This month marks a momentous anniversary: in March 2003 I typed the first words of my first novel.
I had no clue what I was doing at first. I never dreamed of being a writer, nor did I know anything about the art of writing itself. But twenty years ago I was bored to tears in a continuing-education class and I posed myself a riddle to kill some time. The answer to that riddle became a 400-page manuscript that I wrote over the course of 90 days. That book was never published, nor were the two after it, but the following eight were (and a ninth on the way!). I’ve learned a lot about the craft in the past two decades. Not just about the act of writing itself, but also the psychology of writers.
I’ve talked to many novelists over my career, including interviewing nearly 100 of them so far on my podcast, and I’m fascinated by what it takes for someone to sit down and write that first book (spoiler: it’s fucking hard!). For all those aspiring writers who finally complete that debut novel, there are countless others who never find the proper motivation to finish their first book. There are starts and stops, perhaps, but there’s always a reason (or ten) some aspiring writers never get to type those two glorious words: THE END.
If you have always wanted to write a book but never pushed yourself to finally do it, I’m here to help. Starting this summer, I’m going to be offering an in-person two-and-a-half-day The Gentle Novelist workshop in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. Limited to just ten people per workshop, the curriculum will be a blend of craft, practice, motivation, accountability, and inspiration.
Why the word “gentle”? Because as much as the workshop will be about accountability and hard work, it’s also about overcoming fears and giving yourself permission to achieve your goals. We all spend so much time being hard on ourselves, cursing our failures and inactions, and in this workshop I’ll give you the guidance on how to be gentle in your approach to novel writing, illustrating that consistent, achievable efforts will get you to THE END. You’ll bond with your fellow writers, have one-on-one time with me, learn the craft of novel writing from myself and guest speakers, and together we’ll break through those psychological barriers keeping you from realizing your dream. I’m a highly seasoned speaker who loves teaching, and I’m excited to share twenty years of knowledge with an intimate group in the Rocky Mountains.
The specific details are being finalized and I’ll be announcing them as soon as everything is in place. But if you’d like to be among the first to be able to reserve a spot, please fill out this simple form and I’ll make sure you get the details before they are broadly announced. Finally, I will be offering one scholarship that will reduce the cost of the program by 50%, so make sure to check that box on the form if you’re interested and I’ll reach out with follow-up questions.
Aspiring writers, let’s get you on your way to realizing your dream. See you in Boulder!
Making It Up
Newly added episodes of my conversation series Making It Up are out!
This month I chatted with novelist and former Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Chad Boudreaux (Scavenger Hunt), bestselling novelist Lexie Elliott (How to Kill Your Best Friend), award-winning crime-fiction writer David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Winter Counts), and novelist Rebecca Kelley (No One Knows Us Here).
All episodes are available on my website, my YouTube channel, and wherever you get your favorite podcasts.
What I’m Watching
Yellowstone, Season 1 (Peacock, 2018)
So Jessica and I were in search of a new show, which seems insane because of how many shows are out there. One of us brought up Yellowstone, and both of us had heard all the praise the show has earned (there are four seasons already and a spinoff). I always liked Kevin Costner and hadn’t seen him ride a horse since Dances With Wolves, so I figured, why not?
Okay, the scenery is gorgeous. I want a house like the Dutton’s have. A want a lawn like that. I don’t even enjoy croquet, but I would croquet the shit out of that lawn. And I could cuddle up nicely in front of the massive stone fireplace. But a nice looking house does not make a show successful (and you can just go to Zillow to get your house-porn fix). The show itself is merely okay. It’s a highly dysfunctional family, and Succession has set the high-bar on how that’s supposed to be written. Yellowstone is much closer to Dallas and Dynasty than it is to Succession, bad acting included. Costner is pretty great, and I love that he’s playing a total dick with little-to-no redeeming features. But the plotlines follow fairly predictable beats, the emotion really struggles to shine through, and the director tends to go for shocking, visceral closeups in lieu of nuanced writing. Yellowstone is a soap opera. But there’s a reason soap operas last for decades: viewers keep coming back despite their better instincts. I suspect that could be my ultimate relationship with this show.
What I’m Listening To
Chameleon: Dr. Dante (Podcast, The Binge, 2022)
I love podcasts about scammers. I don’t know why. I think I’m simply taken aback by the ballsy nature of con artists and how they just throw caution to the wind time and time again. And they almost always get caught! The narcissistic nature of these people is baffling, maddening, and fascinating.
From the show’s description: “Dr. Ronald Dante is a talented hypnotist (and not an actual doctor) whose mind-bending schemes span decades. Dante worked the smoke-filled nightclubs of 1960s Hollywood and rode the self-help craze of the 1980s and 90s, hypnotizing women out of their fortunes, taking out hits on his rivals and opening up one of the biggest fake universities in history. Host Sam Mullins tracks Dante through yacht clubs, prison cells, trailer parks and theme parks to uncover the unbelievable true story of the greatest con man you’ve never heard of.”
The podcast consists of eight meticulously researched episodes, and the host injects just the right balance of gravity and humor into each one. But the real draw is Dr. Dante, who is so infuriating and absurd as to make this show prime binge material. If you’re a true-crime fan who doesn’t want to hear about yet another serial killer, check this one out.
Photo of the Month
Ducklings in a pond. I took this shot years ago up in Estes Park, Colorado.
Update from My Kids
All of us were thrilled to have my daughter and her boyfriend home for spring break, but no one more so than Scully.
Update from My Cat and Dog
Everyone keeps telling me how the dog and cat and are going to be best friends, and all I think of is WHEN?
Humor of the Month sent to me by a friend
Book-Love Instagram Post of the Month
I love the serendipity of picking up my book thinking it was a different one. Make sure to check out my novel Gawn Gurl.
That’s it for now! Until next month…