From My Son's Journal

When you live in a tropical state, this kind of entry doesn't actually surprise you:

The Ice Cream, the Spider, and Me

We sat by the window after getting our ice cream. Peeling green paint revealed an old peach underneath, and a spider. I let coffee and chocolate ice creams mingle in my mouth. I wonder, I thought, if he's a jumping spider.


He jumped like a flea, his trajectory my direction.

Why are daughters always so embarrassed when their mothers scream in public places?

Bargain price for Me & Jack!

The Kindle edition of Me & Jack is &1.99! Get it while it lasts!

At Jack Kerouac's House, Writing Poetry

At Jack Kerouac's House, Writing Poetry

I remember staying up too late the night before, watching an episode of a detective show on my laptop, and then a second, and

I wanted to watch a third but

I told myself No, it's almost two a.m. You'll be too tired in the morning.

I remember I accidentally woke up before seven. Six shots of espresso moved like sludge through my veins.

I remember Jack's house was on the Christmas tour a few years ago. I asked the host to show me where Jack sat when he worked. The floor slants down in that room. His mother slept in a cramped bedroom just off, and he slept on a cot near his work, I think. I remember I sort of felt sorry for Jack. I could feel him hemmed in that room, his success hemming him in. That day was hot and sticky even though it was December, and I wanted to absorb Jack but too many people coming in and out and the walls closing in, the blinds were closed, and I didn't know how Jack could work like that.

I remember the first poem the writer-in-residence had us write was an "I remember" poem.

When I remembered my bossy sister and my grandma's ten brothers and sisters throwing money at us, the other writers at the workshop laughed and that made me feel good. I remember other people wrote about sad things and that made me cry, which made me feel good, too.

I remember the big white dog with brown eyes who looked into mine and made me miss my own dog, even for those few hours.

And I remember driving home, climbing the stairs, closing my door, and secretly rereading my first poem just so I could hear the laughter again.

Behind the Scenes: Scraps of LUCKY Turn into a Novel

For me, the writing of a story almost always begins with voice, a voice so strong that it carries with it the gender, age, location, and disposition of the character. All I have to do then is think of what could be the worst thing that could happen to that character. If the voice is strong enough, I can drop the character into any situation and know how she’ll react. That’s where the real work begins: finding the right situation to exploit the voice in my head.

While I was in line edits for Me & Jack, I got hit by this image of two girls and a bike. Not just a snapshot image, it was like a short video of an old memory. The girls were in a driveway. I saw lots of trees, and it was that kind of warm/chilly day you get in spring. The main character had just convinced her reluctant best friend to let her ride her new bike (a new bike, and it wasn’t even her birthday!) by agreeing to pay a dollar and a pack of Smarties. As the MC rides away from her friend’s shouted instructions and warnings, she feels as free as the honeysuckle air wafting under her nose, yet she can’t help but compare her friend’s flashy new bike to her own embarrassing old red boy bike, bought for three dollars at a garage sale last year.

The image of these two girls was so strong, I picked up a scrap of paper and wrote down the main character’s viewpoint of that scene, dialogue and all. The words flowed like water from the tap. Other thoughts popped up over the next few days and I wrote them all down. Later, I nixed some of them and expanded others, but what remained were those first words spoken by twelve-year-old Hailee Richardson, owner of the red boy bike. She didn’t know it then, but her whole life was about to change.

The first three chapters are available on my website. If you compare them to the scraps—and if you can decipher my scratchy writing!—you’ll see that the first few published pages don’t differ much from the first scrappy words spoken by my then-nameless main character.

Parts of this book were written on the backs of old grocery receipts, a must-have for every writer’s purse.

I hope you get the chance to enjoy A Whole Lot of Lucky! Keep reading and writing!
This post first appeared in From the Mixed Up Files, July 31st