The Elegance of Reading on Your Writing

Photo of a hedgehogIt has been eons since I’ve written anything here on my blog, and for that I apologize. It’s not because I haven’t thought of you, my fabulous readers/followers, because believe me, I have…often.

The reason my blog has been silent for so long is because my life has been so packed with running, racing, and coaching—my other passions–that something had to give.

That something…which I can barely admit here because it’s truly unthinkable…is…reading.

Gasp. I know.

Considering how much I love to read, it’s not something I ever imagined I’d let happen. But being in constant motion over this past year, I could never keep my eyes open long enough to get to the bottom of a page, or stay focused long enough to swim in the magic of words on a Sunday afternoon.

And here’s the thing: without reading, there is no writing. At least no creative writing.

It’s that painfully simple.

When you are not enveloped in the beauty of language and pulled where your senses are awash in imagination, writing takes on a different quality. Oh sure, you can still knock out little blips here and there, and if you’re lucky, you might even be able to eke out a gem or two, but to fully tap into your inner-writing amazing-ness, you’ve got to read.

Fortunately, after far too long, I’ve finally crossed back into the literary world, thanks to a morning run up the street with my dog.

Photo of neighborhood lending library

Our sweet neighbors set up a little neighborhood lending library in front of their house (yes, I live in Mayberry, thank you very much). On a whim I grabbed The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

That’s all it took.

The writing is so fine, I lingered over words and sentences longer than my morning cup of coffee (if you know me, you know how long that can be). We’re talking goosebump producing prose, and characters that make you continually contemplate the over-arching beauty and complexity of the world around us.

After reading this book, I feel like I can breathe again, like my right arm has been reattached, and I’m suddenly back to where I cannot ‘not write.’ It’s the same feeling I had when I knocked out over a dozen chapters of my book in progress, The Art of an Improbable Life, while at the same time writing magazine articles, blog posts and three-quarters of a novel—one whose ending still bumps around in my head.

Who knew that reading could have such a profound affect on one’s writing? Well, of course we all know how important reading is, but until you’ve survived a literary drought, you will never fully understand the depths of its importance.

Now that I’ve finished Barbery’s masterpiece, my mind is gleefully spinning, trying to decide which book to linger over next. I’m searching for one just as compelling as the last so I don’t let old habits creep back in and let other responsibilities become more important than my precious reading time.

Do you have any book recommendations for me? I’d love to hear from you!

Photo of doggy running partner, Doodles

 

PS: In the meantime, I thought I’d share a picture of my big brown running partner, Doodles. This was taken on a rare rainy day here in CA. He doesn’t go far, but somehow he always manages to take me where I need to be–like the lending library up the street.


Off and Running! Something New to Share

Sorry for the “radio silence” here on my blog, as my writing and blogging friend, Melissa, has so aptly referred to it.

Run Be Run Happy FeetWhen my blog is quiet, there’s always a reason…or ten. This time is no exception. I won’t list all the things that have consumed my writing time, but rather share the most exciting thing: a new blog/website I just launched called Run Be Run.

I know I’ve shared a few of my stories with you in the past about what running means to me, but in the last couple years this sport has taken a front seat in my life as I’ve started racing again and coaching several kids running teams. I wanted to create a site that not only shared my passion for the sport, but also celebrated the everyday joys and challenges of being a runner. And of course, there will be a large dollop of “life” thrown in along the way, because, well…that’s just who I am, never one to stick strictly to a script.

Run Be Run is still a work in progress, but I hope you’ll swing by and check it out. If you like what you see and would like to receive automatic updates each time I post a new tidbit, you can sign up via email in the right side of the blog. If not, I promise I won’t look at you sideways.

Here’s a peek at Run Be Run. You can click HERE or on the image below to go to the site.

Photo of Run Be Run website

I’ve missed connecting with you here, dear readers! I still plan to continue this blog and also my ongoing book project, The Art of an Improbable Life, so if you stick with me a bit longer, I’m hoping to be back up and blogging consistently once again. Thanks for all your support! My cup runneth over!

I can’t wait to catch up with you all! Tell me, what’s the most interesting thing you’ve done so far this year?

Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. – Special Guest Post

Today I have the special honor of welcoming guest writer, Sweet Bug, to my blog. Yep, on this day we honor Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s a privilege to share her tribute to Dr. King, which comes in the form of a lovely cinquain.

King
brave, courageous
leading, caring, changing
inspiring others to dream on
hero

 

Photo of Martin Luther King Jr.

Now, it’s your turn! See if you can write a 5-line tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. and leave it in the comment box below for all to enjoy. Don’t worry if you feel woefully inept at poetry. So do I, but I still found this to be a fun way to celebrate MLK, a man who made a profound impact on our world. And of course, it’s more the thought that counts–even if you don’t have the right number of syllables! 

A cinquain – which, by the way, is pronounced “sin-cane,” not “sin-kwane” – is a form of poetry that was created by American poet Adelaide Crapsey about 100 years ago, and is similar to Japanese poetic forms, such as haiku and tanka.

Though cinquains are just five lines long, the best ones tell a small story. Instead of just having descriptive words, they may also have an action (something happening), a feeling caused by the action, and a conclusion or ending.

The first and last lines have just two syllables, while the middle lines have more, so they end up with a diamond-like shape, similar to the poetic form called the diamante.

THE RULES OF A CINQUAIN

  1. Cinquains are five lines long.
  2. They have 2 syllables in the first line 4 in the second, 6 in the third, 8 in the fourth line, and just 2 in the last line.
  3. Cinquains do not need to rhyme, but you can include rhymes if you want to.Source: Poetry4kids.com

A Delicious Interview with Editor Krista Harris

Edible Santa Barbara Winter 13 Cover Fortune CookiesWhen I’m not blogging, working on my book, or delving into other creative projects, I have the great pleasure of writing magazine articles. One of my favorite publications to write for, Edible Santa Barbara, is right here in my own backyard.

Krista Harris and her husband, Steve Brown, started Edible Santa Barbara in the spring of 2009 with hopes of sharing in-depth stories behind the food and culinary traditions of Santa Barbara County. This beautifully produced magazine provides a visual and literary feast for anyone interested in food.

This quarter I had the joy of writing about the history of fortune cookies. Though they may not have specific ties to Santa Barbara, per se, fortune cookies do have surprising and intriguing West Coast roots. Several other stories I written for the magazine over the past few years include pieces on artichokes, almonds and latte art.

Krista happens to be one of of my favorite editors to work with, so it gives me great pleasure to interview her here today. Take a peek to see what makes this shaker and mover tick, and see how her passion is elevating Santa Barbara’s food movement.

Portrait of Krista Harris Editor of Edible Santa Barbara

Q: Why did you start Edible SB? What was your motivation? Continue reading

Helping Veterans and Their Families One Book at a Time

It’s rare I post twice on my blog in one day, but on this Veteran’s Day I feel compelled to pause for a moment and say thanks to our service men and women for their hard work and dedication to our country. I’d also like to share a book with you, which might help someone dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Diary of a Vet’s Wife by Nancy MacMillan.

Cover Photo of Diary of a Vet's Wife by Nancy MacMillanNancy took sixteen years to write her book, Diary of a Vet’s Wife: Loving and Living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – A Memoir. It’s the story of her life with a Vietnam Veteran, and the journey they take through PTSD. She shares her story with courage and honesty in hopes of helping others who are dealing with the same issues. Nancy wants others to know they are not alone, and even offers a list of resources available to find help.

Diary of a Vet’s Wife has received numerous 5-star reviews, and is even at the White House in Michelle Obama’s hands.

If that’s not enough to inspire you to pick up this book, this might: Nancy has teamed up with Pets for Vets by donating a portion of the proceeds from her book to help this organization pair shelter dogs with veterans returning from war. Their mission is to help in the healing process and to add another source of comfort and support for those dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Diary of a Vet’s Wife is available on Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle. Spouses and family members of those afflicted with PTSD will find this especially helpful because it’s written from the perspective of somebody who has lived in their shoes. You can also find Nancy online at Blog of a Vet’s Wife.

Here is a hearty thank you to Nancy for sharing her journey to help others, and here’s to our military veterans who have not only battled in war, but who have faced numerous challenges while integrating back into their “old lives,” which of course, will never be the same after what they’ve experienced.

 

Favorite Five Friday: Habits that Stir My Imagination

It’s easy to be inspired, motivated, “on fire” when you first launch a project. When the glow of excitement fades though, you need to fall back on your habits to keep you moving in the direction of reaching your goal and completing your masterpiece. Here are a few habits I rely on to keep my imagination factory pumping and propelling me forward.

Favorite Five Friday Habits that Stir My Imagination

“Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going”–Jim Rohn

What habits do you rely on to stir your imagination? Please share! When I wrote #5 on my list, I was thinking of many of you who often inspire me by the way you view the world. 

Fear, Loathing and Photography: A Mad Journey into the Heart of the Hunter S. Thompson

Portrait of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson at his home in Woody Creek, CO ©Jeffrey Aaronson 1990

Behind the Scenes: It’s late January 1990 and Jeffrey Aaronson is photographing on assignment in Aspen, Colorado for Town & Country. The magazine is doing a major feature about the shakers and movers of this tiny mountain resort as well as the many bigwigs and socialites who flock there during the winter.

Editor, Anne Hearst, has flown in from New York to conduct interviews and coordinate several of the photo shoots. Her list includes everyone from billionaire David Koch to socialite Teran Davis to celebrities like Jill St. John and Robert Wagner.

“Gonzo journalist” Hunter S. Thompson is also on Anne’s list, which amuses Jeffrey since Thompson has always prided himself on being a counter culture icon–the complete opposite of everything the magazine represents. He’s skeptical Thompson will even agree to be photographed.

Midway into this grueling weeklong assignment, Jeffrey is beat. He’s been on the go since the crack of dawn once again—this time photographing models on snowmobiles in Aspen’s early morning light, in ten-degree weather, no less. Knowing he has another full day ahead of him, he turns in around 11:00 pm, only to be ripped out of his REM sleep an hour later. It’s Anne.

“Hunter Thompson just called and said we can do the shoot right now.”

Jeffrey groans, “You’re kidding, right? What time is it?”

“A little after midnight. Sorry…he said he’s just waking up.” Continue reading

Popping the Cork for Cork

Photo of Cork MillnerIn Memoriam
Cork Millner 1931-2013

Cork Millner, my writing mentor, whom many of you know I adored, passed away recently. I say “my” writing mentor because I felt a close connection to him, but clearly he was not just mine. His memorial service earlier this week was a testament to that.

Dozens of friends, family members, colleagues and former writing students all came to pay tribute to him.

Cork touched each of us in different ways, but it was clear we all shared one thing in common: gratitude for having had him in our lives.

The day of Cork’s memorial service couldn’t have been more spectacular. The sun arose with aplomb, casting a blaze of color across Santa Barbara’s morning sky, perfectly symbolizing the richness Cork added to our lives with his charm and colorful personality.

Sunrise over Santa Barbara on the day of Cork's Memorial

As we gathered for his service inside the cemetery’s intimate chapel, we were wrapped in Celtic harp music, then reminded by Reverend Miriam Lindbeck, Cork’s lovely, long-time friend and former writing student, of all the things we loved about Cork.

He was “old school stoic,” strong and private, yet sensitive and open. He loved fine wine, fine cars and fine writing. He was charming and dapper, and appreciative of humor–especially his own, which was wry and occasionally acerbic. He was confident, hard-working and fiercely proud of his family and his military service, which included 850 aircraft carrier landings.

Photos of Cork Millner's memorial

And then, of course, there was his name. Continue reading

Inspiration in a Time Capsule

The other day my friend Sarah sent me a fun link about a lost time capsule recently found in Aspen by the crew of National Geographic Channel’s Diggers. The capsule was from the 1983 Aspen International Design Conference and it contained a bit of tech history–Steve Jobs’ mouse from his first LISA computer, along with an eight-track recording of The Moody Blues, a Sears Roebuck catalog, the June 1983 issue of Vogue, a Rubik’s Cube and a six-pack of beer.

Photo of time capsule from the 1983 Aspen International Design Conference

Credit National Geographic Channel

When I read the story, I chuckled out loud and thought, Only in Aspen, as a wave of nostalgia washed over me about the town my husband, Jeffrey Aaronson, and I called home for so many years.

It also reminded me just how much I love time capsules.

In fact, every New Year’s Eve I put my family through the same exercise—creating a written time capsule in which we list all our favorite things and most interesting moments from the year, along with epic world and national events. We often include photos and a few mementos that capture the spirit of our year. Then, so we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we unceremoniously bury it in the junk drawer.

I have to admit, I’ve already unearthed a couple time capsules from five or six years ago, and even in that short time, they already feel historic and full of whimsy. The best part is that I know I never would have remembered some of the things we documented, had we not written them down at the time.

Drawing of the Pearl Chase HouseTime capsules come in all forms—some of the most interesting ones are unintended, arriving out of necessity or happenstance. Being lovers of old houses, Jeffrey and I have bought and sold and renovated several historic Victorians, a Craftsman and even a barn. During those renovations we’ve almost always found interesting items stuffed in the walls—things like newspapers from the 1880s, used as insulation, or historic tools or tidbits buried beneath the foundation. Each time those discoveries  have made us stop and linger, thinking about previous owners and bygone eras.

In some ways being a writer is like creating small time capsules for others to discover, and hopefully enjoy and reflect upon.  Continue reading

I Cannot Tell a Lie and Other Modern Day BS

My mom often said, “If you always tell the truth you’ll never have to worry about your memory.” Or was that Mark Twain? I can’t remember.

That’s because I am fast becoming a big fat liar with a mud-clogged memory.

Photo of the flu vaccineHere’s a perfect example…yesterday my husband and I went to Rite Aid to get flu shots. In order to receive our vaccinations we each had to fill out a two-page form. It was standard stuff like name, address, birthdate, email, allergies, yadda, yadda.

My defenses suddenly went up at the sight of this questionnaire though. Why does Rite Aid need to know my birthday and phone number and where I live? So without thinking too hard, I wrote in mostly fake information—a long ago disconnected fax number for my phone number, a PO Box with the wrong zip code, a fake birthday. My husband did the same, as he always does with stuff like this. The difference is that he’s memorized all his fake info. I wing it every time.

This time I got caught. Continue reading