Parenting in a Time of Coronavirus

Parenting in a Time of Coronavirus (1)When I opened my eyes this morning I immediately thought, “Here we go again.”

There are many Mondays when I wake up and think this, especially as a parent. Because Mondays mean a new school week, which means waking my tired 10 and 6 year-old daughters before they’re ready, for at least the next five straight days. It means schedules and school lunches and carpool lines and healthy dinners and homework and after-school activities and successful bedtimes and so much more. It means squeezing out a writing life (and exercise and household minutia) from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., navigating 10 year-old hormones and my kid’s sassy mouth (which moves faster than her brain), and my own worries about my family and how everybody’s doing at any given point in time. Mostly it means waking up early–earlier than any of us are ready, no matter what time we go to bed the night before.

Since the coronavirus, or Covid-19 outbreak, and since our public school system closed down schools to institute virtual school-from-home, I have awoken each morning in a succession of Groundhog Day-like befuddlement.

When this first started, I’d wake and wonder who, what, and where I was. After a few days, I began to open my eyes and immediately brace myself for the painful pause. The sort of empty, hollow wait, like when an actor steps up to the apron of the stage, stares out at the audience, and appears to forget her lines.

In the mornings I wake, and remember: Everything has changed. Everything is uncertain.

Yesterday, I watched on Instagram as a writer for New York City’s Broadway spoke emotionally about how hard it was to write alone. In those few Instagram-approved seconds I could see and feel his pain, how much he missed his collaborators, how he mourned the loss of this artistic process and was fearful for the future of his craft and livelihood. At the same time, I also thought about how as a writer who is also a mother, our mourning was both similar and different. I mourn for the solitude lost, because I’ve been tossed into the role of homeschool mom, and my writing life has been taken from me just as swiftly and inexplicably as a magician tossing his black cape over it and making it vanish.

This Monday morning I set my alarm very early, before the birds were up. I lunged for my phone and tapped off the sound in hopes I’d not wake my husband (also now working from home) or the two children down the short hall. I threw a sweater over my body and tip-toed through my nearly 75 year-old house, cringing at every creak from the hardwood floor. I passed my dog in her crate but did not meet her eyes. I started coffee, and sat at my desk–a desk covered in first and fifth grade virtual day schoolwork, assorted writing utensils and markers, and the day planner I’d bought in January and filled with color-coded details about our full and busy future lives.

I’m willing to bet y’all have those day planners, too. Last week, I started to cross off items in the days ahead: to mark through the soccer and swimming practices, the weekend games, the choir and chorus rehearsals, rock climbing classes, family reunions, and parties. Then I stopped. I don’t like the way those short, slanting lines look on the page–on this plan we’d had for our lives. They look like mean little cuts, and I don’t like them one bit.

I’m an optimist, but I’m no cock-eye. More than that, I’ve always just had this lucky, intrinsic belief that everything was going to be okay. Like my feet are firmly planted in the world no matter where I am. I haven’t lost it yet. But I do battle every morning with my unknowing–which is something akin to but very different from fear.

When I was younger, my closest friends used to joke that I was the most spontaneous person they knew, never planning past tomorrow. They assumed I was laid-back, up for anything at any moment. This wasn’t untrue, but I have always made plans. I’ve always looked at tomorrow like it was full of possible impossibility.

I can’t lie: I do not feel this way right now. Or, more truthfully, I’m not letting myself feel this way. Because I only have room for doing right now, not planning. I am trying, for the first time in a long time, not to look past tomorrow. Never has the phrase take it one day at a time meant more than it does now.

The novelty of being at home is beginning to wear off, and my children are starting to feel the change. They miss their school, their teachers, their friends. They talk of birthday parties and spring break trips to the beach as if they’re still going to happen, and I in my parenting cowardice do not speak to correct them, not yet.

This is a new kind of parenting for me, this parenting without a plan. Oh sure, I make daily school-from-home schedules, and we try to stick to them. I give them that at least, because all us parents know certainty brings everyone, especially kids, a good bit of comfort. But when I say parenting without a plan, I think what I really mean is parenting without the possibility of a plan. Without the what-if’s. Without the anything-is-possible. Because I just can’t seem to go there, not yet.

Of course children worry. We see it all the time, and anyone who thinks all kids only “live in today” does not, well, have kids. But children do have this infinite capacity for living hard, and big, and wide, in the hours of the day put before them. Like my 6 year-old, who for the past two days has met her across-the-street best buddy, age 7, at the edge of the driveway for a playdate.

They did this on their own. It started with them standing at the edges of their perspective yards, in defiance of passing cars, and just chatting. Next, they brought chalk and drew pictures on the road. Then, they pulled down camp chairs, sitting and swinging their feet like little women. Yesterday, after some planning which had nothing to do with grown-ups, they got out their umbrellas and performed “Mary Poppins” together and for each other, with the wide worn asphalt of our street between them.

It was both heartbreaking and beautiful, painful and wondrous, all at the same time. And this is where I am, right now. Because today, if I can imagine anything, it is that this is what I imagine our days ahead in the time of coronavirus–parenting and otherwise–will be like.





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National Reading Day with the Cosmopolitan Woman’s Club

Being introduced by Kathy Eichler of the Cosmo Club

Being introduced by Kathy Eichler of the Cosmo Club

I was lucky enough to spent National Reading Day 2020 with the lovely ladies of the Cosmopolitan Woman’s Club of Seneca, South Carolina. I am telling y’all, there is nothing more fun than ladies who lunch–in order to do good work in the world.

The Cosmo Club raises funds for the Collins Children’s Home, a residential home for “children between the ages of birth – 21 who have been abused, abandoned, neglected or are otherwise unable to live with their families.” Their goal is “the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, social and physical development of our children, and the eventual reunification with their natural families whenever possible.”

Lunch was served by the Blue Marble Deli & City Market, and y’all, it was DELICIOUS. If you’re anywhere near Seneca, get there and eat forthwith. Sandwiches, soups, salads, and more–all made in house.

I remain eternally grateful that readers continue to enjoy Keowee Valley. It was my love letter to a place and time in Keowee-Valley-screenhistory I adore more than any other: the wild and gorgeous Carolina backcountry, in the dangerous days leading up to the Revolutionary War. It feels like a gift, that others want to hear me talk about it.

On this National Reading Day, I hope you hunker down with a good book!

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The best in night in Brevard: Adult Spelling Bee to support Augustine Literacy Project on March 21st!

Highway to Spell

Highway to Spell

Adult spelling bees are the BEST.

Last year, the Augustine Literacy Project – Brevard held its first annual Adult Spelling Bee. Y’all, it was the most fun I’ve had in a LONG time. This year’s Bee is Saturday, March 21, 2020 at the Lumberyard in Brevard, North Carolina. It’s going to be so much stinking fun.

Let me lay it out for you:

- you get to hang out in our awesome mountain town of Brevard, N.C. Why not make it a weekend? We’re an outdoor mecca and a music-lover’s paradise with awesome restaurants, music venues, access to national and state parks, and more. Play during the day and stay for the BEE!

- if you compete, you get to form a team of fun friends, dress up like crazy people, and spell your tails off

- if you don’t compete, you get to bid at auction, enjoy food and libations, and check out all the awesome costumes. Mostly, you get to see how we roll in this incredible community.

- this is a fundraiser for a special organization which is truly changing lives. The Augustine Literacy Project – Brevard‘s mission is this: “To improve the reading, writing and spelling abilities of low-income children and teens who struggle with literacy skills. The project trains and supports volunteers who provide free, long-term, 1-1 instruction using the Orton-Gillingham and Wilson Reading System materials.”

I believe reading is necessary and good magic. That it gifts you all the days of your life. I have seen firsthand what these tutors can do. They are lovely, brilliant, compassionate volunteers who are energized with a love of reading and writing. It is no exaggeration to say that they change the lives of the students with whom they work.

If you can’t form a team this year, or attend the Bee, please consider sponsoring a team, or donating at the Augustine Literacy Project – Brevard website.

Last year, my team was HIGHWAY TO SPELL. It was epic. (See the photos.) At the Bee we were rockers. In real lifeIMG_2790 we’re businesswomen, teachers, writers, and more. But you don’t have to be a good speller to join! You just have to want to help, and be ready to have a really, really good time.

Seriously, though. There’s a lot of scary stuff happening in the world right now. But here’s what’s good: this Adult Spelling Bee, in this small town, where folks are doing their best to make sure kids whose lives aren’t the easiest are able to read and write, and to grow. I hope you’ll help!

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Going Facebook dark for Lent

Canva - Landscape Photography of ForestIf Lent is part of your religious tradition, you may have used those 40 days as a time to “give up” something over the years, be it a persnickety personal habit or a food in which you tend to overindulge. In the past, I’ve given up chocolate, fried food, and cheese. (Sense a pattern?)

Though I don’t keep the Facebook app on my iPhone, lately I’ve found myself logging into Facebook on my phone or computer and scrolling more than usual. I’m not sure why, but it has not done me or my creative life any favors. That being said, here’s what I’ve decided, and what I posted this morning on my personal Facebook page:

For Lent this year, I’m going dark on Facebook. I don’t say “giving up,” because I hesitate to imply I’m letting go of something which is serving me or others in a healthy way. Lately, I’ve felt a bit rootless: my sensitivity to the world–normally my superpower–has felt instead like a freefall. Like I lost my footing in a mountain scramble and I’m grabbing in the dirt for a handhold. Frankly, I’ve felt less capable of brushing off slights, of ignoring the crazy, and–most importantly–of extending empathy to people who may not be offering their best selves in the moment. I’m a nice person, so this makes me feel crappy, and I don’t like it. It’s a tough thing to navigate for someone who likes to be in control, and is usually very good at it. For me, Lent is a powerful reason to step back, to turn inward, to wait and hope and pray. My other Lenten decisions are my own.

Friends, you know how to contact me outside of Facebook, and I hope you will. I’d love nothing more than to take a walk, go on a hike, or share a cup of coffee or tea and a conversation with any of you. And I’m still available, always, via email and on Instagram, a medium with its own conundrums but one I’ve come to enjoy.

I’ll catch y’all on the flip-side! (Also known as Friday, April 10th.)

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For Valentine’s Day: 5 of the Things I Love

Happy Valentine’s Day 2020, all!

I’m an enthusiastic individual, often too much for people. That being admitted, I love LOTS of things, people, and places. Still, here are 5 things I’m loving this year on Valentine’s Day:

creamer1. My Califia Farms Dairy-free Almondmilk Vanilla Coffee Creamer. I am not getting paid to advertise this. I genuinely love it; over the holidays, I particularly enjoyed their mint cocoa version, too (photo at left). I used other full-dairy coffee creamers before 2017, and then my husband and I did a month-long Paleo diet; I decided afterwards I needed to find ways to substitute some dairy in my diet. Now, I’m not dairy-free, but I’m so used to this creamer–and I like it so much–that I can’t go back. My coffee is important to me, and this creamer makes me happy.

2. My The Highwomen CD. Yep, I still buy CDs. This one is chock-full of rollicking, swoony, belt-worthy tunes written so good and hard the soul pours out. I’ve loved Brandi Carlile for years, and she and her fellow singer-songwriters Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris, and Amanda Shires take the roof off with this album. Straight off.

Listen to them sing the title song, “The Highwomen,” here.

3. The Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow. This is probably the second or third time I’ve reread the series, butstabenowbooks I’m doing so now because Stabenow’s newest “Kate book,” No Fixed Line, just came out. My aunt introduced me to Stabenow when I lived with her in Anchorage, Alaska, the summer after my freshman year of college. Lately, I’ve found myself mentioning the books to friends: truly the sign of a great story.

The series centers on Aleut detective Kate and her faithful half-wolf, Mutt, and tosses you into an Alaska so wild and wooly and gorgeous and dark, you never want to leave. Start from the beginning with A Cold Day for Murder, and you’ll have 22 smart, rollicking, sexy, super-cool novels to enjoy.


4. Going to bed early and reading late. I’m 100% better in the mornings than at night. My husband works in another state, and so I’m parentis numero uno (yep, I just made that up) Monday through Friday. After he gets home, and I tag out from putting the kids to bed, I’m done. Yes, it would be nicer if I stayed up with my husband. Sometimes I do. But many nights, I head straight from the kids’ room to ours, and I curl up for a book until my eyelids droop. I am the boss of me.

5. Embracing the laziness of winter weekends. It goes against my childhood training to laze around on Saturday mornings, and I often feel guilty when we do. But we are a typical, active American family with too many activities, and in winter our calendar thankfully slows. My husband took a job over a year and a half ago which requires him to commute 3 hours a day, and so our weekends have become sacrosanct. On Saturday mornings our kids watch too many cartoons, we make a big breakfast, and we hibernate a bit. This will all change when the weather warms, soccer season begins again, etc, etc. But for now, we’re taking it easy. Being full-stop lazy. And that’s okay.

Valentine’s Day is not my favorite: I cannot lie. Too much pink gives me hives. But it’s fun to think of and share the things in my life I’m loving, so thanks for reading! I’d love to hear 5 things you’re loving in the comments below.

P.S. To read about 5 places I loved in 2015, click here.

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Writing update + new Facebook look

A happy Monday morning to all!

Just a quick, writerly update from your neighborhood historical novelist. (Sorry … not enough coffee. What can I say? It’s Monday.)

FIRST, The manuscript (first draft) of my new historical novel is currently with my literary agent. It’s a time-consuming, gut-roiling process, as a writer, to wait. I’m feeling quite a bit of ennui these days. The weird, seemingly unending rain and lack of snow does not help.

For my fellow word dorks:
Ennui: (French, literary) “A feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement.” Example: He succumbed to ennui and despair.

Don’t worry. I have multiple other occupations. And a dirty house. I will not succumb to despair.

SECOND, I’ve given my Author Facebook page a new look with a new cover photo. Check it out! And while you’re at it, please “Like” my page. It helps.

Until next time, may your week be blessed with a good fire, good books, and good people.




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Springtime in February … and other such conundrum

So, apparently, February is now a springtime month.

I live in the mountains of Western North Carolina. My town sits at an elevation of about 2300 feet (higher than Asheville and Hendersonville, N.C.), and it usually–it should–snow. But climate change has wreaked its soul-crushing havoc on our weather here just like it has everywhere else, and instead of the snowy, ground-freezing winter we truly need, we’re getting spring. Birds are chirping, rain is falling, flowers are blooming early, trees are budding, and it’s warm. Yesterday it almost hit 70 degrees.

Blurry dusting, the Pisgah National Forest

Blurry dusting, the Pisgah National Forest

This past Friday, we got our first (and likely only) snow of the season: a mere dusting. And while it was beautiful and right while it lasted, none of us even held out hope it would stick around. Why? Because the next day the temperature was predicted to be in the 60s. Also the days after that. And here we are.

Don’t get me wrong. If it was actually spring, I’d be fine with the weather. However, it is not spring. It’s early February.

I moved to the mountains, in part, for real seasons: for a full-on experience of winter, spring, summer, fall. For the variety, the vividity and the authentic nature of each. Added to that, I sincerely love winter, and I adore snow like only someone raised in South Carolina could. It’s always been magic to me.

Still, there’s more here than magic. There’s a real need for the ground to freeze, for the things beneath to regenerate. For us to have something to thaw out from. I need winter as much as the earth does.

I don’t know if it’s my early middle age, or what: but the lack of real winter–this conundrum of nature–seems to coincide with life upending itself. My loved ones are dealing with all kinds of personal challenges: with parents struggling with health issues, random accidents, children navigating health crises, and more. My country, which I have loved powerfully, and believed in, my entire life, seems shaky and unmoored, led by the proverbial emperor missing his clothes. So much of everything feels like it can’t possibly be real.

And yet, it is real. This is life. This is my life. Our lives.

It’s not in my nature to be a stick-my-head-in-the-sand kind of character. This is not born from any noble effort–feeling helpless is my least favorite feeling. I’ve just always been the type to stay up and fight. But lately, more than ever, I yearn to draw in close, and to draw my people in close with me. To light a fire, to circle in and warm our bodies by it. To draw the blankets up around our shoulders, and tuck in.

Frankly, I’m not sure how much good that does anybody but me.

Winter has always provided a natural looking-in: a sort of hibernation, a hunkering-down as ancient as our animal humanity. But what happens when winter is gone? What do we lose?

I know the answer, and I am at a loss. (Is this the lesson of aging?)

For now, my prayer is simple: for winter to return.

View from the carpool lane

View from the carpool lane



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How to Build a Creative Life … or, Navigating Creative Disappointment … or, The Rallying Cry of the Working Writer

Update from MountainTop Writers RetreatI couldn’t decide on a title for this post (obviously). I am not normally indecisive—it’s just that each of the above titles fits. They are all part of the story of the working writer.

Here’s my story, at least for today: the upcoming Winter MountainTop (MountainTop Writers Retreat’s residency Jan. 30 – Feb. 2, 2020) is cancelled. We just did not have enough registrants to make this particular retreat weekend financially viable.

I’m disappointed, to say the least. I have put many hours of work—time, energy, and womanpower—into the newly launched MountainTop Writers Retreat, and I’m ready to share it with other writers. Drawing from my own experience as a writer in every stage of her writing life—from wannabe scribbler to occasionally published to published novelist to mama-writer to trying-to-be-a-sophomore novelist—I’ve worked to craft a retreat which will meet a writer wherever he or she lives. By this, I mean a retreat from which any writer, no matter where they are on the journey, can benefit.

Add to that a unique and tranquil setting—Earthshine Lodge in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina—which I long to share with others. This place is special, y’all: 76 acres of mountain and meadow at 3,000 feet of elevation, bordering one of the most beautiful national forests in the country. In every season, Earthshine makes you feel removed from the busy world … exactly where you are meant to be. Because of this, MountainTop Writers Retreat has the potential to be a powerfully generative experience for creative people.

I know, like so many of us, how one single experience can be the magic portal into something else. How time away with other writers, even for a weekend, can buoy your writing. It’s an investment in yourself and in your creative life which will yield boundless potential. I know this, because I’ve experienced it myself. When you invest in your writing life, when you arrange time away from your other responsibilities—and believe me, I know exactly what that means and how difficult it can be—you are saying to yourself, to your loved ones, and to the world: I am a writer. My writing is a priority.

But life is never predictable, and rarely fair. The vast majority of writers are not wealthy people, and investing in a retreat can be a challenge. There are work, family, and timing obligations which often get in the way. Traveling to and participating in a new retreat, especially, means taking a chance that interactions with other writers, time with visiting authors, and the accommodations themselves will meet or exceed your expectations. A creative life can often feel like a game of chance.

Let’s be honest: the attempt to become a published writer, an author, is a great leap of faith. The pass-fail percentages are unnerving. You have to love it—to believe in your story, and in yourself.

Over the last year and a half, my family and I have made difficult choices in order to strengthen my writing career. My younger child went to “real” school, which created a window for me to step away a time- and energy-consuming (and, frankly, thankless) teaching job—a job and students I happened to love. For me to devote time, for the the first time in over a decade, to my writing career. These have not been easy decisions. But during this time, and because of these choices, I have been happier and more productive as a writer than I’ve ever imagined. (Funny how loss and gain are often the opposite sides of a priceless coin.)

Like many writers, I am trying to grow a creative career: to do the things which not only enrich my writing life, but which also bring me joy—and in turn, bring joy to other writers.

This is why I launched MountainTop Writers Retreat, and why I hope it will be a success. The journey to making the retreat a success will not be an easy peasy walk in the park—but what real journey worth its salt, and worth the story, ever is?

I hate disappointing anyone. So the fact that Winter MountainTop did not make this go-round feels to me like a trip through an emotional and mental wringer: I am in turn sad I couldn’t make it work, embarrassed for the same reasons, frustrated at all the might-have-beens. Still, while I’m disappointed to the bone that the retreat did not come to fruition this go-round, I’m thankful for the folks who registered—who took a chance on a new retreat and a director (and author) who is still making her way in the writing world. I hope they will forward their deposits–and their creative hopes–to our next retreat.

Now. Onward. MountainTop Writers Retreat is pleased to announce our newest retreat: 2020 Fall MountainTop, to be held November 6 – 8, 2020 at Earthshine Lodge. Fall MountainTop will be much like Winter: private rooms in a private lodge, meals, roaring fires, and an optional itinerary of brainstorming and workshop sessions, yoga, hiking, and more. This will be shorter weekend, so it’ll be cheaper. Add the gorgeous colors of Autumn in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it will be a retreat weekend which can’t be beat. (Plus, you’ve got 9 months to plan for it.)

Details are still being finalized, so please follow us on social media for updates:
Instagram: @mountaintopwritersretreat
My author website:
My Facebook author page:

If writing was easy, everyone would do it. We do it, of course, because we have to. Because stories are the way we walk through the world.

I want to be on this journey with you. I hope you’ll join us in Fall 2020 at MountainTop Writers Retreat.

Thanks for listening,

Founder & Director, MountainTop Writers Retreat
Fellow Writer

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Extended registration + coupon code for MountainTop Writers Retreat

Photo courtesy of Earthshine Lodge

Photo courtesy of Earthshine Lodge

There is still time to make 2020 your most creative year yet! We’ve extended registration for MountainTop Writers Retreat’s upcoming residency (Jan. 30 – Feb. 2, 2020) through Sunday, Jan. 19th. Register on or before 1.19.2020 with coupon code MTNWRITE for $100 off.

Winter is the perfect time to write. We hope you’ll join us on the mountaintop.

For more info and to register, go to

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It’s 2020. It’s time to finally invest in your writing life.

investIt is 2020. It’s time to finally invest in your writing life–in your story, the one you’ve always wanted to tell. In the book you’ve always wanted to write.

Being a writer, BELIEVING you are and can be a writer, takes more than a leap of faith. It takes a leap of will. It takes an investment: of time, money, and heart. We hope you will make that leap with us at MountainTop Writers Retreat. We promise you will not regret it.

Your package includes: private (or shared) rooms in a rustic-elegant lodge, 3 nights bed and continental breakfast, catered meals, roaring fires, yoga, hiking, brainstorming/mentoring sessions with Founder and Retreat Director Katherine Scott Crawford, workshop with bestselling novelist Kimberly Brock, and more. Partake in as little or as much of the itinerary as you wish. This is YOUR retreat.


There are TWO DAYS LEFT TO REGISTER for our upcoming retreat Jan. 30 – Feb. 2, 2020 at beautiful Earthshine Lodge in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina. (Registration will end 1.15.2020.) Use coupon code MTNWRITE for $100 off the price of the weekend.


For more information, click here.

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