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How long could you put off eating, sleeping, mating?

Two Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis), flying ...

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A longtime dream of mine has been to experience a migration of one of the earth’s animals en route. When I see flocks of birds passing overhead, swooping and circling patterns in order to regroup and move forward in their journey, I get a thrill. I wonder at the planning; filling themselves with extra calories beforehand, the stop-locations used for centuries, the ability of these animals to see the larger picture, and of course their uncanny ability to put off short-term rewards like eating, sleeping, and mating, for the common good of the flock. How many of us could say such a thing?

Sandhill Cranes fly from West Texas to Russia, with stops that include the Platte River in Nebraska, to meet up with their brethren, sometimes as many as 500,000 at a time. I have been told that Monarch Butterflies take two or more generations to make their journey, meaning that no one is showing them the way, it is set instinctively. Talk about planning; no single butterfly makes the whole voyage; young ones are born on the way, taking up a portion of the journey; a sort of relay race across generations.

If we wrote books like this, My great-grandfather would have picked out the genre and started the title page, grandmother would then choose the characters, and possibly the plot line, my father would figure out the climax and resolution, and I would work on revision, leaving the editing to my children. Only my kids would see the destination, the end result. But each of us would have had a hand in getting them to that place.

Thinking about the big picture, a novel, and putting off short-term rewards like pay, (won’t consider eating, sleeping, mating), for the good of the project, is hardly admirable compared to a Sandhill Crane’s, or Monarch butterfly’s experience. But, just as with the animals, the writing magic seems to happen on the journey. Sure the goal, instead of Russia, is a finished novel, but the ride is a blast.

Speaking of Migrations! I have a new location, my own website…look for my blog at http://www.sallylucywrites.com and, as always, thanks for checking in.




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Could a muffin top land you in jail?

Photograph by John Kloepper, Guthrie Family To...

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I like the middle piece of lasagna, the edge of brownies, the tops of muffins, and the bottom of bagels. Still feeling full from Thanksgiving, I am reminded of how fortunate I am: fortunate to have more than one family to sit with at a table and share the bounty of food, and stories, and memories.

Holidays and traditions. We bring some traditions with us from childhood, adopt others from spouses, and create others out of necessity, or the insanity of the holidays. In any case, traditions are what make holidays, holidays.

For most of my grown children’s lives, we have traveled during Thanksgiving to be near families who have opened their arms and homes to us, anxious to fill us with uncountable acts of love and kindness. But the few hours in the car, at least when the kids were little, were trying at best. After a year or two, we discovered a radio station that plays Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant, a piece of storytelling both my husband and I remember well, and adore, from our own youth. Alice’s Restaurant runs for approximately 18 ½ minutes, but seems longer in the car, as we talk about it for most of the rest of the ride.

As the children got older, they came to understand the beauty of satire, along with time spent together, whether around a table, or sitting in traffic on the southeast expressway.

Enjoy your month of traditions


Ps For those of you fortunate enough to know the Alice’s Restaurant story, I hope you appreciate my title. For the rest of you, well, beware of police officer’s named Obie, and the group W bench.


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Giving Notice


First edition, original booklet

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On a recent highway trip north, I could not help but notice the new line painting. My first thought: Was the painter drunk? Then: Perhaps they were they having a lesson on line painting that day. If I had obeyed those lines, I may not have survived.

Line painting on a roadway seems to be one of those illustrations of not noticing unless it’s done poorly. We take so many things for granted because they can’t be seen. The next time you’re in a skyscraper, think about thanking a steel worker.

When my writing is bad, I can feel it, but I cannot always pinpoint why. It would be easier if it was as clear as the lines on the road, soaring off in the wrong direction. My best move is to leave it, and return at a later time, when, I pray, it becomes obvious.

When I look for inspiration or assistance from “The Greats,” I usually discover something like this: “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”  Somerset Maugham

Or, “A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Thomas Mann

Maybe I should apply for a line-painting job.

Be Well,


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If you multi-task, you may lose your underwear

teddys on a clothesline

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For various reasons, I have been hiding items in my home, and then forgetting where I put them. Presents for who knows, turn up in bureau drawers, in the garage, and amongst the dust bunnies in corners I dare not go. Worse still, when I find some of these belongings, like the small box of jewelry I just discovered, I realize I had forgotten I had them to begin with.

But not my underwear. Recently, I had to buy all new underwear —couldn’t imagine where it went to. A few weeks back, the clothes dryer went on the blink, so I strung laundry all over the house. The prayer-flag decor announcing a celebration of the patron saint of stiff clothes; I was so ready for my dryer back. Since my unlikely splurge on unmentionables, I have been finding the missing articles in the most interesting places. On hooks behind doors seldom opened or closed, on bookshelves, blending into the Redwall series perfectly, and the tiny tot books I have yet to part with. All of this is leading up to a windfall of undergarments. Unexpected, yes, and welcome.

Is this a sign of a busy woman, an aging woman, a busy-aging woman, or just a nut-job who needs to focus?

This brings me to my writing habits. On a daily basis, I tend to write snippets, definitions, ideas, new starts, and lists, placing them in different files on my computer and in drawers in my desk. I am cleaning my office this week, and I have found another windfall of writing ideas to keep me busy not focusing on the current job at hand. My favorite tidbit unearthed in this most recent excavation was a 2 inch by 2 inch square of paper which simply said, feather identification lab, Smithsonian… like the gifts huddling amongst the dust bunnies, or the underwear hiding on the bookshelves, this treasure was intended for another purpose, but I cannot remember what.

Maybe a Ginkgo Biloba tea is in order,



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How would YOU look in a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader outfit?


Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.

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Being overseer of an empty nest, this Halloween I decided to do something about it; I borrowed 4 great kids, and kept them until the nest turned ripe enough to be condemned by the local health department. Trick or Treating has, let’s say, evolved since I was a rugrat in the 1960’s. Apparently, it is okay for high schoolers and older to dress up and beg for candy alongside dwarf-like Dumbledore’s, mini-matadors, and pint-sized Princess Fiona’s. I even took note of parents, bold enough to forgo the costume, and help themselves to the treats as well. As a friend noted, is the economy that bad?

On one particular street, (which was as crowded as a Filenes’s Basement on wedding dress day) our little group took note of a 20-something, dressed like a Dallas Cowboy’s Cheerleader, waiting in line (!) behind hoards of greedy goblins, to retrieve for herself a Baby Ruth. So unlike her sisters of the gridiron; at the very least she could have been eating a McSalad, and sipping a diet Coke.

Watching this grotesque display of adult behavior brought to mind my own characters back at my desk. A writer knows when she re-reads her work, and her characters have done something against their nature. For example, when a woman, known for her unflappable generosity, suddenly says no to a kid at her door looking for clothing, food, or money for her family, who just lost their house to a fire, well, the reader just doesn’t buy it.

And even though this is supposed to be a purely-for-fun-holiday in New Hampshire, and 30 degrees, on a day designed for children, I wasn’t buying the cheerleader anything, except perhaps a coat and a Slimfast.

Just Thinkin’


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My erosional forces


The Merrimack River

Image by Cramit via Flickr


My favorite walking spot is slowly slipping into the Merrimack River; it is inevitable. I have seen evidence of erosion all my life. In the canyons of the American West, where my husband has pointed out where water and wind have scoured rock formations over eons, and at the beaches of Cape Cod, where the sands shift and change shape year to year. But river erosion is noticeable from one day to the next. With a heavy rain, entire trees tumble over, first tipping at awkward angles, and then fully submerged the next day, helping to fill the hungry river.

I can remember going out to this same floodplain about 15 years ago when my kids were young. We would always go first to the ancient maple, which lay on it’s side like an enormous sleeping bear, enticing the kids to it’s danger. That tree has been gone, and the earth beneath as well, for more than 5 years. We witness time passing everywhere, sometimes taking note, other times getting caught unawares.

When writing about the past, present, or the future, and trying to make it clear to my readers where we are in time, can be tricky.  For instance, when I say, “Yesterday, while walking along the riverbank, Sally slipped and fell into the water when the embankment gave way,” is completely different from, “Sally said yesterday, that she slipped while walking along the riverbank, and fell into the water when the embankment gave way.” Well, Sally could have fallen at any given time prior to her announcement that she had done so. So how would my readers know what I want them to know?

Or how about, “When Dalton was 2 years of age, his father drove a Ford Fairlane,” the reader might infer that when Dalton was 2, it was during the 1960’s. But if I say, “When Dalton was 2 years of age, his father, an antique car dealer, drove a Ford Fairlane,” it will give the reader a different idea of the time.

After days like these, I just want to send the Fairlane off the riverbank and pour a glass of wine.

Just Thinkin’ too Much,


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