Author Talk: Margaret Atwood

Sometimes, seemingly out of nowhere, an opportunity arises that you just can’t pass up. The opportunity in this instance was a visit from Margaret Atwood, award-winning author of bestsellers such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, and many others to date.

I personally have not read any of Ms. Atwood’s work, nor have I watched the Hulu production of The Handmaid’s Tale. The reason is because my blood pressure can’t handle it under the current political climate — I’ll just leave it at that. I have, however, admired her work for a long time.

So, imagine my shock when I heard that she would be coming to Tuscaloosa as part of the University of Alabama’s Distinguished Writer’s Series! Little did I know, Margaret Atwood was the writer in residence at the University of Alabama in the mid-80’s. She actually finished her manuscript for The Handmaid’s Tale while she was living in Tuscaloosa. With all honesty, I would not have believed that if I had not heard it straight from her mouth last night.


We were all treated to readings from The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, and Hagseed. She gave us the background of each, how each came to be, the inspiration behind the works, and insight into the process of writing each. She kept us all laughing with a dry wit and optimistic view of the future. Many a cheer from many a Doug Jones supporter were heard from the audience last night — myself included.

She also shared precious few details about a secret manuscript she completed for Norway’s Future Library Project, which will remain unread for a century. As a participant of the project (which you can read more about right here), she was sworn to secrecy about the details of the manuscript.

Margaret Atwood, handing over her boxed manuscript for the Future Library Project in Oslo, Norway.

However, she did give us the name: Scribbler Moon. When she explained the premise of the project, she commented that she felt compelled to do it because, basically, there are two types of kids in the world: 1) the kinds who bury bottles in their back yards and hope that someone, one day, will read the message inside and 2) the kinds who don’t.

I like to believe that I’d fall into the first category. What about you?

(The best I could get from my back row seat!)

Thank you all for reading!


Latest Reads/Inspiration: What I’m Up To

Hello all! It’s been a while but I have been reading and have kept up with writing. This is largely due to a writing group I have been a part of over the past year — they inspire me to keep going. It’s a lot like group exercise classes, which are also crucial to my overall physical health.

I’m still working on my novel, and getting close to seeing the whole story written out on paper! It’s a good feeling. I started writing it during a low, pretty lonely point in my life and the story has grown with me, in a way. I’ve got the beginning, most of the middle, and the very end written. Now just have to bang out the part between the middle and the ending. After that, my plan is to print off the draft and get it bound with plastic rings then go in and get down to the nitty gritty.

I’ve learned that my process is to get the bones of the story on the page, then add the detail, beauty, and ambiance after the bones are there. Like Anne Lamott said, put the sand in the box and build the sandcastles later.

In other news, I’ve read some good books!

Continue reading “Latest Reads/Inspiration: What I’m Up To”

Writing Prompt: Creating a Great First Page

I have a thing for the book section at the Target in my parents’ town. Whenever I go in there, I find myself flipping through new releases and thumbing through the paperbacks. My most recent purchases have been “Eight Hundred Grapes” by Laura Dave and “China Rich Girlfriend” by Kevin Kwan.

I haven’t gotten to China Rich Girlfriend yet, but it’s in my stack. I jumped at Dave’s novel after I read the blurb, though, because the plot is similar to the novel I am working on right now.

There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide… What if your beloved fiancé, he of the crinkly smile and irresistible British accent, had kept a life-changing secret from you? And what if, just a week before your dream wedding, you discovered it?

Georgia Ford, bride-to-be, hops in her car and drives through the night, from Los Angeles to Sonoma, to her safe haven: her family, and the acclaimed family winery. Georgia craves the company of those who know her best, and whom she truly knows. Better yet, it’s the eve of the last harvest—the best time of the growing season, and Georgia knows she’ll find solace—and distraction—in the familiar rituals. But when Georgia arrives home, nothing is at all familiar. Her parents, her brothers, the family business, are all unrecognizable. It seems her fiancé isn’t the only one who’s been keeping secrets…

Eight Hundred Grapes is a story about the messy realities of family, the strength (and weaknesses) of romantic love, and the importance of finding a place to call home. “This winning tale will both satisfy on a literary level and encourage oenophiles to pour themselves a glass of a recent vintage to enjoy while reading; it’s a tasty treat for wine lovers and teetotalers alike” (Publishers Weekly). You won’t be able to put this “addictive” (Us Weekly) novel down.

– From Simon & Schuster’s webpage for the novel

I thought, “This would be a great opportunity to see how someone else does it and draw some new ideas.”  Continue reading “Writing Prompt: Creating a Great First Page”

Book Celebration: You are a Badass by Jen Sincero

Hello, all!

I haven’t posted since January. Haven’t been working on the Short Story Challenge at all and will have to offer a hearty #NotSorry for that one. I have kept writing, though! And reading! I have lots of things I’d like to share with you all.

Today I’d like to add a new theme to content on here — Book Celebrations. As writers, wasn’t reading our first love? I get such a high when I read a book that resonates with me, or when I hold a new paperback in my hands with a bright cover and turn pulpy smooth pages with my fingers.

I was intrigued when one of my friends sent me “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero, the title alone is enough to demand your attention.

Badass - Jen Sincero


The book is divided into Five Parts and 28 Sections. The names are funny and help you ease your way into openness to changing habits. All of those are available on the free preview.  Continue reading “Book Celebration: You are a Badass by Jen Sincero”

Short Story Challenge: Week 3

Week three has already come and gone. The prompt for this week’s challenge was: “A retelling of a fairy tale.”

I thought about going the conventional route and doing Cinderella or Snow White. But, since those have already been done several times, I decided to look into a lesser-known fairy tale.

First, I considered re-working “The Golden Goose.” I thought this might provide some interesting opportunities to look at selfishness and kindness. However, once I started to read further into the story, I realized it would be a little difficult to fit the plot and characters into a modern context.

I kept looking. I went through a few others in my mind before I stumbled on “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” I remembered hearing it before and reading it at my grandmother’s house when my sister and I were little. I liked this idea of young girls looking for a good time and thought it would be easier to fit into a more modern context.

original“The Twelve Dancing Princesses” by Ruth Sanderson

I changed the setting to a modern day women’s dormitory. In doing so, I decided to re-work all of the characters in new ways in order to best incorporate them into the story.  Continue reading “Short Story Challenge: Week 3”

Writing Prompts – Short Story Challenge 2016


Have you all set a New Year’s Resolution or Intention about your writing this year? My 2016 Intention is to judge my success by how much fun I’m having. I realized that in a lot of areas in my life, writing included, I was just trying entirely too hard and often found that I wasn’t having much fun at all. So I’m making joy a priority this year.

Having said that, I was excited to stumble upon this writing challenge from Our Writing Therapy. 52 Short stories in 52 Weeks – one short story a week for an entire year.

I love these prompts because they are so simple, and leave a lot of wiggle room for imagination and experimentation. I bet that if fifteen people in a Creative Writing class had these prompts, they would all come up with stories that were vastly different each week.

So I started last Monday with Week 1: A Story Entitled “A New Beginning”.

Here are the notes that I took while brainstorming. For all of you nerds out there (like me), I used a Moleskin Cahier Journal (pocket size, lined) and Bic Round Stic pen. My absolute favorite pen of all time, though, is the Pilot V5 Precise. The highlighter I used was a Post-It 2-in-1 Flag HighlighterContinue reading “Writing Prompts – Short Story Challenge 2016”

Dose of Inspiration: “The Gap”

Have you all seen this video before? I’ve read a couple of pieces about this “Gap” theory, but this is the first time I have actually seen it presented like this. I feel like it’s made an entirely new impact on me!

I remember talking with my writing group about this same frustration about a year ago. I was feeling rather loathsome about a short story I had written, and in my typical form, I was being entirely too hard on myself. I was dealing with that heavy disappointment when you write something that you know isn’t good enough. Do you all know that feeling? When you crank something out, maybe to just see how it turns out, and it ends up sounding like something you thought was cool in the 8th grade? Then that mean, self-defeating inner dialog starts, “Oh, God. Is that me? Is that what really came out of my brain when I have all of these incredible ideas swimming around in there? Is this all I can do?” Continue reading “Dose of Inspiration: “The Gap””

How do you write?

There are countless posts online about writing habits. When I’m deeply entrenched in writer’s block or locked up in a procrastination two-step, I find myself searching those posts for inspiration, grasping for an “Aha!” moment that will finally make things click.

Unfortunately, I haven’t found anything that makes writing and being productive easy. I keep finding that productivity, and often success, is nothing more than a choice to show up and make an effort.

During one of my searches, I found this video about productivity, which I thought was very helpful. This little mini-lesson from Brian Johnson’s Philosopher’s Notes is called 50 lbs for an A and it actually changed the way I think about writing.

“Ideas about creating something perfect are not going to get you there. Engage with life and churn, be in the game, getting a little bit better and optimizing again and again.”

Continue reading “How do you write?”

Check-in: December 2015

Even though I grew up reading novels, all I’ve ever written in the past have been short stories. I rarely ever find these easy to write, but they do seem more manageable, like the baby step approach to writing. And although it’s frustrating at times, if the story doesn’t work out, it’s easy to put them aside and move onto something else without too much time wasted in between.

Earlier this year, I started writing a novel. I did try my hand at novel writing for a brief period in Graduate School, but it was just too autobiographical and didn’t really work. I did LOVE my first chapter, though. I might end up recycling a few of those characters and using them somewhere else.

This novel is something a little different. I do like the story. I don’t think it’s Pulitzer Prize material yet, but I do think someone would want to read it one day. Not to give too much away, the story is about a college-aged woman who decides to leave school to spend the summer with her grandfather. He is a pretty well-known artist who specializes in portraits and lives in a somewhat secluded home in Northwest Alabama. When she arrives, the girl, a fairly wounded person, crosses paths with another artist, a friend of her grandfather’s. This other artist, a younger guy, has worked with her grandfather in the past and decides to come back for another summer. No one else at the house knows that they have a shared history and through ensuing tension, the girl is forced to confront a lot of her old wounds and decide whether to grow or continue floundering.

I think any novel has a deep basis in one’s own experience, but most of the inspiration came from a movie I stumbled upon and loved, Renoir.

Renoir (2013) Directed by Gilles Bourdos

The French film has some mixed reviews, but I really enjoyed it. There was something about the color, the leisurely use of time, and the overall style of the picture that had me hooked. Right after I watched it the first time, I got out one of my notebooks and started brainstorming plots. I wrote down whatever came to mind and after a month or so, I started writing the novel. Continue reading “Check-in: December 2015”

Welcome, friends!

Welcome to the beginning stages of my new pet project! I spend a lot of time reading and scouring the internet for inspiration, so starting a blog is something that’s been incubating in my imagination for the past year or so. I’ve struggled a little with the direction, but I think I finally have it.

Here’s what I’ve got:

My goal in this new venture is to create a space where writers, readers, and creators can come together to share resources, ideas, and encouragement.

So essentially, when your creative juices evaporate into a thin, odorless mist (as they often do), you can come here to camp out for a spell and reboot.

Below is a general list of what you can expect to find here:

  • Writing Resources: helpful guides, prompts of all kinds, advice from authors, etc.
  • What I Love About… (insert author name here) Explorations in style and the love of reading
  • I Need Help With…. (insert problem here: inspiration, discipline, organization, character development, plot planning) Advice and Pep Talks to get you going in the right direction
  • Doses of Inspiration… Writing can be lonely. Hell, existing can be lonely. These little posts will (hopefully) send you back out better than you came in.
  • Check-ins… Where I am with my writing and challenges I’m facing

To start off with, I have filled this space with a list of books, videos, and websites that have helped me tremendously with my own writing practice and life. Check out the resource page. Continue reading “Welcome, friends!”