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5 posts from October 2013

My Favorite Writing QuotesOctober 27, 2013

Google, in all their wisdom, has decided to shut down iGoogle, saying it's not used for much. All I do on my page is store my favorite writing quotes, so I guess they might have something there. I was casting about in my mind: WHERE WILL I KEEP THE QUOTES? when I realized I have a place! Right here! 

At the moment of commitment, the  universe conspires to assist you. GOETHE
(This is my favorite quote of all. The week I dedicated myself to writing every day, to really doing it even on the days I had to get up at 3:30am to get the work done, I got my agent. Coincidence? Probably. I'd already written the book, after all. But this quote was large in my mind. The universe does  conspire to help you, and it knows when you're finally truly serious.) 

Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else. GLORIA STEINEM
For most of my life I felt like this. Now I write so much that now when I'm hanging out with loved ones, or watching Scandal and knitting, I feel just fine, thanks.

Write about it by day, and dream about it by night. E.B. WHITE

I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult. E. B. WHITE
I think me and ole Elwyn would have gotten along well. 

I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have. THOMAS EDISON

In fiction, veracity is nice...but believability is all that you're really required to provide and all that your audience has a right to expect. ROBERT MASELLO - Robert's Rules of Writing

 Anybody who shifts gears when he writes for children is likely to wind up stripping his gears. E.B. WHITE 

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. LOUIS L'AMOUR

I’m like a big old hen. I can’t cluck too long about the egg I’ve just laid because I’ve got five more inside me pushing to get out. LOUIS L'AMOUR
Don't you just love this man?

Don’t get it right, just get it written. JAMES THURBER

I have so little control over the act of writing that it's all I can do to remain conscious. DAVID RAKOFF
I die over this line. 

No one ever said it would be easy. ANNIE DILLARD

I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil. TRUMAN CAPOTE

When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself. ISAK DINESEN
Like knitting!

Writing is when we make the words. Editing is when we make the words not shitty. CHUCK WENDIG

How much a character cares about his/her goals is in direct proportion to how much the reader will care.  LAURA DEVRIES

Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it. MADELEINE L’ENGLE

You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer, an almost physical nerve, the kind you need to walk a log across a river.  MARGARET ATWOOD
I saw her speak recently. She remains my hero. A smarter, classier, funnier woman I think there never was.

As for discipline—it's important, but sort of overrated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you.  ELIZABETH GILBERT

Nulla dies sine linea. Let that be their motto. And let their work be to them as is his common work to the common labourer. No gigantic efforts will then be necessary. He need tie no wet towels round his brow, nor sit for thirty hours at his desk without moving,—as men have sat, or said that they have sat. More than nine-tenths of my literary work has been done in the last twenty years, and during twelve of those years I followed another profession. I have never been a slave to this work, giving due time, if not more than due time, to the amusements I have loved. But I have been constant,—and constancy in labour will conquer all difficulties. Gutta cavat lapidem non vi, sed saepe cadendo. - Trollope
Someday, the first line of this will be a tattoo. 

If I waited until I felt like writing, I'd never write at all. ANNE TYLER 

Talent is cheap. What matters is discipline. ANDRÉ DUBUS
My first writing teacher, Al Landwehr, told me this many, many years ago. He told me I had the first, wasn't sure if I had the second. I was SO MAD, mostly because I knew he was right. So I went about proving him wrong about the latter. (Not about the former.)

I write pieces and move them around. The fun of it is watching the truthful parts slide together. What is false won't fit. ELIZABETH STROUT

Never be ashamed of your subject, and of your passion for your subject. JOYCE CAROL OATES

 The tradition I was born into was essentially nomadic, a herdsmen tradition, following animals across the earth. The bookshops are a form of ranching; instead of herding cattle, I herd books. Writing is a form of herding, too; I herd words into little paragraphlike clusters.  LARRY McMURTRY
I am the border collie of active verbs!

Easy reading is damned hard writing. NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE
This is why I am pleased instead of insulted every time anyone says my books are easy to read.

Writing is driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make whole trip that way. E.L. DOCTOROW

Writing makes no noise, except groans, and it can be done everywhere, and it is done alone.  URSULA K. LEGUIN 

Every time I hear writers talk about “the muse,” I just want to bitch-slap them. It’s a job. Do your job. NORA ROBERTS
"Sister Mary Responsibility kicks the Muse's ass every single day." Nora Roberts, great video HERE.

All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath. F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

Don't be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand. HENRY MILLER 

I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork. PETER DE VRIES 

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives… ANNIE DILLARD
I had a postcard with this phrase on my refrigerator. I looked at it daily during the ten years I wasn't really writing. It didn't feel good to think about. Then I started Really Writing, and this is true: I lost the postcard. I know how I'm spending my life. 

Humor is what happens when we're told the truth quicker and more directly than we're used to. ANN PATCHETT 

Getting the first draft finished is like pushing a peanut with your nose across a very dirty floor. JOYCE CAROL OATES

The first 8 drafts are terrible. MALCOLM GLADWELL

Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving. NEIL GAIMAN 

Take the time to write. You can do your life's work in half an hour a day. ROBERT HASS 

You run it through your mind until your tuning fork is still. MARTIN AMIS

If you’re going to tell people the truth, be funny or they’ll kill you. BILLY WILDER 

An overflow of creative urges is the reward for indulging in the new. JULIA CAMERON

I think the hardest part about writing is writing. NORA EPHRON 

All I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world. E. B. WHITE 

Be obscure clearly. E.B. WHITE

Scenery is fine, but human nature is finer. JOHN KEATS

A word after a word after a word is power. MARGARET ATWOOD

The only way to become a better writer is to become a better person. BRENDA UELAND 

The writer must wade into life as into the sea, but only up to the navel. GUSTAVE FLAUBERT

There are techniques and skills to be learned for writing as in any profession or trade. All the stories fall into certain patterns of behavior that we call plots. Plots are nothing but a constantly recurring human situation, patterns of behavior. It’s my belief that 90% of all fiction is based on just 12 to 18 plots, and you can find them in any metropolitan newspaper in any given week. The same plots used by the ancient Greek dramatists were also used by Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens. Nobody “invents” a plot.  LOUIS L’AMOUR

Writing is the hardest work in the world not involving heavy lifting. PETE HAMILL

Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine. MARGARET ATWOOD
No whiners. This rule can be broken if you're talking to your writing partners. Then whine with élan.

I don’t grasp it very readily at all, the “it” being whatever I’m trying to do. ALICE MUNRO

If I’m going slow I’m in trouble. It means I’m pushing the words instead of being pulled by them. RAYMOND CHANDLER
This is my biggest sign that I'm going the wrong direction--the words just don't come. It feels like block, but it's only that I haven't found the right door yet. If I feel around the room blindly, I eventually find the handle.

We have to accept ourselves in order to write. Now none of us does that fully: few of us do it even halfway. Don’t wait for one hundred percent acceptance of yourself before you write, or even eight percent acceptance. Just write. The process of writing is an activity that teaches us about acceptance.  NATALIE GOLDBERG

I know I was writing stories when I was five. I don't know what I did before that. Just loafed, I suppose. P.G. Wodehouse

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. Robert Frost 

Once you’re into a story everything seems to apply ... Wherever you go, you meet part of your story. Eudora Welty

What keeps me writing is that I can only know through writing—my major sense organ is apparently a pencil.

The whole process of writing a novel is having this great, beautiful idea and then spoiling it.

I never think when I write; nobody can do two things at the same time and do them well.

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!

One of the things I had to learn as a writer was to trust the act of writing. —E. L. Doctorow

I write because I want more than one life; I insist on a wider selection. It’s greed, plain and simple. -- ANNE TYLER

There are only two things to write about: life and death. -- EDWARD ALBEE

I write pieces, and move them around. And the fun of it is watching the truthful parts slide together. What is false won't fit. -- ELIZ. STROUT

I have always kept notebooks and I go back to them over and over. They are my compost pile of ideas.—Louise Erdrich

I always begin with a character, or characters, and then try to think up as much action for them as possible.  -- JOHN IRVING

The imagination needs moodling—long, inefficient happy idling, dawdling and puttering. --BRENDA UELAND

When I finish a 1st draft, it's always just as much of a mess as it's always been. I still make the same mistakes every time. - MICHAEL CHABON

The process of rewriting is enjoyable, because you’re not in that existential panic when you don’t have a novel at all. - ROSE TREMAIN

Writing is the action of thinking, just as drawing is the action of seeing and composing music is the action of hearing. - BRENDA UELAND

Go looking for an idea and it'll show up. Begin now. Be a fucking soldier about it and be tough. - IRA GLASS

It just requires so much of you, and most of the time you feel dumb.- SALMAN RUSHDIE


You start at the stupid end of the book, and if you’re lucky you finish at the smart end. —SALMAN RUSHDIE


MindfulnessOctober 22, 2013

I feel like I have a new toy. I really do. (And it's not the fact that I'm now a New Zealand citizen, although that is AWESOME, too! I am sure my first sheep is on its way from the consulate. RIGHT?) This whole meditation thing has clicked, and it's because I'm using guided meditation, which--for me--has been the ultimate way to learn to do it. 

Doesn't guided meditation sound so woo-woo? Like you're going to lie on your back and someone will talk to you about imagining a field of lilies while really you're just trying desperately to keep from thinking about lunch? Or maybe you'll have to chant something at the end or pretzel your limbs into a position that you haven't been able to get into for fifteen years before drinking some tea that smells like feet?

What I've been doing is a meditation class. (I have no reason or motivation to pimp this except that it's Something Rachael Loves.) Andy Puddicombe, lovely man, talks to you as sit upright in your chair with your hands on your lap. This is something you can do at your desk if no one minds you closing your eyes for ten minutes. Or at the kitchen table. Or on the couch. (I have a low settee in my office that I use.) 

Then you listen to him talk you through things for a few minutes. If you've been reading my blog a while, you know that I have energy to spare. I don't sit still, ever, unless I'm sick. But during these sessions? I just rest. My mind rests, and my body rests. 

It's amazing to find that stillness. And it's even nicer to learn how to not worry about finding that stillness. It's there, you just go visit it, you don't have to do anything but show up. You don't have to make anything work. You just sit and breathe. (Before, when I'd tried, I'd always thought meditation was so much work.) 

The program starts with a free 10 day 10-minute course, and then if you like it, you can advance to a subscription, and the next course is 15 days of 15 minutes a day. Then you get 20 days of 20 minutes a day. I'm ten days into the 20 minute course, and I can tell you this: This section has blown my MIND. 

OMG I AM SO CALIFORNIA HIPPIE RIGHT NOW but dude, if you're reading this, so are you, so light up that nag champa and sit next to me on my locally-sourced hemp chair. (Just kidding. I freaking hate the smell of nag champa. Too many drunk nights as a college student with those sticks burning. Burn some sage instead.) 

Today I learned this: Permission. I think this may be a thing you have to learn on your own and I'm sure I've read it a million times as people chronicle their own discovery, but to me, that's what this mindfulness is all about. Giving yourself permission. You allow thoughts, feelings, and sensations* to arise and fall. 

Today, in the middle of the practice, I got a TERRIBLE itch in my eye. I mean, it was the rub-it-till-it-bleeds kind of itch. I thought, Oh, no! How am I going to resist this? How am I going to ignore it? How will I stay in the meditation, following my breath? 

I thought about what I'd learned in the last month or so and just gave my eye permission to itch. I kind of rested there. Go ahead. Itch. I don't mind. And I just went on breathing. 

My eye still itched. It's not like it went away. But I didn't care. It was just a thing. Eventually my eye watered and the itch died, and then later, I noticed it was gone. 

THIS IS HUGE, PEOPLE. I IGNORED SOMETHING. I didn't twitch, scratch, fret, or tic. When I sit and write, I can get 2500 words/hour and still fix my hair into three different buns in sixty seconds. I move. 

Meditation is being still. Being present. Giving yourself permission. Holy crap. 

If you're like me, a person who can't rest, you might want to give Get Some Headspace a try. 

And for the knitters who are still patiently reading, a bonus photo: 


My gorgeous friends, Juliet Blackwell and Sophie Littlefield in their new shawls. I rarely knit for family, and even more rarely for friends, but after my surgery last month -- even then -- I couldn't sit still. So I knitted a lot. (Super easy pattern, Shaelyn. I'm knitting my third now. It's addictive.) I love the look of delight on their faces in this shot. 

* My least favorite sensation I get during meditation is something that I've had happen in yoga classes, too. With my eyes closed, I feel as if my head is turned, looking over my left shoulder. IT IS NOT. It's dizzy-making and I hate it. Today it happened, too, and I said, All right. Then it went away. DUDE. 


Blatant BriberyOctober 17, 2013


The gist of the above video, if you don't have time to watch me and Digit perform: leave a review for any of my books on a book review site (not in the comments), and be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice. (Doesn't have to be a good review, just an honest one. Want to leave more reviews? Each review counts as one entry. If you're looking to read one of my books for the first time, might I recommend my newest one? Cora's Heart? Drop me an email at yarnagogo at gmail to tell me you reviewed something, and I'll enter you in the drawing. I'll draw on Halloween. SPOOKY, right?)  

And thank you, SO much. 

Also: WHY DO I NEVER REMEMBER TO BRUSH MY HAIR BEFORE I MAKE THESE MOVIES! Gah. At least my lipstick was on relatively straight. 

Cora's HeartOctober 8, 2013


It's here! It's finally here

Cora's Heart, available for the last few months in Australia and New Zealand, is now available in the US, Canada, and the UK in e-book form. 

It's not out yet in paperback, for those of you who love the feel of a real book (I do, too) -- it should be coming very soon, hopefully within the month. I was thisclose to not telling you all about the ebook versions until the paperback version was out, too, but I COULDN'T STAND IT. I had to tell you. 

See, I love this book. I really do. Wiith this book, I could actually feel my writing craft developing. I felt the characters grow under my fingertips, and I cared about them SO MUCH. I love Cora. She's neurotic and worried and likes to make contigency plans for everything. When the Big One hits, she'll be the one who will have her go-bag in the car, and she'll be carrying Advil and bandages for everyone. 

Of course, there are no contingency plans for love, especially when a large-animal vet named Mac comes back to Cypress Hollow. 

You can read an excerpt HERE if you'd like to, and I really, really hope you enjoy this visit to Cypress Hollow. 

Rachael who is so excited she can't STAND it. 

Available here:

Amazon UK

Paperback to come SOON! (Make sure you're on my mailing list so you don't miss the news!) 

Winner! October 1, 2013

The Revolution of Every Day goes to Amber D! I've emailed you privately, and thanks for entering, all!  (And for those of you who want the personalized touch on your copy of Cari's book, I happen to know she'll mail you a bookplate -- email her at cari at cariluna dot com.)

And now: I'm rushing back to get a project done by a completely arbitrary and therefore exciting deadline. I leave you with a look at how Clementine relaxes, with her ears straight out. 


Well, I suppose that's the safest way to sleep. Otherwise, you end up with sad, deflated ears and Digit vulturing you: 


And to increase your happiness level today, two songs from the new (perfect) Moby album, Innocents: 

 With Inyang Bassey -- that VOICE. 

 And this next one! With Cold Specks! Oh, this album is wonderful. Don't miss this: