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.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Shout Out Time!

I’m going to avoid the fact that I haven’t blogged in over a month and that I’m woefully behind on my completion schedule for my novel draft and take this opportunity to give a shout out. (I know I’m not really fooling anyone but it’s a great example of deflection, huh?)

About two years ago I joined an online writer’s workshop -- The Next Big Writer ( In my time on the site I’ve gotten unparalleled feedback, read some amazing novels and met some talented writers and now friends. If you’re interested in trying out a workshop, or a different one, I highly suggest you visit TNBW.

There’s a great competition coming up, The Strongest Start Novel Competition. All you need to do is wow the judges with your first three chapters and you have a shot at over $3,300 in prizes. The best part is, win or lose, you get feedback from some amazingly talented writers.

Check it out!

Short but sweet so I can keep from getting any further behind on my rewrites.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Schedules, Deadlines and Planning Oh My

I have a confession. I've been anti-scheduling. Not that I don't see the benefit in them, I do. But it’s like being forced to eat broccoli everyday as a kid. Eventually you may want to feed it to the dog.

As a project manager for 10 years, the time line was my BFF. Other than finding creative ways to tell a client how to utilize our software to maximum benefit, I pretty much had to follow the rules. There was no room for loosy-goosy schedules if I wanted a project delivered on time, within scope and within budget. Once I got out of PM and started focusing more on my writing, I slipped out of the shackles that I felt bound me – no more spreadsheets, due dates, or graphs for me!

It worked for awhile, I could just let my creative side take over without any rules. I write when I want which is as often as my life allows. But, I’m starting to see where I could benefit from the old me, where a schedule and plan could enhance my writing not hamper it.

The idea that the two ‘me’s’ could co-exist started with Nano (National Novel Writing Month – if you haven’t participated and you want to write a novel, go for it). I started Nano last November with the idea that I would write the required words per day and stick to it. About one third of the way through I was behind and panicking. So, PM girl from my past jumped in. She (my alter-ego) created a spread sheet with dates, word count and even little red numbers that showed I was behind and how far. That motivated me. I wanted to get rid of the red! So, I adjusted my daily word count, pushed through and won. (Nano calls anyone who completes a novel in 30 days a winner. I like that!)

So, this week I created a spreadsheet for the “Road to An Agent.” I’ve committed to editing a chapter of my novel a day until I’m done on March 10th. Then I work on the synopsis and my plan for finding representation. There, I’ve committed to the date for all the world (or the ten people reading this blog ; )) to see and hold me to it!

Write on and read on!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pure as the Driven Snow

30 inches? Washington, D.C.? Still snowing? No way! Actually…yes way!

We got hit hard with a historically heavy dose of the white stuff. It is beautiful, a ‘winter wonderland’ of blinding snow white drifts as far as the eye can see. If you can cope with no power, no water, no phones or internet for days, it is eye-catching ‘pure as the driven snow’ beauty.

So, how is this post writing or woolly mammoth related?

Well, here’s my pup, aka Armani, aka Moose aka Woolly Mammoth enjoying our ‘little’ gift from the snow fairies.

And, since I’ve already peppered this post with the red-headed step child of writing – the cliché – I thought I’d take a moment to opine on the subject.

I’m a firm believer that writing “rules” are made to be broken. Creativity reigns, in my humble opinion, when you bend the rules a bit. One rule that I would bend only on the very rare occasion is to avoid clichés when possible.

By definition, a cliché is: a trite, stereotyped expression; a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse.

Most, if not all, writers know this definition. Why then do we see overused words and phrasing pop-up in writing? Because it’s easy! It’s convenient to draw on what we already know—what’s familiar. I admit (pause to slap my wrist) I do it, too. Particularly on first drafts. I draw from the familiar databank of words and phrases, eager to get my thoughts on paper. It’s not until I start the redraft process that I focus on these little villains – eager to weed out clichés. I don’t always succeed and at times it takes someone I’ve asked to review my work to point out the unoriginal in my writing. One reviewer whose tough love I respect will bluntly say .. ‘come on, you can do better than that!’ (Thank you crazeesharon).

Keep an eye on the bigger picture as well. Clichéd characters? No-no. The meek librarian who’s a different person all together when she lets her hair down? We’ve all seen her. But why not twist it, turn it and put on a different sheen? This same librarian could take off her glasses and reveal the laser beam eyes of a blood thirsty Alien. I would venture to guess this character has shown up somewhere in some story or novel, but not so often we anticipate the outcome.

Key – fresh, new, different.

As fiction writers our goal is to entertain. If your work is full of clichéd phrasing and seen a million times characters, you’re far more likely to bore your readers than entertain them.

My ‘two cents’ for what its worth.

“See ya later alligators” (oops, I mean, Tata Macaws :))


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Go Ahead, Expose Yourself

I’ll admit, I still get anxious when I hit the post, or send, or whatever button shares my words with others. Not so much because I’m afraid of being critiqued -- I love when my stories are shredded in the critique groups I’m in -- but because in everything I write I share a little bit of myself. I expose myself -- my dreams, my fears, my imagination.

The first story I submitted to a contest (and won an honorable mention - woohoo) is still one of my favorites. Many friends asked me how I could write something with such emotion that I’d never experienced. Most of my stories are pure fantasy, 100% imagination (I won’t say where reality slips in, but you can assume my rotting flesh zombie stories … well, I’ll let you figure that one out) but I do draw on my greatest fears at times to bring my stories to life.

Here’s the story I submitted to the WOW! Women on Writing Flash Fiction Contest ( It was also published in Boston Literary Magazine ( in the Summer 2008 edition.

by Catherine Trizzino

She looks like Madeline—cinnamon curls, corkscrew tight, bounce in every direction as she plays, cheeks pink like spring tulips from chasing butterflies, button nose smattered with amber colored freckles. She must be three or four - Madeline's age when she left.

I watch the girl in the vivid pink romper covered with daisies and my heart aches, a feeling I have grown accustomed to, a part of me forever. I think about Maddy with a smile so bright it could warm the coldest winter day and her quirky habit of sucking on the knuckle of her forefinger.

Yesterday was her tenth birthday. I can envision her party, decorations in her favorite colors—pink and lavender, colors of youth and innocence. The lanky bodies of the girls bounce in the music filled room. Oh how Maddy loved music. Even as an infant, her tiny body would wiggle the moment she heard the first note—the sunny sing-song of Barney or the serene melody of Beethoven.

I imagine myself bringing out the Hannah Montana cake, two levels piped with iced ribbons, eleven candles on top—the 'one to grow on' in the center larger than the rest. Leaning to blow out the candles, Maddy holds back her long unruly hair and I think about how she would refuse to ever keep it tied back. My heart fills with joy as the girls giggle, giddy from sugar and togetherness. Their happiness, like bubbles floating through the air, bursts abruptly when I hear a panicked scream—a mother's scream. Instead of looking toward the cry behind me, my eyes instinctively seek out the little girl. In horror I see her on the edge of a small pond, bent over to touch a lone mallard. I reach the water's edge as she is swallowed by the murky brown water—only tiny helpless arms can be seen flailing above the surface. The water hits me at chest level when I run to her—right at the line of my heart. Pulling her out of the merciless water, I immediately try to hush her. "Shush sweetie, Mommy's here—I won't let anything happen to you Maddy."

Hands reach to take Maddy and the emptiness in my arms forces me to realize it wasn't my daughter I held, but the girl covered in pink daisies. Words of thanks choked out between tears tell me I have saved her from the very anguish I have lived with all these years. Can the sin of a mother unable to save her child ever be atoned? By saving this girl so like my precious daughter, can I finally forgive myself for not being there when she drowned in the care of another? I look at the young mother cradling her daughter, the wet curls matted to a face now red from crying and I silently ask for my daughter's forgiveness.

So, if you’re staring at a blank page, think about what scares you most and pour your fears on the page. Whether its reality based or something Twilight Zone-esq., feel free to expose yourself a little -- the results might surprise you.

Have a wonderful day all!


Monday, January 25, 2010

Grade School All Over Again

“I have no friends.”

How many times did I whine to my parents as we moved around the globe? Globe may be a slight exaggeration. Two continents, three countries, but pretty nomadic for a kid. In hindsight of course I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but making new friends was always tough.

I’m having flashbacks now that I’ve entered Blogworld, Tweeterland and the Republic of Facebook. It’s scary and humbling. I look at my friend list and wonder, will I ever be one of the popular kids? Do I really care?

I love flash fiction. (I digress, but you’ll see why soon.) I stumbled upon it a few years ago and I’m addicted. Love to read it, love to write it. I’ve even published some of my flash fiction online and have a few stories in print, so I guess I’m pretty good at it.

There are many writers of flash that I really admire but one talented lady stands out – Linda Courtland. I’ve never read a story of hers I didn’t like. She can pack so much into a few words she’s like the literary equivalent of a contortionist. One story from a book of flash fiction she recently published starts like this:

The Most Friends Ever
By Linda Courtland

“We’ve identified you as the person with the fewest friends on Facebook,” the email said. “But don’t worry, help is on the way.”

It was high school all over again, and I was being cyber-bullied by a social networking site for not being one of the cool kids.

I typed in my user name and password, fully intending to delete my dreaded profile. An instant message box blocked my progress.

“You don’t have to do that,” the words said.

I clicked on the “X” in the corner, but the application wouldn’t close.

“Who are you?” I demanded.

“I’m your fairy friend-finder.”

I clung to my pride. “I have enough friends.”

“The median number of friends on this site is 198.” The screen zoomed into the Friends section on my profile. “You have two.”

“I used to have three,” I typed.

“Until your Mom unsubscribed.”

“Some of us value quality over quantity.” I stormed into the other room and the phone rang.

“I can make you popular,” the voice purred.

---End of Excerpt---

While I don’t want this particular fairy friend-finder to help me out (you have to read the rest of the story and you’ll see why) I do enjoy the possibilities of these networking sites. How else would I be able to ‘meet’ people from around the world without changing out of my fuzzy bunny slippers?

I may not have the most friends ever, but I’ve met some talented writers and really nice people.

So .. get Linda’s book. I promise you’ll be entertained. You can find out more about her on her website.

Later friends.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

If Sloths Could Speak

If you know me, you probably know I LOVE animals. From the grand woolly mammoth to the ‘so ugly it’s cute’ naked mole rat, I’m enamored with creatures great and small. So, it may not be surprising to know I volunteer at the zoo.

One of the things I find most fascinating about animals is how they communicate without the benefit of speech. They ‘talk’ with their eyes, their actions and song ala the humpback whale. I know my dog is telling me something when he sits at my feet and stares up at me. “I’m hungry.” “Scratch my chin.” “Are you ever going to finish that novel?” It could be anything, but he is definitely communicating with me. Just by sitting near me he’s telling me he loves me.

Recently, another zoo volunteer and I marveled at what we suspected was animal communication in action. A pair of two-toed sloths share an enclosure with golden lion tamarin monkeys (GLTs), and assorted others in a mixed species exhibit. As we watched the GLT’s characteristically zip around the enclosure like toddlers on chocolate-covered espresso beans, we noticed one of them jump into the sloth box and start harassing her, poking and prodding her as she tried to snooze.

Eventually, the sloth decided she’d had enough and got out of the box - a treat during the day as sloths are nocturnal and spend a majority of their day sleeping. We didn’t take our eyes off her as she made her way across the enclosure toward the other box, the pesky GLT with her the entire time. When she was almost there, the other sloth, who had apparently been resting peacefully, got out of the box so she could get in.

They somehow wordlessly communicated that they were going to trade places. We suspect the female, who is older ‘told’ the younger male to scram, she wanted the box where the GLT wasn’t.

As a writer I spend a lot of my time on word choice. And, I’m guessing if they could speak, the sloths might have some choice words for the GLT.

All for now.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Words Have Meaning

“Words have meaning,” he said.

Well, of course they do, I thought. Nice, good looking and wonderfully tall, but my new husband apparently wasn’t very bright. Like, duh, could he think of something a little more profound to say as we gazed into one another’s eyes over a shared plate of bruschetta, glasses of Amarone at the ready. (Okay, it was more likely glaring at one another over cold pizza as we debated something one of the kids said or did, but that’s a different story.)

So, what he meant to say was, be careful of the words you choose. Words can cause extreme emotions – ecstasy to pain. Words can invoke memories of past experiences and imagined futures.

Word choice is important.

Recently, I had a conversation with my father. He has cancer. (A horrendous word.) He’s doing all the treatments, taking care of himself (well, my mom is, but that’s a different story) and by all accounts doing well given his diagnosis. We’re all trying to be positive, not thinking too far ahead and taking one day at a time. So, during this conversation where he was updating me on a recent meeting with the doctor he said, “The doctor said I have one to two years.”

I was driving, tears filled my eyes and I told him I’d talk to him later. I pulled into a parking lot, cried for an hour and then did some shopping therapy. As I pulled my credit card out to buy another thing I didn’t need, I thought about my conversation with him. What does one to two years mean? I know what the words mean of course, individually and grouped together in the sentence as they were, but what does it really mean? Shouldn’t I ask for more details? Clarification?

How many times have you said or heard someone say “What I meant was … “

Words have meaning.

Choosing the right/perfect/appropriate one isn’t always easy, but it’s worth the effort. (See I cheated there, gave myself options, but I can do that because this is my blog and there’s no word count!)

Back to my story. I called Dad back, asked him to clarify and he told me the doctor liked to give the absolute worst case scenario. Nice! Later, I spoke with my mom who told me the doctor said in one to two years they’d look at reassessing his treatment options. Good that I asked for clarification, huh?

Words have meaning and if you don’t understand something just ask.

What makes the word game even more fun is the variety of meaning words take on across continents and cultures. We lived in Germany and Holland when I was young. What a fabulous culturally enriching experience -- I went to school with children from around the world. (You guessed it, another story.)I recall the first time a classmate asked me if I had a rubber. I was shocked! What kind of place was this? Another classmate handed her an eraser. Aha a rubber is an eraser if you’re from the U.K. My first of many lessons about words.

Words have meaning and they often have different meanings to different people.

My husband was right, words have meaning. Yes they do and I love them for that.

Bye for now kiddies.