But a girl who goes into battle

One of my desert island books is In the Woods by Tana French. Sometimes I wake in the night and think of writing, and find myself lost in the memory of this passage; the rush of reading something I believed to my core but had never heard anyone say before. Which for me is one of the most powerful things that writers do.

…but above all that, and underlying everything we did, she was my partner. I don’t know how to tell you what that word, even now, does to me; what it means. I could tell you about going room by room, guns two-handed at arms’s length, through silent houses where a suspect could be armed and waiting behind any door; or about long nights on surveillance, sitting in a dark car drinking black coffee from a thermos and trying to play gin rummy by the light of a streetlamp. Once we chased two hit-and-run joyriders through their own territory — graffiti and rubbish-dump wastelands whipping past the windows, sixty miles per hour, seventy, I floored it and stopped looking at the speedometer — until they spun into a wall, and then we held the sobbing fifteen-year-old driver between us, promising him that his mother and the ambulance would be there soon, while he died our arms. In a notorious block tower that would redraw the outlines of your image of humanity, a junkie pulled a syringe on me — we weren’t even interested in him, it was his brother we were after, and the conversation had seemed to be proceeding along normal lines until his hand moved too fast and suddenly there was a needle against my throat. While I stood frozen and sweating and praying wildly that neither of us would sneeze, Cassie sat down cross-legged on the reeking carpet, offered the guy a cigarette and talked to him for an hour and twenty minutes (in the course of which he demanded, variously, our wallets, a car, a fix, a Sprite and to be left alone); talked to him so matter of factly and with such frank interest that finally he dropped the syringe and slid down the wall to sit across from her, and he was starting to tell her his life story when I got my hands under control enough the slap the cuffs on him.

The girls I dream of are the gentle ones, wistful by high windows or singing sweet old songs at a piano, long hair drifting, tender as apple blossom. But a girl who goes into battle beside you and keeps your back is a different thing, a thing to make you shiver. Think of the first time you slept with someone, or the first time you fell in love: that blinking explosion that left you crackling to the fingertips with electricity, initiated and transformed. I tell you that was nothing, nothing at all, beside the power of putting your lives, simply and daily, into each other’s hands.

— Tana French, In the Woods

My film OtherLife is shooting now in Perth

OtherLife Countdown Clock
I’m thrilled to announce that my film OtherLife has begun shooting in Perth, Australia.
(Read the press release.)

OtherLife is directed by Ben C. Lucas (Wasted on the Young), a fiercely talented director and writer who brings depth and heart and passion to the film. The script is written by me, Gregory Widen (Highlander, Backdraft, The Prophecy), Lucas Howe, and director Ben Lucas. The film stars the fantastic Jessica De Gouw (Dracula, Arrow, and the forthcoming Underground), as well as Thomas Cocquerel (Kidnapping Mr. Heineken) and TJ Power (Eat Pray Love, The Sapphires, Wasted on the Young).

OtherLife is produced in Australia by Ticket to Ride, See Pictures, and WBMC. These fine people brought the film to Australia and put together a stunningly creative crew. You should see some of the photos… and you will! I’ll have a lot to say about the process in coming posts.

A special shoutout to Ben Lucas and producer Jamie Hilton for believing in the script and working so hard to bring it to Australia. Oh my god the stories…

And finally, three important people to thank:

Tommaso Fiacchino of Cherry Road Films (Al Otro Lado) optioned the novel more than 10 years ago. Tommaso gave me the opportunity to write the script revision a year later, after which I became the project’s lead writer. Tommaso and I have worked together since then in a close collaborative producer/writer process.

Marco Mehlitz of Lago Film (A Dangerous Method, Mr. Nobody, Only Lovers Left Alive) joined our Scooby Gang several years ago. His experience and expertise have been invaluable in navigating the wild waters of filmmaking. His belief in the script has kept us all going during the many times when things weren’t going well.

Tommaso and Marco have worked tirelessly on behalf of the script, and have afforded me a level of trust, access, and teamwork that is not always the norm for screenwriters. They are the champions of OtherLife. This film would not exist without them.

And thank you to my beloved Nicola Griffith for being here for every low, high, and what the fuck am I doing? moment.

Solitaire was first optioned more than 10 years ago. I became the lead writer on the script a year later. It took 3,326 days from the morning I began my first pass with the screenplay to the commencement of shooting. It has been, and continues to be, an amazing ride. I’ll have a lot more to see about it over the coming days, but for now I hope you’ll help me celebrate this dream of mine come true.

An update on control…

The other day I wrote about controlling my environment through home repair.

Tonight the bottom fell out of a full case of bottled beer. Due to the implacable nature of gravity, the bottles all fell out too. Onto a hard floor. Big noise. Impressive spray. Glass break break break. Me mop mop mop. And oh my god the smell.

My illusion of control is literally shattered. Because the universe loves an apt metaphor. Fortunately, we had a couple of beers already stashed in the fridge. Because I love Plan B.

Enjoy your day. Go forth with gusto, and have a backup beer ready, because you never know.

No one will know what you are humming

For the last few years, I have been co-captain of our neighborhood block watch, because apparently I do not have enough to do and so I need Even More Responsibility! Ah, well, it’s been good to see a small but committed community of neighbors coming together. Come the apocalypse, assuming that we are all at home, we will take a bit better care of each other than we might have. Nothing wrong with that.

In that spirit, I went with several of the neighbors yesterday to a free First Aid/CPR class offered by the city. I learned some things, although honestly I thought the first aid portion was too superficial — it was mostly based on video training which I thought wasn’t well-structured for teaching useful skills. I am thinking of how I would do this part differently, because there has got to be a better way.

It turns out that CPR has changed since I was last trained about 7 zillion years ago. There are now two versions on the menu, the real CPR and what I’m calling CPR-Lite, the hands-only version that means you don’t have to put your mouth on a stranger’s. It turns out, according to my instructor, that the average adult human in most cases of cardiac arrest has 4 to 6 minutes of oxygen in the bloodstream at any given time, and so keeping their heart beating can keep their brain alive for that time even if you don’t breathe for them. (It’s only 2 minutes for children.)

The problem is that if the heart in question has stopped beating because the person drowned or asphyxiated, there’s no oxygen there. And you don’t always know what happened when you stumble across a dead stranger….

Another thing that has changed in CPR is the compression/breath ratio. I learned 5 compressions, 2 breaths. Then I re-learned 15 compressions, 2 breaths. Now it’s 30 compressions, 2 breaths. Also, no pulse-checking or airway-inspecting. I think this is all fine. It’s easier for people to remember, and so many people can’t find a pulse even on themselves that taking precious time to check it on someone who is dying seems counterproductive.

    So here is what I learned, step by step, with my editorial comments:

  1. Assess the situation — is it safe to help? It’s amazing how many people didn’t do this step in the training. Stop, look and listen, cats and kittens! Because if you get hit by a car running out to save the accident victim, you are not helping.

  3. Tap the shoulder and shout to see if the person is responsive. The old-school training was shake and shout. In other words, bang their head against the concrete several times in your panic, because that makes them easier to revive…

  5. Tell someone to call 911. If you are in a public building and others are there, tell someone to get the AED (the basically idiot-proof defibrillator kit that most public buildings and businesses have now. They have pictures and they talk to you!). If no one is around, you’ll have to call 911 yourself. If you don’t have a phone or there’s no cell reception, you’ll have to make some tough choices. Our instructor advised to use your best judgment about leaving if the victim is adult, but not to leave an arrested child to find a phone — do at least 2 minutes of compression/breathing first, and then try like hell to find a phone and make that call in 2 minutes.

  7. Make a 5-second check for obvious breathing. Look at the person from the head to the stomach. I think this is a very sensible update to the check airway/listen for breath step. Much more efficient. Because if they are breathing and you start compressing their chest or blowing in their mouth, you will probably not kill them. And if they wake up you will know, because they will probably punch you for whanging on them!

  9. Begin CPR with 30 compressions at the rate of 100 compressions per minute, then 2 breaths, then repeat the cycle until help arrives, or someone else with training takes over, or you are too exhausted to continue. People in the class were surprised to find out how much work this is.

100 compressions per minute, it turns out, is essentially the pace/rhythm of “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees. It’s also, to my great although possibly in-poor-taste amusement, the pace/rhythm of Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust”. But as long as you are doing your best to save a life, who cares which song you’re doing it to? No one will ever know.



If you don’t know how to control bleeding, immobilize a broken limb, do the Heimlich Manuever*, or perform CPR, please go take a class! (* My instructor did say not to bother with the back blows if the person is truly choking; tell them you are going to perform the Heimlich, and then do it.)

Enjoy your day.

Dear universe, labor me this

It is Labor Day in the US and I am laboring. Hmm, you’re thinking, clearly Kelley has missed the point… but no, one of the special perks of being self-employed is that you get to work on holidays! Now aren’t you jealous?

I labor for many reasons, including love and art and the mortgage. And I labor so that perhaps one day I can not-labor in one of these places.

Go look at the pretties, and think of me working and smiling and dreaming of big sky, endless water, the peace of vastness.

Enjoy your day. Enjoy where you are, and where you hope to be.

Give a little bit

Yes, it is a Coca Cola commercial. No, I don’t drink it anymore, although I used to have a small bottle of Coke (remember those little class bottles?) and about a half a pack of Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies for breakfast as a young “adult.” It’s a wonder I have any brain cells left at all, between that and…ah, well, stories for another day (smile).

Here’s the story today:


I am a sucker for goodness and kindness in the world. People are being particularly kind to me right now: thank you, thank you to all the wonderful folks who have signed up so far to sponsor me in the Write-a-thon. I’m honored and deeply touched by the support I’ve received so far, and we haven’t even started yet! First, we have to have a party.

I hope some of you will join me tonight at the Clarion West party for the Locus Awards, at the Best Western Executive Inn near Seattle Center. The fun starts at 8 PM and ends when the last science fiction writer or reader falls over sideways. And that, my friends, can take a while, trust me…. We’ll be celebrating the Locus Award recipients and the kickoff tomorrow of the 29th Annual Clarion West Writers workshop, and the Write-a-thon. Join us if you can!

And thank you all for giving me a little bit of your life, your time and your love to support me and so many other writers in the Write-a-thon. Thank you.

Enjoy your day.


When I was two or three, I nearly drowned in a California swimming pool with adults probably no more than 10 feet away. By the time they reached me, I was floating face down in the deep end. When they picked me up, my face was blue from holding my breath.

No one had any idea there was anything wrong with me. And here’s a post that explains why you can’t always tell when people are drowning (thanks to Dianne Cameron for the link). If you ever even once in your life plan to be near water, please read it.

I don’t remember that day in the pool, except maybe in dreams. But I was afraid to learn to swim for a long time, and one of the most powerful lessons of my childhood was that adults I trusted (the wonderful counselors at my day camp when I was seven or eight) would jerk me around for my own good. You know the drill: I promise I’ll stand right here. Now swim to me! And then once I was committed, once I was thrashing toward them as if getting there fast was the same thing as learning to swim, they would move back step by step.

Between this and the teacher who pulled out my tooth in the bathroom one day, I was deeply cynical about adults by the age of nine.

I get why the grownups made me learn to swim. I would have done it too. I don’t get the teacher in the bathroom at all, although I have my theories. What interests me now, from this distance, is that they all thought it was for my own good. What interests me is that the counselors lied to me over and over, and I let them because I loved them. I hated my teacher, but you know, she never lied to me once.

And yet, I will still swim to the people I love, until I turn blue in the face. Go figure.

Enjoy your day. Don’t drown.

A story for tomorrow

I’ve been inviting people this week to come with me on a writing journey. Today I offer you a different kind of journey… except, well, really it’s no different at all.

Here’s the description from the filmmaker: “This video was written and produced while traveling through Chile & Patagonia with my girlfriend. We spent 5 weeks exploring this amazing country, and this is how we chose to document it.”

It’s a lovely journey, and towards the end are two questions. I answer yes, yes, absolutely yes. Even on the days that cry out for a no. I hope you do too.

a story for tomorrow. from gnarly bay productions, Inc. on Vimeo.

Enjoy your day.