Adventures with Words, March 2023

Adventures with Words, March 2023

Hello friends. A lot has happened and is happening, so grab a comfy seat and I’ll catch you up

Clocking Out to Concentrate on the Work

On Friday the 3rd, I logged off of my work computer, shut down the monitors and began a two week writing retreat. For the first week of my retreat, I’ll be at home. For the second, Mol and I will be traveling to Chewelah to stay with mom. As mom puts it, it will be like I’m going to a fancy writing retreat without having to pay. 

The last time I had two weeks away from a job, I was unemployed. This is a much happier occasion. I’m going to get as much done on the latest revision of If Elephant Ears Could Talk as possible. I want to get this manuscript to my beta readers in late March or early April. It’s an ambitious goal, but I find deadlines inspiring.

After beta readers, and revisions based on reader feedback I am returning to Jenny Bartoy, editor extraordinaire. I’ve reserved time with Jenny for another manuscript review in June. After Jenny does her thing and sends me feedback, I can concentrate on finalizing the manuscript. That leads to another deadline/goal – making a pitch to an agent in September. Why September? I’ve registered for the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association conference and requested a slot for an agent pitch. I don’t know which agents will be available, and what their genres and wish lists will be, but it will be great practice nonetheless.

We can talk more about the business of getting published later. It’s time to share a snippet of the WiP.  

Excerpt From Act 1 —————————— If Elephant Ears Could Talk

The Chipped Cup was the favored caffeine source for old hippies, slightly younger former punks, and members of every stripe in the rainbow, and several other flags as well. The coffee shop was owned and operated by two women in their sixties. As they walked up the steps, Erika told Larry that the two were sisters who never married.

Larry raised an eyebrow and smirked. Erika frowned. “What?”

“Sisters who never married? Spinsters? You know what that’s code for, don’t you? Do they live together?” He had a knowing look on his face and Erika felt their defensiveness flair.

“No, it’s not like that. My mom told me.”

“And you believed it.” 

They thought about the times they’d seen the sisters out at community events. The two women were always together and yes, they did live together. Larry’s smug tone irritated Erika because he’d seen the obvious and Erika had been oblivious.

“Oh my god, I’m such an idiot.” 

Taking pity on his friend, Larry did not rub it in.


Transitions, Additions

Last month, I had to share the sad news of Percy’s passing. Tyson has mostly adjusted to being an only-cat, albeit a very attention hungry one. His solitude will come to an end in a little over two weeks, when we welcome in a new kitten, a baby brother for Tyson. He doesn’t have a name yet, he’s sleek black with a light undercoat and, according to his foster family, a total love bug. 

Big Life News

My partner Mol and I have signed the paperwork and made our first payment toward buying 13 acres from my mom. The property is mostly an open field and sits just below mom’s place, all of which is uphill from the town of Chewelah. Our plan is to build a small home and live there once our kids are out of high school. We have been learning about permaculture, sustainable farming and homesteading skills in preparation for this move. The Front Yard Farm at my place here in Olympia is a place for us to practice and experiment with some of the techniques we’ve been learning about. 

During our last visit, we got coffee at a new coffee shop, The Yale Press. The atmosphere was cozy and casual, and I can envision parking with my laptop there for a solo writing date. We also met an online friend at Quartzite, a brew pub we’ve been wanting to visit. While there, we got excellent food from Nana’s food truck. Getting to know our future home is one of the best parts of visiting Chewelah.

Another Excerpt From Act 2 ————————If Elephant Ears Could Talk

Erika doodled on an abstract design in their journal as Larry talked. Erika was trying to follow along but was distracted, and felt guilty about it. They were vaguely aware that he was talking about a boy he’d met online who lived in a neighboring town. Larry showed them pictures that Erika looked at and immediately forgot. He excitedly shared that they were meeting up in a couple of days and said something else and then was silent. Erika realized with a start that he’d asked them something.

“I’m sorry, what did you ask?”

“I said ‘earth to Erika, come in Erika’. Did you hear me talking about Isaiah? Did you hear anything I was saying?” 

He sounded disappointed and Erika didn’t blame him. The truth was nearly all their brain power was occupied with the mystery of WW’s murder and their rage against the police and their parents for not giving a shit. 

“I heard part of it.. I’m sorry Larry, I’ve got a lot on my mind. I’m really happy for you.”

He nodded, still not looking happy. “I’ll be back in a minute. Those cookies look good”  

Erika watched as he approached the counter, had an animated interaction with Blade, the barista, and returned to their table. Erika envied his ease with people.

Here. “I got you one, too”, Larry said. “So what’s up? You seem upset.”

Erika accepted the cookie and took a couple of bites before responding. 

“I’m upset because no one else is upset that WW’s death is being treated as an accident.” They said slowly, squeezing their eyes shut and trying to quell the tears hovering just behind their lids.

Larry looked down at his hands, pushing cookie crumbs around on the table in front of him. “You did what you could. You went to the cops, you told them about the argument and even identified the guy. And you told them WW couldn’t have climbed up to the platform on his own. What else can you do?”

Erika exhaled sharply. “Just because everyone else is satisfied with an easy answer doesn’t mean I have to be. I’m going to figure this out and then the police will have to do something.”

Larry opened his mouth to say something and closed it. He took a moment longer to consider his response. “I hear you. It really sucks and I know you’re hurting a lot right now. You’re my friend and I support you, I’m just not sure what  you can do, you know?”

Erika leaned back, their anger dissipating suddenly, like air out of a popped balloon. 

“I’m still figuring that out. Mostly I’m mad at what hypocrites adults are. All their talk about justice and the importance of the truth and when it counts they just can’t be bothered. And the cops? ‘Serve and protect’; what a joke.”

Larry cleared his throat. “Yeah, you don’t have to convince me. Cops have never been my heroes.”


Eat Your Heart Out

Mol and I enjoyed attending Alissa Tu’s book release party held on Valentine’s Day at Browser’s Books in Olympia. Alissa’s memoir, Confessions of aModern Day Kumiho, was published by Blue Cactus Press. I was privileged to be able to read a pre-published version and provide a blurb for the book. This isn’t a standard memoir, it’s as quirky, original and straight-forward as the author. The event, dubbed an Anti-Valentine’s Day event, was well attended and Alissa’s humor and personality kept things lively and interesting.  I love Christina and all the folks at Blue Cactus Press. They are so passionate about their mission to lift up the voices of women of color.

Want to Help Me with Character Details?

Elephant Ears are Erika’s favorite treat at the amusement park. What’s your favorite? In an earlier draft, Larry’s favorite was funnel cake. For this revision, instead of me deciding, it would be fun to get your suggestions and then I’ll include a poll in a future newsletter. The winning entry will be Larry’s fave. Email me at with your nomination.

Thank you for supporting me and being interested in the progress of the novel. In the next newsletter, I’ll let you know how this retreat went. Have a wonderful month!

Making Contact

Here’s where you can find me online:

Leave a Reply