Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

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Caring, Crafting, and Rekindling

Remember my post from awhile back, Andretti, Puccini, and 120 MPH With Your Hair on Fire?  (That’s okay. I’ll wait.)

Anyway, that post talks about  re-charging the ‘ole creative batteries and caring for your heart.  About slowing down long enough to drink in some beauty. Share grace.  Rekindle your sense of awe and wonder and delight.  I offered some suggestions.

So writer, how are you caring for your craft by caring for your heart today?

If you’re running around at warp speed, may I make a suggestion – and offer an example? Take a few moments to slow down and enjoy this cool video by The Piano Guys,  (It’s even better if you know the lyrics.) 

Be refreshed. 

Then share with a friend who could use a boost. Tell us who you shared it with in the comments section. You might also let us know how you care for your craft by caring for your heart:

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Books to Grow By – How Many Have You Read?

Books to Grow By:

As mentioned last time, if you’re a writer, chances are you’re also a reader.  So let me ask: have you seen the list of Books Everyone Should Read that’s floating around Facebook?  Did you read it?

I did.  IMHO, several of the titles were questionable and many books that should’ve been included weren’t.  So I came up with my own list: Books to Grow By.

Classic, contemporary, and just for fun titles are included, plus some surprises.  (Note: With apologies to high school English teachers everywhere, I simply cannot abide ‘stream of consciousness’ prose a la Faulkner, which is one reason The Sound and the Fury isn’t included.  Ditto Wuthering Heights and The Great Gatsby.)  You’ll also find evidence of my conviction that some of the finest literature ever written can be found in the Children’s Section.  Selections appear in alpha order by title.

Click here for the full list. 🙂

Coldwater Lake - Mount Saint Helens.

How many of these have you read?  What are YOUR favorites?  Share in the comments section.

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38 in 10

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot…reading is the creative center of a writer’s life…you cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.” – Stephen King

38 in 10
35 booksThirty-eight in ten. It wasn’t easy. But it was fun!

My local library wraps up its annual Adult Winter Reading Program today  The program began in January and ran for ten weeks. My goal? To read and/or listen to 40 books during that time frame. I came within a cat’s whisker of reaching it.

“How in the world did you manage 38 books in ten weeks?” you ask. “Where’d you find the time?”

Truth? I didn’t “find” the time. I made it. Yep, it’s amazing what you can accomplish if you bring a book to the dentist or doc’s office. Read at red lights. While standing in line at the post office or grocery check-out. Hibernate in the library. Listen to a book on CD while doing dishes. Double as a Himalayan hermit.

Why Is That?
The best writers I know are also voracious readers. Why is that? Check out some of the links below to find out.


What were the best books I read/listened to in the last ten weeks? Answer: It depends.  Mostly on which day you ask.  Those that were particularly memorable, in no particular order, include:

These Strange Ashes – Elisabeth Elliot
Epic- John Eldredge
Dawn – Elie Wiesel
Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt

Noteworthy: Cry, The Beloved CountryAlan Paton; Zia – Scott O’Dell; War Horse – Michael Morpurgo.

Kristine Lowder and friendAre you a writer who reads? Share some of your favorite titles below.

Up next: Books to Grow By. How Many Have You Read?

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Andretti, Puccini, and 120 MPH With Your Hair on Fire

“By taking out your heart, the Enemy takes out you, and you are essential to the Story.”

– John Eldredge, Waking the Dead

Does 100 mph with your hair on fire seem slow? Like when you’re used to flaming down the road at 120?

I hit the brakes the other day, stepping down from one of those 120 mph, hair-on-fire, all-consuming, calendar-cramming, adrenaline-rushing responsibilities. Among other things, I suddenly realized my favorite season, autumn, skidded onto and off the calendar while I wasn’t looking. Buried in meetings, agendas, conference calls, planning, coordinating, meetings, schedules, and more meetings, I missed it. And I don’t want to miss it again.

Looking back, I’d gotten so used to careening around at warp speed, I couldn’t remember what a fire extinguisher looks like, let alone how to use one. I didn’t realize how fried I really was until I exited the kitchen. Throttled down. Left the race track. Traded Mario Andretti for Giacomo Puccini. Like:

Swiss Cheese in Death Valley

Since then I’ve learned the value of saying “No.” Of not hitting the after-burners. Not immediately diving into more up-to-my-eyeballs responsibilities. To be deliberate about rehydrating my heart, which was starting to resemble unrefrigerated Swiss cheese in Death Valley. In August.

Short Answer and Chances

Why take time to brake, switch gears, power down? Short answer: Because I’m more productive and effective when I’m running on a full tank instead of fumes. I’m better able to serve others when I’m not burnt out myself.

Are you?

If you’re a writer, chances are good you’re also a reader. Tell me now, isn’t there something soothing and settling about immersing yourself in a good book? Something delicious and delightful about being lost in a good story?  (Okay. It may not be quite as good as getting lost in an Olympic-sized swimming pool of Hershey’s with almonds, but you get the idea.)

The Picture

Know what?  Drinking in the wonder and richness of the written word on a regular basis again, my Sahara-dried out heart is gaining new strength. Becoming more supple. Fresh. Joyous. Elastic.

Sun sets seem more vibrant. Cinnamon spice more fragrant. Quilts are downier.  Music more moving.  Even brussel sprouts taste better. Friends say they see signs of actual brain activity. The fam says…. well. Never mind what the fam says.

Anyway, I didn’t realize how much I missed reading, writing, and all things bookish until they came back, long-lost loves welcoming me home

Books loved anyone who opened them, they gave you security and friendship and didn’t ask for anything in return; they never went away, never, never, not even when you treated them badly.”

– Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

Old wellHas the Creative Well Run Dry?

So writer, let me ask: Are you burnt out to a crackly crisp? Running around at 120 mph with your hair on fire? Thinking it all depends on you?  Has the creative well run dry?

A suggestion: slow down. (The world won’t stop revolving. Trust me on this one.)  Trade Andretti for Puccini.  Or whatever resonates beauty, joy, gratitude and grace to your soul. For me, it’s books, reading, writing, and soaring arias.  For others it might be walks on the beach. Starlight.  Bubble baths. Playing catch with the kids. Calling up grandma or gramps. Rock-climbing. A fully loaded supreme pizza. Getting a cat. (Nobody’s perfect.)

The point is, take time to care for your heart. And be intentional about it.

This may seem counter-intuitive to some. Even selfish. In truth, it’s one of the best things you can do not only for yourself, but for others. Particularly if you’re a writer. There’s not much inspiration in charcoal.

Now if I could just figure out what to do with this singed hair.

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier

Do you know a writer who’s worn out, fried to a crackly crisp? Share this post with them and give them a boost. 


Catch us next time for Books to Grow By: How Many Have you Read?


Eureka! 329, and a Breath of Fresh


I just spent a morning deep-sixing, round-filing and de-cluttering my desk, bulletin board, filing cabinet and blog. I also thinned out my InBox from 3,000+ messages to 329. Yesss!

Uninteresting, irrelevant links that have been hanging around since the 12th of Never? Gone! Pages that no one’s visited since the Ark made landfall? Outta here! Categories, media, polls and pics that are as fresh as last week’s headlines? Goodbye!

Talk about a breath of fresh air.

De-cluttering the Dead Wood

I hadn’t realized just how cluttered my desk, blog and brain really were until I de-cluttered the dead wood.  (I meant to get to this the first week in January.  Now you know why I gave up ‘New Year Resolutions’ for Lent.  And New Year’s.)

Several writers I talk to have truckloads of works in progress at any given moment.  They may have a children’s story, a poetry collection, an inspirational piece and a few news articles all going at the same time.  Maybe more. Others are juggling memoirs, feature stories, a detective/mystery series and cranking out newsletters in their ‘spare time’ – both minutes.

I admire these folks.  The ones that can keep eighty zillion writing projects in the air, like spinning plates, all at the same time without dropping something.  Like themselves.  On their heads.

Not One of Them

Know what?  I’m not one of them.

I found that while my reading and writing interests vary widely – anything from Tennyson, Dickens and Dostoevsky to Richard Paul Evans, Anna Quindlen, Jane Austen and Charles Schulz – I have to narrow my focus and concentrate on a few writing projects at a time or else.

“Or else what?” you ask.

Crashing Plates?

Or else… I don’t complete any of them.  Sure, I may dash out a chapter or two here.  Polish some dialogue there.  Re-work a pesky characterization or rewrite an entire plot.  But when I have more plates spinning than I can realistically focus on, my focus becomes splintered.  Diluted.  Wandering.  I lose concentration and energy.  And plates crash.

I feel better about myself and my writing when I actually finish one thing, publish or submit, rather than working on a bunch of different things, losing steam, jumping into something else and doing the same thing all over again.  That doesn’t mean I don’t put something aside from time to time to let the ‘ole creative batteries re-charge.  I do.  But I still have to discipline myself to return to that set-aside project, hit it fresh, and actually make progress toward publication – rather than endless revisions – as the ultimate goal.

Are you with me?

So, here’s another non-New Year’s Resolution.  I will raise my right hand and repeat after me: Focus. Focus. Focus.  Prioritize.  Instead of puttering around on umpty-jillion different projects at once and never really finishing one, I will work on the most pressing project – the one I’m most passionate about – first.  Then I’ll pursue the rest in descending order according to priority.

In other words, I’m telling myself, “Self, you will complete that Mountain memoir and that summer in Texas story by this time next year even if it means raiding your private Hershey’s stash and keeping it under lock and key until then.”

If that’s not incentive, what is?

Now if I could just remember where I stashed the Priority List.

More on this in my last post, Dead Writing Days and Newton.

mom-and-snow.jpgWhat ‘writing projects’ are you working on that are keeping you from focusing on and finishing your most passionate pursuit?  Do you have a writing friend who needs help differentiating between  productive creative pursuits and frittering their time away on fluff?  Share this post so they can clear out their dead wood, too.

Have you snagged your FREE download of my ebook, Skipping the Tiramisu: Becoming the Writer You Were Born to Be? Yours free when you sign up for my monthly newsletter (also free)!


Up next: Andretti, Puccini, and 120 MPH With Your Hair on Fire.