embrace the squiggly line

by Kalea Smith

From the archives: originally written March 2020. I’m so happy to be on this side of the pandemic. Things are still rough in some places, but I can’t help but feel like we’re on the way out of this.

“Embrace the squiggly line”. This is a line my husband has adopted. My daughter even made it into a painting that’s been posted on our fridge since December. What he means by this is that our lives are not going to be the staight rising story line we’d like. There will be ups and there will be downs. Intead of fussing and fighting against the changes that life brings, embrace them! Give the worries to God and move on.

That advice seems even more important this month. Very quickly things are changing. It seems best to cancel everything and try to flatten the curve of the outbreak.

At work: Two weeks ago our very visionary charter school director asked us to prepare to teach by remote. Last Friday, she told us to send home the packets and sent an email to the families. Today, the Dept of Education in Hawai’i announced our Spring Break (this week) will be two weeks rather than one for students, but teachers will return after one week to figure out what to do. We’re already on that path and I feel pretty prepared to “go remote” even with Kindergartners. The other Kindergarten teacher and I will make a Kindergarten youtube channel to complement the paper packets we sent home Friday.

At home: My family and I are hunkering down and not going anywhere. I tell them that we must protect my mother in law and cousin’s health by not bringing anything home to them. Well, I should say, I will be hunkering down with them starting tonight, since I’ve been writing at my writing partner’s house since Friday night.

Writing: What a great time to be a writer! I have one book in revisions and the other in development. My author facebook and this blog may get more attention than then have in years! Did you know Frankenstein was written during the “Year without a Summer” after the Tambora eruption of 1816? This is a great time to stay home and do art.

I know it’s an anxious time. People are anxious about the virus and the changes that are quickly happening around us. What my writing partner and I are noticing is that when we cancel an upcoming event based on our needs, the other participants are thankful. We can control our own actions and embrace the squiggly line. That’s a choice we have.

Photo by Fabien Bazanegue on Unsplash


A small abandoned fawn is one of the characters in my current WIP (work in progress).

Last night I realized I should watch some videos of fawns to increase my understanding of what they sound like, how they move and what they look like.

Here are some of the links I’ve been watching:

Fawn enters house by accident!
Lost fawn gets care
Dog saves fawn from drowning in a lake!
Check out the bear and wolf!


Not my view but the view from my daughter’s job (about 10 minutes away).

I’m working through a new revision this week.

I’m specifically working on:

adding more tension between the characters (conflict drives story)

adding more fears to the main character

changing speech tags into action

adding sensory details

I did a lot of research during the first draft, so I’m trying to focus on revision only and am staying off the internet. FOCUS! ­čÖé

One thing I did allow myself to Google today was: Should characters eat in novels? I feel like my characters rarely miss a meal and I wonder if I need to edit some of the meals out. The Google search reports that meals are important in novels (and in life!) I’m putting it on the list for the next revision pass.

What do you think? How important is eating in your writing or reading?

Character notes

Hokulani Joyce Young is the main character in the chapter book I╩╗m polishing this summer.

She’s 9. She just finished fourth grade and is spending the summer at her grandparents cabin in Pennsylvania with her little sister Mahealani who is 7.

Hoku and Mahea live on Hawai╩╗i Island (the Big Island) with their parents. Their mom is from Pennsylvania and their dad is from Hawai╩╗i.

Hoku is the big sister who keeps Mahea in line. She wants to make everyone happy and keep the peace. Mahea is the wild child who throws fits and makes crazy demands. Mahea loves chocolate ice cream.

Hoku loves books, animals and vanilla ice cream. Hoku worries. She worries about her parents back in Hawai╩╗i. She worries about her dog. She worries about being apart from the people she loves.

Today, my writing partner Jackie asked me, “Why does Hoku worry?”

Fast answer: She’s a kid who worries.

Longer answer: Her grandpa had COVID last year and was in the hospital. She thought he might die. Her parents talked to her about it but she wouldn╩╗t really believe he was ok until she saw him this summer. She╩╗s extra jumpy and worried about everyone╩╗s health.

Why do some kids more than others? Is it their nature or the events of their lives? A bit of both?

Summers are for writing

When you’re a teacher, summer is for writing. I like to set goals and carve out blocks of time that are focused on those goals. Otherwise, nothing gets done but dreaming.

This summer, I have to drive two daughters to Hilo everyday for work and school. So, I decided to find a place in Hilo to write everyday from 8:00-1:00.

I still have to deal with Mommy chores- dentist, eye doctor, shopping, but last week I logged 10 hours and 40 minutes of just writing.

Today I’m at Jackie’s house for another writing group day and I plan to log a few hours.

Besides just writing today, I read Jackie’s recent YA offering that she’s going to post on Amazon’s new Vella (https://www.amazon.com/kdp-kindle-vella/b?ie=UTF8&node=21613975011). Have you heard of Vella? It’s Amazon’s new episodic publishing arm- currently open to writers but not yet to readers.

Jackie gave me feedback on my children’s chapter book- Rudy. It’s so great to get feedback from a sharp eyed editor so I know what to work on next week.

Other than that, I drank coffee, looked at Paul Theroux’s facebook and instagram pages (pretty great for a septuagenarian), ate breakfast and talked to my mother on the phone.

Time to get back to work!

A year for firsts

It’s 2021 and I’m believing it will be a year of firsts.

I am attending the first in person writing retreat since March 2020. My friend Jackie and I have been writing together for 21 years and before COVID we didn’t have to clarify that we were writing “in person.” We continued throughout last year, meeting on zoom and talking on the phone. In July, we taught a class online as well. But today and tomorrow, we are writing in person (distanced and masked) but IN PERSON.

What other firsts will I accomplish this year? I have several writing projects underway- a romance novella, a children’s chapter book series, write a short story and sell it, weekly devotionals at newhopevolcano.com, teach another class, develop a new class and blog more. Some of these goals are “firsts” (those in bold are firsts) and some are “seconds.”

These are not “pie in the sky” goals, these are goals that are planned and happening!

I’m doing much better at making and achieving goals since Jackie got me “My Brilliant Writing Planner” for a Christmas gift. I recommend it for any writer. Check it out at https://www.mybrilliantwritingplanner.com/

Seriously, it will change your writing life.

Writing class


I don’t know if I told you that my friend Jacquolyn Mcmurray and I are teaching a writing class at the Volcano Art Center on July 25th.┬á

This has been a dream of ours for almost as long as we’ve been writing┬átogether – TWENTY years. Once we got up the guts to ask, Volcano Art Center said they’d be pleased to have us.┬á (How sweet!)┬á

We threw ourselves into planning an awesome day of writing activities for folks who are ready to get inspired and do a little bit of writing. Then (you already know it) Corona Virus appeared.

Like a good villain, it pushed us to change. And, change we did. 

We proposed a workshop via zoom and cut it down to just three hours- 9-12 Hawaii Standard Time (HST). But, there is a silver lining. Now you don’t have to be in Volcano, HI to come to our workshop.┬á You can be ANYWHERE on the planet. (I really like silver linings.)┬á

So, besides telling you about our exciting class, I want to ask you if you know anyone who might want to come to our class. Maybe someone who’s always talking about starting that novel, writing a memoir or creating a new hobby. We’d love to meet them! Or, maybe you!┬á

 If no one in particular comes to mind, do you think you could share it on your facebook page for us? 

Maybe you could include a little caption like: 
Check out this cool zoom writing class that my friend is teaching. July 25, 9-12 (Hawaiian time). She and her friend Jacquolyn are writers and teachers. They have fun, inspiring activities planned and you won’t have to “share” your writing out loud.┬á ­čÖé┬á
Be sure to include the link:  Strategies to Jump-Start Your Writing Class


Kristin Noelle Wolfgang, writer and teacher


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