On Writing… and Living


“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story,” he said. “When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

“… your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

That enlightening passage is from Stephen King’s “On Writing”. It was the advice passed on to him by a newspaper editor. And it’s the big lesson I walked away with. Take out what’s not the story. It helped me tremendously while writing my first novel BUKU.

It kinda applies to life too, doesn’t it?

In this unprecedented time, in the midst of a pandemic in which our commitments are canceled and we are forced to isolate, many of us have been given the chance to rethink the story. Our story. Maybe our lives need a little editing to get down to what our story really is. And should be. And can be.

Maybe we need to edit out what’s not our story.

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The Wonder of Weeds

I love spring. The warmer temperatures are wonderful. Walking out without a jacket is liberating. But it’s the colors that truly delight me. Right now, it’s all about variations of purple. My lilac bushes are blooming. The redbuds are in bloom. I have a few grape hyacinths in my garden and my overgrown vinca is dotted with little flowers. Soon, my iris will begin showing off.  

Even the weeds are dressing themselves in this most majestic of colors. For my first mow of the season, I didn’t trim close to the trees in my backyard because of the profusion of wild violet. And before I mowed through a part of my lawn where the weeds are thriving, I stopped to take note of the eye-catching purples of deadnettle and ground ivy.

If you don’t know what those are, neither did I. I had to look them up because I have always just known them as weeds. And I guess come summer, that’s what they’ll be. Right now, they are intricate, purple flowers.

It occurs to me that God made them all – the flowers that we carefully cultivate and the weeds we curse. He made them all appealing in their own way. We’re the ones who decided that we will nurture these while mowing down those. We’re the ones who define some as flowers and some as weeds when in fact, they are all beautiful blooms. How many other things of beauty… of delight… do we overlook because of the names we’ve assigned them?

Words are important. Words shape our perception. Words help us define our world. Let’s question the words we use sometimes. And maybe in so doing, we’ll stop and notice the wonder of weeds.

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Let’s Walk On Water

I was thinking about the story of Jesus… and Peter… walking on water. I looked at the reasons why Peter was able to walk on water, however short-lived the experience was. The obvious reasons are because he had faith… and Jesus was on hand to command him to do it. But beyond that… before that… he first imagined that he could do it… he dared to think that he should do it… and then he asked Jesus to allow him do it. I thought it was a good thing to think about as we look ahead at the things we want to accomplish in the new year. We always focus on the things we want to change about ourselves… to work on our faults. What would the year look like if we imagined something big… dared to think we should do it… turned to God for the approval and the assistance… and had the faith to do the seemingly impossible. That’s my resolution. Happy New Year, everyone.

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Going Home Again

Jerri Harbison book signing Jennifer AndersonYou know what they say about home. They say you can’t go back.

I know why they say it. Because home isn’t just a location. Home is also about a time… and about people. So even when you can plant your feet in the same physical space, time has marched on. And people have grown older, or moved away. Or died.

For all intents and purposes, I left my hometown of Eldorado, Illinois back in 1982, the year I moved away to the University of Illinois. Thereafter, I always had a different zip code, and quite a few at that. I was often in Eldorado since that’s where my family was. But I no longer lived there. At the end of the week, or the weekend, I always went back ‘home’, to somewhere else.

For close to three decades now, the Nashville, TN area has been home. I currently live on a quiet street in a town called Gallatin. It’s a pretty good size, compared to Eldorado. I usually don’t run into people I know at the store. Some of my closest ‘local’ friends are still miles away. But it has become home to me. Meanwhile, back in Eldorado, my parents have both passed. Many of my friends are no longer there. I don’t find time to visit very often.

But a couple of weekends ago, I went home again. I stayed with my brother. I shared meals with family and with good friends. And I did a book signing for my debut novel BUKU at the Eldorado Memorial Library. I’ve known the lady who set up the event a good portion of my life. My brother stayed for moral support the whole time. My dear friends Bruce and Julie came and took pictures.

The first guy to walk in the door was Scott. Scott and I never did hang around together. But I’ve known Scott since we were in elementary school. The same with Jeff. And Mark. And Bonnie. I caught up with Chris and Janet and Sally and Mike. My neighbor Kim, who I spent countless hours riding bikes with back on Bramlet Street, was there. As was one of my besties from as far back as I can remember; Valery and I have so many shared memories of camp and school and sitting on the back row at church and giggling so hard the pew shook.

Former neighbors, mothers of friends, the husband of a former teacher. Jerri, who I was on a speech team with when we both attended the local community college. And Gary, my coach from those days. I hadn’t seen either of them since the 90’s, and we talked fast and tried to fill in the years.

There’s something about people who knew you when you were young. Who are a part of your history. Who know your family and have stories on your brother. Who remember your parents and your grandparents.

Eldorado isn’t the town it was when I was growing up. Many of the downtown buildings have collapsed due to age and neglect. My parents are gone; their house sits sad and empty. I can probably walk into the grocery store there and not recognize the faces. But how incredible is it, that thirty-four years after I moved away, I can go back and remember so much? And be remembered by so many. I was afraid I wouldn’t know people. But I did. I may have forgotten people I worked with ten years ago. But I remember the faces of my hometown, the people I knew, and who knew me, when I was young.

So here’s the thing. You can’t turn back the clock. You cannot bring back those you love. But turns out, you can go home again.

I have lived in nine different towns (and parts of Nashville) since I moved away. I now reside in Gallatin. But no matter how long I live, I will always be from Eldorado, Illinois.

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You’re a Dog. Hey, I’m a Dog Too!

Some friends were out of town, and I was over at their house walking their dog. Suddenly, their neighbor appears in his yard with his dog. Both dogs let out a yelp and strained at their leashes trying to get to each other, whining in frustration.

I wonder if we would be like that if we could easily spot fellow writers and other creatives. Would we have an instinctual urge to run up to them, check them out, size them up and shoot a hundred questions at them trying to figure out if they have a secret we don’t have? Just a thought.

Wanna read the start of the prologue to my novel Buku? http://jenniferandersonwriter.com/2018/04/10/buku-lock-stock-and-oil-barrel/

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Just Write

In my quest to learn what I need to know about writing and publishing a book, I have subscribed to a dozen or more different blogs/email lists/Facebook pages/etc, all with instructions on how I should write, why I should write, what I should not do while I write. There seems to be a lot of advice and rules and suggestions and no-no’s. I find that some apply to me. Some I disagree with. Some are talking about the kind of writer I will never be. The only thing I know for sure… the one rule that I will state applies unequivocally to every writer, in every genre, for all time… all of my knowledge and wisdom summed up in one sentence is: If you don’t write, it won’t get written.

And by the way, I think this applies to all creatives. (And we are all creative.) What we have inside of us, the part that is unique to us… if we don’t express it in some way, we stop it from ever being revealed to the world. Or at least our world. Or maybe even, just to us.

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