Category Archives: Roundups

Give Something Handmade for Christmas

Give Something Handmade for Christmas

Doesn’t it seem harder and harder to buy the perfect gift for a special person? And with the supply chain problem we’re experiencing, this Christmas might be even more challenging for shoppers.

Maybe we all could make gifts this year.

And if we could use supplies we already have, that would be super!

And if we can repurpose something we have that we’re not using, even better!

Looking around the web for ideas, I’ve found some that look not terribly difficult or expensive to make. You still have time to make a few of these! (And you can probably modify them to accommodate materials you have on hand.)

Click on the links for directions.

Don’t tell anyone, but I am working on this Holly Jolly Christmas quilt.


Embroidered Snowflake Mandala


Glitter Ball Yarn Ornaments


String Christmas Tree


Chocolate Covered Pretzels


Chunky Knit Throw Blanket I priced the yarn at about $10 a skein, and you need at least 3 skeins for a small throw blanket, so proceed cautiously with this. The good news: no needles or supplies needed other than the yarn!


Crayon Candles


Photo Keepsake Ornaments You could use any photos for these. You could go take pictures of your recipients’ houses! (But if you look like you’re casing the place, you could get arrested. . .)


Refrigerator Magnets made from photographs and jar lids.


Upcycle an Old Frame for the grandparents. The kids can help. Use it to frame a picture of the family in ugly Christmas sweaters or a kid’s visit with Santa.

Now it’s your turn. Are you making any holiday gifts this year? If you do, post a picture on your social media or website, and give us a link in the comments below. (It’s okay if you wait until after you give it if it’s a surprise.)Tell us how you made it—did you design it yourself? Or where did you find the instructions?

Creative Juice #227

Creative Juice #227

Topics serious and entertaining:

Creative Juice #226

Creative Juice #226

It’s the beginning of a new era. Hallelujah!

Creative Juice #225

Creative Juice #225

Some creative inspiration for your soul.

Creative Juice #219

Creative Juice #219

It’s beginning to look a little like Christmas. I put a new Christmas bedspread and pillow shams on our bed.

  • Awesome photographs of nature’s power.
  • For the musicians and the music teachers: young composers get to hear their works performed by the New York Philharmonic.
  • Beautiful zentangles.
  • Ways to beat writer’s block.
  • For the writers: flabby characters? Put them through some exercises.
  • Have you taken your Christmas card picture yet?
  • Ways to use your books to decorate for Christmas. (I am seriously thinking of turning my TBR pile into a tree. The books are already stacked on the floor…)
  • In case you need to laugh, here’s a story about what to do when your husband says you can’t buy any more towels.
  • Some ingenious Christmas tree tools.
  • We all know what we should be doing in order to live our best lives. Read this to get it all in one place.
  • Interview with illustrator Jim Starr.
  • Christmas movies to stream.

Writing Christmas Fiction


Since my children were small, there’s been a basket in the corner of our living room filled with Christmas books. Some are children’s books, some are grownups’, some are fiction, some are non-fiction. They’ve been collected over decades, and I reread a few every year. I’ve even reviewed a few of my favorites.

I’ve always wanted to write a Christmas story of my own. About a year ago I came up with an idea of a retelling of a classic Christmas tale—and that’s all I’m going to tell you about it, because I’m working hard at finishing it, and I’d really be bummed if you took my idea and did a better and quicker job of it than me.

Writing Christmas books is much like writing any other kind of book, but with a few slight differences. The same expectations for all fiction also apply to Christmas fiction: a vivid setting, a conflict, a main character who grows through time; a beginning, middle, and end; an arc with escalating action that leads to a satisfying conclusion. Christmas fiction also needs to evoke the feelings of the holidays, awakening associations through the senses: the twinkling lights, the smell of pine, the flavor of gingerbread, the sound of jingle bells. Christmas stories can be shorter than other novels, like 50,000 to 65,000 words rather than 90,000 to 300,000.

Christmas books generally sell from October through December. New Christmas books typically appear on shelves the first Tuesday in October. If you self-publish, you’ll want to launch in early October as well. Your book will languish from January through September, but you’ll be wise to self-promote it again starting each October.

Are you thinking of writing a Christmas book of your own? These articles may help you:

Creative Juice #215

Creative Juice #215

Oh, is it Friday already? So sorry I’m late!

How to Write Humor (Roundup)


I really wish I could write funny stuff. I mean, I’ve written scenes that made my critique group laugh out loud, but actually writing a humor piece—that’s hard.

I’ve been looking for comedy strategies on online, and I’m going to work on some of the ideas in the articles linked below:

Now it’s your turn. I hope to share a project from one of these articles in a future post. Maybe these suggestions will resonate with you, too. If you’re inspired to write a humor piece, please share it in the comments below.

Good Articles for Writers

Good Articles for Writers

Writers tend to be compulsive readers. Especially about writing. And the internet is full of wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) articles about writing. When I find one, I add its URL to a now 56-page file in my documents called “Blog Posts I Really Like” so that I can reread it whenever I want.

From time to time I share my wealth of resources. It’s been a couple of years since I last did this, so here are links to ten articles about writing that I found particularly interesting. Most of these articles focus on fiction writing.

I’m gonna warn you: this is meaty stuff. You can’t skim it. You’re going to need to dedicate an hour or two of your time to explore this information. You don’t have to do it today; but bookmark this post, and schedule a time for you to come back and wade through it. I promise it’ll be worth it.

Writing on laptop

  1. Rules for writing.
  2. Great storytellers talk about story.
  3. What novel should you read next? How about something that will help you with your own fiction?
  4. How to write better fiction.
  5. How to ramp up your description.
  6. How to troubleshoot a problem scene.
  7. To learn how to write like your favorite author, copy their books, word for word, longhand. I’m going to do this, really. I’ve even picked a book: Even If I Fall by Abigail Johnson.
  8. It finally happened—a publisher is interested in your book! What questions should you ask a publisher before signing a contract?
  9. Bad news: your publisher’s promotional budget for your book is zip. How to schedule your own book tour. (Also good for self-published authors.)
  10. Ways to market your book (and yourself!).

elements of fiction

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on

Now it’s your turn. Once you’ve read these articles, it’s easy to say, well, that was interesting, and not do anything with the knowledge you’ve gained. Hello, use it or lose it. I challenge you to choose one piece of information you’ve gleaned from these ten articles and turn it into an action item to improve your skills. Then tell us in the comments below what you’re going to do. (I’ve already told you what new thing I’m going to do—see number 7 above.)

Creative Juice #186

Creative Juice #186

With all this sheltering-in-place, we need a little diversion, whimsy, and beauty.

  1. Recreating masterpieces. See also #9.
  2. The notorious Banksy.
  3. Who would have guessed I’d find two Banksy articles in the same week? Here’s what happens when he works from home.
  4. Reading suggestions for staying at home.
  5. I really like this format for poetry.
  6. Animal Farm illustrated.
  7. Would you like to sleep at Stephen King’s house?
  8. Surf’s up! Prizewinning surfing photos.
  9. Even gerbils need art galleries. (But please don’t eat the furniture.)
  10. Oh, crumb! I missed the Arizona Quilt Show. Not to worry—here are some great pictures.
  11. Do you love children’s picture books? Look at these glorious illustrations and enter the giveaway.
  12. Ever hear of coade stone? Me neither, but at one time it was a very popular sculpting material.