds topped with salmon and wasabi cream, gravlax sliced

>CHEESE: Havarti, dill Havarti, Lappi, Jarlsberg, and blue cheese balls rolled in almonds (the surprise hit)

>BREADS:home made rye bread, rye flatbreads, Pulla

>MEATS: ham, Swedish meatballs in dill sour cream sauce and lingonberry sauce

>DESSERT: Peparkarkor (thin ginger cookies), Swedish butter cookies, apple pie, cream whipped with home-made raspberry preserves (yum!), Pulla bread served with jams

We served glogg, based on my grandfather's recipe and adapted, hot and cold cider, beers, and lingonberry and elderflower juices. With dessert, coffee served in my Mumu's Finnish teacups (Mumu=great grandmother).

Many have asked for the Pulla bread recipe, so here it is:


2 cups milk
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom*
4 eggs, beaten
9 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons white sugar

1. Warm milk in a small pan until it bubbles. Let cool until room temperature.
2. Dissolve yeast in water. Stir in milk, sugar, salt, cardamom, 4 eggs, and about 2 cups of water. Beat batter until smooth. Add another 3 cups of flour and beat until dough is glossy. Stir in melted butter and beat dough until glossy. Beat in rest of flour to a stiff dough.
3. Turn dough onto floured surface, cover with the inverted mixing bowl, and let rest for 15-20 minutes. Knead dough until satiny and smooth. Place in a buttered bowl (turn dough until butter covers the entire ball) and cover with saran wrap. Let rise in a warm area until doubled (~1 hour). Punch down, and let rise again.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
5. Turn dough onto floured surface and divide into 3 parts. Divide each part into three again, and roll each piece into 12-16 inch tubes. Braid 3 tubes into a loaf (you should get 3 loaves). Lift loaves onto greased baking sheets and let rise for 20 minutes.
6. Brush each loaf with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.
7. Bake in heated oven for 25-30 minutes until browned. DO check because the bottom of the bread burns easily.

*Instead, I crushed 8 cardamom pods and steeped in warm milk for an hour, then strained.

Let cool (a little!), and enjoy with butter. Toasted the next day for breakfast with jam -- yum!


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Black Nothing

What the internet will look like if SOPA gets its way.

In solidarity.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Night Watch

Jeremiah preferred night patrols. Then, he was alone: no Horgas barking orders, no rattle of machinery pulled apart, cleaned, reassembled, no exhausted comrade snoring in the cot beside him. That high up, the air so cold and thin, he could see as well as a tiger. Most nights, cloud cover made the black impenetrable. With no lights other than those from the farmers’ huts below or the occasional truck bumping along the sinuous road cleaving the valley, he could see for miles. When he first started his shift, the sun teetered over the Pamirs as if not sure the day was done. The desert below would shine from mica ground into sand. The mountains, plates of sheer, jagged granite, turned from drab beige to something akin to alabaster. It was at this time, the cusp between day and night, that he felt safe, felt for a few moments he was back in the South Dakota mountains, sure that he would turn around and hear the familiar crunch of his in the rocks and dirt and see a thin snake of smoke lifting into sunlit air. Then he would close his eyes, let the light dance warm on his face, a kind of benediction, and think of Sheila making the stew from the morning’s catch, her softness waiting for him.

This was as close as Jeremiah got to prayer, as close as he got to believing, but it was enough. Once the sun dipped behind the range, the air chilled and he forgot about South Dakota, forgot about home and Sheila and Maryam and the others he once loved. Once night fell with vengeance, he slipped on night vision goggles and waited for the sun again, for that moment he allowed himself to close his eyes.

Meet Jeremiah Anselm: songwriter-singer, brother to Unitarian Universalist minister Martin, and Army Special Forces sniper. One more voice in THE MINISTER'S WIFE, my novel-du-jour.

This character fascinates me; in the end, it is he, not his brother, who comes to understand the meaning of life. Both brothers love the same woman, Maryam, the minister's wife. Does Jeremiah make it out of Afghanistan? Does he end up getting the love he wants from Maryam? I know the answer to one of these questions, but not the other; 'tis the beauty of the unfolding of the story.

Peace... indeed...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Oh the places you'll go...

when you write.

To think today I researched UFO sitings in Roswell, read about the geography of South Dakota, and ordered American Sniper, loading up on my kindle NOW.

All in the name of research.

I love my night job. Peace...

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Bliss Time is Over

Well, if you consider holidays blissful. I don't, but I do find them largely fun. I happen to love shopping for gifts, more than shopping for myself. The challenge of finding a little something that's just right for the person you are shopping for. Of course, other than book, grocery, art, and wine stores (nearly all local and independently owned), I rarely venture into other shopping venues (indeed, I take pride in NOT purchasing items from mall stores).

But I digress.

Holidays are busy, hectic, spiked with over-eating and over-drinking and under-sleeping. Fun indeed. By January 2, I am tired of the indulgences and noise, and like every other soul in the world, resolve to better myself.

I started off the new year by taking off the first week of January. A few days to myself while the children returned to school. I had things to do: clean out my closet, organize bills, put away the Christmas decorations, reread and analyze OLIVE KITTERIDGE, and of course, write.

In all, a very pleasant week. BUT I DID NOT ACCOMPLISH A DAMN THING. At least none on my list. The closet overflows, although I did clean out the cabinets under the kitchen island to make room for the beautiful Dutch oven my husband gave me. My bills remain stacked in a messy pile on the counter. Reading-wise, I finished the first five chapters of OLIVE KITTERIDGE and didn't read much of anything else. Writing-wise, I joined up with A RIVER OF STONES, and you can read my daily small stones at my gratitude blog THEBLUETRUEDREAM. I also spent a ridiculous amount of time on a 1500-word story for a collaborative novel organized by PURE SLUSH energizer-bunny editor Matt Potter. But mostly I spent my time re-reading CLOSER TO NORMAL, contemplating whether to ditch Phoebe's voice and let Ben tell his stor solo. I have not figured that one out yet. And I have no idea of what else new to write other than to continue with my linked stories in THE MINISTER'S WIFE.

With two weeks, including four entire days of no responsibilities, I should have accomplished more. Next Monday marks my return to work, and though I dread the return of busy-ness, I also welcome the structure. For I find I get more done when I have less time, an irony which amuses me.

I hope your re-entry into the hustle and bustle of daily life occurred without too much agony.

Now, I have some meatballs to make and cookies to bake, for I am hosting a smorgasbord next weekend. Charge!


Monday, January 02, 2012

Six Years Baby!

Yep, that's how long I've been writing. I mean the creative stuff, the novels and poems and short stories. Six years today I rested my laptop on my knees and began BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, a story that took my character Benjamin and I longer and further than I ever imagined.

Writing back then, I felt a tad insane--I had never felt so compelled to do something. But writing then was a compulsion, one that kept me writing 3, 4, 5 hours after my children and husband went to sleep. I think of those first 4 months as a manic rush to get Benjamin's story down, before the words dried up. That first very naive draft ended up at 183,000 words. Since then, the story has taken many turns, adding the second perspective of Phoebe, murdering a handful of secondary characters, interweaving multiple subplots, hacking out more than 80,000 words. The novel is finished--for now--though I contemplate yet another drastic surgery.

Six years is a long time. I figure since then I have written more than half-a-million new words. And probably three times more words rewritten in the revisions. These words find form in 2 full novel, 1 partially-completed novel, 72 micro-fictions, a dozen short stories, and 135 poems. Oh, and 505 blog posts on this blog. Them's a lot of words. A lot of hours. In OUTLIERS, his ground-breaking book about the exceptional, Malcolm Gladwell says to become good at something you need to practice it for 10,000 hours. By my own estimates, I figure I write between 1,500 and 2,000 hours a year. I am good writer, certainly better than I was this day six years ago, but I still have a long way to travel to great.

And that's okay. My heart trills when I see the progress I've made as a novelist, a short story writer, a poet. Writing still brings me joy--joy in the product but more, joy in the process. I love the challenge each new idea brings me. I like to think it keeps me young in my soul if not in the body.

Thank you for following my writing journey, for sharing your words and thoughts. Here's to another six years, baby!

And for those of you looking for my second small stone, please go==>HERE.


Sunday, January 01, 2012

A New Page

That is how the first day of a new year feels to me: a blank page, full of possibility and opportunity.

I am honored to have my short story BREATHE, excerpted from The Minister's Wife, a novel-in-progress, featured at Metro Fiction. Thanks so much to P.J. Kaiser for the opportunity to share this story. It draws from personal experience, one that resonates with many women.

Today marks the beginning of A River of Stones. A month of close observations, of discovering the essence of being. Each observation written, a single small stone which joins the river. My first stone here and HERE, my other blog==> thebluetruedream...

The day breaks shiny and new. Hoar frost glistens, yielding to the sun’s light. Trees throw bare branches into crystalline blue as if to net a bird. Inside, all sleep but me, the quiet broken only by the refrigerator’s hum, the meowing of the cat waiting to come in.

May 2012 being you health, happiness, and peace...