Fill-in-the-Blank Flash Fiction Friday – April 20

Here’s your Fill-in-the-Blank Flash Fiction Friday* opening sentence.

With only two days left until the wedding, ________________ finished her/his martini, and left the bar to __________________ one last time.

The “Rules”

  • Fill in the blanks.
  • Finish the story in 1,000 words.
  • Post your story in the comments section below by the next Friday.

I’ll post the winner** on my social media sites AND

you could wind up in the Fill-in-the-Blank Flash Fiction Friday
publication at the end of the year

Sending you mad writing mojo….


*Writing is serious business, but sometimes it’s fun to have fun.

**Selection of the winner is arbitrary and depends on my mood, what I’ve eaten or haven’t eaten, how much sleep I’ve had, and my constantly shifting tastes…

Am I a hypocrite?

Am I a hypocrite?

Some days it feels that way…

While I’m over here posting on my social media sites with the intention to inspire others to focus on their passions and put their writing first or organizing for my next workshop, or talk to do the same, I find that I, regularly, have very little – if any – time to write.

Because I’ve almost always been in a position of being the navigator – both in my personal life and at work – I think I have an underlying belief that I always have to look like I have it figured out to be strong and supportive and inspirational for others.

In the interest of transparency and authenticity, this post is a bit more personal than most, and I’m writing to share what my days are like – struggles included – so that you know you’re not alone and so you know that your being on the receiving end of my posts, newsletters, and all else makes a difference.

I’ve been acutely aware recently of a nagging feeling that I’ve lost my way, to a degree… not with my desire to create a life around writing and helping others write, but with the minutia of my day-to-day life.

As many of you know, I’ve been a college professor for many years now, and things have changed. Higher education is not held in high regard as it once was, and many students view their educations as a commodity they’ve purchased. Respect for professors seems to be a thing of the past. This reality creates a drudgery that morphs into a kind of ennui that I just can’t shake. (There are, of course, students who are exceptions to this, and they are the ones who make my showing up still feel worthwhile.)

I’m also a copywriter for a company that rents vacation homes, and as I know is true for many of you, the grind of an hourly paying job has worn on me. Yet, while it’s past time for me to move on, I’m not quite in a position yet to let the job go. That said, though, I have made a promise to myself that by the end of this year, I will. One bright light is that I will be cutting back my hours to half as of May 1 for health reasons. (More about that in a minute…)

When I’m feeling discombobulated, one of the things I do to clear my head is to visit Portland Art Museum. There’s an ongoing, rotating exhibit on the lower level called Object Stories. Currently, the exhibit is about disabilities. There are four exhibits, each focusing on an individual and her/his plight with some sort of disability. And there’s the interactive portion of the exhibit. One wall is filled with stickie notes where people have written down their disabilities. It’s a little overwhelming but mostly touching and poignant.

Another wall contains buttons that viewers can take and wear to spark conversations about disabilities. Oftentimes, many people with disabilities operate much the same way I mentioned above regarding my perceived “need” to feel like I’m appearing “normal” or on top of things – the beacon of light, the strong sail in the wind – or just merely a desire to seem like everyone else.

I know this because I’m one of them. I took two of the buttons. One reads, “I have a neurological hidden disability.” The other reads, “I have a physical hidden disability.” I’m still getting used to using “I” and “disability” in the same sentence, but both of these statements are true. (I’ve yet to wear them in public, though, because, to be honest, I dread the well-meaning advice and illl-informed questions. And while I know this is the point… it feels like one more thing to juggle and manage.)

And so, this is yet another obstacle in my path to live the kind of writing life I want, to grow a business that allows me to do that, and to fulfill my passion and purpose to help others tell their stories.

Since 2005, I have struggled with a chronic illness no one could name. After seeing numerous doctors, not being believed, being dismissed, and ultimately, sent away in frustration, I have found two doctors who – at long last – believed me when they heard my story, knew what I was talking about, and are helping me sort it all out.

I’ve had a diagnosis of fibromyalgia (in the past), a possible diagnosis of mast cell activation syndrome (in the more recent past), and have discovered that I have a problem with Sulphur toxicity (my body doesn’t process Sulphur but creates a gas, which has been, basically, poisoning me). We’re still unraveling this 13-year clusterfuck, but at least I’m feeling hopeful.

Part of my reason in cutting back my hours at one of the jobs is to give myself some time to breathe, heal, and get my legs… So far, the plan is that I’ll soon be starting home injections (B12) and a series of IV treatments. Specifically, I’ll be undergoing UVBI treatments – Ultraviolet Blood Irradiation. And it’s just what it sounds like, my blood will be irradiated with ultraviolet light.

Being one who always looks for the beauty, benefit, and best outcome of every situation, the idea of having my blood irradiated with light makes me smile. Maybe when it’s all said and done, I’ll sparkle a little more than I have in a long time. And maybe having the decreased hours will actually allow me more space for work I love and more time for what matters to me the most… my own writing, growing my business and clientele, and satisfying my deep desire to help people get stories outside themselves. Because I believe that this act alone – sharing stories – is what heals us, others, and the world.

So please know that over these next few months, when you see prompts, inspirational quotes, articles, and anything else I might share with you about writing, that even though I might be struggling to create the life I want, knowing that you’re on the receiving end keeps me focused, putting one foot in front of the other, and believing I can do the work I’m here to do.

We’re all in this together, folks, so let’s support each other. If you want to voice your struggles and obstacles with writing and/or creating your ideal life, please feel free to post them on the closed Writing Through the Body Facebook page. It’s a page focused on writing, yes. And it’s also a page for writers, who are people living in a culture that doesn’t value creativity and tells us that endeavors like writing are frivolous – a luxury. There’s power in numbers, so let’s stick together, support each other, and make our desires a reality.

Thanks for reading, for following my circuitous path to realizing my dreams, and for believing I have something to offer you. It keeps me going, and I appreciate it ever so much.

Sending you tons of love and mad writing mojo…





The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. – Helen Keller

I’m very fortunate to live in downtown Portland where I can walk to Powell’s City of Books on a whim and surround myself with floor-to-ceiling shelves of the written word – room after room, level after level. The smells, the sights, the subdued verve in those walls – simply being around all those books – feeds me in ways that are hard to explain.

During my most recent visit, I noted – once again – a particular feeling that comes over me when I’m there. It was a hard one to locate… and I’m still not sure I’ve been able to pinpoint it, but to help, I went back to John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, and the closest I can define this feeling is a conflation between his words vellichor and anemoia.

vellichor | n. the strange wistfulness of used bookstores,
which are somehow infused with the passage of time—
filled with thousands of old books you’ll never have time to read…

and because Powell’s also sells new books…
and because books alter time, move us around in time…

anemoia | n. nostalgia for a time you’ve never known

It’s a kind of FOMO, but more erudite. More sublime.

This experience got me to thinking about emotion in writing and how essential it is to suturing readers into our stories, getting them to invest enough to keep turning the page. Engaging readers through emotion is the cornerstone of story. Simply telling readers what our characters feel is not enough. The character and emotional energy of a story can fall flat with mere telling: Maria was sad.

Readers want to be taken on the ride. They want to experience the emotional shifts within scenes and they want to witness the emotional transformations characters undergo throughout the story arc. Sometimes the most of subtle emotions are the most pivotal to a character’s evolution and describing them can be a challenge.

How do you know when you’re reading a well-done emotional description? Can you think of a good example? Please let me know in the comments below!

Fill-in-the-Blank Flash Fiction Friday – April 6

Here’s your Fill-in-the-Blank Flash Fiction Friday* opening sentence.

The wheels turned beneath  ___________________ as he/she pedaled up the imposing hill, sweat gathering on her/his forehead like ____________________.

The “Rules”

  • Fill in the blanks.
  • Finish the story in 1,000 words.
  • Post your story in the comments section below by the next Friday.

I’ll post the winner** on my social media sites AND

you could wind up in the Fill-in-the-Blank Flash Fiction Friday
publication at the end of the year

Sending you mad writing mojo….


*Writing is serious business, but sometimes it’s fun to have fun.

**Selection of the winner is arbitrary and depends on my mood, what I’ve eaten or haven’t eaten, how much sleep I’ve had, and my constantly shifting tastes…

Author Interview – Gina Mulligan

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

For the first novel I didn’t use an outline. I wrote a full draft before stepping back to consider the storyline. That’s when I realized how much longer and more difficult I’d made the editing process. For the second novel, I developed a detailed outline and then wrote my draft. Much easier!  

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?  


Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice? Why or why not?

The act of being creative is innately human and often feels spiritual. There’s a transcendent element to the work when I finish writing a section, review it, and it feel like it was written by someone else.

How many hours a day do you write?

I write about 5 hours, 3-4 days a week. I don’t write daily because I also run a charity.

What are your favorite literary journals?

The Atlantic
The Kenyon Review
I don’t read a lot of journals because I spend more time reading books – both fiction and non-fiction.

What is the most difficult part of your creative process?

I really struggle with the first draft. Story development is a challenge for me. Plus, I love to edit. Once I have a draft done, I’m ready to dive in.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Why or why not?

No, but some days are harder than others. I don’t see this as writer’s block as much as times when I’m distracted or can’t concentrate as I’d like. It’s frustrating when I just don’t know why I can’t put a sentence together. Days where the words just flow are much more fun.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

About two years.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? 

I love the writing community in Sacramento and have many writer friends and supportive acquaintances. In particular, I work with three talented women in a critique group. We review each other’s drafts, give feedback, commiserate about writing, and generally share our lives. Writing is very solitary and so having support is extremely important.

What are the most important magazines for writers to subscribe to?

I think every writer should get Publisher’s Lunch, a daily emailed newsletter that is great for following the industry. I also like Poets & Writers, Writers Digest, and Jane Freeman’s blog.

Gina L. Mulligan began her writing career over twenty years ago as a freelance journalist for national magazines. Her short stories have appeared in Star 82 Review and Storyacious, were performed at Stories on Stage Sacramento, and were included in the anthologies Tudor Close: A Collection of Mystery Stories and Not Your Mother’s Book…on Dogs. She’s won awards from the Abilene Writers Guild, San Francisco LitQuake, and the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition.

After her own diagnosis, Gina founded Girls Love Mail, a charity that collects handwritten letters of encouragement for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. She was honored for her charitable work on the nationally syndicated talk show The Steve Harvey Show.

Publications – Novels       
Remember the Ladies – May 2016
From Across the Room – September 2016

Publications – Short Stories & Anthologies        
The Slingback – Performed Stories on Stage
Stop Thief! – Not Your Mother’s Book on Dogs Anthology
Webb of Lies – Tudor Close: A Collection of Mystery Stories
The Gadabout –
Sub Night – 82 Star Review

To learn more about Gina, please visit her website.