Dyeing hair the old-fashioned way

This afternoon my friend Sally came over and helped me dye my hair with henna. The henna smelled nice– like cooked spinach. It was the same green as cooked spinach as well:

I was happy with the natural scent, but a little alarmed at the strong green color.  On my head, the effect was even more alarming:

I put the plastic bag that came with the henna on my head and spent the next two hours grading homework, reading, and wondering if the green would wash out or if I would be teaching my classes with spinach-hair on Monday.

I then took a shower and washed the green muck down the drain (no picture available).  My hair is darker than normal but softer as well.




Now, if I need one of my nineteenth century characters to dye her hair, I know how to use henna.



Since writing this post in Feb 2011, I’ve learned a lot about dyeing with henna, so I encourage you to read my Dyeing with Henna Update post.


Over the past year, I’ve been visiting the blogs of writers and studying them and trying to figure out what makes a blog interesting. What makes a reader want to return again and again to a blog?

The answer is the human connection. Writing about writing is interesting, but what readers really want is to feel a personal connection to the writer celebrity. If you’ve been with me from the beginning, you’ll remember that in my first post I said I would not be handing out personal information on this blog.

Get ready for an about face!

While I still plan to retain a basic level of privacy, I’m now going to reach out to my readers in a personal way. I’m going to let you know more about me.

For example, did you know that I’ve been having a mid-life crisis through my hair?

For the past fifteen to twenty years, I’ve had the same short hairstyle:




About a year ago, I decided I wanted to grow out my hair. Now, I look like this:




I have a very slight colic and that hair that grows out of that spot is fully gray. I’ve been paying to color my hair with chemicals and as the gray starts to come in, I hide it. I love this hair band, but wearing it every day seems odd, and in the cold Wisconsin wind, I really need to wear a hat.




For the past five years, I’ve been getting my hair colored at a beauty salon. I like the results, but I’ve worried about putting such harsh chemicals on my head every six weeks for the rest of my life. Plus, it’s quite pricy.

So, I’ve decided to color my hair myself, with henna. It’s my project of today. Stay tuned for updates and photos.


In my head, I spend a lot of time on backstory. I don’t write it down, mostly, but I try to get a clear sense of what has happened to my characters before they enter my story. For the main characters, this is essential. Otherwise, how could I understand them and their motivations and their desires, and write them with any sense of reality? I think most writers understand this and have a backstory for their main characters.

Strong writers have a backstory for every character. I am amazed by writers who can get their minor characters to grow and develop over the course of a story. This can only happen when the author has given them as much backstory as the main characters. An author who can do this and do it well is like God. God knows everything about everyone, and a writer should do be the same for her characters.

Of course, one does not want minor characters to start thinking they are main characters and take over the novel. Like God, a good writer must stay in control. If a minor character becomes too big, pull him out and give him his own story. Developing characters thoroughly is different than having a lot of main characters.

I create backstory for some of my minor characters, and I want to push myself to do it with all of them. I’ve found that when stuck on a scene or when having trouble moving through a minor conflict, if I start thinking about the minor characters involved, thinking about where they came from and what they want, my writing carries more purpose and complexity.

Backstory. It’s for everyone.