A Toast to Authors

mining joy

joy mined in the moment
crumbles the hardness of the day

©2022 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

simple joy

haiku tuesday

Unbound

Photo by Bella White from Pexels
I don't remember 
where these ropes came from
yet here they are

Perhaps they were declarations
dropped in my path
I collected, like a robin,
formed them into a nest

Likelier still, they were
the twine of thin thoughts
I knitted together
wrapped around me
like a security blanket

layer after layer
becoming protective armor

the Light reveals their nature
thick ropes that bind
that suffocate
that steal the freedom
designed for me

strand by strand
the blade of truth
will slice through
these taut thoughts
'til I'm at last

UNBOUND

©2022 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Juxtaposing Battles

They start in the corner between the couch and the wall. The little one pins herself into small spaces as though it might give her the advantage. They don’t know how to play quietly. Gurgling at each other more than growling.

What is that word?

My reprimand for quiet only encourages them to come closer — to play beneath the table where I sit, bumping into my chair, jostling my thoughts. I can smell their spit and saliva as they gnarl and nip at each other.

Their noises, that smell, fracture my thinking as I chase a word that won’t come. It isn’t montage or combination. Hodgepodge is a fun word, but not right. I’m sure it starts with a W.

Their smell raises a little nausea; it climbs up my esophagus, or perhaps it is my frustration with this stuck word. The thesaurus is no use. Their gnarling gives way to piercing yips.

OH I YELL! Ah! You’re breaking my brain! I cannot think!

Now I’m snarling and harumphing. This darn word! What is this forsaken WORD!? The thesaurus can’t even find it! Google is no help.

How have I completely lost this word? This cluttered art form that I don’t like, but can be useful when brainstorming. What is this W-Word??????

The dogs have vacated from beneath the table. My screams made them scurry. One to lay on the carpet, the other to ring the bell to go out.

Click-clock.

Clickety-clack.

CLACKETY-CLACK-CLACK!

WHAT IS THIS WORD???

I let big dog out. The wind blows a cool kiss.

My phone stares up at me — displaying montage and many words about it. Somewhere in the middle of all of it all are the seven letters I’ve been chasing — that tricky little word that hid under some synapse in my mind — COLLAGE.

What a relief! Stinkin’ collage.

Beyond the Shadow’s Edge

Photo by ramy Kabalan from Pexels
Do not be deceived.
This place of loneliness,
shame, despair
is not darkness,
merely a shadow.

Beyond the shadow's edge
the light waits.

Get up.
Stagnate no more.
Seek it out.
Crawl if need be.
The light is never too far.

©2022 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

White Magic

Haiku Tuesday

©2022 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

photo credit Terri Perdue

Without Serendipity

Is there ever a day
where at the end of it
it can be said,
that went exactly to plan?

What a shame.
Seems more the story
of the villain
than the hero.

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Christmas Caroling

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow
but even If it Doesn't Snow on Christmas
Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Do You Hear What I Hear?
Jingle Bells
Silver Bells

Chrissy, the Christmas Mouse
Dominick, the Italian Christmas Donkey
Deck the Halls
with Mistletoe and Holly

Frosty the Snowman
Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer
are Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas
May You Always
Gather Around the Christmas Tree
and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Winter Song

starry light, chilled night
hear the song of the season
whirl on winter breeze

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved
Haiku Tuesday

On Faith

If I die, I die,
Esther vowed.

Wherever you go, I go,
Ruth promised.

Here I am. Send me.
Isaiah volunteered.

May it be done to me
according to Your word,
young Mary committed
a faithful acceptance
echoed in Gethsemane -- 

Not my will,
but Yours be done.

These steps of faith,
sacrifices of self,
willingness of hearts --

Can they be found today?
Can they be found in me?

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Out of Range

This winding, meandering journey
contains no road maps,
no global positioning system
with estimated times of arrival.

Detours delay or perhaps
pave the way to the path
unpredicted that can surpass
expectations, hopes, even dreams.

To overthink and overplan
overpacks the space left 
for discovery, for chance,  for magic.

When the fork in the road comes,
which way do I go?
To the right or the left?
The answer is, yes.

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

First Glance

he saw me / dressed in black / his face / brooding / attracted my attention

Problem Solved

Why are the good habits 
so difficult to maintain
while the bad habits
so stubborn to loosen?

The good can produce pride,
the bad can raise shame.

Since neither the good nor bad
lead to noble character
I shall sidestep both, play it safe, 
between the book covers.

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved
Current TBR

My Secret Weapon

There is little in this world
That makes me scream and claw
As watching my child battle
Her evasive thieves of childhood

I give her weapons
She shows me tenacity
I fortify her surroundings
She reminds me how to laugh

Ready at all hours, eye on the sky, 
but the adversary's invisible
the invasion can't be stopped
the onslaught is relentless

So, I lead her to Love
He comforts us, strengthens us
Shows us the way toward victory
As we fight chronic migraine and anxiety

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Where We Meet

Croatia, Canada, Zimbabwe
India, Ireland, UK,
Australia, Romania, Israel 

I see you
seeing me

Though my feet may never touch
the ground where you stand
our paths converge here and now

Let me use this digital pathway
to send you these wishes

Hope that prods your dreams
Peace that fills your days
Love that enters your door and remains

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Listen

Haiku Tuesday

Brain Dump

It's hard to pinpoint,
tie down this swirling,
muddled mind of mine -
tracking thoughts bounding 
in diverse directions.

recording responsibilities
planning next projects
wrapped around worries
searching to simplify
ruminating on recent joys
pressing to be present

thoughts drive past like the rush
of a rural evening commute
flying on the freeway

I snatch them
smash them into their boxes
to deal with when I'm ready

but the darn things boing up
fracture my focus 
these Jack-in-the-Box thoughts

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved





Gratitude

Haiku Tuesday

A Life’s Oxymoron

One day I may feel
as though I know
what I am doing.

Today is not that day.

Today I'm
       grasping for clues
       searching my heart
       wracking my brain

Today I know less 
than I've ever known before

Perhaps gaining wisdom
is losing certainty

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Secret Ingredients

There's something
wonderfully delicious
'bout reading a story 
in the glow of flashlight.

A dash of adventure
A whiff of rebel
An ounce of escape
Stirred in-sync with secrecy

These are the things
of which world wanderers,
book hoppers, word slayers
are made below the bedding.

He knew

He planned it for today
I don't know how He knew
but He did

It's no surprise
His ways 
are far beyond mine

I did seek Him
and find Him

Truth is
He sought me first
He knew me best

He knew I needed
Chicago
with that particular family
who would plant seeds of faith,
values and life truths

He knew the boy I would meet
to one day marry
whose ear He would pull
to get my attention

He knew what I needed
He still does

Because
He sought me first
He knows me best

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved
This feels like a gift, so I’ll claim it as such

Word Power

Haiku Tuesday

First Step

If this
utter frustration
wonderful torture
is part addiction
part identity -- 
offers a sliver of sanity
what does that say about me?

It means I'm a writer
and sometimes poet.
one day I may 
say that out loud

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

What a Good Pup am I!

What a good pup am I!

Before the sun has risen
But after my tum has woken
I know just what I should do

With a turn of my neck
My ears go flap, flap, flap
She sighs with her rise, Mom-Sue

What a good pup am I!

When my kids leave for the day
Mom needs her walk and to play
I'm there for a pet when she bends low

While she clicks keys at her desk
That's my cue for a rest
Or stand guard as I sit by the window

What a good pup am I!

When my pup-girl's head hurts
And her stomach gets worse
Me beside her in bed's what she needs

When she's up out of bed
She needs fun time instead
I'm quick with my ball at her feet

What a good pup am I!

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Mystic Muse

The mystic muse is hard to chase
She never comes when beckoned
She dangles ideas, then runs away
Hard to get is her game

When I match her method
Pretend to not care, wander off my course
She peeks her nose and plants some prose
Whether on a walk, a drive, or in the shower.

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

The Tree Trunk

You may think me lonely
No birds may perch and sing
No child may climb up high
On this lowly trunk  of mine

You may think me embarrassed
Standing here with nothing on
My craggy bark, holey
And weather worn

You may think me jealous
This beauty before me, perhaps I should be
Longing for my youth
Wishing to turn back time

But you would think wrong
I celebrate these trees, splendid in color
Remembering how bright I've lived
Rejoicing in how bravely I've let go

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Brainstorm

Sisters

I was a brat
You were mean
I had the mess
You made me clean
I got the blame
You made me take
I was the shadow 
You'd try to shake

You were a bride
I got a brother
You had a child
For me to smother
You moved away
I moved away, too
You're apart from me
I'm a part of you

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Pondering Hope

It's hard to hope 
in a world bent on destruction
when the future foreseen 
is dark and brutal

What hope is there to have?
What dream is there to chase?

What is it I can do
to make this world a better place
when this world refuses
to become a better place?

while mankind evolves
humanity regresses

I ask to see how to make
someone's world better

Silence

perhaps a heart's whisper
             raise my children 
             to look out, not in

Then it's not one
but three

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

An Autumn Full Moon

When Coyote chorus
rings through the forest
calling all critters to revel,

Lone Wolf withdraws his teeth
away from sleeping sheep
for this night is something special.

The stately trees
with scarlet leaves 
sway in a moonlit dance,

While Badger scoots
and Barn Owl hoots
Coon taps a full moon prance.

Skunk and Fox whirl
Cat and Mouse twirl
Fireflies twinkle their light,

Squirrel and Bat high fly
All creatures unify
In the magic of this brilliant night.

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Why God Made Dogs

They help us
understand commitment
Keep us 
moving
But know when
to be still
Remind us
enjoy simple pleasures

They teach us
compassionate care
Show us
to have good humor
Offer us
total forgiveness
Give us 
unconditional love

The Autumn Muse

Tuesday Haiku

November

Nestling in cozy blankets
October shrugs a cold shoulder
Vibrant colors on display
Enhance the grace of letting go
Muddy paws after scarf-wrapped walks
Blustery winds nip the nose, chase the chin
Edible delights of pumpkin spice and apple pie
Retreating beside the fire with a book, a drink, and you

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

How Do I Remember?

Do I read Jack Higgins
so our finger prints touch 
and imaginations connect
in a time and space with fewer rules,
where a piece of you may linger still?

Do I listen to Johnny Cash
while making biscuits and gravy
recalling the line you walked
sometimes a little askew?

Should I play practical jokes,
fill my banter with believable B.S.?
I would if I could,
but I didn't get those genes.

I'll look at some pictures, cry a little,
wear your sweater, have some sweets.
Then I'll squeeze in too much today
so you can say, like you often did,
"Stop burning the candle at both ends."

When it comes down to it
If I keep my people close
I'm remembering you
Everything else is just gravy
on top of 'taters beside a good steak.

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved
He may or may not have been trying to sneak our puppy home with him.

I Did This For Me

I did this for me
to protect my sanity when 
littles with legos and Thomas the Train tracks
turned the house into chaos
my mind craved discipline,
tugged by a place unfamiliar.

I did this for me
and a story I wanted told.
Shaping history into his story
was a degree in itself.
It's OK that it sits in the basement
on a shelf in timeout.

Three stories later I do this for me.
It's a surprise to myself
what word pictures and turn of tale
fly from my fingers onto a clicking keyboard.
Sometimes you'll catch me standing
in this world, but living in another.

I do this for me, but also
for them, they're watching me chase my dreams
for her, hoping the story can heal hurts
for joy, childhood should sing of it
for truth wrapped in love freckled with humor.
Yet, it's OK that I do this for me, too.

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Haunted

this is the week i expect
sorrow to creep in and linger
like a shadow i can't shake

i was sitting in a chair
getting my hair trim
getting ready to see you 
on my way to something else

you were going to the doctor for your feet, i think
but the day tumbled with each text
worse than the prior. Then the call.

i was supposed to have a next time
your eyes watched me leave
wondering if it was the last time
It wasn't supposed to be the last time.

a couple days ago, i harnessed you
when i made her laugh
she gave me the look we all gave you

i can't remember how, now
i can't recall what was you, not me
but i'll stake a claim to this space
if this is what it means to be haunted

© 2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

You are My Favorite

You are My favorite.
Let that sink into your heart.

Remember when I painted the sky
in such a way it caught your breath?
I knew you were going to check your mail
and timed it just so.
I love how you stopped and took it in.

Remember when I held back the storm
until you were safely in your garage?
I delighted in how you watched the rain,
listened to My thunder, dangling your feet
out of the back of your car.

Remember when there were twenty-five tornadoes
on your birthday? The lights went out.
You lit birthday candles and ate cake
in the basement so your little ones wouldn't fear.
I was there, too, keeping your fear away.

You are My favorite.
Let that sink into your heart.

Remember when your daughter was so sick,
in so much pain, for so long?
You couldn't see the way out.
I sent a song and you clung to it. Even If
she's never all better, she's My favorite, too.

Remember when your son was hurting
deeply? Everything caused him pain.
I sent you the words to give to him
so he knew you were a safe place.
One day he'll know I am, too, because he's My favorite.

Remember when I answered that prayer?
That one you pray about changing someone's world.
I sent you courage to say something.
You helped Me change her world.
She's My favorite, too.

You are My favorite.
Let that sink into your heart.

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Wind

Your gentle whisper
soft like the flutter
of a butterfly's sweet dance.

Your joyful applause
as branches sway and
leaves play their autumn swansong.

Your mournful whimper
howling in moonlight
come at night, coyotes all.

Your roaring siren
like charging beasts raze
what lays in its helpless path.

Invisible Force
sleepy to speeding
fleeting, like a lover's kiss.

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

On Legacy

As I sit here thinking
about the passing of a man
with a great legacy

And the end of the month remembers
the passing of a great man
whose legacy I sit in and help define

I wonder,
What is the legacy I'll leave behind?

They will not interrupt 
the broadcast when I pass,
but I celebrate
this quiet life of mine.

The great man told me, slow down.
Showed me, go where needed
with a happy heart
sit and listen
forgive and focus
on what's most important.

The words I play with
may mean something, to someone, someday
but each today I can do little things
that in the end matter most.

I do not have the voice 
that can change the world,
but I can help change someone's world
a little bit with each today.

When an unexpected text
from an under-known friend
tells me I'm easy to love, 
I think, perhaps I may be on my way
to growing the legacy 
I never knew I always wanted.

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Inspired by today's passing of Colin Powell, which made me think about my father's passing later this month and topped off with a very kind and well-timed text.

I am From (#1)

I am from around the table
Where words scale the slope
Playing King of the Mountain.

From squishy tennis balls
That spray spiraling slobber,
Igniting delight and twirling tails.

I am from guitar-strumming, feet-in-the-air,
Gather close. You are seen.

From comfy, cozy sweater,
Soft and a little itchy,
Tuck in the strings that make it unravel.

I am from the Still, Quiet Voice
Whispering, you have done enough.
Whispering, Sit. Breathe. Be.

©2021 Sue Santiago all rights reserved

Black Lives Matter in My White Life

I had a black grandfather
not by blood,
but in all the ways that mattered.
From my infancy to his death bed
his gentle soul left a heartprint on mine.

I learned about unity
seeing my black grandfather, born 1900,
and my white grandfather, born 1910, 
- both having seen their share
of the worst of this world -
tend our vegetable garden
then sit together on the porch
and watch the garden grow.

But this sweet treasure of my childhood
doesn't mean I understand the Black Experience.

I taught several years in a black school.
Some of my students put me through the wringer
my first year,
but not all, not most.
But some. And it became a special connection
we laughed at together a year or two
down the line.
For some,
but not all, not most.

I could not encapsulate 
their world, 
not here, not ever,
But their humor and humanity
strength and pride
sass and sweetness
left their mark on my world.

I likely learned more than I taught, but it 
doesn't mean I understand the Black Experience.

Some of my closest friends
have been black women.
A lot of laughter
and keeping things real
came in equal measure
in the hours spent talking
           in the classroom after hours
           walking laps, pushing strollers in the mall.

We shared the highest celebrations
life brought to our doorsteps,
held each other close 
during the devastation of loss.
Our times together shaped 
who I became as an adult.

Though we journeyed so far together
I still do not understand the Black Experience.

Because I am white.
White, white.
Blond haired, blue eyed white.
I am slow to speak.
I watch and listen.
I'm taking it in.
I don't know my part.
But I'm listening.
I'm learning.
I will bath my actions in kindness
and my words in love.
I will teach my children
to do the same.

Like my grandfathers,
I'll tend this garden 
     out of control before us,
pull out the weeds
fertilize the land
and plant good fruit.

And hopefully one day soon
we too
can sit together
and watch this garden grow.


Relentless

relentless

Absolutely relentless. As soon as the liftgate is open, these two jump in. I call them out so I can load the first suitcases. They jump back in. Call them out so I can add the cooler. They jump back in. And this pattern repeats as all of the linens, food, and forms of entertainment that are needed to open our camper for the season are loaded into the vehicle.

They don’t know where we’re going. In fact, the puppy has never been “to the camper,” but they are determined to not give up. No matter how much is squished in, they would find space. They’re part of the pack.

Relentless II

This was their solution.

Maybe I could use a little more of this doggedness applied to my writing. Life has a way of over-packing my time-trunk too. The first layer is normal responsibilities of existing. I jump right back in and get to writing. Then the hats start adding on – wife, mother, business owner, homemaker, small group leader, daughter, sister, property owner, on and on. With each of these hats comes responsibilities. But relentlessly, I keep jumping back into the car. I’m growing my dream. I’m writing. Until the point my time-trunk is overpacked. I look in the trunk-space of my energy, my brain-space, my heart-space, trying to find a spot to jump in and keep writing.

Admittedly, my doggedness wains. Writing, right now, is a luxury. I have absolutely no deadlines. No commitments. No editors. No agents. So doubt is quick to accuse and excuses are easy to make.

My daughter has been ill most of this year. Ill to the point I had to remove her from school and home-school once she was able. When your child is sick nothing else matters. Truly. I do not regret, not even an ounce, putting a pin in writing and many other things to care for her. But now that she’s doing better, will I be relentless?

In my list of hats I did not say Christian. I do not think it is a hat to wear. To put on and take off. It drives my every movement and thought, or at least that’s the direction I’m aiming. The fuel is my prayer time, personal devotion, opening up with close friends. In a recent Francis Chan video I listened to, he brought us to Jeremiah 1:5 where God says, I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born.

This means, before God made me, he knew the purposes he designed for me. He knew which “ingredients” to put in so that I may be able to accomplish those purposes. It’s so easy to doubt this “writing thing” when I think it’s just about me. When Moses told God he couldn’t speak and do the things God called him to do, God reminded him, Who made your mouth?

Perhaps the reason I don’t give up on writing, the reason it provides a contentment and satisfaction that nothing else does, is because it is one of those ingredients God decided to put in me before he formed me. I’ve had every reason to stop writing. But it calls to me, relentlessly. Time to stop doubting.

Psalm 37:5 says, Take delight in the Lord and He will give you your heart’s desires. Maybe our hearts desires were planted there, long ago, before they were a thought in our minds.

The thing about a faith journey is there’s a lot of maybes. When Jeremiah doubted himself, God told him, Do not say “I’m only a youth,” for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you . Do not be afraid of anyone for I will be with you to deliver you. Jeremiah 1:7-8.

So, Sue, (and you too), do not say, I’m only an aspiring writer; I’m only a stay-home-mom; I’m only a . . . Do not be afraid to go after those heart desires that God probably put in there in the first place. Don’t doubt. Head in the direction of your dream. Relentlessly!

(By the way, the doggies made it to the camper too. We just had to use two cars.)

Gratitude

2018 Writing Color
What A Year!

Begin with gratitude. Walk in gratitude. Write with gratitude. That’ll fix any attitude.

2018 Successes

I have found a much needed shot in writing arm through 12 Days for Writers.

12 days

On this third day of Christmas Julie challenges us to consider the successes we enjoyed in 2018. It’s so much easier to think about the places we fall short. Isn’t it? With permission to brag . . .

  • I trimmed my current Work In Progress (WIP) by 10,000 words. Which is really huge for me, an over packer, and absolutely necessary for this verse novel.
  • I was able to get 6 beta readers with the bonus school librarian!!! to read my WIP.
  • I visited an AP English class to talk about writing. SO MUCH FUN!!!
  • I knew something was wrong with my WIP and did a three act analysis to see if I could figure it out.
  • 3 actsCan you see where the problem is??? The big gaping hole in the middle. Yep there was a big problem with the secondary story line that effected everything. Got that resolved!
  • I got my WIP as far as I could take it and ready to start submitting. My query letter and opening pages are doing their jobs. I’ve had 5 agents and 2 editors ask to read the full manuscript. Though four agents have already passed, I at least know this baby is headed in the right direction!
  • After finishing my WIP I debated if I had any more stories in me. I started wondering and praying about other paths that might be for me. I had the opportunity to organize a wedding. Turns out I’m pretty good at it. But I also discovered I had no passion for it. Back to writing! Hooray!!
  • For NaNoWriMo I broke the rules. Instead of writing a novel in 30 days, I came up with 30 novel ideas. They’re here if you’re looking for a new idea too.
  • I’m getting excited to see what 2019 will bring.
  • Loving what you’re doing is the greatest success!

 

Tips for Working with Beta Readers

In the spring the very kind local school librarian agreed to organize a group of beta readers for my current work-in-progress. (First tip: volunteer at your local public library or school library to build relationships with librarians and keep your finger on the pulse of your reader.) My story is a middle grade novel-in-verse that features a largely female cast with some typical coming-of-age issues. For that reason I requested to have girls only for my beta readers. Two girls from each grade 4-6 were asked to read my story and meet with me and the librarian to discuss it.  (Bonus: the librarian was going to read it too!)

reader clip art

The set up:

  • I copied and bound the story for them, two pages per side. It was pretty costly, but a good investment.
  • I wrote a letter to my readers briefly explaining what a novel-in-verse is and what a beta readers does. (A member of the target audience who provides feedback and critique.)
  • I provided a key of symbols to use while reading to make it easy on them to give feedback. They have been taught to be active readers, so I didn’t need to go into details about that.
    • ZZZZZ: boring
    • ?????: confusing
    • 🙂 I like that part
    • LOL: made me laugh
    • 😦 made me feel angry or sad.
    • OK: This part was just OK.
    • XXXX: delete this, I don’t think it adds to the story
  • At the end of the story, I provided 14 reflection questions and asked them to pick 5 to answer:
    • Did the story hold your interest from the very beginning? If not, why not?
    • Did you get oriented fairly quickly at the beginning as to whose story it is, and where and when it’s taking place? If not, why not?
    • Could you relate to (MC)? Did you feel her pain or excitement?
    • Did the relationship between (MC) and (sidekick) seem like things a real friendship might go through? What would you change? What feels genuine?
    • Was there a point at which you felt the story started to lag or you became less than excited about finding out what was going to happen next? If so, where?
    • Were there any parts that confused you? frustrated or annoyed you? Which part and why?
    • Did you notice any inconsistencies in time sequence, place, character details, or other details?
    • Were the characters believable? Are there any characters you think could be made more interesting or more likeable? Any characters who need to be more unlikeable?
    • Were there too many characters to keep track of? Too few? Are any of the names or characters too similar?
    • Did the dialogue sound natural? What dialogue sounded forced?
    • Were any of the parts too long? Or any poem that didn’t seem to have a purpose? Which ones?
    • Was there enough conflict, tension, and intrigue to keep you interest?
    • Was the ending satisfying? Believable?
    • Was anything missing?

How it worked:

These girls are real girls with real lives which include school work, sports, family, and here I am asking them to read something else on top of it all. It took time. We met three times during their lunch periods and discussed the story as far as they had read.

This was absolutely wonderful to sit and talk with readers about a story I wrote! And they didn’t hold back. There was no feelings of intimidation on their part to talk to the author. I loved that.

If they didn’t understand something, they were forthcoming. If they didn’t like a character, an energized conversation ensued. It was interesting that a character that I thought was lovable in his own way, the beta readers were angry with.  Not all characters need to be likeable. It’s actually good if characters have both likeable qualities and pitfall in their personalities.

I quickly found out which parts didn’t work and the parts that made them keep turning the pages. Settings that were unclear. Phrases that were confusing.  The insight I received was beyond worth. It was incredibly rewarding when they “got it.” The things I hoped the reader would pick up on, the set-ups, subtext, duplicity, the pay-outs.

I love my critique group and wouldn’t change them, but there’s something special about having beta readers. No better litmus test than honest readers who hold no stake in the story. Can’t wait ’til I have another story to do this again!

It would be interesting to have beta readers from the schools I once upon a time taught at read this. How would kids with different world views and experiences take to this story? I guess I will find out when this WIP gets published!

Final tip:

Thank the readers and especially the librarian in a generous way. They gave up their time and provided feedback that clarified, sharpened, and deepened the story.

Bonus: I loved listening to the banter between the girls. Perhaps they are inspiring some future characters!

 

 

Baby Steps

BIG CHANGES in small steps.
Like the man who bargained
from a red paper clip
to a house.

From big debt to big savings.
     Shedding 20, 50, 100 pounds.
          Finishing that novel.
               Defending your dissertation.
          Buying a home.
     Traveling the world.
Changing the world.

It happens
in small
consistent
faithful
steps.

Forecast

In honor of the first Snow Day of the winter . . .

Snow and ice they say
Will soon be on their way.

Adults grump and gruff
Burdened by the white stuff.

Children watch the skies
With thoughts of sleds that fly

Down the hill,
But better still,
“Snow Day” the anchor cries.

snow day (2)