books, creativity, happiness, writer

This just in: Wise words from author Chuck Palahniuk on happiness and revenge

Image by Javier Pardina
Image by Javier Pardina

“That’s the best revenge of all: happiness. Nothing drives people crazier than seeing someone have a good fucking life.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club among many other novels

When someone’s really hurt you, what’s the first thing you want to do? At the very least, you want that person to see that he or she was wrong and out of line. Maybe you’re going to get an apology at some point, and maybe you aren’t. Honestly, it’s not up to you. It has everything to do with how self-aware and kind the other person is. Everyone makes mistakes that can be hurtful to others. We all do. We’re twisted humans.

The best part is that no matter what’s been done to you, you don’t need an apology to move forward with your life. It’s the great benefit of being an adult. You can decide how you want to proceed, with or without that person who hurt you, and then choose to be happy with your decision. I’m not saying that’s easy. It’s damn hard. That sting takes a while to subside, and then there’s the scarring to deal with. But don’t make things worse for yourself with extra baggage that you create by carrying around old grudges, debts, and heartaches. Chances are those debts will never be repaid by the ones who owe them. Repay yourself. Be happy and create a good life for yourself. That’s all the revenge and repayment you need.

story, theatre, Washington, writer, writing

This just in: I’m taking a storytelling class at SpeakeasyDC


Anne Lamott once said, “If you have the courage to free yourself, take a risk and tell your story with the hope of freeing someone else.” So, here’s hoping. Yesterday I decided to take a risk and so something that really scares me: I signed up for a storytelling class at SpeakeasyDC (soon to be renamed Story District), a nonprofit here in D.C. that specializes in the art and science of storytelling. On July 20th, I’ll start the 5-week intensive program that will culminate in a public performance.

This class will help me discover a whole new community of like-minded people in D.C. while also helping to foster a time of personal growth, discovery, and creativity along with a new outlet for my writing. SpeakeasyDC has a show on Tuesday, July 14th, entitled The Charismatic Leader: Stories about those we follow for the right & wrong reasons. Looking forward to seeing the finished product and then learning the behind-the-scenes work that brings it to life. Here’s to taking on tasks that scare the wits out of us! They make us feel alive.

action, determination, writer, writing

This just in: Don’t let rejection stop you from writing and submitting your work


One of the best things about starting my career in theater is that I got used to rejection very early on in my life. Now every once in a while I get disappointed, but in a few minutes (literally) I always make the choice to channel that energy into something positive. I rise up out of the ashes of rejection, more determined than ever.

This scenario played out recently when I started to submit personal essays for publication in literary journals. One essay in particular, Help in the Ashes, was very important to me. It was about how I came full circle in my healing after my apartment building fire. With a lot of help, time, and support from my therapist and friends, I learned to be grateful for that day, to see it as my own Alive Day. It also helped me come to terms with a lot of other difficult circumstances in my past.

I submitted Help in the Ashes to about 10 publications before it was accepted. It will be published by the literary journal Earl of Plaid on April 1st in their “Blue Collar Royalty” issue. So if you’re in the midst of rejection, particularly as a writer, please don’t give up. Rejection can be hard to take, but don’t let it stop you. The world needs your voice and ideas just as much as it needs anyone else’s. Rise up and keep going.

books, dreams, writer, writing

This Just In: How The Poisonwood Bible affects my dreams and writing

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

I’m trying a new writing practice. I read a bit of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver before going to bed (which is an incredible book!), and then I set my iPad next to my bed with an email to myself already set up. I’ve found that this book’s language is doing radical things to my writing, in my dreams. I have the iPad at the ready to capture words I’ve dreamed. Here’s last night’s bit:

“She mixed the ingredients together, like a sorceress, like a doting grandmother makes meatballs or matzo, with such care and tradition and love. It was best to not disturb the magic.”

I don’t know where this is going or what it’s for, but I do know The Poisonwood Bible is good for me.

action, career, time, work, writer, writing

This Just In: All any writer can do is write one word at a time

Just breathe.
Just breathe.

Yesterday was my first day back to work, and like many of you I felt that uncomfortable twinge that comes from the back-from-vacation blues: my inbox was overflowing with requests for quick turnaround deadlines. I had follow-ups to do, connections to make, and pitches to send. And this was just paid work to say nothing of my own personal writing and projects that needed attention. Honestly, I was freaking out a bit.

And then I remembered to breathe. Just breathe. Like every other day, hectic or not, it was about putting one foot in front of the other in the right direction. Doing one assignment at a time in priority order. One letter, one word, one sentence. It all got done. It all always gets done. I’m sure this is a reminder I’ll need over and over again: just breathe. It helps.

books, creativity, writer, writing

This Just In: Author Kazuo Ishiguro’s magical 1-month draft writing schedule

Kazuo Ishiguro
Kazuo Ishiguro

There’s something magical about writing a first draft in one month. Author Kazuo Ishiguro, one of my favorite authors, put himself on the one month schedule for his first draft of Remains of the Day after battling anxiety and writer’s block that followed his earlier successes. Many revisions later, it won the Booker Prize and became a major motion picture.

About the process, he said, “I wrote free-hand, not caring about the style or if something I wrote in the afternoon contradicted something I’d established in the story that morning. The priority was simply to get the ideas surfacing and growing. Awful sentences, hideous dialogue, scenes that went nowhere – I let them remain and ploughed on.”

I can personally attest to the power of this one month formula. I wrote the first draft of my novel, Where the Light Enters, as part of NaNoWriMo in November. I’m editing it now and to get the bones of the story down in a month was very valuable. I followed this same one month draft pattern for my play, Sing After Storms and it was produced in New York City less than a year later.

Maybe you have a massive project, a piece of writing or something else, that you’re afraid to begin. Go at it full force, mistakes and all. Roll up your sleeves and get down into the weeds. Creation is messy for everyone. Give yourself a deadline and charge at it with everything you’ve got. It’s the only way anything ever gets done.

books, creativity, determination, writer, writing

This Just In: Author Harry Bernstein is my determination hero

imageIf you’re lamenting your age or wish you’d already hit certain milestones (and I’m certainly part of that group!), I’d like you to meet one of my heroes—Harry Bernstein. He famously said, “My 90s were the most productive years of my life.”

At 96, he published his first book, The Invisible Wall, to wide acclaim after it sat on a desk at Random House’s London office for over a year. At 98, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to pursue his writing. He wrote over 40 books over his life but destroyed almost all of the manuscripts after they were rejected by multiple publishers. He made a living as a Hollywood script reader and as an editor of a construction trade magazine.

I’m impressed by his tenacity and refusal to give up on his craft. He wrote his first published pieces in the wake of his wife’s passing as a form of therapy. They were married for 7 decades. He embraced his creativity to the very end, passing away at 101.

Harry Bernstein didn’t give up and you shouldn’t either, no matter how old you are and no matter how many obstacles you face. I hope I publish my first book before I’m 96, and if I don’t, that’s okay. I’m in good company with Harry. Keep creating.

change, writer, writing

This Just In: My blog post theme for 2015

Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!

Happy new year! Each year I set up a general theme for my blog posts. In 2014, I looked for stories and ideas that inspired me and passed them on through my daily posts. Those posts gave me the courage to make major changes to my life last year and I hope they helped everyone who read them.

2015 is going to be very different from any other year I’ve ever had. I truly don’t know what to expect. I turned my life upside down in 2014 in an effort to have the pieces fall together in a better way going forward. This is going to be a year of surprises so I’m embracing the idea of “This Just In” to celebrate the newness that I am seeking and that I know will find me.

Wishing you an adventure-filled and abundantly happy new year! Here we go!

adventure, travel, writer, writing

Inspired: If writing more is on your list for 2015

Travel journal
Travel journal

A couple of weeks ago I read E.O. Wilson’s take on the basis of all transformative events in our lives. As I thought about his ideas, I realized all of my writing and the stories I love start in one of the three ways he outlined:

You (or your characters) take a journey to an unexplored land
This might be to a foreign country (or another planet if you love sci-fi like me!) or it could be around the corner to a new cafe. Daily adventures are important. They give us the opportunity to expand our minds and heart by interacting with newness. I whole-heartedly encourage taking them as often as possible. I plan to take quite a few myself.

You (or your characters) search for the grail
We’re all in search of the secret – how to be happy, how to find and keep love, how to be more creative, why it all matters. There’s no shortage of quests we can take to find the meaning in everything and everything. Go in search of something that matters to you and let your characters do the same.

You (or your characters) engage in a battle of good against evil
And it’s all the better if we have a hard time figuring out which side is which, and if the battle is as much about brains and courage as it is about brawn. Things are never as good as they seem nor as bad as they seem. The same is true for people. We all have light and dark within us. It gets really interesting when the light and dark meet, and when we’ve got some difficult decisions to make. The very best of life, and writing, is often found if we are willing to go into the shadows, our own shadows.

The most compelling reads and lives practice more than one (or all!) of these beginnings on a regular basis. In 2015, go have adventures and discover newness, seek out something that really matters to you, explore your own shadows, and get down all the juicy details. I can’t wait to hear about what you (and your characters) find.

opportunity, work, writer, writing

Inspired: The one question I ask myself every time I sit down to write

Keen observer - the owl
Keen observer – the owl

Self-talk is an everyday part of being a writer. You can be your own biggest cheerleader or your own worst enemy. Luckily for every negative self-talk question I can think of, there’s a more positive way to get at the same information. I used to ask myself, “What am I going to write about today?” In fiction, this is a heavily loaded question. Now I ask myself, “Who’s with me today?” It adds an ethereal quality to the work and squarely places me in the role of being an observer of my own imagination. Then I take up my perch and get down everything I hear and see. This simple change of perspective reduces the pressure and ups the fun of the task. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.