The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘She Writes

This has been a good week for celebrating women artists; both their individual and collective achievements.

Not having a community of supportive peers and not seeing yourself represented in artistic expression is something many creative women face*. She Writes and Misty Copeland remind us of the importance of community, perseverance and staying true to one’s vision, even in the face of bias.

Six years ago, writer and visionary Kamy Wicoff began She Writes (with Deborah Siegel), as an online home for women writers to understand “the rapidly changing, head-spinningly complex world of publishing.” They felt that “women writers in particular–needed a place to come together to share what they were learning, be inspired, and gather information about the craft and the business of writing.” As she has said recently, they “created what they most needed.” They began with 40 members and now have 26,000 enthusiastic members around the world. They are the largest community of women writers online. Both emerging and well-established writers find She Writes to be a thriving and significant hub.


During the past six years, Kamy and her team have worked hard to demystify publishing and empower women to value their words and develop confidence in taking those words into the publishing marketplace.  She Writes has grown up alongside the increasing acknowledgement by many that there are gender equality issues in contemporary literary culture (see VIDA: Women in Literary Arts for research and history).

Membership to SW is free. I discovered it almost four years ago and have found it to be a treasure trove of resources, intelligent discussion and incredible writerly support. On SW, you can blog, network and join over 360 groups representing every aspect of writing and publishing imaginable including ‘Mothers Write!’ ‘Funny Women’, ‘Authors of Interracial/Multicultural Romance and Fiction’, ‘Literary Fiction Writers v. 2.0’, ‘Google Analytics’, ‘Prompt Monster’, ‘You Go Girl Poetry’, etc. I’m a member of the groups ‘Blooming Late’ (women who started writing seriously after the age of 40) and ‘What Did You Blog About Today?’.

Kamy and her amazing team has also recently ventured into publishing and created She Writes Press. Their mission is to elevate the words and stories of women and offer a new model of publishing. Check them out!

Keep up the great work, She Writes!


African American ballet dancer Misty Copeland was recently promoted to principal ballerina at American Ballet Theatre. A historic accomplishment and long overdue. Copeland persevered. This recent honor speaks to her extraordinary personal accomplishment, but also her courage in calling attention to the unspoken biases about body size, stereotyping and race that have shaped the world of American ballet.


Only nine years ago, I remember clipping and ruminating on the article “Where Are All the Black Swans?” in the New York Times. The article highlights how class and race bias show up in the ballet world, from early schooling to professional opportunities. It is very hard to accomplish something creative if you can’t envision it and envision someone who looks like you succeeding at it. Misty Copeland’s dedication to the craft of ballet and her own vision will have ripple effects for many aspiring, young female dancers, especially girls from underrepresented groups.


Photo of Misty Copeland: Henry Leutwyler

Today is the last day of April and the last day of my celebration of National Poetry Month. I want to thank all the writers who enthusiastically joined in this celebration by submitting poems and reflecting on poetry’s imprint in their hearts. I hope that you have enjoyed meeting them during the last few weeks. I am now making space for more poetry in my life, both to write it and read it. Today, Lynne Favreau, delivers up a poem about a special friend that many of us knew through the online community of She Writes.

Lynne Favreau

Captain Candace, Flight 102, Cleared for Landing

Some patients find courage in the fight
battling back the body’s bedevilment.
Imagining the mutations and invaders to overcome;
recruiting natural defenses along with a battalion
of pharmacological soldiers to advance,
urged to the front lines by IV and portals.

Others seek peace through inner portals,
beckoning the spirits to join the fight.
They summon prayers to arrest the advance,
sing their appeals hoping for the bedevilment
of attacking carcinomas. The insidious battalion-
proliferating replicants, to be solemnly overcome.

Somewhere between, she and I overcome.
We laugh at collapsed veins and clogged portals.
Words we wield into a battalion
distressing some who fear the fight;
our irreverence be their bedevilment,
yet humor sustains us while we advance.

It is clear our paths diverge when symptoms advance
beyond an earlier prognosis. We are overcome.
For one, continuing treatment leads to nothing but bedevilment.
Once eliminated, the possibilities close portals.
We’re armed with resignation, the fight
called for mercy and dispersal of the battalions.

Cries widespread across the battalions
of friends; my liege, I beg we advance,
to stage a final muster but not fight.
Rather a trove of love and peace overcome
to take comfort in a last hurrah. Portals
closed, we reflect on our bedevilment.

The inevitable outcome, to our bedevilment-
cancer that can not be over run by battalions
of drugs, nor breached through vital portals.
We will respect though regret its advance
and shepherd you home, not overcome
by grief but joy in the remembered fight.

Your legacy of words will advance
and gives this writer courage to overcome,
in your name, in this fight.

Author’s Reflection: I belong to the wonderfully supportive online writer’s community, She Writes. One of my first relationships to bloom there was between Candace Coghill and myself since we were both undergoing chemotherapy and shared a similar sense of humor about the whole thing. I completed treatment Jan 4, 2012, and remain cancer free. Candace passed away, Sept 12, 2012.

I’ve been writing since my first college class — English Comp 101 in 2011. I was thirty-five, and had spent a lifetime, up until then, believing I couldn’t put two words together. Since then, I’ve graduated from Union Institute and University-Montpelier VT with a B.A. in Writing and Literature. I am mainly a novelist, but like to challenge myself by writing short stories, the occasional esoteric poem, and overly-long ranty blog post only the most loyal of souls brave to read.




I know newly minted novelist, Olga Godim from the ‘Blooming Late’ group on She Writes. ‘Blooming Late’ is a support group for women who started their writing seriously after age 40 and have hopes still of a long and illustrious career in writing. We are a lively, opinionated and supportive online community of over three hundred members. In celebration of National Poetry Month, Olga tried her hand translating poems from Russian into English. She found this work both fun and daunting.

Author’s note:

The first poem is a translation of a humorous song from a Russian
children’s movie based on the story of Pinocchio. Unfortunately, I
don’t remember the name of the Russian poet who wrote it. It’s an
ultimate conman’s chant.

Poem #1

As long as misers yearn for gold,
Your luck will permanently hold.
When coins gleam,
The greedy dream
And do what they are told.

As long as fools remain around,
Your opportunities abound.
You spin a tale
Like nightingale,
They slave for you spellbound.

As long as braggarts multiply,
Your fortune grows on the sly.
Pretend belief,
Laugh in your sleeve
And squeeze the wretches dry.

Author’s note:

The second poem is a translation of an aria from the French opera
“Faust” by Charles Gounod. It debuted in Paris in 1859. The story is
based on a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but I never read it in
the original German; only heard the aria in Russian. I guess, my
translation is ‘second-hand’ or even ‘third-hand’, as someone else had
already translated it from German to French, and then from French to
Russian. I’m not sure how close to the original my version is.
Probably not at all.

Poem #2

In the times of the heroes, people prayed for the gold.
Nations fought in the terrible wars for the gold.
Blood was spilled for the gold,
Cities razed for the gold.
Golden monster devoured the innocent world.

In the times of progress, people pray for the gold.
Voices rise in the glorious hymns for the gold.
Honor breached for the gold,
Love betrayed for the gold.
Everything can be bought, everything can be sold.

Author Reflection: In both poems I tried to keep
to the meter and rhyme scheme of the originals. As I never wrote
poetry before, not even in my youth, this was a very interesting
exercise for me. The result is not a great poetry but an attempt to
transfer the feel of the poems from one language to another.

I’m a writer and journalist from Vancouver, Canada. My articles
appear regularly in local newspapers. My short fiction credits include
multiple short stories, published in magazines, and a novel Lost and
Found in Russia

Find out more about Olga’s  novel’s here
See a recent interview with Olga at Long and Short Reviews.

We all need encouragement and support for our writing lives. And, the beginning of the year invites us to try out new ideas. Here is a list of strategies that have bolstered my writing life.  May they support and inspire you.

1) Plan a Submission Party


In my first writing group, more than fifteen years ago, I learned about the power of holding at least one ‘submission party’ during the year. A submission party meant that we planned a date and we all brought our polished manuscripts, manila envelopes, our bundle of SASEs (self-addressed stamped envelopes –yes, back in those days you had to send manuscripts via snail mail and with a SASE!), and food and drink to someone’s house. We helped each other write query letters, find new markets to submit work, develop submission charts, and triple check final copies of stories. And, the best part of all, we’d each leave with several stuffed packets ready to mail to magazine and anthology editors and contest judges.  These parties uplifted us and took the fear, dread and challenge out of submitting. And, they helped us get a batch of stories into the mail at one time.

At your next writers’ group meeting, suggest hosting a submission party during the first quarter of the year. And, if you’re not in a group (Well, you should be! When focused friendly people come together to support each other, they can produce incredible results!), then ask a writing buddy, if he or she would be interested in executing this idea on a smaller scale.

2) Practice Being a Writer in Publicdscn2986mcintyrereading31

Reading your work in front of an audience is an invaluable experience for a writer. We can see when people lean toward us, laugh (one hopes at the appropriate places), and get a sense of how our words affect others.  Readings help us to become comfortable with our work no matter what the reaction. We meet new friends and learn about the work of other writers. I did three readings last year (two of which I helped to create). In most places there are many opportunities to read your work in public—open mics organized by writing groups, in bookstores and cafes, writing conferences, and informal gatherings with friends.  Practice, practice and practice some more.

How many readings did you participate in during 2012? Shoot to double this number in 2013.

3) Volunteer to Support and Serve a Published Writer That You Know

I have been privileged to accompany one of my writing teachers, Marjorie Hudson, to several speaking events and workshops. I learned invaluable things watching a working writer deal with the public aspect of a writing life: speaking, promoting, coaching, and book signing.

Writers always need more support. If you have a friend or an acquaintance who has recently published a book, offer to help them promote it in some way. If you don’t know any published writers, this is a great way to connect with a local writer whose work that you admire.

Be a personal assistant, or driver, for a day. If they are scheduled to give readings, see if you can help carry books, set up a display, sell books, and assist with small tasks that would make their life easier. You can learn a lot from watching how other writers handle being in the public eye.

4) Strive for 99 Rejections

Years ago, Marjorie Hudson, shifted my perspective on submitting one’s work and coping with rejection. She declared that as part of claiming the mantle of a writer, one should strive to gather at least 99 rejections. I sat in the workshop feeling pretty smug thinking that surely with all the years that I have been trying to get published I reached that number, no problem. Later, when I reviewed my submission file, I was shocked to realize that I wasn’t even half way close to 99 rejections! This revelation spurred me on submit my work, in a serious and organized way.


I love Chris Offutt’s essay, ‘The Eleventh Draft’, where he discusses how he dealt with the fear of rejection:

“The notion of submitting anything to a magazine filled me with terror. A stranger would read my precious words, judge them deficient, and reject them, which meant I was worthless. A poet friend was so astonished by my inaction that he shamed me into sending stories out. My goal, however, was not publication, which was still too scary a thought. My goal was a hundred rejections a year.

I mailed my stories in multiple submissions and waited eagerly for their return, which they promptly did. Each rejection brought me that much closer to my goal—a cause for celebration, rather than depression. Eventually disaster struck. The Coe Review published my first story in spring 1990. The magazine was in the small industrial town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with a circulation that barely surpassed the city limits. The payment was one copy of the magazine, and the editor spelled my name wrong. Nevertheless, I felt valid in every way—I was no longer a hillbilly with a pencil full of dreams. I was a real live writer.”

The common suggestion is for writers to have at least five pieces submitted at any given time.

Are you close to 99 rejections? Every time you receive one, think of it as a step forward in your writing apprenticeship.  (BTW, holding a submissions party, regularly, can help you send out more material faster.)

5) Create Some Writing Affirmations

An affirmation is a short, simple, positive declarative phrase that as Eric Maisel says, in Coaching The Artist Within, “you say to yourself because you want to think a certain way…or because you want to aim yourself in a positive direction.” Writers can benefit from using affirmations as our inner critics, judges, and evaluators are often uninvited guests during our writing sessions.

A decade ago, I made a tape recording of me saying writing affirmations. I was living in California, on a post-doctoral fellowship, not a member of any writing group, and accumulating rejections at rate that made me gnash my teeth daily.  At that point in my life the inner critic often got the best of me. I needed something to remind me of my basic goodness, as a human being, and encourage me as a writer.

Listening back to them now, it’s clear that I don’t have that same inner wobbly feeling about claiming writing as a love, devotion, craft and profession.  Nor do I have the same fears. But those early affirmations (i.e. I am a writer!), spoken with conviction definitely built a bridge from there to here.

Writing, speaking and even recording affirmations creates a powerful state of mind. Here are some to get you started.

6) Commitment Publicly to a Writing Goal and Ask for Accountability

As a coach, I know that to make long lasting positive changes, we need structure and accountability. Over the past year, I’ve seen many writers use their virtual networks (as well as face to face ones) to get support in meeting an important writing goal. Editor, author advocate and She Writes publisher, Brooke Warner publicly announced her intention of finishing a book by a certain date. She also asked for support to help keep her accountable while writing and this request yielded wonders!

What’s one writing goal you’d consider announcing publicly and asking for accountability?

7) Buy a New Subscription to a Writing Magazine and/or Literary Journal

Where do you learn about the field of publishing? How do you find out about new writers? We do this in many ways, through blogs, friends, librarians and visits to bookstores. However, writing magazines and literary journals can also play a key role in our professional development. You’ve probably been thinking about treating yourself to new subscription to a writing magazine or literary journal for some time. Do it! When I finish this post, I’m off to subscribe to Poets and Writers.

Brooke Warner is on a mission to help authors become savvy at all stages of book development—from idea generation to publication. Brooke is a founder of Warner Coaching Inc., and the newly minted She Writes Press. She is a former Executive Editor of Seal Press (a groundbreaking press that publishes the diverse voices and interests of women).

I met Brooke through She Writes, an online community for aspiring and distinguished women writers. Brooke is a frequent contributor on She Writes and I quickly learned what most writers do about her. She’s thoughtful, honest, deliberative, positive and supportive (even when delivering challenging updates about the publishing world). And as an insider in the world of publishing, she brings a wealth of expertise to She Writes discussions.

When I discovered she was writing a book geared toward aspiring authors, I knew that I wanted to invite her to share her wisdom with this audience. I am grateful for all Brooke does to make the publishing world seem a little less mysterious and daunting to aspiring writers.

1) Tell us about your new book, What’s Your Book? A Step-by-Step Guide to Get You from Inspiration to Published Author. What sparked your interest in writing this type of nonfiction book?

I have been working in the book publishing industry for the past thirteen years. I just left my position as Executive Editor of Seal Press in late April. I realized that I not only needed, but wanted, to experience firsthand what my authors were going through. I also felt I had some progressive, supportive, and optimistic things to say about publishing in this new era of publishing. My coaching is a blend of heavy-duty support, discipline, and honest critique, and I decided it was time to try to put down in writing some of the ideas and strategies I’ve been teaching aspiring writers since I started coaching in 2007. Also, publishing is changing so much all the time, and it’s changed drastically since I started in 2000. I think a lot of people are confused by the options, or don’t really understand how publishing works, so my book offers insight and good advice about approaching publishing in what I call this new publishing frontier.

 2) You made a public commitment to write your book by a certain date and asked your reading public to hold you accountable. How did making that commitment support you in the completion of the book?

 It was huge! The reason I did this at first was because I was going to be launching a class with my colleague, Linda Joy Myers, President of the National Association of Memoir Writers, called “Write Your Memoir in Six Months.” We conceived of it late last year and I decided I wanted to give it a go, to see how hard it would be to write my own book in six months. As a coach, I know that at least half the value of what I offer is giving my writers accountability, so I knew I needed that too. Plus I wanted to give my clients and people I’m connected to through social media a chance to be engaged in my process. It was fantastic, and fantastically challenging! I’m really excited about our first memoir class, too, now that I’ve been through the six-month challenge and have a sense of what it takes to really do it.

 3) You’ve been an acquisitions editor and been in publishing for a long time. You’ve witnessed firsthand the dramatic changes sweeping across the industry. What’s one thing every aspiring author needs to know about the new publishing terrain?

The biggest and hardest thing to come to terms with is the importance of platform to industry professionals. This, in my opinion, has been the single biggest change (other than technology) that has happened during my time in book publishing. When I first started platform didn’t look like it does today, and in part technology is the reason. Writers are expected to have well-trafficked blogs and lots of followers on social media. In order to get a book deal, the marketing and publicity the author brings to the table, sometimes before the book is even complete, plays a big role. So I’m always reminding the writers I work with, as they’re toiling away on their projects, that they need to be tending to their platform. As an editor at Seal I rejected plenty of good projects from authors who didn’t have a platform, so it’s a really important component now of traditional publishing. On the other hand, I will say that self-publishing has never been more exciting or more accepted, so the upshot here is that while traditional publishing’s barriers are getting higher and more impenetrable all the time, self-publishing is looking more attractive and interesting with each passing month.

 4) Let’s imagine that you were hosting a magnificent dinner party and got to invite three well-known writers. Who would you choose and why?

First is Toni Morrison, hands down. I’ve read every book she’s written. She’s the single most influential writer in my life because she touched me at a really critical time in my intellectual development. I have to credit her for my love of good writing. I would choose Stephen King because I think he has a brilliant mind. I liked his books when I was younger, but I like that he’s a writer who thinks about writing and imparts his experience and wisdom to aspiring writers. Finally, I would invite Caroline Knapp (assuming we can suspend disbelief here and invite someone who’s no longer with us). I would invite her because I would want a memoirist in the group and for me she’s a memoirist who embodied the skills I’m trying to teach my memoirists. She was transparent, honest, vulnerable, and relatable. Her books are about her, but they are without fail about everywoman.

 5) Besides promoting your current book, what’s next for you?

The biggest thing on my plate right now is growing She Writes Press, my new self-publishing venture with founder Kamy Wicoff. We launched the press at the end of June, on the third anniversary of She Writes. To date we’ve received 52 submissions and we have thirteen books in the production process for our pilot program. This has been a really exciting endeavor, and my own book is the first book to be published by She Writes Press. I will never stop supporting traditional publishing, but I have strong reasons for having wanted to self-publish, which I discuss in my book. So I’m thrilled to be partnering with Kamy in this way and to continue to support women writers, which was something that brought me a lot of fulfillment in my role at Seal Press as well.

 6) What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Tough question. There are a lot of tips depending on what a writer’s particular struggle is, but I think the number one tip is to be self-protective with your writing life. Sometimes this means guarding yourself against others and their feedback and opinions, whether you’re at the early stages or shopping your book. But sometimes this means guarding yourself against your own inner critics, the ones who tell you to give up, who makes excuses for why you should write later, who insist that it’s going to be embarrassing to have your work out in the world. Even doing a how-to book I found the inner critic to be a formidable foe! I had to find ways to work through that, and to allow the process to be fun and sacred and to not always feel like something scary or a burden. Writing opens you up in unimaginable ways, and when our hearts are open, they’re sometimes a little raw. So protect and persevere!

Brooke Warner is founder of Warner Coaching Inc. and publisher of She Writes Press. Brooke’s expertise is in traditional and new publishing, and she is an equal advocate for publishing with a traditional house and self-publishing. What’s Your Book? is her first book, and she’s honored to be publishing on She Writes Press.

Find Brooke online:

To purchase Brooke’s book:

(Photo credit Jen Molander Photography)


Spring presents writers with a perfect time to reassess, reorganize and rededicate ourselves to the projects that we most want to bring into the world. Spring fuels us with the energy to tackle physical spaces (and states of mind) that no longer serve us. Over the next several posts, I’ll explore the role of spring cleaning for your writing life. I also asked writer friends for their thoughts and will share their nuggets of wisdom. I posed this question to them: What is one thing that you’re doing, giving away, rearranging, reassessing, reorganizing, etc., to support your writing life?

Samantha Stacia, writer and visionary creator of the ‘Blooming Late’ community (for women writers over forty on She Writes, Facebook and Twitter) shared:

The ONLY thing unique I have been doing for spring is rearranging my writing nook. (It’s a small indentation that has a desk with shelves all the way up the wall above it across from my bed in my bedroom. I have to write on my laptop sitting on my bed due to my disability.) I have been saving my son’s schoolwork there as well, but have found that it sits there making me feel guilty that I am not putting it into albums, scrapbooks etc., while I am trying to write. So I am moving all his stuff to a place all by itself AWAY from the nook, so I can take ONE day this summer to go through it and file everything where it belongs. It’s been so distracting to have something OTHER than my writing materials in my writing nook. It’s amazing how all that other stuff hanging out in one’s writing area (reminding you of all the other projects waiting for you), can make you feel bad about writing!

So spring is about making my writing space EXCLUSIVELY about writing and not a multitasking space. It’s already made me feel more focused that I have given my writing its own place, making it a real priority.

Jennie Kohl Austin, a writer who also describes herself as a “fiercely determined mom, artist, researcher, lover, and motorcycle enthusiast” shared:

I chose to rework my writing work space as a part of my spring routine this year. I separated my writing work space from my regular computer area so that I could define the state of “being a writer.” Laptop, markers and notepads, nice lighting, and my most inspiring books make for a soothing space that not only honors my process, but also lets my family know I’m working. The best part is how it doesn’t gather unrelated clutter, so I’m always ready to work!


Samantha and Jennie’s insights remind us how important it is to periodically reassess our writing space. Go and look at your writing space. What’s the state of it? Do you feel as sense of ease when you look at it? Is it crammed with stuff that belongs in other rooms of your house? If you live with other people, is this space known as your special writing area?

Have you even claimed some special place yet, or are you waiting for permission from someone else? If you’re struggling with this, see my post on claiming creative space.

It’s important to not get overwhelmed during spring cleaning. Many people decide they will devote a day to a spring cleaning project and then realize that they’re cranky after two hours and that the task requires at least two days. Start small and reward yourself often. Why not take from now until the official start of summer to spring clean? You could choose one project each week. I suggest working in 15-30 minute intervals so there’s less chance of getting frustrated and overwhelmed. I enjoy using an online stopwatch.

Survey your space and make a quick list of what you feel needs your attention most. The questions below are not exhaustive, but a good place to start.

-Do you need to organize and sort out your paper files?

-Would it be useful to create an index for your piles of journals?

-When was the last time you did a backup of your computer files? Do you need to delete or add programs?

-Do you need to release some writing books? Welcome others?

-Do you need to physically clean your computer?

-Do you have too much or too little of something in your space?

-Do you need more or less shelf space?

-Are there big physical jobs you’d like to do (i.e. paint)?

Once you have your list you can break each item down into specific tasks.

I’d love to hear from you about your process of spring cleaning and your writing life. Any please feel free to share any tips!


Photo Credit:


I’m delighted to welcome writer and She Writes friend Nadine Feldman in the ‘Love Your Creative Self’ series to share her wisdom. I’ve included a prompt question based on her reflection.


There is nothing like a trusted friend. We all want someone to share our secrets with, someone who will celebrate our triumphs and console us in our moments of failure.

My best friend is my writing practice. Each morning, before I get out of bed, I write three pages in a journal, a trick I learned from Julia Cameron and The Artist’s Way. In these private pages, I describe my dreams, my fears, and my pettiness. Nothing is off limits, because the page doesn’t mind. When I tell my troubles to the page, it doesn’t try to fix or change me. It just listens. The muddied waters of my brain start to clear, and then the conversation changes. I could do this… What if…? I could solve my problem by…

Once I have bared my soul, I am free to work on my “real” writing, just as we often feel freer after sorting things out with friends. The conversation changes. We’re having tea and gossiping about imaginary people. We speculate about their motives, cry when they are sad, or laugh when they say something fun or interesting. Sometimes they surprise us and take the story in an unexpected direction.

Ever have one of those days when you’re on the outs with a friend, or you just don’t know how to say what you mean? Friends sometimes abandon us, and some days the page wants to stay blank and unresponsive. If we write enough of I don’t know what to write, though, something comes. Yes, we may get the silent treatment for a while, but it passes. We forgive, we are forgiven, and the words return.

Life intervenes. Financial or health pressures mount, someone we love dies, or a family member disappoints. Overwhelmed at time with these dramas, we may say, “How can I possibly write today?”  Yet how can we not? If we see our writing as our best friend, we will turn toward it, again and again, in good times and bad  – and it will sustain us. We gather our computer, curl up with a hot cup of tea, and begin.

Nadine Galinsky Feldman is the author of The Foreign Language of Friends (a novel) and When a Grandchild Dies: What to Do, What to Say, How to Cope. She also edited the award-winning Patchwork & Ornament: A Woman’s Journey of Life, Love, and Art by Jeanette Feldman. She loves gardening, hiking, travel, and yoga.  She can be found on her blog at

Prompt: What are the ways we can befriend our creative work, so that as Nadine says “we will turn toward it, again and again” even when our lives feel busy and out of sorts?

For some of us it might be as direct as reminding ourselves daily that our creative work matters and then acting accordingly. For others it might mean claiming a home space to paint, quilt or write. For others it might mean learning more effective ways to calm the critical voices in our head that act as saboteurs.

What’s one new way you can befriend your creative work this week?

Photo Credit: Suzanna Leigh


During the last decade fitness experts have touted the importance of developing a strong core. A well developed core (the muscles that run the length of the trunk and torso), stabilizes the spine and pelvis and contributes to balance and strength. The core helps us transfer powerful energy outward to the rest of the body. Looking back, I can see that in 2011, I metaphorically worked on my writer’s core. This included paying attention to the craft of writing and strengthening a self-care system to support my writing life. Shaping my writer’s core afforded me a new level of emotional fitness than I had ever experienced before.

In toning my writer’s core I committed to reviewing the scaffolding of writing (e.g. plot, dialogue, setting, scene building, etc), taking classes and workshops that explored the process of revision, the structure of successful memoirs and key components in writing for children. This allowed me to return to my writing with a generous attention to the shaping of each paragraph and scene in ways that I was unable to do before.

For years, I labored alone with my writing or joined writing groups that were dysfunctional. Despite these past experiences, I developed decent skills on giving feedback and support.  Prior to last year, however, I didn’t know how to ask for support or even what kinds of writing support might be good for me. That has changed dramatically. 2011 was my year for developing layers and layers of yummy writing support. Some fell into my lap and others I actively sought out.

February:  An acquaintance approached me to be a writing buddy; I accept and we meet monthly to share writing progress, fellowship and encouragement.

April:  I’m asked to join two monthly critique groups.  I accept. We share similar commitments to writing and neither group is dysfunctional.

May:  I discover She Writes! Joining She Writes has been one of the most rewarding experiences of receiving writerly support.

July-December :  I join creativity writer SARK’s online writing program WINS(Write It Now with SARK), and her online community AHA (A Haven and Accelerator for Writers).  SARK offers profound knowledge about how to deal with pesky inner critics. I highly recommend this innovative program!

This unprecedented year of support has helped me transform several writing blocks (i.e. all or nothing bursts of writing, procrastination and perfectionism, fear, etc) that I have struggled with for as long as I can remember.

Communing with so many writers and participating in several writing communities also gently shifted my focus from an exclusive one set on individual publication to recognizing and celebrating the courage, camaraderie and confidence that comes from being part of a community of writers. I want to write not just for personal advancement, but also to be in conversation and build rapport with writing kin. I’ve gotten equally invested in other writers’ success as well as my own. I’m becoming a better writer, but also a more generous one, too.

Part of toning my core was also to openly explore and write about the difficult feelings that can stop us as writers including rejection, jealousy, envy, competition and anxiety. Blogging about new ways to cope with rejection and openly discussing this topic with other writers was a great strengthener.

A February workshop I took from my writing teacher, Marjorie Hudson, also shifted my perspective on submitting one’s work and coping with rejection. She declared that as part of claiming the mantle of a writer, one should have gathered at least 99 rejections. I sat in the workshop feeling pretty smug thinking that surely with all the years that I have been  trying to get published I have reached that number, no problem. Later as I was reviewing my submission file, I was shocked to realize that I wasn’t even half way close to 99 rejections! This revelation spurred me on submit my work, all year, in a serious and organized way. By taking this challenge on, I ushered in plenty of rejections but also a second place prize for a poem in the Word and Sound International Writing Competition, and other writing successes. As SARK says, “If we’re not getting rejected, we’re not stretching far enough.”

In training the physical core, one has to undertake lots of demanding moves: plank, side plank, crunches and push-ups and do them consistently. In 2011, I also worked on the hard things that didn’t feel so good in the short term like developing a daily writing practice and embracing a new perspective on revising longer projects.

For 2012, my intention is continue to strengthen my writer’s core by…

–maintaining and sustaining layers of support ( being active in She Writes, meetings with my writing buddy, continue participating in my three writing groups, and finish round 3 of WINS)

–continuing to work on the craft of writing by taking additional classes

–striving to make it to 99 rejections this year!

–moving forward with a consistent writing practice

–practicing an attitude of revising longer works with delight instead of dread


I wish you a strong writer’s core for 2012!


*This post appeared appeared a few weeks ago on She Writes

I know…I’ve been away from my blog way too long. I have been “cheating” on this blog by writing occasional blogs at She Writes. She Writes is a great organization devoted to supporting and encouraging women writers.

Below, is a revised version of what I posted on She Writes about coping with rejection and creating rituals. Enjoy!

It’s happened again. I was minding my own business, thinking of myself as a writer, keeping to deadlines and then a rejection letter came in an email. I keep track of where I send pieces but sometimes I forget that something of mine is out floating around in the literary universe. When a rejection email arrives out of the blue it feels like my head has been plunged in cold water. I’ve been writing and submitting long enough to know that rejection is part of the writing process. A very big part of the process. It’s just that I realized that I don’t have a rejection ritual yet. Do you?

For me, rituals are part of my creating process. There’s the way that I sit down with tea or when I turn on the computer or the self-affirming words that I say when I start a piece. I tend to stock up on rituals, go to routines for different aspects of the creative life. But, I haven’t developed one for dealing with rejections. I think I should.

I started thumbing through my writing books-all of which talk about the inevitability of rejection-and was surprised to find that few gave concrete advice or guidance about how to take care of yourself when you get a rejection letter. Most just say that you should immediately write a new query letter and send the manuscript back out–very perfunctory.

If you don’t have Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, you should. It’s laugh out loud funny, poignant and she makes a lot of analogies about sex, relationships and the writing process. Her take on rejection is that one should write a handwritten thank you note, to the editor, immediately after receiving a rejection. She swears that writing is a type of “spiritual aikido” and helps one stay sane. She also tells a great story about landing a writing assignment after being rejected by an editor over many years. He knew her well through all those nice notes she had sent back to him and gave her work!

I’m in an online writing course with creativity guru SARK (author of many books including Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper: Gifting the World with Your Words and Stories, and Creating the Time and Energy to Actually Do It). I asked her and the other participants about dealing with rejection. SARK suggested that after getting rejected you write an email *to yourself* from them (whoever has done the rejecting) that you would LIKE to receive. She also liked the idea of sending a nice thank you note—by email—to the editor or agent. She also reminded me of her quote: “If you’re not getting rejected, it means you’re not reaching far enough.”

I like both See’s and SARK’s encouragement to reroute what feels like negative energy back out to the literary universe for transmutation. I can see myself sending a nice email back to the editor thanking them for reading my piece and that I’ll submit again. I’m also intrigued by the idea of sending myself the email I would have really liked to receive.

My writing teacher, Marjorie Hudson (author of the new short story collection Accidental Birds), has encouraged her students to think about rejection as a process. She said that we should all strive for 100 rejections letters; 100 rejection letters is part of developing our chops as writers. When I first heard this, I frankly thought that she was a bit insane and also somewhat smugly thought that I was already up to a 100 rejection letters. As it turns out, I’m only about half way there! This sobered me up and got me back to work. Next time I see her, I’m going to ask what to do when I get to 100? Maybe throw a party?

So, I’m curious, do you have a rejection ritual that helps you? Is it fun and light or dark and melodramatic? Do you keep the rejection letters in a special file or immediately throw them away? How do you navigate the world of rejection?

Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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