CURRENT EVENTS:  Creative BREAKS and Permission for Self Care

A-1 Bookstore of Canton, Ohio (photo taken by Cat Russell, 2021)

While I’m rewriting my draft for my second novel, Hera Unbound, I’m altering my monthly content from poems to either writing prompts or short posts about current events.  



Last November I utilized the resources of National Novel Writing Month–aka NaNoWriMo–to create the first draft of my next novel, a retelling of the Olypian coup against Zeus by his wife, Hera, goddess of marriage. Most people who are passingly familiar with Greek mythology only know Hera as the goddess of marriage demonized as the persecutor of her husband’s mistresses/victims. I wanted to tell her story. 

Originally I planned to take a couple months off and begin the second draft in the new year, but my family has been hit by one thing after another and honestly, it just kept getting put on the back burner. I had a couple false starts that didn’t really pan out. Then, after months of triaging my life, I finally decided that instead of trying to edit the original draft, I’d just start over.  I looked over my original draft–including notes on things that needed to be addressed, redrafted a new outline that corrected the previous problems, and started over. I’m currently on chapter two.

WRITER PERMISSION: I’m giving myself permission to ease my commitments to my blog, writing short summaries instead of creating fresh poems for each post, in order to concentrate on this larger project. I also give myself permission to take a step back if and when needed, as many times as needed. I may be a writer, but I’m also a person, and my mental health comes first.

I am including this, not only to reaffirm this to myself, but to tell any other struggling writers out there, it’s okay to take a break when you need one. If you can’t write anything, go work on something else. Or binge The Walking Dead. Do whatever you need to do to find your equilibrium again. It’s not only okay, it’s necessary.

Thank you.


*image taken by myself in 2021 of A-1 Bookstore in Canton, Ohio.

*Next Friday, I’ll also post a short followup on my Patreon.  If you’d like to read about my progress and plans for this year, you can subscribe there to support my work for as little as $1 a month! Until next time, stay safe and well, and read often!

CURRENT EVENTS: New Year’s Resolutions Past and Present

In the grand blogging tradition I’ve observed the past several years, my December post will be solely about my New Year’s Resolutions: how I did (or not) accomplish my 2021 goals, what my plans are for 2022, and reflections on what I’ve learned. Hopefully, you’ll find my experiences helpful as well!


Finish compiling my second poetry collection.

SUCCESS. I completed this goal midway through the year, sent it out to a beta reader for feedback, then re-edited the manuscript based on feedback. It’s currently being considered by a publisher. I’ve gotten favorable indications but no definite commitments yet.

Submit my second poetry collection to a publisher.

SUCCESS. I queried several indie presses and also investigated literary agents. As I said, it’s currently being considered for publication, but I haven’t gotten a definite acceptance yet.

Regain my former schedule.

MODERATE SUCCESS: Sadly, this was not possible due to circumstances outside my control, although I did do several in-person readings. Considering the limited venues this year, I count this as a limited success.

Do things that scare me.

SUCCESS. Again, due to circumstances beyond my control, the venues I scheduled were mostly solo–which makes me more nervous than usual before a reading, as the spotlight is solely on me. I also stepped outside my comfort zone to read in costume at an unusual event, Zombiepalooza! I experimented with face paint–another new thing for me!–and went dressed as a zombie unicorn from my short story, Quietus. That and other selections are found within my short story collection An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days and Other Stories!

Honestly, I was extremely nervous for this one, as I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out that the audience was really too young for the zombie stories I had picked for the venue, so I count this one as a learning experience.


I actually came up with these resolutions in September, as I was planning ahead for the next few months. I’ve come to several conclusions over the past couple years. For one thing, as I’ve grown older I’ve realized the need to pace myself. I also know that if I make resolutions that are too broad, like become more organized, I’ll keep them in the most lax way possible, so this year I thought I’d try something a little different. Also, I’ve learned in the past year how to adapt my goals to changing circumstances.

The following goals for 2022 contain self-imposed deadlines throughout the year, rather than simply saying I want to accomplish them by year’s end. By breaking them into smaller and more specific target goals, I hope to pace myself in such a way that I’m not overwhelmed by the enormity of any single project. 

With that in mind…


After completing my first draft of Hera Unchained in November, I want to give myself a month (or two) to let the manuscript sit before picking it up again. My craft room, once my pride and joy, has been sadly neglected and become a catch-all for things-that-have-no-official-spot in my home. So I aim to make this area a viable workspace once again–SO HELP ME, THOR.


By allowing myself two months for each pass, with a month-long break between each one, I hope to allow myself a strict enough personal deadline to keep my writing on track while also allowing myself enough breathing room to let the manuscript rest between revisions.


During my month-long break from the manuscript, I plan to clean out my garage. By clean out my garage, I mean get rid of anything we don’t need, organize things we do by finding space for them, create a better system for storing our recyclables, sweep, and–last by not least–get rid of all the cobwebs! It’s a monumental task, and I fully expect to either be crushed beneath storage boxes, asphyxiate on dust-bunnies, or be found dangling from a giant spider web. However, if I accomplish my goal and somehow survive the experience, I fully intend to…


I like to write in bed, since it allows me to sit so that my back is supported. This way I can sit and work for longer periods without throwing my back out. As a consequence of this, as well as other things I store in this room, it tends to become cluttered. By organize my bedroom, I mean clean my closets, sort through my bedside (and other) storage–including my bookshelves. I’ll also dust. I promise.


My overarching goal for the year. I will adhere to my schedule for multiple (content and grammar) edits, beta reads, formatting, and eventually submit a highly polished manuscript to my publisher.



I will continue to try to schedule in-person events, but barring that I will do videos, podcasts, or other venues. I’d also like to include some promotion for An Optimist’s Journal of the End of Days (…), although the focus will primarily be on the newer book. 


I post once a month to my writing blog at as well as a separate post (usually complementary) to my Patreon at


This year was better than last, although 2020 did set the bar pretty low. The absence of murder-hornets alone made that an easy accomplishment! All kidding aside, I’m proud of what I’ve learned and accomplished this past year. 

Thank you for visiting my blog, and I hope you’ll return in January. I’ll start 2022 with a post about the books I read in 2021, so maybe you’ll find your next great read! In the meantime, stay safe and well, and Happy New Year!


*image courtesy of via Creative Commons Licensing.

WRITING PROMPTS aka Switching It Up In Honor of NaNoWriMo!

Photo by Pixabay on

November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short! If you are one of the thousands participating in the insane writing challenge to write a 50k rough draft novel within the thirty days of November, may God have mercy on your soul. JUST KIDDING! What I mean is, good luck! I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for NaNoWriMo, I never would have started writing. It gave me permission to write badly, which then turned into practice and workshops and feedback which led to getting MUCH better (despite this run on sentence, TRUST ME) to the point that I have two published books, one more to be published this month, one awaiting a publisher, and one currently in the works as my November Nano novel

So, if you are a fellow wrimo (NaNoWriMo writer), at the time this posts you are reaching the end of week one and entering the dreaded “Sophomore Slump”–aka week two. So here are three visual writing prompts to give you a little inspiration. See you at the finish line!

*image courtesy of via Creative Commons Licensing.

*image courtesy of via Creative Commons Licensing.

*image courtesy of via Creative Commons Licensing.

POEM: “spark”

colorful lights in stormy sky over skyscrapers

I hobble out of bed at daybreak
an Igor with dreams of being both doctor
and creation, waiting for just one spark,
juice enough to fuel that night's creation.

Excitement looms on this horizon
pregnant storm clouds heavy with rain,
whipped overhead by hurricane winds,
ready to strike, incite the dead to life.

Petrichor coats my tongue, fills my head,
lightning flashes, blue-white channels
blaze down these rods to these hands,
fire enough to burn, birthing this beating heart.

My blood boils, my eyes open.


*Thank you for visiting my writing blog. I hope you enjoyed the poem! If you’d like to read about its creation, I will be dissecting it next Friday on my Patreon.

If you would like to read more of my writing, I will be posting once a month (both here and on my Patreon) for the foreseeable future; I’m concentrating on my next poetry collection, as well as writing a novel.

In the meantime, Happy April--aka National Poetry Month!

POEM: “untitled”


i remember when i thought twice,
thrice, a dozen times moreover
whether to call myself writer,
a title hallowed in my heart
throughout my childhood years,
the ones who wrote the books
i devoured with my every free hour,
my escapes into worlds of make-believe,
my gateway to learning beyond
what adults prescribed for me

i’ve known too many writers
to be intimidated by the title,
known their kindness and generosity,
heard of others’ lack
lucky enough not to experience it myself

i remember when i hesitated
to call myself poet, the title
seemed too pretentious, too artistic
to apply to just anyone, like lumping Van Gogh
in with the man who graffitis the roadside
in the dead of night. but why not?
why should a canvas command more respect
than the underside of an overpass?
why should the verse of authors long gone
hold more esteem than the coffee house clique
reciting their rhymes in the meeting place
of modern minds? the old and new both live

i’ve known too many poets
to be awed just by the word
when their humanity alone humbles me
my own attempts to grasp each
abiding image, each emotion collaged
upon these pages like flowing script,
rivers of ink and electrons
imprinted upon our collective minds

with or without title, i’ll write
these words, this verse, hope
someday they will be read, felt,
imbued with life

words change form throughout time as organic
as a climbing vine growing with each age
titles are more specific, rigid like concrete
i call myself the words
the titles themselves unknown


*image courtesy of via Creative Commons Licensing.

POEM: “Original”



I sip poetry with my tea,

it seeps out like sun through a window,

it leaks through my fingertips.

I breathe in each page,

I live in these words.


Can I claim my voice as my own

when nothing comes of nothing?

There is no sound in a vacuum.


Can my whisper be heard

above the roaring wind,

or am I part of the chorus?

2020-03-30: Virtual Poetry Reading for Soul Picked Clean by Cat Russell!

Today is the one year anniversary of the Book Launch for my first published book, my poetry collection, Soul Picked Clean.

Since an in-person event is obviously not possible now, I wanted to celebrate online! I read a few of my poems, explain the thoughts behind them, and talk about how to keep in touch online. Enjoy!

If you would like to attend my FaceBook LIVE Book Birthday Party tonight, please visit:



*image courtesy of via Creative Commons License.

POEM: “Shakespeare’s Writing Advice”

Photo by Negative Space on


Shakespeare’s Writing Advice


nothing will come of nothing

space eternally waits to be filled

we fill ourselves with our surroundings

immerse ourselves in the stuff of life

stuffing ourselves to draw out 

inner worlds sifted through our own lens.


brevity is the soul of wit

so cut what doesn’t add flavor, 

add to the plot, the tone, the gently sloping 

arc of character, retain the essence 

of each point–even if that point is only 

water is wet while air is sweet.


to thine own self be true

for every fiction is a truth disguised

the heart of humor is aggression

the essence of poetry is vulnerability

and courage breathes life into 

the creation of anything worthwhile.


context is not everything:

you must learn to read 

between the lines.



Today’s post comes a little later than usual due to personal reasons, so my next poem will drop next Friday instead of the week after. 

I hope you enjoyed the poem! Thanks for stopping by.

CURRENT EVENTS: New Year’s and the New (and Past) Decade!


In honor of the decade’s end, as well as the new year, I’m posting my reflections on the past ten years as well as my resolutions for the next year. I’m obviously thankful for a loving family that I’m proud of, so this post is going to concentrate on professional accomplishments and goals.

2010-2019 REFLECTIONS:

I started submitting short fiction ten years ago, and my first publication credit appeared in Flash Me online magazine July of 2010, followed by my first print credit, the anthology The Best of Friday Flash: Volume One, and later The Best of Friday Flash: Volume Two. Over the years, I improved as a writer by participating weekly in Friday Flash and other online challenges like 52/250 A Year of Flash.

I’ve also blogged consistently and completed several rough draft novels via Nanowrimo. One of the novels, Pinholes, I edited over the course of a year into a serial, then revised into a single document and began subbing to different publishers. About four years ago, I began concentrating on poetry more than short fiction and sold a few poems to online publications. In 2017, I was honored to be invited as a guest author and speaker at the Massillon Library’s Local Author Fair; I was surprised, because I didn’t actually have a book, but they asked me as a blogger. That was my first scheduled public reading.

A couple years ago, I was finally able to attend writing events on a regular basis, so I’ve gone to writing cons and workshops ever since. Every month I go to Latitudes Poetry Night and The Write Stuff Writers’ Group. At Latitudes, I started participating in their open mic, because I planned to self-publish and hoped it would help me get over my stage fright.

A friend convinced me to try submitting to a press before I self-published. As a result, in March 2019, my first book, Soul Picked Clean, was published by Crisis Chronicles Press! At my book launch on March 30th, I gave my first scheduled reading as a published author. I spent the rest of the year promoting my book, scheduling reading events, and working on my next two books as well as my blog. I also began my Patreon page, renewed my podcast, My Writing Niche, and starting volunteering more of my time to help the writing community in general.

I’ve been lucky enough to live in northeast Ohio, a place blessed with two of the best library systems in the country–Cuyahoga County Library and Cleveland Library. And last, but certainly not least, I’ve been fortunate enough to know many lovely and creative people who inspire me both professionally and personally. This decade, and especially this past year, have been incredible. I’ll never forget it.


Next, I’ll share my New Year’s Resolutions with you; the point of this is twofold. One reason is to set them down so I’ll see them as something solid to work toward, and the second is to publicly declare them so I’ll pressure myself to complete them. If I make a big deal about them online, I’ll be too embarrassed to not do them (or at least work heavily towards them)!


  1. Submit my short story collection to a publisher.
  2. Submit another poetry collection to a publisher.
  3. Publish my short story collection.
  4. Publish my poetry collection.
  5. Market and promote my work.
  6. Volunteer more.
  7. Do things that frighten me.

This may seem like a long list–most people have one or two resolutions, but they are mostly variations of the same thing. Namely, I want to continue to get my work out there, put myself out there, and not let fear keep me from opportunities. Maybe admitting to that fear isn’t a good idea, maybe articulating it gives it power, but I don’t think so. I know I’m not the only person who gets scared of new things and new experiences, but if the past year–no, the past decade has taught me anything, it’s that facing my fears has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. I want to continue to grow, both as a person and a writer.

If you’ve read this far, I know this is much different than my usual poetry posts. I don’t know if sharing this helps you at all, but I hope it does. I know it helps me to read about other people’s experiences. If you would like to share your resolutions or have any polite feedback, I’d love to hear it! Thank you for visiting my blog, and I wish you the very best for the next year–and decade!

Happy New Year!


*image courtesy of via Creative Commons License



My last post concerned the Cuyahoga Library’s Indie Author Con and Showcase on October 13th, but there was way too much information to convey in a single post. So here, as promised, is Part II of my post about the con. Enjoy!

Legal Issues for Self-Published Writers

This segment of the con featured Jacqueline Lipton, founder of Authography: a company dedicated to sustaining authors with legal and other issues. She also teaches writing courses online, writes the Legally Bookish column for the SCBWI bulletin, has received awards for her fiction novels, and holds multiple degrees. Her upcoming book, Law & Authors, will be published in 2019.

“Write what you need to write, and worry about the legal stuff down the track.”

I know many authors worry about the legal ramifications of what they write, because they are afraid of accidentally committing a legal blunder, so this simple piece of advice felt very reassuring. It’s not necessarily that you won’t make mistakes, but that you mustn’t let the fear stop you from creating. If you are worried, you can seek legal advice by having a lawyer look over your work or by using some other legal resource, but the important thing is to not let fear stop you. Fear is the enemy of creativity.

In the interest of passing on some of what Ms. Lipton shared at the conference, I am sharing the photos I took of her slides (with her permission), as well as notes I took of the Question & Answer session afterwards.









What are the issues using quotations?

–Ms. Lipton explained that much of what you may want to use may be considered Fair Use, but because Fair Use is so uncertain, traditional publishers will want legal permission. This is a site you may consult for more information.

What about issues concerning more than one person using the same Pen name? Is it a copyright or trademark issue?

–If you or someone else uses the same pen name, you do not need to do anything. Others may have the same name, but it does not tell you anything about the underlying work. If someone is using your pen name, because they are copying your work, it’s a copyright issue anyway.

What is the definition of a Trademark (in greater detail)?

–Trademark concerns work a particular market (narrowly identified). Ex: The For Dummies series, etc.
Problems occur when you look closely affiliated with the other market. The main question asked concerning Trademark is, How likely would consumers be to mistake one product from the Trademarked product? Ex: orange arches compared to McDonald’s yellow arches for hamburger restaurants.

That completes my summary of last month’s writers’ conference. If you have any particular legal questions, I suggest you consult a lawyer or other official legal resource, but I hope this summary proves useful in a general sense.

I will post again next week, but I also wanted to tell you of an upcoming event. I am very honored to have been invited to participate once again in the Massillon Library Local Author Fair. The Fair takes place on Saturday, November 10th from 11am – 2pm, and features many talented local authors! I will be reading from my work, as well as have a table with some materials from Literary Cleveland to give out. If you are able, please stop by, listen to some cool authors, visit their tables, and maybe pick up a book!

*Permission to post photo of flyer kindly granted by Cuyahoga Library

***permission to summarize this session for the blog kindly granted by Jacqueline Lipton.
**permission to use photos of her slides generously granted by Jacqueline Lipton. The photos themselves were taken by myself.