Slacking…and a kitten

1024px-RELAXED_CATIt’s a pity that the use of the term “slacking” has gotten so…well, slack, since it regained popularity in the late 70s/early 80s. But for lack of a better term, I’ll use it here: I have been slacking on this blog. There’s a lot of things behind said slacking, some Inevitable Life Stuff (ILS, should be a thing), some personal angst, some real life health issues.

Being in the process of recommitting to creative writing (long story, I’ll tell it once I can have a sense of humor about it), I’m hoping to post once a week and keep it up until even my mighty pen can’t cut through the crises that will pile up (because ILS, you know?). And for my first post of2015, what better than to start with World Poetry Day?

Someone who has not been slacking, poetically or otherwise, is lovely Linda Hofke, who wrote a better post than I could about the day today. So I’m just going to link to it here with no further comment:

And to make sure your World Poetry Day goes well, here is a kitten, slacking1024px-Wikipedians_cat:


Blog Tour Continues!

I want to introduce you to two of my writer friends, whose blogs are “next-stops” on our blog tour:

Theresa_MunroeFirst, novelist TA Monroe: Theresa is one of the writers I’ve met on Facebook, and our FB friendship is one that’s very meaningful for me. She works really hard – really, really, really hard – on making her writing not just good, but great. Her book, Another Place on the Planet was one of the first ebooks I ever bought. A new edition is out and can be found on Amazon through this link:  Another Place on the Planet.

Her official bio: T.A. Munroe lives just outside of Phoenix, AZ with her husband, two cats and one very active puppy. She’s been telling herself stories all her life, but has only been writing them down for the past six or so. Another Place on the Planet is her first novel. Its sequel, Places Bright and Dark is scheduled for release in September.

Please check out her blog, where her “tour date” is currently being held, to find out all about this writer’s process: TA Monroe.

We’ll also be meeting the second writer I’ve asked to be on this tour: poet Daniel Ari. danielariDaniel is one of my few FB writer friends that I’ve met in “real” life: after hoping to get to meet him for years, I finally got to read with him and several of his friends at a gallery show, and what a lovely event it was! He’s a phenomenal poet (he won an early contest here on inourbooks) .Some day I’ll have to talk about their involvement in the best mother’s day present I think I’ve had: my husband surprised me with a trip to see them – I won’t say more now because it deserves a whole blog post. Let’s just say it was wonderful and amazing and relaxing (and I am NOT a relaxed chick, let me tell you).

Daniel’s official bio (which will tell you all you need to know about why I think he’s great):

Daniel Ari married poetry in 1987. Today the relationship is intimate and subtle like the flavor of vichyssoise. A poet, copywriter, teacher and performer, Daniel deeply loves words and is awed at their power, but he still needs help spelling vichyssoise. His forthcoming book One Way to Ask pairs poems in an original poetry form called queron with illustrations by 60 different artists. He has recently published poems and essays in Poet’s Market (2014 and 2015), Writer’s Digest, carte blanche, Flapperhouse, and elsewhere. He would submit poems to a journal, if one existed, called Vichyssoise.

Please check out Daniel’s blog Fights With Poems to check out his entry on his poetic and artistic process. And please top by his collaborative poetry and creativity blog, IMUNURI, to which I am going to be a contributor (if you can’t hear the 10,000 gleeful and excited exclamation points, just insert them in your imagination).

I hope you enjoy these two great writers as much as I do.


Connections : A day in the life of Bonnie G. Vaughan


Bonnie G. Vaughan

This is our first post of our “Day In The Life” series, in which we interview authors of books released through small or independent publishers. Today, I’m delighted to post my pre-publication interview with Bonnie G. Vaughan, whose novel Spaceborn was released by Black Opal Books last week.

Bonnie became fascinated with space travel when the first lunar lander took off from the moon. A journalist and award-winning tech writer, Ms. Vaughan has had many opportunities to tell the stories of others, writing her own science fiction stories on weekends. She received technical advice from Dr. Harrison Schmitt, the geologist who walked on the moon, for Spaceborn. I’ve just finished reading Spaceborn this weekend, and I’m hoping to get a chance to ask Bonnie some follow up questions later this summer.

IOB: Will you describe your typical “writing day” for us? When does writing happen? where?  How does it get fit in to the rest of life’s activities? Anything else make a part of your “typical” day with writing?

BGV:  I like to write the first hour of the morning, before work or weekend activities, while my conscious mind is still close to my subconscious. Often I get up as early as 5 a.m. to make time for writing my stories. Research happens mainly on weekends or evenings.

IOB: It sounds like a lot of your creative work happens in those morning hours. Does editing happen at those times too? Or does that happen more during research hours?

BGV: The editing to me is rewriting, so I usually do that in the morning hour. I’ve learned over the years, though, that I can write almost any time and anywhere—on a baseball field waiting for my son’s game to start, in our Corvette on the way from San Jose to LA, in an airport terminal or a doctor’s waiting room, and in my office all night if I have a deadline. Even 15 minutes is enough to accomplish something. My favorite time and place is early morning with a laptop in my easy chair.

IOB: It also sounds as if, like many writers, you spend time balancing your work/family life with your writing life. Do you have advice for other writers on achieving that balance successfully?

BGV: You always have time to write. If you’re doing something else, it’s a higher priority to you.  For me, only time with family and friends is a higher priority, and I still need my day job. Finding enough time for what’s important to you can be tricky if you have to earn a living. I’ve taken jobs that allow flexible work schedules and telecommuting so I could write in the morning and pick up my children after school. Steve Hamilton, author of the Alex McNight detective series, who was in my technical writing department at IBM, told me he wrote his stories after his children went to bed at 9 p.m. A poet friend once said, “Take some time for yourself each day, to do what you love, even if it’s only 15 minutes.”

IOB: On your site ( you mention that you were first intrigued by space travel when the first lunar lander took off from the moon. Was it that event that inspired you to start writing fiction?

BGV: Classic literature inspired me when I was in high school and liked to read novels for an hour before school. My first stories emulated Edgar Allan Poe. I told my Aunt Verna that when I saw a blank page, I wanted to fill it up. She said, “You’re going to be a writer.”

IOB:  I’m really looking forward to Spaceborn and particularly intrigued by the premise: the main character, Morgan Zeller, is pregnant, and her pregnancy a key feature of the novel. How did you come to conceive of (no pun intended) Morgan and her interesting situation?


Click picture to purchase; please note that inourbooks receives no renumeration for sale of this item

BGV: One day I asked myself, “What if an astronaut discovered she was pregnant on the way to Mars?” The story grew from that.

IOB:  Any other “what ifs” you’ve had recently that you could share with us?

BGV: What if a boy discovers intelligent life on his colony planet and has to expose the planet’s governor for colonizing an inhabited world? What if people establish an independent colony on Mars and the government tries to take away their Martian homes? What if lizard-like visitors are luring people to leave Earth for a colony on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, and a pregnant engineer learns that her friends are dying in alien mines there?

IOB: I’m always impressed at the range of people and resources successful authors find for support. Where do you find your writing support systems? Do you have a writing community or communities that you interact with?

BGV: All of my friends and family are supportive, especially my son, Chris Vaughan, who has always encouraged me to write my own stories. My mentor, Bonnie Hearn Hill, and her friends have been my writing community over the last several years. I took several fiction courses from her and like to attend conferences where she is speaking.

IOB: What advice would you give to other writers who are working on a first novel?

BGV: Read Digital Ink: Writing Killer Fiction in the E-book Age by Bonnie Hearn Hill and Christopher Allan Poe, write every day, read lots of novels, and find a mentor.

IOB: What did you find to be the most relaxing part of drafting Spaceborn? The most difficult part of writing a novel? What were the hardest parts of reworking the novel for submission? How do you overcome challenges in the writing and rewriting processes?

BGV: The most relaxing part of writing for me is when I start a book and put all of my initial ideas for the story into words. Rather than outline, this first draft is mainly a summary, with some scenes that occurred to me as I was writing it. I let my subconscious produce whatever it wants to get the book started. The most difficult for me is the final rewriting and polishing because I want to fix everything. The hardest part is reworking the beginning to make an agent or editor want to keep reading. When I get stuck, I give myself permission to write garbage, as Natalie Goldberg said, and the words flow again.

IOB: I love Natalie Goldberg – I find her so supportive! It sounds like there are a couple of authors who have inspired your work – where else do you find inspiration?

BGV: Since the day after I graduated from high school, I’ve been inspired by astronauts, who are my heroes. After grad night at Disneyland, my mother surprised me with a scrapbook full of newspaper clippings about the space program, which she’d been saving for years. Then she made me stay awake to watch astronaut Ed White take the first American spacewalk.

I’m also inspired by everything around me–a hummingbird’s flight, the planets and stars in the night sky, they way people interact with each other, sunsets, moonrises, news about space exploration, movies like “Roving Mars” and “Contact,” children laughing and playing, discussions with brilliant engineers, bonds between family members and friends, the variety of life on Earth, and new technologies like the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

IOB: If you could have had any author, living or dead, to help you with the process of editing drafts of this novel, who would it have been?

BGV: Other than Bonnie Hearn Hill, I would love to work with the late Anne McCaffrey, who has been my favorite author since I met her in Berkeley, California, where she was on a panel of women writers. I love her Dragonriders of Pern series.

IOB: What would you tell other writers about the pros and cons of working with a smaller publishing company?

BGV: So far working with Black Opal Books is great. The staff encourages new authors. The editors do excellent work, and they tell me they like Spaceborn. They seem to care about authors. Maybe spending a lot of time on promotion is a con, but I understand authors also do this at large publishing companies.

IOB: My mother-in-law was just telling me how shocked she is at how much more publicity work she’s expected to do now than when she published her first book. What sorts of publicity have they encouraged you to pursue? And how do you fit it into your already tough schedule?

BGV: They have encouraged me to do blog interviews, press releases, book signings, and other appearances. I do as much as I can and try to fit it in with my other activities, like scheduling a book signing during vacation. The first promotion I did was in February at a National Association of American Pen Women luncheon that I had already planned to attend. For part of the program, the luncheon organizer wanted three members to speak as Pen Women of the past, present, and future, so for a few minutes I spoke as astrogeologist Morgan Zeller, the main character in Spaceborn.

IOB: Can readers follow you on Twitter?

BGV: I would like them to follow me on Twitter : @bonniev and @spacebornishere

IOB:  Do you have future writing plans, and if so, would you give us a hint about what we might be hearing about you next?

BGV: My plans are to write many more novels and short stories. I will be coauthoring a young adult science fiction book with my son, Chris. I have also started two other books, one science fiction and the other set in the 1950’s.

I am also doing research for the sequel to Spaceborn. As part of the research, I’m going to the Mars Society international convention August 15-18 at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

IOB:  Wow! Sounds like you’re busy, which makes me doubly appreciative of the time you’ve given me and readers. Thanks again, Bonnie, and best wishes for the success of Spaceborn!

BGV: Thank you, Ina, for the opportunity to talk to you and your readers.

Writers on Wednesdays: Ellen Sussman

Today’s post introduces “Writers on Wednesdays” by guest blogger Margaret Young. For her first post, Margaret interviews multi-talented author and teacher Ellen Sussman. 

author_photo_2010_hi_resEllen Sussman is the author of three bestselling novels – The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons and On a Night Like This as well as the editor of two of my favorite anthologies, Dirty Words and Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave. She was the San Francisco Library Laureate in 2004 and 2009 and has received fellowships from many, many institutions including The Sewanee Writers Conference, The Napoule Art Foundation, Wesleyan Writers Conference and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She now teaches through Stanford Continuing Studies and in private classes. She has two daughters and lives with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Margaret Young is a freelance writer who works at being a novelist when she’s not teaching children music.  She lives in Palo Alto with her family and can be found Tweeting at @MargaretYWrites.

MY:  If you couldn’t be a writer, but you could be anything else and succeed, what would you be?

ES: I’d be a singer in a rock band.

MY: When did you know you wanted to be a novelist and why?

ES: I decided to become a writer when I was six. I remember climbing on to my brother’s bookshelves (he’s a year older), and copying the titles of his books. Then I’d make up a story to go with the title. One of my first short stories is called, “The Little Engine that Could.”

I loved reading and wanted to write stories like the ones I read. That never changed throughout the years. I’ve been singularly focused on this career choice. The only surprise was that I needed a day job. And luckily I have loved teaching writing as well.

MY: What has been your best moment as a writer?

ES: Publication of my first novel. I waited for so many years to hold my own novel in my hands. It’s a remarkable feeling. And I love that moment each time a new novel comes out.

MY: What’s been your worst or most disappointing?

ES: I’ve written two novels that didn’t sell. That’s hell. You spend a very long time creating characters and a story that you love. And after too many rejection letters, you have to tuck that novel away somewhere. It’s a killer.

MY: As well as being a best-selling novelist, you’re known as a top-notch writing teacher, if you could make your students follow one piece of advice what would it be?

ES: To find a writing schedule that works for you — and to stick with it! I most highly recommend daily writing, especially if you’re working on a novel.

paradiseMY: Your break-out novel French Lessons was set in Paris and your latest The Paradise Guest House is set in Bali. Do you feel like you’ve found yourself a niche as a novelist of Americans in exotic locations? If so, is this a good thing, a bad thing or both?

ES: I may not stick to that for all my novels but I’m liking it right now. I think that we learn so much about ourselves when we leave home. And I love using the exotic setting in a way that really matters to the story.

MY: Can you tell us about what you’re working on and what intrigues you about it?

ES: I’ve just finished a draft of a new novel. The working title is A Stranger at the Wedding and it takes place in the south of France. I’m exploring love again and family relationships. In this novel, there’s also real danger.

MY: One of the things you talk about in your classes is the importance of structuring the writing process. Would you describe a typical writing day for you?.

ES: I write for three hours every morning, five or six days a week. That’s sacred time for me — I never make a doctor’s appointment in the morning or meet someone for coffee. And if I’m writing a first draft of a novel, I’ll write 1,000 words a day.

Thanks to Ellen and Margaret for sharing this conversation with us (and Ellen, when your first album comes out, please let me know !) ~ Ina

Don’t forget: Sign up for the Brighter Light poeming challenge!

Cibiel courtHello, Dear Readers,

Andrea has created a wonderful challenge for us in the new year – find your favorite kid and sign up through the blog post at this link for our Brighter Light poeming month. A great chance to get a young person involved with writing, creative expression and poetry and to develop your relationship in a new way.
Johann Georg Trautmann (attr) Alte Frau mit Knaben bei Kerzenlicht
We hope you’ll join us for a wonderful month of creating poems and community and adding light to the winter days ~ ina

Wednesday Connections of a Different Kind

People are so kind.

Every once in a while – usually when I’m driving on Black Friday – I forget that and get very grumpy with all of Homo sapiens. I think about running off to some jungle and eating fruit with the apes. Then I remember that I don’t like mosquitoes, I can’t eat fruit, and my insulin pump depends on my occasionally being near civilization. So I sit and sulk.

Until someone reminds me that, yeah, as a group H. sapiens is pretty amazing, and I should try to live up to my species.

sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-award11One heaping cupful of kindness comes from the lovely Dr. Pearl Ketover Pritik, who has nominated me for a blogging award (the  Sisterhood of the World Blogger’s Award) and added us to a blogging chain called “The Next Big Thing.” Thank you, Pearl, for nominating me and check out her answers for the Next Big Thing! Big hug!

But wait! There’s more: Andrea has been awarded a Leibster award – from lovely Sara McNulty, she of the purple pen of Portland.

Because this blog is a joint effort, I am going to answer the questions for The Sisterhood award and Andrea post her answers for the Next Big Thing chain and announce the Leibster.

The Sisterhood award wants me to tell you 7 totally random things about me. So this is about as random as it gets:

  1. My brother and I are not twins, but we have identical birthmarks on our necks
  2. There are three states I haven’t lived in: Montana, Hawaii, and Alaska
  3. I have reverse SAD. I’m a completely different person when it’s foggy or raining – perky, cheerful, giggly.
  4. I don’t have a bucket list. I have an anti-bucket list : things that I will never get to do before I kick the bucket (e.g. have an affair with Heath Ledger/Louis Armstrong /Gene Kelly – I’m married and he’s dead).
  5. I was named after a friend of my mother’s who disappeared shortly after I was born
  6. I find plants and fungi eerie- and the more I learn about them, the weirder I find them.
  7. I modeled for some national magazines. In one of them, I’m wearing electrodes on my scalp.

And now, 7 nominations for bloggers for the Sisterhood:

There were a number of other people I would have loved to have named but some of you are guys (sorry guys!) and many of you have been nominated by others…please know that we were thinking of you!

Friday Surprise

Hana just told me – Andrea – on FB that she entered the Midnight Oil poetry contest and that’s just great.
Some time ago, back in October, Amy who holds the contest, wrote to me because only so few poets had sent poems to her for her contest – only I didn’t have any poems that Amy hadn’t seen so I couldn’t submit any.
Instead I paid for some possible entries so I could offer free entries to poets who sent poems to our blog including one very special poet who once wrote an incredible poem on Poetic Asides.
And the poets sent their poems to Amy, she extended her deadline, she got some more poems and Amy was happy.
That was when I realized that I had two poems written here in November that Amy hadn’t seen.
I submitted them yesterday.
So here we go!

Connections: We want to publicize your triumphs!

Andrea and I want to hear about your latest creative kudos, and we’ve got a place for you to tell us and the rest of the inourbooks community about them! Our Notice Board is a place for you to post links to newly published material, your new blog or website, new reviews of your latest book or gallery showing – you name it, we want to hear about it!

All you need to do is click the “In Our Notice Board” link in the black band under the F.A. Cup Trophylighthouse to be transported to the notice board. Simply register to share your joys and triumphs with us all!

In addition, our notice board has threads devoted to various web-based creative activities (currently, there’s a thread on NOVPad in case you’re frustrated with trying to post on Poetic Asides) and calls for submissions (if you’re running a contest, reach some terrific artists through our board), so make sure to stop by and check them out 🙂

Looking forward to many exciting future conversations!


Sunday Surprise

My good old virtual friend Jacqueline Cardenas is suddenly here.
She posted such a wonderful comment on Poetic Bloomings

(“Poetry is a way to unite“)

and I replied this:

“Jacque, do you remember your poems on Poetic Asides back in 2009? Your poem with a couple who spend their honeymoon in Spain, in a hotel room, in a bed and this husband’s beard grows and grows – and the woman suddenly wonders: “I never knew I married Taliban?”
That is my favorite poem from Poetic Asides 2009.
Sharing humor means the world for me and your way of thinking opens up my mind again and again.”
Now Jacque, I also posted a free submission to you for so now, Jacque, you run along with all the other great poets!

Connections: a little time with Daniel Ari

Please welcome the co-winner of our first  Poetry Prompt Contest, Daniel Ari. We first encountered Daniel’s vivid and unique poetry on (surprise, surprise) Robert Brewer’s blog, Poetic Asides. I couldn’t wait to get my little paws on Daniel’s chapbook, Monster Poems, and was so glad when I finally did. The stunning black-and-white, evocative illustrations (by Daniel’s talented spouse Lauren) and Daniel’s poetry have created a household favorite – something I read with my six-year-old time and time again, not because it’s a book for children, but because it’s a book that appeals to the Grimm imagination that lurks in all of us. So was I surprised his poem “this glamorous profession” was one of the stand-outs in the contest? No. Was I delighted to get to interview him –  oh, yes! And I know you, as readers, will enjoy his words, as well ![IOB]

IOB [ina]: What was the hardest thing about writing the poem you submitted?

DA: It’s funny because I wrote this in response to a call for submissions of poetry found in the prose of Patrick Sokas, M.D. His daughter decided to create a poetry anthology of found poems, and she posted several essays of his as the finding field for poets. I had never heard of Dr. Sokas before, but it seems that he published articles in The Oakland Tribune, a local paper for me, though his articles were printed long before I moved to the area.

Anyway, that was the score. The hardest thing was staying open to moments of poetry within his prose. I read several essays without sensing the spark. Then I caught a haiku, which was accepted for the anthology. I like “this glamorous profession” more than the haiku, but it may have still been too prosaic for the doctor’s daughter.

Once I found the piece—which also resonated with a poetry prompt at the “Poetic Asides” blog at—I had to give myself permission to glean the poem with finer tools than cut and paste. I excised some words from the middle and split some of the dialogue so that the speakers changed. In sum, I took time to tinker this into a poem I enjoyed. That’s not hard for me, though. I like to write poems slowly.

IOB: Who is a poet you admire a great deal, and why?

DA: There are many. On the top of my mind right now is Marna Hauk. She deeply engages her experience of being human on earth. What she writes is astonishingly transcendent, but human—not disengaged at all. She has the insight to write to the heart of experience without getting bogged down in her own emotions. And beyond that, her life’s work is about getting to the healing medicine found in poetry. She is an educator who collaborates in pioneering this kind of poetry-as-world-medicine field.

And that makes me think of Natalie Goldberg, whose poems I have actually never read, but I think of her as one of the writers who has influenced me most. In the same field as Marna, Natalie Goldberg’s take on writing—poetry or prose—or making art of any kind—is about healing and revealing on the larger scale. I think her book “Writing Down the Bones” is required reading for any writer.[note from ina: me, too!]

IOB: Where can people find more of your work?

Monster Poems poster; rights reserved by poster artists

DA: I post poems weekly at IMUNURI. I post other creative things sporadically at Fights With Poems. I’m also placing poems hither and yon. For recent online publications, you can search for me at Poetic Asides, Defenestration Magazine, ShufPoetry, and (I’m very proud of this 2007 publication) McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. In print, Issue 3 of 42 Magazine, issue one of The Wayfarer, and several recent issues of Conscious Dancer include my work.

IOB: Daniel, thank you so much for sharing your poetry and your time with us. We look forward  to hearing about the new places where your poems appear and can be seen, read, heard, and experienced!