Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


Guest Authors

I’ve been thinking recently how writers are like detectives. They need to be constantly observant, picking up clues from what people are wearing, how they gesture, the words they speak, the way they interact with others. They study others’ facial expressions and what they suggest, storing away the data in their memory banks or taking notes in a writer’s journal that they’ll refer to later. (more…)

I was pumping hard on the exercise bike at the gym while having a conversation with the fellow riding next to me. We had introduced ourselves and exchanged backgrounds. He had just learned that I’m a published writer and was intrigued by the idea, congratulating me on the release of my most recent novel The Ripening: A Canadian Girl Grows Up. I surprised myself by laughing dryly and calling writing an affliction. (more…)

During the Covid pandemic, we did a lot of waiting, and we still are! We’re waiting to learn if there will be new aggressive variants of the virus. We’re waiting to see if we can safely spend time with family and friends now and in the future without wearing masks. We’re waiting to see if 2023 will give us any relief from the multiple problems that face us a a country and as citizens of this planet. But I have to admit that, as a writer, the act of waiting is not unfamiliar to me. It’s an example of how central waiting is in the writing process.


I’m thinking today of the eclipse of the sun that happened in August 2017. My husband and I had just spent three nights on the Mendocino coast in Northern California and were driving to our Bay Area home under an overcast sky. We didn’t see the whole eclipse, but we did notice a change in the light’s intensity as the moon began blotting out a portion of the sun. Instead of the sun making everything hard-edged and clear, there was a softer quality to what I saw from the car window, reminding me a little of how the earth looks under a full moon. (more…)

Imagination is such an important part of our work as creators, whether we’re writers, visual artists, musicians, and more. However, it isn’t enough just to have imagination, but it also needs to be educated, refined, and developed, like any faculty.  I could have a bent for playing the piano or singing, but nothing much will come of it without practice, lessons, and moving up through the levels. (more…)

Guest author Steven Mayfield, a fellow Regal House Author, graciously answers my questions about his evolution as an author. Read on!

Steven Mayfield is a past recipient of the Mari Sandoz Prize for fiction, a 2021 Silver Medalist for the Benjamin Franklin and Nautilus Book Awards for his novel, Treasure of the Blue Whale (Regal House 2020), and the 2022 winner of the London Book Festival for his novel, Delphic Oracle, U.S.A. (Regal House 2022). His next book, The Penny Mansions, will be released by Regal House in the fall of 2023. A former neonatologist with forty publications in the medical/scientific literature, his short fiction has appeared in literary journals and anthologies since 1994. He lives in Portland, Oregon. (more…)

Today I skipped my daily hour or more of writing. A discipline I’ve maintained for many years, it has resulted in over four novels, numerous short stories, poems, essays, and now a hybrid memoir. Not writing today made me think of a toddler I dreamt of last night. He told me he didn’t feel emotionally connected to me. At the moment, that’s how I feel about writing. Since I’m currently not immersed in writing a novel or poetry, I feel emotionally detached from the process, but not because I’ve stopped producing. I’m working on a manuscript that starts with my days as a high-school drop out—a memoir that is also an analysis of the genre.


I’ve been reviewing the notes I’ve kept for all my four published novels, going back to the first one Fling! I was amazed to discover I had started working on it in 1999. When I first began, I’d hoped to write a lyrical novel a la Virginia Woolf. But my husband called my attention to a review of another Canadian writer’s book, Barbara Gowdy’s Mister Sandman. When I read of her comic sense, “both inventive and tough,” I realized again how much I wanted to write in this way. But I also had resisted it because the style seemed limited to certain topics. I felt it was difficult to write beautifully and be funny, and I was letting my desire for a certain kind of elegance to inhibit the progression of what later became Fling!


colorful-1868353_1920I’ve been thinking a good deal about dreams and the role they play in our lives, especially during the time I was writing my hybrid memoir, Dreaming Myself into Old Age: One Woman’s Search for Meaning (it will be published this summer). I’ve also been thinking about how dreams relate to poetry, a topic I discuss in my new book.

In an expository writing class I was teaching, many students admitted having trouble reading poetry. I discussed this difficulty with them. “Why,” I asked, “in a class of twenty literate, intelligent young men and women do only two or three read or write poetry—even occasionally?” (more…)

girl-flying-on-book-2970038_1920As a pre-TV child (television arrived in Calgary in the early 50s, about ten years after it appeared in the U.S.), radio dramas fed my imagination: Boston Blackie; Suspense Theatre; and The Green Hornet come immediately to mind. Though they provided the plot and dialogue, I was able to supply the images myself, far more dramatic than what any TV director could create. In my young mind, Boston Blackie was the white knight in spite of a name that implied otherwise. Evenings spent shivering in front of a radio, shivering from glorious fear and not cold. The room crackling with drama—suspense. And I was an important participant: the program needed my imagination to give it life. (more…)

Michael Barrington, an international author from Manchester, England, spent his teen age years at a boarding school in the Lake District. After joining a French Order of Catholic Missionary priests, he spent ten years in West Africa, several of them during a civil war when he was stood up to be shot. He lived for a year as a hermit in Northern Ireland. After teaching in Madrid, Spain, he spent four years in Puerto Rico as Director of an international student program for Latin America. He now lives near San Francisco, is completely fluent in several languages, is an avid golfer, and academically considers himself to be over-engineered with three Masters’ Degrees and a Ph.D. On his bucket list is to pilot a helicopter, become fluent in Arabic, and spend a week’s retreat at Tamanrasset in the Sahara-desert. (more…)

All the best writers do it. They develop a piece as they write subsequent drafts, improving the writing every time.

Philip Roth says, “The book really comes to life in the rewriting.”  Joyce Carol Oates says most of her time writing is really rewriting. John Irving says, “Maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting.” (more…)

No Sweat Marketing

Marketing one’s books can at times appear to be a daunting task. Like most authors I have a well-developed plan which includes good use of social media, a solid website from which I also blog, make an occasional presentation and promote my books by writing articles for various magazines. But over the past two years I have developed an additional strategy – all due to my wife!


On my blog today, I’m talking to the lovely Kerri Schlottman, whose novel Tell Me One Thing will be released by Regal House Publishing on January 31.

Kerri Schlottman is the author of Tell Me One Thing (Regal House Publishing, January 31, 2023). Her writing has placed second in the Dillydoun International Fiction Prize, been longlisted for the Dzanc Books Prize for Fiction, and was a 2021 University of New Orleans Press Lab Prize semifinalist. For the past 20 years, Kerri has worked to support artists, performers, and writers in creating new projects, most recently at Creative Capital where she helped fund projects by authors Paul Beatty, Maggie Nelson, Percival Everett, and Jesse Ball. Kerri is a Detroit native who has lived in the New York City area since 2005. Previously, she’s been a massage therapist, a factory worker, and taught art to incarcerated youth. She holds a Creative Master’s degree in English from Wayne State University in Detroit. (more…)

zucchini-1605792_1920Many writers try to live up to Henry James’ advice: “Be someone on whom nothing is lost.” We writers need to approach our internal and external realities in a mindful way, taking in as much as we can so that when we write description, create dialogue, and develop characters, we have plenty of material to work with. But being mindful also means we are more alert to our surroundings and, hopefully, more alive in each moment. (more…)

For years, I’ve received emails from Writer Unboxed that promote “empowering, positive, and provocative ideas about the craft and business of fiction.” In a recent one, Ann-Marie Nieves of Get Red PR  gave excellent advice about marketing that she’s given me permission to share with you today on my blog. Read on! (more…)

Join Guest Author Pat Taub in this interview and meet her muse!

On my blog today I’m talking to Pat Taub, a family therapist, a journalist, a writer/host for the Syracuse NPR station program “Women’s Voices,”a  writer for Key West Magazine, and a writing teacher. Pat explains how her memoir, The Mother of My Invention, helped her make peace with her troubled relationship with her mother.


Meet guest author Cliff Garstang and learn about his prize-winning fiction!

After Regal House Publishing recently released Cliff Garstang ‘s new novel Oliver’s Travels,  I asked him to be a guest author on my blog and sent him some questions about his writing process, including how he comes up with titles, the origins of his characters, literary inspirations, what feeds his writing, how he researches his books, and more.

Here are his great responses: (more…)

Here’s a sample of author Joseph Carrabis wonderful wit that comes through in my interview with him: Where do your characters come from? Toledo. I have an apartment building there and rent out rooms to them. They come, stay a while, then move on. It’s a good deal because the rent’s cheap and I change their names before writing them into stories.

Joseph Carrabis Bio

Joseph Carrabis has been everything from a long-haul trucker to a Chief Research Scientist. He’s taught internationally at the university level, holds patents in a base, disruptive technology, created a company that grew from his basement to offices in four countries, helped companies varying in size from mom&pops for F500s develop their marketing, and most of this bored him.

But give him a pen and paper or a keyboard and he’s off writing, which is what he does full-time now. (more…)

Meet Solace Wales, the author of an amazing story of black soldiers under fire in 1944 Tuscany, Italy

Cover_Wales_BraidedBraided in Fire tells the story of Lieutenant John Fox, a forward artillery observer and posthumous Medal of Honor recipient, who directed friendly artillery fire on his own position as German troops overran Sommocolonia, Italy, on December 26, 1944. Fox’s selfless sacrifice went unrecognized by the U.S. government for half a century simply because he was black. Solace Wales has invested decades in researching this instance of forgotten valor, producing a rich tapestry that interweaves the experiences of the black GIs and Italian villagers caught in the hellish maelstrom that engulfed Sommocolonia the day John Fox died. The result is a moving meditation on the cost of war and a tribute to the African Americans who fought for a country that treated them like second-class citizens.” — Gregory J.W. Urwin, Professor of History, Temple University, author of Facing Fearful Odds: The Siege of Wake Island (more…)

Welcome to guest author Cindy Rasicot, author of Finding Venerable Mother: A Daughter’s Spiritual Quest to Thailand, which chronicles her adventures along the spiritual path.


Cindy Rasicot is a retired Marriage Family Therapist. Her life has been a spiritual journey that took on new dimensions when she and her family moved to Bangkok, Thailand for three years. There, she met her spiritual teacher, Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, the first fully ordained Theravada nun—an encounter that opened her heart and changed her forever. This deepening relationship led to writing her memoir, Finding Venerable Mother: A Daughter’s Spiritual Quest to Thailand, which chronicles her adventures along the spiritual path.

Sylvia Boorstein, author of Happiness is an Inside Job, said about her book, “Cindy Rasicot’s loving account of her own transformation through knowing her is a joy to read.” (more…)

Make your blog posts come alive with hyperlinks!

write-3994024_1920Thanks to author Bobbie Kinkead for sharing the following post with me and my viewers!

When interviewing an author on CWC Berkeley, (CWC = California Writer’s Club) have many links included in the blog post. The author can then post the author’s interview on their blog or website for their audiences to read. Most writing programs on your computer, iPad, emails, texts, online newsletters, or blogs, allow linking; look at the menus under editing or find the linking symbol. Both the interviewer and interviewee should add links to connect twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook page, Amazon’s Author page, Smashword author interview, and online sale sites Kobo, iBook, Sony, Barnes&Nobles, etc. (more…)

The link between visual arts and writing: Interview with guest artist Betsy Kellas!

Kellas_ copyIf you’re used to me posting something about reading and writing, you may be wondering why my guest interview today is with the visual artist Betsy Kellas. The reason? I think there’s a strong link between painting, sculpture, art installations, and written art, poetry and prose. Both use the line intensively though differently. Both intensely explore our everyday reality. And both use layering to create their effects and to add texture to a work. Here, then, is my interview with Betsy, but I urge you to visit her website and view the range of her artmaking:


Read this interview on my blog with guest author Terry Tierney who believes “Writing is breath. Never stop breathing.”

0Terry’s bio:

Terry’s stories and poems have appeared in over forty literary magazines, and his poetry collection, The Poet’s Garage, will be published in May 2020 by Unsolicited Press. He taught college composition and creative writing, and he later survived several Silicon Valley startups as a software engineering manager. Lucky Ride (Unsolicited Press), an irreverent Vietnam-era road novel is set to release in 2022. His website is (more…)

Meet author Terra Ziporyn in this fabulous interview: “We should stop worrying about genres, reality, and imagination, and think instead about telling good stories.”

Terra Snider_WhatsUp Headshop_No SSL Button_April 2019Meet my guest author Terra Ziporyn, fiction and non-fiction writer.

  • When did you write your first book and how did it come about?

It’s hard to answer this question because I’ve been writing “books” since I was a kid, and the trajectory of my fiction and non-fiction is very different. I guess I completed my first novel during college, but it’s still in a drawer, along with various other novels I’ve written since then that may never go anywhere else. That first novel was inspired by the life of a troubled friend who life story needed telling. Whether or not it’s worth publishing remains to be seen—I’m a bit afraid to unearth it from my file cabinet. My first published book was an adaptation of my PhD dissertation, a historical study of the way medical research gets communicated in the popular media (Disease in the Popular American Press). That was back in the late 1980s. The first novel I published was Time’s Fool (2001), a historical novel that drew on my academic work in the history of science, centered on a 19th century utopian community. (more…)

Thanks to Writer Unboxed contributor Ann-Marie Nieves for these 8 marketing tips for writers

Writer Unboxed: Consider these 8 Marketing Tips in 2019

Consider these 8 Marketing Tips in 2019

Posted: 26 Jan 2019 06:17 AM PST

We are so excited to welcome our newest contributor to Writer Unboxed—-Ann-Marie Nieves! Ann-Marie is the founder of the highly respected company Get Red PR, with expertise in PR, advertising, marketing, copywriting, community relations, social media, and more! From her bio:

Ann-Marie is a communications generalist grounded in traditional media and proficient in accessing the power of social media. Within traditional outlets, she has garnered placements in media as diverse as: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN, NPR, Fitness, Parade, Working Mother, Fox Business Network, Life & Style, InStyle, E!, New York Magazine and The Oprah Winfrey Show.


Welcome, Ann-Marie!

It’s my 20-something year in PR, my 10th in social media, and good ole lucky 13 as a tiny business owner. While I’m thoroughly enjoying the wisdom of my 40s, I can honestly say that each day at my desk, seated in my well-worn chair, feels brand new.

You’ve seen the substantial changes in the media world in 2018—several magazines will cease printing or reduce print schedules. (We’ll miss you Glamour!) You’ve experienced the seismic shifts in social media world. (I can follow #dogsofinstagram hashtag?!)  While much has been written in the marketing communications sphere about highlights for 2019, here’s what I’d like my colleagues in words to pay attention to:

  • What’s your story? Sure, you write stories, but what stories are you telling about your past and present self? What stories could help sell you to say CNN or The New York Times? “People forget facts, but they never forget a good story,” says Esther Choy, founder of Leadership Story Lab and author of the book Let the Story Do the Work.
  • Think holistically about your marketing communications So you’ve written a book, and the scene from the Lion King when Rafiki lifts Simba above his head and all the animals bow at the new prince of the pride – plays in your head on continuous loop. You want your book to get the most exposure as possible. We do too. There’s a but here. But you will write another. And another. Sure, a meaty project can be adrenaline pumping, but stepping in and then saying goodbye often makes me feel like we missed considering you.
  • Pay attention to what’s going on in the media world. Having learned my field working in-house at PR firms, I spent my hours making one pitch call after another. I was hung up on, cursed at, laughed at. I would learn which reporters had left, who changed beats, and who preferred a certain kind of story. I don’t expect my clients to know these things, but I do expect them to have a working knowledge of the media that they could get exposure in. Also, understanding the shifts in the media world—vast layoffs at digital outlets and newspapers alike—gives the client a better understanding of how hard our work is to bring their stories to light.
  • Consider the inbetweens. What are you doing in-between your book launches, initiatives, and projects? You should be (in no particular order): updating your website, editing your bio, cleaning up the “about me” sections on your social media, making sure mastheads on social media are up to date, and reviewing insights and analytics on your platforms.
  • Embrace a platform. I’m not an all-or-none type of girl. My life—professional and personal—are not well-documented. Truth be told, I forget to take pictures of my kids. (I like to think I’m truly experiencing the moment!) Social media is not just about the #tenyearschallenge; these platforms are also about business, sales, messaging, spin, and building meaningful relationships. Determine which social media platforms you genuinely enjoy and learn the hell out of that platform.
  • Find your voice. As you learn the ins and outs of Instagram, Twitter, and/or Facebook, be able to describe your social media voice in a sentence. One of the biggest issues most of my clients have with their social media is content development, and it’s because they haven’t determined their voice.
  • Create a big impact with a tiny idea. Sharon Rowe, founder of Eco-Bags Products and author of The Magic of Tiny Business, offers this sage tip. She brought the first reusable bags to the marketplace some 30+ years ago as a new mom with the desire to rid the streets of single-use plastic bags. I want you to think about something outside of your book that you can share with the world. Make it part of your story.
  • Be generous. This may come as a shock, but the social media platforms we frequent can be places of true kindness and generosity. Be a part of that. Take a moment of your day/week/ month to give a shout-out to another member of the writing community. Share a sale, buzz a launch, shout-out a book you devoured.

So, tell me, where will you begin?

About Ann Marie Nieves

Ann-Marie Nieves is the founder of Get Red PR, and an award-winning communicator with experience across a broad range of industries in both the business-to-consumer and business-to-business sectors. She has experience within all communications platforms including public relations, advertising, marketing, copywriting, website development, community relations, and social media.


MEET THE AUTHOR MONDAY: In today’s blog post, and in celebration of Women’s History Month, you’ll meet the talented writer LESLIE LEHR, A BOLD VOICE FOR FEMINISM

Leslie Lehr’s Bio:

Leslie Lehr is a prize-winning author whose latest, A Boob’s Life: How America’s Obsession shaped Me… and You was featured in People Magazine, Glamour, Good Morning America, and in Entertainment Tonight’s short list of books by “trailblazing women changing the world.” Salma Hayek is producing a comedy series based on A Boob’s Life for HBO Max. In addition to her novels and nonfiction books, her essays have been in the New York Times Modern Love column (narrated by Katie Couric for NPR). Leslie is the Novel Consultant for Truby Writers Studio.

Here is my interview with Leslie:

What inspired you to write A Boob’s Life?

One night when my husband and were about to celebrate our first home together, I got out of the shower and noticed my breasts didn’t match. I’d just completed breast cancer treatment and was grateful to be alive. But I was also upset. My husband accused me of being obsessed. As a feminist, I was insulted. Then a comedian on TV made a boob joke, proving it wasn’t just me. I couldn’t sleep.

Next to my bed was my favorite picture of my mom and sister and me in matching red bikinis. It makes me laugh because my baby sister couldn’t keep her nipples covered, I was three and I already knew that nipples were taboo. How can this not be a huge influence about how we feel about our bodies?

I went to my computer to find an answer. There were books about breast cancer and breastfeeding and of course lots of porn, but nothing that put it all together. I could track my whole life by my breasts – wanting them as a girl, hiding them to work, showing them to date, breastfeeding, breast implants, breast cancer… I had to investigate further. Turns out that the way we view breasts, the part of a woman that enters the room first, has influenced both men and women in profound ways.

How do you come up with book titles? Do you know them from the beginning, or do they evolve?

Titles are super important, so I always decide at the beginning. It’s the easy part for me, and the most fun. A good title can also remind me of my story goals as I write. When I consult or teach, I suggest that writers brainstorm titles based on character, setting, plot, and theme to come up with options. Sometimes the publisher changes it, but at least I’ve had my version.

As people learned about your book, what unexpected things happened along the way?

The most unexpected was having a producer want to make A Boob’s Life into a TV comedy series. That was before I even got a book deal. It’s in development now with Salma Hayek’s company for HBOMax. I also am always surprised at the letters I get, and the real opportunities I have supporting related causes that help people. From cancer to breastfeeding to parenting, divorce, and domestic violence, I’ve been able to have a voice to attract support and fundraising. Different themes of the book really speak to all kinds of readers. And recently I’ve had one fan sending me her favorite lines – a lot of them! Writing is lonely, so this is a best result.

What is your preferred genre to write in?

I write to explore the lives of contemporary women. I think that’s why reviewers have called me a “bold new voice for feminism.” I use whatever genre works best for the story I want to tell. I usually start with personal essays that evolve into books, from nonfiction (Welcome to Club Mom) to drama (66 Laps, Wife Goes On) to thriller (What A Mother Knows) to this pop culture memoir (A Boob’s Life).

Where do your ideas come from for stories/books?

You know that old saying, write what you know? I write what I want to know, to find ways to understand the divide between sexy and sacred, the way women are challenged and defined and limited when we are truly complex and doing our best. This passion drives all my work. And, of course, I want to have fun and entertain readers while doing it.

What have people most liked or found most meaningful/funny/creative/ challenging about your book?

Readers of all ages are relating to my personal experiences because all of us with boobs get up in the morning and decide what to do with them. We all get judged by them and have feelings about them. I get letters from both women and men, mothers and daughters, teens and seniors, because it’s A Boob’s Life for all of us. That’s why the subtitle is How America’s Obsession Shaped Me… and You. The mix of memoir is woven with anecdotes and songs and fun facts about how our culture was defining women at each stage. This unique combination made it hard to sell. But it’s also what makes the book so popular, especially now, for Women’ History Month. It’s the history of how America has defined women by our breasts for decades.

Why do you write?

I write to have a voice. I started with essays to figure things out and have my opinion on record. I wrote the NYT Modern Love essay to show something that truly surprised me about love. I had no intention of going deeper. Then one day I knew I had to write a book related to it and go much deeper. It’s incredible to start with an idea and make it real, to work hard and create something that can move and delight others. It’s magic.

What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?

Writing is the fun part for me. Not the first draft but revising. It’s like having a puzzle and playing with the pieces. Publishing is all hard. It’s such a gamble. Writers have no control unless we do it ourselves and publish independently. But that is not my strong skill set. I just want to write!

What are you currently working on or have future plans to write?

I’m currently working on a novel based on real events that I’ve been trying to approach from different angles for decades. It’s a historical novel combining love story and drama. Just recently, I found a notebook from high school saying I needed to write this story before I was 25 and “over the hill.”  Ha!

What is your most bizarre talent?

I don’t know of a bizarre talent, but I sure have a bizarre lack of talent: typing. I was forced to take typing in high school because girls needed to have a fallback career as a secretary. I was not interested, so I nearly failed. (I wasn’t planning to be a writer.) I still type with four fingers.








In WHEN WE WERE SHADOWS, Janet Wees shows how to explain the Holocaust to a child


When We Were Shadows, for middle-school students, is based on the true story of a Jewish boy and his family hiding from the Nazis in WWII in Holland. It traces his journey at the age of 5 from Germany toWWWS_cover8 - front cover Holland in 1937, where the family thought they would be free of the persecution happening to Jews in their home country, only to have their haven invaded by the Nazis 3 years later. The story describes how the family fled from one hiding place to another, aided by people in the Dutch Resistance, until they found refuge in a hidden village in the Veluwe forest. For 18 months they lived in fear of discovery, and were assisted by local villagers and the Resistance, and trying to make the best of their situation. After the village was attacked, the boy and his family had to take on new identities and continued to hide until liberation in Zwolle by the Canadians in 1945. (more…)

Welcome to KPFA Women’s Magazine host Kate Raphael who discusses her writing journey with me!

vivtoria secret my 07
vivtoria secret my 07

After being interviewed twice by Kate Raphael on KPFA Women’s Magazine program, I turned the tables and invited her to share her writing journey on my blog. Her second interview with me will be aired on 1/8/18.

Kate Raphael is a long-time feminist and queer activist, mystery novelist, and office worker. She is a founding member of Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!) and San Francisco Women In Black and a member of the editorial collective of the quarterly queer newspaper, UltraViolet. She is a former board member of San Francisco Women Against Rape and was a 2004 LGBT Pride Parade Community Grand Marshal. Kate’s interviews with Syrian and Honduran feminists have been broadcast nationally. Click here to read her blog. (more…)

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