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a:Sign, Sign, Everywhere A Sign

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Remember that science fiction mystery movie, Signs

Holy moly, that movie had me on the edge of my seat, building the suspense with every sign telegraphing, “Something strange is going on in Doylestown, Pennsylvania!” Until…well, I don’t want to ruin it for you if you haven’t seen Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix in this M. Night Shyamalan thriller. The point is, all the signs were there, and the signs came together at the end into this climax of revelation that was very satisfying.


I’m a firm believer in signs. Wherever they come from, and whether I see them in a dream or sitting on my desk, I’m always going to take a minute to do a little discerning. What does this sign mean? And what am I going to do with this sign? The latest sign came along just a few weeks ago and it involved writing, so I thought I’d share with you… 

I was working in my office, doing a little first-of-the-year organizing, and I picked up a small notebook on the bookcase. Hmmmm, I thought, wonder if I’ve written anything inside? So I opened it and saw all kinds of notes I had about an idea for a novel; there were plot notes, character arcs, even setting descriptions. The main character was a 12-year-old girl named Althea. 

Mind you, I had no memory of writing all this out. Which is not uncommon; I have lots of ideas, some well-developed and some just a line or two on a sticky note. I set the notebook on the corner of my desk and continued cleaning up the bookcase. 

Days later, I received a set of  cards from the Save the Cat Blog tour we’ll be doing later this month; I’m a big fan of Save the Cat but if I’m being honest, I’d forgotten about signing up and was a wee bit worried. I mean, I have finished manuscripts but no works-in-progress, and really, the cards are meant for someone actually writing a novel (or at least in the planning stages). So the cards sat on my desk, too. 

And then a few days later, I find myself with a bit of time on my hands and bam! I have this idea for a brilliant opening for Althea. So I write. Hand-written notes, which I hardly ever do; I’m scribbling away fast and furious. I know exactly the voice I want for this character and the words flow from my brain to my fingertips to the paper. But then I’m interrupted and I set the notes aside. 

More days pass until I have a moment to think again, and I decide I’ll open up a word doc for this new story. And so I type up my handwritten notes; I have a good first chapter and I’m pretty happy. I save the document and I call it, sensibly, ALTHEA. 

Except my laptop asks me if I want to replace my original ALTHEA word doc. My original ALTHEA doc? 

That’s odd, I think, knowing I haven’t written this story yet. So I open the original ALTHEA doc, just to see if maybe I’ve put my plot notes (from the little notebook) in there. 

It’s the first two chapters of a Middle Grade novel I called ALTHEA. 

Two chapters that are eerily similar to what I’ve just written. 

Right down to the weirdly particular voice I’ve used.

I am dumbstruck. 

So I close the doc and of course, I have to check. When did I write this original ALTHEA? It’s January 16, 2020. The day I was writing the new ALTHEA? January 17th. 

Obviously, a confluence of signs, all coming together to say (or shout, really), “Hey, Cathy! You’re supposed to write this Middle Grade novel, Althea (and use the Save the Cat note cards)! 

So what do you think? Signs? Coincidence? Or am I’m just getting old and doomed to start the same weird novel every January? (Which, now that I think about it, could be a pretty creepy mystery movie. Especially if Joaquin was starring.)

(Also, bonus points if you know the song referenced in the title of this blog post!)


Cathy C. Hall is a children's author, freelance writer, blogger, speaker, and dog wrangler. Way harder than it looks.

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