The Ways We Say ‘I Love You’

From the archives: The Ways We Say ‘I Love You’
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Popcorn with a Spoon

A friend of mine once told me that she and her family rarely say ‘I love you’ to one another. This surprised me. Her family is certainly very close. In fact, I’ve often been envious of the strength and support they provide one another, the profound topics of conversation, their commitment to conflict resolution and, most importantly, the wild and wonderful and weird things they do together for fun (i.e. selling lawn-chewing services door-to-door. You read correctly… perhaps I’ll need a follow-up post to discuss the lawn-chewing thing).

So why are the words ‘I love you’ spoken so rarely? For my friend, it’s so that the words don’t lose their meaning. Saying ‘I love you’ on a regular basis somehow diminishes the worth of the words, in her mind. Perhaps her concern is that they will be thoughtlessly or carelessly spoken if they become too familiar.

Now, I must confess. I chronically communicate ‘I love you’.

Her comments strike me because my husband and…

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Marilynne Robinson, A Careful Writer


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Marilynne for The New York Times

Marilynne Robinson (c) Alec Soth Magnum Photos, used with permission.

Marilynne Robinson is this year’s speaker at Regent College’s Laing Lectures. It has been an absolute privilege to participate in these talks that consider the theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love. An even greater joy has been the opportunity to engage with Marilynne in the more intimate sessions reserved for students and writers. In some ways I imagine I’m like Victor Frankenstein’s creature the moment when “the spark” is infused into its lifeless form. My mind and imagination feel re-energized, brought back to life, animated.

While Robinson offers much provocative and profound theological thought, I’d like share some of the surprising instruction she relates regarding her own writing life.

The first is that she says she’s not much of an editor and does very little by way of revision. Robinson shares that she’s a very careful writer—to the extent that if she writes a sentence, but is unhappy with a particular word, she will not move on until she solves which word best suits the sentence or what the story demands. If she runs into an issue that proves problematic, she will take a walk or a nap—anything except insert a temporary fix. For her, it does not make sense to move on and risk a faulty story structure.

If you’re a writer, you’ll know that Robinson’s approach contradicts almost everything writers are typically told:

The first draft of anything is shit (Ernest Hemingway).

Do not edit as you write.

Get your words and ideas onto the paper. The first draft is for exploration.

Write then revise, revise, revise.

Any of that sound familiar?

I must admit that it feels liberating to hear of Marilynne Robinson’s writing process. I, too, tend to write slow and carefully. I’ve often assumed, based on what I’ve been told, that this is a problem I need to fix, an obsessive compulsion that needs to be addressed, a habit that hinders freedom and flow, restrains the imagination, that I’ve been approaching it all wrong. It’s good to know that perhaps people just approach their art differently.

Whatever else one may say, Marilynne Robinson’s writing process certainly works for her. She’s one of North America’s most influential writers, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Hemingway Award, and Time magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People (2016)–to name but a few of her distinctions.

I’ll post more of my reflections and gleanings from these sessions with Marilynne Robinson, but for now I’m off to enjoy the last lecture of the series. In the meantime, what’s your writing process like? Have you heard any different advice than noted above? Are you surprised by Marilynne Robinson’s approach? Your comments are welcome.

525,600 Minutes: How Do You Measure A Year?


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525,600 minutes
525,600 moments so dear
525,600 minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In 525, 600 minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?
How about love? Remember love
Measure in love, seasons of love

525,600 minutes, 525,000 journeys to plan
525,600 minutes, how do you measure the life of a woman, or a man?

How about love? Remember love
Measure, measure your life in love
Seasons of love.

Listen to Seasons of Love- Rent Sountrack

A full year has passed since my last post on Popcorn With A Spoon. How shall I measure that year? In kernels? In essays? In goodnight kisses? In stresses, wishes, or dirty dishes? Words written? Thoughts spoken? Things broken and fixed? In graces? Or kindness? Or duties I’ve ditched? And how about love? Can I measure my life in love?

You might hear from me more often as I reflect on these units of measurement.

Wishing you a season of love. Share love, give love, spread love… and don’t forget to receive love too!

Ancient Words


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While exploring the ancient world there are many moments when I realize just how foreign the territory is, when I’m all to aware of my alien status, that I’m an outsider, unable to identify with the humans that lived oh so long ago. Like when I read these divination texts used for interpreting misformed births in sheep and goats:

If it has no spleen… the king will not obtain offspring…

And if it has no right ear, the enemy will devastate the land and will consume it.

And if it has no left ear, the king will devastate the land of his enemy and consume it.

And if its rear legs are short, our lord will confront the huradu-troops and Rasap will finish off the posterity.

And if its nose is like the ‘nose’ of a bird, the gods will destroy the land.

Or, likewise, when I read the Ugaritic liturgy against venomous reptiles it’s easy to shake my head in amazement. The ancients did what!? Early civilizations thought that!?

But every once in a while I come across ancient words that sink into my soul, words that suggest these early humans are not so different from modern mankind, words of wisdom that apply today as much as they did five thousand years ago. Philo of Alexandria‘s ancient words are one example, as is this instruction given by Vizier Ptah-hotep:

Ma’at [Justice] is great, and its appropriateness is lasting… If you are one to whom petition is made, be calm as you listen to the petitioner’s speech. Do not rebuff him before he has swept out his body or before he has said that for which he came. A petitioner likes attention to his words better than the fulfilling of that for which he came.


It’s great to feel heard. To know that attention has been given to your words–even if the listener is unable to grant the request. Ptah-hotep understood as much. His instruction on the importance of listening well survives the centuries and reaches to my ears. I will hear and I will listen. Ancient words!

Frankenstein and the Deepest Mysteries of Creation


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It’s All Hallows’ Eve! No better time to share why Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is among my favourite novels. You might be surprised…

Mary Shelley's FrankensteinHollywood would have us believe that Frankenstein is a gigantic, grotesque, murderous monster when, in fact, Victor Frankenstein is a scientist—a scientist who sees that there is more to man than the mere sum of his body parts. With this in mind Victor Frankenstein sets out to create a life, “to unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.” It is only after he successfully animates a creature that Victor Frankenstein stops to consider whether or not he should have taken it upon himself to do so. Mortified and ashamed by his actions, he rejects his creation, abandoning it immediately.

While some may say this story is about the dangers of humanity trying to act or be like God in its attempts to create life I suggest otherwise. This book explores a vast territory regarding the nature of relationship between creator and creation, as well as themes of community. Here is an excerpt from an exchange between Victor Frankenstein and his creature:

‘Abhorred monster! fiend that thou art! the tortures of hell are too mild a vengeance for thy crimes. Wretched devil! you reproach me with your creation; come on, then, that I may extinguish the spark which I so negligently bestowed.’

My rage was without bounds; I sprang on him, impelled by all the feelings which can arm one being against the existence of another.

He easily alluded me, and said–

‘Be calm! I entreat you to hear me, before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough that you seek to increase my misery?… I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king, if thou wilt also perform thy part, that which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other, and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember, that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Every where I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded….’

‘Be gone! I will not hear you. There can be no community between you and me; we are enemies. Begone, or let us try our strength in a fight, in which one must fall.’

‘How can I move thee? Will no entreaties cause thee to turn a favourable eye upon thy creature, who implores thy goodness and compassion? Believe me Frankenstein: I was benevolent; my soul glowed with love and humanity; but am I not alone, miserably alone? You, my creator, abhor me; what hope can I gather from your fellow-creatures, who owe me nothing? they spurn and hate me…’¹

Victor Frankenstein’s creature begs to belong, he longs for community with his creator, but finds only rejection and disdain. Not even his request for a companion is granted:

‘You must create a female for me, with whom I can live in the interchange of those sympathies necessary for my being. This you alone can do; and I demand it of you as a right of which you must not refuse to concede.’ …

‘I do refuse it,’ I replied; ‘and no torture shall ever extort a consent from me…. Begone! I have answered you; you may torture me, but I will never consent.’

‘You are in the wrong,’ replied the fiend; ‘and, instead of threatening, I am content to reason with you…’²

It’s significant to note that it’s only after being completely cast away that the creature adopts the ‘monstrosity’ labelled on him.

For Victor Frankenstein’s creature, there is no creator regarding him, taking pleasure in the sight of him, no one saying “Now this, this is very good.” There is no creator calling to him, “Come walk with me!’ There is no one saying “I know you! Before you were made, my eyes saw your unformed body.” For Victor Frankenstein’s creature, there is name-calling, yet he remains unnamed to the end. There is no recognition, no decree that “It is not good for man to be alone.”³

In reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein I feel the misery of this creature who has been rejected, sent away, condemned to alone-ness. I am filled with awe and wonder and respect and devotion toward my own Creator—the One who calls us His masterpieces. I wonder at the human condition, all our attempts to be like God—the times when we fail at it, the times when we succeed. When I read this story, I hear a caution—not of the dangers of bringing to life a new creation, but the dangers of rejecting that creation, that which I have made.

So for me, in a round about way, Victor Frankenstein succeeds in “unfolding the deepest mysteries of creation.” But it’s only just a beginning ofcourse.

Happy Halloween!

Want to know How Not to be Surprised When You’re a Ghost? Enjoy!


¹Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, edited by M.K. Joseph (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980), 99-100.

²Ibid., 144-145.

³See Genesis 1-3, but especially 1:31, 3:8; Psalm 139:13-16; Genesis 2:18; and Ephesians 2:10 in the Bible for a comparative creation account (as discussed above).



© Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon, 2011-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Writing Degrees: What are They Worth?


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A while back, I was interviewed on Women On Writing‘s blog, The Muffin, and asked about the benefits of my degree in creative writing. I thought to share with you, here, my answer to the question.

WOW: You have a BFA in creative writing. Do you think this has helped you with your writing career? How?

Kelly: Both yes and no.

Yes. Entry into most writing programs is usually competitive. When I inform a publisher (or whomever) that I have a BFA in creative writing, I feel that it shows, on a very basic level, I’m skilled enough as a writer to have gained acceptance into a program and that I’m serious enough about my writing to have invested the time and money.

No. Ultimately, degree or no degree, it’s one’s writing that speaks for itself.

Yes. Like contests, a degree in creative writing provides those external deadlines. Many programs also require you to write in more than one genre, so a writer may be pushed beyond her comfort zone. I write mainly for children and young adults, but my experience was broadened into writing stageplay, nonfiction (personal essay, memoir, op ed), manga, short fiction, and so on.

No. My personal opinion is that there are also potential pitfalls to degree programs (such as cookie-cutter methods/approaches to writing that may stifle uncharted territory in the creative process). I recall one occasion when I should have forged ahead with a story rather than attempt a re-write.

Yes. I learned a lot about building a career in writing… all the little details about query letters, the dos and don’ts of manuscript submissions; I met publishers, agents, authors, instructors, fellow writers, and built some great networks. I feel the degree helped me establish a solid foundation in my writing career.

No. All of the above can be learned or established outside a degree program. Even with my solid foundation I feel I’m learning the most in the real world by writing, submitting to publishers, facing rejections, writing, meeting with my mentor, writing, winning a contest, and more writing, writing, writing.


Once I graduated with my BFA I quickly ruled out the option of pursuing a MFA in creative writing. For me, I felt the benefits no longer outweighed the costs. Rather, I chose a MA program that, in addition to an academic component, permits me to write a novel as part of my thesis project. It’s the best of both worlds, in my opinion.

My current work-in-progress is set in the Ancient Near East (ANE) and is very research intensive. Through my MA program I have access to scholars who are experts in the ANE, I’m able to propose guided studies tailoring my course content to exactly what I want to learn/research, and there are courses that facilitate the creative component. In the end, I’ll have finished my book to “publishable standard” and acquired a whole lot of learning (preparation for a Phd). Perfect for me!

How about you? What’s your experience with writing degrees? How have you weighed the costs/benefits? Would your response to the interview question be much different than mine? Your comments are welcome.

P.S. The full interview may be found here. Also, I recommend checking out Women On Writing’s quarterly flash fiction contest. It’s well worth the effort and the ten dollar entry fee!


New Grains of Sand: 4,283

Total: 61,909

This Business of Writing


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Summer is in full swing and so are the kids. Playgrounds and picnics, Freezies and fireworks, beaches, BBQs, sunflower seeds, and sunshine… there’s no end to the outdoor action.

Yet while the kids are hard at play, I’ve managed to keep hard at work. Thanks to my mobile office!

My Outdoor Office

I thought to share a few writing resources that have been invaluable to me these past weeks. Even if your book is not yet ready to send out to agents/editors, I recommend becoming familiar with these sites. It’s so much easier to learn-as-you-go rather than experience a crash-course at the end of it all, once your project is complete.

Query Tracker

Lists agents and publishers, their websites, and what they represent/publish. You can search based on genre, name, agency, etc. For instance, if I type in ‘picture book’ I get a list of agents/publishers who handle picture books. You can also select it to show only those who are currently open to submissions. **It is still recommended to use the submission guidelines from the agent/publisher’s website as it will be most up-to-date, but Query Tracker helps you find the right agents/publishers to begin with. Plus Query Tracker shares success stories of writers who find representation and many of them graciously post their query letters. These services are available for free.


If you write for children or YA then a SCBWI membership also offers access to a regularly updated online catalog of industry professionals. By nature of SCBWI this catalog automatically filters out non-children’s book agents/editors plus it also contains many other industry resources.

Manuscript Wishlist

Agents and publishers list their up-to-date in-the-moment wishlists for books they’d like to see submitted to them. It’s very current and nuanced information. For example, one agent posts: “I represent historical fiction, too, and I’m still waiting for the story told from the POV of a viking shield maiden. I’m open to just about any era of history, except for WWI, WWII, and Civil War.” You can subscribe via email for free.

#mswl on Twitter (Manuscript Wishlist)

If you search the hashtag #mswl on Twitter you will find current posts from agents/editors about what they are looking for. If your book matches a request you can go to their site and traditionally submit to them mentioning the #mswl hashtag. It’s kind of like a direct route out of the slush pile. (But be warned! The #mswl hashtag is NOT ever meant to be used to pitch or query agents via Twitter… they don’t like it, so don’t do it!)

July 28th was a day when many agents/publishers were on Twitter tweeting their requests. You’ll find some fresh information. Again, even if your project isn’t quite ready, I’d recommend checking it out to get a feel for things. Example tweet: “I would love a YA set in Berlin in August 1914. Themes: mystery, friendship, political intrigue.”

Thanks to Jessica Sinsheimer, KK Hendin, and Kelsey McKim for creating this excellent resource for writers!

AR Bookfinder

Wondering about word count? If your manuscript is long enough? Too long? Go to AR Bookfinder and click on teacher/librarian. You can search for numerous book titles and access information on them, including word count. This will help give you an idea of where other books like yours are at in terms of word count.

For children’s and YA writers, you should also check out the post Wordcount Dracula by literary agent and bookseller, Jennifer Laughran.

Well, that’s all for now folks. Let me know if any of these resources are new to you and if you find them helpful. I would love to hear from you on your new/most used resource finds. Happy writing!


New Grains of Sand: 3,422

Total: 57,626



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I’m quite excited about some recent acquisitions I’ve made. Check out these additions to my personal library:

Folk and Fairy Tales (Critical Theory)


Children’s Literature

And More!

Want to know what’s extra exciting for me? I acquired most of these for only $2 or $3 per book (or even less!) at a recent book sale. It was heaven on earth… and I just had to share the good news!

So tell me, which of these books would you start first? What are you reading over the summer?

Good and Terrible: The Rejection Letter


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People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time.

Rejection. Writers are warned it’s a common, everyday, even natural part of the submissions process. Expect it. Endure it. Curl up in a ball and curse it, but in the end don’t be daunted, discouraged, or depressed by it.

While it’s easy enough to acknowledge this advice, it’s not always easy to abide by it. Every stepping stone on the pathway to publication can seem to scream a new insult. You’re trying to do too much in this picturebook. // The narrative is a bit shaky. // For such an important plot device, you are distressingly vague about it. Who wants to tread on such treacherous terrain? No doubt, rejection is torturous and terrible.

But it is also, at the same time, good.

Industry experts will tell you to learn from those letters. Grow. Hone. Sharpen your skills. Be bold. Be brave. Be discerning. Incorporate criticism. Ignore criticism. Rewrite, revise, re-submit. And, perhaps most importantly, persist.

But on a more basic level–a level that involves less sweat and toil, less wrestling with dos and don’ts and decisions, on a level that incurs less neuroses–here’s why I view rejection letters as good; why I turn to them from time to time for (yes, I’m actually saying this!) encouragement.

  1. A rejection letter, no matter what it might say, means that my writing is being read. Plain and simple. And that’s a good thing.
  2. A rejection reminds me my work is being considered. Publishing professionals aren’t simply reading the writing, but are evaluating its strength. Insights into the industry come through this process.
  3. My writing is critiqued. For example, an editor at one of the leading publishing houses (normally closed to unsolicited, unagented submissions) sent a full-page response to my manuscript. While it was ultimately a rejection, I’m very aware of the value of her response. People pay plenty of money–at conferences, workshops, blue pencils–for that kind of feedback. While it’s not easy to accept all that she says, her time and attention and expertise given to my manuscript is still nothing short of encouraging.
  4. My writing is complimented.

Clever premise! // I found [your story] really quite great! I wish you the best of luck with it! You are clearly quite a talented writer! // Well done. Your ending is really touching and beautiful. // I like your work. // Both are well written and clearly you have much promising talent as a writer.

It’s easy to let those hard-to-hear critiques overshadow the praise (why do we writers do this?), but if you re-read those rejections they’re likely also laden with positive remarks. It doesn’t hurt to highlight them. Or perhaps cut and paste them all into one place 🙂

5.  Finally, rejection letters are good for providing perspective.

A Pleasant Rejection Letter

It’s a competitive market. Our work must be ready, it must be excellent. Yet rejection doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not. The right time, the right place, and the right fit are also factors in effect.

You’ve been to Narnia, right? Let us remember that a thing–such as a rejection letter–can be both terrible and good at the same time.

Aslan © 2015 by Kelly Dycavinu

Aslan © 2015 by Kelly Dycavinu An early attempt in the series Story Sustains Us.

How about you? How do you handle rejection letters? Are they mostly terrible? The least bit good? When were you last in Narnia?

P.S. Check out this list of Best-Sellers Initially Rejected. I bet you’ll find it encouraging!

© Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Story Sustains Us


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What Sustains Us? Where do we find nourishment for our bodies, our spirits, our communities, and our land?

As part of a group of artists participating in a community art show I was asked the question above. The following is my answer, out of it Black Beauty is born:

Story. Of all the possible responses to this question, story comes to the forefront of my mind. Stories shape the way we see the world. Stories shape the way we see others. Stories shape the way we see ourselves. Through story—whether sharing our own or listening to the stories of others—we have the ability to foster health and wholeness, connection and community, understanding and awareness, respect and responsibility.

A gentle hand on the forehead of a misused horse, words that would stay a whip, rescue and reunion with a care-filled keeper… these are but a few glimpses into another, even grander, Story—one that unfolds before us and all around us.

Through story we are invited to recognize the world as it is. Through story we are invited to live in the world as it should be.

Black Beauty © 2015 by Kelly Dycavinu

Black Beauty © 2015 by Kelly Dycavinu


Novel update:

New grains of sand: 4,208

Current status: 54, 204

© Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.