Sunday, December 16, 2007

Land & Sea Fordham University Bookstore Event

Land & Sea Event at Fordham/Lincoln Center - Saturday December 15, 2007

Event Diary Notes:

I had the great pleasure of being in Manhattan this past week-end for a book signing event for Land & Sea. The event was hosted by the very welcoming Barnes & Noble Bookstore on the Fordham University campus at Lincoln Center. It was a lovely event from 11-2 that included a poetry reading session, followed by an informal Q&A and book signing with myself as well as the artist, Irene Ruddock.

This was my last book event before the holidays, and it couldn't have been a more delightful day. I had family and friends from both NY and NJ who were able to come, so my poetry turned into a great excuse to give hugs and kisses to dear ones I had not seen for months, or in some cases - years!

Thank you to all who honored me with their presence and support. Land & Sea was a privilege to write and it is an even greater privilege, as well as a humbling experience, to see how many people continue to enjoy the images and words on the pages of this magical project.

You never know where you will journey to in this world, but in your imagination, you can sail to distant lands and always be assured of a safe landing on shore with loved ones in sight, who are on the same, beautiful adventure.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thank You to The Harvard Coop!

Harvard Coop Poetry Reading and Book Signing Event / December 9, 2007

Book Event Diary Notes:

The Harvard Coop provided a festive setting for the poetry reading/book signing event for Land & Sea on December 9, 2007. The staff did a wonderful job with the display for Land & Sea, complete with a beautiful, big poster in the window and sample copies of the book. As I walked through the front doors, I was greeted by the sound of Christmas carolers on the 2nd floor. It was a magical atmosphere for all shoppers, students, folks sipping coffee in the café, and of course, me!

With podium, book lamp and microphone at the ready, I had everything I needed for a successful reading. As per usual, the first ten minutes required patience on my part as listeners began to arrive. By the time I got to my 5th poem, every seat was filled and a few people were standing. My fellow poetry/art lovers enjoyed viewing each painting, as I read the accompanying ekphrastic poems. I had some interesting questions from readers, causing me to reflect on the inspiration for Land & Sea and to do a bit of additional research on my new favorite genre of ekphrastic poetry (which I predict will be considered a groundbreaking artform in years to come!).

Ekphrasis (n.) comes from the Greek ek (= out) and phrasis (=speak). Ekphrasis literally means to "speak out", which I think is a fantastic description of this artform. As a writer, not only are you describing what you see visually and interpreting the meaning or narrative of a piece of art, but you are speaking out with your writing - giving the painting, photograph or sculpture a voice.

Enough of my poetry reading notes ...

I would like to extend a Big, Blog Thank You to the Harvard Coop and to my friend Michele Albion who brought along another reader to the event! Michele is a wonderful, historical writer who has a book coming out soon! Watch this space for publicity blogging. I am always eager to support my fellow writers.

Happy reading and writing out there. I may have a poetry reading and signing event for Land & Sea, or for one of my future books, in a town near you! Come on out and join the literary party!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Dream Editor

We've all heard of sleep walking and sleep talking, but have you ever heard of "sleep writing"? Whenever I finish writing a poem or a story, the first thing I do before editing my work is to sleep on it. That's right, the first arduous task after completing a masterpiece is to catch some zzzz's. The reason for this is that you might be tempted to submit that jewel of literature right then and there with an impulsive click of the submit button on a literary magazine's website, because you truly believe that this is the very best thing you've ever written. If this were Mrs. McClusky's 8th Grade Language Arts class, you would get an A+ for sure. In the hard, early morning light of day you will realize that this isn't the best piece of writing in your portfolio, but it has potential if tweaked and prodded a bit. Also, your level headed daytime self will notice the need for deleting all of those extra exclamation points and words translated into French for effect. Everything starts and ends as a great idea. It's all good; don't worry. Just sleep on it first, and your subconscious mind will make it better for you.

That's right, inside every writer there is a dreamland editor just waiting to get out and into your computer files. As luck would have it, your mind has all of those chapters and stanzas filed away in brain cells, so that when you sleep, you are actually working very hard at your writing. It almost justifies having a cat nap during the day, doesn't it? Or perhaps just a daydream for inspiration. I should have a poster made for my office door that reads: "Caution: Writer at Work - Do Not Startle if in a Trance or Awaken if in a Sleeping Position on the Couch".

As silly as this theory might sound, I find it to hold true in most writer's block situations. I am currently working on a new poem for my latest writing project. Just 2 more poems, and I will have half of a completed manuscript, so the pressure is on my dreamtime self to be in top form. I wrote this poem a week ago, but I am not satisfied enough to call it done. I am just not happy with the last two lines. The message is right, but the lines don't fit the mood or style of the rest of the poem. I have slept on this poem for a number of nights and it is still not coming together. My experiment tonight, after doing more editing, will be to read through the entire poem one more time before my head hits the pillow. I will program myself to dream about a resolution for the poem. With the muses and my subconscious on my side, the answer to my poetic puzzle will present itself by the morning (if I can get to my computer before my 4-year-old demands Cheerios). Wish me luck. Also, if anyone happens to cross creative wires with me and receives the answer to my poem's ending (it's about a marshland in New England - that's all I'm revealing), then feel free to e-mail me your words of editorial wisdom.

Funny stories aside, I do believe in allowing ideas for writing projects to percolate and then allowing the creative subconscious to work out what the waking mind often makes too complicated. Our dreams can be amazing teachers. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back, because it's all you! You are both the talented writer and the skillful editor wrapped up into one, literary powerhouse package.

Write to dream - then dream about writing, so that the words come to life on the page for all to be inspired!


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Poet Ingrid Goff Maidoff Encourages Joyful Living - 5 Stars!

Eternal Song, Honey Sutras, Happiness, The Abundance of Grace ... These are just a few of the wonderful titles offered by poet and bookbinder Ingrid Goff Maidoff on her website, now on and at artisan fairs on Martha's Vineyard.

It is the joy and meaning we bring to the lives of readers that matters most. Poet and artisan bookbinder Ingrid Goff-Maidoff knows this more than any other writer I've met and read! Her books are thoughtfully and carefully bound, using beautiful paper with delicate patterns and textures. Her words gracefully held within the pages are just as much of a blessing for the reader. Ingrid has an instinctive talent for bringing poetic words of wisdom with a spiritual tone to her work. You feel as though your soul is nourished when reading her poems.

My mother gave me one of Ingrid's books called "Wonderful You" as a gift about 7 years ago. I fell in love with the uplifting quotes and sentiments and have always kept it on the bookcase next to my bedside, to dip into when my spirit hears the call. I had the great pleasure of meeting Ingrid at an artisan fair this past summer on Martha's Vineyard, and I instantly recognized her style of writing and book binding techniques. I was overjoyed to have found more of her work and quickly snapped up several books to give friends and family as gifts. Recently I ordered a lovely book of quotes about courage for a friend. Not only did I receive this beautiful book, but Ingrid thoughtfully included a single sachet of jasmine tea and a little scroll with lovely, positive thoughts on living in a state of pure joy!

For more information about Ingrid and to see all of her beautiful books, please visit her website:

Your heart and soul will thank you!

With Blessings,

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Writer's Daily Reflections on Thankfulness

Every day when I wake up, I give thanks. I am thankful for my family, for the wonderful people in my life, for the love I am blessed with, and I am thankful for the opportunity to do what inspires me, what feeds my soul – write fiction!

I believe it is important to say thank you, not only to our loved ones, but to all those with whom we interact. Saying thank you can be one of the greatest gifts for both the giver and the receiver. A few years ago, I wrote an article for Edge Life Magazine called “The Power of Saying Thank You”. In that article one of the topics I wrote about was the sheer wonder I have for my husband and all of the helpful things he does for our household and family. Saying thank you to your spouse is an essential way to encourage a loving and caring partnership.

I find myself in a similar position of being incredibly thankful to the universe for bringing me a fulfilling project like Land & Sea, created in collaboration with the very talented NY artist Irene Ruddock. This week I would like to pay tribute to all of the Land & Sea readers who have come out to book signings, who have bought the book and who have written to say how much this collection of paintings and poetry has meant to them. Some readers have even taken the time to write thoughtful, insightful book reviews on! This is a supreme gift – to know that something you have written has touched the lives of others. Knowing that every poem has a reader is thrilling. Knowing that readers will take time to reflect on what brings them peace in their own lives after reading a poem is a true blessing.

I am thankful for the generous, gracious feedback from all of our readers. Thank you for sharing your joy and for taking the journey of peace and reflection that is Land & Sea: Poetry Inspired by Art.

With Gratitude,
Cristina M. R. Norcross

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Too Busy to Blog?

I have been informed that I have not posted a blog entry since September. Oh my, this is serious! I owe my e-readers an explanation ...

If I am too busy to blog, then it must be for a very very good reason, right? Well, I am pleased to say that I have been working hard to gain greater exposure for the 2nd Edition of my book Land & Sea, co-authored by the accomplished NY artist Irene Ruddock.

Here are the fruits of my labor:


Tufts University: November 10th
Harvard University Coop: December 9th
Fordham University Bookstore (Lincoln Center): December 15th (10-2)
Johnson & Wales Bookstore: January 16th (10-2)


BORDERS Bookstore - Corcord, NH: 2008 (date coming soon!)
The Wingate Salon & Spa - Stratham, NH: 2007/08 (date coming soon!)
The Urban Muse - Denville, NJ: 2007/08 (date coming soon!)


Cow Harbor (1214 North Country Road (25A), Stony Brook, NY, 11790)

The Stony Brook Gift Shop (135 Main St., Stony Brook, NY 11790)

The Urban Muse (82 Broadway, Denville, NJ 07834)

RiverRun Bookstore (20 Congress Street, Portsmouth, NH, 03801)

The Water Street Bookstore (125 Water Street, Exeter, NH, 03833)

Gibson's Bookstore (27 South Main Street, Concord, NH, 03301)

The Wingate Salon and Spa (139 Portsmouth Avenue
Stratham, NH, 03885)

Jabberwocky Bookstore (The Tannery, 50 Water St., #22, Newburyport, MA, 01950);jsessionid=abcmRLtzWbm-x6lFGuIvr

The Book Rack (52 State St., Newburyport, MA, 01950)

Borders Bookstore
(76 Fort Eddy Rd.
Concord, NH 03301
Phone: 603.224.1255)

***Keep watching this space. More book news, more inspiration for writing, and more thoughts on the literary muse coming soon!

Monday, September 03, 2007

More Thoughts on the Muse ...


An image appears after staring out the window for too long, and I scramble to catch it in my wordsmith's net. I write it down like a kite that has been brought back in from the clutches of a fierce wind.

Whispered words sometimes form next to my waiting, patient ear. I am enthralled with the idea of writing dialogue from the ethers. A whole poem has not shown itself yet to be a fully formed gift, but perhaps that would be asking too much of my muses. The first stanza sometimes comes to me swiftly and this is the greatest, beribboned present, as if I am being given spoken pearls, dreamtime treasures, or open palms ready to embrace my eager brain with a healing touch.

An artist's muse can be a frequent visitor or the spirit of a land you visit just once. A muse may walk beside you unannounced or uninvited. If you welcome this creative guest into your house of words, there will be fresh surprises, probing questions, new roads and in roads to the soul that you must seek to understand for yourself, regardless of how pleasant the company may be.

A muse may inspire, but the writer must do the hard slog of getting it all down on paper and making it shine. Three cheers for the company we have along the way, helping us to make those words and images shimmer in the light!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Writing Retreats and Workshops: Star Island, NH

Writing workshops and retreats are a great way for writers, who normally have a rather solitary work experience in front of their computers and blank journals, to meet with other like-minded souls. It gives you the opportunity to share your creative process (and various drafts that you are itching to have someone else read). Solitude is a pre-requisite for a writer, if you want to actually get any writing done, but venturing out into the world and hearing what others have put down on the page can be a wonderful way to share the joy of this artform.

While lliving on Martha's Vineyard, I was a member of The Winter Writers Series at The Featherstone Meeting House for the Arts. It ran from October until March, and I think it only cost $35 at the time. We met once a week, had guest speakers (published writers who encouraged us and shared pearls of wisdom), read from our own work and gave support/feedback to each other. It was inspiring to listen to other writers read their words, carefully crafted and lovingly typed. We all had this shared bond of pride in our work. It was thrilling to think that we all had a future. We were cheering each other on every step of the way. One guest writer said to me: "You have found your inner compass". This statement stayed with me. Writers have the opportunity to make a difference in the life of another aspiring writer. One day, I need to seek out this particular wordsmith on Martha's Vineyard and say, "Thank you for helping me to believe in myself". The thank you is just as important as the compliment.

With this blog entry, I am joyously plugging a writing retreat that I am about to go on - The Star Island Retreat off the coast of NH.

Here is the website link to the retreat with all of the details:

Happy writing and sharing to all!

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Must-See Documentary about Writers

Ken Browne Productions

This wonderfully insightful documentary features the famous NH writing workshop held every Monday in the summer at Skimmilk Farm. I recently ordered a copy, and I will treasure this film for years to come. It features former Poet Laureate of Portsmouth writers Marie Harris (Poet Laureate, 1999-2004) and Mimi White (Poet Laureate, 2005-2007), as well other very talented New England poets. Jean Pedrick herself, who founded the workshop, was a published poet. This group of talented writers shared their writing and their love of the artistic process at these meetings. Jean Pedrick passed away in 2006 and will be missed by all those who knew her or who were touched by her artistry as readers of her work. Her legacy of writing and mentorship will indeed live on.

Ken Browne does a very professional and touching portrait of these writers who engaged in meaningful discussions about their artform in order to evolve as artists of the written word. I was entranced by the energy that these writers shared and put forth, simply by discussing their drafts and reciting their words aloud to the group.

I think what I love most about the Skimmilk Workshops is that Jean Pedrick didn't charge any of the writers a tuition fee. All they had to bring was their writing and something homemade to share for lunch. What a wonderful exchange of sustenance ~ poetry and food. Of course, poetry IS food for the soul!

Mondays at Skimmilk aired on New Hampshire Public Television as part of National Poetry Month. To order a copy of this must-see documentary, please visit the website listed above for Ken Browne Productions. You will be rewarded with a rich viewing experience!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

So when do you get to call yourself a writer anyway?!

If your fingers get fidgety and your whole body gets a literary rash that itches all over, until you put words down on the page – then you are a writer.

If you wake up in the middle of the night with part of a dream still fresh in your head, and you think it would make a great beginning to a story – then you are a writer.

If you feel your breath coming to you at a slower, more relaxed pace after writing just one paragraph that excites you, because something has been joyously released from your soul – then you are a writer.

If you go for a nature walk (OK a walk in your neighborhood with your iPod on shuffle, grooving to the tunes) and after hearing a red-winged blackbird sing, you decide that you absolutely must power walk home, as quickly as your chicken legs will take you, so that you can write about the way that bird's call mimics a pool cue being chalked up before a game in your journal (one of the many that I keep telling you to scatter about your house like pixie dust) – then you are a writer (of very long, run-on sentences!).

If you read every issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, and the articles about writing are inked up or highlighted beyond recognition – then congratulations, you are a writer just like me, who is a little kooky but your family loves you.

OK, I’m running out of IF’s …

So, my final bit of writer cheerleading is a serious note:

Being published isn’t the definition of being a writer. It may give you temporary affirmation that you are a writerly person, and some people out there in Barnes & Noble Land may read and enjoy your books. The truth is that you are a writer simply because you regularly make the effort to put pen to paper. It is something that you MUST do; otherwise, you wouldn’t be YOU!

Congratulations! (I thought of one more IF) – if you love to write, and nothing else quite makes you feel as alive, as connected to the universe, then you are a writer indeed.

Happy Writing!


Friday, June 29, 2007

don't be afraid to MAKE mIsTaKeS!@

As the title suggests, you really need to just write down what the wild mind dictates in a rough draft. Natalie Goldberg talks about this all the time in her books (I just love her. She's my writing guru!). There will be plenty of time to tidy things up in the various editing stages that you go through as a writer. To begin with you want the muse to sit on your shoulder, unfettered by that annoying little voice that says, "Oooh, do you really want to write that? I think you missed a comma. That's just sloppy!" At this point you need to give your inner critic a sleeping pill or something, just to get some peace and quiet while you work. Let your mind roam the great expanses of time and creative space. Punctuation and spelling is something you can fix later. It is the straightened tie within an already well turned out ensemble.

You will also be amazed by what you can come up with, when you open new doors in the mind without the fear that you shouldn't go there. Nothing is sacred (except writing about that bully who stepped on your foot in the 3rd grade and using his real name. Sure it would be fun to embarrass him now and divulge his current street address, but I wouldn't recommend it and neither would a lawyer.) These are your own caverns to explore. Whether you are writing memoir, fiction or non-fiction - the emotional source of the self has a lot to say. Ignore the inner critic who will tell you that your ears are too big and that the opening sentence is clearly just a boring cliché, and listen to the inner thinker who ponders things for hours while you sleep. This creative type will be happy to take you on a trip to the realm of the fanciful and the infinitely more interesting world of fiction.

In Francine Prose's riveting book, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those who Want to Write Them, she quotes a passage from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. In one of the opening chapters called "Words", she deals with this notion of freeing oneself of being incorrect, in order to find the perfect image that you want to convey to your reader. (Gee, this book is perfect for practically every writer I know. I think I'll buy 10 copies and send them out next year as Christmas gifts! - seriously).

"There are at least two places in which words are, as with deferential palms, used in ways that seem surprising, even incorrect, but absolutely right. It's not exactly a 'shadow' that the wind casts over the sea, or the breeze over the rug, but we know what the writer means; there's no better way to describe it. Nor is there a more vivid way to create the image than the seeming improbability of the two women slowly ballooning back to earth without ever having left their couch." (p.28)

Freeing yourself of the fear of being wrong or incorrect, allows for more freedom in the writing itself. You can wander into places without restraint; you can keep running until the last image is captured. Then you can go back and insert all of the missed commas and upper case letters. Part of correcting awkward language is allowing yourself to feel awkward in the first place. Then you can let your characters stand tall in the fields of correct grammar. Another tip for these writing practice sessions is to have a very fast, free flowing pen. Let it rip!

June 29, 2007

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Blank Page

Where to begin? As a writer do you ever feel like you know how to write a story, or is it the first time every time?

I always feel a kind of jittery tension under my skin when I haven't written for a couple of days. This artistic angst - creativity that needs to go somewhere - keeps pestering me until I put some words down on paper. The very talented author Shannon Hale (Austenland) expresses it best on her blog ( when she writes:

"And I know that when I’m not writing, I’m not happy, and the unwritten stories start to haunt me and tug on my sleeves and demand words on a page, and I cease to be the functioning kind of sane and start swatting at invisible characters. Mamas need our creative output, too. My finger painting is books."

After finishing a poem or short story, I will think to myself, "There - I have cracked the code. I know what I'm doing now." And then the shiny surface fades from the newness of success, and I am left there with a new project calling out for a source of help. Assistance always arrives, after much hair pulling and web surfing procrastination on my part, while also munching on Big Wheat Thins (Not the regular ones. You have to buy the Big ones because they are crunchier and will distract you even more from your writer's quandry). A scene will appear, or a phrase will repeat itself over and over again in my head sometimes when I am taking a shower. I will quickly dry off and write down the gist of things on a notepad by my bed. Sometimes a character will take me by the hand and point me in the right direction. "No, over here. You're going the wrong way! This is my story. Now write it!" Noisy, demanding, little tykes these characters are, aren't they? Like something out of Gulliver's Travels, these Lilliputians have a will of their own. But I graciously accept their help, as they spin yarns and offer up inspiring pearls of wisdom.

Enough said, the little people have spoken. Time for a new story ...

June 28, 2007

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What Can You Deliver Today?

Underneath it all, we are all the UPS truck for someone. As we pick up the phone, ring a doorbell, or send off a card with a few kind words, someone is on the other end of our communication, waiting for that word – for the package of life-affirming connection to be delivered. The truck stops. We look out the window and know that this is a good day, because a brown van is parked on the side of the lawn that has a permanent dent in it from the snowplow. There is power in a word, a smile, or a touch on the shoulder. You never know how much of a difference in someone’s world you can make, until you choose to reach out and cut the ribbon.


“I am in your yard now. How are you? This is my life today. How is your world spinning?”

These are simple questions that can shorten the distance between my hand and yours. It can also shorten the dreaded length of a day by inspiring good will and a shared experience. An impromptu meeting of minds can also lengthen a moment, so that a single drop of rain can be the most fascinating, rewarding moment to stand in awe of as a witness. We are the captivated audience to our own lives. Why not let someone else take center stage, and see how good it feels.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Each Time You Read a Book, You Are a New Person

Each time you read a book, you are a different person. The cells in your body have replaced themselves, so that your skin has a sheen and newness unlike your former self. Each word written on the page has a different shape. It will affect your soul in an entirely new way, because just as you have transformed, this book you are choosing to re-read is a new narrative in the context of this day – now.

I am a big fan of Margaret Atwood. Ever since transferring to a Canadian University in my sophomore year of college and studying Canadian authors for the first time, I have been an avid reader of Atwood’s fiction. I remember studying a multitude of American and British writers in high school, but there was a distinct lack of Canadian representation in the curriculum. This is something I would like to see change. Perhaps it has since 1989.

I have read every novel Ms. Atwood has written, thus far, except Oryx and Crake. (For some reason I just had a hard time submersing myself in that one – perhaps it was the apocalyptic vision of the future offered in the narrative.) One of my favorite novels is Lady Oracle. I used to adhere to a personal tradition of re-reading this novel every year, usually in September. I loved the journey this novel took me on, and it was different every time. The protagonist is a writer who takes a trip to Italy by herself after faking her own death. She rents an apartment in order to finish her novel with no distractions. She tells no one of her travel plans (of course). She vanishes from her own life in order to go on a journey from within for the first time, while she writes this book. As a result, she launches herself on a quest of self-discovery.

By re-reading one of Margaret Atwood’s books every year for five years, I was embarking on a journey of the soul – a writer’s soul. I was searching for myself right along with the main character and was never disappointed. Getting to know one’s self is a life-long journey, and so too is the journey to becoming a good reader, or a skilled writer. Never stop searching for truths – whether they are universal or personal.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

You Have to Live First, if You Want to Write

When you are feeling blocked, empty, or frustrated with your writing ... in other words things just aren't flowing, you need to do what writer Anne Lamott refers to as "filling up". In Lamott's very helpful, enlightening and just plain funny book on writing called Bird by Bird, she discusses in one of her chapters the need for writers to fill up their cup with life experiences.

By this I don't mean that you should necessarily take up sky diving, because you think your life is boring. Whatever you do, don't walk down Main Street in your town naked, just because you need something juicy or daring to write about. Just live as if this present moment is a gift. Live as if the corny hand towels with that quote, "live every day as if it were your last," were true. You will find that your mind will be much more attentive to every detail in your life - every buttercup that you see on your lawn.

Yesterday I saw a very rare and captivating bird, the Baltimore Oriole. I was intoxicated by the orange, red and yellow colors that lit up this bird's feathered wings like a majestic flag. It was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen - apart from my own children - and it was only two feet away from me outside my friend's kitchen window. When it flew off, I initially felt bereft. "Take me with you," I thought. "Don't go. Let me paint a picture of you in my mind." So that is what I am doing here in this blog entry. I am capturing the splendor and beauty of that moment when I let everything else in my life stand still, including the blank page of my journal, so that I could live a shared moment with this Baltimore Oriole.

You have to live before you can write. When you do write for great lengths of time, give yourself permission and time to live in the present. Take a breather. Your writing will flow again like never before.

MAy 20, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007

In Praise of Adrienne Rich

If you are a creative woman in need of space and time to produce your works, whether they be novels, songs, sculptures, photography, jewelry, murals, poetry, paintings, or even a rose out of a radish ... you MUST read Adrienne Rich's perfectly sized volume of essays and conversations, Arts of the Possible.

I will discuss several essays from this collection on this blog to give each the attention it deserves. For today's entry, here are a few thoughts on Rich's landmark essay, "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Revision". As a mother and a writer, I know all too well the conflict between meeting the needs of the little people in the house on an every 5 minute basis, and trying helplessly to meet one's own basic needs, like eating a meal or taking a shower. How is a writer supposed to be able to fulfill the larger need of finding time to write, when having privacy in the restroom is a luxury? First I was a writer, then I became a mother, and realized that I had wasted valuable time by not racing towards my goals sooner. Why is it that motherhood creates a vacuum from which all time to create and be productive in one's individual pursuits is sucked away like a mighty wind? I realize there is no answer to that question. It is a fact that spare time dwindles when you become a parent. It is an honor to be given a precious life to nurture and care for, and my heart expands every day when I gaze upon my beautiful boys. I still need to write though. It is a fact. If I want to write books, I need to sit down and write - preferably without interruption. I have a sinking feeling that this is not going to happen until both boys are in college.

In Adrienne Rich's essay, "When We Dead Awaken," she breathes life into this notion that women deserve time and space to create. She even goes so far as to plainly state that without time to focus and delve into a subject or scene, the flow of writing becomes stilted and stifled:

"And a certain freedom of mind is needed - freedom to press on, to enter the currents of your thought like a glider pilot, knowing that your motion can be sustained, that the buoyancy of your attention will not be suddenly snatched away."

Amen, Adrienne Rich. You know what my writer's heart needs to hear.

More to follow. This is enough bark to chew on for now.

May 13, 2007
Mother's Day

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Zen and Now

One of the many books decorating my end table this week is called The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life: by John Daido Loori. A photographer and a Buddhist teacher, author John Daido Loori is also the founder and abbot of New York State's Zen Mountain Monastery. Loori's book offers many useful insights into meditation as a starting point for the act of creation. I highly recommend this text to any artist who seeks to broaden his or her craft by delving deeper into the psyche of the artist as a seeker of "first thoughts" - as Natalie Goldberg might phrase it (author of Writing Down the Bones). Loori brings to the forefront the need to center yourself as a photographer or writer, and then approach your subject matter by letting the subject "speak" to you, even if the subject happens to be a rock or a tree. He suggests that if you honor the subject by sitting with the ocean or the sky, and wait for the right moment or light of day to capture an aspect of the subject's essence, then you will be creating from a different level than you would otherwise. This is truly an inspiring book and one which has changed my current writing practice. I always sink into a state of intense focus when writing, so this philosophy makes sense to me. I have found that the technique of finding a connection with the subject first, before diving into the act of creation can result in the Muse knowingly and willingly stepping into your frame and lending a hand. Give it a try and better yet, read this book!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Musical Landscape of our Lives

A more apt title for this blog entry would be "The Soundtrack of Our Lives". I am about to plug another artist - a musical one - because I think all art forms inform one another. Music inspires dancing which can inspire sculpture, which can inspire photography, which can inspire film ... and all of these mediums inspire writing. For me these past two weeks of fiction writing has been accompanied by a backdrop of celtic folk music by singer/songwriter Kate Rusby.

She has an amazing voice. Kate Rusby is lyrical, angelic, poetic - a true artist in sync with her muse. Perhaps listening to her dulcet tones will inspire you to write or create in another artistic medium. Listen to a few songs and see where your spirit takes you.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I Am Having a Love Affair ... with WORDS!

After reading Natalie Goldberg’s essay “How Poetry Saved My Life”, in which she reveals her first flush of love with words and the art of poetry, I realized that I too have been having a clandestine romance with the English language (shhhhh … don’t tell my husband ;-D ). It has left me breathless many a night over a blank journal.

I hear words or phrases in my head. Sometimes, if I am lucky, a whole first stanza will appear. Who knows what gracious muse bestows this gift to me on these nights, but I am thankful nonetheless. After writing and re-writing a passage, typing it in and making “each word shine” (Emily Dickinson’s choice words, not mine – isn’t she brilliant?!), I will read the poem, short story, or chapter from a novel out loud. I let each word fall from my mouth and take up the whole room, so that the rhythm brushes my skin with heat and the chiming of syllables falls like rain all around me. I close my eyes sometimes to see, really see, where my characters live. Some live in a one-bedroom apartment where the grotty linoleum needs a good scrubbing. Others don’t seem to live anywhere – they walk the streets for the duration of the story. Their history takes up the space that a home normally would ~ great, big spaces of melancholy and grace.

Words are like music when you listen attentively. They can lull you to sleep on a restless night. Phrases can soothe you with their surprising tenderness like a warm bath doused with lavender and bergamot oils. Whole paragraphs that move in a single motion like a smooth flowing river can be so soft. You will want to wrap them around your shoulders, your knees, and your gorgeous toes that get cold at night. The warmth will energize and inspire you to write more, so that an entire afghan blanket appears to shelter your dreams.

So dream about words, bathe yourself in syllables, let each image that takes shape lead you down the literary path. May you have many sweet dreams filled with words.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Warming up the Ink

I think the "warm-up" principle for any activity is important. You wouldn't run a marathon or perform an arabesque in Swan Lake without stretching your muscles first, would you? So why would you sit down at the computer to write a story without getting your brain and finger tips ready for some serious writing?

For writing sessions out of the house, I usually pack a copy of Elizabeth Berg's book, Escaping into the Open: the Art of Writing True, whatever current novel I am reading, a blank journal and my laptop. That's a lot of gear! I start by reading someone else's good writing for inspiration. I often think that maybe by osmosis, talent will seep into my pores. A good read should be accompanied by a nice steaming cup of something delightfully aromatic and flavorful, whether for you that means a cup of Earl Grey tea or an indulgent Cinnamon Dolce Latte. My next step is to dip into Elizabeth Berg's book on writing in which she has wonderful writing exercises to get you going. It doesn't have to be a thesis. Even a paragraph or two in which you practice your descriptive language or dialogue can be helpful. That just leaves your empty notebook or computer screen to be filled. It depends on the day, but I am usually old-fashioned about writing things in long hand first, and then typing it up during the editing stage. There is something about scratching things out, writing little notes to yourself in the margins, perhaps doodles, that appeals to me. Also it doesn't hurt to have a beautiful pen to write with for inspiration. For Valentine's Day my husband gave me a gorgeous, purple "True Writer" pen from Levenger. I'm not trying to plug here, but I am addicted to all of their elegant paper and pen goods!

Given the fact that I only book about 2 hours of writing time, so that I can get back to my little boys and relieve Daddy, these steps can take as little or as much time as you have. If you feel you need practice, then just work on the writing exercises. Whatever suits you is best. There is no right way to write after all. I am just sharing one of my routines for getting inside of what Natalie Goldberg refers to as the "wild mind" of the writer. So - read, brainstorm, write, edit, write some more (look out the window at spring blooms, because life is too short) ... and remember to enjoy that coffee house java!

Happy Writing!

Monday, March 05, 2007

When you can't write - edit ...

... and when you don't have the inspiration to write or edit your work from that day, then blog about writing. It's still writing, even if you might be avoiding adding new content to your current project. So what am I avoiding writing tonight that would cause me to blog? I actually had a very productive week-end where the stars were aligned, I "booked" an hour to write while my hubby watched the kids, plus the baby took two long naps in his crib instead of on my shoulder, so I had another two hours of writing time. I feel I can afford to be a slacker tonight with my glass of milk, a sugar cookie and the laptop. This is when it is very dangerous to contemplate buying yet another fleece pull-over from L.L.Bean, because you have given yourself permission to browse their on-line catalog, instead of choosing to be productive by writing.

Another theory that I read in an article, from one of the many writing magazines that I thumb through when I am avoiding work, is that it is necessary to allow ideas and written work to "percolate". Kind of like a good cup of coffee, the author of the article suggests that you keep a file for ideas that you want to explore through writing and let the ideas percolate. You should add to this file for several days or weeks before even starting a project. Then he suggests that after you have written an article or story, you should allow your psyche to rest a bit and then re-visit the work with a fresh, clear mind. I have to agree on that last point. I always "sleep on it" after I have written a poem or a short story. The next day I will do more editing and the cuts and changes I make are swift, without sentimentality for the preciousness of the work that we as writers all feel at some point. Our writing is so fragile, because we put ourselves on the line for all to read. By the next day (after a good breakfast) you can plow through the sentences that lack grace, cut unnecessary phrases with your delete button or red pen, and free yourself of many clichés that are begging to be given the 'ole Heave Ho!

On that note of bad phrasing, I shall close for tonight. Perhaps I will write after all. A good warm up always encourages a good work out. I hear my notebook calling.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Keep a notebook everywhere!

Keep a notebook everywhere you sit, read, think, sleep ... EVERYWHERE! I keep blank journals all over my house: in table drawers, next to my bed, on every desk available, in my coat pocket, in my purse, even in the glove compartment of my car! You never know when inspiration is going to hit. Even if it's just an idea for a title or a persistent image, you need to get it down on paper, especially if those precious diamonds filter into your mind just before sleep. The other night I was too tired to start a new poem for my NH Seacoast collection that I'm working on, but as I was drifting to sleep, the title appeared in my head along with the first two lines. I genuinely wanted to sleep after running around after my 3-year-old and 10-month-old boys, but I dragged myself out of bed, pulled out my Alice in Wonderland themed notebook and one of about 10 pens in my night table. I switched the light on in the bathroom, so I could scribble a few words down while leaning next to the sink. I shut the door, so I wouldn't wake up my husband with the light, and squinted my eyes against the glare. The next day I deciphered my late night handwriting and started work on the new poem. Today, I did my edits and it's almost finished. Had I not listened to my dreamy state mind, I would have lost the train of thought. Perhaps it would have become a different poem entirely from the one intended by my muses. Who knows? I only know that I would have been kicking myself while staring at a blank page, if hadn't listened attentively to the poem calling out to me.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Inspirational Writing Quote of the Day

Well, this is my spur of the moment inspirational quote for today. I may scatter these postings here and there. I should have chosen the title "Occasional Writing Quote on a Random Saturday Because I Feel Like It".

I am a new fan of New England writer May Sarton who wrote many journals and collections of poetry as well as novels. In this quote she captures the philosophy that there is a teacher in every poem we write.

"This is where poetry is so mysterious, the work more mature than the writer of it, always the messenger of growth. So perhaps we write toward what we will become from where we are."

~May Sarton
from Journal of a Solitude

What do you wear to a book signing?

It's like planning for a prom, only without the meringue-like poofy dress. Hair up or down? Will glasses instead of contacts make you look and feel more intelligent? These are the superficial questions that I find myself asking the "inner girl" in me, as I prepare for my first two book signings coming up this Spring/Summer. As the mom of two little boys under the age of 3 1/2 yrs., my no nonsense uniform of jeans/black khakis and a fleece pull-over (with sweet potato and drool stains, compliments of my 9 month-old) probably isn't the best look for a book event. On a serious note, it is the writing and how my future readers will identify with the ideas expressed that matters to me most. Oh, but what will my hair look like, when I read one of the poems? Just kidding. I have the perfect excuse to go shopping for "grown up" clothes if I can get some time to myself.

Getting started on the next writing venture weighs more heavily on my mind than fashion after completing a project. I already have several other collections of poems in the works. Depending on what subject or genre inspires me that particular day, I open up a new blank journal to match that inspiration and begin to open new worlds with words. Each story holds a mystery for me. It is only when I reach the last line, that I fully understand the message that I am being taught.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Procrastination and the Clock

Instead of procrastinating writing, I am delaying bedtime in much the same fashion that my 3 year old will whine to me saying, "But I'm not tired. I will not go to bed". This line is of course straight out of his favorite book and British children's series "Charlie and Lola". I am looking at the clock, as I fiddle with the new template and background color for this blog, and notice that the later it gets, the less inclined I am to go to bed. I have typed in and edited a poem for one of my new ekphrastic poetry collections, and I am feeling productive. So, I think, "I am not tired, and I will not go to bed". This of course is a foolish and misguided choice, as either one or both of my little sons will be waking me up tonight, so I'd better toddle off to bed myself. I will take my leave. I will awaken to write another day! CMRN

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Who is writing the words anyway?

Do you believe in artistic muses?

My novels don't magically appear in my psyche (wouldn't that be efficient?), but ideas and images do. Sometimes dialogue for characters will start playing out like a movie in my head, and I will try to quickly capture it on paper.

Poetry is where I have the most success with my muse collaborations. The first lines of a poem or even an entire first stanza will make itself known to be by repeating in my internal notebook over and over until I finally write it down. There really is a muse, (or muses) I believe, who kind of nudges me and insists that I write something. That is why I never procrastinate with poetry. Novel writing yes. I will clean the entire house or reorganize my CD collection before sitting down to write a new chapter. It's annoying, but it takes care of my To Do list.

As an example, last night the words "I choose you" and "the enchantment is complete" kept appearing for me. I ended up writing an entire poem with those lines as the starting point. It is based on a painting by RC Gorman. As soon as I do my final edits, I'll include that poem in a later posting to this blog. Who knows? This could be the start of another poetry collection. It is always a surprise to me how my writing projects begin. I start small with an interest in a theme or genre, and then 25 poems later there is a real work there taking form. It's all organic - the process. That is what is so exciting to me - not knowing where the story will end, but enjoying the creative journey. Bite-sized pieces of inspiration are less intimidating too!


Thursday, January 04, 2007

When does inspiration hit?

When does inspiration strike for writing? I will leave that question out there. Feel free to add your ideas. Anyone, anyone? Bueller? For me inspiration seems to hit at inconvenient times when I do not have or can not reach my pen and paper or computer keys. Typically when my brain is given a siesta from taxing tasks like in the shower, waiting in line at the grocery store, or when I'm nursing my baby. Inspiration also hits when it is supposed to, when I am sitting before a blank screen or page, but the big ideas are allowed to play out in my imagination much more fluidly, when the space in my head floats between planes. That is why dreaming can provide such fertile ground for writers. The internal editor isn't giving a critique on why your hair-brained idea is unrealistic - and I don't mean your freshman English teacher with the bifocals. It's that internal naysayer who can make great ideas vanish into thin air. Be confident, think big, let your mind wander into the caverns of the unreal. We are writing fiction after all. Time to write from a destination unknown. I think I will program myself to dream about a story and let the story find me. I'll let you know who I meet along the way. There is a character waiting to be born on my screen.


Long time no blog ...

No, I haven't had writer's block, but I guess I've had blogger's block, because in looking at my last entry I haven't left a message here since the summer. I have been busy with a new bouncing baby boy and have also "birthed" a book. Due to be released soon is an art/poetry book called Land and Sea: Poetry Inspired by Art which I collaborated on with artist Irene Ruddock. We started working on it a year ago and it has materialized into a full-fledged book! For more information about the book's release, please visit my website: and to learn more about Irene Ruddock's beautiful paintings, you can visit her website:

Now that my shameless self-promotion is done with, I can reflect on what really matters - writing, ideas for writing, the art of writing, why I write, why I don't write, why I take up space here writing really long sentences because I can. I think this is what I love most about a blog - as a writer I can be informal and share what really goes on inside a writer's head. I think one of the most honest portrayals of a writer's insecurities and obesessions is when Nicholas Cage's character in the film Adaptation has his monologue at the beginning. I'm sure has the whole speech written out (but don't hold me to that). Nicholas Cage talks about his dream for being the fit, well-travelled, nobel-prize winning, attractive, accomplished, philanthropist writer and how this will make him a happier, better person somehow. He sits before a blank screen and daydreams about all of the things he should be doing or could be doing. In reality, he should be putting fingers to keys, but instead he beats himself up over all of the qualities he is lacking.

OK, I couldn't help but do a search on IMDB for that opening sequence. For all of the writers reading this, you will laugh and identify with these thoughts I'm sure!

Directed by
Spike Jonze

Writing credits (WGA)
Susan Orlean (book)
Charlie Kaufman (screenplay)

first lines]
Charlie Kaufman: [voiceover] "Do I have an original thought in my head? My bald head. Maybe if I were happier my hair wouldn't be falling out. Life is short. I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I'm a walking cliché. I really need to go to the doctor and have my leg checked. There's something wrong. A bump. The dentist called again. I'm way overdue. If I stop putting things off I would be happier. All I do is sit on my fat ass. If my ass wasn't fat I would be happier. I wouldn't have to wear these shirts with the tails out all the time. Like that's fooling anyone. Fat ass. I should start jogging again. Five miles a day. Really do it this time. Maybe rock climbing. I need to turn my life around. What do I need to do? I need to fall in love. I need to have a girlfriend. I need to read more and prove myself. What if I learned Russian or something, or took up an instrument. I could speak Chinese. I'd be the screenwriter who speaks Chinese and plays the oboe. That would be cool. I should get my hair cut short. Stop trying to fool myself and everyone else into thinking I have a full head of hair. How pathetic is that. Just be real. Confident. Isn't that what women are attracted to? Men don't have to be attractive. But that's not true. Especially these days. Almost as much pressure on men as there is on women these days. Why should I be made to feel I have to apologize for my existence? Maybe it's my brain chemistry. Maybe that's what's wrong with me. Bad chemistry. All my problems and anxiety can be reduced to a chemical imbalance or some kind of misfiring synapses. I need to get help for that. But I'll still be ugly though. Nothing's going to change that."

Well, I will close with those thoughts for now. I do not have writer's block, but I do have two small children under the age of 3 who seem to eat away at any time I might have to write. So why am I here contemplating my writer's navel when I should be churning out some polished firkin fiction. Well, that will have to wait for another entry.