novel work

For all that I write about the writing process on this blog, I don’t quite understand my own. I’m writing a novel! And I’ve decided to talk about it, to keep myself from giving up entirely once I’ve surpassed 10k words.

My writing group is helping immensely. They are wonderful. They’ve agreed to read this thing as I’m writing it, which is another failsafe upon which I’m hinging the completion of this thing, god bless their souls. Because I have very slowly come to realize that I don’t actually like to write alone. Odd, right? On its surface, writing is such a solitary act. And, on my surface, I am a very quiet and solitary person. (That façade breaks quickly when I have found a comfortable space, btw.)

But like, publishing is a difficult thing to wait for when you’re hoping for feedback on a story, and I am filled with impatience. And coffee. My jittery veins have no time for editors to decide if I am worthy. Certainly not when I’m trying to decide if Protagonist A’s motives are clear enough to justify her eventual betrayal of Protagonist B.

In any case, this sharing has helped ease my ever-present worry over the five thousand things wrong with living in America in 2020. Yes, Covid sneaks its way into everything. Even this blog post, sorry. This year is isolating and terrible, but I’ve been able to sneak away to a distant reality in drafting a novel, and having a community to help me sit down and write words on a near daily basis has kept me from doom-scrolling my phone and wondering if I should remake my animal crossing island for the third time. (I shouldn’t. Someone stop this.)

Here are three fun things from my current project. My notebook app was deleted when Zoom needed its five hundredth update for some god damned reason, and I am trying to get used to making my notes by hand, but occasionally some will go in a text to my husband. The latest was “You stole a knife in chapter six, remember to use it.”

Here’s some text regarding the small college town it’s set in:

Oddfellow College was a series of disappointingly squat buildings crouched against the rocky shore of the Columbine River. Most budding wizards were eager for tall spires and Euclidian halls, but after years rebuilding all those spires that had been blasted into the river, the committees in charge of college funding found that a sturdy building with thick walls was more likely to withstand the inevitable errant spells. The library, a granite monolith of gray stone and sturdy angles, with windows that had been bricked increasingly smaller through the years, was by far the college’s most impressive building, but only by virtue of being it’s oldest.


And I’ve been working on character portraits because I really like to know what people look like, even if it’s in my unpracticed and cartoony style.

tuulikki devil crop

Things are happening! What joy!


Small Joys

I have been keeping all my big feels in this space, but I rarely record the small moments of absurdity and fun that I seek every day. I want to share some small moments. Very small moments.


While watching a pitchfork being used as a fire poker, this exchanged happened between me and my husband.

Me: Why don’t we have a pitchfork? I feel like we should own a pitchfork.

Erik: We don’t need a pitchfork.

Me: You don’t plan on joining any angry mobs?

Erik: I plan on running from them.

Erik: I know a protagonist when I am one.


On a walk through our neighborhood, I found a nerf dart stuck into a rhodedendron and plucked it like a flower.

Me: Nerf tree.

Erik: (laughing, but his eye is caught by another tree) Oh look at these leaves!

Me: That is not Nerf. That is Nothing.


Erik and I spent an afternoon at a park on Fox Island, on a long rocky spit buffeted by constant wind. We took a slushy there with us, and promptly upon finishing, Erik scooped up a cup full of rocks, jammed the straw back in it, and proclaimed it a free refill.


We have been in a fifteen year competition to make the other person laugh the most. I know I’m losing. He is much funnier than I am. But also, I win.


I have a selection of herb clippings littering my counter. They are in little pots, with lots of water, and I am hoping that some of them will start to root. Rosemary, lavender, sage. All three came off well loved plants in my garden. And I have already begun to worry over the drooping leaves on these little branches.

When I was very young, I lived across the street from a woman who could get anything to grow. She had a lavish garden, complete with a massive arbor that had become completely enclosed on three sides by several prolific wisterias. That outdoor room was a sanctuary in the heat of summer, always cool and a little damp when the sun was too intense everywhere else in the neighborhood. The woman who grew it was called Grandma Bobby, and she had this charming Georgian accent, and it sounds as if I’m fabricating this perfect southern plant-witch entirely but I promise you she’s real.

I’ve always measured myself against her when it comes to gardening, which means I’ve never been that good at gardening. However…


I never saw Grandma Bobby when she was 34, the age I am now. Or 24, when perhaps like me she managed to kill a few cactuses, or 12, when she was maybe spending a lot of time across the street and marveling at her neighbor’s perfect garden. Nor did I ever see her toss out the plants that didn’t make it. Propagation for woody-stem herbs only has a 50% success rate. The ones that shrivel up their leaves and never put down roots are tossed in the compost heap, and forgotten about. Because success does not happen because of an absence of failure.

And I want my plants to succeed. I whisper encouragements to them as I make my coffee, and I hum Penguin Café Orchestra because I think the sage likes it. But if they don’t survive, I’ll clip another bit of new growth and try again. There is nothing lost in the attempt. Nothing damning about a bunch of dead herbs.

I can’t be perfect, but I can keep trying, and eventually something will grow.

Erik and I bought two wisteria plants yesterday, and we have a small arbor for them to climb up and join together, and make a tiny room in our backyard just big enough for two chairs and a little side table.

Fingers crossed.


Earlier this year, I applied for the 2020 Novel Writing Workshop with Kij Johnson and Barbara Webb, and I got in. I got the news that I got in right about the same time Covid-19 was shutting down a lot of normal life in this state. Washington, btw, if you aren’t sure where I live.

We weren’t sure if it was still going to happen, and after a few weeks of watching the news, the instructors decided to not have the workshop this year, and instead pre-approve anyone who made the cut for the classes that will be held in 2021. I’m glad that they made that call, because I lost my job about a week after learning I made the cut, and I wasn’t sure how I’d afford two weeks off and a ticket to Kansas on my new budget.

I wait too long to celebrate good news. But at it’s core, making it into the workshop is good news. I love Kij’s writing, and I’ve heard great things about her as an instructor. And at this point, I am having a very hard time making words stick to the screen. Maybe I need a year before I can write a novel. I haven’t written a new short story in… I can’t remember.



My cousin died a few days ago. Michelle. She was so much cooler than me. When my husband and I traveled through California, we stayed with her and her partner at their then home in the country just outside Petaluma. It was this really rad geodesic dome, where Stephen grew forty kinds of peppers and Michelle kept jars of heirloom veg in the basement, along with a strain of very old yeast from what sounded like a very intensive bread baking class. The bees that pollinated the area were among her 40,000 pets- there were boxes of hives at the end of the driveway. Michelle also kept the apple trees that Stephen planted to a reasonable 4, because she wasn’t going to sell apples at the farmers market if he went and planted an orchard. It was easy to feel at home with them even though we didn’t stay long and that was the first time either of them had met my husband.

About 20 years ago, after Michelle had a double lung transplant, she and Stephen backpacked across Europe. I don’t remember if it was a website that she set up, or just emails that she sent to my mom that I got to read– I was still very new to the internet– but I got to follow her travelogue. She was so impressively adventurous.

I miss her. I can’t possibly put into words how much, but I can’t say nothing either. She was amazing, and I miss her.


it is a strange time

difficult and sad


i planted green beans

but they have not grown.


i painted a picture

but it did not look the way i wanted it to.


We are apart for our safety. It won’t last forever, but the feelings we are collecting now will last for a lifetime. This is an historical moment. I’m watching cartoons and learning to make rice cakes.