I like to have a word for the new year. Well, this coming year I have two: goal getter. I have a couple of lofty goals, and I'm planning on getting them, and then crushing them, as the parlance goes.

Some friends and friendly acquaintances have shared really beautiful words for the new year, such as peace, abundance, fearlessness, adventure, friendship, love, and yes

What's your word for 2020? Happy New Year!

Today I had about an hour in between errands. I "should have" gone to campus to read and grade some of my college students' creative writing stories. But it was a beautiful, sunny day, and I felt an intense longing to be in nature. So I drove to Devil's Lake (Spirit Lake, as the Ho-Chunk call it; "Devil's Lake" was a mistranslation by the Europeans) instead. I was rewarded by a sight I'd never seen, in the numerous times I'd been to the lake: I arrived just as a train was rounding the lake.

My takeaway? Listen to the voice inside my head. Get fresh air. Go out in nature. I felt inspired, recharged, and energized. The voice inside my head is never wrong.

Happy fall, and happy almost Thanksgiving! Grateful for sunny days in nature, among many other things... What are you grateful for?
I have been a student or a teacher for much of my life. The Tuesday after Labor Day always represents a new year for me more than January 1 ever does. I'm excited for new classes, new students, a new school (University of Wisconsin at Platteville), and new writers whose novels and memoirs I'm working with this year. 

Summer is my favorite season. I love long days, sunlight, travel, fireflies, and the beach. But Fall is a close second. I'm looking forward to wearing sweaters again. I love autumn leaves. And Halloween is my third favorite holiday, after Christmas and birthdays (my own, my daughter's, friends'). Most of all, I love the promise of Fall: a new year, a new slate, life starting over again.

What are you looking forward to? 

I came across this quote today--the last day of July--and it rang true to me. Tomorrow is the first day of August, the last month of Summer, and I feel like school is about to start, the weekend is almost over, and I haven't done my homework. Well, school IS about to start, and I HAVEN'T done my homework; that is, I haven't prepared for classes, and I haven't finished my novel. No wonder June is everyone's favorite month! So many possibilities!

On the other hand, there are 31 days in August....

I'm reading Ann Patchett's book of essays right now, The Story of a Happy Marriage, and in it she writes that there are so many people who want to write a book, and so few of them write for even an hour a day. I am often guilty of not even writing for an hour a day. I often think, "I don't have a huge stretch of time to write today, so what's the point of even starting?" But this sort of thinking is misguided. If I write for just an hour a day during the month of August, that will be thirty-one hours of writing time, and while that doesn't seem like a lot (it's not even a full-time work week), it might just be enough to make real headway on finishing my third novel. And of course, there will be many days when I will write more than an hour a day.

An hour a day for the month of August doing an activity I love. Who's with me?

What are your family's "coming to America" stories? Or are you Native American and your family has always been here?

My daughter and I did our AncestryDNA this past year or two. There were some confirmations and some surprises. I am 45% European Jewish, which was about what I'd expected, from Lithuania, Latvia, and Romania, and indeed, I had known that my maternal great-grandfather Alek came to America from Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania, my maternal great-grandmother Jenny came from Latvia, and my paternal great-grandparents came from Romania. No surprises there--except that last 5%.

My dad always said he was "Irish," but we always suspected the truth was more complicated than that, since his mom's maiden name was Hazel Strohl. But.... whatever. Maybe he is 80% Irish, I used to think. My daughter got her results first, and she was only something like 6% Irish, which was, well, mind-altering. Turns out I am 16% Irish, which was still something of a shock for someone named Kelly Dwyer. (When I showed the agent in Dublin my passport three summers ago, she said, "Kelly Dwyer. Welcome home.")  (Interestingly enough, AncestryDNA even got the county right. My great-grandfather John Joseph "Jack" Dwyer emigrated from Skibereen in County Cork, which my saliva and this service identified...) 

Once I got over the shock of being only 16% Irish, I was fascinated to learn what I was instead: turns out my affinity for Scotland may be cellular, as I am 15% "from the British Isles" (England, Scotland, Wales). I am 15% Swedish! (I always loved Denmark!) I am 5% Eastern European and Russian and 3% Baltic--so I guess this is where that 5% of my mother's family came in that is not Jewish. (There are some stories there I wish I knew...)  The remaining 1%: French! (Of course that thrilled me to no end! Everyone made fun of me for studying French in school, and I feel so vindicated now. I was learning the language of my ancestors!)

I wish I knew the story of all of my ancestors, but I know this much: my parents and grandparents always said their families were so grateful to come to America to find religious freedom and economic opportunity. If some of my family members felt persecuted or prejudiced against for being Irish or Jewish, I never heard about it. They talked about America as the land of freedom and the place where your dreams could come true if you worked hard enough. (I know this was not and is not true for all Americans—my family was lucky in many ways.)

What do you know about your ancestors?

If you're from the USA, Happy 4th! If you're not, I'd love to hear about how you celebrate Independence Day, or a similar holiday!


That is a quote from Herbert Hoover. I know this because when I was a student at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and my dad came to visit me, we went to the Herbert Hoover museum, which I believe was in West Branch, Iowa, where President Hoover was from, and I got a red t-shirt that said the above quote in white lettering. That was the sort of thing my dad liked to do on vacations: go to funky little museums. I miss him.

Anyway, in summer, mine are the joys of Iowa, too, as I love teaching at the Writing Festival each summer. This summer I'm teaching:

Won't you join me? We'll learn a lot, write our hearts (and minds) out, and have a blast!

Image result for iowa summer writing festival
I'm delighted and honored to have my 10-minute play, "Who's in Love with the Big Bad Wolf?" be a part of the Kathie Rasmussen Production Company's  Mythical Creatures Short Play Festival in Madison through February 9, 2019. Here I am (center, holding my pink fuzzy ear muffs--hey, it's Wisconsin and freezing!) on opening night with two of the three members of the amazing cast, Granny and Red. (The Big Bad Wolf must have gone off to his den before we could take the picture. I don't blame him. I think it was -1 below by the time the show had finished, around 11 PM.) The cast and director brought my words to life in a way that was way more powerful (and funnier and sexier!) than I could have imagined, and I am so grateful to them, and to the producer for choosing to include my play.

The other plays are by turns funny and moving, and it's always interesting to see how other playwrights respond to a prompt.

Now that it's January, I'm turning my attention to new plays, new festivals, new projects, and I'm writing and sending out new material--and hoping to send out more.

What about you? What are your writing or other artistic or professional or personal goals for 2019? Please share them in the comments!

Break legs, all! And... cheers!

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