No Extra Words

one person's search for story



National Poetry Month Wrap: why poetry matters

This month I asked our poet guests to share why poetry matters. Before we send Poetry Month 2017 into history, I want to share my own thoughts with you.

Facebook does this sometimes wonderful and sometimes terrible thing where it will show you what was happening in your life on this date in history. Throughout April, in and amongst the talk of baseball and reminders of the toddler when he was a baby, Facebook has been reminding me of past Poetry Month highlights. The 7th grader who wrote an acrostic about a murder investigation spelling out “Who Was It?” The 2nd grader who wrote the 2-line poem called “Failure to Write a Poem.” The kid who wrote hers in yogurt on the playground (she was supposed to be in trouble for leaving trash on the playground and attracting critters. I snapped a picture.)

I have always been an evangelist of poetry, maybe because I don’t trust my own skills at writing it. As a young librarian I would bring poetry into April storytimes, wrapped poetry books up like gifts to make people curious enough to check them out and once bought a bunch of bulk coffee candy and attached it to 3×5 cards with words like “Wonder” “Rage” “Curiosity” and “Bravery” written on them to get people to attend a poetry coffeehouse. (Thirteen people showed up and read some pretty good poems.)

When I became a school librarian, poetry became part of my mission. Every April I would hijack the library curriculum and do poetry with a bunch of K-8 students. We wrote concrete poems. We wrote poems using Google, a Kris invention that I swear I’m going to make a book out of someday. I read the poetry of Gertrude Stein to third graders and discussed Pablo Neruda’s book of questions with fifth graders. I stapled poems all over school and gave awards to students who arrived with poems for Poem in Your Pocket Day. We explored the found poetry of Phil Rizzuto and Donald Rumsfeld.

What I wanted the kids to know is that poetry is alive. It isn’t always funny (our instinct is to share funny kids’ poems with kids, and while the work of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky is great it subtly tells kids that all poetry rhymes and is funny.) It doesn’t even have to make sense, but what it asks you to do is to feel something, to think about something. When a third grader tells me that after awhile he stops being mad that Gertrude Stein’s poems don’t make sense and just listens to how the words sound, he gets it. What he is learning is that words matter, that words can be something, that they have power.

Both of our poets on the show this month have had a message for us: now is the time. If there was ever a time to speak, now is it. If there was ever a time for art, now is the moment. As a teacher I know that you have to convey information in different ways because not everyone will see or understand it in the same form. That isn’t just true in the classroom. Poetry asks us to take things in in a different way, attacks our senses in a different way. Poetry is worth advocating in a world where, in the words of George Carline, “More people write it than read it.” We could all afford to read a little more of it.

So I’m saying goodbye to Poetry Month 2017, but I’m not done pushing for people to write and read and think just a little more. That fight has only just begun.

May a poem impact you today,



Special Episode #9: Just Enough to Make a Podcast

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Our special guest for today explains our unexpected three week hiatus. We appreciate all our listeners and followers and are glad to be back.

As we look to the future of the No Extra Words Podcast, we want to hear what you think. What segments would you like to see? What is missing from our show? Contact us at or find all our social media on our website

For today’s short story, I share the folk tale “The Tailor” or “Just Enough,” a Jewish folk tale of Russian origin. The version I share is my own adaptation of the story.

We will see you January 20, if not sooner, with a brand-new episode.

A Note to Contributors and Those Waiting to Hear About Submissions:

We will be in touch with you this week once we complete our revised publishing calendar. We apologize for the delay getting in touch with you.

Happy New Year!


That Particular Sort of Conceit

What is it about us as writers that makes us not only want to record our stories, but want people to read them, share them, and tell us how much they loved them?

It’s a kind of conceit, when you think about it. What is it about my writing that makes me feel it is worth another’s time to read?

I don’t think everyone has this. I know lots of people who keep diaries they never share or fill sketchbooks not even their spouses get to look at. What is it that separates them from those of us who strive for publication, readership, and following?

It takes a certain amount of stubbornness. You have to believe that your story is deserving of someone else’s attention, is somehow better than average. You have to have confidence in your ability. And a thick skin.

I got some criticism of my work this week. No big deal, it happens, and as criticism goes it was so mild it isn’t even worth my time and energy. It wasn’t mean, and it really doesn’t matter. It comes with putting yourself out there, and one of the big reasons I launched No Extra Words in the first place is because it forced me to be out there, forced me to put my work into the world and not hide my light, so to speak.

It did give me pause, though. It did make me stop and think,  why me? Why do I think I have the talent to put work into the world? Why not leave content creation to others, those who are better at it than me, those with more experience, better production abilities, stronger plot lines, and so on?

The answer is because I must. Because the particular conceit of the writer forces me to keep banging my head against the wall, keep trying. Bruised ego? Sure, but it can’t stop me. Because somehow there is something in me that tells me the world needs my voice in it.

Where will that stubbornness take you today?

Happy writing,


The Writing Gig I Almost Had (and why you should say yes to things)

Last month I was invited to write about podcasts. For a website that you’ve heard of. I won’t say who because it didn’t work out. No hard feelings, these things happen. But the important part of this story is I was offered the chance to do this. And it was a paying gig. The emerging writer’s unicorn.

Like a lot of opportunities, it came along disguised as a coincidence (my mom didn’t believe in coincidences, so every single time one comes along I think of her.) I happened to meet this person through some online networking, she happened to mention that the company she worked for was looking for a writer. By coincidence.

She was looking for a writer to write about podcasts. Awesome. She wanted someone who could create regular content and regularly listen to podcasts. No problem. Sounds just like me. They were focusing on podcasts for millennial women entrepreneurs. Um. Wait. What?

I’m not really a millennial. Depending on which demographics you read, millennials were born somewhere around 1980 to 2000. The years vary slightly, so sometimes I get included but at the age of…let’s just say I’m closer to 40 than 30…I’m not really who people who use the word “millennial” are talking about. I am also not an entrepreneur, although as you’re going to see I learned a few things about myself in this process. Long story short: I was so not the target audience for this. And while I knew I could get the podcasting part right, I was not at all sure about the millennial women entrepreneurs part. My instinct was to say no.

But they were offering me money to write! A paying gig with a website you and people I know have heard of! It was not in my writer DNA to turn it down. So I faked it. I said, well, I’m not a millennial but this sounds like a fascinating project and agreed to write a couple of sample pieces. I downloaded a bunch of podcasts aimed at millennial women entrepreneurs and pretended I knew what I was doing.

And you know what? It was awesome. The shows were fun. One of the first episodes I listened to was about becoming a freelance writer. Cue ta-da! noise here. Of course writing is a business, although we creative types don’t usually think that way. I found a couple of podcasts I plan on listening to again and a couple that I will definitely recommend to others. A few weren’t my thing. It happens. I was able to tie it all together and create some work I was proud of.

I made a conscious decision to sound like myself. I had been told I was chosen to try this out because they liked my writing as seen on this blog, and my writing as seen on this blog is not formal. I got the sense from them that they didn’t know exactly what they wanted, so I decided to make it personal because I felt that connection with readers is what they were looking for. I may have been wrong. I have no way of knowing. I was told I was a very talented writer and they had decided to go a different way.

Any regrets? Not a one! I am so glad I didn’t say no right way when I found out the topic. I learned about new things, practiced new writing skills, and emerged with different experiences. Is my ego bruised they didn’t want me in the end? Maybe a little but it won’t crush me. If getting rejected by one publication was enough to crush me, I am in the wrong business. Their rejection was very kind. I try not to read too much into it. I’m reading through a pile of submissions tonight and I’ll be sending some rejections myself. Probably to some talented writers when I decide to go a different way. I write that letter all the time. (No, I don’t. I have a template.)

Where does my fledgling career a a freelance writer go from here? I’m not sure, to be honest. But I know I will have my eye out for coincidences.

Happy writing,



Finding Your Voice (aka Twitter giveth and Twitter taketh away)

I like to retweet things about writing that speak to me…I actually find Twitter inspiring when it isn’t a giant billboard or time suck. This week I stumbled across a tweet that made me think:

Try to know your target person when writing and who you are writing for. Even if that’s you. =) …Your Writing Vision

I won’t state the author of this tweet only because I think I may have offended her/him in the conversation that followed, which was never my intention, so out of respect I will keep that person’s Twitter handle out of this conversation. But when I retweeted it, I expressed some discomfort with this advice. I don’t disagree entirely…certainly as writers we must serve our readers…but my key question was, doesn’t story come first? How can I know who I am writing for until I write my story and figure out what story I am telling?

It’s a big question and, as at least one person pointed out, well beyond the scope of Twitter’s 140 character limit. In my conversation with the original poster, her/his comment was that you can’t, for example, write an erotic thriller and then market it to middle grade. Which, again, is totally and completely valid. But that’s not a writing problem. That’s a marketing problem. Marketing isn’t writing.

I’ll say that again: Marketing isn’t writing.

One of my favorite authors, Kirby Larson, has said that when she sat down to write her Newbery Honor Book Hattie Big Sky, she thought she was writing a children’s book. For many reasons, including the age of her main character, the publisher decided to market it as a young adult book, and her audience has been wide. I’ve had adult book groups love that book. I’ve met fourth grade girls who love that book. I’ve met 16 year old girls who love that book. Kirby served her audience…her entire audience…by writing a damn good book.

None of this means you can’t be an author who writes young adult (YA) or children’s or any other category of book. But it’s important to keep in mind that story comes first.

Why does story come first? Because we respect our audience. Whether they are nine years old, or fourteen, or twenty-six, or seventy, our readers deserve the best we have. We don’t talk down to them. We don’t pander to them. We don’t want to write what’s been written before. The reason YA is a category and not a genre or style of writing is that young adults, like everyone, deserve ALL of the best stories we can tell: literary, dark, romantic, funny, whatever your story may be. Need to trim explicit content to market it to a certain group? That’s what second drafts are for. You can write a story or you can market it. When you do both at the same time, you run the risk of becoming just like everyone else. You want to read a story created by a marketing survey? Yeah, me neither.

It’s entirely possible I’m wrong here. I’m one person, and I can take it if you disagree profoundly with me. On anything. Just please don’t tell me YA is a style of writing. Because I was a teen librarian for six years and one thing that I expect is respect for YA readers. And writers who consider writing “to” them rather than writing an excellent story “for” them don’t respect them.

So I made the mistake of arguing with a stranger on social media. Which went about as well as that usually does. But then, just when I was regretting that life choice, Twitter was nice enough to float this quote my way:

“To gain your own voice you have to forget about having it heard.”

-Allen Ginsberg

And that’s really what this all boils down to, isn’t it? We writers-in-training (if you’re not still in training please tell me what that feels like because I’m dying to know,) we are trying to find our voice. And we can’t…we just cannot sculpt it into the kind of voice that “gets heard” without losing what makes it real, and unique.

Go write your story. The best one you have. Let the microphones, the megaphones, and the readers find you. Or you can be like everyone else, I guess. But where’s the fun in that?

Happy writing,



Meet Episode 34 Contributor Sherry Sellars

I completely love Sherry’s bio…we have very similar backgrounds and like her I’ve been writing all the way through it but finally at this season of life am really trying to propel my writing forward. Very excited to feature her on the show.

Sherry Sellars has worked in education for over twenty years. She’s worked as a classroom teacher, pre-k teacher, environmental education and currently happy as a clam driving the bookmobile for her local library. She’s been writing the whole time but has only currently gained the self-confidence and growing awareness of her 50th birthday (three years away) to go full throttle with her writing. She has been published in Tahoe Blues, The Kokanee and the Todd Point Review.

Happy listening,


Meet Episode 13 Contributor Jeremy Schnee

Jeremy wins the bravery award for being our FIRST contributor to read his story himself for broadcast and he’s been very patient with that process. Episode 13 featuring Jeremy’s story arrives Wednesday.

Jeremy Schnee received his MFA from Colorado State University. His fiction has recently been published in New Plains Review, Dark Corners, and Exit 7. His nonfiction is forthcoming in The Goldman Review. He has recently completed his first novel. Check out to read articles on writing, and to get more information about his upcoming publications.

Happy listening,


I’m Guest Posting This Week

…come check it out!  Thank you to Armand for the opportunity.  If you’re visiting from his blog, welcome to No Extra Words.  Be sure to check out the links to get the podcast and submit your story.

Armand is a big believer in writers supporting writers and I agree.  If you are a writer who wants to discuss guest blogging or post exchange, please contact me and let’s talk!

Happy reading,


You Never Know Where it Will Take You: Why I do Camp NaNoWriMo

I’ve heard from people much cooler than I am that NaNoWriMo (that’s National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated) has become something of a cliche among “real” writers (whoever they are.)

30 days, 50,000 words, rough drafts, crazy writing, hanging out in cafes talking about the books you dream of publishing…to some that seems a little narcissistic.  Does the world really need that many would-be novelists?

Well, I have two responses to that.  First of all, I can think of dozens of novels that changed my life and I’m glad every one of those writers was self-centered enough to write them.  And secondly, I’m a NaNoWriMo believer.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMos off and on since 2009.  Most of the time I’ve won, in 2014 as a new mom I lost epically, and most of what I wrote was pretty bad.  But then again, most of what all writers write is pretty bad.  There’s this thing called practice that has to be done to get better, and when you do get better there’s this thing called editing.

This year, I discovered that NaNoWriMo also has a Camp version.  Well, anyone who has followed this blog at all probably knows how much I like anything called camp, so after struggling to fit writing into my life as a new mom, I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo in April.  I had no idea where it would take me.

I didn’t know when I started that what I would end up doing is writing a lot of flash fiction.  Or that I would love it.

I didn’t know that I would find a wonderful, supportive community of writers who inspired me to go beyond just writing into sharing and editing, and all those next steps.  Camp NaNoWriMo is so much like camp that it has cabins.  They’re awesome.  Shout out to mine, Inspirationville, you rock!

I didn’t know that just a month after finishing camp I would launch a flash fiction podcast.  I didn’t know that now, halfway through just my second camp I would be a podcast editor reading short story submissions from writers all over the world so I can bring their writing to you.

Here’s the thing about trying things: you don’t know where they will take you.  You won’t know until you go there.

So what’s the challenge you’ve been shying away from.  Writing every day?  Taking on that big project?  Writing a novel?  Selling one?

Do you have a dream of where you will be as a writer?  I did, and this isn’t it.  This is something different, something awesome, something that I got to by tackling one adventure at a time.

Camp is halfway over, but there’s still room there for you.  And if that’s not the challenge you need to take on, there’s something out there that is.  You don’t know where it will take you, but it just might be someplace fabulous.

Have a great trip!


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