Contest Entry: Fiona J

Contest Entry: Fiona J

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Dearest Self,

When The Rise is finished your mind will be released from its spell, you might even loose that slightly vacant day-dreaming look. A fantastical journey explored through wide-eyes, with terror and awe combined. It starts with a trickling thought that tumbles from the mountain stream. It wriggles then weaves between stones. It carves through stone and collects the scent of pine, then mint, then lavender. It drops through the valley in a sweeping curve before it meets the tide and endless ocean. Words crash on doubtful shores and leave with a whisper and the hiss of cascading stones; they leave the doubt shaken and a little bit changed. Until finally, breathless, She finds her landscape at peace. There’s even beauty in the murky patch of tangled weeds, floating out of reach.

I can’t force anyone to know themselves, but I can demonstrate that there’s nothing in the world so powerful.

The hours perched, scrolling through articles and poised, ready to write, were poured into text and the manuscript released into the world. The guilt that comes from staring at an empty page, or scrawling a thousand words and forgetting to cook, is fading fast.

I am ready for the next adventure, the next challenge, and exploration of a different mind.

It’s a book that wouldn’t exist without coffee, a pair of impatient cats and a patient family, but mostly coffee. There will be no more turkey dinosaurs for dinner.

With love,

Me (Fiona J)

A Shortcut to Great Writing AND Personal Evolution

A Shortcut to Great Writing AND Personal Evolution

"If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people." –Virginia Woolf

In his book, Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, expressive therapy pioneer Dr. James Pennebaker devotes several chapters to the history and power of personal honesty. Per his extensive studies, all humans have inappropriate thoughts, fears, and uncomfortable memories. The best way to move past them is to travel through them.

In other words, you must confess.

Perhaps like me, you find this vastly comforting.

Building off social psychologist Dr. Dan Wegner’s findings that the harder we try to suppress a thought, the more power it gains (the “try not to think of a white bear” hypothesis), Pennebaker designed studies that found that when you stop suppressing and reveal your negative thoughts and memories, even if only on paper, you create a narrative congruence that allows your brains to release them.

Although Pennebaker’s studies cannot pinpoint whether the relief comes from the act of releasing a secret or the cessation of the work of inhibiting it, the science is clear: disclosing your closet skeletons is good for your immune system, your mental health, your blood pressure, your heart rate, and a bunch of other parts of you.

Going deep makes us healthy, and healthy people go deep.

Why Good Writers Are Self-aware

If deep self-awareness is crucial to mental and physical health, it’s also the key to the candy store when it comes to crafting powerful fiction. According to author Joanne Harris' Writer's Manifesto, the most important task of a writer is to be true to themselves. Natalie Goldberg, in her awesome Writing Down the Bones, calls this state of authenticity “metaphor”:

It comes from a place that is very courageous, willing to step out of our preconceived ways of seeing things and open so large that it can see the oneness in an ant and in an elephant…Your mind is leaping, your writing will leap, but it won’t be artificial. (37)

Jeff Davis, author of The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing, offers further insight on the necessity of writing authentically: “Part of writing the truth includes exploring the truth of our self (or selves).” He doesn’t mean writing memoir; he means writing honestly. According to Davis, a straightforward retelling of an event lacks the depth and complexity needed to create a powerful narrative. As writers, we must make connections by exploring the choices that led us to one outcome or another as well as the forces beyond our control, all of which leads naturally to an exploration of this mortal coil.

Deepening our personal exploration naturally results in deeper storylines in our fiction and in complex characters that speak to the universal human experience. Foregrounding these collective truths mean readers will see themselves in your tale, but only if you tell it true. I’ve seen this proven time and again in my two decades of teaching creative writing, where I’ve discovered one constant: people who live unexamined lives write boring shit. If a person doesn’t know the truth about themselves, they are not equipped to touch on bigger truths and writing without a deep level of personal and thus universal honesty is nothing more than a fancy grocery list.

Renowned writers agree. Eudora Welty claimed that the novel is the most truthful of all artistic mediums. According to Stephen King, compelling fiction is the truth inside the lie. Tennessee Williams describes writers as the opposite of magicians: magicians create an illusion that looks like truth, but a novelist hides the truth behind the illusion of fiction. Barbara Kingsolver argues that a writer’s main job is to figure out what she has to say that no one else can. Kurt Vonnegut, with his usual humor, said, “Do you realize that all great literature is all about what a bummer it is to be a human being? Isn't it such a relief to have somebody say that?”

To discover your unique message, you must know yourself.

It’s not just writers who recognize this; readers understand it as well. Think of the last book that captured you and pulled you inside its sweet pages. What do you remember about it? What resonated with you? I’m willing to bet it wasn’t, “The main character did this, and this, and then this.” Compelling fiction offers more than a list of events. It offers Truth about ourselves and the world we live in.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Fiction is, paradoxically, the most honest mode of expression, and you can’t write it if you don’t practice it in your own life, any more than someone who doesn’t swim can be a lifeguard. You must be true to your roots. It is where you find your voice, what you need to write about, what you have the skillset and juice to make worth reading.

You must first know yourself to write authentic fiction, the kind that heals you, and that other people will pay to read.

The above is excerpted from Jessica Lourey’s (rhymes with "dowry") book, Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction, the only book which shows you how to transform your facts into compelling, healing fiction. Jessica is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a regular Psychology Today blogger, a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker who delivered the 2016 "Rewrite Your Life" TEDx Talk, and a leader of transformative writer's retreats. You can find out more at www.jessicalourey.com.

Contest Entry: Lori Ann

Contest Entry: Lori Ann

To vote for this entry, click "like," which, depending on where you are viewing it, will either be above or below the post.

 

Dear Writing Woman Warrior,

You took a huge leap of faith to leave South Africa at your most vulnerable moment and attend your first Women Writing Retreat in the Italian countryside of Umbria. Fear, doubt, and loneliness were replaced with courage, acceptance and validation, creating a catalyst to write your memoir, Secrets of the Vine. A fifty-six year old voice is no longer silent and your ultimate goal of releasing other women to tell their story may just have been achieved. 

Using the courage of women like yourself and empathetic, encouraging coaches, you have told the story of an American woman’s life starting in apartheid South Africa in 1987. Following a dreamer’s heart and the love of your life you left family, friends and a career to start a new journey on a generational owned wine estate with unrivaled natural beauty. It is here that unspoken truths would be revealed under the veil of aristocratic colonialism. Navigating year after year through racism, violence, political turmoil, family hierarchy, alcohol addiction, sexual immorality, and finally betrayal only to discover the true purpose of this mother of four. 

Lastly, the chapters are now closed on the past and you feel alive again knowing that true validation comes only from inside yourself.  Secrets of the Vine has released you to step proudly and confidently into the next chapter, allowing you to finally live your two mottos:  “own your own truth” and “love never fails."

You are finally free.

With Love,

Lori Ann

Contest Entry: Jodi Koskella - Scarpe Diem

Contest Entry: Jodi Koskella - Scarpe Diem

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Dear Jodi,

I'm so glad you listened to your inner wisdom and wrote Scarpe Diem, the true adventure of two friends that left their tech jobs to start a shoe business in Italy. Having just returned from a book tour, I can tell you now that this journey has propelled you back into the creative life you knew you were meant to lead.

My life has changed in ways both expected and unexpected. Originally I thought writing the book would be cathartic, and it has been. I also thought it would help me remember how we were successful instead of focusing on the failure, and it's done that as well. But more than anything, it's unlocked the memory that life can be created. It can be inspiring. It can flow, and it can be magical.

I could not be more grateful for the support from my writing coaches and the women I met at the Women Writing Italy retreat. While I love watching people laugh or feel moved when we read excerpts at book signings, it’s not about the outside validation for me. The very best part is that the stirring and longing that used to wake me up at night is gone. It turns out that all of that was simply a desire for expression, and as long as it keeps flowing, I am at peace.

Keep going....

Love,

Jodi

Jodi Koskella
Charmoné
www.charmone.com

The Gift of Writing

The Gift of Writing

I was at a writing conference this past weekend and one of the speakers asked, “If you knew that you would never be published, would you write?” 

Hell, yes!

Would you practice yoga knowing you might never become a guru?

Would you cook knowing you might never be a Michelin-star chef?

Would you do any craft you love doing knowing you might never sell an item?

Of course. We do these creative activities because they bring joy in the process themselves.

Writing has some extra-special side effects, like reducing blood pressure, releasing tension and boosting your immune system.  Jess Lourey provides a thorough overview of the medical benefits of writing in her upcoming book, Rewrite Your Life

For me, I believe writing is one of the most amazing things out there. Where else can you watch a free movie in your head? Writing has also put me in touch with forgotten emotions and healing insights. Honestly, I'm not sure why this free therapy isn't hyped more often, writing is so cathartic.

When aiming to write a good book, they often say, find the heart of your story.  For me, writing has lead me to my heart. So go write something today, you’ll get so many benefits from it!

Contest Entry: Jami Gaither - Leaving the Rat Race

Contest Entry: Jami Gaither - Leaving the Rat Race

To vote for this blog entry by Jami Gaither for the Rewrite Your Life Contest, click "like" above.

Dearest Jami,

Happy Birthday!

I also write to express gratitude for our book Harn Theory: A Proven Formula for Leaving the Rat Race, Designing a Sustainable Life, and Finding Joy.  Who knew we could escape the misogyny of the steel industry and find solace in the trees?  That we could overcome the fears and make the leap of faith to a new way of life?

Every week now brings someone new to my life seeking guidance, support or simply encouragement in beginning a path to freedom.  I now truly appreciate the contentment of those who gave me help.  From that Inn Serendipity visit and long financial discussions with Marg Nucci, to the many chance meetings with people along the way, forging their own paths, it was a group effort creating the life that resulted in this guidebook.

Most importantly, Dan has been a hard-working, supportive partner as this book came to life, literally, with the development of our Permaculture Homestead at the Harn.  Oh, and the blog and YouTube channel supporters – all seventeen of those early adopters! And thanks must go to Jess Lourey and the Wellness Retreats for Women who forced us to find a working title, thus making the book a reality.

Seeing the effect on new friends who are rethinking their lives, whether to leave the rat race or just to find more peace in their lives, makes every moment of writing worthwhile. 

Thank you,

Jami

XOXO

 

Hawaii Dreaming

Hawaii Dreaming

Impressions from my trip last week to Hawaii included balmy winds, the fragrant smell of tuberose wafting up from my lei, the excitement of watching land being creating via spurting lava into the ocean, and some coco-nutty cocktails. It was a trip to research the Art of Self-Care August trip to Hawaii (yes, I admit it, it was a vacation from chilly Reno too and some time with hubby).

One of the most inspiring moments was meeting Jeanne, the hotel owner of Hawaii Resort Retreats. More on that in a future blog post. For now, check out some of the awe-inspiring sights of Hawaii here (link).

Contest Entry: Megan Dawicki - Lightning from Heaven

Contest Entry: Megan Dawicki - Lightning from Heaven

To vote for this blog entry by Tina Diamond for the Rewrite Your Life Contest, click "like" above.

Lightning from Heaven is an inspirational adventure of discovery through abandonment, addiction, toxic relationships, destructive behavior and the journey of learning the power of love, strength, and faith through weakness and humility. It has inspired so many men and women to have the courage to seek a multitude of resources available to them to overcome hurdles in their lives and acceptance that addiction is a disease of the brain and does not discriminate. In turn, broken souls have been repaired, hearts have been mended, voices have been heard,  and prayers have turned into dream come trues. Fortunately, I was blessed to have the support of my husband, loving family and friends as well as every person I have encountered along the journey to help develop and inspire me to become the woman I am today. Without the universe, this book would not be possible. Since writing this book my life has been abundantly blessed, fear has evaporated, and dreams have become bigger. In my endless river of love what once were, dams have eroded into sandbars of opportunities and become just a stop along the way.

Megan Dawicki

Contest Entry: Tina Diamond - Dear Future Mystery Author

Contest Entry: Tina Diamond - Dear Future Mystery Author

To vote for this blog entry by Tina Diamond for the Rewrite Your Life Contest, click "like" above.

Dear Future Mystery Author,

You are a book writer.  A published author.

Despite the fear, the doubt, you resolved to do what you wanted, to be an author. You are still learning and working hard, you haven't given up.  You get better with each book with the help of many, including published writers, and an editor with a generous nature. Also, new writer friends you have made on social media, YouTube and your family and friends.

You wake up with a reason, and a desire. Something I never again thought I would see, a smile on your face that has not been there since becoming a mom. Being a writer is your life's calling, you proved that. It became every facet of you and that's the greatest part of having created what is your life's work. I'll always be happy that we published, Color Me Murdered, by T.A Diamond, and so should you.

Maggie Flower comes back home after a failed marriage in New York City to open her own adult coloring book shop. Maggie finds Virgil Power, director of a retirement complex, dead in the back of her shop. Detective Austin Alexander suspects Maggie's grandmother of the murder. Maggie will have to use more than her coloring pencils to sketch out a killer. This was our first published work.

I'm so honored and inspired you are me. I look forward to writing many more novels and sharing this adventure with you.

Tina Diamond -Book Reviewer/Blogger, Amazon Associate  
 

Win $100 Contest: Write a Book, Rewrite Your Life Contest

Win $100 Contest: Write a Book, Rewrite Your Life Contest

According to common wisdom, we all have a book inside of us. So, how would your life be better if you wrote your book?

Write a letter from your future self, maximum 250 words, describing how your life has changed now that you’ve written that book you’re meant to write. Include items such as describing:

  • a description of your book, including a title
  • the best part about having that book written
  • the kind of support you got to help you write the book
  • the ways your life has gotten better since you wrote the book

Email that letter to us at support@womenwellnessretreats.com. Your entry qualifies you for a chance to win $100 cash and $100 off your dream writing retreat!

Rules

  • Cost: free, and all eligible submissions will be posted on our blog

  • Maximum length for entire submission: 250 words

  • Grand prize: $100 cash plus a $100 coupon to use toward any writing retreat on our website; 5 honorable mentions will receive a $50 coupon toward any writing retreat

  • Judging: the story with the most “likes” on the blog wins

  • Contest will run March 21 to April 4, 2017

  • Winner declared on April 5th

Email all submissions to support@womenwellnessretreats.com, subject line “Write a Book, Rewrite Your Life.” Contest is open to all genders. Maximum number of entries is one. We guarantee 6 winners (one grand prize and five honorable mentions).

We can't wait to hear how writing your book will change your life!

The Shame of Writing

Jess here. Today, I woke to two emails from a woman I have not met. I’d submitted a guest post for her blog. Her first email was a thank you and a lockdown on the posting date. Her second was a pile of mean wrapped in hair. She said she’d just read the article I’d submitted, didn’t know who had written it (surely it couldn’t have been me because she’d tracked down the one salvageable sentence to my blog so knew I could write and wanted more of that), said the rest had clearly been written by a “failed academic,” and declared that the last paragraph of the piece (which was my bio) read like an “infomercial,” so I needed to delete that but also, could I send her a bio?

She left me with two options, either to 1) write the article myself, or 2) have someone else write an article about me, because, “Mixing those two modes won't work. After all, I want your work and book to shine, Jess!”

I'm chuckling as I type this. The levels of absurdity. But if you think I was anything but locked in Rage Tower, shooting death rays at my dog, husband, and child (price of admission, folks) after I read that second email, well, thank you for thinking so highly of me. 

official promo shot for Firestarter, the movie

The Firestarter fury burned itself out within the hour, but it left behind a worm of doubt. *Maybe this isn't the right time to write that book I've been dancing around for months…*Now here is where it gets interesting for me. I’m 15 books into my career. I know the games I play, how I’ll scuttle into the nearest excuse and hide there, a hermit crab of a human being, comforting myself with the fact that of course I’d work on that book if not for this lovely, formfitting excuse.

But We Get to Play? The book I’m “working on” now? I’ve never gotten so personal in my fiction, and not coincidentally, desperate in my reasons not to write it. The book is Lovely Bones meets Stranger Things, a time travel to Paynesville, Minnesota, 1983, when boys were being abducted and returned but the adults never told us why. It’s an examination of the monsters we all grow up with. It’s mystery and magical realism, nostalgia and freedom. I’ve outlined it every which way but Wednesday, and now, I circle it. Looking for reasons not to write it.

Maybe I should self-publish a Murder-by-the-Month novella and make some quick cash so I can pay for the trip I want to take with my family, and then I’ll write this next book. And I’m going out of country in a couple days. I should wait until I return to dig in. And I have articles to write for my book that’s coming out May 1. That’s time sensitive. I should do that first. And I work too much. I need more time for fun, less time writing. I already have a full-time teaching job, I shouldn’t make writing another job. And maybe I’m not good enough of a writer to…

*SNAP*

It’s that last weasel worry that finally woke me up to what I'd been doing, and I have this morning’s email to thank for it (you might want to take a gift-wrapping class, blog lady, but gratitude for the present just the same): Maybe I’m not a good enough writer to…I recognize that old friend. His name is Shame. He masquerades as a fear of failure, or a fear of success, a need to get this one page just right before I can even think about going on to the next one, a million reasons not to begin or not to continue, worry that I’ll waste hundreds of precious hours writing, that people won’t like the book, that they’ll see my imperfection laid bare in my words, or the order of my words, or that they just won't want to see my words.

write that book

I imagine that I'll wrestle with Shame at the beginning of every new book I write (he loses his seat at the table around page 100, dunno why), and I'll have to fight myself back to this place each time. Steven Pressfield does a great job naming this crisis of confidence in The War of Art. Anne Lamott offers an antidote in “Shitty First Drafts”--her whole book is a must-read. But here’s what *I* know, and what I forget with each book I write: there is only one cure for the shame, and it is this: word count.

The writing is the reward. The writing is the reward. The writing is the reward.

p.s. If you feel like donating to my cause, it'd be totally gnarly if you'd post your favorite early-80s memory below--slang, song, TV show, etc.
p.s.s. If you would like guidance in turning your own life experiences into healing, powerful fiction, here's my infomercial: Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction hits shelves May 1, Allison and I are leading a Rewrite Your Life workshop in San Francisco May 12-14 (open to men and women), and my self-paced online Rewrite Your Life course is available here.

Advice I Never Write Without

It takes a village to raise a writer.

I don’t just mean the nerdy English teachers who infected us with their love of language, or the librarians who provided us our early book fixes, or even the editors who so artfully disguise the moles, mustaches, and pockmarks in our manuscripts. There’s also the other writers who’ve generously shared their own tricks. I’m passing on the two best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever heard, one from Carolyn Hart and the other from Elizabeth Gilbert.

Carolyn Hart was speaking on a Malice Domestic panel in 2007. She was at the conference to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award, and over 200 fans packed the room. During the Q & A portion of the panel, one aspiring writer timidly raised her hand and asked Ms. Hart whether she should hold off on using all of her good ideas in her first novel because then what would she have left for her second one?

After some polite laughter in the room (which I didn’t understand until later—the question seemed excellent), Ms. Hart said, “Use your good ideas now. Your brain will make more. I promise.” Maya Angelou concurs in her famous quote: “You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

Don’t hold back when you write.

The second piece of advice came from Elizabeth Gilbert, who was speaking at a retreat I attended in the spring of 2015. A young author asked Ms. Gilbert how she knew which ideas to use when writing Eat, Pray, Love and which to leave out. The question wasn’t so much about using up all your good stuff as it was about being overwhelmed with potential directions and not knowing how to select what helped the story and what hurt it.

“That’s easy,” Ms. Gilbert said. “Every book I write, I write to one person. It doesn’t have to be someone close to me, and they don’t ever have to know.”

The idea struck me as both simple and revolutionary: which one person am I writing this book for? Who most needs to read it? What parts of the story must they know? What won’t matter to them? What tone must I strike? By selecting a one-person audience and writing to that person from the brainstorming stage to final edits, you will instinctively know what to include in your novel and what to leave out.

Use your good ideas now, and write your book to one person. You've got this.

The above post is excerpted from Rewrite Your Life: Discover Your Truth Through the Healing Power of Fiction, by Jessica Lourey, available May 1, 2017.