Friday, July 20, 2007

Writing Reference Books

In this post, I submit yet another couple of citations from a recently purchased how-to book --as if I didn't already have enough. I wish to quote from Noah Lukeman in his book "The First Five Pages -- A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile." Lukeman is both a writer and an agent who is not accepting new authors. That said, the book remains replete with tips and reminders for all writers who wish to publish, indeed all writers who wish to write well. In chapter 1, Presentation, Lukeman puts your manuscript into CONTEXT. "The unknown writer's manuscript [unlike Stephen King's] will be read by an angry, overworked intern or editorial assistant, one hoping to be able to find the tiniest fault so he can get it out of the way and move on to the next five thousand manuscripts."

Here's an example of how to avoid the "tiny faults" they might find: "When rewriting, pretend that someone will give you $100 for every word you are able to cut ... which makes for a tighter read." Which words to cut? Start with Adjectives and Adverbs, the title of Chapter 2 of his book.

I heard about the book from Barbara DeMarco Barrett’s “Writer’s On Writing Radio show, 88.9 FM. Both her show and this book are musts for the serious writer. See ya.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

From "This Year You Write Your Novel"

The author of TYYWYN, Walter Mosley, writes "Poetry is the fount of all writing. Without a deep understanding of poetry and its practices, any power the writer might have is greatly diminished." Why, I asked myself, does this prolific author who claims not to be a poet even address the issue? He says, "Of all writing, the discipline in poetry is the most demanding. ... In poetry you have to see language as both music and content. ... If the fiction writer demands half of what the poet asks of herself, then that writer will render an exquisitely written novel." Wow.
Mosley recommends a poetry workshop. Where do I sign up?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Writing Workshops

I can't help myself. I'm starting another writing workshop here in Chico, nine hours from my home. And the people who are coming tonight are SO excited. Why? Because many people want to write, but they don't know where to start. I want to help them get started, because there is, in my world, just a handful of things that transcend the pleasure of writing. And so, we will draw from Janet Burroway's book Writing Fiction and throw out such subjects from her page 11, such as: from the first seven years of your life, make a list of events, people, your self, inner life, characteristic things. Or, Burroway tells us that a tenth century Japanese courtesan had the following list of Things that she used: Things I wish had never been said. Red things. Things more embarrassing than nudity. Things to put off as long as possible. Things to die for. Acid things. Things that last only a day. These subjects start the fire. Our imaginations can fan the flames and result in a wonderful story -- real or fiction. It doesn't matter, as long as we're dropping it on the page, word after word after word.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

My Pushy Muse

Work is a four letter word and an excuse not to write, but it pays the bills. Not working is more fun, but is more the challenge, because my writing muse taps her foot, arms crossed, waiting in the corner, no make that, waiting on my shoulder, whispering in my ear: write, damn it, write.
She's not patient, my muse. She taketh away the right to procrastination and giveth harsh criticisms for all the many ways I can avoid the hard stuff: putting one word and then another and then another on the page, word by word, bird by bird, until the work is done and has to be redone and redone and redone (OY) until it's as right as it's going to get, and even then we want to fiddle with it some more, now don't we?
Enough. She's no longer whispering. She's shouting. IT'S TIME TO WRITE NOW!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Quotes of Note

I pulled these from Dennis Palumbo's website. These are some of his favorites Quotes for Writers.

"The best way out is always through." Robert Frost

"How do I work? I grope." Albert Einstein

"A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for." John A. Shedd

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

OC Metro OA article

Check out for my article on Osteoarthritis. Click on the Health and Fitness tab and voila--there I am.
Thanks for dropping in to my blog, by the way.


While I’m showering, I’m thinking about my workday.

While I’m working, I’m preoccupied with dinner.

While I’m eating dinner, I’m hoping to avoid doing dishes.

While I’m doing dishes, I ponder how I can escape the laundry.

While I’m folding laundry, I’m musing about shopping.

While shopping the next day, I review my to-do list for the weekend.

While shtupping on the weekend, I think about the movie I saw.

While watching the movie, I was comparing it to the book.

While reading the book I was thinking about dying

While I’m dying, I’ll be wondering what it was like to live.

I missed it.

Kathryn Atkins

© 2003

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Riding Life

“In the end, we’re all just riding bicycles.” The buzz in the room stopped. We all knew we were in the presence of a deep philosophical certainty. We internalized the analogy, knowing that sometimes, the road of life is so steep that it is insurmountable. We may pump and strain, slipping into lower gears. We struggle to hang on. Some people can ride longer than others. Some people walk their bikes at the first tiny grade that impedes their progress, the first rotten apple that life throws at them. Others dig in, set their brains for the battle, every muscle straining, every bit of resolve steeled against the challenge. Some days, the roads are littered with abandoned bikes and broken dreams smashed in the little baskets that hang off the fenders. We loathe this ride we call life. The damn bike doesn’t have the decency to have a flat tire, so we cast it aside. Bike lock? Forget it. We hope someone will steal it. We want to walk all the way home, maybe even to die.

We like the ride when it goes down hill. We don’t have to pump. We don’t have to pedal. We can relax. Sometimes this ride lasts for days. Maybe weeks. It feels good. Too good. It has to end. The hill down is the back side of an up hill. There’s no slacking off without eventually paying the piper, right?

We ride different bikes. Some have ten-speeds. Some are road bikes. Some of us wear bike pants, prepared for the long haul. Others don’t know they make hand pads, soft seats, and toe holders, and we ride in pain the whole way, discomfort slowing us down as if we had sand bags on the back fender, or a two-ton gorilla breathing banana breath down our necks. Some people go through life with their own personal gorilla slobbering, leering, and slowing to depression the manic ride down hill.

Riding a bike upsets your crotch. Life attacks all our parts, eventually. Riding life is mostly uncomfortable. It’s a long haul, and there are high years and low years, high gears and low gears. Some of the best parts of life are in the low gears, when you think all is lost, that every intersection you come to has cross traffic, stoplights, and people who get in your way. As you look back, those years sometimes provided the map for the easier, higher gears ahead. How else can you learn? How else could you have known what it took to get what you wanted had it not been for the bumps, the curves, and the hills? Then, there are comfortable times—squishy, soft-seat, downhill times. They help us hang on when the crotch-grabbing times won’t go away.

I’m riding a bicycle with five gears today. It’s on flat ground. I have to pedal, but I am going somewhere. I don’t have to struggle today. I have to keep pedaling, sure. But I find routes that avoid the hills if I can. Sometimes, I can’t. The terrain is not always a choice. It lies before me, and I must take it to find the reason I am here. But ride, I will, for that is what we do. In the end, we are all just riding bicycles. What’re you riding?

© Kathryn Atkins

March 13, 2007

Friday, March 9, 2007


Being with my mom, 95, in Chico always makes me realize how lucky I am she's still here. And how lucky we all are that she's doing so well. Largely, her wit and personality more than make up for the body parts that fail her, and we wonder: will we be nearly as well preserved at her age?
Everything slows way down when I'm here. We do jigsaw puzzles together, we read together, we play dominoes. We watch "Millionaire" and "Wheel of Fortune" and yell out the answers when we know them, patting each other on the back for how smart we are. It's a quiet hoot.

Monday, February 26, 2007

On Families

"The family seems to have two predominant functions: to provide warmth and love in time of need and to drive each other insane."
~ Donald G. Smith (contained in "Sunbeams" from THE SUN magazine)

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Meet our dog, a poodle-terrier mix (they said) that we picked up from the local shelter. All we know is that he's a ten pound wonder, and does all the good things dogs do for families.
He's the best dog in the whole world, I tell him, but then, I'm biased and I worry that it will all go to his head.
Impatience is a form of control.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Serious Writers

There comes a time when you pause and look in the mirror, wondering why. After reading the current issue of The Writer magazine, I am in that horrible space of self doubt, longing to be better, reading how it should and could be done, knowing I have come a long way, yet painfully aware of just how far I have to go.
This magazine offers me month after month of great writing advice. The magazine hails from 1887 (eighteen eighty-seven), so they are doing something "write."
I struggle with yet another rewrite of the elusive novel, using Carolyn See's tried and true revision technique, ( See this done on Barbara DeMarco barret's log at and I pause before I push on, procrastinating by writing this. Back to the trenches for me.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Reading Stacks

How many reading stacks do you have?

How high and how wide are they?

How many gosh darn magazines

Can accumulate every day?

How many books are sitting there

Waiting to be read?
There’s a novel, a history, a self-help, and a mystery

Piled up by your bed.

“I’ll get there,” you say.

“I’ll read them some day.”

“I’ll do it when it’s raining.”

The rainy day promise just never comes

And the reading stacks keep on gaining.

“I’ll cancel subscriptions.”

“I’ll never renew.”

Until the kids next door

Come selling like they do.

Your friends know your weakness.

They know you won’t say no

To books they have read,

Or meant to months ago.

They pass them unconscious

Of the burden they bring.

You love them; you hate them

You’re afraid you’ll miss something.

Then one day you rise

To the smell and gag of smoke.

To your credit you grab your cat, your hat, and a coat.

You run out the door

Leave the stacks on the floor

You bid your house adieu.

And the reading stacks, too!

---© Kathryn Atkins

April 24, 2006

Monday, February 19, 2007

Quote of the Day

"And the day came when the risk to remain closed in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
~ I'm sorry I don't know the author.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Substitute Teaching

Substituting at the local high school for a freshman English class returns memories not only of high school as a previous substitute, but also of being in high school. Was I ever that young? Could I ever have been so disinterested in a subject as most of the kids seemed today? Never mind that we reviewed independent and subordinate (dependent) clauses, with no Santa's to be found anywhere, it was abundantly clear that they largely held no curiosity for the concept, and in completing the day, I wondered if indeed, even as a writer, I really need to know the difference. I like to think I know how to use one, but labeling? Oy. On the other hand, if these kids are to continue on into college and graduate school, they should (I love the word) at least be aware of parts of speech in their own language. If they learn foreign languages, they'll learn a lot more grammar than in English. I sure did. Maybe they wondered what in the heck a substitute teacher knows anyway. The answer is: a lot. I had The Answer Book, so I dubbed myself The Expert. Which, by the way, is one of the secrets to succesful substituting. The other is The Seating Chart. It was, all in all, a good day.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Do not confuse activity with accomplishment."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Flash Fiction Fun


“Scout to ground. Scout to ground. Come in please.”

The tiny plane fought to make the last turn for landing in the driving rain at the Lihue airport. The Hawaiian storm had appeared suddenly and attacked violently. Dwight Scout tightened his seat belt against the buffeting winds.

The airport was empty. All the employees had gone home to save their families. Scout thought he saw the runway lights and headed down. He never saw the hotel.

People, some in nightclothes and some naked and in pieces, lay strewn among the coconuts on the ground. Paradise indeed.

© Kathryn Atkins 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Flash Fiction Fun


“Is it …?” The word stuck in her throat.

The doctor nodded, then said, “There are things we can do . . .”

Mary’s thoughts raced from herself to her two young daughters who sat in the waiting room with their grandmother.

“How long do I have?”

“Six months. Maybe a year.”

“I can’t tell them.”

“Then, don’t.”


“Lie,” the doctor said.

“I’d rather die.”

“Indeed, you will.”

Mary strode to the window and threw herself out, wondering as she passed each of the ten floors how it was going to feel at the bottom.

© Kathryn Atkins 2007

Kathryn Atkins

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Fogged In

A dense fog makes the trees weep, heavy or sad from the extra weight, we're not sure, Pepper and I, as we tiptoe in the eerie quiet, losing each other in the gray of it all. Shapes appear suddenly but softly in the blur of mist pulsing gently as fog does, as if it's alive, because it is, and covers our little park as efficiently as a righteous fog bank can hide San Francisco from itself--pyramid, bridges, and towers subdued by the rolling tide of a hearty pea souper, controlling traffic and people, spectres with headlights and foggy spectacles easing gingerly wondering if they will back-end or head-on collide into other moving or stationary objects. Light bounces off the thickened opaque air, not seeing through to the other side, a wall of molecules collected and convened for the purpose of hiding, causing havoc for travelers and filmmakers, haven for writers and lovers, cloakage for criminals and spirits, trademark weather for cities like San Francisco that wouldn't be San Francisco without it.