Saturday, July 16, 2011

Join the fun over at

Hi everyone,
This is the last Blog post for Michele's Muse. I've moved.

I'm now at

Please visit me there.

Thank you for supporting my muse!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Writing for Change

I read a recent book review in the New York Times on a biography about Harriet Beecher Stowe called Mightier than the Sword by David S. Reynolds. In this biography, Harriet is championed as a writer of change. He argues that because of the publication and wild success of Uncle Tom's Cabin, many people were ready for the end of slavery.

A few years ago, I was approached by an editor to write biographies of American authors. Harriet Beecher Stowe's biography was my first assignment. I admit I felt a little disappointed. I had tried to read Uncle Tom's Cabin in high school and had found it soppy and melodramatic. And, yes, it is as soppy and melodramatic as many other nineteenth century novels.

What I found compelling, however, was the life of Harriet. As I started to do research for my book, I unearthed quite a bit I didn't expect to find.  Raised in a house where intellectual curiosity was fostered, Harriet, along with many of her siblings, was a strong proponent of the abolitionist movement. As a married women with little say and power to make a strong political stance, Harriet chose instead to write a novel to show her readers the horrors of slavery.

When it was published, Uncle Tom's Cabin was as popular as the Harry Potter and Twilight series now. Harriet became a wealthy and famous woman, but, more importantly, many readers warmed up to the idea of abolition in part--some argue a large part--because of Harriet's writing.

 Is the pen or keyboard mightier than the sword? Can any fiction writer do what Harriet did when she decided to do something about slavery?  I hardly think any writer should be writing with an agenda. Instead, writing, at least for me, should reflect the human experience--A reminder of who we all are.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Works in Progress

I set up a new Wordpress Blog. It can be found at:

I have a link that connects to this page, but eventually, I plan to bring Michele's Muse to my new domain.

I'm still working on adding pages and information.

More to come . . .

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Prom! Not

Perhaps it's the recent Disney movie, the Tweets about YA prom books, or seeing the local high school girls decked out in great dresses on an evening not too long ago that triggered something in my clogged memory and reminded me of my own close encounter with THE PROM.

No one asked me, and I was too terrified to ask anyone.  I was relieved. I didn't really want to be on display. Invisibility was my preference.  

It was the day before the prom, and my friend Renee and I went over to our friend Kim's house. I'm not sure  why exactly because I think Kim was still at boarding school. Renee and I ended up talking to a college student, Robin, who happened to live at Kim's house.

Robin was beautiful in the most Malibu-long legged-blonde hair-perfect tan-white teeth kind of way. She was also very sweet. She cooed over the details of Renee's dress and handsome date. Then, when she heard I wasn't going, Robin became unglued.

"Michele, you have to go. If you don't, you'll regret it for the rest of your life!"

"No, really, it's okay. I don't need to go."

"No, you have to go to the prom. It only happens once."


Robin smiled. "I know, I can set you up with one of my friends!"

She flashed me a picture of two guys who shared a house in the neighborhood.

 I gulped as I studied the picture. "They look a little old."

"They're both thirty and really nice." 

 Thirty? To my eighteen-year-old eyes, a thirty-year-old man was close to ancient. And what was up with those mustaches? Full blown firefighter facial hair.  Plus they both kind of looked like they were still stuck in the Saturday Night Fever era. Disco was very scary (it still is). 

"I'm sure one of them would love to go with you." Robin called their house and left a message on their machine.

"What about a dress? I don't have a dress." I wasn't that fond of dresses anyway. If I had to wear one, I preferred dark and shapeless.

"Oh, you can wear my pageant gown!"

 Robin participated actively in beauty pageants. At that time she was a recent runner up in Miss California. She ushered me into her bedroom and pulled out a red sequined gown with gold trim. The front plunged down in a deep V and narrowed down to fit around a small waist and shapely hips. A slit started from the bottom to reveal a length of leg all the way up to the thigh.  I looked at the gown and at Robin's perfect figure. I looked down at my own body. I didn't have much in the line of appropriate curves, at least the kind needed to support a dress like that.

Robin didn't seem to think it would be a problem. She had plans for my hair, which was also in the awkward stage--a grow out from a horrid short cut. Robin pulled out her electric curlers. Make up would also not be a problem. Robin had about twenty shades of eye shadow just waiting for me.

In the end, Robin's friends were not available, and Robin was disappointed. I, of course, was relieved I would not be attending a teen social event wearing an ill fitting sequined gown with a thirty-year-old mustached man dressed like John Travolta from an outdated movie.

I don't remember what I did on prom night, but it probably involved reading and consuming chocolate chip ice cream.

And Robin, wherever you are, thank you for being so sweet and playing fairy godmother.

Please don't feel bad. I  have yet to feel any regret for missing THE PROM.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fear of Proofreading

I confess, there's one part of the writing process I dread the most. I shouldn't. I should be in an almost celebratory stage, for proofreading means the project is almost done. I should be singing, "I'm at the last step!"

Yet, this is the part where I am most likely to doubt and question everything I've written on the page.

Thousands of questions flood my mind: Does this even make sense? Why does this sentence sound weird? Does a comma really need to go there? Did I miss a letter spell check didn't mark?

This time I tried something different;  I read my manuscript aloud.

As I have mentioned in other posts, hearing writing brings a new perspective to the language.

I broke up the readings into parts and even read in character.

The result: It was much easier for me to find typos and illogical sentences. Repeated words jumped out clearly and awkward phrasing stuck like peanut butter in my mouth. I've read through this manuscript so many times, but hearing the words was a different experience altogether.

So now I know what I'm going to every time I proofread
Or proofspeak.

Have you ever read your work aloud? What did you find in the process?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

While Spring Happens . . .

I had a great weekend at the SCWBI Western Washington Conference. I hope to blog about this soon. For now, I'm busy editing.

Outside the plum tree is in blossom, and the garden calls to me.


Monday, April 4, 2011

My Overflowing Brain

This past weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Whidbey Island Writers Conference. I'm so happy the conference is up and running again. We met in Coupeville this year, and I had a great time feeding my writing soul with words from amazing writers like Garth Stein, Mandy Hubbard, Michele Torrey, Deb Lund, and many more.

We had a great fireside chat in a beautiful house overlooking Lake Pondella where Mandy Hubbard told us of her journey and amazing perseverance in getting her first novel published (something I needed to hear). Michele Torrey talked about theme (a favorite subject). She read the first paragraph of several books so we could hear the voice of each work. She has a great reading voice! Deb Lund brought out the actors in us all as she used her great collection of cards to find ideas for story direction and act out emotions. I love this because writing does have to get the heart and emotional level of the character.

I'm back recharged and ready to go again. I love my Whidbey connection. I cannot believe it's been ten years since I first volunteered. Back then, I wasn't even sure what genre I wanted to write in. Deep down I knew I needed to write fiction, but I was terrified to even admit that to myself. My journey thus far has taken me where I never thought I would go. I can't wait to see what the next ten years bring! 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Favorite Books

What were your favorite books to read when you were a child?

A favorite series of mine? The Shoes books.

Noel Streatfield's Ballet Shoes, first published in the 1930s, was followed by many more, including  Theater Shoes, Skating Shoes, and my favorite, Dancing Shoes. Most of these books involved orphaned children discovering hidden talents for dancing, acting, or singing (with a few surprises).

The theme: Follow your dreams.

By the time I became fully engrossed in Shoe mania, I was ready to have my parents send me to London so I could attend some sort of stage school. I had forgotten I had the grace of a hippopotamus on the dance floor, sang perpetually off key, and was far too shy to stand up on stage before an audience.

It didn't matter; I was stagestruck. I started taking dancing lessons, belted out songs from musicals,  and searched the library for plays to read. I couldn't find any, so I used the section of Maeterlinck's strange play, The Blue Bird found in the pages of Ballet Shoes. In the privacy of my bedroom, I rehearsed playing all the actors' roles. From The Blue Bird, I used the play as a template to start writing my own plays.

My dreams of limelight stardom in the theater may be over, but I'm still writing.

What was your favorite book or books?

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I went outside a few minutes ago to latch the garden gate (I don't want deer dining on my spring plants). I'm always a little surprised to look up and see so many stars. I forget sometimes about the stars--the billions of worlds existing elsewhere. I still remember the first time I learned that the stars in the night sky were suns and galaxies. I started thinking obsessively about other life--something alive watching me from another corner of the sky.


I've been busy editing a novel and training for a new job. My days filled with work and obligation. I stop to watch the stars and remember those child thoughts--and remember my imagination.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Impatient for Patience

Ah, Valentine's Day.
Chocolate, a romantic dinner, roses, wearing a great dress and slow dancing to a sultry jazz tune . . .

Well, not quite.
A mad dash to make dinner, help with homework, and remind the boys to clean their rooms.
Wrestling with a stalling Internet connection while I try to set up a grade book for a class starting tomorrow.
Dirty dishes piled up in the sink.

Not exactly romantic.

I'm thoroughly tired of winter and am impatient for some early spring blooms. My work grows monotonous, and I long for some good news.


Yes, patience. This is something I think I have little time for, yet it is exactly what I need. The daffodils will bloom (and soon). The days will grow warmer, and the frog and birdsong will return.

Most of all, I need to be patient with my craft. My writing works best when I take the time to pause and reflect.

A pause, and I can begin again in a flurry of passion.

I hope your Valentine's Day is filled with passionate activity!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Emotional Epic

I have this childhood memory of watching some movie on television (we were at a hotel, I think) and the main character was a writer--a perky, smiling writer--Doris Day or Sandy Duncan most likely. As I watched the grinning character plunk the typewriter keys effortlessly, I had a sense, even then, that Ms. Author was some serious fiction--even fantasy. No writer could be that happy and carefree while writing--could they?

My writing adventure has been more epic. Instead of Doris or Sandy, I am Hermione facing down the evil of self doubt, emotional land mines, and other tricks and schemes of the Dark Side of the Human Mind.

In my most recent revising adventures, I discovered my efforts to create wit and clever lines have overwhelmed my character's true potential for caring and emotional response. This, of course, will not do, and it's time to pull out the wand and use the delete key. Time to create from the heart this time.

Good will triumph in the end, but the darkness must be overcome first.

How are your writing adventures going?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

First Day

The new year is born in a day of dazzling sunshine and snow lingering on the hills.
I spent the morning working in the garden. Cutting back spent hollyhock and foxglove stems . . . Pushing aside the worn feverfew and poppy plants to see what new life will emerge in a month or two.


There is so much anticipation in this year to come. My revisions should be done soon, and I'm working hard to finish up an intrinsic novel. At home, I will continue to enjoy the magic of my boys.

Exciting, healthy, delightful months ahead.

With writing, I want to work on the craft of imagery and detail. I will be returning to the lovely world of poetry to help me with this task. Who knows? I may get a few worthwhile poems out of the process.

Finally, I have a short phrase that has become my mantra or theme for the year to come. Some may find a little silly or peculiar, but those who know how darn serious I can get at times, may understand why I picked it.

Here it is my theme for the new year:

Lighten up!

What is yours?

Happy New Year everyone!