Monday, November 26, 2012

You Have The Tools

I finished reading a wonderful book, Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, which talks about how to get our creativity on the page and meditation. It touches upon the idea that writing can be meditation. I love this idea, because I'm not great about sitting quietly for any lengthy period of time. Give it a read even if you aren't a writer. There is useful information for all.

One of my favorite chapters was Trust Yourself. The title alone got my attention since I'm a big believer in the first step we must all take to peacefulness is trusting we have the tools we need for a fulfilled life.

As writers, we must learn to trust our voices. A strong writing voice is what will keep a reader glued to the pages. The writing voice can be nurtured to bloom with time and care like a garden. Or like a yoga pose. Even meditation. What's the trick? Trust yourself! But how do you do that when rejection letters pile up and your critique partners disagree on your piece or your teacher red pens away the humor in your writing? First, you listen to the varying opinions, but then you make your own decisions. That's empowering! Your work is your own. Tell your story the way you want to tell it.

Are there spots in your life where if you trusted you had the tools you could make all your dreams come true? What else needs to be nurtured? And, writers, how else can we trust that our work is the very best it can be?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Declare What You Desire

I was heading out to yoga today thinking about the people in my life. (That includes the characters in my books.) The big difference between the two? I can make my characters behave in ways I see fit.

Having said that, I want to be surrounded by like minded people. What I mean is, you don't have to like the same books I do or have the same social and political beliefs I do, but I do want to interact with others whose spirit is open. People who see the world through a glass half filled. When I'm with someone I want to be wrapped in their positive attitude. Not slimed with their negative energy.

I declared to the Universe this morning I wanted to meet more people like me. Guess what? The Universe heard me. I love when this happens! In class today, a woman I'd apparently met at a school function recognized me. (Good thing because I am the worst at recognizing other people. It's bad.) We started talking. Grabbed tea together afterward and voila! I made a new connection. Her energy felt positive. We might even hang again. No matter what happens I know the Universe heard me and sent me someone for that moment.

Whatever you wish for in your life, talk with your higher power. Maybe you'd like a new career, a new friend, a better attitude. The Universe will send it to you, but you must be open and ready for it.  Sometimes our wishes don't show up in ways we expect, but the wishes still come true.

What are some things you desire?  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Skip the Flashback

I'm reading a book right now that inspired me to share my thoughts with you about flashbacks. I'm leaving out the author and title.

I'm a huge fan of mysteries and thrillers. And not just books. Movies and television too. When you tell me the story is about a woman who's been abducted, I say, "someone took her? Let's find out what happens NEXT."

Explain to me why authors feel the need to use flashbacks sprinkled throughout the story like stale bread crumbs to show characterization? I want to discover the characters, decide if I like them or not, through the actions they take AFTER the inciting incident. Not before. I'm not a big fan of what our hero did when he was 12. That's for the author to know. I watch a character come to life when he or she is forced to make a choice under pressure. If my hero is an adult, his choices at 12 have about as much pressure as a three day old latex balloon filled with helium.

Yet, these very books make the top of the best sellers list. Is it because most readers enjoy looking through the kitchen window from the outside? Are they saying with each turn of the page, "I can watch all the nasties that lie around the kitchen floor and clutter the table. No one will ever know how I sit and watch you because I'm outside and you're inside with the lights on." Maybe deep down in places we don't like to admit exist we all have a little dark side.

Let's not take away the fact that many, but not all, authors have a way with prose. Their words dress up a page like evening wear. The words catch the light and make us gasp for breath. We put a fluttering hand to our hearts and say, "if only..." Pretty words aside, do you know what I say to most flashbacks? Who cares?

Show me how the hero's world is rocked and leave out what he did when he was 12. Unless he's 12 NOW. A good author can make me care about our hero without telling me every detail of the hero's upbringing. Robert McKee says, "why a man does a thing is of little interest once we see the thing he does. A character is the choices he makes to take the actions he takes. Once the deed is done his reasons why begin to dissolve into irrelevancy."

In other words, the fact the hero's father took him to the baseball game when he was 12 and made him leave that game early has nothing to do with the fact his wife is missing NOW.

Your thoughts on flashback?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


I was speaking to a woman the other day and she said something that got me thinking. She believed if she let her son play football on the Jewish holiday something bad would happen to him. (Obviously, she was Jewish.)

Wow! She really believed that. Don't get me wrong, I can be superstitious too. I knock wood for good measure. If someone pays my children a compliment I say, "God bless them" under my breath. I come from a long line of Italians. Superstition is their middle name! But this woman was allowing fear to make a decision for her.

She's not alone. Fear is the leader in many people's lives, but it doesn't have to be. In Donna Farhi's Bringing Yoga to Life she states: "While pain is inevitable, suffering is not. By clinging to our existentialist viewpoint, we take a bad situation and make it worse by trying to wrestle it to the ground..."

What does fear stop you from doing? Are you not writing that book that you always wanted to? You wrote the book, but you won't query it or you won't let someone read it. Or you are a published author, but you don't have the career you dreamed of. What's holding you back? Afraid to put your heart on the page? Afraid to speak in public about your stories? Perhaps, you're afraid to succeed.

And if you aren't one of my writer friends, how does fear keep you in chains?

Donna Farhi has another good quote: "If you are very, very careful, nothing bad or good will ever happen to you."

The idea of being so afraid to live, to allow fear to control your choices, that you miss out on many, many good things in life should be the very thing that scares the living day lights out of you. Not football on a Jewish holiday. Get my drift?

How do you stop fear from controlling your choices? Well, I'm no expert, but I know you have to learn to let go, to surrender. In yoga, we learn about quieting our minds, grounding ourselves in the present moment, not to resist what is happening in our lives, but to embrace it. It takes practice, lots of practice, but it can be done.

I invite you again, as I did in my last post, to be fearless today. Holding onto fear for dear life is not your only choice. You can choose to let go.

Monday, August 27, 2012


I've been thinking a lot lately about how to be fearless. It's been a bit of a mantra. Maybe it has to do with facing another birthday and not wanting to miss out on any of life's opportunities. Maybe it has to do with the rejection letters that keep showing up in my inbox for Welcome to Kata-Tartaroo.

What does it mean to be fearless? Is it literally, without fear? Mirriam-Webster says fearless means "free from fear." But couldn't it also mean being afraid and doing or facing that thing anyway?

I think of being fearless as being brave and one can be brave and scared at the same time. Go ask a police officer, fire fighter or a parent. It's not the same kind of bravery, but ask an author. They have to brave and are definitely afraid at the same time.  

I invite you to be fearless today. Not to live without fear, but to act in the face of it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

You Are The Teacher

Yoga teachers will say they are more a guide than a teacher. Your body and mind should dictate your practice for the day. Your yoga teacher will cue poses for you, but it's up to you to decide how hard to push or not. I knew this logically, but it wasn't until recently that I actually "got it." Everything came together like a perfectly tuned orchestra. My teacher gave the cues to the class, my body told me how far to go. Cobra became Up Dog. Bridge became Wheel. The practice was mine and mine alone as I glided from one pose to another.

It made me think about all of the "rules" in creative writing. Writers hear all the time in workshops to write the story that's in their hearts and not worry so much about the rules. No truer words have been spoken. Those "rules" are really guidelines to help you put your heart on the page and write the story you were meant to write.

Sure, some things have to be on the page. Conflict. Scene goals. Point of View. Speaker tags. You can follow the rules of writing and orchestrate a novel or story, but if you focus solely on the rules passion will be missing from the page. Just as a yoga pose can be stiff or painful or not on the edge enough if you follow only the cues.

Our hearts and our main characters are the guides in our stories. The rules of writing are simply the guidelines. When we throw caution away and trust that we know our craft that beautiful, magically story will come together. The story everyone will want to read.

Who is your teacher? What guides you?   

Monday, July 23, 2012

No Excuses

We hear excuses all the time, don't we? I'm too busy, too late, too early, too tired. Don't like to drive in traffic my sister called, whatever.   Writers wrestle with excuses daily. My muse is gone, I don't have enough time, when the kids go to school, when I retire, after I do the laundry. The list of excuses goes on and on.  I have my own fair share tucked neatly in a canvas bag. "I need a vacation, if I could just get a day off I'll be able to handle it, too tired, blah, blah." The Universe heard me loud and clear recently and wanted to let me know I didn't need those useless excuses.  On my way to the food store I ran through my usual list. "Too tired, need time off, tomorrow will be better." While checking out, the cashier noticed I left a jar of vanilla in the cart after I'd put all my groceries on the belt. Embarrasing. Did I look like I was trying to walk out with the vanilla? My response, "I'd forget my head..." She said, "After I had my kids I'd lost my mind."  This is where the Universe comes in. The cashier next to us said, "Have you heard of Dr. Wayne Dyer?"  Have I heard of Dr. Dyer?! He's fantastic. (If you aren't familiar with him, go look him up.)  Universe Provided Cashier said,"You need to read his book No More Excuses."  It was as if lights flashed, horns blared and a loud voice echoing over the PA system was saying, "Hey, you at register 19, listen up."  The Universe is trying to tell me something. I think its I'm capable now. Everything I need I have in this moment. My muse is always with me. I have all the energy I need. My mind is just fine even without the vacation.   I haven't read Dr. Dyer's book yet, but I will. No excuses. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Make Yourself Happy

I was in yoga class the other day and we were dedicating our practice to someone in our lives who needed the positive energy. The teacher said, "Do whatever it takes to make this person happy." I felt a little slip in my downward dog when she said that. I don't agree with that statement.

I believe doing for others will bring you happiness. Yoga Journal Magazine says, "Brain scans of people in the act of giving have found that generous deeds activate the same reward centers in the brain that pleasures like food does. When these areas are stimulated, dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters are released, resulting in pleasurable feelings that can range from contentment to euphoria."

The best thing you can do when the "poor me's" wraps around your neck threatening to steal your last breath is do something for someone else. Get out of your own way, so to speak.

But, "do whatever it takes to make this person happy?" That's a slippery slope right down into the land of Door Matville. You cannot control someone else's feelings unless you reach down into their throats and touch their emotions. (if anyone figures out how to do this, let me know. I am acquainted with a few people who need a tweek or two.) You'll spend your whole life chasing the idea of making someone happy that you'll miss out on your own happy life.

You can give them the tools to be happy. You can send them love and offer support, but you can't make them feel happiness no matter how hard you try. And I don't recommend you try and make them feel anything. They will feel joy when they're good and ready and not a second before. I like to think of it as everyone arrives to the party in their own time. Some later than others.

I want everyone to be happy and to know that is what the Universe intends for them. I certainly don't have all the answers, but I like to imagine a place where everyone's heart radiates with love. And happiness.

What are some things that make you happy?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Trust - the Mat

I left the yoga studio today without paying for my new mat. (Can you belive it?!) As I pushed through the glass doors out to the parking lot my insides tangled like a yoga pose gone bad. How could I do such a thing? Easy. The owner knows and trusts me. I am honored by that. (I have since paid for the mat, so you don't need to call the police.)

I trust myself when I get on my yoga mat that I will know what my body needs, how to bend into the poses, and I will grow spiritually in some way as I practice. I trust my favorite teacher - Allison, with her great big, beautiful smile - to be my guide. Why does trust come easily when I'm doing yoga? The practice of yoga is like a long time friend bringing you a treasured gift everytime she sees you. How hard is it to trust that?

Trusting what happens on the mat can also be my lesson in trusting my writing. And it can be your lesson in any area where trust feels thin and weak to you. I need to trust that I have learned my craft. (There is always more to learn, but I am not the novice I once was.) I have to trust my writer's voice is clear and strong on the page. And I must trust I have a story to tell and others will read it.

The act of knowing what is right for you builds self-esteem. But what if you aren't sure when something is right? Have you heard the phrase, "trust your gut?" Our instincts tell us when something is right or wrong. We know, we just have to trust ourselves.

How well do you trust? Yourself? Others? What are some of the thing you do to build trust?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Staying in the Moment

I love my Tuesday morning yoga class. I love the teacher, the other students, and the energy we share. The things I learn on my mat help me be a better person off the mat. For example, my intention for class was to stay in the moment. Staying in the moment is an ongoing practice for me and I wanted that intention to sit on my shoulder and smile at me all day. It did not.

Becoming a published author is a long and frustrating journey. I'm seeking an agent or publisher for Welcome to Kata-Tartaroo and when I can't make that I said. Long and frustrating. So, what do I do? I say "stay in the moment." But that wasn't working so well for me that day.

I'm always asking for a sign from god. A giant neon sign to tell me what to do next. Remember, staying in the moment was eluding me. So I said after my yoga class, "God, drop a huge sign on my head, will you?"

Right after my declaration for guidance, I opened one of my favorite magazines to the article I always read first. The theme of the article was the journey we all take. Hmm... my senses are perked. I'm on a very specific journey. And the last paragraph states, "no matter where you are in your journey, that's exactly where you need to be." Aahh! There it was in black and white! On the day of my yoga class where I vowed to stay in the moment!

I had come full circle just then. Had I trusted my intention in class I would have known that everything I needed I already had. All the steps I take every day are exactly the steps I need to take. The Universe is conspiring in my favor. My big dreams are coming. Most importantly, don't forget the small dreams we accomplish every day. The ones that ground us in the moment. A smile from a friend, the air we breathe, the beautiful colors bursting from the trees and plants, the sound of a song, laughter, telling a story, taking yoga, writing...

What are some of yours?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Permission to Be Tired

Have you ever just lost it? Had a real melt down moment? Yeah, it happens to the best of us. Moments like that make me want to throw in the towel. Give it all up for days filled with chocolate covered bon bons, pedicures, and television. Like most, I live a hectic life. I'm going full force an easy 16 hours most days and still I can't get to my "to do" list. My critique partner Marykate says I set my goals too high. She's right. (Love you, MK!)

I decided it was time to stop being tired. (What you resist persists.) And embraced it instead!

I gave in. Sat down. Allowed myself to push the task aside and listen to my body, my mind, and my spirit. I'm not a robot. (Though I'd like to be.)

I honored what I needed so I could embrace the grace that operates in my life. I never want to be ungrateful for my dance with grace. Ever.

Maybe now that I'm rested I can look upon my things to do with a fresh renewal and walk the path intended for me.

Maybe even get that pedicure...

What do you give yourself permission to do? 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Patience and Fortitude

Recently, I went to the New York Public Library to do research for my second book in the Gabriel Hunter series, Welcome to Bibliotheca. What a career I have! I get to wander around the NYPL and call it research! The writer's life is a good one.

But I have to tell you, what an amazing building! Marble staircases, murals on the ceilings and walls, huge windows letting in the sun, and of course rows and rows of books. All of those books to read, touch, and smell. The hallways lead left and right like a stone maze. I got lost returning from the bathroom!

The NYPL was established in 1895 when the Astor and Lenox libraries merged with the Tilden Trust. A new library would be designed and 16 years after this historic merge happened, May 23, 1911, the new library on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street would open.

Standing guard outside the library are twin lions originally named "Leo Astor" and "Leo Lenox," after the Library's founders. Mayor Fiorello La Guardia nicknamed them "Patience" and "Fortitude." Those names are still used today. No two better words describe the ingredients necessary to become a published writer. 

Patience and Fortitude come in handy in many other areas of life as well. They are like soldiers standing watch for us as we navigate through life. They remain quiet and stoic in the background, but just a glance over our shoulder lets us know we are not alone. We can accomplish anything with our friends near by. And should we forget them, it only requires a deep breath and a step forward to remember their presence and with them anything we wish is possible. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Authors' Day

I spent all of Monday at the Ocean Township Intermediate School with 85 sixth graders. It was fantastic! OTIS puts on an Authors' Day for sixth graders with serious interest and abilities for creative writing. The program started up four years ago by Mr. Robert Klinger, a sixth grade language arts teacher there. My hat goes off to him for all the hard work and dedication that goes into this day and to his students. What a blessing to have Mr. Klinger as a teacher. This year he was able to bring a local cable station to the school to film the day and the show will air in the fall.

The students always seem to enjoy themselves and learn tons about writing. It's a special day for them to be chosen by their language arts teacher and taken out of classes to participate in the fun event where they learn about everything from writing their emotions in poetry to illustrating a children's book.

Nothing beats their smiling faces when they read aloud the writing they did for me. Sometimes it's nothing more than a paragraph, but they're in the moment and they've learned something new. I hope all the kids keep up with their writing.

I can't thank OTIS and Mr. Klinger enough for allowing me to participate in such a worth while event.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Which Road Do You Travel?

An opportunity has presented itself to me and I must decide to either take on a new task or pass. This isn't an easy decision. There are benefits to doing it and benefits to saying not now. But which is the right one? How do you make decisions?

I've gone over the list of the reasons to say "Yes!" There are many. I'll grow as a person. I'll learn more about something I already have a great love of. It will help me with future plans to help kids build their self-esteem. Oh, the list goes on. Then there's the reasons to say, "not now or maybe ever." It will intrude on my writing time. (That's a big one.) But, it might help my writing too. (Note the confusion.) What will I do with it when I'm done?

I try to feel around inside myself for that buzzing in my gut that says, "yes, do this." I don't notice it, but does that mean fear has numbed the sensation? Or is the buzzing absent because the answer should be no? I don't want to miss out on an opportunity if the Universe is trying to tell me something, but I don't want to drown myself in good intentions.

So, tell us. How do you go about deciding on which road to take in your life?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Middle School Writing

I speak at middle schools about creative writing. That means I know a few sixth graders and recently I learned not all writing programs are created equal. Why was I surprised?

One of my sixth grade friends asked for help with a paper. The writing was pretty good, but there was a problem. The thoughts were not cohesive. My friend was more concerned with making sure his paragraphs started with First, then, then, etc and a rhetorical question following the first sentence than he was worried about anything else. His teacher would take points off if he didn't follow the rules.

What? Who's teaching this stuff? These kids aren't learning how to string a thought together if they're worried about where the rhetorical goes over making a point clearly. Ideas have to flow like a river running down hill.

What do we do? First, you can have me come in and talk to your students. (I started my sentence with "first!" Maybe my sixth grade teacher is still at work. Just kidding. No one panic.)

Seriously, tell me your ideas on fixing the problems with the way young people write. I have a few of my own.

Monday, March 12, 2012

How Do You Deal With Difficult People?

At the start of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge has the market cornered on difficult. You agree? Of course you do. And in the fashion of fiction, by the end he's the sweet, rich uncle we all long to have.

I'm in the middle of dealing with some really difficult people. They are a little different from Uncle Ebenezer. I don't know how stingy they are with their money, but they definitely have the attitude it's their way or the highway. Unreasonable. Single Minded. It makes my heart wrestles around my rib cage and my lungs expand at such a rapid rate I can't get any air in.

How do I deal with this? Writing this blog post is one way. I can get the feelings off my chest just enough to quiet my mind and wait for the answers to come. I won't be able to hear what to do with all the noisy thoughts clanking around in my head like Jacob Marley's chains. But what else can I do? (I'm a doer. I have to do stuff.)

I can't make them see things my way. It's their choice how to view their world. I have to control myself, which isn't such an easy thing to do. (Though I am actually doing something.) How will I get control? It's a beautiful day out. The world outside is filled with an abundance of grace. I can sit with nature and remind myself I have everything I need in this moment. My life is full and at peace. The Universe will provide the answers on how to deal with my Ebenezer replicas. There is no sense in fighting them. "What you resist, persists." I'll know what to do when the time is right.

How would you deal with difficult people?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


How do you stay patient while waiting for something you want to happen? How can you use writing to help you? Of course, journaling is always the answer, isn't it? When in doubt, whip out your friend, journal. She never criticizes, never judges, never talks about herself. Sometimes she even shows us the answer.

Patience is not one of my better qualities. But how do you detach from the result of what you want while you're waiting to see if the Universe will give it to you? The Universe is always trying to teach me patience and I'm a slow learner in that area. I'm more of a rip the band aid off now and see the oozing underneath instead of waiting for the wound to heal kind of person. Sometimes that's good. Other times, not so much. 

I'm not sure if this answers the question about patience, but the words of Marianne Williamson resonate with me so I'll share them with you. "And once we have surrendered ourselves to be used for a higher purpose, we give up the obsession with planning that dominates so much of Western civilization."

I'm going out on a limb and saying I don't think Ms. Williamson wants you to stop planning your future. You have retirement, college, jobs and families to think about. Bills to pay, friends to visit with. What I think she's saying is be the best person you can be on your way to your destination. It's about putting positive energy out to the Universe and listening for the soft whisper to respond to you. It's about quieting your mind so you don't miss the answers.

Patience is non judgement. It's the journey that leads us where we're going. It's inner peace. Patience isn't something we find in a bottle. Though I wish I could whip up a batch every now and again.

How do you find ways to be patient?

Friday, February 10, 2012


I was talking with a friend the other day. She said her daughter thought the only way to be heroic or courageous was to face a tragedy, like having your arm bitten off by a shark. What do you think?

I say, not true! Courage comes in all shapes and sizes. You don't have to have your arm bitten off to prove you have courage. Mirriam-Webster says the definition of courage is "mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty."

Fear can materialize in many forms. You might be afraid of the dark. Afraid to fly. Afraid to succeed. Afraid to take a risk. Afraid to ask for help. Courage shows up when fear is faced. One of my favorite quotes from Franklin D. Roosevelt, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." (That's a good one. You have to admit.)

When life seems difficult doesn't it take courage to stand tall and not run for cover? What is difficult for one is easy for another. There is no measure for difficulty. But to throw courage on your back and walk through something hard and come out the other side better for having experienced it. That is courage ten fold.

Being courageous might be as simple as joining a new group or taking a taxi ride alone. Perhaps you want to stand in front of a crowd and give a speech. That takes courage. Or you stand up to a bully. Courage.

You don't need a movie made about you to show you have courage. All you have to do is be grateful for the opportunity to try. Trying is courageous too. Your assignment: Go out and try one courageous thing today.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Don't Quit

I need a little help. Explain to me why someone quits before they achieve what they want? I don't get it. Really. I'm talking about anything. From programming the DVD player to having your dream job. I know it's scary, hard, sometimes down right impossible. Hey, I know about hard. I'm a writer looking for a place for my novels to land. In terms of tough goals this is right up there. Maybe not as high as overcoming addiction, but you get my point.

Why quit? Isn't that the easy way out? Do you want the DVD player to beat you? Are you being lazy? Do you want someone else to carry the burden for you? Hmm...I bet I'm getting a few yeses on that one.

Explain to me why someone who could have what it is they claim they want gives up before they get it? Could it be you don't really want it that badly? Hmm again. My guess is that's it. You never really wanted it and when the journey toward this goal got tough you quit. That's okay if that's the truth. 

But if you want change in your life: job, relationships, learning a new instrument, then I suggest you dig deep because a long road may be in front of you and you're going to spend a lot of sweat equity getting where you're going. Achieving goals isn't easy, but quitting isn't any easier. You will live with each decision you make. So if you truly want something go after it with all you've got. We only get one life. Don't quit!