January 2024 Story Sparks

A shoutout to the poets begins 2024 even though April is actually National Poetry Month.  An established writer, parent supporter and poet,  L.R.Knost wrote:

Do not be dismayed by the brokenness

of the world. All things break. And all

things can be mended. Not with time, as

they say, but with intention. So go. Love

intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.

The broken world waits in darkness for

The light that is you.

Someone gave me that quote a few years back and the line about things mending not with time, but with intention, has stuck with me. When a good friend’s husband died of Covid in 2020, I sent her this poem and she remarked that it was the intention part that touched her the most. (LR Knost Facebook-Little hearts/gentle Parenting)

Then one of my writing practices has me answering three questions before I start any new work. The answers help me structure my novel and also get through the muddle in the middle where I’m wondering why I ever thought I could write a book.  The question asked is: “What is my Intention in telling this story?” The corollary is “What is this story about?” It’s the anchoring question of the novel and maybe the anchoring connection of living. What is my life about anyway?*

Then as part of a spiritual practice for many, there is the choosing of a word at the beginning of the year.  Not a resolution but a word that keeps coming up perhaps or a word given to us by a Spirit of love, a word to help us through the changes coming in every year.  One time I remember my word was “enough” as in “you will be enough.”  Last year it was “heart” and I thought about guarding my heart by taking better care of it.  That word gave me comfort while in the hospital in Mexico with heart failure – pretty dramatic words to read on one’s medical chart, even in Spanish!  (fallo cardiaco).

I was pondering my word for 2024 when I passed by the refrigerator here in our California home. There was a magnet I’d bought maybe 25 years ago that I remembered bringing with me from Oregon.  I rarely notice those magnets anymore but here was a favorite poem written by poet, author, activist, friend mary anne radmacher. She intentionally uses lower case letters throughout including for her name. Here’s the poem.

live with intention.

walk to the edge.

listen hard. practice

wellness. play with abandon. laugh.

choose with no regret.

continue to learn. appreciate your

friends. do what you

love. live as if this is all there is.

From looking at her Facebook page, it appears that mary anne will do an artful calligraphy of one’s “word.” Many of her cards and posters can be ordered at quotablecards.com and on Amazon including this one. (used with permission)

The etymology dictionary says “intention” comes from the Latin intentio meaning stretching or purpose. Wow! (Wow” is one of Ann Lamont’s three prayers the other two being Help! and Thanks.) I have a suspicion the year ahead will be filled with change and living with it will require intention. I must be prepared to stretch. Good thing I have pilates exercises to do.  I’d be curious about your word. Is it a practice you have? How has a word stretched you or helped you find a purpose?


We were delighted a few years ago when the local Bend (and area papers) went up for sale and EO Media, an Oregon company, bought it because no one knows local news better than, well, local journalists. When we moved to spend half a year in California, we decided to support local news just as we do in Oregon by taking the Redmond Spokesman.  In California, because our neighbor looks after our place during the summer months, we have the Desert Sun delivered to her. When we are here, she reads it then brings it across the street and puts it on our car in the carport. But first she tears out the crossword puzzle to give to another neighbor.  After we read it, I take the ads and give them to the Canadian couple down the street. Then the rest of the paper goes to yet another neighbor who takes the funnies and the Dear Abby and the sports pages too, to the animal shelter where she volunteers. There they cover the kennel floors. I’m glad to recycle this way but more, I’m happy to be encouraging local news which is under threat.

I read about a weekly in Eugene, Oregon just yesterday that will lay off a majority of its staff due to embezzlement by a former staffer. Of course embezzlement can happen to any organization (see Jacksonville Jaguars $22 million dollar embezzlement problem). But small papers like the one in Eugene provide training grounds for journalism students as they visit school board meetings, and city councils. When I travel, I like to read the local paper and always read the letters to the editor to know what’s troubling people –and what they’re proud of.  The New York Times ran an article at the end of the year highlighting news sources from Alaska to Arizona, California to Connecticut that revealed local concerns and how they were being addressed. No big national media folk would bother. If you’re able, find a local newspaper or community radio/TV station and consider financially supporting them. It’s also a great way to support democracy as a free press is vital to a thriving democracy.

Word Whisperings

The Word is Murder A Hawthorne and Horowitz Mystery by Anthony Horowitz.  Harper Collins.

I’d read some of Anthony Horowitz’s novels before (The Magpie Murders for one) but until I read this first in his Hawthorne and Horowitz collection, I had no idea that he wrote screenplays for Midsummer Murders and Foyles War, has a hugely popular children/Young Adult series Alex Rider and others and is even the voice of Dr Watson for a Sherlock Holmes caper (The House of Silk). This Murder book is intriguing because he writes it as himself, a successful writer who gets asked to write about a somewhat dethroned detective about his interesting cases that Anthony gets in the middle of.  He discusses his wife as a film producer (Jill Green in real life is a film producer!). His children are at least referred to (they have two). Hawthorne and Horowitz are solving a mystery and meanwhile Anthony is commenting on writerly things – agents, publishers, contracts even book events. He’s funny and I found myself reading sections out loud to Jerry because they were reflective of a writer’s life. The plot is complex but easily followed, the murders are inventive but not gory and the ending gets tied up as neat as a Christmas present (which this book was.  To myself!).  If you receive Prime streaming, Anthony (I feel like we can be on a first name basis) has a new mini series titled New Blood. I can also recommend it. I call watching it research for my new interest in script writing. But you’ll enjoy his grand storytelling skills even if you’re not a novelist or screenwriter.

Scripts Updates

The Natalie script is being considered by a top producer. Homestead has its own screenwriter working away.  And there is interest in both Letitia’s story and believe it or not, in This Road We Traveled that an established screenwriter sees as a television series. All we need is money to hire the screenwriter. I can’t imagine how to put together a series! Fingers crossed and prayers for doors to open in these new adventures.

An Intentional Ending

Because we are hoping to go to Mexico for a month as we’ve done in the past, there won’t be a February Story Sparks. It’s my intention to finish the first book in my Cannon Beach series while I’m there and to guard my heart so I stay out of the hospital (even though I got great care there last year).

I will miss spending a little time chatting with you about Lent and Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, the latter coming in the last week of February this year. But I’ll be back in March. Meanwhile, I give you something to think about as this year of 2024 begins. It’s from the poet Mary Oliver, from The Summer Day, one of my favorites. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  Sounds like an intention sort of question.  It is my word but I’m happy to share it and happy to know yours as well.

Warmly, Jane

*The other two questions for a writer can be found on my website under the storytelling tips or in the book Structuring your Novel From Basic Idea to Finished Manuscript, by Robert C. Meredith and John D. Fitzgerald. https://jkbooks.com/storytelling-tips/

P.S. I often get requests from those wishing a book list of my titles. Incidentally, Wikipedia has some errors. Visit my Bibliography webpage for the real scoop.