Stories and Restorative Justice

Last week, I was recognized for my work with a 2016 Restorative Justice Communicator Award, presented by the Community Justice Network of Vermont.

Last week, I was recognized for my work with a 2016 Restorative Justice Communicator Award, presented by the Community Justice Network of Vermont.

The story is at the center of the Restorative Justice process, and as a volunteer for the Brattleboro Restorative Justice Center, I’ve listened to a lot of stories.

These are real-life stories, often dramatic, sometimes emotionally wrenching, and at their best, transformative.

Engaging with these particular stories is one of the best examples I know of how powerful a personal story can be, how empowering telling that story can be, and how adversaries can find common ground, settle conflict, and make positive changes by telling and listening to each other’s stories.

While I’ve always wanted to tell important stories, it is this work that has taught me how telling stories can create change. So I’ve been writing about Restorative Justice for almost ten years, including on this blog.

Restorative Justice keeps offenders out of the criminal justice system and brings them back into the community. (pixabay)

Restorative Justice keeps offenders out of the criminal justice system and brings them back into the community. (pixabay)

I’ve spread the word about Vermont’s widespread use of Restorative Justice in the place of punishment. Restorative Justice keeps offenders out of the criminal justice system and brings them back into the community. Studies repeatedly show that this approach reduces recidivism, strengthens communities, increases safety, reduces costs, and promotes active citizenship – all things I support.

The criminal justice system focuses on the offender, often to the neglect of the victim. Restorative Justice includes the victim in the process. In RJ, victims of crime have a voice in a facilitated dialogue with the person who harmed them. I know. Last summer I was a victim.  Restorative Justice allowed me to tell my story to the offender. I told him how he made me feel unsafe and what he could do to help change that.

RJ gave this offender a chance to “make it right” – which was much more effective than putting him in jail.

The Vermont Statehouse, Montpelier

The Vermont Statehouse, Montpelier.

I’ve also learned how to apply restorative practices within my own life – to the betterment of my marriage, my mothering, my friendships and all the other relationships in my life. Because I believe so strongly in the benefits of restorative practices, I’ve written about Vermont’s leadership in the field – a lot. I wrote because not only does RJ rely on storytelling, but so does my livelihood. I believe in “advancing issues through narrative; telling stories to create change.”

Last week, I was recognized for my work with a 2016 Restorative Justice Communicator Award, presented by the Community Justice Network of Vermont. I went to Montpelier and picked up my plaque in a ceremony at the statehouse.

Mary Pipher's inspiring book, Writing to Change the World.

Mary Pipher’s inspiring book, Writing to Change the World.

I’m honored – and humbled. Establishing Restorative Justice within Vermont’s Department of Corrections is the work of visionaries whose leadership and dedication developed the program and convinced the politicians to support it. In Vermont, RJ relies on volunteers; I’m one of over a thousand.

But I’m also a writer whose job is to tell stories that matter, and it’s lovely to be recognized for this work. This recognition serves as both a reminder and as encouragement to keep writing to change the world.

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin is a novelist, essayist and educator. Learn more at www.deborahleeluskin.com

 

 

 

 

Are You Ready to Expand Your Freelance Business?

So you’re creating the life of a freelance writer. You’ve been paid for your writing, you’ve had a few clients. You love the feeling of creating content — and getting paid.

Now you’re asking yourself if  it’s time to start charging (more) competitively for your work. Or maybe you’re thinking of narrowing your niche and  specializing in a certain type of  writing service.

Is the time now? How do you know when to expand your business?

If you’re asking yourself these questions, you’re close to that moment. When you are seeking new projects and thinking of trying new types of content, it’s a sure sign that you’re feeling confident with your current skill set and are ready to push out of your comfort zone to try more.

ComfortZoneSo what’s the next step?

If you simply want to charge more, do some research on what current writers charge for that type of content. Maybe you’ll find you’re already charging a similar rate. If you aren’t, you can assess your skills and determine if a price increase is appropriate or not.

If you want to try a new type of writing — perhaps for a medical company and you have never written a medical paper in  your life — learn as much as you can about the type of writing you want to produce. Read, read, read, and read some more of the type of content. Seek out companies who have published the type of content and practice writing in a similar style. 

Seek out courses in the type of writing you want to produce. If you want to move from process/how-to guides to a white paper, there are a lot of differences.

It’s a definite step in the right direction to already be a paid professional writer. You have a skill set. You know how to write. But now you need to move to the next level and learn the applicable tricks of the trade for your new niche.

It’s not possible to know all the details about a particular writing style before you start charging for it. Even if you specialize in it, there’s always something new that comes along. And if you wait until you (think) you know all there is to know, you’ll never get started.

How did you get started as a freelancer? You educated yourself, you researched, you practiced, you searched out markets seeking your skills. It’s time to do that again. 

Before you know it, you’ll have that ‘moment’ and know you’re ready to move forward and add a new type of writing service to your current portfolio.

It’s time to move beyond your comfort zone.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Sunday 6 February – Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links and Sundry

snowy treeNew England showed its true colors this week. After a Thursday that felt like spring (complete with near sixty-degree temperatures and March-like zephyrs), Friday dawned to a cold rain that transformed into heavy wet snow as the mercury fell. Parents who had scoffed at seemingly premature school closings were soon grateful that they didn’t have to venture out into what became a pretty messy afternoon commute.

Yesterday, after the storm had passed, my beau and I enjoyed a long walk in a nearby state park. Every bough in the forest was coated with a layer of snow, giving the place a clichéd faerieland look that was charming as hell. And when we reached the open spaces, the pristine surface of the snow sparkled like some crafty goddess has scattered a miniature universe of stars across the meadow. It was quite breathtaking.

And now it’s Sunday – hopefully a day for kicking back and letting your mind meander aimlessly. Here is this week’s batch of freshly curated links to my favorite blog posts, reads, and sundry other digital locations. Grab a mug of tea and a biscuit and enjoy. And if you have any links of your own to share, please feel free to drop them in the comments!


 Books I’m Reading:

book weatheringI have a very long list of books on my To Read list. Many of them live on Goodreads, but a few stragglers are in my wish list on Amazon, a Books folder in Evernote, and a photo album on my phone. (I have a habit of surreptitiously snapping photos of books I find in bookstores.) I know I’ll never get to all the books on my list, so sometimes it’s hard to pick which one to read next. Usually I browse my lists to see if any titles jump out at me. It’s more exciting, however, when one of my to-be-read books jumps out at me in Real Life. That’s just what happened with Lucy Wood’s novel, Weathering.

I first encountered Wood’s writing in her collection of short stories, Diving Belles. This anthology haunting stories weaves elements of Cornish folklore into everyday life, making the magical seem like a concrete part of our world – a force to be accepted. In Weathering, Wood tells a seemingly simple story of returning home:

(From the book jacket):

Pearl doesn’t know how she’s ended up in the river–the same messy, cacophonous river in the same rain-soaked valley she’d been stuck in for years. But here her spirit swirls and stays . . . Ada, Pearl’s daughter, doesn’t know how she’s ended up back in the house she left thirteen years ago–with no heating apart from a fire she can’t light, no way of getting around apart from an old car she’s scared to drive, and no company apart from her own young daughter, Pepper. She wants to clear out Pearl’s house so she can leave and not look back. Pepper has grown used to following her restless mother from place to place, but this house, with its faded photographs, its boxes of cameras and its stuffed jackdaw, is something new. Fascinated by the scattering of people she meets, by the river that unfurls through the valley, and by the strange old woman who sits on the bank with her feet in the cold, coppery water, Pepper doesn’t know why anyone would ever want to leave.

Wood’s work is like a series of old photographs pieced together into a subtle story that resonates in your head long after you’ve turned the last page. Her descriptions evoke a powerful sense of place and mood, almost visceral; but they are never just stage dressing. As I read, I sometimes thought to myself, “Is this going anywhere?” I only realized after I finished the book that the nagging sense of being stuck was part of the spell Wood wove. Her story captivated not only intellectually, but also emotionally – pulling at me like the current of a spring river that refuses to be ignored as it flexes its watery muscles and murmurs an endless incantation.

I will be looking more closely at the structure of this story and Wood’s masterful use of language. I look forward to sharing some of what I learn in a later post.

My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

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Sundry Links and Articles:

visualize narrative structure

Understanding the connections and relationships between your characters is an important element of your story, but never before have I seen such a fascinating “mapping” as the Visualization of Narrative Structure created by Natalia Bilenko and Asako Miyakawa who asked the question, “Can books be summarized through their emotional trajectory and character relationships? Can a graphic representation of a book provide an at-a-glance impression and an invitation to explore the details?”

The project analyzes three books – The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. The interactive graphs created for each book allow you to explore the emotional trajectory of each character in depth: “Hovering over the sentence bars reveals the text of the original sentences. The emotional path of each character through the book can be traced by clicking on the character names in the graph. This highlights the corresponding sentences in the sentiment plot where that character appears. Click on the links below to see each visualization.”

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comma queen

We could all use a grammar refresher once in a while. (It can’t hurt, right?) Our own Lisa Jackson does a fabulous series called Grammar-ease, but if you’d like to supplement her posts with some video tutelage I recommend the Comma Queen Series by The New Yorker. If you’re, like me, a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma, you might like to start with the episode on The Importance of Serial Commas. Or, you can browse the whole collection of videos.

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin writers dont choose

Thanks, as always, for sharing part of your weekend with me and for giving me a space to share all my writerly geekiness. Have a GREAT week. Happy writing, happy reading, and happy exploring!
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Weekend Edition – Why Writing Matters (How to Justify Your Passion)

free diverSometimes, the gravity of real life threatens to pull me out of my creative orbit. The inescapable responsibility of being human weighs heavily – the “Real World” of work, relationships, and surviving on this fragile planet crushing in on me like pressure on an ascending deep sea diver. The closer I get to daylight, the further I am from the intimate, interior depths of my creative endeavors. That inner life disappears into the darkness below as I’m drawn toward the surface, my tenuous connection lost until I dive again.

Above the waves, my belief in the importance of the world below fades.  Submerged in the process, my work felt real and worthwhile. But, now, back in the real world where there is a mortgage to pay, a hot water heater to be fixed, and the intricacy of a sixth grader’s social life to untangle, my conviction wavers. Is writing really that important? Am I crazy to spend as much time as I do stitching sentences together, one word at a time? What good am I actually doing? Does any of this really matter?

··• )o( •··

The Real World is a big, noisy, chaotic place. It is full of life and adventure and the joy of discovery, but it is also full of responsibilities, demands, and a constant push to go faster and farther – to do more and be more. Most days, we are so busy that we don’t even have time to think about what we’re doing. Sometimes, that feels like a blessing. We keep moving to survive. Don’t question; just do. We’re like Lucy in the candy factory episode – a human cog in the machine, desperately trying to stay ahead of the conveyer belt as it spits out an unending stream of chocolate-covered tasks and obligations: get to work, feed the cat, take mom to the doctor, attend the PTA meeting, pay the bills, schedule the oil change, file the report, make the deadline, cook dinner, hit the gym, soothe the sick kid, apologize, mediate, walk the dog, balance the checkbook, and so on.

I’m not saying that there isn’t value (of course there is) and even joy (all the time!) in our day-to-day tasks and activities. Being active and productive, even in the most mundane of ways, can be very rewarding and is a necessary part of being a functioning member of human society. BUT, I have to believe that there’s more to life than just being a “functioning member of human society.”

··• )o( •··

Why is writing important? Writing is important because it plucks us off this hamster wheel we call life. It lifts us up, our legs kicking in the air at nothing, and makes us slow down so we can breathe and think clearly. It’s like a forced mental health break. Interestingly, reading offers a similar respite and safe haven, so whether you are creating a story or consuming one, you are giving yourself a chance to pull back the curtain and experience the “something more” we’re all searching for.

Writing Makes You Slow Down

In the world of incessant multi-tasking, time and attention are our most valuable assets. One of the things that makes “escaping into a good book” so appealing is the way reading  – when it’s done right – slams the brakes on everything else in our lives. Reading forces your monkey mind to sit in the corner. Silently. Sinking into a good story is like slipping through a secret door into another dimension where the chaos of life is tamed by neat and orderly rows of words and the simple act of turning pages. Sure, you might lose hours in this other world, but those hours are spent blissfully engrossed in a single task, and that’s good for you.

Writing is important because it demands focus. It requires that we temporarily shut out the Real World in order to build the world of our story. It makes us set all our other concerns aside and give ourselves wholly to the task at hand. When you are writing, it’s like downshifting to a lower gear that gives you better traction with your brain – no more skidding back and forth between rogue thoughts or going into tailspins that take you nowhere.

Writing creates a state of dynamic stillness in which you are centered and grounded, but active. It’s like the eye of the storm – a pocket of calm surrounded by wild winds. When you sit down with pen or keyboard, you give yourself the power to step out of the maelstrom and into a bubble of protected space where you can slow time down through the simple but magical act of putting down one word after another.

Writing Gives You Time Alone

“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” ~ Picasso

Though you may write in a busy cafe or even in the company of other writers, once you are fully engaged with the words, you are alone. Solitude is the sacred realm of both reader and writer. When you are reading or writing, you are free from the weight and influence of any other presence. You exist on your own, between worlds.

Writing is important because it enables you to temporarily extract yourself from your other lives. When you are writing, you are not the employee, the spouse, the parent, or the child. You are not the volunteer, the friend, the neighbor, or the caretaker. You are neither villain nor hero, neither victim nor savior. You are the writer. You are the story.

And in your solitude, you get to know yourself better and learn to enjoy your own company. Being comfortably alone is a dying art. In a world where technology keeps you constantly plugged in, connected, and on display, it’s hard to cultivate a sense of ease and wellbeing on your own. But this is a critical skill. If you don’t spend time alone, you might forget who you truly are. You might be fooled into believing that you are only what appears on the outside. You might become a mirror that only reflects back what other people expect to see.

Time alone reading or writing allows us to unplug from the rest of the world so we can reconnect with our true selves. It lets us relax into being who we really are – no facades or personas necessary. It lets us come home.

Writing Is Where You Think – Really Think

Writing slows the world down and invites us to come home to ourselves. Here, in the quiet solitude, we can finally hear our own thoughts – not the shallow, surface-dwelling ones that flash in the sun for all to see, but the more elusive and complex thoughts that illuminate our inner depths with a light all their own. Whether we’re reading or writing, story is the tool that lets us explore our thoughts. Story asks the hard questions. It provokes us. By inviting us to step outside ourselves, it opens up a door into who we really are. Story challenges our assumptions and beliefs. It plays with our senses, drawing us into alternate realities and then posing the question, “What would you do?”

Putting words down is taxing work that is not to be undertaken lightly. Writing makes us think hard about who we are, our place in the world, and what we care about most. At the least, writing requires us to bear witness. At most, it requires that we render a verdict. It demands that we refine our ideas – a painful process of exposure and selection. We have to choose what to say and what not to say. We draw a line in the sand with our words, and sometimes we dare the world to cross it.

Writing is important because it makes us do this work. It refuses to let us sleepwalk through our lives, muttering incoherently under our breath.

··• )o( •··

We may read and write in a space that is separate from the Real World, but the stories we consume and tell are the heart of the human experience. Reading and writing are how we process the world, how we explore, discover, define, and share what it is to be human. Stories give us the means to share our perspectives and ideas, our thoughts and dreams. They challenge us to think more thoroughly and deeply about our existence, beliefs, and purpose.

Writing is important. It isn’t more or less important than what we do in the “real” world. Living our lives and writing our lives are not mutually exclusive practices. In fact, for the writer, they are inextricably linked. So, when Real Life pulls me away from my writing and makes me question my path and purpose (not to mention my sanity), I try to remember that – for the writer – living is writing and writing is living. We live in the Real World just like everyone else, but we also dive beneath the surface to plumb the depths for the insights that help us better understand the world above the waves.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Friday Fun – Where do your stories start?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Some writers are inspired by character. Some fall in love with a particular setting. Others write stories based on a recurring theme or message. Still others have a soft spot for genre tropes. Where do your stories start? Does a character pop into your head and demand a story, or do you have a vision of an abandoned castle on the Scottish moors and need to set your story there? Are you struck by a passionate desire to tell a story about justice, loyalty, or courage; or do you just want to write something that lets you write an awesome confrontation or reveal scene? What gets your creative juices flowing first?

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: This is a tough one, because, most of the time the combination of elements tumbles into my mind at almost the same time. For instance, I was hiking in Acadia a couple of years ago and came up with the idea of writing a story set in this beautiful area of Maine, featuring an eccentric and slightly prickly bar owner whose establishment is threatened by a giant corporation, and dealing with the theme of right vs. might. I honestly can’t say which element came first.

Having (finally!) read Stephen King’s book On Writing, I think that my inspiration might come more often in the “situational” form he describes – the “what if?” scenario. In those cases, all the initial pieces of a story appear more or less simultaneously. Usually this happens while I’m half in a daydream or reading some random article or news story. My brain just connects the dots in an unexpected way, and I’m off and running.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson: Most of my stories start with at a specific moment in time – a snapshot. In fact, my favorite writing prompts are photographs, particularly b&w images. There is one very specific moment captured in a photograph and stories evolve from that. These generally lead to 3rd person or omniscient point of view stories.

Most times my stories come from snapshots in my mind, through dreams. Sometimes it’s me looking at the moment as an unbiased bystander, other times, it’s from the perspective of the main character – I’m looking out through their eyes at a moment in time. This leads, generally, to 1st person stories.

 

Before You Hit Send Comes to New Hampshire

Angela James, Editorial Director of Carina Press to Present her Popular Workshop in Nashua.

This May, the New Hampshire chapter of Romance Writers of America will present Before You Hit Send (BYHS). BYHS is a workshop on self editing created and presented by Angela James, Editorial Director at Carina Press.

Before You Hit Send Logo

Before You Hit Send Workshop Specifics

Make a weekend of it! Come Friday night for a casual get together with other attendees at the hotel bar. The workshop takes place all day Saturday, and Sunday morning there will be a room available for those who want to implement what they’ve learned or work on their manuscripts.  Please note this Sunday session is a self-paced causal event with no formal program. Ms. James will not be in attendance.

When: Saturday, May 21, 2016 9am to 4pm

Where: The Crowne Plaza Hotel 2 Somerset Parkway, Nashua 603-886-1200 (Mention NHRWA for a discounted rate on your room)

Cost: $90 if you register by February 29th Register today to avoid increases!

Who Should Attend Before You Hit Send?

  • Aspiring authors
  • Authors interested in polishing their craft
  • Self-publishing authors
  • Multi-published authors–you may be surprised by what there still is to learn!
  • Freelance editors and copy editors looking to enhance their curriculum vitae.
  • Anyone interested in learning to edit and copy edit.

This workshop is targeted to writers of all genres – mystery, horror, New Adult, fantasy, sci-fi and romance –all welcome!

What will be covered?

  • point of view
  • passive vs. active voice
  • show don’t tell
  • formalizing your manuscript

and much more!

To register please visit the New Hampshire Romance Writers website .

Originally, Ms. James was asked to develop a week long online workshop on self editing. Her first reaction was “What a great topic.” It wasn’t until she sat down to outline the course that she realized what an overwhelming topic it could be. Over the years the workshop has morphed and grown. Angela has been presenting it online and in person for more than eight years. BYHS is never the same workshop twice. She updates it prior to every presentation. Because publishing is constantly changing and writers need different information at different times in their writing journey, it’s not uncommon for people to take the class multiple times. Sometimes as many as four or five people are repeat attendees!

Peggy Jaeger,  author of the soon to be released 3 Wishes from The Wild Rose Press has taken BYHS online and is looking forward to taking it again in person in May.  “Angela James showed me exactly what a manuscript ready for professional submission should look like. And after taking her class, my manuscripts now look professionally polished and ready for a publisher’s eyes.”

Registration for the inaugural presentation of Before You Hit Send in New Hampshire is open now. Your registration fee includes workshop materials, Saturday lunch buffet and an afternoon snack. Registrations are processed on a first come, first served basis.

Before You Hit Send is a labor of love from someone who is an avid reader and quite simply loves books. “It’s not about the money. It’s more important to me to know that people are getting the information.”

About Angela James

Angela James holding an e book readerAngela James is the Editorial Director of Carina press, a digital-first fiction imprint of Harlequin (Harper Collins). She has edited books from bestselling authors including Shannon Stacey (a New Hampshire author), Jaci Burton, Lauren Dane and many others. Look for a more detailed profile of Ms. James in mid-March.

Carina Press publishes books in romance, fantasy, sci-fi, action adventure, mystery, crime and new adult.


Lee Laughlin is a writer, marketer, social media consumer and producer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She writes for the Concord Monitor and her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe. She is currently working on her first novel, a work of contemporary, romantic fiction. She is an NHRWA member and the opinions expressed here are hers and my not necessarily reflect those of her fellow NHWN blogmates.

The Passionate Writer–No Really!

I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling lately. I work in theater (I run a service organization for the New England theater community called StageSource), so I spend a lot of time in the theater, seeing different plays. Sometimes I see a play I know well, done differently. Most times I am told a familiar story, one that fits my familiar and comfortable narrative lens. Sometimes I have my mind blown. But it is all storytelling.

I am also working on Book #3 in my mystery series, wrapping up some narrative arcs that are threaded through the entire series while telling readers a new story with the same characters. I’m adding books to my TBR (To Be Read) pile at an alarming rate, grateful to be traveling a lot in the coming months so I can catch up on my reading.

I am also collecting stories for future use.

The other day I was grocery shopping. It was right before a “maybe you are going to get nailed with snow” forecast, so there was a lot of anxiety snow shopping. (Carbs, cheese, wine, chocolate for me.) I kept running into one couple. At first she was berating him because he didn’t answer her text within a half-hour. Next aisle he was questioning her food choices and cooking abilities. By the bakery aisle I was sure they were going to break up, or at least go to their separate homes to wait out the storm. By the time they were checking out, there seemed to be a detente. They left first, so I didn’t witness the next chapter.

I’ve been thinking about that couple a lot. I can tell their story from her point of view, from his point of view, from my point of view. Three different stories. I can also create different endings for the story, and have. In one, she poisons him. In another, he throws her phone out the car window on the way home. In another, they break up but can’t leave the apartment because of the storm. They even live happily ever after in one of the stories.

I think of people as a puzzle while I get to know them. The more I know, the more pieces I can fill in. With real people I care about, I can tell when there is a piece missing. I know it will be uncovered in time, and I let their story unfold. With people I don’t know, I just make it up. This is what writers do, we make up stories. For the grocery store couple, I decided she freaks out about him not responding to a text because her last boyfriend never broke up with her officially, he just stopped calling. He actually does think she’s a good cook. He can’t tell her he’d rather just get a prepared meal and sit on the couch because he’s tired because she’s fifteen years younger than he is, so he feels compelled to keep up with her. He also can’t tell her he turns off his text notifier during the day because he can’t see his phone without his glasses.

Storing stories also means that I keep the drama on the page. After a very contentious meeting a few years back, someone followed me back to my office and demanded to know how I kept my cool. I replied that I had been thinking about how to poison each and every person at the meeting, and showed her the diagram I’d worked out. (It involved tainted sugar cookies–very Agatha Christiesque.) Her reply? “You are a very scary woman.”

Perhaps. But it doesn’t mean I don’t feel. In fact, I feel a lot. I absorb stories, and storytelling. I channel the passion I feel into my own stories, even if they never make it on the page. Sometimes that makes me seem cold, or distant. I am trying to be better about reacting appropriately, rather impassively filing away details to be processed fully later. This is what makes me a writer–filing away stories for future use. That is where I put my passion, on the page.

How about you, dear readers? Do you make up stories about strangers? Follow people to hear their conversation? Pretend you are reading on the train when you are actually watching a story play out?

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Julie Hennrikus runs StageSource and teaches at Emerson College. Julianne Holmes writes the Clock Shop Mystery series. Just Killing Time was released last October.