Denise Lewis Patrick

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When The Words Refuse to Show Themselves

May 17, 2011

Tags: Writers' Block, Hobbies

Miss Zillah Charles Hawkins, 2003

Ideas, ideas! The ideas are there all of the time, thank goodness. But there are those days, some rainy like today; others actually quite beautiful and bright, when the words just refuse to come out to play. All of us in the writing world know of this condition. It has many names, some of which we can't repeat here. You sit and stare at the computer screen. Then you pick up your favorite pen and pad, or you sharpen the shiny new Number 2 pencil to a fine point...

...and nothing happens.

Luckily for me, I have developed quite a few strategies. Okay, procrastination activities might be more accurate. First, I go outside. Maybe walk around the neighborhood, or take a walk to the grocery store that I usuallly drive to. I may, if the season is right, step over the anti-rabbit fence in my yard to work in my vegetable garden. But the best solution I have found is to give myself up to creating characters in my second-most favorite way: I begin making a cloth doll. Sure, this is time consuming, requires focus, and involves sculpting small cloth heads that look oddly surreal when they're disembodied. But believe me, when the cloth dolls begin to assert their personalities (and they do!), my written characters seem to get a little jealous.

Suddenly, their words and stories resurface, and they are more than willing to take their places on the blank page.


  1. May 17, 2011 9:38 PM EDT
    Hi Denise! I just have to ask whether you have pictures from your engagement party on Long Island 'way back when. . . I'm sure I wore almost exactly the outfit Miss Zillah is wearing, except with bare feet. It was a Ralph Lauren pattern my mother made in a cream floral... and one of those hats we bought in the hat stores and decorated ourselves.

    The doll is lovely -- and I'll look forward to more of your blog.
    - Karen Romano Young
  2. May 19, 2011 10:47 AM EDT
    Hi Denise,
    This is Renee(from Glen field Middle)I just wanted to say that I admire your many talents,continue to write, create and inspire, and thank the creator for all that HE has allowed you to be, and do!Continue to grow and be bless!
    - Renee Robinson
  3. May 20, 2011 3:01 PM EDT
    Hi Denise!
    This is awesome :) I love Miss Zillah...the blog is great. Love the website too!
    - Melissa Ebanks
  4. September 19, 2011 9:35 AM EDT
    All creative processes are connected, aren't they! What a great idea to jump start your creative writing again. I am going to have to try to do the same. Thanks for sharing your writing and your beautiful doll.
    - Nancy
  5. October 27, 2011 7:45 PM EDT
    Hi Denise! Great website/blog you have here! Just wanted to offer my CONGRATULATIONS on your new book, Life Gets Twisted! I saw the announcement on agent Jill Corcoran's blog. It sounds like an interesting read! I'm currently working on a MG historical novel; reading about your writing experience & accomplishments is SO INSPIRING!

    Also, I didn't know you were the writer behind the "Cecile" American Girl stories. My 2 daughters (ages 8 & 12) love the AG dolls and series.
    - Crystal Roget
  6. April 18, 2016 3:15 AM EDT
    Nice post about When The Words Refuse to Show Themselves .Thanks for sharing.

Selected Works

Middle Grade
When Melody takes on the challenge of beautifying her beloved neighborhood, she learns about friendship, family, and being a leader.
In 1960s Detroit, music-lover Melody Ellison learns to lift her voice for justice and equality.
Reesie Boone, her family, friends and home town of New Orleans endure and survive Hurricane Katrina.
Y/A Historical Fiction
From the shores of Africa to the bowels of a transatlantic ship to a voting booth in Mississippi to the jungles of Vietnam, all human connection is A Matter of Souls.
"Word to the Wise," included in an amazing anthology of poetry for children.
Historical Fiction
Cecile Amelie Rey is a free girl of color in 1850's New Orleans. It's an exciting time in her life-- when she meets a new friend, unexpected adventures begin!
Find out how Cecile learns to deal with some difficult problems, and learns a lot about her own strengths.
Every person is special, Cecile learns. But what, exactly, is the gift she has to offer her family and her beloved city of New Orleans?
“In a voice strong and true, Patrick’s narrator easily carries the story, winning readers; hearts…”
Kirkus Reviews
Picture Book
“This heartwarming story is just right for intergenerational sharing.”
–School Library Journal