Woman in Car with Doll …

And the life-sized baby doll was cradled in her lap, its head resting on the steering wheel. I know this sounds creepy, but it gets even creepier.

Waiting at a traffic light, listening to Pandora, my son in the backseat playing Pokémon, I glance to my left for a brief moment. On second look, I say to my son, “That woman has a doll in her lap.”

She was about thirty-something, dark hair and glasses. She was alone; the passenger seat empty. And she appeared normal enough.

My son replies, “Oh yeah, I see her.” He doesn’t sound alarmed, phased, or the least bit interested.

“Son,” I repeat. “That woman has a baby doll and she’s putting a pacifier in its mouth! Are you seeing this?”

He doesn’t answer. I suppose he’s zoning out on Pokémon, so I continue to watch the woman without narrating.

Her four-door sedan, a light color, silver maybe pale blue, was to my left and just a smidge ahead of us, so she couldn’t see me watching her. Now, that I’m thinking about it, I don’t know what’s creepier: Her pretending to wipe invisible tears away from the baby doll’s cheeks, or my stalker-like eavesdropping. Hmm.

Okay, well anyhow, in my mind I’m thinking: Maybe she’s bringing the doll home to her daughter. It’s a gift. She’s reminiscing about the sweet ol’ days when she used to play dress-up with her dolls, and with her sisters.

At this thought, my mind relaxes a little.

BTW…this was a very long traffic light.

So, get this. The traffic light turns green and this woman lifts the baby doll and tenderly kisses the top of its smooth porcelain-looking head! While I’m moving slowly beside her vehicle, I see her clutching the doll to her chest while she drives along.

I drive the rest of the way home feeling sad for this woman. Who is she? Why is she alone with only a little doll for company? Why did she put a pacifier in its mouth? Why did she wipe fake tears away from its eyes? Why did she kiss the top of its head and clutch it to her chest?

What has gone wrong in this woman’s life!?

All right, so the storyteller in me couldn’t let this go. I just arrived home after a long day, and all I can do is think about this woman. There’s definitely a story here, but only the woman in the silver/blue car knows the truth of it.

All I can do now is keep guessing, but I chose to believe it wasn’t creepy. It was just a sweet reminiscing of childhood. That’s a better version. The other version is too sad to think about.


M.R.I.’s Are NO Fun (Really) . . .

Last week I was in my parent’s living room, chatting with my mom, when I lost the ability to speak clearly. The words didn’t slur, but came out mangled. I wanted to say, “I don’t think it’s low blood sugar,” but instead said something like, “I won’t sugar. No, I think.”

It was really odd.

My mom rolled deli ham into a slice of cheese, insisting it was low blood sugar.

I felt off the whole day, but that night it really got weird. I went to write in my journal and lost the ability to write! Yes, this writer couldn’t write. My hand moved awkwardly across the page, struggling to form the words. The same as my awkward speech, my hand wouldn’t move the right way to form the words on the page. My fine motor skills went flat!

I freaked out and looked online to see if this meant anything. Everything I read was scary. Words like “stroke” and “palsy” didn’t sound good, but still thought it might be low blood sugar.

That night, I woke up by a headache on the right side of my head only. And I felt dizzy. It wasn’t excruciating, but it bothered me, and was bad enough to wake me up. I shuffled to the living room and sat in my favorite chair for awhile, hoping it’d ease up.

The headache went from dull to a bothersome ache that required medicine a few times, but I kept thinking it’d go away. After a few days, even the meds wouldn’t make it feel better. So finally, last Tuesday I woke up at 5 a.m. with my head (right side only) still achy and feeling dizzy.

I took a shower and got dressed because I felt nervous and thought maybe I should go to the ER.

Okay, okay, I KNOW! Should’ve done that right away. Note to self: Don’t wait next time!

But I didn’t go to the ER that Tuesday morning. Instead, I tried to write in my journal to see if my writing skills were still in tact (my handwriting was only affected that first day), and it was fine. My hand was able to write. Maybe it was just a tension headache.

Although, over those same few days, whenever I was working on a manuscript the page would move or jump. That dizziness wasn’t good.

Finally, at last, Tuesday evening after my family met for Taco Tuesday at a local restaurant, I told them I was going to the ER. The headache wasn’t getting better and the dizziness was a concern.

They agreed and thought I should’ve went much, much earlier.

Oh my, the on-call doc waved a pen in front of my eyes and tracked my eye movements. I couldn’t do it. The eye jumped and crossed and was basically weird. I couldn’t track his pen. It made me queasy.

He asked the nurse to put an I.V. in my arm and said he had lots of tests to order, it could be a while. By now, I should’ve been nervous, but I was just tired and wished to be home. I had a book with me (of course, I always have a book with me), but I couldn’t read it. I texted my family to let them know what was going on.

It took over five hours. The CT scan, x-rays, blood work, I.V. wasn’t bad. But the M.R.I. – was very scary! I never had one before. Honestly, by the time it was ordered, it was late in the night, so I just kept my eyes shut. I never even looked at the machine.

The room felt cold, and if a place could feel sterile, that’s how it felt. The nurse led me toward a bed that felt more like a table. She said a contrast would go through my I.V. twice within minutes of each other, feeling cool to the skin. She ran a solution through the I.V. so I could know what it’d feel like. That was nice, I thought.

With my eyes still pinched shut, I felt her lay a warm blanket over me. That was really sweet. She put a device in my hand that felt like a small rubber ball and said to squeeze it if I needed her. She wouldn’t be able to hear me during the procedure. I held it close to my chest. She also placed earplugs in my ears and headsets over my head, asking what type of music I like. Wow, this is really nice, I thought. Music? Warm blankets? It’s like a spa.

As the bed/table began to buzz and raise, the nice nurse says, “It’ll be 25 minutes.” Twenty-five minutes? I thought this was a five minute thing. Before I could protest, the bed/table moved and stopped. Machinery made loud jackhammer type noises all around me. The bed/table moved again, and although my eyes were still shut, I could tell I was being moved deeper in the machine. It wasn’t even like I had earplugs in my ears. The noise. It vibrated and pounded and jackhammered. It stopped and started again. It was terrible!

I tried to make myself calm. I prayed. I sang. I could feel the machinery all around me. I peeked open one eye. Oh my goodness! Bad move. The ceiling. Only inches from my face. But there was a light. I shut my eye again.

My body began to shiver and shake. My teeth began to chatter. I was suddenly terrified. I needed…I had to get out of there! I had to squeeze that ball, let her know to get me out. But I resisted that feeling and kept praying.

Seven minutes or so (I’m guessing) into the procedure, I hear music in my earphones. I don’t like the song, but at least it’s a distraction. Twelve minutes in, the music stops playing and I hear the nurse’s voice echo in my ears. “You’re half-way through,” she says. “Are you doing okay? You’re doing great.”

I know she can’t hear me, but I say aloud anyway, “I’m okay. Yes.”

The music comes back. This song is okay, but not one I’d listen to on the radio. But then, the nurse comes back in my ears. “In a minute I’m going to run the contrast. And three minutes after, I will run it again.”

The contrast was cold. Ice through the veins. It wasn’t that bad. Just strange. But soon after, it was over. The machine pounded, grinded, bumped and hammered away and the bed/table moved and lowered.

I made it. I lived through my first (hopefully last) M.R.I.

So an hour later, curled up on the hospital bed, clutching my phone with my eyes shut, the doctor comes in and says he was concerned. My symptoms and eye palsy made him think I had a tumor or Multiple Sclerosis or a stroke. He really thought he’d see something in the M.R.I., but it was normal. Every one of my tests were normal!

I clapped. Yes, I actually clapped. Great, I’m going home, I told him. Just take this blasted I.V. out of my arm and we’ll call it a night. Thanks for your help. Gotta go.

He says he has to check with the on-call neurologist first. They’d like me to stay and do a Lumbar Puncture: A needle in the spine that withdraws spinal fluid. What? Needle? IN SPINE?


He says, if I make an appointment with my neurologist ASAP then I can forego the tests for later. And I say, YES. OKAY. GOOD IDEA.

I got home about midnight, had a seizure (I’m epileptic) at 3:30 in the morning and was sick all the next day, but I still made an appointment with my neurologist for that same afternoon (they squeezed me in).

My neurologist is a nice woman, brilliant, really good at what she does. She gave me a complete physical, examined my test results, asked lots of questions . . .  and made this diagnosis:

A migraine.

She says it was a migraine. Wow, that’s it. All that torture for a migraine. What about the dizziness? The eye palsy? She says migraines don’t typically have that symptom, but she still feels it’s a migraine.

This is my M.R.I. story.

But I’m grateful that it’s over. I’m grateful that it was just a migraine. Very grateful that I didn’t have that Lumbar Puncture do-hicky thingamagica. And extremely grateful that, for now, all is well.








The Nine Lives of Leo..Tortoise Extraordinaire (seriously) . . .

Okay, so two days ago, I receive another text, “There’s been a tortoise spotting over on Waterway..” 

Mind you, Waterway is blocks from our house where Leo had first escaped. 

My son and I jump in the car to head over. No dice. He was last seen by an elderly neighbor who reported he placed him by the pond by the ducks, but he’d since left. 

Leo probably isn’t a duck person. 

Disappointed, we headed home. And for the next two days we scoured Waterway and the neighborhood beyond. 

After one hunt, my son said, “I saw lots of pond frogs and duck feathers but no African tortoise.”

I gave up. 

Poor Leo was toast. 

But just a few minutes ago, our doorbell rang. Who was coming to dinner? It was LEO. Our neighbor said he was walking in the middle of the road toward our house. 


Is he bright enough to remember where we live, or did he happen to circle back to the exact right street at the exact right time. Again? 

Leo must be part cat. Seriously. 


That’s us. We are no good, really rotten tortoise owners.

Poor, poor little Leo. Our African Sulcata tortoise, Leonardo da Vinci, is missing.


And as some of you may already know; this is not the first time.

Two years ago, I was yakity-yaking in our backyard to a young friend (he was lamenting his girl troubles), when little Leo escaped through our rod iron fencing and went missing for 40 days and 40 nights. Literally.

And like the GREAT FLOOD his awesome adventure was proportionate to the epic waves crashing higher than the summit of Mount Everest.

But he lived. He lived to roam every bush, shrub and flowerbed in our neighborhood’s cul-de-sac. He lived by subsisting on freshly manicured lawn grass and drinking water from our finely-timed lawn sprinklers.

But at last . . . Leo is gone. And I fear . . . for good.

It’s only been a few days. But for some reason, I have this feeling. A BAD feeling.

This summer’s escape was similar to last years. He slithered under the rod iron fencing; but for like the fourth time in several weeks. My neighbor, Teresa, texted a few weeks ago: “Hey, your turtle is in our yard? What would you like us to do?”

My response: “Oh man! The lawn guy must’ve left the hole (the space under the iron fence) open.” She was kind enough to keep watch over him as I quickly made my way back from a local restaurant.

We barricaded the hole with a meshed screen.

Several days later my son and I pull into our driveway, greeted by the next door neighbor. She’s wearing yellow rubber gloves, carrying a plastic bucket. “Oh hi,” she says. “Your turtle escaped from your yard and hid in our garage. We were about to throw him in the lake. He, um, used the potty. But don’t worry, we cleaned it up!”

A flash of heat crawled up my neck. I apologized (profusely) and sent her a sorry/thank you note and a jar of local organic honey.

We added a large plastic sheen to the barricade.

Yet again, he escaped both barricades, but this time I caught him red-handed myself. There he was walking across our stamped driveway strolling without a care. “Leo! Again?”

I went to pick him up, and he snapped his head back inside his shell. After lifting him, I thought: This little tortoise is getting heavy. Probably a good six/seven pounds. And he’d grown a whole lot. A lot. How much manicured lawn grass was this guy eating? He was the size of a large dinner plate.

Not long after, our third neighbor in the cul-de-sac, Little Macy from across the way; knocked on our front door. “Your turtle is at my house,” she says.

Not again.

This time I wasn’t messing around. I hammered a line of posts across the hole under the rod iron fence. And my neighbor was thoughtful enough (or just plain tired of seeing him escape) to place a wooden plank across the posts. No-siree-bub, there was no way he’d escape now!

A few days ago, I received another text from my neighbor, “I think Leo has escaped.”

I walked over to her place. She proceeds to point out how the wooden plank and posts have been bulldozed over. A little tunnel had opened up between the plank and posts leading to my front yard. I thanked her, once again, thinking I best start stocking up on thank you cards and jars of organic honey.

My son searched our backyard, combing every inch. I did the same.

He was gone. Really gone.

Yes, Leo is officially missing. And yes, we are indeed bad, very bad tortoise owners. But a tortoise who can escape like Houdini can surprise us all and someday magically reappear.

Or sadly, maybe he won’t.







BLOG INTERVIEW: Humphrey Herbert Plumtree from H.H. Plumtree’s Secret Kingdom …

A half an hour before sunset on his Texas ranch, Humphrey Herbert Plumtree sits on a leather recliner in his country home in Marble Falls. As the main character in my newly revised middle grade book, H.H. Plumtree’s Secret Kingdom he transforms on many levels. As the room darkens, Humphrey leans over to switch on a bronze lamp. Lamplight glints on his vintage eyeglasses as he drawls polite answers to my questions. He places a bottle of root beer on the wagon wheel coffee table, avoiding the coaster.

Blog Reporter: No coaster? In the book, H.H. Plumtree’s Secret Kingdom, you seem so fretful. So worrisome. I never placed you as a no coaster type of guy.

HHP: Oh, you noticed. (He scratches his nose and smiles.) I was just trying to fake you out. You know, make you think I’d become more daring. (He laughs.)

Blog Reporter: I’ll say, without spoiling the book, that you sure become more daring as the book goes on.

HHP: Yeah, I do. My friend, Maribel, helped me a lot.

Blog Reporter: Do you and Maribel still spend time together?

HHP: After all we went through, I was worried. Maybe being my friend was too dangerous for her. But no, she’s stuck by me.

Blog Reporter: So, most of our readers today don’t know anything about your story. What, if anything, can you tell us?

HHP: Last year when I was ten, we flew to California and my parents went to a geology conference. They didn’t want me to become bored in the hotel room, so they dropped me off, you know, at the curbside of Downtown Disney.

Blog Reporter: Wow, sounds like every kid’s dream-come-true!

HHP: You’d think that, huh? Have you even been to Disneyland alone? It’s not as fun as you’d think. Plus, I had company. You know what I mean?

Blog Reporter: I do. But your readers today may not understand what you mean. Are you speaking of The Shiny Shoe Stalker?

HHP: Yes siree, I certainly am. I came into this story with some secrets, but my parents had a few secrets of their own.

Blog Reporter: What kind of secrets?

HHP: Well, I’d tell ya, but then I’d have to murder your houseplant . . . get it? Murder your houseplant, like Mother did to my older sister Lanie’s plant.

Blog Reporter: Ah, yes. That’s a subplot in your book. Now, speaking of being alone in Disneyland . . . as you know, this blog reporter featured a post during the early development of H.H. Plumtree’s Secret Kingdom where I spent a day alone in Disneyland, tracking your adventure. A real eye opener. If any of our readers would like to read that post, the link is included here:


HHP: Yeah, but it wasn’t all bad. That’s how Maribel and I became friends.

Blog Reporter: True. If this book gets picked up by an editor, I’d like to do another interview with both you and Maribel. Do you think she’d be game?

HHP: Heck, yes. She loves the limelight, way more than I do.

Blog Reporter: Excellent. One last question. My next blog interview is with Abigail Rose Calantro from my other middle grade novel, THE WANDERINGS of Abby Rose. I heard you all had a chance to meet? Is that true?

HHP: Yes! A few weeks ago, I was visiting my sister, Lanie, in New York City. While hanging out at The Plaza Hotel in Central Park, I met Abby and her family. They’re great people.

Blog Reporter: Nice. So, you make a cameo appearance in her book?

HHP: Yeah, I do. It was an honor.

Blog Reporter: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Humphrey. I look forward to seeing your book out there someday.

Stay tuned for my next blog interview with Abby Calantro from THE WANDERINGS of Abby Rose. She’s a feisty eleven-year-old girl who has much to say about her Latina family’s curious adventures.





Hello, my name is Thankfullness . . .

Some people shorten my name and refer to me as Thank you, Thanks, others Thx, or I have even seen, during text messaging, TU, which I believe, if switched around, is also the abbreviation for a university in Texas. But either way, whenever and whichever way people refer to me, it makes me happy when they do so.

I exist between the clouds and sky, watching gleefully, observing random acts of kindness, unexpected and even anticipated little surprises given, and the human race at its finest. Though recently, as I flurry here and there across the atmosphere of the earth, a faint and distant alarm, profound and uncomfortable, rises in my typically untroubled and carefree soul . . . more and more, I am being referred to less and less.

In some parts of the world, there is a day when groups of people gather and use my name more than usual. They do so along with feasting on a grand amount of turkey and other, what they refer to as “fixings,” wherein they unbuckle and loosen their trousers and lounge on a sofa watching a sport called, football. In parts of Asia families refer to me during a visit to the graveyard of their ancestors and celebrate by indulging, once again, in a “bountiful banquet of food,” and then dance about in a circle.

But just recently, I have noted a string of opportunities for people to use my name; a random act of kindness, a favor for a friend, a gift of hospitality, and the receiver(s) said nothing. For example, two men were installing an air conditioning unit for a family, when the lunch hour approached. One of the family members offered to run to a nearby sandwich shop and purchase food for all. He even offered the workers their choice of sandwich and drink. They placed an order and handed a few bills to the family member. He refused the money and said, “No, please, it’s on me.” The worker put his money back in his pocket and replied, “Okay.” The other worker did not volunteer any money at all. When the food was delivered, a few minutes later, the workers took the food and did not even peep my name, not even a whisper of it. I was diffused.

Not long ago, a father and son asked another parent and their child to spend an afternoon at a carnival and cornmaze. The father was excited to show hospitality to the other parent by purchasing their carnival and cornmaze tickets. Though, the other parent and child, after enjoying a pleasant afternoon together, walked away and never said my name. And sadly, I believe they did not even think it.

There are more, many more stories to be told in this regard, but I hope that people won’t forget about me all together. Because if they do, I will eventually become nonexistent, and in time . . . fade away and disappear forever.



No BLUES on Tuesday…

I like Tuesday.

It’s not Monday with its beginning of the work week blues.

It’s not Wednesday, or “hump day.” Never really liked the sound of that.

Thursday my husband doesn’t eat. It’s his way of controlling his weight.

Friday is nice. But there is always the expectation TO DO something nice.

Saturday is good, but always busy, like a “catch up” day.

Sunday is sweet, filled with grace and goodness.

But alas, Tuesday is a day to enjoy the sunshine. To be grateful for whatever we have to be grateful for. It’s a day to not think about the fact that your little guy is home from school with strep throat, or that the bills need to be paid, or that the lawn has weeds.

It’s a day to be thankful we had a doctor to see when the little one was sick, or there was some money to pay the bills, or that a nice gentleman came by to spray the weeds.

It’s a day to celebrate the little things.

I’m happy that my new book is in it’s final edits. It’s really close. So close. In fact, an editor is putting her magic touches on it right now and will send me notes by the end of the week. Once the words are all shiny and pretty and new, I will send the book to my agent. I hope she likes it.

Today is Tuesday and I am thankful that I can write here, in my blog. Maybe one day, in the future, it could be a Friday or a Sunday or even a “hump day,” oh my! I could be writing about what my agent thought about my new book. Or maybe I’ll write how I actually, finally, sold my first book. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

This is why I like wistful Tuesdays.

Tuesday is a day to wish and hope and dream.

EAT CAKE & Be Happy …

Moonbeams shine through the windowpanes, casting shadows on the carpet, the house dark and quiet as I dream about cake. Every wonderful milestone or anniversary or special occasion I have ever celebrated has included cake, beautiful layers of delicate sweetness that make any extraordinarily special day even better. But I propose that cake be had even on days like the one I had today. An ordinary day filled with errands and writing and cleaning and trying to make everybody happy …

but I don’t have any cake. I look in the pantry. The next best thing would be a cookie. I see they’re storebought and a poor substitute for cake. There are granola bars and chips and a bag of Goldfish, but none of them are cake. Things are getting quite desperate.

After the day I’ve had, I need cake. Maybe if I eat a cracker and swig a cool glass of milk at the same time it will feel like eating cake. But a saltine and soymilk taste like salty, thick cream and nothing like cake.

There are days when a writer, mom, wife, daughter, sister, cook, chauffeur, planner, teacher, helper, just needs cake!

But at last, there are just some days where it’s not possible to have our cake and eat it too.

So I take one last bite of the cracker, sip the last of the soymilk and call it a night.


The Tricky, Truthful Mess Of It All …

Some thoughts about rejection:

We sit on a chair in a room and imagine faraway places or create complex characters, who feel like real people, with texture and depth and innermost feelings. We peer inside our souls, searching, reaching for those little thoughts and emotions we’ve stored, those sad or embarrassing or messy parts of us to expose on paper, in order to connect, to share something magical, special or true with another. And our hope is, when another reads what we’ve shared, they will somehow transform. Just as we have transformed. Where we laugh or cry or just learn something new, they will laugh or cry or learn something new as well. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and bleed the words because of this unspoken truth; that we all just want to be heard.

So when we write the words while we sit on our chairs in our houses, the hours and days and seasons go by, and although the words have been written, nobody reads them. Or we write the words, but nobody likes them. Or we write the words and nobody cares. But still, even so, we desire to share that magical, special truth with another, we hope for that transformation, we just want to be heard, so we rewrite the words, and we rewrite the words, and we rewrite …

At last, while sitting on our chairs and our hands and our hope, after we’ve written and rewritten all of the words, after every sad and embarrassing and messy part has been exposed, and spring and summer and autumn and winter, and another and another … how can we not take the rejection personally?

We should put the rejection inside an imaginary box and throw it in an imaginary sea on an imaginary world. And we can do this because, after all we are writers, and we make up stuff all the time. That’s what we do…

… and so, this is really more than just a post about a writer’s rejection, it’s about how to find grace in any of life’s undesirable circumstances. I began to write this last night and when I woke up this morning, I realized there was more to say because rejection is a part of life from birth till death.When I was a preschool teacher, some three-year-olds would refuse to share or play with others, and so goes an example of the first peer rejection.

Presently, I have a friend who dreamt of going to law school. He had a good GPA and LSAT score and felt confident that he’d be accepted. Finally, they did accept him but under probation and a longer wait time. So, he was accepted but only if enough students (who were accepted outright) decided not to enroll. He was on pins and needles and dismayed. When at last, he received a phone call that he could attend, he was elated. He says, “Just to prove something, he worked hard and graduated in the top ten of his class with honors.” He did something spectacular with his initial feelings of rejection.

I have another friend who was married for thirty years when her husband left with their daughter’s best friend. She learned how to care for herself financially, emotionally and spiritually and even after she remarried, she still has the confidence that she can weather anything. Another friend’s husband died and although she was in her early seventies, she filled her lonely days learning Chinese to help others in a missionary work.

To me, how we handle rejection is a reflection of our character. All of the writers I know personally do so with elegance and grace, so we should applaud ourselves for learning how to weather rejection by building confidence in ourselves, maybe even by imagining our rejection floating off in an imaginary box toward an imaginary island, far, far away.










Blog Progress Report: Another American Idol Analogy…

I’ve been writing little posts in this blog for over four years and it’s about time I write another blog progress report. When I peek back at my very first entries, I’m amazed by how much I’ve grown as a writer and also by how much more I need to learn. So tonight, I’m sweeping away the old goals, some I’ve accomplished, others still pending, and update my new writing hopes and dreams.

In 2012 I wrote a post comparing a rejection for a manuscript to being critiqued by Jennifer Lopez on American Idol. Some contestants bomb out during the audition process, believing they can sing, when in reality they can’t. Other hopefuls can carry a tune, but don’t have that “wow” factor. At last, there are those who sing beautifully and have the stage presence to keep the audience, and judges, enthralled. Some go far, but there is only one winner, one American Idol.

At the time, I wondered which category I fit. I spent many days and nights wondering if I’d bomb out, or just didn’t have the “wow” factor, or if I could write well enough to get an agent or editor’s interest.

As we approach the last year of American Idol, I can happily write that I’ve finally received a “golden ticket” to Hollywood (Publisher Land) when Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary offered to represent my stories, but the show’s not over yet. Not even close.

Now, the stress to perform and “not crack” under pressure is greater than ever. The rejection becomes more personal (or it feels that way) and when it does come, it’s not one rejection at a time through an email or letter, it comes via your agent in a report with notes from an array of editors describing why they’ve rejected your story, why you’ve failed. And similar to American Idol, it feels as though the whole world is watching, although in reality it’s just your agent. But still.

This process is not for the faint of heart. One thing I’ve observed from American Idol contestants is how they “get in their own heads” and lose perspective. Over and over, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr., emphasize to sing the words from their hearts as though they believe and feel what they’re singing about. This is difficult to do with a plethora of other dynamics to juggle. It’s easy to overthink the performance, to lose touch with the audience.

This happens when you’re writing to impress an editor or your agent instead of writing for the unmitigated joy of moving words around a page, like rearranging furnishings in a favorite room until your eye sees that everything is perfect. The words can become a burden that won’t cooperate with your vision, and ultimately, the manuscript, the story, is overthought and lost.

The good news is that Jennifer Lopez (your agent) sees your potential and you’re still in the running for the grand prize. So presently, with the spotlight flashing on the stage, the stakes high, my new writing goal is to take a deep breath, cross my fingers, and sing … I mean, write my heart out.