writing

The Half-Assed Holiday Writing Challenge

The holiday season has arrived once again, and sure, that can be all-consuming. But that doesn’t mean you can’t spend a little time writing.

And by a little, I mean a very little.

Because we can’t do all the things all the time, but we CAN do some of the things some of the time. Which brings us to . . .

The First Annual Half-Assed Holiday Writing Challenge!

Yes, you read that right. This challenge is one part writing, one part community, and two (or more) (perhaps many more) (oh god is it January yet?!) parts vodka-spiked eggnog and matzah crackers for breakfast.

What it’s all about:

Writing. We love it. We need it. We don’t always have time for it. Especially during the winter holidays.

But the Half-Assed Holiday Writing Challenge? We can manage that (probably) (maybe) (more vodka-spiked eggnog, please).

Here’s how it works: I’ve provided twenty six intriguing prompts to spark your poetry/fiction/journaling/pick-your-favorite-writing-flavor.

You pick ten of those.

Yep. Just ten.

And you write on those, one at a time, over the course of December, as you are able.

Because we can’t do all the things all the time, but we can do some of the things some of the time, and maybe some of those things can involve a smidge of writing.

Are you in? First, enter your email for some friendly reminders and only slightly sarcastic encouragement:

Then post this graphic with the hashtag #sheofthewildwrites on your favorite social media platform:

We start December 1st (I’ll shoot ya another email then, just to help rev your writerly engines).

And! If you want some more fun and support, come join our free She of the Wild creativity circle on ye olde Facebookes. We have a great introverted time not talking to each other very much.

See you in December!

My Favorite Writing Podcasts

I adore podcasts. Making them, and listening to them. Any time I'm in the car, or cleaning the house, or washing the dishes, or going for a walk, or running on the treadmill, you can bet that I'm absorbing some podcast at the same time.

I tend to listen to mostly creativity podcasts and business podcasts, as well as a couple of spirituality podcasts. And lately, every time I listen to the podcasts about creativity, I think about how I need to help boost the signal on this wonderful (free!) resources.

So here I am, doing just that. Keep reading if you want to add some seriously awesome, inspirational, and instructive podcasts to your life.

1. I Should Be Writing

I think Mur Lafferty's I Should Be Writing is the first podcast I ever listened to. It was back in 2005 (wow, how is that over 10 years ago? sheesh), and I was a former Jersey girl just moved to the Rocky Mountains to be the sole employee on a ranch that served as an animal sanctuary, in the middle of nowhere.

I had a lot of work to do, and I did 99% of it alone, and much of it was physical labor that left my mind unoccupied.

So I occupied it with podcasts. Primarily, I Should Be Writing.

Mur started ISBW as a way to help keep herself on track with her own writing, which she struggled for consistency in (hence the title). She has read her own books aloud on the show (hello, Heaven series, I remember you!) but mostly it is a podcast that is perfect for beginning writers. Mur shares great tips and pieces of advice for writers, and also discusses her own personal struggles, successes, and more. I love the sense of companionship this podcast brings me. Even after listening to it for over 10 years (dear god that makes me feel old), I still get so much out of it.

Listen here.

2. Ditch Diggers

Ditch Diggers is the meaner, drunker, and more technical version of ISBW. This is run by Mur Lafferty again, as well as her intrepid cohost, Matt F*cking Wallace (I am not kidding). While ISBW is intended for new writers that need encouragement, Ditch Diggers is created for seasoned writers that need to know about the business of writing -- about keeping on digging those ditches (it's a metaphor, okay).

It's crass, it's hilarious, it's fun to listen to, and most of all it's filled with really important conversations about writing and making money off of it that not too many people are having -- and we need to have those conversations. And they host great interviews with writer pros that are not to be missed.

Mur and Matt also field listener questions (they answered one of mine last year, and it literally made me so fangirlishly happy), so be sure to tweet at or email them if you have something you'd like them to discuss.

Listen here.

3. The Couragemakers Podcast

This podcast from Meg of That Hummingbird Life is not solely about writing. It's about making, doing, and being in any and all ways, and provides sparkly, kind kicks in the pants. We all know that creating, writing, and making is not always easy, and definitely not for the faint of heart. It can be hard, and it can be scary.

Meg is here to help you keep on going and keep believing in yourself and your work. In her words, it will help you make the world a better place. Tune in for real talk, encouragement, and interviews with some fantastic guests. It is guaranteed to leave you feeling warm, fuzzy, and inspired.

Listen here.

4. Smart B*tches, Trashy Books

I listen to the Smart B*tches for fun. And they are fun. I mean, isn't the name of their podcast and site just fun? ALL HAIL THE B*TCHES.

Seriously, though, this is a great podcast all about the romance genre. Not necessarily writing it, although they certainly talk about that sometimes, and always interview authors. Instead, it is generally geared for romance readers. On the podcast as well as the SBTB website you can find reviews, recommendations, and a ton of great interviews.

Okay, I don't listen to this podcast just for fun. I also listen to it because it keeps me going when I feel like my own writing career will never "get there," or I feel like romance might not actually be real art (whatever that means), or whatever. When I need my sass cup filled up, I go to the Smart B*tches. They have never failed me yet.

Listen here.

Okay I've told you mine, now you tell me yours -- what are some of your favorite writing/creativity/bookish podcasts?

And! Did you know that there's a She of the Wild podcast? There is! Listen in here.

Join Our April 2018 Daily Writing Challenge

Want to work on developing your daily writing habit? Come join our free daily writing challenge, because forming new creative habits is more fun when done with a community of like-minded writers and artists.

You are invited to join our April 2018 daily writing challenge, hosted on Instagram.

Daily, use the prompt of the day to inspire and fuel your writing practice. Maybe the prompt will be a warmup, or help you through a sticky spot in your novel, or the spark for a new poem.

It doesn't matter, and whatever you choose to write is great. The point is just to write, and then keep writing, everyday.

If you'd like to join in on the communal aspect of the writing challenge on social media, be sure to tag your related posts with #sheofthewildwrites.

And if you are looking to take it a step further and do this challenge with a writing, we've got you covered there, too -- come join our free writing community on Facebook.

Are you ready? We start tomorrow, April 1st!

Join Our January 2018 Daily Writing Challenge

It's the new year, and we all have creative goals that we're planning on crushing. So let's do it together, and make it more fun!

You are invited to join our January 2018 daily writing challenge, hosted on Instagram.

Daily, use the prompt of the day to inspire and fuel your writing practice. Maybe the prompt will be a warmup, or help you through a sticky spot in your novel, or the spark for a new poem.

It doesn't matter, and whatever you choose to right is great. The point is just to write, and then keep writing, everyday.

If you'd like to join in on the communal aspect of the writing challenge on social media, be sure to tag your related posts with #sheofthewildwrites.

And if you are looking to take it a step further and do this challenge with a writing, we've got you covered there, too -- come join our free writing community on Facebook.

Are you ready? We start tomorrow!

Words are Like Water

Words are like water, washing

and washing us with their truth --

or otherwise drowning

us if we won't allow it, healing turned

to windswept tumult to get our

ever-wandering attention. They are

everywhere, reach everywhere, patient

enough to hollow out caverns

in the deep, strong enough to 

tumble down the thin and ruinous

beliefs we clutch the closest. In

time, with ruthless endurance,

everything they touch transforms.

 

"A story is like water / that you heat for your bath. / It takes messages between the fire / and your skin. It lets them meet, / and it cleans you! / . . . Water, stories, the body, / all the things we do, are mediums / that hide and show what's hidden. / Study them, / and enjoy this being washed / with a secret we sometimes know, / and then not."

- from The Essential Rumi

 

* This post contains an affiliate link. I only endorse products I truly love. Thank you for support indie authors + artists!

The Altars I Didn't Mean to Leave Behind

I couldn't tell you how many times I sat in this cafe, books and headphones and words strewn across its population of worn tables. How many times have I taken refuge within these brick walls, been nourished by the scent of baking pies blossoming from the kitchen, sipping coffee and writing and writing and writing?

I couldn't count. I couldn't possibly.

I've lived in this mountain-circled valley for, god, over ten years now. I was not born here, did not grow here. How can I be old enough to have ten years in any new place?

I am old enough (oh god) and I have passed so much time in this coffee shop, lived much. I even worked here for a time, slinging espresso not very confidently. I even hung my art here for a time. How this place has held me.

And after all this time, all this life spent here, held here, it has become something of a an involuntary, everyday altar that I didn't mean to leave but left nonetheless. A measuring stick, a marker stone against which I can press my soul and feel all the past iterations of myself and know with the deep knowing just how very far I've come.

When I come here, I can't help but remember.

When I come here, I can't help but feel grateful.

When I come here, I can't help but feel a bit sad over the passing of time even while I am so, so glad to be more healthy and more whole than I was before, than I have perhaps ever been.

I come to this cafe, and sip its coffee and nibble on pie, and I breathe in, wide and deep, and know, and am, and am glad.

Me, 9 years ago.

Me, 9 years ago.

I Want to Write a Poem Just for You

The idea first came as one of showing up in process. A table at our local weekly summer crafts market, selling art and custom poems hand-typed on the spot on a vintage typewriter. A chance happening for market shoppers to be deeply, magically met on their Saturday morning meanderings.

And then I thought -- why not offer this to my online community? Because I believe it will be even more beautifully received when offered right to you, my moon-loving, word-scribbling, intuition-diving fellow humans.

Basically, I want to write a poem for you -- just for you.

A custom, one-of-a-kind, intimate, intuitive gift of love and support from you to you (with me as the middle woman).

➳ So here's how it works: in the "notes to seller" section, share with me a few words/themes/ideas/images that you'd like me to incorporate into a poem for you. Or, if you'd like even more of an adventure, you don't have to share anything with me, but simply trust my intuition and God/fate/[insert your favorite divine guiding principle here] to write the words you need to hear.

➳ You'll received your poem typed via a vintage typewriter on 8.5 x 11" (letter size) paper 100% cotton paper in your choice of ivory or white. Poems are guaranteed to be at least 10 lines long, but may be far longer, depending on your prompts and where the poem takes us.

I can also create a custom poem as a gift for a loved one. In fact, these make deeply powerful and personal presents.

Poems normally take 1-2 weeks to write, and then will be shipped First Class (arrives within 5 days). For speedier shipping, check out the Priority (arrives in 2-3 days) and Express (arrives in 24-48 hours) shipping upgrades. All packages come with tracking numbers.

To view a free sample of Night Cycles, my poetry collection, and get a sense of my writing, please head over HERE.

☽ It would truly be my honor to craft a poem for you and yours! ☾

You in? Order yours HERE!

You NEED To Pursue Your Creative Goals + Dreams

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." - Marianne Williamson


I've been seeing a similar flavor of creative insecurity has been coming up [again] lately in my creative world, both for myself and for others, such as my Soul Coaching writers and some She of the Wild community members. It's the whole, "Who am I to write/dance/paint/publish/think that other people want to take in my creative work?" thang.

Maybe that sounds familiar? I know it's certainly an inner gremlin that rears its cranky little head for me regularly, especially when I'm in a time of growth, and that I need to work past again and again.

And it's okay that similar themes of resistance rise more than once in our creative lives. I think that life operates in a spiral more than along a straight line, and every time a challenge comes up afresh, we are offered new opportunities to growth more, know deeper, and integrate ourSelves more fully. This is not a bad thing! And in fact it's really quite a good thing, even while it's also kind of sort of really a pain in the butt.

If you've been in the creativity game a little while, you've likely run across the above words from Marianne Williamson as well. And maybe they feel a little trite to you right now, or a bit tired. But what if, just maybe, there's truth in them -- for you? For you now?

Because, as she says, this creativity thing isn't in just some of us; it's in all of us, and it's for all of us. Yes, even yours.

But forget about other people. Think about you, five or ten years from now. Hold two scenarios before you in your mind. In one, you've done your "how dare I think I'm all that to try this thing" thing, and you've failed -- you wrote and published a book, say, and it wasn't read all that much, but you're still pretty proud of it regardless. And in the other scenario, you never even tried.

Now ask yourself: which scenario feels better? The one where you gave it your all, and did your gorgeous creative thing, and expressed what was in your soul to express, in spite of all that felt stacked against you? Or the one where you're still wondering what might have been?

Which would you prefer: to live with the knowledge that you did your best and did yourself proud, no matter how the creative endeavor turned out, and to have reaped the benefit of just hours spent in experience and practice of your art, or to live with the regret of holding you creative dream(s) unexpressed?

I can't tell you which is the better option for you. Only you get to decide that.

But for me, I know that hands down I would rather try and risk and fail than sit in relative comfort and safety paired with regret.

Know, too, that your risk doesn't have to be unchecked. You don't have to bankrupt yourself or move halfway around the world or quit your job or get divorced or anything drastic like that. But some calculated risk? That can go a long way in getting you closer to the creative life you want to be living, not to mention helping you heal from the grumblings of your "Who are you to be awesome?" gremlins.

So why not try? Or take a baby step or two toward trying?

And whenever those frustrating gremlins come to call (again . . . ) asking, "Who are you to do this?" ask yourself: who and how do you want to be in this life, and how will working on your creative goals or not working toward your creative goals help you get there?

And then act accordingly.


If you know that you DO want to pursue your creative goals + dreams, but don't quite know how, or simply need some company while you do so, check out my 6 week writing e-course, She Writes Wild. You'll come away with more know-how, more confidence, more community, and LOTS of words written. Find out more HERE.

The Radical Exhale (a.k.a. Where I've Been)

So, I disappeared.

I had good reason, though, I promise. Or really reasons. Like: new job, change of address, family shiftings . . . and that's all on top of my preexisting #momlife and teaching dance fitness and all things She of the Wild.

Basically, I got really, really tired from all the new changes. Good changes, but still . . . exhausting ones.

And now? I'm trying to rest. To be gentle with myself. To live in the release of the exhalation rather than the active inhalation.

This is not easy for me (is it easy for any of us, really?). It is not my go-to mode. When things get hard, I tense up, muscle up, and try to bludgeon my way through to relief. Which has worked for me . . . sort of. But the older I get, the less effective it is, and I imagine that will only become more true the more years that I accumulate.

So I'm going rogue, taking the radical way -- I'm loosening my grip, unclenching my jaw, and exhaling. Like, a lot.

Last weekend I slept in more than I have in decades -- or at least, certainly since having children. Yesterday I spent a good portion of my day sitting and listening to the full soundtrack of Hamilton: The Musical (yum) -- but without doing anything else while I listened. I took days off exercise when my body needed it. I went to bed early (although you better believe that I'm staying up tonight to watch the newest episode of Game of Thrones).

I've been letting (read: trying to let) myself exhale, rather than holding my breath until some circumstance shifted toward ease. I choose the ease, as much as I could. Imperfectly, yes, but perfection is not the point.

SO. All this to say -- hi. It's me. I'm back, and trying to go gently while not giving up, which I was sorely tempted to do at times. Instead of running, I'm staying, but breathing, resting, exhaling, being.

How do you cope when it's hard and you just want to sleep through the hardness? I'd love to know. And, um, pick up a few tips. :)

p.s. Although I've been living in the exhale as much as possible, there are still a number of exciting She of the Wild updates I want to share with you. Check out what's been going on . . .

Write Yourself Wholly Alive

The Poetry Is e-course has gotten a significant makeover and is now called Write Yourself Wholly Alive. I feel that this better represents the content of the course, and it's just much yummier. :) Also, the price on the course is going up to $150 this coming week -- but you can still get it for $97 until Tuesday, June 1. If you've been on the fence about enrolling, this is your time. Hurry up and grab it before the new price goes into effect! Learn more and sign up HERE (and also enjoy the first full week of content for free!).

She of the Wild Shirts

Dude, these shirts are so comfy I can't even stand it. I'm practically living in mine (photos coming soon, I swear . . . watch Instagram!). Check out the current She of the Wild shirt HERE, available for just three more days.

 

SHE Zine

Issue two is out and issue three is in the works. You can subscribe or purchase individual issues HERE. And if you want to join in the conversation about the zine as you receive yours, be sure to use the tag #SHEzine on Instagram, Twitter, and your favorite social media platforms.

Holistic Creativity, Journaling, and More

SPECTRUM, the holistic creative journaling course that I'm teaching a part of, has gotten off to a delicious start. My workshop made its debut last week, and the students have created some really amazing work in response. Interested in learning about creative journaling with us? Check out all the details HERE.

A New She of the Wild E-Course

I've got something new brewing. I'm not quite sure what to call it (and this title? it's history as soon as I can figure out this new offering's true name). But I do know that it's going to be about developing artful rituals that are simple to access + fit in to our daily lives. When I think about this e-course, I think of quiet, of sacred space. Does that sound intriguing to you? Read more about it HERE, and then let me know in the comments what you think.

The She of the Wild Community

The members of the She of the Wild community on Facebook have been producing AMAZING work in #SheWritesPoetry2016, our year-long writing challenge. Want to be a part of it? It's free! Find all the details HERE.

Whew! That's about it . . . although I do have an exciting announcement coming this week. Tell me what have you been up to? I'd love to know!

You are Creative Right Now

I was thinking about you early this morning (yes, you, lovely reader + SHE OF THE WILD community member). I was awake, sleepless, and then my ten month old woke up, too, and could not be consoled. Cradling him in my arms, I paced the room, the two of us, both caught between slumber and wakefulness, needing and wanting a rest.

While I walked, I sang. Hummed, really. It was not meant to be a real song.

But I realized, even through my 3:00 AM bleariness, that it was a song.

In the most unlikely of circumstances, without much in the way of formal training, I was creating music. Out of nowhere and nothing, notes came from between my weary lips and into the world.

In the darkness, it felt like a miracle.

And I thought of you. I wanted to share this miracle with you.

Because maybe you think that you're "not creative" -- which is what we say when we mean that we don't naturally possess near-genius level talent in the arts: writing, painting, drawing, and other fine arts.

But just because you weren't practically born with a paintbrush in your hand doesn't meant that you're not creative.

I think that we are all creative, and my too-early-morning song proves that to me.

I am not a musician. I am not trying to become a musician, either professional or hobbyist. I have not touched an instrument in over a decade. And yet, I sang, without effort, and it was lovely and sweet and sent my son back to dreamland.

Why do we discount such acts of creation? Are they less valuable because they are small, or wouldn't make money, or just done in the middle of everyday life?

What if something like my sleepy lullaby is made more valuable by its smallness, its lack of monetary value, its simplicity, its impermanence?

When did I lose my sense of wonder at such things? When did you?

And -- perhaps most importantly -- how can we take it back?

The only answer I have is to press in to your small miracles even as you chase your bigger creative goals. They are all water from the same well.

Self-Publishing Toolkit: 4 Essentials for Authors

One of the questions I get asked most often is:

How can I self-publish my manuscript? What do I need? How do I turn my pile of ideas into a polished book?

(Okay, that's three questions.)

Self-publishing is not for everyone. If you're looking to get rich quick without a lot of work . . . well, look elsewhere.

But! If you're a writer who puts in the time and effort to make her work as strong and polished as possible, who cares deeply about his reader, then I've got my top recommended tools to turn you from writerly hopeful into published author.

Are you ready? Okay, let's go.

1. Something to write on, digitally speaking

The first must-have every self-publishing author needs is something to create your manuscript with. This can be as simple as your basic word processor -- Open Office Writer is a great free option available for both PC and Mac.

If you'd like to save yourself some time and sanity and make your manuscript look much more professional with much less effort, you may want to upgrade to Scrivener. I wrote and published my novel, The Light Between Us, with Open Office, and then used Scrivener for my next book, Night Cycles. I will never go back to Open Office for work I'm going to publish to Kindle. Nope nope nope. If you have the extra cash, I'd recommend trying out Scrivener for a free test drive to see what you think.

You don't need Scrivener, of course. Open Office and Microsoft Word will do just fine. But you need some kind of word processor. If you don't have one, you need to get one ASAP. I'll wait.

2. Be Your Own Publisher from Lucy Pearce

Okay, so you've got your word processor of choice downloaded. But now you're looking at your manuscript and wondering how in the world you're going to be able to turn it into a professional looking book, much less defeat the frustrating + tricksy wiles of Kindle.

In between publishing The Light Between Us and Night Cycles, I purchased Lucy Pearce's e-course, Be Your Own Publisher.

This course was hands-down the best investment I have ever made in my writer career. Seriously, ever.

In Be Your Own Publisher, Lucy covers everything -- e v e r y t h i n g -- from writing your first draft to editing to cover design to navigating CreateSpace to formatting for print and Kindle to self-care.

I cannot begin to tell you the amount of tooth-gnashing and hair-rending Be Your Own Publisher saved me. But you can go look at the innards of The Light Between Us and Night Cycles in Amazon's free "look inside" feature to see just how much Lucy's course taught me. My books went from looking super n00b-ish to polished and professional solely because of Be Your Own Publisher.

Do yourself a favor. Get this course.

3. A Good Proofreader

Another asset that you cannot do without as you seek to self-publish your book is a good proofreader. This might be your mom, or your writing accountability buddy that you're swapping critiques with, or someone that you hire.

Whatever you choose, you absolutely need someone else's eyes on your manuscript to help catch copy errors. Because you will miss your own errors. I learned this the hard way. Don't be like me.

4. A Professional Cover Designer

With free + low-cost options like Canva available, it's really tempting to try to create our own book covers. I mean, that's money saved!

Except that a good professional cover designer can elevate the professional look of your book in a way that you probably can't on your own, because they've got loads more experience at graphic design than we writers do. And a more professional looking cover means that more new readers are likely to take a chance on your work.

I've written and published three books. I designed the cover for two of them, and hired a designer for the other. I bet you can guess just by looking at them which one I made.

My favorite cover designer? Paper and Sage Design. You can choose from her cache of pre-made covers, or spend a little more to get a custom design. Both options are very reasonably priced, and she can create some social media banners to match your book's cover as well.

Some Nice Extras . . .

If you're looking to go the extra mile with your self-published book, you might also want to purchase your own ISBN to help support bookstores who sell your work and/or invest in some Facebook ads when your book is available. But if this is your first time out, the above four essentials are what I recommend you focus your energy and assets on. You've got this!

Whew! Are you still with me? That might sound like a lot, but getting your book out on your terms is not as difficult as you might think. (And I'm serious on checking out Lucy's e-course. It will eliminate SO. MUCH. overwhelm.)

And! I have a lovely freebie that will be of huge benefit to you if you're looking to publish a poetry manuscript soon, but need a little help putting the darn thing together. It's a 13 page e-book called How To Assemble Your Poetry Book, and it's available for immediate download -- for FREE (I know, right?!).

In How To Assemble Your Poetry Book, I walk you through how to take that pile of poems you've written and turn it into a cohesive, enjoyable text.

Ready to download it? Enter your info below and I'll email your copy of How To Assemble Your Poetry Book right away:

Get Your Free Copy!

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In How To Assemble Your Poetry Book, I walk you through how to take that pile of poems you've written and turn it into a cohesive, enjoyable text. Huzzah!

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Enjoy!

 

*This post contains affiliate links. I only promote products that I adore. Thanks for supporting independent authors + artists!

What Happened to Me After I Started Writing

“The beginning is always today.” ― Mary Shelley

I’ve loved the written word for nearly as long as I can remember. From “reading” (a.k.a. reciting from memory) The Little Red Hen to my mother as a three-ish year old to submitting a 30+ page mini-novel in response to my eleventh grade English teacher’s short story assignment to earning a degree in creative writing — I love words. Reading them, writing them, or gluing them into my art journal, I am a word junkie.

So it may surprise you to hear that I’ve only been practicing a regular writing habit for the last eight years.

You see, from childhood, I operated under the misconception that writing only mattered if it was going to be seen by someone else. So any time I had any kind of a creative writing assignment in elementary school, high school, and beyond, I went all in on it.

But on my own time? I did a whole lot of nothing.

Well, that’s not true. I read. I glowered at new authors’ books as they blossomed on our local book shop’s shelves, full of resentment (I mean, really — who did they think they were publishing a book? the nerve!). I perused Writer’s Market and calls for submission, only to turn away in panic, because scary deadlines. I pined away for a publication contract of my own, but did little in the way of actually pursuing one. I listened to writing podcasts, but never implemented the advice I heard. I participated in (and won!) National Novel Writing Month, but never did anything with my rough drafts — even the ones that weren’t half bad.

So I did spend a whole lot of time and energy thinking about writing, and being jealous of others who were writing and publishing. But I also let fear shackle me.

Until 2007, when I started a blog.

It wasn’t my first blog (Livejournal of 2004, I’m looking at you), but it was my first serious attempt at one. And by “serious attempt,” I mean a space in which I wrote regularly, regardless of how many people were (or, more accurately, weren’t) reading it.

In short, I blogged for me.

And I kept doing it. For years. Eight years and counting at this point. My focus evolved over time (like, a lot — I started out as a food blogger), but still — I wrote and hit “publish” regularly.

At first, it felt weird. Even with a lifelong adoration of the written word and a degree (with honors!) in creative writing from a prestigious liberal arts college . . . it felt awkward. Clumsy. Like writing into a void (which, let’s be honest, is what a lot of internet writing is).

But I kept on. And, eventually, I noticed that things were different. I was different.

What Happened After I Started (and Kept) Writing

It took three or so years, but one day, I realized that I was stronger than I was before I started my little blog.

I was a better writer than I had been. My technique was better. The resulting posts were better.

I created connections. I made friends with other bloggers, participated in hops and challenges, and both wrote guest posts and published others’ words on my blog. In a word, I was supported.

I was much more confident. The blank page no longer seemed quite as intimidating. In fact, I was so much more confident that I self-published my first book. And that confidence bled into all areas of my life, not just my work as a writer.

I took myself more seriously. No longer did I long to be a writer — I was a writer. I was writing, regularly, and sharing my work with the world. Maybe I wasn’t the next Anne Lamott (yet…!) (#bigdreams), but I was doing the work.

And, eventually, all of this combined to give me the, ahem, balls and belief in my own work to self-publish not only a fun little romance, but also a born-of-my-bloody-heart poetry collection — a.k.a. to take my writer-self from hobbyist to professional.

All because I started writing — for myself.

How to Get From Here to There

I think so many of us who long with the fire of a thousand suns to Be A Professional Writer balk at taking the actual steps toward making that dream happen because the road seems so long.

And it is. I’m not going to lie to you — it’s a long road. Countless hours of dedicated work that most people will never know, pouring your soul into words that maybe no one will ever read.

But

long as it may be, that road is the way from here to your writer dreams turned reality.

And really, it’s worth it. Now, looking back at 8 years of being a writer who writes (on top of a degree, honors, and all that came before), I can see how worth it is. I mean — people have read and are reading my books. Maybe not thousands of people. Maybe not even hundreds of people. But people are reading my books, and my words have changed small pieces of the world, and my heart is filled with delicious fire that I’m doing this work.

That’s the dream, right? Regardless of audience size, that is the dream.

And your journey from here to living right into the middle of that dream?

It begins today.

Find Your Words {Free LIVE Writing Class!}

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The next round of Find Your Words is coming up on Monday, February 22, at 5 PM PST/8 PM EST. Yay!

Sign up here to reserve your spot, or keep reading to find out more:

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Are you looking for help getting over your fear in writing, or your procrastination? Or maybe you simply need some inspiration and companionship for the journey. Then you'll love my free writing class, Find Your Words. In this free webinar, you'll be learning about a key foundation for your writing career, plus one surprising place you can go to find inspiration. You'll take away:

  • a low-stress way to find inspiration and get words down on paper — that you’re probably already doing
  • the beginnings of a daily writing habit
  • the confidence to trust your own creativity + words
  • PLUS you'll come away with the first draft of a written poem (or other piece of writing in the format of your choice)

In this class we'll be working with poetry, but the takeaways are applicable for whatever kind of writing you do, be it poetry, fiction, memoir, etc. For more info watch this video (and please disregard the timing mentioned! we'll be meeting February 22 at 5 PM PST/8 PM EST):

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I'll see you on February 22!


Introducing She Writes Wild + Free Sample!

If you follow me on Instagram or Periscope, you may have heard me mumbling somewhat incoherently about a writing course that I've been working on. Incoherently because that's how I get when I'm in creation mode -- laser focused on the goal, with not a lot of energy to spare for extras like breathing or forming cohesive sentences. 

But I'm coming up for air now that the course is pretty much finished (!!!). She Writes Wild is a 6 week e-course in wordplay and self-discovery that will help you find your words, equip you to grow as a writer, and lead you into a deeper + more vibrant understanding of yourself. 

Sound intriguing? You can learn more HERE.

But that's not why I'm writing today. Nope, today is all about giving you the first section of She Writes Wild for free.

Yep, you get a whole week of the course FOR FREE, right here, right now. Are you ready? Let's go . . . !


She Writes Wild

Week One: Poetry as Play

“Poetry doesn't have to rhyme, it just has to touch someone where your hands couldn’t.”

— Rudy Akbarian (source)

I don’t know about you, but for the longest time, whenever I heard the word poetry my mind would recall agonizing over dense stanzas, trying to suss out their seemingly indistinguishable meanings, and attempting to recreate Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter. Meaning: poetry felt difficult, obtuse, and impossible to understand. It felt painful, like drudgery, like a whole lot of work with very little reward.

But — does it have to be? That’s what we’ll be exploring this week.

 

Poetry is For Everybody

“Poems hang out where life is.”

— Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, Poemcrazy

Poetry wasn’t always an exercise in masochism. Think back to when you were a child, to the limericks your teacher had you pen and the sing-songing rhymes you sang and silly stories you were read in verse. Were these poems impossible, or headache-inducing? Probably not.

And yet, they are poetry.

Hang on. I can practically hear you thinking, “Well, sure, it’s poetry . . . but poetry for kids. That’s different.”

Nope. Not different. Poetry. And written by respectable, “real” poets. 

Take a few minutes to read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride,” and then “Dream Variations” by Langston Hughes. Next, consider the following:

  • what do these poems feel like to read? 
  • how do they challenge your preexisting notions of what poetry is?
  • based on these poems, how might you redefine poetry?
  • how have your feelings about writing poetry changed, if at all?

Feel free to journal on any or all of these questions, and to chat about it in the Facebook group.

 

Poetry Doesn’t Have to be Impossible

What if we threw out the notion that so many of us picked up in high school that poetry has to be impossible, impenetrable, and pain-filled? What if we found ourselves free to write a understandable story in verse form, like “Paul Revere’s Ride,” or to communicate our experiences of nightfall as Hughes does so lyrically and accessibly in “Dream Variations”?

What if poetry wasn’t just for the ivory tower, for academia, but for all of us?

I believe that this is true. 

And, more to the point, I believe that it is true for you.

“Is this play, poetry, art or silliness? Who cares?”

— Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, Poemcrazy

 

The Freedom to Write

I’ve wanted to be a writer for about as long as I can remember. And for me, “being a writer” meant writing fiction books. But interestingly, as an adolescent, whenever I gave myself freedom to write just for me, and not for a school assignment, I found poems tumbling from my pen.

At the very same time that I was struggling through poetry units in school, I was freely creating my own poems at home.

But I dismissed my poetry writing. It felt too easy, not at all like the poems I had to read for school. It couldn’t possible be “real” poetry, I thought, because it was far too opaque, too accessible.

Except — I was wrong. And since giving my poems a chance to stand on their own, I’ve found that they have the strength to do so. Even though they’re not brain twisters. Even though they’re written for you and me, and not only for the highest thinkers (whatever that means!).  

Maybe your story goes a little like this, too. Maybe you’ve long held beliefs about the legitimacy of your words, the value of your poems. 

I’m here to tell you — it’s time to release those beliefs. They are shackles to your creativity and, as a result, to your personal vitality. 

If you have poems that you want to write, or even if you just want to see if you can write poetry, then do it. Let yourself. And then let yourself believe that they are true and real and valuable, for yourself and the world.

 

Accessible Doesn’t Have to Mean Simplistic

I think that there is another common misconception that leads to us devaluing accessible poetry: that, if a poem is understandable, it somehow is less important, less meaningful, less powerful.

This is not the case. Take Shel Silverstein’s poem “Listen to the Mustn’ts.” Silverstein’s feisty, often-silly poetry was a huge craze in my school when I was ten years old. Kids were reading it on their own, unprompted by parents or teachers, for fun. 

And yet — this poem. It is comprehensible, accessible — but packs a punch. It hits me right in the feels. It is the encouragement that I need to read everyday of my life. 

Or consider another poem by Silverstein, “Forgotten Language.” This is from The Giving Tree, which we’ll come back to later in the course. Even though this is a very simple poem, without complicated vocabulary, obtuse imagery, or meticulous composed rhyme and meter, I find it hard-hitting. There is so much emotion here, and so many rich levels of meaning — yet, again, it is comprehensible to readers of nearly any reading ability. 

There is nothing wrong with poetry that is dense or hard to understand. But often the difficulties we had with poetry during our education negatively impact our abilities to write or believe in our own poems. 

How do Silverstein’s words inspire you? How do they challenge you?

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

― Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

 

Writing Assignment for Week One: Find Some Poetry

For our first assignment, let’s have some fun and create found poems. According to the Academy of American Poets, “Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems” (source).

Here’s one way I go about creating a found poem.

Found poetry is a great way to ease into writing poems. There is no blank page to face down, no words to conjure up. Instead, all you have to do is play. 

Have fun, and share your creations in the Facebook group!

 

Reading for Week One

Read sections one (Following Words) and two (Listening to Ourselves) of Poemcrazy.

 

Fill-the-Well Adventure Assignment

Go to the library and check out a children’s book. Read it. 

 

Bonus Reading

How to Be Creative When You Are Busy by Joe Bunting

How to Overcome the Fear of Sharing Your Writing in Public by Leo Babauta

Newspaper Blackout Poems by Diana Adams

My Inspiration Comes From My Weirdness by Ksenia Anske

Interview with Billy Collins from The Paris Review

 

Bonus Writing Assignments

Complete the practice activities from this week’s reading of Poemcrazy.

“Play around. Dive into absurdity and write. Take chances. You will succeed if you are fearless of failure.” 

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones


Like what you see? Want more?

Check out all the details about She Writes Wild here!

Why, Hello There! Or, Where I've Been . . .


Well, it's been quite silent here, hasn't it?  And while I try to give myself both space and grace to be okay with not-writing, it makes me sad to not connect with you for so long.

So, let's start off with what life's been looking like in my corner of the world, shall we?

We've had birthdays (as cliche as it is, I cannot believe that our not-so-little guy is growing up so fast!) . . .


. . . gotten our annual family pictures taken (I love this tradition of documenting our lives and how we've grown and changed both as individuals and a family) . . .


. . . and gotten pregnant (do you like how I just slipped that one in there? sneaky sneaky). 


Check out my epic eight week belly from a couple of weeks ago.  I mean, come on.  What is in there?  It's like all my innards decided to unite to make space for our new tiny, tiny one.  But I love having a pregnant belly, so it works out quite well.  Although this time around I'm experiencing much more all-day nausea, so that's not as fun.  But I am determined to enjoy this pregnancy, and will try to leave my anxieties aside.  So far, so good . . .


We've been enjoying beautiful fall, although it's been unseasonably warm.  I'm ready for some crisp sweater weather!  Autumn is my absolute favorite season:



It was also my pleasure to be involved in the creation of my city's first ever October 15th Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness remembrance event.  It was a sacred, special time, joining the international wave of light with our own candle-lighting:



And as if that all wasn't enough, I've returned to my novel-in-progress:


As you may remember, since just before the release of my first indie novel, The Light Between Us ($0.99 on Kindle, FYI!), I've been working on a second novel.  This one is more ambitious and complicated, a sort of urban fantasy inspired by Celtic mythology.  And -- writing it ran my heart into the ground.  The story stopped making sense or having any sort of direction.  My depression returned with a vengeance, and sitting down to write felt like an exercise in self-hatred.

So I walked away.  To save my sanity, I walked away.  Put the book aside, even though I'd invested a great deal of time into it and had written over 60,000 words on it.  Showing up, doing it anyway, and faking it 'til I made it weren't helping, so I rested.  And got pregnant, and therefore rested some more.

But recently (perhaps inspired by my dear friend as she prepares to launch her own book into the world soon), I felt the novel calling.  So I've come back to it, with more than a little trepidation, and have s l o w l y begun laying down words again.

I seem to have found the ends of at least of the couple of threads winding their way through the story and I think I know where it's all going now.  And, best of all, I believe that I can finish, and that it will be an enjoyable tale -- whereas before I thought I'd never be able to figure it out, and even if I did, it was all totally tripe anyway. 

I suppose you could say I've found some confidence again.  Or (or perhaps and) that wonderful blend of egotism and fatalism that seems to protect every working writer -- the simultaneous beliefs that the story is wonderful and will be read and enjoyed, encouraging the writer, and also that no one will read it, therefore freeing the writer from fear of criticism.


But that still leaves the blog.  Because I'm not sure what's going on here in this space anymore.

For the longest time, this blog has been a place for me to process.  First through my eating disorder, then my Eve girl's stillbirth, and most recently through my faith thrashings.  But now, I feel that I've come to a good measure of healing in all these areas, and the words that needed to be expressed on these topics are no longer pressing up against my soul, begging to be loosed.

So what to write about?  What is there for me to say?

I don't know.  But I do feel that this blog is going to change slightly, to accommodate my inner changes.  I no longer seem to be "writing through the dark," as this blog's subtitle was for the past year or so, but have written my way into some sort of freedom.

So keep your eyes on this space as once again I/we change and shift and grow.  Into what, I have no idea.  But finding out will be quite a wonderful adventure.

Over to you -- what's been going on in your life these days, my dear blog friends?

Portals of Water and Wine by R.L. Haas {Cover Reveal!}

So. It's been a little while hasn't it, dear blog reader? And perhaps it seems to return (maybe?) from my writing sojourn with a post about someone else's book. But I don't think it's lame at all, because this book is one I've been watching gestating many months now, growing at the fingertips of a dear, dear friend.  

Let me introduce a fairytale -- no, fairy epic: Portals of Water and Wine by R.L. Haas.  I have had the opportunity to beta reader this story, and it is just yummy, stuffed with myth, adventure, war, love, allegory, and a helluva lot of beauty.  Absolutely fantastic for an author's debut!  Portals will release December 1, and today, it is available for preorder on Amazon, and is just $0.99 for Kindle Eeee!!!  

Want to know more?  Read on for an exclusive synopsis and the dish on its kick-ass author, not to mention how to get in on the Portals online release party . . .


The war had waged for nineteen years. Alonthiel had been overrun with the Fledgling Armies, the children of Ash and Iron. They were the sons and daughters born once to Alonthiel, now so twisted and dark that their former Fae heritage was barely a drop flowing through their veins.

There had been a treaty, but it had been broken…somehow…no one could even remember the reason anymore. They had come in the night, with their feathered manes and glowing eyes the color of boiling blood and their fingernails set with iron. They had no need for swords, save the ones that grew from the ends of their hands. They were a deadly force, led into battle by their captain Flail, the son of the Fledgling King.
The sounds of children laughing had been replaced with widow’s wailing. The smashing and splashing of men’s glasses and bar-house celebrations had turned into the sound of metal on metal, metal on flesh.

The music was gone.

King Aboras had been crowned for only six days, a rushed ceremony without much pomp or fanfare. He was the fourth King since the war had begun. There was no separation of monarch from common man in the eye of the sword. He crouched in his tent, eyes fixed on the maps splayed on the table in front of him, but there was no focus or direction there.

He knew that this would be the last night. His armies were exhausted, running on little sleep and handfuls of food they gathered from the nearby woods. The supplies were sapped, and their powers were dwindling down to sparks. This was the end.

And so, in the darkness of the night with only the stars to provide light, Aboras gathered his people together, every last one that still lived. They circled around their king, loyal to the end. He could not lie to them. He told them of the losses, of the depletion of stores and the draining of magic. The end was coming; they should gather their families and run to the mountains, over the river that the Fledglings could not, would not, cross.

No one moved. Not one child tried to run, not one husband left his family. They all stood. None would leave their king.


R. L. Haas is one of the wild ones, writing Faerie stories from her little self-declared cottage surrounded by Midwestern cornfields and never enough coffee. Her nonfiction work has appeared in such online publications as SheLoves Magazine and Literary Orphans. She lives with her beloved husband and equally wild daughter, along with their oversized Great Dane. They are ruled over by two fluffy cats. She blogs about her faith, her heart and her ever-growing literary obsessions at dramaticelegance.blogspot.com.




Portals of Water and Wine releases Dec. 1. Preorder it now on Amazon, and add it to your "want to read" list on Goodreads. And don't forget to RSVP to the book release party!


Photo credit: Cover design by Megan Mahen of Megan Mahen Illustrations. Author photo by Jennifer Upton of Photography by Jennifer Upton.

Somewhere Between Water and Sky {A Book Launch + Giveaway!}

I heard it said once that every human is a story with skin.

If this is true, paragraphs would be etched in the scars on my wrists.

Whole chapters could be written about the way my heart pounds when I startle awake.

And every single one of my tears could fill a book.

But stories, with all their promise, only leave room for disappointment. I don’t have room for that anymore. I left it all—the hope, the love, the promise—back in my old life with the ghosts I’d rather forget: Jude. Emma. Pacey.

Kevin.

This is how I dare to move forward and to believe in a new beginning. I let go of the old. I just grab the new and run. I don’t wait around anymore. I can’t.

Waiting leaves room for the voices.

Somewhere between water and sky, I'll find a way to burn these voices to the ground.


Writing a book is really hard.  Like, really hard.  The combination of blind hope, precision, and sheer guts that it takes to not only write but release a book is insane, and awesome, and calls up all sorts of exhilaration and terror (the good kind) within me.

So when someone I know does it, launches a book out into this wide world, I'm going to say something.  And today, Elora Ramirez releases her latest book, Somewhere Between Water and Sky (that's what the above gorgeous words are from).  This is the sequel to her premiere novel which came out last year, which I also highly recommend.  I haven't gotten to read SBWaS yet, but I'm looking forward to it.  I know Elora from her online writing community, The Story Unfolding, and without her and the wonderful women I met there, my own book would never have happened.  So . . . thank you, and congrats, Elora!

And -- Elora is giving away a coaching session and an Amazon giftcard!  You can enter here, and following are links to where you can purchase a copy (psst: it's $0.99 on Kindle!), and to more of Elora's creations.

Grab a copy:

Elora Ramirez lives in Austin, Texas with her chef-husband. At the age of four, she taught herself how to read and write, cutting her teeth on books like Dr. Seuss and writing anywhere she could find the space--including her Fisher Price kitchen set, the pages of picture books and Highlights Magazine. Since then, she's grown to love the way words feel as they swell within her bones. Writing holy and broken is her calling, and pushing back the darkness and pursuing beauty through story is her purpose. She embraces the power of story and teaches women from all parts of the world how to embrace theirs. She has a knack of calling things out , the truth and the detail, the subversive threads that make a life a story. She loves hip-hop, wishes she lived by the beach and cannot write without copious amounts of coffee, chocolate, music, and her husband's lavender liqueur. 


http://www.amazon.com/Somewhere-Between-Water-Elora-Ramirez-ebook/dp/B00MR3Z62A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410403770&sr=8-1&keywords=Somewhere+Between+Water+and+Sky

When We are Wanted


When you spend long enough doing a certain thing, no matter what it is, I think, you put down roots.  You meet people.  And you find things you might not have been looking for, but now would never, ever trade. 

Blogging has been like that for me.  I'm not sure why I started that first LiveJournal in 2004, exactly, except that I enjoyed writing, enjoyed being read, and thought making money off of blogging was a thing (uh, yeah).  And while I haven't exactly hit the financial motherlode, I have discovered exquisite treasures that I never expected.

Story Sessions, an online community of writers run by Elora Ramirez, is one of those things.  A few of my online friends had taken Elora's intro ecourse, Story 101, and I like what I saw of them and their writing enough to give it a try myself.  I enrolled in 101 in the spring of 2013, and have never looked back.  I went on to take Elora's next course, Story 201, and participate in online retreats and workshops. 


The writing part of Story Sessions is good.  It's really good.  Like, really good.  If you want help discovering your voice, discovering your why, pushing past fear, and finding your legs in the publishing industry, then Story Sessions is for you.

But that's not the greatest treasures that I've found here.

No, for me, it's the community itself, these amazing women, that are the unlookedfor diamond that fell, shining through the dust of excavation, into my lap.


So many people roll their eyes at me when I tell them that I met some of my best friends online.  That's not real community, they think or say.  Remote community can't ever compare to local community.

For a long time, I thought the same thing.  I thought that online community was lesser, less than.  I ached because I failed to find the in-person kindreds that I'd found in the women of Story Sessions.  I thought there was something wrong with me.


This June, though, those digital hands and feet grew flesh and blood.  I flew to Texas to take part in the annual Story Sessions retreat, and those women who were my "lesser" community, my "not as real because it's online" kindreds, stormed into my life and swept me off my feet with their unconditional love and caring.

I went into the retreat lonely, desperately lonely.  My soul has been leading me on walkabout, as you know, and to my dismay I've had to abandon the local friendships and attempts at friendships that I'd been selling myself to.  Not because there as anything wrong with those local people, not because they didn't or don't try hard to love me, but because (through no fault of their own) I felt wrong around them.

I went to Texas nursing this long-gaping wound of being different-in-a-bad-way, broken, of always being the outsider.  When I got to the retreat, I expected to be disappointed, to find myself the outsider once again.

And --

there were no outsiders.


These women, these women, they put their hands in my hands, rubbed my shoulders, pulled their fingers through my hair.  They celebrated my newborn book, and my heathenry.  They looked into my eyes and heard my words and found no fault there.

They saw me, and loved me -- as is.

No caveats.  No conditions.  No "I'm worried about you" or "you're on a slippery slope."

(Did you know that Story Sessions is a Christian community?  Doesn't sound like the "Christian" communities I hear way too much yuck about way too often.)

This condition-less love and acceptance -- well, I didn't expect it.  I hoped for it, but life had taught me that it was likely out of reach for me.

But it exists.  It exists for me, and for you.  It's out there, and it's powerful beyond the imagining.


In Texas, I found women who celebrate my quirks and eccentricities and odd little passions.  I found women who run after me, literally, when I run away, who see my soul weeping when I hide my tears.  I found women who reminded me of the sacred truths of my glorious soul, and who continue to remind me when I forget.  I found women who tell me that I am beautiful-in-all-ways, and mean it.  I found women who cry with me, who rage with me, who will not, cannot accept injustice.  I found women who I can snuggle on the couch with without wondering if I'm doing the wrong thing, and who love how I don't love small talk.  I found women who ask me to howl at the moon with them.

I found women that I'd bleed for.  I found the women that would bleed for me.

I found the artists and renegades and lovers and world-changers.  And because of them, I remembered that I am one myself.  
 

So -- if you're looking for a writing community, well, Story Sessions is a good one.  Story 101 is running for its final time, so this is your last chance to get in where it all began.

But be careful, because you're not only getting a writing education when you sign up.  You just might find that you've found your courage, and the holiness in the darkest places of your soul, and some of the truest friends that you could ever have hoped for.


Online community is real.  It is true and authentic and alive.  And the folks you meet online have the powerful ability to slip quietly into your heart and turn your life upside down in the best of ways.

I hope that this is the case for you, no matter what digital hook you may hang your hat upon.  It has been one of my greatest privileges and joys to discover it for myself.

If you're interested in the final run of the ecourse that started it all, you can learn more about Story 101 here.

https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?cl=176080&c=ib&aff=168836

*this post contains affiliate links