Month: June 2015

What Lies in a Handshake

This was originally posted on QP and Eye: My father believed in the power of first impressions.  He accepted, that as he appraised someone for the first time, so they would similarly judge him. When I meet someone for the first time my father’s voice reminds me, “Always make eye contact, smile, dress smart and shake hands with firm enthusiasm.” A weak handshake was a symptom of insecurity and feebleness that would almost certainly be manifest in other aspects of a person’s personality, according to my father.  While I may not entirely agree with his view, I am put off by cold, weak or limp handshakes. read more  

William Zinsser on Writing Well

“There are many good reasons for writing that have nothing to do with being published. Writing is a powerful search mechanism, and one of its satisfactions is to come to terms with your life narrative. Another is to work through some of life’s hardest knocks—loss, grief, illness, addiction, disappointment, failure—and to find understanding and solace.”   “Less is more.”   “The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis.”   “Simplify, simplify.”     “The reader is someone with an attention span of about 30 seconds.”       – William Zinsser in On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction   

Friday Web Finds

Sleep is one of the key ingredients to a healthy life. Needless to say, writers need sleep just like everyone else. If you’re suffering from writer’s block, examine your sleeping habits. We may not be aware of it, but Our poor sleeping habits are filling our brains with neurotoxins. If you’re one of those writers missing sleep because you want to finish writing a book in one year, listen to Louise Desalvo, author of the art of Slow Writing: she presents 10 Famous Authors Who Prove That Slowing Down Is Always Worthwhile. If memoir is your thing, William Zinsser writes on How to Write a Memoir. His advice: “Be yourself, speak freely, and think small.” Featured Photo: Punta Malabrigo by Elmer Nev Valenzuela

Free Writing in Different Genres

Many years ago, I came across Andy Couturier’s book, Writing Open the Mind: Tapping the Subconscious to Free the Writing and the Writer. It’s a book that I still open now and then, when I feel “cerebrally constipated,” and my writing feels constricted. Couturier’s book is unlike any other writing book I’ve read – it’s chock-full of  unusual writing exercises designed to unshackle the brain. Here is a free teleclass from Couturier, “Learn My Two Top Techniques for Really Loving Writing.”  The first thirty minutes is about free writing about your chosen topic in different genres. Loved ethis – there was time to write on the same topic in only 3 genres but sometime today, I intend to write about it in other genres. This exercise was both fun and fascinating. If you have thirty minutes that you can spend on this exercise, click here. The rest of the audio recording features sharing by the participants. Enjoy!


It’ s one  of those days when I don’t know what to write about. Even if I have been blogging daily for the past five and a half months, I haven’t yet gotten into the habit of creating an editorial plan. Which is ironic because when I worked as editor for a children’s magazine for five years, I always had an editorial plan. I surfed the web for some articles on blogging schedules and of course there were the usual “Top 5, “Top 10,” oh, but this time I didn’t find “the Ultimate Guide to Creating Blogging Schedules.” Have you noticed how so many blog posts have “the Top #” and “the Ultimate” in their blog titles? Those are among the posts I don’t read…at all. It makes me wonder how one person can decide what constitutes the “Top 5” or how something can be “the ultimate.” As I was writing the first paragraph of this post, I thought it best to create an editorial plan and avoid situations like this one. But now, as I end …

again and again, our hearts shattered by the echo of the gunshot

Originally posted on pull up a chair:
the morning light spilled across the front pages, across faces bowed and streaked in tears. it didn’t take long till my own tears were added to the morning’s misery. a “lone wolf,” a man who sat for an hour near a pastor leading bible study, in a historic charleston, south carolina church, pulled out a pistol, and, one by one, took aim and fired, riddled the prayerful, felled nine lives, including the church pastor, a revered state senator. i’d come downstairs in this quiet old house to write of something else, but i picked up the news pages off the stoop, and there it was in all three papers: “deadly church attack;” “scene of carnage has long history of pain, pride and dignity;” “loner held in church killings.” sadly, only in chicago was the story “below the fold,” meaning it got second billing to something else, and in this case the “else” was a silver trophy for men in ice skates. because i’ve spent more time away from…

Pope Francis Addresses Every Living Person on this Planet

Pope Francis in his Encyclical, “Laudato Si.” “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish. Industrial waste and chemical products utilized in cities and agricultural areas can lead to bioaccumulation in the organisms of the local population, even when levels of toxins in those places are low. Frequently no measures are taken until after people’s health has been irreversibly affected. “Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet.”  read more Photo credit: zabmo via Morguefile

The Journal as a Valuable Tool in Writing a Book

In an essay that was published in the book Writers and Their Notebooks, (edited by Diana M. Raab)  Author Sue Grafton explains why the journal is an invaluable tool when she is working on book projects: “The most valuable tool I employ in the writing of a private eye novel is the working journal. This notebook (usually four times longer than the novel itself) is like a letter to myself, detailing every idea that occurs to me as I proceed. “The journal is a record of my imagination at work, from the first spark of inspiration to the final manuscript. One of my theories about writing is that the process involves an ongoing exchange between the Left Brain and Right. The journal involves a testing ground where the two can exchange. Left brain is analytical, linear, the timekeeper, the bean counter, the critic and editor, a valuable ally in the shaping of the mystery novel or any piece of writing for that matter. Right brain is creative, spatial, playful, disorganized, dazzling, nonlinear, the source of the Aha! …

Friday Web Finds

Throughout this blog, I have been posting about writing -how to’s, what-not-to’s, discoveries, benefits… If you’re still not convinced that writing is good for you, this essay by Gregory Ciotti provides comprehensive data that supports the argument that life is so much better when writing is an integral part of it. In another essay, Ciotti explains The Under-appreciated Benefits of Creative Consistency, a good read if you are not yet clear on why writing regularly is good for writers. Jill Jepson writes,”Here is a tasting menu of the advice to writers I’ve read on blogs in the past few months: Write a minimum of 500 words every day. Spend at least ten hours a week on your author’s platform. Post to your blog at least once a week, on the same day and time… ….And there’s more!” No wonder writers and bloggers are pulling their hair. Jepson gives The One Piece of Advice You’re Probably Not Following: Relax. Please read it if you want to find the path that leads to blissful writing. Here’s to a blissful …

Time is My Friend (a Haibun)

In the past I viewed time from the same perspective as the rest of the world. I saw time as expendable, limited, and something to grab because it is fleeting. Things changed when I decided to look at time from a different perspective. When I decided not to hurry, I discovered an entirely different aspect of time. I saw that it is limitless. I realized that time is expandable – it can be stretched to infinity. I learned that we can dance with it. And time is always there – here, now. It will never disappear – time lasts forever. holding my breath I run after that which has no legs Time is of the essence, we are told. Time is essence, I now know. Time heals. Time allows us to unfold our wings. Time waits for us. Time is my friend now. Time indulges me. It waits for me. I see more clearly when I am not in a hurry. There are no more marathons for me to run. photo credit: clockwork gold via photopin …

How I Found My Niche

When I first set up this blog, I was at a loss as far as writing was concerned. This blog was my way of finding my writing self again, after almost a decade of being away from the real world of writing. I had no expectations when I began posting in this blog – I only knew that I needed to learn much about writing, and this blog would be my way of consolidating my “writing lessons.” I’ve been learning much, much more now that I’m blogging about what I learn.  Not only that, I have also found my niche – or should I say it found me, since  I didn’t even search for it? It just presented itself to me again and again until I finally recognized it and said “Yes, I have found my writing niche.” How did I find it? By writing, writing, and writing some more. Everyday, I write on my journals and/or on several private blogs. For the past 2 years I have also been writing for a London-based content …

Writing from the Silence

  I got fascinated by silence; by what happens to the human spirit, to identity and personality when the talking stops, when you press the off button, when you venture out into that enormous emptiness. -Sara Maitland in How to Be Alone Silence had been a constant companion since I was young. When this year began, silence beckoned me to depths of quietude that I had never experienced. Silence has a way of opening up all the senses. Hearkening to the call to more and deeper silence has been showing me a world I had not previously explored. I was worried that inviting more silence into my life would mean that I would stop writing. Ironically, it has birthed more writing moments. Photo credit: lukeok via Morguefile

Writer as Witness

Originally posted on Myths of the Mirror:
As storytellers, we create settings and characters with enough authenticity to entrap readers in our imaginations. The goal is to elicit feelings somewhere in the broad spectrum of human experience, to personally invest the reader in the outcome of our tales. A sense of reality and plausibility in our stories aids us in that task. External intricacy adds texture as it paints pictures in a reader’s mind. Our own emotional landscape is fodder for our characters’ souls. I love the idea of writers as witnesses. We are observers of details, the ones with personal knowledge of hidden imagery and feelings, which we attest to through our words. In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron encourages artists to become witnesses, to take time out of each day to observe our outer and inner worlds with curiosity, as a way of enriching our store of experience and ultimately our art. She suggests occasional artist’s vacations, to gather experiences foreign to our daily routines. I frequently wander about in zombie-like unconsciousness.…

Embracing the Shadows

“St. Teresa of Avila wrote: ‘All difficulties in prayer can be traced to one cause: praying as if God were absent.’ This is the conviction that we bring with us from early childhood and apply to everyday life and to our lives in general. It gets stronger as we grow up, unless we are touched by the Gospel and begin the spiritual journey. This journey is a process of dismantling the monumental illusion that God is distant or absent.” — Thomas Keating

Show Up

From the Mindfulist, Cultivating Courage: A 21-Day Journaling Course for Women with Heart “You may never be able to write a bestseller that is translated into thirty languages, but don’t let that stop you from trying. “You may never become a painter whose art is in the Museum of Modern Art, but don’t let that stop you from trying. “You may never become a solopreneur whose high-ticket courses are sold out in a matter of hours, but don’t let that stop you from trying. “If you identify your “successes” as what defines you, then you will be in trouble. “Instead, how about telling yourself that your only job is to show up as fully as you can through presence and choice, doing your best today without being distracted by rules or expectations, continuing to learn, keeping on growing and being curious without focusing on the “results,” and rewriting the story you tell yourself from a place of wholeness, sufficiency and “being in the now” instead of a place of comparison.” In our part of the …

Friday Web Finds

Another week is ending, and it’s time once more to share some great online discoveries… I’m not a social media person. I simply don’t get it. My social media know how is close to nil. I do some Facebook once or twice a week, mainly to find interesting articles and posts to read.  I’m grateful that Wordpress incorporated social media buttons in their web designs, so at least my posts automatically get tweeted, and sent to tumblr and LinkedIn. That’s just about it. If, like me, you can’t find the passion to tweet and do Facebook or Instagram, Why I Abandoned My Social Media Presence  will validate your reluctance to walk down the social media road. From Dream to Nightmare: John Steinbeck on the Perils of Publicity and the Dark Side of Success chronicles John Steinbeck’s woes about being a public figure. This  article, which was published by the New York Times, will help you appreciate The Small Happy Life. And for a weekend poetry fix, head over to hedgegrow. Happy weekend, all! Photo credit: Luis Llerena via Unsplash

Mary Oliver on Listening to the World

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — over and over announcing your place in the family of things. – Mary Oliver in Wild Geese Mary Oliver is one of America’s greatest living poets. In this interview with On Being‘s Krista Tippett, Oliver discusses writing, poetry and life.

Keeping Quiet

by Pablo Neruda Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still. For once on the face of the earth, let’s not speak in any language; let’s stop for one second, and not move our arms so much. It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines; we would all be together in a sudden strangeness. Fisherman in the cold sea would not harm whales and the man gathering salt would look at his hurt hands. Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, victories with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing. What I want should not be confused with total inactivity. Life is what it is about; I want no truck with death. If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death. Perhaps the earth can teach us as …

A Page from My Journal: Poetry

April 22, 2014 Poetry is now alive in me. Poetry now makes me alive. First a haiku, then a tanka, now a haibun. The soul is alive in poetry. The sparseness of a haiku entices it to sing a merry tune. The freedom of additional verses of a tanka is sweet dessert. And haibun. Haibun encourages the best from the mind and soul. Haibun allows the mind and the soul to dance to the combined harmonies of prose and poetry.  Poetry is food for the soul, music for the mind and inspiration for the spirit.   Photo credit: arker via Morguefile

James Patterson’s Master Class

Originally posted on Inkcouragement:
Has anybody else seen this? I rarely pay attention to Facebook ads, but this one caught my gaze and I had to see what it was about. In 22 video lessons, James Patterson, currently the bestselling author in the world, teaches writers how to write a best-selling book. Now I’m not naive and think I’ll write a bestseller after taking this class, because a class can only do so much. But I think it would be fascinating to take a course from one of the most prolific and widely read authors of the past fifty years. Not to mention the fact that I can’t afford to go to writing conferences at this point, so online learning and reading books/magazines/articles/blogs on writing are the current tools in my toolbox for improving my writing. I’ll be honest, I’ve never read a single James Patterson book. Not one. It’s not that I don’t like him. I either haven’t gotten around to it or the books I’ve seen with his name on it just aren’t in…

Journaling as Spiritual Practice

  “For much of my own life, journal writing has been an important act of soul centering. Initially unaware of my journal’s spiritual purpose, I later fiercely claimed this writing as a spiritual practice when I realized my journal pages had become a kind of chapel for me, an intimate place that I frequented to whisper my gratitude, praise, and laments, and even, at times, a petition or two.” -Karen Hering in Writing to Wake the Soul: Opening the Sacred Conversation Within       photo credit: 2015-03-06g A path to keeping a diary — index card #writing #journaling #diary via photopin (license)

Eric Maisel on Writing Spaces

“A writer’s space is wherever she lands; her treasure is the writing she gets done in these myriad spots.” “Naturally you want a room in which to write that is dedicated to your writing pursuits and not the center of family commotion, the place where the canned goods are stored, or home to the water heater and the washer-dryer. But maybe you can’t have such a dedicated room; maybe space is at a premium and all that’s available to you is the kitchen table or a desk in your bedroom.” “There is nowhere that you need to go in order to write, not even out of that bed. Right where you are is where your thoughts and feelings become available, if you are inclined to access them.” “If you have a bed, you have an office. Writing is about thinking, feeling, and scribbling and can be done perfectly well while reclining. Colette, Proust, Walker Percy, Edith Wharton, James Joyce, my good friend whose novel just sold, our younger daughter who is working on her first novel, …

Friday Web Finds

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here are a couple of interesting articles about the brain and writing: The Origin of Language and the Ancestral Need for Stories Just looking at nature can help your brain work better, study finds I can’t believe it’s Friday already, the days just went by so fast this week! Work and a late summer road trip has kept me from responding to comments and visiting other blogs. Hopefully come Sunday I will be able to catch up. Thankfully, I have been able to continue with my writing practice. Writing daily on my journals have allowed me to keep balance in my life. I came across this feature story, Writing to Heal that encourages writing about the turbulent times in our lives. Some journal writers lament that their journals have become places where they rant. Meet Dr. James W. Pennebaker, who has spent 20 years encouraging people to rant. Pennebaker says ““When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health, They go to the doctor less. They have changes …

How Writing Affects the Brain

I first saw this infographic as a reblog on Suzanne Joshi’s blog, Musings on Life and Experience. I knew I wanted to feature the infographic in my blog and surfed the web for information on who created the it, but all I found were several blogs that featured the same infographic, and none of the blogs gave credit to the creator. So, I am posting this infographic with the hope that the information it contains are true… it’s so interesting and puts a framework on the writing process…explains how writers can influence others…why writers should avoid using cliches…and why writing is similar to meditation. You’ll have to press Ctrl and the + sign on your keyboard to magnify the graphic.  Reposted from Lifehack

Writing from a Different Perspective

Literally writing from a different perspective can add color to our writing, says Jill Jepson: “Writing in a physical position that is unusual for us – and not quite as cozy as our normal posture – can help spur us into a crazy wisdom state.” This crazy wisdom state, Jepson says, can be achieved by writing while standing up if we’re used to working at a desk or table. Or, write while sitting on the floor, At the very extreme, Jepson says you can write while lying down. Eric Maisel suggests taking short writing trips during days when we feel uninspired to write at our desk: “You can choose among your excellent haunts and decide which feels most congenial at the moment. By all means maintain a primary writing place; then add alternates.”  Photo credit:TheBrassGlass via Morguefile

Writing Prompts from Everywhere

Writing prompts can come from everywhere – they can even come from your own writing! Diana Wallace Peach, who has several books to her credit and blogs at Myths of the Mirror wrote a brand new story by retelling another story she wrote earlier. The second time around, she told it from the perspective of a different character. Taking her cue from an online site that offers lessons for writers, Diana writes about the challenge to “Retell the 500 word piece from last week using a fresh perspective. If you wrote about the person with the narrator as observer, write about it from the perspective of the observed person. If you wrote in the third person, change to first person. In other words, shift whatever you did 180º . ” Jill Jepson, author of Writing as a Sacred Path suggests that writers do a “360.” Jepson says that doing a “360 is an easy, fun, and fascinating exercise that can give your writing new depth and vision. It begins with a single scene. To do a 360, rewrite the scene from …