Tuesday, October 21, 2014


A new book emerges slowly, unwrapping and untangling itself from dreams and images and experiences, from lines of poetry and memories.

I'm writing a story now that I've wanted to write for a long time, but it's not yet untangled enough to tell you too much about it, other than at its center is a 93-year-old nun who is delivered in the middle of the night to a nurse on duty at a long-term care facility. The old woman has suffered a stroke, as my aunt Alayne did this summer. Alayne passed away, but my character lives on with more than a hint of my feisty auntie in her.

In the story, Sister Rose has right-side paralysis and aphasia, loss of speech. When her nurse, Johanna, tries to remove her garments to examine her, she fights against it. It's a battle she can't win, and all is revealed, including a large butterfly tattooed on her chest.

This weekend I was walking downtown, and passed Luly Yang's, a shop of beautiful formal and wedding dresses. In my last book, Love Water Memory, this shop had a cameo as Lana Tang's, a place the main character Lucie loved, slowing down as she drove by (as I do) to admire the dresses.

Imagine my delight when I saw this dress on display on Saturday! A good omen? A sign that I'm on the right track?  Or just a dress inspired by Halloween?

Whatever it is, I can't stop looking at it, which is weird for a person whose idea of formal wear is Seattle-typical: nicer-than-everyday jeans.

Where do books come from? From things large and small that shimmer in a certain light.

What inspires you?

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Stop on the Pacific NW Writers Blog Tour

I've been tagged by the fabulous writer, Shannon Huffman Polson, to post for the blog tour today, and in turn, I'm tagging Claudia Rowe, Kitty Harmon, and Jennifer Murphy, three great and wonderfully diverse writers in Seattle.
The point is to share a bit about the writing life by answering these questions:
1. What am I working on?
2. How does my writing differ from others in its genre?
3. Why do I write what I do?
4. How does my writing process work?

The quick answers:
1. a new novel, 2. I have no idea, 3. because I want to, and 4. I wish I knew.

The more complex answers:

1. I've embarked on an idea I've had for twelve or so years about characters from the 1930s, during the Depression, and the very odd thing they do for a living.  I'm not yet ready to talk a whole lot about it, and historical fiction is new for me, but these characters have been pulling at me for so long. I'm in heaven writing right now, but it will be at least a year before I finish! This is the reality of novel writing. It just takes a really, really, really long time.

2. We all write how and what we write as individuals, and I never really think of it as how writers compare. Some writers delight us with their beautiful prose, the kind you can read over and over and take pure delight in. Some writers pack their stories with so much meat and muscle that you feel you've been taken on a thrill ride by the end. Some writers are quiet and introspective. Some are hilarious. Most writers don't know how to characterize their own writing. Now that I have five books in the world, I do feel fairly confident saying that I think my strengths are concision, ease of reading (which is important to me; I want readers to feel pulled through my pages as much as possible), creating real characters, and an attempt to get at the emotional truth. I hope so, anyway.

3. I write what I do because it's what bubbles to the surface. As it turns out, my stories are often about characters who do battle with emotional trauma or mental illness (in themselves or others). I'm glad for that, because it gives me a way to talk about my own issues with those things in a way that might help someone else and reduce stigma one tiny step at a time.

4. First, I do a lot of thinking. I keep my eyes and ears and heart open to what's happening around me in the world, in my life, even on my walks and shopping and visits with friends. Certain things will "glimmer" and begin to coalesce into characters, themes, plot lines, etc. I'll gather them all up and begin to write about these things, looking for a way to build something from it. I'll have a few false starts and adjust, and eventually, I will launch. From there, I draft every weekday morning for about a year, and then I will revise for another year or so. I get help from trusted readers and experts, including my agent. Every book works a little differently, but that's basically how it happens for me. And if you ask me this in a year or five, it may have changed. It's ever evolving.

If you are a reader, thank you. If you are a writer, bless you. We're all in this together!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

It's my job

Writers have an uneasy relationship with the business side of said writing. Most of us nurture seriously introverted personalities in order to write in the first place. A few of us (like me) have fairly robust extroverted sides as well. Even so, when it's time to spread the word about a book release, it's…uncomfortable. So with all necessary caveats and excuses now out of the way, I bring you:

LOVE WATER MEMORY in glorious paperback (Jan.14)! I pleaded with the publisher to keep the hardcover artwork for the paperwork, but when they showed me this beautiful image, I loved it equally, as one does each child born, even though we thought we could only love the first.

I'd love your help spreading the love. If you've enjoyed the book, please consider writing a review online (Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites). Or, do that verbally with friends and family you think will like the book. Let your book groups know they  might enjoy discussing it. Ask your local libraries to stock it if they don't, and your bookstores, too.

Books that don't make it into the top ten lists (and there are tens of thousands of us) survive on word of mouth, readers talking to readers. Whenever you like a book, any book, let someone know! You're helping the entire literary ecosystem survive. (And thank you to loyal readers who do this all of the time; you know I love you, right?)

Now, for fun:

•Watch the book trailer!
•Listen to the music!
•Attend an event!
•Order a copy!

My work here is done.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanks Giving

It is the day before Thanksgiving. Matt and I are not traveling this year, and we live in a city with no family, but many dear friends. Many dear friends who are traveling for the holiday, though, or uber familied with traditions of their own. We'd decided not to mope but to enjoy a simple day, eating out at a restaurant, taking a long walk, seeing a movie. Sure, that will be fine, we told ourselves.

Hanging with friends one night last week, discussing where everyone was going for the holiday, we said, "Oh, we're going to a restaurant, no big deal." And I felt the flood of emotion, the deep homesick, the lack of family. I admitted I was sad, that I'd rather spend it with others.  A dear uber-familied friend said, "Just come over! We'd be happy to have you guys. We thought you were going out of town." My eyes, which were moist, brimmed for a moment before I took a deep breath and said, "Thank you."

Today I will be shopping for root vegetables and apples and pomegranates. I will be pre-heating and whisking and chopping, and I will be so grateful. Friends are not hard to come by, not necessarily, but a truer connection comes with vulnerability, with the simple words, "I'm so sad." Or, "Can I help?"

And always, always, "Thank you."

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Life has a way of throwing annoying metaphors at you when you least want them. My computer's hard drive bit the dust last week, just as summer was ending. Just as I was finalizing what to write next, making copious notes and plans. Just as one dear person in my life was undergoing a serious lifesaving procedure, and another was veering off in a new direction.

I felt endlessly sad and frustrated and, well, pissed off.

And then yesterday, it rained like hell. No, like heaven had opened and emptied itself, either a giant thunder piss to say, You think you know what life's about? Ha!  or to say, Here, let me wash that clean for you. (And by the way, you can't stop the seasons changing.)

You can't stop the seasons changing. You know that, inside, but sometimes you just want to hold on for one moment longer to what you had, whether it's health, love, an idea, or summer. The ocean lolling its waves at you on a hot day, the kind of conversation that feels life saving. But as the Buddha will tell you, everything is impermanent. Not to mention imperfect.

So life, I piss on you. I hate that you've taken my precious things, because to me, possession should be 9/10ths of the karmic law.

And, goddamnit, I love you. Because you wash me clean every now and again, open up new possibilities, make me work hard for what I want, and occasionally, you deliver something quite sweet and beautiful.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Long and Winding Road . . .

. . . of book touring is coming to an end. A couple of visits to Eastern Washington and then the Oregon Coast the last week of June, and I will have done 30-ish events in support of Love Water Memory, which released on April 2. Thanks to everyone who has shown up, spread the word, clinked glasses, laughed at my jokes, and of course, purchased books.

My band, The Rejections, performed at two events, and you can hear some of our music here. We will continue to play gigs this summer, including for The Chuckanut Radio Hour in Bellingham, WA on June 20, and at Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge Island, WA for First Friday Art Walk on August 2.

This summer, I will settle down to work on the next book. I don't know enough about it yet to tell you much, except that once again, it's inspired by real events that I found too intriguing not to write about. More to come. I'll be teaching at writing conferences this summer and fall, so take a peek at my events page if you 're interested. Soon, believe it or not, we'll be cranking up the promotion cycle for the paperback of Love Water Memory, due out in January 2014.

Matt and I continue to enjoy Seattle (especially in summer), our friends and family, and now, playing music together again at long last. I hope you have a really terrific summer, and get out there and do the things that make you feel most you, and most alive. That's my goal!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Changing the World

Reposted from Amy Sue Nathan's wonderful blog, Women's Fiction Writers, published April 16, 2013:

Author Jennie Shortridge says: Writing For Women Is One Of The Most Powerful Ways To Change The World

There’s much ado about women’s fiction, women authors, and women in general these days. On one hand, reports that confirm how many fewer books by women get reviewed in major publications and some women writers putting down other women writers is horrible. Okay, on two hands it’s horrible. But on that imaginary third hand, it’s bringing a lot of amazing women writers together. A band of brothers has nothing on a band of women writers. 
Author Jennie Shortridge shares her thoughts today, in a show of camaraderie with other women writers, and in celebration of her new novel, LOVE WATER MEMORY.
Please welcome Jennie to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Amy xo

Author Jennie Shortridge says: “Writing For Women Is One Of The Most Powerful Ways To Change The World”

In the year 2013, “women’s fiction” is still believed by some to be a pejorative term. The “chick lit” craze certainly didn’t help. Some early books in that category were as deeply revelatory as Catcher in the Rye, but got bedazzled in the marketing machine to scream: “Only buy me if you are female!” And begat a generation of pastel-covered books meant to categorize the stories of women’s lives as fluff, even when the messages inside might be strong as steel.
The novels I write are categorized as women’s fiction, even though my latest, Love Water Memory, has both a male protagonist and a female protagonist, and is the story of a harrowing brain disorder and its aftermath. You could imagine John Irving or Nick Hornby or Garth Stein writing about such a thing (in fact they’ve written about very similar things).
And yet, I’ve decided to come down on this issue exactly where novelist Elizabeth Berg does. To paraphrase Ms. Berg, when asked if she minded her work being categorized as women’s fiction, she said something like, “I love women! I love writing for women. Why would I mind?” (Why indeed, when women buy the vast majority of books?)
But here’s the real reason why I love writing books for women (and men, because plenty of men read my books): Writing for women is one of the most powerful ways to change the world.
Scientific studies show that college students who read fiction develop more empathy toward others than their counterparts. Those of us who’ve always read fiction know this innately. Our sensibilities, values, and core beliefs are formed and informed by the novels we read as teens, young adults, and even now.
In this new society of hardwired, head-phoned technoids tuned in electronically alone at their devices, actual human connection is eerily on the decline. We may tweet or text characters on a screen, but we can’t feel the impact of what we say or don’t say unless we can look into the other person’s eyes.
Women are biologically engineered for empathy, and yet we often get subtle (or not so subtle) messages that empathy and compassion are not as important as power and might. Don’t believe it. If more leaders of corporations, governments and religious institutions were women, integrating compassion into decision and policy making, our people and our planet would be far better off.
When women write women’s stories, we share ideas and experiences and revelations about solving problems, about surviving and thriving through difficulties, about love and the power of compassion and understanding.
And that changes the world, one reader—female or male—at a time.
Love Water Memory and four other acclaimed novels, as well as a writing teacher and avid volunteer. She is co-founder of Seattle7Writers, a nonprofit collective of over sixty published authors in the Northwest who work to give back to their community. Find her onFacebookTwitter, her blog JennieSez, and atwww.jennieshortridge.com.