“Young Willie took off one day, never to be heard from again.” Great characters can be found at home


Young Willie wasn’t so young.  He was a 43 years old husband and father of six children who received an inheritance from his father and was able to purchase a farm of his own for the first time.  Three years later, he sold it back to the previous owner for the purchase price.  It was 1875 and I could find no evidence of him after that date.  He was my Great-Great Grandfather, son of a pioneering minister in Canada.

Young Willie is not part of the novel have started to finally plot out, but he is always in my mind, thumbing his nose at my endless questions.  Young Willie is only one character that I have found right in my own family history.  The wonderful thing is that I will be able to write a story for Young Willie, inventing his travels and his ending.  I can’t wait.

I have been reading US history books spanning the late 1800s to the 1930s.  The books have probably been too detailed for my purposes, but I want to know how people lived; the hardships, gender relations, familial structures, and ultimately what drove people to make drastic changes in their lives.  One of the common themes with my character is sudden, life-altering moments that propel them in unexpected directions, with long-term consequences. Continue reading

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I Slept with 14 Books and Read None

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It’s only happened to me once and I remember the experience so clearly after all these years.  In my mind, I can see myself sitting in my comfortable chair hunched over a book, so consumed with it that I cannot stop. I read for three days, with a few hours of sleep in between; finally I finished the massive book.  I remember just sitting and letting the feelings swirl around me.  I can’t even tell you what it was, but in that instant I felt changed.

The book was “I Know This Much Is True,” by Wally Lamb.  Honestly, it was the strangest book.  There were flashbacks to Italy which were sometimes boring and confusing.  Whatever it was—Wally weaved this tale so beautifully, it moved me.  Just so you don’t think I’m crazy, the same thing happened to my sister.  She loaned me the book, saying I could read it first because she was busy and it was a huge book. When I gave it back to her, I just said, “You have to read this.”  She stayed up all night too and came out the other side—changed in some inexplicable way.

I’ve thought about reading it again, but I don’t want to erase that experience by reading the book with new eyes.

Today I picked up a book that has been sitting next to my bed for about two years.  It was stacked with all the others that my heart longs to read, but my head wonders if I ever will.  I collect books that catch my interest and add them to my collection, knowing when the time is right, I will read them.  I had this one book on my shelf for five years, only to discover that it was not what I thought—it was wonderful and made me so happy.  Maybe I wasn’t ready for it.  I don’t even know if I believe in things like that. Continue reading

Character Study


I discovered a column called “Character Study” in the Sunday New York Times.  Each week, a New Yorker is profiled:  the Grande Dame of Staten Island; a female funeral director in Brooklyn with purple finger nails who offers wake packages for $1999; a Queens garbage collector who studies the Irish language between pick-ups.

I have always been fascinated by people who are different from me.  I believe that the average, unknown person is where the great stories are–not celebrities and famous people.  I have wanted to write some sort of book with stories about ordinary folks that I crossed paths with; to listen to their story and pull the amazing parts together.  You can learn a lot about yourself by studying the lives of others.  You have more in common with a pierced, blue-haired person than you could ever believe. Continue reading

My First Short Story


I created a page today for my first short fiction, The Long-Reaching Arms of Circumstance. (there is also a link in the header)

I wrote this story in 2008 for a Creative Writing class.  The premise is real, but I filled it with fiction to try to understand what might have happened in the past.  I created a persona for the main character, John, to enhance the story and make it logical. This story deals with suicide and it’s effects on people, even generations later.

This is the only story I have written, but I have spent many hours dreaming up stories in my head.  I plotted this story out in my head first, so I knew where I was going, which made it much easier to write.  I haven’t read it in several years and have worried about it’s historical accurateness.  Please leave comments if you wish.  I would love to read them.