Showing my Writer-Self Some Love.

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I am learning how to show my writer-self some love every day, not just on Valentine’s Day.

My Writer-Self works hard. She struggles with rejection, with doubts, anxiety. She is constantly honing her craft through intense reading and writing. Even when she isn’t writing, she is thinking about writing. Every experience that crosses her consciousness becomes fodder for her work.

She battles with my inner mean girl and harsh critic constantly so she definitely deserves some love.

Here is what I do:

I’ve created a writing sanctuary. It is a room of my own that when I enter my writer-self sighs with relief. Ah, I am home she says.

I get enough sleep because a tired writer-self is not creative or productive.

I move my body because a cranky body makes for a cranky writer.

I treat her to hot chocolate or chai tea at the local bookstore at her favorite table.

I read books that nourish her heart, mind and soul.

I slow down because life is lived, experienced and written about in the details.

I meditate because a calm mind has room to wander and explore.

I buy colorful pens because she loves to spill colored ink onto page and after page. It makes her heart happy.

I buy beautiful journals because her words are worth it.

I commit time to daily writing because she requires daily attention. It tells her I am serious. It shows her how devoted I am to her.

How do you how your writer-self some love?

 

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Writing into the Deep.

welcome 2019

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After a session with a psychic (something I’ve always wanted to do), I’ve changed the focus of my blog to, well, focus more on writing. I realized I was trying to cover everything that interests me: writing, reading, yoga, marriage, family, being vegan, politics. And by trying to cover everything, it all became a bit too diffuse. Nothing was getting the attention it deserved.

By streamlining my focus here, I am finding my focus more streamlined in real life as well. I am currently reading “Rapt” by Winifred Gallagher and she writes about how the quality of our lives depends on where we put our attention. And, just as importantly, where we don’t. (Yeah, social media I’m looking at you.)

In 2019, I am pouring my attention and devotion into writing. Into writing daily. Into submitting my work to magazines. Into finally finding an agent. Into publishing the novel-in-stories that is already done. Into finishing a draft of my current novel. Into finishing a draft of book one in my YA fantasy trilogy. 

Writing into the Deep means writing with deep focus, deep passion. It means writing and stepping into the unknown. It means staying afloat when I don’t know what happens next in a scene or in the submission process. It means writing far past first thoughts into what Natalie Goldberg calls “wild mind” where all the juiciness lives and thrives. 

So, here’s to 2019 and all that it may bring and all that I will bring to it!

What are your 2019 writing intentions/focus/plans/goals? I’d love to hear. 

Books Read in November + December

Michelle Obama and me

“Shrill” by Lindy WestShrill

I am writing this two weeks after the 2016 presidential election, and in case you don’t remember what that was like, because things have gotten either better or worse—the world feels concussed.

When a writer writes with such clarity, such precision, such honesty I hesitate to add my own feeble words into the mix. All I can say is: read this book. There is not a subject she will shy away from. In fact, she runs head long into each and every subject she takes on including being fat, abortion, her marriage, career, trolls, the internet, death. Each chapter is an artful dance with and dissection of topics that need to come out of the shadows. West shines a light on each one with humor, truth and (to take a phrase from the back jacket copy) “vulnerability and vicious charm.”

I underlined SO many lines but here is just one on the significance of the title:

“‘Shrill’ is a gendered insult; calling a man ‘shrill’ makes as much sense as calling a smell ‘tall.’ To be shrill is to reach above your station; to abandon your duty to soothe and please; in short, to be heard.”

Amen, sistah!

His Favorites“His Favorites”  novel by Kate Walbert

This is not a story I have told before.

Looking back on her girlhood, Jo shares the incident that sent her life and that of her family into a complete different trajectory. She end ups needing to escape her hometown after the tragedy that she caused so she enrolls in a prestigious boarding school. Looking for freedom from that tragedy, for a second chance she tries to navigate this new life the best she can. There are cliques and roommates and the hierarchy of classmates as well as a teacher who grooms selected girls, his favorites, by first inviting them into his coveted Modern Lit class. 

Reading this in this new era of #MeToo reiterates the need for such movement. This slim but powerful novel explores boundaries, time, memory as well as the narrative choices used to be able to tell the story at all. As Jo says, “Someone once told me that memory  is just another draft of a story.”

And this is one of the most beautifully written and satisfying endings of a novel I have ever read.

A description of a golf course (and an exquisite bit of foreshadowing) I love:

“Only sounds of nature and maintenance, dark expanses of expertly mowed grass and hills, sand traps banked against shorn greens with ramrod-straight flags dead in the no-breeze and still water. The all of it designed for entrapment.”

“When Breath Becomes Air” a memoir by Paul KalanithiWhen breath Becoomes Air

I flipped through the CT scan images, the diagnosis obvious: the lungs were matted with innumerable tumors, the spine deformed, a full lobe of the liver obliterated. Cancer.

This book has been on my radar for quite a while. I just love the title. There’s a simple beauty and grace to the words and that same beauty and grace made illuminated the entire book. Despite the heaviness of the topic (cancer, death) there was a lightness to his story. It helped that not only was Kalanithi a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist but hr also studied literature and turned back to literature as a doctor looking for guidance soon the human condition, on loving and dying. His compassion, curiosity and exquisite observation of self and the world around him made him a beautiful writer.

I close the book with sadness. Sadness at the loss of such light in the world but so grateful that he used his precious time to write his story, to share it with us, to illuminate this dance between life and death. But I also closed the book with a sense of peace. He made dying just the tiniest bit less terrifying to me because he lived his life so fully and with such depth. 

A sentence I love:

I had come to see language as an almost supernatural force, existing between people, bringing our brains, shielded in centimeter-thick souls, into communion.

Becoming“Becoming” by Michelle Obama

I spent much of my childhood listening to the sound of striving.

I’ve bought several books that have emerged from these political times and this is the first one I’ve finished, reading it cover to cover, not wanting it to end.

I admit, I was sightly nervous before I began reading it. I’ve admired her immensely for so long and I didn’t want to judge her writing but I also wanted it to not suck. One of my pet peeve is shoddy writing by celebrities.

Well, I needn’t have worried. She is a beautiful writer. She writes of her life and experience with depth and grace. I have several friends who are listening to her read the audio version, and honestly, it felt like she she was sitting next to me, talking like girlfriends. She is fierce and compassionate, intelligent and funny. I admired how she mined her life, looking for the threads that wove together to allow her to become who she was meant to be.

But it is not only about she became Michelle Obama. It is how we each have the ability to rise up and become who we are meant to be.It is about how how our country is still in the midst of becoming who we are meant to be.

A passage I love:

“Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done.”

“Hazards of Time Travel” a novel by Joyce Carol OatesHazards of Time Travel

They would not have come for me, naively I drew their attention to me.

In a not too distant future, Ariadne pushes the boundaries imposed on the citizens of NAS (Reconstituted North American States). A valedictorian speech brings unwanted attention by those in charge and the consequences are swift and severe. She is transported back to 1950’s Wisconsin to complete four years of college. Ripped from her family, her friends, her time in history, she is left to manage a life alone. It could’ve been worse. She could’v been deleted. Given strict instructions to not travel far from her epicenter and not to get intimate with anyone else from this time, Ariadne, now going by the name Mary Ellen tries to forge a life in this completely different world than the one she knows. What she knows of this one she learned from history books and stories from her parents. When a professor catches her attention, Ariadne is convinced he is an Exile, like her. A relationship is forbidden, but her loneliness is deep and raw. In a love story that looks ahead as well as back in time, JCO has created a mesmerizing world that is really two worlds reflect that who we were, who we are and who we become.

A passage I love:

I felt like a soft, winged thing, a moth that has been batted out of the air. Not hard enough to break its wings, but hard enough to knock it stunned to earth, and the wings slow-moving, wounded and mute in wonderment.

 

1,026 Days in a Row.

1026 days

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Today marks the 1,026 day in a row that I have written.

I’m kind of bummed that I missed the 1000th day but this is still something to acknowledge and commemorate.

See, I still carry the belief that I am lazy, that I don’t work hard enough, that I don’t follow through enough. But the fact that I have written something every single day for 1,026 days in a row seems to disprove that belief. But beliefs aren’t grounded in facts. They are built on feelings, on those stories we hold in our bones.

When I was first starting out in my twenties, I could not bring myself to say that I am a writer. I didn’t have a degree in english or journalism or communications. I didn’t even have a Bachelor’s degree, much less the much lauded MFA. I had an Associate’s in Fashion Illustration. I also had a love of books and a desire to explore the world through language. I jumped into that yearning and proceeded to fill notebook after notebook with writing practice. I went to classes, attended week-long writing retreats, formed writing groups, even taught writing workshops to moms with young children. Still, I hesitated to call myself a writer.

I’m not sure when that changed. But it did. Not completely. I still take a breath before I say the words, waiting for the inevitable question of where can I find your books? I can list the places I’ve been published. I can declare that I have one completed novel and that I am looking for an agent. That I am halfway through novel number two as well as into writing a YA fantasy trilogy. These are all facts. But they aren’t what matters.

Now, that I am in my fifties, what matters is that  I know that writing is no longer something I do, it’s not even a label or title I need to claim.

It’s who I am.

Books Read in July + August.

Books read in July + August

“Middlesex” a novel by Jeffrey Eugenides

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.

This book has been on my shelf for years and when I decided to choose a big juicy novel for the book club I facilitate at the yoga studio where I teach, this what I chose. And what an excellent choice it was.

It is a writer’s book because of the beautiful language and stunning sentences. It is a reader’s book because of the story than spans generations.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, “Middlesex” tells the story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of her Greek-American family. The story takes us from a tiny village in Asia Minor to Detroit during the Prohibition then into the race riots of the 1970’s. Behind the scenes of all that, Calliope knows she is not like the other girls but it takes unraveling a deep family secret to discover why and discover who she truly is meant to be on her journey from Calliope to Cal.

It goes so far beyond a coming-age-story and immerses us in an epic tale of belonging versus not belonging and finding our place in the word whether in a new county, in tumulus cultural times, in our own family or within our own body.

Breathtaking.  A feast for the heart, for the mind, for the imagination.

A sentence I love: From an early age they knew what little value the world placed in books, and so didn’t waste their time with them. Whereas I, even now, persist in believing that these black marks on white paper bear the greatest significance, that if I keep writing I might be able to catch the rainbow of consciousness in a jar.

“Days of Awe” stories by A.M. Homes

She is on the phone. He can see her reflection in the bathroom mirror, the headset wrapped around her ear as if she were an air-traffic controller or a Secret service Agent.

Homes is a master of the short story, leading us to what we think is one world but we end up in a totally unexpected place. A sense of unease that Americans are feeling runs through many of the stories. In one, a man is lured into running for president while shopping with his family in a bog box store with his family. The title story centers around  a conference on genocide and two old friends meet there and meet themselves in the process.

Each story feels like several stories, what’s happening on the surface and the layers of what is happening beneath the surface. The stories made me laugh, cringe and shimmer with a certain recognition of the human condition that I was able to briefly touch while immersed in her worlds.

A passage I love: The view is limitless, all of Los Angeles spread out below. She takes off her shoes and dips her toes in—hot. The heat is like a physical lozenge, a sedative. There is no edge—she has no body, there are no boundaries; she, the water, and the air are all one.

Coming Home to Writing Practice.

writing practice

I entered this writing path through the writing practice Natalie Goldberg teaches. Practicing writing the same way an athlete practices her sport, the same way a pianist practices scales. Showing up to the page, grabbing a prompt and just writing for ten minutes without stopping, without crossing anything out.

The end product didn’t matter. The process of showing up and writing and connecting with the wilderness of my own heart and mind is what mattered.

Then I decided I needed to be more disciplined. I needed to produce more. More stories, blog posts, novels. And I let writing practice slip away, not counting it as “real” writing.

This summer I joined an on-line writing class hosted by the luminous Bryonie Wise called “Human is What We Are.” Honestly, I was hesitant. I have committed time and money to so many on-line classes over the years and I rarely finish them. My enthusiasm wanes then my connection to the group fades and I’m off on my own again.

This time has been different. First, I am intimately familiar with writing practice. Slipping back into it has been soothing and inspiring. It has been reconnecting with an old friend who really knows me, who sees all of me.

Second, Bryonie makes is all so accessible: writing, creativity, life. She gives us permission to meet ourselves where we are. She assures us that there is no wrong way to do this. That there is no such thing as being behind. We are where we are.

Third, summer has been the perfect time for this kind of loose but supportive structure. Ten minutes a day for ten days then we have a break to let everything germinate, let it settle and find its way into our bones.

My own notebook is more than half-filled. I have three separate pages filled with prompts that will draw me back to the page long after our third and final session ends. Coming back to writing practice has illuminated my creative process, allowing me to find inspiration everywhere.

It has reminded me of why I write at all: to come back home to myself which allows me to connect more deeply with the world around me.

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

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“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t remember the first book I ever read.

I can’t remember that moment when the strange black marks on a page turned into words, which turned into images which turned into stories I could see in my mind.

I do remember that Library Day was my favorite day of the week in elementary school. I checked out the same series of books over and over about three Swedish sisters named Flicka, Ricka and Dicka.

At some point I gravitated to “Gone with the Winds’ but the librarian steered me away, deeming me too young to read it.

I remember receiving Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books for Christmas and being so happy we had the 4-hour drive up north so that I could lose myself in them.

I went through an Agatha Christie phase and a Taylor Caldwell phase spurred on my older cousin who was also a bookworm. I went through a phase of devouring romance novels in a single sitting.

I now have six bookshelves bulging with books, both read and to-be-read. The ratio is getting to be about 50/50. Don’t judge. There are worse habits I could have than loving books and having way more than I can possibly read in this lifetime.

I try to read widely and diversely: different genres, authors of varying ages, ethnicities, gender.

Not surprisingly, before I was a writer, I was a reader. A huge, avid reader. Every single report card mentions my love of words.

As a writer, I am even more of a reader, if that is even possible. I still read for the reasons I used to: to escape, to immerse myself in other lives, other cultures, other worlds. To see life through the lens of another. But I also read with this other layer of attention, of curiosity, of wonder. How did they structure the book, the story? Why did they choose to use that point of view? How did they write such a beautiful sentence that took my breath away?

I may not remember exactly when I learned to read or what my first book was. I definitely don’t remember all of the books I’ve consumed over the years, and “consume’ is the perfect word. Each book is absorbed into who I am, helping to mold me into who I am becoming.

As Emerson so eloquently states, they have made me.

Happy National Book Lovers Day!! What are some of your favorite books? Book memories? Writers? Please feel free to share in the comments.

The Practice of Curiosity.

stay curious

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I wonder…

Those two small yet powerful words help me to break through creative blocks, fear and stagnation.

I often forget them when I am in the midst any of those those three things or some combination of them.

But when I remember, they are the key that sets me free.

When faced with an impending empty nest I found myself thinking, ” I wonder if I should take Yoga Teacher Training.”

My class, “Poses, Pens + Inner Peace” came into being when I wondered how writing and yoga intersected and wondered how they could nourish each other.

When I hit a block in my work-in-progress, any “I wonder’ will get the pen moving. What is written may not stay in but that is not the point of curiosity. The point is to generate some movement.

Fear equals stagnation.

Stagnation begets stagnation.

Curiosity is light. It doesn’t come in hot demanding that I change and DO something, fix it, fix everything now.

No, curiosity invites me to sit down and play.

No pressure to fix something.

No pressure to fix everything with my next action.

It just asks me to wonder.

To ask what if.

And that gentle invitation is all I need to step out of fear, out of stagnation and back into the cycle of creative energy.

Curiosity only does one thing

Image found via Pinterest.

A Letter from Risk.

risk

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I am not here to take over your life.

I am not here to destroy our life.

I am here  to dance with you into the deep heart of your life.

Each risk you take is a success, no matter the end result.

Each risk expands your heart, expands your mind, expands your life.

Dance with me rather than standing at odds.

Dancing is fluid. It is playful. It invites curiosity and wonder.

Don’t bring such a heaviness to me. 

Let me be light.

Let me light your path.

A path of possibilities.

Let my light bring clarity .

Let that clarity be your light, the light that you shine out into the world.

 

Tools of Illumination.

illuminatd path

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I heard Dani Shapiro on a podcast this morning and she said that writing is a tool for illumination.

Yes.

Exactly.

And so is yoga which is why they work so well together. One illuminates the other.

Yoga shines a light into the dark, heavy corners of my body where I’ve stored rage and shame and grief. I move and breathe and unlock those old emotions, those old stories, releasing them.

Writing shines a light into my heart, into my psyche. I write my way into what matters, into what I am thinking or feeling on any given day at any given moment.

Through yoga and writing my path forward is illuminated.

I am illuminated and able to shine my light out into the world.