Thinking About

Bye, NaNoWriMo.

A question I would ask if someone didn’t already:

Why are you making so many changes without engaging the community?

Check out their super crappy answer:

First and foremost, not all of our community engagement has been visible. We’ve had scores of conversations, email interactions, and volleyed messages with community members using other media. We’ve trawled forum threads at length and taken down suggestions. We’ve sent surveys and reviewed the data. We’ve received suggestions forwarded by the Board. Even though we have yet to hold anything like a town hall meeting, a tremendous amount of feedback has been received and taken into account.

With that said, much of this early work has been our work to do, changes we knew we had to make, and ones that (frankly) did not require community input. For example, we are in the final contracting stages with for both volunteer identity verification and for teacher/educator verification on the YWP website side. We have already tested three separate criminal background checking services with international capabilities and we’re looking at a fourth. Background checks were something we decided (and announced) in November and it was our role to perform budget planning and to do our due diligence around vendor selection.

Additionally, we retained new counsel and have gone through legal review of our policies and procedures. We’ve updated our Terms and Conditions and our Codes of Conduct on our site and a Privacy Policy update is in the works. We worked with our attorney to update the Municipal Liaison agreement and to develop a separate agreement for other volunteers. We also rewrote our employee handbook (as the Board noted in November, certain staff practices needed attention). On the tech side, we worked with our internal team to roadmap more than 20 back-end changes that are needed to support new community safety and security backstops. And we handled several personnel issues.

The inner workings of the program certainly need input from our community and we are on the brink of soliciting more, but there was plenty for us to do internally, things that serve as the foundation of our program moving forward.

Lies upon lies.

Today I just deleted my account. That account has been active since 2015, but I’ve been doing the Nov events and sometimes camp, for a lot longer.

I’m 41 years old. Come November, I will be 42. Depending on who you are and maybe where you hail from, and potentially how old YOU are, this might not seem old to you. Or it might seem ancient.

Fair enough, either way. I’ve always looked young for my age. So, it’s always an interesting conversation, (whether in a get-to-know-you sesh, or job interview, or in line at the liquor store) when it comes to light that I am much older than the other person had initially assumed.

These days I look (at least) 21. (I hope) so that’s less carding. I was born in the 1900’s so it’s easy to just glance at my driver’s license. But otherwise, until I became a Mom and started carting my toddler almost everywhere, it could be safely assumed I was a college-kid. You see, not only do I have a forever-baby face, but I also have youthful hobbies.

One of them is participating every year in “NaNoWriMo.” If you don’t know about them, please read this bootlicking essay I wrote for them years back, mere moments before COVID happened, when I was attempting to generate fervor for them as I noticed they were falling out of favor.

Why I Don’t Hate NaNoWriMo

I know. Sorry. Things were somewhat normal back then.

And what did I get for my efforts?

Part I: What’s Going On?

Lately, I feel like someone, somewhere, who has taken my money either through fundraising efforts, merch, etc., is sitting in a San Francisco office trying to decide if someone as old as I am, who is just so #blessed to live in a Podunk Pennsylvania town (sorry, I was born here and am suckered into moving back somehow every ten years)…gets to have a local hobby and local writer friends.

Of course, they would balk at this, but it is exactly what’s happened. I needed to walk away from something that became very important to me. I didn’t want to waffle about it any longer. But that annoys me since I spent many years waffling only for it to come to this.

Cool, huh. I was loyal to them and they stiffed me. Sad thing is, I didn’t even do as much for them as other people I know. People who were the backbone for many years. Some who waited in the wings to be the backbone and barely got their chance before things went immediately south.

I thought about becoming the backbone, but then I was immediately pregnant. And because of the level of commitment I knew the role required, despite it being a VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY, I shuddered to think of how terrible I would have been as an ML. Why? Because it required a level of commitment that I don’t think I ever had in my bones.

People want to pretend that MLs were essentially worthless, that anyone could do the job and probably better. The website even has a new feedback form where you can now tattle I mean share information about your MLs and it’s quite leading.

I know for a fact that the job was difficult. That’s why I never volunteered.

And that’s the thing. It never should have been that difficult of a job, where I would be relieved that someone else stepped up if I was in charge. Or just looking for an excuse to quit because I had been treated so poorly by HQ.

Ultimately, the relief that I would feel deep down for never becoming an ML is that somehow, I knew who ever took the job was being scammed out of their time and money. And, I’m sorry, but it looks like a lot of work to not make a single cent.

“But Amy, they are a nonprofit and bleh bleh bleh.”

To that I say: exactly.

Just like churches who don’t pay their taxes and find themselves in similar legal troubles. It’s a scam with a pretty bow on it.

They want volunteers who want to do it for the fun of it or love of it, or worship of the organization and will take on any flak and frankly abuse as part of the nature of being a volunteer. And the only way you can convince someone that’s true is if they already have a sort of beaten-down Christian mentality, which is what I’ve seen rise to the surface in the last few years, and it’s gross.

Was it always this way? Who knows. Did they do a good job of pretending it wasn’t for well over a decade? Oh YEAH.

Part II: The Hobby:

But let’s retreat back to my other point about being a writer who needs an outdoor hobby. A hobby where I can GASP take my writing outside of my house and commune with other writers who want to do the same thing. DOUBLE GASP.

Big deal, right? Well you say that not knowing all of the things I consider before I leave my house to participate in said hobby these days.

Am I feeling sick? Is my two year old daughter safely taken care of? Do I have enough snacks on my person, gas in my tank, is the weather suitable, do I have my glasses for my night-blindness, how well do I know the people I am meeting up with or will I get my standard neurodivergent/introvert-jitters and talk to much or too little? Will I be weird and make too much or too little eye contact over the brim of my laptop. Do I have a laptop? Is it charged? Is it too big for constant transit? Should I buy a new one? Do I have a good-sized bag with my notebook, pens, and room for inevitable Nano goodies? Should I buy coffee or not? Where is my giant water mug?

All just to silently write in a library, cafe, bookstore, etc. while I sip said coffee and eat snacks and barely socialize with the people I’m there to socialize with.

“But Amy, just go to a Starbucks and do that.”

Sure, yeah, Starbucks. Go to a Starbucks and write when I could just write from my living room couch.

Part III: The Weird Rules:

I remember the face of Nano from years back, the dude with glasses smiling with an anything-goes attitude. A big thumbs up. You know the guy. The guy who greenlit the mascot to be a giant stuffed animal. Yeah, that guy. This isn’t his fault, I’m sure, but he was the face of the organization for so long, it feels like NaNoWriMo is synonymous with his face.

Where did he go?

But now that seems like years ago.

Also where did the other people go who used to lead the write-ins and so forth?

And that chick they hired a couple years back who was all over their social channels and now doesn’t do that anymore? Hmm.


I wanna do some quick math you guys. Sorry, I know writers and math, yuck!

24-12 is 12. Okay? So that means that 2012 was 12 years ago.

So that means when I first learned about NanoWriMo I was roughly 30.

Take your age and subtract 12 from it. 30- 12 is 18, 18-12 is 6, Good. 12-12 is 0.

When you first learned about Nano how old were you?

Was it around its inception (1999) or much later?

Were you even born before its inception?

Were you even born 12 years after its inception?

Did you find it on your own or were you recruited by someone else?

Do you get where I’m going with this? Was Nano supposed to be a passing fad for some of us? Were we supposed to do it EVERY YEAR for as long as we wanted to or were we supposed to find it silly and stop at some point?

Was it always supposed to be for young kids?

Was it not always supposed to be for young kids?

Was it supposed to be for adults and young kids together?

What were they doing?

If you read the article above that I wrote 4 years ago (when I was roughly 38), you might have found that I wrote some cringe-worthy things about how Nano is “not just for kids!” and when I wrote that, I meant it.

In fact, hear me out, despite knowing about the Young Writer’s Program, and as an educator who subsequently never participated in it (too busy) I assumed, blindly, that was the only way that kids participated.

In their classrooms with their teacher’s curriculum. As that was the deal with YWP.

I had NO IDEA that kids were doing Nano on their own, and using the forums, etc. (And joining the 18+ discords. Yikes.)


And most of the people I knew who participated were either my age or MUCH OLDER THAN ME. AND YET, I found that Nano was being billed, increasingly as something for kids, or if not “kids” people of a youthful age bracket. Maybe people in high school or just fresh out.

It seemed “college freshman” was the key demographic. Until it wasn’t.

Or maybe like me, they were old, but looked young? GIANT SHRUG.


What can I do? Assume people are old when they aren’t? Young when they aren’t? All I can do is just put my head down and write.

Now they expect the MLs to do this. MLs who were bringing their own children to events. Okay so they aren’t in the forums, but they are in an even more precarious position of being in the same room as a pedophile, and yet there were no protections against this. Which I also did not know when I brought my daughter to an event.


Which is what makes the online stuff increasingly more difficult and icky to participate in. Just because I didn’t want to hang out with kids. I didn’t want to answer Quora-style questions about writing and I didn’t want to compete with children for wordcount.

That alone feels weird, you know? Clearly I have the skills and a bit of an edge writing for 15 years or more than someone who was just starting out. What kind of a competition is that? I know that sounds rude and dismissive, but there is a time and place for that sort of thing and it’s not at a random library full of strangers.

And sorry, As I said I was in my 30s at the time when I decided that I only wanted to interact with other adult writers. I wrote 4 books and won Nano 3 times and was ready to move onto next steps.

I wanted to meet other WRITING PROFESSIONALS.

Part IV: The People

And I stupidly assumed that WRITING PROFESSIONALS were the ones capable of writing 50K words in a month and then publishing them. BECAUSE THAT WAS PART OF THE DEAL WITH THE “WHAT’S NEXT” HEADLINE ON THE WEBSITE.

As I said, there is a time and place for kids to learn how to write well or at least learn about writing a significant amount in a short time. But it isn’t in an 18+ discord, an online forum, or an in-person writing event for ADULTS who are trying to publish. For real.

I mean, DUH.

I’m sorry but that was another thing I just assumed going in. I knew about the YWP and thought that was what it was for, keeping kiddos in their lane. Or not even that harsh, just simply, letting them have their own safe space, or even making them aware of their own separate affiliation of something I assumed they were NOT ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN.

Not to be reverse agist or anything, but this is what is supposed to keep these situations from happening, isn’t it?


But despite all of Nano’s weird rules about who can share information and what information is shared there were no rules around any of that. And no background checks. Which is why I (as of 2021), and others, sometimes were in a position to bring their own children, either in an effort to show up and participate or, sue me to introduce my writing friends to my new baby.

So, then one day there was supposedly a rule about that in which many people broke inadvertently. Which makes sense but also doesn’t. It feels like punishing the people who did nothing wrong except being a busy ML and having a kid. When other more nefarious people are the ones showing up to interact with said children. Yuck.


But NaNoWriMo just ignored making rules about these things and were super strict with other things calling you a “rebel” if you did your own thing like god forbid using the wordcount to finish a novel you had already started instead of starting fresh.

I’m going to say it here and now, if you know anything about the industry and word count requirements for publishing (No thanks to NaNo), 50K words is not a novel. It’s a novella. You can self-publish a 50K word novella, sure, but good luck getting an agent to rep one.

I’m sure now that I’ve said that, it’ll magically become possible, because that’s also how the industry seems to work. But for years 50K was NaNo’s model and it was not an industry standard.

The wordcount is a dumb idea, and I honestly don’t understand people who cling to that specific amount. Why not 40K? Or Why not 60K or or 70K which is still on the lower end of industry standard wordcounts.

But you see if we take that one stupid rule away the whole stack of cards fall. They’ve lost their edge where they’ve absolutely cornered the market, monopolizing people’s minds through the entirety of November.

But then once COVID happened, things started to feel even more shady. There were rules around even weirder things suddenly. Things that felt like, even as an adult, I was being corralled like an ornery cat when I wanted to just be myself and do things my own way.

Like, I wanted the sessions to not just simply revolve around word counts. Maybe we could all socialize more? Maybe we could do more events that were, Idk, event-y? There was some of that, but all of that weirdly started to dwindle post-COVID. And then talking about events became a no-no. Which was the weirdest thing of all.


COVID was used as an excuse it seemed to make the events even less social than they were in the past. Or completely derail them.

Like, I’m an introvert, people. I get it. And I was very pro-“let’s all stay safe during this unprecedented time.” But end of the day, once things got “better,” if you got me to get dressed and leave my house after months of waiting for events to open back up, I want it to feel like it wasn’t a silly waste of time.

And if there is a calendar full of events post-COVID, I’m going to expect that people are going to show up.

And I wonder how much socializing would have occurred last year if there weren’t so many weird, unspoken Nano rules. As odd as it is, but common decency is just an unspoken human rule that isn’t Nano-exclusive. In fact, I felt just like I had no idea what was going on behind the scenes because much effort was being made to keep me and others in the dark and to carry on.

And the rules for users were to just be a decent person and not be mean and ask questions.

But if you need rules to be a decent person, I mean, what are you even doing here? Which like I said earlier, made me wonder why I even bothered leaving my house at the time. I wonder if it was more social it wouldn’t bore adults to tears and more would show up. Still the numbers dwindle and it’s “All the ML’s fault”


Part VI: It Wasn’t Their Fault.

NaNo’s expectations of volunteers was way too high and the expectations are only increasing. You need to be involved with an organization that has your back, and isn’t operating under an old model of having no idea what they are doing and winging it.

Not to mention what I now call “the legacy of secrecy,” of wanting to keep things hush hush for as long as possible, and putting that burden purely on the MLs. “Shhh don’t talk about anything real and legitimate. Just carry on and do weird Nano-centric things so people are always reminded of what Nano stands for.”

Like, what exactly?

Stuffed animals? Stickers?

Maybe it’s just me though. But pretending to be incentivized by JUST stickers (I like stickers but, I like other stuff too) and candy was the hardest thing to stomach. That clearly wasn’t set up for someone like me. I was starting to feel like I was aging out of NaNoWriMo, and that sucked.

But I grinned and bared it because where is all the other local writing stuff?

Everything was dying off.

But then again, I shouldn’t feel like I am aging out of writing events initially created for adults, especially when many adults that showed at events were usually OLDER THAN ME.

What the hell was happening?

Part VII: Huh??:

But this is all convoluted and backwards. No kids allowed, but the events are set up for kid-like brains, who care more about candy and stickers than actual writer things like publishing help and networking.

It’s 18+ but we giggle over stupid bs like we’re at a Christian youth camp (!)

The site is going to be 18+, and the new ML agreement suggests that people at events “who are ‘minors passing as adults’ ???? should be asked to drop out.”


So, wait a minute. Back all the *&^% way up. You’re saying that three kids in a trench coat passing as an adult came to an all ages event? Or people who look older than they are pretend to be 18+? What about people who look younger than they are? Are they passing as younger? What in the world is with that wording?

That doesn’t even make sense NaNo.

I’m not buying it.

Besides how the hell can one unpaid volunteer track that? Card people at the door? Imagine carding people so they can eat candy and win stickers.


And yet more information starts to trickle in…

Part VIII: The Insider Intel and Immediate Coverup

Holy Hell. First off thank you reddit for leaking all of this new information. I was able to read ALL OF IT and really take it in despite its length. Although there are TL;Drs everywhere now.

I won’t be linking any of it because I don’t need that falling back on me, but wow.

Just …wow.

You might have read this entire thing wondering what sparked everything. The information is disgusting and is probably the deepest rabbit hole you’ve found in awhile.

What happened is awful and I am so sorry to the victims, but the issue stands that this organization has been flying under the radar with its crazy bs long before the events were leaked in November AND MOST PEOPLE HAD NO IDEA!

If you want to read more, check out r/HobbyDrama, and r/nanowrimo.

I’m done NaNoWriMo. I should have known when the really weird woman I tutored with told me about you. I thought you’d be cool like when you were NaPoWriMo.

Right no one knows what that is anymore. Too bad.

It was really cool.

(It’s since become a Writer’s Digest only thing and is during the month of April. Good for them.)

Just want to say thanks for all the garbled wordcount but no thanks for any other the other stuff I did on my own. The editing, the formatting, the industry research, the networking, etc. Finding adult spaces to interact with other adults.

(You really need to look in the mirror, Nano)

With Nano I worked on my projects only once a year and now I’m freed up to do them any month of the year I want. The entire year if I want.

I can take back control of my writing productivity instead of this weird wordcount Nazi bs. Or write in tropes I don’t gaf about. And I don’t need stickers to do it.

I don’t need to win, I already won.

And I can just write at a Starbucks without feeling weird about it.

I can go be an adult.

Stuff happening and talking about community (again).

Hello again! I am here to report all my busy-doings and update you on the 4 C’s of my creative life.

How are your 4 C’s going? Any updates on that front? Feel free to reply to me with your updates.


Fellow writers, do you have a Spotify playlist for your WIP’s? I have a few.

This is the playlist I had going for the months I was finishing Five Doors.

As it accumulated songs, you can see how much it grew, I ended up with 6 hours of creativity fodder.

Since I tend to visualize scenes, music helps me get there.

I suggest you try it at least to help you when you get stuck. Making the list is half the fun!


We talked about writing tools, focusing on the one that works and how you can switch it up sometimes when you get stuck.

What about how we craft other things in our creative life. Do you make anything? Do you knit, sew, build? One of the characters in my new WIP Pinwheel Thief builds furniture. I’ve seen custom-built furniture made and I always marvel at it.

If you have a craft that isn’t writing, share it with me!

I would love to feature it here and gush about how talented you are, and we can talk a bit more about how other projects fuel our creative minds and help us be better writers!

This could be you!


One of the few good things to come out of the pandemic is SoulJoel’s Comedy Club and Lounge, which was our local answer to missing comedy enough to bundle up in blankets and sit on a lawn chair so we could continue to see it live. I did it in the summer mostly, but in the cold too and I don’t care, it was one of the few things that kept me saying during this endless year of insanity. But I digress.

Did they do something like this where you are in the world?

So I have something in the works, that I so excited about, but I can’t report back about it though until it goes well and I can talk about how well it’s going. I will give you a hint, though:



​So this section won’t be self-promotion, but more some musings on community as a whole. Awhile back, I didn’t have a newsletter, my website was mostly for show and when I was on social media, I was just kickin’ it.

Somewhere along the line I dove head first into a shark tank, thinking I was swimming with fellow fishes. That’s hard. Do you ever feel that way on the job or when you are building community? Everything is fun and delightful and collaborative and then someone takes a chomp out of you?

I continue to advocate for collaboration over competition. It’s why I’m a fan of Improv. It’s why I’m a fan of most things that don’t require cutthroat tactics and bullying. My first book was about that. It’s basically what I’m all about, honestly. So this newsletter is not an effort to be showy, if I share something with you it’s because I want you to learn and do things WITH ME.

I was INCREDIBLY honored to speak at the SasCon panel a few weekends ago. But it was fun because of the people involved. They were helpful and knowledgeable and open. I was able to just TALK to people about things that interest me, and not sweat and choke on pretense. And because of that it felt easy but also like something to be proud of. I hope if you don’t have something like that, that you find it soon. To be honest, I know I still have a long way to go!

Do you ever feel like you need a boost? Do you ever feel like once boosted people resent you for it? How do we maintain community where we are cheering each other on if we all feel inherently competitive with each other?

I’m just me. I’m just a person who sure, wants to create art and “succeed” at it, whatever that means, but I don’t like watching others suffer. And I can’t be perfect and never make mistakes just because I appear to be further along into the process or “better” at something. That’s not how it works. Life shouldn’t revolve around impressing other people with appearances, numbers, dollar signs. You should be busy doing the work and feeling good about it.

I think people remembered that when the world was ending, but then they forgot as soon as there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I didn’t forget.

I don’t like watching people push each other down, or walk on each other. And I will avoid situations where I see that happening.

That’s the community I want to foster, so if you’re like me, stick around and I hope you know I will live up to my promise.

Thanks to the pandemic the behind the scenes of speaking at a panel amounts to eating Pringles at your computer.
And when you speak at panels don’t forget to root for fellow speakers and chat up their audience!

(If you want you can access to the talk I gave at SAS Con: Why and How You Should Write Across Genres)

That’s all for now. Keep on writing on!

This week’s 4 C’s. Keeping it together!

Hi all. I’m back again. Having this new template is actually quite freeing. I can focus my time and research on pulling stuff together for you all, instead of just word-dumping on you. Maybe if you’re all over the place and not sure what to do, try creating a template to plug and play. Chaos can be fun, but sometimes order just feels so much better. #Adulting.


Guys, I bought this planner and it is saving my life! I know you might be thinking how can a planner help you be more creative?

Well, I found that sometimes trying to be creative can feel a bit chaotic in my brain. But having a planner for your creative work

and not just your day job or what-have-you can help reign it all in.

Just a quick peak into my brain: it breaks down all of your projects, week by week, month by month and it keeps you accountable, daily.
There’s even a section for brainstorming each week, which is one of the reasons why I think this is an awesomely great creative tool.
Check it out:

I love you planner.


What is your writing tool of choice? I tend to like to handwrite when the words don’t come. When I sit in front of the computer screen and just go “ugh” that’s when I know I need to go to a different room and pull out pad and pen. But TBH, I often like to use pencil. Maybe it’s less committal, IDK.

I use colored pens usually when I get close to the end of a project and pencils when I first start out. Like I said, brains are weird. But it works, dude!

I get so much writing done and I usually end up breaking through blocks too!

And yes, I will write in bed.


As the DIY MFA social media person I usually make a lot of the memes you will see if you follow the page. It’s a fun part of the job and apparently I’m the person on the team who is most skilled at it. That’s what they tell me. I like doing it because I get to add my flavor of humor to an otherwise not so interesting or maybe overused idea. Memes are just my jam I guess. Do you know how easy it is to make one? I’ll share with you my dirty little secret.


I started a funny little hashtag called #funnythingsiown which will probably get zero traction. And that’s okay, it’s just an experiment. But if you want to join in with me and share funny things you own I plan to keep doing it until I forget or move onto another topic.

A New Format! The 4 C’s 😮 and more news!

Hi everyone! Long time no…read? I know life was topsy-turvy there for awhile, I was feeling it too.

It was definitely hard to juggle everything and some things were dropped.

Oddly enough, most of the things I was trying to build for myself got pushed to the back burner.

But isn’t that how it goes?

Then again, you can’t have much of a platform if you don’t have much to talk about.

And you can’t motivate others when you lose your own sense of direction.

Blind leading the blind for lack of a better phrase…

But the time away gave me some time to think. What do I want to do with my platform?

I know I want to help and inform and even maybe entertain, but like you I sign up for a newsletter

and then groan when I see how full my inbox is.

I hate to think I’m just another email sitting there taking up space. That’s the last thing I want to be, what a waste!

So I’m going to get to the point. No more waiting around, time to take action!

And I have changed the 3 C’s to the 4 C’s to include all of my passions.

And to give me something to research and write about.


Are you in a creative slump? Here are three quick tips to help you get out of it:

1) Engage in other creative hobbies (including reading). The itch to make comes from exercising that part of our brain, and we have to find the thing that gets it going again.

2) Set a timer to just think.Close your eyes while the timer is set, for however long and don’t do anything else. Let your mind wander. Then when the timer is up, write down what you thought about. I recommend doing this for AT LEAST 10 mins.

3) Write out your angstbefore you try to write something. Just freewrite about WHATEVER is stopping you from being creative. WHATEVER it is. You are mad at someone. You are frustrated with yourself. Your Amazon to-buy list is too long. Whatever it is get it down and then delete. Empty your brain of negativity.


So who out there is getting their hands dirty? What kind of things are you working on? I am going to start coaching with the DIY MFA SGC program soon and it’s got me thinking about how I will help other people with their craft, when I tend to struggle with my own. That’s where the imposter syndrome comes in I guess, because it takes me a long time to write things, traditionally, and I want to help other people be productive in real time.

I think since finishing Five Doors, however, and adding that to the roster of my “finished” works, I realized that my productivity has picked up in the last few years. At least with the amount of projects I’ve started. I used to not start projects at all. I hit my stride in the beginning though and then hit that muddle in the middle, and eventually slog my way through it but it slows me down.

So, how can I help other people who are in the same place? I even struggled with helping people get started, which is why I have been rethinking my whole “Fill the Blank Page” concept. Wondering if I should continue the group, or grow it into something else. I’m not very good with resistance, and I like working with people who are willing to work with me. Maybe I need to build up my tolerance? All things I am considering right now.


Check out my latest column writing about writing humor. It’s all very meta and it’s called “What’s So Funny?”

My latest article was called Writing Humor When You Don’t Think You’re Funny and it’s an article about the so-called how-to’s, different approaches to humor writing, funny people who inspire me, and so on. Stay Tuned for more funny articles from me!


I’m happy and terrified to announce that I am speaking at this online conference. I am doing a talk I will be sharing with the rest of you at some point about Writing Across Genres. That link is a copy of the worksheet I will be presenting with my PowerPoint. If you want more information about the event go here:

That’s all for now. Hopefully you will hear from me again soon. Keep on writing on!

My Origin Story & Finding Community

My origin story has three acts all by itself. The third and final act is where I am today having found my writing community.


If I were to start in childhood, I couldn’t say: “I’ve always wanted to be writer!” That simply isn’t true.

I don’t think I actively wanted to be a writer as much as I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to be Audrey Hepburn specifically.

I had a penchant for singing and memorizing songs and sort of developed a love of language and big words because I watched grown up musicals, dramas, and comedies—some I think my peers were not exposed to.

I think some of my elementary teachers recognized and appreciated that in me, but others found it daunting and discouraged it.

That was until my fourth grade teacher volunteered me without my knowledge to be a part of the Young Author’s Conference.

There I met Judy Blume and I asked her when I was like 9 “If (and it was a big if) I wanted to be a writer what would I need to do?”

She said I needed to “Start writing stories.” Easy, right?

That didn’t exactly come easily to me. I don’t have the “I wrote a story about X and it won the prize in the local magazine” origin story.

I was better at telling stories than writing them down and stories to me were like long jokes at that age.

I came from an extended family of story tellers. They would sit around the dining room table and retell the same stories about our relatives over and over with the same punchlines.

I memorized them as a kid. I got a sense of rhythm that way for comedic timing and what kinds of things made people “interesting characters”.

I think I filed a lot of those stories away in the back of my mind and those became the kind of slice of life stories I wanted to tell and would eventually.

I wasn’t really into telling fairy tales or more traditional storytelling, the kinds of things my peers were turning in at school, so I felt out of place in that realm.

The kinds of stories I wanted to tell would have gotten me in trouble at school and at home. Discretion was more important than truth in those days. And obedience was favored more than creativity and humor.

Especially if you were a girl.

My interest in actual “writing” wasn’t sparked until I was a teen, and it was sort of a Walden-esque experience.

Needing an escape, my Father would scoop us all up and take us to a cabin they rented in the Poconos.

If you can imagine it: no running water, no indoor plumbing, no cable, no internet. Just VHS tapes (luckily) of movies and TV shows that I had seen thousands of times—again the repetition and experience of things was sort of a family tradition. Watching the same Dick Van Dyke or All in the Family episode so many times that you could act it out, was just something we did.

We were all very theatrical.


Not to mention all the “imagining” I did outdoors, there was that element, and the seclusion as we were literally in the middle of nowhere.

But this existence was confusing.

In the seclusion I was becoming more self-conscious, less likely to perform. I was going back and forth between my introverted self being at ease, while my child self was becoming very bored.

I think as a result I sort of lived in a fog of uncertainty, not really knowing who I was.

As I got older, I found myself reaching for something new, and I was looking for things that sparked my curiosity. With few options, it just happened to be the stack of literary magazines and Nat Geo and Popular Science that the man who owned the cabin left lying around.

It was an odd combination of information I guess, but it flipped a poetry switch in my brain.

I was also stealing and reading the NYT best-selling books, and Women’s Fiction my Mom brought in tow most likely to stifle her own boredom.

The more I read the more it opened up my brain to the possibility that I could be one of those writers even though writing a novel seemed like a Herculean task at the time.

I used to look at the flap copy not so much for the synopsis but so I could look at the author’s picture and read their accolades and then sort of map out in my mind what steps I needed to take to have those same credits and experiences.

During her seven years at Vogue, Joan Didion worked her way up from promotional copywriter to associate feature editor. While there, and homesick for California, she wrote her first novel, which was published in 1963. 

Something like that.

“Damn,” I thought, “That could be my life.”

At that age you expect your life to just fall into place, especially when you have the luxury to dream about it, which I took for granted.

It certainly didn’t just fall into place…

As I progressed in age, I actually took it upon myself to ask my parents if I could keep going to the mountains but literally on my own terms.

I became a camp counselor but I did lots of reading then and  journaling and note-taking, with all my extra time. When I was home I started keeping track of the things I wrote in a portfolio with drawings and so forth.

I was also on the internet a lot more where even in the late nineties I was starting to find places I could write and share my writing. I think my parents had literally no idea how nuanced I was with this, and I kept a lot of it a secret from my peers, somehow, learning early how to lead this double life as a writer/normal person.

But while I was at the camp, I started teaching a poetry class to younger campers, a group of us started a camp newspaper and radio station and eventually my life just went in that direction. I was suddenly taking creative writing classes and journalism in high school then again in my freshman year of college. Eventually the trajectory had me able to say: “This is my world; these are my people.”


And it’s a very diverse group, as I would learn which would toss me a bunch of artistic opportunities and end up pulling me in lots of different directions. So much so that I would have to crawl on my hands and knees back to my writing which at the time was still a very solitary act for me. Sure people read my poetry, sometimes. I was usually the go-to person if someone wanted something written for something. It would show up in the college paper because I knew the editor, but I was still not fully the “out” writer I wanted to be. It felt like an odd job.

I also got distracted. I met men. I traveled a lot and lived in a few places including California. But I always went back to writing.

Secretly, I was fully entrenched in the online poetry world and back then I feel like Fiction and poetry were very different realms and communities.

I was blogging, I was submitting to publications, I was an active part of Poetic Asides and when you’re doing that you kind of feel like you’ve “made it” as a poet, not knowing that there was so much more to do to actually make it. When you only have people like Shakespeare and Elizabeth Bishop and Emily Dickinson to emulate, as long as you are eating and staying alive you are doing something right.

Why was it a secret? Because I was often changing diapers for a living and not going to chic cocktail parties.

Eventually I felt like I hit a wall, and I had an itch to do other things. I think circling back again I wondered if writing a novel was as hard as I thought it was when I was 16 now that I was in my 20s.

But, I got bit by the acting bug again even though I went to school for writing, and I did that for a while, I graduated my undergrad around the same time and so was reading a lot literature and trying to find sneaky ways to make all my projects either about poetry, writing, or studying poets or playwriting, and performing.

My GPA hit the roof, so being an academic to me seemed the only route toward being a writer even though it secretly bored me to tears.

Though academia did afford me a few chic cocktail parties, conferences and events, just not the paycheck I needed to sustain that life.

After I graduated the economy tanked. I was writing poetry, plays, trying to write a novel, I was freelance writing, but I was broke, and I couldn’t get that elusive writing job that didn’t exist.

I tried to work at a newspaper, but they had just laid off all their writers and only had one on staff and wanted to keep it that way.

Eventually I started teaching preschool again. When I moved up the ranks and did more than change diapers, it was as a creative gig that gave me a lot of time to write, but let’s face it, not the right place for me.

I stupidly had high hopes for getting an MFA but didn’t get accepted to the Top 10 school I cherry-picked and found that a bit demoralizing.

I decided to pull up my own grown up pants and transitioned from preschool teaching to marketing, the closest thing I could get to a writing job at the time. It was IMPOSSIBLE to get a teaching job that wasn’t for ECE or tutoring. That was a letdown. I spent lots of my undergrad preparing to become a teacher.

It felt impossible to sustain any kind of writing life even though I was trying and SHOCKINGLY this was the time of my life when the novel writing really started.

I was sneaking in writing at all my jobs, I was always scribbling something, outlining, rethinking my characters.

I wasn’t very social.

I always had a notebook or tape recorder of ideas. I kept blogging and though I wasn’t a writer in many people’s eyes, because I was always someone’s administrative assistant, or marketing flunkey, I had “completed” my first book.

I wrote a fictionalized version of the chunk of my life that happened just before the book was written (basically all the stuff that isn’t in this story and more), and I was left in shock that I did that. But I wrote the exact book that I thought I would write.

Once I did that I had all of these other ideas and started to make sense of a lot of the slush I had compiled over the years. The slush became other books.

That would be the moment I started to “feel” like  a writer, if I were honest with myself, and when I was finally brave enough to share my writing with non-writers/creatives.

But being a writer in a world of non-writers can really suck. Some have their presuppositions of what being a writer is and what the writing entails and they always want you to adjust to that. Or they just don’t get it. “You ‘write’? Why do that when you can be doing anything else?”

Good question.

But some non-writers can be a great resource. I find it’s easier to share my writing with people who have zero artistic predilections, because they read like a reader and don’t bring ego into it.

Conversely if you share your writing with an actor or a artist, they always want to see how they can help you develop your skill and take credit for it, or turn it into something they can use to further their own career.

Leaving you not the creator, but in the fine print, or an idea-mill. That might sound salty, but it’s been my experience.

End of the day if you aren’t making money writing, no one is taking you seriously, and various “jobs” just feel like consolation prizes.

But regardless of where you are in life and what you are doing, your writing will follow you.

The one thing that made me finally slam on the breaks and take that monumental step of BEING A WRITER was that I had done everything else EXCEPT THAT. And I couldn’t not do it anymore. So I started calling myself a writer to anyone who asked what I did for a living.


Writing is a solitary venture, but it doesn’t have to be all the time. It’s very important to find a group of writers who “get” you, and like any relationship it’s best to find those specific people and not just settle for what is right in front of you.

It’s also important to not make assumptions about people based on their experiences, tastes, and skills. Just because you are all of the same age group, doesn’t mean you all read/write the same. Just because you all like the same bar, doesn’t mean you spend your free time the same way.

If you don’t mesh with a group of writers it’s not that they are great and you suck, they just aren’t the right group for you. Just keep looking. Be more deliberate in your search. Remember, same zip code doesn’t always make the best group.

DIY MFA was a great resource for me. Even though I don’t have tons in common with everyone such as going to the same school or living on the same corner of the planet, we have the right things in common such as a mutual respect for the craft even if we write in different genres or take different approaches to the writing. We might even have different tastes, but we are open-minded about that and that is what is important.

Many experts will tell you there is one writing ideal, but that’s simply not inline with reality.

You might think you’re the only one in the world who wants to be a writer. If you feel that way, you definitely aren’t surrounding yourself with the right people.

You will find your group and your niche if you keep looking, if you learn how to stop being afraid, take stock of who you are, reach out and talk about your writing.

I started out slow and meandered my way here.

Moral of the story: Don’t be like me.

The Devil Is In The Details

Editor note: This is our first ever submission! Please note if you would like to submit something to be posted, please email me at and provide the article, your picture and a brief bio. Thanks!

Summer Storms. A coming of age story. One month in the life of a young man. First love, family secrets and growing up.

Story themes may be universal, but the Devil is in the Details.

Originally this story was set in the Canadian Prairies, July 2016; the year Pokémon Go was first launched. I wanted to relocate it to 2018. I didn’t have a reason, I just felt that 2016 seemed a long time ago. The weather in 2018 was consistent to 2016, Pokémon Go is alive and well; prairie life has not changed all that much.

But here’s a small but important detail. July 1, 2016 is a Friday. July 1, 2018 is a Sunday. Since my story follows each day of the month, Sunday brunches are now happening on Wednesdays. That just didn’t work, so we are back to 2016.

When you change the time or era, you create an entirely different story.

It would be exhausting to put this story in 2020. July 2020 looked very different from July 2016. Aside from the fact that July 1 is a Wednesday, I would have to rewrite every character, every scene, every interaction. People wear masks, they don’t hug, big family birthday parties are a no-no (And I have two in my story.) Covid-19 has changed the landscape of our entire world. Anyone who sets their story in 2020 will have to be very, very careful.

What if I wanted to set the story pre-1980? No one had cell phones. In fact, 30 years ago, my husband was the proud owner of the second cell phone in Manitoba. It was a big white brick, that weighed a least a pound. It came with a battery pack that was the size of a 2-slice toaster. No texting, no cameras. OMG! My characters would never survive in that world. (Shocked face emoji).

Let’s go farther back to the 1970s. The ME Decade. Even worse! Rotary dial phones, on the wall, in the kitchen. Your mom washing dishes and your dad watching Columbo, while you whisper-argue with your soon to be ex-boyfriend.

My main characters and their cell phones are like thunder and lightning. One would not exist without the other. I would wear out my delete and backspace keys to rewrite my story eliminating texting and selfies.

What if I were to take them back to 1901? They would have to know how to hitch up a team of horses to a wagon or carriage. My characters are very mobile. They drive or bus everywhere.  It would take them days, DAYS, to travel the 800 miles from their little village of North Creek to “the city”. Travel arrangements would have to be rethought.

How would they inform anyone of their impending arrival? We have now circled back to the telephone conundrum. There was only 235 miles of long-distance lines, strung from pole to pole, in Manitoba in 1901. My characters would be relying on horse drawn buggies and snail mail.

My story is definitely pre-pandemic. If I want to follow the baby-boomers into the 1980s, then I cannot have someone answer their cell phone on the dance floor of the local discotheque. After all, Studio 54 closed in 1980. I certainly can’t have my characters living in 1900, because they don’t know how to ride a horse or properly address a letter.

July 1, 2022 is a Friday. Who knows what the world will look like by then?

Brenda Rech has a loving husband, two beautiful daughters, two dogs, three cats, a couple of birds and a turtle named Chew. Her flower gardens are forever at the beginner stages, as she would rather hike, canoe or snowshoe with my husband (and fellow empty nester). Her favorite breakfast is crispy bacon and strawberry jam on white toast.

Writing short fiction and working on her first novel. Brenda is a loyal “Word Nerd.”  She has completed the self-directed course DIY MFA 101 run by the awesome Gabriela Pereira and her team and is now working through P2P (Pixels to Platform) for the third time.


Phew, sorry about being MIA. Life has been crazy.

I know you’re sick of hearing about it!

This week I plan to be pretty busy with The 2020 Philadelphia Writing Workshop: November 14-15, 2020 which is all virtual this year, which is great news for an introvert like me.

Lots of exciting developments, lots of pitching and learning and geeking-out over writing stuff, but for 2 whole days!

Working at DIY MFA has also been a fun, meaningful, and rewarding experience with some new developments on the horizon.

I am pretty solid this month with Nanowrimo too that I am doing alongside Writer Igniter Con 2020!

So yeah lots of new stuff!

And oh right, at some point I should be giving a virtual talk on Writing Across Genres which I plan on sharing with my audience too!

And speaking of my audience. I am doing a call for submissions!

This is the big surprise for those in the Facebook group and Newsletter list, that they can start contributing to the blog.

At the moment, we don’t have any strict guidelines for posting, as I trust my audience to be creative writers.

But as we grow the guidelines might get stricter.
It’s all a work in progress, but I am excited about this!

I will also be posting soon an article that was already submitted so stay tuned for that.

If you wish to submit, just email me at

The only guidelines at the moment are to try and fit into the three C’s





There is a lot of wiggle room in those first two categories, which include your creative works.

Again, email me with any questions and I look forward to your submissions!


So let’s be real. John is everywhere right now promoting his new book: Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide. Pick up a copy if you like. I will be reading and reviewing it shortly, but for now I will touch on some the ideas he has been tackling in his various talks, not just on the news but in other forms of entertainment.

That is essentially why I have had the privilege to speak with him and see him interviewed by others on topics such as creativity, psychology, and of course Monty Python, all topics near and dear to me. Still, while he is marketing himself, I am learning something and I can appreciate that.

Last night I watched an event where he was being interviewed by Judd Apatow. He addressed this issue of play but of course delved much deeper. Thankfully, he does touch on it in the clip above so you can hear it from the source.

It’s an important subject I think I/we should tackle in this blog, on the newsletter, in the group, etc. etc.

One of the things that struck me during his interview between two FAMOUS writers with long resumes (maybe not your cup of tea, but you have to give them that) is that they say the same words I have heard MANY “amateur/aspiring/what-have-you” writers say.

That most of the time what they write is crap, but they keep going until they get to something good.

Judd talked about his tendency to freewrite but then come back to the page later on to “fix” it. What he comes back to is usually a mountain of garbage with one “nugget” of good in it.

John talked about how he and Graham Chapman would write together all week, they would usually have something good by lunchtime Wednesday (because they put in the work Monday and Tuesday) and then that would be the best thing they wrote all week. Nothing good on Thursday and Friday, rinse, lather, repeat.

Think about that. What is your good to bad ratio and how do you account for it?

As a writer myself, I’ve felt… different about my writing lately. I know that while I am doing many fulfilling writer-like things, I am NOT by any stretch of the imagination putting is as much “play-time” as I have in the past or would like to. Why?

Well, while often focused on the business of writing, I am finding myself struggling with the same things I am trying to help others overcome.

  1. The lack of the motivation to write.
  2. The lack of creativity and ideas.
  3. Feeling stuck and unsure of how to keep going.

Even with all the coaching, experience, and learning too. And guess what?


So what are the solutions?

  1. Acknowledge this fact and be nicer to yourself.
  2. Yes, you suck. Everyone sucks. Sometimes you are good, sometimes other people are good. Let go of the need for perfection!
  3. Get yourself back to that place when writing was fun and felt like play.

When John described to Judd how everyone deals with this in one way or another, he mentioned the hemispheres of the brain. While this concept has become rather hackneyed, there is still some psychological merit to it.

It isn’t simply that the left brain is all excel spreadsheets and the right brain is a joy ride, or that the two sides never work together. When we confront how it is more complex than that, we begin to understand why we have trouble “playing” creatively.

When we look at the functions of both sides of the brain, as writers we begin to see how we need both sides to write “well” or even think about writing at all.

We obviously need a strong use of written, analytical thought and language, and ahem, especially if we are right-handed. But we clearly need the right side too for our insight, intuition, creativity, and imagination.

John touched on the idea that even as creatives, society often embarrasses us into living in our left side and faults us when we try to find merit for the right.

As writers, I think our intellect is a huge part of our ego, and so we try to assert our intelligence more than we do play and have fun with our writing. Does that make sense? Am I making sense? Do I sound dumb to you?

You see where I am going with this…

And worse when we write for an audience and try to force them into the driver’s seat, we lose all agency to play as well.

Like if a child is playing house and Dad comes along and says, “You’re doing it wrong Timmy, you need to be thinking about your mortgage payment while you scramble your plastic eggs.” The child loses all agency and reality sets in.

I will part on this thought, take some of that time John described just once next week. It can be on a Friday, or any other day that feels more conducive.

I’m not saying abandon your family and responsibilities.

But think of this as nature calling. Your brain is calling you to let it play. You always have time for the other call. Make time for this one!

And let me know how it worked out.

#Funny Friday

Psst…you want to learn how to write when you aren’t writing?


Anyway, a recap. If you are reading this it means that you know that my husband and I ride his motorcycle on and off, which is seriously awesome 10/10 recommend it…

But I mentioned that I write while I am on the bike.

What I really meant was that because we aren’t talking to each other while we ride I am able to let my mind crawl anywhere it likes.

No, I don’t have a pencil or journal in hand, I’m not hanging off the back with a laptop strapped to me, but I am writing. Because I recently redefined what it means to write.

And you’ll be happy to know that it’s writing you could be doing right now…

But back to the bike. Today, as I took in the scenery of our small town, on the wide open road as we barreled down it, I was thinking. And my thoughts were LOUD. They always are on the back of that bike.

I let my mind fill with ideas, thoughts, and words. I let myself explore my brain in all the different directions it will go creatively, and I am not bound by things like schedules and word count.

So many forget that this is as huge part of writing. And IMHO it’s the most important part. And the most fun.

People don’t let themselves play with words anymore. They have to quickly create something tangible and market it. Yes, that is important to the business of writing, but if your writing is all business, it’s not fun anymore, Jack!

And you find you have become “a dull boy”.

And really think about how annoyed the creative bones in your body get when they don’t get any exercise and you say, not now later, not now later, not now later, over and over and over again.

So let your mind wander. Do it now.

And let me know how it turned out.