You want to write better. You want to write more.

Ann Linquist I’m Ann Linquist, freelance writer and online writing instructor.  Whether you’re interested in writing fiction, creative nonfiction, or effective business documents, I invite you to explore this site and find out how to reach your writing goals.

Your Old Car, Your Preferred Color, Your Favorite Season, and an Old Pet


I gratefully grabbed the empty parking space facing down the steep hill, curving my tires into the curb.  I’d need that hill to bump start the ‘56 Pontiac.  It ran okay, but it had a cracked block so that whenever I had to stop at a light, I had to throw it into neutral and gun the engine so it wouldn’t stall.   I needed that downhill parking spot to pop the clutch.  So far, that had worked.  I was heading for the consignment store, Clever Threads, where they’d show my home-sewn clothing and hopefully sell it.  I had made a flowing sky blue skirt with many layers and a deeper blue and black vest (the colors of deep dusk) to match.  Maybe it would catch someone’s eye.  I could use a little money.

Thanks goodness spring had arrived in Wisconsin.  I was exhausted from the chores of making wood to heat the house and heat water.  It wasn’t just that; I was pregnant.  It had seemed like such a good idea at the time—I’d decided I wanted to be a lady with babies, and Billy and I had been together over two years.  But he was traveling with the band a lot, of which I was no longer a member, and I was alone more than half the time.

We’d rented an old farm house and traded our old pickup for two baby calves.  But now I had to mix formula for them twice a day in a five-gallon paint bucket and hold my fingers underneath the surface so the calves would get the idea of sucking and then be able to drink on their own.  Problem was, I was scared of the barn.  There were spiders in there, maybe mice or other bad things.  And the calves were two more animals that pooped and pee-ed wherever and whenever they wanted, trusting me to keep things cleaned up.  Their noses were always wet, and they seemed to enjoy wiping them on my jeans leg, leaving wet stains. They were not sweet old pets, but colossally dumb and needy baby cows.

As I climbed the hill back to my car, I decided to trade them for something else.  I was going to need a washing machine.




I recently discovered what I should have always known.  My feet are faithfully waiting to take me onward.  They keep going.

I believe feet are under-rated.  Perhaps you can contemplate your own feet and write about what they’ve meant to you, where they’ve taken you, how they have been good to you.

Look down.  They’re ready!


Sad News for Members of the September, 2006 Session of Beginning Writers Workshop

I have heard from Kathy Mendenhall that she just found out that our dear colleague and talented creative writer, “Sandra Dee” (Jenny) died from lung cancer several years ago. Sandra Dee was someone whose creative efforts gave rise to the always well-received list called, “You Know You’re a Writer When…” that I continue to post in Discussion Area 11 every single session. I feel grateful to know that her writing lives on in the Beginning Writers Workshop that continues to start up again each month.

I know some of you remember this session. (I think I’ve remembered the month correctly.) It was a truly memorable group, one that included both the wonderfully talented Gullible and the endlessly entertaining Peanut Beranski. I may be forgetting some: Orlando? Walk? Perhaps you can refresh my memory. I see hundreds of names each month.

But I do remember Sandra Dee. May her spirit of adventurous humor and ongoing support for us all live on in our own efforts.

Turning Point Moments

~~Back in the 1960s, a female could get kicked out of school for coming in late to the dorm or for being caught in a men’s dorm.  When the clock hit midnight and your new love looked at you with tender eyes, did you stay out or mind the rules?

~~Your favorite employee comes into your office swearing at the top of her lungs, right when you are having a friendly chat with your boss’s boss.  Do you tell her to come back when she calms down or do you invite her to sit down and ask your boss’s boss to join you in the real world of being in charge of two dozen overworked women?

~~She did it again.  She cheated on you while you were in Europe on business for six weeks.  Trouble is, you did too.  A really fine-looking, smart French woman was working on the same project with you, and after a few nice meals together and friendly evening walks, things got out of hand.   Your move!

~~Junior is getting picked on in school.  Do you tell him to butch up and fight the bully or call the school and ask them to intervene?

~~You get tickets for a Jackson Browne solo concert (fifth row center!), but right in the middle of the second set, aliens land outside the intimate venue.  Tough choice!

Creativity Feels like This

My creativity feels like this, but I also want to hear about yours. Mine came out as a poem, but that is not required. Just shoot for as much accuracy as you can.


Take all your failures
Mash them into every urge to screw around anyway
Throw in a cross-eyed stare
A stubborn lower lip, a tongue between teeth
And lay it all out, end to end, in words.

Take all your happiest smiles
Feel them in your chest
Exhale fear, then shrug and let it back in.
Say, “Who cares?”
And start.

Think of the least obvious
The fourth item past the cliché
Or don’t think
Pretend you’re not really doing this
And are actually off doing laundry or washing the floor
Then hit “Record,” but don’t watch.

Repeat after me:
It’s okay; it’s okay; it’s okay.
Then pat yourself on the knee and tell yourself
You’re a good kid,
And whatever you put out there today is a fine start.

Icons of Childhood

We all have our icons of childhood–special objects or places that epitomize what it meant to be a kid.  Here’s one of mine, and I’d like to hear about some of yours.

The flat spot between the back seat and the back window of those big sedans from the 1950s and 1960s.  

Remember being small enough to find that the perfect place to crawl into and take a nap while Pop or Mom drove at night or on a long trip?  It wasn’t perfectly comfortable, since those back windows used to curve, and the space was tiny.  It was cozy, however.  Much nicer than trying to sit between two bigger sisters who made you take the middle of the back seat where there was a big hump on the floor pushing your knees up into your chest.

Practice Being Accurate

If you’re here, you are a writer, and you pay attention to words.  Here are some vague terms that are constantly thrown around, and as a writer, I’m increasingly annoyed.  Here are my attempts at suggesting clarification.  Please feel free to add your own phrases and interpretations.

The Establishment:  This description is as insulting as “you people.”  It could mean anything from the local County Supervisors and your local library staff, to the House of Representatives, all lobbyists (from gun rights supporters to environmental activists) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Time to define our terms and find exactly the right words to capture what we mean.

Elites:  Who are they? Are they people in power like a county supervisor or the sheriff?  Do all elites live on the east coast or are they also rich movie stars?  Do you get to be one if you are educated?  Is the head of a union an elite? Does it mean you’re a boss?  Are you an elite if you supervise six people who run popcorn, funnel cake, and cotton candy stands at the local county fair?  Another meaningless term.

“I read somewhere that people are saying….”  Let’s all agree, once and for all, that the phrases, “people are saying” or “they say” do not represent credible sources.  These phrases mean nothing since somewhere people are also saying that the earth is flat.  One more logical fallacy.

Globalization:  This sounds like a tidal wave that will engulf us all.  But what is it really?  Is it a secret plot against people who hold low wage jobs in America?  Is it something “the elite” and “the establishment” are conning us with so they can get richer?  Is it here to stay or can we destroy it with a suicide vest?  Perhaps it is the logical result of the technology that increasingly links us all at the speed of light.  Perhaps it’s the result of better nutrition, cleaner water, and more available medical care across the globe.  A bad thing?  Something to accept or vilify?

Wall Street: Another vague generalization.  Does this term include only the people that work there or perhaps anyone who has a 401K?  If I work on Wall Street, invest in stocks, or live nearby, am I evil?  Where does Wall Street begin and Main Street end?  Sure wish the media would stop using vague terms.

Main Street:  My mental image of Main Street is very Midwestern U.S.  There are the late 1800’s storefronts, refurbished to bring in new shops, many of whom go out to business in six months.  The competition is rough out there because of malls and places with huge parking lots.  But somehow, Main Street never seems to evoke manufacturing or farming.  So misleading.  I know many farmers, but they don’t ever think of themselves as Main Street.

Immigration:  Another term that has become over generalized so that demagogues can use it to scare people and get attention.  Some questions that might add clarity are:  Are there “good” immigrants and “bad” immigrants?  Like my friend from India who came over in 1985, went through all the bureaucratic steps, and become a citizen–is he now a bad guy?  Is the country of origin a rule-out?  (Syria, Mexico, or any country with darker skins?) If all the immigrants were from Great Britain, Germany, and France, would this be an issue?  If we all agree that prejudice against our immigrant grandparents was unfair, how did immigration somehow become bad?

Polarizing:  How easy it is to get angry and fight.  How we love our own anger (“I feel it so strongly, it must be right!”).  How soothing it is to find someone to blame for any injustice done to us (whether by family member, government, or some suspect ethnic group).  How comfy and self-satisfying it feels to identify with “us” and suspect “them.”  What is much more difficult is to pause and consider how much we are alike, how those people who are somehow “them” are also struggling to make it through adolescence/young adulthood, raise families, or deal with aging parents.   We’re all struggling to find meaningful work, a place to have shelter, cook whatever we can find, and protect our loved ones from all problems.  Coming together is hard; fighting is way too easy.