Feb 22 2011

The Best Little Roadhouse On The Net

It’s hard to believe Writer’s Roadhouse has completed its first month. We’ve had several thousand hits, scores of subscriptions, and fine discussions on each post. The best part of Roadhouse, its heart and soul, are your thoughtful and finely crafted comments. Adrian Fogelin and Tgumster deserve special thanks for their effort, but I am thoroughly grateful to everyone who has taken the time to read and embrace this blog.

Last week I received the notes from my editor, and the rewrite will require my full attention for now. If I come up for air and write a post, you will receive notice if you have subscribed. And if any writer is struggling with a problem, please write it in the “Ask A Question” section. I will check those daily and make sure you get the help you need.

I will miss you for a bit, but look forward to your return.

Best wishes,
Leigh Continue reading

Feb 18 2011

A Solitary Walk

I have three small groups of friends. These are close friends, dear to my heart, but ask any one of them what faith means, and their answers will be distinctly different.

The first group sees miracles, God’s hand, in everyday things. He reveals Himself in a hibiscus flower grown into the shape of the cross. Shadows on ancient stone floors become faces of the dead. They get shivers or a deep sense of peace. It is a comforting and heartening belief.

Another group sees rules: fasting on Holy Days, confession before communion. They go to church every week, some of them every day, and urge their children to set examples, to express dismay if their friends stray. They believe this is their duty.

The third group of friends have either lost their faith or are drifting in that direction. They are disillusioned with organized religion and perhaps this is why their beliefs are fluid. They see each situation as unique: what’s wrong in one case may be right in another. They have accepted their children’s decision to live with a significant other because love and commitment are their bottom line. They believe in live and let live. Continue reading

Feb 14 2011

Kick The Cat

I’m not a mystic, but what I am about to tell you is the true story of Jim Hathaway, a crotchety old editor who found a way to give me the exact writing advice I needed, at the critical moment — and even better — several years after he was dead and buried. Given Jim’s strength of will, I doubt even cremation would have stopped him.

Jim was a member of The Lafayette Park Writers, a critique group of retired editors, columnists, English professors, novelists, and one traveling actress. Each week they met in a city parks and rec building and enthusiastically welcomed each newbie who fell in off the street. Each of the core members was experienced and nurturing, and each in his own right could have lit up Sin City on the sheer strength of his personality and charm. But even in that group, Jim stood out.

Tall, svelte, and mostly bald, Jim wore double-knit pants and white shoes. He had a pugnacious delivery, a voice like a cheese grater, and in spite of his liver-spotted skin and huge ears, blue eyes as round and eager as any eight-year-old boy’s. I admired a lot about Jim, but the quality I most respected was his life-long elasticity, his willingness to reinvent his skills, his writing, and himself with each new physical challenge or technical advance placed before him. In writing and in life you could always spot Jim; he was the barefoot, shirtless boy skateboarding fearlessly down Breakneck Hill.

Continue reading

Feb 10 2011

An Ordinary Passion

Two people in love broke up today. I’ve watched their relationship deepen through years of friendship and work, holidays and travel, pain and holding on when life hurts. They never argue. They get each other’s humor. They want the same things: family, children, a future together.

But there are separate careers ahead of them and years apart, and suddenly love doesn’t seem like enough. Rational heads have prevailed. Long-distance relationships never work. The decision is a no-brainer.

That’s the difference between our children’s generation and ours. My husband and I made a lot of mistakes, but there was one crucial decision we got right. We fell in love and made that relationship the thrust of our life. We still went for our dreams. Jobs were important, and family and friends, but our relationship? That was our keystone and we put no one and nothing before it.

Breaking up was not in our vocabulary.

It’s much harder today because our children set such high standards for themselves. Both must have careers, and neither must compromise, and it can’t be just any career, they must find and follow their passion.

Passion. They fling that word into the air like it is nothing, like it is ordinary, like it can be ascribed to a job and owned by common people. Continue reading

Feb 10 2011

Valentine Salmon Loaf

Make Loaf:

  • 1 lb. can of salmon, drained
  • 2 cups soft bread crumbs (white bread or hot dog buns)
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 slightly beaten egg

Grease a large cookie sheet.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour onto cookie sheet and shape into a heart. May also use a heart-shaped baking pan or casserole instead. Continue reading

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Feb 7 2011

65 With Vitamins

Growing up in my family, attendance at school was merely a suggestion, which is odd because my grandmother founded and ran one. But year after year of report cards reflect this; I never missed fewer than 30 school days a year. My family’s not much into structure.

Instead, I stayed home and wrote poetry or painted portraits, picked blackberries, devoured books. More importantly, I sat at the feet of some powerfully gifted storytellers and listened so hard I forgot to blink. It’s no way to raise an accountant, but it is a fine way to raise a writer.

No doubt an FMRI would confirm that the math side of my brain is the size of a pea. Looking back, it’s pretty obvious it died of starvation while I was busy stuffing the creative side with cake. I never memorized the multiplication tables, or the capital of Macedonia, but for six years I did quite intently study plies and pas de bourrees while wearing a variety of black leotards and pink tights. Each Tuesday for nine years I climbed the five steps to Miss Varnedoe’s front porch to practice arpeggios and glissandos on one of two antique grand pianos in her drawing room. Of course the heady possibilities of a box of Crayola 64 led inevitably to twelve years of easels and oil paints, copper etchings and acid baths, and a number of interesting scars accumulated while carving woodblocks.

Oddly, at no point did I consider taking a creative writing course because I knew for a certainty I wasn’t a writer. Never mind I was obsessed with scribbling terrible poetry in the margins of my elementary school notebooks, losing middle school boyfriends for sending them (and I quote) “A freaking fourteen page letter about a typing class,” editing my high school newspaper, winning a couple writing contests, and practically being begged by my college English professors to switch my major from art to writing. Had they lost their minds? I couldn’t write. Writers had imagination. Quick repartee. They could drink more than a sip of wine and hold it.

I finally figured it out the year I turned forty. That’s right. Four decades. Four X ten. For those of you who don’t know how the writing business works, this is even worse than you think. Writer years are briefer than dog years. By the time I’d climbed off the dunce stool and taken off the funny hat, I was the writing equivalent of liver-spotted, toothless and bald.

Would I like to have those decades back?
Of course.

Do I think they were wasted?
Not one bit.

Because any honest writer will tell you: every piece of fiction is true.

Continue reading

Feb 3 2011


Two a.m. A full moon casts a bright ribbon over the Gulf, sand sinks under my feet as the waves wash away, and everything shimmers in a cool shade of blue. We’re here to see the sea turtles hatch, to learn lessons from these tiny leaps of faith and their struggle to reach the sea.

There are predators about, ghost crabs that eat baby turtles. Our children are horrified. They chase the mean crabs all over the shore, looking a bit like crabs themselves as they scurry, bent-over and snapping their kitchen tongs. They are amazingly agile and their mission is pure. The crabs don’t stand a chance.

We come to a nest. It’s just a small slump in the sand, but underneath lie hundreds of little miracles biding their time. We look for movement, find none, and stroll on.

Eight nests later we have a plastic pitcher full of crabs, but we haven’t seen a single turtle. The children break for the water. The waves are dreamy; they glide onto shore with the genteel rustle of taffeta skirts. Our children splash right in.

Immediately they stop as one and gawk at the water. Splash again, swing their hands and knees, gawk some more. I scoop up a ball of water and toss it into the air; it falls, bouncing into pieces against my hands. Neon green sparks shoot like fireworks. Bioluminescence, Jim explains. Tiny sea creatures emitting light.

Turning for home, I take Jim’s hand and feel another spark of nature, one that hasn’t faded, not in thirty years. The world is full of miracles. Continue reading

Feb 3 2011

Green Vodka Cooler

via foodnetwork.com (courtesy Emeril Lagasse, 2004)

  • 2 cups fresh lime juice
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 cups vodka
  • 8 cups crushed ice
  • Lime slices for garnish

Combine lime juice and sugar in a bowl, and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Pour half of this mixture into a blender. Add 1 cup vodka and 4 cups ice, and blend until smooth. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately, garnished with lime slices. Serves 8.

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Feb 3 2011


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

Make Sauce:

  • 1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Dried or fresh chopped basil to taste (@ 2 teaspoons dried)

Combine all in bowl and stir. Set aside while you make dough.


  • 3 to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 pkg Fleischmann’s rapid rise yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup very warm water>
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Continue reading

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Feb 3 2011

Chocolate Rum Pot

  • 1 cup (6 oz) Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoon dark rum (we use Meyer’s dark rum)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Note: you will need a blender for this recipe. Also, have dessert glasses or pots ready to pour chocolate into. Continue reading

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