Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Love Being Over 40 (Okay, way over)

Would you like to be twenty again?  Seventeen?  Not me.  I can remember being that young and thinking how awful it must be to be old.  Old meant 40 then.  But the truth seems to be that new gifts come with the years and I don't mind being older.  All those insecurities my younger self struggled with--would someone love me, was I pretty enough, would I be successful, was I good enough, would I have enough--those aren't issues for my older self.  I remember when seeing a single black hair on a female friend's face or knee and thinking how horrible, that I would never let myself get that way.  I'm that way and beyond and I don't care.  I go out without make up, go to the gym with bedhead hair and I never wonder if people are looking at me.

Growing older means embracing imperfection. I have wrinkles and in places my skin just doesn't fit right.  Not a pretty sight. But to me it's better than an acquaintance I saw recently who seems to be fighting the aging process.  Botoxed and fillered to the point she looks plastic.

But it's all a surprise to me, that I'm loving being the age I am.  My mom used to say that getting older was horrible. Not so far, but I know part of my positive view is that I have good health.  I working harder at that too. I want to enjoy the heck out of whatever years I have left and that means being healthy.  So my money's going to prevention and my time to keeping fit and eating right.

Part of being happy with getting older is attitude.  Not just the getting older is better than the alternative kind of thinking.  But true gratitude.
Having been a people pleaser, I'm grateful that now I'm okay with being myself, spending time alone and not going to dinner with people I don't want to go with.  I'm grateful I'm not spending time giving talks that scare me to death because I need to do it for my career.  And I'm especially glad I no longer wonder if the good looking guy I met wants to go out or commit.  I don't worry about a date for Saturday night and I don't have to wear any more bridesmaid dresses.  I don't bake for hours on the beach nor do I get spray tanned.  I don't take a bad haircut seriously anymore.

I'm just getting started.

Monday, October 11, 2010


October 11, 2010

The weather in Houston is gorgeous.  So perfect I want to stay outside, smelling green and surrounded by nature, as if I have all the time in the world.  No deadlines, no responsibilities, no tasks.  I wonder how long it would take before the lack of demands began to feel burdensome, before I grew restless?  Finding the exact right balance of structured time activity and unstructured time?  Do others do this easily?

Competition motivates some people to do their best but for me I function best without the pressure. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I write for myself, to create the book I want to write, not the book that an agent will decide to represent.  Focusing on an agent's acceptance creates strife, not what I want in my writing time.  Writing is not my work but my passion.  And I fully respect that it is others' work and that is a different story.

I love creating the characters and playing with a plotline.  And sometimes I need a break from that.  If I write like I have very little time, then it becomes a push.  So I write like I have all the time in the world.  I do, afterall.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New Priorities

It is a wonderful few days when you've accomplished goals you set for yourself.  I'm doing the edits for the nonfiction book Melissa Cook and I are writing, and I'm editing the second fiction book I wrote.  I've lost the weight I wanted to lose and toned up. With that came more attention to the clothes I wear.  My dress reflects my identity again.  I like dressing just a bit differently, putting things together in ways that aren't standard.  And I adore vintage looks.

 I've gotten fit and lowered my cholesteral.  Celebration time!

Now it's time for new priorities.  What do I want to do?  Write another book?  I do and will, but this time it will be without the obessiveness I had for the first three.  I know I can do it and now I've an idea of how to do it better than I did before I wrote the first one.  I'm not spending whole days writing.  That takes the fun out of it.  And I'd gain back the weight I've lost.

I want to add yoga into my fitness routine.  That's one priority. Another is to enjoy an abundance of time.  I always feel so rushed, so many things I want to do.  And that perception changes my day.  There is a difference to just viewing the day as an abundance of time--it's calmer and what you are doing is more fully experienced.

I want to find a writer's group, a critique group that I can attend in person.  And make sending out queries more of priority.  I love to write but I don't try to sell it. That doesn't work at all.

That's enough for now.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Penguin Accepting Unsolicited Manuscripts

For three months Penguin Books (United Kingdom) is accepting unsolicited manuscripts from writers. The three month period will last until the end of October 2010. If they like your book, they will publish it regardless of where you live.
 Email your synopsis and brief introductory note to before the end of October 2010.  
Go to the website for details, but here is a brief synopsis.  Thanks to Rick at IWW for this.
“We ask that email submissions comprise a brief covering note and synopsis andnot a full manuscripts. Please do not send attachments, please write out your cover note and synopsis in the body of the email. We remain unable to accept hard copy submissions and will not return or be responsible for the safety of any that we do receive, so please do not send any original or hard copy manuscripts to us. We will not contact you with feedback on your submission and will only enter into email correspondence with you if an editor within Penguin is keen to progress your idea.”
Good luck with your submissons!  I'm off to email mine.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Achieving Goals

August 8, 2010

In May I decided I'd had enough of being out of shape, having the arteries of a 66 year old woman, and none of my clothes fitting.  I finally set my mind to do something about it and made it a priority.  I am now back in my clothes, 15 pounds lighter and much more muscular.  My cholesteral, previously 328 is now normal.  All in less than three months after whining for three years about how hard it is to write and stay fit.

My writing did suffer.  I wrote two novels in a little over a year and now my writing is much slower. But life is better.

So what now?  Setting goals seems to work for me.  I am determined to send out queries for Deceptions, keep my fitness level and maybe improve it, run a 5K in September, and start another book.

But more than that, I want to be kinder to this world.  Each week I want to do something, no matter how small, to make the world a better place.  So I'm going to focus on that for a while, until it's part of my routine.  First I'll need to be more mindful of opportunities. Routine daily actions like recycling count. But I can only count it once for the week.

I'm also ready to have more experiences.  I have so many blessings and I don't need any more material things.  I need to sell or give away some of what I have.  But as the New York Times pointed out today, happiness lie in relationships and experiences.  I can have more of both if I spend less, work less.  That's where I'm headed.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Writing From Within

Constantina Boudouvas, a wonderfully grounded friend and a gifted therapist, and I are starting a group for writers--Writing From Within.   On February 11 and 12 we  will offer our first writers' retreat, Mindfulness for Writers.  It will be an experiential workshop and the sharing of writing will be optional.  Critiques will not be given as the focus is getting the words on the page and digging deep for inspiration and awareness through mindfulness.

Our location will offer a peaceful, forested setting including trails and a labyrinth for mindfulness walks.  Attendance will be limited to a small group.

Writing is a solitary activity.  And the heart of writing is to get to guts of life, put the reader inside your characters and let the reader walk down the streets of the location you've chosen.  You want to write the glint of light hitting seashells (a play on Chekov's quotation) not moonshine.  This writing comes from awareness and knowing without boundaries.  Being fully prsent for life.  Mindfulness is an avenue to get there.

Brochures will be available soon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bitten Deep by Sariah Choucair

April 27, 2010

The following blog captured the Sirenland experience so beautifully.  I'm posting it here with the permission of the author, a very talented writer. Please check out her blog at

Bitten Deep

A last attempt: the language is a dialect called metaphor.
These images go unglossed: hair, glacier, flashlight.
When I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time.
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever.
I could say: those mountains have a meaning
but further than that I could not say.
To do something very common, in my own way.
-Excerpt from “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning” by Adrienne Rich
What can I say about Positano? Should I tell you about the way the sky melds with the sea, a steel dome enclosing pastel homes stacked like pastry boxes and the turquoise water that rolls over black sand beaches? Perhaps you’d rather hear about watching the tide come in on my last night there, or how the waiters moved in crisp white jackets among jewel-like lemon trees in the dining room draped with ivy? I could inadequately describe steamed milk and perfect coffee served from silver pitchers or the endless glasses of golden prosecco passed by gentlemen with tender eyes, like Roberto.
If I was ambitious I could tell you about the people, my fellow writers and, now, friends. I could start with the children, pure treasures wrapped in small packages named Jacob and Lucy, who told me (rightly) “you really must try the vanilla gelato” and who, when one evening became so wonderful I thought my heart would break, allowed me to sit with them, listen to their dreams of being writers, designers, and a “pilot who writes pilots,” and give them scenarios to test their acting chops. 
I could move on, then, to the adults who imprinted themselves in my heart like handprints in soft plaster, the women and men who would humor my overwrought simile because they experienced it, too. And it is here your narrator finds herself, at last, without words because they were so wonderful, they were so kind, they were so fantastic.
Wise writers tell you to write about things from a distance. Wise writers tell you to avoid writing about topics previously covered by John Steinbeck. I am not wise.
I don’t want distance from Sirenland. I want to hold it in my hands, a diorama, a silver snowglobe that I can shake and then peek through a crack in the silver dome to remember, perfectly, what it was to be there. I will conjure rigorous mornings spent with writers I admired; an afternoon spent writing and sipping espresso on a cast iron deck over the Mediterranean; late night chats and farewell dance parties; the realization of the friendship of a lifetime; the life-changing realization that, in the end, there is always the work and that this work of putting words on a page is mine.
I don’t have a silver snowglobe, but I do have a perfectly smooth wishing stone picked from the beach by an amazing teacher. This morning I roll the stone between my palms, fight sleep, and write. 
- – - – - - - – -
The title refers to this famous quote from Steinbeck’s essay:  “Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Staying in one place for a week has definite advantages over hopping from place to place.  I know the rhythm of this city, have a favorite restaurant, and the days are easy, not rushed.  Having time that isn't packed to overflowing with tasks or even want-tos is so refreshing.

Barcelona is a city for walking.  My feet  have covered miles of sidewalk and going somewhere beats the treadmill by far.  Bicycles are everywhere and the government supplies bicycle stands with bikes to take from one place to another (they encourage use for a half hour at at time) and a biking path on the road.  The crosswalks have a bicycle light as well as a pedestrian light.   Lunch is around 2 and dinner at 8 or after and they eat for hours.  Waiters don't bring the check until you ask for it.  To do otherwise would be considered rude. There are very few fast food restaurants:  I've seen one Burger King and one McDonald's.  I've not seen a single convenience store offering sodas, candy, and chips though there are small groceries with fresh veggies and fruits.  I don't think they snack.

And you see very few overweight people.  Except in the hotel.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Only one day left.

I've fallen down the rabbit hole to a land of beauty, good food, wine, and constant talk of writing, learning about writing. The workshops have been wonderful and for the first time in my life I spent three and a quarter hours eating lunch.  I'm full, nourished, tended to and I'm ready to write.

I'll always have Positano.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

When Dreams Come True

A few weeks ago I heard that a publishing company would offer a contract for a nonfiction book I wrote with coauthor Melissa Cook.  A few months ago I learned I had been accepted at Sirenland, a compeititive writers conference in Positano, Italy.  You would think I would jump up and down for joy.

I had the same reaction for both events, though stronger for the book contract.  I wasn't happy at all. In fact, sad and scared would be more accuratem after I recovered from the shock.  I was comfortable with my view of myself as someone who wrote hopefully but would never be published.  I believed I would never really be a writer.  It was a dream and an inconcieveable reality. Having a contract meant all the work involved in completing the book. Could I actually do it?  What if I couldn't?  What if in half the pages necessary I'd said all I had to say?

Weeks later I am esctatic.  Now I am over the top with excitement. I will be published.  I did it.  How funny that having dreams come true scares the heck out of me.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Elephants in the Closet

I am currently working on my second nonfiction book with a psychologist from North Carolina, Dr. Stephanie Wright.  The book is an effort to help survivors of domestic violence and hopefully have an impact on preventing family violence.  Part of the book includes the views and opinons of the general public about the issue.  We need more questionnaires completed.  If you are willing to help, the questionnaire is at  Thanks so very much.

The Gift of Validation

I learned last week that the book I am writing with Melissa Cook will be published in the Fall of 2011.  I am so excited!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Living with Intention

Dani Shapiro's book Devotion is about her journey to create a life that she wanted to live, to find answers about spirituality that made sense to her.  She paid attention to what was important to her and began living purposefully, spending her time according to those values. 

The idea is not a new one, though the words to express it may change.  Living your priorities, act don't react, living mindfully, living consciously, purposeful living, living with intention, self actualization,  the value driven life--all the same idea. 

Beyond survival, and there are too many people who don't have the luxury of deciding how they want to live, life offers so many distractions.  We work, buy, set up schedules for ourselves, make commitments,  establish a lifestyle and maybe dream about our next vacation.  Yet despite our knowledge of our limited time, many of us don't live.

I'm good at goal setting.  I decide to do something, I usually do it.  But accomplishing tasks is different from being different, living differently, living the way you want to live versus doing what you want to do.  I'm not so good at that.

Sometimes living intentionally means giving up a part of your life you love to have time or the space  for a commitment you want more.  The giving up must often come first and without certainty that the new addition will be as rewarding.  Often it means you can't go back.  That's not an easy choice to make.

So we watch television, we plan for retirement, we live half aware because the choices are too scary and it's easier to stay with what we know than to risk the unknown.

Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living.  The too closely examined life with no action may not be living.  We each make our choices and find our own answers and for right now I'm okay with knowing I'm making a choice, even if it might be to go slowly down a new path so there's an option to make a few turns back if I want.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Looking at the White-Hot Center of Herself

In her memoir Devotion, Dani Shapiro describes entering what Jung called the “afternoon of life,” a time to seek answers and meaning.  When her son asks her “What is sin?” Dani begins a journey to “do better,” to answer her son’s, and her own, spiritual questions with examined knowledge.

Shapiro’s life is ridden with anxiety.  The losses in her life have hit unexpectedly, in unpredictable ways, stripping her of the comfort of denial and creating a keen awareness of what might happen at any moment.  A constant hyper alert stance and a wound-up nature both exhausts her and robs her of sleep.  There are few times when she’s not anticipating crisis.

A Japanese filmmaker once said artists must be willing to look at the white-hot center of themselves and not turn away. Shapiro doesn’t turn away. She faces what she fears, including resolving her relationship with her ultra critical mother and her infant son’s unusual life threatening illness, and with courage finds her own answers, put together in her own way.  Her teachers include a rabbi, a Buddhist and a yogi.

Shapiro’s path to finding her spiritual beliefs, may not answer your questions, and probably shouldn’t, but the combination of beliefs she examines make perfect sense for her, mirroring her life and her heritage from the generations before her.

Shapiro writes with what appears to be raw honesty, allowing readers to share her most intimate thoughts and by example inspiring similar growth in others. 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Creating Happiness: Learn Something New

For us who  are of baby boomer age, it is humbling to be a beginner at anything.  Playing guitar, writing, painting, speaking a new language--it doesn't matter.  The image of the successful gray-hair is to be wise and to have learned life's secrets.  So to keep that image we must stick to what we know or think we know.  The wonder of a child discovering new aspects of the world is not so appealing in someone whose face is wrinkled, though I'm not sure why.

Having a beginner's mind means always being willing to learn.  There is so much I want to learn I don't think I'll ever get to it all.  Thank goodness I've become quite adept at saying "I don't know how to do this" and "I'm a beginner."

Being a beginner is a relief in many ways.  Once I announce that I don't know, expectations of others are gone.  Not being the expert is freeing.  I'm tempted to not know anything at all about everything forever, but that wouldn't really work.

Learning something new brings a sense of growth and accomplishment.  As long as we're growing we're not just dying.

If you are working on your increasing your own happiness, try learning something new.  Maybe just something small everyday.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

You Are Invalidating When You Say...

Part of the job of parenting is to help your child develop a sense of who he or she is and an ability to trust their own internal experience.  This means they think for themselves and trust their own decisions instead of following the crowd of teenagers who seem to think it's a good idea to drive a hundred miles an hour down the freeway, racing friends in another car.  To help kids develop this strength and sense of self, parents validate their thoughts and feelings.  It means they tell their kids that what they think, feel, believe, and experiences is real, logical and understandable.  Yet parents are human and invalidating comments leak from their mouths, maybe even drenched in sarcasm.  Invalidation is to reject ignore, mock, judge, or diminish someone's feeling or thoughts.

Recognizing invalidating statements, words that tell your child that he doesn't think or feel in the right way and he must never listen to himself because of this failing, often fall into the following categories:

Trying to get the child to question himself.  What were you thinking is an example. In other words, you're an idiot.  Hardly builds the child's confidence in his decision making skills.

Ordering the child to feel differently.  Stop crying. Smile.  How can you be friends with...   In other words, don't feel the way you feel.

Debating:  That's not true.  How can you say that.  

Inducing guilt:  I tried to help you.  You are making everyone else miserable.   

Judging and Labeling:  You're such a baby.  You are too sensitive.  

Telling the child how he should feel:  You should be thrilled.  You should be grateful.

Defending the other person:  I'm sure you must have done something for him to react that way.  Maybe she was just having a bad day.

The first step is awareness.  Even and perhaps especially well-intentioned parents can be invalidating, because they don't want their childrent to be unhappy.  Facing suffering is a skill that must be learned.  You can't protect your child from suffering in life, so consider how to prepare them to best handle it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Validations for Valentines Day

One of the most important skills for parents is the ability to validate their children's thoughts and feelings.  Validation means recognizing that that another person's internal experience is true and has value even if we don't see it the same way.  For example, a child screams for candy, saying that he must have it or his day is ruined.  No adult would think that way.  In fact, the child probably sounds spoiled to most people. But feelings and thoughts aren't wrong to have.  Acting on them is a different story of course.

Validation means saying, without sarcasm, that you understand that he wants the candy desperately and believes his day will be ruined if he doesn't get it.  But you're not going to buy it.  You've just scored mega points on psychological parenting and helped your child develop his sense of self.

Validation is the way kids learn to trust their own internal thoughts and feelings.  When they are repeatedly invalidated they learn they don't know the right way to feel or think and turn to others instead of paying attention to their own internal guide.  This means a higher vulnerability to peer pressure and influence.

Validating doesn't mean you agree.  It just means you acknowledge their experience.  Like telling your best friend you understand why she hates her ex-husband's new bride even though you think the woman's pretty together.   Provided it's the truth.  Validation is always the truth.

For Valentine's Day, think of validations you'd give to those you love.  What is the truth about their personality, their infuence on your life.  That's a gratitude validation.  It's powerful.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Collecting Memories

Positive Psychology researchers say one of the strategies for increasing your overall level of happiness is to collect positive memories. The brain tends to naturally remember negative events more than positive ones so some effort is required to register the positive events in your pleasure bank. How to do this? Collect pictures or momentos and look through them. Savor the experiences when you are having them. Focus on every smell, touch, view, feeling. Tell others about your experience, share it. That's part of savoring it. Experiencing positive feelings is part of our resilency, a time for building our survival skills, extending our awareness, much like lion cubs play fighting. We are able to take in more information when having positive feelings and have a heightened ability to accept new experiences. Some say it's evolution at work. For survival, the mind had to narrow and focus during times of crisis. When safe, the mind could relax. But some stay stuck in crisis mode, for lots of reasons. If that happens, rebuilding time is lost. So play, chatting with your friends and having fun is critical to survival. I knew it all along.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Establishing An Author's Platform

Making a Literary Life
      For today's writer there is a push to establish a platform or a way to actively partner with the publisher in marketing the book to be published.  The usual advice is to get as many followers as possible on Twitter and Facebook and to establish a blog that has a wide following.  Joining Shelfari and Goodreads is also a way to build an audience of readers who hopefully want to buy your book.  Speaking to groups and offering workshops relevant to the book are also recommended.

     I asked Facebook members and the participants at Internet Writing Workshop and the Bookshed  about ways they knew to establish an author's platform. Lots of wonderful ideas were offered.  And there was lots of discussion about what happens when the author successfully builds his own audience.  Interesting thoughts about people like Stephen King and Dan Brown. What if they self published?

     Carolyn See's book offers the best written advice I have found.  Creative and original, her ideas take some guts to do, but that's the way to glory, at least that's what I've heard.  If you read it I'd be interested in what you think.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Only Four Choices to All Life's Issues

Something Bothering You? Only Four Things You Can Do
Marsha Linehan, Ph.D.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy, developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., is a research-based therapy full of useful psychological facts. One energy saving realization is that no matter what's going on, there are only four things you can do. I love the simplicity of that. First, you can solve the problem. Come up with a solution. Brainstorm all the possibilities you can. Then challenge those solutions. What could happen to make them ineffective. Then implement the solution that fits you best, with a plan to deal with the roadblocks that are predictable. Second, you can change your perception of the problem. If you can't get rid of the banana trees in your yard, then learn to love those banana trees. Third, you can radically accept what is going on. This means completely accepting the way things are. You don't have to agree, or like what is happening, but you fully accept it. This is a lot like que sera, sera and letting go of what you can't control. Fourth, you can stay miserable.

Your choice.


Athletics is one of the most competitive, achievement-oriented arenas we have. Every performance is a win-lose with immediate feedback. Listen to the interviews with the contestants. Even when they are disappointed with the results, they talk about what they've learned and how they will do better next time. You don't hear them saying what losers they are. There is a reason cheerleaders, from high school to professional squads, chant encouraging words. If "You'll never make, might as well give up now" helped their team win the game, for sure that's what you would hear them say. That's not what happens. Words affect your performance, your mood, your life. Try saying "I'm so depressed" all day long or "I can't do anything right." Watch what happens. You don't even have to believe it and it will change your action and mood. Do it your entire life and you are living those words. If you want to live your best life, cheerlead yourself. Encourage yourself, learn from your mistakes and problem solve. Remember to tell yourself it's okay to make mistakes, when you've just made one. Stop the verbal trashing and watch what happens.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Happiness Factor

January 9, 2010

In the beginning (hmm that sounds familiar) psychology focused on understanding all emotions, not just those related to pathology. The War changed all that. Scientists needed to address post-traumatic stress disorder, understand how to treat it, in order to help veterans suffering flashbacks and depression from their experiences in battle. Psychologists developed a deep understanding of difficult emotions: anxiety, anger, depression. Little attention was paid to contentment, happiness, pleasure, and satisfaction.
Is that part of how cynical became the preferred emotional accessory? Smiling, happy people viewed as dumb, unsophisticated while the brooding skeptic, weary of the world’s offerings, was the intellectual, the realist?
Maybe that’s changing. Psychology has gradually returned to understanding the importance of contentment and happiness. Thank goodness. If emotions are information that we need to live our lives, leaving out the positive surely handicaps us. Indeed it does.
Turns out positive emotions play a critical role in our emotional health. When we’re content, that’s when we build resilency. We bank the positive for use when we need it. It also allows us to think in a broader way, more open to information. We can better build relationships during our happy times.
Happy people, it turns out, tend to be more intelligent and accomplished, not less. They are also realistic in their assessments of the world. Happiness over the long term is not about the joy of the moment, but about building a life with meaning. Meditation, acts of service, relationships are all building blocks.
Though we all have spontaneous moments of happiness, the foundation of a happy life is the result of effort and work. Some people are biologically predisposed to have a higher happiness set point than others and less work will be required to maintain a happy view. Others may have to work to elevate their set point, but it can be done.
Recovering from depression does not necessarily mean happiness. Working on adding meaning to your life may be necessary to prevent relapse and to build the life you want. Understanding happiness can be helpful to those who suffer from depression as well as the person who simply wants to improve their life. Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Projectis one example of research-based information hitting the general market.
Step One in elevating your happiness set point is to develop an attitude of gratitude. Practice each day listing three events or people you are grateful for in your life. Be as specific as possible. Write them down, track your progress for a couple of months. Thinking of these each night before you go to bed can add significantly to your happiness quotient.

If you are interested in more of the steps to happiness recommended by researchers in positive psychology, try this free ebook: