Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Oh, No. Not about them* RULES, Again


*Yup, I know the extra ‘m’ is not grammatical. I’m making a point


Some months ago in a writerly Facebook group, someone lamented at her discovery while editing her own work. “Turns out,” she wrote, “I’m a fan of passive writing and telling not showing.” 😰

While I’m paraphrasing and also omitting some of her original pulling-one’s-own-hair in-shame post, I will quote my response post in full because I don’t need my own permission to quote me:


“Passive construction and telling have their place. Just make sure they don't sit and stay where they are not serving their purpose. Passive is what you use when you want to fuzzy something and cover with fog. (Someone *was killed,* no idea by whom.)

Telling is an economical way to get through parts so the showing parts get to shine by contrast.


The first writerly mistake is not knowing the rules and why they’re there. The second is to treat writing advice as absolute. 

You can quote me on it. 👆


Getting off the preacher’s pedestal now.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Passover Brings Matzo* and a Recipe for You


*{Matzah in Hebrew pronunciation. Matzo is Yiddish}

The commandment to eat Matzo* to the exclusion of other bready/crackery/pastry thingies during the eight days of Passover divides the Jewish people into those who love it and those who suffer through it.

I’m decidedly on the side of the matzo lovers. In fact, I eat it all year round, which is actually a defiance of the original intended commandment. We are supposed to experience the difference that befell our ancestors during their exodos from Egypt. So if you eat matzo every day, how is Passover time different from all other times?


But I LOVE matzo, so sue me.


Matzo tastes like pure wheat. If you like wheat, you’ll appreciate the plainness of this subtle but fortifying taste. It isn’t mixed with any other ingredients like salt, sugar, fats or dairy. It’s a lot of flour and very little water mixed, pounded rolled and baked quickly into thin sheets. Glorious.


But here I am about to mix it with other things for those who want to do something with leftover matzo. The only reason you have any left over is because you didn’t eat the whole box plain. I take pity on you, and offer my mother’s Matzo Brei,(Yiddish for “fried matzo”) the savory version:

4 eggs, beaten

2 ½ cup milk, mixed into the eggs

A sprinkle of salt, a dash of pepper, a ½ t. of onion powder mixed in

4 matzo broken into small pieces

1 cup grated mild cheese

Mix all the above and let it soak together for about an hour.

In a large frying pan that has a lid, melt 2 T. butter, add the Matzo mixture and spread evenly. On the lowest possible flame let is cook slowly, covered, for 45 minutes.


That’s it. No turning, no fuss.

(Another version skips the cheese, pepper and onion powder and adds vanilla instead, then top with cinnamon sugar when serving. But I swear by the savory one as a full dinner in a pan, with a side of green salad.)


This serves two, and can be multiplied as needed, depending on the size of the pan. My favorite comfort food, not only on Passover.

(The photo👆 is one Matzo Brei that was flipped and browned on both sides. I prefer to have a custardy top and crisp bottom)

Tuesday, April 12, 2022


The title of this post is misleading in my case, because technically the money was spent by DH, which technically isn’t me.

 Here goes:

Confession time: I’ve not spent much $ as a writer. I spent lots of time, thought, and effort. Money hasn’t been in the equation. I imagine for the self-published the money they spent and how they chose to prioritize is pivotal.


But there was some money spent, regardless. Count membership at SCBWI, a few conferences, paper & mailing (in the ancient days pre-all digital submissions) and a few books on the craft or business of writing. It adds up to something.


The latter brings me to the best money spent from my address. It was a birthday present from DH twelve years ago; a curiously titled The Complete idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books.

Note that the word “complete” refers to the idiotic reader. In reality, this book is more of a complete guide and the reader is no idiot but a smart person because they know they don’t know.


This basic book was the best investment, as it did cover almost anything a novice needed answered. As a tiny bonus, it also served as an acknowledgement of one’s status as a know-nothing, something to keep inflated egos in check for the barrage of inevitable rejections to come.

For the novice it’s $ well spent.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022



Those who write picture book texts know that descriptive passages are best left out for the art. But what about novels for middle grade readers? They are (usually) not illustrated. Surely, there’s room for descriptive passages telling of landscapes, indoor settings and physical details of characters.

Time was, there were ample spaces in the narration for such. Something happened to change this. Middle Grade books written today are better served keeping descriptions to a minimum.

In fact, the how-to mavens insist that these passages are too “telly," an anathema to the show-don’t-tell principle of strong writing.

Descriptions also slow the action, and if there’s anything more verboten, it’s slow-moving  plot.

Then, there’s the matter of descriptions tending to quiet the tone, and “too quiet” is another no-no.


But-but-but you say. How is a setting to come alive? How would a character be more than their dialogue words? Does the young reader ever gets to smell the roses?

It isn’t that novels for young readers are to be devoid of all description, say the mavens. Just be economical. Have setting or physical characteristics be inferred by actions of dialogue. By all means, insert a sentence here and there pertaining to a descriptive detail. What a writer should avoid is long, languid, lulling descriptions we all read if we read the classic books of yore. La-di-da and all that.

It’s a reminder that we’re competing for shorter attention spans conditioned by video games and motion pictures.


I know this is solid advice, but it makes me sad. Some of the best writing I’ve encountered in my life bore the vestments of detailed descriptions that went on for pages. But the world of literary commerce has moved on.


Some months back, I served as a beta reader to a talented writing friend’s middle grade story, whose descriptive paragraphs were beautifully done. In my humble opinion, her strongest writing lay in those paragraphs. It hurt to suggest she might consider cutting them out or changing the way the settings materialized on the page. But nineteenth-century writing does not work well in the twenty-first century.


A new era requires new skills. No use fuming or crying about it.