Category Archives: Good to Great

Reading and Writing. Hold the Arithmetic.

Cold, snowy, beautiful

Recently read:

Book Whose Title I’ve forgotten and can’t find on Google. It was easy and entertaining, which is what I needed.  A young woman travels to Columbia to visit her maternal family. Her mother, who died when she was young, had a second life previously unknown to her daughter. Also, of course the young American falls in love with a narco’s son, and is lured into a dangerous life. So memorable, obviously. 2.5/5 bananas.

TED: The Empowerment Dynamic. My housemate BJ suggested I read this. He is not a reader, but loves this. (When a self-described “non-reader” makes a book recommendation, I take note.)  Again, an easy read. This reminds workers how to react to difficult situations at work. En sum: don’t be a victim. Create your happiness. Learn to react in a positive, productive manner. If you are into these types of business, good-attitude, pump-you-up books, you’ll dig it. 3/5 bananas

The Sunflower: A coworker years ago gave me this novel. Again, total vacation reading. It is about a woman who travels to Peru to volunteer in an orphanage after her engagement is called off. I enjoyed it for what it was: romantic, spiritual, fluff. (Who doesn’t need an entertaining, easy read from time to time?) 2.5/5 bananas.

Season of Migration to the North:  This was our book club selection for February, and surprisingly — most of us read it. This novella is considered part of the classics for African literature. Set in Sudan, it is the story of two men who return from the west to reintegrate into their villages, with colonization haunting their every move. I didn’t enjoy this book, but it has made me better for having read it. The brilliance is how much heavy thematic layering the author crams into a basic story of two men in a Sudanese village. At the end, you have to reconsider each of the character’s actions, and what influenced their decisions. I’ll think of this book for years to come. 5/5 bananas.

Currently reading:

Shantaram and The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet.  The T.S. book is beautiful, but an odd shape and heavy. It is too big to hold at night when I normally read, or the tub. My sit-at-a-table-and-read-a-book time isn’t often. So, it’s going to take a while, even though the story is enchanting. Shantaram I’ve wanted to read for years and just haven’t gotten around to it. (Found a copy the other day at the Boulder Bookstore and literally jumped up and down. The last copy I’d seen was in the Joberg airport and I didn’t have the room for yet another heavy book.) Also, the next book club book looks pretty darn good: Peace Like A River.

Next up:

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Sugar

Oh, and hey! My second novel is at 190 pages. Woo! Colorado has been so very good for my writing life. I’ve had the chance to join some great writing groups, take classes and become a member of a writing cooperative, and spend countless hours in mountain coffee shops surrounded by pines, distracted only by the steady stream of attractive, rugged bearded men who could be lumberjacks. Or my next boyfriend.

I consider reading good books training these days. Like a golfer who drives several buckets of balls after each round because he knows it makes him better — reading fiction, nonfiction and the cereal box at breakfast is my writing workout. Writers who say, “I don’t read! Who has time for reading?” are frauds at best.






Fashionista March: Brights

Dear Kara,

Your suggestion at “brights” for our March fashion blog had my heart rate up. I am not a “brights” or a “tights” kinda gal. Those Forever Underage stores? Make me want to run toward Chicos with all my credit cards out at once. (You, however, look freaking adorable in that yellow jacket. Love it. And your haircut!)

To put it mildly: I am not up with the trends. I very happily could wear shades of blue and bright whites for the rest of my life. Pearls! Kara, I love pearls.


Maybe a little purple, gray, or garnet if I wanted to get crazy. This, for example, is my typical everyday uniform:

Brights: Fashion March

Comfy dark jeans, Patagonia top, dangly earrings. Done.

This, however, is what I wore out for St. Patrick’s on Saturday — which took just about all the fashion courage I have:

Brights: Fashion March

Bright green! Short! Fun! (And apparently a little see thru. Lord.)

I know. It’s still pretty basic. But it is a step toward the more adventurous. These after all are still some of my favorite shoes:

Fashion March: Brights

So challenge me, lady. What will we do for April?



On Writing: Workshop

On writing: Workshop

I am taking a writing class focused on narrative. The class has 10 women and an instructor. We get together for a couple hours a week to discuss writing technique and to review each other’s work. This process of “workshopping” my writing is entirely new; the only time I’ve given a chapter of work to group to edit was in an undergraduate creative writing course more than 10 years ago.

The experience has been multi-layered. There is the emotional — is there anything as vulnerable as handing off something you consider “art” to a group of strangers for critique? There is the practical — I have to be incredibly disciplined to stay on top of my writing assignments and editing others’ work in the evenings after working the day job. There is the also the intellectual — there have been nights I can’t sleep because my brain won’t shut off. I’m trying to learn so much in a brief period of time and apply it to this novel without letting the Negative Nancies get me off track.

I’d be remiss not to mention the balance once must muster when reviewing edits. I submitted my first chapter and received in return 11 sets of corrections, opinions, and thoughts. Most of these were subjective. Of course those objective — typos, spelling errors, etc — are to be fixed with gratitude for the editor. Then there are those long, red ink, cursive notes down the page suggesting how you should have written it. And the details you should have included. And what would make it more believable.

The balance is in reading those edits and deciding what holds merit vs. what is nonsense. Writing is a subjective art form. As the author, you’ve got to believe in what you are creating, and stay firm to the elements of your story that are non-negotiable.

Also, it is helpful to pick up your suit of thick skin from the dry cleaner the week before you workshop so you can have every button and zipper fastened and armored. My suit is the Insecure Writer Deluxe 2.1 version. It whispers in my ear every 10 minutes “You can do it! Keep writing! You won’t please everyone, and that is more than okay. It’s ideal.” And if it gets wet with salty tears it kicks into hyper-protective mode, available only with this version: “Fuck them.* You are a good writer. Keep writing.”

Keep writing, friends,


*I know! Profanity on the craft blog! Don’t blame Finny. Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade.

Cooking with Sarah

Cooking with Sarah

A new friend, who has been staying with me for a few months, is a professional runner. Yes, I realize I’m setting myself up for a very odd pattern of having professional athletes live with me. But, then again, it is nice to have company and someone else to take Nelson for walks.

Fine. Sarah takes him for distance runs. I take him for easy walks.

Having someone in my home who monitors every single bite that goes in her mouth as part of her job has been, well…. let’s say interesting. It’s made me take a much closer look at my fridge, plate, and scale.

I once dreamed of swimming collegiately after spending the majority of my childhood in a Speedo, but it didn’t pan out. Come to find out I am not fast. I’m not a quick swimmer, runner, cyclist, tooth brusher, etc. I can, however, go the distance. The mile was always my event swimming. The half marathon became my event as an adult runner. I loved the one half Ironman I completed. These events take as much mental discipline as they do strength; I love the dual challenge.

Thankfully, I’ve got exercise-loving genes. My parents were both incredibly active when I was growing up and continue to exercise today. My brother was on the  path to being a world class swimmer once upon a time, and today can climb mountains like a monkey. Our family vacations were planned around beach time, where we’d swim and run and goof off with the paddle ball set until we’d barely be able to lift fish tacos to our tired mouths.

Living with a professional female runner has stirred up emotion I didn’t anticipate, nor considered once when hosting Matty for three years. Come to find out, I deeply wish I’d made strides athletically then, and could run more than 3 miles today without my body failing today. This buried emotion emerged recently at the end of yoga classes, bubbling up unexpectedly. It’s strange to recognize a disappointment that lay dormant for 15 years, waiting for just the inopportune time to be mined into daylight.

What can you do? I wish I’d been fast. I’m not. Boo-freaking-hoo. That doesn’t mean I can’t be a great athlete (yogi, hiker, cyclist, bowler, driving range golf ball destroyer) today.

Cooking with Sarah

Cooking with Sarah has been an education in dietary diversity and odd supplements. I now regularly eat brewer’s yeast. There is fish oil in my fridge. There are hemp hearts in a canister on the counter. I’m eating a ridiculous, Costco-amount of spinach each week and have started carrying a water bottle wherever I go. Sometimes an old dog can learn new tricks.

Frankly, it is more fun to be challenged to those things I can change — headstands in yoga, a healthy diet, cycling up Lookout Mountain — than spending any more time pouting about the history I cannot. I thank a regular yoga practice for both digging up what I didn’t want to address, and for learning to let it go.

Namaste, y’all.


2012 Books


An update to my 2012 goal of reading 50 books: 47 to go.

1. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress: Fluff. 2 out of 5 bananas. It was a mindless read and nothing I’d strongly recommend.

2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: I am, what, a decade late to this party? That said, I’m 100% enthralled and now understand all the hype. No review necessary. You’ve heard of the series. They are incredibly entertaining and JK Rowling’s creativity blows my mind. 4 of 5 bananas.

3. How to be a Rainmaker: I have a stack of business books to read for work and they make me wonder if monkeys are running this industry. So far I’ve learned to: be polite, return calls, make the customer feel respected and treat others the way I want to be treated. If you don’t know these things before investing in these useless books, you shouldn’t be in business in the first place. Zero bananas. Go find some good fiction instead and remember what they taught us all in kinder — liars never prosper, be nice to others and humility goes a long way.

Very much enjoying this newest read, and I think it’s got great recommendation potential: In the Garden of Beasts.  I also very much enjoyed your many book suggestions on the first 2012 books post. I’ve added a bunch of them to my wish list and am now on GoodReads, if you want to be pals.




Of all my 2012 goals, reading 50 books this year is likely my most ambitious. I’ve gotten in the lazy habit of watching far too much television on my laptop and not paying enough attention to the growing stacks of books around the house. I miss my bookclub.

These were given to me during the holidays. Some professional, some fluff, several on dogs.

To be a great writer, I should be reading great books. And lots of them. Is there anything you’ve read lately that tickled your fancy?







Straight Talk Mary

Fall cooking + prep I’ve been haunted by insomnia lately. This happens about once a year. I’ll go 3-4 weeks without a good night’s sleep, waking around 2 am for 2-3 hours at a stretch. Some nights I just lie there, rolling the day around in my head, like a bowling ball down an empty alley. Others, I read and heat up a bowl of leftovers. More dramatically, there are nights I scream into a pillow — annoyed I’ll once again stomp through the day with bags under my eyes and splintered patience.

Yesterday, I spent two glorious hours in an auditorium with the author Mary Karr. The event, sponsored by Lighthouse Writer’s Studio, was an interview of the author. Karr is best known for her memoirs and poetry. She is currently writing a TV series based on her life for HBO. (And revealed last night she briefly dated David Foster Wallace. Always fascinating when famous people knew each other when.)

I fell head over heels in love with the profane Texan after her rant on “decorative writing” —  that which is fancy to be fancy. She called out specific authors and said The New Yorker is largely to blame. Poems that have secret meanings, for example, are “bullshit.” She took the art of writing and put it in each person’s hands to take home with them, reassuring us that we — as folks who can read and love words — are just as capable of greatness as anyone else. In fact, we might be more likely to produce good work because we aren’t surrounded by fake intellectuals. And when comforting herself during a moment of publishing anxiety, she remembered, “Everyone writes a shitty book.”

To someone who once called her names in a letter, she told of writing the person back and saying, “You are right! I am those things. And guess what? You can’t hurt my feelings. You aren’t the first who has called me that and you won’t be the last.” Oh, the chutzpah!

It was her straight talk. Her basic clothing. Her love of swear words that would embarrass sailors. Her nonchalant aire describing turning down six figure offers for more memoirs because she “just didn’t feel like it right now.” It was her story of growing up in a poor Texan family at the intersection of crazy and drunk.

Her lack of pedigree never slowed her. In truth, it gave her the best material.

Last night I slept 10 hours straight.








Catching My Breath

Maxwell Falls Hike

The last six weeks or so have been a steady stream of visitors and fun. And while I have had a summer to remember, I haven’t been able to shake the type A guilt from countless projects left incomplete in my office. That knitting project. A sewing project long since cut out. A couple writing assignments for various magazines and a friend’s website. Even my reading — I’ve been slogging through the final book in the Dragon Tattoo series. And oh, that book I’m writing. It hasn’t been nurtured much lately either.

Maxwell Falls Hike

I’m preparing for a quick turn around trip to Phoenix later this week. Professionally, my life is busy and exciting and waking me up at night with ideas I need to jot down right this minute. Rather than accept an invitation this weekend for a road trip to Breckenridge, or join friends at Wash Park this afternoon for a bbq and hijinks, I dug in my heels and kept my agenda closed.

Maxwell Falls Hike

I needed time with the mountains, my yoga mat, Willie Nelson Mandela and a lengthy list of podcasts in the queue. I needed to catch up on sleep — as boring as it sounds. I needed to spend time in silence with God.

Maxwell Falls Hike

I’m reading a book Mini gave me on her recent visit: The War of Art. I spent less than an hour with this book today and felt a rejuvenated spirit for my many creative pursuits. If you are a creative person, or simply someone who sets goals and needs a bit of encouragement to see the finish line, I recommend it highly. It was exactly what I needed this morning for a final push to see several of those nagging loose ends tied in a bow.

Maxwell Falls Hike It feels especially good to have a new energy here; I’ve gone from posting daily to grinding to push out something slightly different a couple times a week. A bit of downtime and my creative coffers are full again. I had a “zone” run this weekend, followed by a hike that left me dizzy with thin, crisp, sweet mountain air. There was even a bit of namaste and craft store’s worth of finish line ribbons.

I might be a bit punch-drunk on a productivity high.

BOO-hells yes-YAH.