Monday, April 18, 2011

Little Ferrets in Our Writing, Words to Live By from Anita Miller

Today I'm sick. Really sick. So it's a perfect day to let my friend Anita Laydon Miller take over my blog. Which she was going to do anyway, but now it seems like fate.

Please give her a HUGE welcome. She's pretty amazing.

Little Ferrets in Our Writing

by Anita Laydon Miller

A little less than a year ago, I was at an MFA lecture. It was summer in Pennsylvania in a room with no air conditioning. The lecturer was David Morrell of RAMBO fame. Morrell seemed like a nice guy, but I sat there hot, tired and grouchy. I wasn’t getting a lot out of his lecture. Or so I thought.

Morrell talked about “ferrets.” He said we all have ferrets in our lives…little creatures that dig into our psyches. He said sometimes these ferrets show up in our writing, and the ferrets can make the writing feel more authentic, real.

I thought, “What a bunch a poo. I don’t have ferrets.”

Except here I am now, thinking of all the friggin’ ferrets in my writing. They’re everywhere, digging tunnels between my words.

I recently self-published EARTHLING HERO. It’s a kids’ fiction ebook. A sci fi. How could I have ferrets in a work like that, right? Well, I do.

In one of the scenes, the alien kid (he’s come to Earth to help his Earthling clone save the world) is in a cave. Part of the cave is filled with water, and Axe (the alien) has to get across the pond in order to complete his mission. It’s funny, because this kid is afraid of almost nothing, but he’s afraid of this small body of water.

Hmm. Guess who else has a fear of water. That’s right. Me. In fact, I just learned how to swim a couple months ago—thanks to a very patient swim instructor and loads of encouragement from my family.

I’m working on a YA right now. Suicide is an underlying theme. Recently, somebody asked me why I was drawn to the subject. It’s weird, because I hadn’t wondered why until I was asked. And when I answered the question, I thought of (duh) one of my favorite cousins who killed herself several years back.

Of course I have other ferrets, but I won’t bore you with them. What I will say, though, is I’m glad I sweated through Morrell’s lecture. It helped me understand my writing and myself better. And now I consciously search for my ferrets and find ways to incorporate them into my writing--my work has a more authentic feel with my ferrets included, and I save cash by avoiding therapy.

And while we’re on the subject of saving cash, EARTHLING HERO is available for only $.99! It’s a great family read-aloud (links below) and can be read on PCs and Macs, as well as ereaders and iPhones/Touches/Pods/Pads, etc.


Please feel free to tell me about your ferrets, ask me questions about epublishing, or just say “Hello.” I’ll be stopping by several times throughout the day.

Thank you, Carolina!

P.S. In EARTHLING HERO, there’s a tortilla-making scene. The aliens try out a bunch of different toppings for their homemade tortillas. See this short video to find out my favorite tortilla topping.

Thanks so much, Anita! What a great post. I think we all have ferrets in our writing, those little issues that worm their way into our writers' psyches. Understanding our fears and tackling them head on can work wonders, I think--can do everything from helping to dismantle writer's block to understanding our motivation for writing the things we do.

Also, that has to be the most amazing topping for tortillas. Even in my sick-dog delirium, I am now craving that bit of deliciousness.


On a little side note, guys, let me tell you that you really want to give EARTHLING HERO a shot. I'm telling you, just the first chapter is worth more than the 99 cents. Yeah, 99 CENTS. Your kids will love this book. You'll love it. Fast read. So cute, so fun. SO.WELL.DONE. And you don't need an e-reader (I don't have one). On Smashwords, you can download it straight onto your computer.


You can also find Anita at her website, her blog, and her middle grade blog. Please be sure to stop by and say hello.


  1. Excellent post! I love that idea about little ferrets digging in our work. I'm sure I have a few ferrets, too. I just hope mine don't start stealing all the shiny spoons ;)

    Hope you feel better, Carol!


    MARISA: Watch it...ferrets are pesky little buggers!

  3. That's a great way to put it. I'm a big Morrell fan, and I'd certainly say he has some ferrets. :)

  4. Feel better Carolina!

    Marisa - I've always HATED ferrets, but maybe I'll look at them a little differently now . . .

  5. SUMMER: Yeah, the dude's been through a lot. He's a solid writer, though. It's more interesting to read his writing now that I know more about his personal life. I wonder if that's always the case.

    SHEILA: I'm not a big fan of rodent-type creatures, either. Morrell's lecture made sense as a writer, though. I'll check to see if you've got a blog, and whether any ferrets are hiding out there. :)

  6. I wonder if any ferrets got into my book?

  7. ALEX: I bet you've got some in there. I usually don't recognize mine straight off.

  8. I have a ferret infestation.

    Just sayin'.

  9. Carol, you take care of yourself! Don't make me call you and remind you to drink your fluids.

  10. Anita is so cool! She's got one of the best tours ever going.

  11. Oh, and I forgot, Nutella is yum, but my favorite tortilla topping is thousand island dressing and sliced black olives.

  12. JONATHON: I had a feeling you had an infestation...hopefully that sasquatch thing isn't a reflection of your back hair. :) Carol just emailed me...said she's heading for under the covers.

    MATTHEW: Thanks for the blush...I had one of those pale morning things going on. I've just got a couple more stops on the's fun!

  13. What a fun guest post~ thanks Anita! I loved the video too (and now I'm craving homemade tortillas!).

    Best of luck with EARTHLING HERO!

  14. Thanks so much for stopping by, guys! *smooches*

    Jonathon, I swear I will drink my fluids. And probably something better than Coke Zero even. But mainly because my throat is so swollen, I think the carbonation would send me into convulsions.

    Anita, such a pleasure to have you on the blog! Thank you so much! :D

  15. JESS: Somewhere on youtube I have a "How to Make Homemade Tortillas" video. It's super easy. Let me know if you want to see it and can't find it.

    CAROLINA: Are you crazy...thank YOU! And it's weird, I'm reading a book right now and the main character (a newspaper reporter) drinks Coke Zero when he's writing. Coke Zero's everywhere. :)

  16. No Coke here...I live in Pepsi territory :P

  17. Love the ferrets - so true!

    Carolina, feel better soon!

  18. JONATHON: I have family members who work for Pepsi, so that's usually the way we go. But sometimes (shh...don't tell anyone) I drink a Coke.

    TARA: I know, right?

  19. Carol-sorry you're sick and I hope it doesn't last!

    Anita-LOVE the ferret idea--I love the realistic small details and yes, most of them are either my own quirks or quirks of people I know--I think they are just easier to make authentic when we really know them from all angles.

  20. Hope you are feeling better soon, Carol.

    It is reassuring that the ferrets make your writing more authentic. It also works for your blog tour as well. I am loving the video theme. And I agree with Matthew, great blog tour! This is a seriously inspired tour.

  21. I bought this for my Kindle last week, after seeing a review on two other blogs. I can't wait for my son and I to read it. :-)

  22. HART: It's so true...seeing that you recognize that makes me want to read what you write.

    TINA: I'm glad you're enjoying the tour...makes me feel happy knowing that you like it. :) Just a few more stops and then the tour's done.

    SHANNON: Thank you for buying the book! When you read it, please post a review at Amazon...or give me some stars or something! :)

  23. I love all things furry, cute and amazing so yay for writer-ly ferrets!!

    Thank you Anita Laydon Miller for such a fab post and good luck with your writing!

    Ms Valdez Miller!!!! Please take care and get better!
    p.s. Ooh I just realised your surnames both end in Miller! :-)

  24. OLD KITTY: I appreciate the good luck wishes. Also, if you or ANYONE wants to like me on my new facebook page, that would be awesome:

  25. Without a doubt, I have a ton of ferrets tunneling around my manuscript… and I agree, it helps draw out characters fears, quarks, dreams, and a whole lot more. We as writers need to bring real life elements into our writing, so the reader can connect to our character on a deeper level.
    I learned a long time ago to embrace my strange, complex behaviors and thoughts… and that goes for the way it translates onto the page.

    Thx for sharing, and I’ll give the book a look.

  26. JEFF: Letting loose those ferrets will make your writing better...and it will make you feel better, too. Thanks for checking out EARTHLING HERO!

  27. Great post Anita. I definitely thought of you and tortillas when I started reading the post. The ferrets are definitely something we should all be more conscious of.

    Carolina, hope you fee better soon.

  28. NATALIE: Thank you! I just smiled thinking of all the times ferrets are mentioned in this blog today. Probably someone researching pet ferrets will get directed here by Google. :)

  29. My ferrets are rabid. It's uncomfy, and a tad awkward.

    But well said, good lady! Here's to our ferrets! *cheers*

    Also, feel better, Carol! Have some blackberry brandy and sleep for 14 hours. It'll do wonders for you.

  30. SIMON: Thanks! *Cheers* back!

  31. Sorry you aren't feeling well, Carol.

    Wonderful post, Anita. I love the term ferrets... I know I have some in my writing.

  32. Now I know what to call these things that sneak into my writing.

  33. Is it wrong that I have a mental image of a ferret drinking Coke Zero right now?

    Wonderful piece Anita.

  34. SHARON: Thank you!

    LIZA: Yes, they're pesky!

    DEAN: Nothing wrong with that at all...problem is it makes one crave a Coke Zero, doesn't it?

  35. Hi Anita! Excellent guest post! It's so nice of you to fill in for Carolina when she's feeling sick. I hope you're starting to feel better by now Carolina!

  36. HEATHER: She got better fast...the woman springs back!

  37. I don't have a ferret in my ms. I think it's an elephant due to the rock theme. ;)
    Great post, Anita and Carol!!
    And to anyone reading the comments, awesome mg booK!!!


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