Heirlooms Can be Key in Unlocking Characters

The key into a character can be as simple as a sewing basket that goes unnoticed until something causes me to remember why I’ve kept it.  It belonged to my mother.  Her mother made it. Memories flood in—hours in fabric departments. Mom laying out a pattern.  Cutting, matching notches, pinning, fitting. Machine stitching. Marking the hem—Stand still!  Finishing and pressing.  Here!  Try it on! What do you think? Mom poured all of her talent—and love—into the things she made for … Read More

For Photo Surprises, Check the Picture This Blog

Returning to resources — the Library of Congress Picture This Blog brings wonderful surprises, as well as researching inspiration.  A recent post by LOC librarian Kristi Finefield explains how details in this photo led her to discover what a 1908 student was doing—using stereo images to study geography—and to find the textbook that guided her. The time-traveling image plopped down into the middle of my very different life, and in the way that unexpected pictures often do, this one got me thinking about how … Read More

No Hoarding! Writing with All You’ve Got

I should hang a copy of this poster above my desk. One thing I’ve learned—but still have to tell myself at the start of every book—is not to hold back against the day I’ll be writing something else. It’s especially hard to do when I’m finding my way into a project like HITCH, gathering information and deciding what I might use.  The temptation to set aside material so that I won’t ever face a blank page with … Read More

Using Photos to Jump-Start Writing

I begin writing by looking. Every book comes with its own set of possibilities and problems.  The right format must be found. Fiction must be reconciled with sometimes pesky fact. Elusive characters must be brought to life, and there is no one single best way to do that. More often than not, though, for me it’s a visual process. Working on historical novels like HITCH means I have to move from a 21st century mindset into the … Read More