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Phone: 562 628-9688
When I was in the sixth grade, I entered a writing contest. The topic was "the benefits of reading." I somehow found these lines from Emily Dickinson—
There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
—and, remembering some of the books I'd read, opened my essay with the Dickinson quotation. I won the contest and was awarded a free book.
Because I have functioning corpus callosum, which means that both sides of my brain work, I can be perfectly happy writing books of meditation and thealogy (when my right brain shows me nifty pictures and plays with poetry) and equally happy as a freelance book or technical editor (when I go into left-brain nerd mode). Sometimes, of course, both sides of my brain go on vacation, and then what I write is parody, like Finding New Goddesses.
Here I am, selling my books at a recent Long Beach WomanSpirit solstice fair. Sitting beside me is my daughter-in-law, the fabulous Phish. In addition to my books, you can see the little fabric amulet pouches that I sew up (by hand) in my copious free time and sell for $5. Long Beach WomanSpirit has been holding its solstice fairs for since the mid-’80s.
I often start in the middle of the night (or at three a.m.), suddenly semi-awake, constructing killer sentences and wondrous poetry. But I'm lazy. I decline to get up and write it down, so these inspirations in my head can be as ethereal as bubbles. I've made myself a rule: if it's good, I'll remember it or be able to reconstruct it in the morning. If it's not good, I'll forget it, and good riddance.
I’m old fashioned, so my next step is to sit down on my couch with a blue eversharp pencil with B lead in it and a tablet. Here I write the sentences or even whole paragraphs that are the remains of my nighttime visions. I know pretty soon that I won't be able to read my handwriting anymore, so that’s when I go to my computer. And because I seldom take proper notes, when I’m writing a book like Pagan Every Day, I literally surround myself with books. That's right. I stack them on the floor around my chair until it looks like I'm under siege by ideas and in a castle protected by flying buttresses of more ideas. Sometimes it’s hard to get up without tripping over books. And of course the cats sometimes creep into the stacks, too. Cats are very helpful.
I write in a kind of trance. If I'm doing nonfiction, I let the Goddess or the goddesses talk to me. If I'm doing fiction, I watch and listen to what the characters in the story do and say. But we always have an agreement: they may dictate, but I'm in charge of spelling, punctuation, syntax, and usage ... all that gooder English I help my authors with when I'm editing. Next, I go into left-brain nerd mode and critically read what I wrote. Several times. Back to the computer. I edit, rewrite, edit again, write some more, delete, add, move, delete, write and rewrite until I'm satisfied. And this is exactly what I tell the authors whose books I’m editing that they should do. It’s what the writing process is. My authors often write terrific rough drafts, but rough drafts always require considerable rewriting and copious editing. This part of the process can take a long time. Whether I’m working on my own book or with an author, I'm very hard to satisfy. I often find myself picking up a book or magazine article I wrote several years ago, looking at it, and saying to myself, “Gee, I could rewrite that and make it better.”
Because I also take very seriously the idea that people often believe what they read, I take every care to write accurately. If I'm writing a guided meditation, for example, I work to ensure that people (like newbies) will not harm themselves or others by using this meditation. I also try not to pass on outdated ideas (like the nine million witches burned) or silly ones (like in the Neolithic period everyone lived at peace and in harmony with everyone else and there was no fighting or quarreling).
Being an old English teacher, I know very well what plagiarism is and how to avoid it; the books are piled around me so I can cite the authors whose ideas I am borrowing. I’ve read all those books that I fill with sticky-note bookmarks so I can get the quotations, allusions, or citations right. I often caution my authors about the dangers of the easy click, copy, and paste. We have to get permission to use copyrighted material. Often we have to pay for that permission.
I’ve just put new excerpts from my published books and an unpublished novel in this part of the site. I hope you enjoy them. If you want a signed copy of one of my books, send me an email request. I always reply to emails.