The Literary Lollipop

Guilt-free adventures in reading, writing, and original fiction

A bowl of chai latte and a copy of Rooms — October 26, 2016

A bowl of chai latte and a copy of Rooms


Every time I watch an episode of Gilmore Girls, I marvel at the size of mugs at Luke’s Diner. Not being a coffee drinker, I never totally understood the need for caffeine, especially in the amounts consumed by Rory and Lorelai. That is, I didn’t understand until I became a chai latte addict. Now, I happily accept my oversized mug full of frothy milk, cinnamon, and syrupy sweet black tea. It’s practically a confection, but I’m totally okay with that. Calories be damned. (Speaking of Gilmore Girls, super excited for the Netflix revamp.)

As of late, I’ve been attempting to reconfigure the structure of my mornings. I don’t enjoy that sluggish feeling when I try to pull my sleepy self out of bed and get dressed, just in time to grab the bus, and spend the first hour at my desk chaotically sifting through email. For a period of time, back in the spring, I consistently wrote before work, and that was an enjoyable routine for the few months it lasted. The manuscript was successfully completed, after which I took a break from the demands of my internal productivity gremlins.

So, I’ve most recently instituted early morning reading sessions, usually at a café of some kind, where I can enjoy a hot beverage while flipping through the pages of the latest TBR selection. Hence, the bowl of chai.

This week, I finished Rooms by Lauren Oliver, a clever take on the haunted house novel. Narrated by two opinionated ghosts, along with the flaky, somewhat narcissistic members of the Walker family, Rooms is, at a very basic level, about disappointment. Everyone is disappointed with the state of their lives. Minna, the daughter, is a nymphomaniac and scattered. Trenton, the son, is a depressed and suicidal teenager. Caroline, the wife and mother, is an alcoholic. Amy, the peripheral granddaughter, offspring of neurotic Minna, is the only one in this crowded book who can offer a moment of silence among the incessant chatter. Everyone has returned to deal with the death and associated fallout of Richard, the absent and disliked patriarch of the family, and his apparently deplorable life choices.

Then, of course, there are the ghosts: Sandra, potty-mouthed and amusingly blunt, a bountiful supply of one-liners in her holster; and, Alice – tragic, sentimental, mostly in denial. These ladies conveniently hide in the shadows and observe the goings-on, meanwhile reliving their own past lives.

As much as I enjoyed the multi-narrative style and the dialogue, I was underwhelmed by the mystery itself. Who is Adrienne Cadiou? Who is Katie? What happened to Alice? How did Sandra really die? All these questions are answered, but with a somewhat lackluster ta-da reveal that left me muttering, “meh.” Not to mention, Katie got on my last nerve.

Eventually, I grew frustrated with Trenton and Minna, whose vague recollections of sexual abuse are never dealt with in a satisfying way; brother and sister never completely develop into characters I could care about. And the ending, as far as I could tell, wrapped up every dangling plot thread – almost too succinctly.

The shining light in the cacophony of competing voices is Sandra. The entire Walker family is like a giant wet blanket. (For them, life is very serious. Life is to be escaped. Must fill the void.) Sandra, on the other hand, the much-needed comic relief of Rooms, delivers a joke like a pro. Although an alcoholic while alive, for her, laughter and fun are still on the menu, even in death.

Human beings are complicated creatures. — October 21, 2016

Human beings are complicated creatures.


Not gonna lie. It’s been a sucky, stressful month. Let’s just get that out in the open. Maybe it’s the moon, or fatigue, or the constant soreness and tension in my trapezius. All of the above? Very possible. Anyhow, I was compelled to read Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte. It suited my mood, and soothed my mounting stress levels. Reading about the struggles of others living in a technology and busy-obsessed culture, and the ways people cope, softened the edges of my frustration.

On the surface, Overwhelmed is an elaborate study of work culture, time use research, parenting culture, social pressures, gender roles and politics, the state of child care, the history and future of leisure, the mental block for vacation and fun that adults develop over time. Fascinating stuff.  Schulte travels far and wide to find pockets of society living, thinking, and approaching modern life differently from the North American norm. I was truly riveted, most significantly by the analysis of Christmas letters (aka brag sheets), and the continuing trend towards busy-as-badge-of-honor and leisure-as-lazy.

However, what surprised me most were the final chapters, when Schulte begins to talk more about the ephemeral nature of life, death, and time. Throughout the book, she explains that it’s difficult to ever feel like her to-do list is complete, and that it’s impossible to relax into leisure when that list is looming over her every day, all day. When Schulte is challenged by a yoga and meditation instructor to recognize that one’s to-do list will never, ever be complete, it made me wonder if human beings are simply wired to be dissatisfied with everything. Will we ever be happy with what we’ve accomplished on any given day, month, or year? Likely not. Even high achievers feel they fall short of their own expectations.

For some sad reason, after all the time we put into our work, the countless hours spent worrying about results and money, we still can’t be happy with what we’ve done. We nitpick and criticize ourselves because, even though we’ve accomplished a lot, we haven’t accomplished enough, and probably not up to the massive, insurmountable standards we set in our minds. There is a fine line, I’m now beginning to understand, between self-improvement and self-flagellation.

The human brain is a complicated mess of wires and neurons. We’re contradictions. There is no more proof of that than this book. We want to do less, and yet we feel compelled to do more. We want to have fun, and yet we can’t bring ourselves to let go and relinquish control long enough to do so. We want to feel free, and yet we cling to our to-do list as if it were our center of gravity.

Reading Overwhelmed was a surprisingly spiritual experience. It helped me realize that the overwhelm Schulte so eloquently investigates is both self-imposed and socially driven. In other words, we are hard on ourselves and so is the world around us. A double whammy. And, from what I can tell, there isn’t a long lasting antidote. One must focus on the moment, in the moment, and remember that we can only do our best. Because our best is good enough.

Aloha & Mahalo! — October 8, 2016

Aloha & Mahalo!


Despite the lush scenery, one of the first photos I took in Honolulu was a poster of an Elvis Presley album. Blue Hawaii, to be specific. Nostalgia made me do it. That, and I was simply too overwhelmed by the beauty of my surroundings to even bother taking pictures before that point. My mind was whirling with sensory overload. The air smelled wonderfully floral and oceanic every minute of the day. Nearly every meal was a home-run. And I couldn’t stop staring at the water, whenever it was within my line of sight, which was pretty damn often. However, as my jet lag subsided and I settled into Hawaii Time – a six hour difference from Ottawa, Canada – the camera app on my phone made itself plenty useful for the seven days I spent on Oahu.


For the first 48 hours, I was in a dream state, not quite believing my eyes. I was amazed that I’d actually managed to haul my pale, Canadian self to the North Pacific. It required some extensive research on Expedia, but I purchased a ticket, saved for the hotel, and blinked into the bright sun when I arrived, like a child who’d just spent all day indoors playing video games and was finally venturing out into the real world.


Being a non-driver, I opted for Honolulu, probably the most walkable, touristy part of the Hawaiian Islands. Restaurants and sightseeing within walking distance. Don’t even get me started on the shopping. Chanel, Marc Jacobs, and Valentino, oh my! And I’m not really an all-caps SHOPPER, nor do I have the budget for such labels, but I was endlessly entertained by the selection.


I spent most of my time outdoors, thank you very much. The beach became my new home. Yes, the grainy sand and the water, scattered with fish and other marine life. I brought my book, set up camp, and settled in for a couple hours of mindless joy. With each passing second, my thoughts faded away, evaporated into the breeze, and were carried off to sea, where I presume they still are mercilessly nagging the dolphin population about laundry and apartment insurance.


Once accustomed to and in love with the slow, meandering, chill pace of life, I leisurely explored the rest of Oahu. With the help of a lovely tour company, off we went to visit Pali Lookout, Waimea Valley, Hanauma Bay, the Byodo-In Temple, the Dole pineapple plantation, and countless other pockets of extreme beauty. Just when I thought my mind would literally blow up from the absolute thrill of each experience, yet another element of loveliness would reveal itself and I my brain had no choice but to expand.



We hiked to the top of Diamond Head, visited the Aquarium, watched dogs play joyfully in the surf and locals salsa in the park; and, of course, we walked wide-eyed through Ala Moana Mall.

I couldn’t remember the last time I so thoroughly enjoyed a vacation. As you can imagine, it was very difficult to leave and eventually reacquaint myself with a daily routine that involved public transportation, cold weather, and email. Thankfully, I was able to bring home a small piece of Hawaii, mostly in the form of delicious food: macadamia nut caramel corn, honey, cookies, salt, chocolate, tea, and for those who are inclined, some Kona Coffee.

The Buddha Walks into the Office — October 7, 2016

The Buddha Walks into the Office


Let’s begin here: corporate life takes patience and diplomacy to navigate. I think we can all agree on that statement. It’s not overly negative or positive, just a neutral fact. Very separate from our home and social lives, the corporate world is a unique environment with its own set of rules and expectations.

The Buddha Walks into the Office by Lodro Rinzler is a how-to written specifically for Millennials who are looking for meaningful work and healthy work cultures, particularly in a post-2008 economy. He addresses leadership styles, compassion, ego, perspective, career expectations, and the art of finding peace in the present.

Although I wasn’t completely convinced by Rinzler’s rose-coloured arguments, and I couldn’t help but notice that he wrote from a firm position on the socioeconomic ladder, there were specific chapters and anecdotes that I found very valuable, especially any discussion relating to ambition.

Over the last few years, my relationship to ambition has changed drastically. I’m totally exhausted by the constant reaching, the pushing through, the forever fluctuating target, forcing my life to look and feel a certain way. A monumental task if there ever was one, as if I were trying to lasso a river. At some point, you have to allow life to flow through you.

There are moments when I have the ability to let go of my wanting and, even though those moments are fleeting, they’re peaceful and restful. Eventually, the peace will pass, and my mind will latch on to yet another accomplishment on the horizon, but I’m getting better at maintaining my equilibrium for longer periods each time.

Rinzler’s approach to ambition within the context of mindful career building has a few holes, but the mere mention of such a contentious topic is enough to keep me turning the pages. I’m fascinated by why the human mind obsesses about accomplishing more, why those accomplishments are never (seemingly) enough and why this constant reaching somehow translates to what we think are meaningful lives and importance. Sometimes, I wonder if we subconsciously believe we have to earn our space on the planet, like a stripper paying for her time onstage. We have to prove that we have a right to be here at all, alive. Or so we believe.

I am reminded of the human being vs. human doing debate. Just ‘being’ implies stillness, which oddly has negative connotations. To be still is to be ‘lazy’ and ‘useless.’ What good are we bringing to the world if we are not doing, producing, making, moving, working, multitasking, and maintaining our relevance? At every moment of the day! The language we are using implies we are not enough as we are. It’s interesting to note that, while we can easily tell our friends that they are worthy human beings as is, no ‘improvements’ required, it is exceptionally more difficult to say so to ourselves, and actually feel convinced of its truth.

Work, and our perception of our place in the work world, is a complicated conversation, but Rinzler has definitely raised a few timely questions that I’ll continue to discuss long after reading his book.

Free Days with George — October 4, 2016

Free Days with George


I’m of the belief that dogs are angels in canine form. They’re spiritual, wise creatures. The minute I make eye contact with my miniature schnauzer, I can literally feel the love. I once saw a television report on the psychology of dogs and they compared eye contact to the emotional connection of a hug.

After completing my second novel in August, I decided to embark on an experimental new writing project: a story from the perspective of a Border Collie. For research purposes, I inspected my dog’s behavior, idiosyncrasies, and her funny expressions, in a vain but entertaining attempt at pulling the threads of her inner monologue. She’s instinctual, but intuitive. Of course, I can only guess and observe. When I sit and stare for too long, she wrinkles her brow at me, sighs with obvious confusion, and falls asleep.

As part of my research process, I read Free Days with George, an adorable account of a very big dog who learned to surf. Toronto ad exec Colin Campbell is reeling after a bizarre breakup and divorce when a friend suggests he adopt a dog to help him through the depression. At first, he’s hesitant, but the idea inspires him. Colin investigates a few websites and finds a very sweet but anxious Newfoundland. Previously named Kong, George the giant Newfoundland came from an abusive situation, so interacts with people at a distance. He reacts to loud noises, scares easily, and is particularly leery of men.

Colin decides to take the plunge and adopt the massive dog. Once at home, though, the learning curve is steep. George will only eat alone, and socializing is a stressful experience for everyone involved. The first few months are progressive, but challenging. He is enrolled in an obedience class, with varying levels of success; thankfully, the consistent love and attention slowly rebuilds George’s confidence. He emerges from his protective shell and slowly reveals himself as a goofy, loveable, clumsy, absolutely huggable dog, with personality to spare. Tears of realization and forgiveness all ‘round.

Just as George is on the mend psychologically, Colin is transferred to Los Angeles for work. He is worried that such a drastic change in their lives will cause George to regress, but the house is sold, belongings are packed, and a moving truck is procured for the long, cross-border journey. Once they arrive in Huntington Beach, they are exhausted from the driving, but Colin brings George to the coast for the first time and it is a moment of pure joy. Being a Newfoundland, George is a water dog with webbed paws; the mother ship called its tribe home.

As expected, it takes time to settle into a new home. Los Angeles is very different from Toronto. But surfing helps close the gap. One day, Colin decides to rent a surf board and go to the beach with George. However, once Colin gets in the water, George follows him in and jumps onto the surfboard, exhibiting surprising balance for his size. Well, they soon catch the attention of locals, who suggest they enter the dog surfing competition. Yes, you read that right. A dog surfing competition! Despite his size, George is a natural, and he does extremely well on the waves.

Needless to say, I read this book with a smile plastered on my face, from beginning to end. Every victory, every insight, was beautifully and humorously conveyed. The lens through which I understand my own dog shifted into a more compassionate, softer place, and I truly appreciated the wisdom. I think the way we treat animals in our lives is an interesting way of measuring how we treat the people in our lives.

Music for Chameleons — September 29, 2016

Music for Chameleons


When I think of Truman Capote, the first words that come to mind are sassy, clever, and subversive. After reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I was astounded. It was gritty, dark, and very politically incorrect, in the most brilliant way. Holly Golightly is not a nice girl. She’s a spoiled brat, not someone you’d like to hang out with for too long, if at all. And yet. And yet, when Audrey Hepburn was cast in the lead role, the story transformed into something cute and romantic. In reality, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the opposite of cute and romantic. I was fascinated by this bizarre interpretive twist on Capote’s novella.

At the library, I found Answered Prayers, skimmed a few of the “autobiographical” chapters and loved the flippant, saucy narrator, an unveiled Capote. Apparently, many of his high society friends were none too pleased at seeing their private lives published for all to read, in Esquire no less. The horror.

Still, I admire Capote’s innovation. Sure, he was revealing the embarrassing secrets of high profile people, but he did so with flair and creativity. There’s always a hint of exaggeration to his stories, anyway. Who can tell what’s been enhanced?

However, before Answered Prayers, there was Music for Chameleons, a hidden gem. Another autobiographical adventure, Music for Chameleons is more thoughtful and forgiving, officially making it my favourite Capote read to date. Although I took several months to consume this average length book, I savored each experience. Sort of like eating a decadent piece of cake one bite at a time, over a seven day period. Every twenty pages, I’d push the book away and digest. You know, have a think. Reflect.

Capote altered the pace and form of each piece; some were formatted like a script or play, while others were written like precise exchanges as if reported by a court stenographer. Others, such as “Handcarved Coffins,” read like a crime report, with snippets of interviews inserted at effective points in the narrative. The precise, journalistic style does not hinder but somehow manages to enhance character development, though still remaining relatively economical in prose.

For all you Marilyn Monroe biographers-in-training out there, you’ll especially enjoy “Beautiful Child,” a unique, if not slightly biased, window into the life and psyche of Norma Jean Baker. No doubt about it, Capote is a name-dropper, but he’s also very observant and insightful. I do question how much of the dialogue he recalls is accurate, but I trust his intentions. Everyone is very eager to paint Marilyn as a breathy siren, but Capote rejects at least some of this stereotype and gives her a hint of self-awareness and autonomy. Even a sense a humour.

My personal favourite is “Then It All Came Down,” an interview with Robert Beausoleil, an unusual but integral part of the Manson murder mystery. The dialogue is revealing and malicious, but oddly flirtatious, not necessarily between Beausoleil and Capote, but between Beausoleil and his imagined readers, as if he can see himself as a character in a book before it’s even happened. There is an unread copy of Helter Skelter sitting on my bookshelf. Perhaps this unnerving vignette was a subtle push in that direction.

Rubbernecker captivated me on a 5 hour flight to Honolulu. — September 23, 2016

Rubbernecker captivated me on a 5 hour flight to Honolulu.


I have a tendency to arrive for flights really early. I prefer it that way, because I hate to rush. In late August, after attending a conference in Los Angeles, I embarked on my journey to the airport several hours in advance, just in case the legendary traffic wielded its horrible reputation on a random Sunday morning. Thankfully, it didn’t, but that meant arriving at 8:30am for an 11:30am domestic flight.

No problem. Going through security ate up approximately thirty minutes, and a leisurely breakfast at Wolfgang Express another thirty. In my previous search for a restaurant, I passed Book Soup, so I retraced my steps like a woman on a mission. Having burned through the two books I brought to Los Angeles, I needed something to occupy me for the next leg of my adventure: a five hour flight from LAX to HNL. Yes, Hawaii. Ah-loooo-ha!

It took nearly an hour to find something I actually wanted to read. Perhaps I was in a picky mood, I don’t know, but it took me a long time. Eventually I chose Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer, so I whipped out my credit card, tucked the softback under my arm, and made the trek to my assigned gate, which changed as soon as I sat down and got comfortable. Don’t you love it when that happens?

I suppose I should focus more obviously on the book itself. Enough backstory and mood setting. Okay, so once I boarded the plane and buckled my seat belt, a bag of strawberry flavored Welsh’s gummy candies at the ready, I began to read.

Rubbernecker is a fantastic story, with an even better narrator. Patrick Fort has Asperger’s, and engages with the world from a distance. He is by far the best part of the book. I adored following along with his idiosyncratic observations, and his blossoming emotional connections with the people around him. As the novel begins, he is beginning his first term as an anatomy student in Wales, learning the many facets of pathology alongside a class of medical students. Everyone is broken up into several groups and assigned a cadaver. The assignment? Determine the reason of death.

The complexity of Rubbernecker’s narrative structure is another reason for my fascination. The reader has to be careful whenever the speaker shifts from first person to third person. We are not always with Patrick, and we are not always moving in chronological order. After about three chapters, a pattern sets in, and you will soon feel the waves of a captivating mystery rolling over you in a subtle, lovely way.

I should also mention that there are some gruesome points. Of course, the main character is conducting what is essentially an elaborate autopsy for most of the book, so be prepared for some unpleasant olfactory experiences.

Five hours later, we descended into Honolulu. I marked my spot nearly two hundred pages in, looked out the tiny window and stared in awe at the vast turquoise water below us. Needless to say, I didn’t do much reading over the next seven days. Tropical greenery is tough competition. Regardless, Rubbernecker was promptly completed on the long flight home (approximately 14 hours in transit). Highly, highly recommended for anyone who loves unusual stories of any genre.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism (PS. Be prepared for projectile vomiting) — September 12, 2016

My Best Friend’s Exorcism (PS. Be prepared for projectile vomiting)

my best friend exorcism

Although I didn’t come of age in the eighties, I was born in the notorious decade and experienced many of its remnant trends. Namely, a love for New Kids on the Block, scrunchies, and neon leggings. Everything came rushing back when I read My Best Friend’s Exorcism, the most unique horror novel I’ve come across this year.

The story begins in 1982, when Abby and Gretchen meet, bond, and solidify their adorable friendship. They live in Charleston, South Carolina, and attend an upper crust high school. Abby is from the “wrong side of the tracks,” sort of like Molly Ringwald a la Pretty in Pink. Gretchen is from a wealthy, religious, strict family; she is shielded from the unpleasant, violent corners of the universe. Despite their different worlds, both girls are completely devoted to one another. The early years are an unexpected combination of hilarity and emotional development. Throughout the first fifty pages, I was laughing along with Abby’s sassy internal monologue.

Regular teen high jinks turn sour one hot, lazy afternoon in 1988 when a group of girls decide to experiment with drugs. Abby and Gretchen are curious, so they join in on the illegal fun. Except, once they all ingest the drug in question, everyone waits for a high that never arrives. Everyone except one girl, of course. Cue strangeness.

To liven up a flat experience, they decide to go skinny-dipping. Behaving bizarre, Gretchen runs off, jumps into the water, disappears into the bush, and isn’t found until early the next morning. Immediately, Abby can tell that something is wrong. Her good friend is acting strange, growing volatile, and irritable. She’s developed a twitch and can’t sleep.

And this is when you need to take cover. Put on a waterproof slicker or open an umbrella. The choice is yours. Projectile vomiting is just around the corner. You may need to protect yourself from the milky chunks. There are some seriously gross moments and, if you don’t have an iron stomach, a packet of Gravol could come in handy. One part in particular is very difficult to read, and so I skipped two pages of violence I couldn’t bear to experience, even through fiction.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism is an awesome, demented, bloody combination of The Craft and Mean Girls. This book is a wicked tribute to some of horror’s best storytellers. But, over and above the classic scares, the OMG-that’s-disgusting freakouts, I was thoroughly impressed by the realism of Abby’s character, and her unshakable love for Gretchen. The dialogue is tight. Grady Hendrix writes women extremely well. I was blown away by his poignant observations of adolescent girl culture, friendship, the almost pathological need for belonging and beauty.

Before I finish, I must also spend a few words on the ending, which actually caused my chin to quiver for a moment, maybe two. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of reading this creative blast from the past. However, I will say that it will make you acknowledge your deepest, lifelong, and most meaningful relationships with brand new eyes. Would you battle the devil himself to save your best friend? Would you face prison and social abandonment and psychosis? Would you risk hospitalization and broken bones and a river of blood and failure and post traumatic disorder, maybe death? Abby answered yes to all these questions. Now that’s devotion of the highest order.

Let the Elephants Run — September 5, 2016

Let the Elephants Run

Let the elephants run

Although I wasn’t totally enthralled by musician David Usher’s first foray into the business of creative inspiration, there is one very important lesson I learned from his book. Namely, the imperative of shipping whatever it is we’ve made. Rather than have a box full of half-finished projects, we should develop one to completion and take it to the finish line, then share it with the world. The more often you complete this pattern (make it, ship it, share it, make it, ship it, share it, etc.) the easier it will become to complete a project, from tiny seedling to fully-grown tree.

When I finished reading Let the Elephants Run, I searched through my memory bank, trying to recall the last time I officially shipped a fully-grown tree. Nothing significant came to mind. The problem wasn’t my productivity; it was follow-through, which is exceptionally more difficult than it sounds. The minute we release our work to the world, we open ourselves up to criticism, naysayers, and self-doubt. It is so easy to edit our ideas until we’ve corrected them into non-existence. Perfectionism is a lethal but silent killer of all dreams everywhere.

At the time, I had finished a few drafts of a manuscript, but most of my output was stuck in a state of query limbo. That’s when I decided to experiment with self-publishing, on a very small scale. For fun. For no other reason than to create a pretty, completed, tangible project of which I could be proud and hold in my hand. I collaborated with a designer to create a mock book cover for a short story, and published the revamped version on this blog. It was incredibly satisfying to ship Fifth Helena Drive.

The underlying message of David Usher’s book can get lost in the grandiosity of its graphics, but his intentions are certainly honorable. He encourages all artists, careerists and hobbyists alike, to stretch their imaginations. Like our muscles when they’re stiff and sore, our imaginations can atrophy when they go untapped for too long. We lose confidence in our creative ability. Even more so, we rarely have the time to putter. The responsibilities of everyday life can easily snowball into a giant creative block. In order to rejuvenate the childlike part of our brain that responds to play, we need to give ourselves the mental and physical space, as well as the emotional permission, to do so.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend purchasing this book, but perhaps borrowing Let the Elephants Run from the library might be a less expensive way to engage with the material. That way, you’ll be able to confirm whether or not the content resonates with you before making the investment, as it’s currently only available in hardcover.

Another note to keep in mind: books of this sort are really subjective. Creativity prompts that work for me may not work for others, and vice versa. This review reflects my experience, which was mostly hit and miss, but the concept of the overall book is quite refreshing. I think David Usher’s contribution to the creativity conversation is incredibly valuable. The delivery and approach, unfortunately, left a lot unsaid.

How I self-published a short story as an alternative to making business cards. — August 24, 2016

How I self-published a short story as an alternative to making business cards.

I recently attended the 2016 Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City. Creative hopefuls from around the globe gathered and listened to the wisdom of those who came before us. It’s a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and learn about the forever fluctuating face of publishing.

In order to keep in touch, many delegates bring business cards. However, because I’ve ordered business cards before and I barely use them – the box of 250 is still on a shelf in my closet collecting an obscene amount of dust – I decided to try something different this year. With an additional Los Angeles conference coming up in late August, I figured now was the time to get creative.

As an experiment, I revamped and repackaged a short story I previously published on this blog in 2014. I commissioned a graphic designer to create a “book cover” for the story in question, Fifth Helena Drive, which I later had printed as postcards with my blog URL listed on the reverse. The same designer incorporated the full text and the new cover into a downloadable file that I eventually posted on a standalone page of The Literary Lollipop. The idea was to make it easy for people to connect, stay in touch, and (hopefully) read my story.


I ordered the postcards through Vistaprint, and the software walked me through each step so that I could customize the look and size accordingly. I paid the extra fees for a matte finish and a larger-than-standard size: five by seven inches. All you have to do is upload the art work, drag and drop, choose your shipping preferences, and process the order. Super simple.

What also appealed to me about this idea was that I was making something tangible and, in a more professional and authoritative capacity, sharing it with the world. Well, a small corner of the world, but you know what I mean. I gave away only ten postcards at the Writer’s Digest Conference and the response, I’m happy to report, was positive.

The most pleasant surprise has been the reaction and support of family and friends. When they saw the cover, a visual element enhanced what had been nothing but words; Fifth Helena Drive was brought to life in a new and unique way.

Collaborating with a graphic designer was incredibly satisfying. We went through approximately three versions until we landed on a look we were both happy with. Originally, the photograph of palm trees featured a darker hue of turquoise, but we decided to apply a summery fade in order to convey the retro, California-esque components of the story.

This project inspired a few side effects, most notably a newfound curiosity for the design of book jackets. My usual habit of browsing the local bookstore became a fun exercise in research as each visit resulted in a careful inspection of unusual fonts, images, cool graphics, themes, and ideas. The whole experience was beyond anything I could’ve hoped for, and I have already considered repeating this process with Symmetry.