On Writing


“The days melted into each other like snowballs roasting in the sun…”

Virginia Woolf, Diary, 1918

I received this amazing book about Virginia Woolf’s life and I’ve been embracing the magic of opening it to a quote that will magically be exactly the quote I needed in that moment.

What I love about this quote is how perfectly it coincides with the still-some-seeds-inside-winter (snowballs) spring we’re experiencing here in Windsor. I’ve had to wear socks and shoes again, and button my coat to my throat when going for a brisk walk. Beltane arrived in the mouth of a grumpy, wet day…but not so wet that I stayed inside. On my walk, I gathered wild flowers for a Beltane ceremony.

Creating the Beltane flower cross is about setting intentions for the second-half of spring, for welcoming the rain and the power it gives to the earth for sowing our seeds. It’s also a time when the veil between us and our ancestors is thinned, so we can reach out to them with our hopeful intentions and pay attention to their signs and energies in response.

For me, my ancestors show up in birds (the lone cardinal was hopping in the branches of the white cherry blossom tree in the backyard…she looked like a burst of heart!), in feathers…the way a photo frame moves on its own, in specific times on the clock when the numbers all match and thoughts of someone settles in…in the way I went for a walk to gather wild flowers and there was one single, perfectly beautiful yellow tulip…waiting for me to be a part of the flower cross ceremony. (I walked by the place it grew for days…and the tulip was not there!)

When the sun is the queen of the sky and her warmth pushes down, I do feel like a roasting snowball. And I love it! I adore the deep heat, the weight of it in my bones. I’ve been experiencing some serious neck and cleavage sweat, but I don’t mind that either. (I am still on the prednisone and my swollen body continues to sweat a lot…I’m more shaped like a snowball now…) I love taking in the sun’s heat and telling it to burrow in my marrow for those gloomy days in February when it feels like Winter will never end…I close my eyes and tell my body to remember the heat from the summer sun…and I feel better. A little! Enough!

The days are melting into each other. I can barely believe it’s May. My birthday month! My son’s birthday month. We share the same birthday, and this year, he’s turning 17 and I’m turning 45. It is a fact I cannot wrap my brain around quite yet. I’m working on it. The days feel melty because they are busy, but busy is different than before. Time is some days a gentle companion, other days it’s running ahead of me telling me to hurry up, while other days it crawls back under the covers and I have to yank it up and get it going.

Some days my brain feels older. My thoughts are…deepening in different ways. My sense of self is shifting as well as my confidence and my writing voice. The term ‘paradigm shift’, which I don’t think I’ve thought about since my university days, keeps popping up like an activist sign in my mind. I am experiencing paradigm shifts internally and externally. And the synchronicity of things, people, music, flowers…goosebumps is so on point I cannot deny that love (the spirit, god, goddess…whatever word you use!) is the force urging me forward.

My rituals have been consistent – still praying and meditating in the mornings, doing yoga and walking, making time to read and write, be with friends and family…and being in the ‘now’ of these endeavours as best as I can.

There have been blips. But nothing more. I am cognisant of my initial reactions to things, and so when emotions strike up, I stop, listen, and decide which ones I want to pay attention to, which ones are anchored in fear, and I adjust my responses according to what will best keep me in my integrity and truth. Slowly, I am making very important distinctions about my responsibility to my self-worth and capacity (I’ve decided to replace the word ‘power’ with capacity). For example, I have the capacity to let go of stories whose narratives were not written by me. I have the capacity to not be afraid of things out of my control. It’s really freaking hard, but I’ve been practicing, and with the incredible help of family and friends, writing in my journal, reading amazing poetry and memoirs, I’m breaking old patterns and opening my mind and heart to new paradigms.

I’m reading a lot…memoirs and poetry and inspirational books. I’m listening to podcasts and birdsong and to my kids talking to each other in the car while I drive them here, there and everywhere (and back again!). Inspiration is a daily gift…and its consistency is downright shuddering! I’m writing poetry again! So much. I’m submitting. And getting rejected. And submitting again. I’m taking little writing courses in genres outside of my comfort zone.

I made a spreadsheet with all the projects I’ve been working on for the last ten years. It was five.pages.long.!!! Doing this enabled me to see all the starts and finishes. All the starts and stops. All the ideas and possibilities. All the potential. All the capacity for sharing stories. It also helped me see that my creative writing pattern (instinct…innate biological instinct!) is to start the same ‘story’ many times, across many genres, but then don’t actually FINISH any of them. Or, follow-up on the dreams to put them into the world in new versions after I receive feedback or rejection. I’m talking about the long version projects now. The screenplays, the novels, the children’s books. I do have writing that I can go to that needs to be finished or edited or simply re-submitted. And it feels very comforting to see this laid out in a spreadsheet. Alas, the main intention behind creating this gathering was to choose ONE project and FINISH IT in a full draft.

It took me a few days to make the decision because, as I was remembering all the projects (and finding them on my laptop…what a private detective job that was!), I was re-falling in love with each of them! I could feel them, the characters, the energy it took to write, the time in my life while I was writing them…and they all still mean so very much to my soul. I trusted that the inspiration that’s been synchronizing in my life would give me a sign…and she did. Isabel Allende’s memoir “The Soul of a Woman”. And I was led to Isabel by Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ incredible podcast: Wiser Than Me. I opened “The Soul of a Woman”…and my soul opened. I had a vision of my project finished…in book form…I felt a surge of ‘capacity’ and a ball of heat where my rib bones meet in my chest…and I’ve been writing and writing and writing. And I am writing with abandon!

I’m abandoning censorship, fear, worry, comparison…even my Demon Woman who never stops talking to me about food pulls up a chair, sits down, crosses her legs and arms, and gives me the nod to write. It’s a miracle I’m embracing.

I also have committed to writing at least 500 words a day, Monday to Friday, on the Chosen Project. I have an accountability coach (Thanks Christian!) who I send the word count/file to each day. Since I started, I’m averaging about 1500 words per day. I sit down to write and I don’t really know what’s coming. I respond to a quote or I read the last few lines from the day before and the words flow. Sometimes I write myself into a…well, I start to feel bored or frustrated or like I’m getting caught in a ‘voice’ or a ‘part’ that’s trying to usurp the story…and I’ll stop. Sometimes in mid-sentence, and then I allow myself to leave it and start writing on another topic. This seems to be working well. I don’t know yet what the Chosen Project is, genre-wise. Some kind of memoir…

My relationship to writing, my process is changing. I can really feel it while I’m working on this Chosen Project, and when I’m writing poetry. I suppose it’s a kind of freedom…

It’s been nearly a year-to-the day when The Life Change began. Like the gorgeous orange sherbet cumulus slathering across the horizon right this moment, the story is setting on the experience, and I am more and more able to see its beauty.

The reading I was a part of in St. Catherine’s was completely wonderful and uplifting! Thank you loads and loads to Eva Tihanyi (organizer extraordinaire!), Catherine Graham, and Andrea Thompson and the incredible audience who shared the love energy at the Mahtay Cafe. I read from ‘Thimbles’ and managed to get through to the last stanza of the last poem before my tears let loose and I cried! My Nonna was there in grand spirit, we all felt her love legacy.

I spent three days in Toronto and enjoyed writing in a cafe and pretending I was twenty and wild!

I’ve been contemplating the following quote:

“You are only free when you realize you belong no place—you belong every place—no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great,”

Maya Angelou told Bill Moyers in a 1973 interview.

I’ve listened to Brene Brown contemplating this as well, which she does with such passion especially since Maya Angelou was one of her best friends (imagine?!). I’ve certainly been wrestling with what belonging means, how it feels in my body and in my daily life exchanging energies with people around me. I’m writing about it because I’ve never really felt like I belonged anywhere…and upon respectful-to-my-fears reflection I’m realizing that my ability to feel I belong to myself, to/with others, to the planet, the stars, love…is a shifting story, a shifting truth. I’m finding great breathing room and creative space in the experiences of belonging. I’m climbing into what it means to belong to me, to honour my feelings and values, including the beautiful fact that these shift and change too. Certainly, if I’m putting a price tag, metaphorical or literal, it is high because change is risky and costly and scary. But it is necessary and important and beautiful too.

I’ve also realized that I’ve put my belonging in the context of negative self worth, as in I would look for evidence that I don’t belong and find it, whether it was there or not, simply because that’s what I taught myself to do over the years. It’s a habit I’m facing and revising.

We have much to look forward to this summer, including a little birthday getaway, lush gardens growing in the yard, a trip to Stratford to see ‘Rent’, more walks, more bike rides…outdoor playing galore! And reading and reading and reading!

I’m curating a poetry anthology for the Ontario Poetry Society and loving every moment of it!

I was published in Arc Poetry’s 100th Volume amongst pages of other poets who I’m overjoyed to share space with. Thank you, Arc team!

Art Kitchen is going strong with new episodes coming out consistently. Dreams for Gertrude’s Writing Room are in the caldron…brewing.

I had a wonderful talk with Adam from the Windsor Public Library for National Poetry Month.

I’m enjoying attending local literary events like this one coming up at Biblioasis. Anne Baldo is part of the Gertrude’s Writing Room family. We got to write with her during our Poetry of Flowers class. This is her first book, and I’m so excited for her success!

I’d like to also shout out to Christian Laforet whose book ‘Infested’ (Erie River Publishing) just won the Benjamin Franklin Silver Award for Best Horror Novel! His books are available online and your favourite bookstore!

And to Charis Cotter, whose book The Dollhouse won the Honour book award for the MYRCA – Manitoba Children’s Choice Awards. Visit www.chariscotter.com for all her books, awards and upcoming events!

I am honoured to share writing time and inspiration with such incredible writers!

I’ve done a slight reorganization at home to create writing space with an actual door! This way I free up the dining room table too!

And, I cleaned off and filled the tires with air, this gorgeous beauty…which I have been riding on the days I’m not up to walking….

And finally! I’m reading Kyo Maclear’s new book, ‘Unearthing – A Story of Tangled Love and Family Secrets’. It is breathtaking. Congratulations, Kyo!

And on Mother’s Day, I will treat myself to Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer’s latest poetry collection, All The Honey’ (Samara Press).

For now, thank you friends for reading and spreading kindness and love! Peace!


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