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Episode 23: Four ways to use tarot to write fiction

Hello, listeners!

In this episode, I share how I use tarot to write fiction, specifically my current novel-in-progress. It is a fun way to write, and a great way to break through writers’ block. You can use tarot cards to plan a story or novel, to choose what happens next, or to get inspiration for details. Listen in to hear how you can use tarot cards in your writing–I even share some simple “spreads” (ways to pick cards) for your writing.

Newsletter readers, click the picture below to listen! Scroll to the bottom of the post to find the player. You can also subscribe on Stitcher or iTunes.

4 ways to use tarot to write fiction #scratchpaperpodcast

Quick note: If you’re on social media, follow me on Instagram–I’m @likesoatmeal (the same as on Twitter)!

Writing update: I got to spend a whole day writing! I followed the basic plan from DIY Writing Retreat (Kindle version on Amazon, PDF on Etsy). I’m working on “Wait,” about a psychic named Lia who is trying to help an evangelical family whose foster daughter has stopped talking.

Reading update: I read The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer, and now I want to play the ukulele. She has a TED Talk on the same topic.

I also enjoyed Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein.

Highly recommend Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve.


  • Tarot decks have two types of cards, the Major Arcana and four suits of cards.
  • The Major Arcana are like “the hero’s journey,” an archetypal narrative that you can use to understand literature and create stories.
  • There are many different kinds of tarot decks, but I use the Tarot of the Old Path.
  • Each tarot card has a lot of symbols. Check out the cards for the Rider-Waite deck, which is a deck a lot of people use.
  • Don’t have a tarot deck? Use an online one! Here’s one. There are also apps for tarot reading! And there’s always Wikipedia–this page has a picture of every card! Handy!
  • @amysnotdeadyet uses tarot to make sketches and paintings

Have you ever used tarot to write? How do you use it? If you try this, tag me on Twitter or Instagram! Be sure to use the tag #scratchpaperpodcast so I can find you!

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Episode 22: Two mini-lessons about character (and #Girlboss)

We’re back!

Episode 22 of Scratch Paper is live!

Newsletter readers, click the button below to go to my blog to listen. You can also subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher (just search “Scratch Paper Podcast”).


Writing update: Working on a new novel tentatively called “Wait,” while my other novel, “Finding Lucy,” is still out on submission. “Wait” is about a psychic named Lia helping an evangelical Christian family whose foster daughter has stopped talking. “Finding Lucy” is about a missing woman, and it’s told from the perspective of her, her mother, and her sister.

Reading update: Me before You by Jojo Moyes. Highly recommend; read it in <24 hours.


I’ve been watching #Girlboss and I LOVE IT. It is “loosely based” on the life of Sophia Amuroso, founder of Nasty Gal and author of the book #Girlboss. Kay Cannon wrote the show (and also Pitch Perfect).

Here’s a question: Do we (the readers, the audience) have to understand why a character is unlikable? Or, do all characters have to be understandable?

Are there any characters out there (Dr. House?) who are unlikable, but for no reason?

I REALLY WANT TO KNOW! Please comment below or tell me on Twitter or Instagram.

Also, if you try out any of these exercises, tag them on Twitter/Instagram with #scratchpaperpodcast! I would *love* to see how they work for you!

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An update and a request

Hi, friends and fans,

Thank you for keeping up with me–I’ve taken a break for the past few weeks to spend some time with family and to finish my novel (not done yet, but getting close…closer!).

I’m writing today to ask you to help me win a contest. It’s run by Submittable, which is the platform most literary contests and journals use to let people submit their work.


The contest is a video contest about life post-MFA. Mine is about keeping up with my friends Larry, Jennie, and Craig, and there are even (cartoon) portraits included.

It would mean *so* much to me if you would click on this link, click “Login to vote” in the top right hand corner, and give me a thumbs up (vote).  You can log in with your Submittable account OR with Facebook, and it will only take ten seconds.

Here’s the link again:

Right now, I’m in third place, so I actually have a shot! It’s very exciting, and the winner gets a “tailor-made career booster.”

If you do vote for me, please comment, send me an email, or tag me on Twitter (@likesoatmeal) or Instagram (also @likesoatmeal) so I can say thank you.


And  I will be back with new Scratch Paper Podcast episodes, new life updates, and even (gasp) a new writing guide soon!


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Scratch Paper Podcast, Episode 21: How I got out of a writing slump

Remember last episode, when I mentioned getting up to page 70 of my new novel?

I was slowing down big time, and I got stuck. I wanted to quit at page 75.

Scroll down (newsletter readers, please click through) to hear what I did to beat back the slump and write 30 more pages (!!!).

Reading update:

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Servants’ Hall by Margaret Powell

Writing update:

I’m working on a new novel about a psychic named Lia who is helping an evangelical family whose foster daughter has stopped talking. Last episode, I mentioned reaching page 70. That was three weeks ago–and I totally stalled out by page 75. But great news! I got out of my slump and am now on page 105.

Show notes:

A few things I did that helped me get out of my slump:

  • I use an outline. This helps me so much. (Also, I said “arch of the story” in the podcast, but I definitely meant “arc of the story.”) If you don’t use an outline, try brainstorming the end of your story, or just the next part–a little bit of planning might help!
  • Taking a break helped me the most.
  • Taking a break made it possible to read–which also helped!
  • I upped my word count goal for each writing session. Usually, I write ~2 pages when I sit down to write; I tried writing for longer, about 2-3 hours, and started writing closer to 5 pages.
  • Do the math! I calculated that I had 25 pages left to write, and at my former rate, it would have taken me three months to finish.
  • Make a checklist with very very small goals–I get to check off every two pages.
  • Celebrate!! When I reached page 85, I went shopping at Dry Goods Seattle and became obsessed with embroidery.
  • Related: tell someone when you reach your goals. I text my husband and email my writing exchange pal Larry.

Things that have worked in the past:

  • Just make yourself write one page.
  • Take a whole day to write (side note: if you don’t know what to do with a whole day to write, you might like DIY Writing Retreat: A guide to getting away–it includes an hour-by-hour schedule).
  • Get a change of scenery.
  • Ask your friends for help!

How do you get out of a writing slump? What works best? Please share in the comments, or tag me on Instagram or Twitter.