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

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


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.

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.

TV-free Time for Tweens

Yes! I know that face!

I have a 10 and 13 year old. They have two weeks off. I’ve got stuff to do. They don’t. In an effort to work smarter not harder, I tweaked this list to help keep my sanity at the start of winter break.  Fix it to fit your family too. Here’s to helping our kids stay out of trouble. For the sake of their brains (and our composure) . . .

  1. Learn solitaire
  2. Read Ranger Rick or Game Informer
  3. Gather your books. Which one should be read again?
  4. Start a journal.
  5. Listen to a book on CD.
  6. Meditate.
  7. Pack up too short pants.
  8. Paint a picture.
  9. Learn Tai Chi.
  10. Make some jewelry.
  11. Bake a cake.
  12. Play a board game.
  13. Visit the toy closet. What haven’t you used in a while?
  14. Shoot some baskets.
  15. Do some yoga.
  16. Learn how to juggle.
  17. Organize a space in your room.
  18. Train the dogs.
  19. Learn how to take a good photograph.
  20. Cook something healthy.
  21. Paint your nails.
  22. Train for a 5K.
  23. Clean out the car for your parents.
  24. Write a note of encouragement.
  25. Pull out shirts that no longer fit.
  26. Get on wii sports or kids dance video games.
  27. Make birthday cards.
  28. Visit an elderly neighbor.
  29. Learn some Spanish.
  30. Soak your feet.
  31. Learn a dance routine from You Tube.
  32. Dance like nobody’s watching.
  33. Do something kind for a family member.
  34. Learn how to create a You Tube channel.
  35. Pack a picnic.
  36. Experiment with new hairstyles.
  37. Grab a puzzle book.
  38. Learn to crochet.
  39. Ride a bike.
  40. Volunteer to take a chore off your parent’s list (AKA brownie points!)
  41. Pack some books into ziploc bags and hide throughout the community for others to find.
  42. Cook something unhealthy. Oreo Pancakes?
  43. Clean out your junk drawer.
  44. Learn how to write calligraphy.
  45. Go camping in your backyard.
  46. Legos are fun at every age. Challenge yourself!
  47. Sing karaoke.
  48. Make a family tree.
  49. Create your own trail mix.
  50. Learn to knit.
  51. Clean the yard.  (Or other ways too earn some $$)
  52. Turn rocks into paper weights.
  53. Take a bubble bath.
  54. Make up a silly story. Type it up, print it out, and make it into a book as a keepsake.
  55. Roller skate.
  56. Clean or organize the mess under your sink.
  57. Go for a hike with your sketch book.
  58. Do a puzzle.
  59. Make s’mores.
  60. Take a nap.
  61. Go fishing.
  62. Donate stuff to Goodwill.
  63. Create origami animals.
  64. Learn to sew.
  65. Make a comic book.
  66. Play with the dogs.
  67. Go geocaching.
  68. Go to the park.
  69. Paint your toenails 10 different colors.
  70. Create a D&D campaign or character.
  71. Clean under your bed.
  72. Make a video.
  73. Go stargazing.
  74. Make a menu plan for the week for Mom.
  75. Build a tower with cards.
  76. Clean your closet floor.
  77. Give yourself a facial.
  78. Read a new book.
  79. Set goals for the next 90 days.
  80. Sketch a scene you see or imagine.
  81. Learn to play or practice an instrument.
  82. Scrapbook or organize family photos.
  83. Build a fort in the living room.
  84. Create a writing code (ala Book Scavenger).
  85. Go bird watching. Take pictures of the ones you spot. What kind were they?
  86. Learn to whistle.
  87. Nerf gun war!
  88. Write a poem.
  89. Bake cupcakes.
  90. Make a domino course.
  91. Rearrange and redecorate your bedroom.
  92. Play hide-and-seek with the dog.
  93. Walk the dog.
  94. Balloon volleyball.
  95. Call a family member (texting doesn’t count)
  96. Start a gratitude journal.
  97. Climb a tree.
  98. Write a letter (snail mail)
  99. Make a melted crayon artwork.
  100. What gift have you never used?



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.)

Works for kids and authors alike

You know how we teach our kids to write a basic story summary using the somebody-wanted-but-so-then model? It holds up from picture books through grown up books. So when I hit a plot problem I applied the somebody…strategy.


I noticed quickly that I couldn’t complete this framework covering the expanse of the story from beginning to end. Since I knew there was a plot problem this didn’t surprise me much. So I ended up doing somebody.  .  . hops. I completed the framework for the opening sequence of this plot, knowing (hoping! expecting!) that each little hop would grow into a full plot.

After about 4 hops I hit the midpoint of the story where everything changes for my MC and her world starts to fall apart, so did this story line. I decided to ignore previously written scenes and tried to figure out what the next logical hop would be. From there I kept hopping until a new resolution showed itself, the timeline changed, character actions turned on their heads, and drama ensued in ways I hadn’t been able to piece together before.

At the end of it, I tried to apply the somebody-wanted-but-so-then-framework to the overall story, and you know what? It worked! It worked! It worked! It worked! (Insert happy dance!)

Somebody wanted but so bunny hops

Squashing Your Outer Adult to Write for Your Inner Child

“Rediscover the child in you so that you may write for the child before you,” literary agent, Stephen Fraser, urged a room of writers at the recent Marvelous Midwest conference.

Challenge accepted.

Just warning you, there will be no acting like adults here. These times are too desperate. It’s a matter of life and death. I love my characters too much to let them die from a deprived imagination. It may call for some rather awkward moments, but for the sake of the story, I must do what must be done.

Eight Ways to Push Down the Adult in You

1. Ever notice how children dress themselves when they are first given permission to pick out their clothes? They pick out the stuff they love best and makes them feel happy. Go to your closet and pick out something that makes you feel twirly or like you could take down Megatron on your own, or whatever mood you are trying to establish in your story.

2. Get out an art medium and paper: crayons, oil pastels, finger paints, etc. No oil paints. Those are far too adultish. Have at it, but don’t think. Play. See what pops into your head all on its own.

3. Laugh. What makes you laugh? What makes kids laugh? Surround yourself with it. My kids need to laugh every night before they can go to sleep. Bodily noises will always be funny. But what really gets them going is pretending, especially if it involves taking down their dad.

4. Get in trouble. You know those things that would bring your mom to say, “Don’t make me come over there!” or “If I have to tell you to stop . . .one more time!” Do those (at your own risk – not sure what kind of kid you were. 😉 )

5. Play with kids. If you’ve got your own it’s beneficial in so many ways. If you’ve got nieces and nephews offer to babysit. If you’re a teacher plan a fun day and enjoy it with the kids. No grading papers in the background! Just play. Let the kids lead. NO MULTI-TASKING! That’s an adult habit, not allowed here.

6. Play like you use to. Think back to when you were a tween. What did you enjoy doing when you weren’t feeling awkward? When you were free to be you and were having a blast doing it. What did you do? Go do it now! Slumber party? Bike ride? Build an ice cream sundae? Sneak attack your siblings with water balloons? A healthy or fierce round of uno? Pretend you were a spy on a secret mission? Make believe you were a vet? Police officer? astronaut? Go ahead. I won’t tell!

7. Dance. I don’t mean the kind of moves you tried at the club when you turned 21. Have you ever watched kids dance? They just get into it.

8. Build a fort. Bring your computer in there. With all that playing you’re ready to write. Why not do it in a fort!

Okay. Did you shake off all that thick adultish scabby stuff that blocks creativity? Good. Have fun playing with words.

Bonus: 10 Kid-favorite movies

  • Middle School the Worst Years of My Life
  • Goosebumps
  • The Original Ghostbusters
  • Hook
  • Freaky Friday
  • The Parent Trap
  • Transformers
  • Harry Potter
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the original)


Reflections from My Pretend B&B Stay


I am pretending that I am retreating at a B&B as any smart writer would after another great SCBWI conference. She knows from experience she needs time to digest all those delicious morsels she filled and refilled her plate while at the all-you-can-eat-buffet of children’s literature.

In truth, this is being written between the becks and calls of a mom wearing the innumerable quantity of hats that moms wear. Nevertheless, I refuse to let these precious morsels fall to the floor to be devoured by dust bunnies.  Instead, I will


Discern what are the most valuable take-aways to apply to my writing, my thinking, my view of the world, before they are a jumble of partial, fragmented, and distorted memories packaged into a file in my spaghetti bowl brain.


  • From Julie Berry: If I write it in the right time order, but not the right dramatic order, my time order needs to change. Drama trumps all. (I have so many pearls from Julie!!!)
  • Eliza Swift: Three act revision – really is four parts. Split Act 2 into 2a and 2b. Everything in 2a leads to the midpoint. All of the things in 2B is in response to the midpoint. Midpoint is the game changer.
  • Julie Berry again 🙂 : Know my secondary characters’ off-screen lives. It will influence the nuances of their interactions with the MC.
  • Alexandria LaFaye: Learning new things on my manuscript is like learning to cook when hosting a dinner party. Practice new styles on writing prompts.

World View

  • Jack Cheng’s Big Question: How can we redefine masculinity to decrease violence against women and against themselves? And follow up – what’s our role as children’s writers?
  • Julie Berry and Stephen Fraser: Teach our novels to love deeper!
  • Too many from Stephen Fraser’s session on Do We Love the World Enough?: Toxic Negativity is prevalent in our culture, loving the world is the cure. Your words should sing with love for the world.


  • Though my verse novel isn’t broken into chapters, doing so has helped me find plot holes and redundancies, and has me thinking about using the chapter structure to  offer another level of play with the poems.
  • There’s a chapter I love things about, especially some poems I have written, but it doesn’t carry it’s weight dramatically. So good bye, sweet darlings!
  • Consider the roles I cast my characters in. Am I promoting the idea that there are many ways to be a girl and only one way to be a boy? (J. Cheng)
  • Holy moly! I have 30 characters in my story. Maybe I need to consolidate a few, even though I really don’t wanna.
  • Does my writing create the culture I want our world to imitate? (S. Fraser)
  • Are the things I’m writing a good fit for my emotional drive? (A. LaFaye)

Reading List

  • New Yorker Article: The Chapter: A History, by Nick Danes
  • Sweeping Up the Heart by Kevin Henkes
  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Hunt
  • You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
  • Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Johnathon Auxier
  • The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlin
  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
  • Home: A Collaboration of Thirty Authors and Illustrators
  • The Lucky Stone by Lucille Clifton
  • The Practice of Creative Writing – Heather Sellers
  • The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl Klein
  • The Anatomy of Story by John Truby

And a bunch o’picture books to boost the funny thanks to Linda Skeers

  • Scaredy Squirrel – Melanie Watt
  • Bob, not Bob – Audrey Vernick and Liz Garton Scanlon
  • Poor Doreen, A Fishy Tale – Sally Lloyd-Jones
  • Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs – Mo Willems
  • P is for Pteradactyl – Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter
  • Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters
  • Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise
  • First Grade Dropout
  • 17 Thinks I’m Not Allowed to Do Anymore – Jenny Offhill
  • Chloe and the Lion – Mac Barnett

Not to mention meeting more kindred spirits in this tribe!

The only problem with the conference is not being able to split in two, really four, to be able to sample all the delicious entrees.  Just wondering, how’s the development of Time Turners coming?

All of these food analogies remind me to answer the call of family life and get that dinner going. Cue hat switch. Where’s my chef’s hat??? Onward and forward!