Tracking our progress

A few members of the group have decided to track our daily word counts–for better or worse! For January we’re doing something a little different: each person can set their own goal, rather than everyone having the same one. Here’s the spreadsheet.



HELP THE ELF: I Found Santa’s Missing Nice List!

Help the Elf

Hi everyone! As you may remember, a few weeks ago Pete the elf had a touch too much Eggnog at the Holiday Christmas Party and as he stumbled home, he lost Santa’s NICE LIST.

The North Wind scattered the papers to all four corners of the world, and The Bookshelf Muse put out a call to help find them in order to SAVE CHRISTMAS.

Ever since I read about it, I’ve been on the lookout. And then today, EUREKA!

Yes that’s right…I found part of Santa’s missing NICE LIST. There it was, fluttering in the wind, half caught under the corner of my welcome mat. And shock of all shocks, I recognized the names, and I bet you will too.

Here it is below:

Santa's Nice List

NAME: The Cochise Writers Group–local members Brandt, Cappy, Debra, Debrah, Jeri, JoySue, Lucinda, Redonna, Steve, Susan S., Susan T., Tami, and Ted, and far-away members Bob, Pat, Annette, and Terry.

LOCATION: Southern Cochise County Arizona, and Oregon, Florida, and Mexico!

NICE LEVEL: 93% (at least–usually much higher)

NAUGHTY LEVEL: Just not tellin’! 😉

OBSERVATIONS: Ever-improving writers, but most important, great friends one and all.

RECOMMENDATION:     a) Coal                   b) Gift

~ ~ * ~ ~

Because poor Pete is dashing all over the place trying to hunt down the rest of Santa’s missing Nice List, I decided to take care of this one myself. Enjoy the gift I sent to your inbox and have a wonderful Christmas!

Photo credit: assorted gold baubles ( / CC BY 3.0

Just Say No

Longtime creative writing instructor Leslie Clark will be retiring soon, and no one more deserves the time to do her own writing and sleep in on Monday mornings.

Recently, we talked about her plans. I said I had been busier since I retired than I was when I was working. She responded with her usual succinctness: “Just say no.”

She’s right, of course. Saying no to one thing makes time and energy to say yes to more important things. We can imagine–and commit to–an enormous number of attractive activities in addition to the ones that are just part of life or thrust themselves on us–family, friends, housework, the dog being bitten by a rattlesnake.

In order to make (note I didn’t say “find”) the time to write, we have to say no to other possibilities–not all of them, just enough to get our creative work done. That’s the way life is. It’s full of choices, and we have to set priorities.

My step-daughter, Alex, is in an MBA program and loves to sew. She has three children, two of them with special needs. When they came by on their way to her husband’s new military assignment in Texas, I asked how she managed.

She has a simple system. She announces that she’s going to study for the next hour and is not to be disturbed. She sets a timer for the kids to see. Every time one interrupts her, she asks, “Is anyone bleeding? I anybody’s hair on fire?” If it’s not an emergency, she promises to deal with the child’s issue when she’s done studying. They can trust her to keep her promise.

What do I say no to? I’d love to take some art and craft classes, bulk up my birding life list, and take my dogs to obedience classes. If I want to finish my parrot memoir before I’m old(er) and in a nursing home, I have to say no, at least for now.

When my husband retired from teaching, I said no to having my desk in the living room any more, where he could interrupt me ever seventeen seconds. I spiffed up an old travel trailer for my office and learned how to operate the lock.

I mastered a sweet smile and the words “I love you, now go away” for those times when he wants to spend “just a minute” in the middle of my writing hour, showing me this cool video he found on the Internet.

How do you say no to enough other things to create (note I didn’t say “find”) enough time to write? I’m hoping readers will share their strategies.

Why I joined a Writer’s Group.

I’m a Baby Boomer. Yes, one of the many. Not long ago, I was reading an article about my generation, and found that the biggest dream of Boomers, is to write a book. Man, I thought I was doing something unique when I retired from public school teaching to become a writer. Nope, not unique. 

That was the first blow. The second came after giving my memoir to a writer friend and hear her tell me I needed to do more work on it. “You’re close, but you need to peel back more layers. We want to feel what you felt.” My heart sank. I’d worked on it for two years! Surely it was ready for publication, and will become a sensational best seller. I was forced to take a good look at my expectations. Did I want to peel back the layers, and expose my deepest self in a memoir? Maybe I’ll turn it into a novel. I’m still thinking about that one.

For awhile, I dithered around with writing, not knowing what I should do. I’m a fence sitter from way back, so, not making a decision came natural in this situation. One of my dither activities was to read blogs about writing. If you can’t write, read, right? Many of the blogs suggested I join a writer’s/critique group. I don’t need that! I’m an expert at story analysis. A gift from my education in Theatre. However, the more I thought about the possibility of having someone else read and critique my work, the more I knew that’s exactly what I needed. I was scared. So, I started a group of my own. It’s a great group. We support each other’s process. But, we’re all new to writing. I needed experts, or close to it. That’s when I found Cochise Writers. I’m still a little afraid that I’m not a good writer, but as so many creative people have pointed out, it’s the scary projects that make you grow. Since joining Cochise Writers, I’ve learned some valuable things about the art of writing and about myself. In subsequent blogs, I’ll peel back the layers and share my process with you. 


I walked into my tiny house expecting a quiet evening at home. Instead, I found my past in the living room.

She was young, only nine, but had the sharp, honest tongue of smart kids a whole lot older. And she still had the bravery of girls her age. So I got an earful about her own past and my dissolute part in it.

I asked about her mother.

“She’s dead.” The girl spoke in a tone that blamed me for that, too.

She went on talking. Whenever she stopped to take a breath, I murmured whatever I thought best at the moment. I fixed her supper. She talked around the food in her mouth.

“I’m gonna live with you,” she declared. “An’ nobody from the govmint is gonna stop me.”

I stared at her with my mouth open. My life had no room for a kid.

She glared at me. “An’ I don’t care what you think either.”

She talked and talked until she fell asleep on my lumpy couch, and in her dreams she wailed, “Why didn’t you stay?”