Going to the park!A few years ago, I had to put my 4 year old Australian shepherd to sleep.

Lucy was not sick.  In fact, Lucy was robust and full of life. Until she bit someone. Attacked them, actually. All was well until it wasn’t. And then it was an emergency. One of those emergencies with a decision you have to make that you never think you’ll have to make until you’re making it.

Shortly after it all happened, I remember trying to write the story of Lucy, the story of what the hell happened. I rescued her. I tried to train her. I put her to sleep. I was devastated. But “so what?” I kept saying this to myself. So what. What, whatwhatwhatwhatwhat, was the story?

I recently listened to this short talk by Ann Hood about what makes a kick-ass essay. (I’ve now listened to it about ten times) I’ve decided she’s not just talking about writing essays. You could apply Ann’s advice to your fiction, to your poetry, to the fight you just had with your best friend, to pretty much anything where you need to dig, where you need to figure out how and why this all happened. Are you asking the hardest question … of yourself? Are you writing like you’re an orphan, like you don’t care what anyone thinks? Are you writing the hardest sentence you’ve ever had to write?

I finally figured out the Lucy story, but it took a really really really long time. A long time to think about, and a long time to write. I’m glad I dug in, that I waited it out, because Lucy’s story — which is really my story — will appear in the Tahoma Literary Review’s next issue.

If you have not discovered this wonderful journal who pays writers (yes, I said PAYS), here’s my favorite piece from their last issue: Gratitude Journal, by Leslie Pietrzyk.  It’s hilarious and heartbreaking, and you HAVE TO READ IT.


Now.  Tell me about a special dog (or cat) in your life who is not longer here, and why.