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How to Craft Anti-Heroes, Villains, and Other Bad Guys and Girls

Whether you’re viewing summer blockbusters, devouring books on the beach, or watching political conventions on TV, you probably have bad guys and girls on your mind. Alongside author Christine Z. Mason, I’ll be presenting a writing workshop on how to craft compelling literary scoundrels at  the Pacific Northwest Writers Association annual conference (Thursday, July 28, 2016). Whether or not you can attend the workshop, feel free to check out our handout here.

 

Summer of Love ’16 Challenge

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It’s July 2016, and summer is in full swing. Children are giggling as they splash into the lake. Dogs are snoozing in the shade. Lawn mowers are mowing, grills are grilling. And firework stands are popping up everywhere. It feels like the true season for celebration.

And yet, and yet.

Amidst all the seasonal joy, we continue to be inundated with news of bad attitudes and bad actions from the opposite side of the globe and right in our back yards. Brock Turner. Alligators, gorillas, and babies. Brexit, Istanbul. And the presidential election circus, which is highlighting grave flaws about the candidates while also bringing out the worst from some of our own fellow citizens. Most of the time I feel like there’s nothing I can do to stop the world from spinning completely out of control. I worry about it not so much for myself as for my children.

I just finished reviewing a manuscript of a new author friend and was reminded of the Summer of Love, way back in ’67, the same year the Beatles recorded their hit song All You Need is Love. Sadly, the last five decades have shown that we may have needed more than love after all. Or maybe we’ve just needed a lot more of it. Religious writer and activist Paul Raushenbush recently wrote that “we have a love crisis in our country.” Sounds about right to me.

The thing is, love is like magic.

We don’t exactly understand it, but it has tremendous power. It can shape our world. In fact, the queen of magic J. K Rowling says, “love is the most powerful thing of all.”

I’ve started to imagine what would happen if love became a temporary epidemic. I’ve wondered what would happen if we all focused on loving, rather than criticizing or hating or hurting or oppressing or killing, for just one month. That’s all, just 31 days. Given that it theoretically takes only 21 days to form a new habit, the impact could be profound.

Imagine the possibilities. If 100 of my readers took this challenge and spent this month working their love better, and if each passed it along to 100 of their friends, we’d already have 10,000 people adjusting their habits. If they each passed it along to 100 of their friends, we’d have a million people focusing more on love in the next month. And so on.

You might think it sounds corny. But why not? We’ve had the ice bucket challenge. The happy mother challenge. The Cheerio challenge. We may not all be parents or want to have a bucket of ice poured over us. But we all have the capacity to love. Thich Nyat Hanh said love “is as natural as air…We all have the seeds of love in us.” And Desmond Tutu said, “at the center of [everyone’s] existence is a heart beating with love.”

There are sooooo many ways to love.

(News flash: it’s not all about sex or even romance.) We can love one another better simply by focusing on the You when we say, “I Love You.” Or we can:

Listen intently
Seek to understand
Share a gaze
Hold someone’s problem–just hold it–as if it were our own
Offer a gentle touch on the elbow or forearm, or a full-on grizzly bear hug
Give space and solitude
Help with chores
Say thank you
and…
Withhold judgment

Easy peasy, right?

No. As John Steinbeck wrote, true love “is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable.” That outpouring can be draining.

And we’re still human, even when we love. Those so-called negative emotions–sadness, anger, resentment–still crop up from time to time. When that happens, we can find other, more constructive ways to express them. We can write them out in a journal. Or we can run them off on a treadmill. Or we can have respectful, cooperative, love-based conversations with the people who upset us, which means being willing to listen to the other side as well as saying what we need to say. (If you’re looking for a cool book on how to have difficult conversations, check out Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen.)

Love takes work and practice.

Which is why we can, and should, work on love all month until it becomes even more a part of our natural way of being. Until we begin to change the world. And, as Maya Angelou said, “love liberates,” so is there any reason not to take the challenge?

So share this with your friends, and spread the word, and practice how many ways you can show love this month. We can do this if we work together.

 

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Women on the Brink: Stories

Have you ever run away? Or have you ever thought about it? This October, you’ll be able to run away vicariously through G. Elizabeth Kretchmer’s new short story collection, in which protagonists aged 13 to 90 find a chance to start over. BRINK-Cover-Final-72dpiAn at-risk teen runs away from her drug-addicted mother. An Alaskan bush pilot feels smothered by motherhood. A former zookeeper escapes from her abusive husband. An affluent woman tires of her perfect, boring, life. An elderly woman announces her plans to check out for good. At times heartwarming and at other times heart wrenching, these stories cross generational, demographic, and socioeconomic lines as they address such present-day issues as sex trafficking, domestic violence, and aging parents and, in so doing, they demonstrate not only that women of all backgrounds must find balance between cowardice and courage but that the decision to run away is sometimes the most difficult, but wisest, choice of all.

Order:

from your favorite independent bookstore
from Amazon (print and Kindle versions)
from Nook
from iTunes

The second edition of The Damnable Legacy is now available!

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The newest edition, published by Booktrope, has a shortened title: The Damnable Legacy. The cover also got a makeover!

A mid-life mountaineer regrets the decision she made thirty years ago to place her daughter for adoption. The biological granddaughter she’s never known desperately searches for a safe and loving home. And a minister’s wife with terminal cancer  designs a plan to bring them together. Set largely against Alaska’s unforgiving landscape and narrated from beyond the grave, G. Elizabeth Kretchmer’s debut novel is about love and survival, exploring the importance of attachment, place, and faith and asking the question of how far we should go to achieve our goals and at what cost.

Order:

 

“THE DAMNABLE LEGACY  is equal parts nail-biting adventure, love story, and family drama, and an entirely engaging read.” ~IndieReader.

 

 

Are Narcissists Bad?

I’m getting ready for a conference this week hosted by the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, where I’ll be co-presenting a workshop called “How to Craft Anti-Heroes, Villains, and Scoundrels” with author Christine Z. Mason. In the course of my preparation, I’ve been looking at personality traits and behaviors of bad guys and girls. One of the… Continue Reading