Vanya's Blog

The Story Behind DRIVEN

Snuggled safely in my bed, my mother would regale me with stories of my maternal grandmother, who came into her prime before women won the right to vote in 1920. Mom,  who’d usually clam up when asked for details in daily life, never held back. As a result, hers were riveting retellings – and I…
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Emily’s Backstory (The Protagonist)

Emily Winstead is the daughter of an influential socialite. As a result, Emily was given opportunities many other girls didn’t have. When Emily turned two, her mother’s best friend,  “aunt” Florence, put Emily on Maggie, a great beast of a white horse, her little legs warmed by the mare’s flanks. In no time, riding became…
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Naming Characters

Through the years, I’ve answered to many different names: Linda, Chuckwagon, Cactus, Vanya,  Lasagna, V, Mom, Mami, and Nana, to name more than a few. With each stage of my life came a new name – a new persona, something I find endlessly fascinating.  I’m a name geek. I’ve been known to stare at an…
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The scream was a deep, miserable thing that flew out of my mouth, gushing into the room like rusty water bursting from a pipe. I gripped the edge of your crib and watched the graying of your skin; marveled at your beautiful lips, parted as if you were still breathing. My spirit ripped away, and suddenly, floating at the ceiling, looking down, the room filled with your silence and my screams.
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What’s New in January

Many of you know that this past November, during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I completed the first draft of the 2nd book in my historical novel series, Driven. I had a blast placing Emily on a ranch in Wyoming and complicating her life.
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What’s New in November

Well Finally! This has been one unbelievable year. Like many of you, mine has been an upside-down roller coaster…a lowering of standards while at the same time trying to hold on to what’s essential. Dinners together. A walk outside if it’s not too smoky. Birthday celebrations. Finishing another chapter. Honestly, every time I think about…
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Vanya Erickson Video

What’s New with Vanya

Greetings! I simply had to connect - and I’m trying something new, crazy hair day and all. Bear with me as I enter the world of video. Virtual hug, Vanya
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Writing in the Time of COVID

If you're like me, you're sick of the news. Of the platitudes and scare-the-crap-out-of-you updates. You recoil at your own inner chaos or the belief that if you'd only accept the new reality, you wouldn't struggle so much. That if you were a stronger person, you'd get off the couch and accomplish something. 
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What’s New in February

The Visit - Many of you know my “thing” about using music to get to the core of something I’m writing. It’s been part of everything I’ve ever published, from Dylan, Nat King Cole, and Beethoven for scenes in Boot Language - to Janis Joplin and Madame Butterfly for my short essays that found homes in literary journals.
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Vanya Erickson Writer and Blogger

What’s New in December

From my desk… Here’s a little diversion from the holiday madness that I hope you’ll enjoy! They said what? I love the things people say. The wilder, most impassioned, the better. In fact, I enjoy it so much I have a habit of writing down the pithiest sentence I hear every day. Sometimes it’s something…
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What’s New in October

OMG, I’m about to send the first book of my historical series, Driven, to my editor. I’m told I may have a thriller on my hands. My first reaction was “Wahhhh?” I guess it’s true…women’s lives were extraordinarily harrowing a hundred years ago. They had no power. No freedom. And there’s no doubt the shadow of…
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What’s New in August

Farewell I have a handful of childhood friends from the old neighborhood where I grew up. We’re spread all over California, but we’re committed to each other; to our friendship. We send group texts, plan the next reunion, share updates, fears, joys, and tragedy. We’re in our 60s now, having grown up in the flower…
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What’s New in July

Hi All! My grandfather used to tell stories of homesteading in northern Wyoming, in the high grassland between the Black Hills and the Bighorn Mountains. His descriptions were painted as a hard life punctuated by beauty: wild mustangs galloping through open prairies; purple spring blossoms that covered the land; the stunning yet treacherous mountains; the…
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Red Cross Motor Corps

What’s New in May

Hi All! I’m Back! I just returned from New York, where I was doing research for Driven, my historical novel based on my grandmother’s experiences as a Red Cross ambulance driver during WWI. My sister Margery was my travel buddy, and it was thrilling to experience this together – as we searched for evidence of…
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Bay Area Book Festival

What’s Happening in April

Dear posse! I hope you’re all well! Have you heard of the Bay Area Book Festival? It’s held each spring in Berkeley CA, a fun-packed gathering of authors and readers. You’ll hear famous and just-discovered authors (like me!)  That’s right… Other Cool Happenings: I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be speaking on a fabulous panel…
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What’s Happening in February

Dear posse! I have always had a love affair with the spoken word – even harbored a secret wish to be a voice-over artist. I’ve spent decades dramatically reading aloud to children and interspersing sound effects as I taught. I can thank my mother and grandmother for that! But when it came time to record…
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Vietnam Vet - Vanya Erickson

Vietnam Vet

I stepped out of Bookshop Santa Cruz clutching my new purchase – a used book about shell shock. I hugged it like a baby, excited to get home and do research for my historical novel.  As I skirted a group of down-vested window shoppers, I saw a man huddled alone in the cold, holding up a cardboard sign: ‘Help a Vietnam vet?’  His face was hopeful, and his hands shook.
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Vanya Erickson Radio Tour

What’s Happening in December

Dearest posse! Thank you all for your support in bringing Boot Language out into the world. From the launch party in August to last week’s successful radio tour and everything in between, thank you for your part in it.  What an outstanding writer/reader community this is! Here we are at the end of December, and…
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50,000 Words to Go - Vanya Erickson

50,000 Words to Go

In the wee hours of the morning on a bitterly damp day in a train car hidden in a lush forest north of Paris, WWI came to an end.  It was agreed by Allied and German powers that on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, fighting would cease. Americans called it Armistice Day, the day impromptu parties erupted in city streets all around the world.
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What’s Happening in October

Hi posse! I love synchronicity, or as Carl Yung called it “meaningful coincidences.”   A few days ago, I read an article by a well-known writing guru that warned authors about the “questionable” trend of including book club questions in the back of their books. She went on to say she never included them in hers,…
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What’s Happening in September

Hi posse! What a great launch party! I’ll never forget standing at the edge of the balcony listening to the seagulls while watching my “worlds” meet each other for the first time. I confess I was a bit nervous, but in no time they were laughing and chatting with new and old friends, teachers, writers,…
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What’s Happening in August

Hi posse! Just two weeks until launch! I hope you can join me in lovely Santa Cruz on August 24th for my big THANK YOU launch party for everything you have done to help Boot Language become a reality. Over the last six years there has been lots of hard work behind the scenes: mentors…
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Boot Language Prologue

Spring, 1972 I ditched my math class, heading straight for the high school parking lot through the tall dry grass, in back of the science wing. Funny how our community cared so much about the manicured lawn and flowerbeds and left the hidden stuff uncared for. I slumped over onto the front seat of my…
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You Can Go Home Again - Vanya Erickson

You Can Go Home Again

What is it about our childhood home that pulls at us? Why the urge to step inside one more time? This is what went through my mind as I drove down the highway on my way to work, and impulsively turned onto the road that would bring me to the neighborhood where I grew up. What was I looking for? Some remnant of the past? A clue to something that I missed?
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What’s Happening in July

Hi posse! Last week I filmed the book trailer for Boot Language.  A book trailer is like a movie trailer, only typically shorter.  I’ve never done anything like this before, hadn’t created a “story board” like professionals do, but I LOVE the power of images.  I could do this, right? My friend and award-winning photographer,…
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What’s Happening in June

Greetings! I promise not to swamp you with newsletters, just an occasional update. Thank you for being part of my posse. Something my older sister Margery said to me recently, stopped me short. We were walking a path above the ocean, telling tales of being exhausted – realizing that although we’re both retired, we’re still…
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Red Rose - Vanya Erickson

Red Rose

I sat with my hospice patient yesterday. There is no typical visit between us, but events might include any of the following: An energetic greeting followed by a short, confused chat, as my patient tries to recall who I am; I play music to spark memory; We hold hands and watch TV together. But it didn’t go like that yesterday.
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For the Love of Writing and Horses - Vanya Erickson

For the Love of Writing and Horses

I’m just coming down from a “work weekend” retreat with the fabulous Laura Davis, three full days of quiet, uninterrupted writing. The setting was a beautiful mountaintop home with windows that framed forest, mist, and sky. It’s the kind of view that muffles the chaos in my head and gives me space to dream about my next book.
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My Choice - Vanya Erickson

My Choice

Have you ever noticed music’s ability to transport you to another time or transform your behavior altogether?   This happens to me all the time.  I use music to mine for stories, to jog memories while working with hospice patients, and to lift the mood after a crummy day or when cleaning the house.
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What's Next - Vanya Erickson

What’s Next?

It’s funny how lost I felt when I finished writing Boot Language.  I missed conjuring up the landscape of my past each morning: the scent of red earth and towering Ponderosa pines of the Sierras; the warmth of horse sweat as I removed Oakie’s saddle and blanket after a ride; my parents’ voices in my head as I sat down to type.
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Razor's Edge - Vanya Erickson

Razor’s Edge

My 16-year-old daughter Elizabeth stood in the open front door, red-faced and silent. She had just returned from a sleepover at a friend’s house, and was hiding her hair with her hoodie. “You okay, honey?” With two teenagers at home, that question was always on my lips.
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wind phone - writing to heal

The Wind Telephone

There are things I never had an opportunity to say to Dad before he died. From my shock of discovering that he was at the attack of Pearl Harbor, to our mutual love of the rugged Sierra Nevadas, what I am unable to ask, haunts me. These are the rocks that sit in my stomach, sharp and unforgiving, day after day. So I write.
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The Gift - Vanya Erickson

The Gift

Standing in my classroom making last-minute preparations, I could hear the buzz of excitement in the hallway. It was Teacher Day - and all the children had been “secretly” asked to surprise their teacher with a blossom from their garden. The school bell electrified their movements as they scurried into line outside their classrooms. I thought of last year’s flowers and grabbed two vases from the cabinet.
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When Words Fail - Vanya Erickson

When Words Fail You

The chatter in my head had been battering me all day. “See?  You’re not a real writer.”  “Who cares about what you have to say?” “Bah! You knew this would happen all along.” A week before, I had signed the publishing contract for my book and now I couldn’t write a damned thing.  The acquiring editor had gushed over my writing - so why this sudden insanity?
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Poetry Box - Vanya Erickson

The Poetry Box

For my birthday a few years ago my sweetheart made me a poetry box for our front garden. It’s surrounded by an old lavender bush and is a weathered thing of beauty, all wood and amber glass, with a window to view the poem from the sidewalk. I make sure the font is large enough to read when I place a new poem out each week.
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Their Voices Matter

Their Voices Matter

It never ceases to amaze me the things my third grade students have been exposed to. Not a day goes by when I’m not asked something that forces me to respond to their worry. “Where do homeless children eat?” “Why do cell phone companies destroy rainforests to mine for tungsten?” “Will we all die if fossil fuels continue to be used?”
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Life Changer - Vanya Erickson

Life Changer

Baby Emily lay on the hospital bed, dwarfed by a sea of crisp white linen. I held my breath, my fingers gripping the cold metal railing by the side of her bed, relieved to be this close after my isolating hours alone in the small “family room” outside the morgue,
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Vanya Erickson - Good Company

Good Company

Sometimes I’m not sure if I can make it through the night. Or the hour. Or even the next 30 seconds. The pain behind my left eye is a raging clamp of hot metal on muscle, merciless in its persistence, waking me in my sleep.
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Vanya Erickson - Good Work

Good Work

Yesterday I officially told my school district that I’ll be retiring in June. For months now I’ve been purging, each week carrying a box or two of beloved things from my classroom to the faculty room for others to adopt; consulting with my accountant; researching the endless possibilities of what comes next. I’m ready.
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Pearl Harbor, 1941 - Vanya Erickson

Pearl Harbor, 1941

The cover of Time Magazine with its horrific black-and-white image of a sinking ship and billowing smoke, anchored me to the spot. I snatched it from the rack, the last issue available: PEARL HARBOR - 75 YEARS LATER.
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Remembering – Published on Sweet, a Literary Confection

The scream was a deep, miserable thing that flew out of my mouth, gushing into the room like rusty water bursting from a pipe. I gripped the edge of your crib and watched the graying of your skin; marveled at your beautiful lips, parted as if you were still breathing. My spirit ripped away, and…
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Vanya Erickson - Be Kind to Yourself

Be Kind to Yourself

I just read that human beings are hard-wired to play hooky. Man, I feel so much better about myself now. Don’t get me wrong, I am one hard-working person, but there are times when I’m fed up with my own expectations.
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Vanya Erickson - What We Can Do

What We Can Do

My dear friend Marni lost her big brother to brain cancer this week. In my experience, there is nothing as devastating than watching someone you love crumble under the weight of loss. The ripple effect of his death sent shockwaves through me, and I shuddered at each successive text from Marni.
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Vanya Erickson-Magic of Memoir

Magic of Memoir

The Magic of Memoir is a memoirist’s companion for when the going gets tough. Editors Linda Joy Myers and Brooke Warner have taught and coached hundreds of memoirists to the completion of their memoirs, and they know that the journey is fraught with belittling messages from both the inner critic and naysayers, voices that make it…
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Target Practice Vanya Erickson

Target Practice on Evening Street Review

I grew up bouncing between our home in the San Francisco Bay Area and our ranch in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Ever since, I have loved the contrast of these places - the energy of the city with its theater, music and art and the silence and beauty of the mountains.
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Remembering - Vanya Erickson

Remembering published on Sweet Lit

My life is loaded with events that shake me to the core. Sometimes when deciding on one to write about, my topic is so deeply personal, I wonder, What am I thinking? I can’t speak about this! Exposing the truth is an ongoing battle raging in my gut, every single day. But I know that if I can somehow manage to get it down on paper, something will shift inside me. There is power in words arranged in just the right order, that help us heal. They comfort and underscore our fragile hold on existence, reminding us that life can change in an instant.
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Hit the Trail-Vanya Erickson

Hit the Trail

John Muir said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.” Amen, brother. It’s high time I hit the trail. For me, that means returning to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We have a long history together, the mountains and I, as gnarled and magnificent as a Bristlecone Pine. The Sierra’s pull is so strong that sometimes as I sit down to write, memories flood through me and I have to sit down.
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Power of Music - Vanya Erickson

Power of Music

Unlike corporate coffee houses with their gleaming stainless and fishbowl walls of glass, my preferred writing place is dark and womb-like, a funky artistic hangout with arteries of extension cords snaking across the wood floors - lifelines for writers. I always bring my headphones when I go there because music makes all the difference.
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Giving Up On Being Published

Words Saved Me

It’s like so much magic, really, when the perfect article appears just when you need it and saves you from yourself. It was 4 a.m., and I had just clicked on my daily email from, a wonderful source of inspiration for authors. The featured article vibrated like neon on the page. “Why I’m Giving Up on Being Published,” by Woz Flint. I was hooked.
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I inherited Mom’s poker face - that calm-in-the-storm mask that has served me well throughout my life. It’s foolproof except for the tiny twitch in the corner of my left cheek, evidence that inside my head, I’m a screaming jungle of emotions, a dark mass of self doubt entwined with the past.
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When It Gets Difficult

When it Gets Difficult

Outside it’s a Portland drizzle, the perfect excuse for staying in my pajamas and working on a scene in my book. Today I’m working on the one in which Dad is gesticulating in the kitchen, informing my sister and me that a thief broke into our home while we were at school, leaving us “something very interesting, indeed.”
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Rejection Notices

Rejection Response

Last week I received a rejection slip that spiraled me into the fetal position, stealing my breath away. It had been such a great day with my students, and months since I had sent off that essay in question, the one about the death of my daughter - that I was caught in a gut response by the quick change of my mood. It made me nauseous. And then I remembered:
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14 Things That Made Me Who I Am

1 – Three days after I was born I was found in a pool of blood, while my mother placed her hand on my chest and whispered prayers. My grandfather rushed me to the hospital, but it was the black man who was waiting for his child to be born upstairs, who offered up his…
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Me At Age 11

The Hackamore

Dad was infamous for the “jobs” he created for us on weekends, vacations, or any time there was a spare moment, especially if he heard giggling. Back then I thought nothing of these tasks: sharpening knives and tool blades with a massive kick-wheel whetstone; watering an acre of five-gallon saplings with a weak hose in…
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Mom and Dad


My father was a self-proclaimed atheist, but he had a secret place of worship beneath the trees. His temple, an old army cot dragged under a massive avocado tree he named Susan. Her branches, heavy and abundant, leaned close and enveloped him, offering protection from the world outside. His religious canon varied, but Edgar Allan…
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