Category Archives: Tidbits

Sustenance for writerly souls … aka, references galore


I have been re-reading Hortense Calisher‘s first novel, False Entry. Some Big Critic whose name eludes me noted that while some authors  are “writer’s writers” Calisher is a writer’s writer’s writer. I think the critic was trying to say, “she’s not easy to read.” Humph. I’m finding beautiful sentences everywhere — after two hundred pages the book is a-flutter with stickies. My current favorite: “It was the shabby-sweet odor of the South that already I was smelling, the air of a people who had to put too much sugar on their lives.”

I am juiced up with good writing, good ideas, and good ideas about writing — I have the happy tickle in my belly of having found a *perfect* gift for a dear friend.

Open the cedar chest, or the under-bed storage box from Target, shake the mustiness from your favorite afghan, warm some apple cider, snuggle up and nibble on these ideas. These come via my writer friend Gigi Vernon (whose short story “Show Stopper” has been chosen for inclusion in the Mystery Writers of America anthology!):


hot apple cider  (Photo credit: digiyesica)

1. On the daily rituals of creative minds, from The Guardian
2. By Sarah Gerard, on keeping a notebook  from The Paris Review

I’m jumping …


… into a new part of the writing ocean: I’m offering a workshop with my writerly friend and colleague, Jenny Zia of the Center for Creative Change. We’re focusing on process, sustaining a writing practice, and getting to know one’s writing self. I’m tickled about facilitating the program in the community meeting space in the Lyric Theater’s Community Arts Information Office — we’ll go to local cafes and stores for some of our writing exercises.

Contact us at for more info; some details below.

Writing for the joy of it

Have you always wanted to write but don’t know how to start or sustain your practice?

This workshop provides a series of structured exercises that honor the writing process, support discovery of your writer’s voice, and exploration and development of your stories.

Instructors Jenny Zia and Lesley Howard ground their facilitation in their own combined six-plus decades of daily writing practice, inspired by the philosophies of Julia Cameron, Natalie Goldberg, Anne Lamott and Priscilla Long, among others.

Jenny Zia, MA, MSW, has shared writing prompts and journal practices with a variety of individuals and groups. Lesley Howard is a local freelance writer, blogger, and one of the founding members of the New River Valley Voices juried reading program. Both are members of a long-standing writing group.

When and Where?

Jump Start: Saturday, Sept. 7, 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM

Momentum-Sustaining Sessions: Tuesdays, Sept. 17, Oct. 1, and Oct. 15, 6:30 – 8 :30 PM

The End is the Beginning Closing Session: Saturday, Oct. 26, 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM

$100 for all sessions; includes muse-nourishing snacks and beverages.

All sessions will be held at the Community Arts Information Office in downtown Blacksburg, VA; we will take field trips to local cafes for some of our exercises.

Contact us at if you need additional information or to register.

Sharing others’ good words and mojo

Brendan Constantine, thank you: this blog post  says it better than I could have, and echoes my heroine Priscilla Long’s advice: a large part of creativity is production, finished pieces. Can’t make a pie if we spend all our time perfecting the crust. Fling some berries-n-sugar together, spoon ’em in that misshapen piece of dough, cook that baby in the oven and then see if it’s any good.

The Porches

The Porches (Photo credit: orange cracker)

I’m writing at the Porches in Norwood, VA this week: a tornado alit here last week, folding a metal roof back like so much origami paper and felling a 26,000 pound tree on the local (historic structure) church. The retreat house itself: untouched. The California-based writer in residence during the tornado: went back to her third floor room when she saw the 50-foot-high maple trees in the front yard  bending to kiss the earth. Those of us who can imagine three stories off the ground is a good place to be in wind like that: creative to the max.

Whatever the tornado of your life is right now: get back to your room and do your creative thing. That mojo will keep you safe-n-sane.

Shameless self-promotion …




pencils found.  ransom sought.

pencils found. ransom sought. (Photo credit: postbear)


Jennifer Simpson‘s creative writing project blog, I Write Because includes my piece today. Thank you Jennifer!




Neat, short writing opportunity: I Write Because …


Albuquerque (Photo credit: jared)

Fellow writers: check out this submission opportunity, offered by Jennifer Simpson of Albuquerque, NM (she’s also in charge of DimeStories):

The I Write Because Project


Regardless of whether or not you opt to take a stab at submitting, try the exercise of a ten-minute write wherein every sentence begins with the phrase, “I write because … ”

It will show you some hitherto unknown parts of yourself…

Val’s Strategies vis-a-vis Social Media

English: Infographic on how Social Media are b...

English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t posted *all summer* — and it didn’t occur to me until I read this great post by my writer colleague Val Brooks that I realized I should have given y’all a heads-up: “I’m taking a time out to frolic offline in the summer’s sunshine, and then a derecho will leave me without power for the better part of a week and then I’ll be traveling and traveling more and paying bills late and unable to put fingers to keyboard.”

I’ll return to more regular posting within a couple of weeks, but her suggestions are too good to delay passing them on. I particularly like Part III, where she gets down to tangible suggestions, but Parts I & II set the stage.

I know, I know, I’m an agnostic …

The version of the flaming chalice currently u...

Unitarian Universalist Flaming Chalice Image via Wikipedia

… but these words, shared by the Blacksburg Unitarian Universalist Church’s interim minister Rev. Alex Richardson, moved me enough to want to share them, as I believe one of the ways we save ourselves from small personal hells is through writing. These words are all a prelude, of sorts, to the longer post I’m working on.

This is from a sermon, We Are All About Saving Souls by the Rev. Suzanne Meyer.

“… There are many kinds of private hells in which living men and women dwell every day. These are small personal hells of meaninglessness, banality, and loneliness. Hells of shame, hells of guilt, hells of loss, hells of failure. There are as many kinds of these small hells as there are people who live in them. And from some of those hells, we, as a church, can and do provide a kind of salvation, a release, or, at the very least, a respite. We are in the business of saving souls from those kinds of small individual hells of despair and disappointment that drive people into exile and isolation, separated from community as well as from their own essential goodness.

“… We are saved, at last, by the fellowship of people no better or worse off than we are. What liberates us from those tiny hells in which we dwell all alone is as common as a handshake, as ordinary as hearing your name spoken by another, as simple as being asked to share your thoughts.

“We are one another’s salvation.”

When I looked for a link to Rev. Meyer, I learned that she passed away in 2010. An online eulogy for her includes this George Bernard Shaw quote as a summary of her outlook:

English: Anglo-Irish playwright George Bernard...

George Bernard Shaw, Image via Wikipedia

“This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

It’s possible that I’m going to give up my efforts at original creative writing in favor of readingreadingreading, finding who’s said it better and more accurately before me and then just (re)tweeting those words like mad. Though I suspect that’s not quite sufficient purpose for the “splendid torch” of my life ….