Want a free ebook?
Follow Linda Visit Linda's Goodreads Page
Follow Linda Visit Linda on FacebookVisit Linda's Goodreads Page

Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

Starting Over – Fingers on the Keyboard

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU’RE A WRITER?hands on keyboard

I personally know or have chatted at conferences with several hundred authors during the last twenty years, long before my first novel was ever published. Among those many writers, only a small percentage—a tiny percentage—spent their childhood dreaming of a career in writing. And yet, we writers of genre and literary fiction, while not as numerous as the stars in the heavens, check in at quite a hefty number. Some would say there are too many of us! So how did membership in this club grow when almost no one seemed to yearn for admittance?  When did the itch to become a professional writer reveal itself? Each personal story is unique to be sure, but I believe there are some common threads:

You know you’re a writer…if your town library was important to you from the get-go. As an eight or nine year old girl, I remember visiting the public library every single week.  I was gloriously happy strolling down the aisles, checking the shelf space of my favorite authors, excited to find either a file8411260069817brand new book or one new to me. I also remember feeling sorry for these authors, however, and glad not to be one of them. Why would I want to spend my time all alone in a room writing books? I’d have to give up playing with my friends, give up watching television. That life wasn’t for me! Poor writers. So lonely. It must have been a terrible life, but I was glad they’d chosen it because I loved to read.

Hear that? Writers love to read. We started out that way, maybe from birth. Every one of us with no exceptions. During my conversations with other authors, someone usually brought up her trips to the library as a kid. At that moment, every face would light up, every expression one of remembrance. When we were children, visiting the library or the bookmobile was the common denominator. In my case, the dentist’s waiting room was a hot spot for magazines. That’s where I discovered Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal. I was twelve by then, reading everything and anything.

You know you’re a writer…when your high school English teacher hangs your essays on the classroom bulletin board. No fuss about it though. She simply returns the essays of other students to them while you sit empty-handed. Until you realize your epic poem about Odysseus and his band of men/Who thought they’d never see home again or the comical piece, A Musical Instrument? which depicts your adventures playing the taller-than-you, low toned bassoon with the school orchestra, are decorating the walls of the room. Oh, there they are. She hung them up. But did I get an A?    150px-Bassoon2_(PSF)

You know you’re a writer…when in college, you’d rather handle a term paper than take an exam. You enjoy exploring plays and investigating a “comedy of manners.” You love reading the romantic poets—Keats, Byron, Wordsworth’s Lucy poems. On the other hand, you also remember dark powerful lines: That’s my last duchess painted on the wall/Looking as though she were alive…Robert Browning.  As soon as I read that, I got shivers. I still get shivers. Most of my friends moaned and groaned, but I liked this stuff.

You know you’re a writer…when as a young adult, you start making up poems for your own amusement.  About your kids. About life. About nature. Some funny. Some serious. And you send a few verses to Hallmark Cards, not realizing they employ their own staff of writers. You know nothing about the business of writing because to you, writing is fun! Just like I did, you reach for your thick pad and a pen every night after the kids are in bed. Creative writing is becoming a hobby we really file761243267126and truly like.

You know you’re a writer…when you try your hand at family stories. Three or four page personal essays. About what makes a “real” grandma. About meeting your husband. About your parents’ wedding. Whoa! Your parent’s wedding? You weren’t even there, but you asked a lot of questions and filled in the blanks. A story emerged called A Fine Romance. Everyone loved it. More important, however, you realize you loved writing it.

You  know you’re a writer…when you voluntarily enroll in creative writing courses. You even shell out some cash for them!  The writing bug is biting and won’t let you go. Your family stories evolve into short fiction pieces. You start learning about the craft—the structure and elements of fiction. You begin to realize how character, plot and setting are put together to create a whole work.  Little by little, you learn to braid these threads yourself, and the craft begins to make sense.

You know you’re a writer…when you grab every drop of courage you possess, put your best short story in an envelope and enter it into a national contest. Just to test the water. Just to see if you’ve “got it.” Or not. Or not yet.  

When the results come in, and you’ve placed in the top ten out of almost 2000 entries, you cry. Maybe, just maybe you start to believe…

You know you’re a writer… when you realize that The Wizard of Oz is a masterpiece. Baum had it right: Goal, Motivation and Conflict. It’s all there—the foundation of fiction which has endured to this day. Aristotle explained it as the hero’s journey. Lucas illustrated it in Star Wars. Want something more sophisticated? Think about The Shawshank Redemption. Journeys well traveled; endings well deserved.  Or sometimes not, but that’s not my way.

The original cover, circa 1900.

The original cover, circa 1900.

The promise of these well crafted elements is why the words, “Once upon a time…” brings everyone to the campfire. The request to “Tell me a story…” echoes through every generation of children. Our kids become the heroes; they live the adventure–within the safety of a book.

You know you’re a writer…when you look into those children’s faces and reply, “Of course, I’ll tell you a story. I’ve got lots of stories tucked away.” When the time comes, you sink into your chair, all alone in your office, and close the door. You noodle around with a few ideas. Your fingers start itching. They begin tapping the keyboard and a book emerges. Down the road, another one comes to fruition. You’re not a one-book wonder, and the relief is grand.

Whether your story is aimed at children or adults doesn’t matter. The genre doesn’t matter either. But good stories do. Good stories matter!  When you believe they matter as much as I do, then you’ll know you’re a writer.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope both authors and readers took away a little insight about one writer’s development which is not too unusual among others in the field. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.



LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two books below, written by the award winning authors of On Fire Fiction plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Remember, some of these are hot, hot, hot while others…not so much.  Your choice!

Brashear, Texas RootsDire Distraction_lo resbook cover MA25EC~1Release-MeNewJpgARe DEBRA SALONEN BANG 2

Starting Over ~ Family Stories


“A picture is worth a thousand words.”  We’ve all heard that phrase so often, we take it as fact. But I say that without words, a picture can be lost forever in the mists of time. I’m talking here specifically about your family pictures.

I’m not the only one who’s recognized this truth. Legions of us have gazed at snapshots, either in an album or thrown into boxes and didn’t know who we were looking at. But it was an uncle. Or great-grandfather. Or your mom’s first cousin whom she remembers very well and with affection.. Sadly, you don’t know this lovely lady at all. And what about all those photos of the guys coming home from WWII? Now, WE will recognize our dads, but will our grandchildren know who these heroes are? And what they looked like?

I don’t know whether this idea of anonymous family members gathered in the ether as some ideas seem to, but suddenly a few years ago, creating scrapbooks become part of our popular culture. Everyone was doing it. The craft stores couldn’t keep enough stock on the shelves. And boy, were the choices pretty. Colorful, patterned, with space for pictures and WORDS.

Fast forward a few years to our digital world where, with the help of cell phones, everyone has become a photographer. They’ve discovered their inner shutter-bug. They’re so happy creating file000741571851 digital albums and preserving memories. I sincerely hope, however, they’re adding descriptions to each photo they take and save. Or one day, these current memories will also be forgotten in the mists of time.

In my world, the story comes first. Then I add a picture. Or a recipe. Or an item of remembrance. Before I became a published author, I wrote a series of stories about my family.Each one was a snapshot of family member, or an event, or a place. Most were combinations of the three. A couple of weeks ago, I shared the story of Real Grandmas with you. I’m hoping some of you will be inspired enough to try writing some family stories of your own. Don’t panic! I’m going to help. For right now though, and for illustration, here are some of the other titles and first lines from my binder, so you can understand what I mean by simple family stories:

Oh, You Kid!   My Uncle Sid was the Pied Piper in our family.

The Cop, The Commissioner and the Half-a-Doctor  (referring to my mom & her two sisters)

A Fine Romance – In a street length aquamarine dress and white netting in her hair, the bride file7371279077008nervously waited for the signal to walk down the hall to the large front room of the parlor floor where her wedding would be held. The year was 1945. (This is the story of my parents’ wedding. And, no, I wasn’t there!)

Visiting Murray – My cousin, Murray, viewed his profession as one-half art and one-half science flavored with a pinch of comedy. And that was why he was the best dentist in all of Brooklyn…

The stories continue for up to four pages at  most. They capture one idea, one event. You can do this!!  Members of my family who read these stories long after I’m gone will build a connection to their roots. They’ll have some answers to the age old question of “Where did I come from?”  Which I think really means, “Who am I? and Where do I fit in?”

No matter how many books I wrote, books that appeared on store shelves and in book clubs, my mom always insisted that my best book was the one of family stories. What do you think?

Next Tuesday, I’ll continue this thread of writing family stories and give you concrete ways to start out. And then we’ll decide whether to continue.  So, post comments!  Let me know if this idea appeals to you.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.




LEAVE A COMMENT AND YOUR NAME WILL BE ENTERED INTO MY JULY CONTEST. Prizes are a choice of two of the books below, written by the award-winning authors of On Fire Fiction plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN. Remember, some of these are hot, hot, Brashear, Texas RootsDire Distraction_lo resRelease-MeNewJpgbook coverhot, while others…not so much. Your choice!




Starting Over ~ Fingers on the Keyboard


Oh my, oh my. Look what happened when we were looking somewhere else. When we were focusing on stories and blogs and books. When we sat at a desk in an office building or home office. As we earned our living, we didn’t notice the tiny insignificant half-pound that found a home with us. With us? Hell, it found a home ON us…every year for quite a while. When did Size 10 get to be Size 12?  Could our clothes have shrunk THAT much in the dryer?

Many of us, especially the ones who spent our working lives behind a desk, are not alone in this less than joyful discovery. I’m sorry to say that we might have an affliction called T.M.T. which stands for Too. Much. Tush..That’s right. We have too much tush and not enough svelte.

Yes, I know we “clean up” well. We look darn good right after the hair dresser gets finished with us. Not to mention the great mani-pedi with the endless choice of reds, pinks, blues and greens for our fingers and toes. I even saw yellow on the rack, but I noticed no one chose it. We can feel like a million bucks after all that. But my friends, that’s because we’re focusing on the positive and ignoring the negative when, in this case, we should be doing both. Too. Much. Tush. is not a good thing for either our self-image or our health.

My friend and award winning author, Barbara Keiler, loves to run. She runs miles every morning

Barbara Keiler, my friend who runs and writes.

Barbara Keiler, my friend who runs and writes.

. Every. Single. Day. She lives in New England with many months of lousy weather, but she simply dresses appropriately and sets out–often with camera in hand. I know Barbara for many years and she’s been running for as long as I know her. She is petite in every way but one: her mind is super-sized. She doesn’t worry about T.M.T.


Preventing T.M.T. is why Debra Salonen, another award winning writer friend, (also an On Fire Fiction author) hikes for miles in her California mountains. I never know exactly where she is, but she always posts pictures of herself and family on these jaunts. In addition, she practices Yoga. I don’t know what kind, but she’s loyal to it. She changed her food choices a couple of years ago and lost fifteen pounds. The weight’s remained off. She looks and feels terrific. More important, she is healthy.

Deb Salonen Yoga, anyone?

Deb Salonen
Yoga, anyone?


deb doing yoga




I suppose when you’re a full-time writer, you might notice the sedentary nature of your job more quickly than, say, a teacher who’s up from her desk and walking a lot during the day. Or a waitress, who’s always on the go.  Of course, with that reasoning, all teachers and all waitresses should be thin. Are they?

Before I became a full-time writer, I managed an adult education program and taught classes there as well. I was always on the go, interacting with students, teaching a half-dozen subjects including role playing job interviews, or I was running from one classroom to another, checking in with the staff. I loved that job. Loved the activity and quiet time mix, and loved the students’ successes. So being a writer and sitting behind the computer all day made me antsy. Even talking with all the characters in my head couldn’t change the reality of sitting in  the chair.

I joined a gym. An air-conditioned gym. Okay, confession time. I am a princess who likes to be active but doesn’t like to sweat. Yeah, I know. I’m weird and you can laugh. But sweating makes me itch. So the a/c is a must. For years, I took low-impact aerobics classes three times a week. When we moved to Houston, the classes were not convenient, but I began using the resistance machines. Mike and I also walked two miles every night until it became too hot, and my hands swelled. Houston=hot and humid, and I’m a princess. It was then I discovered the treadmill. Inside the air-conditioned gym.

I want to remain as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Living a sedentary life will prevent me from achieving that goal. I don’t claim to be a doctor, but I read. I listen. I watch. I’ve had health issues in the past, a practice run on how it feels to be incapacitated. To have no strength. To be dependent on others. I didn’t like it. I wanted my vitality back. I wanted my health back. I’d rather take care of myself.  Call me Princess Leia.  Princess Leia


There’s a gym in the day camp where I live now in Florida. It has several treadmills and I’m on one of them almost every day. Using a treadmill is boring. But there’s a television on the wall right in front of them with closed captions. I haven’t stopped running since I got here. No sweat.