Tuesday, August 15, 2017


guest post by DeAnna Nolan 

But first, Lynn says: 

DeAnna's contribution comes to us by way of Kristin Abraham, who is one of DeAnna's professors at Laramie County Community College.  I'll be working with Kristin this fall to bring more fine posts to our blog from LCCC students... love those student voices!

Rocks and poetry have always been a passion of mine. When I was a kid, one never topped the other. And to be honest I do not know where the love for either one stewed from. They just grew on me like weeds in my brain.

Now being a tad bit older and even more curious I think constantly about how writing and geology connect and intertwine with each other. Geology is more than just rocks. It is the study of the earth, its structure, processes, and history.

Which, if you really think about it, is a lot like being a writer. We want to study human nature (and many other things) and put it into words. Just like Geology, we have a structure of writing, our processes of how we get words from our minds to paper, and we all have a history we need/should share with the world around us.

One of my favorite things I think I have discovered about the connection between geology and being a writer is that both are delightfully unpredictable. This is truly amazing and fascinating because this is what fuels a writer to write such astonishing things, the way that tornadoes can randomly show up in the middle of a beautiful day.

Writers can be in the middle of doing taxes and be hit with a sudden idea about a character who has the ability to see the numbers he/she writes. This interruption is both a blessing and a curse because just like a tornado that can turn a quiet town into an upside down, barren land, being hit with ideas at random times can really mess up our flow and get us distracted. But to be honest, I think that is when our best ideas come to life.

I also like to think about some of the anxieties I have as a writer. Some of them are being constantly afraid to write, terrified of revision when I do write, and wondering how I can be a writer when my punctuation and grammar are so terrible. When these anxieties hit me (and they hit me quite often), I like to think about the layers of the earth. The earth has many layers, some in rock formations and the layers right under our feet. These layers come about by sand or mud being built on top of each other and the weight causing the rock below to become solid.

Just the way a writer (or human in general) is made of layers. We are not just one thing. If we were just one thing then some of our best stories would not have layers. Therefore, I like to think of my anxieties about writing as being part of my layers. We all have them and they are a part of us. There are other layers inside, I know, that are on top of those anxieties and that help me realize that “Hey! I can write and I will write because I know I have improved from then until now.”

There are many other things about geology and writing that really make me giggle and shake with excitement. Because how wonderful is it that we can look at where we are now--the sky, rain, the dirt--and know that we are not so different and we share such creative things about us.

DeAnna Nolan is an English major at Laramie County Community College. She also has the pleasure of working at her college library, where books surround her all day (her second favorite thing next to cats). When she is not at school you can usually find her writing poetry, reading, or dancing at her second home, Act Two Studios, where she also teaches.

When she has the time or just needs to unwind, you can find her at home with her two dogs and cat watching Bob’s Burgers or The Twilight Zone.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Escaping the Land of Lethologica

by Susan


Grandiloquent Word of the Day defines "lethologica" (LETH-oh-LODG-ik-a). as "The inability to remember a word or put your finger on the right word." Lethologica impels us to use language like "whatchamacallit" or "whatsit" or "dooflackey.

Photo by sean Kong on Unsplash
Lethologica is that feeling when a word dangles on the tip of your tongue, elusive. It's like a sneeze that won't come, an itch you can't scratch, or the desire to have a good cry when you're too heavily medicated to do so.

I love the sound of it: lethologica. Try saying it without putting your tongue back in your mouth -- it's almost possible. (Now, clean the spit off your screen.)

How would it appear in a travel guide if it were a country?
Lethologica is located just north of Aphasia, the border  between the two countries demarcated by the Lexicon River. From the Plain of Shush, tourists will see stunning views of the Stuttering Mountains. Travelers should beware the Jabberwocky and bring their own maps, as the locals are notoriously bad at giving directions to wheresit.
If lethologica were a disease, it would be benign in the majority of the population, but drive writers to madness. Writers do not rest until they find exactly the right word. At least, I don't like to.

I most often find the cure for lethologica in a thesaurus, when I can get to one. What writer doesn't love, adore, cherish, prize, and cherish a thesaurus?

I've stumped the occasional reader with words like "tallow" and a "gibbous" moon. I suppose I could use "sheep fat" and "nearly full," but those don't have the sound and spirit I want. English is a rich language, and I revel in its riches. I'm not using those words to impress, but to express it exactly.

On my bookshelf is a 1935 copy of Rats, Lice, and History* by Hans Zinsser. At one point, he uses the word saprophyte. A helpful footnote at the bottom of the page reads, "If the reader does not understand this word, it is too bad."

The utter lack of damns he gives is heartening. It was the precise word he wanted, he used it, and he expected the reader to figure it out one way or another.

I will keep his book forever for that footnote alone.

* Rats, Lice, and History: Being a Study in Biography, which after Twelve Preliminary Chapters Indispensable for the Preparation of the Lay Reader, Deals with the Life History of TYPHUS FEVER

Why yes, I do have strange reading tastes.


Expect delays in comment moderation this week. Your faithful co-bloggers are off enjoying their summers and may not be at the keyboard at all times. Please do still comment -- we love to hear from you!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Writer's Homework

Susan here: I'm not sure how I connected with Nicholas Trandahl on Facebook, but I'm grateful I did. After getting to know him more online, I invited him to send us a guest post. Again, I'm grateful I did. When I read this, I felt like I had a cheerleader in my corner.

by Nicholas Trandahl

Nicholas Trandahl at Hemingway House.
I’d made it. I was in Ernest Hemingway’s house on Whitehead Street in Key West, Florida. I was in the sanctum of my literary hero, where most of his body of work was written. There were his books, his typewriters, his photographs, his fishing rod, his bed, and everything else that comprised his life when he lived in Key West during the Great Depression.

I’d walked the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard with my wife in an October breeze, beheld a massive herd of elk graze way above the tree line in the Colorado Rockies, and flown over the glittering lights of Baghdad in a March night. But stepping through the rooms of the Hemingway House in Key West was an entirely new type of experience. It was when I realized that great writers, perhaps the greatest, were mere men and women, no different than you or I. They suffered the same struggles that all of us contemporary writers struggle with concerning our literary craft.

But I was not there for sightseeing and not even necessarily to have a life-changing moment or epiphany as a writer. I was there as a collector of experiences, i.e., writing material.

When I write poetry, I pull words from the things that I see and the places that I go. I write about my life. When someone tells me that they don’t know what to write about, I like to reply:
“If you’re breathing, there’s always something to write about.”
And it’s the truth. This world we live in and all the people that inhabit it are pure unfiltered inspiration for poems, stories, art, and lyrics. It’s all just begging for someone creative and observant to pay attention to it.

I’ve written my whole life, but things didn’t get serious for me until I was serving in the Middle East as a soldier in the U.S. Army. I started writing poetry over there as way to cope with the things I was feeling and the stresses I was experiencing. However, over the years, my poetry has become observational as opposed to introspective. I’ve plumbed the depths of my internal demeanor enough, and as a resident of this planet, there’ll never be a shortage of new material for me or anyone else. It’s limitless.

How do you become inspired? There’s nothing simpler or cheaper than inspiration. You stand outside for a moment or two and watch the colorful artwork as the sun falls away into the west, or you watch the primal strength of a coming storm, or the snow drifting down like ashes through the boughs of an old pine, or the stars flickering like chips of diamond in the vast vault of the night.

In fact, you don’t even need to go outside. Sit at your writing desk or at the kitchen table. Lay in your bed even! If you can watch the light fall through a window and paint the ice in your drink or the color of your lover’s eyes, then your capacity as a writer will never be diminished.

Go outside. Travel when you’re able. Adventure. Experience things. Because even fiction is not entirely fiction. And poetry is best when it’s honest.

And now you may be saying to yourself that inspiration doesn’t entirely cut it. You might have loads of ideas: barely-started stories or errant lines of poetry that mark notes on your desk like half-remembered dreams. You’re overflowing with ideas; that’s not the issue. The issue is completing your idea, seeing it come to fruition in publication.

There’s no easy answer to this, no poetic answer. Despite what non-writers may think, writing is indeed actual work. A story, a poem, a novel, or a collection of poems will not write itself, no matter how marvelous you think your ideas are nor how outstanding and poetic your experiences may be.

Writing is hard. It takes a commitment. People that have spoken with me about their multitude of ideas but their lack of finished work lament their predicament. And so do I.

It’s a problem we all suffer from. But there’s hope; it can be controlled. It takes a single-minded devotion to your work that borders on obsessiveness. Finish it! Work on nothing else when it comes to your writing. Pound away on those keys until the final word is reached. Write every day. Set aside writing time, early in the morning or in the evening when things are quietest.

Remember, your story and its characters depend entirely on you. They came to your mind, and are counting on you to reveal them to the world. Without you telling their story, it will never be told. Think about how tragic that would be. Without you to write it out, your story, poem, or novel is no more than a quickly-forgotten dream. There’s so much responsibility in being a writer. It’s no wonder we’re all a little crazy.

As you’re writing your current piece and ideas for a new story come to you, don’t fret! But also, don’t ignore it. That idea may not be coming back if you ignore it. Don’t, under any circumstances, ignore your inspiration and imagination. But how do you do this without neglecting your important work-in-progress?

Don’t worry. It’s easy, as easy as jotting down a note. Write some brief sentences about your idea that came from out of the blue. Take notes until you think it’s all written down. Then put the note away and get back to work on whatever it was that you’re devoting your writing time to. The idea won’t be forgotten as you complete your work-in-progress. In fact, in the time it takes for the current work to be completed, your idea may bloom into something even better, or you may even realize when you look again at your note that it wasn’t really that good of an idea anyway.

So, there’s my writing advice in a nutshell. Get inspired. Seek out inspiration in the honesty and simplicity of the beautiful world around you. Also, devote yourself to your single work-in-progress until the rough draft is finished. It’s counting on you, and only you, to bring it into being.

Hemingway himself said it best when he wrote in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald, “You just have to go on when it is worst and most helpless—there is only one thing to do with a novel and that is to go straight on through to the end of the damn thing.”


Nicholas Trandahl is a newspaper reporter from northeast Wyoming. His poetry is currently published by Winter Goose Publishing, and he's had several novels published by Swyers Publishing. His work has also been published by River Ram Press and, most recently, by Selcouth Station. Trandahl’s latest book of poetry, Pulling Words was published by Winter Goose Publishing in 2017, and they will release his next collection, Think of Me in the spring of 2018. He will be a featured poet in the upcoming poetry compilation from Swyers Publishing, Heart of Courage. Trandahl is happily married and has two daughters (with another on the way). Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Lynn starts off...

I have mentioned before that the writing life introduces me to a boatload of amazing people, right? Well, this morning's post is the result of a "friend of a friend" thing. I got introduced to Carol Steingreaber through a mutual friend, Mary Donahue, whose post, "Write What You See" graced our blog almost a year ago.

Proof that good things just keeping arriving in your email's in box when you hang out with writers. Enjoy.

Guest post by Carol Steingreaber

Ah…is there anything more glamorous than the idea of writing a book?

Let’s close our eyes and envision Hemingway in a lovely pub in Paris, occupying a corner table, smoking a cigarette, with a watered down drink at the ready and staring out of a dusty window. So romantic!

If this picturesque scene played out for any of you authors reading this I applaud you. I had high hopes of keeping some form of the “romance of writing” alive as I penned my autobiography. My wooden desk was clean and had a faint scent of lemon Pledge. My land line was turned off and my cell phone on silent. Kids were at school. No interruptions. I was showered and smelling like a fresh ocean breeze. I had set the mood and the romance was on fleek, right up until I spilled coffee on myself, ten minutes into the writing process. This was an omen I did not heed. From that moment on, I entered an alternate universe. When I emerged a year and a half later, I was saner, wiser and wearing pants.

Funny, I pictured my published book arriving at my doorstep, all shiny and glossy, TV and radio crews at the ready for my author visits and book signings. I imagined the residents of the city of Cedar Rapids all clapping, violins playing and brooks bubbling with excitement.

Why didn’t I imagine the journey I would embark on the minute I sat down to write? Why had I left out this important part of the process? Why could I not imagine it? Because you don’t know what you don’t know. As a writer ready to embark on her first book, I had no idea what lay ahead of me for the next year and a half and that was a blessing of great proportions. Spoiler alert: First time writers stop reading. Seasoned writers read on so we can commiserate together.

Writing in the middle of the night became the norm for me. I was a baby with her days and nights mixed up. My brain would not shut off when the sun went down. I would lie in bed and write the stories in my head. When my brain was ready to explode from too much garbbley gook (scientific name), I got up and wrote the stories down. I would fall asleep at my desk in the coffee-stained clothes I had on the day before. I would jar awake, brush my teeth, tell my husband to have a safe trip, then find a real bed and collapse for five hours.

My family perpetrated my behavior unknowingly. During part of my writing journey into the underworld, both kids were in college and my husband traveled every week. I would have days and days where I wouldn’t leave my laptop. It was glorious and insane all at the same beautiful time. I would sit down to write and eight hours would pass, with my coffee gone cold, a bag of Cheetos, empty and laying on the floor, my keyboard orange and crummy. How many bags of Cheetos can one person consume in a year and a half? About 25 pounds worth, give or take. I would oscillate between the crunchy and the puffy kind. I greedily overused the term “writer’s block” when my family would find me in front of the TV, binge watching Will and Grace.

Life went on around me and I tried to cooperate and participate. I would attempt the grocery store with my greasy hair and sweat-stained baseball cap. No makeup adorned my face (perhaps I was frightening small children but I couldn’t muster the energy to care). I would create giant casseroles on Friday, knowing my family could eat leftovers for the next three days and I wouldn’t have to cook. 

The worst would be running into an acquaintance two days in a row. They would look at me, confused and “concerned”. Then it would dawn on me that I had the same sweats, running shirt, and baseball cap on the day before when they saw me at the gas station. These same people would never see me when I was showered and sitting upright in church or out at a restaurant (in non-workout attire) using utensils to eat a meal not prepared on a paper plate.

They would say, “Carol, are you okay? Is there anything I can do to help?” not really meaning it and just hoping to get some juicy bit of information to share with their real friends. Thoughts running through their heads were so loud I heard, “Is she having a midlife crisis? Is she depressed? Is Paul leaving her? Is her curling iron broke? Did her hairstylist die?” I would just smile (not a big smile because I probably had Cheetos stains on my teeth) and convince them I had just come from a 24 hour camping trip. My real friends knew I was writing my life story and would leave ice-cold diet coke and bags of Cheetos at my doorstep, never ringing the doorbell, knowing they might wake me or interrupt the brain waves working on the next great chapter.

When my body screamed for real food and there was none in the house, drive-thru’s became my best friend. I could jump in the car, put on giant sun glasses that accompanied my wrinkled, stained clothing and roll down the windows to get my fifteen minutes of allotted fresh air, returning with a greasy bag of hot food that would sustain me for the next couple of days. It was magical.

I remember the day I put the last period on my last sentence of Pants Optional. It was the summer of 2014. This bizarre journey had begun on January 2, 2013. It was a sunny, glorious day and I stood up from my laptop with tears in my eyes. I was shaking from excitement, malnourishment and dehydration. It was finished. I wanted desperately to tell someone.

At that moment my son, who had been mowing the lawn, came running into the house and yelled, “MOM! Can you make me a sandwich? I am going to be late for my shift at Coffeesmiths! PLEASE? Where are you? Can you hear me?” Door slams. It only made sense that this moment wrapped up my stream of unconsciousness, subconscious and barely conscious writing that had been pouring out of me for a year and a half. I had officially entered the realm of the fraternity of writers. I had been hazed and made it out alive.

Alive, sane, wiser and wearing pants.

About the Author:

Carol Lynne Steingreaber was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She graduated from Loras College with degrees in English Literature and Writing. Carol has experience as a correspondent, proofreader, copywriter and marketing director. The author started writing her first humorous autobiography, Pants Optional, in 2013 in honor of her mom.

Pants Optional has been on the Amazon’s Best Sellers list, reviewed in the Cedar Rapid’s Gazette and has been featured on her local CBS news. Carol has been a guest on The Michael S. Robinson Show, a New York talk radio program, on Microbin Radio in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and has done numerous author visits and books signings.

For more information visit Carol’s website at pantsoptionalstories.com, follow her on Facebook at Pants Optional and on Twitter @PantsOptStories.

About Pants Optional:

Pants Optional is a refreshingly honest book and a quick read that offers hilarious insights on life and motherhood. While the author tries to navigate through marriage, sex, and friendships, Carol reminds us that it’s okay to laugh at ourselves and not take life so seriously.

Carol shares 33 UNconventional tips on how to use humor, comedy and parenting genius when disciplining your kids, caring for an elderly parent or while experiencing eternal moments of embarrassment. Pants Optional gives women an excuse to sit down, put their feet up and just laugh.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Writing Rules I Can Live With

by Susan

I chafe at lists of writing rules, all the nevers and don'ts that imply there is one way to tell a story. If I want to use a dialogue tag other than "said," Mr. Leonard, I will. (She opined.) Despite that, a couple of years ago I wrote my own list that I'm reposting this morning.

Photo by Neha Deshmukh on Unsplash
Coffee first, then food.
Live dangerously. Lick the batter off the spoon.
Eat what you want. Listen to your body.
Make a mess. Clean it up.
I love you, but stay out of my kitchen when I cook.
Food is forgiving. Create recklessly.
Recipes are mere suggestions. Experiment.
You can never go wrong starting dinner with sizzling onions.
Although there are limits. Sizzling onions over ice cream? Doubtful.
On the other hand, I could be mistaken. Try onion ice cream if you want.
When in doubt, err on the side of too much butter.
Vanilla, too. Measure it over the bowl so the extra spills over.
Garlic makes life complete.
Fresh is better.
Invest in good knives. Chop with confidence.
There are no rules.

Photo by PICSELI on Unsplash
Coffee first, then writing.
Live dangerously. Release the muse.
Write what you want. Listen to your soul.
Make a messy first draft. Clean it up.
I love you, but stay out of my room when I write.
Words are forgiving. Create recklessly.
Writing guides are mere suggestions. Experiment.
You can never go wrong finding the sizzling, red-hot core of your story.
There are no limits to that sizzling core.
I am not mistaken on this one.
When in doubt, err on the side of too much writing time.
Self-care, too. Fill yourself until you overflow.
Words make life complete.
Fresh is better.
Invest in your editing. Chop with confidence.
There are no rules.

I'd also like to share Chuck Wendig's post, A Very Good List of Vital Writing Advice — DO NOT IGNORE! With a language warning. I'd have to meet him in real life to be certain, but I think the man might swear more than I do, which takes some doing.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


guest post by Rich Keller

There are moments in your life when one door closes while another opens. This doesn’t happen on a regular schedule. It can take place anywhere and anytime in your life. It can be so subtle that you may not even know it. Then again, thunderous crashes and creaks can represent the closing of one portal and the opening of another. For me, the path between doors led to a revelation in which many more journeys will take place.

For privacy reasons, I shan’t go into too many details. Be assured I’m not seriously ill, or going to war, or heading off to Alpha Centauri with my new alien friends. For simplicity sake, let’s say I came to a great epiphany during one of the lowest points in my life. A change in my domestic situation provided a great gift … freedom. And I decided to utilize this precious commodity by shedding many of my unneeded objects though minimalism and transforming myself into a digital nomad.

For clarification, I am not traveling across the Sahara on the back of a camel while I try to get a signal for my laptop. The ever-growing community of digital nomads use the opportunities the current age of communication provides to work from anywhere across the globe. They shed mortgages, cars, bills, and personal objects to work and play for extended periods of time in places like Costa Rica, Vietnam, Hungary, and Thailand.

Instead of seeing the world through the microcosm of the media, they experience it firsthand.

For creatives, including myself, taking on the world as a digital nomad is so right. I’ve always been a traveler, gaining experience for two weeks each year when my father took us on our annual summer vacation. I learned more about this country than I could through textbooks and AAA pamphlets. And I took this love of travel into adulthood.

Unfortunately, the culture of consumerism drew me in. I bought houses and cars, thinking I would feel better if I could keep up with the Joneses. But, I never did keep up nor feel better. The weight of bills, lawns, and oil changes kept the love of travel at bay. In turn, it also kept the creativity on simmer instead of quick boil.

Thing is, we’re a nomadic society. Think about your great, great, great, great, etc. ancestors who walked across Pangea and the land bridges which once spanned this planet. They had to be creative to survive. And they didn’t “settle down” to spend time rocking on their rocks and complaining about the kids who wouldn’t get out of their mud pits. They continued to move, to explore, to see things from a new perspective.

And this is what I’m doing as a wandering creative. I want to see the world for myself, to draw energy from other cultures and environments, for that is bound to forge a new spike of power in my creative soul. Sometimes, this will be through my podcasts and videos. Other times it will be through my writing, and still other bouts of creativity will come from the challenges I make myself take. To minimize all of this into one statement … I’m going to take responsibility for myself as well as others in my life.

I understand this type of journey isn’t for everyone. However, should you have the chance, step outside of your comfort zone, close the door behind you, and seek out the adventure which is behind the new entryway. It’s the next step to determine who you really are.

Lynn chimes in...

I met Rich through my past involvement with the Northern Colorado Writers organization. Then I had the opportunity to be a guest on The Daily Author podcast, promoting Watch My Rising: A Recovery Anthology. Rich is a bright, humorous guy and I'm excited to see what he'll do as a digital nomad--hopefully he'll send back lots of dispatches from his travels!

Richard Keller is the owner of Wooden Pants Media and host of The Daily Author podcast. His new video and podcast series, The Wandering Creative, premieres in July. You can learn more about Richard, his company, and his books, at http://www.woodenpantspub.com.

You can listen to past episodes of The Daily Author on Blog Talk Radio, TuneIn, GooglePlay, and iTunes.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

My Failed Declaration of Independence

My husband, that slacker. Why isn't he in the kitchen fixing me lunch?
By Susan

This whole househusband thing isn't working out quite as intended.

My husband retired a month ago, much to my joy and delight. I anticipated a life with time for writing. Someone else will clean the house! Shop for groceries! Cook me gourmet meals every night!

I'd have a kept man... a cabana boy... a scullery lad. All those tasks interfering with my writing were off my plate, and I would devote my hours to the written word. Needless to say, those large swaths of time did not materialize. Nor has the vastly increased word count.

The grocery fairy left me presents!
Certainly, the house has been cleaner. The grocery fairy has been leaving fresh fruit and vegetables in the fridge. I can't complain. He stays busy. Living with this man is like living with a border collie. "Gotta have a project! Gotta have a project! Woof, woof, WOOF!"

But he's not at my beck and call like some handsome manservant. He has his own things to do: tackling all those house projects that built up over 11 years living in an old house, mountain biking up at Vedauwoo, playing guitar. And when I get home at the end of the day he wants to spend time with me doing something other than staring at me while I type.

Then there's the bathroom (groan).

A scrub of the scrungy tub led to a strip of dislodged caulk led to the discovery of water damage in a corner of the floor. Now we have no sink, no vanity, no shower hardware or walls, and half of the linoleum is ripped up. (I guess technically, it's vinyl flooring, but I love the sound of the word, "linoleum.") On the other hand, we've got $200 worth of brand new ceramic tile out in the truck waiting to be unloaded.

Oh, the joy that awaits us.
He'll do the work himself. (WOOF!) He's a DIY kind of guy. He even bought me a tile saw for Valentine's Day one year.

When he was kicking around the idea of retirement, I envisioned coming home with evenings galore to sit at my laptop. In my mind, it promised freedom, my declaration of independence from the tasks that weighed down my writing. But truth be told, my writing is only weighed down when I do not make it a priority.

As I write this, I think forward to my own retirement in 2,405 days, 7 hours, 33 minutes, 30... 29... 28 seconds (not that I'm counting.) THEN, I will have hours upon hours to write... won't I?

I won't, unless I declare my independence from the fears and anxieties that paralyze me. I must battle my inertia, ignore distractions, and develop the ability to say "no" to unnecessary tasks and obligations. I must make writing my priority.

I can do that -- as can you. We carve out our own space for writing. Maybe, just maybe, today is the day I declare my freedom and start putting the words on paper that I'm meant to.


My one concern writing this post is that some will think I'm making too light of Independence Day. I hope you do not take it that way. I wish you all a Happy Fourth of July. May this great country celebrate many birthdays to come.


And as I now get ready to hit the PUBLISH button, it's 2,403 days, 11 hours, 31 minutes, and 20 seconds until I retire. Not that I'm counting...