Supporting Writers & Readers on Giving Tuesday

It’s Giving Tuesday, a day to donate to good causes. Top of my list is supporting writers and readers. If this sounds self-serving, it’s because it is.

Democracy & Literacy

Democracy depends on a thoughtful, literate electorate. I’m deeply in favor of democracy, particularly one that protects freedom of speech.

Lately, political speech has become highly polarized, but life is so much more nuanced than being pro- or anti-. Most of our life choices are mitigated by extenuating circumstances, chance and doubt. Life’s complicated. Reading literature helps us untie – or at least better understand the complexity – of some of life’s knots.

Humans are a narrative species.

So on this national day of giving, consider donating to your local public library, to a literacy program in your community, and/or to a writing program that helps people write their own stories.

We tell stories to teach, to entertain and to memorialize what’s happened in our lives. Preserved, stories become history. Storytelling is civilation’s DNA.

Writing to the Light

For the fifth year in a row, I will be facilitating Writing to the Light writing circle to benefit my local library. This year, I will be offering it twice: by Zoom on December 31, and in person on January 2. Both will take place from 1-3 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Writers of all kinds and all levels of experience are invited to reflect on the light in their life in a supportive writing circle. We will write to illuminate our inner light, honor our inner voice, and tell whatever stories rise to be told. Prompts and guidance for automatic writing will be provided. Collectively, we will create a safe space for those who wish to read their new words.

Advance registration is required for each event. Register to receive the Zoom link for the December 31 remote circle, and to secure a seat for the January 2 circle, where numbers will be limited, masks required and indoor social distancing observed. Register at Be sure to indicate which writing circle you plan to attend.

Deborah Lee Luskin

I’m an author, blogger, and educator with almost forty years’ experience teaching students from all walks of life, including inmates, healthcare workers, children, college students, adults and elders. I facilitate the Rosefire Writing Circle on Mondays (remotely) and Fridays (in person) throughout the year. Learn more at

The Rosefire Writing Circle Continues

One of the unintended consequences of the pandemic has been to welcome writers from far away to the Rosefire Writing Circle, a place for writers of all ages and abilities to write in community and with support.

I started the Rosefire Writing Circle because I know how lonely writing can be, and also how even the smallest amount of encouragement is as necessary as breath.

As a writer, I benefited from writing circles early in my career, most notably when I was a new mother and looked forward to every Tuesday evening, where I could write with others. This first circle of women, mostly older than me, was exemplary for being leaderless. Those who hosted the group lived in tidy, childfree homes. It was worth going just to experience such domestic order. But we also took turns providing prompts to which we wrote.

My words were so bottled up back then, that I scrawled thousand word essays in twenty-minute sprints, essays that I polished before submitting to the local paper, where they started appearing in print.

In 1995, I paid up front for a ten-week workshop that met weekly for three hours at a stretch. It’s where I wrote thousands of pages of what I then whittled down into a three-hundred page novel. I joined a similar group closer to home, where I started a different book, Into the Wilderness. Published in 2010, it’s now out of print, but the ebook is still available online.

At the beginning of this century, I spent more time driving, not writing – and not just driving my active kids. I traveled to libraries, hospitals and prisons to discuss literature and teach writing. One year, I put 30,000 miles on a car without leaving Vermont. I was doing this right up until March 12, 2020, when I gave my last public lecture before the pandemic shut such gatherings down. By then, I had a wonderful group of writers joining me at the Rosefire Writing Circle every Friday afternoon.

In 2016, I designed RWC to be more flexible than the workshops I’d attended: No upfront payment, no weekly commitment. It took some adjustments, but with the help of participants over the past five years, we’ve developed a writing circle where people come when they can and pay what they can afford.

Before the pandemic, we were meeting in-person on Friday afternoons. As a result of the pandemic, we moved the Rosefire Writing Circle online.

People grumbled, “It’s not the same.”

No, it’s not.

We have better attendance. On Zoom, we have no weather cancellations for snow or ice, and we’re all eager to break the isolation of pandemic living to come together and write. And thanks to videoconferencing, people from away are able to join us from different locations and time zones.

The Friday group, all vaccinated, is currently meeting in person again. Encouraged by one participant’s published memoir, some others have started book-length projects. Others just come and write. The virtual group continues to meet on-line most Monday afternoons. And there’s room for any writer of any ability who wants to try writing to a prompt in a supportive group.

Learn more about Writing Circles. If this sounds like something you’d like to try, you are welcome to join us. To learn how, contact me.

Whether you come write with us or not, I wish you may find the exact words to convey your precise meaning and thrive in good health.


Deborah Lee Luskin

Deborah Lee Luskin is currently writing a book about learning to hunt deer.

Writing in Community With Support

Writing During a Pandemic

Writing can be lonely even in ordinary times, so it’s important to find Community and Support.

Find a Writing Buddy

This can be as simple as finding a writing buddy and setting aside a time when you are both going to write. You can do this in person with someone in your household or pod, or you can write together while connected electronically by video or phone. You don’t even have to be in the same place, same time zone or electronically tethered. What you do need is a buddy and a commitment. A little bit of accountability can connect and support you as you dive into your words.

Form a Writing Pod

You can create or find group with writing friends or colleagues: Set a time to meet via a conferencing app, then check-in, set a timer, write, and check out. I’ve been lucky to join a group in San Francisco. The group started with weekly three-hour in-person sessions with snacks. Since the pandemic, the group meets twice a week on-line, which is how I’m able to write with this extraordinary group.

We have a few minutes of chitchat before we each say what we’re going to work on. Then we write for seventy-five minutes, take a fifteen minute break, and repeat. We all turn off our microphones while we’re writing, but remain connected by the vibes of community and support.

I’ve told some of my students about this model for writing in community and support, and they’ve started what they call “Writing Club,” when they get together electronically and write.

A Lifetime of Writing With Others

I’ve been writing with community and support since I was a new mother. I had three children, two jobs and no time, putting me at risk for losing my voice and sense of self. Thankfully, I found a group of mostly older women who met weekly for automatic journal writing. Whoever hosted the meeting provided hot water, herbal tea and prompts. We’d write for ten minutes, read our new work and do it again. It was during these sessions that I wrote my first editorial columns that appeared in the local newspaper. 

Next, I enrolled in a writing workshop based on the Amherst Writers and Artists Method. This workshop required both a ten-week commitment and a hefty fee. I started a novel, writing scenes at these workshops; in time, the community and support sustained me write during the week. When I finished that novel, I started another, which was published.

Circles of Community and Support

I’ve also been teaching writing since 1980, first to college freshmen, and then gifted children, elders and inmates. In 2016, I taught a grant-funded memoir class at my local library. When it ended, I started a writing circle for people who live in my rural community, a place where people come when they can and pay what they can afford.

In the Rosefire Writing Circle, I create a safe space and provide prompts for timed writing exercises designed to prime the creative pump. Participants focus and fly, letting loose the unknown in the wonder of words. We immediately read this new work, bearing witness to the strange and wonderful stories that emerge using a positive response practice that engenders a synergy, where participants invariably write more, write better, and write with greater confidence.

You Don’t Have to Write Alone

You don’t have to write alone – at least not all the time. And it’s quite likely that you will write more and write with great joy when you write with community and support.  

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, speaker and educator. Learn more at

I Hope You Are Writing

I hope this post finds you as well as can be under the present circumstances of pandemic, political and social unrest, and economic challenges. And despite all this, I hope you are writing.

Vermont Almanac

Cover Art of Vermont Almanac 1

I have been so engrossed in learning to hunt whitetail deer and drafting the story, Learning to Hunt, that I’ve not written much else, not here, and not on my blog. But my essay November appears in the inaugural edition of Vermont Almanac, a lovely anthology about all things Vermont that’s just been published, and I wanted to let you know.

Published by For the Land Publishing, the Almanac is organized by month and is filled with stories, information, illustrations and photography about life in Vermont, where we are connected to the land by weather, agriculture, forests, the rural economy, and each other. Vermont Almanac is especially about the people of this land: the farmers, loggers, conservationists, homesteaders, scientists, hunters, poets and writers “who are preserving and pioneering a rural way of life” according to a land ethic that “combines economic vitality with environmental stewardship and the values of rural life.”

For those of you writing placed-based stories, this is an essential resource, showing some of the different ways writers can find inspiration in a place, its people, and the synergy between them. I hope you will check it out.

And keep writing.

Deborah Lee Luskin

Deborah Lee Luskin lives, writes and hunts in southern Vermont. She blogs at Living in Place, and leads the Rosefire Writing Circles and the Rosefire Revision Circle for writers who want community and support. Learn more.

Writing & Hunting at Living in Place

Hi Readers,

Posting Writing & Hunting at Living in Place this morning reminded me of all the years I wrote about my writing life at Live to Write, Write to Live, so I’ve come over to say hello.

I hope your writing lives are going well, that you are creating imaginary worlds with vivid words and explaining our real world in accurate detail.

Humans are a narrative species. Stories help us make sense of the world. We need good storytellers. Storytelling is important work. Know that and keep writing!

Wishing you the right word that says what you mean,


Deborah Lee Luskin blogged regularly about the business and craft of writing here at Live to Write, Write to Live, from 2011 to 2018. She’s the author of the award-winning love story, Into the WildernessShe lives, writes, teaches, edits, gardens, cooks and hunts in southern Vermont.

Goodbye and Farewell


Dear Readers: This is my last post for Live to Write – Write to Live.

It has been deeply gratifying to post my thoughts about the business and craft of writing here every other week for almost eight years. I have enjoyed sharing my knowledge, my successes and my challenges with you. And I’ve loved the “Likes” and comments you have given me in reply.

I’ve come to recognize many of your avatars, enjoyed stimulating correspondence with others of you, and consider a few of you my on-line friends. I will miss you, but it’s time for me to consolidate.


The impasse I came to with Vermont Public Radio has shaken me in curious and unlooked for ways. Most notably, I am honoring a need to consolidate my thoughts and energies to telling the two stories I’ve been working on in fits and starts these past years. I recognize the need to make telling them my priority, and to do that, I have to give up the shorter, easier, extremely gratifying work of writing for you.


Between the death of my father, the end of my term as Chair of the Brattleboro Community Justice Center, and my break with VPR, I sense in myself a great moving inward, as if I’m finally ready to sit still and listen to the voice rising from deep inside.


I will continue to post an essay every Wednesday on my personal blog, Living in Place. I invite you to join me there, where I write about our human condition by telling stories. Humans are a narrative species. We thrive on stories.

For reasons I don’t begin to understand, I seem to have been chosen to tell them. I hope you will honor me by subscribing to Living in Place. I look forward to seeing your avatars there, and to engaging in thoughtful exchanges of ideas and opinions.


I wish you all the courage to tell your own stories. May you always find the exact word you need to say what you mean and thereby engage in that intimate relationship between writer and reader.

Fare well,


Goodbye and FarewellDeborah Lee Luskin is a writer, speaker and educator who blogs weekly at Living in Place.


When Does Editing Become Censorship?


I recently had to answer this question when Vermont Public Radio prohibited me from using the word “grandfather” to name my childhood abuser.

They insisted on alternatives, like “male relative.”

I refused.

For ten days we went back and forth, trying to find a way through this editorial impasse until finally, I withdrew my script and wrote the story of what had become the all-too-familiar narrative of being blamed, shamed and silenced for speaking out about sexual abuse.

But I wasn’t silenced: I wrote the story about VPR’s attempt to censor me, published here.


I was torn between my desire to broadcast my story and my need to be accurate. In the past, I’ve mostly accepted editorial suggestions that I thought were less than perfect but not worth taking to the mat. This time, I balked for the following reasons:

  1. Precision of Language: There was no reason to be vague when the English language already provides a perfectly good, accurate, and specific word to name my abuser: He was my grandfather.
  2. To use one of VPR’s suggested substitutes, like “beloved male relative” or “someone close” would be to cast aspersions on many innocent people, including all my truly beloved and respectful male relatives and friends;
  3. VPR’s claim that to name “my grandfather” crossed the line of “journalistic integrity” is specious:
    1. My grandfather died in 1972; the dead cannot sue for defamation of character;
    2. This is a commentary, not a news report;
    3. My contract clearly states that I’m responsible for the veracity of my content, not the radio station.


Worse than the arguments outlined above was the station’s complete lack of trust in me, despite their repeated protestations of “complete trust in your integrity.” Ironically, the script I’d submitted was about why women stay silent about sexual abuse for fear of being disbelieved. I was disbelieved.

Worst: VPR worked harder to protect the reputation of my long-dead abuser than to help get this story out in the world. They didn’t succeed in silencing me, as I found a different outlet for the story, but they have done their audience a disservice by remaining silent about what happens to ordinary women who are willing to speak out about what we’re discovering to be a common occurrence.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post, among other mainstream news outlets, continues to publish the voices of well-known women willing to talk about their abuse. Are only celebrities allowed to speak? Let’s not kid ourselves: sexual abuse occurs across all ages, genders, races, religions, socio-economic groups; it is truly inclusive.


At first, I was hesitant to insist on accurate language for fear that I’d never be allowed on the radio again. But during the ten days of arguing by email, I knew that speaking the dirty truth was more important than sanitizing my words, even if it meant losing what has been a wonderful gig. I’ve already found other outlets for publication.

And most important: I’m doing my part to end the silence that allows the ubiquitous abuse of girls and women at work, at school and at home to continue.

I hope you will read both He Was My Grandfather and Ordinary, Daily, Demeaning Abuse.

Thank you.

Deborah Lee Luskin, photoDeborah Lee Luskin lives and writes in southern Vermont. She blogs weekly at Living in Place.


Just Read!

Just Read!

  • Carry a magazine with you at all times.
  • Keep a book in your car.
  • Tuck a paperback into your messenger bag.
  • Load a library onto your Kindle – and fire it up instead of checking your phone!

Too much screen time!

Just Read!

I’m not the only one checking my cell phone like a nervous tic.

I’m trying this technique myself, because I find myself checking my phone like a nervous tic, and if I see a new email or a new headline, I fall into the black hole of cyberspace. Poof! My time to read evaporates, and it’s time for bed.

Instead of reading print on a page in a chair by the fire before retiring, I pollute myself with screen time. Even if there’s no new message from a friend or no new headline to upset me, the light itself is known to disrupt sleep. In my case, I’m also cranky for having squandered the time I’d planned to read, and for not reading.

Advice to writers: “Just read!”

As writers, we’re told, “Just read!” as a way to learn craft, study style, examine structure, and gather facts. Reading other people’s stories helps us tell our own, whether our stories are invented, factual, remembered, retold, or some combination thereof.

Technology changes, but our human need for stories does not.

Humans are a narrative species. We used to tell stories around a fire; then we heard them in the marketplace and in the cathedrals. Eventually, we learned to write and read. Drama, film and TV tell stories through acting. These days, stories are lost in email and stunted in social media. Our time to read at length grows short.

I love to read; I have to plan time to do it.

As a writer, I’m a glutton for words, most of which I get from print on a page. So I’m starting a new campaign to increase my reading time. I’m going to keep prose on hand wherever I go, so when I have a moment of “downtime,” I can “Just Read!” instead of reflexively checking my phone.

How do you make time to read?

Deborah Lee LuskinDeborah Lee Luskin reads and writes in southern Vermont, where Into the Wilderness, her critically acclaimed story of love in middle age, is set.

Write Now!

Write Now!

Due to complications of my husband’s broken jaw, I have to Write Now!

This afternoon’s writing time was unexpectedly pushed aside to pick up liquid Ibuprofen, a pill crusher, a WaterPik, and energy drinks for my husband, who’s had his broken jaw wired together this morning and will be on a liquid diet for weeks. I rushed home to cook dinner for friends arriving from Great Britain momentarily, and I haven’t written Tuesday’s post yet.

Write now!

I remember days when writing time would be supplanted by a childcare-giver’s day off, a sick child, a grandmother’s broken ankle, chicken pox, strep throat and a child’s broken ankle. Emergencies happen, yet one can still write in the waiting room, in the car, in the sick room, while the kids are playing dress up or make believe or watching a movie.

Write now!

Write now!

You can write anywhere, write now!

Then there are the planned trips to the shop for car maintenance. I’ve come to love those waiting rooms. With earplugs to drown out the TV, I use the hour to write.

I’m driving on the Interstate, headed to or from a gig at a library and the words for a commentary start bubbling up. I pull over, pick up my pen and notebook.

Write now!

The dishes are piled in the sink, the clean laundry needs to be folded, the trash needs to go out. Take care of the trash. Everything else can wait.

Write now!

I’m told my mother-in-law sold her washer and dryer, subscribed to The New Yorker, and read it in the laundromat every week. Have to do laundry? Write now!

The emails are incoming thick and fast. Turn off email – write now!

If social media is no longer a tool but a distraction, turn off your internet connection – write now!

Whatever you’re doing, write now!

www.deborahleeluskin.comEven though I prefer to write in my studio, life happens. I write here, there, and everywhere, at all hours of the day or night. I always have paper and pen with me. I’m always ready – write now!



September: The End is Where We Start From

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.   ~T.S. Eliot

The end is where we start from

September’s first task was to clean my desk.

September: Summer ends, and we begin the push to the end of the year. Summer ends and work resumes in earnest.

September: the first thing I did was clean my desk.

The very act of sorting books, papers and projects has helped me choose what to place front and center of my attention and which to shelve for the time being. This simple act has given me focus, structure and deadlines.

September is full of promise and hope. So are a clean desk and the deadline of a year’s end just over the horizon. I’m feeling hopeful and focused to be back at my desk after a summer of grief.

This September: I’m adjusting to the memory of loving parents who are not longer alive. I’m peering through the murky fog of mourning and see hope and promise in the slow death of the garden as it gives up its bounty. I hear the crickets singing summer’s end and know the silence of winter is coming. I welcome the gradually shortening days as the earth tilts away from the extended daylight that makes summer so luxurious. And I welcome the shift that allows me to sit at my desk with focus and energy to blog, to teach, and to advance a novel that’s starting to sing in me.

September is like taking a breath: I inhale cool air of intention and exhale the warm air of summer’s ease.

September is a time to focus and write.

What does September mean to you?

www.deborahleeluskin.comDeborah Lee Luskin lives in southern Vermont and blogs at Living in Place. She is a freelance educator, a radio commentator, and an avid hiker. Learn more at