Liebster Award 2018




My Rust Belt Girl followers have heard me say before that I don’t win stuff: raffles, bingo, cake walks. Luck eludes me.

Maybe my luck is changing—because I have been nominated for the Liebster Award by Undertones, and I am so thankful. You’re going to want to follow Undertones (if you aren’t already) for its creative exploration of passions, thoughts, and opinions—expertly wrought. Essays. Short fiction. Trust me, this girl can write!

So, I’m happy to support the WordPress community by both taking part in this exercise and passing on the Liebster Award love!

My answers to the questions put forth as part of the nomination process. (Fun to write–and fun to read, I hope!)

What motivated you to start your blog?

When I started Rust Belt Girl, I saw blogging as an avenue to explore the fiction set in my native Rust Belt, the post-industrial U.S. Midwest. I love fiction. But blogging has also provided me a forum for exploration of other genres—the memoir, in particular—and helped me develop my voice as an essay writer. It’s also provided a supportive community of talented writers, who inspire me to keep plugging away, even on the days I don’t feel at all lucky.

What inspires you most to write?

A little backstory: Unlike a lot of writers, I didn’t grow up writing many stories. (I do remember writing a pretty kick-a*# song about losing my purse, in middle school.) My creative outlet—an all-consuming one—was ballet, an art form that I gave myself to until I was 19. After I quit dancing, I went looking for another outlet. As a freshman in college, I took a Performance Art elective, for which I bathed in mud in an academic building tree planter and flossed my teeth from a balcony overlooking my classmates. Performance Art didn’t stick, but the creative drive did.

I’d always been a good writer in school, so I started taking more Creative Writing courses in college and eventually landed on fiction. My inspiration is one part passion and one part obsession. The famous ballet choreographer George Balanchine famously said, “I don’t want people who want to dance, I want people who have to dance.” I feel like I have to write—for myself. Heck, there’s little else I can do! And, really, if I didn’t write, how would I spend my time? Getting in shape? Hardly.

In a few words, how would you describe your blog and/or your style of writing?

I’ve stayed pretty true to my initial idea to read and write the Rust Belt on this blog: News, reviews, and stories of the Rust Belt. There, that’s a few-ish words.

Who is your favorite author and why?

This changes, but at the moment, I’ll say Bonnie Jo Campbell. She is the queen of the short story and her novel is also a perfect little gem. Basically, Campbell is the writer I want to be when I grow up!

Apart from writing, what is your preferred creative outlet (i.e. painting, drawing, playing an instrument) and why?

I love to sing—in church, in the car. Much to my kids’ embarrassment, I have no shame. If it’s classical music, and there are no words, I’ll pretend to be the conductor. As I’m from the Midwest (and have a fairly strong accent) my speaking voice is less than pretty. I do think I’m less nasally when singing—so I should probably sing more and talk less! I often tell my kids that in my next life I plan to be an opera singer. Stay tuned.

Who is your favorite artist?

I love Edward Hopper for his art (featuring regular ol’ places and people, and such light!) and for his story. An illustrator first, he had success with his own work later in life. It’s never too late, right?

How do you deal with writers block?

Someone smarter than I said, “have kids, and you’ll never have writer’s block again.” There’s a lot of truth in that. But, it does happen that I get stumped as far as the next move for a character in a story, etc. Taking a quiet walk—just getting up from my writing desk—can help unblock things. I also have a tip here to both “kill your darlings” and find inspiration when you need it.

Do you think good writers are born or made, and why?

Both. Most writers likely have a natural talent for language. But you can’t stop there. Craft must be practiced and practiced. I’ve been doing a bit of writerly advice on the blog lately, and much of it comes down to putting your butt in the chair and writing. And also reading the sorts of things you want to be writing.

If you could change something about the way you practice this craft, what would it be?

36-hour days. Can we somehow make this happen, already? But, really, I would have spent more time on short stories—which teach so much in a manageable space—as a young writer before trying my hand at a novel, the behemoth I’m still revising.

If you were to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?


As part of the award, I’ll be nominating five more bloggers. For those who will be nominated next, the rules are as follows:

  • Create a new post thanking the person who nominated you, linking to their blog. Include the award graphic.
  • Answer the questions provided.
  • Make a new set of 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Nominate 5-10 recently followed bloggers and share your post with them so they see it.

My questions for you are:

  1. What motivated you to start your blog?
  2. How would you describe your blog?
  3. Has your blog changed its focus since its inception?
  4. Has blogging informed other writing that you do? If so, how?
  5. When did you start writing, and why?
  6. What sort of books do you most enjoy reading?
  7. Who is your favorite author?
  8. Do you have any other creative outlets other than writing?
  9. If you were to change something about yourself as a writer, what would it be?
  10. How would you complete this sentence? I will write until _______.

My nominees for the Liebster Award are:

With Love and a Little Self-Deprecation

malakhai jonezs


The Story Addict

Miles of Pages

All of the above are bloggers whose work I read. I encourage you to do the same! ~ Rebecca



A Toxic Tour Through Underground Ohio

What a waste…Re-blogging this story on injection wells in my native Ohio. ~ Rebecca


Justin Nobel | Longreads | January 2018 | 14 minutes (3,538 words)

We begin with a glass of wine on the wraparound porch of Michele Garman, who lives with her husband Tom and teenage son Dominic in the rural Ohio community of Vienna. Just 200 feet from the family’s house is a narrow shaft that the oil and gas industry uses to pump waste riddled with toxic chemicals deep into the earth, one of Ohio’s 217 active Class II injection wells. “I still enjoy sitting out on my porch,” says Garman, “but it was a lot more enjoyable before the scenery changed.”

The small white and maroon trucks that deliver the waste often come at night, she says. They contain what regulatory agencies innocently refer to as produced water, or brine, a slurry generated during fracking operations that can contain more than 1,100 chemicals and which is carcinogenic, flammable…

View original post 3,564 more words

Kill your inklings


I’m playing fast and loose with the English language today, redefining inkling as: a little inking, or a bit of writing, a literary snippet, if you will. This post is in response to today’s Daily Prompt: Inkling.

Rust Belt Girl followers know where I am in my journey toward traditional book publishing. Rather than call myself stalled in editing, I’d like to say I’m at a rest stop along the journey–one of those rest stops with a fabulous overlook. Only, I’m not looking out onto rolling farmland or a lake vista. I’m looking over my WIP (a historical novel manuscript) and trying to do more than edit. I’m trying to genuinely revise–or re-see–my story.

This requires brutality.

This requires killing my inklings, my snippets of lovely language that don’t move the story forward, that don’t evolve the characters, that maybe draw too much attention to themselves.

Today’s dead inkling:

Pregnancy had meant an intense inversion, feeling sensations from the inside—hosting, feeding, growing this glorious parasite.

In the days of printing out drafts–huge reams of paper–I would actually snip this snippet and put it in a jar I have for such things. Then, if I felt blocked or needed a prompt for a new story, I would select one and start from there. Today, my dead inklings wind up getting lost in my Mac world.

William Faulkner is credited for “kill your darlings,” and there’s been discussion about that phrase and other great writing advice here at WP this week.

But, now I’m getting down to it: slashing and burning.

What’s your favorite dead inkling?


a bit of writerly advice


Give a monkey a monkey bar.

David L. Robbins, novelist, educator, playwright, essayist

No, I’m not talking about the zoo–unless that zoo is the wonderful world of novel manuscript revision (did my sarcasm shine through there?).

Rust Belt Girl followers know I’m currently reworking my historical novel, chapter by painstaking chapter. And, as with most things, I’m not doing it alone.

Robbins–quoted above–taught a historical novel-writing course as part of my grad program, way back when, when the first little seed of my novel was planted.

His advice is evergreen. To me, “give a monkey a monkey bar” means to give a character something to showcase what he or she can do. Phone calls and meandering strolls don’t let a character prove their worth–unless he suddenly realizes he’s lost his voice or she breaks a leg.

Today, I’ve dumped a scene where I had two guys sitting in a bar exchanging information in favor of a steep trek into the clouds of the Marin Highlands where a WWII battery fortification is being constructed. We’ll see if the scene goes or stays.

But advice is always welcome.

What’s your best writing advice?

Me talk pretty one day*? Probably not.

Mentor-on-the-Lake (pronounced Menner-on-the-Lake), Ohio. Photo credit: Bill Moon. Thanks, Dad!)

“You sound funny,” my son said.

“I know. I’m from Ohio.”

Too many of my conversations with my kids begin this way. But it’s true:

I sound funny here in Maryland. I am a linguistic fish out of water. My Maryland-born kids and I may speak the same language, but regionalisms and accent say a lot.

This time, my recorded voice was one half of a mock interview conducted by my son. I played the author of a book he’d read for a second grade school project. He sounded normal; I sounded every bit of my Cleveland-area upbringing.

Of course, growing up, I thought I sounded normal. Because Clevelanders “do naht hayev ayaccents.” Whether you cop to having an accent or not, they can raise spirited debate; they do in my house, where my Maryland-native husband’s “league” somehow rhymes with “pig.” Huh?

Accents seem to be having something of a heyday. Last month, a Bawlmerese–that’s Baltimore-ese–video went viral; in it, innocent words like “water,” “Tuesday,” and “ambulance” are murdered to become “wooder,” “Toosdee,” and “amblance.”

Back in my native land, Cleveland’s Belt Publishing has just published How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland, who says:

Accents are part of our regional identity. And there is a feeling that these distinct accents aren’t as distinctive as they used to be.

In addition to regionalisms (like “pop” instead of “soda”), accents are a way to represent one’s native place. I do this with not a bit of shame! My “plaza”–hold your nose and you’ll get the a-sound right–is my son’s “plahza”; my “pajamas” is his “pajahmas.”

In this article, McClelland explains that the Cleveland accent is the Inland North accent, “marked by a raised ‘a’ that makes ‘cat’ sound like ‘cayat,’ a fronted ‘o’ that makes ‘box’ sound like ‘bahx.'”

What does all this mean for us writers?

Accent can be portrayed in our writing, and it can work well if done with a deft hand. In my current WIP, I’m writing characters who have an Italian accent, which often drops the “h” sound and rolls or taps the “r” sound–there’s a real musicality there. Not easy to write, but worth it to try.

Veering into dialect can get a little dicey. This Guardian article puts it plainly:

“Do ‘dialect-lite’ or be damned.”

Whether blogging or engaging in other creative writing, accent can provide interesting subtext.

Does your accent shine through? What do you say funny? I’ll start, below.

Comment here or join this Rust Belt Girl on FB.

*Title borrowed from the amazingly funny David Sedaris’s book of essays: Me Talk Pretty One Day


Hold up, wait a minute: Rust Belt Girl on ice

Lake Erie, iced. One of the Lake Erie Islands (Green Island), is in the distance. (Thanks for the pic, Dad!)

Hold up, wait a minute. Hold up, wait a minute…

Nope, you haven’t stumbled on a 90s music blog (but if you now have that old club song in your head, you’re welcome!)

Here at Rust Belt Girl, I promised a new thread this new year: a journey into the terrifying abyss that is the world of book publishing. That’s agent querying, novel synopses, novel submitting, etc.

How’s it going so far?

Um. Yeah, that.

Let’s just say, like so much of the Rust Belt at present, this Rust Belt Girl is on ice–at least as far as that project.

What happened?

Shall I add another metaphor into the mix? Well, I got the cart before the horse (ie: the agent query letter, synopsis, etc.) before the manuscript itself. And, really, the horse is a little bit lame. Not so much that it has to be put down or even put out to pasture. (Yep, I’m just running with this metaphor.) But maybe re-shod, rested, exercised–certainly made stronger. Race horse strong.

Who says?

A former writing teacher of mine, an author and editor whose feedback I trust wholeheartedly.

What now?

Thaw out? Get back on the horse? (Can I stop talking about ice and horses?)

Really though, I’m revising my novel manuscript (yet again) because I only get one chance with agents, and I don’t want to blow it. I’m really trying to “re-see” this story that’s been with me for years; these characters that I’ve known longer than I’ve known my own kids, which is a little crazy. It’s not an easy task to really re-envision an 86,000-word manuscript, and so I can’t rush it.

“Time is a great editor,” said my editor friend.

So, bear with me if this thread takes its time.

I mean, there’s an order to things–like seasons and horse-drawn things, right?

In the meantime, more writing advice I pick up from experts along my way; more reading (and emulating!) great books; more author interviews.

And…in the publishing vein, more submitting short stories to journals and magazines. Keep your fingers crossed (and frost-bite free) for me.

Happy weekend! What’s on tap for yours? ~ Rebecca









Today’s library haul

Photo on 1-17-18 at 12.32 PM
Yep, this pic is backwards–just testing your eyesight.


one well-loved copy of The Boys of My Youth (by now a veritable classic among modern story collections) by Jo Ann Beard, author of the novel In Zanesville, which I reviewed here last year.

Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, a story collection by National Book Award finalist Bonnie Jo Campbell, queen of rural noir–if you’re asking me. I touch on her collection, American Salvage, here. Prefer novels? Campbell’s Once Upon a River is a nearly perfect little gem set in rural Michigan. Sorta rural rust.

Touted as a “masterful saga” of the “conflicted city” of Cleveland, Ohio, is Mark Winegardner’s Crooked River Burning. Can’t believe I haven’t read this one yet. The front material for the novel includes:

Cleveland city of light, city of magic,

Cleveland, city of light, you’re callin’ me.

Cleveland, even now I can remember

’Cause the Cuyahoga River

Goes smokin’ through my dreams.

                                    —Randy Newman, “Burn On”


What’s in your to-read pile?


Lake Erie Ice Sports

Nice shot of a Skeeter-class ice boat. (Thanks, Dad!)

Here at Rust Belt Girl, my followers know I am a dyed-in-the-wool Lake Erie booster.

My fondest memories of childhood take place at the lake–but they are usually warm memories.

However, fun on the Great Lakes doesn’t stop for a bit of cold and ice. My dad, who lives in Port Clinton, a Lake Erie town big on charter fishing, reports that the ice fishing is going strong this winter. Two thousand ice fishing shanties were counted on the lake at one time last weekend. That’s a lot of walleye!

For those who like to feel the 10 degree wind through their hair, there’s ice boating. Check out the Skeeter-class boat pictured above that can do 100 miles per hour in the right wind.

Brr, but maybe fun? (Honestly, I think I’ll stick to my indoor winter sports of reading and writing.)

What do you think?


a bit of writerly advice

Free image courtesy of KathrynMaloney at

Think that’s a scene?

Sandra Scofield will tell ya:

In a scene, “Something changes or is revealed or new questions are raised; the ground is laid for future events, or the meaning of past events is made clear; characters show themselves to be who they are and make demands on one another. The story is moved along, often through conflict. The protagonist acts and is affected in some way. This happens through decisions and external acts, the stuff of change.”

As you see, today’s writing advice pertains to fiction writing and, specifically, the crafting of scenes. We all think we know what a scene is. But author Sandra Scofield makes sure we do with her classic craft book, The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer.

Once we know exactly what a scene is and how to identify it in our stories…then what?

More fave advice from Scofield: put a box around them. (Yes, print the pages of your story or chapters out, and draw a box around each and every scene.) This way, it’s easy to see how much of your story is scene and how much is summary. This way, you can gauge if you have too much of one and not enough of the other. This way, you can easily shift scenes around so they add up to your best story.

On my to-do list today!

Happy writing. ~ Rebecca