Where Does Inspiration Live?


This is sort of a survey, because my last post made me curious. How open are you to inspiration? How creative do you feel you are…compared to how creative you were as a child?

What did you do back then, like age 7 or so, that was creative? Draw funny pictures, fingerpaint the walls of the garage, build things, hide things, bury things and dig them up again? Did you play make-believe and pretend you owned a fancy store, or dress up like superheroes?

I used to write stories, my sister and I both did and hers were the funniest things I’d ever read. I don’t know if it’s called inspiration or escape, but I’m dying to know where this childhood impishness goes when we grow up – where it hides, where it lurks and waits in our heads. It’s in there still, you know it is, because you see it sometimes, glimpsed in the periphery of grownup life, fleeting shadows, sparkles crackling on the edges of the universe, reminding us. We still have to play, even though we’re grown up. The human heart longs for it.

Where do you find inspiration? Do you look for it in nature, in art, or does it find you, stop you in your tracks, shake you, and make you remember?

Please comment below and share what inspires you, what wakes you up inside, shakes you out of the stupor of workaholism and compels you to look at the sky and breathe and sing. Because your stories of inspiration will inspire others 🙂

Thank you for visiting today! ❤️


The Elusive Writing Process


What quirks, tricks, hacks, and devices do authors use to keep themselves motivated, inspired, and productive?

What I learned, through the following interview, is that it’s different for everyone. I’m always awed by writers who start churning out new material at 6am every day, but discipline comes in many forms.

After looking at my own process, I interviewed renowned thriller author, Cat Connor and award-winning author Leah Erickson about the every day, nitty gritty details of their craft: where they write, when, how much, how often. And the answers we all gave are both surprising and expected.

What I didn’t cover here was the WHY. That’ll be next month’s post!

Check out the interview, originally posted on the new blog for 9mm Press:



What aspects of writing would you like to hear about?

And if you’re a book author and would like to be interviewed on this blog, email me at lisamarietowles@gmail.com. Writing is a solitary, challenging path and I want to support you 🙂

Thanks for visiting! ⭐️

How do you deal with rejection letters?


If you’re a serious writer who’s either published or working to get published, you’re not new to the dreaded rejection letter. They’re as ubiquitous to publishing as milk to the coffee industry. What happens when you get one of these in the mail?


Do they cause depression?

Illustrated silhouette of a man sitting with his head in his hand





For some highly enlightened souls, rejection letters cause them to revise their manuscript and even create a new story twist or plotline that they hadn’t thought of before.


Some truths about literary rejection letters:

  •  They are a sign of courage that you were willing to write something worthy of market value, polish and perfect it to industry standards, and put it before someone else’s eyes to be judged. Don’t discount this aspect, it means something.
  •  They are unbelievably common among all of our industry peers – from John Grisham and Dan Brown to J.K. Rowling. Depending on what you write and which market niche you’re approaching, the odds of getting a query or manuscript accepted by either a publisher or agent are unmistakably low.
  •  It’s not personal. Unlike relationship rejection, literary rejections are solely based on your manuscript and project, not you as a person. When you can think of it in those terms, doesn’t it become a bit more business-like, impersonal, even clinical?
  • They don’t mean you’ll never get published – just that it hasn’t happened YET.

Picture yourself at a job interview. You’re highly skilled in your field, have some polished work samples and business references with you, but you somehow don’t make it to that second interview. Why? There could be a thousand reasons, and mostly they’re all because you and your skills just simply aren’t the right match for the position. This mismatch concept holds true in the literary industry as well. You’re sending your unique manuscript to a complete stranger and hoping your project and vision will track with what the agent or publisher is seeking for their client list.

Let’s step back a moment and take a look at this literary agent. And let’s assume you’ve done your research and confirmed that this particular agent is interested in acquiring manuscripts within your genre and they’re considering taking on new clients. And let’s say you’ve worked with an industry mentor to perfect your query letter, you have your manuscript formatted perfectly, and have gone through three editing rounds to fix any grammatical errors. The thing is, even if all these bases are covered, there are still lots of other variables that can influence whether an agent selects your manuscript over someone else’s. Like what?

  • Gender – Not you, your protagonist. The agent might be looking for fiction with a strong female protagonist and yours is male.
  • Voice – They could be looking for third person POV and yours is first person.
  • Length – Your manuscript could be too long or short for the existing market of your genre.
  • Subject matter – Some agents are seeking stories consumable by a wide audience. So if your book has a super edgy theme and touches controversial topics, they might opt to pass.
  • New or published writer – Some agents are eager to hear from fresh industry voices; others only want to work with established and previously published authors.
  • Setting – Some want domestic stories, yours might take place in Paris.

And these are just a few! I know, it’s enough to make you go insane. But you’re not expected to mold your manuscript to every single thing a potential agent or publisher could possibly ever want. The platitudes are true – write what you love. The good news is that there are lots of publishers and literary agents available in every genre, more every day, and lots of them are looking for new writers. Where are they? Check here.

Too often, an agent will reject a manuscript because it lacks the specific WOW factor they were looking for. That doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t like it and that it’s not good. Because the industry landscape has changed so drastically in the past few years, they’re forced to be even more selective with the types of projects they invest in. In other words, if an agent can’t immediately see the potential for revenue in your book, they’re likely to pass even if they otherwise like your story, your writing, and everything about you. Money isn’t all that matters, but it definitely matters.


Emotional Intelligence

Rejection letters are a great reminder that we must constantly keep our thoughts on the right track and stay in a positive and inspired space when it comes to writing. DON’T wallpaper your office with rejection letters! The last things we need as writers are negative reminders. Observe your reaction to your last rejection letter. Did you use it as fuel to grow deeper into your craft and commitment to success? If not, it’s okay, there’s time to work on this. And it IS work and no one’s more worthy of that work, time and energy than you are. For more reading on creative resilience, check out this great article from Lifehacker.

Focus on Inspiration

What inspired you to write your book in the first place? What kinds of books and writing continue to inspire you? This is the fodder for your creative expression and it must be positioned on a pedestal because it’s the most important aspect of your writing relationship. You see beauty around you, kindness, amazing human stories. Whatever it is that drives you to your keyboard or your journal, hold that in your heart as your primary focus. Post pictures of that inspiration in your writing space, your desktop, as reminders of what motivates you and what drives you to succeed over and over despite the odds.


The publishing industry has shrunk, or grown, depending on your perspective. And the changes are vast. 31% of all e-book sales are from self-published authors. Why do some writers turn to self-publishing as an option? There are lots of advantages, such as royalties. The royalties are typically way higher than traditional publishers (though no advance), and it’s a super quick turnaround to see your work in print (generally 30 days as opposed to 15 months). As you’re not working with a literary agent to sell your manuscript, there’s no middle man to take a 15% cut off your royalties when they start coming in. But there are offsets, too. Self-publishing can be expensive ($500 – $5000 per book), and there’s a lot more work you’ll need to do to push your book into the commercial marketplace, like arrange for distribution, marketing, advertising, editing, cover art, and layout.

Check out these famous, best-selling books and authors that were initially rejected by (in some cases, many) publishers or agents:

  •  J.K. Rowling for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  •  Jack Canfield for Chicken Soup for the Soul
  •  C.S. Lewis for The Chronicles of Narnia
  •  Dan Brown for The Da Vinci Code
  •  J.D. Salinger for The Catcher in the Rye
  •  Margaret Mitchell for Gone With the Wind
  •  Alice Walker for The Color Purple

There’s more here

What does this tell you? You’re in good company for one thing. Rejections give us an opportunity to re-examine what we’re doing…any why. If making money is why you write, self-publishing could be a great option for you. If you’re a compulsive storyteller hell bent on finding a traditional publisher or agent, then sink your teeth into that path and persevere and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

There are many forms of success – how do you measure yours and what’s your benchmark? If you’re new to the writing path, maybe finishing a novel is a worthy pursuit right now, or you might want to publish 5 books a year, or earn enough to quit your day job. A stack of rejection letters means you’re engaged, working, and investing time and energy in your success and future. Don’t let them derail you; instead use them as a necessary tool of the trade.


What are your rejection war stories, or successes that started as rejection letters? Please share!

Well Behaved Pens


What makes you sit down and write? And what keeps you from writing?

pen 1

I’m constantly at this question. I have no time to write, I’m exhausted, haven’t eaten in sixteen hours and slept only 2 last night, yet I find myself crouched on the carpet in the dark in a cramped corner of a room writing by moonlight as if my life depended on it. Then on an easy Sunday with nothing to do and my inviting well lit writing desk staring angrily back, I somehow find laundry to wash, countertops to wipe, rugs to vacuum, bathtubs to scrub, closets to organize. Ridiculous.

What if something as inconsequential as pens were the magic variable? I know – to writers, pens are the farthest thing from inconsequential and are deeply personal, like the traits we search for in a mate. You can’t explain your desire for short blonde women or men with tattoos – it just IS. And the same goes for pen-preference. I loathe fountain pens. To me, they’re heavy, bloated, full of themselves, ostentatious, ridiculously priced, and represent in sum all the human traits I can’t stand.








Ball Points

These used to be my favorite. Solid, reliable, consistent. The ink lasts longer than you’d expect, they feel comfortable to hold – not too fat, not too slim, and you never have to waste valuable mental real estate on them. Pick me up, drag me across the page, voila!









Roller Balls

I know, they can be temperamental compared to ball points and this took some getting used to, but their naturally flowy nature and the fluidity of their mechanism drove me to reconsider my narrow views. They’re impetuous, creative, and they surprise you with the unexpected.

86th Oscars, Arrivals





What’s your favorite pen type? Do you keep any special pens, like locked away in boxes or tins that you don’t let anybody use?

Today, buy a gift for your inner writer and reward yourself for the deep work and introspection required by our craft. Buy a new, beautiful pen. Invest money in something that will be your gift of inner travel and exploration, your path toward imagination and escape, something that will make you want to spend money on an exquisite journal. Write a new story in that journal with your new pen, or draw pictures of cartoon owls. Write an impromptu poem about the dying plant on the table, what it intended to look like before it got waterlogged or before sunlight became too hard to find. Write at a big desk, write on the floor. In the morning light, or by candlelight. Writing has such power – with nothing but a pen, we can build a whole world.