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Sea Trash Brooch

May 5, 2015

8 MILLION tons of plastic are added to our oceans every year. But we can all do something about it! Next time you walk the beach, pick up that plastic and transform it. I’ll tell you how in a future post.

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How I Write a Short Story, Part IV

March 9, 2015

To review:  

I have these elements…a time frame (St. Patrick’s Day), interesting factoids (people actually DO make their own luck to some extent), a conflict (Clancy hates St. Patrick’s Day), and a mystery (why? because it’s the day her husband left her). 

I need some activities (Kiki’s crafts–I’ll have to come up with these), and a resolution (I’ll think of something).

I also have a cute sidebar problem. Anya loves animals and when she hears that Laurel owns a rabbit’s foot, she goes nuts! (Or course, it’s a fake rabbit’s foot, but Anya doesn’t know that.) 

What else do I need? Well, I need a snappy opening line. Something that sets the stage for my story. It should foreshadow problems, entice my readers, and get the ball rolling.

Now, back to the resolution. I’ll need a BIG ending. Remember, I’ve been thinking a lot about Clancy, and I have a surprise in store for her. To me, a BIG ending would mean a change of luck for Clancy. 

Okay, I’ve got all my ducks in a row! Again, here’s my list for preplanning a short story:

* time frame — often concurrent with a holiday
* interesting factoids — research
* a conflict or problem to be solved
* a mystery or a secret
* a sidebar perhaps, or a link back to an earlier Kiki story or book
* activities 
* a resolution

And of course, I already have my cast of characters because it’s a Kiki Lowenstein short story. Tune in tomorrow, and I’ll get the story started.

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How I Write a Short Story, Part III

March 5, 2015

So Barb H. had a wonderful idea, “Perhaps St Patrick’s day has always been unlucky for Clancy because that is when her father died or her husband left her or she lost a child. I am getting all these crazy ideas and am probably off base. I will be anxious to hear what you say!”

Barb thinks like I do! 

So now I have these elements…a time frame (St. Patrick’s Day), interesting factoids (people actually DO make their own luck to some extent), a conflict (Clancy hates St. Patrick’s Day), and a mystery (why? because it’s the day her husband left her). 

I need some activities (Kiki’s crafts–I’ll have to come up with these), and a resolution (I’ll think of something).

I also need to look back over Kiki’s world and think about possible ways to tie this story into Kiki’s life. One idea comes immediately to mind. In Handmade, Holiday, Homicide, we learn that Laurel has a lucky rabbit’s foot–but it’s fake fur. We know that Anya loves animals. She would be appalled to hear that Laurel has a rabbit’s foot, especially if she didn’t know it was fake! So somehow, I’d like to weave that into my story.

We’re almost at the end of the planning stage…except that I’d been thinking about Clancy, a lot, and I had surprise in store for her and her life. Keep reading to see what that is!

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How I Write Short Stories, Part 2

March 4, 2015

In Part 1, I chose a theme (getting lucky) and did some research. Now I need a conflict, some sort of friction, because conflict drives action.

Since this is a short story, and not a book, I need to keep it simple. A disagreement. A problem. A minor hassle.


Okay, what about someone who complains that she is chronically unlucky bumping up against the luckiest woman on earth? These words resonate with me because right now there’s a really stupid commercial on local TV where the announcer says, “I’m the luckiest woman on earth because I got to take a three day cruise to the Bahamas!” Her voice is totally annoying.

How would this work?

My readers love to “watch” Kiki teach a class, because so many of them are crafters, too. So what if I have Miss Lucky and Miss Unlucky in the same class? Certainly that could get troublesome. What if they get into a fight? A quarrel?

What if someone bets Miss Unlucky that she’ll become lucky with the right lucky charm?

Okay, I like that. But it seems a bit too easy. I want to bump it up a bit. How about a lot of lucky charms? What if an entire class contributed lucky charms and loaned them to our Miss Unlucky?

Now that sounds kind of interesting to me. How about you?

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Kiki Lowenstein and the Life Stories, Part !

March 2, 2015
By Joanna Campbell Slan
the owner of Time in a Bottle, a scrapbook and craft store in St. Louis, I
teach a lot of classes. Sure, it might make sense to delegate them, but
teaching is one of my favorite activities. Besides the joy of putting together
the projects, I learn so much about my customers, their lives, their hopes and
dreams. Usually, I come away from a class feeling inspired.

there are those who say the lives of “ordinary” women are boring. None of us
have super-powers. Most of us don’t run huge companies. Very few of us make
world-shaking decisions. But ordinary women bring new life into this world.
Once a child has arrived, we nurture that life and the lives of everyone we
come into contact with. And very often, we are there to see death when it comes
to claim our friends and family members. Tell me, what’s more important than
all that?

Because life is all that matters. In the end, we hope that we’ve lived a
journey worth celebrating. Scrapbooks do just that. They celebrate our lives,
committing our stories to paper so we can pass them along to the next

exactly what I told my eight students on that blustery day in January. “Welcome
to ‘My Journey,’ a class designed to help you record your lives. We’re going to
meet monthly to share our stories. While this is a scrapbooking class, a lot of
our focus will be on journaling. Since it’s often an undervalued part of our
craft, that might seem hard at first, but I’ll be here to help.”

going to be writing?” A slight frown marred the perfectly made-up face of Leah
Adagio. Of course, it wasn’t a complete frown because she couldn’t wrinkle her
brow, the result of heavy Botox use. I knew Leah by reputation since she ran
with my mother-in-law’s country club crowd. To say I’d been surprised to see
her was an understatement.

right. Although you’ll be making a scrapbook, you’ll also be working to tell
your life story in words.” At that point, I hesitated as my co-worker Clancy
Whitehead slipped into an empty chair at our worktable. I raised an eyebrow to
question Clancy. She caught my drift.
decided to join the class. I hope you don’t mind.”

usual, she wore a classically stylish outfit—in this case gray slacks, a
matching sweater, and an ivory silk blouse. Her glossy presence reminded me
that I was struggling with my post-baby weight. Consequently, I was still
wearing my maternity pants and large blouses. Clancy has a touch of OCD, which
makes her quite the perfectionist. She’s the first to admit that she goes too
far in her quest to have everything “just so.” Although we’ve known each other
for three years, and despite the fact I consider her a best friend, she’s still
a mystery to me. There are parts of her life that she won’t share. And now she
was joining a class designed to encourage sharing. Would she really let down
the barriers and let me see what she was hiding?

couldn’t help but wonder.  Clancy guarded
her privacy with all the zeal of the Fort Knox security forces.

than ponder the matter further, I gave my class their first assignment. “I want
you to write about a toy you had as a child, and why that particular toy
mattered to you. Tell us who gave you the toy. How you played with it, and
where it is today, if you know. When you come back next month, please bring
photos of the toy or pictures of you as a child.”

words were no more than out of my mouth when I glanced over to see Clancy

And unlike Leah, Clancy’s whole face creased in disapproval.

tuned for part 2!

Joanna Campbell Slan is a national,
bestselling and award-winning author. 
She has just completed Shotgun, Wedding, Bells: Book #11 in a mystery series featuring ace scrapbooker Kiki
Lowenstein. It’s available at  
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