Planting Trees in Correspondence


Correspondence is one of my favorite forms of writing. It’s inspiring. It bleeds over into the way I ‘hear myself writing’ when I get into fiction.

I recently corresponded with a friend, in which she described the delight of a day of horseback riding. It prompted my own inner storyteller, and the following tree planting theme emerged. It’s a memory I cherished but hadn’t thought about in many years.

Me: When I first moved to Washington State from New Jersey, I stayed for a month on a hundred acre piece of land on Mount Hull in the Okanogan. I did many things while I was there, including apple-thinning and picking on vast irrigated farms. One thing I did and loved, when I was young and my back could take it, was planting MANY trees there, after a federal incentive so people could take employment in the wilderness area which had a mostly barter economy at that time. It was done because many mature trees had been clear-cut some time before (such a sad thing to see and walk in). If one was to encounter a clear cut wound in the wild, the best way to approach it would be with a baby tree in one’s hand. It made me think of Johnny Appleseed, though I don’t know much about how far west he got in his travels.

(I’ve since found out the following – courtesy of Wikipedia: John Chapman (September 26, 1774 – March 18, 1845), often called Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present-day West Virginia. He became an American legend while still alive, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples.” Interesting. Not all the way to Washington State, but apples are the crossover.)

… and after my friend’s response, my reply:

Me: I love your letter. Thanks for what you said about the trees. It’s a sweet reminder of one time of beauty and service… and I like the opportunity to remember it. Looking back again, I realize that it was only one time in my life when I did such a thing. When I lived in Cumberland on a few acres, we planted over 100 trees, and I used to dream about them at night. I’d be coming back over a hundred years later to visit them, amazed at how tall the cedar and redwoods had grown, how colorful the sugar maple was in fall, how graceful the cypress, how grand the weeping willow up high over the river. It was hard work, but at the end of the day, all that was left was happiness.

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.

Pantsers and Plotters



Today is a day of new beginnings. It is the Autumnal Equinox, and so Summer 2014 waves a fond last farewell, though she’s been preparing us here in the Mid Atlantic Seaboard for nearly a month now.

And so comes this Autumn’s turn at the plate. If I had to choose from among the four seasons we get here, this would be my favorite. It is a lovely blend of two things: the whisper of the indrawn life and the call of the out of doors. Happy Fall, to all!

New beginning thoughts bring me back to the very start of this tale we are writing with a more structured/intuitive balance now. Back to the days when there were a couple of characters and a genre among bits and pieces of scenes.

How to move forward?

Thinking to Novembers past in NaNoWriMo, I told Andrea about the ‘pantsers and plotters,’ the loving nicknames for those who either write by the seat of their pants or who meticulously plot out most if not every detail.

Sitting here together on the couch today, I brought back this memory of several months ago, and Andrea reminded me of how our process started together. I was surprised when she said she was a pantser, and I was a plotter for a couple of reasons.

I thought I was mostly a pantser for years. In fact, my first finished novel sprung almost completely into my head from a picture prompt from a friend’s blog entry. It was a simple picture of a general store with an apartment overhead. From that I thought of the people living upstairs – the sounds they might hear, and their possible wish for a house as a home of their own someday. Aha: Motive! From that came everything else though I wasn’t careful with the children’s names, and they must have changed at least four times during the course of the story.

Lesson learned. I now keep a document list of names and details we might be likely to forget.

What my sister said had merit that I’d forgotten until now. I’d incrementally moved toward more preparation with at first simple plotting techniques, as I read more about tools and thought of those I’d used as a teacher. In this way, I developed more of a repertoire of strategies for structure… without even realizing it.

Back to our current book:

Andrea reminded me (once again, thankfully) that she was writing and writing the book from her intuition, and once she had an overall idea in her head, I was thinking perhaps we might start pulling it together with some kind of structure. I thought it might be helpful to see where character and place arcs were coming from and heading towards.

So here is a lazy, hazy progression of what we tried once that cat was out of the bag.

Initially, I told her about the first plotting tool I used. I numbered the page from 1 to 15. Any odd number divisible by three (as in acts) might do. On line 1, we could write how the story begins, and on line 15, we would write how we imagined the story might end at this point. Then came the fun part where one by one we alternated – fill in line 2, then line 14, line 3, then 13 working our way toward the center.

That was definitely a no go, as it was too claustrophobic for her. I could understand, so I pulled out the next trick from my bag. Let’s do three acts – and figure out what happens in each according to Joseph Campbell’s 360 degrees of the full Monomyth, to be found in his iconic work, ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces.’ I was particularly fond of that structure as I’d had the good fortune to study under Professor Campbell back in the day.

Too complicated to learn, said she. And again, too claustrophobic.

Okay, that is when we decided it was perhaps a left brain/right brain tug of war. Back in the bag.

I suggested Mind Maps next, in which whatever character, place, or overall story the writer wished to develop goes in the center circle of a piece of big white paper or cardboard. I happened to have that in my bag too. From the circle came radiating connections, and each of those had spikes radiating out on their own. It helped to ask What, Where, When, Why, and How questions which brought fullness to each ray and gave the characters more depth. And she liked it. The right brain approach appealed to her… and truth be told, I liked that method too.

We did one for all the major characters and some of the settings. There was much development that we wound up using, though much eventually fell by the wayside. Still, it was a helpful exercise, and I think she would tell you that as well.

So, plotting, if one chooses to go that way as opposed to flying (writing) by the seat of one’s pants, has endless tools, and I will include two resources I read and found helpful in my writing travels in case you happen to be looking for them. They can be followed step by step or used as a springboard.

Are you a pantser, a plotter, or a combination? Please feel free to leave a comment and share your method if you like. We can never have too many tools in our repertoires.



Pain and/or Suffering: Compassion and Choices


September 16, 2014

We’d like to communicate through our blog what it’s like for us to be disabled, in pain, and yet still try our best to be productive, compassionate, and creative members of society. I don’t think we’ve addressed this head on yet, so today seems like a perfect day to begin.

August 9, 2014   [original date]

Both of us are in poor physical and cognitive states today. [It feels so heavy and difficult to write and reread that. It makes us not want to feel this way all the more, hoping that it won’t always be this way. Putting it out here, writing it down confirms how much it sucks.]

This is what makes it hard to concentrate, stay focused, access creativity, while dizziness and double vision make it hard to walk a straight line or see what it is we’re attempting to do, even if we’ve resigned ourselves to only doing a little bit today.

We’re sensitive to the fact that each day not used to write the novel and yes, the blog too, feels like wasted time. Intellectually, we can tell ourselves that this isn’t true. That somewhere underneath all the fog is a land where ideas are being served up every hour on the hour, percolating with other things we’ve already written down, and that it will later pop out in the perfect voice and word choice, furthering our plot and ideas forward.

Maybe this is the way the process goes. We often think it does… except on these kinds of days. Maybe it happens anyway and the suffering part is a howling wind blowing the ripples on top of the lake, leaving the bottom calm and undisturbed. We both like that idea, and maybe we’ll have the chance to test this little theory tomorrow or the day after – see what the internal artist has to show for itself.


So, what do we have to offer you today, gentle reader, as I struggle to write to the end of this post? I think it’s the difference between pain and suffering, a concept I read in the upcoming book title. I contemplate its intention along with my meditation practice: Meeting the Dragon: Ending Our Suffering By Entering Our Pain by Robert Augustus Masters.

One of the most important concepts, I feel, is that there is always a cognitive and emotional component to any physical pain… and most of the time vice versa. We can find ways to hold a conversation with ourselves to find out what magnetizes to the original, physical pain message that builds it into a mountain of suffering.

It is this connection and this conversation’s insights that can be gleaned from a number of actions: meditation as I mentioned, rapid writing to and from one’s self, role-playing with a trusted, safe, non-judgmental partner, or via the use of a tape or video recorder.

You may be surprised at what answers swim to the surface of your lake. Knowing is the beginning of change. And change can actually make the pain less. If it doesn’t go away, which I am most definitely not promising, at least there’s the possibility it can become manageable more of the time. There’s a new perspective.

It takes time and dedication, discipline and a sense of worthiness, but works regardless of how many times it becomes two steps forward and one step back. It has moved me forward, allowing the creative spirit some room to come forth.

For additional, hopefully helpful further reading on related topics: For the Time Being by Norman Fischer

I am definitely wishing those of you who are hurting the best of success in facing your pain. For those who’ve never had a day of pain in your life, I am delighted for you, and I hope it continues all of your days. However, there is a lot to be learned from this process, so should pain seek you out one day when you least expect it, hopefully you can remember that others have trod the path before you and unfurled themselves from the fetal position it often causes.

There are other aspects to this, such as communicating with your writing partner when you both feel ill and so forth, but that’s for another day.

Best wishes! [Leslie]