Diana’s Articles on Writing and Family
[coauthored with Virginia Simpson, for Monica Starkman’s column “On Call”]
Ways to deal with a life stage brings opportunities as well as challenges. Aging is a stage of development for both an aging parent and for their adult child. Even when the parent is relatively healthy, both must negotiate this new phase. For example, when adult children help their arthritic parents put on shoes and socks … and when those parents have to ask for help … it’s a moment that causes each of them to take notice.
Mother-Daughter Caregiving | In Honor of Mothers’ Day, Marylee MacDonald (author of Bonds of Love and Blood and Montpelier Tomorrow May 14, 2017
For the memories of past mothers! Ginni Simpson and I co-authored this article. While Ginni writes about her own experience as a caregiver, I write about a fictional character facing this difficult responsibility. We are all in this together. Caregiving of a parent is difficult under any circumstances.
“Diva Mamas–Reluctant Mothers in Literature”, Women Writers, Women Books, May 4, 2016 (an article for Mother’s Day)
There is no how-to manual for motherhood, and if there were, the range of personalities would definitely not be a one-size-fits-all advice book. While we can enjoy the nostrils flaring and ghastly fangs bared in diva-mamas in literary fiction, it is gratifying to suspend our own experience and squirm while we are deliciously drawn into these family sagas, which propel us into the power of mother as primal, and the first human connection we all have.
“A Shout-out to Grandparents”, Grand, September 5, 2016
There are now 70 million grandparents in the US. So let’s celebrate Grandparents Month in September and Grandparents Day on September 11, with a shoutout to our grandkids and to us! Or, if you are the grandkids reading this, note the feelings many of us grandparents share: “If we knew grandkids would be so much fun, we’d have had them first.”
Those of us lucky enough to be grandparents remember our own grandmothers knitting, aprons, house dresses and the mouth-watering smells of old-fashioned cooking wafting from the kitchen. A lot has changed.
“Misery is Family”, Pencil Marks, November 2015 issue
September was Grandparents Month, November is Caregiving Month and both are the zeitgeist of our time. With a Janus-perspective– one face turned towards parents’ needs as they age and one face turned towards children who continue to need their support and comfort, many of us baby boomers are sandwiched between the family we are born into and the one we create as adults. This is our moral dilemma, a microcosm of our world.
“One Book. Two Readers. Different Meanings”, Shelf Pleasure, August 8, 2016
Books mean different things to different people or different things to the same person at various points in our lives. A reader’s response to a book is very personal and unique, shaped by their own experiences and emotions.
Writing as Meditation
“Zen Mind, Writer’s Mind: Letting Go”, San Diego Book Review, August 5, 2015
Not only is my debut novel, Things Unsaid infused with Buddhist values, but also my writing process itself. Zen Buddhism, which I practice and once taught, speaks to the truth of self-expression as identical with creativity.
The Creative Process
“Loving Disturbed Characters“–Shelf Pleasure, November 9, 2016
How I love the dark side! Characters, like people, are flawed for a reason, and a good story is all about character.
Some readers are drawn to anti-heroes as main characters–disturbingly flawed characters. Anti-heroes who can handle pressure with determination give readers hope. But with anti-heroes, it’s easy to go too far… to the dark side.
“From Idea to Screen: The Blank Space”, Shelf Pleasure, October 26, 2016
As a debut novelist who is now writing her second novel, I still have the same dread: how to go from idea to glowing screen (or blank paper). I know how ugly and intimidating all that blank white space can be.
“It’s All About Self-Esteem: Writing Can Be a Blood Sport”, Shelf Pleasure, October 7, 2016
Writing a book can test your self-esteem. You have to build stamina, because it is a blood sport.
“The First Spark–How I Became A Writer”, San Diego Book Review, September 1, 2015
I’d been wanting to write fiction ever since I was a child, and my childhood friends thought I was a great storyteller,… so that when I was reporting on actual events, I was often dismissed as constructing another unbelievably tall tale. So why not take the leap into the realm of storytelling? Everyone thought I was telling stories anyway.
“Memoir or Fiction–That is the Question”, San Diego Book Review, December 1, 2015
The emotional truth in Things Unsaid has scenes originating from, but not exactly like, my own family’s and there are other scenes adapted from friends, favorite novels, movies and anywhere else I could find rich material of shared moments of a family’s life.
Cedar St. Times, July 31, 2015–“Things Unsaid—Family Pictures”, Cedar St. Times, July 31, 2015, p.16
Memoir means “memory” and novel means “new”-but a compelling narrative, in my opinion, always has both.
How-to of Writing
“Scrivener Convert” , Portland Book Review, July 13, 2015
Not wanting to spend hours learning yet another software program, I avoided Scrivener like the plague, while writing both the first and second drafts of my debut novel, Things Unsaid. The turning point: I couldn’t find some of my index cards which had been neatly color-coded and stored in a file box. I knocked the whole box over while rummaging for cards.
“Mindful Editing and Revising”, SheWrites.com, November 6, 2015
How does a state of mindful meditation work, and what does it have to do with writing?
“The Dreaded Middle–Story Block”, San Diego Book Review, March 2, 2016
When I have the theme, the conflict, the character arcs in place and know the ending (or think I do), the middle looms large and I dread it. My story seems stuck and writers even have a term for this: “the saggy middle”.
“The End: Knowing When to Stop”, San Diego Book Review, April 4, 2016
My readers need to be so involved and engrossed they cannot go to bed, not even go to the bathroom—until they know what happens…. Prolong the ending for more than a chapter or two and your story becomes flat and boring. Know when to stop!
Why are some readers drawn to anti-heroes as main characters? Maybe it’s because anti-heroes who can handle pressure with determination give readers hope.
“An Affection for Flawed Characters” San Diego Book Review, November 1, 2015
I want to present a balanced view, even of the antagonists, because they think they are doing the right thing, even when they aren’t. That does not mean the reader has to sympathize with the characters or be their friend.
“Beta Readers–A Novelist’s Best Friend”, San Diego Book Review, January 2, 2016
Looking back I wish I had learned about the importance of beta readers at a much earlier stage in the game. Had I asked them to read earlier drafts, my story would have been stronger earlier in the evolution of my work-in-progress.
Book Announcement on LuxuryReading.com, October 5, 2015
Book Announcement on FreshFiction.com, October 13, 2015
“Reviews Blues”, San Diego Book Review, May 4, 2016
Let’s be perfectly honest here: I knew this was going to happen. All my author friends warned me to be prepared. Somebody is going to hate your book – and if you let it, that little 1-star review will have the power to obliterate all the 4- and 5-star reviews that came before it.
Why Even Internet Addicts Need a Publicist”, JKS Communications Newsletter, February 2017
I confess– I spend more hours than I want to admit online. Yet as a debut novelist, I needed a more extensive network of media contacts I could call upon when I released Things Unsaid a year ago.
Yes, all authors have to be willing to learn how to market their books. You will be a writer without a readership without good marketing and publicity. Reaching readers to make them aware of your book requires a team effort, and the publicist is part of the author’s team. You have to be realistic about what you can do on your own, and what requires a helping hand. Publicists provide: research on social media strategy; introductions to brick-and-mortar bookstores with a cult following; book award contests and book review opportunities; chances to write columns for online magazines.