Welcome to Joywriting! (New posts are below)

Jan at Puget SoundWhether you’re family, or a regular reader, or just stumbled on this blog while searching for a “paintball” or “termite” image, I’m glad you are here.

If you especially enjoy a post, you can “Share” it using the Facebook or Twitter button. To receive links to new posts, start at the “Want to ride along?” button at upper right.

Again, welcome, and I would love to hear from you either in a comment or via email (under the “Feedback Zone” tab at top).

Thanks for reading,

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Guest Post: Young Wisdom

It was an ordinary first day of a creative writing class at UT Arlington. The instructor had us take turns introducing ourselves, and I was about fifth or sixth. I’d gotten through my major, the town where I lived, number of years married, and mentioned my two sons–one in college and the other in high school. Before I could launch into my goals for the course or whatever else we were supposed to reveal, a voice from across the room said, “Wait… are you Eric Johnson’s mom?”

You could have knocked me over with a syllabus.

How fun to have a classmate who’d gone to school with my firstborn!

Hugh Pham’s words have continued to surprise and delight me ever since. He writes thoughtfully about his travel, ideas, changing priorities, military service, and his place in the world.

Recently he posted a greeting to his sister that could easily serve as a graduation speech. With permission from both of them, here is the bulk of his message… and a really cute photo…….

Happy 18th birthday to my amazing sister, Mel.

My dear Vietnamese-Australian-American/Texan sister, I’m going to give you advice about adulthood that I never got. As an adult, you are responsible for making your own decisions now. That’s a wonderful thing because I don’t mean it in a stern dad sort of way. It’s wonderful because you have choices and the ability to take ownership of your life and the person you want to be. So be a good person. At the end of each day you should reflect on your actions and ask if that’s what you are.

Society might make you think there’s some sort of way you should live or some kind of person you should be; don’t worry about that. You might also see tempting lifestyles you may want to live, but ask yourself if that’s going to keep you from being good to the people in your life. As adults, we become so ambitious and obsessed about success that it’s easy to become selfish and forget about others. You are so smart and capable that I have no doubt success is in your future, so please don’t let your achievements morph you into someone selfish and entitled. That’s a lesson from my own mistakes.

Also, life is going to hurt. So much. Our family has rough origins and of course you’ve experienced heartache as a teenager. There’s going to be more hurt. But no matter what, don’t let it make you callous and don’t shut your heart. Still be a good person. Kindness is unlike any currency in the world because although we may receive none, we can give unlimited amounts away.

See what I mean? You can read more of Hugh’s writing at his blogs, American Geek and The Adventures of Huckleberry Pham.

Hugh, my friend, thanks for letting me share.

And readers, thanks for reading!

PS: I’ll be back next week with a “Fiction Jail” update, then plan to resume my regular schedule in May.

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Guest Post: “How My Baby Survived My Miscarriage”

Today, I’m thankful to share a post written by my wonderful writing buddy, Kelsey Gillespy. (Isn’t she cute??) We’ve been meeting for more than a year, once a week… or whenever we can between doctor visits and vacations and potty training and family events and… did I mention that she has young children? She’s writing an intense dystopian series that you’ll want to read, while my characters are all goofballs. Still, we offer each other feedback and encouragement.

This post first appeared on Kelsey’s blog last August. It affected me deeply when I read it, and it seems the perfect thing to tell you during Easter Week. Please click here to read her wise and heartfelt words about her love for her third child….

You are also welcome to share, using the relevant “Share” button at the end of her post.

I’m still in “Fiction Jail,” but want to take time to wish you a happy and blessed Easter. Do celebrate Christ’s resurrection!

It changed everything.

Thanks for reading,

Posted in A Page From My Journal, Everybody Has a Story, Grief Anticipated | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fiction Jail”

Last time, I talked about the dogwoods inspiring my current fiction series. Well… I need to let you know that I’m going to spend April in jail.

But not that kind of jail.

No, really… that was research. A tour, not an incarceration. I’ll tell you about it later.

The truth is, the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) people have set aside April for an online “Camp NaNoWriMo,” and I’m going to take advantage of it. Book 1 of the series took me forever to draft. I’m almost halfway through Book 2. My goal is to draft all the remaining major scenes during “Camp.”

This will take plenty of pizza, coffee, and serious focus, so I won’t blog as much this month. Or play WordStreak (ouch! well, not as much as usual). I’ll be in a sort of “Fiction Jail.” A few friends have generously offered guest posts for you, though. And I’ll give you a report at the end. Meanwhile, I’ll come out of my office occasionally for a bike ride.

See you in May!

Thanks for reading…
and for hanging with me!


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Dogwood Fever

This weekend is right in the middle of Palestine, Texas’ Dogwood Festival, scheduled around the lovely little trees’ top blooming window. When I actually lived in Palestine as a kid, I didn’t especially appreciate the city. I just lived there, you know? But now, dogwoods have a way of drawing me back to my hometown, whether in imagination or in real life. In fact, the fiction series I’m currently writing? I set the stories in Palestine.

Two years ago, I drove to Palestine for a photo session with the estimable Stuart Whitaker. We found some dogwoods blooming within reach, and Stuart managed to get a couple of good pictures of me, a pretty impressive feat. See?

I drove by the house where my family lived, my old elementary schools, and the railroad office that was my dad’s headquarters for twenty or so years. And naturally, I had lunch at Little Mexico. So in some ways, spending half a day in town felt like home. Yet it was oddly different from being part of the community as a teenager.

For one thing, “high school peer pressure” is long gone. Actually, in a sense, it doesn’t even exist. I mean yes, there’s pressure to conform, which affects some students more than others. But in reality, there’s no such thing as everyone in high school being “peers” in the first place. Complex social strata exist. No one can explain them, but they effectively keep everyone in whatever group they belong to.

Now, I was introverted and not part of the “popular” groups. Don’t get me wrong–I never felt unpopular, either. No one ever bullied or ostracized me. I was simply a wallflower by nature, content to hang out with fellow introverts.

Now, thanks to Facebook, I’ve been reconnecting with a bunch of high school classmates. Meeting them now as adults, as true equals. Finding that we’ve all matured into competent grownups, and that I have much in common with many of them.

“You can’t go back again,” the saying goes. As near as I can figure, that should read…

“You can go back to where, but you can’t go back to when.”

And that’s often a very good thing.

I mean, who seriously wants to be a teenager again?

Thanks for reading,

Posted in I Remember When... (my OWN stories), Near As I Can Figure... | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Accidental Poet

One Saturday a month, I have the privilege of moderating a critique session with a small-but-tasteful group of writers. I don’t think any of us would object to being called “nerds.” We take our work seriously, and when we are writing, we always know it.

I mean, we never compose anything unintentionally.

Hardly ever.

At our March meeting, Krista presented four poems. Three were lovely, serious pieces and the third was just for fun. We talked about her clear grasp of meter and rhyme, nothing awkward or forced-sounding.

Isaac mentioned that writing poetry is hard. Some people think all they need is some words that rhyme.

Then he acknowledged that he had no room to complain about others’ poetry: “And meanwhile, I can’t even attempt it unless it would be haiku.”

His brother Daniel’s eyes narrowed. Lips moving, Daniel appeared to count on his fingers while we all stared. “I think–” he said at last, “–I think what you just said actually is a haiku.”

If you don’t recall Haiku, it doesn’t have to rhyme or have any particular beat pattern. It consists simply of three lines, each with a certain number of syllables:
5 syllables
7 syllables
5 syllables

General hubbub while we all tried to reconstruct what Isaac had said. Sure enough, it fit the pattern:

“And meanwhile, I can’t
even attempt it unless
it would be haiku.”

It’s as if Isaac had been playing tennis… and made a hole-in-one.

“I can’t believe you’re that good,” I told him.

Neither could he.

And it made the day for all of us.

Thanks for indulging me in this glimpse into the nerdly life,

Posted in Everybody Has a Story, The Poetic Side | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

People Who Make Me Laugh

Last time I showed you some things that tickle my funnybone, so to speak. But for delightful, amusing surprises, you can’t do better than people. They don’t have to be professional comedians, either! Here are a few of my favorites…

Drill sergeants with big pink bows on their heads.

“Drop and give me twenty, Mommy!”

Dogs that do impersonations of landscape boulders. Seriously, I looked out my office window one day and thought, “Hmmmm… I don’t remember having two boulders in that flower bed.” Then I realized the reddish one on the left was my snoozing dog.

Tiny construction workers wearing safety vests or goggles.








My husband, Brent. Sure, he acts all mature and responsible and mellow, but sometimes he pulls a one-liner that makes me laugh so hard my knees buckle. F’rinstance… the other night I overheard a commercial about some “Fast and Furious” auto dealer promotion…
Me: What, does Vin Diesel take you on the test-drive?
Brent: It’s more like a testosterone-drive.

I don’t know about you, but for me, laughter makes just about every experience better and more memorable.

Thanks for reading,

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Things That Make Me Laugh

If you know me, or read my blog, you know I tend to see the humorous side of life. In fact, to really get acquainted, don’t ask what makes me tick… ask what makes me laugh. Here’s a sample…..

This ice cream scoop, which I bought because I saw it in a store and it made me laugh, and who can’t use a second ice cream scoop? With (insincere) apologies to the amazing Blue Man Group, I call it “The Blue Man Scoop.”


Smart Cars. Honestly, doesn’t it look like its own glove compartment? They’ve been skittering around on the roads for years, but still… whenever I see one, I snort with laughter.
Every. Single. Time.


Outrageous flavors of Oreos. Really? What’s wrong with good ol’ chocolate?


Arguing with the Word Sheriff in the “Words With Friends” app. Here, you see the game discriminates against both Texans and Lord of the Rings nerds. The indignity!



Walking sticks, the weirdest little predators in the garden.


This “Republic of Anaerobia” cycling jersey. Like the Blue Man Scoop, I bought it solely because it makes me laugh. As near as I can tell, the Latin words mean “I came, I saw, I threw up.” Note the subtle use of red blood cells in the background.

Your turn: What makes you laugh? Please share in the comments below… I’d love to add to my collection!

Next time: People (and other characters) that make me laugh.

Thanks for reading,

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