Loading the wagons

My Top Ten Reasons To Move North To the Country (aside from the gushy romantic stuff mentioned in yesterday’s post):

10. Life is slower and people are nicer up there.
9. Cheese curds.
8. Clean air.
7. You can see a million stars at night.
6. Cows.
5. I love snow.
4. Coyotes, wild turkey, and foxes… in the back yard.
3. Lake Ontario.
2. Peace and quiet makes it easier to write.
1. It’s home.

Mer emptied out her room last night (thanks for the help, Michael!). Today I have to pack the dishes and return library books. Once that’s done, I’ll be ready to go. I’m giving myself until Tuesday to unpack everything and settle in, then I must dive back into the writing of my next book. I figured out what was bugging me about the plot and am psyched about fixing it. I would love to have a draft to show my editor by the end of August.

Much of the publishing world takes the month of August off, which is rather civilized, if you think about it. I am taking a two-week break from this journal (I think). I love writing here and corresponding with all of youse, so I might not be able to stay away. But don’t panic if I don’t post between now and August 15th.

Now go outside and play!

Leaving Pennsylvania

I have to return the cable box on Friday. We pick up the U-Haul Saturday morning. Everything I own is in boxes. The cupboard contains a can of green beans and a box of pasta. It’s almost time to move.

I came to Pennsylvania in 1989. I like it here. The people are brash and honest and hard-working and loving. The history geek in me adores all the old stuff in the museums. My kids have grown up here and received excellent public school educations (thank you, teachers!) in the North Penn and Hatboro-Horsham school districts.

Random things I will miss about suburban Philadelphia: Wawa, water ice, tomato pie, cheese steaks, the people at my post office, the Doylestown and Horsham libraries, Channel 6 Action News (action!), my writer’s group, Lou’s Bagels, people who really understand basketball, City Tavern, the accents, hysteria over two inches of snow, the train ride to New York City, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, marching band competitions, feudal municipal governments (entertaining to watch), soft pretzels with mustard, close-by Amish, strong urban art influences, Washington Square Park, and the word “Yo” (which translates roughly into “Hey”).

But my daughters have flown the nest (sigh). The nest is ready to move. Why?

1. The people here are nice, but there are too many of them. Google map Horsham, PA, where I live now. Then Google map Mexico, NY. See a difference? The population density in Montgomery County, PA is 1,553 people/square mile. The population density of Oswego County, NY is 128 people/square mile. I rest my case.

2. All those people mean stress and hassles. Traffic around Philly is an obscene nightmare and the drivers are getting more dangerous every year. (Longtime readers of this journal have heard me rant about people running red lights.) I hate, hate, hate, hate crazy drivers and wasting my time stuck in traffic.

3. I can only afford a small, dark apartment here. Everything is cheaper up North.

4. I have lots of family up there. (This is both good news and the bad news, depending on the day.)

5. I’ll be visiting Pennsylvania A LOT, so I’ll still enjoy the things I love. Stef and Mer go to college down here, and lots of schools have invited me to speak. So I’ll get my Wawa and cheesesteak fixes, I’ll get stuck in traffic, and at the end of my trips, I’ll be happy to head back to the country.

6. And last, but not least, the best reason to move is my Beloved Husband. We started dating three years ago and we knew it would be a long haul. Why? We lived 300 miles apart. We didn’t want to move any of our kids away from their friends or their other biological parents. We also didn’t want to abandon them while they were still in high school. So we’ve driven tens of thousands of miles and spent countless hours on the phone. (We got married last year – just couldn’t wait!) I don’t regret a second of it, because the kids have all benefited from our decision. But now that they are off to college, the wait is over. So, dear readers, I am moving for love.

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Beloved Husband and Me


I dreamt last night that I was Kenyan, that I lived in a village and assisted a husband-and-wife team of doctors who brought medical care to people way out in the countryside. It was a very good life.

I was startled to wake up and find out that it was not my life at all.

Writing and publishing questions

The nice thing about weddings – aside from the romance – is that they bring relatives together. I spent most of the weekend talking to various aunts and cousins and wishing we had more time together. My Awesome Son (age 13) spent the wedding and reception armed with a camera and doing a terrific job as photographer. I played my part, too – I made ten pounds of potato salad. I am not what you call a good cook, but I specialize in potato salad. I was very happy when it met with the approval of my aunts.

And now it is Monday and I must concentrate. Argh. I am moving on Saturday – moving 300 miles. Double argh. So many things to do, I don’t know what to do first.

I know! I’ll procrastinate! Let’s go to the mailbag!

Courtney writes: … during the summer we have to read a book from a author we like and write to the author and ask a question that our teacher gave us, then we must write a 2 page report on what our auther tells us and with that information we are supposed to say if we could how would we change one of the characters and one of the main points in the book. I would be very happy if you would write back. My question i got is: how do you create/develope a specific character or relationship to heighten the conflict in the book?

Great question. All stories need conflict. If your character doesn’t have a problem to solve, your character is boring. I think about my characters for months (usually) before I start writing. It is basically like creating an imaginary friend. I figure out what her life is like, what she loves, what she hates, what’s going on in her family, etc., etc., etc. In the course of making up my ‘friend” I see where she is facing conflict in her life – what her problems are. Then I put together scenes that force her to try to solve the problems. Your teacher might use the phrase “rising conflict” in class. That’s when a character faces a small problem in the beginning of a book, and the conflicts get bigger and more serious until The Really Big Problem has to be solved. And then the book ends. Good luck writing two pages about this.

Bill writes: …My granddaughter, S. E., when 13 sent me the below novel, “The Secret of Truth” , she has written many short stories and
is now at 15 finalizing a second novel, “Music of the Dead.” She has not gotten in to publishing. Just loves writing. What other option are there for her fiction?

You are a sweet grandfather and S.E. is very lucky to have you in her life. I am sorry to say I cannot comment on any novels or stories or poems sent to me. I just don’t have the time. Since she is only 15 and is writing for the love of it, I strongly suggest that you allow her to do just that – write for love. I am reluctant to push kids to get published when they are teenagers. It’s not a bad thing, and I understand the desire, but I think it creates a lot of frustrated young writers who give up their art.


When you start sending your work out there to be published, you are going to be rejected. Fact of life. No avoiding it. Everybody gets rejected. Speak was rejected. Adults who are trying to be published understand this (more or less) and gut it out – they endure the rejections, continue to hone their craft, and eventually break through. Most teens do not have skin thick enough to survive the rejection. They get two or three rejection letters and they think “That’s it, I have no talent, worth, or value. I suck. I will never write again.” And they quit, and that’s a crime.

Notice I said “most teens.” Some teens are savvy about the world of publishing. They are prepared for the rejections and they dive in nonetheless. That’s cool. But you said your granddaugher “has not gotten in to publishing.” She “just loves writing.” Let her love it. Let her write for fun, learn her craft, use writing as a healthy escape from reality and a lens to help her make sense of the world. If she wants to try being published, she’ll research the process and figure it out.

Just need to stop for gas

I’m hitting the road again, this time to travel for a cousin’s wedding. I might have time to post later, but if not, see y’all Monday.

Congratulations Barrie Lyn and Kevin!