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how to write a book in three steps

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Draft of “1996,” a memoir of the year I went to Australia with $900 and a work visa to learn how to surf (and figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life).

I have written two realistic young adult novels and a full draft of a memoir. Through the writing of these books, I have figured out how to write a book in three steps. Do these three things, and voila! You will have written a book:

  1. Have an idea and a question: An idea of what you want to write about and why you want to write about it. If the need/desire is strong to express your story in words, there is no doubt it is possible.
  2. Sit down at your computer/notebook, open to a blank doc/page, and place your first word on the page. Either set a time or word count goal and stick to it. Put one word in front of the other as you’d put one foot in front of the other along a 10,000-mile trek (similar deal).
  3. Do not give up. Write like your life depends on it. Because it does.

As I said, I have written two books and have a complete draft of a third. Though I have not yet had any of these published (check out Jane Friedman’s blog for publishing advice), I have achieved 75 rejections. I haven’t given up.

Three books in and I’m still dwelling in the Unknown of a life-long journey, but I have faith if I keep going and never give up, I will write my way into my dreams.


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monday five-minute write: name it to claim it

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Happy Monday ! I meet you here, at the beginning of your week, to offer journaling ideas to inspire reflection, power, and soul in your work and life through the art of long-hand writing and soulful living. 

Words are powerful. When written, words–and the thoughts and ideas that drive them–become matter: ink-soaked wood pulp. In our heads, thoughts and ideas are immaterial–floating and fleeting. On paper, they are made visible, pinned down by ink to the material world.

I was a working-class kid from a family that never–not once–went on vacation or away for the weekend or camping or anything. “Travel” for its own sake was not possible.

Years later, in 1995, about to graduate with a degree in journalism from Madison and no clue what I wanted to do with my life, struggling in a hole of depression and semi-desperation, I asked myself, “What do I want to do with my life?”

I answered, “I want to travel. To Australia.”

I laid those words and more down on the page: “I want to travel to Australia and learn how to surf.” Before written, the statement was impossible. The moment I wrote it down and saw it there, in front of me, on the page, it became possible.

Months later, those words jumped off the page and became real.

I left for Australia in late-December, 1995 and came back home late-December, 1996. The picture in the photo above is of me on the Routeburn Track on the South Island of New Zealand. It was of the moment I realized I lived my way to and through an impossible dream.

Word are powerful. They create the story of our lives.

Writing exercise: Name it to claim it: What do you want? Begin with a new page and the date, and ask, “What do I want?” Give yourself five minutes. Get out of your way. Write.




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writing monday: make a space to revel in your now

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February 3, 2020. Parallel Cafe, Minneapolis, MN
Happy Monday ! I want to meet you here, at the beginning of your week, to offer journaling ideas to inspire reflection, power, and soul in your work and life through the art of longhand writing.

Today, I am late to the page, slow start to the week. What I really wanted to do when I arrived at my desk this morning (today Parallel Cafe in Minneapolis) was sit down and get to work. I am near the end of the first draft of my third book, which I’ve been working on for about two years. I am so close, I want to dispense with the formalities and sprint to the finish. The thing is, as I am writing this book, Life is going on around me. And because there is no such thing as a dress rehearsal, I need to live it with intention. I need to slow my roll and reflect on what is going on around and inside of me. If I am only focusing on what I want to achieve in the future, I will miss the riches and lessons of right now. 

If you want to cultivate a writing practice, may I suggest, before you open your computer, pour yourself a warm cup of coffee or tea and put your phone on mute and out of sight for five minutes. Open your journal to the next blank page and write the date and where your are in this moment. This is the very beginning of centering yourself in the now. Write the words, “Right now…” then step aside and let your thoughts flow through your pen and onto the page. Write continuously and without judgment. Honor the thoughts coming from the wellspring of your soul. For a moment each day, make a space to revel in your now.


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I am in a dark place right now. A place rife with fear, regret, pain, sadness. I am living in it. And it sucks.

TMI? Why do I self-disclose? Because not enough people do. We live in this weird uncertain world where everyone acts like everything is great, like life isn’t hard.

Well, today I am acutely aware that life is hard. Relationships are hard. Vulnerability is hard. Putting yourself out there again and again and again is hard. Accepting our mistakes and failures? Hard.

This morning, while I was marinating in the weight of the many mistakes I’ve made in my life, I pulled out my jar filled with “angel cards.” These are cards with words printed on them like, “education,” or “clarity,” or “joy.” There are a whole handful of them.

Sometimes when I’m in a dark and depressed state, I sit with them and ask my guardian angels what I need to learn from this situation. Then I pull a card and contemplate its meaning for a while.

Today I pulled “Power.” Curious, considering I feel none.

But in a way, it makes perfect sense for my situation.

Because responsibility—owning up to our shit—is power. When we make mistakes, as we all do and will, we can only change ourselves by accepting the truth of what we have done and apologizing when we can.

Power is not perfection, but rather accepting responsibility for our actions and doing something about it.

For those of you who are sitting in your own states of darkness right now, I am sitting here in Minneapolis, feeling the same. I am right here with you.

And we are going to make it through to the light again.

I promise.


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writing monday: words as gifts

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A few weeks ago, in the heat of an argument, Paul said, “I see you write all the time. And you never write to me anymore!”

He was right. I used to write to him a lot more. But I fell out of the habit.  And since we are always together–cleaning, cooking, working, playing–living our daily lives right next to each other, I grew complacent and assumed he knows how I feel about him.

But when he (yelled) that at me, I realized that, like me, he just needed the words in front of him, needed to hold onto them.

So I spent some time honoring him, us, and the thousand moments we’ve shared since our journal started gathering dust, and wrote him a letter, letting him know how grateful I am for him and the life we’ve created together.

Then I wrote Oliver a letter because he has been feeling like Lucy gets all of the attention lately.

And last, I wrote a letter to a boy on our team who lost a friend two months ago.

Now I am a little behind on my work goals. But my heart feels bigger from simply taking time to give people words to let them know they are loved and valued.  The time was worth the giving.

Today, write a letter to someone to whom you want to express gratitude.  Address, stamp, and and send it, and know that your words and time are an act of giving light to this world.


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writing monday: who we were

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I was the girl who...

I was the girl with the bad Dorothy Hamil haircut, who wore hand-me-down clothes and liked to play “explorer” along the side of the creek. I was the goofball girl who talked too much in class. I was the girl who rolled up the right leg of her pants so it didn’t get snagged in the chain, the girl who had to be outside, riding her bike, no brakes, down the 57th street hill and through the stop sign below. I was the girl whose parents smoked and swore, the skinny girl who walked up to Don’s Superette each week and spent all of her allowance on candy….

When we were small, before the opinions of friends, family, and society crept into our heads about who and what we were supposed to be, we were fully ourselves. Fully and authentically ourselves.

Who were you?

If you observe a room of kindergarteners long enough, a spectrum of personalities begins to emerge: the outgoing boy, first to raise his hand, grunting at the teacher to call on him, and the introspective boy, reading a book quietly an a blue square because it’s his favorite color.  The creative girl, tangles in her hair and mismatched clothes, intensely drawing pictures for her friends during “choice time;” and the animal lover, poking her toy stethoscope into the teddy bear’s chest. 

If you observe a room full of kindergarteners, you see a glimpse of the essence and spirit of each child.

Who were you?

Writing Exercise: Beginning with the words, “I was the girl/boy who…” tell the story of who you were as a little girl/boy.

Our stories are powerful reminders of our own essence, spirit, and strength. When we remember who we were and what we dreamed and hoped for, we are better able to ground ourselves in who we are now. Use this prompt when you feel lost or are seeking direction in your life that will resonate with your truth and soul.




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