Talking Myself Through This

There is a part to writing novels that never gets easier: the critique. On Sunday, I sat with a group of trusted friends and listened to their thoughts on the first draft of my latest novel, “Counting Coup.” For nearly two hours, they discussed the characters and plot, the things they liked, and a bunch of stuff they didn’t.

And then I received first draft edits from my publishing editor and he had a different list of all that he liked and didn’t.

This is where my brain is still very much stuck in 3rd grade. The internal conversation goes a bit like this:

37-year-old me: Of course they gave you feedback. YOU ASKED FOR FEEDBACK. WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?

9-year-old me: They don’t love me. No one loves me. I hate everything.

I know. I’m ridiculous.

It is at this junction that I stopped, for more than a year, with “Basket Baby.” I put the edits on a shelf for a year before I could summon the courage to sit down and admit the story needed work.

CC does need work. They saw what I couldn’t. They also told me all of this as kindly as they could. They voluntarily spent hours upon hours reading my work and providing thoughtful advice. And my gut response was, “NOPE.”

The ego is a funny, evil thing. It let’s us hide our own imperfections, calling them quirks. It strokes our need for importance, and massages our ugliest characteristics. And when it is wounded, it cries like a 9-year-old girl.

For the next few months, I’ll be working through these changes. I know the bones to this story are there, and that they are great. I want to get it right.



Oh, Montana

Montana 2017!

Jason and I spent last weekend visiting friends in Livingston, Montana—near Bozeman. This part of the world makes me swoon.

Annie Proulx gets it right.

Jason is a national park nut, so the chance to spend another vacation wearing dirt-colored clothing, covered in bug spray, tromping around until the point of exhaustion made his heart happy.

Montana 2017!

Have I told you about my husband’s passion for “backpacking vacations?”

Montana 2017!

Montana 2017!

Visiting Adam and Ashley in Livingston was a good middle ground. We rented a cute basement apartment within walking distance of our friends. We did visit the park, and it was as breathtaking as I remembered.

Montana 2017!

Montana 2017!

Montana 2017!

Montana 2017!

Montana 2017!

We ate one of the best meals I’ve had this year, and we got to see grizzly bears and wolves at a rehabilitation center.

Montana 2017!

It was wild. It was comfortable. And of course, Adam was there—so face actually ached from laughing within an hour of landing.

We also had a chance to catch up with one of our dear friends who recently moved back to Bozeman. I’ll save the story about Mark and our nearly missed flight for another day.

Thank you, Montana. You are absolutely lovely and even a bit chilly in August—the perfect summer getaway.





Publishing Notes: Hiring an Agent

Basket Baby signing

When I signed my first publishing contract with Asymmetrical last year, I was overjoyed that it included not only the contract for “Basket Baby,” but for first rights to my next three books, too. I had a unicorn in sight: a small press interested in a multi-book contract. It was time to write.

“Counting Coup” came together within a year, including considerable research and interviewing of individuals who attended Indian schools. The story, in parts, has been workshopped in a writing group, and heavily edited by my writing partner — Bert. It is still in the beta phase, with several copies out for final comments. I hope these will be minor and grammatical, not thematic. The pace of writing this story, by comparison to the first two, felt nothing short of magical. I was in the writing zone, and knowing I had a publisher to hand it off too made it that much more fun.

The next step in this career is to hire a literary agent. As a former member of the Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop, I have a handful of friends who are serious authors. We work on our love for telling stories when our day jobs allow. Add family obligations to this schedule, and the time for the business of selling books quickly falls away. Those with agents fare better. Their stories have marketing dollars behind them.

When writing query letters, you have to be your best cheerleader, which is uncomfortable. Like dating or interviewing, you want to provide just enough information to bring interest, but not too much. With my shoulders back, I am trying to sell myself to agents in New York and Los Angeles with a sincerity about my love of public health and writing.

Asymmetrical is in part run by “The Minimalists,” who you may know from their recent Netflix special, or their popular books and blog. It has been neat to be associated with Josh and Ryan in this small way. Sadly, the press will be closing later this year. The future of my next three books, including “Counting Coup,” is now uncertain.

As my old marathon coach and dear friend JT would say, “Time to put your head down.” In other words, don’t give up. Look at your feet, think of how far you’ve already come, and keep pushing.

Thanks for your continued support and reviews! Please pass your copy off to someone to read. Every reader helps spread the story.



The Foz


This furry cuddle monkey came to stay with us last week for a few days. He is one of the sweetest pups. He is just the right size to hold and loved resting in my arms or on my chest when he was trying to get back to sleep.

The other dogs were not as amused.