Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Wholeness of Light and Dark

By Andrea Avari Stevens, Ph.D.

After reading an inspiring article about Peter Kater in Science of Mind magazine by Claudia Abbott, I wanted to share some of his thoughts on creativity. Peter has been nominated for 5 Grammy Awards, written musical scores for a number of documentaries, and his Healing Series of music is used in the healing and therapeutic arts.

No stranger to life’s ups and downs, Peter Kater was raised by a single mother who died when he was just eighteen creating an early life of poverty and hunger. Being aware of the interplay of the light and dark in our creative lives, Kater states “….so often we are light chasers, so concerned with creating our lives and moving into light, that we often overlook the importance of the dark.  

What we don’t know and cannot see becomes disturbing. But it is so obvious to biologists and physicists that the darkness is essential. Light and dark can’t exist without each other. We have to have both to create. We have to learn how to integrate darkness and be curious about what is hidden inside. When we imagine a world that works for everyone, we need to explore the pain and integrate it. You cannot sustain a light, bright experience 24/7. Darkness becomes dysfunctional only when it is denied. Looking at our pain, understanding the shadow, integrates the darkness into wholeness. We have to see the value of all life’s experiences. We have emotions for a reason.”

When I was teaching creative thinking at an art college, a few students would be concerned that if their depressive perspective on life were taken away, they would be unable to create. These students were very protective of their anxiety and depression as an integral part of their art. For some, the more positive aspects of life did not generate the depth of emotion that they wanted to touch in their process. Remembering the wholeness of the experiences of our lives means we appreciate both the light and the dark. I think Kater’s words might help bring a balance to the fear of those students who so embraced the dark.

Andrea Avari Stevens is a spiritual coach focusing on the process of awakening.  She will be offering Mindfulness Teleclasses through her website at   Andrea is the author of A Hit of Heaven:  a soul's journey through illusion.
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Friday, February 27, 2009

Garden Views: Foreground and Background

How do you know when it’s time to move on, to give up on a creative project? Is it ever time to give up? Maybe that’s not the right question.

While my garden writing isn’t seasonal, my garden scouting is. I’m used to switching gears at the beginning of May, starting to call for appointments and tour information, and dusting off the camera equipment --- moving the writing to the background and the scouting to the foreground.

In photography, the camera produces a very different picture depending upon whether the photographer emphasizes the scene in the foreground or the scene in the background. How would our projects look to us if we were able to move them in and out of our consciousness at will, without a sense of loss?

Graphics programs allow us to “move to back” or “move to front” at the click of a mouse. If we train ourselves to do this with our creative projects, perhaps we really never need to abandon those pieces that mean the most to us. We can move them to our mental foreground during pockets of time that crop up, and into the background when something more fruitful comes along.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wild Woman of Queens: Notes on Urban Creativity from across the East River.

Sandra Lee Schubert

Love vs. Work

Last week I was ready to write about LOVE. It was Valentine's Day after all. My nephew welcomed his new baby daughter two before that. It seemed love was in the air. Then I got an assignment for some writing work. Three articles and two reviews to be done in three days. Since my lay-off I have been establishing new avenues of revenue. Writing is something I can do. T
he offer was there and I went for it. Was it the right decision?

Yes, it was. Maybe. Here is the dilemma; I want to write, I want to write what moves me, and, I want to pay my rent. If I were working full time the dilemma wouldn't exist. I would have written about LOVE.

When switching from writing as a hobby to crafting a business the choice becomes more complicated. If I had a week to write the articles and reviews I could have taken the time. But since this was my first assignment with this client I wanted to deliver work not only on time but ahead of time. I accomplished that, got paid and received a great review.

Our lives become full of these dilemmas. We must make choices all the time that are not comfortable and could be wrong. We are forced to be serious about what we are doing and pull inspiration out of the air and get to work.

Let us not forget about LOVE. I like to write, love to write, live to write. No matter the circumstances I can't give it up. On top of it all, I am now a Great Aunt, welcoming a tiny new star to the universe, born last week to her happy family of parents, grandparents, Aunts and Uncles ready to receive a new being into their arms. Now that is love.

love born by Sandra Lee Schubert 2009

Sandra's e-course leads people to write their life stories. She is a creative vagabond, a poet, writer who co-facilitates the Wild Angels Poets and Writers Group at the historic Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.Writing for Life: Creating a Story of Your Own. Visit her blog: Email her or @writing4life via twitter.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Television Musings - Rants and Raves of a Romance Writer

By Kathy Carpenter


I was quite happy a few weeks ago to learn Medium was returning to the air. I had heard nothing on the show for months and months and guessed it was cancelled. However in these days of television that’s how it is. A show can be on for six weeks and off for six months. A lot more shows this way with something new starting all the time. Medium had the unique story line of someone who had died jumping into a live person’s body when they too were about to die. The same story line Ghost Whisperer is using. In this case the person was not really the dead person. - just the murderer pretending to be the person they had killed. I totally enjoy both of these shows. Similar but different.

Hell’s Kitchen just started again. That Ramsey is one tough guy.

Show’s ending Bachelor who will Jason propose to?
Top Chef and True Beauty - who will be the winners? Leave a comment and let me know.
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Sculpting a Life:
Susan Gallacher-Turner’s turn in the Pacific Northwest

Coming full circle:
From rejection to acceptance into the local visual arts showcase.

When my son started pre-school, I started painting again. I hadn’t painted since a horribly humiliating experience in a college watercolor class. Don’t misunderstand me, the prof was right. I had a lot to learn and I knew it. I didn’t let his intimidation force me out of the class of art majors. I stuck it out to the end. I could tell he respected me for it. But the experience took its toll on my soul and after the class, I quit painting.

After my daughter was born, I vowed to teach myself to draw, something I knew I needed to learn. So when my little baby went to sleep, I took out my pencils and drawing pad. I made a little progress, I think. But as a full-time mom of a daughter and then a son, I didn’t have a lot of energy left over for my own creativity.

When my son entered pre-school, I had two hours, two days a week to do art. I set up a studio in the corner of my bedroom. My studio was a drafting table, stool, watercolors, my old brushes and a few sheets of good paper. Out of the reach of little hands, I was able to enjoy the pleasure of alizarin crimson washed skies and Payne’s grey mountains. In a few months, I had a piece that I thought came out well. I had gone to the local art show, so when I saw the call for art, I hung my watercolor on my dining room wall, took pictures and submitted it.

It was rejected. I felt embarrassed and disappointed and humbled like I was by that long ago college professor. But this time, I didn’t stop making art. Instead, I started taking classes. First, it was beading classes where I created mini-landscapes couching tiny seed beads into mountains. I took pieced imagery creating a two-sided quilt with an abstract painting on one side and a machine embroidered portrait of Katherine Hepburn on the other. Drawing and painting classes came next leading to a love of pastels and the beginning of a fascination with faces. My first sculpture class required me to make a clay bust. It was not love at first sight.

At home, I was still painting with pastels and paint on my small drafting table in the corner of the den. But I was trying to get my fabric painting to have more of a sculptural form. I tried different glues, fiber and battings when that didn’t work, I bought some screening at the local hardware store. When I couldn’t get the fabric to stick, I gave up on the fabric and started painting the screen.

Ah…aha! It worked. It did exactly what I wanted it to do. But, it was a little weird, I mean how many people do you know who make art out of window screening. But it let me do all the things I liked, fiber, paint, faces and sculpting.

I didn’t know it then, but I do now. I’m a sculptor. Once I started sculpting screening, clay and metal, my paintings improved. My drawings became more skilled. After all those years of feeling like a failure in art class, I found out I was able to draw and paint. I just needed to do it in 3 dimensions instead of 2.

This year, butterflies fluttering in my stomach, I filled out the entry for the same local art competition I had entered my watercolor in almost 17 years ago. Only this time, I entered my Season’s sculptures. A few days before Christmas, I got a present from the past, my Season’s sculpture entitled, “Winter/Imbolc” was accepted into the 27th Annual Visual Arts Showcase.

On Saturday, I went to the opening. It was packed with people. Artists, art lovers young and old wound around an amazing array of photography, watercolors, oil paintings, fiber art, and sculpture. Coming around to the end of the room on a white pedestal, was my sculpture “Winter/Imbolc”.

Sometimes it is worth the wait. It felt like I’d come full circle and it felt good.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Creating and a Rainy Day

I’m not going to lie to you. It’s 11 a.m. and I’m still in my bathrobe. I’ve been up since 7:45 a.m. (thanks to my dog), but I’ve had the perfect lazy Sunday morning.

I watched some early morning news shows, read some magazines, had a couple of cups of coffee and did a little laundry. I feel ready to settle down and write. Truth be told, I could meander this way all day. A much needed rain storm has drenched the San Francisco Bay Area and I would love to hole up all day and write.
Still duty calls. Being a mom is a full-time time job and part of my job today is to attend the championship basketball game for my twelve year old son. His team went this far last year too. These games are always exciting and you can’t help but soar with pride when you see your child excel at something.

I’ve learned quickly that I better write this blog entry before the game. The championship game is at 2pm; who knows how the rest of the day will go for me. We could be celebrating, we could have a depressed household, or simply want to rush back home to get out of the rain and snuggle in front of the TV!

It’s not about just making time for my writing; it’s about being tuned in to who I am. I’m starting to learn where my writing weaknesses and pitfalls are. I tend to let my emotions get the better of me. Even happiness can be a short leash to accomplishment.

Yesterday, my son’s team won the playoff game that leads to today’s game. The score was tight and the game ended with lots of feet pounding and cheering. However, the game was at 10 a.m. so by noon we were back home. I seriously needed to do some house cleaning, but in all honesty I could have found time to write. Instead I wallowed in feeling happy.

Lately, it’s been easy to make the excuse to myself that it’s hard to write when there are so many serious issues in our country and the world. The things I write often seem frivolous in comparison. Couldn’t I find a better use for my time? Now, I see that I can even use good times as excuse to put off my writing. But it was nice to walk around feeling happy. It’s been a rough couple of weeks. My son needed large chunks of my time to get through his homework and, due to the economic crunch, my daughter’s beloved drama school was forced to shut its doors forever. To add an extra challenge, I’ve had a terrible cold for almost three weeks!

I did deserve my day of joy. I certainly don’t want to imply that I should sacrifice living my life for writing about my life. I do find that this journey of becoming a writer forces you to really look at who you are as a person. More than ever, I have to be in tune with the areas of my life that get me off the train of productivity. It was easy to know that those factors would be stress, depression and illness, but it’s easy to forget that happiness can quickly lead to complacency.

Well, I’m off to the game. It is a three-day holiday weekend for me so I hope I can get a lot or writing accomplished and possibly celebrating too.


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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Audio-books: Enhance Your Mind and Your Mood!

By: Margie Lawson

No one has time to read all the books they’d love to read. Books by favorite authors. New releases. Classics. Rereads of live-in-your-heart books.

From romance to thrillers, memoirs to biographies, self-help to humor, books can help you transcend reality, boost your mood, whisk you away from your strife, your stress, your strain.

How can you lower your stress and carve out more time to enjoy books?

Audio-books to the rescue! Enhance Your Mind and Your Mood!

Visit your local library and treat yourself to a stack of audio-books. Audiocassettes or CD’s – it’s all good. Always check out five or more. You can renew on-line. Chances are if you check out five, you’ll have three or four winners.

When can you find time to listen to all those books?

When you step out of the shower. Start your day ‘reading’ while you get dried and dressed.

When you’re doing dreaded household chores. Audio-books motivate you to spend more time cleaning the kitchen so you can get to the end of that chapter – and get hooked on the next one.

When your domestic diva surfaces and you find yourself cooking, folding laundry, putting the zillion things away to de-clutter your home—because you cannot stop reading.

When driving more than ten minutes. Definitely when commuting to and from a day job or driving across town. Listening to audio-books makes your commute a fabulous non-fiction or festive or frightening or frivolous fiction-fest.

When exercising. Walking outdoors or on a treadmill. Rolling on your Yoga ball. Standing on your head.

If you’re an exercise DVD addict, go through the exercises with your DVD on mute and your audio-book going strong.

Audio-books can expand your creativity horizons as well as stimulate your brain. When life deals you a tough time, listening to audio-books can keep you sane. Sugar-free and fat free, they’re better for you and more stimulating than chocolate. Use audio-books to keep your body fit, your mind fit, and your mood fit.


All smiles………….Margie

As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a national bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller." The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, is due out January, 2009. Contact her at

Margie Lawson -- presenter, psychotherapist, writer -- lives at the top of a Colorado mountain west of Denver. Margie merged her two worlds, psychology and writing, to develop psychologically anchored editing systems and techniques that teach writers how to write page turners. A former college professor, Margie works as a psychotherapist, writes fiction and nonfiction, and presents full day master classes for writers internationally. Go to for more information.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Garden Views: Your Public Image

“O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
……Robert Burns

There’s nothing like reading a story about yourself in the newspaper (see to give you a jolt. There are the little errors that made me cringe, as well as the flattering presentation that made me blush and wonder whether the reporter had interviewed a completely different person.

Well, maybe she did. There’s no way for her to know that the thread that connects my gardening work to my environmental advocacy only became clear to me two weeks before the interview, after a lifetime of thinking that they were separate-but-parallel interests. How fortunate for us both that I could speak with clarity, now that I know they lie along the same continuum.

Nor did she see me poking through the closet, searching out something to wear that would make me look authoritative, but friendly and approachable.

Makeup. Enough so that I didn’t look washed-out, but not so much as to look like the dragon-lady. Hair, there’s always the matter of the hair. Well, at least I have some. Too late anyway, the picture already appeared in print.

No one sees the self-doubt and insecurities that we struggle with on a daily basis; they only see the resolution.

The reporter left her own mark, in what she chose to put into my story and what to leave out. That’s an important clue regarding what others find interesting about our lives and our work. When you have the opportunity for this kind of feedback, use it to evaluate whether your public image is congruent with what you want it to be. If not, assess what you need to change.

Lois de Vries' thoughts on gardening and environmental issues run the gamut from gardening in her own back yard to promoting land management practices that reconnect people to the Earth. Lois is seeking a publisher for her book, The Transformational Power of Gardening. Visit her blog at
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Thursday, February 12, 2009


Hello, everyone:
I’m very excited by our meaning conversation, which I think is moving us nicely in the direction of understanding what “making meaning” entails. You will see this very clearly in today’s first-person report from Janine. By the way, if the June Meaning Coach Training Program interests you, I suggest that you think about getting on the list and securing your place. A first section of 16 has filled up and a second section is filling. For more information on the training:
Before I present Janine’s story, I want to share an email with you that I got from Kirk in Seattle. His response to my new book The Atheist’s Way expresses very clearly what that book is about: meaning-making rather than gods-bashing. Kirk wrote:
“Dear Eric,

I recently bought your new book The Atheist's Way. I have bought and read all the so-called New Atheist books such as The God Delusion, God is Not Great, The End of Faith, and a whole bunch of others, but yours is a in a category of its own. It is not the book I expected it to be but instead has spoken to a deeper part of me than any of the others. I'm only halfway through right now, savoring each page and chapter. I have always thought of myself as "existentially challenged", but I think your term, "existentially sensitive", is more accurate. And that situation of the guy going to the mall to buy a file cabinet, only to lose heart in the midst of the effort, is priceless to me. I've been in that situation more times than I care to remember!

The whole notion of "making meaning" is a real gem. As a lifelong "seeker" (I am now 53) of meaning it never occurred to me that I've actually been creating whatever meanings I've had in my life. And that we don't live in a Meaningless Universe; we live in a universe whose meaning is supplied by the billions of us humans who create it, again and again, minute by minute, almost as if it is our sacred duty to do so. I work at a respectable-enough government job, which pays enough to raise my family, but there are days, I gotta tell you, when I reproach myself for not having a more progressive, creative or happier way to spend the days and earn my living. I'd like to imagine that the insights you have given me in your book might just get me going again.

Thanks for the book,

Kirk in Seattle”
Thank you, Kirk! To learn more about The Atheist’s Way or to purchase a copy:

You might also want to visit the Atheist’s Way site:
Let me mention again the virtual book review tour associated with The Atheist’s Way. It might just interest you no matter what your belief system. I invite you to review The Atheist’s Way, positively or negatively, and post your review on your blog, on your website, to your newsletter group, or just to your friends and acquaintances. Together we will pick a day when you do this posting and that will be “your day” on the tour. It’s that simple. If you’d like to lend your voice to the discussion of The Atheist’s Way in this fashion, drop me an email at You can also learn more here:
Here is today’s feature, from Janine. I think you’ll enjoy it!
Thoughts on meaning by Janine Tschuncky (
At fifty, I have a brand new life because sometime in my late thirties I decided to trade in the old story. The facts stayed the same, but it’s the story that changed. I’d like to share some of my stories with you – old and new. Stories about the events, people and places we encounter in our lives have a huge impact on who we are in the present, and who we are in the future. Stories are one of the most powerful tools for creation that we have regardless of what medium we use to express them.

The original very brief story of my life as I once told it into my early thirties
I was born in Switzerland. I had a wonderful extended family, but a mother who was always unhappy and sick. My brother was her favourite and she openly despised me. My grandmother, whom I loved more than anyone, came between us and I spent most of my time with her. I loved to draw and write stories but my mother would often tear them up, saying that she could do better. In 1967 my family decided to move to Canada. I was heart-broken, at eight years old I knew we were doomed.
My mother grew sicker and sicker and I spent all my free time looking after her. I didn’t have a life. She hated me, or often told me that she hated me. At age thirteen I became bulimic in an effort to control something in my surroundings. By the time I was twenty-one she died. Because my dad had just filed for divorce, my younger brother and I had to arrange her funeral. We should never have had to do such a horrendous task by ourselves. I pushed myself to attend university, healed my bulimia but continued to have regular bouts of depression. I did manage to write some stories and take art classes. My degree was in art history.
I eventually went on to work in publishing, had my own work published and worked out some of my depression, but despite feeling much better, I always felt that I was a late bloomer, that I could have done so much more if I’d had a supportive family instead of a mother that hated me and a father that competed and a brother who was raised to the status of sainthood. So, I had a lot of regret, not to mention resentment.
Results of this story: felt like a victim, unloved, useless, powerless but justified.
The brief story of my life as I told it in my later thirties
I was born in Switzerland. We moved to Canada in 1967. In I968 we moved from Manitoba to British Columbia and then back to Manitoba in 1975. My mother died when I was twenty-one. The year after, I attended the University of Winnipeg and graduated with a four year degree in art history. In my late twenties I got married to a writer and soon started writing myself and being published. I started working in publishing, trained in various forms of bodywork (including studying Huna Kane with a medicine woman from Hawaii), taught whole foods cooking classes and personal growth workshops in Hawaii, Manitoba and Ontario.
Result of this story: I didn’t feel like a victim any more but I didn’t exactly feel passionate about it either. I felt blander and worried about who exactly I would be if I gave up my old story for good. Regardless, I was willing to try it on.
The brief original story of my life, as I now experience my life
I was born in Switzerland, a beautiful place. I had a loving grandmother who taught me about gardening, herbs and let me use as many flowers as I wanted for my mud pies. She encouraged me to draw, read and write stories. Because my mom was ill a lot, I spent a lot of time with my beloved grandmother. In 1967 my family decided to move to Canada. Although I was really sad about leaving I was very excited about waking up two days later in the boreal forest of northern Manitoba. I connected deeply to the rocks, jack pines and the lake. This connection has been invaluable in a project I’m currently working on which is a collaboration/celebration of the boreal forest involving writing, photography, music and sound.
Sadly, my mother didn’t fare so well in Canada. She grew sicker and sicker until she died at age forty-nine. She was a real example to me in a lot of ways. Because I wanted to be well, I learned everything I could about healing with food, alternative therapies and personal growth. One of the highlights on this journey was spending time in Hawaii learning Huna Kane and being the whole foods cook for Nicki’s retreats. Because I didn’t have a huge family support structure I learned how to create a family and have a wonderful network of friends – my chosen family.
Despite dealing with depression, I always saw myself as a survivor and attended university, wrote stories and created images. Somehow I had the strength to heal from bulimia and went on to a career in publishing with one of Canada’s foremost literary magazines. The people I work with are creative, fun and dedicated and I’m very fortunate that I can be myself at work.
I recently turned forty-nine and spent the year leading up to it writing a short book about my mother’s illness. My mom and I lived in and shared eleven houses in twenty-one years. Each chapter is writing from inside these houses. By the end I had twelve chapters because the investigation had created a new house for my mother and me to occupy with a new story. Hence the book is called The Twelve Houses. This book is an investigation into what creates illness and more importantly, what creates health. I had a fabulous forty-ninth birthday party where about twenty people brought their stories to share. Later, a piece of this book was accepted for publication. There are moments, or whole days when it is difficult to make meaning or sense out of events around me, but I just keep moving and creating.
Results of this story: I’ve searched in many corners for meaning only to find that it isn’t something fixed and outside of me, it’s right here inside of me. I get to create meaning. Life happens and it doesn’t mean anything, and it doesn’t mean anything that it doesn’t mean anything. That’s freed me up a lot, to create meaning that is empowering, that continues to propel me forward into a passionate, creative life lived one moment after another.
Think about joining The Atheist’s Way virtual book review tour and coming aboard the Meaning Coach Training!
Have an excellent Sunday.
P.S. Last chance to join the Introduction to Creativity Coaching Training and/or Advanced Creativity Coaching Training that begins tomorrow, and also the last chance to come aboard as a free client. For more info:

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Iowa Writing Coach: Creating and Mate-ing

I’ve always known that my husband Chuck and I are at our best when we’re doing something creative together. We especially enjoyed the creative project of raising our two sons together. Since they’ve grown up, however, Chuck and I have struggled to find another way to collaborate. He likes to cook but I would rather eat his delicacies than make them. I like to draw; he appreciates visual art but doesn’t create it. We’re both writers but we work in very different genres.

After a few years of looking for the right avenue of co-expression, I think we may have found it: making podcasts for a blog we’re calling “foragers on the edge.” We’re just getting it up and running, but so far we’ve had great fun creating two short podcasts: one on our dance lessons at an Arthur Murray studio in the Quad Cities, and the other on a recent trip to the Quad City Botanical Center.

Here are some of the new things I’m learning and relearning from and about my mate of 33 years: 1) our peculiar qualities that can sometimes be considered flaws quickly turn into assets when we create together, such as his way of plunging ahead and my way of doing and re-doing until it feels closer to right; 2) there are some pretty cool (and free) services out there for creating podcasts, including Audacity (free audio editor and recorder) and Clickcaster (podcast storage site); and 3) damn, we have fun when we make things together!
As a writing coach, writer, editor, and visual artist from Eastern Iowa, Suzanne Kelsey tries to inspire people to live their passions and to find miracles even in the mundane. She blogs about the freelancing life, Midwest Bohemia, nature, creativity, visual journaling, and living large in a small town. Visit her web site at Check out her blog at Email her at
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Monday, February 09, 2009

Monday Morning Motivators to Slay Your Creative Dragons

Gotta Love It!
by CJ

I just returned from the Love is Murder Conference, a wonderful writers/readers' weekend in Chicago. And I realized something, that no matter how much we love our work, no matter how excited we are by it, there's something special about seeing the response of an audience to the words you toiled over for so long.

In my case, this was especially rewarding as the good folks at Love is Murder awarded LIFELINES the Readers' Choice Award for Best First Novel of 2008!

Of course I was thrilled, more than thrilled--it was an unexpected and most wonderful honor, capping a wonderfully inspiring weekend!

But as I worked my way home from Chicago--complete with unpacking my carry on to show my award, affectionately known as a "Lovey", to TSA officials concerned it could be used as a weapon--I thought about the care and feeding of a writer.

We all need some sort of validation to keep going--everyone does. And, as anyone who read the rather lengthy acknowledgments in my books would know, we can't go it alone. There are always others to thank for help needed along the way to success.

Most writers work in solitary confinement, just the voices in their heads and the paper or keyboard in front of them. Hard to get validation from a computer screen.

Yet, somehow we do. Merely the process of telling our stories, making them come alive outside our minds, keeps us going, is validation enough to get our first drafts done.

Which is fantastic! Because when we write our stories down we're putting our hearts and souls on the line, exposing our vulnerabilities for all to see.

You never knew writing could be an act of courage, but it is. As well as an act of love.

So to get external validation whether a kind comment from a mentor, great cover quotes, fantastic reviews, gushing fan mail, or even an award from peers, well that reward is, as they say in the commercials....priceless!

But you don't need that to stay motivated, which was my big eureka moment as I flew home last night.

All it takes is the smile on the face of a single reader, knowing that for the time they held your words in their head they were transported to another world, one you created just for them.

Thanks for reading! And yes, I mean that literally!!!

As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a national bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller." The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, is due out January, 2009. Contact her at

Margie Lawson -- presenter, psychotherapist, writer -- lives at the top of a Colorado mountain west of Denver. Margie merged her two worlds, psychology and writing, to develop psychologically anchored editing systems and techniques that teach writers how to write page turners. A former college professor, Margie works as a psychotherapist, writes fiction and nonfiction, and presents full day master classes for writers internationally. Go to for more information.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Creating and Tiny Successes

This week I received two encouraging e-mails regarding my writing endeavors. The first one came from The Urban Muse. This writing website was recently featured in Writer’s Digest Yearbook issue as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers. I will be a guest blogger on February 20th. On my guest post, I’ll be talking about this blog and including a link to Creativity Central and my other blog Colleenie’s Couch.

My second e-mail informed me that I was selected to be on the Reader’s Panel of my local newspaper, commenting on America Idol. I will have comments weekly in the paper and on their blog.

I am very excited about both of these upcoming gigs, yet I also feel anxious. More exposure and eyes for my blogs is exactly what I’ve been working for, but it also means being literally exposed. The newspaper wants to photograph me and take a video for the blog. I have no experience behind a camera and my picture means everyone at my office and my kids schools will know about my writing.

It’s quite silly, but I enjoy my secret life as a writer. Exposure comes with criticism and judgment and I wonder if I’m ready for that. My practical side knows I’m being ridiculous; I should have fun, enjoy the experience and learn what I can. There’s a little voice, though, that keeps saying that people will think, “Who the hell does Colleen think she is?” I thought I was over all those negative feelings and was surprised to find them rushing back.

My concerns are not without merit. To date, the only time I put my work on public display was when I read a two-minute personal essay on local public radio. It was a great experience and I was satisfied with my finished piece. I thought I was talking about something quite innocuous – how hectic summertime can be for families- yet my one and only comment was from a listener who went on a huge tirade of how I wanted status and material things were important to me. Again, my two voices took over.

The one side of me knew this person most likely had nothing better to do and, in fact, probably did this quite often. The other side, with the tiny voice I try to suppress, was disappointed that the only comment my piece ignited was filled with anger, not to mention missing my main point entirely. The worst part was I let it take something away from my wonderful experience.

It’s been a couple years now since I recorded that spot. The funny thing is, I thought I toughened up. Being a writer means you have something to say that you want the world to hear. It’s easy when the ones that “hear” us are family, friends and other writers. Even if they give criticism, there’s usually a level of care taken. Most often they are on our side, so to speak. When you’re in the newspaper, you’re opening yourself to any yahoo out there.

You know what? I have to get over it. I decided this year to enjoy the good things more. When times are tough, like they’ve been for so many lately, we tend to not enjoy the little bursts of joy. We know they will not last and other challenges await us shortly, but we really should roll around in it, hold it up and watch it sparkle…savor that nugget so it sustains us for the next challenge.

It’s been awhile now since I made the decision to act like a writer. So far, it has served me well. Next step: act tough, be tough. I’ll let you know how it goes.
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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Wild Woman of Queens: Notes on Urban Creativity from across the East River.

Drink, You Scurvy Dog Sandra Lee Schubert 2009

Bad Hair Day Causes Woman to Oversleep

OK, my bad hair day started when I overslept or really slept late. After all I had not set the alarm so there was no anticipation of waking at a specific time... so I just slept. There you have it. But it was the oversleeping that gave my hair that troll doll look that no amount of water can help. Besides that sleeping late caused me to dream about Bret Michaels and his Rock of Love Bus tour thing. There I've said it. I have admitted to a life of brain cell leeching TV and sleeping to almost noon. I have failed, fallen and floundered on a sea of reality TV. Not only that- I am a twitterer.

I feel better now. Having ignored all the best recommendations for a successful creative life that is full of meaning I feel strangely free. Yeah that is it. I am free. Not only that I can twitter about and I am certain one or two people will be on my side. After I am fairly confident those of us who do what we shouldn't do outweighs those focus on the project on hand. I am in good company with the slovenly, the slother, the procrastinator the person who says and doesn't do.

So here I am falling in front of you, not to ask for forgiveness, but to let you know that I have not mastered life, creativity or much of anything. Nonetheless, I feel there is hope. I do. Despite my proclivity for slothness. There is always hope. After all I have managed to create in the past. I have gotten up early and hit the keys to write up something succulent. I have stayed up late making jewelry. I have created things out of nothing. So I know there is this sliver of light that I can make it to the other side and be more creative then not. I cling to the sliver, holding on, as I can continue to write.

Sandra's e-course leads people to write their life stories. She is a creative vagabond, a poet, writer who co-facilitates the Wild Angels Poets and Writers Group at the historic Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.Writing for Life: Creating a Story of Your Own. Visit her blog: Email her or @writing4life via twitter.

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Vulture or Eagle

Mary Ann de Stefano
MAD about Words

The other day, as I drove home through the asphalt parking lot that surrounds my condo association, I saw a huge turkey vulture standing in my path. Even though I drove close, he didn't budge. He was tearing at something with his beak. Finally, I had to drive around another way to avoid hitting him. After I parked, I walked over to investigate. I wanted to see what this vulture had scavenged that was so precious it would cause him to disregard his own safety.

As I drew closer, what I saw couldn't even be described as carrion. He was tearing at a squirrel that had already been opened, picked clean, and flattened by traffic. Only the dry husk of squirrel remained, his fur. And yet the vulture remained anchored to the ground, guarding and picking at this empty shell as if it still held something worth risking his life for.

Later that day when I went outside again, a number of neighbors were looking up at the sky. Incredibly, a bald eagle was visiting our urban neighborhood. I grabbed my camera, and watched him for a long while. (Oh, how I wished for a telephoto lens!) He soared in concentric circles, then paused for awhile atop the highest branch in the tallest tree. "Majestic" is a totally appropriate, if clich├ęd, word to use for him.

I couldn't help but think about the contrast between the two birds I saw that day. One, taking the low ground, small view, picking over a dry husk -- like an over-analytical person stuck in one place, perhaps? The other, an eagle, wide view, flying free and choosing the highest perch for himself.

And I ask myself: Which bird do you want to be, Mary Ann? Vulture or eagle, vulture or eagle?
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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Career Inklings from Columbia

by Janet M. Ruck

Ah, winter on the East coast! Blanketed with snow, ravaged by ice, this is the time of year for hunkering down, turning inward and revitalizing. For many people, this long stretch of cold weather, reduced daylight and barren landscape is a scourge to be endured. For others, it is an opportunity to reflect and revisit, prepare and repair, create and carve out the next chapter of life.

I’ve always enjoyed this time of year and the respite it brings from the busyness of the other seasons. This is why I like living here. I look forward to the beauty of each time of year and each provides a gateway to the next. The cold winter gives me pause which I might not give myself. So, Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, seems to know what’s best for me. Unlike the exhausted child who fights sleep and bedtime, I am happy to oblige.

Regardless of where you live or what the weather, taking time to reflect is always good life practice. For me, writing what my reflective self is telling me helps to keep me connected to my internal voice. Then, when I am caught up in the frenzy that undoubtedly accompanies my self in warmer times, I am reminded of the wisdom that presents itself during the stillness. I think this is how I learn “me” best – by stopping, writing, and living.

You may wish to try it, no matter the season of your life.
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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Sculpting a Life:
Susan Gallacher-Turner’s turn in the Pacific Northwest
(Ball masque-Sun)

Don’t worry.
Be happy.
Right. How come it’s so hard to do?

Today is a busy day and that’s a good thing. I’m a little nervous, excited as well as happy. Yes. I said it, happy. Why is it so hard for me to say that I’m happy? I want to be happy- doesn’t everyone? Ok, maybe there are some people out there who don’t, but I do. I really do. So what’s the problem?

Fear. Oh, that old feeling back – again. It sounds ridiculous but it’s the truth. I’m afraid of being happy. Why?

Here’s what came up. What if it gets taken away? What if it’s a mirage that looks good from a distance but never materializes. What if it’s just a pretty frosting that covers up a bad situation. What if something goes wrong? What if I’m not worthy. Why should I be happy when others are not?

I wonder why I distrust happiness? Because in the past, it wasn’t what it seemed? It was a mask worn by someone who really felt differently? It was a rug that was pulled out from under me? Could be. We’ve all had good situations that turned bad. Or days that started out good and ended differently. But I know, I’ve also had the opposite happen, so have you, I’m sure. Bad situations, people, days that turn out to be good in the end.

So, what’s the problem?

When I look back at my life, I see times when I was truly happy. Enjoying a romantic picnic by the river with my husband. Holding my newborn daughter and son for the first time. Strolling the beach at sunset. Nothing bad happened.

Writing this now, I’m feeling less nervous and more relaxed. I’m looking forward to today. I have a sculpture piece to deliver to an art show. I have a mask making class to teach to fun-loving children at a local elementary school. I’ve got a party to go to at a jazz club.

I can be happy. I can enjoy my artistic accomplishments. I can have fun teaching the art of mask making. I can enjoy the party. There that wasn’t so hard, after all.

In the spirit of happiness, here’s my contribution to the happiness meme that’s going around the blog world right now. With all that’s going on in the real world right now, I know I need all the happy thoughts I can find. I hope it helps you find some of yours, too.

The meme is simple: You list six things that make you happy, not necessarily in any order, just the first six that come to mind. Ok, maybe that might be hard but try not to worry about it. (I’m smiling at you, see?) Then you "tag" another blogger or two with the meme, to pass it on.

1. The sun shining down on me as I walk my dog around the lake. I feel the luscious warmth on my back while my nose feels the frosty, winter air. I see the heron feeding, hear the redwing blackbird singing and lean against the powerful cedar trees and sigh.
2. Going over and kissing my husband and asking him if he’s happy and he says, “Yes.” I ask, “Why?” And he says, because right now, everything’s good…home, him, me, the kids, his work, my work. I kiss him again for reminding me once again, that life is good.
3. Playing with clay, pushing on smooth copper, painting with a rainbow of paints and writing the stories that the pictures want to tell me.
4. The first sniff and sip of fresh morning coffee.
5. The sound of my daughter singing. The sight of my son digging into a home cooked meal with gusto.
6. The support of friends and family. I don’t take that for granted…thank you all!

Visit my website at and my other blogs: Susan’s Art & Words at and Life is Good…Pass it On at

Have fun with your happy thoughts!
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Sunday, February 01, 2009


Hello, everyone:

This Sunday we continue our examination of the meaning difficulties that many people are currently experiencing. Today I’ll share Carla’s story. But first a few updates.

The next round of creativity coaching trainings begins the week of February 9th. For information on the next Introduction to Creativity Coaching Training and the next Advanced Creativity Coaching Training, and for information on becoming a free client in the next Introduction to Creativity Coaching Training and receiving free email-based creativity coaching, please visit:

Here is a ringing endorsement from someone who took both the Intro and Advanced trainings last year (they can be taken sequentially or simultaneously):

“Hi Eric,

I'd like to thank you for all the wonderful coursework you provided me this past year. Your meaning and purpose message is important to our times and cultural growth as a universal community. The method you use to teach is an outstanding one and your personal style was a special gift to me. Even from Minneapolis I can feel your touch, sparking my creative life into action. Like so many, my creative life needed resuscitation. Your kindness is woven into all you do. Now I have a renewed purpose to create and potential income that is rewarding and something absolutely worth getting out of bed every day. So, for all you've done for me I say a very heartfelt- thank you!



A few spots remain in the March Deep Writing Workshop in London. For more information:

(If you would like to organize a Deep Writing Workshop in a European locale for 2010, let’s chat. I am particularly interested in presenting in Dublin and Edinburgh but I am open to any European locale. If you want to chat about this, drop me an email at


If you’re interested in the subject of making meaning, please take a look at The Atheist’s Way, which is now available from Amazon:


Last but not least, if you are thinking about taking the Meaning Coach Training that will begin in June (it will be the first of its kind), come on board soon. It is filling up. For more information:


Here, as the main event, is Carla’s “existential blues” piece. As the year progresses we will move toward discussing solutions but for now we are still focused on clearly understanding the problem. Carla explained:

I've had some blend of existential blues since my 20s, but the condition has recently worsened and gotten me closer to genuine introspection and honest investigation of meaning. I recall the blues in my 20s as vague and centered on questions of “what am I going to do with my life now," after leaving a field of study I loved and its career path, for reasons that ultimately turned out to be excellent ones (I don't want that life path back) and then after I started working in business, questions of “why are people in this office so boring? No one wants to study new things or write or draw in their free time; they talk about TV and their lawns a lot - where do these people come from?”

Passion and business are recurring threads for me in the areas of meaning and despair. I always wanted to write and create and do esoteric research (not generally lucrative work) but for better or worse ended up following my parents' desires for me and working in business (comfortable work). The best and worst moments of my college days involve arts and business. The best was sprawling on my dorm bed translating Virgil for Intensive Latin class and getting it! I got it! I got the nuances, meanings, artistry of translation word choices! I was part of creation and art and the heavens parted for a moment - I loved it! The worst was walking across the "Diag" and seeing the business students in their blue overcoats and suits. I saw them and felt like dirt. As much as I loved what I was doing, my family and wider society had already let me know that my interests were useless, frivolous, flaky. The BBA and MBAs in their blue coats, though, they'd go off to something tangible - marketing toilet paper or toothpaste, something that paid. I didn't want their jobs but I did want their probable security and known place to go.

My current existential blues most often arrive in the form of exhaustion, and occasionally as despair. The exhaustion strikes most often when I'm thinking about doing creative work or tired after a day at work (in my business career work) and I can't bear to write, pick up a book or listen to music. It makes me say, “Leave me alone. Why bother?”

I've had long stretches like this. Last year I could not write or even stand to try to read or listen to music for months. I'd visit the book store with my husband and trail after him, picking up and putting back down books, declaring each unreadable on the grounds of type size too small, book too heavy or book looking impossible to think about opening. I slept a lot and looked out of a lot of windows at birds or weather. This would seem like a deep depression, though throughout it, I never missed a day at work, project deadline or bill payment due date and every day was clean, scented and groomed in a suit. It was, perhaps, a deep depression of limited scope that left the rest of my life on course.

The fits of existential despair, a more active visitation of my blues, move beyond the territory of “who cares? what's the point?” to arrive as thunderstruck moments in which I am absolutely convinced that I'll die at my office desk, never accomplish anything I truly care for, and might as well be the walking dead in a business suit. These moments make me less sleepy than inclined to throw all of my professional books out of my office window, on fire, and run down the office park road towards the highway, never to return.

Both forms of existential despair come from the same fear – that I might never achieve anything deeply meaningful to me (while I am doing well in my business career, it is not work that stirs my passion or lets me experience "flow"), and that my deepest loves for arts, creative work and contemplative practices are meaningless and selfish matters of self-entertainment and solitary pleasure. The existential blues can arrive after I've been out of balance - too much creative work and I feel frivolous, too much day-job work and I feel like a worn-out machine cog. A mixture of daily wage-earning work and creative work seems to be mentally healthiest for me, but even then, the blues still come.

Today my blues are focused on how to best survive day-job work and daily inanities while trying to find a way to incorporate my creative passions in a life that is meaningful to me. Do I give up on creating and just consume and enjoy? Isn't that selfish? I want to create - but what if I can't create anything that is good enough to make the mark that Bach, Beethoven, Eliot, Yeats, Milosz, Herbert did? What am I worth if I can see truth and beauty but not create them, or apply them beyond my own consumption? It would be easier to stop thinking trying and passively live a comfortable life away from creation, but I don't want to give up.

As much as I doubt my own ability to create and leave meaning behind, I believe passionately that the "softer," non-law/finance/business things like arts and contemplative practices can have tremendous meaning, value and an impact on the world. When I listen to Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's recording of the Bach cantata "Ich Habe Genug", I feel the presence of something sacred and healing. When I listen to the Borodin Quartet's 1960s-1970s recordings of Shostakovich's string quartets, especially Op. 68 Quartet in A Major with its haunting, lumbering waltz (a staggering Russian bear?) and the last chords that are the sound of light and hope breaking through gloom, I better understand the pain and absurdity Shostakovich wanted to expose.

Yesterday, before I finished the last set of edits to this essay, I was reading Czeslaw Milosz's "A Song on the End of the World" in my car at the oil change shop. I brought it in a stack of things I'd been wanting to read and too busy at work to get to, and was so impressed that I re-read it three times. What an amazing, gorgeous, true poem. What a powerful final image, the old man who could be a prophet but is not, binding his tomatoes and knowing "No other end of the world will there be." I got it, I felt it, and for a moment, I was enlightened. How can I ever rise to create at this level myself?

I believe "soft" creators like the ones I've just praised have made greater marks than most "hard" businesspeople in touching others and changing, even if slightly, the tilt of our world. Were I any one of them I hope I'd feel secure in my achievement. However, as the person I am for most of my waking hours, a suburban professional and "aspiring" everything else, I'm a bundle of doubts. Is my time spent on art worthy? What must it prove to be worthy? Money and fame aren't perfect correlations to value, but what does it say if work earns no money or exposure? And where does a frustrated creator go from there?

I wonder if I'd feel otherwise if it did not seem on many days as though I'm the only one in my world tilting against "normal" life, as defined by my profession's "work, work, work and make more money at work" mentality. I have several frustrated artists in my family, but none ever pushed forward or tried hard enough to finish anything, and all shared the same “sit down, have a drink, have a smoke, work too hard and you'll wear yourself out” mentality. My coworkers think the arts are frivolous, and I never hear the end of “classical music isn't worth anything, it has to keep fundraising to survive – you don't see 50 Cent asking for government handouts.”

I just don't know. I want to create, to touch if only briefly truth and beauty and communicate them, I want to leave something meaningful that lasts longer than a memorandum or settlement agreement at work. But how and when? And is this always worth it? I just don't know. I just don't want to give up yet.
If you would like to share your “existential difficulty” story, drop me an email (to and I’ll send you along some prompts and guidelines.


Have an excellent Sunday!



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