On NOT Being “Humor Challenged” … Seriously

“…the Spirit prays for us with groans too deep for words.” ~Romans 8:26b

If the Spirit prays with groans too deep for words, then I’m okay with my moans and groans about writing on the topic of “happiness.” Writing is for me a spiritual practice … writing letters to the Divine in my journal is a prayer practice for me.

I often moan and groan until an opening occurs and what is too deep for words emerges … wisdom flows from my pen as though from the still, small voice within. The Divine doesn’t always speak to me this way, but I have experienced these transcendent moments enough to trust that my moans and groans are leading me to a deeper place of awareness. Being in league with the Spirit isn’t a bad place to be.

And so, while I moaned and groaned about writing on the topic of “happiness” for my writing group, I trusted something deeper would emerge. And it has and continues. Here’s the latest!

Growing up, my family dubbed me the weird, serious one. They reveled in joke telling and laughing uproariously. I didn’t get some of their jokes, didn’t find some of them funny, and couldn’t join in their merry-making.

I inevitably forgot or messed up the punch line of most jokes I attempted to tell. My family happily reinforced my thinking about myself as “humor challenged.” That presented a dilemma

If you have been following my blog posts on happiness, you have probably guessed that my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace, is not a tale of “happily every after.”

“Be kind to your readers. Color your darker moments with humor to lighten the heaviness of your story,” those of us writing memoirs are taught.

As you might imagine, that unsettled me. How could a “humor challenged” woman prone to melancholy make her less than “happily ever after” story funny?

“Comedy comes from pain.” ~Kevin Hart

According to Forbes, Kevin Hart, was the highest paid comedian on the planet last year. That makes him pretty popular. And he makes people laugh by making fun of himself and finding humor in painful situations in his life … like his fear of the dark and absurd reactions to his mother’s death.

I’m no Kevin Hart, but fortunately for me, I have good friends and many of them find me funny … not for the jokes I tell … I gave up on jokes a long time ago. They find my  comments about the absurdities of life and my wry comments, usually made at my own expense, funny. Sometimes they even laugh uproariously.

If you have ever experienced that side of me, just know that is a sign that I feel really safe with you.

And fortunately for me, I had a good editor. After reading my manuscript, she would not accept my perception that I am “humor challenged.” Hmmm. Had she noticed something in my writing that would at least give my readers a chuckle.

Hey, I’ll take a chuckle anytime.

But, since satire had never automatically flowed from my fingers before, the tongue-in-cheek humor that emerged as I wrote about “happiness” filled me with happiness. 🙂 I noted it as the presence of the Transcendent.

Then, last weekend, some bonafide funny words popped out of my mouth in a phone conversation with a friend I hadn’t talked with for awhile. She was excited to hear that I have finished writing my memoir and that it will be published in 2018. I told her:

“My memoir is in three parts:

The first part is: ‘I’m a mess.’

The second part is: ‘I’m getting my act together.’

The third part is: ‘I think I’m getting the hang of this now.'”

We both chuckled. Later she sent me an e-mail.

“It was so delightful to talk with you this afternoon.  I can hardly wait until your book is published!  Please keep me in that loop so I can get an early copy.”

You, too, could be “in that loop.” All I need is your e-mail and permission to add you to my list. You could send me a message on my contact page. Or, if you haven’t already, you could sign up to receive notifications through my blog. Just saying.

I never cease to be amazed and in awe at the way Spirit works in my life. Today I’m grateful to know that I am seriously not “humor challenged.” My editor confronted me several times with this truth. She will be happy that I finally get it. Groan! Forgive me. Sometimes I can be a slow learner. 😉

A Synchronistic Meeting

sychronicity

After I retired, I joined a spirituality forum held at our local senior citizens’ center. A few members of the group gathered for a brown-bag lunch following our two-hour meeting. One day a new member joined us and during lunch mentioned that she was writing her memoir. I said to her, “I’m writing mine, too. We should become writing partners.”

Nita agreed to give my suggestion a try. That was in March or April 2012. With few interruptions until recently, we met every two weeks. This provided a structure to move forward. Every two weeks, I needed to have written something to read to Nita for her critique and vice versa.

As I listened to Nita’s story, it became clear to me that she was just the kind of woman I expected to judge me. Her marriage is fulfilling, her husband is supportive, she has four high-functioning children, and she developed a successful career. Of course, she faced challenges. Otherwise what would she have to write about in a memoir. But she handled her challenges with wisdom and skill.

My story is full of family challenges that it took me a long time to learn to handle with wisdom and skill. As we began meeting, I carried a great deal of shame and it took every ounce of courage I possessed to read some of my chapters to her.

Nita gave me excellent suggestions for improvement without an ounce of judgment. We developed a ritual of giving each other a hug as we came together and before we departed.

After we had been meeting for a year or so, I wanted to send Nita a card by snail mail. I searched for her zip code through google. Up popped a whole page of entries about Nita. I sat back in awe, exclaiming to myself, “Wow, she’s a famous artist! I had no idea.”

That gives you a picture of Nita’s character. She is confident and humble and doesn’t have a need to flaunt her success. In fact, she may not be happy with my writing about her success in this blog post. But, to me, it is an important part of our synchronistic meeting.

One day, after reading a particularly painful part of my story, Nita said, “I think I was chosen to hear your story.”

I replied, “It was definitely Divine guidance that brought us together.”

Recently, Nita and I were forced to put our memoirs on the back burner and take a break from meeting. My daughter’s healthcare crisis and her subsequent moving in with me took first priority. Nita’s publisher wanted her to put together a thirtieth anniversary edition of her first book, Exploring Color, and she needed to focus on that.

ExploringColor_CVR.indd

Links to Northlight and Amazon

My daughter is stabilized now and Exploring Color is out in the world to enthusiastic acclaim, so Nita and I are meeting again. Our memoirs are written and in various stages of editing. We no longer need to read passages for critique. But we find each other’s support invaluable as we continue the process toward publication. We still hug upon greeting and departing.

When I suggested to Nita that we be writing partners, I had no awareness that a “magical” connection was being made that would propel my soul’s longing forward. How blessed I am that Divine guidance chose Nita to be the first to hear my story.

Synchronicity: Anonymous Gifts from the Divine

I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art, and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence when we think we are alone.  ~Charles de Lint

Recently I’ve been reflecting on the journey I’ve taken in writing my memoir. With amazement, I noticed several synchronicities that tell me a power beyond my own is supporting me in writing and publishing A Long Awakening to Grace.

Julie and Linda

Julie and Linda

I never intended to write a book about my life, but there was this nurse who emphatically told me I needed to do that. My July 5, 2014 blog post is about Julie. It took me eight years to heed her encouragement. Once I made the decision to do it, synchronicities began to emerge.

First, the title came to me and seemed a gift from the Universe.

Then, in 2012, I found the perfect writing partner for me at our senior citizens’ center. I wrote about Nita and some of our adventures together two years ago today, on April 27, 2014. She has been such a gift to me and if we hadn’t met every two weeks to read our work aloud to each other, I never would have made it to the editing process where I am today. Writing a memoir is quite a task. My friends keep asking, “When am I going to get to read it?”

All I can say is, “I’m getting closer to publication.”

In addition, without Nita’s support, I probably never would have had the courage to pitch to a New York agent. Rita Rosenkranz’s comment about my story having a compelling narrative arc has kept me going at times when I have doubted myself.

Being introduced to Brené Brown’s work is another synchronicity. Following her modeling and guidance, I have developed the shame resilience needed to tell my story honestly, even the parts that reveal my less than desirable qualities. Next to learning the craft, this is the hardest part of writing a memoir and will prove the most challenging once it is published.

Local writer, Jude Walsh, introduced me to the Story Circle Network (SCN), an online organization for women writers founded by New York Times best-selling author, Susan Wittig Albert.

Susan founded SCN because women write better in community. Jude recommended me for the Works-in-Progress discussion group. Two major synchronicities have followed from that.

Susan Tweit, one of my sisters in the SCN Works-in-Progress discussion group, provided one of them. Just at the time I needed to find my core message, a spirited discussion about this topic arose in our group. Susan’s contribution helped me dig deep. What a joy it was to meet her in person at the SCN Conference this month (April 14-17). When I found her waiting for the shuttle to the Austin hotel where the conference was held, I literally jumped for joy, shouted Susan, and ran to give her a big hug.

In addition, I found the perfect editor for me in the SCN Works-in-Progress group. In October 2014, Judy Plazyk talked about how she works with authors. I was impressed with her commitment but my manuscript was not close to being ready for editing. When she talked about being her author’s biggest cheerleader and greatest fan, I was sold. She and I have developed the perfect author-editor relationship. I feel so blessed to have found her. (Unfortunately, I have no picture of Judy to share with you.)

Then, I think I’ve found my publisher at the SCN Conference. Brooke Warner, one of the founders of She Writes Press, was our keynote speaker. I am so inspired by what she had to say about She Writes vision and mission, (Click here to see what inspires me).

Brooke’s keynote took me back to 1975-1976 when I was a student in seminary and women were knocking on the door of the church, a male-dominated institution, and saying, “Hey, we are called to serve as parish pastors. Let us in.” I am proud to have been a pioneer in that movement.

She Writes Press has been founded to champion women writers, as has SCN. Women’s writing and life stories are not valued in the publishing industry. A gender bias has existed for centuries and even today extends to awards, prize winners, book reviews, and job opportunities. How exciting for me to be a part of a movement to address this inequity. I find it immensely rewarding. That makes She Writes the perfect publisher for me. We’ll see if that is what the Universe has in store.

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. ~Joseph Campbell

follow-your-bliss

The Heart of the Matter

For the first time since November 11, 2005, after my yearly nuclear stress test, last week my cardiologist told me that my heart has improved.

ardiogram_with_a_heart_shape

Eleven years ago, after two weeks of chest pains, I submitted to my first such stress test. I was in denial that I could have a heart problem. Years before that, I’d been told after a cholesterol reading during a health fair at the hospital where I worked, “You should never have heart disease.” My HDL, the good cholesterol that needs to be high to protect your heart, was higher than she’d ever seen. Of course, her words were more memorable than the written report which pointed out that a sedentary lifestyle contributes to heart disease.

But on this day in 2005, my doctor ordered me to go straight to the hospital, even after exclaiming, “I’ve never seen anyone’s HDL be that high.” It was 101. He had no answer for my question, “Then why am I here?”

In shock, I went to the hospital’s cardiac cath lab not knowing if I was to have open heart surgery or a stent. As I lay on the table staring at the overhead lights waiting for the doctor to arrive, I asked myself, “How did I get here?”

And then I knew, “I’ve had a lot of heartbreak in my life.”

heartbeat_312284

After the insertion of a stent into my left anterior descending artery, I changed my diet and began getting more exercise, and even though the doctor wouldn’t confirm that heartbreak contributed to the 98 percent blockage, I was convinced there was a connection. A few years later, an article appeared in the newspaper titled, “Heartbreak Syndrome.”

I picked up the Energy Times magazine at Health Foods Unlimited a couple of weeks ago. In their section on cardiovascular health, they had an article titled, “Living a Purposeful Life May Help Your Heart.” According to a Psychosomatic Medicine study, “People who reported having a strong life purpose had a lower risk of both cardiac events and overall mortality.” About four years ago I got serious about writing my memoir. And that is what has been giving my life meaning and purpose ever since.

hearts-illustrate-love-love-on-paper-paper-pen-Favim.com-63379

Then this weekend, I read an article from the January 19, 2015 New York Times titled, “Writing Your Way to Happiness.” Researchers were studying whether the power of writing–and then re-writing–your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness. They found that writing about yourself and your personal experiences can improve your mood, reduce symptoms in cancer patients, improve health after a heart attack, and boost memory.

They attribute the vast benefits of “expressive writing” to the fact that our inner voice doesn’t always get our personal narrative right giving us a faulty view of the world that can damage our health. Through writing, we can reflect on our lives and edit our narratives.

James Doty, M.D.

James Doty, M.D.

Just last night, I listened to a Krista Tippett interview with James Doty, a brain surgeon at Stanford University on her podcast, On Being. Dr. Doty is the founding director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

Into the Magic Shop

His memoir is one I need to add to my reading list: Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart. Among a host of other things in his fascinating interview with Krista, Dr. Doty spoke about Heartbreak Syndrome.

 

In the process of writing my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace and reflecting on the painful struggle I went through for years, my narrative changed. When I first began trying to write it in 1999, I saw myself as a victim of circumstances. In 2012 that began to change. These words emerged from my pen while writing in my journal, “Thank God for my pain…it transformed me, broke me open, awakened me to grace, infused me with trust in the inherent goodness and wisdom of life.”

Writing a memoir is not for everyone, but whatever form reflecting on your story takes, awakening to a new, more honest assessment of your life can be a healing and transforming process. It has been for me. My faulty inner voice told me for years that there was something seriously wrong with me and that is why my life was so painful. During times of stress, that message still tries to take hold. But in writing my story, compassion for myself arose as well as admiration for the strength I’d gained.

The editing process is bringing even more fruits. Seeing myself through my amazing editor’s eyes, I am finally, even though a little timidly, claiming the intelligent, insightful, compassionate, passionate, persistent, and astonishing woman I truly am.

And now I’m being rewarded with a healthier heart as well. I am in awe and need I say, full of gratitude.

Grunge_heart

2015 Reflections ~ 2016 Intentions

Elijah House

Elijah House

For me, 2015 started at Thanksgiving 2014. As was often true for me during the holidays, I was focused on what was missing in my life and feeling depressed. I was stuck in the writing of my memoir and felt the need for guidance. I thought time away might give me the direction I needed. And so I made arrangements for a silent retreat in Elijah House, a cottage in the woods at the Transfiguration Center of Spiritual Renewal near West Milton, Ohio. Last year on New Years Day, I wrote about the still, small voice of the Divine within giving me what I hoped for that weekend–clear guidance for how to write and deepen my memoir to serve a higher purpose. I set my 2015 intention to increase my awareness of the light of grace in the midst of life’s messiness.

Well, 2015 was certainly a grace-filled, messy year. My condo was no longer serving me and in January the way opened for me to move. The end of April I put it up for sale. At the same time, I found an editor for my memoir. I’d been impressed with some of her online comments about the way she works, and when I read, “I want my clients to know I’m their biggest cheerleader and greatest fan,” I knew she was the editor for me.

Cheerleader

The condo selling/home searching process was messy. I continued to work on my memoir while my condo didn’t sell and properties I liked did. My faithful friends assured me the right place for me wasn’t available yet and when it was, my condo would sell. They were right. In August, a buyer appeared and I found the perfect home for me.

The middle of September, I sent my manuscript to my editor. I told her I wasn’t in a hurry for her feedback because I’d be busy with moving. As my focus switched from writing to rehabbing my home, I convinced myself my memoir wasn’t that good and would probably never be published. I decided to be grateful for the transformation I experienced in writing it and for the healing in my relationship with my daughter. If all the work I put into it came to nothing more, that was a lot for which to be thankful.

On October 5, I took possession of the house and began the rehab process. On October 15, I moved in. By Thanksgiving I was settled enough to host a family dinner. Being in a house with a meditation room overlooking a woods and a creek gives me much joy.

Sun on trees

On November 29, I received my editor’s first comments. When I saw it drop into my inbox, I started shaking. I did a few things around the house to work up the courage to read it. I’d been discouraged by critical feedback in the past and braced myself to face the fact that I just wasn’t cut out to be a memoir writer. Oh, ye of little trust.

I headed for the recliner in my meditation room to read her four pages of comments. While most pointed to what needed revising, my confidence was bolstered by these words: “Part I, in particular, will need reworking to bring it to the quality of the rest of the manuscript.”

She went on: “…your manuscript is eminently publishable and quite astonishing. It is more intelligently written, more thoughtful, and more reflective than many memoirs I’ve read…”

I sat there stunned and thinking: she sees me very differently than I see myself. This woman from Wyoming who I’ve never met in person or talked with on the phone had seen into my soul.Full Circle

Judy brought me full circle, validating the message I received at my silent retreat about the deeper message in my memoir and the way I was to write it. In our further correspondence, she continues to change my perception of myself. And I am definitely experiencing her as my biggest cheerleader and greatest fan. Grace brought us together.

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” ~Corrie ten Boom

And so, at the end of 2015, I stand in awe at the light of grace. As my memoir attests, my awakening has been a long one and is a process of reawakening and reawakening.

And my intention for 2016: Increase my trust in the light of the Divine within me and all of us. Be faithful to my part in co-creating a better world by risking revealing my messy true self–the one I write about in A Long Awakening to Grace.

When we’re willing to be imperfect and real, the gifts of courage, compassion, and connection just keep giving. Paraphrased from Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.

Why Do I Write a Blog?

The Mastermind Group to which I belong met yesterday. Two of us write blogs and part of our goal is to increase our readership. At the end of our meeting, one member asked, “Why do you write a blog? What is your purpose?” She looked at me and added, “I can see that you do it to generate interest in your memoir.”

soulcircle

Image found here: https://womenwhorunwiththewolvesblog. wordpress.com/

Yes, I draw attention to my forthcoming memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace, and hope others will be interested in reading it. I experience my compulsion to write and share my story as a Divine calling–something planted in my soul. My intention in sharing my story of growing spiritually while facing overwhelming obstacles is to inspire others and contribute to the betterment of the world.

Following this leading has already led to healing between my daughter and me–the betterment and enlargement of our world. Examining and reflecting on my motivations and feelings at different stages of my life helped me to understand and accept myself at a deeper level. It brought me closer to The Divine. For all that, I am eternally grateful. As I noted in my last post, if writing my story does nothing else, it has accomplished a lot.

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But why do I write my blog? Writers are often asked why we write. My Mastermind Partner’s question invited me to articulate my heartfelt intention beyond promoting my memoir. I write and share my writing to continue my process of growing spiritually. Writing letters to The Divine in my journal has long been a form of prayer for me. At times, wisdom from deep within or beyond emerges from my pen, taking me a step further on my spiritual journey.

But writing in my journal is a private activity. Writing a blog exposes my messy growing process. The perfectionist in me would like to keep that to myself. But hiding only keeps me stuck and isolated. When I share and others can relate, I don’t feel so alone. Connecting with kindred spirits on the path of awakening and evolving into our highest selves is vital for remaining faithful to this call of The Divine.

http://earthsky.org/ Photo taken by CB Devgun from India

http://earthsky.org/
Photo taken by CB Devgun from India

Mary Jo, a kindred spirit from the Story Circle Network, gave me a gift in her comment to my last post, Doorway to the Divine. She said, “This is such a profound, and in my opinion, the deepest and finest level of communication one can share with another. My heart swells with joy for you and your daughter. Yours is one of the best, if not the best posting, I’ve read this year and probably beyond. To truly hear and be heard…what if we could all do that for each other.”

Mary Jo’s genuine appreciation validates that I’m on the right track. I am bolstered in my intention to continue exposing  my messy process. This diehard perfectionist might just learn to enjoy the mess. Now wouldn’t that be a miracle.

Doorway to the Divine

The whole universe and all events are sacred (doorways to the divine) for those who know how to see. In other words, everything that happens is potentially sacred if you allow it to be. ~Richard Rohr

I mentioned in my last post that one of the readers of my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace, challenged me to dig deeper into my story. In the process of excavating, I invited my forty-four-year-old daughter to have a talk with me.

When I trained in Imago Relationship Therapy, we learned a valuable listening skill called “The Intentional Dialogue.” We were taught to leave our own world behind, our perceptions, thoughts, and feelings, in order to enter and be present to the world of another. Listening deeply in this way gives us an opportunity to understand the other person at the level of their soul. It can be quite revealing. I decided to use this skill during our talk, which proved to be a “doorway to the divine.”

ml1gNuu

After taking our places in my living room, I began, “I’d like you to tell me what it was like for you as a child having me for a mother.”

Being in my daughter’s world was heartbreaking as I listened to the depth of her anguish–sacred moments of truth telling. And then her magnanimous soul emerged. She gave me an unanticipated gift of grace–understanding and forgiveness.

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.     ~Paul Boese

My daughter received an empathetic response from me as I validated her reality. I received her understanding and forgiveness, thus allowing me to forgive myself. Our future is enlarged. If my memoir does nothing else, the writing has proved to be healing for both of us. And that is a lot! I am filled with awe and gratitude.

Polishing

I have never thought of  myself as a good writer.
But I’m one of the world’s great re-writers.

James A. Michener

Michener’s book, The Source, is one of my all-time favorites.
 
And Steve Berry seems to have loved him as I did, giving a wonderful introduction to Michener’s life and writing in a new edition with a lovely new cover.
 
The Source
Michener’s quote caught my attention because I’ve spent the past 2 1/2 months polishing my memoir–twice. And that involved some re-writing as well.
 
The length of time it took surprised me. I spent several hours polishing each of thirty-one chapters on the first round. The second round took less time but still a fair chunk. And being so close to readiness to send it to my beta readers, I became obsessed and hardly moved out from behind my keyboard.
 
On Friday, April 10, I sent A Long Awakening to Grace: A Mother’s Journey to five fabulous people who agreed to read and give me feedback. This is a little like leaving your baby with a sitter for the first time. A bit unnerving, I’m surprisingly calm. I’ve done the best I can and am grateful for their willingness to help me make it better. And then I’ll be re-writing again.
 
Did you notice? I’ve added a subtitle since my last post. Feedback varied. One on-line writing friend said, “I think A Long Awakening to Grace is such a lovely title that no subtitle is needed.” I loved that feedback. This title was a gift from the Universe, so how could it not be lovely? 
 
Another made the following point. “…like your subtitle very much. Subtitles help to direct expectations, identify the ‘subgenre’ of the work, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. Yours helps.” So I’m adding the subtitle, A Mother’s Journey.
 
While I await my reader’s feedback, I’m grateful for Hemingway’s reminder:
 
We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.
Ernest Hemingway
 
 
 
 

COMMUNITY: Cincy Writing Group Wow’s Me

…the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which
the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.
Kurt Vonnegut
 
This is the second in my series on creating community. In this post, I’m featuring the Cincinnati Writing Group I was invited to join in 2010. Writing is such a solitary activity, it’s important to get together sometimes to break our isolation. 
Back row: Jennie, Kate, Lynn, Jean
Front row: Linda, Gary, Isabelle
 
Two years after semi-retirement, I had a cancer experience. The year before had been a tough one. Three members of my family died within seven months of each other. I read in O. Carl Simonton’s book, Getting Well Again, it’s not unusual to develop cancer after suffering a significant loss. Fortunately for me, I had a highly treatable form, lymphoma, and have been in remission for over five years. During the time of treatment, I kept my friends up-to-date on my progress through the Caring Bridge site.
 
Two of my friends were in a writing group that had been meeting for several years. A couple of their members  had moved away and they were looking for a couple more. One day I received an e-mail from Jean, “You’re a good writer. We’d like to invite you to join our writer’s group.”
They knew my friend, Kate, also a writer. When Kate heard about my invitation, she wanted to join, too. So, once a month, Kate and I head for Cincinnati, join the group, and usually have a bite to eat afterwards before heading back home to Dayton.
We are not a critique group. We choose a topic and the seven of us write a couple of pages and bring it to read to the group at our next meeting. It is amazing the diversity of approaches to our topics, ranging from humor to philosophy to poetry. We all write with a self-reflective component focusing on our spiritual growth. Some of our topics include:
Listening
Reflections on Aging
What my Soul Tells Me
What is my Element?
What’s Right about Me?
What Surprises Me about Myself?
Where am I Headed?
What Stops Me?
 
Since I’ve been nearing the end of writing my memoir, A Long Awakening to Grace, I’ve expressed a need for more feedback about my writing.  
 
Our Cincinnati group met last week Friday and I read my piece on our topic: What Christmas Means to Me in 2014. Immediately after I finished reading, the positive feedback began. What I heard is…
Your writing is really improving.
Your piece is coherent.
You took us on a journey with you.
Your theme is clear throughout.
You are really honest with yourself.
And when I mentioned not being able to write in the poetic way some authors do, Jean, who teaches memoir added, “I think your piece is poetic.” 
 
Wow!! As you can imagine, this feedback brought a smile to my face. It gives me hope that my story, which I know is a compelling one, is written well. The workshops and classes I’ve been taking are reaping rewards. 
 
It gives me great pleasure to be learning new skills in retirement and to consider myself a life-long learner.
I’d love to hear from you:
How do your communities put a smile on your face?
What is a new area of learning in your life?
 
 

Memoirs That Inspire Me: Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin

Writers are encouraged to read widely in the genre in which they are writing. As a result, I have been reading and listening to a lot of memoirs. It only recently occurred to me to share the bounty with you.

When someone has the courage to allow their life to be guided by their authentic spirit within, I am inspired. That is especially true when everything in their external life tells them they should be someone else.

 
Confessions of a Latter Day Virgin

Confessions of a Latter-Day Virgin
Nicole Hardy

Nicole Hardy’s memoir is funny and thoughtful as she allows us into her most intimate struggles with remaining faithful to her desire to be a writer and not the homemaker, wife, and mother that is supposed to lead to her eternal reward. As a single Mormon, she risks separation from all she holds dear to be true to herself and live a full life that includes expressing herself physically as well as emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. 
 
Nicole Hardy

Nicole Hardy

Inspired by a professor in her MFA program, “Write what you fear,” Nicole wrote about her struggles with celibacy and read to a writer’s group of mostly strangers. They received her with great enthusiasm and encouraged her to send her essay to Daniel Jones, the New York Times editor of the Modern Love column. He found her essay, “Single, Female, Mormon, Alone” intriguing and published it. It was chosen as “notable” in 2012’s Best American Essays.
Most touching for me was the way her parents struggled to understand and accept their free-thinking daughter’s choices while never withdrawing their love for her, finally realizing the gift she had given to others in their faith by being her authentic self. Without knowing it, Nicole gave voice to the struggles of many Mormons, opening dialogue between parents and children and the church-at-large, creating the possibility of finding a better way of nurturing the singles in their midst.
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