My name is Lea Wait, and I am a thief.  

I steal words.  

I’m a stealthy thief. I don’t steal more than one, or possibly two, at a time, so tracing their origins would be impossible, even for me. I steal them from friends and relatives and CNN commentators. I reach out and boldly take them from overheard conversations at grocery stores or farmers’ markets or coffee shops. But, worst of all, most of the words I’ve stolen have come from those in my own profession. I steal them from other writers.

I steal them for the same reason a jeweler might steal a jewel:  they are so beautiful I can’t resist taking them and making them my own.

I carry a notebook, as most writers do, and it is in that notebook that I capture those precious, fleeting words. Often they are sensory words. Images. Words I recognize, I admire, but that I don’t always use myself. Or that I suddenly see, or hear, in a different way. That remind me of smells or sights, or tastes that fit in scenes in the book I’m writing. They are treasures. I hoard them.

I copy them into lists, and I read them over, cherishing the way they feel, before writing a certain scene, or before starting my work for the day. They evoke feelings. They are almost a meditation. Sometimes they form themselves into short phrases.

What are some of the words and phrases on my list now, as I plan a new book?

“Sea lavender, wishing stones, frayed, wafted, cobalt blue, gray skeletal pilings, the scent of lavender in an old pine bureau drawer, the front of the house painted white while the back was left wind-grayed, socked in, glowing, fingers grazing, skittered, slog, fragile, mud and mould and rotting fish, screams of fishers in the dark, creak of hardwood boards, shabby, clamoring.”

And many more. Some of those will no doubt end up finding homes in my new book. Some will not. But reading them over will remind me of why I love writing. Words are my tools.

Go ahead. Steal some of mine. Words are wonderful. Used by different authors, they tell different stories. And yet: standing alone, or in limited company, they contain their own messages. Sing their own songs.

USA Today best-selling author Lea Wait’s most recent book, TIGHTENING THE THREADS:  A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery, was published this week. Antique dealer Sarah Byrne has made a home for herself in Haven Harbor, Maine. But why did she come to Maine? Sarah’s story involves forced immigration, and her quest for family. But when she finds that family … she also finds that family dynamics can be delicate … and deadly.

Maine author Lea Wait writes the Mainely Needlepoint mystery series and the Shadows Antique Print mystery series, and historical novels set in 19th century Maine for ages 8 and up.  She invites you to friend her on Goodreads and Facebook, and to check her website,, for links to free prequels of her recent books. 



Fran Stewart said…
Oh, Lea - how wonderful to find another word thief. This is something I've done for years (and years and years...) but never thought to give it a name. Wafted and shabby just happen to be on my list as well, although I don't have anything so organized as a true notebook-type list. I just jot the words on stray pieces of paper and pile them next to my computer. Then I ruffle through them at odd times. Often that ruffling results in a new perfect scene that might not otherwise have come to light.

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