Posted in On Writing

Grace? Yeah, I Know Her.

I’ve learned to give myself grace over these past two-plus years; as someone who has always found relaxing to be stressful, it was a hard lesson. I needed to learn how to let things go, how to swim with the tide and let it carry me, without feeling guilty for it. Not everything had to be a struggle, even if life with a three-year-old can otherwise indicate. 

Now, I think, it’s time to give myself some goddamn accountability. 

This is said with no self-directed anger, no guilt, and no shame. There is no judgment to pass. I have given and given and accepted and accepted the grace from myself and others for what I have done and not done, and for what I have lived through. The past few years have been a lot; the past year, the past month. 

The days have been so, so long. I wake up, my child wakes up. We go to our respective daily responsibilities with different levels of engagement, with their different structures and purpose. We come home at the end of the night, tired; we eat, stare at the TV and each other, read a couple books and head to bed. There’s a lot of scrolling involved, a lot of half-hearted conversation. I have learned to be at peace with both wanting to do more, and knowing that these last blustery nights of winter are not going to be the time.

We’re supposed to get a big snowfall in a couple days; there’s been precious little this winter thus far, just enough for two quick snowy adventures. We haven’t even busted out the snow pants yet. Now here in mid-March it sounds like the lion finally has sank his claws into the low hills and curves of coastline, dragging the dregs of winters along. I won’t be running this week, though I’m cleared to, and I’m feeling physically better than I have since last May.

I made it out for a couple solid walks this week, walking out my door at work and letting it slam behind me, keeping my pace quick as I crossed neighborhoods and made my way to the beach. The sea was restless and high, prowling along the shore. She’s waiting for something.

I felt the pull of the tide, shifting and tense, echo in my veins long after I left the sands behind and made my way back to the office. I try to channel the energy into work, seat-dancing with the jitters, getting psyched up for a major project kickoff the next day. 

Until my director called and told me I was off the project; it had been recategorized to another (albeit more appropriate) department. The hours I’d put in on it this specific project for the past four months were for nothing. 

Anger spilled from my eyes in hot tears, tightening my throat on the repetitions of, “this is bullshit.” I felt overlooked and invalidated; thankfully, I’m close enough to my supervisor to ask if this is because of something I’ve done, and she was able to quell those worries before they even had time to blossom. 

The following four days were tough. Something about this felt pivotal; I remembered the sea’s edge, the cold foam that rolled up along the shore as waves broke further out in the harbor. Suddenly the surf seemed far away, as if I walked along a cliff edged with small stones that bounced their way over the edge. Change felt imminent. I talked with friends about it, paced and swore. I wished I was able to not throw myself into things like this. Why did I sink so much of myself, so many of my spoons, into the hours that I traded for pay? Because I care about my job, and I’m passionate about my field and the potential in it. OK, well, if I didn’t care about the job so much, would it be easier on me? Would I be less tired, feel less discouraged and down if I could find a job that didn’t challenge my heart and soul so much? 

If I were going to be so absorbed by something that it had the power to drive me to tears of any kind… did it need to be a job?

Yes, of course, I thought. I need to work. Working provides health insurance, stability, and a paycheck, which provides food and shelter and more stability. Those are basic needs that a job meets. Satisfaction comes after, then passion. Cool, cool. 

But what if… 

I grabbed a notebook and the first thick pen I could find.  

What would it look like if I took this writing thing seriously?

Not quit my job seriously, or like all the success stories of pretty white girls who “just went for it.” I’m 36 year old solo mom with student loan payments about to restart. The farthest I’m going to “go for it” is picking up the jar of medium-heat salsa at Wegmans for an untested recipe. I’m not moving to Bali for six months to write my book, or turn a fitness instructor career into a successful entrepreneurship. For those that did, good for them – that’s just not me, not where I am, and really, not what I want.

I want my stories read. I want people to read them, talk about them, enjoy them. I want my words to mean something to someone, whether it’s an inspiration or a moment of recognition, or a laugh in a dark moment. I want to connect with people. I want to tell stories I see myself in, see my friends in. I want to be part of the movement of more queer representation in fiction. I don’t need to be the next TJ Klune (though holy shit, if you haven’t read him yet, GO), but the mark I want to leave on this world is in that line. 

I’m currently sitting on 6 half-finished blog posts (yes, I’m still very behind) and two novels – one in its 9thround of edits, and I’ve been querying agents for, and one that is a rough draft of the second book in a series of seven. How long am I going to leave them sitting on my computer? How long am I going to wait?

The first novel – a standalone fiction piece, about 250 pages – wasn’t planned. Oops. It had started as a short story, and just kept going. It still needs some polishing, some work; looking back and editing it, I can see how far I’ve come in my writing since “finishing” it, so the tweaks continue. Still, I’ve sent out eighteen queries to agents for representation. I’ve had 8 outright rejections, consider 2 more to be rejections (waiting for a response for over a year), and have 8 open and sitting in agents’ inboxes. 

I wrestled with the idea of going the self-publishing route for an absolutely asinine reason – I felt like maybe I hadn’t paid my dues as a creative person enough. The memes are out there: “Stephen King was turned down 80 times. Keep going.” Agatha Christie had a bunch, John Grisham, Jack London, NK Jemison. 

I was absolutely shocked when I received my first rejection – a form email the day after I had sent it. I wasn’t shocked by the rejection, but by my reaction – I had done it. I had sent it out into the world. The letter felt like a rite of passage, and did not discourage me in the least. Some of the rejections I’ve received have been helpful, giving advice on what to clean up for my letter, or story or synopsis. A few have been just templated, [INSERT NAME HERE] that leave me nothing to improve. 

I have also had three actual people read, finish, and provide excellent feedback on that novel’s first iteration. Some of the points, I acted on; others I stood by, all for one reason or another. The consensus I came away with was, “this is pretty good, and could be even better.” 

After voicing my artistic angst at not “paying my dues,” to someone who loves me enough to not scoff (until later), I was able to let that notion go. I need a publisher to get my book printed and distributed, not to validate my talent. I wanted an agent to make the connections and worry about the marketing, not to pat me on the head and tell me that we will try again.  

If I don’t hear back with a positive response from an agent by my 37th birthday, I’m moving ahead with self-publishing. Based on that timeline, by the end of 2023, I will be a published author.

I had to pause after writing that. Sit back, take a healthy gulp of coffee.

How’s that for some goddamn accountability.

Posted in On Writing



There’s something wonderful about intending to go to bed early, and just read for ten minutes; then finding yourself at the end of a book, your feet freezing from being in such a position that they fell asleep without you. 

This is what I aspire to.

As a writer – a title I am still getting used to calling myself – my goals are amorphous(?). They are shapeshifters; I want to write full-time, I want it to pay my bills so I don’t have to commute any more. I want to afford a small house where the floors don’t creak until Lucy’s old enough to sneak in, and that’s when they alert me. I don’t need to be famous,  I just want my stories known. 

I want to keep people up past their bedtime reading my books. 

When I finished what I (foolishly, naively) thought to be my final draft of my first novel, I gave it to my closest people who would not blow smoke up my ass. They had some great notes and critiques, and told me all their thoughts, good and bad. And one told me they’d stayed up later than they meant to reading it. 

I carry that like an ember.


I have done no writing this December, other than the 200 or so words above. Not a blog post, not a journal entry, not even scribbled thoughts from my walks. I don’t know why, exactly. Maybe I needed that break after November, where I wrote 50,194 words of a new novel to win NaNoWriMo. That seems legit, right? That’s a lot of output for one month, especially while balancing being a solo mom to my toddler, working full time, and trying to keep up with the rest of life – which, admittedly, some of which went to crap.

Maybe I ran out of motivation; it’s not always easy to get up and moving and settling down to pull words out of my brain at 5 AM, and often harder to get back to that after putting Lucy to bed.  I know my mental health took a dive; what poet Jarod K. Anderson refers to as “brain weather” was dark fog and thunder for days on end. But did that happen because it’s winter and I have SAD as well as complicated grief? Or did it happen because I stopped writing daily, all of my carefully structured routines fell away, and the darkness took the opportunity to close in? 


It’s January now, less than a week left. The writer is there; I’ve got lines and paragraphs that are waiting to find a home, waiting to be taken in and finished and find their place. I’ve got quotes and prompts aplenty, creative fodder galore (quick, name that tune). I’ve updated my inspiration journal, my reading journal, my daily journal. My writing? Not so much. But she’s there; maybe buried under blankets of inactivity and depression, but there, and stirring. 

This is not going to be a good blog post. This is not going to get my voice out there and be read by anyone other than those who have subscribed, and honestly? Maybe only half of those folks, too. 

That’s OK. 

This blog is for me. I have other writing projects that aren’t for me. I write and edit things for work, for friends; there are a few of you who might read this whom I owe some thoughts to, and I promise I’ll get to them. I’m working on edits for two novels I’ve written, and one in progress. I have multiple short stories and flash fiction sitting, waiting for their turn. Those are different. Those are the stories I intend to put out there only after high polishing and buffing, and hopefully, professional publishing services. 

This is where I practice, where I make mistakes. Where I stream it out and write from the heart, whatever comes out. There’s no guise, no plan, no plot or structure. It’s raw, sometimes more so than others. It’s public because just knowing it’s public gives me the accountability I need to return, even when the words are slow to come, even when the document sits open for fifty-one days. 

My goal for this blog in 2023 is to publish 25 posts. I was torn between 24 (2 per month) and 26 (once every 2 weeks) and split the difference. In one aspect, I am already behind; I’m not going to get two out this month, which means I’m already playing catch up. 

In another aspect, I’m just getting started.

I haven’t spent the past weeks since NaNoWriMo idle. I’ve been in consumption mode; I’ve been reading more than ever, searching out inspiration instead of passively scrolling. I’ve been back in the MasterClass series, hanging on the words of N.K. Jemison. I’ve got podcasts lined up, and plans. So many plans. Best of all, I finally have my pen name for what I intend to publish – with or without a publishing house.

Two major things I have accomplished since NaNo might not seem like the sort of things one would crow about, or even call accomplishments. For me, they are. One, I’ve set a date to self-publish my first novel. If none of the queries I have out to agents come back positively by then, I’m partnering with a service to publish my own novel. 

The second is even more of a victory. Every so often, when I would write before, I’d come across something that sounded close to my poems, or someone who sounded more like me but so much better. And I’d stop. If I wasn’t going to be the best or the first, what was the point (I need to be cautious, my gifted child status is showing)? 

This changed in 2022. I remember the exact moment; I’m not going back to check, so forgive me if you’ve already heard this story. I had taken myself on a solo writing retreat in the mountains for three days and nights. I brought along The Night Circus on a whim. On my second full day, as I added more hot water to the clawfoot tub that had gone tepid while I was engrossed in Erin Morgenstern’s world, I felt the ground shift. Beliefs and doubts, worries and hopes were tossed around like Boggle cubes and settled into a new pattern, a mosaic tableau that rolled out, just waiting for me to take the first step.

I was reading something incredibly magic and engrossing; and it made me want to write. I wasn’t dismayed, I wasn’t disheartened that I could never write that well.

I wanted to write more.

I wanted to bring people into my world, into my stories, to captivate the reader, to pull them along the plotlines and pitfalls.

It took 35 years to figure out I could be inspired, not outshone, by people who were good at what I wanted to do. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me, seeing as it took 34 years to realize I didn’t want to “have it all,” as I had been raised to believe. 

Better late than never.

Today, in the final days of January, I have more than doubled my word count for December. It’s nothing that will get me on the NYT bestseller’s list, but it certainly has not been a waste. I had already decided that my word of the year is “Forward,” following the concept of non-zero days, something I learned on Reddit (yes, inspiration is everywhere). Any progress is good. Another quote I’m keeping in mind, and I am not going to go down an internet rabbit hole trying to figure out where it first came from, but it was still important for me to learn: “Anything worth doing, is worth doing half-assed.” 

As I’m sure it is for some of you, this is a MAJOR adjustment from the idea that “anything worth doing is worth doing well,” another maxim I was raised with. 

So while my blog goal will stay at 25 posts this year, it’s just that: a goal. I may or may not make it. I will absolutely try, but as long as I can continue the forward momentum, no matter how small, I’ll take that as a success. 

If you’re still subscribed, or still reading after this ramble, I hope you’re coming along for the ride.

Posted in Beliefs and Practices, On Writing

Girl, You’ve Got to Be What Tomorrow Needs

When I woke up this morning, two things came to mind: I remembered being extremely wary of mystical readings until just a few years ago; and I cannot begin to count the number of times I’ve been told I have an “old soul.” My feet hit the floor with purpose, knowing I wanted to tap into that soul today. I readied for the day, getting Lucy fed and dressed, the dog out. I did the things that needed doing; took Lucy to daycare, picked up prescriptions, called to get a repair on the car.

The sky is Oscar blue, brilliant and deep in the spring air. The maple tree extends her shade, bright new leaves reaching for the sun, a blanket of her fallen flowers in her shade. My new plastic Adirondack chair was covered thickly with samaras, helicopters that never quite touched down. I feel insulated from most of the noise of the city around me, and the tension in my shoulders finally starts to slide away. 

Since my birthday, I have had ideas knocking around my head. Essay topics, snippets of poems, ideas for long-form and short-form stories; fiction, nonfiction, memoir, academic writing. I feel surrounded by words; if this were a Disney film, my hair would catch and lift on a breeze of prose, as the words wound themselves through my animated world and the townspeople joined in my song. Je m’appelle Marjanna, et j’ai quelque chose pour dire. 

I kept my birthday very low-key this year. I had a beautiful weekend where I was more focused on myself than I had allowed myself to be before. One of the gifts I gave myself was today. I am off work today. I took the day off, on purpose; I have no appointments, no reservations. I’m not sick, and neither is my kiddo. 

I took the day off so I could write. 

Those reading it may not gasp at this thought, but I certainly did. I practically heard the record scratch. What a crazy idea, I thought. Taking a day off to write. 

I texted some friends; want to hear a crazy idea? Sure, they said. I told them. 

“Cool. So what’s the crazy part?”

I do not take days off lightly. I don’t take days off without reason. To do so, and focus on writing, on me and my craft, feels over indulgent. Who am I to think that my writing is so important that I can skip my actual job in order to focus on it? I must have some ego to think I’m good enough to justify that. 

The audacity of me. 

Self-doubt began to slither in the door that sarcasm and negative self-talk left open. It climbed like smoke, scaling the walls, winding around my body, curling tendrils around my fingers. I tapped out my thoughts on the bright screen in front of me. 

No, it’s silly. I can’t. I’m not really a writer. I’m not published, how can I actually be a writer? This is stupid.

Three dots, blinking. 

“You write, don’t you? You’re a writer. Take the damn day.”

Sometimes we need reminders of what’s true in our lives. When the night closes in and the doubts follow, it’s easy to get trapped in the sticky, negative thought spirals that can drag you down. You start to follow that path down, down, a sickly pale the only light you can see, so you follow it. 

It leads nowhere; it takes you through caves and channels you didn’t know existed, paths you thought you left behind long ago. It is the upside down; you’re not sure if it’s real, but it’s all so familiar, almost comforting. It’s easy to stay, in this dark world you know; you’re tired of fighting, tired of trying. The effort to get back is too much, why not just sink in? The darkness gets its hooks into you, a thousand tiny daggers; it feeds on you, draining you of your energy, your will. 

It is so insidious, so quick to come when you slip. It is opportunistic and cagey, using your own thoughts and words against you, twisting and distorting everything you have worked for, dismantling the structures you so carefully built. 

And it lies. 

The smoke shrank back as I pondered that answer. I write, yes, this is true; doesn’t that make me a writer? I cook, but I’m not a chef; I stitch, but I am no seamstress. What makes writing different? 

I cook to feed myself and my family, to show love and to share with them. I stitch to relax my mind and keep my hands busy, to show love and to share with friends and family. 

And I write for me. 

Me, first. I write for Oscar, and I write for Hawthorne; I write for my father, my mother. I write for all those beyond the veil, whose stories are left in limbo; and I write for those here as well. I write for my friends who can’t find the words; I write for those who hurt, for those who question. For those who wish, and want, and dream. I write for Lucy, that she may know who I have known. 


I write for me. First. Foremost. Finally.

I recently was a guest on a podcast where I talked about confidence (among other things). I felt like I rambled, and the final version hasn’t hit the air yet, so I am not sure how it all worked. I enjoyed the experience so much; I loved talking to the host, and getting to dig into my interpretation and experience with confidence. A lot of my readers thus far have been friends and family; if you’ve been around some years, you know that confidence has not been something that came naturally. If you haven’t known me long, it may or may not surprise you. 

Confidence, to me, is an energy. It’s a force and a flow, something that can be harnessed or let loose. It shifts; it waxes and wanes. As with any energy, there can be disruptions, and you need to reset. On the podcast I mention those friends who help make that happen.  

No one can shake my confidence like I can, when I follow that path, when I let myself be carried by that thick gray smoke. I am a master at getting in my own way, at talking myself out of things. I flip to feeling guilty and self-indulgent very easily. It’s hard for me to see that it is an act of love to do things for myself, too, not just for others. I am learning every day how to love myself. 

I had a tarot pull for my birthday, a full-year spread to welcome 35. It’s been on my mind, daily; I’m not so skilled at reading the cards yet. My mind plays with them like Lucy with a Rubiks cube; futz around with it, shake it, chew on it a little. This is the first time I’ve had such a major pull. I have an app (which feels a bit like cheating, but I like it) for a daily card. I believe that you bring as much to the cards as they give to you. Some days it’s a BOLO, sometimes a new perspective. Some days, it’s the piece that completes the picture.

My card this morning was the Four of Wands, and the key words given were Home, Backbone, and Foundation. Not a bad omen for my first day off to pursue being a writer.