The Listmaker

PC: Instagram @jen.menard.victor

I’ve been thinking about becoming a runner pretty much all my life. At my age (46), isn’t it probably time to give up?

Like naturally talented singers, I think God gave runners a special extra “something…” discipline, maybe? When they’re born, they seem to have something equivalent to the drug addiction gene, only these lucky souls are addicted to something completely healthy. They’re born addicted to the “runner’s high.” What’s not to envy?!

Well, I didn’t get that gene. What I did get is a trait I call “Resolve.” I make lists and then I complete them, obsessively. I think up items for my list and then, sooner or later, I check them off. This can be as simple as get my car detailed, something more hobby-focused like learn to can vegetables, or it can be as intense as learn to speak Portuguese (all of these are actually real items on my List). Like the runner, I am addicted to checking items off this list, and it comes with a ‘high’ all its own. Some goals take longer than others, and some that I created way back in my past are taking a bit of an eternity, but I never give up on a goal once I resolve to reach it. Read more


Frank Abbott Photography, 2017

When I first joined The Facebook in 2008, for some reason I was under the impression back then that I needed to lay out a schematic for my entire moral belief system in the BIO section. It was revised over the years, quite a few times actually, as I grew angrier about the stresses of my career, or if I found enlightenment related to some deeply personal revelation, and certainly after I got a divorce. I poured my soul into writing it, I remember that much for sure, and at that time I think I catered it to people who might know me through teaching in the school system. In the years since I wrote it, I’ve mercifully found other outlets for my vent-writing besides Facebook. This blog is one such place. Yet recently, someone messaged me with kind compliments about my old manifesto, and to be honest, I’d forgotten about it. I jumped back over there and found it once again, revisiting my 2008-2011 self, amazed at how much I absolutely have not changed in all that time (although my life has actually changed quite a bit). It’s baffling to see oneself evolve in so many ways and yet still not look so very different in the mind, even after a whole decade has passed. So here it is for posterity, the inside parts of my brain that are apparently timeless, quintessential and entirely DQ. Read more

Now Following!

PC: Instagram @writepublishsell

The internet is the new high school cafeteria. We all have our people. My own evolving relationship with my internet circles and social media followers (or friends or subscribers…) has been hugely responsible for many of the big, exciting changes I’ve made recently to my career, to my writing and in my plans for the future. Overall, I must say I’ve had a tremendously positive experience. I love making these new connections, even though sometimes it kinda feels like my interwebbings are mimicking relationships I have with real people in real life: often they come and then sometimes they also go. It’s not without complications and sometimes we are left wondering if we are doing it right. Read more

The Wordsmith

(noun) word·smith \ˈwərd-ˌsmith\
Definition: a person who works with words; a skillful writer

Alternative (my) definition: a person who seeks out and will not settle for anything less than the *perfect* word

When we grow up with siblings, we learn the unfortunate necessity of doing equally for every child. No one should get more ice cream or better Christmas presents, more extravagant birthday parties or nicer clothes, certainly not fancier sporting equipment or techier technology than her brothers or sisters, and uneven distribution of anything can turn a home into a house of utter mayhem. I remember the burden placed on my parents in having two girls a mere fifteen months apart. Everything was a metaphorical scorecard and no kindness for that other child ever went unnoticed or untallied. Read more

10 Things I Bet You Didn’t Know About Me

In June of 2015, I gathered 20 of my best friends together to celebrate the completion of my memoir, Aprils and Decembers. Much of what we talked about that night was how I got here, how I got to be the luckiest person in the world, one who lives through a bunch of tough stuff and still emerges from it with a blessed life and a published book. In other words, in this picture the girls are getting the backstory.  (Jaco’s Restaurant, downtown Pensacola)

For you, here’s a little more of my backstory…
  1. I absolutely cannot stomach horror movies and I am a staunch critic of tattooing oneself. Having said that, Dexter and Sons of Anarchy are two of the best shows I have ever watched. Ever. (once again, mothering determines everything)
  2. My guilty indulgences include chocolate milk and french fries. I need to make note here that the chocolate milk I like the most is light brown (you could say I like chocolate-infused milk) and I love my french fries a little soggy, if I’m honest.
  3. I am extraordinarily easy to wait on in a restaurant. After waiting tables all through college, I can promise you, it pays to be kind to the waitstaff. I know their power.
  4. I tried to train my dog not to jump on people by pinching his paws. Now he refuses to shake hands. My mistake. #dogwhisperingfail
  5. I once had a vivid dream that I had surgery for stomach pain and when they opened me up all of my insides were microwaved. I haven’t been back to a tanning bed since.
  6. When I was little, my mom told me that Jesus doesn’t like it when you write on yourself. So I don’t EVER write on myself. Thanks for that warped guilt, Mom.
  7. I can get lost in watching someone cut the grass. The sounds, the smell and the linear, methodical nature of their movement makes me unusually content.
  8. I never wear yellow. No one should decide to bury me in yellow, either.
  9. I own a first edition printing of Gone With the Wind. I bought it for $1 at a flea market in North Dakota in 1991. It’s worth a lot more now, folks.
  10. When I write a blog like this one, I have to proofread it on each of my devices before I publish it. I think psychologists call that OCD.

We’re all a just little bit nuts, aren’t we kids?!

If you’d like to know more about my journey as an author, and by more I mean more important than my tastes in junk food, I invite you to check out the Frequently Asked Questions link above! Enjoy!











So, You Want to Write a Book? Part 2. My Story.

April and Decembers by Dawn QuarlesI have a queasy stomach tonight, sort of like butterflies, you could say. At the moment, I have the kind of nerves that perhaps anyone might get when their whole world is about to completely change.

My first book comes out tomorrow. I’ve been pretty much forced against my will to promote it and solid sales have been the goal of my publisher more so than myself. But we can all take heart; tomorrow it’s done. The nerves will go away and much like a wedding that took months of planning, in a poof! the whole thing will be over. I am as ready as you are, believe me. See, my book is a memoir. Private stuff. Sentimental stuff. Personal stuff. Painful stuff. Read more

So, You Want to Write a Book? Part 1


Really? Are you SURE?”

I am always shocked at how many people say, “I need to write a book.” It wasn’t something I became acutely aware of until I’d actually done that thing myself. It was hard! So now when people so flippantly throw that out there I say, “Ok then, because if you’re serious, start writing. I want to help you do it.”

Once I was really, genuinely serious about the commitment to pound out a novel, the FIRST thing I did was to find someone who had already done it, all the way through to the end, and then I got them to shoot straight with me. Read more

O Captain! My Captain!

Photo Credit: Instagram @pen_mate.

One random topic of conversation always seems to lead strangely into another in the American History classes I am lucky enough to teach each year. I often find myself horribly off-subject as my almost-adult students and I slowly get to know one another and this week was no exception. Admiring from a safe distance how one of my female students boldly spoke up for another in a small spat of gossip, I commented to the young lady that she reminded me of Melanie Hamilton. The girl curled up her face as if I’d insulted her, although I was pleased that she even knew who I was talking about in the first place!

But, she has no backbone, right?” 

I laughed and explained that, in fact, Melanie Hamilton had quite the backbone and more courage and righteousness than any other character in literature, or in movies, or on television, that I could think of.

“She takes up for everyone,” I explained, “even people who have wronged her.  She always looks for the good in others and she forgives effortlessly.  She is even-tempered and never gets angry and she’s always wise to the situation and ready to offer a solid piece of advice.” 

In my opinion, it was a high compliment to be compared to Miss Hamilton, and as I heard myself explaining what it is that I love about this timeless Gone With the Wind character, the patron saint of goodness from antebellum Atlanta, I made a note to myself to try harder to be more like her. Read more

Reflections of a Former Bookseller

Photo Credit: Instagram @coffeeeyesandblankstares.

I visited one of my absolute favorite places today, Barnes and Noble. I was looking for a blogging planner which they did not have, yet I still managed to leave with $50.00 worth of stuff I just couldn’t live without.

Each time I walk through those heavy wooden doors, the smell of paper and leather filling my nose, I am overwhelmed with happiness. See, two years ago I decided to check this place off my bucket list and get a Christmas-season job there. I had the time off from work, and I thought the extra money would be helpful for my holiday spending (be assured, there was no extra money). B&N was just one of those places I always thought would be an amazing place to work, and it was. Read more

The Three Books That Made Me Want to Be a Writer

So these are my favorite books, ever. If you are receptive to sincere recommendations, pick one of these. You won’t regret it.

writer-little-altars-everywhereLittle Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells (home state: Louisiana!) is THE short story that made me want to be a writer. When Wiletta recalled the night Vivi beat her children with a belt, I found myself hurling (hurling!!!) the book across the room because I couldn’t imagine bearing that kind of guilt. “Sweet Jesus, I seen they whole lives in front of them, how they would be when they was grown. I seen it all just by lookin at them….and it froze my blood.” That’s what a good book does…it affects you visibly, emotionally, and psychologically. As a writer myself, the best I can hope to do is simply write something that makes someone say, “Wow, she’s been through the same thing I have.” This, my friends, is the book that inspired that little voice in my head to say, “You need to tell your story too, Dawn,” and that story became my first book.  You’ve likely heard of Wells’ other, more famous work, Divine Secrets of the Yaya Sisterhood, and it is also a favorite, but make no mistake, Altars changed me. Read more