Backstory Blog

Posted in Writing

A writer’s 2021 letter to Santa Claus

What does a writer want for Christmas? Inspiration, tenacity and a killer work ethic spring immediately to mind. But these are things that neither friends nor family members can provide. They’re the kinds of thing a writer must find within, but maybe there’s someone who can assist at least a little bit with these.

Most of the lists I see online for suggested gifts for writers are filled with things like computer writing software, printer paper and coffee cups emblazoned with bon mots from writers who have gone before us. I’m not sure that these are things most real writers covet. Of course, every year, I wish for more Moleskines, of which I can never have too many.  Apart from that, there are a few things I might covet. I’d like to share my 2021 letter to Santa with other writers and aspiring writers. 

“Dear Santa:

Well, here we are. We made it to the end of 2021. Last year on New Year’s Eve, we all toasted to the end of 2020, hoping that it was gone and forgotten and the weirdness we’d been experiencing would fade away. That, of course, didn’t happen, and we’ve been slogging on through this peculiar pandemic and all it entails. For me, though, it has had a silver lining. It’s been a year of writing, not writing, writing some more, editing manuscripts, and publishing not one but two books. Well, you know what I’ve been through this year. I’ve worked hard, so I know you’ll look kindly on this writer’s little Christmas list. 

First, I would like a few more Moleskines.[1]  Of course, they’re expensive as notebooks go, but who can put a price on a writer’s dearest companion? I thought you might agree. I know that other people in my life can provide these as well―but one can never have enough Moleskine notebooks, can one?  Anyway, if they’re good enough for Ernest Hemingway, they’re good enough for the rest of us.  I continue to be addicted to those brightly-coloured covers. I seem to be inspired to write just by looking at them, and surely contributing to inspiration is Santa’s job, n’est ce pas? Other people can also give me Moleskines, and that’s fine with me.

Now to the things that only you can give me. First, I’d like the gift of present mind―one that stays in the moment and pays attention. Let me see ideas everywhere I go and in everything I do (then the Moleskines become very useful, right?).  If that mindfulness could be with me wherever I am―sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, riding the subway, dining at a favourite restaurant―then I might pick up a few ideas. You know what I mean?

I’d also like the gift of serenity in the rewriting and editing process. When I write, I seem to be in the moment, but I get fidgety when I begin editing. You know that feeling? When you just want it to be over? Well, I know that the rewriting and editing are at least as important as the writing, so I need that serenity, unflappability. Could you bring me some? Thank you.

Then, Santa, although I know it might be difficult, I’d like the gift of benevolence toward the editors who can’t seem to answer their email in a timely fashion―even when they’ve requested my proposal or manuscript.  *deep breath*

Well, that’s it for this year, Santa.  I’m planning another hard-working writing year, a new book out next fall and hope to be able to share with you at the end of 2022 just how far I’ve come with these gifts of Christmas 2021. Oh, and if you can manage it, please deep-six this damn virus so we can all travel again. You know how much travel inspires me! Thanks for reading, Santa. Merry Christmas!”

[1] For the uninitiated, Moleskines are (as their website says): “…the heir and successor to the legendary notebook used by artists and thinkers over the past two centuries: among them Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway…”  You can read about them at and buy them all over the world in book stores and online.  The paper is great and the array of sizes and colours is amazing.

Posted in Backstory, Book launches, Book trailers, Fiction Writing, Uncategorized

Launching a new book: It never gets tired!

Anyone who knows me personally or knows my work also knows that I’ve been writing nonfiction for over thirty years. I started my career as a health and medical writer. After moving into medical communication and working as an academic and consultant, my writing focused on communications. I occasionally was able to mesh health and communication in my writing. Some of you still use my textbooks – I know this because I still get royalty cheques!

Now, as a recovering academic, I spend the bulk of my writing time writing fiction. Today, I launch my latest novel, “The Inscrutable Life of Frannie Phillips.”

I never really intended to write this book. In fact, when I finished The Year I Made 12 Dresses that launched six months into the pandemic, I thought I was finished with the main character, Charlotte (Charlie) Hudson. Not so much. Have you ever had a character whisper into your ear? Keep talking in your head? Generally, bug you until you had to write about her again? That’s where Kat’s Kosmic Blues came in. But it seemed she wasn’t finished there.

So, today, I launch The Inscrutable Life of Frannie Phillips and here’s my little launch party where I tell you about writing this book…

And here’s more info…

I’ll now return to my usual blogging: sharing my writing tips, advice and general journey. You might even enjoy reading this book.

Care about people’s approval, and you will be their prisoner.

Lao Tzu

Posted in Writing, Writing rituals

Don’t cure writer’s block: Avoid it!

So, what is writer’s block? Is it a real thing? Damned if I know. I’ve never had it. No, really. I. Have. Never. Had. Writer’s. Block. I’ve been writing for thirty-plus years and cannot ever say I’ve been blocked.  Stuck from time to time, maybe. But it only lasts for a nanosecond, and I find myself able t move forward. I think it’s because (a) I don’t buy into the notion that it’s a thing for all writers, and (b) I have some habits that seem to help me void the dreaded block.

We all get stuck once in a while. We just get unstuck. Being blocked is being paralyzed by an inability to continue a project you’re working on. This paralysis is a problem and a problem that sits squarely inside a writer’s head. Does that make it real? Only if you want it to be.

I’m not the only writer who doesn’t think writer’s block is a real thing. Or at least we can avoid it.

“I don’t believe in writer’s block. For me, there’s no such thing as writer’s block―don’t even say writer’s block.” ~ Judy Blume

“Writer’s block doesn’t exist…lack of imagination does.” ~ Cyrese Covelli

“Writer’s block is just an excuse by people who don’t write for not writing.” ~ Giando Sigurani

“Writer’s block is just a fancy way of saying ‘I don’t feel like doing any work today.’” ~ Meagan Spooner

Here are the ways I avoid writer’s block.

1 – At the first sign of being stuck in a project or when the characters seem to have stopped talking, I change my environment. I get up and go for a walk. I do the laundry. I make a sandwich. I don’t’ just take my writing to a different space―I put my head into a different space.

2 – To avoid falling into the trap of seeing only the problem―or even letting the situation arise in the first place―I do some writing practice every day. I have notebooks of all types and will write something. Sometimes, I write a script. Other times a blog post for the travel blog I write with my husband. Sometimes, it’s just a few paragraphs.

3 – I always have at least two projects on the go at the same time. I am always writing a novel―always. That’s a given. But I also write scripts for my YouTube Channel and often have another book at some stage of gestation. For many years, I always had a fiction and a nonfiction project on at the same time. My newest novel (out next month) was written while I was also writing How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal that Sells. Stuck in one project? Move to the other, then come back.

4 – I have a writing ritual. Before I begin writing, I always have a cup of coffee. Always. Sometimes, I add a yoga session before the coffee, but the coffee is a ritual that gets me moving. It’s not about the caffeine. It’s about sipping the coffee mindfully. This means that you’re not thinking about your writing during the ritual―you’re thinking about the coffee. Or the yoga. Or the Chopin Nocturne you’re playing on the piano. Then you write.

5 – I have a second creative outlet. I design clothing and create garments. This is a major creative outlet for me that often feeds my primary passion: writing. You might take up sketching, playing music, ballet, oil painting, singing, making Kumihimo jewellery or whatever other creative passions ignite you. You’ll be amazed at how this creative outlet can get your writing muse on the ball.

I’m going to give Erica Jong the last word (you know her, of course??)

“All writing problems are psychological problems. Blocks usually stem from the fear of being judged. If you imagine the world listening, you’ll never write a line. That’s why privacy is so important. You should write first drafts as if they will never be shown to anyone.” ~Erica Jong

So, if you’re afraid of being judged, just write for yourself. Writer’s block will dry up.

I can almost guarantee it. Almost.