Tilting and musing at windmills

Driving through town the other day with the kids, I spotted a wind turbine spinning far faster than I would have expected. It hadn’t felt particularly breezy when I’d picked them up on the school playground a few minutes earlier. Nor did I see any tree branches swaying.

“That windmill’s spinning really fast,” I commented idly. “I didn’t think it was that windy out.”

“Maybe it’s windy to the windmill,” my daughter Audrey replied from the backseat.

Sounds silly. But upon reflection, it was downright profound. First, the conditions 100 feet atop the turbine tower were undoubtedly different from the ground on which I judged them. So was the material subject to the force of the wind– the sleek curved propeller blades vs. my distinctly unaerodynamic body.

If I walk it back even further, my own initial comment really wasn’t idle, either. I said it deliberately, hoping to engage my son Owen, who dwells so much in separate worlds – movies he’s seen, books he’s read, memories of former physical places like his old daycare – in the present moment.

It didn’t work. Audrey replied, not Owen. And as I reflected on the moment more, it struck me as a perfect metaphor for why so many contemporary problems feel hopeless and unsolveable. Exhibit A would be the national uproar over race provoked by the failures to indict in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner killings. Exhibit B, on my community level, is the bitterness surrounding a proposal to turn a warehouse near a residential neighborhood into a seasonal homeless shelter.

In both situations, just like I did with the windmill, we tend to speak first. What we say is often woefully underinformed with appreciation — not just consideration, but appreciation, which connotes value – for conditions as others might see them.

Even more potentially damning, we tend to speak with a particular goal in mind — mine was to elicit a response from Owen — rather than seeking to learn from or simply listen to the others in the conversation. As I discovered, that doesn’t work. Thus the “conversation” devolves into a non-conversation, dueling monologues instead of dialogues.

I don’t have an end to this blog post. That’s deliberate. If I’m to change my own habit of speaking with an end in mind, there’s no better place to start than here. So what do you think?

The letter D brought to you by Daily Drop Cap.


Giving thanks for the good fortune of great readers

When I visit book clubs or speak at an event or do signings for Sparrow Migrations, I usually bring along a bag of fortune cookies. All the novel’s characters eat at a Chinese restaurant at some point, and the fortune cookies are a great icebreaker, a reason to strike up a conversation.

This month, fortune found me. I’ve accepted an offer from Lake Union Publishing, an imprint of

Lucky charm.

Now serving.

Amazon Publishing, to re-release Sparrow Migrations in spring 2015.

<< ! >>

What that means is that the manuscript gets a wholesale editing polish and a new cover. And when it’s re-released, the world’s largest bookseller will be powering my quest to reach more readers.

The opportunity seemed to fall out of the sky when my now-editor first contacted me to express interest. The November timing is particularly poignant — I finished my first draft almost exactly four years ago during my third attempt at NaNoWriMo. But as I reflect on the past four years, it’s Thomas Edison’s pithy line that fits best: Opportunity is dressed in overalls and looks like work. Writing the manuscript is just the first step, especially if you go the indie route.

Now, more work lies ahead. The developmental editor is marking up her copy as I write. Copy edits, proofreading and a new cover design come next. All are in service of maximizing this next, huge, opportunity.

Thanksgiving is the best-known hallmark of November, of course. And I’m so grateful for the indie author experience I’ve gained since self-pubbing 18 months ago, which allowed me to connect with readers. I’ve met hundreds of readers, in person at book clubs and libraries and bookstores and virtually at Skype book discussions and through their Amazon and Goodreads reviews. It was that “review intensity” that my editor mentioned in her first e-mail as evidence Sparrow could fly higher still.

So, readers, in this dual season of NaNo and Thanksgiving, please accept my thanks, 50,000 times over.

- The letter W brought to you by Daily Drop Cap.

 PS – Twitter coaching for NaNo last week was great fun. If you’re a Wrimo still searching for your path to The End, I offer some tips on the NaNo blog.

The year of NaNo-ing vicariously

Sounds like a blockbuster title, doesn’t it?

I’m on the sidelines of the literary world’s greatest endurance race this year, wrapping up revisions to my 2013 novel. But I guest-blogged some tips for ForeWord Reviews. And I’m excited to be invited to coach WriMos on Twitter through a new NaNo program. My designated week to answer questions and offer encouragement starts next Monday, Nov. 17, but you can tweet questions and/or laments anytime before or after with the hashtag #NaNoCoach.

If you’re on pace, you should be at about 17,000 words today. How are you doing?

 - The letter S brought to you by Daily Drop Cap.