Category Archives: writing

Post ideas, a list

When I make lists, they’re nearly always on paper. There’s just something about it. It helps me remember what I’ve written, it’s more present as a list (whereas a digital list might get lost behind multiple windows or closed and forgotten forever), and physically crossing things off when they’re completed is so much more satisfying than striking through.

Last weekend (I think) I was brimming with ideas of posts and potential posts for NaBloPoMo (such a crazy, awkward name!).

As you can see, I’ve written and posted some of them in the intervening days. I’ve also got at least one other drafted, but I didn’t want to post it on the weekend. (And yes, the sheet of paper has been used for other notes and lists previously.)

It was only after I finished it and felt satisfied at the length of the list that I realized how very few line items related to books. Hrm.

Do you make lists? On paper or screen?


Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge: Review Catch-Up

It’s Bloggiesta time, hooray! (And if you haven’t signed up, there’s still time!) One of the biggest chores on my blogging to-do list is catching up on outstanding reviews. I’ve read the books, hopefully I took some notes, but the post is likely not started, let alone finished or scheduled. This mini-challenge will hopefully help you accomplish that goal.

nacho heaven
(Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Yum.)

I thought it would be fun to set our levels based on the plate of nachos Bloggiesta seems to call for.

Participation Levels

Can’t Eat Just One (so, at least 2)
Let’s Split It (50 percent of your outstanding reviews)
Licking the Bowl Clean (getting them ALL done)

Pick a level, leave a comment saying at which level you’re committing, and then go write and schedule those reviews! Credit will be given only for fully finished posts — no sticking your notes in a draft post and calling it done. Get it fully formatted, too, the works. Don’t forget to check back in with your progress (a link to the blog post in which you share how successful you surely were).

Tips for if you get stuck of if the going gets tough:
• Work backwards (Start with the book you’ve most recently finished. It’s likely to be easier to review, which will help build momentum.)
• Take breaks often.
• Feel stuck in a rut? Break free! Abandon the usual format or template.
• Conversely, Get all the formatty stuff done all at once and then come back and fill in the content.
• If you’re really, really having a hard time, maybe ask your readers to ask you questions about the books. Answering the questions in your post may help get you going.

Do you have any review-writing catch-up tips? Dish!


“But none of that matters. In fact, nothing matters but faith expressing itself through love, utter reliance expressing itself as a wholehearted committal of one’s entire being to a particular project, a particular person, a particular God. We are to … Continue reading

Dear Rene Gutteridge

Rene Gutteridge Week 2011,

Dear Rene,

I’ve been a big fan of your books since I first picked up Boo on the recommendation of a trusted reading friend in 2008. (Has it really been less than 2.5 years? Seems longer, in a good way.) I’ve now read 11 of your at-present 17 titles, and I’m not planning to quit!

Somehow I feel more connected to you, as well, because you live in Oklahoma. Not that I love Oklahoma, particularly, but I have lived there (my parents still do). I feel particularly connected to you and all authors from the central United States, because that’s where my roots are. To some extent, we have a shared life experience, in this. I feel this kinship, this connection, but that doesn’t mean people from outside the central United States can’t connect to your books — not at all!

While I have to admit I first fell in love with your comedy novels — Scoop is my favorite — I love that you write in multiple genres. Actually, I think excelling in more than one style or type of book is a sign of a skilled writer. Possession, your latest, is certainly one of your best. Maybe the reason I love the lighter ones is simply because I read them first?

More than that, I love that you write in more than one genre because it’s evidence that you’re growing as a writer, which is something I always hope for.

These are just a few of the reasons why I’m a fan and why I decided to have a Rene Gutteridge Week. I’ve got reviews, a couple guest posts, giveaways, and even an interview with you, (Thanks!) so I think it’ll be good.

Looking forward to more,

Wait! Don’t go away yet! Thanks to Tyndale, I have three copies of Gutteridge’s latest, Possession [review later today], to give away this week. And one of those giveaways is now! Enter to win a copy of Possession by Rene Gutteridge by leaving a comment on this post. (One entry per person per giveaway; sorry, U.S. only.) I’ll accept entries through Friday, January 28, 2011.

Edited to add: This giveaway is now closed. See who won.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.


“‘And what is a portrait of a woman? Your painting and Plastik are poor stuff after all. They perturb and dull conceptions instead of raising them. Language is a finer medium.’ ‘Yes, for those who can’t paint,’ said Naumann. ‘There … Continue reading

Long-tail story arcs

A year or two ago I was analyzing the television shows I loved, attempting to discern why I liked those more than others. While there are many factors — characters, setting, themes, type of show, to name just a few — the shows that stuck with me were (and are) the ones that didn’t completely wrap up everything neatly at the end of every episode.

  • Alias
  • Bones
  • Buffy
  • Angel
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Veronica Mars
  • Chuck
  • The Office
  • NCIS
  • Monk

Obviously, there are others; Lost is quite involved, and 24 has always had season-long story arcs. (But for my purposes today, 24 isn’t the best example.) And just because a show has these more involved story lines doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll love it.

All of these shows have had story lines that last many episodes — often a full season or longer. And I postulate that this is the same reason I like to read book series. I get to spend more time with these characters, yes, and get to see them grow and change over a longer period of time and pages. But it also allows space for the characters to breath. I feel like I’m not explaining this very well; do you understand what I mean?

Note: I was inspired to write this post by My Friend Amy‘s post defending television.

Interview with Julie Lessman & giveaway

I’m pleased, today, to welcome author Julie Lessman to Word Lily! She is the author of the Daughters of Boston trilogy and, most recently, A Hope Undaunted.

Julie Lessman

Author Julie Lessman

Word Lily: One of my favorite aspects of these books about the O’Connor family is the relationship between Patrick and Marcy. In A Hope Undaunted, that relationship is still strong, but it seems more muted than it did in the earlier books. What’s your reasoning behind this? (I have my guesses, but I’d rather hear your rationale.)

Julie Lessman: Well, I’d like to hear your “guesses” too, but just so you know, originally I had a more detailed subplot for Marcy and Patrick involving Marcy entering menopause with wild mood swings, and Patrick treading lightly so as to not trigger an outburst or crying jag (a lot like my poor husband went through, who likened menopause to walking across a minefield! :-)). BUT … the relationship between Marcy and Patrick was toned down for A Hope Undaunted because my editor felt that 1.) There was too much going on (She was right because originally I had a subplot for EACH of the couples!) and 2.) She felt that because Marcy was 52 and Patrick 53, nobody would be interested in reading about their “love life” anymore, which, although I agreed with the first point, the second ruffled my feathers a tad.

As a baby boomer who thinks romance does NOT end at the age of 30, I purposely incorporated a love story between the parents that was both inspiring and deeply tender because frankly, I get tired of romance being relegated to the young. I mean, come on now — why should they have all the fun?? I will be 60 next month and I can tell you right now that once empty nest hit, my husband and I felt like teenagers on the loose again — more active with things like biking, working out, traveling and definitely more romantic than ever before in 32 years. I think when couples are raising kids, the romance tends to suffer a lot in a marriage, so when the kids flew the coop, it was like my husband and I could really focus on each other. And I can tell you right now that not only is my marriage better than it’s ever been, but I am one of those blessed women who feels as if I am living my own personal romance novel.

Word Lily: Hm, yeah. I’m not a baby boomer, but I agree with you. I know there are another couple books planned for this Winds of Change series, but beyond that, what’s it like to think about leaving the O’Connors behind and moving on to another family’s story?

Julie Lessman: Painful. Keep in mind that these people are like a second family to me — I’ve lived and breathed them for nine years now, and a part of me dreads letting them go. But God is preparing me because already I feeling myself pulled toward another new series. But I guarantee you, I will revisit the O’Connors now and then by rereading the books and then, who knows? Maybe down the road I’ll be able to pen a series about the O’Connor cousins during WWII!

As far as what I plan to write next after the “Winds of Change” series, I’m hoping to write a prequel about Marcy and Patrick O’Connor before they were married as well as a new trilogy entitled “The Cousins McClare,” a poor-man, rich-man scenario among three cousins amid the Irish-political landscape of 1920s San Francisco, prohibition and the Barbary Coast. Think Little Women meets Dynasty. And for those of you too young to remember the TV show Dynasty, think family wealth and poverty in a political setting.

Word Lily: I’m one of those not familiar with Dynasty, I admit! I know of it, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. I just got a dog this year; Maisie, and Old English Sheepdog, is almost 11 months old now. Tell us about your dog.

Julie Lessman: Well, as you may have noticed, all the dogs in my book (with the exception of a scruffy terrier mutt in A Hope Undaunted, are golden retrievers, and that’s because we had goldens all of our lives. Unfortunately, our golden named Bunker died Easter weekend at the age of 15, a ripe age that is almost unheard of for large dogs, but I believe in praying for longevity for our pets, so I did, and it sure worked.

Word Lily: Oh, I’m sorry to hear about your loss of Bunker! What books have you read and enjoyed recently?

Julie Lessman: Oh, it’s been a realllly good month for reading, let me tell you! First off, there was Mary Connealy’s Doctor in Petticoats (love Mary’s humor!), then MaryLu Tyndall’s Surrender the Heart (love MaryLu’s romantic edge and tense adventure!), Myra Johnson’s Where the Dogwood Blooms (probing spiritual message and romance that is wonderfully sigh-worthy), Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz (Laura always packs an emotional punch with a story and characters as alive and real as my own family), and finally, my current read is Melanie Dickerson’s The Healer’s Apprentice, which is simply a delightful medieval YA that is pure magic. Yep, all in all, a very good month!

Word Lily: That definitely sounds like a good reading month, yay! I think I’ll end up adding some of those to my wish list. I know you started writing A Passion Most Pure when you were still in your teens, but I haven’t found this part of your journey in the other interviews I’ve read: What’s your writing education/training?

Julie Lessman: Actually, not much! I only completed one year of college before quitting to get a job because I didn’t get along with my father (and my mother was deceased), so I wanted out of the house BAD!! But I knew I had some writing ability because I won speech contests in high school, was published in the National Anthology of High School Poetry, was an editor of the high school yearbook and newspaper, and won poetry contests in the one year of college I did attend. In my early 20s, I took an advanced creative writing course at Washington University and then a fiction-writing course much later in life. Surprisingly enough, I ended up with a travel writer job for many years that today would require a degree.

Word Lily: A more general question now. What are you working on now?

Julie Lessman: Well, I recently completed book 2 in the “Winds of Change” series, A Heart Revealed, which tells the forbidden love story of Sean O’Connor and Emma Malloy, and have just begun book 3, Steven O’Connor’s story, tentatively titled A Trust Restored. Both books take place during The Great Depression and Prohibition, providing a wealth of historical interest about this exciting era of speakeasies, dance marathons, gangsters, G-men and era criminals like Bonnie & Clyde and Al Capone. Steven will be a tall, brooding G-man-type modeled after Elliot Ness (a la Robert Stack from the old TV show The Untouchables, which most of your readers are probably too young to remember), who not only battles crime with a vengeance, but also the guilt and regret of a painful past.

Word Lily: Ooh, sounds good! Thank you so much for your time! Anything else you want to say? Am I missing something?

Julie Lessman: Thank you, Hannah, for hosting me on your blog. It’s been fun! And I LOVE to hear from readers, so they can contact me through my website at, either by sending an email via my site or by signing up for my newsletter. My newsletter is chock-full of fun info on my books and there’s always a contest featuring signed book giveaways. Also, I have a cool feature on my website called Journal Jots which is a very laid-back, almost-daily journal to my reader friends that would give your readers an idea as to my relaxed style of writing. Then finally, I can be found daily at The Seekers blog, a group blog devoted to encouraging and helping aspiring writers on the road to publication. Thanks again, Hannah, and God bless!

As part of this Winsome Media tour, I’m thrilled to offer a signed copy of A Hope Undaunted. (U.S. only, though.)

To enter this giveaway, leave a comment on this post expressing interest in winning and interacting with the interview. I’ll accept entries through Monday, October 4, 2010.

Edited to add: This giveaway is now closed. See who won.

Walt Wangerin teaches: Hutchmoot keynote

Cameraphone: Walt Wangerin speaks at Hutchmoot.

One of the highlights of Hutchmoot for me was author Walt Wangerin‘s (pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable, and rhyming with wanderin’) talk.

Although most of the information was not new (as he kept saying), Wangerin touched on several topics I’d been thinking about recently (including this one). Afterward, he signed a few books, including the two I’d brought. 😀

The talk

Wangerin defined art as composed experience. It puts details into a kind of order, that is then experienced by someone else. Art seeks an audience (a reader, in the case of writing). One creates with the ghost of the audience in the room.

This experience is intense. It’s an experience with a beginning, middle and end. It creates its own time and space (other pieces are squished together to give the new work room); it “becomes the cosmos for a time,” Wangerin said.

The artist, the storyteller (the minstrel) makes sense (decisions) of the chaos — but that order doesn’t have to be mathematical. (“A piler into piles and a heaper into heaps” is the Sanskrit definition of a poet, Wangerin said.)

Wangerin listed 5 covenants, or relationships, he’s made in respect to creating:

  1. A covenant with perceived reality.
    This is the standing apart, separation (shyness?) — the third eye — observation and creating requires.
  2. A covenant with my craft, with peers in that craft.
    1. Know what came before.
    2. Know the craft, the righteousness of the language, if only to play against it.
    3. Establish good relationships with artists of today.
  3. A covenant with the community within which I’m writing.
    This is the boundaries we choose not to cross to protect our families, our friends. Don’t misuse them.
  4. I must not lie.
    (Fiction is fine.)

    There are 2 languages of creation:

    1. God spoke into being, out of nothing
    2. The one we have, which is naming (Genesis 2).
    3. Names are not merely handles but:

      1. The thing named is brought into place so it can be known.
      2. A name establishes an item/person’s relation with other name things.
      3. The naming action beings to declare the thing’s purpose.

      This naming is powerful, but also dangerous.
      Art must be a kind of piety. (I wish I remembered more of what he was saying here.)

  5. A covenant with the axioms inside me, by which I make sense of life and the world.
    What I write (and/or create) must be consistent with my worldview.

The signing

It was my first author signing since I’ve been a book blogger, and as signings go it was pretty low-key (I think).

I had him sign two of my books, both The Book of the Dun Cow and Saint Julian.

In all, Wangerin’s visit was one of the biggest highlights of Hutchmoot.

About the author
Walter Wangerin Jr. is the author of 30-plus books, including The Book of the Dun Cow (his first novel) and Saint Julian (one of his most recent). He teaches literature and creative writing, and is writer-in-residence, at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana.