Staci Troilo

Suspense, Passion... Fiction That Flutters The Heart

Tag: family (page 1 of 2)

Why New Years Are Special

happy-new-year-1097521_640Happy New Year!

New Year’s Day seems to be one of those holidays that people overlook. Sure, it’s a day off work for many of us, but other than that, it’s pretty much bowl games and hangover cures.

Not for me.

There is no other holiday better suited for wishing a happy one to not just family and friends, but to everyone we meet.

The best part about a new year is that it applies to everyone. It’s not a religious holiday. It’s not even a national holiday. This is the only holiday that every single person in the world marks. It’s the best time of year to focus on our similarities rather than our differences. And couldn’t we all benefit from more things that bring us together rather than divide us?

Pepperoni and onions in sauce. Photo via B. Smith.

For my family, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are marked with tradition. We attend a vigil mass for the Solemnity of Mary on New Year’s Eve, followed by pepperoni sandwiches (thick cut pepperoni and sliced onions slowly simmered in tomato sauce until the onions are tender and the onions and meat have flavored the sauce) for dinner. When my kids were young, the pepperoni was a bit spicy for them, so we added hotdogs to the tradition. At midnight, after a toast with Asti Spumante (and several phone calls to family) we eat bagna cauda (tuna and anchovies simmered in olive oil and butter… with copious amounts of garlic) with bread and veggies. After a late night, we get up and tear down all the Christmas decorations. (Yes, I know it’s still the Christmas season in the church, but that’s what we do.) Then we watch football until the traditional dinner of pork roast in sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, green beans, and applesauce. Again we toast in the new year, and then we wind down with Christmas cookies, tiramisu, and coffee. Any cookies left will become a cookie torte the next day.

Tradition is so important to us.


Not tradition, but not a bad way to spend a holiday, either.

And this year we barely managed half of what we usually do. We were just coming back from a week at the beach (also not part of our usual tradition, but it was my in-laws’ 50th anniversary, so we took the party south), and the drive took a lot out of us. Bagna cauda and undecorating didn’t happen until the 2nd. Tiramisu and torte didn’t happen at all. And I fell asleep during football, so I guess that was a wash, too.

But that’s okay.

The most important part of tradition isn’t what the activity is, but who you do the activity with.

We weren’t with extended family this year. Haven’t been for several years, actually, as we just live too far away now and school and work resume right after the holiday. But we were with each other. And while our activities shifted or just didn’t happen at all, we were together. And that’s what matters most.

So if you know me, you know family time is important to me. And if you know my writing, you know family and tradition are important to my characters. Out and About just released in December, with more family drama for the Kellers. Book three of the series is already in process. Mind Control will be coming out a few months from now, with more Italian tradition from the Notaros and the Brotherhood. I’m so excited about both of these series, and I hope you are, too. I’m pretty sure the Kellers enjoyed a cocktail party with a few close friends and the Notaros and the Brotherhood definitely had pepperoni sandwiches and bagna cauda. Now they are all ready to see what 2016 will bring.

I’m ready, too. I’m looking forward to all the possibilities 2016 offers. So, I’m happy to wish you all—heck, I’m wishing the entire world—a happy, healthy, peaceful, and prosperous new year.

Do you have any expectations for 2016? Let’s talk about it below.

The Importance of Down-Days

down-daysI remember when I was young; stores and restaurants remained closed on holidays and Sundays. I don’t know if it was our local government ordinances (I come from a small town in Pennsylvania), if it was the owners wanting time with their families (and expecting us to want time with ours), if it was a religious matter (I don’t think anyone in our town celebrated the Sabbath on a Saturday), or if it was merely a matter of habit.

But somewhere, sometime, for some reason along the way, commerce encroached on our Sundays and holidays.

Now, I admit, I am guilty of taking advantage of this change. My family often goes out for brunch after Mass. I often shop on Sundays, because there are things we need and we’re passing the store, anyway. Laundry needs to get done sometime.

But losing these rest days, those down-days, is detrimental to us. On many levels. (Tweet this.)

  • It takes time away from family.
    People are far busier now than when I was young. Kids have sports and clubs and travel teams. Adults work longer hours and more days. Housework needs to get done at some point. But when we fill our rest days with mundane tasks and club events, we separate our family unit. We need that time together. It strengthens the family bond. When I was young, we visited my grandparents every Sunday evening. Not just my family; my aunt, uncle, and cousins, too. That’s why not just immediate families, but extended families as well, used to be much closer. It was the time spent together. We should all use our “down-days” to make time to strengthen these familial bonds.
  • It prevents us from recharging our batteries.
    Working more than a forty-hour week. More homework than in years gone by. Traveling several hours for a tournament. These things take their toll. The human body needs rest to function properly. The human mind needs downtime to prevent memory loss. The human spirit needs a break from the bustle of daily life to stay healthy. Without a “down-day,” we court trouble for later on.
  • It takes focus away from what’s truly important.
    For some people, explaining this is as simple as saying: Keep Holy the Sabbath Day. But not everyone belongs to a religion with this mandate; some people don’t belong to a religious group at all. Having one day a week to focus on what is most important in our lives is so important. It takes away from the drudgery of everyday obligations and reminds us of our priorities. We don’t (or shouldn’t) work to make money. We should work to care for our loved ones. What’s the point of working to support our loved ones if we’re never with them? It’s time we take those “down-days” back and spend that time doing things that truly matter.

How do we do this?


Sure, it’s convenient to run errands on our down-days. But if we change our priorities just a little, we can have that one day to ourselves.

  • Do one load of laundry a night instead of waiting to do it all in one day.
  • Stop at the store on the way home from work one evening.
  • Make extra food during the week or utilize leftovers so you aren’t out at a restaurant or in the kitchen all day on your down-day.

A little forethought and planning will give us the time we need at the end of the week for the things that are most important (and the things we’ve neglected the most).

For Writers
Do you have a character who is always working? Give him one rest day and see what happens to him. Or, if you have one who makes use of his down-days, take them away and watch what happens. These down-days are essential for physical, mental, and emotional health. Adding or removing them can add tension, conflict, and drama to a character that is falling flat.

For Everyone
This is a three-day weekend for many of us here in the United States. It gives us the opportunity to group two or more down-days together, to really make the most of our time off. Are you going to use the time wisely or waste it away? Let’s discuss how you spend your down-days, or whether you even have any. I’d love to hear your ideas.

Fall, ’Fest, and Family

contributing authorIt’s been a busy week. I had a short story published (Swallowing Memories) and a character interview with Royce Keller of Type and Cross went live on a multi-national site. You can check them both out by clicking on the links.

But it hasn’t just been a great week. It’s a wonderful time of year. Just this week alone saw the beginning of autumn, the start of Oktoberfest, and for me, the second week of visits from family.

fallFall is my favorite time of year. The oppressive heat of summer gives way to the warm days and cool nights of autumn. Football starts. Hockey is right on its heels. Tennis is much more bearable. Pumpkins and gourds abound, and lighter fare is exchanged for soups, stews, and mulled ciders. We can retire the t-shirts and break out the sweaters. Leaves change and color the landscape with brilliant reds and fiery oranges. Who doesn’t love enjoying the day and then snuggling up at night? Yes, fall began this week, and I was happy to welcome it.

Oktoberfest also began this week. Being that my father’s family hails from Germany, this is a holiday I try to embrace and celebrate with my family. But it’s September, you say. It can’t be Oktoberfest. Well, sorry; you’re wrong.

GermanyThe first Oktoberfest was in October. It was a celebration of a royal wedding.[1] The tradition of a large party continued, but the start date has been moved to late September so the weather would be more agreeable. Oktoberfest still ends in October, though.[2] The festivities in Germany are large and joyous, and ironically, not called Oktoberfest at all. The locals simply call it Wisen because of the fairgrounds, or large fields, where the tents are set up (Theresienwiese).[3]

Traditional Oktoberfest celebrations include rides, games, a lot of beer (only six breweries are approved to sell beer at the Wisen), and huge quantities of German food. Attendants can feast on  “traditional food such as Hendl (roast chicken), Schweinebraten (roast pork), Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Würstl (sausages) along with Brezen (pretzel), Knödel (potato or bread dumplings), Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Sauerkraut or Rotkohl/Blaukraut (red cabbage) along with such Bavarian delicacies as Obatzda (a spiced cheese-butter spread) and Weisswurst (a white sausage).”[4]

German foodAs for my family? From now through October 5, we’ll be eating some of that traditional fare. The kids won’t get any beer, but we’ll all eat bratwurst, potato pancakes, schnitzel, and strudel. What can I say? I’m mostly Italian; we connect with our roots—as well as our loved ones—through food.

And speaking of loved ones, I’m coming to the end of two weeks of family visits. Our family is 1000 miles from here, and we don’t get to see them often. Both sets of grandparents wanted to see the kids perform in their fall sports, so both sets came down here, one right after the other. It was wonderful seeing them again, but it would have been nice if the visits could have been spaced out instead of back-to-back. Still, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything in the world. Of course we ate family favorites (everyone should experience my mother-in-law’s famous apple pie), played games, went to see the kids in tennis and football, but mostly just enjoyed the time together talking, reminiscing, laughing. These memories are the ones we’ll carry with us.

For Writers:
There are a lot of holidays and events to mark in autumn. Have you considered incorporating seasonal activities into your WIPs to enrich them? It’s the details that bring fiction to life. Sure, you can say, “It was autumn in Pittsburgh.” But isn’t it much better to describe the crisp air, the crunch of leaves underfoot, the end of the baseball season and the start of football and hockey? You never have to mention the time of year at all if the details bring the setting to life. And your writing will be stronger for it.

For Everyone:
I don’t know if you see family often or almost never, like us. But I do hope you enjoy them while you can. Maybe you can use the new season and current activities to rekindle an old family tradition or add a new one. Let’s talk about autumn and family. Leave a comment below.





Finding the Good in the Sad

by Staci Troilo

First, an announcement. Soon you will have to type the address: to access my site. This will only be temporary while I am in the process of switching over to a new host. Please make note of this change. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, and I hope it won’t be a lengthy one. Now, on to this week’s post.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. For Catholics, it’s the day the Passion is read at Mass. As a kid, I always had such trouble just listening to that gospel reading, let alone participating in it. Then when I was an adult, I watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Now I really have trouble getting through that gospel. It really makes me feel completely…well, unworthy is the only word that comes to mind, but it really doesn’t come close.

But I have other, happier associations with Palm Sunday, too. For one thing, I was born on Palm Sunday. Not on the thirteenth, but on a Palm Sunday, waaaay back in 1971. I don’t remember that day, but I’m pretty happy about it, nonetheless.

Palm Sunday crossesBut my favorite memories of Palm Sundays gone by are the tying of the palm crosses. When I was little, my grandfather would come to our house and take all of our palm fronds and tie them into crosses for us. We would then have one for our bedrooms for a whole year, until the following year, when we would get a new one to replace it. (Most churches collect old palm before Lent starts and burn it for the ashes that they use for Ash Wednesday.) I remember him teaching me that the palm was special—it was blessed by the priest—so if I dropped it, I had to kiss it. As he tied the crosses, I scrambled to pick up any little pieces that fell and put them in a pile to be buried or burned. He taught me that was the only way to properly dispose of the blessed palm. He taught me so many things.

I loved being his little helper.

When I got a little older, he taught me how to make the crosses myself. It took me a few years to finally memorize the process, because there weren’t that many to tie. It’s not that complicated once you get it, but you don’t have many to learn with. It starts with a series of folds to anchor the knot in the center, then there are a series of loops to make the post and the cross pieces. Finally, a set of two tiny loops hold the middle together. I finally mastered it in 1985. No one else in my family ever took the time to learn it.

My grandfather died in February of 1986. He never tied another cross. I still have the last one we made together. It’s pretty delicate, but I don’t want to let it go.

I don’t have grandchildren yet, but I do have children, and I’m trying to teach them how to tie the crosses. I think it’s important to pass the traditions along while I’m still here to enjoy sharing my time with them. I’ve already taught my niece, I even taught my husband, and my kids are learning. My son actually did really well this year. My daughter isn’t doing too badly, but she actually is more interested in tying crowns of thorns. She saw one on television once, and has been doing her own version ever since. Maybe she’ll start her own tradition of tying crowns of thorns with her kids. It doesn’t matter to me. Right now, at least we’re all together, at Mass and afterward, as a family.

The gospel is such a tragic—albeit necessary—part of Palm Sunday. It’s nice to have some good memories to add to the day as well.

For Writers:
Fiction is nothing without conflict. Is there something in your WIP that has a negative connotation? Can you think of a way to add an activity and put a positive spin on it?

For Everybody:
Are you having this issue in your WIP? Did you do anything for Palm Sunday? Let’s talk about it.

Here We Come A Caroling… Sort of. Won’t You Come With Me?

ChristmasI have a real honor today. I’m guest posting/visiting on a friend and fellow Tribe Writer’s blog talking all about family Christmas traditions. Won’t you join me on Joan Hall’s site (Joan Hall Writes) as we discuss Christmas and family? Hope to see you there!

Giving Thanks for the Physical

thankfulOne of my dearest friends from college does something that I’ve always admired (but never managed to emulate) in November. In honor of Thanksgiving, she does a post on Facebook every single day of the month and lists something she’s grateful for. She doesn’t go into detail, and it’s not always something earth-shattering, but for thirty days, she tells the world what she is thankful for that day.

I always enjoy those posts.

In that spirit, I thought I’d take the next four weeks and try to do something along the same lines. Being that she has thirty days and I only have four, I figured I’d better break mine down into categories. So I decided the best way to handle it was to do the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual things in my life that I’m grateful for.

**DISCLAIMER** Things covered this month are in no particular order. That said, I’ll begin week one with the physical things.

  • My life
  • My family
  • My dogs
  • My friends
  • My house and the things that make it a home
  • My cars that get me to the places I need and want to go
  • The food that feeds us
  • The plants that give us air to breathe
  • The military, police, and firefighters who protects us

I know there are so many more physical things that I’m thankful for but they aren’t springing to mind because I’m trying to think of them. Why don’t you help add to the list?

Lessons from a Photo Album

Today is a special day for me. It’s my 18th wedding anniversary. I looked through my wedding album, trying to find a photo to share, and I noticed how many things have changed.

Corey and Staci

Definitely my appearance. And my husband’s. Everyone’s, really.

And I have to say fashion has improved. As have hair styles.

I remember when I was planning my wedding. Nothing ended up being the way I expected. I didn’t like my gown. I let my bridesmaids choose their gowns, as I wouldn’t have to wear them. I didn’t like their choice, either. I did like the flowers I chose, but the florist got the order wrong, so I didn’t have what I wanted. The hotel was good, but way overpriced. Thankfully my parents covered the reception, because we invited far more people than I wanted. Between my husband’s family and mine, I think the whole town was there. (Italian weddings are known for being big, but 500 people on the invitation list? Crazy.) The DJ played some music that I hated. Forget about giving a play list… I should have given him a don’t play list. The videographer was terrible, but the photographer was good, though, and you can’t tell things weren’t what I wanted.

Why do I remember all this?

Actually, usually I don’t.

What I typically remember is being surrounded by family and friends who loved us, who celebrated with us. Joyously.

Looking back, it doesn’t matter that plans fell apart. (tweet this)

It isn’t important that the material things were wrong. (tweet this)

What matters is that I married a man I loved with all my heart and soul. A man I love today even more.

Looking through the album is bittersweet. Some of the pictures are poignant because of who wasn’t in them—the beloved family members who had passed on before our wedding. Some pictures remind me of the people who were there that we since have lost. Then there are the nieces and nephews who were tiny children then… the same ones who are now adults.

Time marches on. Someday some family member will be looking through his or her album and remembering when my hair was long (and brown), or when my husband had hair (I sure hope he keeps his), or when my kids were still in school. I hope they can look at their albums then the way I look at mine now—not disappointed over the breakdown of plans, but with fondness. Happy because they married their soul mate, because their loved ones were there to celebrate with them, because life is good even when plans go awry.

Eighteen years ago I married a man who I thought I couldn’t love any more than I did at that very moment.

And eighteen years later I laugh at how naïve I was. My love for him has grown exponentially with each passing day. And I imagine will continue to do so.

So today, I’m not going to offer writing advice. I’m not going to recommend any books to purchase. I’m not going to talk about the importance of social media.

I’m certainly not going to obsess over the things that went wrong.

I’m simply going to enjoy my family, and suggest you try and do the same.

Are You Making the Most of Your Relationships?

Something profound happened to me this week, so in lieu of promoting my new book or discussing writing techniques, I’m going to share my story.

foot injuryMy daughter is a tennis player. She’s been battling an injury, but she keeps on going. She’s supposed to wear a boot when she isn’t playing, and tape when she is, but she won’t. It’s inconvenient, so she just deals with the pain. She won her first match this week, 8-2, but to do it, she suffered. I’m concerned she might be doing herself more harm by not sitting out and resting, but she insists it’s worth it. I’m not so sure.

football playerMy son is a football player. He was doing great in his scrimmage this week, until he was blindsided. There was a helmet-to-helmet collision, and he lay unresponsive on the field for the longest five seconds of my life. When he stood, he wobbled and was led back to the bench. He’s now battling a concussion. His only desire is to get back to the game. I’m more worried about him healing.

labradorsMy dogs were outside this week and got into a pool chemical bottle that the pool maintenance people left out. I saw them on the patio, laying beside a puddle and a chewed bottle. Our vet rushed me out of his office with medicine, not even giving me the time to pay. He felt time was of the essence. My dogs kept spitting the medicine out, and of course they went right over to the puddle when I let them out again. They’re all about instant gratification, preservation-instinct be damned. I’m just worried their quest for fun will ultimately harm them.

Thank God nothing happened to my husband this week. I don’t think I could have taken the stress.

I have a lot of lives dependent on me. I don’t care what my “job title” is. Wife, mother, and pet owner take priority every time. As does daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, aunt, friend… I have lots of titles.

Unfortunately, one of those titles is not Ultimate Decision Maker. If it was, everyone would listen to me and there would be fewer problems in my life. (Of course, that would probably add a lot to my plate, and who needs that? Not me.) Maybe I would just like to be the mom/wife/dog owner who is obeyed, at least when she has everyone’s best interests at heart. But I digress…

People can say all they want that to be successful in any endeavor, a person has to put certain things aside and just work. And that includes relationships.

I say if you want to be truly successful, you have to nurture your relationships. They are what make you who you are. (tweet this)

The rest will take care of itself.

If you want to be a success, take the time to celebrate the people in your life. Spend quality time with them. Even at the expense of some “work” time.

You never know when something will happen to rob you of that chance.

As hard as this week was, I am blessed that no permanent damage was done to my loved ones. I’m not going to wait until there is a permanent issue to put them first on my priority list.

I hope you can say the same.

How to Best Spend your Summer Vacation

Hi everyone! For those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook (links can be found by clicking the words or in the side panel), you’ll have noticed that I was silent this past week. Sorry for the disappearance, but I was on vacation.

Hilton Head Usually we go to the beach. We’ve been to plenty of them: Jamaica, California, Hawaii, the Bahamas, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and many on the east coast (from New Jersey through Florida). We’ve done amusement and theme park vacations, zoos, cities, and even a cruise, but we always go back to the beach. Sun, sand, surf… it doesn’t get better than that.

Until this year.

This year we spent our vacation in Pennsylvania. My husband and I are both from the same home town, our kids were born there, and we still have family and friends in the area. It’s a two day trip by car, but we stayed with family on the way there and back, so it was kind of like a two-for-one vacation. Sure, I miss the beach, but I have a pool if I want to swim, and I wouldn’t trade my visit home for anything.

pirate baseballWhen we crossed through the Fort Pitt Tunnel, the sight of Pittsburgh greeting us on the other side was spectacular. The only time it looks better is at night. We saw the fountain at The Point, the Gateway Clipper fleet on the river, the city skyline, Heinz Field, the Carnegie Science Center, and after a short drive, PNC Park (where a baseball game was in progress). I would have loved to have stayed in the city. There’s so much to do there—shopping and eating at The Strip; going to the four Carnegie Museums (Art, Natural History, Science Center, and Andy Warhol); visiting the Pittsburgh Zoo, the Allegheny Observatory, and Phipps Conservatory; riding the mt. washington, paInclines (Duquesne and Monongahela); touring Carnegie Mellon University so the kids could see where their parents went to school; attending a Pirate game; spending a day at Kennywood Park or Sandcastle… I could go on, but we didn’t stay in Pittsburgh. As awesome as the city is, we had better things to do.

We went home to see family.

vandergriftWe’re from Vandergrift, Pennsylvania… it’s a little town about forty minutes northeast of the city. Its claim to fame is that it’s the first worker-owned, industrially-planned town in America. Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape designer who designed Central Park, was responsible for designing the town. My husband and I met, dated, fell in love, and were married there. We still have a lot of family and friends in the area, and we went home to see them. That beats any trip to the beach, or anywhere else.

family visitWe spent time with my ninety-five year old grandmother, looking at old family photos and hearing wonderful tales of days gone by. We visited my husband’s grandmother and his great-aunt and uncle where we listened to stories of family and friends. We stayed with my parents-in-law, where we played games and enjoyed each other’s company. We ate many meals with my family, trying to celebrate Father’s Day and my dad’s birthday with the appropriate fanfare his holidays deserve. We spent time with siblings and their families, and ate the foods that we’ve been craving but can’t get here—both homemade and purchased spumoniitems. We even attended Mass at our hometown church… a church that is a national landmark and was designed in the gothic style (something that we just don’t see here where the churches are of modern styling).

It was fabulous!

scalzott familyThe best part was the reconnecting with family. We heard stories and histories that reinforce who we are and where we’re from. Some of the stories I’d heard before, and some were new, but they were all new to my kids, and watching them absorb their heritage was a golden experience.

I’m not sure what your vacation plans are this year. I could certainly recommend a trip to Pittsburgh. There’s plenty to do, to see, to eat… You wouldn’t be disappointed. But instead, let me recommend a trip where you can connect with your roots. That’s where the real memories will be made.

My entire family enjoyed our trip (adults, kids, and even dogs!), but I’m definitely going to benefit from our visit home. Not only were the areas good for me to revisit because my novel series is set in Western Pennsylvania, I now have fodder for several other stories as well. I bet a visit home would give you some ideas, too.

Have you ever taken a trip where you got ideas for a story? Why don’t you share the experience with us in the comments.

Four Words of Wisdom for the Graduate, or the Writer

My daughter graduated middle school this past week. Just putting my age in perspective, when I was in school, you didn’t graduate middle school, you just moved on to the next grade. Kids today celebrate every milestone. In some ways, I kind of think that’s the problem with the younger generation. They get participation trophies instead of earning their awards, no child is left behind (even if the child should be), and then when they become adults, they wonder why no one is handing them things anymore. They’re completely unprepared for the realities of life.

graduationOn the other hand, I say why not celebrate every accomplishment you can? Before too long, people will be looking for reasons to knock you down and climb over you on their way up the ladder of success. Might as well enjoy the successes while you have them and people are willing to celebrate with you.

As a parent, I know I’ll always be a cheerleader for my kids, no matter how old they are, no matter what they accomplish. My kids are quite successful, but don’t worry—I’m not going to use this as a forum to brag. Instead, I’m going to take some words of wisdom I picked up from the guidance counselor at the awards assembly. He said some things that I think apply to everyday living, and to the writer’s career as well.

1)  Some people get older; some people grow up.

  • In life, that’s easy enough to explain. Some of the kids are getting older, but no more mature. His point is that it’s time to stop acting like a child and start being responsible. We all know that fifty year old who thinks it’s funny to burn rubber in the parking lot and is always causing trouble at work. That person didn’t grow up. Don’t be that person.
  • In a writer’s career, that’s also appropriate. Some writers never mature in their writing because they don’t put the time and effort in. You can say you’re a writer for years, working on that one manuscript that no one ever sees (and that honestly, you only dabble in once a month), but to become an expert, you must write often, and you must study the craft. Read books, attend conferences, work with critique partners, submit your work for publication. Only then can you, as a writer, mature.

2)  The better we handle the word “no,” the more often we hear the word “yes.”

  • That, too, is self-explanatory as a life-lesson. People who have temper tantrums and negative responses to a refused request will not be looked upon favorably, and that will result in another “no” when a second request is made. A responsible reaction to a rejection leaves a positive image, and therefore requests are more likely to be answered with a “yes” in the future.
  • In writing, rejection can come in the form of negative reviews, bad critiques, or actual rejections from agents, editors, or publishers. Written or verbal replies to these rejections that are negative (or even worse, sarcastic or scathing) show the writer to be difficult to work with and unprofessional. Why burn bridges? Sometimes the rejections come with nothing but good intentions, offering ways to make your writing better. Other times, a no is a no. But in any case, you always want to leave people with a positive impression. That “yes” could be one submission away. And don’t forget—people in the industry talk. You don’t want your name being circulated for the wrong reasons.

3)  When we forget life is short, we treat it like it’s not.

  • Don’t leave things for another time, only to find out that time was taken from you. People move on, sometimes permanently, and you may not have a chance to say or do something you mean to.
  • In writing, sometimes we get career-obsessed. I have to make word count today. I need to send more tweets. I’m seventeen likes away from one-thousand followers on Facebook. Yes, writing and platforming are crucial steps in becoming successful. But life is short. Take the time to actually live,too, or all of your hard work will have been for nothing.

4)  There’s never a right time to do the wrong thing, and never a wrong time to do the    right thing.

  • If you live your life by a set of high moral standards, you’ll feel better about yourself. You won’t ever get into trouble. And, in the grand scheme of things, you’ll come out ahead, even if you don’t get every small reward you think you deserve along the way.
  • In writing, the thing that keeps the plot moving is conflict. If a character isn’t faced with a choice or a dilemma, then there isn’t anything happening. The rule is for the heroes to always do right and the villains to always do wrong. Here’s the caveat: there are no rules in fiction that can’t be broken. Have your hero make a bad choice. Have your villain do something nice. It’s the choices that people make—and the reasons they make them—that make them rich, interesting characters to read about. It’s okay, even interesting,  to get your hero in trouble, as long as you make things right in the end.

So, those were just some of the words of wisdom we heard at the awards ceremony. I batted back a few tears, shared some smiles and laughter, and applauded with the rest of the crowd when the kids got their awards. I can’t believe both of my kids are now officially in high school. Where did the time go? I think I need to work on number three. Life is short, and I want to embrace every second of it.

What words of wisdom do you have to share, for both life and writing?

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