A Couple of Reasons to Take a Class


There are tons of excellent reasons to take classes, including:

  • You can learn something;
  • You can improve a skill you already had;
  • You can meet people who are interested in the same things as you;
  • You can have fun.

Another reason, less frequently touted, is this: you might write something that gets published and earns you a few bucks.


Quick backstory: last winter, it occurred to me that I hadn’t done any formal work on the craft of writing in an uncomfortably long time. I’ve always enjoyed school, but between work, writing my first novel, querying agents, starting my second novel, cats, family obligations, social life, and a thousand other things, the actual study of writing had slipped through the cracks.

This might not be a problem for some people, but for me, studying is a way to improve the craft. Writing is obviously the biggest way to improve, and reading books about writing is also useful, but there’s something about a class or conference that helps me address specific problems in my work.

One area where I’ve long struggled is creating an ending that’s both unexpected and inevitable. So when I received an email from Catapult offering an online class called “The Earned Surprise,” I was intrigued even though I’d never taken an online class and didn’t know the teacher, Zulema Renee Summerfield. I checked my bank balance and took a deep breath. A few mouse clicks later, I was a student in an eight-week online class.


The class began in January. About midway through the month, I experienced some health issues, including a bronchial infection that, for three days, left me too worn out to do anything more than watch television. I ended up binge-watching “Mom.” I thought I knew Allison Janney from “The West Wing,” but this was an entirely different side of her. She and Anna Faris were snappy, hilarious, and sometimes poignant as they navigated their relationship, family, and recovery.

More importantly, after three days of living with them, their voices were firmly entrenched in my brain. So when Zulema posted an assignment—write an entire story in a single sentence—I was primed. The character who gushed out of my keyboard was a blend of the “Mom” women; either could have made this speech without taking a breath.

I posted the story on the class website, gathered some feedback, and edited. A few months later, I read it for a small audience. A few more tweaks, and I sent it off to Intrinsick, an online magazine–and today, my story was published.

Traffic Stop

traffic-stop - artwork on intrinsick

Unlike a lot of journals, Intrinsick pays its writers. The payment was in my account this morning. Real money. Just for doing my homework.

So, those are two reasons to take a class–publication and cash. And here’s one more:

You might be inspired to try something you’d never have thought of on your own.


Submitting Stories: A Few Thoughts


This afternoon, I woke from a nap and checked my email (as one does). Among the messages, two stood out.

One was a very kind rejection from a literary magazine.

The other was an acceptance from Intrinsick, an online literary journal.

Continue reading



Last weekend, I did something unusual: I ate breakfast at the coffee shop near my house. Continue reading


Livy on desk 2008

As regular readers of this blog have undoubtedly noticed by now, I am not a person of few words. Continue reading


Olivia - hopeful

Last spring, I applied to a very prestigious writing conference, taught by writers whose work is routinely praised, if not revered, by the literary community. Rationally, I knew acceptance was a long shot. On the other hand, I figured the admissions committee probably wasn’t sitting around at night hoping I might grace them with my presence. The only way I’d have a chance was to apply. Continue reading

For Writers With Day Jobs

I don’t usually share newspaper articles here, but this one is special. I don’t know this writer or her book, but I love her real-life story.

This post is dedicated to every writer who holds down a day job (including parenthood which, from what I hear, is at least two full-time jobs in and of itself) and still manages to carve out time for writing, reading, researching agents, figuring out publishing, and doing all the stuff necessary to put our stories out into the world. Continue reading

Two and a Half Careers


When I was in my twenties and possessed unlimited energy, there was a brief period when I had three jobs. Continue reading