Where in the World Have You Been?

Good question!

I definitely have been absent from my blog, but lots has been happening.

I survived the end of the school year, and drove off to Maine the following day for a writing retreat and workshop with dear friends. This gathering is an annual ritual that marks the transition from my day job to my heart job, writing! Each year our little band of writers invites a mentor to join us and guide us in seeing our manuscripts in new ways. We have worked with some fabulous folks over the years including Laura Ruby, Louise Hawes, Clare Vanderpool, and this year, Sarah Aronson. It is always such a treat to gather around the old farm table in the kitchen, or on the breezy porch by the bay, or to scoot the chairs and couches of the great room into a welcoming oval, and delve into the days’ manuscripts. We laugh, we cry, we inspire each other. We have built the kind of rapport and trust many writers only dream of in a critique group. I think each mentor who joins us soon feels like part of the tribe. We are blessed.

Sarah Aronson and Tessa Elwood talk writing Photo credit: Cathy Lentes



After a fabulous and inspiring week, I extended my stay just a bit, staying with a good friend from the group who lives nearby. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who had trouble saying goodbye to Maine, as we caught up with a few of them in Bar Harbor where Michelle Houts, one of our crew, was signing books.

Michelle Houts, Ann Mack, Sally Stanton, and Cathy Lentes together again in Bar Harbor Photo credit: Maggie Houts



It’s pretty easy to feel supported and motivated when I have this great group of writers in my life, especially when we are all together, and the help I need, the listening ear, the new perspective may be as close as the chair, or room, next to me. But now I’m home, and I’m happy to be, but it will be harder to keep things moving forward. Today, for example, I spent the morning taking down my old mailbox, and trying to put up a new one. Just like with writing, there were setbacks (and a nasty blister. I’ll spare you the picture of that one!) and it would have been lovely to ask a friend for help with the task. Writing can be a lonely job (as can home repair), and I need to remember that I don’t have to do it all myself. Though my Mainely Writing friends are scattered across the country, they are only a text, or email, or Facebook post away when I need them for writing support.

The 2017 Mainely Writers Photo credit: Helpful waitress at Seng Thai Restaurant (Belfast, Maine)



Do you have a creative tribe you can call on when needed? If not, it’s time to start gathering. Find your people!

And let me know if you find someone who is good at installing mailboxes…


Speak up:



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Us, Them, They, and Other when We are All an I

I wanted to write this post yesterday, but events and emotions kept me from the page. I woke to this image outside my bedroom window. Inspired and uplifted, I felt ready to write. 

But then the day happened. And as torrential storms threatened from the west, an internal storm overwhelmed from within. Part of it was that one of US was missing. And part of it was that one of THEM had done something that upset me very much.

There’s been a lot of that going around lately. Us, them, they, the other garnering blame for whatever happens to be going wrong. I guess it’s part of human nature as it seems to have gone on since the beginning of time based on what we know from anthropology, history, and sacred stories. It doesn’t make it right, though it may be easy.

I attended a conference recently full of inspired and inspiring writers from across the country and globe. There was much talk of politics, and diversity, and freedom of speech. All of the sessions except one left me full of hope. But one left me feeling a little sick because of what I heard two writers say.

“I don’t want THOSE people to read my books. I’m not writing for THEM.”

“White women abandoned us.”

Back home, at the grocery store, the lines were long and open registers few. I was disgruntled, but resigned to waiting. As I looked around, other women were standing with loaded carts, some trying to corral antsy children. If our eyes met, we exchanged brief, knowing smiles. WE did not fuss. But a man, a white man, in front of me, standing with his wife, began to throw a fit, increasingly loud and embarrassing. Of course, it did not open lines. It only made those of us standing in them feel uncomfortable.

My immediate reaction, other than feeling immensely sorry for his wife, was to think MEN! They have never had to wait for anything. Entitled. Complaining toddlers in long pants.

And then I remembered  what I had heard at the conference and how upsetting it had been.

THIS man had trouble waiting. Not all men. Not all white men. This man.

Just as not all white women abandoned women of color in the last election.

Just as the THEM included in the people who the author said she didn’t want to read her books most likely look very much like the people where I live.

If you happen to follow conversations in the world of Children’s Literature, you, no doubt, have heard the idea of books serving as mirrors and as windows. Mirrors to learn more about people like you, and windows through which to look out and learn about people who may seem quite different from you. The idea being that all readers need to learn more about their identity, but also to broaden perspectives by learning about those outside of personal experience. In our current political climate, this seems increasingly important.

I’m trying very hard, as an individual, to catch myself when I automatically lump people into a category, because I don’t want others to put me in a particular basket just because of where I live, the color of my skin, or my beliefs. Each of us is an I. We may have things in common. We most certainly have differences. We each have preferred tribes. But judge me as an individual. I will do the same for you.

In her essay collection, Words Are My Matter, Ursula K. Le Guin says, ” No matter how humble the spirit it’s offered in, a sermon is an act of aggression.”

I’m increasingly tired of aggression. And I don’t mean to preach. But, we have to learn to listen to each other, to truly see each other, to follow the Golden Rule, and to live a religion of kindness. It’s not about THEM. It’s not about US.

Who do you see when you look in the mirror?

How clean are the windows though which you see the world?

It may just be that all of us could afford to scrub a little harder to make things shine.




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Creating Intentions vs. Resolutions

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish in 2017. It’s probably something most of us have been doing, making those tricky resolutions, hoping against hope, that this will be the year we finally “get it together.” But if I’ve learned anything in my years on earth, it’s to know when it’s time to reflect, and when it’s time to jump in.

My little dog, Charlotte, is a good example of this strategy. She’s had a challenging life. I don’t know how old she is. I only know how many years it’s been since someone dropped her off at the bottom of my hill, scared, hungry, and most likely wondering where her puppies were as she appeared to have recently had a litter. She’s still timid, hates men in pick-up trucks, and approaches each offering with a look around to see what might be sneaking up behind her, but when she feels safe and happy, she runs! Great loops around the house, jumping over obstacles, a flash of furred joy.

I’ve had some troubling times too. We all have, but that shouldn’t shut us down. Pause, learn, be patient with yourself. As Mary Oliver says in her poem, Wild Geese,

“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

I love words, and nature. I love being alone, and making connections. I love sharing what I find along the way, what I learn to be true. One thing I’ve learned is about the power of intentions as opposed to resolutions. When I hear the word resolved, my mind spins to the movie National Treasure and Nicholas Cage’s character, Ben Gates, making the leap from colonial clues found on a pipe stem in a frozen ship to a treasure map hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence. “It was firm. It was adamant. It was resolved.”

My leaps of faith tend not to be quite that grand, or dangerous. Nor are my resolutions, my intentions, nation-building worthy, yet that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. To me, who I want to be, and what I want to achieve, means the world.

So for 2017, I set these intentions. Not resolutions. Intentions. Though I will put effort and time in to following through with these intentions, I am not adamant. I am not firm. My intentions may change as I change and grow this year. That’s okay. If I need to reflect, and set new intentions I will. But for now, these are my guide. I like the idea of a guide, much better than  boulders of resolution hanging over my head ready to fall with the next storm. And we all know there will be storms in 2017.

My intentions:

  • Write one poem per day or five per week
  • Write one blog post per month
  • Submit my work two times per month
  • Meditate five times a week
  • Exercise two times a week

What are your intentions for 2017?

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