Co-Teaching at the Amazing Highlights Foundation

On October 24-26, I get to do three very special things. 1) Teach at Highlights. 2) With my mentor, friend, colleague Kathi Appelt. 3) And meet Sona Charaipotra who will be teaching with us.

If you have never been to Highlights, hie thee hither. This is a magic place to commune with words and writers. It is beautiful. It is quiet. It serves yummy food and the accommodations are so sweet.

Kathi Appelt is an extraordinary human, writer, teacher, poet. It has been my privilege to know her for many years and I love her intelligent compassionate heart and how she brings all of it to the page whether it is hers or yours.

Sona Charaipotra…I am so looking forward to meeting Sona and coming to know how she teaches and thinks and writes.

What, you ask, are we teaching? Unlocking the form and genre of your story. And what is that? Well, please eavesdrop on this conversation between Kathi and me as we talk about the creation of this class. And then join us. It will be a wonderful weekend. There are only two slots left!

Highlights Foundation Campus

L2: Kathi, what would we say is the idea behind this workshop?

KA: First off, we wanted to do something that would be valuable for any writer in any genre.  So, when the notion of  “any genre” entered into the conversation, we realized that there were plenty of things to talk about—character, structure, voice, etc.  However, in general, those topics are widely covered.  But what about form?

I first studied form as a graduate student when I picked up a copy of Susanne Langer’s book, Feeling and Form. That was where I began to think of the form of a story as a kind of “cup” that holds the content.  Sort of like a frame, but more like a container. The shape of the container, the way it falls out on the page, all of that impacts the story itself.  But it also does something a little more mysterious: if the story is in the correct form, it actually gives rise to feeling/emotions. The form, in other words, serves as a subtext.  So, for me, I wanted to invite participants to take a story and actually try it out in different forms–poetry, short story, script, etc.–to see what happens.

Thinking about form naturally led to consideration of genres–picture books, young adult, middle grade, nonfiction–to study the ways that the content impacts the form.

So, what we’ll be doing then is looking at (1) the ways that form gives rise to feeling, and (2) the ways that content informs the structure.

I know it sounds a bit abstract, and at a certain level it will be.  But on another level it’s all about experimentation, and looking below the surface of the story itself, while at the same time recognizing that the surface is part of the story too.

It’s going to be very cool.

KA: So now my question to you. Fortunately you—master of the short story, writer of plays, essays, articles, television/film scripts, and brilliant teacher—agreed to co-lead with me. Because of your own experience in writing across genres and forms, what are your hopes and goals for the workshop?

LL: My hope for the workshop is for participants to take a manuscript or even a section of a manuscript, one that is rebuffing their efforts to go deeper, and crack open that stuck place so the story can pulse again.

I know we’ve both had the experience when we are starting a story that it could go in a zillion different directions. It feels wild and exciting. With each word, choice and page, the story starts to set. Sometimes, it loses its juice. The story becomes one thing after another. How do we look at that story and allow ourselves permission to shake it up, turn it upside and find a form that supports the energy of the story?

It is a marvelous time for storytelling right now. I feel like we are in a golden age of rule breaking and genre bending. And I think readers are terrifically sophisticated. I would love for writers in this workshop to bring a draft of a story or an idea of a story and walk away with a big permission slip to tell that story in a form that gives the writer and the story more vitality and energy.

Back to you, my dear friend, how are we going to accomplish that not very small feat? What kinds of cracking tools will we use to assist these dear writers in finding the form that supports and breathes life into their stories?

KA:  One of the most important cracking tools (I love that image, by the way) is taking a good look at some excellent work by our peers.  Some titles that I hope we can discuss, and that we recommend workshoppers consider before they arrive are:

WHAT I LEAVE BEHIND, by Alison McGhee.

LONG WAY DOWN, by Jason Reynolds

BROWN GIRL DREAMING, by Jacquelyn Woodson

COUNTDOWN and REVOLUTION, by Deborah Wiles


SHOUT, by Laurie Halse Anderson


JUMPED, by Rita Williams Garcia

Of course, everyone should read EVIDENCE OF THINGS NOT SEEN, by Lindsey!

I realize, looking at that list that those are all largely YA titles—a mix of fiction and nonfiction, written in prose, poetry, graphics.  Do you have titles for the younger set that you recommend?  I’m thinking a series, like Debbie Michiko Florence’s “Jasmine Toguchi” would be fun to consider.  What else, oh sage of Story?  What else?

LL: I think some of the best crackers are George Saunders for short story (“Tenth of December” and “Victory Lap”) and Kari Anne Holt for middle grade (RHYME SCHEMER). And let’s not forget the “Baby Mouse” books by Jennifer and Matthew Holmes for graphic novels.  I also think reading poetry and examining scene work in television and film can fire the imagination and serve the writer to think outside conventional form and push us to look at what form will serve the story and bring that subtext alive.

Because this is a weekend workshop, I’d love to ask our participants to do focused readings, which we can dig into together at Highlights. But I would also like to provide the time and space for them to crack open their own work and share it. Not just once. But two or three times so they can get a sense of how changing form might serve their story. What do you think?

KA:  Yes! We’ll do some close reading, some re-rendering, and some fun experimentation, so that when all of us leave, we’ll have some new ways of looking at our stories.  We will have done some cracking!

I love it. So I hope that all of our participants will get their hands on at least some of the above-mentioned titles, gather up some of their own works-in-progress, or at least an idea that they want to explore, and then we’ll all “jump write in.”

Any final words?

LL: Only this…So, my eavesdropping friends, join us. Bring us your stuck, your weary, your hard-worn pages and let’s rediscover the pulse that drew you to the page. Let’s crack your manuscript open, put it in different forms and see what happens. See you on October 24.




A New Class

In Mid-August, I was lucky enough to be in Berlin at the Bahnhof Hamburger Museum where I saw an exhibit of Jack Whitten’s work. It was mostly his mosaic works and, to be honest, they captivated me. This is a piece called Flying High: Betty Carter.

From a distance, it looked like a wonderful homage to this jazz singer. But as I stepped closer and closer, I said, “This is how I write. Bits. Intricate bits. Stuck together. To tell a bigger story.” That when I conceived of this new class: Writing In Mosaic

Each week, I will give the class an overarching, big picture word or phrase or theme (e.g. The First Kiss). We will write for a short time about that big thing, exploring it, turning it over, examining it. The idea is to warm to the big piece and find your proximity to it. Then in a series of five, ten, fifteen minutes prompts over our time together, I will lead you inside the pieces that make up the whole. Each smaller piece will be more intimate, more focused but they will shed light on the bigger subject from a different angle or perspective. In a way, we will be like archeologists exploring a site, going in close, dusting off an artifact then stepping back and exploring another section, another bit of the civilization within the world of the word, phrase or theme.

My thought is to sharpen our craft muscles by looking and looking again, using all our senses to shape a different kind of whole.

Will we read aloud? Yes. Although not every time and not all the time.

Do you have to share? No but yes. Hearing your work out loud is beautiful.

Will I have all the classes planned? I will certainly have the first two planned with an eye on the rest of them BUT I like hearing back from you about what’s working. If there is a word, phrase or theme that you want me to shape a class around, I would love to hear it.

Why writing in mosaic? Hmmm…I believe that readers and viewers are more sophisticated than ever today so I think that stripping away the connective tissue between moments is dynamic and exciting. That is mosaic. It doesn’t mean we don’t explore a quotidian habit or moment, but we don’t necessarily need to explore the trek downstairs to get to the kitchen table. Our readers will take the leap with us.

My first novel Evidence of Things Not Seen was written in mosaic. I am in the middle of revising a middle grade novel. Though it is a more traditional structure, my guiding principle (in the form of a post-it on my computer) during the first draft was: write the scene you know you need. That draft was a series of juicy, detailed scenes with bits of connective tissue. It gave me lots of details and insight into the characters. My second draft was going through and anchoring in the motivations of the main character. Now I am working on deepening the logic and consequence of each thread through the book. All of which is to say, every thing we create demands its own process but the ability to write sharp clear and detailed moments whether you are writing novels, poems, short story or memoirs, will be a well-used tool in your craft tool box.

The class begins on Tuesday, September 24 and will meet every other week from 6-8:30 until December 3. The class will be held at 2004 Goodrich Avenue. Cost $240 There are only two spots left.

Join us. I’ll leave you with one more close up of Jack Whitten’s work.


I was in NewOrleans during Tropical Storm Barry, pressing my little nose against shuttered shops and restaurants all weekend when the prompt “bittersweet” popped into my mailbox. I noodled with ideas and images of being stuck inside a storm and outside taped and sandbagged stores. Nothing worked. Then this morning, I learned a dear friend’s mom is crossing over and this poem came…


When you call hospice for me
When the care becomes less urgent
When we are waiting instead of hoping
Pull up a chair
Lots of chairs
Bring the loved ones round
All of them
And talk, let the words drift over me
Let them settle on my hair
And in my nose
Offer me a sip of ginger ale
Every now and again
With chipped ice floating in it
But please keep talking
Don’t leave the room
Not even for chores
Bring the laundry straight from the dryer
Fold it on top of me
And keep talking
I want the sound of your voice to be the last thing I let go of

Lindsey Lane,
July 17, 2019


What is the Best Part?
Something unanticipated?
Something discovered?
Something long awaited?

Many years ago, my friend Anjani whispered to a friend that she longed to eat the entire inner seedless core of a watermelon. On her birthday, she woke to find a freshly picked watermelon at the foot of her bed. She cut the melon into four long quarters and then ate the inner core one bite at a time. In a way, she was thrilled to have accomplished her longing. She never wanted to do it again but every time she ate the tiny seedless triangles from a slice, she remembered the gorging event and told the story. I always wondered which was the best part: the little bits that create the longing or the goal achieved?

On this Tuesday night, July 9, at 8pm at Home Slice Pizza on South Congress Avenue, Austin Bat Cave is hosting its monthly storytelling event. The theme is The Best Part. Entrance is $10. I will tell a story and emcee the event. Gulp.



It’s hard to Rest In Peace about your seventeen-year-old cat going missing one night. It’s hard not to bury a body. It’s hard not to know for sure they are dead.

Of course, the other side of it is hard: Watching them decline and agonizing over when or if is time to help them.

Either way, you feel like a crappy guardian of your beloved creatures. If I decide to help them die, I feel like I gave up. If I lose them, I feel irresponsible.

Here are the facts. Kiki came to us at one day old. We bottle-fed him. From the very beginning, he loved to be outdoors. (My cats have always had a designated window to go in and out.) And from the very beginning, he loved hunting. He brought me more birds, lizards, squirrels, mice and rats than any other other cat I’ve known. It was his jam.

In the winter, he would spend all his time indoors curled up in a warm place. Come spring, the birds screeched and the squirrels chattered when he reappeared. In the summer, he loved staying out all night.  I’d find him in the morning, on the screened porch sleeping off his stalking and ready for breakfast. Canned salmon, please.

Yes, he was slowing down. Yes, he seemed to have a little dementia. But he was still healthy. And he still loved to spend the night outside.

When I came home from the prison last Thursday night, he’d been indoors all day. I opened the porch door and he slipped out. That was the last I saw him. He didn’t come home for breakfast or dinner or breakfast or dinner…

I think a larger critter got him. I’ve seen a fox running across my yard. People have said they have seen coyotes. There was a report of a bobcat on the neighborhood listserv, but I seriously doubt it. Kiki did not hunt beyond the perimeter of our yard. He was wary of cars. No, I think a bigger animal came into our yard made him his prey. I like to think he wasn’t afraid. I like to think he knew what was happening when the claws and the teeth were upon him. I like to think he went willingly into the cycle of life, the way so many animals had succumbed to him.

I miss him. The way he’d lick the algae on the outdoor fountain for water. The way he would wake me up when it was time for breakfast. The way he would purr. The way he would claim a seat for weeks on end and then suddenly change it. The way he was a presence in our lives for seventeen years.

My darling Kiki…Rest in Peace.