Monday, May 27, 2013

twelve again

Today I pretended I was twelve years old again. I went back to a time when I was energetic, imaginative, adventuresome, and free. Before I started hearing THE VOICES.

Today I tackled a landscaping project.

I marched outside, gathered my tools, and shushed THE VOICES in my head...the ones whining about how much work it was going to entail. The ones insisting I didn't have the strength for it. That things might not grow...and what a waste of time and money that would be. And don't I have more important things to do...and on and on.
These are the same VOICES that badger me when I sit down to write. THE VOICES of caution, negativity, misgiving, and constraint that claim to have my best interests at heart...which would be fine if my goal in life was to sit back and watch daytime TV for the rest of my life...
...but I have a novel to finish, a memoir to start, and a handful of stories to send out. I can't be listening to THE VOICES, nor should you.

Sometimes you have to attempt the impossible, take a chance, try something new. You have to be optimistic, idealistic, and determined. Sometimes you just have to be twelve again.
What age would you like to be again? Why?
" If you are happier writing than not writing,
painting than not painting,
singing than not singing,
acting than not acting,
directing than not directing,
for God's sake...
let yourself do it."
--Julia Cameron--
If you didn't have a chance to attend it, I'm happy to announce that the arts are alive and well in Harrisburg, PA.



Monday, May 20, 2013

2013 pennwriters conference


There is no doubt about it--the annual Pennwriters Conference rocked again this year...which is kind of amazing since Pennsylvania has a reputation as a largely rural, largely stagnant state, not much of a leader in anything except, perhaps, fracking. But you don't have to take my word for it. You can ask people from Oregon, Michigan, and Florida why they travel so far for this particular conference. Or you could ask keynote speaker and workshop leader Donald Maass why he keeps coming back. You could ask presenters Jonathan Maberry, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Chuck Sambuchino what brings them back again and again.

2013 Conference Coordinator Jess Williams and her keynote speakers, Donald Maass and Bobbi Carducci
Conference coordinator Jess Williams with keynote speakers Bobbi Carducci and Donald Maass
photo: Heather Desuta

Building Your Freelance Portfolio with Chuck Sambuchino
Chuck Sambuchino presenting "Building Your Freelance Portfolio"
photo: Heather Desuta

Perhaps because it attracts over 200 dedicated, motivated, and imaginative writers every year.

Writing That Matters with Kathryn Craft
Kathryn Craft on "Writing That Matters"
photo: Heather Desuta

Maybe it's the broad scope of topics that are covered, from creativity, to technique, to marketing, to publication. Perhaps it's because we enjoy welcoming new members and making them feel at home with us. Perhaps it's the number of agents and editors who also attend. Or, maybe it has something to do with the food, the drink, and the fact that when we're finished with work, we enjoy one another's company at the end of the day.

Whatever the reason, this year's conference was another rousing success.

Keynote speaker Donald Maass challenged us to raise the bar on our writing. His son, age 5, is just learning to read. He left us to ponder this question: "What will you write that my son should read?" Put another way, what will you write of value.

Kathryn Craft posed a similar question: After you die, what would you like your fans to say about you?

What legacy do you wish to leave?

Friday, May 10, 2013

what i want for mother's day

What I Want for Mother's Day:

A hand-written note addressed to God, titled "Why My Mother Deserves a Place in Heaven," written by each of my children attesting to the fact that, even though I may have messed up, I did the best I could and I did it out of the goodness of my heart. Human error is a fact of life.

To celebrate this post I have included a snippet from the novel that is still moldering on a shelf in my study, pleading with me to revise it so I can put it out there again. This scene speaks about the sacrifices that mothers make for their children...the ones that go unnoticed:

Product: Mother Love: A Prayer Book for Christian Women    "When Mother first learned she was sick, three months passed before she summoned the nerve to share the news with me. At first, she’d felt confident that it would pass so there was no reason to concern me with her troubles. But when her doctors told her there was nothing more they could do for her, she had no choice. This was the latest chapter in The-Book-of-Motherly-Love that she had penned along with every other mother in the history of the universe:
  • Chapter 1: Don’t burden your children with your problems.
  • Chapter 2: Sacrifice everything for them.
  • Chapter 3: Suffer in silence.
  • And the latest chapter, “Don’t let it show."
     My mother is the one who wrote the section praising the glories of chicken wings, titled “Do Whatever It Takes." When I was a child and money was tight, she would claim the chicken wings for herself, as though this was an exotic delicacy that only an adult could that I could have the breast.

Then she would push herself away from the table and pat her stomach insisting that she was too full for that I could have the last piece of pie...when she hadn’t had anything to eat at all. A couple of lousy chicken wings. I know now that there is nothing about a chicken wing to savor—there is nothing to it at all—because I’ve done the same thing for my family when unexpected company dropped in and there wasn’t enough to go around.

     Mothers make a million sacrifices for their children without asking for anything in return. They do it quietly and joyfully in order to spare their children from hunger or thirst or worry or grief, knowing that they will do the same someday should the need arise.

     So, true to character, when Mother got sick she kept it to herself. She sat there alone when Doctor Kaplan explained the test results to her.
She dragged herself to the first couple of treatment sessions and bore the side-effects in seclusion. It wasn’t until her doctors insisted that she finally called me.

     “Hello? Katie, dear?”

     “Hi, Mom.”

     We shared the usual pleasantries. Yes, she was still meeting her friends for bridge and, in fact, they were getting together for lunch on Tuesday. They were having a little cold snap and she thought she might need to cover her roses because they'd just started to bud. Yes, Joan’s son was tending to the yard. He’d had to repair one of the screens out back after a branch came down in the wind last week. And, yes, Maggie came every day to help with the house and meals. Then there was a pause.
     “Katie, dear?” Her voice cracked.

     “Mom? What is it, Mom?”

     “Katie, sweetheart?  We need to talk.”

     Oh, dear God."
If you are a mother, or a mother-to-be, this post is for you.

If you still have your mother, or miss your mother, this post is for you.

If you have never borne a child, if you have lost a child, or you fear for your child, this post is for the burden you bear...the one that goes unnoticed.

ps.: I love you, too.



Saturday, May 4, 2013

recent reads

When I'm not writing...when I'm not edging and weeding, planting and pruning...when I'm not dusting, vacuuming and mopping...I like to read. The problem is that "There are so many books and so little time!" Nevertheless, I have made it through a few great books recently and I'd like to share them with you. Included in this list are:

"The God Delusion"
by Richard Dawkins
Front Cover
I'm happy to say that my faith survived this scathing, derogatory and intellectually challenging rant against the existence of God. The arguments and reasoning Dawkins, a devoted atheist, employs make all the sense in the world. He makes you think. He makes you wonder. In the end though, he still doesn't explain how SOMETHING came out of NOTHING and, to me, that leaves the concept of a supernatural creator open to possibility. Read this book at your own spiritual risk.
"Quiet--The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking"
by Susan Cain
quietbookiconlarge Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Cant Stop Talking
"Introvert" is my middle name. "Quiet" is my calling card. If you sometimes feel like a misfit or oddball because you like nothing better than to spend hours alone stringing words together, or if you'd rather take a book to lunch than dine with friends, or if you make excuses to stay in on might just be an introvert. Relax! It's OK! You're in excellent company. And after reading this book, you'll be proud of your little niche in this senseless, noisy world.
"You Should Really Write a Book"
by Regina Brooks (agent with Serendipity Literary Agency) and
Brenda Lane Richardson

How many times has someone said that to you? Lately, I've used that line with a couple of my friends who have incredible stories to tell, but no desire to write. The thing I like about this discussion of memoir is that it breaks memoir down into various genres (coming of age, addiction/recovery, transformation, etc.) and it also deals with collaborative efforts in writing a shared memoir. My brother and I are in the early stages of writing a shared memoir of childhood illness and the divergent paths we took in life as a result of it.
"A History of the Present Illness"
by Louise Aronson

A History of the Present Illness
Louise Aronson is a Harvard medical school graduate and writer. In this book she shares stories and vignettes from the world of medicine from a very personal and compelling perspective. This is a beautifully written and touching study of our fragile human condition. As a physician, it rings true to me and my experience with patients and their families.
"Empower! Women's Stories of Breakthrough, Discovery, and Triumph"
featuring me
I don't feel as though I can claim this book as my own because my story is just one of 25 incredible stories by women who have overcome difficult challenges in order to find personal fulfillment and success. I'm actually reading it through for the second time already and I'm still astounded. In this book you'll read stories of poverty, life-threatening illness, discrimination, abuse, uncertainty, and longing from women who mustered the necessary strength to move on in their lives. Their courage and ultimate success are an inspiration to all of us. It is available at
Eight books are staring at me right now, wondering when I'll get around to them. Among them are: "The Lobotomist", "The Wisdom of the Body", "Say You're One of Them", "Open Heart" by Elie Wiesel, and "Tapestry of Fortunes" by Elizabeth Berg. I feel a week at the beach coming on...
What book are you reading? What book are you writing?
I want to congratulate my soul-searching brother for completing the 2013 A to Z Blog Challenge this year. He finished by sharing this poem. I love it! "Z is for":
“I asked the Zebra,
are you black with white stripes?
Or white with black stripes?
And the zebra asked me,
Are you good with bad habits?
Or are you bad with good habits?
Are you noisy with quiet times?
Or are you quiet with noisy times?
Are you happy with some sad days?
Or are you sad with some happy days?
Are you neat with some sloppy ways?
Or are you sloppy with some neat ways?
And on and on and on and on and on and on he went.
I’ll never ask a zebra about stripes...again.”
-- Shel Silverstein

Are you a reader with the desire to write...or a writer with the desire to read?