Snippet Sunday: A warning and a story

Posted on Aug 3, 2014 in news & muse, Snippet Sunday, the Next Novel

It’s that time of the month again! Snippet Sunday is a monthly meme organized by Stephanie Dray in which historical authors post six sentence snippets of their novels. For the sake of organization, I’ve decided to post mine on the first Sunday of the month. You can read my previous snippets here.

July’s snippet is from the Next Novel, which is set in 1851 England. (This post offers more details.) For this month, I’ve decided to expand upon the first line I recently shared from it:

“I must warn,” Bertram Fitzgordon began, his breath shallow and fetid, “that you may find this story disturbing given your unfortunate circumstances. If you fear this may take too much of your spirit, I understand. Regardless, I pray you will offer me this last favor. That you’ll stay and listen.”


His throat dry, Robert nodded. In that moment, his concerns for his wife felt far away.

Creativity Friday: Virginia Center for the Creative Arts residency!

Posted on Aug 1, 2014 in creativity, news & muse, the Next Novel, travels


Above: water lily buds in my garden yesterday.

With the summer at hand, it seems as though my work in the studio has slowed to … well, while not exactly a crawl, more like a leisurely saunter. Though I’ve managed to move forward with drafting the Next Novel, my Poets & Writers reading, and other projects, my mind is decidedly thinking, “Everything starts anew in September. Time to take it easy. Unless you’re a water lily, that is.”

(See above photo! And below! And here, where it all began! Yes, the lilies are blooming at last!)

Therefore, I was especially delighted to learn yesterday I’ve been awarded a two week residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts for January 2015. I applied for the fellowship earlier this year; like my water lilies, it took several months to blossom into form.


About the VCCA from their website:

VCCA is a working retreat for exceptional national and international artists, writers, and composers.


For anywhere from two weeks to two months, they come here for intense periods of work free from the distractions of day-to-day life. Sequestered in the rolling foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, they are furnished with private studios, private bedrooms and three prepared meals a day. They can work in concentrated solitude, then re-energize in the company of two dozen other artists, writers and composers at dinner.


The results of this crucible of creativity can be seen in the numerous awards our Fellows receive—from the Pulitzer Prize to the MacArthur “Genius Grant”.

I am so honored and grateful for this opportunity. I plan to use my residency at VCCA to work on the second draft of the Next Novel; by then, I intend to have the first draft finished. As you might imagine, I am feeling very encouraged. :-)


The water lilies this morning. Within twenty-four hours, they went from being tight buds into beautiful flowers.

Wordless Wednesday: Arrangement in Orange and Gold

Posted on Jul 30, 2014 in news & muse, the world around me, travels, Wordless Wednesday


Photographed recently at Blue Mountain Lake at sunset. 

Publishing Monday: Litwrap reading reminder

Posted on Jul 28, 2014 in events, friends and colleagues, news & muse, The Lily Maid, the Next Novel

“A painting undermined my father. And, as you will see by the end of my story, a painting nearly destroyed me. Art is dangerous like that, an unruly thing. I used to consider it as superfluous as those who dedicated their lives to creating it. I no longer do—I’ve learned this lesson, along with so many others, over the past months. During this period my life has become as foreign to me as another land….”

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, I’ll be reading tomorrow night at Litwrap’s Works-in-Progress summer reading. I’m planning to read from the first chapter of the Novel Formerly Known as THE LILY MAID (above) and a short excerpt from the Next Novel.

The details:

When: Tuesday, July 29th, 7 – 9PM

Where: Upstairs at 61 Local, 61 Bergen Street (corner of Smith Street), Brooklyn

The reading is supported in part by a grant from Poets & Writers. I’ll be joined by an awesome lineup of local writers: Brian Erickson, Ilana Kramer, Sarah Seltzer, Rachel Lyon, Max Bean, Mary Lannon, and Gerard Cabrera. If all this isn’t enough enticement, I’ll be spilling the new titles for THE LILY MAID and the Next Novel, which thus far only my literary agent and a few close friends know.

So, hope to see you there!

Creativity Friday: Now with Summer-Inspired Writing Prompts!

Posted on Jul 25, 2014 in creativity, news & muse, stuff I like, the Next Novel, the world around me

Ever since Thea started elementary school, summer has become delineated in our house between the last day of school and the first. By this standard, we’re nearly halfway through the season.

Thus far, my summer has included the following activities:

~ Travel to beautiful lakes in faraway places.

~ Take Thea to camp in various parts of Brooklyn.

~ Pick up Thea from camp in various parts of Brooklyn.

~ Gardening. (This includes sub-activities involving wildlife, such as obsessing over raccoons attacking the water lilies I’m raising in a tub outside*, and squeeing over the sparrows at the bird feeder.)

~ Eating herbs and vegetables from our garden. (Can’t get more locavore than this.)

~ Design schtuff.

~ Writing the Next Novel.** (I am deep into my first draft, which I’m hoping to finish up by the end of the year. Now with added intensity and gothic romanticism!)

It’s this final activity which brings me to writing prompts, the subject of this post. ”What’s a writing prompt?” you might be asking. I think of writing prompts as a way to subvert your inner critic, like playing the party game of Charades on a blank page. They’re also useful for dealing with writer’s block because it takes the pressure of  deciding What To Write About out of your hot little hands. It’s a very simple two step process:

Step one: Someone besides yourself suggests a subject to write about.

Step two: You write for a specified amount of time. No excuses.

See? Easy-peasy!

Now that we’re deep into summer, my intensely creative writer friend Anca Szilagyi, a fellow at Seattle’s Richard Hugo House, has thoughtfully posted a list of summer-inspired writing prompts over at Ploughshares. They range from five minutes prompts such as “describe the physical sensation of sunburn” to more involved twenty minute ones.

So, what are you waiting for? Go forth and write!


*Water lilies budding in my garden. I’ve saved them several times from curious raccoons. The tiny circles in the center will grow to become blossoms. Amazing, no? 

** If you live in NYC, I’ll be reading from the Next Novel and the Novel Formerly Known as The Lily Maid on Tuesday, July 29th in Brooklyn. More information here