Fiction Friday: What are YOU Reading this Summer?!

By Leslie Lindsay

Instead of throwing out another excerpt of what I am writing today, thought I’d share a few of my must-read summer selections.  Whether you’re going away to a tropical location or just sitting comfortably in an air conditioned library, I am sure you, too have a love for reading. 

Here goes!

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan.  Who doesn’t love J. Courtney Sullivan and her epic stories of girlfriends in college (Commencement), East Coast Irish-Catholic families (Maine) and now her lastest, THE ENGAGEMENTS?  This one is a slice of American–and Product DetailsFrench–marriage.  Cascading through time, going back as far as 1947 and ending with “present-day” 2012, we meet a host of characters, from Frances a single woman in the 1940s-50’s who coined the phrase, “A diamond is forever” to 1972 and the scandal of divorce, moving right along to 1987 and the world of paramedics and a family struggling financially…to 2003 where we delve into a world of music and all things French and finally wrapping things up with a gay wedding of 2012. 

Caroline Leavitt’s IS THIS TOMORROW also hits my Summer reading list.  Loved this portrayal of a single Jewish mother raising a son in the 1950’s suburbs of Boston.  When one of the son’s friends goes missing, the entire community is baffled.  Part history, part suspence, part women’s fiction, we are thrust into a world of secrets, lies and Product Detailsdisillusionment.  The books transcends time and culture with the advent of a male nursing assistant in 1963, as well as single–and dating–Jewish mothers of the 1950’s.  According to Ms. Leavitt, “I was an only Jewish kid growing up in the Christian suburbs and I wanted to write about that.” 

HE’S GONE by  Deb Caletti truly resonated with me.  Wow.  This book was packed with wonderful description and imagery, gritty and compelling language, and with a Product Detailstwist I didn’t really see coming.  Well, parts of it I did.  What would happen if you woke up one morning and your spouse was just gone?  This is what Dani Keller experiences one Sunday…a day turns into two and then a week.  Where is her husband?!  This one reminded me a lot of last summer’s GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn (which, is another must-read). 

THE LONGINGS OF WAYWARD GIRLS by debut novelist Angela Brown.  While this author has published short stories (and poetry, I believe), she now has her first novel coming onto the scene July 2nd.  This one is also set in New England summer suburbia  where the days are long and the longings are…well, it’s all about the split between adolesence and childhood.  Looks captivating. 

SISTERLAND.  A new book from author Curtis Sittenfeld.  A to-be-released any day book, this one is definitely on my to-read list.  Twin sisters just happen to be psychic.  One of them is named Kate (my daughter’s name) and it takes place in the St. Louis area (my hometown)

 To See what the Editors of Writer’s Digest of Reading this Summer, Click here:

Write on, Wednesday: A Second Grade Intro to Fiction Writing

By Leslie Lindsay Misc Feb-March 2013 012

At then end of this past school year, my newly-minted little 3rd grader came home with a bag full of stuff from 2nd grade.  In it, I came across this cute little construction paper project which must have been created in her Word Study unit.  I just had to share!  My second-grader was learning all of these wonderful writing terms like: 

  • The main character:  The Girl in Gooney Bird Green, a book they were reading as a class.
  • Secondary character: the parents….
  • Flashback
  • Flashforward
  • Suspense

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I was totally impressed!  Did you learn these components of fiction writing as early as 8 years old?  I don’t think I did! 

Just think of what kind of jump-start our youngest little authors may have over those who didn’t get started this young…that is, if she wants to be a writer! 

Looking at these school papers got me interested in looking at my own work-in-progress, as elementary as that may be.  Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Who are my main characters?  Secondary ones?  Teriatry characters?  What purpose do they all have?  Are they all necessary? 
  • How about suspense?  Do I have it?  How much?  Is the story–and suspense–paced right? 
  • Do I have any strong messages I want my reader to take away from reading this book (themes)?  What are they? How effective are my flashbacks (backstory)?  Do I have too much?  Too little?  Can I reveal it in the right amount of time, considering pacing? 
  • And come to think of it–I am not sure if I have any flashforwards.

Sometimes, writing a novel can be very straightforward–hey, if they are teaching it to our 2nd graders, an adult surely can do it, right?!

Write on, Wednesday! 



The Teacher is Talking Tuesday: Creating a Travel Journal

By Leslie Lindsay

We’re heading on a good old-fashioned family vacation, but I wanted to make sure the kiddos were occupied, having fun, and learning something.  All of those fun skills we hope to instill in our children all year long, but this one was actually inspired when I hopped into a craft store recently. 

I grabbed a handful of vacation-themed stickers, including words I thought my kids could read and appreciate…fun, family, exciting, sweet, memories.  Many of the stickers I found were on sale or clearance, too–an added bonus!  Then I headed to the Scrapbook section.  I ended up getting Smashbooks cause they were on sale. (oftentimes these stores have coupons for percent or dollars off if you subscribe to their emails). 

If you try this idea:

  • Get stickers that intentionally match your destination.  I was amazed at vast variety of stickers…beaches, lighthouses, cacti, Disney, boats, fishing, the desert, nautical things…you name it, they’ve got it!
  • If you have more than one child who will be keeping a travel journal, remember that many sticker packs contain two sheets.  Divide ’em up instead of buying multiple (and sometimes, costly packs).
  • Give them a small pack of colorful pens or markers that they are in charge of for using in their journal. 
  • Kids like small, portable things. Our Smashbooks are the smaller variety.
  • If you’d like, let your older children have an inexpensive camera to take photos.  Paste ’em in the travel journal.  Also consider those disposable cameras if you don’t want to shell out the money for a camera. 
  • Collect things from your vacation…brochures, pamphlets, coins (the smash-a-penny things are very popular with my kids), sand, a cool rock, postcards.  Paste ’em in your book.
  • Give your kids writing prompts.  What was the most fun thing we did today?  Write about that using showing words (instead of telling words).  Make it interesting.  Or, try this one:  Write down the schedule of our day.  (what time we woke up, what we did next, and then…This skill works on sequencing and memory).  Keep a food diary for day on vacation.  Baby Shadow box and Travel Journal 010
  • Make the journal a daily habit.  Also, give them some new vocabularly that may be regional to the area you are visiting (regionalisms).  How about a ‘lobster roll’ in Cape Cod or ‘Uffda’ in Minnesota?  A ‘bubbler’ in Wisconsin?  What other regionalisms can you think of?  You’ll be surprised if you start listening to the locals speak.
  • Have fun!
  • Look back on your journal often.  Folks who have souveniers displayed in their home are generally happier. 

Fiction Friday: Getting Darker

By Leslie Lindsay Fiction Friday:

Working at making my novel-in-progress a little darker, a little grittier.  I think this helps.  It’s set in the main character’s college days.  Remember, this is original work, not to be copied or shared as your own.  Thanks….and enjoy!!

“I used to imagine it sometimes, what would happen if I just didn’t come home.  The thought always came to me when I was feeling particularly unworthy, lacking confidence, seeking attention.  God, I hated how that sounded; like I was an attention-seeking borderline threatening to run off or take my own life.  I could never do that, not really anyway.  The thought was always more about sharing my pain with others, letting them know just how miserable I felt deep down.  My desire to disappear came forth in the form of generosity.  Let me show you how I feel; Welcome to my personal hell; you should feel lucky.

          They were anything but lucky.  My desperation and irritability put a shield around me, making me lonely in busy world. 

          “I wish I could just drive my car off a cliff,” I’d say.  Or, perhaps I met my demise in some other way; the 18-wheeler would come barreling into my tiny Toyota crushing it like a tin can, with me in the driver’s seat.  My short life would flash before my eyes, summer camps and dance recitals, class photos, and crushes. Steve.

          Whatever it was, something terrible would happen and my friends and family—would have to return to my apartment to find all of the daily pieces of my interrupted life.  My dad would see the microbiology text left open on my desk, those tiny colored tabs ruffling the edges of the book.  Remember this.  Memorize that.  My mother would pick up my thong underwear in the corner of the room with her manicured nails and wonder why I spent money on a piece of clothing that covered so little. My roommate would thumb through the mail and set aside the Psychology Today magazine.  There would be to-do notes and lists throughout my bedroom, a brush with hair still entwined in it, Tom Petty stuck in the CD player, framed photos of me and friends, a smattering of greeting cards propped up like dummies. 

          This is how it would look.  A snapshot of my life.  Don’t touch it.  It’s my life.  I would try with all of my might to communicate the message but I would be gone.  Dead, probably.   Because running off wouldn’t be enough.

          Hiding out can only last so long.  Eventually one has to come back, reclaim their old life, or find a new one.  And really, who can reinvent themselves?  We think we can, but when it comes down to it, our personalities are so ingrained, it would be impossible. 

          So being dead would be better. 

          Friends and family—and people I don’t even know would come to my funeral.  They’d wear black and bow their heads and mutter things like she was such a nice person, always smiling…I had no idea…such a tragedy…she held so much promise.  They’d lay flowers on my casket and hug and shed some tears.

          And Steve would be there, too.  His eyes would be glassy and bloodshot, a dark suit, three-days worth of scruff.  He’d lean in and whisper to my parents, “I really loved her, you know?”  They’d nod and pull Steve into a three-way embrace, tears streaming down momma’s face.  Dad would reach up and touch the corner of his eye, but no tears would flow.  After the hug, they’d hold Steve with outstretched arms, resting their hands on his broad shoulders, “You were good for her, son,” they’d say and this time, they’d mean it.  They’d be sorry it was over.  Sorry they never accepted him like I had. 

          Steve would press his lips into a tight line and nod solemnly, his gaze gliding to the open doorway where Beth Donovan sits on a divan in a gray dress and black heels.  She’d twist her face into the doorway of the funeral parlor and there may be tears because she’s my age and she knows that it could have easily have been her who was side-smacked in an accident. How fleeting—and precious life can be.  Perhaps the tears were because she knew she caused my death.

Write On, Wednesday: Pantser versus Plotter

By Leslie LindsayWrite On, Wednesday:  Creating a World So Believable Your Critique Partners Think You're Having an Affair

I thought I would share a little insight from my daughter’s second grade classroom this past spring.  Since it’s about the components of fiction writing, I thought it would work.  And it probably still will.  But I am not in the mood for it today. 

That’s what makes me a panster.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term, let me enlighten you.  A pantser is a person who flies by the seat of their pants when writing.  There is no piddly outline to follow, no hidden agenda.  The pantser loves to write.  Well, the plotter probably does, too I can’t really speak to that being that I am not a plotter.  Like.  At.  All. 

The mere mention of an outline scares the heebie-jeebies outta me.  Here’s the reason:  I hated them in school. They stifle my creativity, my flow, and were just pointless.  (Could it be the same reason I turn into a cold sweat when I hear the word budget?)

But is there a right way or a wrong way to be a writer? 


It all just depends on who you are and how you operate.  Here’s an example, I’m exchanging material with my critique partner and she wants to know what the inside of my character’s home looks like.  I scratch my head and stare at my computer as if if that is going to reveal the interior of her home. 

“Um…well, the inside…it hasn’t really been revealed to me.” I respond over email. 

She writes back, “Ahh…the difference between the plotter and the pantser.” 

You may be nodding your head in agreement or completely baffled.  That’s okay.  You may think my response, “it hasn’t been revealed to me,” is totally 100% bonkers.  I’m one of those new-age freaks who get revealtions.  I assure you, I am not. 

My critique partner, whom I love dearly shares that she can’t even write a word till she has a decent working title.  Whoa!  Back the plotter train up.  Not even a word?  Now that is some serious plotting.  She follows this up with her character’s home, “I have pictures ripped from magazines and catalogs on my board before I even start writing about her home.” 

While I love the idea of really getting into a character’s head like that, I just don’t know I could be so constrained.  As a creative person, I want to be able to play with words on paper, shaping them into the overall story I want to tell.

And sometimes that means re-writing, which is exactly where I am right now in the process.  Another truth revealed to me today, “Plotter’s have an easier time with revisions.” 

I can vouch for that.  As I was hip-deep into second draft revisions, the story morphed into something else altogether.  My characters spoke to me, a plea that they had other ideas.  So, instead of revising,  the act of “looking at something again,” I am rewriting.  The story has the same premise, it’s just a bit darker, a little wonkier.  And that’s something I am happy with. 

For now.

Write on, Wednesday!

Fiction Friday:

By Leslie Lindsay Fiction Friday:

You know how reading a really gripping book can get your creativity flowing?  Well, it worked wonders for me this past week as I dove (quite literally) into Deb Caletti’s book, HE’S GONE (Bantam, 2013). 

While this book is about remarried woman who wakes on a typical Sunday morning only to find her husband is missing, it has little to do with first love, which my novel is about.  Dani (Caletti’s female character) can’t remember them coming home the night before, she’s stumped.  Over the course of 10 days, she recounts every last moment together, the words they said, the moments they shared trying to recreate the possibility of what happened.  I was particularly taken with Caletti’s well-crafted sentences, the gritty language, and overall gripping tale that our lives–and our marriages aren’t always what they seem.

Interested in how HE’S GONE sparked my own creativity?  Here’s an excerpt written just last evening that will go into Slippery Slope (working title). 

“I can’t sleep.  The sheets are all baggy and sweaty.  Joe lies next to me, the hill of his shoulders lifting up with every inhale, a valley with every exhale.  He says I am his ocean, deep and pure.  Love can move mountains. 

The notebook I bought for these interrupted nights rests on the bedside table, amid the reading glasses, pens, and catalogs.  We write to taste life twice.  God, I love that quote.  Hearing the words pour from my internal dialogue, seeing the letters fall on the crisp paper, the sweet taste of those letters.  They pop-sizzle-pop like cheeries on my tongue, encompassing all of my senses.  Yet, I can’t make myself roll over and reach for it. 

My eyes glance back at Joe sleeping peacefully in the moonlight. It’s amazing how much the human eye can see in a darkened space.  Rods and cones, pupils and irises.  The mind’s eye.  Is he dreaming?  Of what?  His body is splayed like an exclamation mark, a warning.  What, Joe goes on inside of your mind as you are drifting into sleep, when you are stuck in that limbo land of awake-not-yet-asleep state?  Are there microcosms of thought twisting around an impetus of me and our family? 

Are there strobes of light and color gnarling, shaping, molding images of sprightly love?  Innocence and remembering.  Her. Your first love. 

I groan and reach for my notebook.  I’ve got to get these ideas down.  I pick it up; it feels of cool—malleable—those thoughts and ideas bending, my brain molding the thoughts into words I can transcribe. 

Joe mumbles something in his sleep.  It doesn’t sound like anything intelligible.  He huffs and jerks the sheet away from me, rolling his body onto his side, facing away from me; two lovers split, a bifurcation.  I swallow and twist my legs to the edge of the bed, dangling them over the edge.  Inhale, exhale.  The room smells of sticky, sour sleep.  The notebook beckons me.  Open me.  Write onto my pages.  Your secrets are safe here.

I lean forward snapping the notebook into my grasp.  The problem with words, once spoken they can never be retracted; once written they remain forever, like fingerprints on a heart. 

In the master bath, I flip on the light, close the door.  My legs are wobbly and weak, I let my body slide down, broken and confused.  The notebook falls from my hands, a splat on the tile, splayed open to a blank page.  I lean forward, rubbing my face in my hands.  The thoughts need to go away.  They need to get out my head.  I take the pen from the coiled binding of the notebook  and let my hand flow along the pages.  I have no idea what I am thinking, no idea of what to write.  My mind seems to know something I do not. 

1868.  You and me.  In the English countryside.  Stonewalls and moss.  Gray-blue skies.  Flowers and clover.  Violet.  Secret rendezvous.  Violent.  A class difference.  A life-long chase.  A marriage.  A binding.  A contract.  You promised. Steve.  SFK.  ILY.  Make the thoughts go away.  Violent, violet.  Again.  Violent, violet.  Again.  Violent, violet.    


My eyes assess the words, they mean nothing.  My head pounds, a loud banging, pulsing between my ears.  I am spent, tired.  Bound and broken on the floor. I reach up and grab the doorknob, stretching with my fingertips.  It feels so far away.  I press my body on the door, twist the knob.  The door opens and the weight of my body pushes me forward into the room.  I lay there for ten seconds, two minutes.  Honestly, I don’t know how long my body lays prone. 

I stir to the sound of Joe’s snoring.  He says he doesn’t snore, but he does.  The wind blows through the crack in the window, the curtains dance, moonlight falls on my bare legs.  I stand, ruffle the wrinkles from my nightshirt and shuffle to the medicine cabinet.  A past dental procedure.  Vicodin.  It glows like an amulet, a promise of good fortune.  It’s old, but I don’t care.  Maybe the half-life has expired; it’ll be less potent now.  I twist the child-safety cap and pop a pill into my mouth.  I turn the facet on, tip my head and cup my hands as I slurp the medication into my body.”

[Remember, this is an orginal work of fiction.  Copying or distributing as your own is strictly prohibited.]

For more information on Deb Caletti or HE’S GONE, please see:  Product Details(image retrieved from 6.14.13)

The Teacher is Talking: Summer Literacy Fun

By Leslie Lindsay

It may be summer but your kiddos still need to stretch their brains.  Here’s a fun way to keep the words a coming!375cc-summer-reading-draft-031609

  • Visit your library and stuff a basket full of books.  Try some new genres!  My 8 year old daughter was found browsing in the juvenile history section. Her favorite selections–Ancient Egypt, and the history of the Titantic. 
  • Start a journal.  Pick one up at your favorite discount store.  Write in it everyday…simple things like what you did and where you went will suffice.  If you (or your child) feels like going deeper, go for it!
  • Make a list of your favorite foods, put them in ABC order.  Maybe it’s a list of all of your favorite summertime foods: corn on the cob, watermelon, pasta salad.  Ask your mom to make some of those favorite dishes as a way to count down the days.
  • Stage a scavenger/nature hunt, create a map, make a list of things to find.  Gather some friends and go!
  • Read a book to your younger siblings or neighborhood friends.  Can you be the teacher? 
  • Look for words in hidden places.  Can you find words within words on street signs, billboards, around town?  What about in the pile of junk mail (ask mom and dad what mail you can sort through, first).
  • Sort through some magazines and catalogs and create a collage.  Make it all the same color, or make theme be that everything starts with the same letter/sound.  Get really challenging and make the same color/same sound. 
  • Read anything today!  An instruction manual, the back of a cereal box, a magazine or newspaper…then write a one paragraph summary of what you read.
  • Grab a friend or a sibling and write summer time words on your driveway or sidewalk.  Or, make a list of all of the things you’d like to do this summer: eat ice cream, catch butterflies, go to the splash pad, play kickball…maybe even dream a little…go to Disney, run on the beach.  The possibilities are endless!
  • Write and then perform a short play.  Adapt this to make it like Reader’s Theatre (read the script/no need to memorize, no props). 
  • Observe the night sky.  We do this on “Firepit Friday.”  Have a bonfire, roast some marshmallows and lean back and look at the sky.  What’d you see?  Can you describe it in using a new array of adjectives? Shimmery?  Sparkly?  Vast?  Bring a dictionary or thesarus with you.

What other ideas do you have?  Share them, share them!! 

Class dismissed…

Write On, Wednesday! Writing about Home

By Leslie Lindsay

Lately, a lot of the books I have read for pleasure have this underlying theme of home–and so does the novel I am working on.  Coincidence?  Perhaps.  We tend to be better writers when we read content that interests us–and that’s written in a compelling manner.  We also tend to gravitate towards information that may have some connection to what we are currently working on, struggling with, or have an innate interest in–it’s all the power of the subconcious. 

So, what have I been reading? 

  • THE GLASS WIVES by Amy Sue Nathan.  Home and family shifts for Evie Glass, but she still remains rooted in family. 
  • IS THIS TOMORROW by Caroline Leavitt.  A 12-year old boy goes missing in 1950’s suburbia. 
  • WHAT ALICE FORGOT by Laine Moriarty.  This one is actually a re-read.  Since the main (suburban) character loses her memory, I was drawn back to this one as research for my novel-in-progress, hoping to glean a few instances I may have…ahem…forgotten.
  • BLINK by Malcolm Gladwell.  This guy always fascintates me!  His other books line my bookshelves, too.  Okay, it really doesn’t have a ton to do with “home,” but it has a lot of great information on priming, which is the psychological term for preparing yourself/your unconscious for generating ideas, feelings, concepts.  Will it help with my novel?  You bet!

Since today’s topic has to do with writing about home–a concept woven into many books and so dear to our world, I wanted to emphasize–and share–some of the techniques I learned from the Writer’s Institute in Madison this past spring. 

I attended a session called “The Trail of Breadcrumbs:  How to Find the Way Back Home.”  It was taught by Angela Voras-Hills, (a Madison writer, editor, & intructor) and it really got me thinking about my childhood home.  While I realize not every project that encompasses “home” will have to do with childhood, this particular class did.  Some tips I gleaned:

  • Home is where you are your truest self
  • Home does not always equal house
  • Home is a psychological journey; it’s dynamic
  • Tie in regionalisms to your home story.  (“A schmear of horseraddish” was used as an example in class.  What other regionalisms might you incorporate for your hometown?)
  • Incorporate sensory details.  How did that see/feel/taste?  In writing we use auditory and visual details a lot…throw in something lovely, but unexpected.
  • Try to leave out the nostalgia. You must be slightly detached to make “your” memories of home come alive to a reader who didn’t experience it first hand.

So what are you waiting for…Write On, Wednesday!!


The Teacher is Talking: Getting Resourceful for Summer Break

By Leslie Lindsay

It may be summer break in most areas of the country, so your classroom is bound to be shifting a bit.  Instead of neat rows of desks lined up in your neighborhood school, your child’s classroom is now the playground, the nature trail, the swimming pool, or perhaps a friendly day camp. 

There are plenty of ways to “sneak” in summer learning without being overly teacher-ly.  Here are some ideas uncovered in just the last few days for little or no cost to you.

  • Michaels Craft Stores have two summer tracks you may be interested in following.  Track One:  Kids Club. Meets every Saturday, starting June 1st and going thru July 6th.  For ages 3+, kids can benefit from a 30-minute hands-on crafting activity (all supplies included) with a Michaels staff member and bring home a craft. ($2/child). (Examples:  Father’s Day Card, Father’s Day Duck Tape Frame, Silly Shells,  4th of July Hat, and Summer Games).  All classes run every 30 minutes from 10-12noon. 
  • Michaels Craft Stores Track Two: Passport to Imagination. Explore the 7 continents and their amazing landmarks and icons in this 7-week voyage “around the globe!” For just $2 and 2-hours, kids can participate in a crafting adventure Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays beginning June 17th.  You must register to join the fun and reserve your spot.
  •   Check your local library!  Remember those fun summer reading book programs from your day a child?  Chances are, your library is still doing something similar for this generation.  Our library hosts a reading group, book logs, suggested titles, and small prizes for achieving certain levels.  Libraries often have low-cost or no-cost afternoon and evening programs designed just for kids and families. 
  • You may also consider hosting a pee-wee book group.  Pick a theme or a classic title geared to your child’s ages and interests. Invite a few friends (3-4 is a good number to start) and get reading. Parents, you read the book, too!  Pick an interval that works for you–meet weekly  (or twice weekly) to discuss your progress, or when the book is complete.  Make it fun!  Bake, draw, paint, or craft an activity to go along with your book.  (At our house, we’re planning to read several chapter books about 3rd grade).  For younger kids, try a series of picture books like Fancy Nancy or Thomas the Tank Engine.  Double-duty:  get reading hours for that library summer reading log while spending time with friends!
  • Panera Bread offers a BIT Kids program.  That’s Baker-in-Training.  Great for scouts and other service-minded groups, but also for kiddos who love to bake!  Reservations must be made in advance, classes are typically 1.5 hours and require a minimum of 10 kiddos ages 5-12 years.  An adult chaperone is also required to stay for every 5 children. 
  • Gather up a group of friends from your kiddie book group, neighbors, or moms and tots group.  For more information,

More ideas coming up next week!  For now–it’s summer–keep it fun, fresh, and educational!  Class dismissed…