Thursday, December 27, 2012


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

It’s that time of year when people make resolutions, or at least talk about making resolutions. But there’s something about that word “resolutions” that scares us, makes us feel we are entering into a contract for which we will be punished if/when we break the resolution. It makes us feel as if we must succeed or fail. No middle ground.

I prefer the word “goal.” I belong to a group of writers, who call ourselves Goal Buddies, and we list our goals for a week or month or whatever time period we designate. We email a list of goals to the other buddies, and at the end of the time period, we report on how well we did on those goals and send our next list of goals. I much prefer this system to those once-a-year, sink-or-swim resolutions.

First of all, a list is much better than one mega resolution. If you resolve to do one thing and don’t manage to do it, no matter how much effort you put into the attempt, you feel you have failed. If you have a list and attain only three of five goals, you have accomplished something, and the remaining two goals can be moved into the section for future goals. It is progress. You have succeeded in three goals.

I also try to avoid the “never” resolutions. If you begin the new year with the promise to “never swear in front of the children,” and you hit your thumb with a hammer while you’re hanging Junior’s dart board on January second, you may feel that you’ve blown your entire year’s assignment. So what’s the point of even trying for the rest of the year?

It’s also good to vary your goals, from a few more easily attainable to those far-reaching aspirations that make you shoot for the moon. Because after all, there are those “Right Stuff” kind of people who do reach the moon. Put the opportunity out there, but don’t make it your one-and-only goal for the whole year.

Also, keep in mind that some goals are not in your power to achieve, and word them accordingly. Don’t say, “This is the year I’ll be offered a contract on my novel.” That’s not a goal; it’s a wish, a hope. Make it something you can control. Say instead, “I’ll send my novel manuscript to five different publishing houses, and each time it comes back, I’ll send it to another one.”

With resolutions, as with most aspects of my life, I like the “baloney method.” Don’t sit down and try to eat a pound of baloney. Slice it up and eat it one slice at a time. It’s more realistic. Instead of making a resolution to write a novel, set the goal of writing an outline for one. Or writing a first chapter. Or first paragraph. Work at your own pace. One step at a time. But remember, a writer can’t accomplish anything if he/she doesn’t make time to WRITE. Thinking of a story won’t accomplish any goals until you actually get the words down.

And if you don’t succeed with a goal, don’t beat yourself up over it. Move on and try harder next time.

Finally, don’t limit yourself to only professional goals. We’ve all heard what all-work-and-no-play can lead to.

My remaining goals for 2012:
1) Finish my annual Christmas story.
2) Enjoy my holidays with family and friends.

My initial list of goals for 2013:
1) Submit novel LIKE A RIVER to five editors.
2) Finish rewrite of novel REBECCA’S BRANCH, and submit it.
3) Rethink and rework novel HARD TO TELL.
4) Go over previous Christmas-themed short stories and research possible publishers.
5) Write outline for 1968 novel.
6) Continue research for Harlan novel.
7) Write at least one blog post a month.
8) Attend two conferences or workshops to improve my craft.
9) Attend monthly meetings of two critique groups.
10)  Teach a workshop session.
11)  Get together with as many Swaggers as I can during 2013.
12)  Spend time with loved ones every week.
13)  Hug often.
14)  Treat myself to some ME time at least once a week.

Maybe I’ll update you on how I’m progressing with my list as 2013 moves along.

Whatever YOUR goals are, take time to enjoy yourself and have a happy 2013!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Memories

by Jon Egan

I'm not sure how old I was when the Christmas carol, Silent Night began bringing tears to my eyes every time I heard it, but it still does. Tears that aren't accompanied with sobbing, or shoulder wrenching, or deep belly gulps and snot bubbles, just damp, rolling, polite, waiting-in-turn-for-the-previous-one-to-make-its-way-down-my-cheek tears.

It's not sadness that creates the tears. I think it's more of a sense of expectation that this will be The Year. No matter how bad or good the past year was, we get to wash everything away and hit the re-set button. It also really gets me thinking about the innocence of youth, and the opportunity they face. So for me, that's when the Christmas season begins: the first time I hear Silent Night being played. And this year it was actually the 1st of December. Andy Williams came on the radio, and Christmas 2012 officially began.

I don't specifically remember a lot of my Christmas Pasts, but I definitely do remember the following one:

As most of you reading this know, I come from a crazy household. Lots of fun times. Lots of not-so-fun times. Lots of falling outs between sibling and sibling, between parents and siblings, between parent and parent, but it seemed that no matter the relationship boogie, Christmas was always a time for us to come together as a family and bury the hatchet. (Not just like the time Adrian literally tried to bury it in Julian's leg. Luckily it was blunt and only left a bruise!)

So this one year when the whole family was living in the same little mining town way up North, there were a few of us "not talking," to a few others of us. I forget who was pissed at who, but it had been going on for awhile. My older brother, sister, and me had moved out of the house, so when the first one of us showed up to Mum and Dad's we'd be given the assignment by a sobbing Mum to, "Go get your brother, or sister. It's Christmas damn it, and we should all be happy and together."  Dad would huff and disappear to his bedroom, grumbling something along the lines of, "I'm not talking to that feckin' eejit,", or "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, women, can you not just leave things be?" but you knew deep down he wanted the whole family around as well. So off one of us would trot to get the others that weren't there yet, and the negotiations would begin with the one that was on the out. No matter how long they went on, it typically ended with tears and hugs from the envoy, followed once we got back to Mum and Dad's by sobbing, and hugging, and apologies, and "Where's the fecking whiskey?

So this year it was Linden who was the last to arrive, but when he showed up and all the bad feelings had subsided, and the whiskey was beginning to work its magic, he announced that for Christmas he'd splurged and bought himself (Linden loved buying gifts for himself!) an air pistol. No, there is no line here that goes, "You'll shoot your eye out!" We'd never even heard of that movie in Australia.

Linden, being Linden, runs out to the car and brings in this very fine air pistol and the BB's that go with it, and Dad, who loved anything that made a bang or blew things up, couldn't resist. He disengaged his crazy, mischievous, Irish brain and took dead aim at one of Mum's old glass ornaments that she so lovingly transported the 12,000 miles or so when she moved from England to Australia. He pulled the trigger. Mum gasped, and shrieked, and screamed, and cursed, and managed to do it all in a single expulsion of air, and nothing happened to the ornament.

Dad looked at Mum; Mum cursed at him again; Dad held out his hand to Linden. Linden placed a dozen or so BB's in his hand; Dad looked at Mum; Mum snarled. Dad loaded the BB's; Mum told him not to; Dad smiled, and took aim. All the rest of us sat on the blue vinyl couch, shirt backs sticking to it. (It was always in the 100's at Christmas.) Linden told him to aim a little high, Dad did, and he nailed the green ball of glass, shattering it into a thousand little pieces. Mum screamed; Dad roared; Linden looked very proud, and the rest of us smiled at Dad and looked very concerned at Mum when she snapped her head to look at us.
Target practice
Dad's first hit
Dad took aim and repeated the process, only this time it was a little plastic lamb ornament, then he handed the pistol back to Linden and bet him he couldn't take out one of the three Kings. Extra points for the smug looking one with the box of gold. Mum finally recovered her senses after witnessing the carnage from the first two shots, and away she went. The yelling grew louder; the tears began to flow, and dad calmly proclaimed that, "Your mother couldn't hit the fat end of a slow-moving cow from three feckin' feet, could ya, Hazel?"

Mum, never one to shy away from a contest against Dad, didn't give it a second thought. She asked Linden, "How do I work the stupid gun?" He showed her, and the next thing we knew she'd aimed, pulled the trigger, and put a nice little hole in the dry rock wall. Dad smirked; Mum squinted; Linden told her to aim a little high; and before you could say Merry Christmas, the smug, gold-bearing king was history! Dad howled; Mum told-you-so'ed to Dad; Linden was proud again, and we all smiled at mum telling her what a great shot she was.
Mum's second shot.
Mum's first shot

She asked Dad which one next, and away they went, like a sniper crew: Dad spotting; Mum shooting; Linden reloading. We all took turns shooting ornaments off the fake green plastic Christmas tree, and when they were all gone, including the terrified-looking angel topper, we started on anything around the living room that presented itself as target. It was an amazing Christmas day. The walls were a little worse for wear; the Christmas tree was history, and even though the linoleum floor was swept multiple times, months later when I'd come over, there'd be another piece of sparkled glass littering the floor. It was definitely a less traditional Christmas than most people enjoy, but it was such a great encapsulation of an Egan Christmas.
The angel tree topper that got no respect

Love you, Dad. Wish we could have had a few more Christmases together. Sleep in heavenly peace :)
Merry Christmas everyone.

What are your favorite Christmas memories? What Christmas carol is special to you?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Storm Cover Reveal, Sneak Peek, & Giveaway!

by Melissa Kline

I am jumping-out-of-my-chair excited to share my latest project and soon-to-be-published novel with you… *drum roll* STORM!!!  A young adult mystery-drama about a creative and complex teen boy. Here is the official synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old Storm enjoys skateboarding, fixing broken electronics, and building things with his hands. They distract him from the tormented thoughts surrounding the circumstances of his mother’s death. But his problems can’t be avoided forever… Since his mother’s death, tensions are high at home, the girl of Storm’s dreams is dating someone else, and an argument with his father lands him in the school counselors’ office. Will Storm overcome his fears, let go of the feelings that have been haunting him, and reveal his long-held secrets? Can his dad ever forgive him? Will the girl of his dreams ever see him as more than a friend? A true-to-life young adult novel teeming with mystery, romance and intrigue.
This book is full of lots of juicy drama and fun, colorful characters but it's ultimately about relationships, connections and overcoming obstacles. The story has a beautiful message - one that I believe both teens and adults will relate to.

Because this book deals with many issues that teen’s today face, I am donating a portion of the proceeds from sales to youth organizations - something that is very important to me. Some of the organizations that I will be supporting are: Born This Way Foundation, Students Against Destructive Decisions, Hey U.G.L.Y, To Write Love On Her Arms, Love Is Louder, Do Something, and Half Of Us.

Storm is scheduled for print release on December 14th, 2012 by DreamFusion Press, LLC. The countdown to launch is almost over but there is still time to participate in a giveaway for a chance to win a hot-off-the-press autographed copy! Stop by to find the current giveaway and Storm extras such as:

These are just a few of my fun, creative concoctions. Pop in and see what the world of Storm is all about. I can't wait to share this book with you! :)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Handling meaty YA topics with skill

by Kim Van Sickler

When my local critique group hit a lull where no one was submitting pages to critique at our monthly meetings (for a variety of reasons to include a couple of beta reading arrangements with completed manuscripts), we decided to morph into a book discussion group as well.

Our last two book selections blew me away. I read them out of order. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is our assignment for January, but I read it as soon as my copy became available. I couldn't help it. That hand-sized paperback screams out to be cozied up with. Plus Perks movie teasers were all over the place to pique my curiosity (A senior high school girl befriends a freshman boy, for real? How is he going to pull this off?).

Stephen Chbosky pulls it off by making the freshman boy incomparably sensitive, über-observant, achingly honest, painfully aware (of everything he observes from a distance), but interestingly enough, not at all self-aware. Charlie's missing that self-imposed filter that all high school kids seem to have, whereby they stay in their place and don't question the social hierarchy. How amazing it is to see 9th grade—that drama-filled, uncertain time—through his unique eyes. And we do see the fun, the sorrow, the inane, and the awesome first-hand, because we, the reader, end up being the recipient of a series of letters from Charlie. Letters. It's brilliant. Puts us right in the action.

My reluctant-reader 9th-grade daughter picked up the book and was immediately drawn in by the letter format and Charlie's voice speaking as if directly to her.

Perks deals with a very serious topic. You don't even realize how serious until towards the end. By this time you are so invested in Charlie, and so desperate for him to find his way, that the revelation takes your breath away. Every fiber of your being wants to reach out and hug him and befriend him. And that brings me to our November assigned book, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. A love story between two kids with cancer. Another super serious topic told with a healthy amount of humor and whimsy.

I wondered if I'd be able to relate to this story at first, but my reservations fell away as soon as I met Hazel at her cancer support group. Then seeing her through the eyes of Augustus, the leg amputee in remission from osteosarcoma, and the effect these teenagers have on each other, triggers much broader universal issues like wanting to make your mark so you're remembered after you're gone, and living life today instead of worrying about tomorrow. In a neat twist, Green creates a fictional author and book that Hazel adores and teaches Augustus to love as well. The juxtaposition of the world-weary author, Peter Van Houten, into these cancer patients' lives, is mesmerizing.

Serious themes. Amazingly tender treatments of them coasting easily between denial to honesty to humor to pain, and ultimately ending on an uplifting note. I recommend both of these books to anyone searching for stick-to-your-bones meat in their YA.

And then I found this vlog series that John and his brother Hank do together. Fun!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Happy Starts

I’ve never been very good at endings.  Most of the friends I’ve made along the way are still in my life.  I still own all of my old journals, pieces of favorite jewelry, college sweatshirts now ragged with holes.  My drawers hold the remnants of undergarments so threadbare they are see-through even though they were never meant to be. My basement is filled with books I refuse to part with.  If I find myself in the neighborhood of a building I once lived in, I will swerve towards it just to get a glimpse, aching with nostalgia.

I married my first love. 

So I struggled with the decision to leave this blog community.  Like my old sweatshirts, this lovely group has brought me a measure of comfort and confidence that I will forever be grateful for. 

But the signs are clear.  It’s time to move on.

Maybe Shel Silverstein said it best when he wrote:

There are no happy endings.
Endings are the saddest part,
So just give me a happy middle
And a very happy start

And so it goes.  Two “Swaggers,” pack up shop and move to a new home at

While our intention is to create something new, we hope to be regularly visited by and often feature the talents of our friends here at Swagger.

In the end, I will take with me Mr. Silverstein’s wisdom that happy endings are a mostly a fiction, but happy starts are always full of joy.

Monday, November 26, 2012


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

5:44 PM (Pacific Time), 11/12/12—a significant moment for me. But let me go back to the beginning.

When our recent Swagger reunion was proposed, I asked my husband Jim if I should make flight reservations or was this a good excuse for a road trip?

Jim and I love a good road trip, exploring sights across this beautiful country, gathering a collection of memorable moments.

Road trip it was.

We headed out of Cincinnati toward Nashville, where we picked up I-40 and followed it all the way to Barstow, CA.

When we drove through Oklahoma, we shared a high five. Adding Oklahoma to his list means Jim has visited 48 of the 50 states. It was #46 for me.

At a tribal craft shop in Arizona, we bought each other cheap rings—and I lost mine five days later. (We stopped at the same place and replaced it on the return trip, and Jim threatened to Super-Glue it to my finger.)

That return trip also included a walk across the bridge overlooking Hoover Dam. (We toured Hoover Dam a few years ago, before the bridge was completed.) We also visited Meteor Crater in Arizona (Amazing!) and the Route 66 Museum in Oklahoma. (Fascinating for a history buff like me, with music from each decade of the road’s existence. Woody Guthrie, Glenn Miller, Elvis, and the Beatles. What a kick!) And we stopped for a very special graveside visit in Memphis. (No, not Elvis.)

 The trip included spectacular vistas and gorgeous sunsets.

Heading into Memphis on 11/17, we picked up a radio station with Christmas music. I love Christmas music, but it was tough for two Ohioans to match the music with the shirt-sleeve weather.

Every trip has a glitch or two, and an extended detour cost us over an hour’s time and gallons of fuel, nothing compared to the price paid by those in the accident that caused the detour.

We made lots of observations on the trip: A multitude of trucks and trains criss-cross the southwest. (I love the sound of a train). Numerous teams of truckers are female. New Mexico has many beautifully decorated overpasses. Despite signs to be wary, the only wildlife we saw were cows and an occasional horse.
Visiting Meteor Crater in Arizona

It’s a hoot to read signs with names of places and features we pass: Mousetail Landing State Park (Is Disney involved?); Toad Suck Park (I’m sure it’s lovely); Dirty Creek (If you can’t say something nice…); Rattlesnake Wash (Isn’t that where outlaws meet up in old Western movies?)

But this was more than a road trip. Each Swagger was asked to decide on a specific writing goal for the reunion. I needed help on a loose thread in my current novel-in-progress, a novel whose idea first niggled its way into my brain nearly 20 years ago. It percolated in my mind while I worked on other projects over those years. I researched it, visited sites vital to its telling (road trips!), and began it several times.

During its progress, it changed repeatedly, and one of those changes created the loose end that needed to be tied up. In a full morning’s session, my fellow Swaggers listened to me detail the story’s progression, and they brain-stormed until we solved the problem. All I needed to do was write the remaining ten or so chapters, and I worked on them in our private writing time.

On our last day, as Jon drove Kim and Melissa to the airport, I wrote some more. When Jon returned, he joined me at the table, where we sat in silence, each focused on our own project, each finding the right words and building them into sentences.

And I finished the novel! My 11th! It’s just a first draft, and needs more details sprinkled here and there. It has to be smoothed and tweaked and polished. But I finished telling the story. At 5:44 PM (Pacific Time) on 11/12/12. Thanks, Jon, for making note of the time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Reading the Whiteness on the Page

           I am distracted this month.  There are tasks that tug and friends I’d like to see and yearnings for time with the kids.  I pick up my pen to write in my journal and am only able to eke out a few paltry sentences.  I open my latest rough draft and stare at the white space around the black letters, a pulsing brightness that feels impossible to interpret.  Over everything, hangs a lingering feeling of worry for my mother-in-law who is battling a second round of lymphoma.
            I am thankful for her but that sounds appallingly unadorned when pawing through the heaps of memories and moments she’s shared with me, with my family.  To say that I am grateful or that we would be worse off without Ethelyn’s presence in our lives isn’t enough either.
            My first memory of her is of a quiet knock on the door of my then boyfriend, now son’s bedroom door.  (We live in the house my husband grew up in. Ethelyn’s house; the one whose buffet she lovingly stripped and stained, whose kitchen walls she chose a lovely buttery shade of yellow for, and the dining room wallpaper she hung herself.) 
We were seventeen-years-old.  “This door needs to stay open,” she warned.  I could hear the discomfort in her voice, disciplining us like this.  We leaped apart from a session of heart-thudding, sweaty-palm groping to nervously giggle and opened the door.  At my house, my mother would have been at work.  Or if she were home, she’d have cared less about closed doors.  She let Kevin sleep over when we were seventeen.   Sleepovers at my house, open doors at Kevin’s; the messages were maddeningly different.
            I tried to be on my best behavior at family gatherings and holiday parties in her home but always felt I’d flubbed somehow.  Maybe I used the wrong fork?  Perhaps I should have asked to help with the dishes?  Or maybe my offering assistance in the kitchen offended her?  I couldn’t tell.
            One night, after I’d made a lasagna and served it to the whole Bond family, I remember my father-in-law smacking his lips and saying, “That was delicious!”  I looked to Ethelyn for her reaction and she smiled, nodded.  Did she hate my cooking?  Was she annoyed that her husband liked it?  Were they both simply being polite?  She was so even-keeled; never effusive and never sad, just steady.  She was the whiteness around the vivid, black words.
My own upbringing was peppered with people less careful with their tone.  If my father didn’t like something, he grumbled out loud.  If my mother was unhappy, she cried or yelled.  This was a world I didn’t have to exert any effort to understand – an ocean of emotions that floated on the surface, not somewhere deep and blue.
After an eight-year stretch of break-ups and reunions, Kevin and I moved to California together and, somewhere along the way, I ended up pregnant with our first child.  When we called her with the news, my mother-in-law dissolved into rare and quiet tears.  Standing behind Kevin, who held the phone, I interpreted her tears.  How would they afford his?  Where would they live?  Or maybe she was simply disappointed in Kevin’s choice of me. 
At my house, my own mother whooped out loud and began suggesting baby names.  Within hours she’d bought us a package of diapers and the first outfit our son would wear.  Neither reaction was wrong or right.  It was just who they were, who they are.  Practical vs. impractical, impetuous vs. thoughtful, open warmth vs. careful affection.
            And though our mothers differ in personality, their common thread is generosity.  From endless babysitting, to paying for our children’s after-school classes, to allowing us to live in their homes, our parents have supported us without boundaries.  Because of their sustenance, we live a privileged middle-class lifestyle with children who want for nothing and a constant stream of loving relatives to take them for a milkshake or drive them to play dates.
My in-laws come to every soccer game and practice, every play and school performance.  They have bought endless boxes of Girl Scout cookies and fundraiser rolls of wrapping paper.  We take vacations with them several times a year to a home they purchased with their savings and the inheritance my husband’s paternal grandfather left them (setting an example of good choices and strong foundations.)  And they allow us the luxury of a parent night out every time we go away with them.  Because of their generosity, we’ve explored the local wineries while holding hands, taken ghost walks and recharged the romance in our busy life over and over again.  

Over the years, my mother-in-law has taught me the value of a recipe as opposed to the haphazard tossing in of ingredients to see what comes out.  She introduced me to activities I love, like stopping at farmer’s markets.  And activities that I’d rather avoid, like long hikes to identify wild birds.
            She runs a soup kitchen at her church and our children have grown into more compassionate people as they count out the plates, and serve up ladles full of food to people’s who weren’t lucky enough to have the kind of family support we benefit from.  She also tirelessly pitches in at every (gigantic) church rummage sale, where my kids have gleefully learned to take customer’s money and count out change.
Of everyone in our family, she is the best listener.  She has an endless patience for the rambling stories our eight-year-old longs to tell and the staying power our older kids need in order to bring a temporary peace to their relentless drama over friends and grades and places they would rather be.  Grandma is the touchstone, a safe and balanced place to rest inside of.
            Outside of our family, I marvel at the way my mother-in-law has cultivated a tightly knit group of girlfriends with whom she takes weekly walks, shares cups of tea, reads endless books and exchanges a love of faith.  They raised their kids together, went on mission trips and fundraised for the church.  Their familiarity is a harmony so perfect in pitch that I can only stand back and listen to its loveliness.
As I sat by her bedside last week, the chemo drugs dripping into her arm, one of her close friends chatted on about church happenings.  When the doctor ushered us out of the room to perform a bone biopsy, my mother-in-law’s friend allowed herself the tears she’d been holding back.  This, of course, unleashed a few of my own. 
But the marvel of it all was the evident strength.  Her friend waited until she was out of the room to cry, and Ethelyn herself smiled as we came back in.  “It wasn’t so bad,” she assured us.  Mind you, most people who have undergone this procedure liken the pain of a bone biopsy to childbirth or the actual breaking of bones.  Not my mother-in-law.  After she was released from the hospital, she went in to work. 
            The first time she was diagnosed with cancer, I took my husband’s lead on where to offer support and when to back off.  But this second diagnosis feels like a harder path to push through.  I am tempted to elbow my way in.  I want to ignore her protests of, “I’m fine,” and “I don’t need you to.”  Instead, I am eager to shower her with casseroles, bring her gifts of hot packs and ginger teas.  I yearn to ignore the hand she’s held out to keep me at a polite distance.  But I am frozen by the old fear that I will be treading on the boundaries she truly means for me to abide by. 
So I am distracted. 
Sometimes, the way to show gratefulness, to give thanks, is muddied up by clashing cultures, long years of careful interactions and a love so bright that the words turn themselves into silly black shapes and it’s the whiteness of the page that one truly wants to read.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Manuscript Resuscitation Specialists

It all started here

by Jon Egan

Writing can be a very lonely endeavor, and it becomes even lonelier when you’re trying to solve plot issues, or character development, or storyline or one of the many other little or not so little issues that creep into a writers psyche to mess with the very kernels of creativity right when they are about to pop. Most times we sit and stare at the blinking cursor, or we scribble imaginative doodlebugs where there ought to be imaginative words, and we obsess over the perfect replacement for that cliché we inadvertently inserted during another period of creative whiteout.
For me at least, these periods typically end in frustration and slivers from my dried out windowsill sticking out of my butt cheek (long story, although one that undoubtedly will find it’s way into a manuscript at some stage.) This past week, however, was very different and very special and very welcomed and very – insert sigh – much needed, because this past week was the Swagger Reunion, and even though half the group couldn’t make it, the half that did really made it worthwhile.

My latest manuscript, which in fact is my oldest, had been as lonely as a donut vendor at a Weight Watchers convention (although, how lonely would that bloke really be?) It had been sitting deep in the recesses of MS Word for more than a few years. It had cobwebs hanging from its comma splices; the characters had aged to the point that they were almost unrecognizable; the run-on sentences weren’t running anymore, they were struggling forward with the aid of a walking stick. (I could go on, but by now I’m sure you’ve figured out your own silly metaphors?) I knew I wasn’t ready to completely abandon it, but I just couldn’t figure out what the story was and why or if it was worth writing.
In the style of moderated workshops, we had sent each other our works-in-progress to read and critique. I sent out a short story rather than my middle grade Moby Dick, but by the time these wonderful people arrived in Lake Arrowhead, I had decided that this would be as good a time as any to see if I should just hold down the delete button on this tired old friend or if I should set the tabs, choose the font and plow ahead in twelve-point thoughts and get it done. I’m extremely thankful to my fellow attending Swaggers for assisting me in my decision. Thanks to that most precious gift of actually sitting as a group and throwing story ideas and narrative arc around like stale popcorn at a film noir festival, we worked through it as a group, and I am thankful now that I hovered my index finger over that delete key. I’m excited about my new WIP, and I’m looking forward to dragging those aging characters with me to sip from the Fountain of Youth.
I do indeed have many things to be thankful for this November, but for now, I’m thankful for my fellow Swaggers. I’m thankful because they let me follow the journey of two civil war soldiers who ultimately end up on the same path. I’m thankful because I was transported twenty-three hundred miles to walk with a muleskinner on the Ohio-Erie Canal. I’m thankful for their ability to open my eyes to the possibility of kick-ass machines with human DNA who thrive in spite of overwhelming odds. I’m thankful that I have an amazing group of people around me I can call on at any time to help me move my story forward, and I’m thankful that those people indeed have the ability, in spite of the overwhelming odds facing us writers, to write with Swag.

Monday, November 19, 2012

What Five Things?

It all started here

by Melissa Kline

I am thankful for Thankfulness!

Gratitude is something that I try to fit into my daily routine. It helps to keep me in the present, and focused on what's important in my life. Do you ever catch yourself festering over the past (like that conversation you just had where you wished you would have said something else) or worrying about the future (Will that publisher reject or accept me? Will I finally land that contract and become a millionaire?) 

We all have worries, concerns, past hangups, agendas, goals (that blog post to get up!) and very, very busy lives, but it is important to stop - even for two seconds - and be grateful for the moment, wherever you are.

So how can you do this? Especially when you're just so darn busy? Here's how:

Every day, think of five things that you are grateful for. That's it! You can do this while you're grocery shopping, driving to work, brushing your teeth, before falling asleep at night… while writing that query letter. You can even get a friend involved and ask, "What five things are you grateful for today?" It's as simple as that. The practice is fun and keeps you in a mindset of being grateful, which is always a good thing!

So, I have to ask… What five things are you grateful for today?

I am grateful for you! :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thankful Thoughts

Giving Thanks

 by Regina Gort

My first thankful thought is my three daughters, Gwendolyn, Violet and Eliza. They make me a better person everyday.

I am thankful for my husband, Tim. Without his love and support, I wouldn't have the strength to write.

My next thankful thought is for Lake Superior, a fresh water ocean that has taught me the meaning of patience, resilience and strength. I feel like as long as I am near the shores of Gitche Gumee, the waters of peace will continue to feed my muse.

And my final thankful thought is for my fellow Swaggers. After all it was with this group of amazing writers that I learned to swagger. They built me up, inspired me, and pushed me to be a better writer. And they are my dear friends.
Meet you all next year at the Big Old Barn?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Swagger Reunion Thanks

by Kim Van Sickler, Kathy Wiechman, Melissa Kline, and Jon Egan

This past week, four Swaggers gathered at Lake Arrowhead, to work on our writing craft. We wish more Swaggers could have made the trip to Jon’s writing mecca in California, but those that made it are thankful about what we’ve accomplished in our five days together.

 Kim’s thankful for the gang brainstorming on her chapter synopses of Muleskinner, helping her to strengthen the plot.

 Melissa’s thankful for the gang helping her break through writer block on her sequel to My Beginning, so she sees the potential in her story. She's excited about the new possibilities.

Kathy’s thankful for the gang helping her clear up loose threads on her unfinished civil war saga, Like a River, so she can write the ending.

 And Jon, dear Jon, is thankful that Melissa stopped drinking after two vodka and cranberry juices, that we left all the whiskey for him, and that his fellow Swaggers inspired him to finish and query his memoir, Invisible Stitches.

Photo album
We travel west this year for the Swagger reunion.

Kim and Kathy make friends.
Boat ride on Lake Arrowhead
Melissa tries Vegemite for the first (and last) time.

Jon and Melissa on KP duty.

Ground zero.

Pie break.

Loved these Manzanita trees!

Lake walk.

Our wonderful accommodations.

Lake Arrowhead during boat ride.

Lake Arrowhead during a hike.

One of Lake Arrowhead's stunning homes. Features a 22-car garage with a turntable for the cars. For sale. Only $9.5 million.

Many of our evening sessions took place on the cozy first floor.

Waiting for our boat.

Writing time.

Melissa storyboarding My Beginning Part II

Kim and Jon.


Kim reviewing a first draft of Muleskinner.

Kim and Melissa during a lake hike.

Jon and Melissa.