My 2017

PS_Summer_2017_Proof3-1-200x268It was a very good year….

A story published

A Pushcart Prize nomination

An essay about aging 

and my thoughts on midlife crisis in the Washington Post

A submission a day and a novel in a month

Conference fun

Crime Bake
Crime Bake, 2017

Retreat dinners and fellowship

Retreat dinner
Clare House, 2017


Hockessin Book Fair, 2017




Mindful tree

And my most beloved sprint friends.

sprint club at PW
Sprint club at Pennwriters


2017 was also a sad year…

I lost my friend Josh, who was funny and smart and a rascal, and who helped me research all things Delaware. Rainbo 2

I said goodbye to my father and wrote a tribute to him.

What will 2018 bring? We’ll have to see, and I hope we’ll share it together, either in person or virtually.

Happy New Year, my friends! May the next year bring only good things.

I am not going to post on my blog this month

November is the month of Crime Bake and Thanksgiving. I am doing a public reading on Saturday at the Hockessin Art & Book Fair and offering a workshop at the Bear Library on November 19 for teens interested in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.   My brother is coming to visit, and I need to plan a birthday party for my husband. It is also National Novel Writing Month. Why does all the fun stuff happen in November?

Last week, my writing pal and NaNoWriMo buddy Judy Clemens used an homage to Dr. Seuss to share some inspiration.  Today–one day before November–I’m following up with my own stab of Seussyness as the pressure of writing 1,667 words a day begins to mount.

I am not going to post on my blog this month

Not going to give out advice

I’ve already said all I have to say

Why nag you by saying it twice?

Not going to bug you about dialogue tags

Or how to make your opening strong

Not going to discuss the revision drag

Or the ways that mysteries go wrong.

I don’t want to be a Grammar Nazi

Or Marian the Librarian, either

For now I need to write my own stuff

So pardon me while I take a breather.

I’m not going to post on blog my this month

Except for a reminder or two

I’m starting NaNoWriMo tomorrow

And there’s only so much I can do.

I’ll be scrambling to introduce my protagonist

While making my word count goals

I must avoid my habit of meandering

And battle those frustrating plot holes.

So I’ll be absent from this blog of mine

For the entire month of November

But if you forget a writing rule

My How To Collection might help you remember.

Best of luck to all the NaNoWriMo warriors–and to all writers who get down words every day.


NaNoWriMo Part 3: A Mini Version

I am happy to host my writing colleague and friend, JM Reinbold, who every November offers an alternative to the 50K word challenge of NaNoWriMo: MiniWriMo.

MiniWriMo is an on-line writing challenge—participate through the Facebook group—sponsored by the Written Remains Writers Guild. Today, Joanne answers 5 questions about MiniWriMo for writers who want to set a steady but less stringent goal for turkey month.

Jm-No-Snake-cropFirst, an introduction:

JM Reinbold is the author of the DCI Rylan Crowe English Village mystery series. She is also a poet, editor, and the Director of the Written Remains Writers Guild. She lives in Wilmington, Delaware. Her fiction, essays, articles, and poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, and on blogs and websites, as well as being nominated and selected for awards, grants, and literary fellowships.

Now, the questions:

Q: What is MiniWriMo?

A: MiniWriMo (Mini Writing Month) is an alternative to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Q: What are the daily expectations?

A: MiniWriMo is a 250 words a day for 30 days challenge.

Q: Why did you start MiniWriMo?

A: I started MiniWriMo for a number of reasons. One is, a few years ago, I participated in NaNoWriMo and wrote a novel in 30 days. It was exciting, but mostly it was grueling. Another reason is, I wanted to develop a “write every day habit.” Most days, I can’t write 1,666 words a day, but I can write 250 words a day and often I write quite a few more and better words because I feel less stress when I sit down at my writing desk. Finally, MiniWriMo is a challenge anyone can participate in and achieve without rearranging their life or increasing their stress.

Q: How would a new participant prep for November and MiniWriMo?

A: Prepping for MiniWriMo is similar to prepping for NaNoWriMo or any other long-term writing challenge. A participant chooses their project: writing a short story, writing chapters of a novel, essays, blog posts, or other writing. They could also choose to edit / revise an already completed project. They sketch out a plan, in whatever form works best for them—an outline, story notes—or they can “pants” it, if they prefer. They make sure they have everything they need to do the work: a writing space or place to go to write, the necessary equipment and resources. They also try to anticipate activities or events during November that might cause them to miss their writing time, such as holidays, business travel, etc. and find work-arounds.

This year, we’re trying something new. Along with the writing challenge, we’re creating do-it-yourself mini writing retreats. Writers will design mini-retreats, most likely one for each week of the challenge. During these mini retreats, a participant might write, but s/he might also choose to do something other than writing that enriches his/her writing life – perhaps studying a particular aspect of writing craft or another subject for which s/he hasn’t been able to find the time, or visit with a writer friend to catch up, or think deeply about a story project, or take a walk or go dancing, or read a favorite author.

Q: What happens of December 1st, when MiniWriMo is over?

A: We celebrate our success! And for some of us, we keep on going, writing something every day, moving ahead to our next goal as authors.

For those who wish to continue with daily writing / editing, we have a Facebook group for that, too—250 Words Plus for Writers.

missingFor more about JM Reinbold, visit her website and check out “Missing,” the first in her English Village mystery series.



NaNo by the Numbers

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgToday I dove into the challenge called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Throughout 2016, I’ve been speaking at libraries on how to create a long term daily writing habit. This is indirectly connected to NaNoWriMo, but one part of my writing habit talk is discussing word count and NaNoWriMo. Every time I do this talk, I notice people scribbling the numbers. Today, on Day 1, I thought I’d share the breakdown. I hope it helps those people who like to play with days and numbers and word count: Continue reading “NaNo by the Numbers”

11 Pre-NaNoWriMo Exercises

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgNovember means turkey and dressing, autumnal colors and falling leaves, parades and football games, and National Novel Writing Month.

For the writers who are bravely preparing to sit down and pound out 50,000 words in 30 days, below are just shy of a dozen ideas to help you warm up and examine your story.

Pre-NaNoWriMo Writing Exercises Continue reading “11 Pre-NaNoWriMo Exercises”

March Madness

No, not basketball, but literary events galore this month! The following are classes, contests, workshops, and launches.




March 1 – Publication date for EXTRAORDINARY GIFTS: Remarkable Women of the Delaware Valley. This collection of prose and visual art salutes noteworthy women with connections to Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, with contributions by local artists and authors. I was honored to write a piece inspired by Delaware environmentalist Dorothy P. Miller.

Extraordinary Gifts


March 8 – Book Launch party for EXTRAORDINARY GIFTS! at the Philadelphia Girls Rowing Club, the oldest club on Boathouse Row, and founded in 1938 by one of the extraordinary women featured in the book.





March 1, 17, and 25 – First Write: Now Edit, a three part editing series sponsored by the Havre de Grace Public Library. I will be presenting on March 25. This is a follow-up to a terrific series in October that pumped up writers planning to participate in NaNoWriMo.

First Write Now Edit


March 9 – 16 – Online workshop: Submission Preparation: Everything You Need for a Perfect Pitch – This week long intensive is sponsored by the Pittsburgh Mary Roberts Rhinehart Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I will lead the group in preparing log lines, queries, synopses, and summaries.






March 1 – The entry period opens for the second Rehoboth Beach Reads short story contest, sponsored by Cat & Mouse Press of Delaware. The 2014 theme is “The Boardwalk” and I am pleased to be one of the judges for this year’s book!

Rehoboth Beach Reads

So much going on in March! I hope somewhere in here is something you’ll find beneficial and fun.




How to Prepare for a Month of Intense Writing

Updating this post from last year, in preparation for NaNoWriMo. These considerations were best addressed in October, but it’s never too late to think about how to prepare for the  month ahead.

How to Prepare for a Month of Intense Writing

What can you do in advance to make sure you can focus on the 50,000 word goal ahead of you? Below are some questions to ponder in October.

YOU, The Writer

What physical or personal needs do you need to meet before Nov 1?

What can you do in advance?

What activities will you need to delay or put aside?

What activities help you write?

What prevents you from writing?

Can you give up TV, Facebook, movies for the month?

Do you have a plan for daily needs (meals, exercise?

Do you need to enlist outside support?

Will you need to change your sleep schedule?

Do you need/have a writing partner?



What is your most creative time of day?

Is it practical to work then?

Where do you work best?

Do you have a physical place only for writing?

Can you set one up for this month?

Will you work alone, join others, or both?

Do you have a general idea in mind for your story?

Do you have a daily word count goal?

Do you have a writing buddy to hold you accountable?



Can you write around your job schedule?

How will NaNoWriMo impact your job performance?

How will your job impact NaNoWriMo?

Is your employer aware you are undertaking NaNoWriMo?

Can you say no to extra work, overtime, travel?



Is your family on board with your commitment to NaNoWriMo?

Can you assign extra duties/chores for this month?

Can you establish a daily “Do Not Disturb, I’m Writing” time?

Can you enlist help from family or friends with meals, childcare, carpool?

Do you know how to use a crock pot and/or order a pizza?

Will you need to take time off to enjoy Thanksgiving?

Will your friends understand if you can’t meet for lunch?

Do you have an end-of-NaNo celebration planned?


How can you use MATH to be successful at NaNoWriMo?

The NaNoWriMo goal is 50,000 words in the month of November.  To be successful, I believe you should write every day, but how much?

If you write every day, for 30 days, that’s a daily word count of 1,667.

If you take off Thanksgiving to watch parades, the daily word count becomes 1,725.

If you take off Thanksgiving and Sundays, the daily word count becomes 2,000.

If you need to work primarily on weekends (9 days), the daily word count is 5,555.

How many days do you plan to write? Divide 50,000 by the number of writing days, and you have your daily word count.


Think about your life and how NaNoWriMo will affect it on these levels. Do you need to create a writing nest in your home? Learn to DVR your TV shows and freeze some meatloaf meals? Would hooking up with a writing buddy keep you honest? Practice turning off that inner editor and critic, because in November, she needs to Go Away


How to Prepare for a Month of Intense Writing Workshop

Writing A Novel: You Can Do It!


 This four-part series being offered at the Havre de Grace (MD) Public Library reaches out to the brave folks participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. Each session will address a specific topic to help writers prepare for the intense writing experience ahead:

 Session 1 (Sept 16)  – Intro to NaNoWriMo and What Makes a Good Novel?

Presented by Lauren Carr

 Session 2 (Sept 30) – How to Prepare for a Month of Intense Writing

Presented by Ramona DeFelice Long

 Session 3 (Oct 7) – Settings, Dialogue & Mind Games

Presented by Laura Fox

 Session 4 (Oct 21) – Beginnings, Middles & Ends

Presented by Ramona DeFelice Long

 All sessions are on Monday evenings, at 6:30 p.m. Registration is required. To register, call 410-939-6700 and/or visit the Harford County Public Library website.

Fall 2013 Courses and Workshops

Upcoming Courses and Workshops

Interview Your Story Workshop

Dates: Sunday, September 8 – Saturday, September 21
Where: Online via Yahoo Groups
Subsidized cost: $35
Open to: Members of SinC Guppy Chapter
The workshop will guide the author in examining his/her story in series of daily Q &A sessions. There are three basic Question areas: The Story, The Storyteller, The Audience. The goal of the course is to allow the author to examine his/her story in great depth. A secondary goal is to help the author articulate what this story is about, why he/she is the perfect person to write it, and identify and write to the perfect reader for this story. Daily Topics below:
Sunday:      The Crime
Monday:     The Sleuth/s
Tuesday:    The Story World/Setting
Wednesday: The Quest and Emotional Journey
Thursday:   Theme
Friday:        Plot Points and Structure
Saturday:    Secondary Characters and Storylines
Sunday:     catch-up
Monday:     Suspects, Cops, Clues, Red Herrings
Tuesday:     Story and Character Arcs
Wednesday:    Resolution and Aftermath
Thursday:     The Author
Friday:         The Audience
Saturday:     Putting it all Together
Sunday:       catch-up

Writing A Novel: You Can Do It! series

Writing a Novel: You Can Do It! will be offered by the Harford County Public Libraries, Havre de Grace Branch in Havre de Grace, Maryland
This 4-part writing session is offered in advance of 2013 National Novel Writing Month in November. The sessions are free and open to the public, but registration is required. All sessions will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays. To register, call 410-939-6700.

Monday, Sept. 16: Session One, Intro to NaNoWriMo presented by Lauren Carr
Monday, Sept. 30: Session Two, Preparing for a Month of Intensive Writing, presented by Ramona Long
Monday, Oct. 7: Session Three, Settings, Dialogue & Mind Games, presented by Lauren Fox

Monday, Oct. 21: Session Four, Structure: Beginnings, Middles & Ends, presented by Ramona Long

Scene Writing Workshop 

This online workshop is sponsored by the Mary Roberts Rhinehart Chapter of Sisters in Crime. To register, visit their website.

When:  Sunday October 13, 2013 – Saturday October 26, 2013 (2 weeks)
Where: Online via Yahoo Groups

How Much: $50 for Members, $60 for Non-Members

This course will examine the nuts, bolts, and necessities of good scene writing, addressing questions such as:
  • What is a scene?
  • What should a scene accomplish?
  • What are different types of scenes?
  • How do scenes move a story?
  • How do scenes work as set pieces?
  • How do you write an effective scene?
  • How do you insert subtext into scenes?
This workshop will be devoted to understanding, planning, and writing different types of dramatic scenes. The topics will include scene structure; scene goals; working with a scene checklist; and types: romance, action, fight, sex, introductions, contemplation, etc. Although there will be exercises, a work in progress or story idea would be helpful, so authors can work on scenes from their WIPs.
This workshop will better serve writers of some experience as opposed to someone who has never written before. However, anyone who wants to learn about scenes and scene structure would benefit. A work in progress or, at the very least, a concrete story idea would be necessary, because this is a hands on workshop. We will discuss the different scene types, and I’d ask students to search within their drafts for types of scenes as examples. If that’s not possible, participants may have to write a new scene for the class.

Kick-Starting Your Writing in November, A Guest Post by Gigi Pandian

Note: November is a month for giving thanks. I have been the fortunate recipient of of writing grants and fellowships, and for this, I am grateful. Today, I am happy to welcome another writing grant recipient, Gigi Pandian, as she discusses what can make a writer thankful in November. 


by Gigi Pandian

The month of November is a great month for writers—especially mystery writers. Continue reading “Kick-Starting Your Writing in November, A Guest Post by Gigi Pandian”