A Path to Publication, part 2: When the time is right

“What do I really want to do?” I asked my journal.

“Finish your book!” it replied.

“Yes,” I exhaled in recognition of Truth. “I do want to do that.”

The Universe said, “OK, then!” And the Serendipities and Synchronicities began.

Within hours, two conferences popped up in my Facebook feed, one weekend-long one dedicated specifically to my genre, and another on writing pitches, queries, and book proposals — all those things that scared the bejeezus outta me — scheduled in my hometown. I sign up for both, thanks to the bigger-than-expected tax refund that came shortly thereafter.

I email some author and editor acquaintances of mine, asking for their advice. The responses are incredibly helpful.*

Then an opportunity for the summer suddenly presents itself which means I will only have myself to look after… no meals to prepare or piles of laundry to wade through. My editor OKs a sub for my columns for a few weeks. I have been given the precious gift of TIME.

At the first of the writing conferences I learn wonderful things* that give me new confidence in my ability to pursue publication. AND I learn there is a “Meet the Agents” event scheduled 90 minutes drive from me exactly at the end of the time-period I have scheduled to take off to work on the book.

One of my workshop participants said this yesterday:

Sometimes I feel like I’m just driving down a highway and I have no idea where I am or where I’m going. But then, suddenly, boom! there’s an exit and where I want to be is right there!

Well, I feel like I just found my exit. My journey is just started though but at least I know which way I’m going now. For that I am most grateful.

* In my next post I will share some of the gems I learned from authors and editors.

To read snippets of my memoir, click hereI will be adding more as this journey progresses.

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Trust the Process (pt 14): The finale (or the beginning)

credit: Robin Russell

credit: Robin Russell

Three years ago, almost to the day, I was sitting on a bed just like this one. Same ugly, motel-like comforter and surprisingly puffy pillows, the same blank off-white walls. But it’s not the same bed, it’s not the same room, and I’m not the same person.

On that day in 2010, I felt forlorn and petrified as I retired to my room for the first night of my graduate career. I had no idea what to expect from the night itself, from the week of residency, or from the coming semester. I scribbled in my journal as if my life depended on it as I tried to assimilate this huge life step I had taken.

But now, here tonight, it’s that “ahhh, bra finally off!” feeling; home again. Having checked off the “live with a roommate” life experience after that first semester, I have roomed alone for the past five residencies, three of them in this very room. It may not be the Hilton, but it’s mine, all mine, for a whole week. The door locks and I can sit here and write with the guarantee that no offspring will spring from somewhere asking for something. And I don’t have to cook or scrub a thing! This is has been my vacation week every six months for the past three years.

Of course, there was always plenty of work to be done: workshops to attend, mind maps to draw, outlines to plan, bibliographies to research, and deep thoughts to be thunk, all leading to that final ‘Submit’ of the Study Plan before heading home to begin the real work. The first night always held a double dose of excitement and apprehension of what the week had in store, as well as – I’ll admit – a (tiny) sprinkling of missing my family.

But tonight, the only thing I’m missing is the worry.

This weekend is about celebration. An acknowledgement of the work I have done over the past three years. And done well. I can pat myself on the back because it’s not braggadocio to admit that I have accomplished and I learned a lot. I worked hard. I did create a new me, after all!

This graduate process has been intense. It has been exhilarating, painful, overwhelming, mind-blowing, and life-changing. I discovered very quickly that what I thought I was going to do when I first walked onto this beautiful campus wasn’t what I needed to do. But once I got out of my own way and let the study and writing lead me where it wanted, magic happened.

So, tonight, while sitting on my crunchy dorm bed, I celebrate. I celebrate “Trusting the Process” because it works.* I celebrate me and the gift I gave to myself. I am a better writer, a stronger, more confident woman, and a more accepting-of-self mother. I am singing again and I can say with pride that I am a Storyteller. I found my voice in more ways than one.

Thank you, Goddard College and all the amazing people who were traveling their own journey along with me and who have been all part of my new learning. I will miss you dearly. Thank you for the ride of a life time! From the womb room I am reborn. I will now go forth into my new life.

*And still working! Ever since I began this work, I have used a rambling, unclear explanation of all the threads of learning I have connected throughout this process, which was always slightly changing as I discovered another piece of the puzzle. But! After working on my graduate presentation for this weekend, a concise statement of understanding of my entire thesis project FINALLY arrived while I was in the shower just yesterday morning.  Magic. It happens.

Read the entire 14-part “Trust the Process: The Goddard Chronicles” here.

When opportunity knocks… and hands you a gift

credit: Joanna Tebbs Young

Yesterday I received a card through the mail. Inside was a magnet that read: “When opportunity knocks don’t be the one who says, ‘Can somebody get that?'”

This gift was from Kay Adams, founder and director of the Center for Journal Therapy, and it represents a bigger gift which she gave me when she called out of the blue two weeks ago. And, ultimately, it turned out to be a far greater gift than I could have imagined.

Gift #1: Honor and Validation

Three days before the workshop was scheduled to begin, Kay called me to ask if I could substitute for her and teach “Writing Inner Wisdom: Spiritual Growth through Journal Writing” at Kripalu Yoga Center in Stockbridge, MA. Due to a family emergency she could not attend and wondered if I could take her place. What an honor! To be asked to teach in place of this brilliant woman, an inspirational and informative teacher, successful author, and compassionate counselor and facilitator was beyond any dream I had for myself. (However, I had dreamed of teaching at Kripalu, but as a possibility many years down the road…).  What validation of my own path!

Gift #2: A visit to Kripalu

I won’t go into the wonders of Kripalu here, that deserves a post all of its own (stay tuned). But suffice it to say: What a place! If the showers were hotter I might just go live there.

Gift #3: Connection

My weekend spent with 12 beautiful women, sitting in a circle, writing, listening, sharing, crying, laughing… connecting, was the gift I did not anticipate, but by far the most precious.  The serendipities and synchronicities that bought the 13 of us together in themselves were amazing (again, you’ll have to wait for that post) and I have no doubt that this weekend was given to me as part of my own journey of healing.

Gift #4: Belief

When Kay first called me, I couldn’t breathe as I choked on the deluge of inner critics screaming, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT! YOU’RE NOT CAPABLE!” But my Authentic Self knew I could. And Intuition knew this was the opportunity I had been (unknowingly) waiting for. I do believe that the passion and underlying self-belief in the work I do and the powerful benefits of this field has opened doors I didn’t know where there. So I answered the knock. Yes, I was afraid! Afraid of so many possible unknowns. But I didn’t say, “Can somebody get that?” And that was the gift I gave to myself.

Thank you, Kay, thank you, All. For a greater gift.

Prompt: It was a gift within a gift when…

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Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.
Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.


We plan. Life laughs.

Well, here we are. Five days into 2011 and I am finally getting to my computer. I had big plans. My goals for work, school, housework, and this blog were all spelled out in my January 1 journal entry. I had my running shoes on and I was just waiting for the starting gun, i.e. the roar of the school bus as it carried my eldest child away for 6 beautiful, peaceful hours. But first I had to pull myself out of bed, clothe and feed two bouncy children and get them out the door to drop the youngest off at pre-school. And that’s when my best-laid plans withered like the poor plants on my window sill.

Puffy-eyed, make-up challenged, and with my mop of hair mashed under my winter hat I said good morning to the too-awake teacher. As I hugged my son goodbye I heard her say, “Did you know you were scheduled to be parent helper this week?” I looked up to see which unprepared mother she was addressing and realized with horror it was me. “And you’re responsible for snack too.”

If I were in a cartoon I would have shook my head to clear my ears because surely I had not heard this correctly. I wasn’t scheduled again until spring. “No, Mrs. Young, it’s right here on the calendar that we gave you at the beginning of the semester. Young. See?”

So, after rushing off to get my eldest to school and then back home to raid the cupboard for a toddler-approved snack (for 15), gulp some coffee, and attempt to do something with my hair, I returned to pre-school, tail between legs, to observe dinosaur vs. race car war games, baby dress-up, circle time, and the nightmare of 15 four-year olds attempting to self-attire in snow-suit, coat, hat, glove and boots. Trying to find the positive in my sabotaged morning, all I came up with was, “One down, only two more mornings to go.”

Then I got sick. It felt like someone was smashing the back of my eyeball with a rock. I woke coughing in the night and my sinuses were goose-stepping behind my face. Then the kids got sick. Croupy coughs echoed around the house. I was going to have to call pre-school and tell them I couldn’t help. I felt guilty. But on a positive note it would be a nice, quiet day reading in bed while the kids lounged around recuperating.

Ha!

While I attempted to breathe through my nose they threw off their croup and began bouncing on the sofa, calling for drinks and snacks, pummeling each other, and asking why we can’t go out for lunch. After I croaked my way through two story books, I decided it was movie time. So, here I am. Finally in bed and all is quiet.

I had planned that my first post of the year would one of new positive thoughts for a new year – a fresh start. But life has a way of letting us know we have to roll with whatever is sent our way, be it involuntary volunteering, the croup, or a blizzard on your wedding day. I am searching for the positive in this delayed start to my new work/writing year… and it is that I got to read to my kids by the fire and I have the chance to write about my silly “misfortunes” while in my jammies and eating Christmas chocolate. The early evening sun is pouring through my window onto my bed. I would have been battling my way through the grocery store aisles on my “planned” day. I have to learn to slow down and take each moment as a blessing. It may not be the moment I had planned for but it is still a moment I have been given to be made the best of and thankful for.

Prompt: The positive in my latest “negative” is…

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Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.
Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.

Gratitude, even while leaning over the bowl

I believe in gratitude. I try to be thankful for everything, to find something to be thankful for even in the midst of a blitz of ugh. I won’t deny this is very hard for me. I love to complain. Love it! Too cold, too humid, too hungry, too tired, too poor, too, too, too. But I am practicing gratitude and practicing finding the positive. I’ll get good at it yet!

Being thankful for what you have now instead of being focused on what you haven’t got is a very healthy mindset. Being grateful for everyday’s little blessings does not mean you can’t dream of bigger and better, it just means being content in this moment, now. After all, our life is ultimately made up of minutes. What you do, think, and say during the minutes is your life. Constantly wishing for something else makes a mockery of what you have now. Thankfulness for what you have now opens the door for more to be thankful for in the future. Contentment in the moment brings happiness in the long run.

The last two days has found me holding one or other of my children while their poor little bodies convulsed to void themselves of illness. This has meant two days when I couldn’t be at my computer rambling away as usual. I had to pull my mommy-nurse hat firmly down over my ears and set to comforting my weakened children. I tried not to think about the two looming article deadlines or the last minute marketing I could/should be doing for a workshop starting this week. I tried to immerse myself in housework that I never have (never allow myself) time to take care of. I tried to live in the moment even while mopping vomit off Little Lady’s chin.

It was hard. My work kept sneaking up and taunting me. And I had moments of frustration when I tried to sit at my computer while Elmo occupied my offspring in the other room, only to be called upon for more water or a tissue.

But then I realized something. I am so blessed! I can be home with my children. I am not letting anyone down at the office or using sick days that I might need for myself at a later date. I am not shorting us a paycheck and I am not subjecting anyone else to my children’s germs. How wonderful that I can be here to hold a coughing child and bring him hot milk.

I am so grateful that Hubby and I made the decision to stick to our guns and pursue what matters to us. It was incredibly important to me to be here to see our children off to school in the morning, to be here when they come home in the afternoon, and to eat dinner together at night. Yes, my dream to write and teach writing was an extremely high priority also, but the fact that these priorities merge almost seamlessly is an amazing blessing.

I acknowledge – and do not in anyway demean – that others would not choose the same route as me. Their dream, their priorities, lie on a different path. I do not for one moment intend to imply that those mothers (or fathers) who have chosen, or have no choice but to work outside of the home, care one inkling less for their children. My point is this, and only this: Be thankful for your every moment, even when you spend a morning washing sick-bed sheets when you would much rather be wringing out words and phrases. Being thankful can change your attitude from frustrated to fulfilled.

Prompt: Even if you are not particularly content in your current situation, what ARE you thankful for?

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Jour du Journal: Two little words

…move from a negative to positive focus by acknowledging that a relationship with the sacred is still occurring daily and looking for the good in what is happening.

I don’t think I have read one book on writing, journaling or living a spiritual, authentic life that hasn’t urged me to express my gratitude. At one point in my 20s someone had given me a gorgeous little blank book. It was too small for my rambling journal entries so I decided to use it as a Gratitude Journal. Every night I wrote a list of 5 things for which I was thankful. One entry I remember was written on a steamy night in my second floor apartment. I thanked the universe for little, floaty nighties!

Christina Baldwin in Life’s Companion calls her entries A Blessing a Day:

Write a brief statement, choosing one thing you’ve noticed that you are willing to accept as a spiritual gift from the day. End the entry with the words Thank you.

She then goes a step further with this idea and asks her readers to also record A Gift to Day:

By adding the exercise of A Gift A Day… we we how abundant love is and how generous we can afford to be.

Write a  brief statement, choosing one thing you gave back to the world today that you are willing to acknowledge as your gift. End the entry with the words You’re Welcome.

If you do no other journaling than this one exercise, these two little phrases will enrich your life and the life of those you encounter.

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with these journal prompts. Feel free to leave a comment (anonymously if you prefer).