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Spring Forward and Plot Your Next Story

Spring has arrived and the sun is finally shining in Portland. While some might feel compelled to clean their house and organize their life, I felt the need to gather with friends and organize my next story.
So I spent this past Sunday conducting my own personal think tank with 5 wonderful friends: Susan Lute (host), Nancy Brophy, Linda Mercury, Wendy Warren and Carolyn Zane. We gathered to exchange story ideas and figure out plot points. There is power in collective creativity with people from your “tribe”. It doesn’t matter if you write the same genre. Our stories ranged from heartwarming, cozy mystery, witches, and vampires, oh my! What matters is that there is a level of trust and support among the group.
For the past few months, my story has been stuck in the Winter Blues. I have an idea for a paranormal young adult story and love my main characters but I couldn’t figure out the villains. This is why you need your writing buddies. When you are hesitant to give drama to your beloved characters, other writers can help you create their worst case scenarios, almost too easily and with non-concealed glee.
After 6 hours of exchanging ideas, the room was buzzing. I felt exhausted and excited with equal measure. Sharing your story is like sharing a secret. For the first time I had to truly explain the ins and outs of a complex story that keeps me awake at night. I spent over an hour drawing pictures and lines to connect the dots. Then I waited for the rejection. I felt like Carrie looking up to see if I was standing underneath a bucket. Instead I just felt support and suggestions from talented writers who want me to succeed. They could see a sparkle to my story and they helped me look at it from other angles.
My only regret is that I didn’t bring a tape recorder. Not just for the notes I don’t remember but to listen to the cadence of our voices. Writers love talking about their stories and you can hear it when they speak. In fact, many writers talk about their characters like they are real people. I’m glad we were in Susan’s home because a public location would have drawn many raised eyebrows with our conversations on how best to redeem a murderous villain or why certain children needed to be orphans for everything to work out in the end.
I left the gathering feeling three things. First, I am extremely motivated to write this story by my self-imposed October 15th deadline. Second, I also can’t wait to read their stories when completed and I will help keep them motivated. Lastly, I am lucky to have found such great writing friends.
If you feel energized by collective collaboration, I encourage you to find your own writing tribe and get started on organizing your own potluck plotting sessions. If you don’t know where to start and you write Happily Ever Afters, the Romance Writers of America (RWA) has local writing chapters all over the country. Writing is a solitary task but you don’t have to do it alone.

The coffee table books of a true writer!


Love at first sight. Does it happen? Does heart recognize heart? (Nancy Brophy)

Note from Jessie: Nancy Brophy is one of the original “Janes” coming back to See Jane Publish to share lessons learned from her marriage. I have long envied the success of their marriage. A couple that can survive a house fire and laugh about it now must know some secrets to being in a happy partnership.

The first time I saw my husband, he stood across a professional kitchen from me. Like Harry Potter coming to Hogwarts, Chef Brophy came to teach cooking school. I knew immediately he was the guy for me. Tragically, he didn’t have a clue.

But that isn’t the story I’m going to tell you about love. Because while heart may have recognized heart (in my case, not his) that alone would not have carried us for the twenty-plus years we’ve been together.

Both of us had previous marriages. In my case the marriage was complicated, but short-lived. In the end we experienced a very polite uncoupling.  I was so proud of our civility. We simply discovered we’d made a mistake and moved on. Ta-dah!

My husband’s first marriage was neither short-lived, civil, nor polite. After two decades of marriage and one child there were a few issues to handle. I did not break up my husband’s first marriage. Nor did I participate in the battle that ensued. But I was also not entirely innocent. Without me in the picture, would he have returned home? He said not. But still I wondered.

I was prepared for him to leave. I don’t remember a day I wasn’t expecting to hear the words, “I’m sorry, but I think I have to give it one more try.”
But being a writer does not entitle me to get to edit the scenes of my life.

He did not leave. Eventually, the prolonged war ended with a whisper of smoke, dissipating in a breeze.

You know that joke where the woman says, “Husbands are like puppies, they have to be trained. And the first sentence I taught him was ‘everything goes with diamonds’?” What I discovered was that my husband was training me, as well.  Here are a few of his lessons:

  • One of us does not slip out of the house in the morning without kissing the other good-bye.
  • Being busy, doesn’t mean we get to skip the opportunity to tell the other how much they mean to the relationship.
  • Gifts are not mandatory on Valentine’s Day, but the minimum of a card is required.
  • Say ‘I love you’ every day. Respect the other person. Speak up for them.
  • It’s not the big gestures that count. It’s the little everyday nothingness that keeps up together.

When we were rebuilding from our house fire, I choose the color “crushed berries” for our dining room. It is a deep, rich fuchsia. When it first went on the walls, grown men clutched their chests and made a strangling, gagging noise while they entered the room.

A man, who works with my husband, took him aside and asked, “What were she thinking?”

My husband smiled and said. “It’s not finished yet. In the end it will be perfect.”

If tomorrow Dan announced we were done, I would fight to keep him. There would be no polite uncoupling, because I can no longer imagine my life without him. How could I sleep at night without him by my side?

Love grows. Our marriage is not finished yet. Nor is it perfect. But it’s getting closer.

About the Author: I live in the beautiful, green, and very wet, Northwest, married to a Chef whose mantra is: life is a science project. As a result there are chickens and turkeys in my backyard, a fabulous vegetable garden which also grows tobacco for an insecticide and a hot meal on the table every night. For those of you who have longed for this, let me caution you. The old adage is true. Be careful what you wish for, when the gods are truly angry, they grant us our wishes. And the payment is always high, I fight an insidious ten pounds every year of my life.

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