Cuyahoga River

Cuyahoga River
Cuyahoga River in the Valley

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Pulitzer Achievement

Anna Quindlen is known for her essay columns in The New York Times and Newsweek. Her novel Every Last One is a moving story of the death of a family, the consequences of misjudgment, and the quest for forgiveness. Mary Beth Latham is married to a doctor and has three children, all different, two almost perfect, one not so perfect, but all loved and cared for as well as a mother could care for her family in upper middle-class America. Quindlen is honest about the life they lead and she describes their suburban realties and how the kids and their parents act like she sees it every day: “Her period is late. He got suspended. Like a broadcast in another room, we mothers hear about some of this after the fact—in overhead calls or conversations at the kitchen table. The kids know we will keep quiet, not out of tact but out of shame. We know that our children are having sex, smoking pot, drinking beer, but it is easier to say nothing.” It’s a life I always felt apart from, because I worked hard.

There’s a lot about the family, but like many middle-aged women, Mary Beth has given up part of her dreams even as she found happiness in landscaping other people’s yards. “Ruby knows that I majored in English, and she once asked why I had not decided to be a writer myself. “I just found it way too hard,’ I’d said. She looked away.” She pays her migrant workers less than Americans would be paid, but she rationalizes that she’s helping out families in Mexico who are a lot better off having money flow to them from the US.

The kids expected to be overachievers, and in a way, that was their downfall. A boy who loves the daughter and is jilted by her and feels let down by the family moves into their garage, knows their habits, papers walls with their pictures over which he writes “Perfect Family” in red, and then murders them all, every last one. But he doesn’t fully succeed because Mary Beth and her son Alex survive, she because she’s knocked out and left for dead and him because he’s on a skiing vacation. After the deaths, we witness misery and grief and lives interrupted. Neighbors and family are giving and selfless, but they’re suffering. Mary Beth remembers a neighbor who lost a child and how she and her friends wondered how they survived. Now she muses, “One of the worst aspects of living now on the far shore is that across the chasm I can see my glib unknowing former self. I despise that woman, her foolish worries and her cheap sympathies.” Our suburban housewife is becoming wiser for her loss.

We begin to learn about Mary Beth’s grave mistake and how she somehow feels she failed them by having an affair and failed them by not recognizing the murderous mental state of Kiernen. One of the most painful scenes is her attendance at her daughter’s graduation, but her daughter is dead; the audience applauses loudly, a display of love and sympathy and respect in the wake of feeling like a piranha. She wonders about boxes and mementos and where they lie within her mother’s house in Florida or in the trash or at Goodwill and thinks she could ask her, but what difference would it make? “Whatever she did was fine. That’s what I’ve learned. It’s fine. Whatever you manage to do.” Expectations of life are now gone.

Both mother and son manage to get through the ordeal and create new lives for themselves in the same town in which they have always lived. At the end of the book, outside her new home, because she can and no one else is there to “think it strange, I call their names, one b one, into the silence. The silence is as big as the sky, and as I call to each of them it is as though the name is a bird, flying out over the trees and into the lowering afternoon.” She’s trying. “It’s all I know how to do now. This is my live. I am trying.” As the jacket cover says, “Ultimately, as rendered in Anna Quindlen’s mesmerizing prose, Every Last One is a novel about facing every last one of the things we fear the most, about finding ways to navigate a road we never intended to travel, and about living a life we never dreamed we’d have to live, but find ourselves brave enough to try.” This well-wrought book is Quindlen’s sixth novel, and she also wrote seven non-fiction books. She continues to be careful with her craft, as a Pulitzer Prize writer would.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Eat Pray Love -- It's all we need besides sleep

I admit that I was a bit put off by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love at first. Her meandering writing style was not well crafted and that irritated me, as it does every time I read a New York Times bestseller and discover a writer can’t write. But she was a National Book Award Finalist for her book The Last American Man and received a New York Times notable book designation for Pilgrims, for her compelling voice, comic touch, and amazing ear fro dialogue. Harper’s Bazaar said “The heroes of Pilgrims . . . are everyday seekers.” Anne Lamott is quoted as saying it’s “A wonderful book, brilliant and personal, rich in spiritual insight.” And I love Anne so I started liking Gilbert. The New York Times said “If a more likable writer than Gilbert is currently in print, I haven’t found him or her . . . Gilbert’s prose is fueled by a mix of intelligence, wit, and colloquial exuberance that is close to irresistible.” The Los Angeles Times called the book “A mediation on love in its many forms—love of food, language, humanity, God, and most meaningful for Gilbert, love of self . . . Gilbert’s wry, unfettered account of her extraordinary journey lets even the most cynical reader dare to dream of someday finding God deep in a mediation cave in India, or, perhaps, over a transcendent piece of pizza.”

By the time she got to the Ashram in India, the writing was no longer a problem. I was so interested in her journey that I decided to structure a retreat around it, even though I hadn’t finished the book. I’m defending her here because last night I received an e-mail from someone who had a hard time with me using her book for a retreat, especially in the Methodist church, and he wanted me to stop. I wrote back with my honest experience of the book, and I woke this morning confident that what I’m doing is fine because the District Superintendent said it almost doesn’t matter what you offer the church membership if you get them in the door. The decline of Christianity in America is a fact, and churches need to learn how to deal with that.

The book inspired me to do a retreat based on Gilbert’s year of journeying. February 19, 2011, it came to be.

Interesting: People think your soul make is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. You can’t live with a soul mate forever because it’s too painful. One thing I do know about intimacy is that there are certain natural laws which govern the sexual experience of two people, and that these laws cannot be budged any more than gravity can be negotiated with. To feel physically comfortable with someone else’s body is not a decision you can make It has very little to do with how two people think or act or talk or even look. The mysterious magnet is either there, buried somewhere deep behind the sternum, or it is not.”

Friday, December 2, 2011

Processing the Silence

On my second day at the monastery, I attended morning prayers and listened to the voices of the community of women. Thomas Merton wrote, “Life is not accomplishing some special work but attaining to a degree of consciousness and inner freedom which is beyond all works and attainments. That is my real goal. It implies ‘becoming unknown and as nothing.’” Later he wrote "only save me from myself. Save me from my own, private, poisonous urge to change everything, to act without reason, to move for movement’s sake, to unsettle everything You have ordained. Let me rest in Your will and be silent. Then the light of Your joy will warm my life. Its fire will burn in my heart and shine for Your glory. This is what I live for. Amen, amen.”

I met with one of the sisters for spiritual direction. She talked about how people get to the point at midlife where it’s important to explore their passion, because time’s running out. We talked about praying for guidance and looking for signs from God. She told me a story about her life in which she was waiting after I told her about reading Sue Monk Kidd’s book, and sometimes we just know a change is coming but we don’t know what it is. And then it’s there and we need to know it when we see it. The waiting period can be a time of growth. My takeaways were to remember I’m not alone, to make time to experience the silence and wait, to never give up my passion, to wait patiently for God to give me direction, and to trust that all will turn out well.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Sue Monk Kidd writes in When the Heart Waits that we must wait and not push life ahead so we can allow ourselves to be transformed while God enters into our waiting. We often push forward and strive and we’re not sure why, exactly. For me it’s towards operating a B&B or a retreat house, and embracing a writing career. But what if I embrace where I’m at? What if I do nothing but what I need to do and let life unfold moment by moment? Maybe I won’t do a fall Word Lovers retreat next year, maybe something else will present itself. What if I don’t write the non-fiction articles but write only the spiritual or the stories of life? What if I let my God connection and not my wallet take me where I need to go?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Some Things Never Leave Us, and Sarah Willis Knows It

Sarah Willis’s book Some Things That Stay ( is a beautifully-written book. In her meandering way, Willis received a BFA in Theater from Case Western Resere University, a Certificate in Photography from the Cooper School of Art, and took graduate classes in creative writing at Cleveland State University. Her stories have been published in many magazines (and one was nominated for the Pushcart Prize), and she has taught creative writing classes and spoken in a number of venues.

Some Things That Stay, published in 2000, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and won the Stephen Crane Award as well as the Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature and was made into a movie. She also has written The Rehearsal (2001), A Good Distance (2004), and The Sound of Us (2005). She is writing her fifth novel.

Some Things That Stay is a coming-of-age novel set in 1954. The protagonist is 15-year-old Tamara Anderson, whose father is a landscape painter and takes the family to a different location each year so he can paint new places. The family of five—Dad, Mom, Tamara, Robert, and Megan—can only take what will fit in their rounded-top trailer. The children are brought up in an environment where nakedness is acceptable, sex is explained at an early age, and religion is shunned with passion.

Willis conjures up life on a 1950s farm so we feel we are there, like when she writes “the cow feels like the dog, sort of bristly yet soft. She’s warm to the touch, and her skin moves against her body as if it’s not connected to the muscles in the same way ours is. She smells like nothing I ever smelled before, which is what I presume is the smell of cow, which is hard to separate from the smell of manure, which is everywhere.” The writing is in-the-moment and precise.

She chooses to tell the story entirely from Tamara’s point of view in the present moment, but I don’t find it awkward—it’s personal and intimate and is what draws me into the book and causes me to like and understand Tamara. I can see why she pretends she recently lived in Austria, it seems like something Tamara would do.

Critics would call it a quiet book, because not much happens in this book that takes place over a late spring and summer, except that Tamara has her first sexual experiences, Dad loses it when he fears his wife will die, Dad leaves them with neighbors to go to New York for a gallery opening, the kids start going to church, Mom tries to recover from tuberculosis, and we don’t know the outcome of that as the family makes yet another move at the end of the book to be near the sanitarium where she’s being treated. The book is about inner growth.

Willis’ descriptions of the Stuart’s art and his process are pretty exact and believable, and those parts are somewhat autobiographical, but Willis claims the autobiographical elements in the book are the family’s going to Chautauqua every summer (like the fireflies in jelly jars, who doesn’t have a memory like that from a time when fireflies seemed to be more prevalent). Her mother is nothing like Liz but her father may be a bit like Stuart, and I think Tamara may be a lot like Sarah..  In an interview in IndieBound, Willis says she doesn’t write about herself, but places, like the hill in Chautauqua, are part of the stories. She said, “I want to write characters who are not me, but who are, really, partly me. I want diversity, and I want a feeling that we are all the same in the same basic way. Sometimes this is hard to believe.”

In this book, do you believe it?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Not a Nun, But at a Monastery

When I was at the Sharing Our Gifts retreat in mid-October, Ann South told me not to write about my sabbatical at Mount St. Benedictine’s Monastery until I returned home again, but I'm a journaler. I wrote:  "Sister Jean, who is about my age has long gray hair partially pulled back and wore Native American-style clothing. She showed me all the artwork along the walls and they are blessed with some religious art from South Africa, Germany, and various other parts of the world, as well as a number of bowls, vases, chalises, and other artifacts made by a Father who was given special dispensation to live with the nuns for 20 years so he could create his art, which can now be found in the Vatican and museums throughout the world."

It felt safe and comfortable in my hermitage in the woods, located 5 minutes from the monastery. I left my stuff willy nilly and went out for a walk on a gorgeous, colorful Fall day. I walked past the other two cabins, climbed over the fence by East Lake Road/Route 5, crossed the street and walked a long path down to the beach. I took a detour to walk on a footbridge across a creek and down the path some, but it was pretty muddy, so I went back the way I came to the main path. There was a boardwalk and then an area with benches at the end and no way down to the beach, but I was fine with that. I sat a while there, then walked on the bluff above the shore and found a hideout within some trees in the woods where I sat on a bench by a child’s picnic table and immediately started talking to God. We talked aloud about what my book is about, talked it all the way through, and then I asked God to be with me throughout my time here. I felt the Holy Spirit, and I wanted to cry, and I asked God what that was, that feeling of emotion taking over and making me want to cry, and He didn’t talk, He never does, he just led me to singing “Sanctuary” and “Kum Ba Yah” like a kid all the way back across Route 5 to the old road that leads to the monastery. I walked along the paths outside and in the gardens. I must have taken 20 outdoor pictures to help me remember what I was feeling when I was there.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


There was a lot of processing going on at the monastery.  I was working on my novel, but my soul was being transformed by being in a holy place and living differently.  I walked along the path to the Lake and did yoga. The Benedictines find God in everything and encourage seeking, spending time in nature, and doing important work in the world. They honor art and creativity. Coincidentally, I packed a CD called “Chant” by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, and the music is haunting and beautiful.
After reading the day’s dawn readings in Thomas Merton’s Book of Hours, it was still dark outside but I was rewarded by a starlit sky, amazing in its beauty.
Sue Monk Kidd writes about the difference between the Self that is God within us and the Self that is the Ego that we create, a false self, but a necessary self. As we grow, those selves merge. All is good. Just being alive gives us much for which we can be thankful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


On my second day at Mount St. Benedictines, I enjoying the silence. What work it is to produce a fine novel, but that is what I am intending to do. I'm girded by God prayer, walks, and reading. I’m reading at morning, noon, evening, and night Thomas Merton’s spiritual writings in A Book of Hours. I read “Unnatural, frantic, anxious work, work done under pressure of greed or fear or any other inordinate passion, cannot properly speaking be dedicated to God because God never wills such work directly. He may permit that through no fault of our own we may have to work madly and distractedly, due to our sins and to the sins of the society in which we live. In that case we must tolerate it and make the best of what we cannot avoid. But let us not be blind to the distinction between sound, healthy work, and unnatural toil.” That is what I feel in my soul, the unnatural toil.

St. Benedictine Monastery allows people to reside here while they figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. The Benedictine Sisters Prayer for Vocations reads, in part, “Bless others with the courage to accept the invitation to seek you in community through prayer and ministry. May these seekers find fulfillment for the longing in their hearts: in communal life well-lived and in loving attention to the needs of your people.” What does God require of me? Brother Thomas, who lived at the monastery here in Erie for over twenty years and had studio on E. 10th Street in Erie, created beautiful ceramic art while the Artist-in-Residence. He wrote, “I am not doing art, I am doing theology.” One hundred pieces of his art are at the monastery, but his work is also at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, and The Vatican. He knew he was called to do art and he pursued it, with the blessings of the church.

The main character in my book is questioning her way of life as well. She's not me, but her spirit asks some of the same questions. The questions I ask in my book are: How do we trust in love? Is love what we need or will we always be disappointed? Is God to be trusted? What does God give us?  

Writing From the Heart

The Savvy Authors asked me to be a guest blogger on their website.  I wrote about Writing From the Heart.  Read it here: It was one of those inspired moments, a good piece of writing that I hope you'll enjoy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Did Fitzgerald's First Novel Get Published?

The answer is that Max Perkins liked it and supported it.  No one else did at first.

This Side of Paradise didn’t go over so well with Book Group, even though it was F. Scott (named after his second cousin thrice removed Francis Scott Key) Fitzgerald. My job as facilitator was to help them see the merit of the work even though it is not the finest piece of writing Fitzgerald managed to produce. The theme of love being warped by status seeking and the absurdity of it all is shown through the shallow lives of the characters, including protagonist Amory Blaine, but the book is not just a statement on live but on society. That is why the book was well received by the critics. We cannot overlook that it was a book that told the story of the “lost generation” and the Jazz Age, a time whose name was coined by Fitzgerald himself.

Fitzgerald’s first novel has published in 1920, when he was just 23, soon after Zelda Sayre broke up with him because he didn’t have any money or promise. It was a typical coming-of-age book about a young man who started out with privilege, much coddling from his mother, an unusual education, and ended up at Princeton where they stamped him as the Princeton type. Parts of another book are imbedded in this one (the unpublished book The Romantic Egotist), and at times the author used a style that was more of a play, and poetry appears throughout the book, either written by one of the characters or by Rupert Brooke, whose line “Well this side of Paradise! . . . There’s little comfort in the wise” developed into the title of Fitzgerald’s book. The mixing of styles and brokenness between the parts of the whole were disconcerting to readers who are used to smooth transitions and editing that pulls it all together. The first part of the book, the story of the egotist, was painful to read because the main character was so full of himself.

There were other parts of the book that were strange, for lack of a better world: The main character left to serve in WWI, but we read nothing about that war, and when Amory’s mother dies, we again lose part of the story. The girls in the book—Isabelle, Clara, Rosalind (based on Zelda), and Eleanor—were well defined and we had a good sense of their characters and relationship with Amory, but they were immature girls and not ready for love relationships at all. We see the character trying to work through what love is and what it isn’t. Much of the latter half of the book was flawless, and the characters of Monsignor and Burne were particularly well drawn, as was Amory’s experience of death which he avoided on the surface and came back to haunt him. The character grows from a personality into a personage, becoming a thinking, feeling person who thinks about the fate of his soul. Earlier in the book “it was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the being.” The message for all of us may be to live in the moment and enjoy life as it is now. I’m not sure that I like the message on love—strive to be your best and you’ll be loved, but if you don’t, you won’t be—is what I would want to think love is.

Those of us who have read about Fitzgerald’s relationship with Zelda (I read the book Zelda: A Biography Nancy Milford years ago), know the relationship between the Fitzgeralds was devastating to both Scott and Zelda. The book was Scott’s attempt to win Zelda back, and it did. The book was wildly popular. The initial printing of 3000 copies sold out in three days and the book went through twelve printings in two years and sold 49,075 copies. It was not financially successful, but did encourage Fitzgerald to go on to publish The Beautiful and the Damned, Tender is the Night, and The Great Gatsby. The Love of the Last Tycoon was published posthumously. Fitzgerald is regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Blogging works best when we respond to other people's posts and follow each other and build up a readership through getting people to see what's being written.  It also requires that we post regularly. Journalists like me have it easy--all I need to do is sift through the hubris of my personal writings and I have words to post. As for other blogs, don't be surprised if you find yours on my list of favorites. For today, check out this one:  Chuck Sambuchino's at

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Word Lovers

The retreats bring together people who just want to write for a weekend, sequestered away with their laptops, the stories spewing from their heads to their fingertips. We also have people who want to be poets, or are poets, and want to write more deeply. Novelists come in packs, and many people are well on their way and need to only hone the writing, cut some words, twist the plot in another direction, or capture the imagination of the reader with page-turning chapters. Still others have lived a life with grandparents who immigrated during the Depression or a child battling a horrid disease, and they want to tell about perseverance and the goodness of life for those who need to know those things. I try to bring all those kinds of word lovers into the foray with writing exercises, speakers on various writing topics, time to write, Lakeside walking excursions, and critique sessions. This is what Word Lovers retreats are.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

To a Monastery . . .

I'll be at a monastery this coming week, in my own little hermitage in the woods. Listening Point, a hermitage ministry on 80 wooded acres with beach access near Erie, Pennsylvania, will be where I wake up to yoga, pray and breakfast with the sisters of Mount Saint Benedict Monastery, walk, and write. My hope is to work on a memoir and a book on writing. I will be changed by a week of solitude. I will be with God, my muse.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Writing Life

If you don’t know where to begin, where to start up a true writing life, just write.  Write every day, retreat from the world in the cocoon that envelopes you and the words that you need to get out, the words that will die inside you if you don’t let them out, the words that might just cause you to blow up like a balloon and burst and fizzle out to nothing if you don’t allow them to be written.  Let the words be your own private retreat.

Monday, September 12, 2011

How To Manage All This Stuff

I asked my on-line writing group whether I had to do it all--blogging, e-mail marketing, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter--and they said I do. This was yesterday after having a real heart-to-heart with my husband about having too much to do. Instead of letting it get me down, I got busy. I had a social networking day and sent out an e-mail about the Fall retreat and book appearances, and put announcements on Facebook and Linked In. I saved blogging until this morning, and I'm glad I did because someone from that same on-line group told me she has multiple blogs as well and blogs on each once a week, and it works out because each blog has a purpose and she uses the blog to get her going on the project she'll work on that day. Not only did I move forward on my social networking chores over the last two days but I did so knowing how helpful my social networking was to me. I hope this blog post serves you well.  
“All serious daring starts within.” –Eudora Welty

Monday, September 5, 2011

C. S. Lewis wrote, “People read to know they are not alone.”  We write for the same reason. We love words because they are our way of communicating with the world, whether we’re hearing the stories or telling them. The reading and the writing are intertwined like a well-written story so that the writer becomes the reader and the reader gets into the writer’s head.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

She Looks Ready

“Any mood is a good writing mood. The trick is to simply enter whatever mood like a room and sit down and write from there.”  --Julia Cameron

Saturday, August 27, 2011

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow; Learn as if you were to live forever.”  --Mahatma Ghandhi

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Burning Desire to Write

The first thing that’s necessary is to have a burning desire to write.  You wake up in the morning and want to write about yesterday’s discoveries.  When something spectacular happens to you, you want to write about it, and when you’re having a bad day, you want to get it out and let it go.  Stories come to you at odd moments, and you want to get them down right then and there with no interruptions exactly the way it was in your head and you get frustrated because it’s hard to hold onto those ideas because they’re more than ideas, they’re sensations and beauty and complicated relationships and the orange in the sky over the lake streaked with lightening, a hint of the afterlife.  Your ideas are more than you can handle in the span of a very long lifetime, and you know they’re good ideas if only you can write true and deep and get it down.   Your writing is a seeking to know and wanting to connect with what truly must be God. 

Word Lovers - Fall 2011 - Idlewyld B&B at Lakeside

We ignite possibilities one retreat weekend at a time at the Word Lovers retreats.  The Fall 2011 retreat is  November 4-6 at the Idlewyld Bed and Breakfast in historic Lakeside, Ohio.  The food and wine experience will include cooking together and optional winery tours and tastings. Friday evening begins with writing prompts, and Saturday sessions include a session on writing a non-fiction book (based on Claudia’s experience of writing her book Ohio’s Lake Erie Wineries) and writing about food and wine. The cost is $110 for the weekend (which includes three meals) plus the cost of a room at the Idlewyld. Hold you spot with a $50 deposit and your desired room choice. The deposit should be sent to Claudia Taller, Igniting Possibilities, 26408 Chapel Hill Drive, North Olmsted, Ohio 44070.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lakeside Memories

When I was a child, I slept on a cot on a sleeping porch of a Victorian cottage in Lakeside while crickets serenaded me. Rows upon rows of cottages with postage-sized front lawns and comfortable front porches cozied up to the quiet narrow streets. I sunned on the dock that stretches into the Lake, played miniature golf in the afternoons in Central Park, licked ice cream that ran down a cone on a hot day, and paid $.50 to see last season’s movie.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


A decade ago, I fell in love with the idea of retreating from the world in the company of other seekers of the creative muse and a life free from outside tethers. Maybe that’s called running away to some, but for me, it feels like I’m walking towards who I was meant to be. In those moments in time, my spirit lifts, and if I start putting words on paper, I am connecting with a creative force, with God. The words flow, and it’s almost as good as being in love.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

“Any mood is a good writing mood. The trick is to simply enter whatever mood like a room and sit down and write from there.” --Julia Cameron

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Struggling with a Novel

My entire manuscript is sitting here on my desk and I keep fooling with it. When will I allow it to go forth into the world? When will I feel it is done? How will I know it? I give you the beginning, and maybe that will give me the courage to let it go. "My mother died in the middle of the night during daffodil days. A year later, above Willow Beach, daffodils roam the hillside and brighten a cool cloudless day. The rippling waves of Lake Erie wash over the sandy shore and claim it with the sigh of letting go. Moments after it succumbs to the land, the water pulls back and under, rolling out again, collecting energy and vigor, like a long intake of breath. The water falls into the depths then reaches for the far horizon, a falling and rising that is incessant and urgent, not to be ignored. The ancient rhythm of water calms and rejuvenates me." That wasn't so hard--send me some encouraging words.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hadley Hemingway, the Paris Wife

I need to write in my journal about local Cleveland writer Paula McLain's book The Paris Wife. The book was so exquisite, so full of passages I marked to be remembered, that I don't know where to start. The book captured the feel of the Lost Generation's Paris and realistically took us into Hadley's marriage to a determined young writer. What was most surprising was how much the book brought Hemingway's A Moveable Feast to me, and it's been many years since I read it. The spare writing and voice were haunting--I was reading a story by Hemingway written by a woman. When Hadley finally knew she'd lost Ernest to Pauline, "he climbed behind me and brought his arms around and tucked is knees against the backs of mine, hugging me as tightly as possible. 'There's a good cat,' he said to the back of my neck. 'Please sleep now.' I started to shake. 'Let's not do this. I can't.' 'Yes, you can. It's already done, my love.' And he rocked us back and forth as we both cried, and when I slept finally, I didn't give in to it as much as I was taken over by it, like a sickness or like death.'" The pain was shown, not told, and that's how the whole book went, even though it was told in third person from the Paris wife's point of view. We sensed, all the way through, that neither Ernest or Hemingway had any control over their destiny. They loved each other even as the marriage was ending. Exquisite.

Monday, January 31, 2011


The wedding invitation was on gray paper with light gray engravings and indicated the wedding would be in the garden at two, with reception and dancing to follow at a nearby pavilion. The program included the lyrics by Beirut “And I will love to see that day that day is mine when she will marry me outside with the willow trees.” The wedding helped me remember how important it is to be true and let things go in a marriage. Love is what matters.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Year-End Wrap-Up 2010

I wrapped up a year of writing for Yahoo! Local and Cool Cleveland with my Year-End Wrap-Up, my own love letter to Cleveland. 

Living Each Day as a Prayer

Energy and enchantment have been my mantra over the last few weeks as I’ve improved my home to be more of a retreat, planned out my year of writing and retreats, and thought about how I want to spend vacation this year. I find myself seeking repose, and I did so with three books, two by local authors Sarah Willis and Thrity Umrigar (Some Things That Stay and The Weight of Heaven) and the other by Elizabeth Gilbert: Eat Pray Love. My spirit feels renewed in all aspects of my life, including my legal work, which can be creative as well.

Day by day, I look for ways to improve how I live and work. I refresh with walks, yoga, meditation, and worship, and I feel God residing within me and guiding my quest. At last year’s Artist’s Way Retreat with Wendy Fedan, I bought a Tibetan bowl that makes the sound of the ancient “Om,” and I committed to living each day as a prayer. I hold onto that as much as I can, but like in meditation, I lose focus and come back to it and I try not to judge my indiscretions.

Friday, January 7, 2011

This Year's Events to Ignite Your Possibilities

I'm excited to participate and lead five different events this year, my fourth year of Igniting Possibilities events.  I continue to co-host an Artist's Way retreat with Joan Barris at the Idlewyld and am hosting my usual Word Lovers weekends, and in addition to a winter Connecting to the Authentic Self, I'm also leading a spring memoir program. Here's a quick summary:

Eat, Pray, Love, a Connecting with the Authentic Self Retreat, February 19 from noon until 4, at North Olmsted United Methodist Church. The event begins with eating lunch and being thankful, proceeds to creation of beauty through our gifts, moves to the spirit and being close to God, and ends with finding where love resides in our lives.

Creating Fiction and Publishing Your Work, a Word Lovers Retreat, April 1-3 at the Idlewyld Bed and Breakfast in historic Lakeside, Ohio. Novelist Les Roberts will join us for a weekend of creating good stories, critique work, and trouble-shooting. In addition to Les' fiction workshop, we'll look at preparing for publication and publication resources and markets.

Stories of Our Lives, a Connecting with the Authentic Self Retreat, May 21 at North Olmsted United Methodist Church. During this mini-retreat, we’ll share stories of our lives in the oral tradition, do some journaling to explore life themes, and start to tell our stories in written memoir.

Sharing Our Gifts (Artist’s Way) Retreat, October 14-16, co-hosted with Joan Barris, Idlewyld Bed and Breakfast in historic Lakeside, Ohio, a women’s weekend of sharing creativity, relaxing, and experiencing exuberant joy.

A Word Lovers Food and Wine Weekend, November 4-6, Idlewyld Bed and Breakfast in historic Lakeside, Ohio, a weekend of winery tours and tastings and creating beautiful food together with writing sessions on non-fiction books and establishing immediacy through description.

Send me an e-mail if you'd like more information on any of these programs.  Until we meet again, live deeply