Monday, May 23, 2016

Even A "Boring Childhood" Yields Nuggets of Gold







I didn’t write much – if at all – about my childhood in my memoirs. My childhood seemed inconsequential and uneventful.

No Kill a Mockingbird or Adventures of Huckleberry Finn childhood for me. No abuse or divorce, or civil rights’ quests . . . just rhubarb stew bubbling on the stovetop in summer, winters sledding on neighborhood hillsides and a dog named Lucky.

Writing about those growing up years as I have begun to do offers this insight: I became a writer because of that ordinary life, alone in my bedroom imagining a magical world waiting outside the solitude of suburbia.

Writing prompt: Write about your childhood starting with this line: "What I really want to say . . ."


What I really want to say is that loneliness has been with me as long as I can remember. My July birthday is a quiet affair. All the families are away at the New Jersey Shore or Pocono mountains. The plastic inflated swimming pool filled with icy water from the hose offered relief from the heat and humidity. I see myself in the pool wearing my blue and white checked bathing suit with strings that tie behind my neck.

Lucky, a mix of spaniel and terrier, is by my side. A vanilla cake, a few presents, one friend and the sound of humming cicadas set the scene. The purple and pink Rose of Sharon bush by the side of our house blooms on my birthday, July 11. Dad calls it “Susie’s Rose of Sharon,” as though this is celebration enough.

The sound of my childhood is a small glass wind chime bought on the boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey. I tie the wind chime to my bedroom window catch and the soft breezes of summer and the cooler winds of autumn lift the thin rectangular glass panes. The tinkle perfectly captures a sense of possibility that the world outside my window holds  romance, a child’s imagination spurred on by fairy tales of women who found happily-ever-after in a devoted Prince Charming. How was I to know that my prince would die long before I, leaving me with a tangle of thorns, bittersweet memories and an eye evermore scanning the horizon for storm clouds?

A sledding party.
On a bookshelf in my bedroom, I display my china horses: a palomino, a black horse and a little brown pony with a beaded saddle and a tuft of white furry mane purchased in a  tacky boardwalk shop in Ocean City where everything is made in Japan.

Horses, wind chimes and the Nancy Drew mysteries fill my quiet child’s world.

Those years remind me of a way of life long gone now, one I value the older I get for its utter simplicity, at least on the surface. Barbecues, kickball, hopscotch and sledding on neighborhood hillsides.

I walked to my elementary school along tree-lined sidewalks, past stone houses with big chimneys, tucked behind ancient arborvitae and oak trees. My pale brown hair pulled back in a barrette, I remember thinking I wasn't very pretty. "Pretty" was a word for the girls with the thick hair and upturned noses; not me, skinny and gangly, already the tallest girl in the class.  Maybe then I began to build a shell to protect myself, not let other people see I cared. . . .

Pennsylvania is, if nothing else, a place where trees, flowers and plants flourish. Monkey vines in the woods behind our house, black snakes and turtles in the creek - before development stripped every acre for profit - formed the woodsy montage of my childhood in the 1950s.

I dug gobs of gray clay from the creek banks and molded them into little people with rounded balls for heads and torsos; squiggly, wormlike arms and legs. I dried my little people on newspaper in the sun, there in my own outdoor arts and crafts workshop until Mother called me in for lunch.

In second grade, our teacher Miss Stafford talked about leaves – a second grader's introduction to photosynthesis. A shy child, I heard myself tell the class we had a red sugar maple in our backyard and before I knew it, sixteen or so second graders followed our teacher’s lead from Strafford Elementary, walking the sidewalks to my backyard where a perfect turquoise sky framed the tree. We gathered gold and crimson leaves, took them back to school and fashioned clay ashtrays in the shape of those leaves. Mine looked like a mitten. I stained it bright aquamarine before firing it up in the kiln. My father kept that ashtray in his den by his books for years. I wish I'd saved it. But even then I thought it ugly, not very good.

So you see? Even in a boring childhood, the "takeaways" exist, a map to the unknown, a memory here and there sparked by a thought or two. Who knows where it might lead?

What about you? Can you share a childhood memory or how it sparked your writing?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Viewing Life Through the Lens of Fantasy Fiction


In the Women's Writing Circle we explore many writing styles and share our stories through a variety of genres. If there's one thing we have in common, it's how writing offers an exploration of those things that most capture our imaginations, our pain, our joys, our self-discoveries and the human condition.

In this guest essay Women's Writing Circle member and fantasy fiction author Helen Hieble shares her love for the fantasy genre, explains what it is and how it offers the writer a unique melding of magical worlds with aspects of real life.  ~ Susan


I'm twenty-six years old and I've been writing for as long as I can remember. I've always loved fantasy stories. So, I guess it's no surprise that I write mostly fantasy fiction.

As a writer of fantasy, one thing I often hear is, "I don't usually read fantasy so I don't know much about it."

So, what is fantasy fiction? There are many types and sub-genres of fantasy, but the basic definition: Fiction that contains magic and supernatural elements as a main point of the story. Stories often take place in worlds created by the author. Magical beings and fantastic creatures such as unicorns, dragons, and many others, are not only possible, they are a part of life. 
          
Fantasy novels offer a broad range of characters and settings and stories to tell. Characters can be men or women, they can be adults or teenagers or even children. There are fantasy novels written for people of all ages by people of all ages.

Characters can be any race from human beings like you and me, to vampires and werewolves, to fairies or mermaids, or even dragons. Or people who turn into dragons. Or dragons who turn into people!

It's just so much fun to think about what life would be like if I could actually go into one of these magical worlds. Wouldn't it be fun to be able to fly? Or see a unicorn? Or use magic?

I can imagine visiting another world and experiencing these things. I love writing fantasy because I can create another world and fill it with characters who, in my place, can experience these things for me.

Stories can take place in a fantasized version of the European Middle Ages, such as in the The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Or a stylized version of the Oriental feudal era in Alison Goodman's Eon and Eona.

They might be set in a real town in the real world in the past, or modern day. One example of a fantasy series in this setting is the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer.

They might also take place in a fictionalized town set in the modern day, real world like the town of Mystic Falls, Virginia in L.J. Smith's young adult series The Vampire Diaries . . . or in a world created by the author in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy or Terry Goodkind's The Sword of Truth series. And sometimes in multiple worlds as in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling or in Frewin Jones', The Faerie Path.

Another question I'm asked, "Why do you like fantasy so much?" I haven't always had a clear understanding of why. As a child, I never put much (or any) thought into why I liked something. I just liked it. But as I grew older, I began to identify with the characters. And while I knew that many of the things my favorite characters went through were things that I would never have to deal with exactly - such as fighting and defeating monsters - I also knew I would deal with difficulties in my life.

The heroes and heroines of my favorite stories, despite the many hardships, trials and tribulations always find a way to persevere in the end, usually with the help of friends, family and teammates.

The characters in the books I read as a teenager and the books I still read today, inspire me and give me hope for the future. They help me to believe that things will always work out and that with hard work and the help of your allies, you can do anything.

Please join in the conversation and share your thoughts and questions with Helen about fantasy fiction or how stories spur imagination and offer insight into our own life journeys.


Helen Hieble  lives in Wayne Pennsylvania. She has been writing short stories in the fantasy genre for over ten years and has self-published one fantasy-romance novella, The Wizard of Hirodenal. She has also written a journal, My Favorite Things: A Journal to Record Your Favorites, From Anime to Video Games.  Helen runs a copyediting and writing service: www.writefromtheheartservices.com.  Her author website is www.thewizardofhirodenal.com. In her free time when she is not writing, Helen enjoys listening to music, playing video games, and watching anime. She is currently working on her next novella.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

With Time Comes Understanding My Mother's Life


My mother used to say, “A woman president? What a terrible idea!” My mother felt men held more sway, their opinions carried more weight. I suspect, although can’t be certain, she would have applied the ‘b’ word to Hillary.

“I prefer the company of men to women,” she often said.

My mother didn’t choose the moment in history in which she had been born. And with time comes more understanding of my mother and her life.

With a cloud of dark hair cascading around her shoulders, large expressive brown eyes, and a slender figure that enhanced stylish dresses, Gertrude graduated at age sixteen from Germantown High School in Philadelphia. She met the boy next door – actually across the street. Dad courted her while he lived at home with his mother and attended the University of Pennsylvania. Following a two-year engagement, she became – at the age of twenty-three – his bride. Despite a fractious marriage punctuated by her husband's infidelity in midlife, she never took off the delicate silver wedding band my father slipped on her finger that June day in 1940.

At Christmas she sat down at the piano and played, “Oh Tannenbaum,” warbling in a soprano voice that wavered on the high notes. “I am proud to be German,” she announced afterwards, finishing off with a flourish of chords.

I remember the night Mother came home drunk from a party. My father looked at me. “I think your mother is out for the night.” Then he went upstairs.

I watched her dance around the living room like Isadora Duncan, hands fluttering in time to a melody only she could hear. Finally, she flopped down on the living room sofa and passed out in turquoise silk high heels and long raccoon coat, a rhinestone bracelet glinting on her thin wrist.

An insecure and anxious girl - a confession she readily made - her innocence found a connection with animals. Her first dog, a black cocker spaniel my father bought her when they were newlyweds named Charkie (short for Charcoal), vanished one afternoon shortly after my brother, Andy, was born. Mother believed Charkie had been stolen for medical research. The disappearance of her dog broke her fragile heart. A photograph of her in tweed winter coat with huge padded shoulders, her “baby" dog snuggled in her arms remained on her bedroom dresser for years, a symbol to me of love, loyalty and incurable sentimentality.

Mother demanded being the center of attention, especially with men. Men were the currency of self-worth. One night when I was about sixteen, she sat on the lap of her best friend’s husband and stroked his cheek, giggling, “Now Jack, what is that I feel pressing against my thigh. You bad boy!”

“Aw, Gerrude,” Jack said slurring out the ‘t’. His stubby hand held a cigarette and a tumbler of whiskey. “Why don’t you and I head upstairs?”

“Jack,” Mother chided in mock horror. “Maryann would never talk to me again.”

“Gertrude, you can have him. With pleasure,” Maryann said, slurring her words a bit and lighting another cigarette, her black Standard poodle Monsieur sprawled at her feet.

I wanted to crawl under a table and disappear. While his wife shamelessly flirted with another man, Dad remained his usual refrained, unruffled self. Dad had married a diva, a drama queen and he made the best of it. I’m sure he also knew Mother would never carry through with Jack. Years later when I caught myself flirting with a man while my husband sat in the room, I caught my breath.

Maryann was Mother’s best friend. The friendship revolved around a daily weekday morning phone conversation about hair appointments, cleaning house and gossip at the school where both their husbands worked.

“Maryann is so bored she’s dusting and vacuuming again,” Mother would tell my father after hanging up.

As she aged, the harder it got to manufacture dreams of happily-ever-after or foresee where it all went from here. Days revolved around bargain hunting at grocery stores, and Mother resorted to whatever means she could to be acknowledged.

The lovely brunette cut and dyed her hair a bright ash blond, flirted with the pharmacist who filled her prescription for anti-depressants and the butcher with the blood-stained apron who brought her the juiciest tenderloin steaks. A small, but meaningful triumph!


She adored my husband. “John is a doll,” she often said, as if I didn’t know this already. “And so talented,” she enthused because, unlike Dad, John knew how to cut a sheet of drywall, fix a broken fence. John redid their small family room in light wood paneling, replacing the “dark dreary,” paneling Mother hated.

Depression set in hard that even a small job at the local gift shop couldn't derail. The lunchtime port wines, long afternoon naps and two-hour cocktail hours took their toll . . . offered temporary escape from high anxiety.

When John danced with her on her 50th wedding anniversary and said, “Mom, you’re beautiful, I love you,” she literally bloomed in his arms.

My mother always had my lunches packed for school and fresh flowers on the table. The older I got, the more she said, "I love you, Susie. You're a good daughter."

And the older I get, the more I say, "Thank you, Mom. I love you. I understand."

How about you? Do you remember those moments  . . . the ties that bind you and your mother?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Silencing the 'Whispers' That Hobble Women's Writing

I spend quite a bit of time editing women's memoirs. For the last two months I've critiqued and revised many short stories for our upcoming anthology Life Unexpected. In some of the pieces I'm struck by the timidity and tentativeness.

What do I hear 'whispered' between the lines that obscure the true narrative?

Who can I trust? What might I anticipate if someone recognizes themselves in my story? How much of myself should I reveal?

Silencing the whispers of doubt and judgment - whether our own or others - works its magic. I like to think that a positive attitude about myself and my work makes me eager in the morning to sip that first hot cup of coffee and take a risk with my writing.

I enjoy writing about the woman alone without a husband, boyfriend, a voyager of her own obstacles, journey and self-worth. A woman who sets her sights on the bigger picture and isn't dragged down by the footnotes of life.

In a recent article in the New York Times, "Jodie Foster Is Still Afraid of Failure," the two-time Oscar winner for The Accused and The Silence of the Lambs talks about her challenges and insecurities:
“If Mother Teresa is propelled to do good works because she believes in God, I am propelled to do good works because of how bad I feel about myself. It’s the first place I go. ‘Oh, what did I do wrong?'" Foster said.
Foster, whose trademark in the movies has been playing strong women, says she finds herself trapped between the quest for perfection coupled with the fear of failure.

Her mother told her that playing Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs was the "boring" role. Why take it, she asked her daughter?

At one point in her career, Foster had to silence her mother's criticisms. She didn't speak to her mother for over four months in order to honor her own voice. (Clarice, as portrayed by Foster, was ranked the 6th greatest protagonist in film history by the American Film Institute.)

As feminist author Joanna Russ writes in  How to Suppress Women's Writing, women's memoir has always been denigrated as "confessionals" by "literati" of the male establishment. Cultural messages try to obliterate and undermine the female experience.

Women telling the "raw truth" are subjected to the stereotype of the female artist as "personally unlovable, precocious and unbecoming."

"Critics would have us believe that confessional literature is so personal in its content ... it has no value as literature," Russ writes.









As I write this blog post, sipping my first hot cup of coffee on a Monday morning, I am enjoying the process. I wonder how it will be received?  I hope what I write strikes even a small chord of resonance. I know one thing . . . I want to keep writing and expressing myself. I want to keep reading your work, the poems, the memoirs . . . so many interesting and talented women who have a story to share. I want to silence those whispers.
.
Portions of this blog post excerpted from an earlier blog post titled "The Trust Factor"

How about you? What motivates you to write?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mother Of an Addict Finds Her Voice


In this beautiful essay Kathy Pooler shares finding her voice as both a woman and mother as she confronts a deeply personal challenge - a son who is addicted to alcohol and drugs. Her journey will be chronicled in a new memoir she has been writing, tentatively titled The Edge of Hope. Please welcome Kathy, a well-known memoir author and expert on the genre, back to the Women's Writing Circle.

“Remember, your child doesn’t need you to take them away from their journey towards discovering their light, they simply need to see your light shining as a reminder of their own along the way.” ~ Changing Lives Foundation

When I looked into his dark brown eyes, I couldn’t believe how blessed I was to have such a beautiful, healthy baby boy. In that moment when I fell in love with him, I envisioned the special part he would play in the world and the pride I would feel as his mom.

I held on to that vision through his childhood. My days were filled with picking caterpillars off his arm before he devoured them, helping him find his Match Box cars under the couch and cheering for him at T-ball, then Little League games. I loved being his mom.

Then when Brian turned fourteen our lives forever changed. I still remember that day I looked into his bloodshot eyes and realized I was looking into his father’s eyes—the eyes of an alcoholic.

My son is an addict. Before that realization I was just a regular mom, going through my days, wiping noses, packing lunches, arranging play dates. The first time I saw him drunk, my bright-eyed boy became a stranger. Before that day, his escalating erratic behavior and sudden outbursts of anger-- punching walls and slamming doors-- were harbingers of problems ahead. In that moment, he took my hopes and dreams for a healthy, successful life with him into his world of marijuana and beer.

Not only did I have to figure out who he was, I had to figure out who I was in the face of this new, horrifying reality. I was still his mom but I knew deep down, even though it was so early on, that I was also the mother of an addict.

I had to find my voice all over again.

I stumbled through many years, trying on different roles –-strict disciplinarian, angry, no-nonsense mom, worried mom--searching for the right voice to combat the terror and confusion of watching Brian sink deeper into his addiction. I held this false belief that I, as his mom, could and should control his behavior. I had him sign a contract with consequences –he couldn’t play on the baseball team if he kept drinking--which ended up a mere piece of paper. My lectures, tears and pleas fell on deaf ears. I dragged him to interventions, counseling, spent my savings on his treatment. (I would do it all over again despite his lack of readiness to acknowledge he had a problem.) I’m a mom. We do whatever it takes to help our children.

“Let go” is the cry of Alanon.  

How do you let go of a child? 

A mother’s heart beats for her child.

I had to learn that helping Brian was often more about my need to control his
disease than it was about helping him. I had to let go of the driving need to control his choice to drink and use marijuana and save him from his own consequences by doing for him what he could and should be doing for himself-- like paying his own court fees--so that he could find his own way in life. In letting go of my need to control, I did let go of him as much as any mother can let go of her child, but I never stopped saying those three words “I love you” and assuring him that I believed in his ability to recover.

And something magical happened when I started focusing on myself rather than just on him. We both got better! He had the space to find recovery in his own way. I backed off on asking probing questions every time we talked on the phone and, instead, let him know that I trusted in his ability to make the right decision. It was his choice. I visualized him doing well and sent him positive vibes rather than messages filled with hand-wringing angst; I stopped trying to track him down and let him come to me. In doing so, I released myself from the shackles of expectation and negativity. We were free to meet on new ground and over time we reestablished a healthy mother–son bond.

It’s because of him and the adversity we have both faced that I found my mother’s voice. It was there all along. I just needed to find myself first then claim and honor all I tried to do in good faith to help my son . . . and to honor him for the man he has become through his struggles. As Brian had choices to make, so did I.

What I have discovered as I approach my seventieth birthday and reflect on these years of heartache and worry . . . I never stopped loving Brian. I can hate the disease but I can still love my son. I can hold on to that vision I had all those years ago when I first held him in my arms and looked into his eyes. I saw my son’s future filled with hope and promise . . . my mother’s heart overflowing with the miracle of him.


Kathleen Pooler is an author and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner whose memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse, published on July 28, 2014 and work-in-progress sequel, The Edge of Hope (working title) are about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments: domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories. She lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York.
She blogs weekly at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog: http://krpooler.com

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Monday, April 18, 2016

My Dog Boosts My Writing and So Much More

Have you ever fallen in love with a dog? If so, no more needs be said. I know Lily is my best “girlfriend,” my walking buddy, my bedtime snuggle bunny. With that special cock of her head and soulful stare, Lily understands my moods . . .our routines mesh into one.

Having a dog offers this writer a spark to her creative muse. It was because of Lily, I wrote this during my 2016 winter writing retreat in Tucson, Arizona.
As I began my solitary walk heading toward the Rillito riverbank, I saw a woman wearing white peasant blouse and peach pedal pushers. She waved at me.

“Do you want your cards read?” A card table beneath a mesquite tree and a deck of tarot cards beckoned.

“How much?”

“Ten dollars."

A bargain for a divination of sorts.

“I have to get my wallet out of the car. I’ll be right back.”

When I return to her little table, she gestures to a folding canvas chair. “Sit down. Relax.”

"What do you want to know?" she asks. "It helps when reading the cards. I take reading the cards very seriously.” She has huge, light blue eyes.

I think for a moment. “Will I write another book? ”

"Ah, so you’re a writer. I am too. I’ve been working on a screenplay for years,” she confides. “I started out in LA, somehow ended up in Tucson, just me and my cat. Who would have thought?” she smiles.
I nod. Kindred spirits. This feels good. I shuffle the cards as instructed, split the deck into thirds and place each pile back into one. I draw the cards, hand them to her and she turns them face up on the table.

She studies them. “Yes, you are meant to write another book.  It is a very important book. One that has a deeply spiritual connection.”

Her certainty from random cards sets me aback. Seriously?
I tell her that I have already written that book – A Portrait of Love and Honor, a love story based on my late husband’s memoir. Publishing his memoir twenty-one years after his death had been the spiritual book she meant, yes?

She shakes her head. “No. Another book. I sense grief about you. A concern."

It is true. I have been worried about Lily. I left her behind in Pennsylvania where that very weekend a blizzard raged.  
As the warm dry wind off the Santa Catalina mountains blows wisps of mesquite branches across the Trader Joe’s parking lot, I hear myself telling this woman how my winter writing retreat has turned into a nightmare of worry about my dog. My son has not been spending much time with her. Could he get to my house in the snowstorm and make sure Lily wasn't alone?

“Lily offers me great solace and companionship,” I say.

“Animals are often our spirit guides. Perhaps she was sent to you as a way to say, all will be well."

I nod. I know instinctually what she means. “Maybe I need to write about that."

                                                                         ****

Lily and I share our days.
When the boyfriend comes over and she gets a little jealous and feisty and wants to play tug-of-war with her ratty old rope – it’s as if to say, “Look at me, you two! Let’s have fun together!”

And when he leaves, I'm delighted with our snuggle bunny time . . . Lily on the bed, me kissing ears, velvety soft snout, creamy white yellow lab paws, She adores me fawning all over her, “See? There’s no way he can compare to me.”

When I start dinner, I look at her. “I’ve gotta take off this bra.” She smiles. Well of course isn’t that our routine every night?

I unhook the damn thing, throw it on a dining room chair. Ah sweet comfort, sweet home. Just Lily and me.

Some might say I’m crazy talking to a dog all day . . . but there’s a lot of us who do the same thing. Pure unadulterated, unconditional love offers a perfect little brew of creativity. My dog boosts my writing, my special "memoir moments" and more.

How about you? Has your dog or cat offered up some writing prompts, a jumpstart to your muse? Do you have a story to share how a pet has gotten you to write a story?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Writing As a Participatory Process Invites the Reader In

Writers like to think of themselves as loners. They often work in isolation, exploring a private and personal journey in the quiet of a favorite room with a view. Some even refer to themselves as “anti-social.” They jokingly admit they’re in their own head too much.

But isn’t writing a participatory process? I believe it is which is why I love sharing work with others through small critique sessions, or beta reader groups, or in the read around that is the Women's Writing Circle. 


As the facilitator of a writing group I’ve gotten an up close and personal look at much of what stymies the writer  . . . that is, until she shares her work.

In our current project, Life Unexpected, an anthology of stories and poems with the title serving as our theme, we’ve broken into small online beta groups with an editor at the helm. The editor is primarily the organizer since the editor's own story for the book is also critiqued by the group. There’s a nice egalitarian aspect to this; communicating realizations, breaking down boundaries, and sharing, not just with friends and family, but fellow writers we've never met.

At our April Women’s Writing Circle critique session, we marveled at what transpires after we read aloud our work and the critiquer takes notes and offers suggestions to the author for improvement and clarity.

Here’s what we learned: Sometimes, we’re so close to our characters, (especially if it’s ourselves, or someone who played an instrumental role in our lives) we forget the simplest details.

  • What does he look like?
  • How old is he or she?
  • What motivates him or her?
  • Is backstory necessary (usually, the answer is a resounding yes!) and how can this be accomplished in a way that doesn’t unduly slow down the action or narrative?

    And while we’re talking about characters . . . It’s amazing how much more we offer the reader if we understand psychology – our own and others. I’ve written a post about this: The Writer As Amateur Psychologist.

This is where the digging deep comes in . . . the soul-searching . . .

It is the part where we realize we have a covenant with the reader. We present life through a “participatory lens” – letting the reader into a world redolent with universal themes and populated by a “cast of characters.”

We all know who they are. 

The man who would rule a woman through force of will or religious dogma; the ungrateful son who always expected his mother to put a meal on the table but does little for her in her old age; the poor and humble man whose way of life forces an entire community to re-examine its ideals and values.

As we share our work in a participatory process, we value the reader.

What makes us love a person? How can we love if we don’t understand ourselves? Why is a character angry? Who makes a difference and why?

At our Saturday Women's Writing Circle critique session, I felt the magic of the participatory process when I read my work. Comments I received . . .“I can identify with this . . . I, too, have felt this way” . . . makes the hard work of writing so very rewarding. A writer has brought the reader into the “circle” of her and her character's own life experience.

So this is a call to step out of the isolation of your head, read and share your work with others . . . even if it is in the fledgling or draft stages. Participating, sharing, breaking down the barriers through the written word is a gift.

What has your experience been when sharing your work?