Summer’s Journey for the Writer Waits

It’s the first day of summer, the longest day of the year. As light lengthens past nine at night, a writer feels braver. Summer offers a richer and truer expression of relaxation and reflection.

When we write, we’re in “summer school.” Writer William Zinsser said: “The subject you best know is yourself.” So, write about that. If you’re journaling, use the journal as a “classroom” to explore and learn more about yourself and others. Author and writing teacher, Susan Tiberghien, once said, “I try to live my day as a journey. When a flower opens in sunlight, when a cloud beckons, I write that in my journal.” In writing, self-absorption slips away. In her writing guide, Wild Mind, Natalie Goldberg notes that writing allows us to “let it go.”

Not only that, but I have always felt writing fosters empathy, not just for others, but for us. What’s the point of that? Empathy translates into better relationships, opens up a mutual give and take, and encourages different perspectives and a rhythm of hope and optimism that might not have been there before. When people ask why I started the Women’s Writing Circle, I always say it was borne out of this feeling that women’s voices have been marginalized. Writing may crystallize a plan, a path forward, a way out of a problem. We’re in this together.

At a recent writing workshop, we were asked to describe a room in our house. Does it foster creativity? How would you describe it? What would you change if you could? I wrote about my pink, gold and red living room. The colors and textures reflect my taste, as well as a commitment I made a long time ago to declutter the spaces where I live. Clutter fosters chaos, disorganization. There’s a couch, a loveseat, and a chair. There are books in one corner near a dark green rolltop desk. On the walls, hang the art from my travels. The art depicts the Wheel of Life, bought in Nepal, the Tree of Life, from Morocco, the winter sled and horse skimming across tundra, bought in Russia. For all that I have seen and traveled the world, I spend most of my days, here in this room, in this house, redolent with memories. A hint of laughter hangs on the breeze or is that the windchime next door? What would I change? The touch of a hand on mine, a kind word over another solitary dinner. What was a choice? What wasn’t a choice?

I write. I ponder. Summer’s journey for the writer waits.

Writing To Tell Your Story

As I go through the final revision of my new novel, And the Memory Returns, I think of what author Bob Mayer wrote today on Facebook: “If you want to write for a living, you have to take chances. You have to put it on the line. If you want ‘security’ forget about it. It doesn’t exist anyway. If you have a story to tell, tell it. Don’t worry about the ‘market’. Tell your story.”

I have a story to tell and at my age, I’m not worried about the market. I took a risk in writing this because it’s always a risk to put your craft out for public consumption and scrutiny. The joy resides in writing … and knowing that this book will reach readers in a month or two.

And the Memory Returns is the sequel to A Portrait of Love and Honor: A Novel Based on a True Story. (Bob Mayer was kind enough to write an endorsement for that book.) Once again, Ava Stuart and Jay Scioli are central characters. Ava is alone but Jay is always with her in thought and spirit.

When people ask what the new book is about, I practice my elevator pitch: It’s about a woman as she ages, remembering the people and events that shaped her life and asking herself: where she is going, and can she put the past behind her? Along the way, she finds a path forward. It’s never too late.

The cover of my book was inspired by a wooded trail at Longwood Gardens, which is near my home, here in suburban Philadelphia. As I stood in the cool of an October day when visiting the gardens in autumn, the vibrancy of dying leaves offered poignant beauty. I love the colors of my cover, offset by the white font and hope you do too.

It will be interesting to see whether the path I took to publish this book—no accolades from authors on front or back covers, as I did with my other books—just the story—makes a difference in sales. I selected Word-2-Kindle to publish the book under my own imprint Writing Circle Press, which I wrote about in this post. There will be a trade paperback, as well as an E-book.

So, that’s the situation. As always, I remain excited about this time in publishing, one that affords the hard-working and dedicated writer a variety of choices and financial options to publish. It’s a time to pick up that pen, and write, if and, hopefully, when the spirit moves you to tell your story.

From Writing to Publishing

Every time our Women’s Writing Circle meets, it takes me a couple days to process highlights of our time together and blog what went on without betraying the confidentiality of the group. I think it’s safe to say that as the ten of us gathered in the lovely community room of the Chester Springs Library, here in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the desire to devote time to ourselves and capture our stories before it’s too late emerged.

Susan Weidener Photo

Those stories often revolve around family, spirituality and the quest almost all writers I know pursue, which is answering the question … Who am I? Who are the people who most impacted my life? What was their role in my own journey? Whether interviewing family members or reminiscing about a long-ago time as a young girl, we share through fiction and memoir. This takes work and dedication, of course. But the women who have come to the Circle month after month during the 12 years I’ve facilitated the group, are testament to that dedication.

For my own part, I am happy to report that my novel, And the Memory Returns, is now in final production stages with Word-2-Kindle. To pique your interest in buying the book, which continues the story of Ava and Jay and is the sequel to my first novel, A Portrait of Love and Honor, the synopsis is this:

For some time, Ava felt the best years of her life ended when Jay died. They seemed the most promising, brimming with excitement and expectation, where anything was possible. In the years after his death, friends, family and a good dog sustain her. A writer and single mother, she looks back on her life and her memories. What did it all mean? Where does she go from here? Can she put the past behind her? Her best friend’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and the transformational power of international travel leads to surprising revelations and a path forward.

Photo by Nu00f3ra Zahradnu00edk on

Many of you might remember that I recently wrote about publishing my novel. The post, “The Author’s Publishing Jungle”, details my reasons for choosing independent publishing and BookBaby.

Further research on my part, however, turned up Word-2-Kindle. I bought the Deluxe Package, which is $399. It includes everything from interior design and formatting to cover design and upload to Amazon, which then assigns my trade paperback an ISBN at no additional cost. Word-2-Kindle was a marked savings over virtually the same service with BookBaby, which cost around $2,200. In addition, Word-2-Kindle offers unlimited revision for a month, which works for those of us who might have missed a typo or need to rework a sentence. My project manager, Jen, has responded to my questions in a timely manner and I am pleased with how well things are going.

The point is to get my book out without breaking the bank. I should have no trouble recouping the $399. That, in itself, was a motivator to work with my chosen publisher.

As we write our stories, we—or, at least, I—contemplate a desire to see them published. Not everyone feels they want to publish and that’s fine. Sharing with you, my readers, has been one of the great honors of my life, personally and professionally.

I wish the best of luck for everyone planning a creative endeavor. As we discussed in the Women’s Writing Circle, there has never been a writer who didn’t question whether what she writes is any good or not. That said, the risk of using our voices to help make this world a little better, even for just one reader who might glean something useful from our work, is a risk worth taking.

The Power of Journaling

And so … her memory returns, as do her words, here along the writer’s way. In December 2012, blogger and author Kathy Pooler wrote about the power of journaling for our Women’s Writing Circle. A few weeks later, she would come to suburban Philadelphia and teach a workshop on journaling. As many of you who read my Facebook page know, Kathy passed away last week. Words cannot express how supportive she was of me and so many writers, who put pen to page and “mapped out” the most painful stories of our lives.

I want to note that the importance of journaling seems, at least to me, timelier than ever in this age of isolation and remote work. Putting our deepest thoughts and feelings down on paper can be revelatory, answering that most sought-after question … Who am I? As we describe events and circumstances that lead to more exploration, the practice can be enlightening and enriching, while, hopefully, easing loneliness and lead to reflection. Now to what Kathy wrote.

Ever since I was ten years old and wrote plays for my maternal grandmother, Nan, and her little Italian lady friends, I enjoyed writing. I see them gathered in the living room sipping coffee and chattering in Italian. I never understood a word, but I still feel their fascination and loving attention as they hushed each other when I stood in the archway to announce a play would begin. As I grew older and began facing life with all its complications, I’d grab a pen and pour my feelings into a journal. I had stacks of spiral notebooks filled with the heartaches of relationship failures, the exhaustion of being a single parent, the terror of living with and loving an alcoholic son; heart-wrenching losses . . .  my Nan . . . my best friend, Judy . . . my beloved father . . . the uncertainties of my own cancer diagnosis.

Journaling became my pathway to healing, capturing my moments of need, longing, creativity . . . my life. These journal entries morphed into vignettes as I followed my dream to write my story. Here are my thoughts on why writing has been a journey of the heart:

1.   Writing my story has helped me clarify the things that have really mattered in my life: Often when I sit down to write, the story I intend to write does not end up being the story I write. The story reveals itself to me in the writing, when I listen to the whispers in my heart.

2.    Resurrecting my memories keeps me connected to people and events that shaped me: Flashing back to those plays acted out in front of Nan and her friends is heartwarming and fills me with validation and inspiration to keep writing through the harder parts.

3.    Writing through the pain has helped release the burdens of my heart: For years I held on to the guilt of making poor choices and putting my children through so many upheavals as a result of my choices. Writing has helped me to forgive that young woman and believe that she acted in good faith.

4.    Writing out my painful memories has helped me forgive those whom I perceive have hurt me: In attempting to capture the essence of my characters’ personalities and the impact they have had on my life, I have gained new insights into their behavior. Forgiveness is freedom and my heart feels lighter.

5.    Revisiting my past self and reflecting upon my motivations and needs at the time have increased my self-awareness and filled me with gratitude for the growth I have experienced: When I recreate a scene from my past and feel, deep in my heart, that I would never do the same thing today, I realize how far I’ve come. Writing has helped me to heal the painful parts of my past that I have carried around for years.
It truly has been a “Journey of the Heart.”

With Kathy at a book signing in Amsterdam, New York

Kathleen Pooler is remembered as a writer and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner who wrote memoirs about the power of hope through her faith in God. She wrote of divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believed that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.

You can read her obituary here.

A Writer Offers a History Lesson

“Use loneliness. Its ache creates urgency to reconnect with the world. Take that aching and use it to propel you deeper into your need for expression—to speak, to say who you are.” ~ Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones.

Last Sunday I drove down through Delaware and Maryland, across the Mason Dixon Line and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and onto Annapolis. I had taken a room for two nights in the Governor Calvert House—Historic Inns of Annapolis. The three-story brick building across from the State Capitol where George Washington resigned his commission was within walking distance of everything from Revolutionary War mansions to Civil Rights museums. The bay and the Severn River, a 14-mile-long tidal estuary, beckoned below the hill.

A feeling in my own life of questioning where to go from here has led to this: learn and learn more. As a writer, I have a responsibility to use my voice to shed light, to keep learning, and, hopefully, play my part in making this world a better place.

When I arrived in Annapolis, temperatures in the mid-seventies had drawn hordes of people … mostly families and couples and those in town for a Navy lacrosse game. As I hopped aboard a bright red trolley for a tour of the town, the loneliness of the solo traveler ebbed. I felt good that I had done this. Risk-taking results in something useful to the writer, whether a chance conversation with a stranger, or a new way of looking at a world we thought we knew.

The next morning, under cloudy skies the town had settled into a quiet green oasis, a lovely showcase of April’s special spring beauty of tulips and flowering trees. I toured the William Paca House and listened as the guide spoke about the enslaved people that served Paca, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The irony was not lost. A nation founded on the freedom of the individual used enslaved people to carry heavy silver urns filled with scalding hot water up steep stairs to the parlor. Here, gentry could sip tea in a sitting room with views of symmetrically laid out gardens. As a lawyer, Paca enjoyed inviting guests to his home for lively discussions involving the oppression of the King and the concept of a nation based on “all men are created equal.”

A few blocks up the street from the house, the Museum of Historic Annapolis features a floor-to-ceiling mural of George Washington. The General towers over his personal slave, a small man in red-feathered turban. Earlier, the sun had broken through the clouds casting a dockside bronze sculpture of author Alex Haley, reading from Roots, children transfixed at his feet. Inside the museum, not far from the Washington mural was a black and white painting of Kunta Kinte, a fictional character based on Haley’s ancestor. The plaque read that Kinte had been brought on a ship from Africa under months-long grueling conditions to the Port of Annapolis. The remainder of his life was spent in hard labor on a tobacco plantation in the South.

A recent PBS special featuring Ken Burns’ documentary on the life of Benjamin Franklin revealed that, yes, even Franklin had enslaved people. As a Philadelphian, I admire Franklin, who founded the University of Pennsylvania, where I did my graduate work. It seems Ben saw the status quo as enslaving people.

Of course, I couldn’t leave town without a boat ride around the harbor and the river where multi-million dollar homes serenely gaze upon the brackish waters of the estuary.

As controversy rages about what children should and should not be taught or allowed to read in books, this trip served as a lesson. There is no turning back. Teaching critical race theory is essential to understanding our nation. Books open worlds and introduce us to all sorts of people and cannot be shelved due to prejudice or the patriarchy. History reminds us that the past is prelude to the present. Although often a solitary and lonely task, the writer expresses injustice as best she can. After all, the truth begins with the truth.

The Woman with Red Fingernails

An aspiring blogger and mother with two grown daughters, she was just beginning to revel in her newfound independence. Now was her time. As she pushed her bicycle home on the war-torn streets of Bucha, it was another day in the life of everywoman. Her dream to become a make-up artist energized her. As she turned that street corner, what was she thinking? The blog post she wanted to write? The cosmetics class to take? Friends to see that weekend?

Then, nothing, darkness, gunned down by a Russian tank. Iryna Filkina, 52, lay among the rubble of ruin. Her lifeless hand with polished cherry red fingernails would mark her grave, making her recognizable only to her daughter. 

Photograph by Reuters

While the senseless and brutal killings of innocent people in Ukraine are too numerous to catalogue, it is hers that haunts me. In photographs seen round the world, her smile shimmers. I listen to a daughter’s recollections of the joy her mother expressed at turning the page and exploring a new passion. Iryna could have been me more than a dozen years ago. That’s when I first began tapping into the independence and freedom of exploring my creative passion, writing and teaching. Free of the routine of a dead-end job, my sons grown and on their own, now was my time. I would start a writing group in a small independent bookstore with low-lying Moroccan coffee table and red Turkish rug. Each day brought anticipation of meeting with other writers, sharing our stories and our craft.

Iryna could have been any one of many women I know who find themselves on the brink of starting over, of renewal. I meet them in my writing group, at church and at social gatherings.

“It’s just so horrible,” a friend of mine said as we walked the street of the neighboring townhouse community. Children skateboarded and men and women walked dogs on leashes. An Amazon Prime truck delivered packages.  “So many murdered,” she said when I told her about the woman with red fingernails.

“She was just starting a new chapter in her life,” I said. “She could have been me.”

But, of course, she wasn’t. The simple act of rounding a corner resulting in my life interrupted—ended—on a random day in April remains surreal.

There are no words to express the incalculable tragedy of a life in full cut down. Still, words do offer a pathway … “a sturdy ladder out of the pit,” as Alice Walker put it, a concept we discussed this weekend in my writing workshop. As I think of Iryna I offer, in my own way, a little legacy. A woman she never knew living thousands of miles away from Ukraine writes this testament. Iryna, you are not forgotten. Your life brought me in touch with my own.

Writing brings comfort and reflection. Even though I know it to be wishful thinking—magical thinking—selfishly, I hope that when my time comes, someone remembers me too.

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” ~ Sue Monk Kidd

Follow-up to the Author’s Publishing Jungle

Last week’s post “The Author’s Publishing Jungle” engendered quite a bit of interest here and on Facebook. Authors and would-be authors chimed in on myriad experiences with publishing their work. On closer questioning on my part (after all, I’m a former reporter), it seemed not all publishing experiences are created equal. Even the language of publishing itself had different meanings, depending on who you talked to.

Photo by Jacob Colvin on

For example, whether formatting a manuscript yourself for free through KDP or hiring someone to do it (not clear who they were or how people found them and will they be around in two years to make updates or do you have to know how to do that?), questions for me remain. And what does the end product look like?

Whether working with small presses versus university presses or hybrid publishers (a term that seems to have a somewhat amorphous definition, depending on who you talk to) divergent opinions left me with questions. (If I were writing a memoir with a lot of history and historic relevance, I would definitely consider a university press, which one writer over on the National Association of Memoir Writers’ Facebook page suggested.) What about royalties or creative control?

I have been in the “game” of self-publishing since 2010 and I’m still convinced it’s the way to go, at least for my work. Ever since 2010, I never again queried a small press. Why? One of the reasons was that when I tried to get Again in a Heartbeat published, I was told my memoir could contain libelous material (I wrote about dating various men) and so they were not interested. Another reason was the length of time between submission and publication.

A formatter can be hired, it seems, but what if you want ebook and paperback? Can they do both and make them look right? Others said they loved their book, but it didn’t have all the bells and whistles. I want chapter heading fonts, design fleurons and running heads.

Some experiences went from using a small press to self-publishing. Why the switch?

In my mind, and this is just me talking, there’s a lot of “apples and oranges” comparisons going on when people talk about publishing a book. One book may not resemble what I envision for my book but might be fine for another. The book I want requires professionals who have skills I don’t. They should know how to create a good-looking product that resembles any traditionally published book you might find in a bookstore.

As I mentioned last week, I wasn’t willing to break the bank to get my work out there. I had selected BookBaby because I liked the one-stop shopping aspect. The pricing seemed okay since I wanted ISBNs and cover design and interior formatting for print and ebook. People answer the phone after a few rings and their online information/website is impressive. Concerned with the quote I received showing pricing for a trade paperback at $11 (compared to the $4 that I spent in 2015 for my novel of the same length as the new novel), a BookBaby representative clarified that for me this morning. The $11 is the initial price built into and included in the $2,109 self-publishing package. (Basically, those 25 copies become giveaways for marketing or gifts.)

Once I set my own price on Amazon, I pay 50 percent of that, plus or minus, depending on how many copies I order. So, if I set the price at $12.99, I will pay 50 percent of that with discounts if I order 100 books. If I order 50 books, the discount is not as great. That makes sense. The price becomes more reasonable when you factor in inflation and the high cost of paper and that I haven’t published since 2015. I was told they are keeping an eye on the cost of paper and will lower the price if there is a downturn, say, by the end of the year.

Photo by Ian Turnell on

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the many publishing platforms out there, nor do I have the time or inclination to study all of them. So that leaves me out when it comes to Apple or D2D, or whatever. What I know is that I am a writer and a small entrepreneur. I enjoy book signings, talks in the community and I’m decently adept at social media. (Note: In years past, I’ve tried blog tours and Facebook advertising, Goodreads Giveaways and other promotional book sites to some, but not much success.)

One thing I know is that I can depend on myself, my intuitive and professional savvy in weeding out the scammers and the companies here today and gone tomorrow. Of course, I banked on CreateSpace years ago and now what? They’ve been defunct for the last couple years.

Still, I think I’m at peace with my path “through the jungle.” No one said this business of being an author would be easy.

I would enjoy your thoughts and your experiences,or comments on this topic of publishing and the world of publishing options.

The Author’s Publishing Jungle

Having finally completed my novel, And the Memory Returns, I once again have entered the publishing jungle. My novel, at 40,000 words, is considered “too short” by the established “gatekeepers” to make a marketable novel—the going rate is 60,000 words or more. Nor is the topic idiosyncratic or blatantly catchy or a marketable genre like romance or suspense. A literary fictional story of a woman’s search for meaning as she ages, And the Memory Returns, is probably not going to set the book world afire. Nor can I add to the length when I feel the story is just perfect and compelling, as is.

How could I publish my book? I’m not willing to wait years required by the traditional publishing industry to see my book make it into readers’ hands, even if an agent would want my story.

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So it was that I began the quest to find a self-publishing company that offered the services I needed, hopefully, without breaking the proverbial bank. I heard from so many “vanity” publishers under the guise of “small publishers” that my head began to spin. Somehow, they even got my phone number. One talked to me over an hour as to how I had to consider my book a “spiritual endeavor” and put all my heart and soul into it, including setting myself up with a website as a speaker at national events. All for a fee, of course.

Another pretended to be a “traditional” publisher by saying publishing my book would end up costing me nothing. We accept your manuscript, they said, (without even reading it) because we know you have the “following.” But remember, we don’t accept just everyone. Upon further evaluation and emails back and forth, I learned I had to crowdfund $6,000 to meet their expenses of formatting, editing and cover design. Were they kidding? Not a fan of crowdfunding even for noble causes, I wasn’t about to ask friends and colleagues if they would donate to my publishing endeavor and then buy my book too.

For now, I have landed at BookBaby, a one-stop shop, much like Amazon’s CreateSpace, now defunct, which I used with great success to publish both my memoirs and my first novel. Except at CreateSpace, you got two cover samples. This time, just one. I have to write my own synopsis and prepare notes on my design, front and back, and hope that the one and only sample I am offered works.

I never had to worry whether my manuscript was properly formatted because I was paying CreateSpace to do that. And there were no additional charges with CreateSpace for fixing minor typos. Now, I need to consider that if my manuscript isn’t pitch perfect, there are additional fees. For example, fixing typos begins at a base rate of $50 and then $2 for every typo after that. Fair enough, although it makes me nervous since attempting to ensure the manuscript is flawless, without having to spend another several hundred dollars on copy editing or proofreading off the base price of $2,190, not including taxes, is a bit intimidating. That price is based on a shipment of 25 paperback books. Price goes up by just over $11 for every paperback I purchase, far above the approximately $4 which I spent at CreateSpace for a book of the same length and page count. (BookBaby did waive the shipping fee of $90 for 25 books because I live within an hour of their printing distribution center.) The pricing means I have to charge at least $15 to make even a little money off sales of the paperback. I can set my own price for the ebook on Kindle, and will get 70 percent for each sale.

Still, after much research BookBaby came highly recommended by indie publishing groups. And factoring in inflation and the years since I last published, I am getting ready to write the check. That is, unless you know of something better. I’m all ears.

This isn’t to say that I hadn’t already spent $1,350 on professional editing over two iterations of my manuscript because I did. I also had two beta reads, which a writer friend did in exchange for me taking her out to lunch and I’ve read numerous excerpts with feedback in the Women’s Writing Circle. In the end, all my hours of hard work writing the book will end up costing me about $3,500, which is far above the $1,900 I spent seven years ago on editing and CreateSpace.

Will I ever recoup my expenses? Probably not. But it could be worse. I know authors who have spent literally $10,000 or more to publish their work.  I won’t be paying for the marketing package some of them bought. As a former journalist and publicist, I’m hoping I have the tools to do that myself. And the time, of course!  It’s a jungle out there. Yet like most authors, I owe it to myself to “birth this baby.”

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in publishing your book.

Writing and Unlocking Grief

When I started the Women’s Writing Circle in 2009, my memoir about the untimely death of my husband from cancer was in an early draft. Although it had been thirteen years since his death, grief lingered. Reading what I wrote to others in the Circle felt healing. I found that going back and sorting through all that happened before and just after his death was not only cathartic but enlightening. Who was that girl who dreamed of Prince Charming riding up on his white horse one day? How did that impact my reaction to his cancer and the effects the disease had on my marriage?

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Grief, we often hear, takes time to pass. But how much time and why do some people remain rooted in their loss, while others find a way to move on? So it was with interest that I read that prolonged grief—defined as ruminating over the death of a loved one (or even a pet) for longer than a year—has now been classified a clinical disorder in the DSM5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) – the bible of modern psychiatry. Rather than classified as depression, grief, according to psychiatrists, is more closely linked to trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.

As a writer, I found a natural pathway to understanding the depth of my grief. Once I began writing about John and my love for him, I felt as if he were in the room listening. Listening is important because no judgments are made, rather one talks and another listens. Writing led back to my background. My parents celebrated fifty-five years of marriage, after all, so I felt my marriage would stand the test of time, too. I had these naïve notions that a man could save me and that a marriage lasted forever, when, in fact, the hard truth was that nothing lasts forever. And no one could save me, but me. As I wrote about what I endured right before and after his death, I found myself connecting the dots, so to speak. And although I did go to a professional grief counselor for several months, it was the writing that gleaned the most valuable insights. I did not want to be a widow in black the rest of my life, nor could I quickly move on. I began to accept that John was irreplaceable. Between the anger and guilt that came with wanting the ordeal of his seven-year battle with cancer to end, I felt the deepest sense of loss. I was six months pregnant at the time of his diagnosis of terminal cancer.  As radiation and chemotherapy treatments upended every aspect of our lives, until finally leading to his dialysis and eventual death, I look back on these years as a survivor of PTSD.

The writing led to the realization that loss was rooted in my grief of shattered dreams that we would grow old together. He was, after all, my best friend, my confidant, my lover and husband and the father of my children. The writing also revealed just how lucky I had been to find true love. And, paradoxically, how unlucky to lose him so young. This paradox is at the root of faith. Life is a mystery. It is not ours to question why. I had just turned forty-four at the time of his death. We only had seventeen years together.

If prolonged grief is considered a “clinical disorder”, as the new diagnosis suggests, my instinct is to say that people are not machines. Everyone proceeds at their own pace and in their own time to work through loss. But what I can say assuredly is that writing offers a path forward, a tutorial if you will. It shows us where we have been and where we might be going. I have seen this happen many times in our Women’s Writing Circle. Someone will write about the death of a child, a spouse, a parent, a beloved dog and when they read their work to a group of empathetic listeners, it is as if the weight has begun to lift. Writing helps unlock grief, move toward renewed hope. In grief’s wake, we remember the blessing that is love.

Here’s a link to the New York Times article: “How Long Should It Take to Grieve? Psychiatry Has Come Up With an Answer” :

Writing Workshop for a Difficult World

Due to all that is happening in the world, we need to stop, take stock and let our writing help plumb our feelings and lead to healing and solace. In that vein, I will offer a writing workshop at the Chester Springs Library from 10 to 12:30 p.m. , Saturday, April 9. We’ll have writing prompts, time for free writes, reading our work aloud, and sharing the hope of setting aside time for a creative life.

Writing offers a creative vision to express ourselves, unload ourselves and make our journey universal. As poet Adrienne Rich says in An Atlas of the Difficult World, “We write from the marrow of our bones.” And in that regard, we find authenticity and meaning, putting on paper what we have been longing to say. This is a courageous undertaking, but one in which we rejoice.

The workshop will be limited to 10 people. There is a $20 fee to attend. Please RSVP at


“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” ~ Jack KerouacThe Dharma Bums