Managing an unruly manuscript – or life: Tip #3 Momentum

Fifty Thousand Words in a month – instant momentum, right?

For me, winning NaNoWriMo wasn’t enough to keep my life from stopping me cold. Those of you familiar with the erratic nature of my process understand how susceptible I am to the vagaries of circumstance and distraction. Add to this a crippling sense of dread, thinking my shitty first draft was, indeed, shittier than even the intrepid Anne Lamott could salvage, and I had the makings of a complete failure to launch.

Steve Jurvetson
FlickrSteve Jurvetson

Then my writing buddy, Sarah Ward (author of Stone Sisters), announced she had her house to herself and we were going to have a mini retreat. Robyn Young  (owner of and blogger for MoneyCare) joined us. Sarah started us off with a creativlity exercise.

I hate creativity exercises.

But I was dreading revisiting my manuscript even more, so I played along, flipping through dozens of magazines, cutting out pictures for a collage that could be about writing or life, which I soon found blurry in distinction. We devoted an hour of the agenda to this exercise. Three crazy fun hours later, my imaginations was thrumming:


And for the first time since November 30, I felt like a writer who felt like writing.

We settled in our respective nests and went to work. I pulled up the NaNaWriMo version of Novel #2, saved a new version under the working title, and stared at page 1. Then page 2. And 3, 4, 5 – making little adjustments here and there, and some notes, but mostly reading to reacquaint myself with the story.

Then I felt it. A sense of excitement, similar to what I felt when writing Stella Rose.

This could be good. This could be really good.

I wrote for hours. I wanted to write for days.

Stella Rose took me five years. I want this novel to take two. As with any of life’s endeavors, the difference will be the ability to establish and maintain momentum.

Sheila Sund
FlickrSheila Sund

Five ways to maintain momentum:

Go public. When I was ready to get down to brass tacks with STELLA ROSE, I announced it on Facebook and Twitter, and sent an email to all my personal contacts. I asked you to hold me accountable.  Boy, did you ever.

Go for it. Write fearlessly to keep myself surprised and coming back for more.

Go big/long. I’m a binge writer, preferring large swaths of time to sink into the work. Writing retreats – weekends or week long – luxury! Or long afternoons at Phoenix Books.

Go back. Revise Revise Revise

Go often. Despite the foregoing declared preference for binge writing, showing up consistently is the most effective way to get me to the finish line in two years. Truthfully, it’s the only way. #assinthechair

Wish me luck!

How about you – How do you maintain momentum in your endeavors of the heart?


Flickr pics:

Happy Anniversary, Stella Rose!

Today is our anniversary. And it’s a happy one, all because of you.

Yes, you.

Rewind: Nausea roiled through me a year ago when I read the first emails from well-meaning friends alerting me to the fact that Amazon was shipping pre-orders nearly two weeks ahead of my pub date. Terror swamped my excitement. This dream I had worked so hard to launch was about to be torpedoed by fear.

Then I remembered what a wise woman (the incomparable Lea Belair) once told me: We do our best work when we are excited and afraid. Excitement keeps us moving forward; fear keeps us from doing stupid things along the way – ensuring we don’t go off the rails, ensuring we do our best work. She said this much more eloquently than I just did, but the essence stuck with me. It surfaces at such times, like a compress placed across a fevered forehead.

I reached deep into my psyche, hauled my excitement back to the surface, placed it on the shelf right next to fear.  I blogged about my anxiety and reminded myself I was right where I chose to be – despite the palpitations and sleepless nights. I promised myself I would show up, no matter what. So I did.

Carol 1

And so did you.

042IMG_5676IMG_5682 photo 3

The Girls, Ogunquit, 2011

You showed up at book stores and libraries, at book groups and the farmers market and cafes, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and email, you read reviews on line and in the St. Albans Messenger, Seven Days and Vermont Woman, you left reviews on GoodReads and Amazon. You showed up in my inbox with private messages of goodwill – many of you total strangers, now friends for life. You sent cards and letters. You cheered me up and cheered me on. You bore witness.

037 CaitlinSouth Burlington photo 4 (3) Porter Square Letter Writing

Everywhere I went, you were there.

Group III   Bank Square Books Group Photo IMG_2257Pat's group in Fairfield 11_11_15 0100502b-87a1-417a-9b78-512d8844439a Beth and John

Not unlike the year in Stella Rose, this year began with fear, anxiety, and crippling self-doubt, and ended with countless opportunities to show up with courage, passion, and delight.  All because of you.


I am grateful beyond measure, beyond words.


I love you.

Happy Anniversary, Stella Rose!

Happy Anniversary to all of us!

Abandoning Art and Soul

I haven’t been writing. At. All. I can’t even pump out 500 words on a bi-weekly basis these days.


Let’s just say that in the first week of December my life took an unexpected and stressful turn. Don’t cry for me, Argentina. I’m well and will be good as new emotionally once I get my legs under me. I’m much better off than too many people out there with more serious problems.  Even so, life is relative, and mine rather sucks right now.

And here’s a truth: I still show up for my day job. I’ve been distracted, sure, but I haven’t skipped a beat, not let one ball drop, because they need me. Most colleagues have no idea my life is a mess because I am a professional.

So how about my writing job? Have I shown up?


Here’s a harder truth: For my writing, I’ve been a complete no-show.


Home Office from Doorway

The going got tough, and I abandoned my art and soul.

Many artists create through their pain, use their suffering to fuel their art, express their sorrow through their media – brash paintings, harsh and poignant lyrics, caustic essays or blog posts.

Me? I shut down completely. My creative juices become sludge in my veins. All I want to do after I’ve powered through the work day is don my jammies and watch trash television. Bonus! It’s an election year, so there is no shortage of mind-numbing escape from my real life.

I think about writing, and I feel overwhelmed. I cannot lift a finger to the keyboard except to check Facebook and Twitter, and compulsively check work email.

Then this week I met with a wonderful woman named Carol and her book group in Illinois, via Skype. They peppered me with smart questions and contributed astute observations during a lively discussion filled with laughter and good will. I could feel my mojo returning. Afterwards, Carol sent me a picture of herself with her granddaughter. When I remarked on Carol‘s loveliness, she told me she hoped to stay healthy to enjoy her two granddaughters for a long time. And then she said:  “That requires relaxing with a good book and a glass of wine, so keep on writing!!!!!   I need you :-)”

She needs me.

And I haven’t been showing up.

I have not been professional.

Instead of pouting about how I’m “not in the right place emotionally to produce,” I could have shown up, ass in the chair, writing something, anything – a grocery list, a pro/cons list outlining the rest of my life, an instruction manual for mid-life transitions – all as writing practice if nothing else, and all better than binge-watching  DVR’d episodes of The Daily Show.

It’s time to get my ass back in the chair.

ReWriteRetreat Cockpit

Carol needs me.

And I need to write.

Happy Holidays Team Stella Rose!


Though I’m a writer, words cannot express my gratitude for your outpouring of love and support for the launch of STELLA ROSE. I’ve known many of you for years; others I’ve met during this amazing publication journey. You all mean the world to me. Thank you for being part of the village.
Writing STELLA ROSE was hard and rewarding, both beyond measure. Bringing STELLA ROSE out into the world proved even harder – and even more rewarding because of you. There were days I was overwhelmed and scared (public speaking – UGH) and discouraged, and then you would show up – at events, on social media, with special emails, texts, cards, and letters. You cheered me on, told me you were moved by the story, shared it with your friends.You chased away the fear and the self-doubt. You sustained me. You made this dream come true for me, and I am ever grateful.

South Burlington photo 4 (3) Caitlin Group NorthshireShe Writes Crew at Park NYC after BEA IMG_5676 042 George photo 3 AuthorsStore Frontphoto 3 (7)037268storeatnightPorter Square Letter WritingStella Rose Book Launch Party Tshirt winnerBBF 1A happy fan purchasing several copies of Stella Rose.ExteriorAuthor Tammy Flanders Hetrick meets her youngest fan!Facade

Thank you.
I wish you all great happiness, abiding peace, and much love through the holiday season and beyond. I love you all and look forward to sharing more adventures with you in 2016.
Temari 09
Temari 09
Peace and Love,

Giving Thanks for My Writing Village

It’s Thanksgiving and I have much to be thankful for. This has been a big year in my writing life, all because of the village it’s taken to publish STELLA ROSE. I am grateful for:

  1. Angela – For being my best friend and inspiring the character, Abby. You have always been and will always be the yin to my yang.
  2. The Girls – For inspiring The Girls in the novel, and for inspiring me with your unique quirks and your collective soul.

    The Girls, Ogunquit, 2011
    The Girls, Ogunquit, 2011
  3. Aaron and Ariel – Together you inspired Olivia and so much more, keeping me on my toes as a Mom and a person.

    The Kids, circa 2012
  4. The Tuesday Night Writers Who Meet On Wednesdays – For giving feedback and love back, for reading shitty first drafts and second drafts and random pieces here and there. Lucy – For sharing your struggle through your eloquent poetry, and inspiring the plot for STELLA ROSE. And Sarah, for being there from the beginning, and writing by my side to this day.
  5. Lesley Payne – For being an editor with a sharp red pen and gentle spirit who could tell me what sucked and somehow make me feel better about the manuscript at the same time, and for telling me at the end you could cut no more because you loved the story too much.

    The Manuscript, circa 2011
  6. She Writes Press – For being a hybrid press run by women for women, happy to publish my book and make me feel part of the process, not left out alone in the cold world of publishing, and for introducing me to all these wonderful SWP Sister Authors!

    She Writes Crew at Park NYC after BEA
    She Writes Press staff and authors take BEA 2015 by storm
  7. Caitlin Hamilton – The best publicist ever, my own dearth of experience with publicists notwithstanding, for making this journey fun when it could have been an overwhelmingly gross stress-fest, and for holding my hand all the way from Tennessee.

    Caitlin and I met in person for the first time at BEA 2015 in NYC
  8. Cara Mezitt – For ‘getting’ me and Stella Rose from the get-go, for manifesting my vision for a beautiful social media platform by designing the look and feel of my website and blogs, and designing the most beautiful book cover ever.
  9. Bootstrap Syndicate – To Jen and Nikki for configuring the mechanics of my website, offering 24 hour customer service, and for supplementing my voice in the early days of the campaign.
  10. YOU, my readers and fans – Many of you have been with me since well before STELLA ROSE was a single word on a page, cheering me on for years, believing in me when I had no idea if I would ever pull this off, cheering wildly when it finally happened. Others among you read STELLA ROSE and were moved enough to reach out on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, comment on my blogs, reach out via email, and come to my events. Nothing means more to a debut novelist – or any writer – than appreciative, supportive readers.

    Stella Rose Launch Party, May 2015

To all of you, my deepest, sincerest gratitude for making STELLA ROSE a dream come true. I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and peace and happiness through the holiday season.