Five on Friday.

Each Friday I try to share five links that made me think, inspired me or I just found entertaining throughout the week.

5 on Friday graphic

 

  1. Preparing for our first vegan Thanksgiving.
  2. I love having journal writing prompts at the ready.
  3. A peek into the writing mind of J.K. Rowling.
  4. “To put it another way, it took me two decades to become brave enough to be angry.” Read this piece by Lindy West.
  5. I’ve been exploring this link between voice and integrity and authenticity. Do my words come from integrity or do they add to the noise of the world? This speaks to that.
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Books Read in September + October.

Sept Oct books read

“My Name is Lucy Barton” a novel by Elizabeth Strout

There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in a hospital for almost nine weeks.

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Lucy Barton goes in to have her appendix out—a rather routine procedure that turns out to be anything but routine. Complications lead her to be in the hospital for nine weeks. During that time, her estranged mother comes to visit, staying at her bedside, at times almost feeling like an apparition from Lucy’s past as they both pull up stories of people and places from their fragmented yet shared history. Below the surface of their conversations lays a thread of tension that has been present throughout Lucy’s life. The more they talk to, at and around each other the more that tension flashes to the surface before disappearing into the depths of time once again. This novel reminded me of Dani Shapiro’s memoir, “Hourglass.” They both explore time and the passage of time in such a beautiful way, the way it informs our lives and how we move through it together and, ultimately, alone.

A sentence I love: “Maybe it was the darkness with only the pale crack of light that came through the door, the constellation of the magnificent Chrysler Building right beyond us, that allowed us to speak in ways we never had.”

“Hunger- A Memoir of (My) Body” by Roxane Gay

Every body has a story and a history.

From the first sentence, Roxane Gay takes on through the intimate story and history of her body, as she sees it, as she looks back on it, as she experienced it and as she continues to experience it.

While her life could decidedly be broken in half after a horrific act of violence between before and after, Gay spirals her story back and forth through time, edging closer to something then backing away again, the way we often do with our own history.

This is a powerful, vulnerable and incredibly honest look at one woman’s relationship with her body, how she inhabits it, how she doesn’t, how she moves through space, how she doesn’t and how people and society at large respond to her and how they don’t.

A sentence I love: “I live in a contradictory space where I should try to take up space but not too much of it, and not in the wrong way, where the wrong way is any way where my body is concerned.”

“We All Looked Up” a YA novel by Tommy Wallbach

“It’s not the end of the world,” Stacy said.

It’s not, at least not at this particular teenage angsty moment  that Peter is turning over in his mind. But the meteor that they soon learn is headed toward earth could possibly be the literal end of the world. President Obama went on television and told them as much. He said they had about two months left. Two months? To do what? There was no way to prepare for such an event. Nowhere to hide, no where to be safe. So what do you do? Go on living your mundane life, going to school, doing homework, studying for tests? To what end? If there is no future to work toward, how do you spend your time? These are questions that a group of high school students must wrestle with not only theoretically, but in reality. Each chapter tells a different point of view until they weave together to reveal a story of what we do in the face of death, something we do at some level every single day, but how do things change, how do people change when it no longer is some vague prospect way off in a very distant future but is coming at you within the space of two months?

A sentence I love: “Every other human quality was hidden easily enough—intelligence, talent, selfishness, even madness—but beauty would not be concealed.”

“Turtles All the way Down” a YA novel by John Green

At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the north side of Indianapolis called White River High School.

Turtles+All+The+Way+Down+transparentPart love story, friend story, mystery as well as a deep exploration of what it means to grieve, to lose, to deal with mental illness, John Green weaves these all together in my favorite book of his to date.

Aza struggles with anxiety. Because much of the struggle is on the inside even her Best and Most Fearless Friend Daisy has trouble comprehending the depth of Aza’s pain.

When a billionaire goes missing and a hundred-thousand dollar reward is offered for info leading to his return, Aza and Daisy jump into the mystery unaware of what exactly they are getting themselves into.

Green gets into the psyche of today’s teens with his usual grace and the way he allows us access to Aza’a mind as it continually spirals out of her control is something that will stay with me for a long, long time.

A sentence I love: “I wanted to tell her that I was getting better, because that was supposed to be the narrative of illness: It was a hurdle you jumped over, or a battle you won. Illness is a story told in the past tense.”

“Teaching People, Not Poses- 12 Principles for Teaching Yoga with Integrity” by Jay Fields

As for many people, my yoga teacher training changed my life.

This slim volume packs a lot of wisdom for the new or seasoned teacher. Each principle is followed by suggestions on how to actually use the advice she gives. I felt like I walked away with tools I could use to be more grounded in integrity as a teacher and also as a complicated human with my own set of flaws and gifts and challenges.

A sentence I love: “It’s about playing your part to help create a world full of people who have the courage and the spirit to set aside fear and to live in alignment with their deepest, truest most full self.”

Habit, Routine + Ritual.

Routine and Ritual

“We are what we repeatedly do. Success is not an action but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

Whenever autumn rolls around, I find myself drawn back into that back-to-school mode. Since I am long out of school, it’s a time of year when I turn inward and really look at how I am spending my time. By then, I’m coming off a summer of loose routines, fun and spontaneous adventures and I’m ready to dive back into a structure that feeds my creativity.

This year I’ve been thinking about the differences between habit, routine and ritual. Habits—good and bad—are those things we do automatically without too much thought: brushing our teeth, taking a shower, a walk after dinner. Routines are a set of habits that lend structure to your day. So a set of habits such scraping your tongue, drinking a glass of warm water with lemon, gentle yoga and meditation become a morning routine. Nighttime routine might consist of a cup of tea, turning off all electronics, setting the alarm, reading a book before going to sleep. I think of routines as safety nets to our days.

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” ~ John Maxwell

I knew I had to change something about my morning routine. My habit was to eat breakfast while watching a show on Hulu that I had missed the night before. But that became a slippery slope and before I knew it a whole morning could be wasted in front of the TV and on my phone. So, my one change was to eat breakfast at my desk. I make some toast, fruit and tea, go into my writing room, close the door, light a candle, read an inspiring writing book while eating my toast then write my morning pages while sipping my tea. Then I set a timer for 30 minutes and work on my novel. I’ve started doing a freewrite based on a card drawn from “The Observation Deck” then I move onto my draft and start knitting together what I have, cutting what doesn’t work, asking myself question. I keep a writer’s notebook specifically for this project where I keep my freewrites, notes, questions, timelines. After the timer goes off I’ll go do some small household task like wash the dishes or put in or fold a load of laundry then set the timer again.

“If you want your day to be organized, develop a routine. If you want your day to be meaningful, create rituals.” 

This one small tweak of a habit—moving where I ate my breakfast—cracked open my morning routine and helped me create a ritual that sustains my creative process. Lighting the candle, reading an inspiring book, drawing a card from the “Soulful Woman Guidance Deck” all weave together to create a ritual to nurture my creativity. When I start my day immersed in the creative process, it sets the tone for my day, it adds meaning to my life.

A Book I Love. #TBT

Each Thursday in honor of #TBT, I am going to feature a book that I truly love, that helped shape me as a writer, as a woman, as a human.

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I’ve always been wary of poetry. Never feeling quite smart enough to get it. I think high school dissections of poems did that to me. Since I went to art school, I wasn’t exposed to poetry as part of my education. So, as part of my self-education as a writer and a human, I explored poetry myself. Not poems that I was told I should read, but poems that spoke to me, that lured me in somehow.

I remember being drawn in by the title of this collection and back then I had been devouring all of her novels. I skimmed through it and came across this poem at the end called “Six underrated pleasures.” Six pieces on folding sheets, picking pole beans, taking a hot bath, sleeping with cats, planting bulbs, and canning.

You could write about folding sheets? That was poetry? My world cracked open. Poetry didn’t have to be dense and impenetrable. Poetry was simply paying deep attention to what was right in front on you.

“Whenever I fold a fitted sheet

making the moves that are like

closing doors, I feel my mother.

The smell of clean laundry is hers.”

Thank you, Dani Shapiro.

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Jealousy. Envy. Not pleasant emotions. Personally, I don’t believe the two are interchangeable. To me, jealousy is about what somebody has, something that you want for yourself. Envy feels more inward. When I feel envy it’s because I want to be like that person. I want to have their qualities, not their things.

So, the other morning I realized I envy Dani Shapiro. I admire the hell out of her. I read all of her books. I listen to interviews with her. Every blog she posts feels like she is writing directly into my heart. So when envy came up I knew enough to pause instead of my usual MO when something uncomfortable arises which is to get the hell away from it. (Thank you yoga practice for teaching me to stay.)

Envy is an especially efficient mirror back to yourself if you stay with it. What you learn can act as a compass to your own truth north. I asked myself what I envied exactly.

~ All the books she’s written from memoir to novels to writing about writing

~ the way her days seems to be intimately woven around her writing life

~ she teaches meditation, yoga and writing retreats

~ she teaches in exotic locales like Positano, Italy

Then I ask myself what is exactly that I want in my life.

~ I want to explore different kinds of writing

I am taking notes now on a nonfiction book based on the class I created called Poses, Pens + Inner Peace while I continue to work on my novel and essays and blog posts.

~ I want to spend more portions of my days immersed in writing.

So, after meditating and a brief yoga practice to get all the kinks out my mind and body, I’ve begun taking my breakfast and tea straight to my desk where my first treat of the day is to dip back into Shapiro’s wonderful book on the creative life, “Still Writing.” From there I set a timer for 30 minutes and work on my novel. Then I do some mundane household task then come back to the novel or a blog post or some other piece of writing.

~ I already teach a class that combines yoga, mediation and writing.

It’s something I knew I wanted to do the minute I stepped on my mat. I feel the same energy on my mat that I feel in my writing—an energy that connects to deeper parts of myself. Holding space for a group as they release stories through yoga and writing and share with the class is an honor to me each and every week.

~ I want to expand Poses, Pens + Inner Peace beyond that one Thursday night class.

I envision taking this class as a retreat to different parts of the country, even abroad, bringing groups of women together in a sacred circle to heal, to reclaim parts of themselves they have lost, to celebrate their magnificent light.

So, really this is a thank you to Dani Shapiro. Thank you for living an authentic, beautiful, messy creative life that tugged at something in me and allowed to envision what kind of creative life I want for myself. Thank you for the example of your work ethic that I can admire and emulate to then take the steps to make that vision a reality. Thank you for the honesty of your words that pierce my heart. Thank you for sharing those words with the world.

List: Top 5 Books that Illuminated my Writing Path.

I love lists so each Saturday my plan is to share a list of some sort,                                    covering a range of topics

five books

These are the top five books that started me on the writing path and that I turn to again and again.

  1. “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. This is the absolute first book that offered me a glimmer of recognition that perhaps I could write. Actually, that I must write.
  2. “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott She helped and continues to help me loosen the grip of perfectionism by taking it word by word, allowing myself to write shitty first drafts and writing what I can see through a 1-inch picture frame.
  3. “Ron Carlson Writes a Story” by Ron Carlson As he takes us meticulously through his process of writing one particular short story, Carlson reminds of the importance of doing the work, of staying in the room even when—especially when—I want leave.
  4. “The Writer’s Portable Mentor” by Priscilla Long This is a book about process and craft but it goes deep into all the layers of craft far beyond character, plot and setting. Never fails to get my pen moving again.
  5. “Still Writing” by Dani Shapiro I have read this gem at least three times, maybe four and am currently reading it each morning as I eat my breakfast and drink tea at my desk before plunging into my own writing. Her honest reflection of the writing life comforts me as I continue to show up to the page and to my own writing life.

What books illuminate the writer in you? Please share in the comments!

A Book I Love. #TBT

Each Thursday in honor of #TBT, I am going to feature a book that I truly love, that helped shape me as a writer, as a woman, as a human.

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I sat at my desk this morning with some toast and a cup of tea and began reading this book again. It’s at least the third time, maybe even the fourth. With each re-reading, I underline new passages, make new notes in the margins and feel like I am in conversation with her. I pick this particular book up when I need tender yet tough guidance back to my writing self, back into a space of compassion yet dedication to the work, to the process. I love how she calls it a creative life. It’s holistic and permeates her days not just the time at her desk or on the computer. Every page, every blog post she writes, every interview she gives, I feel like she is speaking directly to me. As we begin to ease out of summer (my girls are back up at college) I needed a gentle yet firm nudge not only back to the page but back to living a writer’s life and she provides it once again.

“The writing life requires courage, patience, persistence, empathy, openness, and the ability to deal with rejection. It requires the willingness to be alone with oneself. To be gentle with oneself. To look at the world without blinders on. To observe and withstand what one sees. To be disciplined, and at the same time, take risks. To be willing to fail—not just once, but again and again, over the course of a lifetime.”

Wednesday Writing Prompt.

In honor of the summer solstice…

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Image found via Pinterest.

She floats in the space where the water merges with the sky,

the horizon almost invisible, the sky becoming water, the water becoming sky.

The water cradles her, the sky supports her.

The water ripples below, the clouds undulate above.

Timeless.

Effortless.

Suspended between who she is in this moment and who she will in the next,

perfectly content to just be here,

in this moment,

her breath echoing beneath the water,

an ancient hum reverberating through her bones,

her shadow another presence beneath her,

reminding her of the dark that always exists

even under the brightest of suns.

A Book I Love. #TBT

Each Thursday in honor of #TBT, I feature a book that I truly love, that helped shape me as a writer, as a woman, as a human.

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“Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” by Anne Lamott became my writing bible for a while. Her simple advice, her passion, her authentic, messy real self appealed to me on a deep level. She wasn’t afraid to admit to the hard parts of writing. She didn’t pretend that she sat down easily everyday as the words just flowed from her fingertips from some muse on high. In fact, the only muse she endorsed was the work. Showing up was the muse. To this day, I still use her advice: one-inch picture frame to write the next scene, shitty first drafts to write the thing at all and taking it all one word at a time.