Me, in Three Songs

My friend Duff wrote herself in three songs, based on this post, and I love the idea of this challenge. 

Apparently I'm in the mood for culling down to the essential today. I've pared my closet to 33 items (not including handknits — I TRIED! I really did. But I couldn't do it) and now I'm paring down to three songs. 

I've realized lately that both my jobs are completely language focussed. The writing job is obviously so, but so is the dispatch job — at 911 you can't miss a single word of an address or a symptom or what the captain says on the radio or the word knife. But when it comes to music, I'm kind of wordless. I can listen to songs for decades and be able to sing along phonetically (and even tell you the words that way, if you ask me) but I'll have no idea what the song literally means. 

It's about the feeling. It's about what the sound makes rise in me like sap. (Like sappy sap, mostly.) 


Murder in the City – Avett Brothers. Oh, Avetts, you tools. I do wish you weren't such tools. But I still love your music. And I take it back about the words and not listening to them, for this song. These words mean something. They mean a lot to me. Oh, my god, just listening to this again broke me down to tears. Love. Family. Friends. Gah. 


Stella Maris –  Moby. This song to me, is every feeling of grief and longing there ever was. This is what I put on repeat when Robin died in Pack Up the Moon (not a spoiler, his death happens before the book opens). This is what I listen to when I want to cry. Or when I want to need. 

Give it Up – Marvin Gaye. Now stop those tears, my friend, and dance. This is my theme song. If this comes on while I'm in the middle of the frozen food section of the grocery store, I will grab the stock boy and spin him around a few times. If this comes on in the DMV (oh, that it would), I will lead those waiting in a feel-good dance party. I can even karaoke it. No lie.


How about you? How do you describe yourself in three songs? 

I Kick Like a Girl

Warning: I hate the phrase “trigger warning” but this is one. This post deals with violence and rape and fighting. And me, kicking ASS. 

So, I want to tell you this. I’m a badass. 

Once, many years ago, I attended an Impact self-defense graduation ceremony (back then it went by the strange name of Model Mugging). I was young (in my early twenties) and I was terrified of everything. I was scared to talk to people, scared to walk down the street, scared to go to sleep at night. The reason for this was multi-layered and I don’t feel like getting into exactly how my young psyche had been damaged, but one of the reasons I was scared was that I’d been raped. It was date rape (and oh, how I hate how that phrase can take the barb out of the word RAPE. Date rape, to me and many others, implied for many years that it was my fault. That it was a minor deal. It was neither). 

To be honest, I didn’t even know I was going to write this part of this post until I started typing. I’ve told very few people this over the years. My mother knew. A few friends.

Until the Jian Ghomeshi shitstorm, I’d never admitted this online or in print, anywhere. The shame that’s internalized around rape is astonishing. You know me and admitting things. I LOVE to admit my deepest, darkest secrets and bring them into the light, but I’ve never admitted this. My stomach is in knots and I’m scared right now as I peck at the keys. I twittered a very little bit about my experience a few weeks ago while people were talking about Ghomeshi, and then I threw up and shook for the rest of the morning. But you know what? We have to talk about this. Among my women friends, more of them have been sexually assaulted than haven’t. This is true. 

And this is so fucked up.

(No, before you ask (not like YOU would, YOU know better), this is not why I’m gay-married. I’m bisexual. I love (good) men, and I love (good) women. I just happen to be in love with my wife.) 

So years and years ago, I went to that Impact graduation. I watched women fight their way away from men who were literally holding them down, picking them up, throwing them around. I wasn’t alone in crying my way through the graduation, and I vowed I would take the class someday. I vowed I would learn to be as strong as they were.

The problem was that the class wasn’t cheap. I was a broke college student for a long time, and then I was just a broke, indebted American for a long time. 

Then I could afford it. 

I signed up for the Basics course earlier this year, and I swear to you, I’ve never been more terrified to do something in my whole life. It’s a four day course, and by the time we were ten minutes into the class, I wanted to run. I fantasized about doing it so clearly I was surprised to find myself still standing in place.  

I stayed. 


First, with the help of our inspiring whistle instructor (the female teacher who’s literally right next to you during every fight, coaching you, blowing the whistle when you’ve won), we learned how to say No

See, as women, we often don’t know how to say this effectively. And we certainly don’t know how to yell it. Our first group “No” was timid. Almost polite. A questioning, “No?” Am I doing this right? 

Then, with the help of the amazing suited instructors (the men who wear the full-body suits which allow them to absorb our punches and kicks), we learned how to fight. I have to admit, I had some doubt about the men. What kind of guy would sign up to come at women menacingly? Now I know. The best kind of men. The men who want women to be safe in this world. They’re kind and generous and—honestly—pretty awe inspiring in their dedication to the cause of halting violence against women. I can’t say enough about them.

Now, in my whole life I had never hit a person who wasn’t a sister (and even when I was a kid, I was always better with words than fists). The first twenty or so times I hit a suited instructor, I apologized. I APOLOGIZED. We all did. 

You know what? By the end of the class, I could take a man out. In order to graduate, we had to land several knock-out blows. Guess who managed to do this? Everyone in the class, including the ones who were much skinnier or much heavier than I was, including the ones who were twenty years younger or older than I am.


After that class, I was so much less scared. I didn’t know how much fear I carried walking in the BART parking lot at night, going out our front door in the dark, walking through the city, until that fear was lifted off. Not coincidentally, the next week, I got a bike. I wasn’t scared anymore to be knocked off it. No, I sure as heck don’t want to be knocked off my bike. I don’t want to be robbed. But now I know how to take care of myself, of my body, and I wasn’t scared for the first time in my life. 

I loved Basics so much I signed up for Multiple Assailants, which I took last weekend. In this class, you’re not going so much for the knock-out blows (but those are nice to land, sure). Instead, you’re trying to land incapacitating blows, one after another; you line them up, and knock them down so you can get away and call help. 


And I have to tell you, this class was even more terrifying to me than the Basics had been (with as much as I'd loved Basics, I didn't expect this). A two-day class, I didn’t want to go either day. I literally prayed for a migraine. The first time three guys came at me, I almost lost control of my bladder. 

Then, because I knew how, I fought. 

I’m posting a video here of one of my fights in class. 

It’s scary. If you’re tense right now, if you feel like crying while reading this, please don’t watch. Or at least don't want alone. Watch with someone who can talk to you afterward, who can give you a hug if you need it. (This is me hugging you.) The instructors use language that’s street-real. You can tell I’m scared in this video.

But I’m also exhilarated. Those punches and kicks I’m landing might look like much, but they’re using all my strength, all my muscle, and I'm a strong woman. A normal guy who wasn’t wearing that suit would not get back up. Period. They would either be unconscious or vomiting from pain. 


I also didn’t know I was going to do this next thing, but I’m following my heart.

Impact isn’t cheap, but they have scholarships. I’d love to raise enough to put a woman through this class who needs it, a woman who can’t afford it. Click here to donate.

Even a very small amount would help change a woman's life forever. 

If you want to donate directly to Impact rather than going through that link, their holiday fundraiser for taking Impact to college campuses (!) is here.  If you want to see if they’re in your area, click here


I don’t expect to ever have to use these skills. If mugged, I’ll give up my backpack. You can have my bike. But try to touch me? I’ll lay you OUT, motherfucker. 

And that makes me feel like I can fly. 



Living the Dream

Once I was at a HarperCollins party at the Central Park Boathouse in New York. I felt like a naive, squawking goose because I was surrounded by successful authors who didn't seem to think this was a big deal. 

To me it was a VERY big deal. I told one of the editors that–that I couldn't believe where I was–and she was glad to hear it. She didn't think my funny overeager faces were silly. She got excited, too, when I told her how I felt. 

I think it's important to remember these kinds of things. In anything, when you achieve a goal, let yourself bask. Bask in the glow of pride and the knowledge that you freaking DID it. Remember when your mom would point out something that you just did that was pretty cool, and she'd say, "Aren't you proud of yourself?" (I hope your mother did that. If not, I'll say it to you. You should be so proud of yourself, friend, for doing that awesome thing, even if was just a small step. Good on you.) 

Yesterday I had one of those days. I worked a 72 hour shift (that wasn't part of it though it wasn't bad), got home and napped till 1pm (that was part of it. Nothing like sleeping till 1pm, even if you didn't go to bed till 9am. It always feels decadent). Then I got up and went to Mills and wrote a couple of thousand words for NaNoWriMo (I'm still ahead! Loving that!). 

Then, get this: I spoke to a writing class at Mills on being a working writer. 

That has been a dream of mine. That's been a dream for a long, long time. I've taught a lot of places, literally all over the country, and most recently, down under. But when I was at Mills as a grad student, years and years ago, I would walk across the quad, lost in imagining myself in the future, wearing stylish boots, my published books in one hand, a coffee in another, going to talk to students about writing. 

Yesterday afternoon my boots were Dansko and not that stylish, but I was wearing a sweater I'd bound off that very morning, the books in my bag were mine, and I was clutching that coffee like it was the only way I'd keep breathing. 

The students were amazing, and asked awesome questions. They want to be writers like I used to want to be (and now am! Pinch me again!). I want each and every one of them to end up playing the starring role in their own dream. I want that for YOU, too. Keep taking those steps, okay? Those little actions, that tiny risk you take today gets you that much closer. 


Me, after class, a little verklempt. 

Afterward, as night fell, I put the top down on the bridge on the drive to San Francisco and tried to soak up and enjoy every minute of it. The air smelled of the rain that had fallen earlier that day, and I realized that both of the towns I love best (Oakland and Venice) smell best when cool and damp. The smell of dirt and diesel and salt water. Magic of the very best kind. 


I love the new Bay Bridge.

Then Lala and I had date night. We had dinner on the sidewalk at the Grove, and then went to see Jill Lepore talk about her Wonder Woman book. It was a freaking perfect day. 

And it didn't hurt that for all that I was wearing a new sweater. This sweater was supposed to have sleeves, yes, but as I was knitting it, I realized how thick it was. I would for sure never wear it, EVER. I wondered how it would look as a vest. 


 Pattern: DROPS Chocolate Passion, in Quince and Co Osprey. Ravelry details here. 

It's an interesting construction, and will look/fit better after a bit of a block, but you know me. I'm impatient. 


And I just realized this: Finishing this means I can start a new sweater with the handspun I've been spinning from the New Zealand wool! Eeep! Today, my reward for doing my NaNoWriMo words will be picking a pattern and swatching. 

I feel so deeply happy and grateful to be exactly where I am. Right now. I wish for you the same. 

* I keep forgetting to draw winners! The winner of Chris Baty's book is Jeanne B. and the winner of Larissa Brown's Shieldmaiden Knits is Linda McD — you've both been emailed. 



I've written about Larissa Brown before. If you like great novels that completely sweep you to another place and manage to keep you there until you turn the last page even if it makes you late for work, you need to read the jaw-dropping Viking romance Beautiful Wreck (see my review). 

Not only is she a stunning writer, she's a seriously talented knitwear designer, and she has a new collection, also Viking based. 

Shieldmaiden Knits 

(Ravelry link)



From the book: 

Shieldmaiden Knits features designs in Malabrigo Yarn, inpsired by the epic Viking style.

Vikings were poets and artists. Their woodwork, carvings, bracelets and intricate needle cases and combs all suggest a great passion for design. Their words and sagas suggest a love of dramatic gestures.

The pieces in this collection take the gorgeous colors and textures of Malabrigo yarns, and use simple shapes and easy lace to bring about dramatic results. These are not historically accurate designs, but instead are modern pieces inspired by my research into Viking Age life.

I adore this piece, Gull Warmers:


and these delicate gauntlets just GET me: 


I'm giving away a copy of the book to one lucky commenter — let's play my favorite game and leave a comment about the best book you've recently read. I'll draw a winner on November 11. 

Nanowrimo writers: don't forget to leave a comment in the previous post about Chris Baty's book, No Plot No Problem – will be drawing that winner tomorrow! 

A Ghost Story

In typical hardcore California fashion, I call myself spiritual, not religious. I'm pretty agnostic, but I know there's something good and interesting after this life, because I've felt close enough to dead people that there just isn't any other explanation (to me). If that's just my brain tricking me, that's fine, too. I'll take it. 

But I do want to tell you about the haunted guitar gig bag. Look! Already, this is slightly exaggerated! Here's how I got it: 

I popped into a very old but newly-renovated music shop in Oakland one morning after having breakfast with friends. I wasn't shopping–just looking–but I'd seen that they had a good selection of ukuleles as I'd walked past, and what's a girl supposed to do? 

The owner of the shop was cordial, giving me a friendly hello and then going back to his laptop. I noticed he was completely intent on the screen, his eyes huge. Finally, I asked the price of a baritone uke, and he kind of jolted himself back. 

"Oh! A hundred." 

"Ah," I said. It was a beautiful instrument, and I waited for him to try to sell me on it, although I already was. 

Instead, he paused. Then hesitantly, he said, "You wanna see something?" 

No! No. When a man you don't know asks if you want to see something on his computer screen, a safe answer is usually Back off, ass-hat. But he honestly didn't strike me as creepy–he seemed more like a guy I'd hang out with, a guy who would fit in with my friends. So I said, "Maybe?"

On his computer were four screens, three normal, one infared night vision. There were all of the interior of the store, two in front, two in back: security cameras. This wasn't odd: it's a music store full of instruments in a high-crime area.

He pointed. "That's me." On the screen, a small image of him walked around, multiplied and synced by four, seen from four different vantages. He was obviously looking for something. The store was lit, but not well, and he used a flashlight to help him peer into boxes.

"Look," he said. "This is a couple of nights ago. I felt really weird that night. So I played this back the next day. I can't stop looking at it." 

We watched the mini-him scoot around the store, tidying something, then digging his keys out of his pocket. He went to the front door to unlock it. 

Something small and bright zipped in front of the two front cameras. It was gone as fast as it had come.

On the screens, the owner pulled the door open, went outside, and turned around.  Through the glass, we watched him lock up the store. "I was leaving to get the PA equipment I'd rented to a place down the street," he said to me. "It was just after midnight." 

As he walked out of view, all four screens shook a little. All four went dark. Then they FLARED to life. They showed the shop, the front and the back of it, but now it was as if a bright light had been switched on and the light was catching dust motes fly around. 

Only these (I swear this to you) weren't dust motes. First of all, motes don't glow like that. Second, motes don't work independently of each other. Most of them were fast, zipping by in clumps, zigzagging in groups, darting like flocks of tiny, bright birds. Some, though, swooped lazily in spirals. Some (this freaked me out) flew toward the cameras and did pirouettes, almost as if showing off, before looping slowly off screen. The cameras kept their slow time, the seconds in the time stamp on each changing normally at the top. 

I was gobsmacked. Slack jawed, literally. "I…I…" 

"Right?" he said. "Now watch this." 

On the film from the front cameras, someone is seen on the sidewalk. It's the guy. "I forgot the paperwork I needed them to sign for the amps. I came back to try to find it." 

As soon as he's seen outside, the bright lights pause. As he inserts his key and opens the door, all of them zoom out of sight. Holding a flashlight, he enters and searches for a piece of paper on the counter. A single bright mote flies across the camera and then is gone again. Another dances in the corner, almost invisible. A few fly behind his back.

Then he leaves again. As soon as he's not visible on the sidewalk, the orbs (because I swear, that's what they were) filled all the screens, dancing and zipping again. 

"I've never seen anything like that," I said, kind of truly freaked out. 

"I have," he said. "I've seen it before out of the corner of my eye, but that night was crazy, and I didn't even notice them. I just felt them. I never get scared here, but I didn't have the car that night. I always walk home, never had a problem, but that night, even though I hadn't seen these tapes, I called my wife at one in the morning, woke her up, and had her wake up our baby so they could come get me." His eyes went big again to make his point. "I made my sleeping wife wake up our sleeping baby to drive the few blocks here because I was scared." 

Then I noticed the date stamp on the tapes we were still ogling. Just after midnight on on All Soul's. I literally didn't even bother to point it out to him. I figured he was probably well aware of the date. 

"Why don't you get some ghostbusters in here?" I asked. 

"I did." 


"They saw the lights, and they said they were concentrated in the back room, where an old man used to live, where he died."

"And?" I said, almost hopping up and down.

"He wasn't a good man," he said. "According to them, he was a really, really bad man."

"You have to be on TV or something! You have to show people this!" 

He looked crestfallen. "But then I'd own the haunted music shop." 

"Yeah? And?" [Aside – I just checked on Yelp, THE MUSIC STORE MOVED. Still stellar Yelp ratings, but no longer in the same place. I'm SO going back to ask him if that's why he moved.]

"I don't want to be that guy. I just want to sell guitars." 

I leaned forward and propped my chin on my hands. "What does your wife think?" 

"She doesn't believe it." 

"But–she's seen the tapes?" 

"She says it's dust or something." 

"But they move. Together. And apart. They act like they have brains, or will, or something. And there are so many." 

He shrugged. "It makes her feel better. I've seen them at home, though." 

"Are you serious?" 

He nodded. "I'll see them zip by, just out of sight, just like they do here. I think they follow me home, but my wife doesn't want to hear about it." 

I started to doubt the wisdom of my planned purchase, and I suddenly understood his reticence to be known for being haunted. "If I buy that uke, will I take some home?" 

He straightened. "Nah. No way." 

"What about the bag?" The uke was so big it was resting in an old Martin gig bag. The bag was ripped and soft and looked more like a sleeping bag than the protection it was supposed to be.

"Oh, you can have that. That's been around here forever." 

I didn't mention I didn't want it, I just paid and took both home. 

Then, when I got home, I couldn't bring the bag inside. The ukulele, sure. I kind of blew on it and said, "Don't come in here, 'kay? This is a nice place. Stay outside." Then I felt dumb and hoped the neighbors didn't see me talking to the uke. But the bag . . . just felt wrong. It didn't feel right. I did finally bring it in out of my car, telling myself I was being stupid, but a few days later, I put it in the trash. I hated having it in my office. 

Silly, I know. A haunted gig bag. But it felt real. 

And isn't that the part that matters? 

OH MY GOD I FOUND SOME OF THE FOOTAGE – he put it on YouTube!!! Augh. Cue delicious chills.

In this one you can't see him entering or exiting the door, but you can see at .20 whatever it is is active, and when he's in the shot with his flashlight, whatever it is is much less active.


This is from a different, color camera, same thing, different vantage. Skip to about 1.20 to see it start.  

 I KNOW. Thank goodness I couldn't find the flaring footage — that was actually scary. I can't believe I just found this though.  

Now, I won't bore you with the tale of the ghost I've felt on the edge of my bed (and the cheeky way it tugs on the sheets!) (not at home, don't worry), but I'll ask you today, on Halloween: what's YOUR favorite ghost story? 

(Oh, and don't forget to read yesterday's post and leave a comment to have a chance to win No Plot No Problem!) 

No Plot, No Problem!

NANOWRIMO COMETH. At some point, I should probably plot out at least the first scene, since I'm going to launch into it on Saturday, but… 

Hey, wait! 

What does Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo always say?


Indiebound | Amazon | iBooks| Kobo | B&N *

Know what? Chris is right. No plot is actually no problem, espeically in the magical month of November. I find out what I'm writing as I write it. I can have as detailed a plan as I like, and I'll veer from it just because the grass I imagined over there, on the other side of the fence, feels cooler to my imaginary toes. 

His book is awesome, friends (REVISED and EXPANDED), and because he's just as awesome, he's giving away TWO signed copies and a fire-breathing princess postcard, to boot. 

Just leave me a comment below to enter (tell me what you're going to write about! Or what you're NOT going to write about — ooh, that's even more interesting, the negative space around your words…) and I'll draw two winners on Nov. 5th. 

In the meantime, I'll just sit here and wonder why I take on creative challenges like sketching something every day just as November lands in my lap. Please enjoy the book llama Chris sent me, as he does. 


*Affiliate links


NaNoWriMo Inspiration

I've done National Novel Writing Month for the last seven years. This will be my eighth. There were some years I kind of half-assed it, I have to admit. There were years I was smack-dab in the middle of revisions that were due in December, and I had to be a NaNo Rebel. I didn't love those years. Those felt fake. 

Isn't that silly? It's an online challenge, just a lark. 

But it's a challenge I really do take seriously. I absolutely believe in the magic of writing so fast you barely think while you're doing it. When you look back at your writing (after November! not during!), you find some terrible writing, sure. But you also find not just gold, but entire gold mines, lines of written ore you never would have uncovered if you hadn't been so willing to ride the train right off the rails (no, you're a mixed metaphor). 

This year, I'm doing it for-real-for-reals. As I mentioned in my last post, I have a new book to write! I sold my ninth, to Penguin! And I can't wait to write 1,667 words every day. 

And for you, here's a little How-To video, in case you're thinking about it, wondering if you can or should try. (Hint: TRY IT. What's the worst that can happen? You get more words written in November than you did in October? Fabulous! Good for you!) 

New Book!

From today's Publisher's Marketplace: 

SOLD: Rachael Herron's TAKING CARE, in which two women, who discover they had been married to the same man at different times, find their way towards friendship and family along a bumpy path despite their differences, again to Danielle Perez at NAL, by Susanna Einstein at Einstein Thompson Agency (NA).

This will be my 2016 release, so it's early to get excited about it, but I AM SO EXCITED. I love this story idea, and I can't wait to start writing it. 

Sketch Daily

I’ve been doing something for nine days with the intention of seeing if it stuck before blogging about it. 

I’m going to sketch daily for a year. 

Gah. Even typing it right there is scary to me. I’m not an artist. 

It took the previous blog post to spur me into asking why I wasn’t. 

I already knew from writing that doing the work is the only way you learn to do something better. But even that is a judgment, right? If I look at my work and ask myself, “Is this good?” or even “Is this better than the last one?” then I’m assigning value to what I’m doing. 

And what I’m doing, drawing something every day, doesn’t need value attached to it. I’m doing it as a practice, as a meditation, as a way of really LOOKING at an object I’m sharing space with in the world. (I’m reading Lala’s copy of The Zen of Seeing, and it’s awesome.)

That’s why I’m putting up the sketches at Instagram (I’ve just joined, friend me there!). That part, the cataloguing, feels important to me. We’re so good at posting the pretty and the perfect. We like Pinterest for a reason. Pretty is attractive. We like the well lit, the well composed, the perfect. It’s good to open that up and post the real things, the attempts that don’t work as well as the ones that do. 

If I don’t post anything, I can easily fail out of the challenge and no one will know (I like accountability). If I only post what I think is good or even just good enough, then I’m constantly judging my sketches. But if I just draw them and post every one, even the ridiculously ugly failures, then I’m only being accountable to my decision to do so, and I can be, if not exactly proud, then happy with each one. 

That said, the only one I’m proud of so far is this one, so please indulge my posting it here, firmly judged and found acceptable:

2014-10-11 18.13.10

And hey, speaking of doing things quickly and badly, I'm signed up for NaNoWriMo again this year (I'm going to start my 2016 release, and I'm SO excited about it)! Would you like to help me get to the Night of Writing Dangerously? Best night of the year! SO MUCH CANDY!


Here's the link to donate, if you'd like to. It's a great cause, all the money goes to the Young Writers Program, helping kids to be creative. Thanks for considering!  

*UPDATE: MY FAIRY GODMOTHER did it again. My sister and I will be going to the Night of Writing Dangerously. I'm not sure if she knows how much it means to me that she donates this every year (and oh my goodness, if she stops, it will be TOTALLY OKAY. I don't need this. Don't take from your IRA to stuff me with candy!). But really, it makes me feel hugged and supported and loved, and more than that–it makes me feel special. It's nice to feel special. Most of the time I feel kinda tired and sometimes my feet ache. But my fairy godmother makes me feel like I have glitter running through my veins. Thank you, friend, whoever you are. I hug you SO hard. 

Mighty Ugly Giveaway

I want to tell you a story. It’s about ugly. 

Once upon a long, long time ago, I had an idea. I was lying in bed in my attic bedroom in the old farmhouse we lived in when I was a kid. I was probably about eleven. My feet were down by the window, and my head was under the slanted eaves, the roof only an inch or two above my nose. I stared up in delight. I’d woken up early with this idea and my brain had started whirring (I still do this, quite often). 

I was an artist. 

It was suddenly clear to me. I’d never been one before, but that morning, at eleven years old, I knew I was an artist. I could feel the urge in my fingertips, the tingle in the palms of my hands. My whole body wanted to draw, and the image of what I’d draw first was perfectly encased in my mind’s eye. 

It was a dachshund. (Come to think of it, it was a low, fluffy, wide dachshund who looked a lot like Harriet.)


Best dog

In my mind, still lying in bed, I could see the outline of this dachshund so clearly. I was astonished. I’d never thought too much about being an artist outside coloring books and FashionPlates, but it was immensely exciting to know that I'd acquired overnight the talent required to be good. 

I imagined it, over and over again, so that when I got up and found my colored pencils, I’d have it right. Yes, I could see it, there was the curve on the nose, there was the soft underbelly. There was the flag of a jaunty tail. 

I couldn’t wait to draw it. Everyone would be impressed. I would draw dogs for my sisters upon request, and after a while, I would branch out. Cats, horses, crickets. Beach scenes! I could probably sell them to someone! 

Unable to keep my excitement or my artistic bent under the sheets a minute longer, I got up, went to my desk, and pulled out the old ledger book I kept notes in (I’d found dozens of them in the attic when we’d moved in, huge red business ledgers. I longed to fill their cunning boxes with numbers, and sometimes I did unnecessary math, just to make the pages pretty). 

I sharpened my pencil. 

I drew the first line. 

It was wrong. 

The very first LINE was wrong. 

I took a deep breath. I erased it and did it again. 

Still wrong. 

I drew that dog, and friends, it looked like a portobello mushroom. The dog’s face looked like a droopy question mark. 

It was awful. 

It was worse than awful, it was UGLY. 

I was a terrible artist. I could see the truth, and anyone who looked at it would see the same thing. 

I gave up drawing for the next thirty or so years. Then I suddenly said, I’d like to draw something! I painted Clementine  tangled in the jasmine vines, as she is wont to do. (Funny, that I drew a dog, after all that.) 


And you know what? I wasn’t attached to the outcome that day. I just wanted to draw for the feeling of it, for the colors. When I forgot to worry if it would be good or bad, it kind of came out awesome. And I know this: some might call that painting ugly. 

Many might, in fact. But I love it. 

The painting bug hasn't stuck, and I haven't done much since. But I feel the echo of that moment in my writing, when I slap ugly words on the page and smile at them. I'll make them pretty, or I'll throw them out, no worries. Their ugly doesn't scare me. In fact, the ugly does the opposite. It makes me happy, proving I really am an artist. (This doesn't take away the fear. The fear never goes away. That's fine, too.) 

My friend Kim wrote a whole book about embracing the ugly. No, not not-minding-ugly. That’s different. One day, while overwhelmed with doubts, she embraced ugly in a big way. And it changed her life. 

Her book about this? It’s nutballs awesome. People, I underlined. I did exercises. I folded corners down. The book is chock full of her no-nonsense voice and her super inspiring
approach to creativity. 


Indiebound | Amazon* | iBooks* | B&N | Kobo


If you are creative, you need this book. 

If you want to be creative? You needed this yesterday. I seriously love it. I would read a page or two and then launch myself off my couch to Do Something Awesome. 

Her publisher is giving one away to one lucky commenter (tell me about something you made, pretty, ugly, or in between) and I’m giving another copy away to someone randomly drawn from my mailing list. (Blog comment winner will be drawn on Sunday the 12th.) 

**ETA – I forgot! I'm mentioned in the book! Kim interviewed ME! I forgot when I was reading, too, and she started talking about a writer, and I sat up when I saw my name! 

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