We all know there are different emotions.


But there’s more to writing emotion than just flagging which one is present.  Emotions have a level.

This puppy is mildly annoyed.
This puppy is full on angry.

For today’s exercise, choose an emotion and give five different levels from low to high.  Ready, GO!


  1. Finding a penny
  2. The perfect cup of coffee
  3. Completing a workout
  4. Receiving a genuine compliment
  5. Accomplishing a goal


  1. No milk for cereal
  2. Rejection letters
  3. Favorite shoes break
  4. Kids experience disappointment
  5. Losing someone


  1. Waiting for someone
  2. Cut off in traffic
  3. Stolen gift or package
  4. An idea stolen or credited to someone else
  5. Someone hurting my kid

Election Lessons 2016 Style

Brace yourself.  The girl who doesn’t talk politics is talking about politics again.  Dang, if I keep this up I may lose my status.  Never mind that, this is important.

I learned 2 important lessons during this election year.  If I don’t share them, you may make the same mistakes.  I don’t want that.  So I’m sharing.  Pass it on.

Important Lesson #1-

Don’t vote by mail in ballot.

I’m actually super sad about this one.  Mailing in my vote 2 weeks early always makes me feel so accomplished and ahead-of-the-curve (where every irrational perfectionist wants to be).  But this year, because of allegations of fraud against my state in the primaries, the news has been all over this vote counting thing here.  Here is the picture: the election is over.  The votes have been called.  Candidates are conceding their races.  Riots have started.  But does the County Recorder here care about getting those early ballots counted?  Nope.  In fact she’s been interviewed on the news saying they’ll “count them when they count them.”

My vote could likely still be sitting there behind her, waiting.

Next year I’ll stand in line.  Maybe I’ll see you there.

Important Lesson #2-

Register with a major party.

Okay, hold on.  Don’t get all up in arms on me yet.  I didn’t say you had to vote for a major party candidate.  In fact, I don’t give a darn who you vote for.  I’m all in favor of Independent and Green parties.

BUT this year we seriously maimed ourselves during the primaries.  You could get your voice in there earlier, help control which people run in the actual election.  But only if you register with a major party.

Now there are some states who claim you can vote in primaries if you are registered independent.  But when all those independent voters turned up to vote in our elections…well, you probably saw the news.  Hello, voter fraud cases.

So I’m glad I registered with a major party, even if it’s only for primaries.


There’s my two cents in regards to voting.  There are more opinions buried in there, but this is enough for now.  Who knows, maybe as I get older I’ll start talking politics.

Stranger things have happened!


I don’t talk about politics.

I was raised by a large family who feel very strongly on both sides. I teach children who bring strong ideals from families on both sides. I see benefits and challenges from both sides. 

I stay out of it.

But when it comes to my ballot, I vote. Always. 

I research and I vote.

Whatever you believe, good for you. 

Just vote next week.



Inspired by a daily challenge (of the same word) and scribbled on the back of an envelope and a flyer…here’s a work of fiction for you.

Sometimes things happen in life.

Hard things.

Bad things.

Things you think you can’t survive.

Last January, it happened to me.  One day I’m a high school Senior, living a life that’s chaotic in all the ways that seem so simple now.  I’m worried about grades, college, boys, drama, and a part-time job.

The next day it’s my family car on the news.  That silver SUV smashed into on the 10, crushed on the passenger side.  You heard about it, I’m sure.  The one that the 2nd car hit after being spun around by the driver who was day drunk.  The one that closed the 10, probably ruined your commute.

One minute I’m pissed at my Mom for putting my sister’s ballet practice above me.  Making me walk myself home from basketball because Emily needed to get to Scottsdale for some recital rehearsal.  The pounding of my feet sends that anger kicking up like dirt in a dust devil.  Emily comes first.  Drop everything for Emily.  Emily.  Emily.  Emily

I arrive at home, unlock the door, toss my stuff around like it’s meaningless, turn on the TV.  Pause.  Check my phone.  Recognize something on the TV.  Hit pause.  Call my messages.  Drop to my knees, start praying to a God who probably doesn’t recognize my voice that I’m wrong.  Call Mom.  I can hear her sobbing the same word I angrily stomped…but somehow it’s completely different.  Emily.  Emily.  Emily.

Now?  Well now I can’t quite figure out what I am.  It’s like I stopped growing when she did.  It’s like everything before, when we were together, is this beautiful memory that I always took for granted.

People say “shell” or “shadow” like they’re hollow or replicas of what they were pre-tragedy.  I don’t say that.  I prefer stump.

Did you know “stump” is defined as part of the tree left projecting from the ground after the trunk has fallen or been cut?  That’s us.  Emily, my forever 14 year old sister, cut down.  Me, the tree that fell hard to the Earth that day.  Maybe I leaned on her more than I thought.  It turns out I am just too weak to stand alone.

Either way, we’re stumps now.  It’s how I feel every day.  We’re still together, but we’re kind of frozen.  

I never appreciated you enough.

I never spent enough time with you.  Now?  Now I’d kill for that chance.


You Hit That Wall

Now What?

It was bound to happen.

I’m a perfectionist.  Often I’m a completely irrational perfectionist; I was that kid in school who would prefer not to turn it in because I thought it wouldn’t earn the A.  When I first started teaching, I had to come to grips with the fact that perfection isn’t attainable in this profession.  There’s always a way to be better, stronger.  There’s always another kid to reach, another skill to teach, another (better) way you could present information.  There’s always another teacher to help, another club to lead, another sport to coach.  It was hard, but I’ve learned it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that lesson translated to other parts of my life?

When I decided to make a go at this writing thing, I knew it was yet another aspect of my life where perfection would not be attainable.  There is always a better way to say something, another book to write, another skill to learn.  Knowing it and accepting it are two entirely different things.

I’m barely starting out, at only about a year into this journey.  That’s nothing.  In the blip of my entire life on the radar, it’s an eye blink.  When compared with how long some of you have hung in there, it’s a heartbeat.  I get it.

Yet how do I convince my irrational perfectionist core that it’s worth continuing?

I want to tell the stories.

I want to make a go at this.

I want people to read the stories.

I want people to be touched by the stories.

So if you’re like me-and you’re hitting that (figurative, thank the Lord) wall-let’s make a pact to keep writing anyway.

Here’s to us and the books we have yet to write.


Lines from Page 5 (or 16, or 27, or 38)


Like so many of you, I participate in #1linewed on Twitter (@ShipleyTabatha if you’re interested).  I decided to post my lines from yesterday here for those of you who aren’t on Twitter and those who simply missed the lines.  Enjoy!

From an old manuscript I may visit again, page 5:“Maybe we’ll do it again.” I shake his hand and smile politely. He’s only being nice, neither one of us wants to do this again.

From my WIP YA fantasy, page 5: I did it. I finally have the chance to live somewhere else, to try something new, to be a part of something bigger.

From my YA Sci-Fi (currently looking for representation…wink wink), page 38: Mindless work, this table setting. Frees my mind up to waltz back to the subject of my date.

From my completed YA fantasy, book 2 in the series, page 5: “I know you love me, I feel it. But am I competing with him?”

From my completed YA fantasy, book 1 in the series, page 5: “You must focus. The council is going to be waiting on you to err, Eselda. Do not give them that.”

Which one do you think received the most love on this #1linewed?


Challenge #2


Here is another challenge for you (us) to try today.  This time, actually try playing along.  To play, either comment or post on your own blog (make sure to link back to me so I know you played).  C’mon it’s more fun with more people…ignore the innuendo there, please.

Never say never.  You can do this.

Select a random book.  Select a random chapter, write down the first line.  Select a different random chapter.  Write down the last line.  Now write a story that connects those two (keep it to less than 1000 words).  

My random sentences are courtesy of the Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart (although I ended up changing them to present tense).

The hours that follow are wretched ones indeed.  She sits cross-legged on the bed staring at the doorway just praying he will walk back through it.  This isn’t a little fight, like when they fought about who left the garage door open.  This is an epic fight.  One to write books about.  The question is, would it be a happy book?  Would it be a book someone in another epic fight could learn from?  That all depends on whether or not Todd walks back into this room.  

There is always the other option, she can get up off the bed and go to him.  For a second her leg actually twitches.  She almost moves in that direction.  Then she stops.  No, this one is on him.  It is her mistake so he needs to be the one to forgive and take the next step.  So she sits.  

Time ticks by.  She can hear it on the clock hanging from the wall.  She almost stands up to smash the clock, but instead she allows herself to get lost in the comforting tick of the clock.  Nothing can throw off the rhythm there.  Nothing.  

She pulls her eyes down from the clock to watch the doorway again.  Is that a shadow falling on the wall?  Is he coming to talk?  She holds her breath, each limb frozen for fear of making a sound and scaring him off.  Her lungs burn and the shadow is gone.  She takes a deep breath.

Something has to happen, rules be damned.  She can’t stand it any longer.  How long does he expect her to sit here, wondering?  She stands up, feeling the sweet anger seep into her soul.  Anger makes sense.  Anger she understands.  Anger is something she has felt plenty of times.  She lets it seep through her skin.  The anger gives her the confidence to storm out of the room and into the dark hallway.  

Then she pauses.  In the shadows of her home…their home…the guilt finds her again.  She can’t direct anger at him right now, this time he has done nothing wrong.  He needs time.  Time is something she should be willing to give him.  

But what would be the harm in seeing how he is spending the time?  She could just peek around the corner and down the stairs.  He is probably just below the loft, sitting on the couch.  Does he have his head in his hands?  Does he have a cup of coffee in preparation for an endless night of arguing this out and moving on?  Does he have a glass of scotch to dull the pain?  

There is no harm in just checking on him, seeing how he is handling this.  She turns the corner, dragging her toes on the thick carpeting they had picked out together.  The wooden railing that signals the end of the loft space is in her reach.  She is tempted to run to it, but she keeps her steps slow and calculating.  She strains her ears, but can’t hear any noise from below.  She reaches the railing and peers over it.  How will she react if he is staring up at the railing and catches her spying on him?  Would that be better or worse?  

When that doesn’t happen, she leans further over the railing.  He isn’t in the living room.  She moves along the edge of the railing to the right, leaning as far over as she dares.  She can’t see him in the kitchen.  It looks like the dining room light is off, so he isn’t in there.  

Unless he is sitting in the dark and wallowing.  

The thought makes her sad.  The sadness, the need to comfort him, moves her feet.  She walks at a more acceptable pace down the stairs to the first level.  He has to be in the house somewhere, right?  It takes her five minutes to check the house fully to convince herself of the answer.  And the answer is no.

A Challenge-Poetry

Here’s the challenge (play along in the comments or on your own blog-just make sure tag back to me so I know you played).

Write a 20 line poem (no more, no less) about an important moment in your life.

Here’s mine:

The day you were born changed everything

and probably not in the way you think.

Before you, I was


never emotional,

and too busy being busy to

stop and enjoy life.

You gave me the time to

slow things down,


and appreciate.

As you got older, I got even better.

You thought I was taking your hand,

leading you through life safely.

I suppose, in a way, I was.

But in a bigger way,

a much bigger way,

it was you leading me and teaching me.

The day you were born changed everything

in exactly the way I needed.