1890s photo of Annie Oakley by Noah Hamilton Rose, courtesy Denver Library

Some 145 years ago, a fifteen-year-old girl was invited to participate in a private shooting match with a famous marksman and vaudevillian named Frank Butler — ten years older and amused to be in a face-off with a scrappy Ohio teenager.

Reports vary on whether Annie Oakley shot perfectly or missed one in twenty-five shots, but in any case, she beat Butler fair and square. He lost not only the match, but a $100 side bet, worth over $2400 today.

By all reliable accounts, Butler took the loss well. As proof of his regard, he gave Annie and her family…


Available Feb 2, 2021 from Soho Press,

I’m a book coach, which means I read manuscripts for a living and can attest to the power of revision. I’ve seen people take a weak, confusing manuscript and turn it around, revising it into a clean, focused, emotionally moving, ready-to-market memoir or novel that I can’t wait to buy and send to my own friends because it’s gone from “meh” to “this-is-so-good.”

But the story I want to share with you as you peer down the tunnel at an uncertain 2021, trying to decide which dreams you dare to dream, is my own story — as novelist, not coach.


A week-long habit-changing experiment that cut my pain in half (and more)

Photo by Hadis Safari on Unsplash

Sitting is the new smoking, headlines warned us a decade ago. The standing-desk trend surged. Additional science poured in, complicating the picture.

In my own life for the last two years, there’s been no doubt: I hurt when I sit. Increasing chronic pain has interrupted my work, my hobbies, my sleep and my sanity. And so, for one week, in an effort to shake loose my routines and rewire my brain, I’ve decided to quit sitting, cold turkey.

“That may sound extreme,” I say to my new chiropractor at 10 am on a Tuesday morning in July, explaining my new…


If you don’t have enough time to write — who does? — read this.

Photo by Handy Wicaksono on Unsplash

Do you have a “portable process?” That’s what prolific author Julianna Baggott — twenty books published under three names — calls it. Her advice resonates with something I’ve done on and off for years but underutilized until I made the process more deliberate.

“Portable process” doesn’t mean learning to work in cafes instead of at home, although that helps, too. It means learning how to keep your mind creating and revising even when you don’t have time to sit in front of a keyboard, at all.


A brief history of bad parenting advice, and the fathers that wrote it

“Mother's hands frame baby's feet in close-up shot” by Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

“The mother begins to destroy the child the moment it’s born,” wrote parenting “expert” and founder of behaviorism John B. Watson.

In another essay he suggested, “Most mothers should be indicted for psychological murder.”

Watson got more praise than resistance for these over-the-top statements.

An academic and popular-media superstar in his day, though mostly forgotten now, Watson dedicated his 1928 bestseller, Psychological Care of Infant and Child, to the first mother to raise a happy child. By which he seemed to be suggesting that no mother in history had ever succeeded in raising a happy child.

If you thought, as…


Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

If you’re going to live your life based on delusions, and you are, because we all do, then why not at least select a delusion that is helpful? Allow me to suggest this one. The work wants to be made and it wants to be made through you. Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

I am lucky to have writer friend visiting me at the moment, and in addition to drinking a number of margaritas, we’ve had the chance to talk for days and days about writing. Sure, we talk about the things we’ve written. …


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

My most shame-inducing childhood moment, circa 1980, was the time my sweet Nana, a Polish immigrant with a quavering voice and pale, powder-soft hands, offered me a rag doll. It wasn’t my birthday and the doll wasn’t wrapped. I mustn’t have fully interpreted it as a gift, the sort of thing you accept with a smile and a rote “thank you.”

I shrugged and said, “No thanks.”

Later, an aunt took me aside, to persuade me to give the doll a second look. She whispered, “It’s someone you can talk to.”

Talk to? I was ten years old. The doll…


“A robot named Pepper holding an iPad” by Alex Knight on Unsplash

As a 1970s kid who owned one of the earliest model PCs, and as a middle-aged woman who relies on my children to expose me to new music, I once assumed that young people would be our harbingers of all things trendy or futuristic.

Not anymore.

We can credit Hollywood for helping us imagine that either astronauts (2001, Alien) or youngish, lonely men (Her, Ex Machina) would be the first to have long, meaningful conversations with their AI companions.

But having written a novel featuring a robotic nurse — which also required reading more deeply about AI, as well as…

Andromeda Romano-Lax

Book coach and author of ANNIE AND THE WOLVES and four other novels, published in 11 languages.

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