Top 5 Writer’s Weekend Edition Posts of 2016

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’m having a little trouble getting back in gear after the holidays. It’s the start of a shiny New Year, but I’m not quite all the way into the swing of it yet. Though part of my malaise may yet be due to holiday hangover, I think I must admit at this point – nearly two weeks into 2017 – that it’s also partly due to my continuing struggle to process and deal with all the crazy things happening in the news … in my country. The results of last year’s election have awakened my inner activist, and I find that I am frequently distracted by the latest developments on the political scene. (Those are words I never thought I’d write.)

That said, I am a writer, and I must write. So, while it may take me some time to adjust to being consistently productive in this new environment, that is what I will do.

For today, however, I would like to share the top five Writer’s Weekend Edition posts from last year. I’ve selected them based on the number of comments they received, because I figure if someone likes something enough to take the time to comment, that is the truest measurement of how much that piece of writing has done its job.

Looking forward to another great year of sharing my random (and not-so-random) thoughts with you, and hopefully once again having the privilege of engaging in dialog with you about those ramblings.

_jamie sig

 

 


Number 5: Stillness, Solitude, and the Practice of Writing

Retreat HesseWriting is a solitary act, but being a writer is not.  We live in the Real World with everyone else, and our lives are just as full and noisy and chaotic as the next person’s. We have friends and family to care for and enjoy. We have day jobs (with meetings and emails and conference calls) and households to manage (via negotiation and sometimes bribery). We are subjected to the same onslaught of news, social media, and sundry other local and global communications as every other non-luddite member of this hyper-connected human race.  [Read more …]

Number 4: 3 Steps to Your Perfect Writing Life

Image from megankatenelson.com

Image from megankatenelson.com

Do you remember the first time you wrote? I don’t mean the first time you formed the letters of the alphabet or wrote your name. I mean the first time you sat down alone and wrote something all your own. Do you remember what  you wrote, why you wrote it, or what it felt like to put words – your words – down on the page? Did you have any idea then that you would keep writing – day after day, year after year?

Today marks thirty-nine years, one month, and thirteen days since I wrote my first journal entry. I was seven years-old at the time, and the words I chose for the first page of my first notebook were not my own. They were Shakespeare’s.  [Read more …]


Number 3: Why Writing Matters (How to Justify Your Passion)

free diverSometimes, the gravity of real life threatens to pull me out of my creative orbit. The inescapable responsibility of being human weighs heavily – the “Real World” of work, relationships, and surviving on this fragile planet crushing in on me like pressure on an ascending deep sea diver. The closer I get to daylight, the further I am from the intimate, interior depths of my creative endeavors. That inner life disappears into the darkness below as I’m drawn toward the surface, my tenuous connection lost until I dive again.

Above the waves, my belief in the importance of the world below fades.  Submerged in the process, my work felt real and worthwhile. [Read more …]


Number 2: A Writer’s New Year

Like the years, the days are each part of a continuum.

Like the years, the days are each part of a continuum.

The New Year is a time to reflect and plan. It’s a time to reevaluate our priorities and our progress toward our goals. Midnight on December 31st marks the seam between the old and the new; it is the boundary between the past and the future – the threshold over which we must step in order to enter the next phase of our lives.

Damn. That’s a lot of pressure.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of a fresh start. I also relish poring over the old year’s journal entries looking for thematic patterns in my thoughts and dreams. I love the creative process of finding the perfect word to embody my intentions for the year ahead, and the more arduous work of drilling down to discover exactly what those intentions might be. I love the myth and magic of the many New Year’s traditions that help us whisk away the old and ring in the new. [Read more …]


And the Number 1 Writer’s Weekend Edition Post of 2016 (based on number of comments): What’s Holding You Back from Your Writer’s Life?

Don't be scared of paper tigers.

Don’t be scared of paper tigers.

I’m in need of a writer-to-writer pep talk today, so I’ve decided to give myself one.

This isn’t going to be easy. I’m realizing, to my chagrin, that being optimistic and upbeat comes much more naturally when things are going well. Who’d have thought? Maintaining a good attitude is a bit more challenging when you’re stuck at the bottom of the proverbial well with no rope and no ladder (and a creeping suspicion that something malicious may be lurking down there with you, just waiting to jump out from the shadows and give you a nasty bite, or worse). [Read more …]


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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.
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Writer’s Weekend Edition – Grounding and Connecting

Michael Meade of mosaicvoices.org

Michael Meade of mosaicvoices.org

Other than a year-in-review post that I’m putting together for the 31st, this will be my final post of 2016. I can’t say I’m sorry to see this particular year come to an end, but – despite being a chronic optimist – I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to see what 2017 holds.

This year has been dramatic, to say the least, and the repercussions of recent political events here in the states and abroad will have far-reaching social, economic, and environmental consequences for years to come. They will change the stories we tell.

It’s a lot to take in.

We also suffered some especially painful losses in the world of arts and entertainment. Each year brings its own sorrows, but we lost so many amazing artists in 2016, among them David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, and Gene Wilder.  And we lost writers, too, including Harper Lee and Umberto Eco.

It’s no wonder that most people I know are looking forward to putting 2016 in the rearview mirror.

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Despite its many challenges, 2016 has also offered us opportunities for deep learning, which translates into a chance to grow. Like many other people I know, I am currently engaged in a self-taught crash course on the mechanics of politics. For the first time in my life, I am actively engaged in monitoring and discussing the kinds of news stories I’ve always avoided and ignored because they “weren’t my thing.” I was proud of not watching the news, of keeping my distance from such matters. Now I feel the sting of shame and regret for having been so irresponsible and for the unearned privilege that allowed me to say such things without even a twinge of remorse.

As a result of this new awareness, my eyes are now much more open to the true depth and breadth of the many injustices in the world. It’s not a pretty sight, and bearing witness even in the most benign way – via news stories and videos shared on social media – has wrought irrevocable changes in my perspective and my priorities. My inner champion for justice rails against the unceasing and often unspeakable wrongs perpetrated against not only the many persecuted peoples of the world, but also against the planet herself.

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All of this makes me want to cry. The massive scope and scale of the challenges we face is crushing. The weight of the responsibility we now must bear for ourselves and our children and the natural world is almost too much. And yet, we must shoulder it and move forward.

I understand the urge to flee. Earlier this week I posted a link on Facebook about a tiny, self-sufficient Scottish island that’s for sale. I captioned the link, “In certain moments this is so, SO tempting. #runaway” … and sometimes it is tempting. But, running away is not the answer, and neither is turning away.

The change we’re going through is hard. It’s painful and scary and we have no  idea how things are going to turn out. That is, perhaps, the worst part – the deep-seated uncertainty that haunts us … the not knowing. But, we can’t allow our fear of the unknown to keep us from looking our problems in the eye. This is not the time to allow ourselves the false luxury of pretending that everything is okay or that someone else will fix these broken things.

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Now, more than ever before in my lifetime, it’s so important for everyone, but especially for writers, to be plugged in to what’s happening all around us. It’s so important for us to find our footing in this new and changing world, find the stories that need telling, and tell them. The storytellers of the world have a lot of work to do.

We – you, dear reader,  and me and all the other writers and artists out there – must ground ourselves in our creative work. We must dig deep and hold on. We must remember why we started creating in the first place and stoke the fires of that passion so that the light never, ever goes out.

Some of us will choose to create in a way that addresses the global, societal, and cultural situations of the day head on. Others will choose to take a more subtle and oblique approach. But, each in his or her way, we will speak; and each story, each piece of art will make a difference. Our work is our voice, and our voices matter.

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As the year draws to a close, the way forward may be unclear. You may, like me, be hesitating, unsure of which path you should take. Don’t worry. Find your center and move from there.

I came across an interesting quote by someone named Michael Meade:

“We live in initiatory times when each soul can feel more isolated amidst the dying breath of one world and the uncertainty that attends the forming of life’s next design. It is not the lack of time that we modern people suffer from, but a lack of connection to things timeless, mythic and eternal.”

I believe there is much wisdom in this sentiment. We do need to connect more deeply and openly to “things timeless, mythic and eternal.” And that’s what story does. That’s what writers help us do when they share their stories. That’s what you do.

So, keep writing. Keep shining your light in the dark. It does matter, even when it feels like it doesn’t. And remember – you are never, ever alone.

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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. 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.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources – Working Together Plus Links and Tips

pin-one-personOne of the things I like best about being a writer is sharing the company of other writers. Whether it’s hanging out here or elsewhere online with fellow writers like you, sharing real-world coffee with a local scribe, or enjoying the camaraderie of storytellers at conferences or via an event like NaNoWriMo, I love being part of the worldwide community of writers. As I’ve written before, it’s almost like we’re members of a secret society, which is kind of a cool thing.

And I’ve always found writers to be a very inclusive crowd. I mean, I know there are certain individuals who lose their way when they let their egos get the better of them, but for the most part my experience with writers has always been pleasant, instructional, and inspiring. Though I cannot count them among my personal friends, I still consider even the most renowned of writers to be part of my writer’s circle.

After all, are we not all chasing after the same thing? Does it really matter if we are working side-by-side or in worlds that are centuries apart? Does it really make a difference if some of us are still struggling to complete our first manuscripts while others have a reserved seat at the top of the New York Times Book Review? As diverse a group as we are, we share the universal writer’s compulsion to ask questions, to get people thinking, to entertain and delight, to create something out of nothing, to find meaning.

As this incredibly crazy year draws to a close, I am more grateful than ever for all the writers – renowned and obscure – who are raising their voices in a refrain of awakening, courage, hope, and optimism. I thank each and every writer who has shared  story of pain in order to teach and to increase empathy. And I am especially thankful for those most talented of writers, in my humble opinion, who are able to illuminate truth through humor and find ways to engage people’s hearts and minds while making them laugh. Though I will likely never meet most of these fellow writers, I thank them from the bottom of my heart for every word that they write, every story they share, and every moment that they are part of the writing community that supports all of our efforts.

_jamie sig

 

 


Big Idea Posts of the Week:

In the aftermath of the election, many writers are reevaluating or reconfirming the role of their craft in the world.

Porter Anderson opens his piece on Writer Unboxed, Escapism is for Readers; Writers Stay, as follows:

Nobody blames you if recently you’ve felt like getting the hell out of Dodge.

To be really clear about this, I’m not going to tell you whether you should love or hate the results of the US general election. That’s for you to decide.

But everyone is feeling the pressure.

What follows is gentle but firm guidance for writers who may be, in this moment, inclined to “escape into their writing” (aka sticking their heads in the sand). Porter isn’t at all recommending that writers take up a propagandist style, but he is strongly suggesting that writers have an opportunity (one might even say a responsibility) to keep our eyes open, learn, and stay engaged.

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In her recent post, Our Job as WritersKate Johnston, a writer and writing coach, admits that she’s pretty cynical when it comes to politics, but that she was deeply affected by the outcome of the recent election. Though she began her writing journey with the fairly simple goal of writing the kind of stories she liked to read, that has begun to shift for her.

Over the past few years, that goal has reshaped, partly organically, partly through my own vision and awareness and growth. I came to see a writer’s job as something more than creating nether worlds. That calling that used to be all about words that entertain, had morphed into something a bit deeper, a bit daunting. Something that asked more of me.

And then, last week happened. The calling is no longer a calling. A mission, perhaps. A deal with the devil, even, or maybe just a really bad-ass angel. A chance to speak up. A dare to put myself to the test.

Johnston’s post is kind of a call to arms for writers. She closes her post with these words, “As writers, holding back, staying down—not an option. As writers, writing nothing—not an option. As writers, it is our job to help keep this world flourishing. As writers, we must write. And write like we mean it.”

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And then there is the revered and inimitable Ursula K. Le Guin. In her post, 119. The Election, Lao Tzu, a Cup of Water,  she shares her thoughts on the dangers of using the metaphor of war and how a different approach –the way of water – is needed in these changing times.

I know what I want. I want to live with courage, with compassion, in patience, in peace.

The way of the warrior fully admits only the first of these, and wholly denies the last.

The way of the water admits them all.

The flow of a river is a model for me of courage that can keep me going — carry me through the bad places, the bad times. A courage that is compliant by choice and uses force only when compelled, always seeking the best way, the easiest way, but if not finding any easy way still, always, going on.

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“Ever since the election, people have been telling me to shut up and go back to Fairyland. Be silent. Be good. Accept. Submit. Stop talking about politics. Stick to fairy tales. (As if fairy tales have ever not been about politics.) Go back to Fairyland,” says author Catherynne M. Valente in her post, Go Back to Fairyland. Like many other artists – writers, actors, musicians – she has been criticized for speaking her mind on politics. But, the disapproval of certain people only served as inspiration for her as she turned her pen to the creation of a short story featuring characters from her popular Fairyland series. In The Beasts Who Fought for Fairyland Until the Very End and Further Still, she tells a not-so-subtle tale about battles and happy endings and defiance.

“Perhaps this is not the end of the story, then,” the Green Wind said kindly, though he wasn’t sure he believed it. It was important to say it to the brokenhearted, to the young, to everyone, even if he didn’t believe his own words. Especially if he didn’t believe it. If no one said it, it couldn’t even start being true.

“It feels like the end,” said A-Through-L with a strangled cry.

“It always does, when you lose.” The Green Wind took off his green helmet and laid it on the grass between two arrows. “But haven’t we had tyrants and fools and hobgoblins on the throne before? Haven’t we had rather a lot of hobgoblins? Aren’t hobgoblins rather more the rule than the exception?”

“Yes…”

“And haven’t we always patched up their mischief and gotten back to more or less living how we want to live and loving who we want love and making what we want to make and being who we want to be?”

“Yes…”

“Perhaps Fairyland is stronger than her goblins, my ravishing reptile. Perhaps, if you take a long enough view, we are all stronger than our goblins.”

 


Books I’m Reading:

In addition to reading blog posts and news articles, I’ve also just finished listening to two audio books:

book-born-a-crimeThe first was Trevor Noah’s memoir, Born a Crime. For those of you who don’t know him, Noah is a comedian who recently took over at Comedy Central’s The Daily Show after long-time host Jon Stewart retired from the position. I didn’t know much about Noah and, though I was a loyal Stewart fan, hadn’t even paid him much attention on The Daily Show. Reading this book gave me a whole new perspective.

The book’s subtitle is “Stories from a South African Childhood.” Noah grew up in South Africa as apartheid was coming to an end. The collection of stories he shares from his childhood are intimate, and yet manage to capture a great deal of the larger and more complex picture of a very tumultuous time. From the Audible book description:

In his first book, Noah tells his coming-of-age story with his larger-than-life mother during the last gasps of apartheid-era South Africa and the turbulent years that followed. Noah was born illegal – the son of a white Dutch father and a black Xhosa mother, who had to pretend to be his nanny or his father’s servant in the brief moments when the family came together. His brilliantly eccentric mother loomed over his life – a comically zealous Christian (they went to church six days a week and three times on Sunday), a savvy hustler who kept food on their table during rough times, and an aggressively involved, if often seriously misguided, parent who set Noah on his bumpy path to stardom.

I very much recommend this book.

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book-bob-honeyI honestly don’t even know where to begin with this second book. Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff is purportedly written by someone named Pappy Pariah and narrated by actor and activist, Sean Penn.

I suppose I’ll offer up the official description as featured on the Audible site:

By turns tender and terrifying, Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff captures America on the verge of political upheaval in 2016 and introduces us to a man who just might be able to save us from the oncoming horror. Yes, Bob Honey – carnival carny, sewage specialist, and government operative, among other occupations – has spent years in preparation, crisscrossing the world in the employ of a mysterious government program that pays in small bills. He stopped in New Orleans to help Katrina victims; traveled to Baghdad, Beirut, South Sudan, and elsewhere on sewage emergencies; and submerged himself in the Pacific Ocean in search of sea life – all while living out of a quiet house on a residential street in Woodview, California, where he sometimes disturbs the neighbors with the sound of his lawn mower.

Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff marks the debut of a dazzling literary talent. With comic bravado and an urgent agenda, Pappy Pariah has created a haunting, hilarious vision of an American middle-aged man with a mission – a loner struggling to find truth amid the chaos of a political campaign that threatens to destroy the values of the country he loves.

This book is free on Audible and has been, I believe, since it was released last year. It’s a short book (only two-and-a-half hours). It’s kind of trippy. It’s poetic. It’s certainly political. There are moments of beauty, and plenty of horror. I also found it interesting that the reviews were completely polarized – people either loved it or hated it. Say what you will about any artwork, it’s generally true that when something manages to stir up such strong emotions on either or both ends of a spectrum, it’s something worth checking out.


My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

CRAFT

PUBLISHING & MARKETING

INSPIRATION

THE WRITING LIFE


Sundry Links and Articles:

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Finally, a quote for the week:

pin-afraid-to-write

Quote by poet Nayyirah Waheed

Here’s to being a member of the global writer’s circle, filling your creative bank account, and writing even when you’re afraid … especially when you’re afraid. xo
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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. 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.
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Writer’s Weekend Edition – You’re Still You

qt-knost-broken-world

Today’s post will be a short one. I really only have one thing I want to tell you:

You’re still you.

Maybe you’re feeling like the world has gone mad; or maybe it seems like it’s always been mad, but you’re only noticing now, and it’s like waking up to find out that your bad dream wasn’t a dream at all.

What’s happening isn’t normal, but you’re still you.

Maybe you’re feeling disappointed about the way 2016 turned out for your personally. Maybe you didn’t meet your goals. Maybe your heart was broken. Maybe you lost your way.

I know it hurts, but you’re still you.

Maybe you are feeling doubtful or guilty about your creative endeavors. Maybe you’re worried that they are an indulgence, or that they don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Maybe you’re second guessing yourself.

I understand your fear, but you’re still you.

No matter what happens around you, no matter what people say, no matter how many setbacks you experience – You’re. Still. You. You are who you’ve always been and you’re always growing into the person you’re meant to be. What happens around you can touch you and influence you and affect your emotions, but it can’t change who you are unless you let it. All those forces exist outside of you. They aren’t really part of who you are in your heart, and  your heart is where your stories come from.

It’s okay to take time to grieve. It’s okay to give yourself space to worry and question and process all the change in your life. And, it’s okay to step back for a minute and just let it all wash over you. Just remember, always remember, that you are still you. Your stories are still your stories. Your voice is still your voice. That hasn’t changed. That will never change. And, that is your greatest strength and your most brilliant light. So, be you, be strong, and shine your light in the darkness. We need it more than ever.

xo

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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. 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.
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Writer’s Weekend Resources – What You Need Right Now

Writing Missives in the Moment

Writing Missives in the Moment

Though the Type-A part of my brain would very much like to be the kind of blogger who always has several posts “in the can,” so to speak, I’ve never managed to pull it off. Despite my good intentions, I’m always writing more or less in real time – putting my thoughts down and hitting “Publish” in a single sitting.

It’s not something I’m exactly proud of. In my perfect world, I’d be able to take more time and even (gasp!) do a second or third draft. As it is, my best case scenario is a week in which I was able to spend twenty minutes (usually while sitting ringside at my daughter’s riding lesson) to jot down rough notes or even a loose outline for my weekend edition in advance of sitting down to write.

For the past few weeks, that best case scenario hasn’t been an option. In addition, I’ve even fallen off the wagon when it comes to keeping up with my favorite writing-related blogs. For years, my typical evening routine has included a half hour or so of reading blog posts on my iPhone while I wait for my daughter to fall asleep. But, lately I’ve been distracted from my standard reading fare by the news. For this reason, I haven’t been able to share my list of favorite writing posts in these Sunday missives. I apologize for that. I feel like I’m shirking a responsibility or breaking an unspoken promise.

This morning, I thought about scrambling through as many of the 656 unread posts in my reader as I could in order to serve up a selection of picks per my usual post format. But then I thought, “Why?” Why try to force something that isn’t coming naturally? I’ll get back to my regular format in time, but for now I need something different. And, you might need something different, too.

These posts were never meant to be a slick and polished presentation of formulaic content. I think part of the reason I’ve never managed to get myself to write them ahead of time is because, deep down, I believe that doing so might change the “feel” of them for you as you read them, and – just as importantly – for me as I write them. If I come to my keyboard and don’t know what to say, I’ll share that. And if I come to my keyboard unprepared to share my usual collection of posts filled with writing and publishing advice, that’s okay, too.

Back before blogging evolved into “content marketing,” it was just a bunch of people journaling for an audience. We weren’t trying to sell anything or build a platform or create a brand for ourselves. There was no strategy or editorial calendar. We were just writing. We were just sharing whatever was on our mind that day. It’s all much more sophisticated now, and there’s nothing wrong with that; but the freeform part of my brain revels in telling the Type-A part to relax a little and just enjoy the ride. I hope you will stick around and enjoy the ride, too, even when it takes an unexpected detour.

_jamie sig

 

 


A Few Blog Posts:

Continuing on the theme of blog posts about the importance of writing in challenging times, I have these posts to share. They provided me with comfort and inspiration, and I hope they do the same for you.

6 Writers on Why We Need Art Now by Constance Grade (@constancegrady) via Vox.

Grady puts my feelings into words more eloquently than I have:

It’s Saturday, and usually that means I round up all of the week’s best writing about books and related topics for you. But this is an odd week for thinking about books: As much of the country reels in the wake of an extremely contentious presidential election, it can feel pointless at best, and actively destructive at worst, like fiddling while Rome burns.

So I’m going to use this space to collect some thoughts from writers about why art is important, and why it’s especially important now, when so much feels so uncertain and so dangerous to so many. We need art more than ever, and here’s why.

And then she shares inspiring quotes from Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz, Dan Plepenbring, Chinua Achebe, John Irving, and Roger Ebert (whose quote is about the power of movies to create empathy).

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No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear – In times of dread, artists must never choose to remain silent. If you’d like more badass advice and encouragement from Toni Morrison, this piece published by The Nation provides hard perspective and specific instruction on what to do now.

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In the post. Now What?, Eric Utne collects the thoughts of several writers including Naomi Klein, Charles Eisenstein, and Rebecca Solnit among others. My favorite quote is this one from Michael Meade:

Solstice means “sun stands still.” At mid-winter it means the sun stopping amidst a darkening world. We stop as the sun stops, the way one’s heart can stop in a crucial moment of fear or beauty; then begins again, but in an altered way… There may be no better time than the dark times we find ourselves in to rekindle the instinct for uniting together and expressing love, care and community.

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But, my favorite post of the week is Barbara Kingsolver’s piece on The Guardian, Trump changed everything. Now everything counts. Like Morrison, Kingsolver doesn’t sugarcoat the situation:

But politeness is no substitute for morality, and won’t save us in the end. We only get to decide who we are. As a writer and a person my bedrock is perennial hope for a better world than this one, and for that I’ve borne the radical brand, not by choice. As outlaws go I’m as boring as toast, a polite, southern female who’s never broken any law but the speed limit. Despite this gentility I’ve endured FBI investigations and personal threats, and once had to travel on book tour with a bodyguard. This was during Republican administrations that sounded infinitely friendlier to dissent than the one that’s now on deck. So you’ll forgive my weak faith in broad-shouldered American tolerance and the guaranteed free pass for good behavior.

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Books I’m Reading:

Renowned author Natalie Babbit passed away on October 31st of this year. Best known for her novel, Tuck Everlasting, Babbit wrote numerous other children’s books that will no doubt endure for generations to come.

In honor of Babbit’s life and work, I recently read two of her books.

book-tuck-everlastingTuck Everlasting was made into both a movie, starring Sissy Spacek and William Hurt, and a short-lived Broadway musical. I’ve never seen the movie, but I very much enjoyed the book.

While the story is simple on the surface, it’s easy to see why it has captured readers’ hearts for so many decades. The question of eternal life is a big one, and Babbit explores it gently in the story of Winnie Foster’s unexpected meeting with a family who have accidentally become immortal.

If you haven’t read this classic, it’s worth the hour or so you will spend wrapped in its story.

book-search-deliciousThe Search for Delicious is less well known, but I’ve had a copy sitting on my bookshelf for years. I think I may have picked it up at a library book sale, but I hadn’t ever read it. Still, the concept intrigued me enough that I’d kept the old paperback despite the book purges that accompanied the five times my daughter and I moved over the last eight years. From the publisher’s site:

Gaylen, the King’s messenger, a skinny boy of twelve, is off to poll the kingdom, traveling from town to farmstead to town on his horse, Marrow. At first it is merely a question of disagreement at the royal castle over which food should stand for Delicious in the new dictionary. But soon it seems that the search for Delicious had better succeed if civil war is to be avoided.

Gaylen’s quest leads him to the woldweller, a wise, 900-year-old creature who lives alone at the precise center of the forest; to Canto, the minstrel who sings him an old song about a mermaid child and who gives him a peculiar good-luck charm; to the underground domain of the dwarfs; and finally to Ardis who might save the kingdom from havoc.

Interestingly, I found some of the thematic messages in the story to be very appropriate for our current times. Again, a quick story that is worth reading … even if you’re a grown up.

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Sundry Links and Articles:

There is a new, experimental video game that is designed to get people writing. Elegy for a Dead World invites “players” to explore three, long-dead worlds and record their observations. Each world is based on the work of a poet from the British Romantic Era: Shelley, Byron, and Keats. How about that?

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Finally, a quote for the week:

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Here’s to writing in the moment, finding your courage, and knowing that – even at 3AM – you’re never alone. 
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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. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Photo Credit: Itani stock photos Flickr via Compfight cc

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Edition – Finding the Silver Lining When You’re Lost in the Dark

Every journey begins with a first step.

Every journey begins with a first step.

A writer friend I hadn’t spoken to in a couple of years called me earlier this week, and I’m grateful she did. She’d picked up the phone, she said, because she could tell by my Facebook updates that she and I were experiencing a similar post-election state of mind. Like me, this woman is a freelance marcom (marketing & communications) writer, an animal lover, and a nature nut. We met a few years back while doing projects for the same agency, hit it off, and just were beginning to get to know each other a little bit better when she and her husband moved halfway across the country. We’ve kept in touch via Facebook, but haven’t really talked.

Until Wednesday.

I was on my way to pick up my daughter, so our conversation was brief; but it went a long way toward making me feel less awkward about the emotions and creative challenges I’ve been facing in recent days. I learned that I am definitely not the only one trying to feel my way through a dark and disorienting maze of guilt, confusion, fear, indecision, and all manner of other emotions that seem to be (at least on the surface) decidedly unhelpful to the creative process.

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The truth is, I have been struggling to come to the page lately. Client deliverables are taking me much longer than usual, I completely gave up on NaNoWriMo, and even crafting blog posts – one of my favorite writing activities –  is only possible with great effort. I realize, however, that my hesitation and inability to focus aren’t due to the usual culprits. Though she still has plenty to say, it isn’t entirely my inner critic who is to blame for my feeling so inept at the keyboard. My procrastination can’t be attributed to the expected demons associated with fear of failure or expectations of perfection. My distraction and anxiety are rooted in much deeper questions about my writing life. This goes beyond craft and practice into the realm of purpose and vision.

This line of thinking isn’t new for me. As I pointed out in a recent post, I’ve clearly been having a kind of “crisis of writing faith” for a while now. At first, I was disheartened and scared by the idea, but I’m starting to believe that maybe this is something I need to go through … something all writers need to go through.

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My friend pointed out that one of the silver linings to what has otherwise been a deeply divisive and disheartening election is that dark times have the potential to bring people together, and she’s right.

I am beginning to see that in addition to creating new conversations and connections, these trying times also have the potential to help artists of all kinds – writers very much included – clarify the purpose, meaning, and strength of their creative efforts. Clarity has great power to not only inspire a writer, but to motivate her and shape her work so that it creates a more lasting impression on readers. So that it makes a difference.

We know there is no story without conflict. Can it also be said that there is no writer without conflict?

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Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself thinking more than once that this moment in history feels like the “all is lost” point in the story – the moment when the protagonist’s hopes are dashed to the ground, when the possibility of success has been torn from her grasp and it seems there is no possibility of redemption.

But, while tragedies may end on that beat, I don’t think life in general is a tragedy. I believe the story goes on. And I am finding that, while it’s uncomfortable and scary, being thrust into the action of the story ultimately empowers a writer. In recent days I have been reading much more about everything that’s happening in our country and around the world than I ever have before. And I am paying attention not only to the stories, but to how those stories make me feel. I am using my experience to forge a more defined and distinct identity as a writer. Each day, I learn a little bit more about who I want to be as a writer, who I’m writing for, why I’m writing, and what kinds of stories I want to write.

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I will continue this journey, and I plan to share it with you. My dispatches will likely be messy, but I hope you will forgive that and maybe share some of your experiences, too. I don’t think there’s a playbook we can follow here, but perhaps if we share our different perspectives and insights, we can help each other along the way. If nothing else, it’s good to have company on the road.

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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. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Photo Credit: Pictures of Wales Flickr via Compfight cc

This post originally appeared on the Live to Write – Write to Live blog.
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Writer’s Weekend Edition – On Finding My (Civic) Voice

pin-innocent-wordsWhen we writers talk about “voice,” we are usually thinking of our artistic voice. I have written a number of posts about literary voice including this one and this one. But the changing political and social landscape of the country I live in has me pondering a different kind of voice.

The piece I’m sharing today is a column that I wrote for my local paper just before the election. I hesitated to submit it to my editor because both the topic and tone were a departure for me. Most of my columns, which are read by friends and neighbors and acquaintances that I may run into on the street, are about the seasons, family, and nature. My themes are usually about slowing down, taking time to appreciate the small things, and being kind to each other.

Despite the small voice of concern in my head, I did submit the column; and now that the election is over, I find that I am revisiting these words with renewed attention and a deeper sense of responsibility.

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Politics is not even remotely my area of expertise. Growing up, I paid little attention to elections because I didn’t really grasp that the machinations of politics ultimately affected my life directly. For that reason, politics existed for me in a sort of blind spot. They were “important” but not “urgent,” so they routinely slid to the bottom of my priority list. Other than the discussions we had in social studies class, I was blissfully (in retrospect, embarrassingly) unaware of a great deal of what was going on in the world, never mind right here in the United States.

As a young adult, I tried to be more informed and I voted, but I still didn’t invest that much time in learning about the various candidates and issues that appeared on the ballots. I trusted my gut instincts (as untrained as they were) and typically voted along party lines. I did what I did more out of a sense of civic duty than a belief that I was actually making any kind of difference.

Then I became a mom, and the gravity of politics was suddenly much more tangible as I contemplated how certain political outcomes would change my daughter’s life for better or for worse. I no longer suffered from cynicism or apathy because my stakes in the game had changed.

And now we have this unprecedented election — an election that has been, without question, one of the most overwhelming, stressful, and depressing political events in recent history. What I’ve witnessed over the course of the last year or so has left me by turns confused, shocked, infuriated, disgusted, and terrified. And, I’m sure that voters supporting the other side of the ticket feel much the same as I do, only for different reasons. Fair enough.

The sordid details of this election have literally kept me up at night. And yet, except for a small circle of family and friends, I do not share my political opinions with many people, either privately or publicly. Though I have very strong feelings about certain policy topics and about certain questions of human decency, for the most part I unleash those feelings only within the privacy of my own home. After all, politics is not my area of expertise and — like religion — it is not considered a topic for polite conversation.

But I’m beginning to feel that avoiding conflict in order to preserve comfort is a problem. I’m beginning to realize that being “polite” can enable the bad behavior of less respectful individuals. I’m beginning to feel the rumbling growl of my inner mama bear telling me that it’s time to learn to speak up.

Because though I am not a political pundit, my voice matters. Just because the other person shouts louder doesn’t make my opinion any less valid. I may be relatively new to the political arena, but I’ve spent a lifetime as a human being, which makes my insights just as valuable as the next person’s.

As the grueling campaign journey begins to wind down, I have found myself drawn to the middle-grade fantasy adventure novels that I loved when I was a kid. At first, I didn’t recognize this pastime for the coping mechanism it is; but once I’d thought about it, it made perfect sense.

Those stories are the ones in which the heroes and heroines are smaller, younger, and less well equipped than their foes. The protagonists in those tales aren’t experts and their opinions are often ignored by grown ups. But despite their lack of resources and experience, the kids always figure out a way to defeat the monster and save the day. And as they battle their foe, the kids learn and grow. They find the confidence and courage to speak their minds.

Politics will never be my area of expertise, and it may never be yours, either. But that doesn’t mean that our votes and voices don’t matter.

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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. 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.

Site Admin Note: Over the next few days, we’ll be moving nhwn.wordpress.com to nhwriters.org. If you have trouble reaching us, we hope you’ll be patient as the new domain name resolves. Thanks so much from the NHWN Team.

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Photo Credit: DiariVeu – laveupv.com Flickr via Compfight cc