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 Courage to Ask

To be able to ask for what we need, ask for what we want takes courage—and it’s also a skill. Please join me for a free/fundraiser class taught by Alexandra Franzen called The Courage to Ask. 

In this class, Alex is going to help us all develop the skill to ask for what we need and want, which will make it easier for us to find the courage to do it. 

The Courage to Ask is a fundraiser class for, an organization that helps people in crisis through text messaging. 75% of the people who text them are under 25 years old and each text is answered by a human being who is trained to help the texter navigate from a moment of crisis to a space of calm. 

I don’t text a lot, but I think about all the people in my life who use text as their first form of communication and I’m glad this organization exists. Especially in this time of COVID-19, when people are more isolated than ever, I’m glad there are people trained to handle these kinds of situations. All you have to do is text 741741 from anywhere in the US to be connected to a trained crisis counselor and start a conversation. 

If, in this time of COVID-19, you can’t donate to this cause, you can still join the class. It’s free. Here are all the details about where and when. 

I hope to see you there. 


Diane MacKinnon, MD, is a Master Certified Life Coach who used to work as a Family Physician. She’s passionate about writing and journaling and is (still!) working on her first book, a self-help book for medical peeps. You can find her at her website,

Writing to Inspire Change

As writers, we need to be able to write about difficult topics and to inspire our audience to take action. In these difficult times, especially after the murder of George Floyd, we need this skill even more. We need to be able to write clearly about our emotions, our reactions, and our vision. 

Alexandra Franzen, a writer and copywriter who I think is brilliant, as well as open-hearted, has designed a writing class for our times. It’s a fundraiser class for Black Lives Matter, so give what you can, or let her know you can’t at this time, and take the class. 

Here’s the link to How to Inspire People to Listen, Care, Take Action, and Change the World. The class will take place on June 10, 2020, at 5 PM EST. You can watch the live-stream video (60 minutes) or watch the recording later. There’s also a workbook you can download. 

Alexandra is going to cover: 

  • 3 ways to make your writing stronger and inspire people to listen, care, and act.
  • What you can learn from some of the world’s most powerful speeches, essays, TED talks, and how to apply these same techniques to your own writing.
  • Why anger is a totally valid emotion, and how to express anger in a way that ignites people to take positive action.
  • How you can inspire change right now, regardless of your platform, and whether you are speaking to one person, a board room, or thousands of fans online.

I hope you’ll join me on Wednesday at Alexandra’s class. Together we can continue to make the world a better place through our words, our actions, and our hearts. 


Diane MacKinnon, MD, is a Master Certified Life Coach who used to work as a Family Physician. She’s passionate about writing and journaling and is (still!) working on her first book, a self-help book for medical peeps. You can find her at her website,

Train Travel Residency

Train Travel Residency

Poet Julia Shipley enjoyed several Train Travel Residencies this past winter

The Amtrak Residency is currently suspended, but that hasn’t stopped poet Julia Shipley and two colleagues from creating a Train Travel Residency of their own.

Shipley is a non-fiction writer, journalist and poet who lives in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. This past winter she and two colleagues created their own Train Travel Residency.

They boarded Amtrak’s Southbound Vermonter in Waterbury at ten in the morning and wrote for the three-hour journey to Brattleboro. On their walk up Main Street to Brooks Memorial Library, the three poets stopped for lunch. Once at the library, they held a planned workshop, where they read and gave comments on one another’s work. Shortly before five, they retraced their steps to the station and wrote for the three-hour trip home.

Train Travel Residency

Amtrak residencies were last offered in 2016

The Amtrak Residency, designed to allow creative professionals the time and space to work while traveling by train, included a private room with a desk, a bed, and a window on a long-distance route, with meals in the dining car. Over one hundred residencies were offered in 2016, the last year they were awarded.

But as Shipley and her cohort have proven, for the price of a train ticket, it’s possible to create a shorter residency on rails that combines six intense hours of writing time, three hours of collegial workshop time, and the comfort of sleeping in your own bed. All it takes is a little planning, ingenuity and modest fees.

First, find a round-trip route that takes you to a desired location in the morning and can bring you back at the end of the day. Second, collect your writing buddies and prepare for the workshop by distributing your works-in-progress beforehand, so you and your colleagues can read and comment carefully. And third, save up a small stash to make it all happen.

The round-trip ticket from Waterbury to Brattleboro would have cost Shipley about $36 if she purchased it more than two weeks in advance. And great lunches are to be had in Brattleboro starting at $10. All told, about a week’s worth of fancy lattes near home.

While a DIY residency costs more than a day of writing at your local coffee shop, it also offers more concentrated time, the soothing motion of the train, the company of colleagues, and the stimulation of travel.

Deborah Lee Luskin writing studio

The desk in my writing studio.

I wrote about a DIY residency a few years ago, when I stayed in my brother’s San Francisco apartment while he was away. Now, he wants me to leave home so he can come write in my studio. With just a fraction of the creativity used to put words on a page, writers of all kinds can find inspiring places and uninterrupted time to work on their words.

What are your ideas for a DIY residency?

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, speaker and educator who tells stories to create change. Learn more and read her weekly blog at







Walking My Way Back to My Desk

Walking & Writing

Walking my way back to my thoughts.

I’d been working full-time revising a novel from August twentieth until September twenty-first. Those were four glorious weeks of concentrated work, during which I never had to wonder, What am I going to write today? I worked on the revision morning and afternoon, completing all other assignments as breaks.

I love working deeply in a book, where I have its alternative universe to keep me company during the activities of daily living, from weeding the garden to hanging the laundry and other necessary chores. I’m particularly pleased about how I juggled this delicious revision task with the interruptions for the kitchen renovation, which demanded my irregular attention.

Amtrak's Vermonter

Editing the typescript on the train.

I pushed myself to have a typescript finished and printed in time to read it on the train to New York City for a weekend visiting friends, and I managed to proofread this version on the train ride home.

But back home, I didn’t have the anchor of this project to keep me grounded, even though I need to update the document before sending it to my next set of readers. It’s finish work, just like the kitchen, where I needed to make frequent decisions. In fact, the finish work of both the kitchen and novel are similar, demanding decisions about smaller and smaller details – a chapter heading, paragraph break, comma usage for one, and a door stopper, cabinet pulls and knobs for the other. Not just which ones, but where. The details seem endless.

And then there’s family life: my youngest and her partner returned from nearly six months hiking the Appalachian Trail, which they finished on the heels of a hurricane. They returned home tired and hungry. It’s been fun to feed them and hear their stories while they’re still fresh.

The upshot of this break in routine and concentration was first a sense of delirium – so happy to have completed the revision! How wonderful to meet an adult child for dinner in Manhattan before spending the weekend with friends! So relieved the hiking kids are safely off the trail!

But the delirium ended as it always does – with a crash.

Walking and writing.

Walking helps me find my writing voice after any hiatus. (photo courtesy of Leadership ‘n Motion)

I didn’t resume my routine. I didn’t check my planner. I didn’t reign in my mind, and my life wobbled out of control. I missed deadlines for two posts. (This one should have appeared last week.) I went to the grocery store without my list. I spent hours, it seemed, looking for my phone.

After four days, I’d had enough. I returned to my desk, I sifted my emails, and I went for a walk. It was on the walk that the word “Scattered” came to me, and I knew that wobbling from lack of routine and losing my focus would be the subject of a post. And that’s how I found my way back to work.

What’s different from the thousand other times this spinning off-center has happened, is that this time, instead of beating myself up for what I didn’t do, I’m congratulating myself on knowing how to pick up the fragments of my scattered concentration: Go for a walk, return to my desk, and start writing.

For me, the best way to regroup is to go for a walk and listen for my voice.

It works every time.

How to you regain concentration after it’s been disrupted?

writing and walking

Kate Link Lampel and I are collaborating on Women Women Walking and Writing Toward Wisdom on 11/4/17

Deborah Lee Luskin is a writer, walker and educator. She’s hosting Women Walking and Writing toward Wisdom WALKshop with walker and life coach Kate Lampel Link on Saturday, November 4, from 9 am – 4 pm in Newfane, Vermont. Early Bird registration ends October 7. For more information and to register, click here.

Walking and Writing Toward Wisdom


Writing and Walking

Writing is an act of discovery. I’ve been keeping a journal since I was a girl. Photo courtesy of Leadership’N Motion

My colleagues here have written eloquently about the value of journaling. Lisa describes journaling as A Method for Creative Discoveries, and Jamie lists 10 Ways Journaling Makes You a Better Writer.

Like both of them, I’ve been journaling since I was quite young. As an only girl in a household of boys, writing was sometimes the only way I could make myself heard. It’s still sometimes the only way I can hear myself.


But now that I’m a professional writer, I sometimes need a break from my desk; that’s when I walk.

Walking is a lot like journaling. Instead of unspooling my thoughts in ink, I hike over the uneven terrain of my mental uncertainty. Before long, my footsteps shake my ideas into place, and I return to my desk with mental clarity.

writing and walkingSometimes, it’s emotional upset that blocks the words, and walking helps calm me. Being in nature changes my perspective with a long view. I’m reminded, “It’s not about me,” one of The Four Agreements that I find so helpful since reading Don Miguel Ruiz’s book about personal freedom and Toltec wisdom last February.

I read The Four Agreements in preparation for attending two-day “aWALKening to Personal Leadership Retreat” that deepened my understanding of how walking aids my writing and my life.

The Retreat was sponsored by Leadership’N Motion, co-founded by two dynamic coaches with international experience: Kate Lampel Link and Marjine van den Kieboom.


The retreat affirmed how walking literally and metaphorically helps me move forward.

One of the unintended consequences of that retreat was connecting with Kate – with whom I’ve crossed paths for years, usually on local cross-country ski trails.

Since February, we’ve been walking side-by-side in a deepening friendship. Our walks through the forest have led us to understand better the synergy of walking and writing, two activities that reinforce our personal leadership and help us to live mindful, fulfilling lives.


writing and walking

Kate Link Lampel and I are collaborating on Women Women Walking and Writing Toward Wisdom on 11/4/17. Photo courtesy of Leadership ‘N Motion

Kate’s a coach and I’m an educator. We both work primarily with women pursuing self-empowerment, whether pursuing a dream of entrepreneurship (Kate) or reframing the narrative of their lives (me). We hadn’t walked very far together before we started collaborating on a way to bring our knowledge and skills to others.

So it is with great excitement that we’ll be offering Women Walking and Writing toward Wisdom, and all-day WALKshop on November 4, 2017.

Please note: Space is limited and Registration is required.

walking & writing

At the end of the Long Trail, 9/8/2016.

When she’s not walking, Deborah Lee Luskin is writing and Living in Place.





It’s November. Time to get crazy writing. 

Kermit GIF that I blatantly stole from @speechwriterguy

Kermit GIF that I blatantly stole from @speechwriterguy

As Deborah pointed out in yesterday’s post, November 1st marks the start of the annual event called National Novel Writing Month, or “NaNoWriMo,” for short. Over the next thirty (twenty-nine by the time this post goes live) days, hundreds of thousands of people (close to 500,000 are expected) will each attempt to write 50,000 words.

It is not an undertaking for the faint of heart.

I have a long and complicated relationship with NaNoWriMo that includes one “win” of 50,146 words in 2009 (my virgin year), one failed attempt in 2012 (which I blamed on Larry Brooks), and lots of arguing with myself.


Exhibit A: Seemingly Innocent Facebook Message

This year, I wasn’t even considering participating in the 30-day writing slog until a long-time online friend and fellow writer/NaNoWriMo-er (who also happens to be a fierce mama and a gorgeous unicorn, and who will remain unnamed) sent me a seemingly innocent Facebook message that said only, “NaNoWriMo, Darling!” and was punctuated by a jack-o-lantern emoji.

What can I say? She had me at NaNoWriMo.

I haven’t had much any time for fiction practice lately, and the lack of that particular creative outlet has left me a little despondent … a little what’s-it-all-about-alfie. I needed a project. I needed a project that was just for me – all mine.

fireflycafecvrSo, I logged into the NaNoWriMo site and made it official by “creating” my 2016 novel. The working title is The Firefly Cafe. It’s the same title I used in 2012, but the story has been evolving in my head. While my inner critic, doubter, and party pooper have combined forces to bombard me with more than the usual litany of excuses (and valid reasons) to give up before I’ve even begun, I’m going to do my best to ignore them and just go for it. I’m not making any promises. I’m just going to see where this takes me.

Happily, the first stop on my 2016 NaNoWriMo journey was a happy one. Inspired by my friend’s invitation, I spent my daughter’s half-hour riding lesson scribbling story ideas and questions in a notebook. While my daughter popped over fences on her favorite school pony, I was sketching out a storyline and asking myself questions about character motivations and possible plot twists. I was remembering what it felt like to put my imagination to good use, and it felt good.

My resolve was slightly shaken later in the evening when I read Guy Bergstrom’s post about why NaNoWriMo is “noble nuttiness.” (Tilting at windmills, anyone?) But, then I was encouraged by this N(entirely)SFW post from the inimitable Chuck Wendig about, in his words, “the pure f-ing joy of getting it all wrong.”

And then I meandered over to the NaNoWriMo press page and came across this little tidbit:

Over 250 NaNoWriMo novels have been traditionally published. They include Sara Gruen’sWater for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Hugh Howey’s Wool, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. See a full list of our published authors.

How’s that for inspiration? Sure, the odds are against you, but these people proved that it’s not impossible to at least get a working draft completed in thirty days. (Granted, they may have been prepping for months – years even – but, maybe not.)

Finally, I dove into the Pep Talk archives on the NaNoWriMo site and read a lovely and kickass piece from Catherynne Valente, which included this little gem:

Write something true. Write something frightening. Write something close to the bone. You are on this planet to tell the story of what you saw here. What you heard. What you felt. What you learned. Any effort spent in that pursuit cannot be wasted. Any way that you can tell that story more truly, more vividly, more you-ly, is the right way.

So holler. Tell it loud and tell it bright and tell it slant and tell it bold. Tell it with space whales and silent films or tell it with quiet desperation or tell it with war or tell it with dragons or tell it with tall ships or tell it with divorce in the suburbs or tell it with dancing skeletons and a kraken in the wings.

Tell it fast before you get scared and silence yourself. You’ll never wish you’d held back a little more.

I’ll leave you with that.

But, if you happen to be playing along in NaNoWriMo land, look me up. You can never have too many writing buddies.

Happy writing!!

Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.

Being a Contest Judge Brings New Perspective to Submitting Work

FollowTheGuidelinesOn the flip side of being a contestant in a writing contest, I’ve also been a contest judge. I realized many of the challenges that those who run contests (and publishers) run into consistently.

First off, I admire anyone who takes the time to write and submit for a contest or publication. Whether it’s a short entry or novel-length, submitting work to be read (and judged) by someone else forces a big leap out of your comfort zone. Kudos for pushing yourself to submit!

My best advice for submitting to anyone at any time is: Make the most of your effort by following submission guidelines.

You’ve put a lot of effort into your story — you don’t want your story disqualified before anyone reads it, do you?  Of course not!

We writers are a creative sort, but one area not to express our creativity is in tweaking the physical appearance of the submission.

  • Submitting in a font other than Courier or Times New Roman; a font size larger than 12 or smaller than 10; or pages with margins smaller than 1″ all around, doesn’t work (unless explicitly asked for). Don’t do it. Always always always submit in standard format – for publication, for contests, for inquiries, for queries, for anything, really.
  • If guidelines say ‘no more than 800 words,’ make sure your submission is not more than 800 words. If in doubt, word count more often than not, does not include the title; however if you have any doubt at all, include the title in your word count!
  • If submitting a piece that requires specific words to include, or a theme to write to, make sure to include the words, or write to the theme in an obvious way.
  • If submission guidelines say to submit as text in an e-mail (versus as an attachment), then, by all that’s holy, submit in an e-mail and not as an attachment!
  • Seldom, if ever, do you want to do a special header on a submission that includes all your contact information. Name, e-mail, postal address, phone number, and other such information should be sent within an e-mail or simply typed at the top of your submission (again, depending on guidelines).

Make the most of your effort to push yourself out of your comfort zone to submit to a contest (or publisher) — make your submission count — follow the guidelines, every single time.

I’ll have a follow up post on how to handle feedback from an editor about your piece.

I wish you a great week and hope you’re thinking about submitting to a contest or publisher (if you weren’t already!)

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Motivate Yourself by Submitting to a Writing Contest

Today’s post is as much for me as it is for you. You see, I’ve been quite lethargic about writing fiction lately, as my business has been so pleasantly busy that I don’t have time to write for fun.

I put don’t have time in italics, since, we all know that we make time for what is important to us. I do have time. I have the same amount of time as everyone else and if I truly want to write fiction, I will find a way.EnterWritingContests

Today’s post is my self-motivation for finding that way.

Submitting to contests is a great way to be inspired to write, to actually write, and to actually submit. I’ve done it. I know it’s always fun and challenging and a unique way to get the must to come out and play.

My all-time-favorite contests are the quarterly 24-hour contests by, where you register in advance (this is for the July 9 contest) and pay the modest $5 fee, then on the date of the contest, you receive the writing prompt, the word count, and the guidelines. You have 24 hours to write, polish, and submit a short story.

It’s up to you if you want to pay a fee or not. $5 is the most I’ve ever been willing to part with to enter a contest, but there are all types of contests available.

Here are some contest lists to get you started

I hope you try a writing contest, or two, to shake off cobwebs, exercise the muse, or to have some plain old fun for no other reason than you want to!

Deadlines are a great incentive in themselves, but you could win a prize (money, publication, or some type of gift), improve your writing and editing skills, and even give your self-confidence a boost — which is where I’m at.

Feel free to share your thoughts on contests, and if you have a favorite, please share!

(I’ll talk about contests from a judge’s perspective next week.)

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Come Write With Me

You are invited to come write with me at a Spring Writing Circle on Saturday, March 26, from 10-4.

Come Write With Me on March 26th.

Come Write With Me on March 26th.

In timed writing exercises designed to prime the creative pump, writers 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. A synergy develops in these workshops, where participants invariably write more, write better, and write with greater confidence.

Renewal and rebirth will be our theme for this one-day writing retreat to be held in a private home in southern Vermont. The cost for the day is $75, lunch is potluck, and space is limited.

Renewal and Rebirth will be our theme for the day.

Renewal and Rebirth will be our theme for the day.

I attended my first such writing circle in the late 1980’s, and have been using them to support my writing practice ever since. In the beginning, I was simply grateful to have two hours a week away from home, husband, children and chores.

In this first circle, I started writing parenting columns that were published in the local paper. At the next one, I started writing a novel. In the safety of the circle, I’d find myself discovering scenes I couldn’t have imagined on my own. In addition to discovering my voice, meeting my characters, and inventing problems for them to solve, I made friends with other writers; I wasn’t always a writer alone.

A safe place to write. Deborah Lee Luskin, photo

A safe place to write.
Deborah Lee Luskin, photo

Even before attending my first writing circle, I’d used the technique of automatic writing as a writing teacher at Columbia College over thirty years ago. In addition to teaching in the Ivy League, I’ve also taught in Vermont prisons, in elementary schools and in senior centers. By supplying prompts, encouragement, and a safe place to write, I help writers tell their story, unleash their words.

If you are interested in joining me to write at on March 26, contact me, and we’ll take it from there.

Deborah Lee Luskin is a novelist, essayist and educator. Learn more at