Sunday, January 17, 2016


Risk - spontaneity - strength

I’m thrilled to join Writers Who Kill and be part of this terrific community. I can’t wait to get to know all of you better.

For my first post, it seems appropriate to talk about beginnings and a concept that to me is inescapably related: risk. Now I used to be about as risk-averse as they come, but a few years back, instead of drafting a list of New Year’s resolutions, I decided to try something new. I adopted “risk” as my “word of the year,” a guiding concept for stretching beyond my comfort zone. (Sound familiar? In her last post two weeks ago, Sarah talked about focusing on words instead of resolutions, too.)

I wrote the word in all caps on a sticky note and posted it on my computer, where I could see it every day and remind myself that sometimes, a little risk can be a good thing.

A couple of months later, the Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime announced that submissions were open for its second anthology of short stories. Ah-ha! An opportunity to put risk to work for me. I drafted my first short story ever but wavered as the deadline for submissions crept closer. I fiddled with the story and revised and had many second thoughts. But that sticky note on my computer was a constant reminder. A nag, really. It was my year of risk, after all. So I took a deep breath, hit send, and “Keeping Up Appearances” was one of 22 stories accepted for publication in Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology. Woo-hoo for taking risks!

Since then, I’ve adopted a “word of the year” two more times. Instead of replacing the previous year’s word, I added to it. And those three words have been my companions and my inspiration for several years. I have three sticky notes on my computer now:
  • RISK: Take a chance, stretch, look for new experiences and new challenges.
  • SPONTANEITY: Be open to unexpected opportunities, surprise twists, and joyful distractions.
  • STRENGTH: Be steadfast in pursuit of dreams and desires.
Flash and Bang anthology coverAnd in the three years (almost) since Fish Nets was published, I’ve had two stories accepted for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (AHMM) and another for Flash and Bang, the first anthology from members of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. In fact, my latest story will be in the March issue of AHMM, on sale this week.

Along the way, I’ve become more comfortable with taking risks. Not every risk pays off, and sometimes spontaneity takes a back seat to practicality. But I like to think of each risk as a beginning, full of wondrous possibilities, and that inspires me to keep taking them.

So cheers to 2016, risks, and beginnings! What risks or beginnings do you look forward to this year?

(I’ll be here every other Sunday. You can also find me on Twitter, @jtollefson, or at my website,


  1. Welcome to WWK, Julie. I am delighted to be alternating Sundays with you. I love the concept you and Sarah have applied to using words, and you have chosen three good ones.

    I’m looking forward to learning more of you, your writing, and your wisdom.

    ~ Jim

  2. Applying those words to your writing says it all. You've had terrific results. It's an inspiration. Welcome to WWK. I couldn't be happier you joined us!

  3. Risk-spontaneity-strength, on the cover of my writing notebook. The sticky note on my laptop says "garbage night, expose pipes" because we're headed back into single digit temps.

  4. Welcome to WWK, Julie. What an inspiring post. May I adopt your code? Sounds like the perfect combination!

  5. Jim - Thank you! I"m looking forward to getting to know all my WWK blog buddies better too!

    EB - I'm so glad you all invited me to part of WWK. Thank you!

    Margaret - It's turned brutally cold here today, too. You'll find me and my laptop beside the fireplace, probably until temps rise above freezing. :)

    Kait - Of course! I hope it works as well for you as it has for me. Thank you!

  6. Yay, Julie! I'm so glad you've joined. You're going to have an awesome 2016, full of incredible words!

  7. Welcome to WWK. I'm glad you joined us.

  8. So proud of you. You're in AHMM this week?! Hooray! Thanks for the heads-up!

  9. We're so glad to welcome you to WWK, Julie! Sounds like you're going to be an inspiration for all of us!

    Congrats on the AHMM placement. That's a real feather in your cap.

  10. Sarah - Thanks! I'll do my best to fill the void you've left. Here's to awesome words in 2016!

    Nancy - I am, with a story inspired by layoffs in the newspaper industry! It's good to see you here!

    Thanks, Warren and KM!

    (I may have used my entire quota of !!! for 2016 here today, but I'm just so excited to be part of WWK!)

  11. Julie, it's so nice to have you here with us. I liked this blog and look forward to reading more by you. Congratulations on getting a story into Alfred Hitchcock. It's hard to get accepted by that magazine.