“Pure Happiness”

“We never know how high we are,

     Till we are called to rise;

And then, if we are true to plan,

Our statures touch the skies.”

Emily Dickinson

Watching the Tour de France in July is one of my favorite TV viewing experiences. The drama! The obstacles! The suffering! The digging deep and overcoming suffering. It’s all there on view. Again and again it reminds me that just as Tour riders find the strength to climb mountains and travel hundreds of hot, grueling miles in a day, so I can find the strength to tackle whatever obstacles I encounter on the page – and in myself.

When we dig deeper, magic often happens. When we dig deeper and really push ourselves past the point we think we can go, we find extra energy. And resolve. And we can “touch the skies.”

Consider the story of John Degenkolb, winner of Stage 9 of this year’s Tour de France. As one cycling journalist described his hard-fought victory: “Then, we had joyful John. Degenkolb’s victory was poetic justice after his 2016 career-threatening crash, loss of a close friend and the adversity he has endured in recent years. He didn’t hide his emotion afterwards. He couldn’t.

“Post-race interviewer Seb Piquet asked: what’s going on in your mind? His face red with effort, the German began a two-minute unburdening, his voice trembling: ‘Pure happiness.’” https://www.nbcsports.com/…/2018-tour-de-france-john-degenkolb-e…

“Pure happiness” – what a gift! Pure happiness after overcoming so much. Just two years ago, a terrible crash threatened to end John’s career. Many people wrote him off and said he’d never even ride again. He lost a beloved friend. Other sorrowful moments assailed him. Yet he got back on his bike and went on to win one of the toughest, most demanding stages of this year’s Tour. What grit! What an inspiration!

Bravo, John – ride on! May we, too, find the strength to dig deeper and write on!



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Only Connect!

Building a writer’s platform can seem daunting, but listen to Ethel Lee-Miller and it sounds doable — and even fun. For Ethel, a platform is all about connecting with people and sharing your love of writing and stories with them. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

Writer, educator, and encouragement coach extraordinaire: When Ethel Lee-Miller talks about writing, you feel that anything is possible! She’s the author of the heart-warming Thinking of Miller Place: A Memoir of Summer Comfort and Seedlings: Stories of Relationships. She’s also embraced social media as a way of reaching out to build a readership. In a power-packed workshop hosted by the Write Group, she shared some media tips:

Your platform is about you: Your platform is what you “stand on” – it’s about what you value and what’s important to you. “What is it about writing I love? What made me decide to do it?” Ask yourself these questions and begin shaping answers to them and you’ll have the seeds of your writers platform. And remember: It’s organic: it will change and evolve.

Your platform is built on communicating: Deciding how you want to reach readers and potential readers is key. Basic online tools to do this include: a blogs, website, newsletter or column, and publishing articles. Editors and agents are attracted to authors with visibility, authority, and proven target reach. Why not be one?

Craft mission and vision statements: Motivation is key. Create a simple mission statement as a touchstone to inspire you and then create a vision statement – a road map for how you’re going to get there — with target dates for completing projects.

Go where your audience is: Channels abound, but the big players are: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, and Pinterest. Explore their analytics to find the people you want to reach. Facebook, for example, now attracts 40+ users while Instagram is a YA hotbed.

Be disciplined: Building a platform takes time and energy. Start by devoting one morning or one evening to it and stay with it. The more you do, the more you’ll know. It seems daunting, but remember, it’s all about connecting.

Cultivate your e-mail list: Make it a point to exchange emails when you meet people. Building an email list is key to building an audience. Mail Chimp is a user-friendly resource.

Great advice from a writer who’s made it part of her mission to master media. Bravo, Ethel – write and inspire on!



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Bravo, Benjamin!

Whenever writing seems a thorny, tough proposition, turning for inspiration and motivation from fellow travelers can be a wise move. With this in mind, I picked up a slim, handsome volume, Quotations of Benjamin Franklin, peeking from a book pile, of which there are many scattered around my house. Writer, printer, provocateur – our boy Benjamin was no slouch. His pithy, witty Poor Richard’s Almanack was a hugely popular series in its day and still has a modern ring to it. A few entries to amuse and embolden us:

“A good example is the best sermon.”

“Plough deep while sluggards sleep.”

“Well done is better than well said.”

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.”

“Industry, perseverance, and frugality make fortune yield.”

“If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.”

“You will find the key to success under the alarm clock.”

“Take time for all things; great haste makes great waste.”

“Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.”

“What signifies knowing the names, if you know not the nature of things?”

“If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.”

“The doors of wisdom are never shut.”

Wise and witty words to guide us today as we all write on!





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Chopping Wood

“For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”   T. S. Eliot

“Do or do not. There is no try.”   Yoda

An oft-told Zen story:

A student, newly arrived at a monastery asked the master, “What work will I do while I seek enlightenment?”

“Chop wood, carry water,” the master replies.

“And what work will I do once I achieve enlightenment?” asks the student.

“Chop wood, carry water,” the master replies.

This wonderful story, shared in The Mindful Writer by Dinty W. Moore, reminds us of a simple truth: As writers, we write.

Whether we spend our time“trying” as our boy T. S. Eliot says — always chasing the better word, the more elegant sentence – in the end, as Yoda observes, we “do or do not” – we are either writing or not writing.

Sometimes we falter. We are only human, after all. Sometimes, we let a lot of things get in the way of our work. Not just the daily demands of life, but our own self-imposed problems. We get frustrated about how slow a story is going. We get anxious about whether it’s good enough. We get worried about sending it out or finding an agent or how to self publish. We lose ourselves in confusion and forget that we’re writers and it’s about the writing.

“Chop wood, carry water.” Find words, make sentences.

This is our work, too. If we can just remember this and keep it simple, the words will come, the sentences will form. Write on!

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“Stories Stick”

“Once upon a time…”

Ah, now I’ve grabbed your attention! That’s what stories do: they capture us — and, if we do our job well, they entrance us.

“Stories stick” – I love this phrase. I heard it on Dr. Rob Gilbert’s wonderful hotline* and it certainly stuck with me! In a world where we’re drowning in information and knowledge, where sorting and sifting through it all takes more time than ever, stories can save us.

And we all need them more than ever. To my mind, here’s why:

Stories get at the heart of things: Good stories pick and choose the information they give us and deliver it in a way that makes a point. At the end of a good story, we can usually see how every part added up to a whole. A story gathers information and momentum so we can see what really matters, what’s at the heart of the matter.

Stories have structure: A good story unfolds in a way that makes intuitive sense to us. It has a beginning, middle, and an end. It’s not just an aimless collection of random facts – it takes us from Point A to Point B to Point C. In a world where facts float by faster than we can absorb and use them, a story gives us a path: It marshals information in service of a goal. It imposes order. In a world where too much information comes at us every day, we need and crave this.

Stories clarify: The right information discovered at the right time can be illuminating. Too much information is just confusing and overwhelming. Stories help us sort through it all and make sense of it. They make things clearer, sharper: They cut through the chaos.

Stories rally us: A wonderful, uplifting story can energize and enliven us. It can encourage us to take action, to make something happen. It connects us to others and tells us we matter, that we can make a difference. It moves and motivates.

Wow, I could go on and on. As storytellers, we are awesomely important! What else makes stories stick in your mind? I’d love to hear from you as we all write on!

*Check out Dr. Gilbert’s fabulous hotline: 973.743.4690.

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Something Wonderful

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside —

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown —
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

Robert Louis Stevenson

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Book Nook

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve had an ongoing conversation about how we can best provide the resources of the book world to our community. Writers are, of course, part of our community. Though we can’t hire every writer in the greater Porter Square area, we still want to make some of the resources that were so important to our writers available to others.”          Porter Square Books

Nestled in bustling Cambridge, Massachusetts, Porter Square Books has come up with a unique way to help support the writers in its vibrant community: It’s launching the Porter Square Books Writers in Residence program. What a novel idea — and what an ingenious enterprise to bring together books and the intrepid souls who create them!

The program will select via application, two writers — one writing for adults and one writing for young readers — for nine-month terms in2019. During their term, the writers in residence will get the store’s staff discount (40% off!), access to advance reader copies, and access to the store’s offices on nights and weekends as a quiet place to work.

On their end, writers in residence will contribute at least three pieces for the store’s blog, introduce or take part in a conversation with at least three other authors (and making connections to other publishing authors), participate in a “Welcome Reading” and Independent Bookstore Day, and agree to launch with Porter Square Books any book they work on during their residency that wins publication.

Introducing the initiative, Josh Cook, author of An Exaggerated Murder, wrote on the store’s blog: “Working as a bookseller at Porter Square Books gave me access to the book world in ways I could never have imagined when I took the job. I learned about the inner workings of publishing, formed relationships with people throughout the industry, and stayed current with the books being written today. Not only did my work as a bookseller help me connect to publishers, I was also able to get to know other authors at all stages of their careers and, perhaps most importantly, through the staff discount and advance reader copies, I was able to afford far more new books than I ever could otherwise. Working at Porter Square Books gave me access and resources that directly helped me as a writer, both in terms of my career and my work….”

Indie bookstores — what a gift! Always coming up with creative ideas to build community. Let’s keep their flags flying high as we all write on!



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