it’s a trip . . .

tips, quotes, insights, and lessons about writing and publishing learned the hard way

Lessons learned from friends — Rachel Greenaway

home of Canada's next great mystery author

home of Canada's next great mystery writer

Rachel Greenaway (aka Zoe) is a Canadian writer. (But we won’t hold that against her.) She’s actually become a treasured writing partner. I talked her into joining an online workshop and by the end of the summer only Rachel and I were left standing. Everyone else had bailed out.

Rachel is even-tempered, kind, and also has a good sense of humor. She’s generous with her praise and thorough and constructive in her critiques. She’s been writing police procedurals for ten years now and has a whole passel of them completed–I’m in awe. So yes, I certainly have learned from Rachel that there’s no substitute for effort or perseverance.

But the thing I want to talk about in this post is Rachel’s fresh figurative language. She pairs verbs with nouns, often personifying inanimate objects in novel and appealing ways. Let me share some of her phrasing with you, to illustrate:

  • “For the third time Holden cranked the key and pumped the gas.  The car rumbled awake again…”
  • “Dion gazed from his capsule outward, at fields alive with bugs and birds, a broad sky hazy with heat and dust, a lot of frothy silver-green trees in the far distance, slowly swelling.”
  • “She sat still, hands on the wheel, looking up at stark poplar branches chopping the clouded sky into dark grey wedges.”
  • “Evangline lounged on the sofa in a gauzy, pastel-green dress shot through with metallic threads.”

Every chapter evidences this kind of care and ingenuity in description. It’s just one of the things that makes her writing a pleasure to read.

And she’s set the bar high in terms of freshness that I’m working harder to even come close. You can read more about Rachel and her work at her nifty writer’s website, Mystery North.



  modobenny wrote @

It’s stunning to me that Rachel isn’t published yet. Her writing is fresh, and never seems overburdened. Her work has such a natural flow to it. Great imagery without over-egging the custard. Prolific, and talented. What publishers wouldn’t want that?

  rachel wrote @

Thank you Gale and Lori for your comments. This year for the first time I’m seriously trying to write for a wider audience than one (me), and adjusting my approach this way and that according to the advice of both of you — and others — and feel like I AM getting closer. Still doing massive rewrites though so it’ll be a while yet. Simplifying and focusing is what I’m struggling with now. Get a little too fond of words sometimes at the expense of the story.

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  • my author bio . . .

    I began writing creatively three years ago, fueled by midlife and a Curves' addiction. Since then, I have published short work in The Christian Science Monitor and Sirens Magazine in the same year. How's that for versatility!
    Sirens Magazine

    Sirens Magazine

    Also the Duck & Herring Company's Pocket Field Guide, The Giggle Water Review, Alighted, Wet Ink Press, America's Funniest Humor, Brilliant!, Laughter Loaf, Flash-Flooding, and the Greensilk Journal where my short story, "How I Boinked John Cusack" won editor's pick.
    The Greensilk Journal

    The Greensilk Journal

    My newest novel, THE SHAKER PROPOSAL, has received numerous accolades, the latest a fifth-place in the 2008 annual NWA (National Writing Association) Novel Contest.


    I am a marketing professional by vocation (but not by choice). My husband and I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania—the sounds, sites, smells, and flavors of which are a never-ending source of literary inspiration.
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