Writers Journal

Writer's Journal

In a recent Writer's Digest article, David Corbett, author of The Art of Character, writes:

"People don't turn to stories to experience what you, the writer, have experienced--or even what your characters have. They read to have their own experience."

Good to remember: Write in such a way as to give the reader an experience--of joy or sadness or fear or excitement--instead of merely reading about someone else's experience.





December 12, 2015

"It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horses, the leaves, the wind, the words my people uttered, even the red sun that made them almost close their love-drowned eyes."

Gustave Flaubert





November 26, 2015

















 O Lord,

We're grateful that we can come together as a family,
united in our love in spite of the misguided political views held
by some of our members gathered with us here today.

We hold hands around this table,
putting aside our differences,
confident that Your wisdom
will help them see the error of their ways.

We give thanks for the bounty of this table
and for our nation rich in its blessings,
now threatened by the idiotic policies being proposed
by a certain political party who shall remain nameless
because we have put politics aside on this day of Thanksgiving.
But really, you would not believe the asinine things they're saying about--

What? Oh, sorry, Lord. Margaret reminds me
that I can get a bit carried away in defense of
truth and justice and, heck, just basic common sense.

We ask that You bless this great nation of ours in the year coming
as we must choose between sanity and
the catastrophic alternative offered by the other party.

We pray this in the name of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ,
who we know shares the same values as half of us sitting here at this table.


...Margaret, why aren't there any knives on the table?




July 10, 2015


At WordFest this week, retired physician Dan Roberts read from his novel in progress, a medical thriller titled The VRSA Syndrome.

Dan shared that when he sent out his manuscript, an agent responded with thirty pages of notes for re-working it.

Thirty pages? I'm just happy if the form rejection letter sounds heartfelt.




March 2, 2015


I will be making a rare appearance at the next WordFest on Tuesday, March 3, 6:00-8:00 PM, reading my short story, “The Conquest of Mt. St. Helens: A somewhat true account of the harrowing 1999 assault on the treacherous peak.”

Like movies typically proclaim: "Based on a true story." (e.g., The Hobbit--Based on a true story.)


WordFest meets at Cassava, 1333 Broadway in Longview.

Can't make it? You can also read the story and see photos of the ascent here: The Conquest of Mt. St. Helens





Bernhard Schlink, author of The Reader
(Der Vorleser):


"I write for the same reason others read:

You don't want to live only one life."
















As writers, we want to be Scheherazade:

We want to tell stories as if our lives depended on it.








November 9, 2013

This week I was invited to read to Bev Becerra's HeadStart class at the Broadway School in Longview. I debated whether to read excerpts from Tales of Tokyo or maybe The Legacy of Emily Hargraves--everyone loves a ghost story.

In the end, I settled on Princess Priscilla--written by a good friend of mine from my Australia years, Stacey Apeitos.

Wise choice. A feisty princess, a hungry dragon, and 1,000 pancakes--hard combination to beat.

They were riveted to the rug.







October 25, 2013


Longview artist and friend Mark Dykstra has created two cover designs for my next novel.

(Mark also did the traditional Japanese artwork for the cover of Tales of Tokyo, which was designed by Korina Groff, another friend and artist.)

Sending out the brief description below, I invited Facebook friends to vote for the book cover they thought is most effective in grabbing people’s attention--the seaplane or the cabin.


The book in brief:

In the early 1900s, a wealthy German industrialist establishes a utopian community on an isolated island off British Columbia. One hundred years later, Adam Gardner and two companions discover this society when their seaplane crashes in the Queen Charlotte Sound. Adam becomes fascinated by this people who live in apparent harmony with each other and with nature. However, hanging over the island is an old Haida prophecy of how the community will end, and Adam comes to suspect that he may be bearing the seeds of its destruction.



By my count, the seaplane got 13 votes and the cabin got...um, 13 votes. Well, that's helpful.

Norma Davey (seaplane) is in marketing and attuned to what sells; but Lori Steed (cabin) works in a bookstore and so probably has a good feel for book covers; added to that, my niece-in-law Robyn Clevenger Rose (cabin) is always right (it's been mathematically proven), plus, in addition to always being right, she's an Aries--or is that being redundant?

Angela Fowler likes the seaplane, without the plane (hm, hard to call, but I think I get the point;)

Michael Miller proposed that Mark combine the two--seaplane on a lake with the cabin on the shore. Clearly, we need Michael back in Washington DC;

Cynthia Moyer (Cabin) perhaps captured the difference between the two covers--the seaplane suggests "adventure" while the cabin suggests "mystery."

Nancy Leonard, Penny Wilson Lightfoot and Diane McCoy Searing are all excited to read the novel--which of course was the right answer. Unfortunately, Diane, the book is not yet available. I am finishing up the 2nd draft and will start sending it out to agents. Until then, you might check out my website for the 3 books that are available:


My thanks to all of you who participated (even the undecideds, Francine.) While no clear choice emerged, I appreciated your input and ideas!




I am on one of my visits home from Australia. My sister-in-law has left me to watch over the children—hers and the children she cares for. Working on a story, I watch over them from downstairs as they play upstairs.

I don’t really need to be upstairs since my 7-year old niece Renee provides me regular updates on how bad the other children are behaving. Especially Ryan, her younger brother. Ryan is being very bad. I thank Renee for the report and ask her to keep me informed if the situation upstairs deteriorates.

She leaves. I see there a promising career with the NSA.

Within ten minutes she has returned. Apparently, Ryan is achieving new heights of badness.

Renee loves bunny rabbits. Ryan loves to give her drawings of bunny rabbits with daggers stuck in them, bunny rabbits decapitated, bunny rabbits hanging from a noose. Based on everything Renee has told me, it seems my youngest nephew is growing up to be a sociopath.

She hands me his latest drawing. I offer that maybe it’s not a bunny rabbit being roasted over coals. To me, it looks more like a hippopotamus--with a cotton tail. (Clearly, Ryan is not going to be an artist.)

Renee wants me to punish him—severely—or even better, give him up for adoption before her mother gets home. I explain the complexities involved and that we probably can’t do it within the next 30 minutes. She thinks it’s worth a shot.

But I really want to return to my writing and I suggest that she not come downstairs again unless there’s blood. If there’s blood, then come and get me.

I can see that I am a disappointment to my niece and have probably lost my Most Favored Uncle status, but God never intended me to be a disciplinarian.

At the time, I was working on The Legacy of Emily Hargraves, and I would use Renee and Ryan’s relationship—less sibling rivalry than a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction—as a model for that between Emily and her younger brother, Earle, a natural born imp who delights in getting at his sister whenever possible.