Springtime

terraced planters

Things are blossoming over here. Story things and plant things and family things. Blossoming is hard work. It takes attention and energy, care and thoughtful pruning. It also takes patience, discipline, generosity, and collaboration. Until recently, I never realized how much goes into this season of life and rebirth. But you cannot enjoy the fruits without the labor.

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February and March in photos

We've had the best weekend weather lately! Last Sat we took advantage of it to visit the "Temple of Love" in Mount Storm Park. #cincinnati

Night life. #grumblepup

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wild succulents

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How a story starts

“What Form It Will Take” by Roxana Robinson

I start out with a particular moment that I find troubling, or compelling, or devastating. Sometimes it’s a moment that I’ve been part of; sometimes it’s something that I’ve watched happen; sometimes it’s something I’ve heard about. That moment itself is always drawn from life; it’s always a moment that I find deeply disturbing. If it’s powerful enough, then I need to write about it.

My task then is to write a narrative that will make that moment become as powerful for you, the reader, as it was for me, the writer. I must describe a landscape, introduce characters, and create the action as it unfolds, but all of this is directed toward the creation of that last vivid moment—difficult and breathtaking—that I found so compelling.

This is often how it starts for me as well. Not always, but often.

It’s like the eye of a storm. Everything else can swirl around in chaos — characters, setting, plot points, language. It can all be thrown about, changed, destroyed. But what’s at the center, that emotional core, that’s where you as the writer have to stand and stay and make your home. That’s where you have to bring the reader. Into the heart of it all.

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The twist in M. Night Shyamalan’s overnight success

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It’s midnight and I’m rewatching The Sixth Sense. Probably not the best life decision, but whatevs. I’d actually been thinking about this movie the other day. The clever storytelling. The phenomenal performances. The simple, sharp writing.

Cole: Everyone got upset. They had a meeting. Mom started crying. I don’t draw like that anymore.

Malcolm: How do you draw now?

Cole: I draw… people smiling, dogs running, rainbows. They don’t have meetings about rainbows.

As usual, I did some quick googling and wiki-ing, to learn more about how this movie came to be. I knew it was writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s breakout hit — but what I did not know is that he had been making films for years before. Years and years and years, in fact. Ever since he was a kid. And all during school. Throughout college, and onward. He was always writing and directing. Always practicing. Always improving.

I thought The Sixth Sense was his first. I thought he was an overnight success.

Instead, he’s a perfect reminder that “overnight success” typically comes after tons of hard work. Which is just as special — just as remarkable of a story — if not more so.

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A few things I’ve written recently

“The Big Three Oh” with Angie Liang for Just Between Us

In 2015, Angie and Kristan turned 30. The milestone was both more and less momentous than they expected…

“How to Buy Your First House” for Just Between Us

Step 1: Convince yourself that you do not need a house. Your 2-bed, 2-bath condo has plenty of space. You and your husband never even go into the spare room. You only have guests a few times a year, you hardly cook, and you have no kids. (Unless you count your dog…) The condo is fine. You do not need a house.

Step 2: Start browsing real estate websites anyway.

“What’s in Your Bag of Tricks?” for Writer Unboxed

Since I was about 9 years old, all I’ve wanted is to be a writer. Some of my strongest memories are of sitting in my own little room at my parents’ print shop, surrounded by filing cabinets and spare computer parts and dusty paper samples, filling the hours between school and dinner by scribbling stories into notebooks. Back then, the words seemed to flow so easily, like water, like magic. Now? Not so much.

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