My Writing

People Who’ve Helped Me

  • Natasha Kern Literary Agency
    Information about this agency, their clients, and how to submit your own work for publication. Represents both ABA and CBA.
  • Carol Craig, EditorThe Editing Gallery
    Editing, Marketing, and Writing Services. Particularly good if you’re writing for the Inspirational market.
  • Susan Lohrer
    The Write Words Editing—Copyediting and Line Editing—Edits all markets.
  • Daniel Will—Harris Graphic Design
    If you’re looking for truly unique cards, stationary or image making promotional materials this computer graphics pioneer is a genius. Innovative and creative, he wowed me with his ideas. Printed pieces are a huge part of building a career and Daniel is always just one click away.

 

WORDS

Award-Winning Essay

Words, tools of the trade for the writer. Helpmates, promising to color, shade and express our creativity. Posing as agents of our thoughts, yet, at times refusing to give them voice. At times spilling out so quickly they run ahead of us, independent and haughty, leaving us to scramble for pen and paper—then vanishing without a trace.

Do you ever think about them? I do. I don’t mean in sentences, grouped together with their friends. I mean standing alone, pure and potent. Oh, the power they have flowing from the pen or leaping from the tongue without warning, yes, no. Each with a life of its own. Explaining what cannot be explained, creativity, Creator. Conveying what we cannot comprehend, infinity. Bringing into being what we have never experienced, eternity. Not living passively, but challenging our beliefs, God. How did that word spring to life? Was a truth revealed millenniums ago when it was first uttered? Can man create from nothingness?

Their gifting should command our respect. But sadly, at times, we are impertinent. They are after all our daily companions casually sent forth to do our bidding. We feel free to pervert them when it serves our purpose, spin. No accountability required to these miscellaneous groupings of letters as we force them to speak in sentences without verbs, fragments. However, they are at their core truthful and quite deliberately will keep their intrinsic meaning hidden from those not worthy of them, soul, sense, spirit. Perhaps that is why we covet their friendship.

Yet they can be pretentious peers, engaging our minds in silent, perplexing games of nyms and phones. “Job’s job? Herb’s herbs?” Capitonym. “He yelled fore at tee four?” Homophone, heteronym.

We will forever endure their idiosyncrasies, esoteric and profound. For as we labor to birth that idea that floats in our subconscious, partially formed, not quite a speech sound yet, we find they are the DNA of our thoughts.Words, sometimes taking us beyond ourselves, mercy, grace, hope, joy. Sometimes shaming us with their very existence, Nigger, Retard, Fatso. But never forsaking us, forgiveness, redemption.

Words, both a blessing and a curse to the devoted adherent–those of us who love them—those of us who have fallen under their spell.



My husband, Antonio, was with me to share my excitement as I signed my book contract in January 2004.

Dreams do come true. I’m so very excited to announce that my first novel, The Winds of Sonoma,” (Baker Books) can be ordered by Clicking here.

MY PROUDEST MOMENT

Award Winning Story
National Competition


The doors of the Monday morning school bus swung open at the first stop on Southside Avenue.

Josh Wiseman pushed his way to the front of the line, his track medals on his letterman’s jacket flashing in the morning sunlight. “Outa the way, loser.”

Julian stumbled backward as the other kids followed Josh onto the bus. The other kids who lived in the big houses lining the street. The kids who had new clothes, and bikes, and cars, and money in their pockets. The kids whose parents paid someone else to labor in their homes and yards, someone who would live in a little room in the basement and feel lucky. Someone like his mother. Someone like him.

“Hey Julian, you getting on the bus?” Mr. Patterson drummed his fingers on the lever that closed the door. Julian climbed the bus steps and took the one empty seat behind the driver.

Another long day at school. Another day of “Hey, Dude, that use’ta be my jacket. My mom gave it to Goodwill,” shouted across the hall during class changes. Another first period with Ms. Begali, who said he ought to learn to spell if he expected to pass her composition class. He could spell. He could spell perfectly in his mind. But it wouldn’t come out his fingers; somehow the letters got mixed up or disappeared completely as they traveled down his arm to his hand.

The bus slowed as it eased into the school parking lot, finally coming to a stop. Julian waited for the last kid to get off, then stood, swung his backpack over his shoulder, and bit his lower lip. It didn’t matter. He was as good as anybody. Coach Amende said so. He took a deep breath and got off the bus.

The first period bell rang. Julian broke into a jog. He slipped into his seat in the back of the class.

“Quiet, everybody.” Ms. Begali clapped her hands. “Time for morning announcements.”

The intercom above the door came to life. “Seniors, you should have completed submission requirements for your college choices. Those who haven’t, schedule an appointment with your counselor. SAT’s …”

Julian’s eyes and thoughts wandered across the room to the fourth row, third seat. Long, dark hair, full lips slightly parted; Beth DiBenedetto. He could feel his cheeks heating up as he watched her write notes of the morning announcements and bounce her foot on the pom-poms under her desk. She was the prettiest girl in school. Especially when she led the “cheer squad.” He rarely got to go to the games, since he didn’t have the price of a ticket. But he could still stand behind the bleachers and look through the wire mesh that fenced the playing fields, and every once in a while the prettiest girl in school was visible in the distance, atop the human pyramid that assembled every time the home team scored. Julian let out a sigh.

“Track tryouts…” The disembodied voice broke into his thoughts. “Varsity time trials will be at three p. m. tomorrow.” Julian’s heart skipped a beat. Tomorrow. It was a long shot, a JV guy making the Varsity team. There was only one spot open, but Coach Amende had said he was ready.

Ms. Begali clapped her hands again. “Okay class, get out your journals. We’re going to have a free write. Topic: “My Proudest Moment.” You have thirty minutes. Remember, write freely, this is for your eyes only. When you’ve finished, I suggest you start on tonight’s assignment. It’s written on the board.”

Julian opened his spiral notebook to a blank sheet of paper and printed across the top, “My Proudst Moment.” He tapped his pencil on the blank paper, then sat back in his chair and looked around the room, everyone was writing. His eyes wandered to the clock and he watched the second hand travel around its face. My proudest moment? He chewed his lower lip. My proudest moment?

Julian put his pencil to the paper. “My proudst moment is yet to come. In that moment I will be the first in line and others will follow me. I will hold my hed high. I will lead the way and I will not look back.” His eyes drifted across the room. “Even Beth DiBenedetto will know my name.”

Julian nibbled at the end of his pencil and reread his sentences. He tapped the pencil on his chin, then wrote a closing line. “And Josh Wiseman will never call me a loser agin.”

He closed his journal and took out his composition book. He copied the homework off the board and had started to diagram the first sentence when the bell rang.

The day passed as all others, and when Julian heard the last period bell ring, he rushed to catch the bus home. He had chores to do at the McMillan estate where he and his mom lived. Old Dr. McMillan had been confined to a wheelchair since his last stroke and now Julian took care of all the yard work. They were good people. Mrs. McMillan often made cookies for him, and when she found out Coach Amende had agreed to help him train for the track team after regular practice on school nights, she’d faithfully driven him to the sports complex every evening.

As Julian made his way down the narrow isle of the bus one of the kids stuck their foot out, tripping him. He managed to regain his balance before he fell. Blinking rapidly, he set his lips in a firm line. Tomorrow at this time he’d be competing to win the only spot on the Varsity track team.

As Julian threw the last of the weeds in the wheelbarrow, he heard the big Lincoln rolling out of the garage. Five o’clock. He wiped his hands on his pants and jogged to the car.

Mrs. McMillan sat behind the wheel, waiting for him. He jumped in the front seat.

Her smile was warm. “You’re sure doing a nice job on the yard.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

“When are the track tryouts?”

“Tomorrow, after school.”

“I’m excited for you, dear. You’ve worked hard with Coach Amende. It will pay off.; hard work always does. And you’re on my prayer list, too. Work with all your might and pray with all your heart. The rest is up to God.”

Julian fingered the cross under his shirt that the McMillans had given him for Christmas. “Well, I’m sure working hard. Coach Amende says I have the potential to set a school record someday. But I don’t know. I’ve never run against the other kids. I don’t know how I compare. I’m trying out for Varsity and I’m only a freshman. Most are bigger then me and lots of ‘em have already lettered.”

Mrs. McMillan turned onto the boulevard that led to the school. “Trust yourself, your coach, and the God who made you. The rest will take care of itself.”

When Mrs. McMillan pulled up to the sports complex, Julian could see Coach Amende sitting on a bench just inside the entrance.

“Thanks for the ride, Mrs. McMillan.” Julian dashed out of the car. “Hey, coach.”

Coach Amende stood up, his hands behind his back.

Julian stopped mid-stride. His eyes wide, his face breaking into a big grin. “You got ’em?”

The coach held up a pair of spiked shoes by the shoestrings, bouncing them up and down. “Yep, and they’re all yours. The way you’ve been eating up the track in your tennis shoes, you ought to really fly with these.”

Julian took the shoes from the coach’s outstretched hands. He turned them over, examining them, brushing his thumb across the spikes. “These are awesome. Thanks, Coach.” He sat down and put on the shoes, then jumped up and down a few times to get used to them. “They’re perfect.”

“Ready, Julian?”

“You bet. I’m ready to fly. Get out your stopwatch ’cause I’m gonna give these shoes a workout.”

Julian ran laps and sprints for the next two hours, never resting, pushing himself, working with all his might.

Students trying out for spring sports packed the sports complex. The parents who came to watch and were scattered across the fields and stands. Whistles blew and events were called over the loudspeaker. The “cheer squad” practiced cheers near the finish line.

The Varsity track team lineup had already been named based on individual time trials, but as was the case every year, one position remained open for an outstanding Junior Varsity runner. This year five JV boys would be competing for that single position. The loudspeaker called the five runners to the starting line.

Coach Amende called out with the bullhorn. “JV’s, you’ll be running in lanes one through five, two laps, eight hundred meters. Josh Wiseman is going to run in lane six. It should help you focus to have the Varsity captain setting the standard for you. To the starting blocks.”

Julian’s heart pounded. His mind raced. What if he had a false start? What if he fell? What if he finished last and Josh Wiseman called him a loser in front of the “cheer squad?”

“Julian, it’s time to get to the block.” Julian felt Coach Amende’s hand on his shoulder.

He took a deep breath. I can do this. The coach says I’m fast. He fingered the cross at his neck. I’ve worked hard. He wiggled his toes in his new shoes. I can do this. His eyes scanned the lanes. The other boys were lined up. The only open spot was lane five… next to Josh.

“Runners to your marks.”

The coach raised the starter pistol. Julian set his feet.

The sound of the pistol cut through the air like a knife.

Julian shot off the block. The boys on his left were running at about his pace, their staggered positions keeping them separated. They rounded the top of the track, moving across the backstretch. Julian held steady in the middle of the group.

I can’t give it my all now. It’s way too early. I won’t have anything left for the final stretch. The runner on his left drew past him. Julian strained to lengthen his stride, tapping his reserves.

As they began the second lap, the runner in lane one fell. Julian turned his head and saw the boy getting up. In those few seconds he took his mind off the race, the runner ahead of him picked up speed, closing in on Josh Wiseman, who still held the lead.

Julian focused on the track in front of him. The final hundred meters stretched before him. A crowd of athletes, coaches, and parents gathered at the finish line. His lungs burned, his legs ached. Maybe he couldn’t do this. Maybe he was a loser. He closed his eyes. He could hear Coach Amende “You’re a gifted athlete, as good as anybody we’ve ever had.” Mrs. McMillan’s voice whispered, “Trust yourself, your coach and the God who made you.”

Julian held his head high. I can. I will.

He lengthened his stride until his feet barely touched the ground. He did not look back as he pulled ahead. The other runners stretched in a line behind him. He drew even with the team captain. He could hear Josh gasping for air, the finish line only a few meters from their feet.

I will.

Josh Wiseman disappeared behind him as his feet crossed the line.

The crowd cheered. Julian’s mouth dropped open as he glimpsed his mother’s face behind the shoulder of Mrs. McMillan as they jumped up and down, shouting and clapping. The Varsity team gathered around him.

“Way to go, Julian.”

“Cool, Dude.”

Josh pushed into the crowd. “Hey.” The boys around Julian stepped back. Julian braced himself and faced the senior. Josh’s eyes were narrow, his jaw clenched . . . he extended his hand. “You’re fast.”

Someone was lifting him in the air. “Ju-li-an. Ju-li-an. Ju-li-an.” His eyes found the source of the chant. Beth DiBenedetto, the prettiest girl in school, standing atop the human pyramid, her arms raised in a big V, leading the squad, shouting his name. Celebrating his proudest moment.

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