Wednesday, December 28, 2016


post by Lynn 


Sir Walter Scott wrote his poem, Marmion, on horseback, preferring to compose in motion.

Flannery O’Connor munched on vanilla wafers as she wrote.

Truman Capote was a self-professed “horizontal author,” writing on a notepad while prone on his couch or bed. He always wrote drafts 1 and 2 in pencil, then propped a typewriter on his knees to type up draft 3, always on yellow paper.

Then he’d set the draft aside, re-read later and decide whether it was worth submitting. If the answer was yes, he would type it again, this time on white paper.

Edgar Allen Poe balanced a feline companion on his shoulder as he wrote. (What, no raven?!)

It seems that writers through the ages have exhibited all sorts of odd behaviors.

Which got me thinking, what are my writerly quirks?


Well, we haven’t got all day, so here’s a sampling:

I go through a lot of Post-it® notes… 

I have always loved colorful sticky notes. During my twenty years as a trainer, I went through piles of them—using them to design sessions, track information, capture ideas, you name it.

So it only makes sense that when I took up creative writing I kept on Post-it®-ing. My writing room is slathered with sticky notes, in odd arrangements on a bulletin board, and stuck to the window casing, directly to the right of my computer.

In view as I write this post: a blue sticky note with, “Let the moment stand and speak for itself” above an orange note that reads, “Good writing is always an unresolved struggle between meaning and music. When in doubt, go with the music. – Richard Hugo (paraphrased).”

Words and ideas dribble in, and I collect the drops and let them gather… 

I journal first thing in the morning, and tag (with sticky notes, of course) sections that could be the start of something, or could be added to an existing story, poem or essay. Then I copy the tagged bits and put them in file folders.

My filing system is incomprehensible to anyone but me. Sample labels include, Amor Fati; Paying My Respects; All Roads Lead to Lusk; In Praise of the Half-assed Effort; and Biomimicry.

Eventually these folders call to me and I open them up and finger through the notes. A poem, essay or story coalesces.


No music for me while I’m in my writing room. Too distracting. I’m not strict about silence, and I welcome the bird chirps that filter in from the outside, but I just don’t invite in much sound.

Let me see it…

I’m a visual learner and I’ve discovered that I need to be able to picture places, characters, even emotions as part of writing about them. So, I collect images, snipped from magazines and newspapers. I create collages with stand-ins for my characters, and include landscapes and rooms that I imagine the characters wandering around in.

For the love of a verb… 

I collect verbs. I jot them down on a white notepad. When the page is filled, I rip it off and file it in my Bevy of Verbs folder.

Why do I collect verbs?

Hell if I know. I just love good verbs, and by “good” I mean active, sensual, gritty, precise verbs. I admire writing with strong verbs and dislike writing with passive and repetitive verbs, so I guess I’m trying to give my writing brain plenty of material to work with.


I believe that our quirks are clues to our creative process, and should be respected.

I believe you can experiment with the methods other writers use, but eventually you stumble on your own quirky way of doing things.

As Celia Blue Johnson points out in the introduction to Odd Type Writers, 

“… the path to great literature is paved with one’s own eccentricities rather than someone else’s.” 

Not feeling particularly quirky? 

You can always give the methods of the masters a try. Maybe something will take.


Write an entire story on a scroll, taping the pages together and rolling them up, the way Jack Kerouac did with On the Road.


Copy John Cheever’s writing style (clad only in his underwear) or Victor Hugo (who wore only a shawl while composing Hunchback of Notre Dame). 

Might want to close the curtains though.


Or make like Edith Wharton, who wrote in bed, wearing a silk nightgown and matching bed cap. Her dog was inevitably curled up at her side and she always wrote in blue ink on pale blue stationary.

When your family asks when you are going to get up, tell them you are exploring your creative process.


So, let’s all make it a point in 2017 to enjoy and cultivate our quirky side. I’m betting our writing will benefit from it, and our friends and family will look on in amazement or amusement.

And what are we here for if not to provide amazement and amusement to one another?

What quirks do you have? Come on, tell us…

The following resources were used in this post:

Odd Type Writers by Celia Blue Johnson

Stranger-Than-Fiction Writing Habits of 18 Famous Writers by Baihley Grandison

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Pushing Back Against the Darkness

by Susan

Fell asleep on the couch last night. Woke up and the room was lit only by the quiet, multicolored glow of the Christmas lights on the mantel.

Those close to me know I'm not a big fan of Christmas. If Ebeneezer Scrooge and the Grinch had a love child, I'd be it.

Christmas lights, though – those I love. There is something human and hopeful and solid about them. As the days grow shortest, we light whatever faint lamps we can muster against the night. We refuse to let darkness descend completely. Come Solstice, the night gives up and begins to recede.

I recently discovered the work of Jenny Lawson, author of Let's Pretend this Never Happened and Furiously Happy. She's a woman with a wicked sense of humor, a history of mental health issues, and the bravery to write about the most horrifying and embarrassing moments in her life. The things she might have wished had “never happened.”

She has a handful of letters she keeps from readers who wrote her to say they felt suicidal, but read her words and no longer felt alone. That knowledge gave them strength to keep going. It's only a few, but even one is enough.

When Lawson wrote, she was lighting a lamp in the darkness for someone who needed it. When we write, we may be doing the same. We might never know if or who, but we can have faith that we need to put it out there.

So keep writing. Your stories matter. Your words are a gift to the world.

With that, I wish you happy holidays, whichever ones you celebrate. May the new year bring you blessings.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


post by Lynn

Generosity is the soul of writing. You write to give something. To yourself. To your reader. To God. You give thanks for having been given the words. You pray to be given words another day.
- Erica Jong 

 A cold night, a crowded room, soft light, attentive faces, and one microphone.

These were the components of the Launch Party for Watch My Rising: A Recovery Anthology, which was held last Wednesday night, December 7th, at the Asher Building in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

So much generosity in one evening, I can hardly tell it:

The generosity of the writers.

These are the kind souls who shared the stories and poems that make up Watch My Rising. Each labored over the words. Each drummed up the courage and honesty and chutzpa it takes to speak up about recovery and addiction. Each received a single copy of the anthology for their efforts. 

The generosity of the readers.

Aaron Holst, of Sheridan, Wyoming, who braved the winter roads to read his poem, “New Songs” and his story, “Shooting Star or Beacon?” to a mesmerized crowd.

Aaron Holst, of Sheridan, Wyoming reads "New Songs"
Darrah Perez, who made the long, snowy-road trek from the Wind River Reservation to Cheyenne—a 5 hour drive—to read her story, “The Answer Is in Loving Ourselves.” She also gave voice to “Homeland Security” by Margaret Smith-Braniff. The audience was awe-struck. You’d have to hear Darrah read/perform to fully understand.

Darrah Perez, of Ethete, Wyoming reads "The Answer Is in Loving Ourselves"
My husband, Mike Carlson, who read “The Pigeons of Lynn” by Paul Hostovsky and “Lost Gospel” by Jim Littwin. I kid you not when I say that he volunteered to be a reader—no arm-twisting on my part.

Judith Schulz, who read “To Give Thanks to Sweaty Palms” by P.F. Witte, “Should We Set a Place for Peggy?” by Kristina Cerise, and “Connoisseur” by Rebecca Taksel. Judy sings, writes and acts and I recruited her because I knew she would give life to the voices in those particular pieces. Several people I talked with after the reading raved about Judy’s delivery—all with one word in common: “Wow!”

Judy Schulz reads "Should We Set a Place for Peggy?" by Kristina Cerise
Leif Swanson, friend, and English professor at Laramie Community College, who lent his deep, calming voice to two poems: “Taking on Life” by Antonio Sanchez-Day and “The Gift I See” by Shane Ronel Crady. He also brought his LCCC composition class to the reading.

James Pringle, intern at Recover Wyoming, who read Pace Lawson’s story, “De-stigmatized.” This is not a short piece, but James did a masterful job at sharing it all without a glitch. He told me he was happy to do it, because Pace’s story was his favorite.

James Pringle reads "De-stigmatized" by Pace Lawso
The generosity of the audience.

First off, they came. Did I mention the cold night? (Windchill factor of 18 degrees Fahrenheit BELOW ZERO.) Icy streets? Mid-week during December? Yet come they did, some eighty people, many of whom had never attended a reading of this sort before. Friends, strangers, people in recovery and people who love writing. Even a woman who just happened to see the flyer at the Y and decided to come out.

They enjoyed the catered food (provided by De-Lish Catering) and gave the readers the gift of their rapt attention.

They bought copies of the anthology too. Many of them gave extra money, saying, “Use it for Recover Wyoming’s programs, or to buy copies of the anthology for treatment centers, prisons, etc.”

Anthology editor, Lynn Carlson, reads "With All Due Respect"
And they were generous with their praise of the anthology, and of the reading. They promised to spread the word about the book, and about the message: recovery is real. They wanted to know when the second edition is coming out.

Conversations around the room during the break and after the reading were full of exactly what this editor had always wished for: insight, concern for those who are still stuck in the cycle of addiction, desire to help, hope.

The generosity of the organizers.

Recover Wyoming staff and board, the Coffee Depot staff (who kept the warm beverages coming), United Way members... lots of folks contributed to pull this event off.

Writing is not a performance but a generosity.
- Brenda Ueland

All of the above: generous, thoughtful, caring folks. 

So a note to myself and all my writer friends in this season of giving:

Let us be generous with our words. We'll never know when the world needs them.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Heaven Help Me, I Attempted NaNoWriMo

by Susan

I'm not sure what possessed me, but I signed up for National Novel Writing Month in November. I thought it might push me to finish the embryonic novel I keep poking at. I tend to be a slow writer, so I thought maybe I'd try to develop a little more speed. Or maybe I needed a project to pull me out of my doldrums. I'm notorious for finding projects instead of dealing with life as it exists.

For those of you not familiar with NaNo, the idea is to start with a blank page on Nov. 1 at 12:01 a.m. with the goal of completing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 30. I chose a slightly different goal: 50,000 words progress on an existing novel.

I failed boldly. Magnificently. Wrote only a fraction of the goal. And I'm still happy I did it, because I learned a few things along the way:

  • It's easier to rack up a word count than you might think, as long as the butt goes in the chair. 
  • Learning and doing are part of an unending cycle. The more you write, the more you learn about writing. The more you learn, the more your writing changes. 
  • Your own goals don't have to be anyone else's. One writer I know on Facebook set a goal of 500 words per day during NaNoWriMo. My goal was to make progress on an existing novel. 
  • Some of us need more self-care than we want to admit or give to ourselves. I don't do well with inadequate food, water, rest, and exercise, and providing myself with those things takes time. You need to carve out that time.
  • You have to factor in your own energy level when you set goals. I tend to be low-energy, and I forget that sometimes.
  • Energy level includes clearing out enough mental space to think and imagine. 
  • Community matters. Having writer friends -- online or off -- who can be cheerleaders is a great help when discouragement sets in.

Would I do NaNoWriMo again? Maybe, although I seem also to have learned that I'm temperamentally incapable of writing fast and sloppy first drafts. One way or another, though, I know I need to push forward. 

How about you? Did you give NaNoWriMo a go? Tell us what you thought!


P.S. While we have you, we just want to put in quick plugs for two projects we're involved in:

1) If you're in Cheyenne tomorrow, stop by the Recover Wyoming book launch for Watch My Rising, an anthology edited by Lynn G. Carlson. It will be held in the Asher Bldg at 500 W. 15th St. on Wednesday, Dec. 7 from 6-9 p.m. Read more about it in the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle article by Ellen Fike.

2) The WyoPoets Eugene V. Shea National Poetry Contest postmark deadline has been extended until December 15, so there's still time to get your entry in. Find guidelines on the WyoPoets website. Questions may be directed to contest chair Susan Mark at