And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

Well, this is a very different Thanksgiving, isn’t it. I know that my house is very quiet today, without the sounds of four kids, two in-laws, and one granddaughter. There are still the two of us and our Olivia. But everyone else is practicing smart COVID distancing. It’s sad, but at the same time, I feel cared for. And I care for them too.

Every Tuesday, on the AllWriters’ Facebook page, I post a writing prompt for, well, all writers. This week, I posted, “Write a list poem, please, of all the GOOD things that happened this year. Try.” A few hours later, a student posted, “You, for one.” Not a poem, Mary Ann, but it made me happy anyway. On Monday, I was interviewed by another student for her vlog on gratitude on YouTube. I’ve never been interviewed for such a thing before, and when she said she wanted to talk to me about my gratitude practice, I was really kind of floored. I don’t think of writing these Moments as a gratitude practice, but I suppose they really are. Noticing these sometimes small, sometimes big things that bring me joy does make me feel grateful, though I don’t know that I was conscious of that before. The interview was a very fun one to do, and you can see it here:


So I decided I would use this space to list what I am grateful for, in a sense writing my own prompt (though it won’t be a poem either!) and acknowledging my own practice. I think it’s pretty amazing that there can be gratitude in this awful year. In the interview, I said that one of the things I’ve learned is that happiness doesn’t just happen. You have to look for it. That’s especially true in 2020.

So here we go. The things I’m grateful for:


Shortly after COVID started, my three oldest kids, all living outside of my home, set up a Facebook chat so that I can be in touch with them at a moment’s notice. I speak to them every day. I always thought that the easiest time of parenting would be when my kids were adults, but I’ve not found that to be true. I can no longer gather them together under my wings when there is trouble. Even Olivia, while still in college and not completely independent yet, is out of my reach for much of the time. But being able to talk to the kids every day, make sure they’re feeling okay, has helped a lot. And I have to think that they like to touch base with me too.


By extension from my family, yes, I am grateful for a video game. My son Andy has a close friend named Rayne, and I’ve considered her a part of my family since she and Andy were in high school. She lives in Portland, Oregon now. Soon after COVID started, when it was pretty obvious I was getting stressed out, she told me she was playing Animal Crossing and it was helping a lot. I played the GameCube version of this years ago and absolutely loved it. Rayne said the new game was very similar to the old one. I didn’t want to spend money on a game system right now, as I own and run a small business and, of course, COVID makes that business’ future uncertain. But my son Andy stepped up and bought me a system and the game and it’s been a lifesaver. I escape for hours onto my own island, building and decorating my house, talking with friendly animal neighbors, growing pumpkins, creating a coffee shop and an exercise center and a symphony and all sorts of places. Now, being a writer, you might think I can escape to other worlds pretty often. But the thing is, when you write fiction, it has to have a conflict, so no story or novel is completely peaceful. My Animal Crossing island, which I named Dreamhome, is peaceful.


AllWriters’ provides me with my extended family. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, I was able to completely move my business online. The majority of it was online already, but we had at least one workshop going every day, including Saturday, in the on-site classroom. It’s been dark since March, but my computer screen has been brightly lit. Seeing my students succeed is one of my biggest joys in life, and please bear in mind that success does not necessarily mean publication. For some of my students, success is their actually giving some time and thought to their own dreams. Putting a word down is a success. Writing a story, a poem, an essay, is a success. So is writing a book. And so is publishing. But the biggest success of all is acknowledging who you are and what you can do. I love what I do, and I love watching them learn that they love it too, and can actually say that out loud.


My 12th book, 6th novel, is under contract with a new publisher. This publisher blew me away to the point where I had to call the acquisitions editor and ask her to sit down with me and go over the contract paragraph by paragraph because I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. The new book will have a hardcover edition, something I’ve never had before. There will be international distribution. And there was that magical word of all magical words – an advance. There is nothing that says a publisher believes in you more than their offering to pay you before your book is even released. Holy cow. This was massive validation.

I am grateful as well for my previous publishers, of course. They believed in me when no one else did and put me out there. Without them, I wouldn’t be here.


Three years out from breast cancer. Still taking the oral chemo pill every single night, but I only have two years left. Three years out feels good.


Lordy. Can you imagine going through this without Zoom, Skype, Facetime, and however else people are still getting together? I don’t understand the internet, I can’t see it or touch it, but I am ever so grateful for it.

So. Even in this awful, no-good, horrific year, there are things to be grateful for. While I’m not consciously aware of having a “gratitude practice”, I am aware of being thankful. We look ahead. We move forward.

We go have some pumpkin pie, fresh out of the oven.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

This picture is from the first time Olivia voted, a couple years ago, but it’s a nice one of the three of us together.
All four kids, quite a while ago. I think it’s time for a new family photo!
AllWriters’. The best place in the world for All Writers.
All 11 books, with #12 on the way. (and #13 is being written!)

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