Tuesday, April 5, 2011

“Time to face the change. Ch-ch-ch-changes.”

Change doesn’t usually faze me. I embrace it, bring it on! After scratching through my address book close to thirty times, I’m accustomed to new places, people and things. My nomadic years started when I was six months old and my family moved where and when the Army wanted us to go. Unable to shake the wanderlust, I continued to move as an adult. Sometimes only across town but I had a need to pack and go, a desire for a change of scenery, a fresh start.

Maybe it’s motherhood, maybe (gulp) age. But, my resilience to change seems to be waning. I’m at one of my favorite Barnes & Noble’s at the moment. It’s convenient to my daughter’s school and it’s three levels, three levels of stacks and stacks of books. This reader/writer’s heaven.

The change when I first walked in took my breath away. A third of the first floor book stacks have been removed and tables displaying the Nook have taken their place. Now, on the whole, if people buy the Nook and continue to buy books, I’m fine with that. I have a Kindle and have bought more books in the last year than I ever have in a year. It’s the instant thing. I get a recommendation, see something I like mentioned on Twitter or elsewhere, and I buy it right then and there. In the past, I’d jot a note, probably lose the note and forget about the recommendation. That change is good!

But, there’s still something special about getting lost in a maze of books, pulling one off the shelf because it looks interesting. Dropping to the floor, sitting cross-legged and flipping through the pages. Feeling, smelling, seeing. So maybe that’s it. It’s a multi-sensory thing.

So there it is. E-books fulfill my need for instant gratification and printed books provide a multi-sensory experience. I want both! So, as long as this change doesn’t mean the end of printed books, I think I’ll be okay.

What are your thoughts on life as we know it in the world of books. The change is here to stay. How will you cope?

Happy April!


(BTW – I took a little poetic license with my title. I believe the correct version of Bowie’s lyric is “Turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes.”

Friday, March 18, 2011

3 Ways Editing is Like Spring Cleaning

My husband and I recently started some spring cleaning. I was actually a little excited about getting some things done. Especially considering it was last year’s spring cleaning! As we parsed items into keep, donate and toss piles, I thought about my writing. (I always think about writing.) I was trying to convince my husband that a Christmas wreath we never put up should go to a good home instead of collecting dust in our storage closet. A family member had given it to him twenty-years ago so it held memories. “The memories are in you, not the wreath. They’ll always be there,” I said. (It was easy for me to say that, I really don’t like the wreath!)

Our discussion made me think about the process of editing and the parallels between it and cleaning or organizing.

1. If it’s not working or useful, toss it. Most writer’s know you shouldn’t hesitate to “kill your darlings” if necessary. Whether a character, sentence, scene or even entire chapter, if it doesn’t benefit the story you need to be ruthless – toss it.

But, that doesn’t mean you’re back to square one or that your story or you as a writer aren’t better for writing it in the first place. We learn something from everything we write.

So, don’t be afraid to delete the scene where your character visited an old flame to get her tie-dyed shirt back. Just like you shouldn’t be afraid to get rid of that tie-dyed shirt tucked in the back of your sock drawer. You know you’re only keeping it because it used to make your chest look bigger.

2. Don’t be afraid to air your dirty laundry. Is the laundry pile making you cringe? Mocking you every time you walk by? Sometimes it’s easier to keep it hidden and not deal with it.

When editing your MS, look for places you can dig deeper and air your character’s dirty laundry. Everyone has secrets, something to hide. Everyone has a pimple, wart or flaw. It’s difficult with some of my favorite characters to let their faults show. My instinct is to protect them, hide their flaws from the world. But, characters only come to life when they are multi-dimensional. So bring out the dirty clothes, hang them out on the line a bit before you toss them in the wash. Fresh air does wonders!

3. Move things around if you need to. It’s amazing how much cleaner and fresher one of our rooms looked merely by moving things around. We didn’t get rid of a thing, just shuffled a bit until the layout was more appealing. Take a look at your WIP, are their places where just shifting things around will take your story to a new level? In one of my novels-in-progress, simply moving a scene deeper in the story enhanced the impact of the scene. I didn’t have to change a word.

How about you? Any tips on spring cleaning and/or editing? I’m all ears on both!

Happy writing, happy organizing, happy happy!


Monday, January 31, 2011

Love and Orangutan Twins

As Valentine’s Day approaches and red and pink hearts pop into view at every turn, I think about love and it’s many variations. Certainly when I say, “I love you” to my husband it’s very different than when I say, “I love double-stuffed oreos”. Wait, maybe another example, different than when I say “I love March Madness”. There that’s a more diverse comparison. (Sorry honey!)

When I heard about a blind orangutan giving birth to twins I couldn’t get to the article fast enough. Orangutans only give birth every eight years on average and twin births are rare. Not only was it love at first sight when I saw the pictures, but from my point of view this gorgeous girl loves motherhood. Look at the contentment in her eyes. Mom is blind. She can’t see the objects of her affection but she can touch them, hold them, she knows they’re there. Here’s the link to see this amazing new family.

This reminded me of a short that I wrote some time last year. About a love, a connection, two very different mothers felt.

When We Meet

When we meet, I notice your skin first, pale and butter smooth; so unlike my own, rough and walnut hued. Our eyes meet and we seem to lock in a child's 'who blinks first game' - your misty blue eyes focused on my amber ones. As we stare in silence, I begin to notice the details. Rings of flaxen hair wrap your face in sunlight. Eyes dipped in sorrow rest close above a delicate nose. You seem to be studying me as I do you.

Dark nudges away the light and I think about the time, aware that the gates will close at any moment and you will be asked to leave. Something is making it hard for you to turn away, as if there is something you need to share but can't. I want to ask you to return but I know you won't understand, so I try to communicate with my eyes, hoping you see my wish in them.

Before you turn to leave, my friend Barney comes to your side and I turn my ear to the conversation.

"You come here a lot, don't you?" Barney asks.

"Yes, I do." You wrap your arms around your chest in a hug. "I'm quite drawn to her."

"Our orangutans are pretty popular." Barney glances at me and then tilts his head toward you as if he has a secret to share. "But, she's a favorite of many."

Your thin lips tilt up in a weak smile. "I have so many questions."

"Please, that's what I'm here for." Barney points to the Zoo Volunteer patch on his shirt.

"She looks sad. Is she?"

"Gema is a bit sad. She's mourning the loss of a baby."

I watch as your face changes. Your lips quiver and tears start to spill from your lower lids.

Barney gently touches your arm, "I'm so sorry, miss. Was it something I said?"

"She and I have a lot in common," you say.

You rest your narrow fingers across your belly and I do the same.

Now when I see you again, I will look at you through new eyes. We are different, yet in many ways one and the same. Your heart beats to a rhythm much like my own. You eat, you sleep, you play, you bleed. You form relationships, you have arguments, you reconcile. You are tender to those you love and harsh towards those who anger you.

You love, you mourn . . . you love again.


So, my oft stream of consciousness rambling wandered down a few paths but hopefully all leading to the same message. Love can and does come in many different packages and here’s hoping you all get a heavy dose today and always.

Sealed with a kiss,


By the by, P.S. and all that stuff: I'm hoping the fact that I'm writing this two weeks in advance of Valentine's Day will distract readers from my inconsistent blogging. I'll do better, I will. It's a new year after all!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


There are those days – most writers I know have them – when you want to toss your pencil, turn off your computer, give up. Putting words on paper isn’t difficult. What is difficult, at times, is finding the inspiration that keeps the words flowing.

Many things around me fuel my muse: the changing Fall colors, a conversation I overheard in the grocery store, a dream I had the prior night. But, what really inspires me is when I’m able to capture that feeling of untainted wonder I had as a child.

Recently, my daughter was watching the credits roll after a movie and her face lit up like a jack-o-lantern’s candle. “Mommy, it’s Chris. And…and… John. Mommy it’s Chris and John.” It took me a few minutes to figure out what she was so excited about. She’d seen the names of her brother and father on the moving names across the screen. So simple, but it provided her with such joy.

The closest I’ve come to recapturing that feeling is when I write; when I find the perfect word, or nail the character description or figure out the best way to end the story. Whenever I get frustrated, I try to remember that feeling and knowing that I’ll be able to find it again if I just keep the words, sentences, paragraphs coming keeps me writing day after day.

Here’s hoping you find what inspires you today and every day.

Happy November!


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Advice for the Budding Novelist

My step-daughter (the vampire obsessed one) recently told me she’s writing a novel. When she was brave enough to have me read what she’d written so far, I started thinking about the best advice I could give her. I’m still in the process of perfecting the craft – and always will be – but I’ve learned some things along the way that helped me tremendously.

The most valuable lessons I've learned so far:

Write, write, write! Sounds simple, but many writers get hung up on learning the craft and forget to ‘just do it’. (Thanks for the borrow, Nike. I’ll give it back.) You can’t learn tennis simply by watching others play or reading a book about tennis. Similarly you’ll never be a great writer simply by reading other novels and books on craft. Start writing, keep writing. It will likely stink at first, most first drafts do. But, the more you do it, the better you’ll get. Don’t edit right away, just let the words flow.

Minis are always in style. And not just if you have great legs. Try short fiction, micro fiction, flash fiction. Whatever you want to call it, step away from your novel occasionally to stretch your creative muscles. Think of it as cross training for your brain. The best tennis players run, train their core and do yoga to make sure they are fit and well rounded. I joined a flash fiction critique group early on and not only had a great time, but got in the habit of giving my writing a daily workout. I responded to bi-weekly prompts and the stories started flowing like wine. Then I joined another and pretty soon I had some publishing credits to my name. But, more importantly it trained me to 1) write every day and 2) learn the fine art of brevity 3) finish something I started.

Don’t fear the ‘Cowell Scowl’. Some of the most helpful critiquers of my writing attacked it with Simon Cowell intensity. Grow a thick skin when it comes to critique. Join a critique group. (Online is great because you don’t have to look someone in the face as they shred your work). Your friends and family may tell you your work is great. “Send it to a publisher right away,” the say. “Oh my gosh, it will be a movie staring Kate Hudson, I just know it,” they say. Roll in the praise a bit and then push it away. Other writers will give it to you straight (most will). Plus, you’ll learn a lot in the process of critiquing their work as well.

Read, read, read! Again, sounds simple but your writing will improve exponentially the more you read. And, don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Read classics, read outside your genre, read books on craft. Even if you read something that isn’t what you’d consider high quality prose, you’ll learn in the process by recognizing what works and what doesn’t.

So, go, write that novel that’s been scurrying around in your head like the family of mice in your attic. And have fun!


P.S. If you had just one piece of advice to give a new writer, what would it be?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fictional Characters in the Flesh

I’m not talking about Twilight vampires my step-daughter is convinced really walk among us. I’m talking about a character most of us have heard about our entire lives, but rarely ever see. They’re out there. I’ve met them before, but they tend to be elusive, hiding behind anonymity.

I’m talking about …. “The Good Samaritan”. So named for the good deeds they do without asking for anything in return.

Believe it or not (I didn’t believe it at first myself), I encountered one. In New York City of all places. We were in Manhattan last week, celebrating a huge event in our family’s life. My step-daughter – not the vampire loving one, although she keeps the kind of schedule that only the young and the undead can keep – graduated and got a job. We of course, are thrilled beyond belief, given the cost of college and the state of the economy. Anyway, I digress…

We were in Manhattan and somewhere between the graduation, lunch and several taxi rides, I lost my wallet. I knew it was gone for good. I called the credit card companies. I mentally went through every jammed pocket in the wallet trying to remember what I had. I mourned the loss of several family pictures that I didn’t have other copies of. I said goodbye to enough cash to buy the whole series of Twilight Books and DVD’s (for my daughter, not me!). I accepted the consequences.

Somewhere between a bad dream about a morning wasted at the DMV and a nightmare about someone buying a flat screen TV with the credit card I forgot to cancel, we got a phone call. My husband’s cell. 4 am. It had to be my nightwalker daughter, calling to say she’d been mugged on the way back to her apartment. (So, I worry about my kids – sue me!)

The person on the other end of the phone found my wallet, in the hall at Lincoln Center where the graduation was held. He was working the graveyard shift as a custodian and apologized for opening it. He actually apologized. Twice. He’d looked through the stack of receipts, expired coupons, jotted notes about my novel, to find a list I had of family numbers. He called my brother-in-law (same last name) to track us down.

The next morning he met my husband outside our hotel. John tried to give him a reward and he refused. He said he ‘just wanted to do the right thing.’

So, now you know, if you haven’t encountered the GS before, he’s out there. I promise. And I thank him and everyone like him profusely for renewing my faith in mankind. With the daily news we hear about people walking on by while their neighbor is being accosted, robbed, worse, it’s good to know that there are good people out there. Really good people who just want to do the right thing.

Have a great day!

~ Cat ~

Friday, April 23, 2010

If A Tree Falls - Belated Earth Day Flash Fiction

What’s that saying about the best intentions?

Intentions are certainly a start, but it’s all about the follow through. Whether you intend to finish a novel draft by a certain date, or intend to be more conscious of what you’re doing to the environment, it only matters if you actually do something. Where am I going with this? I had intended to post this little bit of flash yesterday in honor of Earth Day. I missed the boat. Alas, my novel draft deadline is somewhere in that same boat. I can, however, do something about it today. So, today I’m posting AND finishing up edits on the last chapter of my in-progress novel.

What’s that saying about better late than never?

If A Tree Falls
by Catherine Trizzino

"Hey, wake up! What was that sound?"

"What sound?"

"Stop rustling your leaves and listen. Sounds like something fell."

"That dry rot is messin' you up. You're imaginin' things."

"Well that fungus must be clogging your knot holes. There definitely was a sound."

"Whatever. I'm going back to sleep. Let the philosophers figure it out."



It’s never too late to follow through on your intentions. Oh, and I remembered my reusable bag at the grocery store today, too. Good start to the day!

Enjoy the day … enjoy the planet.