Thursday, May 21, 2015


An Author in Search of a Genre
By Judith Cullen
© 2015

We like to categorize.  It makes it easier to find things we need or want when they are classified, organized: canned vegetables in this aisle, pasta and soups in the next. Everything sorted and alphabetized so we can lay hands on it at just the right moment.  It is not a bad working concept.

I was the primary proponent of this very concept recently in my Mother’s house.  An overhead cabinet was mounded with decades of holiday decorations and items for little homey touches: candles of all sizes and shapes, votive holders, mobiles, windsocks, table and window d├ęcor, various objects d’art.  After 45 years they had become a festive Fibber McGee’s closet. I was regularly ascending a 6’ step ladder, as the designated household climber, opening the cabinet door with one hand, and holding the other up protectively against anything that decided to descend before its time. I reached my limit.  I bought a bunch of inexpensive plastic storage bins and sorted out both that cabinet and the closet beneath.  Now we can find things without risking life and limb. Now the holiday accumulations of the years can be found and chosen from easily.  I can’t tell you how many times the words “Oh, I haven’t seen that in years” were spoken. But this essay is not about reducing clutter or increasing your feng shui.

Authors are regularly asked to categorize themselves.  What do you write? What is your genre?  The literary word is a vast series of pigeon holes and authors are challenged to fit themselves into as many as possible to make their work easier to access by interested readers.  It makes sense, right?  Yet I continually find myself straining at those carefully drawn boundaries.  I know other writers who have chosen more defined markets for their books, and are much more prosperous than I: Christian Romance, Historical Romance, Historical Fiction, etc.  Am I only a fiction writer?  Am I only an essay writer?  Do I have any claim to being a poet?  Why can’t I wrap all these things up in the term “author” and just write what inspires me?

Monday, May 18, 2015


My Birthday Present to Myself
My history with journaling and keeping a diary has resulted in a colorful collection of blank books containing three to five entries, followed by still-gaping pages that have been awaiting ink for years, even decades after they were started.  My journaling has typically devolved into the kind of internal quandary debates that are sure to bring such disciplined activity to a full-stop. 

Yet this time around I am doing much better.  It’s “Journaling for Dummies” if you will.  Or perhaps it is more like “Compassionate Journaling.”  Inspired in part by the “Cure for Sleeplessness” chapter from the late Maeve Binchy’s Chestnut Street, I have been journaling for almost three weeks. This is a personal best for me.

I keep it simple: one thing a day that I feel blessed by.  I write one page only.  If I don’t write all the way down to the space between the last line and the edge of the page, I do not fuss. It has not been continuous. The “compassion” part comes when I forgive myself for missing a day and don’t simply throw in the towel, but pick up where I left off.  That has been a lesson all by itself.

Blessings have ranged from concepts (learning, friendship) to actions (laughter, tears) to actual physical objects (trees, rain, birds).

Saturday, May 16, 2015


They made me my own sign!
I have to admit, I wasn't sure what to expect.  I know other writers with much wider distribution than I possesss, with more resources, who hold much larger events (or their publishers do).  I don't have any of that.  I began writing and self-publishing two and a half years ago with, literally, nothing but talent.  I have learned every step of the way, and can never remember in my life being so pleased to learn and make mistakes - moving forward wiser and better informed at each step. Two years later, I am still a long way from some of the my more "industry standard" colleagues, but I keep moving ahead, little by little.

So, when I decided to do my very first book launch event, the temptation was there to puff up the cat and make myself seem like bigger literary shakes than I am.  After all, "fake it till you make it," right?  Well no, not for me.  Putting myself out there, rather than letting my work speak for itself, is one of the hardest things for me about self-publishing. Yet,the release of The Blackberry & Other Tales That Creep was a significant step forward, and I simply wanted to celebrate it.

Yummmm!  Blueberry Pancakes!
The Original Pancake House about five minutes from where I live seemed the perfect place and Luke, the Manager, was so open and helpful.  I really can't say enough about how great he was. He even offered to let me put a Power Point about the book up on the screen in the room where we would be seated.  After fussing a bit over cables, I am glad I decided not to.  It was so great to enjoy the wonderful cross-section of people from different parts of my life, and help mark this big step for me by sharing time and food with them.  Some of my Kickstarter Supporters were even there, and got their signed books.

Why was this book such a big deal for me?
It marks numerous firsts.
The first . . .
  • Book I have published with original commissioned artwork
  • And thus, the first time I have worked with an illustrator.
  • Time my books will be in retail stores
  • Kickstarter campaign to fund illustrations, audio book production , promotional donations, and extended distribution
  • actual Launch event.
Am I on the same level yet with my more prolific publishing peers?  Not even remotely, but I am getting there one step at a time.  The best thing was capping it all off today with a small but diverse group of people in celebration: enjoying some great food, and terrific fellowship.  

Thank you one and all for your support, and for sharing this moment with me!

"The Blackberry..." Book Launch ~ May 16, 2105
I took more pictures, but some of them are a bit blurry - I was SO excited!
L to R: Wendy Lyons, Me, Christina Hughes, Tanya & Jason Carter (with well-behaved service-dog-in-training under the table), Jeri and Mark Lloyd, Hal Meng, and Maura Cullen.

COMING NEXT! . . . Beauty On The Interstate to be released in August, and the release of The Blackberry & Other Tales That Creep in Audio Book

Also, more stories and essays posts (I have some saved up) and more from the Art-Inspired Stories Project at this year's Proctor Arts Fest.

Monday, May 11, 2015


Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day.  I could eat breakfast food for three meals a day! So in celebration of the release of The Blackberry & Other Tales That Creep, we are going to let the syrup flow and the good times roll

What: Breakfast Launch Party (Informal)
When: Saturday, May 16th from 9-11:30am
Where: The Original Pancake House
601 South Pine Street,Tacoma, WA

Details: Some copies will be available for signing. Breakfast is no host (i.e. pay for your own food)

Space is limited (because pancakes are popular on weekends!) so RSVP here in comments, or on the Facebook Event Page.  No regrets necessary.


"Just an outstanding collection of four short stories that the author says is written for ages 12 - 18 and grades 6 - 12. I am way beyond those stated years but I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them. My favorite one of the four is 'In Her Own Words' followed closely by 'Walter's Sunday'. All of them to me are five star stories but the two I mentioned contain so much knowledge of life, living and death that they stood above the other two."   ~ Amazon Reader Review

Sunday, May 3, 2015

LIFT OFF! "The Blackberry & Other Tales That Creep" is Launched!

The Blackberry & Other Tales That Creep is now on sale through Amazon!

In a few days the sales pages will be merged, but right now,

Live in the Puget Sound area? Join me for a very informal Launch Breakfast Saturday morning, May 16th between 9 & 11am at the Original Pancake House, 601 S Pine Street in Tacoma. I am going to pour something berry-like over some yummy pancakes and celebrate the amazing journey that has been this book.  Breakfast is Pay-Your-Own, I am afraid.  But I will have a limited supply of books with me and a ready pen for signing.

(I am sure there are rules about how you should conduct an event like this, but I don't know them yet, so I am just going to have a good breakfast and a good time with (hopefully) some good company)

What really creeps you out? These stories feature the unknown, unseen, unexplainable, and unexpected.  They won’t horrify you, but you may begin to feel uneasy, get that prickly feeling on your skin that causes you to rub your arms and look around for what might be lurking. They may inspire you to check under your bed at night, make certain your closet door is securely latched and your windows locked. 

The Blackberry & Other Tales That Creep” features four unique short story adventures by Judith Cullen, with illustrations for “The Blackberry” & “Gorak the Gobbler” by well-known cartoonist and illustrator, Rick Geary.

Appropriate for Young Adult and Older. 

Thanks to everyone for their support on the amazing journey that has been this book.

DON'T FORGET TO POST YOUR REVIEWS ON AMAZON,  and stay tuned for more news.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


The Blackberry & Other Tales That Creep 

. . . has begun the Pre-Launch Sequence.  
Let the Countdown Begin!
We are just hours away from Lift Off!

1  Question: To the left you see what we think of when we think of a single blackberry.  Is it a whole fruit?

Answer: Yes, and no.  What you see here is not a single fruit, but many.  Blackberries, like Raspberries and all the various varietals thereof, are aggregate fruits. They are made up of very small, circular fruity units called "drupelets."

As in other kinds of bush berries, blackberries too are packed with numerous plant nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and dietary fibers that are essential for optimum health. The berries are very low in calories. 100 g provide just 43 calories. Nonetheless, they are rich in soluble and insoluble fiber and Xylitol, a low-calorie sugar substitute in the fruit fiber which absorbs slower than glucose inside the gut. It, thus, help in steadying blood sugar levels.

So they are really good for you, . . . as long as they are not eating your pets.

Friday, April 24, 2015


I have have made no secret that the inspiration behind the title story of my new book came while doing battle with invasive brambles in my own backyard.  It was actually less an inspiration than a connection.  That spark is reflected in the story when Cara says "The whole genus has power issues."  I am sure I said something much more colorful while I was picking yet another clipped cane from my clothing.

I had encountered the Snohomish Tribal legend of the Blackberry several years earlier in a very humble but utterly charming volume I bought in a local sandwich shop called AH MO: Indian Legends from the Northwest compiled by Judge Arthur Griffin, and edited by Trenholme J. Griffin.  I fell in love with it and encountered the similar versions of the tale from other sources after that.  The Griffin books (there are two, I believe) are full of short, wonderful tales that are a mix of origin stories, legends, cautionary tales. I recommend them.

If you love First People and First Nation stories as much as I do, you might also enjoy this website First People - The Legends.  It has a wealth of stories from an astounding array of native traditions. One of my all time favorites from this site is the Omaha legend of "How to Count to 100."

Here's a peek at part of one of Rick Geary's sketches for The Blackberry and other Tales That Creep.
A snippet of one of Rick Geary's sketches  for "The Blackberry"

Cara's neighbors, the Halls, have ties to the Native American community.  Dave shares his tribe's tale of the blackberry after Cara has had her first infuriating  encounter with the bramble that just won't go away.  Then Dave shows her something remarkable and more than a little frightening about this specific plant.

(from THE BLACKBERRY by Judith Cullen, copyright 2015)

"Dave laughed, 'That out there is not the blackberry of our legends, Cara.  You’ll find that the native blackberry is still a bush, and still duly humbled as the high ones intended.  This plant is not native to these shores.  It is an invasive tourist brought by Europeans for berry production.  It is known as the Himalayan blackberry.  The European settlers didn’t know quite what they had when they brought it here, and they lost control of Rubus armeniacus.'

 “'The whole genus has power issues, I think,' Cara muttered".

The Blackberry and other Tales That Creep coming soon to Amazon for Kindle and in Paperback.