• You Can Control Whether You Quit or Persevere

    Last night, we had to have the hard conversation with our daughter about possibly quitting something she’s involved in. She didn’t really want to quit, she just wanted to alter the way in which she does it. We talked it through, and we all came to the conclusion that persevering is the optimal course of action. If you’ve never watched the Markus Zusak Ted Talk, author of The Book Thief, then you are really missing something. He quotes writer Samuel Beckett in his talk, and offers his own perspective. It’s worth watching. The famous Beckett quote is this: “All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try…

  • Books That Make You Cry

    About two months ago, on a nice day in March, I sat on my back porch and cried my eyes out as I finished Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. My friend, Shawna, and I were talking about both the novel and the upcoming movie on Saturday at the pool. She hated feeling so sad at the end of the story, and I didn’t mind it; she also doesn’t want to see the movie, and I get that. It is terribly tragic, but it’s also so touching. I’m ready to face it in the theatre with a box of Kleenex. I’ve been waiting a couple of months to see how…

  • What Failure Taught Me, With a Nod To Author Markus Zusak

    As part of the final in Magazine Writing, I asked my students to reflect on certain aspects of the course, including the readings, their writing, and the lessons learned, as well as their ability to construct a well-written response to a writing prompt. This year’s students were asked to reflect on writer Markus Zusak’s wonderful Ted Talk for Question #1 (Zusak is the author of the acclaimed novel, The Book Thief). I asked them to consider their own failure(s) or something that they are afraid to do that could possibly lead to failure. I got a lot of interesting answers, but most of them discussed how failure has led to…

  • What Writers Owe To Themselves

    Writers—Do you do some of your best thinking in the shower? Typically, my best ideas come to me at the most inopportune moments when I do not have paper and pencil handy, like when I’m commuting or observing something with a cart full of groceries or taking a walk through the neighborhood. Sometimes the creative juices flow when I’m not prepared to greet them, much in the same way a hostess of a party who is still in sweats and inappropriately dressed as her first guest rings the doorbell is not ready. These creative juices are important, and if we are lucky, they flow directly and consistently into our writing,…

  • My Latest Author Crush

    Markus Zusak is attractive, intelligent, in touch with human nature, deeply evocative with his use of language, and has had me thinking about the story he wrote for a good, solid week now. In fact, I know I will never forget it. I’d call that an author crush. I can’t get Liesel, Hans, Rosa, Ilsa, Max, and Rudy out of my mind, not to mention Frau and Michael Holtzapfel. The images he left me with are vivid and haunting, and “The Book Thief” is one of my all-time favorite stories I have read. Perhaps Zusak’s best choice in writing this WWII novel about foster-child Liesel Meminger was allowing the story…