In like a woodpecker, out like a chickadee ...



The birds are returning from the south. Warmer days are ahead.


Have you ever heard the phrase, "In like a lion, out like a lamb" to describe March? My daughter said to me last week, "don't worry mom, the lamb is coming." I needed to look up this saying to understand her meaning. She knows winters are tough for me. She knows gentler weather will help reignite my creative spirit. She is wise beyond her years.


Today a woodpecker landed on what I assumed would be an impenetrable seed bell, expired over a year ago, crusted harder than a stale candy apple. My kids asked us to hang it anyway, and because we don't want to thwart their young optimism, we hung the seed teaser for the first day of March.

If you are familiar with woodpeckers, you can guess what happened.

This woodpecker chipped and tapped. It dug in and drilled. It would not relent and go figure, it succeeded. It pulled life out of something I wanted to throw away.


Sometimes I feel this away about a messy first draft. Even an over-edited fifth draft. But I am reminded there is a reward when we dig a little deeper.


This bird was not alone. It did not have a flock of woodpeckers waiting in the wings. I'm not positive, but I think woodpeckers like to peck alone. But they do not fly alone. At least they don't in my forest. After it had labored and been appropriately rewarded with seed, it flew into a nearby tree. Within moments, the tiniest of chickadees landed on the seed bell. I swear it looked straight at that giant woodpecker, cocked its head in thanks, before proceeding to nibble away at the softened hole left behind.


I'm learning patience. I'm learning to appreciate and acknowledge those who have come before me. I'm even learning to be content with stale candy apples until the real fruit has time to grow. But here's the big lesson. We're all growing. We might not all end up the same size. We might not all get our break at the same time, but we are all benefiting from a community that wants to soar.


So I shall say thank you to the birds before me, and offer some wonderful recommendations on authors who have softened the way for me:

Here are three novels that have significantly brightened my creative life this winter:


1) A Little Hope, by Ethan Joella - if you are looking for a quiet read about a quiet town that hits loud and powerfully with emotional resonance around grief and journeying through it, this is the story for you. I also love Ethan's writing voice and POV. It may have inspired my current multiple POV novel.

2) The London House, by Katherine Reay - Katherine is an author who I have enjoyed for many years, and who has graciously championed my own writing journey like the most generous of momma woodpeckers. Her most recent foray into historical split-time novels perfectly suits her expert contemporary storytelling skills with her love for historical details. This is my favorite story from her yet.


3) Once Upon A Wardrobe, by Patti Callahan - If it must be winter, then let's travel to Narnia! In this incredible and historically accurate story of the creation of Narnia, Callahan offers us a reminiscence of C.S. Lewis's classic tale, The Chronicles of Narnia, but with such a heart-warming story of fictional love and sacrifice and imagination come alive. Highly recommended.


Here are two nonfiction reads that have inspired not only my writing life but my perspective on life:


1) The Inner Life of Animals, by Peter Wohlleben - Remember the Hidden Life of Trees. I believe I recommended this book to just about every human I know. So, when I learned that Peter had written a book about animals, I quickly added it to my Audible reads. Never before have I considered the emotional depth of my dog with such fervor. And I have a significantly higher level of respect and compassion for pigs, goats, crows, and bees.


2) How to Write Best Selling Fiction, by James Scott Bell - I have had countless people tell me about Bell's signpost approach to outlining and his LOCK system, so when I found this Master Class through The Great Courses, I chose to enrich my commute with this highly informative approach to writing novels. Whether you are just starting out in your novel-writing journey or have a few manuscripts completed, this audiobook will help you move to that next step in your journey.


Let me know how I can offer some woodpecker power in your writing life? Or how I can journey with you as a chickadee. Happy Spring!