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A Year of Yes: Help children find their best environment

“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” ~Alexander den Heijer

In a classroom, if a student’s not thriving, our education system too often assumes that there’s something wrong with the child. Imagine what we could achieve in just one generation if we could instead see all children the way a gardener sees flowers: as something we cherish, nurture, and encourage. What a world, right? Let’s change the system so all children can thrive.


A Year of Yes: Balancing the head and heart takes time

Screen Shot 2018-03-17 at 9.38.20 PM

The Balance by Christian Schloe 

I’ve been using this piece of art as a focal point for my meditation since I found it about a week ago. I bought it immediately, and added it to my art collection. Balancing the head and the heart is the challenge of our lives. It’s a daily process, and one that I’m intently working on. Like a tightrope walker traveling among the stars, all I can do is put one foot in front of the other. I’m learning, one decision, one choice, at a time.

A Year of Yes: It’s better to put your heart out there

“Better an ‘oops’ than a ‘what if?”” ~Beau Taplin

Why are we so afraid of making a mistake or looking like fools? Are we afraid of embarrassment? Of ridicule? Of pain? Of failure? I got over the feeling of rejection a long time ago. I have seen too many people miss their chance, too many people settle for lives that are less than what they really wanted. And by the time they could really admit that to themselves, the time was gone. It was too late. Their lives have been a cautionary tale for me. I stopped waiting and hoping and wanting, and I just decided to give it all a whirl. Everything. And a lot of things haven’t worked out, and a lot of things have. And none of it would have been possible if I didn’t decide to try. So now at least I go to bed at night knowing I didn’t leave anything on the table. I play every card I have every day, knowing that tomorrow I get a new hand.

A Year of Yes: The necessity of rewriting and revision

“That’s the magic of revisions—every cut is necessary, and every cut hurts, but something new always grows.” ~Kelly Barnhill, author

I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot as I prep for Virginia Festival of the Book. When I think of my favorite books, plays, songs, and pieces of art, they are the ones without any fat, the ones where every word, every note, every brush stroke is carefully and purposely chosen. That concern, that love is what strikes me right in the heart. Rewriting and editing is the lifeblood of art that lasts. It’s the cuts that matter most because that’s where we find the seeds that need to be planted and nurtured.

A Year of Yes: No more dreams deferred

“What happens to a dream deferred?” ~Langston Hughes, Harlem
Thanks to everyone for all of your birthday wishes. I felt the love all day, and in this next trip around the sun I’m working on making more dreams come true. Yesterday, I made a list of 12 dreams I’ve had since childhood and I’m hoping to make them all happen in this next year. They are big and bold and beautiful. A couple of them are already in the works. Stay tuned…

A Year of Yes: Talking about writing to 500+ students, teachers, and staff at Charlottesville schools

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” ~Peggy O’Mara, editor, publisher, and child advocate

I’m in heavy prep mode as I get ready to talk to over 500 students, teachers, and school staff members in Charlottesville as a speaker for the Virginia Festival of the Book. I am ecstatic to chat with with them about my book, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, the process of writing and revision, character development, the importance of a book’s setting, the publishing business, creativity and imagination, and mythology in the age of hip hop. What?! Yes, it’s true. And I can’t wait!

A Year of Yes: Don’t apologize for hearing the music

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

It can be hard to see the future so clearly while living in the present. We see change marching in our direction, and we want to adapt, we need to adapt. Others refuse to recognize it, and do everything we can to help others see what we see, hear what we hear, and they can’t or won’t.

That’s okay.

Years ago, Brian told me that I see what I see and I know what I know, and that’s what’s made all the difference in my life. That’s the basis from which I had to make my decisions, and so I did. I stopped worrying about what other people thought about my choices. I stopped worrying about being judged or criticized or misunderstood. I just decided to do the best I could with what I had and what I knew.

And you know what? It was the best decision I ever made. I chose to be free.

So you go right on dancing and believing and creating. Let your life be a beautiful expression of exactly who you are.

A Year of Yes: Climb your mountain

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” ~Jack Kerouac

Sure I could have made choices that were safer, and quite frankly, a hell of a lot easier. Despite the tough journey to this moment, especially these last few difficult years, I’m in love with my life. My friends, the city I call home, my work, my creative projects, my writing. I climbed the mountain, and the view is spectacular. And I intend to keep climbing. No regrets.

A Year of Yes: David Bowie on books

“Q: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A: Reading.” ~David Bowie

As if we needed another reason to love David Bowie. He was known to be a voracious reader and traveled with a library on film shoots and concert tours. Earlier this year, his son, Duncan Jones, launched an online book club in honor of his father. The Bowie Book Club will work its way through Bowie’s list of his 100 favorite books.

Another of his quotes about books that just knocks me out:

“I’m a real self-educated kind of guy. I read voraciously. Every book I ever bought, I have. I can’t throw it away. It’s physically impossible to leave my hand! Some of them are in warehouses. I’ve got a library that I keep the ones I really, really like. I look around my library some nights and I do these terrible things to myself–I count up the books and think, how long I might have to live and think, ‘F@#%k, I can’t read two-thirds of these books.’ It overwhelms me with sadness.”

David Bowie, we will miss you forever for so many reasons. Long live your beautiful spirit and the love of books.

A Year of Yes: The power of books

“Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” ~Plato

As I was getting ready for my talks for the Virginia Festival of the Book, I came across so many beautiful quotes and art inspired by the love of books. This one above is one of my favorites. Books give us such strong connections—to one another and to the best versions of ourselves.

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