The DNA of an Atomic Moment



Everything and anything exists in each single moment. It depends upon what questions we ask of it where it will lead us: in a circle, across a desert, into a candy store. Variations are endless: one part of the fun that takes any prompt and turns it into a story or other work of art.


If I see an old barn set back from the road, questions immediately spring to mind:

-Who might have lived there… and when did they leave?

-Why did they leave?

-What was the size of the original farm on which that barn sat at an angle to the road?

-How did transportation of the times affect choices they made?

-What was the size of their family through the time they lived there?


I don’t even have to see the barn in person. A picture or painting might elicit responses to other times where I can smell barn particles on the breeze.


Moments and snapshots and music trigger a plethora of questions and self-derived answers that can be shaped into a new story.

The artist contains the meeting place of voice, idea, theme… and then works to organize them fluently –this is one example of how tiny things contain the whole.

Other examples:

-The blueprint for life exists within every double helix strand of DNA in every cell in the body.

-There is enough energy within one single atom to set off a reaction that can either power homes or destroy them.

-This is one of my favorite themes to write about: the overall theme to life that within every tiny thing or perception is much more than we casually guess.

Possibilities. Ah.

Whys and What Ifs?



Questions lead places. They don’t stop like words do at the end of a sentence. They’re an invitation to go somewhere potentially new and bountiful.


I use powerful questions in my coaching practice, and I use a different set when I write. I ask myself ‘What if?’ and ‘Why?’ plus the rest of the ‘W & H’ questions to get deeper into plot and character development and motivating goals.


Let’s say I want to write a short story featuring a ham sandwich. Before or after doing some preliminary brainstorming, whether listing, mind-mapping, or stacking categories/subsets, I would develop tangents that might come from the food and ask:


Why is the sandwich important?

How did it enter the story?

When was it made?

What is its composition?

Who will eat it?

Where are they located: the eater and the food?


I might write out a few sets of those like reps at a gym, just for fun. Then I prioritize which questions are most central to the story I feel forming in my brain. After I do that, I begin with, ‘What ifs?’


What if it’s poisoned?

What if it was stolen from someone who struggles for food every day?

What if the bread is moldy?

What if it has a smell that brings back an important memory?

What if it’s the last food available?

What if it falls on the floor and/or gets stepped on?

What if there’s a paper inside that contains the password for an important account?


I could go on quite a while like this, but when I finish for the time being, again I prioritize them. I see which ones have the most potential and are of the most interest to me.


Do you use questions in your writing? Have you found any helpful ways to think about them that give you more mileage? We’d love to hear questions, snippets, topics, anything you’d like to share as an example of your questioning strategy.

A question may be simple, but it’s a powerful tool for life and creativity.


Sprint n’Splat



How have you been?

As for us, here’s this month in collaboration:

These questions go through both of our minds, and we discuss them every time:

Does my sister condemn me?

Does she pass judgement or accuse me of slacking?

No, she never does. We’d like to get to the place where we can accept this as truth, rather than adding stress to our lives worrying what the other will think.

And to be honest, worrying over what each one of us thinks… of ourselves.

At its best, collaboration provides the way for us to keep up our dedication amid setbacks.

Having a partner oftentimes raises energy. Even when one is decidedly NOT up for anything, small tasks can be done by the other. We have to be okay with that.

We have the best intentions every day.

We had a good run for a couple of weeks at the beginning of June, revising our second draft, left, right, and center.

THEN, we tripped…. health-wise: our usual unwelcome, annoying, and intermittent experience turns around and bites us again.

No matter how many times we’ve been through the two steps forward/one step back thing, every time we have a good run, we forget that interruption could be lurking round the next bend… in this case, Chapter 28.

Patience, love, and compassion win the day in these situations, even if we can’t see it right away. What is most important after all?

As with location for putting up a successful business, communication is essential for collaboration.

How do you get through your rough patches? What are the tools you find most helpful when you doubt yourself?

We’d love to hear from you.

3… 2…1… Reentry


We’ve been busy since we last saw you. We hope you’ve kept well and happy. You’ve been in our thoughts.

In the interim, we finished the first draft of our novel after a full year’s creative endeavor. We look forward to sharing snippets and scenes and in-betweens.

We’d like to pose questions and invitations for you to share your works as well.

We are now prepping for a month’s-long set of revision passes.

We find Janice Hardy’s suggestions invaluable as are James Scott Bell’s. The former suggested prepping the book by creating an editorial map with this format for each chapter. You could easily do it for each scene as well:


First line

Last line.

Revision Thoughts: ]


Here’s the link to Janice’s helpful resource:

Next steps for us include an outline of the three acts and the main turning points within them.


We’ve missed this space and community. Bloggers everywhere have been in our thoughts. One good thing is we’ve been learning every day we’ve written.

Originally, we didn’t know how coauthoring would go with the two of us having different schedules, varying levels of pain, and the ever-burgeoning list of doctor appointments.

It wasn’t always easy, yet we persevered. We’re now looking for a way to celebrate our, ‘We did it!’ moment in time by reentering 2penthrupain. Please celebrate with us if you have a spare moment or two.

We know the blog is an essential part of what we’re trying to accomplish – touching base with other readers and writers.

We have a few new areas of interest coming up including finding a publisher. We were all set to go with a publishing company, but fortunately happened upon some unfortunate information. In the end because of our research, we decided not to sign their contract though it had been a slam dunk for the months leading up to the discoveries. Something kept us from actually signing the darn thing for quite a while.

Andrea took a month’s creative writing course with prompts. She’s been producing some wonderful stories on a near daily basis…. The rest were poems of equally inspiring innovation. She found the course both eye-opening and mind-stretching.

In our next post we will feature one of her short stories.

The course was offered through Creative Writing Now with Nancy Strauss.

She’s currently offering a free 3 Day Course on Endless Story Ideas. Here is the link.

We look forward to diving back in. Thank you for your continued support. We’d love to hear from you.

Questions from Memories, a Story Makes


One way I like to use memories to create a story is by asking questions.

Below is an example of a memory and following it, some questions I might use to write a developed piece of fiction.
The more questions I have, the better, because then I can choose the story’s path clearly. Not only that, but some of my questions will be silly if I’ve allowed myself to be open and imaginative. Who knows but that it might be the most helpful question of all.
*¨*•♫♪ ♪♫•*¨*
My boyfriend and I were in New York City for hijinks back in 1976 or thereabouts…. It was when I was at my first university.
We had gone to the vicinity to see the Hayden Planetarium’s star-filled trip through time, but it was closed for repairs. That’ll show us. It’s best to do research BEFORE going to the city.
At least in our disappointment we were soothed by the nice day it turned into, sunning ourselves on the steps of the American Museum of Natural History. It was the large building next to the planets.
We were sitting there, trying to make stone stairs into a cushy recliner and endlessly debating our possible infinity of next step choices, when this Well-Dressed Man came running down to us from the top stair.
“Have any time to take in a show? It’s not for a while yet.”
“Er… huh?”
“Well, you see, I have these members-only tickets for the Pompeii Exhibit tonight after they ‘close’ the regular museum, but something’s come up and I need to leave. It’d be a shame to waste ’em as it’s been sold out for some time.”
“Yeah…. sure. We’ll take them,” I said.
I think my favorite parts of the exhibit were the overall feeling of being in a bustling town from a long time gone. That, and the everyday quality that showed up in things like the graffiti, the paving stones and mosaics, and the shop signage that incorporated the gods of Roman mythology in a rather human way.
Mercury’s fish mart is a bit odd, though, as a) he was not associated with water, but air… and b) all these years later there’s an abundance of mercury in our fish.
It was extremely moving to see a whole city transported with such care for details – excavated from volcanic earth. It was especially the last exhibit, though – the contorted shapes of three people and a dog… hoping, trying with all their might to flee the molten river quickly approaching.
I don’t want to do these beings any disservice by making assumptions about their experiences in the last moments of their lives. They could be back right now, reading this blog for all I know about the ticking of our or any other universe.
What I will say is that my heart ached for three days thinking about that dog. Of course I cared about the people too. I think it was too close to home for me to dwell on them. Maybe that was all I could handle or relate to at the time, try as I do to put myself in others’ situations.
All in all, it turned out to be a lively, educational exhibit, ending on a bit of a sad note, because after all facts are facts. Things arise from and go back to ground to seed for another season, perhaps.
Interestingly, the most dramatic personal note of the evening was my trip toward the ladies’ room. As the Well-Dressed Man told us, the museum was closed. It was only ticketed members and employees who would be in the museum for the exhibit, which took up the entire first floor.
So, I asked one of our friendly red-uniformed attendants where might the ladies’ room be?
“Oh, that would be on floor 3, Miss. You can use stairs or elevator right over there.”
As I started climbing up, I immediately noticed it darkening once I left the well-lit first floor. By the time I got to floor two, it was dark except for some emergency lighting rationed about the stair opening.
As I started to advance on the 3rd floor, my head passed floor level and I was in for quite a shock. To the right, just inside a VERY high-ceilinged arc was the barest hint of the immense skeletal jaw of a full-grown Tyrannosaurus Rex.
I stepped back one or two stairs.
Yeah, I knew they weren’t alive… but I could feel their presence. For heaven’s sake, they were bones… and yet something reptilian or early mammalian in my brain reacted with great fear.
Finally, I climbed to the full landing of the 3rd floor – having long forgotten about the loo… and stared to the right: at the vast hall of gigantically terrifying and truly fascinating creatures left behind in time.
I made up my mind, right there in the dark, that I would walk the long length of the room, slowly, and back up the other side. Perhaps with the regular museum-goers and full lighting, it would have been a less frightening experience, but here on this night, it was all I could do not to run. My heart raced, and it was a little difficult to take a full breath.
I dared myself. I absolutely had to in order to do this thing I wanted to experience alone. I started walking… and the fear began in my lower rib cage, communicating with my feet, which were moving very slowly. I stared up in awe at these creatures to whom I would’ve been an ant, or at least a mouse, and trembled a bit. I looked at each one, wishing I had enough light to read the signs, but THEM themselves: their bones glowed eerily white and were easy to see clearly.
All these decades later, it is a bright spot in my memories of that time. Connecting with the ancient from two distinct periods leaves a deep impression of the through-line of life.
Alone like that, my personal perspective was clarified by existing completely in the moment. I had the rare opportunity of being with extraordinary relics under those circumstances. It’s a gift that continues for a lifetime.
*¨*•♫♪ ♪♫•*¨*
Oftentimes the best fiction has a seed in real life. If I wanted to create a longer and perhaps fictional account including this night, one way I might get there is by going over each paragraph and asking myself questions. I could also have someone else read and ask the questions.
Some questions I can think of when reading this piece are:
– Who was that Well-Dressed Man really?
– Was there anyone lurking on the third floor, waiting for me?
– If so, how did he know I would be there?
– Did I notice any movement in either of the exhibits that no one else seemed to see?
– Who were the dinosaurs individually on display? Had I known one of them before?
– Why did I have such an intense reaction on the 3rd floor? Was there some underlying cause?
– Were there any strange and potentially foreshadowing occurrences on my way into the city?
– Was I now tied to a debt by accepting those tickets?
– Was my boyfriend still there when I went back? If not, why? Had he been taken?

And You, Ma’am… What Are Your Thoughts?

Katharine Hepburn on

We think it would be fun and perhaps revealing to interview each other. It started as a future interest in adding guest bloggers and writers from time to time who have things to share about any of the main topics this blog is about. The beginning of Western Civilization stood upon such simple dialogues , and though we’re neither Socrates nor Plato, everyone has something worthwhile, universal, and unique to share.

As we build connections and lead up to asking others, we thought it might be interesting, since there are two of us, to interview each other. We’ll bring in an imaginary Dick Cavett, though of course our sprite is no match for the man who interviewed Katherine Hepburn as depicted above.   (Leslie)


What is your favorite portion of the book and why – without giving any big spoilers away of course, especially if it’s in the second half of the book.

(Leslie) – One of my favorite parts of the story is the Prologue. I’m sticking to the beginning here so as not to ‘spoil’ things. Herein we find out there is an ancient, deep friendship between two mysterious beings. I like how they could be anyone until we find out something about their language and the nature of at least one of them. I especially love how it evolves into something ethereal in a short few paragraphs. I have room to imagine the characters and the place where they are meeting.

(Andrea) – One of my favorite parts is when our hero discovers her moment of hope, her turning point (unbeknownst to her).

What were your earliest memories of writing or being a ‘writer?’

(Leslie) – My uncle was attending the Ohio State University Veterinary School, and I was 7 at the time. He was the first person to ever write straight-up from his heart the way he saw things. He also wrote so as to inspire responses from me. I was interested in this new hobby, and so… we had a correspondence. It turned out to be the first of many to come. He basically changed my life with those invitations and longed-for letters of daily goings-on and questions that made me think about my life differently. I daily thank you, dearest Uncle, for such a great gift.

(Andrea) – I believe I had just turned 12. I was at the beach with Marcy (other sister) and her friend.  I took out a pad and pen and started writing poems.  They encouraged me with every poem they read. I found that the words flowed through me and came easily.  I was excited for the first time about something. That was before the reason I stopped writing of course.  Then, years later, I discovered it again through you Leslie. So thank you for that.  It was funny because the way you first reminded me was when I asked you to read over some emails I had written to a particular someone and you said, your writing flows so well and you have a way with words.  It took a few more years but I finally unblocked the memory of why I stopped in the first place and started to find my voice again.

What are your most helpful tips for writers of any age?

(Leslie) – These may seem like things you’ve heard a thousand times over, but it possible, try not to filter them out. They’ve proven helpful for me, and perhaps they might for you as well. The very first thing is to write, every day if possible, but as often as you can. You will sync yourself up the more you do, and it will become more and more a central part of you.

What does the experience of writing feel like to you?

(Leslie) – Writing feels like a liquid process to me. It’s a combination of swimming and flying, and it comes from my heart. My head has its part, sure, and especially when revising and editing… but I am very aware of the flicker of physical sparks radiating from my heart when I write. It feels like a surprise waits around every corner because it is only by writing it that I know what will be said and done. However much I plan a piece, story, or a novel – which is still writing – I do not know what the action and how it will announce itself will be until I write it down. Writing is soaring in a timeless space. It is also physical and emotional. I get goosebumps. I lean forward in my chair. I get flashes of heat and chill. Writing feels like being engaged with something on such a deep level that it is life, pouring out onto the screen or page.

(Andrea) – It feels like there isn’t anyone or anything around me.  Just me and my stuck thoughts getting released from their sentence. I know, I’m corny, but that’s just me 🙂  I come alive and feel the rush of excitement when I feel it’s written the way it’s intended. On the flip side, I am depressed when I feel blocked or write something I don’t feel is my best.  I have to remember that any writing, whether to be shared or not, is still my expression and I need to accept all of it.  The vulnerability is something I need to get used to.  That is the hardest part for me. The moment of sharing and opening myself up to others and their words in return.

What is the message behind this book?

(Leslie) – We want people to feel empowered. We are speaking primarily to Young Adults, so that they can incorporate messages of self-worth and personal power within themselves as they grow, but it is our hope that the story will be read and enjoyed by people of all ages. It is hard for us as humans to feel that things are the best they can be at any given moment. There are so many issues that need immediate attention in our world. Perhaps we’re not always happy with our own behavior. There is an old Sanskrit saying I love very much – and for some reason when I set to type this, Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz popped into my head. It ends with this sentence: “When the Perfect is taken away from the Perfect, only the Perfect remains.” There are clues all around us. We need the eyes, the perspective, to see these clues and understand. It is my fondest hope that a person might walk away from this book saying aloud to the supposedly empty air, “I always knew there was more to me and this world than I ever suspected!” Truly, there is, and we are that… When we know we are … a new world view and life begins.

Do you have a synopsis (teaser trailer version) for us?

(Leslie)  – It is a story about a hero and her inner and outer demons, and how she got to know herself better and better than she ever realized possible.


Post facto: The Socratic and Platonic references didn’t wind up being much of a bullseye here since Andrea and I pretty much aligned in our answers. Therefore there was no need for dialogues from opposing points of view working toward a resolution of truth using reason.

Also, it feels good to both participate in the same post again. We hope to find diverse ways of doing that. If you have any answers to any of the questions posed here that refer to you, OR ideas about how to create an interactive form of post, we’d love to hear from you. Or any words of wisdom or whimsy you might like to weave into this subject matter. See you on Wednesday!