Don’t Let The Monsters Win: Share the Stories No One Wants to Hear

“Monsters are real. Ghosts are real, too.
They live inside us, and sometimes they win.” 
― Stephen King, The Shining 

Photo by Ian Panelo from Pexels

I tried to find a way to smoothly and seamlessly bridge the practical tips I wanted to share with the faithful followers of my email list and other “unrelated” issues that won’t leave my mind and heart: thoughts and emotions that stem from the state of the world, and especially what’s happening right here at “home.”

I thought about not getting political or personal—to stick with a business-as-usual approach—and keep me, the businessperson, separate from me, the person. But honestly, they’re all part of the same big pot, and I’m a little exhausted from trying to maintain a “professional” face and keep my passion and wrath to myself. So, fuck all that.

The truth is, I can’t move forward in my day or week or month or life without acknowledging how incredibly off the rails the world is. I think the pandemic is just one more event that’s showing us what “humanity” is made of. It’s so ugly I’m having a hard time finding the words to express how sick and sad I am in my heart over it all.

I’ve walked around with a broken heart for a long time over the atrocities black and indigenous people of color face and fear every day. It’s beyond discrimination. It’s reprehensible, vile, animalistic, base behavior.

Andrena Sawyer has said, “I can’t bring myself to watch yet another video, not because I don’t care, but because we’re all just a few videos away from becoming completely desensitized. The public execution of Black folks will never be normal.”

And I suppose she’s right. It’s a mechanism we all have. To desensitize, to numb out, in a way, and shield ourselves from trauma. We can only take so much.

When I consider the privilege I reap due to the color of my skin and how sick and sad and traumatized I feel every time I read a news headline or an article or see a video and then see how long it takes for arrests of white people—some of whom are police—who commit heinous crimes against black and indigenous citizens to be made, I’m crushed with grief for what I can only imagine it must be like to live as a person of color.

So, I have a question: Where do we draw the line between desensitizing and making the ugliness in the world so apparent it finally moves us—as individuals and as a culture—to take some kind of meaningful and lasting action? And what does that even mean?

These aren’t rhetorical questions. As I sit here and write this, I don’t know.

I’ve always believed the best, most important, most needed stories are those that people don’t want to hear. I know I don’t WANT to feel that sick nauseating ache inside me every time I read another headline, watch another video, or learn of another story of a black man or woman who’s been killed simply because they were living a life.*

But I know I need to, and I know I need to share the stories and speak out against the murderers because if I’m going to have any kind of integrity at all around the work I do, I have to practice what I preach.

I have to share stories. And not just my stories. And not just stories that speak to my existence as a white, educated, middle-aged woman. I have to share stories about people who aren’t like me, who don’t have my privilege, who suffer and struggle because of the color of skin they were born with.

I have no qualms about making my disgust known for white police officers who are hellbent on maintaining their perceived superiority over BIPOC (and the departments that are complicit in their heinous behaviors and crimes). I have no qualms about making my disgust known for those who chose to “look on the bright side” of life, which is a nice way of saying, “Look the other way.”

In my world, the “bright side” is what comes after we expose the monsters—within us and around us—giving them no place to hide. Because when we do that, the monster can be seen and named, then purged and eradicated. It’s not an either/or proposition. It’s not something we get to pick instead of the truth.

I might turn off some people. I might piss off some people. Some might even stop following my work. I don’t care. I’m only interested in surrounding myself—in my work and in my personal life—with people who are interested in making a difference in the world.

By that, I mean taking on the project of healing the world through story. And not just the feel-good story.

I suppose we do run the risk of becoming desensitized by a regularity of violent videos resulting in the death of BIPOC, as Sawyer says, but what I’m hoping is that by watching them, or at the very least, making ourselves aware of the ugly, sad details of these stories, it makes us so sick and so angry that we can’t do anything but rise up and become active participants in rewriting history.

Way too many people are terrified to feel, to face the shadows of their culture, of their families, of themselves. I have no respect for that. At all. It’s time to grow up. It’s time to evolve.

While I will always be behind those who have the guts to share their stories, right now, I’m way more behind those who are willing to share other people’s stories… stories of people who don’t look like them and who suffer at the hands of people who do look like them.

Writing, storytelling, and story sharing are the tools we use to expose the monsters that live within us and around us.  When we look away, we’re letting the monsters win.


If you want to become an instrument for change, below are a few places to begin.

“Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies” by Courtney Ariel
In Sojourner Magazine
(This article also offers a few excellent books and articles that “illuminate oppression and structures of white supremacy and white privilege.”)


Donate to groups working against police brutality

Reclaim the Block in MPLS
Minnesota Freedom Fund
The Dream Defenders
Color of Change
Funders for Justice


Accept the story sharing challenge

  1. Educate yourself about each of the stories below and acknowledge what you feel. Imagine the life that was cut short. Imagine the families and friends they left behind. Honor the victims in your thoughts.
  2. Write about them. Share their stories with your friends and family.
  3. Share their stories on social media Tag me when you do.

Let’s create a web of intolerance and accountability against racism and the brutality towards
black and indigenous people of color.

I have privilege as a white person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice:
I can go birding (#ChristianCooper)
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery)
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson)
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride)
I can have a cellphone (StephonClark)
I can leave a party to get to safety (JordanEdwards)
I can play loud music (JordanDavis)
I can sell CDs (AltonSterling)
I can sleep (AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (MikeBrown)
I can play cops and robbers (TamirRice)
I can go to church (Charleston9)
I can walk home with Skittles (TrayvonMartin)
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (SeanBell)
I can party on New Years (OscarGrant)
I can get a normal traffic ticket (SandraBland)
I can lawfully carry a weapon (PhilandoCastile)
I can break down on a public road with car problems (CoreyJones)
I can shop at Walmart (JohnCrawford)
I can have a disabled vehicle (TerrenceCrutcher)
I can read a book in my own car (KeithScott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese)
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood)
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo)
I can run (#WalterScott)
I can breathe (#EricGarner)
I can live (#FreddieGray)

White privilege is real.
If you’re a white person, please take a minute to consider a Black or indigenous person’s experience today.

*I copied and pasted this list … please do the same

The Editing Process: What to Expect When Working With A Professional Editor

After you’ve given your first draft at least one good and thorough revision/rewrite, you can start thinking about submitting your manuscript to a professional editor.

Here’s what you can expect.

Developmental Edit

The first level of editing a professional will undertake is a developmental edit regardless of how many developmental edits and revisions you’ve already done. (If you find an editor who offers to skip this level of editing, I’d say find another one.) The more “finished” the draft you submit to your editor (whether it’s the second or the sixth), the better equipped she’ll be to give you clear and helpful feedback (and probably in less time).

This is why I recommend you do the best developmental edit and revision you can for yourself first (and be open to doing more than one) before you send your work off to a professional.

Your editor will read through your manuscript with a focus on the same key points you used when doing your own developmental edit. The difference is that she will come to your work with a complete outsider’s view. This is invaluable.

After being with your manuscript for so long, even after multiple passes, you’ll miss gaps in meaning and wrinkles in organization. Your editor will approach your manuscript as an objective reader, which will allow her to make your already good manuscript even better.


At this stage, you will implement your editor’s valuable recommendations.

Developmental Edit / Heavy Line Edit

The next step in the editing process could be a combination development/heavy line edit. Or, if you’ve been able to get your manuscript in good enough shape, you may begin working with a professional editor at this stage. (How will you know? See my next post on how to find an editor.)

During this process, your editor will take another aerial view of your work and begin to move deeper into the manuscript. This step will likely be the biggest investment, in terms of time and money but what you’ll get is a thorough read-through and in-depth comments (both in your document and in an accompanying review/report) on how to improve your manuscript in the areas mentioned above, as well as at the paragraph/line level.


You’ll complete another revision/rewrite, depending on the recommendations of your editor

Line Edit #2 / Copy Edit

Depending on the condition of the manuscript you initially submitted to your editor and the revisions you complete, a second line edit might be necessary. This level of editing usually addresses the stylistic aspects of writing to ensure a smooth transition and read on the sentence level and from one line to the next. Or, you and your editor might decide that it’s time to move on to the next stage, copyediting, which focuses on grammar, punctuation, and diction. Sometimes a second line edit and a copy edit are combined.


Depending on your manuscript, your preference, and your editor’s recommendation you may do yet another revision to incorporate the recommendations of the second line edit, or you and your editor may decide it’s time to move into proofreading mode, which focuses on making sure the manuscript is typo-free.

Here’s a condensed version of the stages of the editing process.


  1. Take your manuscript to an editor who knows to begin with a developmental edit.
  2. Do your revisions / rewrites.
  3. Return your manuscript to your editor for a developmental edit/heavy line edit. (Depending on your manuscript, only a heavy line edit may be in order.)
  4. Make another round of changes based on editorial recommendations.
  5. Do another line edit / copy edit or move to proofreading.

Some advice

Avoid doing every step yourself. We live in a very DIY world these days, and it’s easy to think we can create a book from start to finish and do all the stages—from conception to publishing—well.

This is oftentimes done in the interest of saving money (understandable) and not wanting to relinquish control (also understandable). The bottom line, though, is this: If you’ve spent so much of your precious time getting your meaningful stories and brilliant ideas onto the page, complete the follow through.

The follow through is getting your manuscript to the polished, professional stage. After our eyes have been on a project for so long, we miss things, even with breaks in between revisions. Having a caring, professional eye on your work is what your manuscript deserves.

Fill-in-the-Blank Flash Fiction Friday

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

__________________ removed the crisp bills from her/his wallet while the cashier put the _______________ in a bag, unaware that this was the beginning of ________________.

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 for everyone to enjoy. Be proud of your work!

We’ll review all submissions near the end of the year and will select winners to be published in the first Fill-in-the-Blank Flash Fiction ebook*.

Sending you mad writing mojo….


First Draft Finished. Now What? The Difference Between Revising and Editing.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

You’ve invested in yourself as a writer. You’ve carved out the time to write, you’ve made it through the blocks, and you’ve set boundaries with people in your life (including yourself). You’ve come to view yourself as a writer, and you have a stack of pages in front of you: your completed first draft. Now what?

Finishing the first draft of a book is a glorious feeling, and after accomplishing this feat, many people aren’t sure what to do next. They think the writing process is behind them because they’ve churned out a draft. The next seemingly logical step is editing, which, in most people’s minds is fine-tuning and polishing, a more late-stage level of editing. Jumping from first draft completion to this stage of editing means missing some very important steps.

Sometimes people confuse revising with editing. As Ernest Hemingway once said, “The only real writing is rewriting.”

Rewriting and revision work hand-in-hand and need your attention
—in stages—
BEFORE you get to the editing.

To create a foundational understanding, for now, think of revision as rewriting: big-picture, broad brushstroke changes to the manuscript. Think of editing as fine-tuning. (Note: There is an early stage of editing called Developmental Editing, which is also about big-picture changes. No wonder it gets confusing! Keep reading…)

If you have a first draft manuscript in hand, here are my recommendations about how to move forward.


Do something special. Buy yourself a few of those titles waiting on your reading list. Eat some high-end chocolate. Take yourself on a date or go out with your friends or your significant other and have a fancy cocktail or a glass of very fine wine. Take a day trip or a weekend trip to your favorite spot to relax and rejuvenate. Honor your accomplishment. This will satisfy the part of your brain that responds to reward and it will help you move to the next important step.

Forget about the book. For now.

You’ve put your brain and your discipline through a gauntlet, so give them a break. Read (unless that makes you think of your own book). Binge watch a TV show you put on hold so you could finish your book. Daydream. Meditate. Bake. Draw. Paint. Crochet. Build model cars. Make candles. Walk around your neighborhood and snap photos. Clean house. Catch up on filing. Whatever it takes to give your brain a break from thinking about the book. This will “scrub” your brain, in a way, so you can come back to your draft with a fresh perspective when it’s time to edit and revise. Give this stage at least two weeks.

Discern the difference between revising and editing.

As Amy Lowell writes in her book, John Keats, “Revising is the act of improving what has been unconsciously done.”

So, what does that mean?

The first draft of your book is like throwing clay onto a potter’s wheel. There’s likely some kind of structure and organization going on, but the goal of the first draft is to get all the parts and pieces of the story or idea onto the page so you know what you have to work with. Terry Pratchett says, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

After you’ve told yourself the story, after you’ve stepped inside the subjective milieu of your story world and the minds of the characters within it, it’s time to step outside and take a more objective view of your manuscript (and why #2 is so important).

It’s time to revise and rewrite.

Revising/rewriting is about cutting sections (killing your darlings), adding sections (achieving clarity and filling in gaps), and moving things around (creating a smooth flow between all the story’s parts, all the book’s sections).

Think top-down. Think hierarchy. Think structure to scene to syntax. This will mean reading your manuscript a few times to address each level of the process. (Details about this in #4 below.) Trying to do it all at once will create frustration and overwhelm.

Complete your own developmental edit

You could take your first draft to a professional editor, but the more polished you can make your manuscript, the better. Not only will you probably get better, more in-depth, feedback, you’ll probably also save yourself some money. (The ability to focus on a clean manuscript allows for more precise reading and commenting. A clean draft could also take an editor less time.)

The development edit is an aerial view of your manuscript. I recommend doing your developmental edit in stages.

Read through your manuscript, paying attention to the following. (You may want to parse these out and focus on only one at a time to avoid confusion and overwhelm.)

  • Structure – Does the structure of the manuscript provide readers with the proper framework to take in the story or information provided?
  • Organization – Are the parts of the manuscript presented in an order that offer a clear unfolding of the story or information?
  • Gaps in plot and storytelling – Are the reasons for the behaviors and actions of the characters, especially the protagonist, clear to readers? Does the protagonist’s deepest desire inform the plot and story?
  • Story arc – Does the story take readers through a natural progression of beginning / middle / end and show a resolution of some kind?
  • Character development – Do the characters have a synchronous relationship with the story arc? That is, do they help drive it and, in turn, are they influenced by it? Do they, especially the protagonist, experience a transformation of some kind?
  • Tone – Is your overall tone, word choice, and syntax in line with your intention and audience?

Complete your rewrite and revisions. Implement the cutting, adding, and moving mentioned in #3 above.

Complete another read-through and edit at the scene level, noting the following.

  • How each scene is structured, how it works on its own. (Each scene should also have a beginning / middle / end.)
  • How each scene moves the overarching story forward.
  • How dialogue (if there is any) informs the reader and moves the story forward.
  • How characters are characterized through speech, movement, and action.

You may need to repeat #4, #5, and #6 a few times before submitting your manuscript to a professional editor.

And you DO want to get a professional editor involved in your manuscript. More on this in the next blog post…

In the meantime, as always, I’m sending you mad writing mojo…

Happy writing,



Want to write? Invest in yourself.

I meet so many people who say they want to write a book, or at the very least, have a regular writing practice. Yet, they struggle to make it happen. Creating, developing, and maintaining a writing practice take intention and attention. Making a few tweaks to your thinking might make all the difference.

Think of it as an investment in yourself.

In my workshops and classes and when working with clients, I always say that honoring our impulse to write and create is an act of self-love.

I believe that impulse to create is our life force wanting to move and flow, and when we stifle it, we experience dis-ease on mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual levels.

So, how do you invest in yourself?

Privilege your writing practice in your mind.

Make it as important to your day as all the responsibilities you make time for on a regular basis. Instead of thinking I’ll get to my writing after I’ve taken care of X, Y, and Z, think I’m going to write XX days each week (for XX hours or XX pages).

Give it space in your day, on your calendar, and in your home.

Mark it on your calendar and treat it with the same respect you would a doctor’s appointment for yourself, for one of your kids, or for your pet. Or for a meeting at work. You’d remember it, you’d plan the rest of your day around it, and you’d show up for it.

If you aren’t able to designate a spot in your home as your private, personal writing space where no one else is allowed, find a time when the people you live with are out of the house or asleep. If you really want to write, you can give up an hour or two of TV or social media a few days each week.

Get a new writer’s notebook.

Think of this notebook as a place for you to jot down your ideas and thoughts—about your writing—that drift in and out of your brain as you go about your day, as you’re drifting off to sleep, or when you first wake up in the morning. If you’re a journaler, you can keep doing that, but in a separate notebook. A writer’s notebook and a journal are two different things.

Tell people.

Let people who are close to you know that you’ve made a decision to privilege your writing. Tell them what you need from them to make it happen. Time? Space? Quiet? Respect?


As Annie Proulx has said, “Reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” Read books in the same vein as the one you want to write. Read books that are different from the one you want to write. Read short fiction. Read non-fiction. Read novels. Read poetry. There’s something to learn from them all.

View yourself as a writer.

Instead of seeing yourself as a parent or an employee at a company or organization who wants to write, see yourself as a writer who happens to also be a parent and/or work another job. And if you’ve yet to be published, it doesn’t make you less legit than people who have been published. If it helps, use a mantra. Say I am a writer over and over in your thoughts throughout the day. Or writing is not a luxury. Or writing is an act of self-love. You’ll start to believe it.

So much of the act of writing—the act of getting the words on the page—is all in the mind. When we can think about writing differently, we can show up for it and give the creative impulse inside us the respect it deserves.

What can you do to move your writing practice further up your list of “Important Things To Do”?

Sending you mad writing mojo…