President Biden. Vice President Harris.

And all Americans. These words remain the work of all of us:

I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully and to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Originally published at https://www.simner.com on January 20, 2021.


“Hey there, small human. It’s me, your cat…”

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Photo by Janni Lee Simner and also by Sam, a feline remote learning assistant.

Hey there, small human. It’s me, your cat.

So how ‘bout this pandemic, huh? You have to admit, it’s been pretty great. It feels like winter break, only it goes on forever and your mom doesn’t send you off to soccer camp the second week just so she can get some work done. The extra scratches and cuddles have been amazing, and that Chromebook you brought home from school is the warmest sleeping spot ever.

Still, like anything in life, it hasn’t been — quite — purrrfect. As you no doubt know, I’ve recently joined the Union of Feline Remote…


You can’t write like them. You can only write like yourself.

Person writing in a notebook on a table covered in papers, with a coffee mug nearby.
Person writing in a notebook on a table covered in papers, with a coffee mug nearby.
Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Sometimes I wish every bit of writing advice — every talk, every blog post, every one-on-one conversation — began with a disclaimer:

This worked for me. It might or might not work for you. Give it a try. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, don’t worry about it. Move on.

When we begin writing, there’s so much we’re trying to learn that it’s only natural to look for rules. And well-crafted stories do have some things in common, beginning with the fact that they all engage at least some readers, some of the time.

But beyond the basics of…


No contrition
Or regret.

The mob?
Stormed lives?
Totally appropriate.

Sidestepped questions?
Deadly riot?
Totally appropriate.

Defiance.
Assault.
Violence.

Ransacking.
Anger.
Violence.

His mob.
His anger.

He should leave. Leave…


As I snuggled in with my husband and my then-first-grader to watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I looked forward to sharing my childhood memories of Rankin and Bass’ claymation classic.

Within five minutes of pressing play, though, all I could think was, “Why is everyone being so mean?”

The other reindeer. Rudolph’s father. Rudolph’s teacher, Comet, who first joins Rudolph’s classmates in taunting him, then cheerfully kicks Rudolph out of reindeer school for not looking like everyone else. Even Father Christmas is no help; Santa does nothing to defend the young reindeer as he’s reminded, again and again, that he…


I can’t go out there.

I see how you’re looking at me, your eyes and your Twitter feeds filled with hope. 2020 was a dumpster fire, you say. 2021 has to be better, you say.

I know you mean well, but that’s a lot of pressure to put on a brand new year.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been working hard, and I have big plans. Right off the bat in January, I’m rolling out a new president. Pretty exciting, huh? In March the economy will get a boost from my new infrastructure initiative, and in August, supporting teachers will…


The first time I told my daughter the truth about Santa Claus, she was three years old.

She came home from child care full of excitement and anxiety, hoping, hoping, hoping she’d been good enough for Santa to come. We’d never really talked about Santa in our Jewish-Quaker household, though we did visit my in-laws for a secular Christmas celebration each year. But I looked at my child now, full of earnest hope and anxiety, and I knew I didn’t want her to see her Christmas gifts as some sort of reflection on her character or worth.

So at bedtime…


“We love the things we love for what they are.”

That’s from Robert Frost’s “Hyla Brook.”

Variations on the line had been bouncing around in my head for a while before my husband and fellow writer, Larry Hammer, reminded me where it came from.

I’d been thinking about Frost (without knowing it was Frost I was thinking about) because I’d been thinking about how once we reach a certain basic level of craft, writing is no longer about avoiding mistakes or carefully not doing anything wrong.

It’s about the things we do right.

No one ever loved a book, after…


Oh, right. It’s 2020.

Okay, you don’t need me to tell you that. What with the election and the pandemic and the wildfires and a thousand thousand other things, 2020 has seen to it that it won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

But February 2020 was also, as this ten-year-old post just reminded me, my writingversary. As I explained then:

Back in February 1990, just a few months out of school, I spent the last of my student loan money on a computer with two 5 1/4″ floppy drives, promised myself I would write at least something every single day when…


Bones of Faerie, the first book of my Bones of Faerie trilogy, is about uncontrolled growth: plants that bloom in every season, crops that fight their harvesters, trees that seek human blood and bone to root in.

Faerie Winter, the second book of the trilogy, tells the opposite story. It’s about endless winter, failure to grow, and the fear that spring might never come.

During our current physical and psychological winter, Faerie Winter is the book I’ve been thinking about.

The story’s protagonist, Liza, is surrounded by adults who remember countless other winters, followed by countless other springs. Liza was…

Janni Lee Simner

Author of the post-apocalyptic Bones of Faerie trilogy; Thief Eyes; more than 30 short stories; and the script for The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse video game.

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