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Erin Cleary


Represented by Sheila Fernley
of Storm Literary Agency
  • Erin Cleary

A Fine Sauce

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

For the last three years, I’ve chosen a word to help guide and challenge me in the year ahead. This word relates specifically to my writing life, but the general hope is that the effects will seep into all the cracks and crevices. I write the word in chalk on a slab of slate and keep it on my desk to encourage me every day.

Past words have been FOCUS and STRUCTURE. These words reminded me to allow time for things that are important in life outside of regular responsibilities. I learned to focus on things that are important to me, like writing, that might not be important to anyone else. Structure meant staying organized when I was writing my novel and learning about the literal structure of a novel.

Neither year was perfect. I reached some goals and missed others. Last year especially, things fell by the wayside (like posting regularly on this blog) as I turned my energy toward finishing the first draft of my middle-grade novel. Now I have a novel written and a new word for the year: CONCENTRATE.

I love this word’s multiple meanings. It is a combination (a concentration!) of my past words, requiring even deeper understanding of how to keep my focus while also structuring my surroundings. As well, my battle cry will be, “CONCENTRATE!” as I revise my novel over the next few months. I’ll be taking the feedback I get from my critique group in a few weeks and boiling it down (concentrating it!) to make the story flow better, to turn it into something more intense and flavorful—a process much like building a delicious, complex sauce by gently reducing the ingredients on the stove. The beautiful process of revision can be as satisfying as enjoying a gourmet meal.

CONCENTRATE also reminds me to stay on task and be patient, to make time for the things on the to-do list and enjoy each process, instead of feeling the jumble in my brain and turning the heat up too high, causing the sauce to break or curdle. This means lots of lists with suggested time frames. I’m clearly already struggling at this, with my January blog post going up on February 2nd!

In all fairness, part of this has to do with having a writer’s mind. For example, I have just returned from a trip down a Google rabbit hole as I read about the “Five Mother Sauces of French Cuisine" and "How to repair a broken sauce." I didn’t need to spend five minutes on that, but now something new is filed away in my memory. Maybe I’ll use this knowledge in a story one day—or, at the very least, when I make dinner tonight.

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