Sunday, August 30, 2009

Twist Phelan

Twist Phelan is a world traveler and endurance athlete. During the past decade she has competed in Ironman triathlons, skate-skied in Scandinavia, team-roped in the American West, paddled outrigger canoe in Australia, rock-climbed in South America, and bicycled from the Pacific to the Atlantic Coast in less than four weeks.

Twist received her bachelor and law degrees from Stanford University, completing her undergraduate studies in two years. Success as a plaintiff's trial attorney suing corporate scoundrels enabled her to retire in her early thirties. She now writes full time.

Her critically-acclaimed and award-winning Pinnacle Peak mystery series includes Family Claims, Spurred Ambition, Heir Apparent, and False Fortune. Twist’s short stories have appeared in anthologies and mystery magazines. She is currently at work on a thriller. Find out more about Twist and her work at

Being brave enough . . .

A woman picked up one of my titles at a signing this past spring, stroked the cover, and said, “I wish I had the courage to write a book.” Her comment got me thinking. Was she afraid of writing the way someone (like me) is afraid to skydive? Or was she nervous in the way a person may be if she’s thinking about changing careers?

“Courage” in the former case is the stuff of bravery or perseverance in the face of danger or fear. In the latter, it’s a reference to trying something new and potentially challenging or difficult. My grandmother had a word for it: moxie. Although I’m deficit in many areas, I like to think moxie isn’t one of them.

My parents encouraged—okay, often forced—me to try things I had no interesting in trying. (Remember, these are the same folks who named me Twist.) After I was old enough to ride my bike through our suburban town, my mother made sure I could also navigate the nearby city’s public transit system on my own. At least twice a month, dinner was at a restaurant specializing in foreign cuisine. (I still remember my brother claiming he could hear the raw oyster scream before I swallowed it.) During the summer between fourth and fifth grades, I wanted a place where I could be alone, so my dad helped me build a tree house—and then had the good sense to leave me alone in it. I spent long hours there, immersed in “adult” fiction—Mom said I could check out any book in the library; a raised eyebrow was her only reaction to my selection of Lolita—and biographies, especially of inventors and explorers.

Granted, it was a less fearful time. We didn’t wear helmets when we rode our ponies. We walked home from school by ourselves. But even now that I am old enough to know better, I can’t help trying things that take me out of my comfort zone. In the past decade, I’ve learned to fly a plane, played a variety of new sports, traveled by myself to countries where I don’t speak the language, and written “Chapter One” on a blank piece of paper.

One of the benefits of getting older is that you come to know what you like, and you have the relative freedom to pursue it. But once a year I still take stock of the “new” that I was brave enough to attempt the prior twelve months. Here’s my list for 2009.

-designed and helped make a pair of nightstands and bureau (including bookmatching the veneer)

-rode my bike a thousand miles over the Rockies (Turns out that if you flat fifty miles from your car, out of cell-phone range, and with no money on you, the owner of the town diner will let you use the phone and give you a slice of pie.)

-climbed a Colorado “fourteener” (a peak taller than 14,000 feet)

-ate a radish, parsley, and tomato sandwich (I hadn’t before because I thought I didn’t like radishes. I was right.)

-rode a motorcycle (with a helmet!)

-shot skeet (rather, tried to; many skeet went free that day)

-went to a Country-Western concert

-played in a croquet tournament (I saw a sign for “Wicket and Stick It” and thought it was a rude phrase, so stopped to investigate.)

-made S’mores for the first time since Girl Scouts, using a friend’s outdoor fireplace (and then spent an hour cleaning melted marshmallows off his fake logs)

-planted herbs in small pots (they all died)

-went to a (subtitled) Lithuanian film

-DJ’d a pool party

-rode a roller coaster (but not in the front row)

-volunteered to read for the blind

-won a trip to Prague on a dare

-helped a friend train a puppy (hint: don’t wear shoes you don’t want chewed)

-read contemporary science fiction (including The Human Disguise, by my friend James Born, writing as James O'Neal)

-took golf lessons (a bit too slow for me; will try again in ten—maybe fifteen—years.)

What’s on the list between now and the end of the year? Hosting a dinner party, for starters. I’m someone to whom cook is a noun, not a verb, so the idea of feeding my friends food that I’ve prepared is terrifying (and potentially dangerous, at least for them). But a favorite restaurant is offering cooking classes this fall, and I’ve signed up for a course.

How about you? What new things were you brave enough to attempt this past year?

And what is on this year’s list?


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I feel like I'm not even exploring half of my potential, after reading this!

Twist (great name, by the way), I'm really impressed by all you've set out to try and succeed at.

My only brave (or perhaps stupid) thing to do this year was to work on two separate series of books.

Thanks for sharing your adventures!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Ah, dear Twist, you didn't even hit on all the funny things that have happened to you. We haven't been traveling in the same mystery circles lately so haven't run into you.

Nice to see you, even if it's only on a blog.


Twist said...

O Elizabeth, I think doing one is brave enough; two is outstanding!

Vicki Lane said...

Dear lord, I need to lie down after reading about your exploits!

But how shameful that I can't remember doing anything new this year -- too busy trying to keep up with the old, I reckon. and only barely hanging on at that.

Twist, it sounds like your folks knew what they were about. And it's obvious that you do as well. You go, girl!

twist said...

Sometimes doing something new helps me keep up with the old, Vicki--either puts a new spin on it or forces me to be very efficient.

But sometimes it means the "old" doesn't get done at all. :)

Carol Murdock said...

Twist you sure don't need to go on Fear Factor! I'm with Vicki, that exhausted me but you go girl!!
I may indeed go to Ireland by myself and I have no fear of that, so I'm not too bad off!I'm headed to Amazon to read up on your books!

Karen Chase said...

I love reading stories like yours where you don't just mentally get into writing, but physically do, too. I'm working on a new historical fiction novel, set during the American Revolution, and have enjoyed being close enough to Williamsburg to go to reenactments. Time willing, I'll be in them before long. In the thick of research, which means lots of reading, I'm flexing my historical fiction writing muscle in short one-hour exercises. Based on my research, I post the fiction on my blog (Chasing Histories) where historians can shoot holes in it. I've just started it. While it may be like handing out guns to a firing squad, it will also be a delight learning from the other historical researchers out there.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

What an interesting and beautiful young lady. She's had a lot of adventures - thanks for sharing them with us. BYW, Twist is a cool name.

Earl Staggs said...

What an increcible life you're led, and continue to lead. Mine seems boring now, but maybe it's not too late. Hmmmmm.