From the Files: Does the Universe Paint Pictures?

I spent too long reading my lab results from the clinic this afternoon and found the names familiar. There is iron in my blood, and iron in the ground I walk on. I am made of the same stuff as the trees and my bones have calcium like the rocks on the mountain.

I am just one cell on Planet Earth but I am also a universe in this body.

I do believe in magic, and in grace, and in love, because my mother’s hands hold my genetic fingerprint. Because I could be a thousand different things but I’m not, I’m Annie. I could not exist without a million tiny miracles.

There is so much to feel and do and be. We are here for more than grocery lists and income taxes.

We are breathing — do you know what it takes to breathe? To fill your lungs with air and carry the oxygen through your bloodstream? To exhale and then, deep inhale? Who tells your lungs how to expand?

Who tells your heart how to love? How to break?

We are made of the same stuff as the trees but we laugh and cry and love. We paint pictures and tell stories.

I look at the sunset and I wonder if the universe paints pictures, too.

But then I look at you and I know it does.

Originally posted on Facebook on October 28, 2021

From the Files: Baking Bread

The world is heavy in my hands today.

Inside my ring of mountains and outside, there are things that I cannot change, problems I cannot solve.

The world is heavy in my hands today.

So, I take a breath. I wash my hands, scrub under my nails, and knead bread dough.

I place the dough in a bowl to rise.

I shape a round loaf and place it in a cast iron pan, slice a thin ribbon across the top, and let it rise again.

This is an old ritual, an old memory.

My grandmother’s grandmother did this in another world, at another time.

I did not have to be taught this skill. My bones have known this since before I remember.

This is how I remind myself of the infinite truth of humanity: we are who we are because we bake bread and we bandage wounds and we share blankets for warmth. We are human because of our paintings and poems and how we work together as a community to care for and love each other. We are human.

I choose to embrace our beauty.

I choose to hold the heaviness close and to feel it, and to pour my fatigue and hurt and rage into my muscles, turning and pushing and kneading the dough until it is smooth and I am at ease.

The world is heavy in my hands today, and I am baking bread.

Originally posted on Facebook on February 24, 2022.

From the Files: Dishes

My little brother tells me

he doesn’t understand romance stories

because it feels like something is missing.

He says, it feels fake.

He asks, what does love really look like?

I tell him I am not the best person to answer,

but I will try.

I tell him I want someone who

turns the porch light on for me when it’s dark.

Someone who

brings home supper on the long days.

Someone whose

socks I don’t mind washing over and over.

Someone who

wants to go for walks with me.

Someone who

will do the dishes with me

for the rest of our lives.

My little brother understands about

doing the dishes.

I tell him the extraordinary is important

but I need the everyday ordinary

or it’s a firework, burning out.

I do not know more than this.

I know I want someone to do the dishes

with me


From the Files: Sunshine and Snowbanks

My communities have seen too much tragedy this week. But there’s been little rays of sunshine breaking through the clouds.

This morning I needed to get out of the house. My options are limited (thanks COVID) but I decided to go to town, pick up breakfast, and run a few errands.

Before I could do that I needed to clear out the driveway. I can bumble through a foot of powder with the truck but I try to avoid barreling through the plow drift at the end of the driveway unless it’s an emergency. I decided I’d shovel out the plow drift, go to town, and then tackle the rest of the driveway when I got home.

The plow drift was such a fine specimen that I should have logged it for scientific purposes. It was about four feet deep, about two and a half feet tall, and almost entirely made of dense, compacted powder. I started carving it away, quickly slipping into a scoop-lift-throw rhythm.

One of my local guys drove by, backed up, and said he’d take a pass off the end of the drive. Three quick swipes and he’d cleared away the whole plow drift and cleared enough space at the end of the drive to get the truck out without any trouble.

I thanked him and he continued on his way.

I went back inside, called Missie, and began crying.

After this week, I needed that casual kindness. It made my whole day better.

People talk a lot about changing the world. Heroic acts. Daring deeds. There’s nothing wrong with that; the world desperately needs heroes.

But in a world that isn’t kind, being recklessly kind and unconditionally loving is a heroic act. Sometimes the best way to change the world as a whole is to change the world around you.

This week has been hard. But people keep bringing rays of sunshine through the clouds.

I’m so thankful for them.

Do me a favor? Hug your kids and tell them you love them.

Originally posted on Facebook on February 1, 2021.

The Story Keeper

reader notes + a mini review


I live in the northern end of the Appalachian Mountains, deep in the midst of Maine’s highest peaks. I can trace my mountains like the thin lines that travel across my palms and as long as I can find the mountains I know that it’s all right.

The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate takes place in the Blue Ridge Mountains, deep in Appalachia, in a world I have never lived but still somehow know. The people in this book are familiar and so are their stories.

This story is one I see every day. Rural life, struggling families, scratching a life deep in the woods and mountains of the Appalachians. It is beautiful, but harsh and unforgiving. I have always found that while the world here in the mountains may be harsh, there is always a great capacity for hope and for love.

I am glad to find that others see this, too.

The Story Keeper is a novel woven inside another novel. Sarra’s story first presents as a manuscript that mysteriously lands on the New York desk of editor Jen Gibbs, plunging Jen into a whirlwind rush back to the Blue Ridge Mountains where she was born, raised, and from which she ultimately escaped to pursue her dreams.

I first picked this one up on a whim. I have been listening through audiobooks lately, and after Frankenstein, opted for something a little more modern before I continue my way through the classics. There’s another Lisa Wingate novel I’ve had my eye on for a while but The Story Keeper was available for free with my Audible subscription so I started there to see how I felt about the writing before I spent the money on the other one.

(I will be picking up Before We Were Yours and starting that one soon, I can assure you.)

This story was compelling and mesmerizing and I stayed up late more nights than I should have in order to finish it. I would recommend it for readers 17 and up.

My favorite line is from the epilogue, and I will leave with this.

When we lose our stories, we lose ourselves.”

2023 Reads:

  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  • The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate

Which classic novel should I listen to next? Let me know in the comments or send me an email!

From the Files: Stage Fright

A few years ago I spent some time with a class of fifth grade students in one of my dad’s schools. I was doing a “book talk”, where I gave a presentation, then I would answer questions afterwards.

I have anxiety, and it was really bad at that time, so I had a script written out for my presentation.

I tripped up in the first minute or two of my presentation. I misspoke and couldn’t find my place again.

And then I jumped off script for a minute even though everything in me screamed to just push through and get through the script and be done.

“Sorry,” I said, tapping my script. “I get anxious sometimes when I’m talking to people, so for today I wrote out what I was going to say to make it easier. Sometimes I trip up anyway and have to take a second to find my place again.”

“That’s okay!” One of the kids yelled. “That’s called stage fright. I LIKE talking to people and I still get it.”

The next couple minutes were filled with these kiddos reassuring me that it’s okay if I have stage fright, telling me that they have stage fright, and even giving me a couple ideas for coping with it.

Those fifth graders were the best class I’ve ever spoken with and, honestly, that experience has helped me so much. I don’t think I lowered my expectations — I do expect to be able to speak without tripping over myself — but I gave myself space and time to build up to those expectations. I stopped beating myself up if I misspoke. I started to insert a little pause instead of mumbling while I found my words again.

I did take the advice of those fifth grade students. They told me that I’ll get better at it the more I practice. And they told me that it’s still okay to mess up.

Now, I tell my writing students and the kids I work with that you can do anything. You can be anything. And I tell them that it’s okay if they don’t know what they want to do or be yet. It’s okay. Give yourself time to figure it out.

If you have stories to tell but you can’t spell, write them anyway and get someone to help you edit. Don’t let anything hold you back from something that you want to do.

Stories are a human trait. We tell stories, we sing and dance and create art, because that is a form of communication. Humans need to communicate. That is almost an instinct. We need to communicate, and for more than just survival and living. We need to share stories.

I know far too many people who say you have to be good at writing, or singing, or dancing, or art. You have to be good at it if you want to do it.


You have to do it.

That’s it.

If you want to write, then write. And don’t worry about it being good. Just write. Tell the story you want to tell. Don’t know how it ends? Don’t worry about it! I have HUNDREDS of unfinished stories on my hard drive. It’s the best kind of practice there is. You will get stronger at writing with every word you write.

At the end of the day, the best way to get good at something is to just do it, and do it over and over again. Sometimes you have talents or gifts that make it easier or faster, but you still need practice and repetition to develop and strengthen you.

If you want to write, do it.

If you want to sing, dance, or create art, do it.

Don’t worry about anyone else. If you want to do it, then do it.

We are all made up of stories. Find your voice and tell yours. Even if it’s a story or song or picture that you create in your own head and never share with another person, you will be happier for it.

Originally shared on Facebook on February 10, 2021.

From the Files: It Gets Better

“It does get better.”

Someone told me that a number of years ago when I was really struggling to just slog through the day. My entire world was gray, flat, and lifeless. I could barely handle one day at a time, much less look forward to the future. But someone I knew and trusted told me that it did get better, if I just held on.

You know something?

They were right.

They were absolutely right.

Life is always going to throw curveballs at you. It is always going to be up and down. There will be good days and bad days, and you will cry and laugh and hurt and love. There will always be shadows and darkness.

But healing is possible. You just keep moving forward, one step at a time, and you’ll start to see the sunshine more often. You will begin to feel stronger. You’ll laugh more than you cry and you’ll find that the pain, once so fresh and harsh, is fading into old scars and memory. You will learn to be honest with yourself and you will learn to give yourself grace. You will start to see yourself grow.

There will still be hard times but it will be worth it.

Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer overwhelming joy of watching the sunrise, of feeding the birds, of sitting quietly and listening to the river talk. These were all things that I lost during the dark times and things that I got back as I got better. In some ways, the absence made those simple experiences more vibrant and lovely than they had seemed before.

You’re the only you that we’ve got, and you are worth waiting for. So yes, take your time. Walk through the shadows. Grieve the losses and take the time to process the trauma. Do whatever you need to in order to heal. But believe that the sunrise is coming, and the world is waiting for you. And if you can’t believe in the good in yourself and the good in the world, then I will believe in it for you until you can.

It does get better, friend. I promise. It does.

Originally posted on Facebook on March 2, 2021

Welcome to 2023!

Happy new year!

I did not stay up until midnight, and I only caught a couple minutes of the fireworks last night. I ended 2022 with the flu and I’m still dealing with that last lingering cough, so I’ve been laying low for a few days.

Today I’ve been revamping my website and getting some new content lined up for you all.

To start things off…

Here’s the current front cover for my upcoming release, The People We Know: Volume One.

This book will be released on June 1, 2023 and will be available for pre-order in a few weeks!

(I can’t wait to share this with you, but I have been told that it needs a tissue warning.)

Next up, I’ve touched up my Patreon page!

Subscribers on my Patreon page get ‘Butterfly Mail’ every month, sent anywhere a USPS postage stamp can take it – including internationally. In the past they’ve gotten poems, cards, essays, photos, artwork, early release copies of my books, and more. This year, in addition to the monthly mailing, I’ll be adding more digital content exclusively for my Patreon supporters as a thank-you – they pay for my grocery bill!

If you’d like to sign up on my Patreon account, click here.

One final note – I can always be reached via email, a direct message on my Facebook page, or by a good old-fashioned letter in the mail.

I can’t wait to see what 2023 brings!

All my best,

Annie Louise

The Cat’s Christmas Gift

One night, a very long time ago, all the animals in the barn were awake late into the night.

They had a most unexpected visitor that night: a brand new baby. A special baby.

The animals tried to stay quiet, to let the baby and his exhausted parents sleep, but they talked amongst themselves as they nibbled and munched on the hay.

“I carried her all the way here,” the donkey said proudly. “I was so careful to make sure she was safe.”

“We gave up our stall,” the horses said, towering over the rest. “We made room for them here when no one else would.”

The chickens merely slept on the perch. The rooster would have his own boasts to make come dawn, but for now the hens tucked their heads under their wings and hummed a gentle lullaby.

“We gave the wool for the blankets the shepherds brought the Holy Child,” the sheep bleated. “We made sure he would be safe and warm.”

“When she needed help to feed him, we gave her milk,” the goats said. “And we haven’t jumped on top of the manger, not once.” They butted each other, unable to resist the urge to play, but the baby began to wake and they hushed themselves.

“I have chased away all the rats,” said the old shaggy dog from his place by the barn door. “And I am keeping watch over the baby all night.”

Four little paws pattered into the barn. Two bright eyes peered around.

“What will you give to the Holy Child?” The dog asked the cat. “You have nothing to bring that has not already been given.”

The cat only purred. On quiet stealthy feet she danced to the manger where the newborn baby lay, restless and starting to fuss.

Lightly she leapt up into the hay and curled up on his soft woolen blanket, right against his side. A purr began, deep in her belly, and she blinked her eyes as the baby settled back into sleep, soothed by her warmth and the comfortable purr.

“I give myself,” the cat said softly.