Happy Thanksgiving: Celebrating Hope, Wonder, and Gratitude

In the United States, it’s Thanksgiving. A time to gather around the table with loved ones and celebrate our many blessings. We celebrate creative living in every aspect of the meal: from setting a beautiful table to creating each delectable dish served upon it. We try new dishes to stretch our tastes and try to create the tastes of our childhoods with heirloom recipes handed down from grandmother to daughter (or from grandfather to son).

It’s also a time to honor the harvest, gathering the fruits of seeds planted in fertile ground. And fertile minds. Because what is creativity but harvesting the fruits of the seeds we’ve planted?

We’re also on the edges of the season of wonder, when children hope for snow flurries and the sound of Santa’s sleigh bells on dark nights. We decorate our homes with twinkle lights and glowing candles, illuminating the darkened corners and reminding us that where there is shadow, the hope of enlightenment is also nigh.

In celebration of this holiday, we won’t be offering you a new poem, story, or essay, but a collection of two dozen gems of wisdom on hope and wonder – gratitude and creativity.

“There is no better opportunity to receive more than to be thankful for what you already have. Thanksgiving opens up the windows of opportunity for ideas to flow your way.”
–Jim Rohn

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
― Emily Dickinson

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”
–Friedrich Nietzsche

“The act of giving something to others is an art of flowering your heart.”
–Vinayak

“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.”
― Anaïs Nin

“In a time of destruction, create something.”
― Maxine Hong Kingston

“Gratitude opens the door to… the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe.”
–Deepak Chopra

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
― Socrates

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
–Albert Schweitzer

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
― Marcus Aurelius

“Music and art both spring from a grateful heart.”
–Katie Wood McCloy

“Hope is a waking dream.”
― Aristotle

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
― Rachel Carson

“Philosophers wonder when they do not know, artists when they do.”
― Raheel Farooq

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“There is no one harder to live with than an artist. Therefore an artist is a real gift because he or she raises the sanctity of everyone else in the community.”
— David Steindl-Rast

“Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”
― Laini Taylor,

“I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating. I don’t care if it’s a book, a film, a painting, a dance, a piece of theater, a piece of music. Anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us. This world would be unlivable without art. Thank you for inspiring me.”
–Steven Soderberg

“An artist gives. Gives visually, gives through courses, or with free advice, through generosity of spirit and through a need to share.”
–Veronica Roth

“Art is the giving by each man of his evidence to the world. Those who wish to give, love to give, discover the pleasure of giving. Those who give are tremendously strong.”
–Robert Henri

“There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.”
― Octavia E. Butler

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”
― Barbara Kingsolver

“Gratefulness translates into a joy-filled understanding that informs art making – a simplicity that goes beyond preconceived ideas and moves us toward truth.”
–Dean Taylor Drewyer

We hope you enter the waning days of 2017 with a sense of hope, are open to the wonder and beauty of the world around you, and honor your own personal harvest and creative spark. We are so honored to witness the ways in which you you celebrate your creative life with a full and grateful heart.

With love from our creative table to yours.
The Staff of Modern Creative Life

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Instrumental: Farmbox Adventures by Melissa A. Bartell

Two years ago, driving home from a visit to my husband’s family in South Dakota, we were in rural Nebraska when we passed by a lush, green, field. It was the kind of farmland typical of a postcard image, and it was beautiful, until we saw the sign “Presented by Monsanto” at the corner of the field, just outside the fence, and our hearts fell.

Summer Farmbox by Melissa A. BartellNearly ten years ago, on another trip to South Dakota, we saw the number of family farms that had been bought by commercial soybean growers, and found an eerie response in the fact that the high school had been made smaller, and the population was going down.

Both of these images have haunted me for years, but even though I strive to buy vegetables in season, to buy locally-sourced or organic products whenever possible, when you live in Outer Suburbia doing so can be a challenge, and while my city does have a farmer’s market that operates throughout the year, its hours are far too early to be compatible with my extremely nocturnal tendencies.

Ironically, it was my friend Tabitha (she of Sunday Sensations) who gave me the key to making a difference in my own life, as well as in my community. She’d mentioned her recent delivery from a local-to-her CSA (community supported agriculture) organization, and it spurred me to find something similar in my own neighborhood.

Choosing a CSA was easy for me: of the several that exist in my region, only one delivers to my address. I spent the weekend of my birthday reading all their information, and made my first order that week. Thus began my relationship with FarmboxDelivery.com.

While many CSAs operate as co-ops – you buy shares and get a box that represents the number of shares you have – this one is a bit simpler. They have several ‘sizes’ of boxes ranging from wee (which is apparently their most popular option, and, they say, is ideal for a two-adult household) to boxes large enough for corporations to share out (or use in the company kitchen, maybe?), and we also have the option of choosing all fruit, all vegetables, or a mix.

Even better, there’s a way to ban certain items from ever showing up in my box. I’m one of those people for whom cilantro tastes like soap (this is genetic – it means I lack a specific enzyme), so I’ve asked that they never deliver cilantro. Similarly, I’m not a fan of kale (and as someone who is extremely hypothyroid, I’m not supposed to eat it, anyway) so I’ve asked them never to send me that.

My CSA allows me to customize my box, as well. Every Friday, I can access the list of the next week’s box, and if there’s something I have too much of, or isn’t included but is available, I can add or change a few items. As well, I can add some meats, dairy, and eggs, all from local farmers. We’ve become big fans of the cherry-smoked bacon and Mexican-style ground chicken sausage we can get, and I no longer buy milk in the grocery store unless I’m making something that requires a lot of it. The milk we get with our farm box isn’t raw, but it is low-temperature pasteurized, and it comes with the cream on top.

In addition to exploring many of the various add-on options, I’m having a blast discovering new-to-me vegetables, or learning new ways of preparing familiar ones. Farmbox Sausage by Melissa A. Bartell

This fall, I’ve received acorn squash three times, butternut squash once, and delicata squash twice, and the latter was previously unknown to me. Another week, I received Swiss chard, which I’d never cooked before, and really enjoyed trying.

Even though the farm box I receive is meant for two people, there are days when I’m just not in the mood to cook, or I’m not home. When we had to make an emergency trip to South Dakota over Labor Day weekend because my mother-in-law died, the friend who kindly took care of my dogs was invited to take home anything that wouldn’t keep, and when we get behind on using things, she isn’t offended if I beg her to take things off my hands, so they won’t go to waste.

My Wednesday night routine now involves setting the empty carton from the previous week’s farm box out on the front porch (along with any empty egg cartons or cold-bags) to be picked up when the new box is dropped on Thursday.

My new Thursday ritual is opening the new farm box.

Often, I am greeted by the earthy smell of potatoes – they leave them loose in the box – but equally frequently the first thing I encounter is the greens. (I confess, I often sing “The Witch’s Rap” from Into the Woods when I’m unboxing lettuces and other greens. My life is a musical, after all.)

As I write this, we’ve just finished a lovely dinner of broiled teriyaki salmon, Yukon gold potatoes sautéed with yellow onions and garlic, and a salad of green leaf lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes, and except for the garlic, every vegetable came from my farm box. This is a fairly usual occurrence now, and there are some nights when I try to make an entire meal solely from farm box products (so far, our favorite is quiche made with the afore-mentioned chicken sausage and mushrooms).

You might be asking me, is it worth the money? Well, I pay about $25/week for my box. $5 of that is a delivery fee but when I add milk and eggs, the total isn’t much different, because I’m over the minimum price for free delivery. It’s probably slightly more expensive doing this than it would be just buying veggies at the store, but not only does it mean I’m not heading to the grocery store as often, I’m also supporting local farmers, which is vitally important.

If only my CSA delivered coffee, I’d be completely happy.

Farmbox Unboxing by Melissa A. Bartell

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, listen to her podcast, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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My Wise Elder by Patricia Wellingham-Jones

My grandmother died when my mother was five,
our only photo shows her cradling
the last child, smiling over
the lace-drenched, long white christening gown.
In family memory she was gentle
with a snap to her tongue
and a Scot’s practical bent.

I hope I inherited some of that.
The only gift I know for sure
was breast cancer.

Her image floats to the front
of my mind as I grapple
with the loss of two friends
and the advanced cancer
of two others. I feel her smile
as I sign up for a long-desired
trip to Costa Rica, daunted

by the logistics of getting there
but determined to live actively
as long as I can.

About the Author: Patricia Wellingham-Jones

PatriciaWellingham-JonesPatricia Wellingham-Jones is a widely published former psychology researcher and writer/editor. She has a special interest in healing writing, with poems recently in The Widow’s Handbook (Kent State University Press). Chapbooks include Don’t Turn Away: poems about breast cancer, End-Cycle: poems about caregiving, Apple Blossoms at Eye Level, Voices on the Land and Hormone Stew.

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Sunday Sensations: Surprised

Sunday Sensations - Tabitha

There are people who have never left their hometown. As a newly minted adult, I met them. Boggled at the complexity of the thought, I gaped. They didn’t even drive the foTabitha in Icelandur hours to the nearest city across the state line. They’d never left Iowa.

Corn fields are nice, but I need to breath new air every once in awhile. My father was made of wanderlust. As I grew, there were few places in our town we had not seen. Los Angeles was as familiar as an old friend. I spent hours in our car traversing the length and breadth of her streets.

And we went further.

Trips took me to state after state in our nation. I experienced humidity for the first time as a small child. I had my mind expanded when I realized that, if you drive far enough, people’s accents change. I learned the world is not black and white, but filled with all shades of gray. There was lessons learned in trains and buses and planes. I saw America.

I climbed through the desert, I picked through the forest, I sat by lakes and streams and two major oceans.

I lived in other people’s shoes. You can’t not when you travel. I slept in beds that were not my own. I ate at tables that did not resemble home. I found the foreign even in my own country. Early on I found out that not everyone is shaped the same.

I marveled in Missouri why there were so many trees. In my California mind I believed that trees were something you planned. To have them so densely, so chokingly — must be a conspiracy. I voiced my wonder to my parents and asked, “what are they hiding?” It’s been a family joke ever since.

Packed bags provided their own life lessons. All you really need can fit in one or two suitcases. Vital life can be done with less. Real happiness comes with who you are with, not what you carry.

To say I am grateful for my father’s traveler’s heart would be the understatement. My mother provided the necessary comfort for any journey. She packed as if the Boy Scout motto was a creed to be followed without deviation. We were always prepared.

Surprised_01_Iceland

Last week, I stood on a cliff overlooking the ocean in Iceland. I thought of those people I met so many years ago who had never thought to leave their own state. I discovered a new favorite place that took six hours of plane travel and two hours of driving. Had I been like them, had I never moved from my spot, I  would have missed the chance to see something this beautiful. This was unlike anything I had seen and I had seen so many days at the ocean. I held my husband’s hand and fell in love again with travel. I can’t wait for our next trip.

About the author: Tabitha Grace Challis

Tabitha Grace ChallisTabitha is a social media strategist, writer, blogger, and professional geek. Among her published works are the children’s books Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and Machu the Cat is Very Hungry, both published under the name Tabitha Grace Smith.

A California girl (always and forever) she now lives in Maryland with her husband, son, and a collection of cats, dogs, and chickens. Find out more about her on her Amazon author page or follow her on Twitter: @Tabz.

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The Great Leap by Christine Mason Miller

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

In just a few days, I’m crossing over. Good-bye forties, farewell first half of life. The big one is here—I’m about to turn fifty.

I’ve never felt daunted by any previous birthdays, but my fiftieth has had me, at times, in a mild state of panic. What does it mean to turn fifty? What lies ahead? How will this change the way the rest of the world sees me? How can I make the most of the time I have left? Because there is now no denying that what remains is limited—time to not only to be alive, but also to be healthy, energetic, and able to do all the things I want to do. I have lately been feeling a unique kind of pressure to make the right choices; my fear of reaching old age with a suitcase full of regrets about what I did or didn’t do when I had the opportunity has been a lingering presence all year long.

In a nutshell, I don’t want to blow it.

I’ve also never been one to create a master plan for my life. I’ve made big plans for business, creative projects, and even dinner parties, but not for the totality of my life. I’ve never had an age-related goal (married by 25, homeowner by 30, etc.) and have rarely tried to predict exactly where I might be or what I might be doing beyond a few months. This has been especially true since my divorce, when I was inspired to take an entirely different approach to my future.

Since then, I’ve steered my life in a way that is less about focusing my sights on specific hopes or dreams and more about setting my compass according to my values—the kind of person I want to be and what I want my life to look like. But even then, I try to hold onto any plans as loosely as possible. Experience has shown me that there are other more mysterious forces at play, and, if I’m willing to let go of the desire for control, there’s a very good chance things will unfold in ways more magically, abundantly, and beautifully than I could have ever orchestrated.

As my husband and I get settled in our new home and community here in Milwaukee, I’ve been watching him connect with an assortment of friends, colleagues, and classmates from years past. He is catching up with people he hasn’t seen in thirty, forty and fifty years, hearing about the highlights of their lives as well as those of other mutual friends. I’ve been involved in many of these conversations, and they have inspired a pulling upward of perspective. I’ve been imagining myself on a cloud above the earth, only it isn’t just the physical entity of our planet but all of time. It is a dynamic universe filled with moments and memories and experiences – mine included, many of which haven’t even happened yet, of course—and I’m up above, watching all of them collide and twinkle and carry each of us along different paths and trajectories. This decision went this way, that one turned things completely around. Those are the points of no return. These are the things we’ll never get back. And over there—that’s what is still entirely possible.

After hearing a few too many stories of lives being consumed by things like lawsuits, family estrangements, and addiction, I keep thinking about the finiteness of our existence.

This week I’m turning fifty, but the day might come when I turn seventy, and what will I be looking at then when I let myself float up above the atmosphere and take stock of the time I’ve had? What do I see now? Has my general approach—values first, pursuit of dreams second—served me or hindered me? Which regrets and heartbreaks from my past are still in need of redemption or transformation for my future?

The funny things is, my birthday will arrive and then it will be over. After all the build up, the angst, and hearing David Byrne’s “How did I get here?” in my head over and over again, it will happen. I’ll be fifty. And that will be that. But what is true about turning fifty has, in fact, been true all along – I don’t know how much time I have left. I don’t know what’s coming around the corner. Each day my work is the same—to make sure my compass is in alignment with what I love and value most, open the sail, and let the flow of life carry me toward my future, whatever the future may bring.

About the Author: Christine Mason Miller

Christine Mason Miller is an author and artist who has been inspiring others to create a meaningful life since 1995. Follow her adventures at www.christinemasonmiller.com.

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Welcome to Issue #8: Hope & Wonder

“God puts rainbows in the clouds so that each of us — in the dreariest and most dreaded moments — can see a possibility of hope.”
~Maya Angelou

You see a rainbow emerging from a cloudy sky, and you can’t help but smile.

You stop at the mailbox on your way home from work, and take a moment to consider what might be inside. A letter or card from a dear friend, maybe, or the latest issue of a favorite magazine.

You catch a glimpse of your dog or cat, nose pressed to the window, waiting for you to come home – even though you’ve only been out for ten minutes.

“A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky, unbidden, and seems a thing of wonder.”
~ Susan Orlean

You stand on the patio as a squall builds, and you let the mounting energy of the storm invigorate your heart, mind, and body.

You spend more time in the kitchen, cooking amazing foods, laughing with your best friend, your partner, your parents, as you slice and dice and saute and stir.

You wake in the middle of the night to silence, the magical hush of the season’s first snow.

“He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter.”
~John Burroughs

You try to capture these feelings – hope and wonder – that exist hand in hand, and are so close to the surface as the holidays approach.

Maybe something you overhear in a café or witness while shopping sparks a story. Perhaps there’s a poem waiting in the crackle of your fireplace or the pattering of rain on the roof. A child playing in the last of the autumn leaves might make a perfect photo, or inspire a memory of your own childhood, your cheeks rosy from playing in chilly air.

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”
~Christopher Reeve

Welcome to Hope & Wonder, the 8th issue of Modern Creative Life, and the end-cap of our second year of publication.

While this issue is slightly abbreviated (the first issue of our third year will launch in mid-January), it’s also packed with content.

In Hope & Wonder, you’ll get a peek into the daily lives of other creative folk in our Studio Tours and Typical Tuesday series, and meet people walking fascinating creative pathways in Conversations Over Coffee. With photos and fiction, poetry and prompts, essays and enlightenment, you’ll find a deeper understanding into all the ways in which we all create.

As always, our mission at Modern Creative Life is to honor the pursuit and practice of joyful creativity. We believe that the creative arts enrich our everyday living, enhance our environment, create lasting connections, and sustain our souls. Please join us as we look to other creatives for ways in which they find peace in the shadows, or succor in the sunshine.

As we share the stories of other makers, we invite you to use their experiences as a guide on your quest for your own Modern Creative Life.

What do you hope for, or wonder about? What gives you hope, or makes that childlike bubble of delight and wonder surround you? We invite you to share your stories, poems, essays and photos with us as we celebrate the hope and wonder all around us, and the way each helps to nourish our creative selves. We are open to single contributions as well as new regular contributors. Email us at moderncreativelife@gmail.com.

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, listen to her podcast, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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Conversations Over Coffee with Andi Cumbo-Floyd

 

One of the biggest blessings of managing Modern Creative Life is the opportunity to connect with fellow writers and creative souls. And, if you’re lucky, those connections grown and develop into friendships that feel loving and nourishing. I met Andi Cumbo-Floyd through her online writing community where she serves as a beacon of light for those of us playing with words (and wanting to publish them in some form) and am grateful to call her a friend, colleague, mentor (and sometimes editor).

That’s why I’m thrilled to be “talking” with Andi Cumbo-Floyd about life, writing, and her latest book (with a pictorial peek into farm life!)

We call this series Conversations Over Coffee because it’s the things I’d ask you if we were sitting across the table from each other over a casual cup of coffee….. so, let’s set the stage: where would you suggest we meet near your current home….and what is your go-to beverage and/or snack were we to meet?

Well, since we live about 45 minutes from the nearest coffee shop, why don’t we meet at my dining room table in the farmhouse?  I’ll have a cup of chamomile tea and some shortbread, and of course, I’ll have enough to share.

For those readers not familiar with your work, can you give us a quick synopsis and background on your new book Love Letters to Writers: Encouragement, Accountability, and Truth-Telling.

Love Letters to Writers is a collection of 52 letters that I’ve written over the past two years to members of the Writing Community I coordinate.  Each week, I write them a letter that is drawn from my own experience, from a question they ask, from something I’ve read, or from a random member – like the time I stuck my finger up a horse’s nose.  Each letter is about the writing life and is written with the hopes that it will give these writers support and the feeling of camaraderie on this writing journey.

I decided to select some of these letters because one of the Community members, Amanda Eastep, suggested that they should be read by more writers, and so, here we are.

Why IS it important to write if you feel the call?

Here’s the truth as I see it – in an ideal world that was free of oppression and injustice, we would all get to do what we loved all the time, and so for those of us who are called to write, I think the world needs our words – and we need them, too.

Each person’s stories – be they fiction, nonfiction, poetry, blogs, news articles, etc – speak of a truth that is unique to that person, and so the world is made richer and brighter when those of us with this particular vocation step into it as fully and completely as we can.

You write several genres: books for writing, fiction, non-fiction. How do you maintain your writing voice across the genres or does the genre influence your writing voice?

Sometimes I wish I could vary my voice more in the different genres I write, but by grace, I discovered the voice of my heart some years ago and now write – as best I can – only from there, even when I’m writing in the voice of a character or exploring history instead of writing.  To be consistent in that voice, I need to stay in touch with my heart because that’s where the truest aspect of my voice lives.

Reaching my heart on busy, hard days is a challenge, but through a ritual of writing that gets me to the page most days, I find that I know how to slide into that space fairly easily. For me, it’s more a matter of listening than producing, listening to what my heart has to say and just following those words.

Are there any threads that consistently run through your work no matter what genre you’re writing?

I’m constantly drawn to the idea of bringing light to injustice. Whether I’m writing about slavery or about the way women are underrepresented by publishers and publications or about the way racism lives in the city I know best, Charlottesville, Virginia, I want to always be trying to show people truth in a way that they can see it.

In what ways does real life inform your writing (and vice versa)?

Well, since I write mostly about the two things that most imbue my days – writing and history – it informs everything I write.  In practical ways, the places I spend time – places where people were enslaved – inform the topics of my writing. And because I make my living as an editor, I spend most of my waking hours considering what makes stories or poems or articles work well and what doesn’t.

In terms of how my writing informs my life, I think the biggest thing there is that writing is how I come to understand my truth about things. It teaches me to see more deeply, to stretch for understanding, and that work makes me, I pray, a more compassionate, loving person.

Most creative folks I know are full of ideas. How do you decide “what’s next” and which idea deserves your attention?

I’d like to say I have some high-minded ideal or publishing plan that determines these things, but honestly, it’s often about energy – what project do I have the energy to complete well in the midst of all the other things I’m working on?  I’m not one of those rare authors who makes their living through book sales, so I always have to think about client projects as well as the work of literary citizenship I do to say connected to and support other writers.

In addition to writing, you also work as an editor. As an editor, what would you like writers to know before sending you their book?

I could fill pages with my answer to this question, but here’s are the two biggest pieces of advice I can give to anyone hiring an editor:

  • Be sure you’ve done everything you can to make your book as strong as possible before you bring someone in to edit. If you already know what to do, it’s a waste of your money and my time. But when you’ve exhausted your know-how, then hire someone to help.
  • Don’t even think about sending your book to an editor if you haven’t read it through, cover to cover. I get so many books that have clearly been piece-mealed together, and a simple read-through would show the writer some of the big weaknesses in their books.

While attending a writer Q&A at my library recently, the writer was asked for some writing advice in a nutshell. She shared this snippet: “Finishing and publishing a book is 20% talent and 80% discipline”. Do you agree? What is it that we all need to know about that double-edged sword called “discipline”?

Oh, I think that writer is totally right there.  The most talented writers I know got to that place by writing regularly and as often as possible. Writing – like most things – is something that requires practice, and so the more we have the discipline to sit down and practice – even without a product in mind – the better our work will be.  So I’m with her there.

But I would also say that burn-out is a real thing for writers, too, especially in our “write more faster” culture, so we have to be wise to build a practice of writing that is life-giving, not draining. And that practice differs from person to person and moment to moment.

What’s your best three pieces of advice for folks that write?

  1. Guard your writing time and space. Treat it as sacred. Don’t give it away unless absolutely necessary.
  2. Finish things. Finish book drafts and blog posts. Finish articles. Finish the books you read. The process of finishing creates a sense of accomplishment and teaches you discipline.
  3. Love on other writers. Share their work. Review their books. Like their posts. It doesn’t take much to help another writer get some traction in the public eye.

And your best two pieces of advice for writers that want to finish and publish?

  1. Set a date by which you will publish and then work back from there to figure out what you need to write when.
  2. Don’t let marketing scare you.  You can try to do everything and get overwhelmed, or you can do what you feel good doing and trust that they people who need your book will find it.

What myths about being a writer (and the writing life) would you like to bust?

Oh, so many.  Fundamentally, though, I’d just like to destroy any of the legends that say every writer has to do any one thing. Not all of us can write at 5am. Not all of us can write with a fountain pen on unlined paper. Not all of us can write well in a coffee shop or in utter silence or at the end of an airport runway.

Every writer is different, and we need to own and love what works for us and do our work there.

Your book is a series of Love Letters, so to speak. What’s you most compassionate advice for when times get discouraging? (Our friends are getting book deals, folks are publishing left and write and we’re struggling, etc.) 

Oh, this is so hard, and I’ve struggled with jealousy and discouragement in some big ways this year.  Here’s what I do: I let myself feel those feelings. I don’t berate myself for being petty or ungrateful. I just feel it.

Then, I celebrate with my friends, even if some of that celebration is an act of hope rather than genuine joy.

Finally, I get back to my work, the words only I can write, the stories only I can tell.  Usually, by the time I reach this point, I remember that it’s the writing that I love, not the accolades.

As we’ve recently discussed and I shared recently here at MCL, though I was “finished” with my next book, I decided it wasn’t ready to publish. How do you make the determination that maybe, just maybe, it’s time to abandon a project – or put it in cold storage.

For me, that decision is usually based on energy. I don’t abandon many things completely, but I do put them aside for the time being. If it feels like I simply cannot get this right with the time and energy I have, I put it away because laboring over something when I’m not able to give my best to it is frustrating and can make me hate the work.

What do you know now that you wish you knew at 32?

Oh, that’s a beautiful question. At 32, I was at the end of a sad but silent divorce after a sad and largely silent marriage. I had just gotten my first full-time job as an English professor, and I was already finding myself overwhelmed by the work that job entailed.  I was pretty sad and lonely, and I was trying to do all the things that I thought I should do – speak at conferences, write academic papers, serve on all the committees.

So I wish I could tell myself of a decade ago, “Lean into your love, Andi. Trust it.  It’ll lead you well. Don’t try to hard. Just be you, and it’ll come together. It really will.”

About the Author: Andi Cumbo-Floyd

Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer, who lives on 15 blissful acres at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, 6 goats, 4 dogs, 4 cats, and 22 chickens. Her books include Steele Secrets, Charlotte and the Twelve, The Slaves Have Names, and Writing Day In and Day Out. Her new book, Love Letters to Writers: Encouragement, Accountability, and Truth-Telling is now available.

You can connect with Andi at her website, andilit.com, or via Facebook and Twitter.

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Life in Light and Shadow by Cathleen Delia Mulrooney

I begin with a reading—what I know to be true—what is light—illuminated: the Empress. My strength. My connection to the Earth. My self-empowerment and strength. What I need to see—what is shadow—darkness: the Knight of Pentacles. My blind spot is my lack of routine. My inability to finish what I start. My work. My commitments. The light is that I am resilient right now, but the shadow is how changeable every moment currently is. I don’t have the Knight’s consistency. Day by day, the rules change. Day by day, my body changes. Day by day, my heart is in revolt. I throw cards and light candles. I look for beauty in this ruthlessly bittersweet in-between.

I know I am not alone in this. The whole world feels like it is mutable. Inconsistent. Unsettled. We all tumble through the latest headlines and heartbreaks and blessings and brokenness. Finding ourselves, if we are lucky, tangled in a large swath of light. Finding ourselves tangled in a lover’s arms. A kiss as remedy. A conversation as medicine. A flare in the darkness. A touch and we remember what hope feels like. Or we are our own disciple. Telling ourselves stories and whispering prayers to the shadows until the sun comes back. Mapping our narrative until we see the path through all of this. Promising we will go home again. We are already home. Here. In our bones, we are home. Light breaks across them and we know.

And when we just don’t know—when we are lost, when it is all incomprehensible and even words and touch and cards fail us, all we have to do is go outside again and look up. By sunlight or by starlight, we can navigate our way.

I end with a blessing for the in between—I will seek light wherever I can find it—in every being I meet, in myself, even when all I can see are my own shadows. I promise myself love, creativity, and kindness. I commit to tolerance, solitude, introspection, time outside in the trees, watching the leaves fall and the flight patterns of birds overhead. Life will always offer darkness. It is up to me to keep the repository of light replenished. I swear to always burn candles and throw cards—to savor the story and the kiss—to look to the bones and the branches. I vow set my roots into the depths of this mercurial world. At home in the shadow and the light.

Cathleen Delia Mulrooney

cathleendeliamulrooney_bioRestless. Sleepless. Book-lover. Wordsmith. Deep roots. Prodigal heart. Teacher. Guide. Wanderer. Witch. Tea, tarot, hot baths, stitchcraft. Curator of narrative relics, remnants, & curiosities.

Cat is also a freelance writer, editor, and teacher. Her poetry, fiction, essays, interviews, and reviews have appeared in a variety of online and print publications. She has been teaching writing at the college level since 2000, and has facilitated creative writing workshops in elementary schools, high schools, prisons, and private organizations, as well as workshops exclusively for women to write their body and tarot-based narratives.

Through her Queen of Cups Tarot community, she offers private, group, and online tarot readings. Find her online at http://cdeliamulrooney.com and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/queenofcupstarot/

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Land for Sale by Pat West

Time and time again,
in the darkest hours of the night,
I have gone down
on my hands and knees
and painstakingly measured
the empty space you left
when you died, so vast
and deep: I’m tired of living with it,
so I’ve decided to put it on the market.

Property values are soaring,
there are even bidding wars.
Oh, I won’t sell to just anyone,
wouldn’t want to wake up one morning
and find a strip mall in my heart.
But I could live with an art museum
or maybe . . . yes,

a library with vaulted ceilings,
sprawling wings, quiet reading alcoves
off the main lobby, tables, lamps
with puddles of amber light
dotting the landscape.

About the Author: Pat West

Pat Phillips West lives in Olympia, WA. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in Haunted Waters Press, Persimmon Tree, VoiceCatcher, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, Gold Man Review and elsewhere.

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Instrumental: Managing Anxiety by Bella Cirovic

I struggle with anxiety.

When it first began, it was a blessing to learn that the symptoms I had been experiencing were not my physical health going bad or me going nuts: it was anxiety. There are a couple of things about anxiety I didn’t know: it’s the body’s natural response to fear. Yes, fear! A deep rooted, rational or irrational, tucked away in the depths of your brain, fear. The mind / body connection is so tightly intertwined that one teensy little trigger… a word, a photo, a place… can set the anxiety into motion and the body like magic, responds.

How am I working through it? Well, it takes a village to keep me in check. My anxiety tends to be heightened during the dark and colder months, a season we are just entering now.  I have gathered my top three go to moves to help me through it. Maybe they might be of help to you.

I have a tight circle of close friends who I can call and spill my guts to. The spilling part is the most important. Keeping things bottled up and withholding leads to isolation. The absolute worst feeling in the world is when you feel like you’re all alone. I have to make that call, open up, let it out, and trust that my friends will listen and hold onto whatever I have to share. Difficult? Yes. Necessary? Oh, yes. It’s been a tremendous help.

Because anxiety is a physical response my body often feels sore, like when you haven’t worked out in months and then you do and your muscles get sore and tender. I’ve created a special blend of oils that I pour into a roller ball bottle to massage on my pulse points and right into the muscles. I then massage and love on the tender parts. My favorite oils to use for this purpose is a combination of lavender, peppermint, and chamomile. Add a few drops of each to a carrier base like almond oil and use when necessary.

Meditation has helped tremendously! My favorite way to do that is to cd on or download an meditation app on my phone. I’ve found a couple of meditation guides that focus on anxiety and fears that I like and every morning before I shower, I plug in my headphones, and relax to the calming music. It’s refreshing. I try to keep my mind and heart open to receiving what the music has to offer, and I find that it relaxes me and releases me into the day very gently.

On a particularly rough day, I might plug into the meditation before I go to bed. However you meditate – whatever that practice may look like for you – it can’t hurt, it can only help. My favorite app for meditation is: Relax from Andrew Johnson.

I’ve only touched on three of my go-to practices here and what they all hold in common is that I have to show up. I have to conjure up the courage to reach out, to make that time, to fill the bottle with oils, to let go of what I should be doing to make time for my meditation. I have to let go and give in – and I believe that is what self care and self kindness means. It’s allowing yourself the TIME to focus on yourself and your healing. This is so vital to us so that we can show up in the other areas of our lives as a better version of ourselves, a more relaxed and rejuvenated version.

What are your go to moves for dealing with anxiety through the darker months?

About the Author: Bella Cirovic

Bella Cirovic BioBella Cirovic is a photographer and writer who lives with her husband and daughter in the suburbs outside of NYC. She writes on the subjects of self care, body love and nourishment, crystals, essential oils, and family life. Catch up with Bella at her blog: She Told Stories

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