James Burns Poet – interview and book

James Burns has been a Facebook friend of mine for years. The story of how we connected is long lost, suffice it to say, I see his posts, he sees mine and we both appreciate each other’s work (and, of course, I love his cats of which he often posts about.) So when he asked me to take a look at one of his poetry books: Prospect Street, I said “Of course, with pleasure.”

Now know here and now, I’m not a poet. Poetry doesn’t really speak to me and I’ve never understood descriptions of people who take a book of poetry to the garden and read it for hours, but having said that I completely enjoyed James’ writing. It’s brisk and hits the target before you even know the arrow’s been released. Here’s an example of his typical rock-your-gut poetry.

 

The sum of all evil

What is the sum

of all evil?

it is the total time spent

by everyone who waits for a better tomorrow

                        ~James Burns

 

Prospect Street by James Burns

Prospect Street by James Burns

See what I mean? James’ poetry is more of a heart-awareness gasp than it is the soft fluttering of a warm summer evening. I like it.

I interviewed James, and as you will see, like his poetry he wastes no time (or words) getting to the point.

What is it about poetry that attracts you?

I have a two year degree in English Literature. I studied creative writing with a focus on poetry as electives for that degree.

 How long have you been writing poetry?

Since 1970.

 Do you have a certain style of poetry that you prefer?

It is free verse.

 Do you do other types of writing?

I am a failed novelist.

 Where do you find your inspiration?

I read great poetry. I write good poetry.

 Do you have a writing routine and if so, what is it like?

I spend about twenty hours a week studying and applying the craft of poetry. Four hours a day, M – F.

 Let’s talk about your books, what have you written?

I have written four chapbooks of poetry.

 How did you go about getting them published?

They are self-published. I use CreateSpace. I talk about the process on my Facebook page: https://m.facebook.com/Majordomo.book/

What marketing do you use to sell your books?

Word of mouth using Facebook.

Are you on social media and if so, how is it used in your writing and/or marketing?

I focus more on the craft of writing the poetry.

And yes, the cats, tell us about your cats.

The next chapbook is actually dedicated to our two cats. There are even a couple poems in that chapbook about them.

What’s next? 

I plan to improve the quality of my poetry. It is my craft.

I highly recommend taking a look at James’ writing to see how someone uses only a few words to deliver a powerful punch.

James has an author page on Amazon which lists his books for purchase:  Amazon.com/author/burnsj

wendy-shotI’m Wendy Thomas and am a freelance writer and Instructional Design Consultant for High-Tech Businesses. Located in Southern New Hampshire, I have over 25 years experience in the High-tech field as a Technical Writer/Instructional Designer. These days I spend my time writing articles, blogging at Simple Thrift, Savvy B2B Marketing, and here at Live to Write, Write to Live. I’m also working on a fowl manuscript.

A features writer, interviewer, and columnist, I’ve has been published in national magazines, newspapers, e-zines, and blogs. My current project is to blog about life living with 6 kids and a flock of chickens.

Blogging at Bookstock: Live to Write Goes on the Road

Wendy, Lisa & Deborah at Bookstock. Event photos by Mark Nozell.

Wendy, Lisa & Deborah at Bookstock. Event photos by Mark Nozell.

On Saturday, Wendy E. N. Thomas, Lisa J. Jackson and I appeared at the Bookstock Literary Festival to talk about writing this collaborative blog.

Wendy kicked the panel discussion off with the story of how the blog started, back in 2010. Live to

Wendy, making a point.

Wendy, making a point.

Write – Write to Live was initially meant to be an on-line writing group, but quickly morphed into a blog about writing, helping newbies and professionals with information and inspiration.

 

Lisa followed with a riff about the mechanics of how eight busy writersBookstockLisa manage to post new content six days a week using a Google Calendar and WordPress.

 

I spoke about how we all use the blog both to teach and inspire other writers and to market our BookstockDeborahown work.

 

 

Here are some highlights for starting a blog:

  • Start with a Good Idea
  • Give value: information and/or entertainment
  • Write short paragraphs
  • Include photos
  • Create good titles
  • Post regularly and frequently
  • Keep posts short, 400-600 words
  • Invite guest bloggers for additional content
  • Spread the word

Our audience was curious and engaged, and followed our presentation with questions we were happy to answer – until we ran out of time.

Afterward, the three of us and Marc Nozell (Wendy’s husband and our photographer for the day) headed off for a fabulous lunch under the tent.

Bookstock is a wonderful, three-day literary festival in downtown Woodstock, Vermont, held the last weekend in July. It combines practical workshops, like ours, and readings by poets and prose writers. It also affords a chance to visit with far-flung literary friends and to make new ones.

After Wendy and Lisa headed back to New Hampshire, I stuck around for a poetry fix. When I finally headed home, I was recharged and ready to sit down to write.

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin is enormously grateful to be blogging with the seven other women who comprise Live to Write – Write to Live, and to all the readers who regularly read, “like” and comment on the blog. Thank you.

 

Not worse, just different

A large part of this blog is sharing what it is that writers actually do (when we are not communing with spiders.) If you’ve been following this blog then you know I have recently finished a manuscript and have sent it out to some literary agents. While I have gotten a few nibbles, most of them, like the proverbial big one, have gotten away (although it is still being evaluated by one agent and I have a slew of others to still try)

No one loves me, I thought, I think I’ll go eat worms. Then I got a reply from an acquiring editor for a publisher – she liked my e-proposal. She liked my presentation. She invited me to send a full hard-copy proposal.

I need to prepare what is, essentially, a “board meeting quality” presentation on my book including:
• Letter of introduction – who referred me, qualifications
• Book description – one paragraph (elevator pitch)
• Why this book is needed and who the audience will be
• Current competitors
• Platform and credentials
• Table of contents
• Length, general appearance, photographic and illustrative requirements
• Previously published writing samples
• 50 pages of manuscript

Because I have a ton of online marketing experience, I’m also going to add a section on:
• Marketing plan

And because I’m pretty good friends with a number of people in my field (chickens), I’m also going to add:
• Endorsements/blurbs

I thought I could get all of this done during this week but, although I know where most of this information is, it’s important that I don’t just throw everything together. I need to present a polished and finished package that will wow the socks off of everyone. You can bet that this puppy will have a title page, TOC, and will be housed in a protective binder.

It will take a dedicated few days to get it all done, and that’s what I’ll be doing this coming weekend.

Keep this information in mind when you get to the point of querying your project. There’s more than one route to publication. Everyone has their own way of doing things and, because this is an acquisition editor and not a literary agent, the submission requirements are vastly different.

Not better, not worse, just not the same.

IMG_20140709_150708944_HDR

 

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

This is why I teach

Yesterday was the second to the last session for my Technical Writing class.

A-Plus-StudentBack on the first day of class, I asked the students if any of them thought they would be learning something useful out of this class.

No one, not a single student raised their hand. Technical Writing was a required course. They were in the class because they had to be not because they wanted to be.

The first day of class, I asked them to write a short paper. No one wrote more than 2 paragraphs and there was no rhyme or reason to what they wrote. It was nearly impossible for them.

This is good, I thought, I can work with this.

I’ve spent the semester teaching them how to organize their writing, how to identify the audience, tone, topic and purpose (ATTP.)

We’ve talked about brainstorming ideas on a topic and then grouping those ideas under appropriate headers.

We’ve talked about starting with an introduction and ending with a conclusion.

Week by week, through the use of examples and stories, I tried to get my students to understand how important organization of information was when writing. How easy it made writing.

Yesterday in class, I passed out a handout with instructions on “How to phone an elected official.” Outline a paper for me on this topic, I told them.

Initially I heard groans, but then I saw them get to work. They underlined and made notations on the handout.

On the white board, I took them through the steps listed below. They first identified the ATTP.

Then using the handout they brainstormed topics. Once they did that, they grouped the topics and realizing that some information was missing in the “order of events” (they added a section on how to find a representative’s phone number) they added additional topics.

Finally they put the topics into an order that made sense (they decided that chronological sequence was most effective) and surrounded that list with an introduction and conclusion.

Within an hour, I had these students, who had thought they wouldn’t learn anything devise a solid outline for a short paper. All they needed to do was to write 2-3 paragraphs under each identified topic and they would have a first draft.

If they then added quotes and stories, they would have written a “how-to article.”

I told them that there was not one student in the class who couldn’t take this outline and give me a draft the next day. Through organization of information, we had turned what early in the semester has seemed like an impossible task into one that was bite-sized and very doable.

It was the look on their faces when I pointed this out, that has made all of my work this past semester worth the time and effort it has taken.

My class of students, none of whom had wanted to be there, have learned.

***

This is an organizational handout I gave my students.

***

The 6 Steps for Reader Centered Writing
KEEP THIS HANDOUT FOR ALL TIME

Step 1: Analyze your readers. Determine ATTP
Step 2: Outline your information. Brainstorm your ideas. Write them down, use post-its, or draw them out in a web outline.
Step 3: Group like information under headlines.
Step 4: Sequence your ideas. Figure out the order in which you present information based on your ATTP. Include abstract, introduction, and conclusion.
Step 5: Write the first draft. Write at least 2-3 paragraphs under each header
Step 6: Edit for clarity, conciseness, and accuracy. Check facts, spelling, definitions, and if you have missed information that you assumed your reader knew. Make sure the document matches your ATTP (if the purpose is to convince have you done that? If it’s to ask for action is that clear?)

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Everything Must Lead to Your Final Conclusion

Everything, absolutely everything must lead to your final conclusion.

This is “rule” I was teaching my Technical Writing students as we were discussing feasibility reports.

If the information is not necessary, don’t include it. If the information is too long (charts, graphs, tables) and takes away from the final message then either remove it or put it an appendix to be looked at later, but take it out of the report.

Never let anything get in the way of your final conclusion that should lead to an action. (A feasibility report usually looks at various scenarios and makes a recommendation on the best one based on presented facts.)

ConclusionWe discussed creating a feasibility report on the college getting a baseball field. First we brainstormed header topics and then put them into a preliminary order. Because most people are uncomfortable with money, the students put the “Cost” section near the bottom.

However, with further discussion they realized that the audience (the President of the College) who would be reading this report would be most interested about how much would it cost and what the return on investment would be. As a class, once they worked it out, the cost section got moved up to the top of the report and some sections that they though were important (School Spirit) fell down to sub-headers, if even that, under other topics.

It’s the same thing with a novel, I told them (also acknowledging that this was not a creative writing class) you need to put the most important information up front. This will be what grabs your reader and it will set the stage for your story to continue.

And then every scene that follows should lead to your final conclusion.

It’s when you add extra information that you bore and confuse your reader, begging them to leave your work. As a writer, you just don’t want to do that.
Writing is writing, I tell my students, oh sure, there are different styles, like Technical Writing which requires specific formatting and chunking of information, but for any message to be clearly made, no matter what style of writing you choose, you still need to be:
• Clear
• Concise
• Writing to your audience, and
• Giving them what they care about

Just like in a feasibility report, if the information is not necessary in your story then don’t include it.

See? In many way, writing is writing – it all follows similar guidelines to make sure you get your point across most effectively.

Hmm, Perhaps my next challenge should be to write a novel using Technical Writing techniques.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com)

Nothing gets deleted on the internet – know this

I’ve recently been reminded of that all-powerful law of the internet which is: nothing gets deleted.

Nothing.

Careful- things could blow up in your face

It could blow up in your face

Even if you delete something you’ve written, someone somewhere has probably made a copy of it, or commented on it, or referenced it somewhere else. Trust me, it’s still out there.

And don’t even get me started about backup and cached copies. Information lives on.

In some ways this can work to your benefit. You have proof that you were on one side of an argument, or that you came up with an idea first (thanks to time stamps), but (and that should really be a large “BUT”) here’s where it can bite you in the butt –  the internet is not the place to take your petty arguments and your insecurities.

Especially if you are trying to establish a writer’s platform.

Witness the Lynn Shepard fiasco where she demanded that J. K. Rowling stop writing for adults and stick with YA to give other writers a “chance.” I’m willing to bet that that little poorly thought-out rant will follow Ms. Shepard to her grave.  As long as a copy of that post exists, there will be continued outrage.

Which is why, as a writer, you have to be very careful about what you put out there. A slip, a moment where your emotions take over from your brain and your reputation can be damaged for years to come.

Is it fair? Should you always have to toe the line just because you have a platform?

The answer is yes, but only if you want people to believe the credibility of your message. It’s all about impressions, baby.

Some people try to stir things up on purpose. If your intent is to incite, then go ahead, but be prepared for the fallout. Have your counter arguments lined up and be sure to put your flame-proof suit on before you press that Enter button. If your role is to incite then be good and consistent about it, don’t then switch to world class whining – you’ll confuse your audience.

And a confused audience is one that leaves you.

If you are pissing and moaning about life and feel the need to dump on everyone, then be prepared for the backlash. When you publicly say that you can’t stand your neighbor, don’t be surprised when things get frosty at the mailbox. And when you trash a beloved author, be prepared for the (not necessarily fair, but understandable) one star reviews you end up getting on your work.

I’ve been asked to design on online blogging course for the college where I currently teach Technical Writing. Part of my class is going to cover netiquette (polite societal rules for blogging.) Another section in my class is going to be awareness and repercussion of actions. If you are going to publish on the internet (or anywhere for that matter) consider the implications to your reputation as a writer and to your platform, first and then write your piece second.

How do you avoid these sometimes tempting but always embarrassing lapses? Just as you can’t write a book without knowing what its purpose is, you shouldn’t ever write anything for the internet without knowing its purpose.

Ever.

You must always know why you are putting fingertips to keyboard.  What’s the message you want to convey and perhaps more importantly, how is it that you want to convey that message?  And also is that message consistent with your platform?

If it’s not, then you need to decide if it’s worth the potential fallout.

If you want to be seen as a pulled-together writer, then you have to present the same coherent message at all times. A lapse in judgment – like Ms. Shepard’s – can do more damage to your career as a writer than you might think.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com)

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Success follows doing what you want to do. There is no other way to be successful.

Malcolm Forbes

Photo credit: Freidwall

Hangin’ with NHWN

This post is late, but I have a good excuse. No, really! I was up late late last night. LAME you say? Pssh, I was up late on a Google Hangout with the writers of NHWN.

As I’m sure you can tell from our writing, we are nothing if not a diverse group. We are mothers, empty nesters (sort of), we are married, we are single, we are passionate for our respective causes and all of us are overcommitted. This means it’s hard nay, impossible for us to get together face to face. Some of us have never met in person. Last night we were still one down due to illness but, we had a great time.

Once we kicked the tires on Google Hangouts (for the record Diane looks FABULOUS in scuba goggles) we got down to the business of discussing the blog. We were thrilled to discover that we have over 20,000 followers of this blog. Thanks to everyone who takes the time to visit our humble part of the Internet. We talked about some minor tweaks to the blog format.

A screen grab of the NHWN writers on Google Hangouts

Here we are exploring the “features” of Google Hangouts.

We also took some time to share what we are up to individually.

  • Deborah is juggling her regular writing commitments, working on her novel and going to yoga to maintain contact with the outside world.
  • Diane is working on her life coaching business and gently pushing herself in her fiction work while fielding numerous questions from a four year old.
  • Julie is keeping secrets, juggling all of her day jobs and volunteer commitments, oh and writing regularly for two blogs!
  • Jamie is soldiering on in the world of marcomm and stretching her wings in short fiction.
  • Lee picked up gigs writing quarterly essays for The Concord Monitor, and a client who needs help with content development for her web site.
  • Susan, is desperately trying to get rid of the contractors in her house while caring for her dad, writing 2 regular columns and teaching a memoir class.
  • Wendy has hit it big time in the sphere of chicken journalism! She is also the Executive Director of a New Hampshire publication for people with disabilities and a library trustee in her town.

Sadly, Lisa wasn’t feeling well so we missed out on updates from her. Look for more detailed updates from all of us over the next few weeks. We laughed and sipped, our beverage of choice (anything from Jack Daniels to wine, tea or water, I’ll leave it to you to figure out who had what) and we will most definitely Hangout again.

We are all truly grateful for the opportunity to work together and we sincerely appreciate you our readers. Thank you for taking the time to stop by regularly, read our posts and share your thoughts. This blog has been going strong for more than three years. We have almost 900 posts and close to 13,800 comments. We look forward to continuing to explore the art and craft of writing with you.

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She is currently a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors.  Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.

Advice for a young writer

I was recently contacted by the mom of a very young writer (mid-teen) who asked for advice on how to get her very prolific daughter (has completed NanoWrimo 3 times already) connected (and hopefully published) in the writing world.

I put heads together with my friend Gina Rosati (my weekly kidnapper) and we came up with this response and I thought was information good enough for *any* beginning writer.

*****

Thank you for contacting me, I’m always happy to help another writer and how lucky you are to have a writer in the house!

First, you need to understand that I am a journalist/blogger and not a novelist (although I am working on a book but it’s a memoir) so novel writing is not my area of expertise. However, I do have a few suggestions:

Have your daughter talk to her librarian (both school and public) and take the initiative to set up a teen writers group (from which she will get tons of real world feedback. Kids are brutally honest, and if she’s writing YA, they will give her useful feedback.) FYI, the Merrimack Library has a strong writers and NANO group.

IMG_20131113_090043106Have her read Story Engineering (Larry Brooks) and Save the Cat (Blake Snyder) because she might not be trained about proper story structure (which is KEY.) I keep both books by my desk and I refer to them often.

Let her know that writers are like butterflies … the struggle to get published – of attending writing conferences (like SCBWI), of meeting writers who have similar interests, of searching online for useful information (which leads to discovering information she didn’t realize would be useful) and of achieving a goal on her own, rather than have someone hand her a golden key, is all crucial to a successful career. She should be networking (online and in-face) as much as possible.

Querying for an agent – that’s something that takes hard work, luck, and a little bit of magic. I currently have 2 agents interested in my book (after a loooong time of trying.) You need to be able to present your book idea clearly and concisely. You have to have an angle (it could be the age of your daughter), a hell-of-a-hook, and you have to show that your book is marketable. It’s not easy, (if it were everyone would be published) and I’ve seen courses and workshops on this topic alone. This one will have to come from her, she needs to do her research, and be able to succinctly explain what her book is about. She also needs to follow an agent’s preferred format. Find the agent that fits, follow her guidelines to create a query and then send it with your fingers crossed.

Shortcuts = Easy Come, Easy Go. If she’s in this for the long haul, she’ll take her time and develop her skills. There are very few teen writers who have experienced the life lessons needed to produce deep, meaningful literature but with practice comes perfection.

For the above reason, she might want to connect with a Literary Coach (you’d have to pay) who could help and advise her with getting her work to the point where it could be professionally published.

Continue being your daughter’s greatest fan. That, more than anything, will give her the courage and strength to continue as a writer.

Many thanks to Gina for her input on this.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

Getting it done

Once a week I am kidnapped. And I’m actually okay with it.

I have a friend (hi Gina) who is convinced that if I just have the time to write my book that my book will happen.

Good friends like that are kind of awesome. She recognizes that although I have a book with a compelling story, it’s the money projects, the wildfires, and the kids that are *always* put first – meaning that my book languishes. (That’s one reason why the weekend at the Buddhist retreat was so productive – it was a weekend of only writing with no distractions.)

So my friend makes sure that I get to her house, one morning a week from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. and we write, she on her next book and me on my project (working title: A Tick and a Chick – How a deformed chicken helped a mom cope with her son’s chronic Lyme disease.) Oh sure we talk a bit, and we’re always throwing technique questions back and forth, but then we go to separate rooms and we write.  In part, because of her insistence to this schedule I have a 300 page first-draft manuscript.

Yesterday I was going over a hard copy of my draft making notations where more information was needed and where events needed to be put in a different sequence in order to make sense to the reader (even though they made perfect sense to me J ) and I realized that the first 100 pages looks pretty damn good.

I floated out the idea that perhaps I should query an agent and send along those 100 pages.

“Not on your life,” my friend counseled, reminding me that “This has happened before.”

And it has. I’ve had 3 very good literary agents show interest in my project but when they requested a full manuscript, a kid got sick, we had school events, work projects showed up, you know, life happened and with one thing leading to another, interest dropped.

Literary agents want to make the sale – they aren’t particularly keen about sitting around and waiting until the stars line up perfectly in your life.

I console myself by saying that my story has evolved and it wouldn’t have been ready at those junctures, but even I can recognize sour grapes when I see them.

So while it defies every bit of writing advice (never send a completed memoir, just send the first 50 pages) I have to agree with my friend’s logic. If I don’t get it done, chances are, I won’t get it done.

The bar has been set.

My friend wants my book done by January. And with a supporter like this in my back pocket, I’m starting to believe that this may actually happen.

It's all right in here

It’s all right in here

Update from my friend: When she read this post her response was:

“Love your NHWN blog post!! And what’s this may actually happen stuff … it will happen!!!”

Ooooh that one is a task-master!  🙂

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

The Buddhist Writing Retreat Update

I know that a few of you were interested in what exactly happened during the Buddhist Mediation Writing retreat.

IMG_20131005_150539816Friday afternoon, after we had all gotten settled in, we met as a group. The instructor told us the format of the retreat (meditation, writing workshops, writing time, *great* food) and then we went around the room and introduced ourselves.

There were poets, future novelists, those who wrote journals – the common denominator was that they all loved the art and craft of writing.

When it was my turn to introduce myself, I told everyone that I was a writer. I wrote full time for a living. I was what some of them wanted to be.

“Be careful what you wish for,” I told them. I spend my days writing what other people want me to write and as a result I don’t have time to work on the project that *I* really want to get out. If it’s not the editors requesting a story, then it’s my kids who need a ride somewhere,” I whined.

“I never have time to focus on what I want to do.”

This was when the instructor said to me to use this workshop as I felt I needed to. “If you need to go off somewhere and write, go ahead. If you’d rather skip the workshops and meditation feel free. Do what you need to do.”

“Oh no,” I glibly replied, “I’m here for the experience. I’m going to participate in everything.”

Once we had gone around the room, the instructor told us that after dinner we were going to enter into something called “Noble Silence” for the rest of the weekend. That meant no talking.

At all.

Wait. What??????!!!! No one had told me about that part.

As anyone who knows me is aware, that’s one tall order.

But a funny thing happened when we stopped talking (for the record, I didn’t consider Facebook updates “talking”) when I stopped hearing other people’s voices, I started hearing my own.

I sat down at the end of a long dining table and I wrote.

I went to some mediation sessions (I made it to one a day) but I didn’t go to all four. I didn’t even go to the workshops, instead I wrote and wrote and wrote.  Seriously if my butt wasn’t in that chair for writing, then it was in the SUV where  I was sleeping.

People walked through the room, I wrote. Bells rang, calling for meditation, I wrote. The story, my story, that had been hovering on the edges of my mind, *finally* had the freedom to come out. I heard the voices in my head telling me how it was and because of the silence, I was able to feel some of the pain that I had been so careful to stuff into a jar so that it wouldn’t overwhelm me.

My initial wise-guy response to the “Noble silence” was “what’s so noble about silence?”

I had it wrong, by Sunday I realized my query should have been “what is there that’s not noble about silence?”

Between Friday night and Sunday afternoon, I ended up writing 35,000 words. Combined with what I went up with, I now have a 300 page first draft manuscript.

Was it worth it? You betcha’.

Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat.

My only regret (besides being woken up by the 3 resident roosters at 5:30 a.m.) was that it took a writer’s workshop for me to give myself the permission to write what I wanted to write.

As a writer, I should have embraced that permission all along.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.