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September 2020

We Rock: Cathy's List

 

CathyHey Writerly Women! Uh, has anyone noticed that the three who have been BRAVE enough to share their lists of writing strengths -- me, Colleen and Cathy -- are all well into the second half of our lives? I'm thinking those of you who are still considered YOUNG women -- you know, Natasha, Andrea, Emii, Gloria, Lily, to shame -- I mean name -- only a few -- need to step the heck up. I'll say it again, how do we expect God to guide us along this writing path if we aren't appreciative of the gifts we've already been given for the journey.

Just sayin'.

Okay, enough with the finger-wagging. Let's look at Cathy's list. She posted these in a comment, but I thought they needed to be spotlighted.

 1. Teach (This is my passion. I would rather teach writing than write, especially to young writers.)

2. Edit (I had one critique with a professional editor of a novel chapter in which she found no editing errors, something she said had never happened before.)

3. Get ideas for writing prompts easily

4. Get ideas for devotions/articles easily

5. Get ideas for fiction easily (Do you see a pattern here? Thanks to God’s sense of humor, nary a day goes by during which I’m not jotting some idea for some writing project. Three yesterday, one today ... so far. Two of our daughters, each, made me places in which to keep all these ideas!)

6. Write devotions (I’ve become adept at condensing a 650-word devotional piece to a 250-word devotion! Woohoo!)

7. Do prewriting (I’ve been called the “queen of prewriting”!)

8. Help other writers brainstorm (Super fun!)

9. Help other writers with their work (also can be one of those areas where I should practice the word “no” ... LOL!)

10. Developed a flare for writing fiction (something I truly feel has come from all the young people I’ve worked with over 30+ years, through helping them flesh out their story arcs/themes, characters, settings, plots, paragraphs, edits, etc.)

*****

If that doesn't inspire you, I don't know what will!

Tomorrow we're going to look at that other List -- the one where you write down five (and ONLY five) areas of writing that challenge you. We'll explore that concept a little differently than you might expect, so definitely come by. Embarrassed 3 And in the meantime, MORE GIFT LISTS PLEASE! I want you all glowing. You don't light a lamp and then hide it under a bushel. AKA, don't be a reclining chair that burps. Again, just sayin' ...

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


We Rock: Colleen's List

ColleenGood morning, Writerly Women. Before I give you Colleen, I just want to say that I haven't responded to your recent comments because when I've read them, I've found myself being choked up. There is something about the honesty and the discouragement and the taking hold of courage that brings all kinds of emotions to the surface. I will reply to each one of you when I get the tears under control.

And call me slow, but I just this very moment when I wrote that last sentence realized that "discouragement" and "courage" come from the same root word "cor", which means "heart." I don't think I have to explain that to this intelligent group. I think it's very evident in what Colleen calls her "twenty minutes of truth-telling." She said in her email, "Trust me, this is unedited. If it were, it would be so much neater and shorter. Not so messy, emotionally speaking. I hardly ever face these things."

Once you read this, you'll be glad she did.

****

  1. 1. I’m excellent at short and synthesis. Count on me for short stories, articles, essays, meditations, blog posts, summaries, and book cover blurbs. However, writing long pieces (read book) is daunting.
  2. I’m great at helping others dig into the medulla of their work and cut out fluff. My nickname is Choppinator.
  3. Descriptions, albeit short, are a strength.
  4. I’m a grammar Nazi and a good speller. I mind-edit store signs, menus, and projected lyrics at church, a habit that can drive me and others close by bonkers.
  5. I meet deadlines.
  6. I prioritize simile and metaphor originality.
  7. My assessments are kind regarding writers and their work. I don’t struggle with jealousy or competitiveness. I do have one envy exception—J.I. Packer is my hero, and Knowing God and Concise Theology are the books I wish I’d written!
  8. I’m ruthless with adverbs, sentence tags, and echoes.
  9. I see it as a huge plus that the Flesch-Kincaid grade level of most of my writing, for kids or adults, is 4th-5th
  10. I don’t marry my work. I listen to critiques from those I trust, and have learned which suggestions to implement or reject.*****I think I want to BE Colleen when I grow up. By the way, she is a fascinating person. With her husband she has spent the last 20+ years in Chile doing great work, particularly in the field of education. She is a delight to be with, and she has a right-on voice for middle grade, especially boys. Trust me, you want to have coffee with this lady!

Tomorrow I'll highlight a few more of you who have shared your lists with me. On Thursday we'll address Pam's comment, which will lead us perfectly into the topic of our roadblocks. YOU are shaping this blog. You indeed rock.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


Don't Deny the Possible

LatteHey, Writerly Women! In her comment, Andrea requested a latte, so here you go. You may actually want your warm beverage of choice for this post, ladies. It calls for some dipping deep. 

You've shared some AWESOME writing with us these last few weeks. Naked stuff. Raw, truthful things. Some of the best word-smithing and creating of metaphors I've seen in a long time -- and I read a LOT. I think we've proven that writing without fear and telling our truth is not only freeing ... it brings out the best from our pens and keyboards. And yet ...

Something seems to happen when we sit down to do the "real writing." The story we hope to have published. The book we long to see in print, between stunning covers, in an end cap in the Barnes and Noble. That's when the doubts start. Is an agent ever going to take this on? Will any publishing house actually think this is even decent? Are people going to choose this over the bajillion other books available on Amazon?

Every time we allow a "no" answer to any of those questions to creep in, we tighten up. We get that knot Colleen talked about in her comment. Then every sentence -- make that every WORD -- becomes suspect. That's a cliche. That's lame. There is nothing fresh here. I'm a loser. Once we get there, the temptation to close the laptop and go eat an entire package of Oreos (or make three lattes back to back) is almost irresistible.

I'm not saying those questions about whether you'll get an agent, find a publisher and sell any books at all aren't realistic. What isn't valid is trying to write naked and true with all that going on in your head. I'm not going to tell you to just stop thinking about all that and merely write. That would be like saying, "Don't think about a white horse." Soon as I do that, you have a whole heard of albino mustangs stampeding through your head. Am I right?

What I will do is offer an approach I've found to be incredibly helpful, because, like you, I wonder those same things from time to time. 

Let's start with a quote by Dr. Dennis Saleebey, who was a passionate believer in encouraging people to build on their strengths and translated that into practice at the Strengths Institute, which is part of the school of social welfare at the University of Kansas. He was well known in his field for his book The Strengths Perspective in Social Work Practice, but what he has to say speaks to us as writers as well:

"It is as wrong to deny the possible as it is to deny the problem."

Dennis-Saleeby-photo-260x390

We can't ignore the fact that it is difficult to get published these days. That agents seem to be looking for reasons to say no. That even when we do get a book out, so much of the responsibility for marketing it falls on us, a job for which most of us are completely unqualified. To forget that would be to deny the problem, and that would be a mistake. But Dr. Saleebey said (he unfortunately passed away in 2014;  he was a person I would have loved to have talked to over coffee) we also have to look at the possible. Otherwise, we do nothing at all.

In training social workers, he always required his graduate students to begin their study by making a list of their 10 strengths. That sounds fun and encouraging and positive, right? Apparently you'd be surprised how many people hate doing that exercise. When asked to list their 5 limitations or places where they need growth, most have trouble stopping at just five. It seems to be human nature to focus on our shortcomings and shrug off our strengths.

Again, I know that applies to us specifically as we wrangle and worry over our work in progress. Let's give it a try. Swear to me you'll at least take a shot at it?

    1.   Thinking just about yourself as a writer, make a list of 10 things you do well. Do it naked. Tell yourself the truth.

    2.  Look over that list and flesh out anything general. Rather than "I'm good at plotting", you might say, "I can raise the stakes like no other," and "Talk about crafting cliff-hangers -- that's me." Instead of "My characters are good," you'd want to go with "My characters are three-dimensional" and "I can make the reader actually see them." 

    3. If you think you've listed all of your strengths as a writer and you have less than ten, dig deeper. According to Donald Maass, in making lists related to your work, the things you write down last are usually the most true. Don't forget things like, "I can write 4 pages in less than an hour when I'm on a roll," or "I edit and pare down until I reach the silvery essentials."

    4. If you still can't come up with ten, set the list aside but think about it while you're washing your car or unloading the dishwasher. More will come to you. Looking at some of your writing will help as well. Be objective. Overlook any "flaws" and go for the good stuff. Even, "I'm pretty much a perfect speller" is valid.

In case this feels conceited and self-indulgent, fuh-get about it! We have to know where we excel, where we shine, what our possibilities are, or we will forever be editing our manuscripts until they start to look like Joan Rivers (Remember her? Lady who had so many face lifts she was barely recognizable as herself?) If it makes you feel any better, next week we'll do the other list. Just promise me you'll do your best not to go there yet.

What makes this community so amazing is your participation. And not just your comments but the sharing of your work. I love that you trust this to be a safe place. SO -- will you send me your lists? Either via email (nnrue@att.net) or in a comment? If there is any trace of "Everybody will think I consider myself to be all that and a bag of chips" in your mind, tell it thanks but you're doing it anyway.  It takes a great deal of courage to own your strengths and let them be known. Would it help if I shared some of my list?

    * I am the ultimate planner, and that has served me well over and over and over. I have just about every detail outlined before I start my draft. And it never seems to make the writing stale. I love it!

    * I love writing dialogue and I work very consciously to make it real. Maybe that's because I'm also the ultimate eavesdropper.

    * Research is my forte. I always go to the place where my novel or series takes place and soak in all the details, the food, the dialect, the landscape, everything. Writing at Walden POnd

    * My characters become so real to me that when I finish writing a book, I grieve because I won't be hanging out with them any more. I can practically smell them.

    * I write tight. There's a lot of detail -- a lot -- but I make sure every piece of it does something to enhance the story. I have very few conversation-over-tea scenes. 

    * I always know my protagonist's hidden need before I begin. The story is organized around that.

    * But I am also open to new ideas that present themselves as I write, as long as they don't take me off on a completely different track. I've even had new characters show up who had to be dealt with.

That's seven, but you get the idea, right? Do share with us. We want to celebrate your awesomeness with you.

Blessings,

Nancy   

 

 


Truths We Want to Tell: Andrea

AndreaOh, Writerly Women, your honest and raw courage are beyond inspiring. You humble me, and that is a beautiful thing. Andrea adds to the body of work we're growing here as she reveals the truths she wants to tell. Savor.

*****

 

I am a geologist. I look at the rocks, and they tell me their stories. 

Every grain, a word. Every layer, a chapter. Every formation, a story. Insight and wonder into a world our ancestors witnessed. A world buried and preserved in rock layers, all over the earth. And what story do they tell? I look at the rocks and the minerals within them. I look at the structure, every fault and every bend. I look - and I read. 

I am a disaster scientist. I study the forces of nature, and am awed by their terrible beauty. 

The swirl of the hurricane, the shake of the earthquake, the dance of the tornado, the hunger of the wildfire, and the raw power of water...I watch, I learn, and I teach in the hope of lessening disaster.

I am a geologist, and a disaster scientist. I question, and I study. I theorize, and I test. 

I look at the rocks, and they tell me their stories. Of how they were laid, of the mighty forces that placed them there. Forces that fractured, and sheared and buried. Massive formations of minerals, trees spanning multiple layers of rock, thick beds of uniform sediment, boulders and pebbles in a matrix of what was once mud -  now frozen in time. I look at the rocks and they tell me a story - of a massive, catastrophic water event. 

*****

I don't know about you, but I see something deeply metaphorical in that truth. You have all shown your layers. Let's continue to do that, shall we? You have made this a safe place to express who we are. Myself included.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


Truths We Want to Tell: Emii

EmiiWhen I asked you to share the truths you want to tell, I'm not sure why I didn't expect exquisite writing rather than a bullet list. Of course you'd respond with imagery and detail and soul-words. It's you we're talking about, and you are writers in your very cells.

Emii was the first to send me a piece, and I hope you savor every word, just as I did. This passage is so rich, you may want to ponder one paragraph and tell us how it wrapped itself around you. You'll see what I mean ...

*****

Pirouette.

Autumn’s fingers unfurling.

Cyclical return to earth.

                                                                                                    Face God, bared, intimate.

Know myself whole that I can bleed love to you and receive your own like drink, like consummate bread. Drink deep of God. Let go and receive you whole. Let go of what I need to hold so I can fall into the embrace of the universe, the fulness of Christ composing singularity, this luminous spectacularity of cosmic unity.

Give myself without fear of rejection or abandonment or feeling inadequate. To keep practicing belovedness and pour out heart in stream of consciousness and close eyes and let go of the dictation that occupies waking and sleeping and let go, return to presence, oh naked intent, simple kenosis.

This becoming and undoing, unravelling and revealing.

Whisper to me, whisper with me, I whisper to you. We are trees swinging and swaying, wind that moves invisibly, articulating depths of earth and sky. Body carved, sculpted, shaped into light, into life, resplendent reflection of significance, this shadow and light making pictures upon the universe. Dancing in autumn

We are secrets and impressions buried in earth, sunk into sky, the deep breath and exhalation of story and recovery and the long journey through night, pieces falling and spinning, waiting, undone, left with nothing. Left with nothing but whispers and wonderings of God in grains of sand and ocean’s sigh. Inhale, exhale, let go, return.

Too many things to know. Let go. Let go that I might know what it is I do not yet know. Let go, let go, let go. Celebrate with me. Suffer with me. I’m whole and ready. Celebrate with me. Suffer with me. I’m whole and ready. Blood and bone, energetic light splaying. You’re whole and ready. Blood and bone, energetic light splaying. Oh, come and see. Bow down in curiosity.

In the bowing, the releasing, the gentle allowing of everything. They say repetition isn’t redundancy and I let go of that to which I cling. This surrendering of control into the name of everything, intrinsic Reality, eating and drinking, bowing, sinking into the rising energy of the breath. Life, me to returning.

What is the cry, the deep fear of the night, the hesitancy to see light? Why run? Why scream, why hide? Come, Child calls. Return with me, to this curious light of silent matrimony. Where hill and sky and dirt all parade down the aisle of kenotic energy, this exalting embrace of ordinary. A holy inhalation of everything. Tell me more. Let go of everything, arrive. Bare. O naked intent.

*****

We would love to see everyone's "naked intent." Just email me your piece. And may you pirouette today.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 


Nekkid Writing: Exhibit J

Kate PWriterly women! I've received a few Truths I Want To Tell pieces which I'll post this week. First, though, I wanted you to see the latest passage of "nekkid" writing, from our Kate Prater. Kate lives in Texas where she teaches -- as you can see from the background in her great pic -- and while I just know she's a superb educator, I wish she had more time to write because she's so stinkin' good. In her email to me in which she shared her nekkid poem, she said, "I tried to write Nekkid ... And couldn't. When I sat to write, I struggled for words that would be raw and seen without fear, and I wrestled with words. So I sat and listened and wrote what I heard inside instead." I think you'll resonate with what she indeed heard.

*****

Courage, Dear Heart.

From a Lion, from a Lamb, through my book to my Soul.

I gave you Power. I gave you Love. I gave you a Sound Mind. 

You have what you need, for you have Me.

 

Courage, Dear Heart.

Awaken. Hear My Voice, hear My Love, hear My Command and obey.

You may weep for I love you and shelter you.  

 

Courage, Dear Heart. 

You are strongest when you are broken at My feet for only then can I make you New. 

Refined by fire, moulded by My Hands, you will rise out of ashes, Beloved.

 

Courage, Dear Heart

I Am in you and you are in Me Wrap yourself in Me. Feel My Presence beat in your chest, stronger than any heartbeat, follow where I lead and lead to follow. 

But only by Lamplight.

 

Courage, Dear Heart.

Wear My Words ‘round your neck, on your tongue, in your heart, through your hands, be My feet. Do, say, be as I Am.

Think only on these things, on Me.

Courage, Dear Heart,

When shadows come.

All feel fear, all feel pain, all feel weak. 

But I will take your tears, your pain, your doubt, your sins and give you 

Courage, Dear Heart.

*****

May we all take courage from that, yes? Thank you Kate P.

 


NEKKID WRITING: EXHIBITS G, H AND I

Lily 2020Hey, Writerly Women. Soon we're going to run out of letters for our Exhibits. What a lovely problem to have, yes?

Today I first bring you Lily Chang, who you can get better acquainted with on  Instagram. Lily and I go back to Glen Eyrie days, and we have evolved from mentoring to friendship in the years that followed. Doctorate in philosophy, mother of four, gifted artist, musician and writer -- the list goes on. 

Here is her piece of "nekkid" writing which, like much of her work, is sheer poetry.

******

Writing Bare

Vivid and bold. But I am not cold. Sadness and pain color what I see. Love and laughter set me free. Predictable and Unpredictable, craziness and order to the full. Nothing left out. Truth laid bare. That's the way I write, vivid and bold, I dare.

 

 

**********

 

Cathy Mayfield chimed in next. She's the mother of our own Sarah, but she is also a writer in her own right, as well as a teacher of writing. The Montrose Christian Writers Conference would be bereft without her. The piece she's sharing with us is from her work in progress.

******

Her mother’s bedroom door was open, so Abby started to walk in, then paused. Her mother sat on the edge of the bed. She held something small in her hands, pressed against her heart, and tears trailed down her cheeks. Abby didn’t know whether to disturb her to ask what was wrong or retreat to give her mother privacy. Before Abby could decide, her mother sighed from a secret place deep in her soul. She leaned over to the nightstand beside her bed and placed the object in her hands on it. The empty photo frame. Abby hadn’t thought of that frame in years. Cathy
She knew it held a special place in her mother’s heart, but neither she nor Claire knew why. She’d promised to tell them someday, but that day never came. Whose picture should have been in that tiny pewter frame? Whose face should the delicate scrollwork have accented? Would her mother tell her now? Should she ask or let the ghosts of the past stay hidden? “Mama?” Miriam Lowry wiped the tears from her face and turned to her youngest daughter. As she did so, Abby noticed her mother’s shoulders heave with a deep breath, shoving the past to its hidden spot. No, now might not be the time to ask.

*****

GloriaAnd finally, Gloria. A charter member of the Glen Eyrie Young Women Writers, Gloria lives and writes and is her delightful self in Colorado where she creates everything from drawings to knitted pieces to marvelous hairstyles. I personally think she shines most at story telling.  In her nekkid passage she talks about, well, writing ... (She wrote it sitting in her car, though not while driving!)

***

How do you write about lacking words to interpret your thoughts? The very act is ironic, and the brain says ‘if you manage this, and not that, it is a waste

But what if these are the words that block the way?

There is truth and there are lies, and we hurt ourselves with lies to avoid the pain of truth. 

The mind holds an intricate web of impossible pictures and complex ideas, spun across years and gathered from every breath taken. To show it to someone else is madness, and yet. Here I am. Building a bridge of words. Hoping to give a glimpse, an impression, an inkling of what I hold. 

Because everyone holds a piece of the pictures formed, painted with a different brush, hung on different walls. 

And perhaps this glimpse,

this bridge,

is all we need

to convey

and the rest is painted in. 

Different, unique, pictures

of the same image. 

*****

This Nekkid Writing challenge has far exceeded my hopes, ladies. That has to be a God-thing. Through your honest, trusting participation you have made this YOUR community, and I am feeling in the marrow of me that you will continue to. EMII has already sent me her List of Truths She Wants to Tell, and I'm eager for more of you to do the same. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, check out  yesterday's post. Write your list naked. We now know how amazing the results will be.

 

Blessings,

Nancy

 

 


Let's Love Us Some HiIdegard

Hildegard Hey, Writerly Women. Today, let's venture back to the Rhineland during Medieval times, because, why the heck not? 

From the time she was young (as in early childhood) this visionary and eventual nun heard voices from Heaven. They commanded her to "Speak and write!" But she remained silent. It wasn't until she  was forty-three years old (according to New Mexican author Mirabai Starr)  that the visions became so insistent she could no long keep the secret: God was speaking to her in a swirl of spiraling light. On that day in 1141, she heard this:

"Oh, mortal, who receives these things not in the turbulence of deception but in the purity of simplicity for making plain the things that are hidden, write what you see and hear."

In her subsequent writings (yes, she did obey; I mean, you think?), she said that it was not doubt that held her back or a matter of worrying about what other people would think (she has most of us beat there!). It was simply humility. Still, she resisted, and the more she did, the more seriously ill she became. "Until at last," she writes (in the Scivias) compelled by many infirmities ... I set my hand to writing ... and rose from my sickness with renewed strength."

Now, speaking of humility, I am not comparing myself to Hildegard in ANY way. But I can relate somewhat to what she experienced. I've shared with some of you that for over two years I had what was called New Persistent Daily Headache, which is doctor-ese  for "We don't actually know what the Sam Hill is wrong with you." I had a railroad spike constantly digging into my right temple yet there seemed to be no cause and, as a result, no cure. After a series of events I won't go into, I found myself at the Osher Center for Integrative Health at Vanderbilt which changed everything. Various therapies and classes for those of us diagnosed with central sensitization led me to understand that the problem was that my brain's pain system is like a faulty car alarm that constantly goes off even though no one is even touching the vehicle. But that wasn't the only problem.

That pain, I know now, was something like Hildegard's voices from heaven. In my soul I was crying out to speak my truth. Tell the real stories. Write of the authentic love. I'm not at all ashamed of anything I've written. I've always told the truth. Just not ALL of the truth. Because I didn't fully know what it was.

After almost six months of classes, physical therapy and viniyoga therapy, my headache is all but gone. I'm obviously grateful. But I'm even more thankful for the freedom to discover all of who I am and to write and speak and teach and live from there. And just like Hildegard, there is a part of me that still resists. Osher-Wheel-800b

If I do this, I stand to lose a portion of my evangelical audience. My Facebook following will fall off. Some of you here may decide I've lost it and leave us. I may even "get hate" as my granddaughter calls it. But how can I not tell the truth? How can any of us not?

If I don't do this, the physical pain will find another place to land in my body and sap my energy and joy. If I don't, I will keep the pieces of my false self that are left and allow them to make my choices for me. If I don't, I won't be obeying the God I so deeply love. 

As much as I admire Hildegard, I couldn't completely see myself in her. She was a prophet who challenged authority and exposed corruption. She fed the spiritually hungry and called on humanity to change its ways. I'm not that larger-than-life. So God found another way to nudge me on. I was rewatching an episode of Call the Midwife, and three lines I'd heard several times before in previous viewings stood out for me and inspired me to pen my 150 words of "nekkid" writing. Here it is:

Midwife“Tell your truth. Tell your story. Tell your love,” she said. And I cried – in that belly-clenching way that won’t let it all go. My truth is that I believe in a Universal Christ, not an exclusive one. I love and follow the life and teachings of Jesus, but I do not have to hate other religions in order to love mine.  My story is that I am being transformed by God through yoga and meditation and prayer and deep soul-level community, not by doctrine. My love is in authentic community, not the church I still love. So much to lose in telling. But I refuse to lose the self that is loosening in my belly. I want to cry her out.

 

I have the sense that all of you want to cry out your truth -- tell your story as it really is -- proclaim your love without shame or fear. Am I right?

If I am right, then will you try this exercise?

    * make some space and time in which you can write truth like no one is ever going to see it but you and God

    * set a timer for twenty minutes; you can write longer than that, but keep pen to paper or fingers to keyboard for at least that long

    * make an exhaustive list of the truths you want to tell, the stories within that you long to reveal and the loves you want to shower all over your world; it can be a bullet list, and if some turn into paragraphs so much the better

    * worry not about the quality of the writing; the truth always calls out the best of our creativity, though not always the perfection of our grammatical knowledge --forget that for now

    If you want to share any part of that, please do -- in a comment or in an email to me (nnrue@att.net) in which you indicate to me whether it's okay to post it. And here's why. Sure, this blog is very public, but I monitor it daily. If anyone posts a comment that blasts or tries to shame you in any way, I will delete it and forever block the sender. This is a safe place. We all need to take up the courage to tell this to someone we can trust. That's how we find out that we are brave. 

I just did it above. I just revealed publicly, for the first time, that I am a Universalist Christian. That I refuse to hate other people's religions just because I love my own. That I use what are considered 'eastern' practices to connect with my Lord God in a deep way. That this community and a few others I am part of minister to me more than church and provide me with more authentic ways to serve other people. I just did it because I trust you.

I hope you will trust us -- even if your truth is the exact opposite of mine. It is yours -- and you must tell it. You must tell it in writing. Just like Hildegard.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue             


Nekkid Writing Exhibits D, E and F

    Pam  Meet Pam Halter, if you haven't already.  She and I have been friends since our writing group began over fifteen years ago. We are known as the Crue, which has evolved from being just about writing to being very much about each other and our journeys. Pam writes fantasy for a number of audiences (click here to check her out) and is part of the very pulse of Realm Makers. But stories aren't the only things she makes. She designs and sews some of the most creative quilts I've seen. I own two. (Well, Maeryn shares hers with me) This woman is marvelously complex, as you will see ...

***

 

Which is the real me? The one who used to sing and dance and clap my hands while prancing around the living room, just for the joy of living and the joy of the Lord? The one who wears a mask almost all the time? The mask that says everything is fine. Or the one who weeps deep inside, too deep for tears? The one who hates being so strong, but can’t be anything but strong? The one who can handle more than she ever thought, all the while silently screaming for help. The one who loves doing for others, all the while resenting the act because no one SEES me. The strong, silent, sad, screaming woman who walks country roads looking for fairy homes and worshiping the living God, who made her this way. I am all of these. I am none of these.

***

AmalieAmalie is among the young women who participate in the Young Women Writers Retreat at Glen Eyrie. I'm only just coming to know her, and what I'm slowly learning is all very real and inspiring. Even with a household full of kids and a budding new career, she makes the time for interior work that imbues her work with authenticity (there's that awesome word, Kate B.!). She began the email to which this piece was attached with, "I just had heart surgery this morning, and I decided to write while in recovery as I was coming out of anesthesia. It doesn't get much more unfiltered than that."  Uh, ya THINK! She wrote a bit over the 150 word limit, but I think we can cut her some slack. Besides, there is nothing here that could be carved away in the interest of brevity. I give you Amalie.

*****

The tumult of needing others.

I am a portrait incomplete. I long to be given a name that speaks God’s glory and wisdom, but the syllables in my present continue to fall short. Broken, lacking, incompetent. Made as something flawlessly beautiful, the wounds from the fall from integration stab and rip at my soul. I know instinctively that I was created for so much more. To touch that knowing reveals so much pain, from which I flinch and withdraw.

 Don’t call me smart or beautiful or fun. Don’t tell me I mean so much to you. I know it’s true, yet I still won’t believe you. I reject your implications of value. It’s much safer here, in the ignorance of contempt. But wait, please don’t stop. Push, and push again. Break through my shields, and show me what you see. I have no needs. No needs means no rejection. But I need the mirror in your eyes. Your soul touches mine, and it terrifies me.

 I know how to guide you on your journey. I can see you clearly, and I understand you better than you know yourself. To be understood is to be loved in my world. Let me love you, from this safe distance. My heart is filled as I see you make life giving connections that I brought to your awareness. My sight is used to heal your wounds, and it feels so meaningful to love you like this. I have worth in that moment. It’s comfortable behind this one way mirror.

 And lonely. I’m trapped in the swirling current of emotions that I don’t know how to feel. I need your eyes on me, telling me which way is up. I’m afraid to let you see me, but I’m drowning without your hand. Explain to me what I’m feeling, and show me how to feel it. I need you. The need embraced is where shame and contempt are exposed. In the light, they cannot thrive. I long to choose to be brave, to cry with you, and to be known. I long to freely embrace the unmerited worth I have already been given by my Maker.  Each step in that direction brings me closer to God’s intention to bring us to the names He has chosen for us, together.  One stroke at a time, sometimes with a broken brush, but still moving forward in painting the portraits we are co-authoring with God.

*****

EmiiFinally, Emii. Newly married, bright, gifted and so committed to our community here, we are blessed to have her. I'm getting to know her better as we message each other on my Facebook page. She is clearly a beautiful person. And just to do a little name-dropping, geographically speaking, this picture was taken in Assisi, Italy. I'm so jealous ...

*****

I am one colour and many shades, wrinkles and scars, outer-space and a garden. I am one colour and many shades, transparent veins, you see everything running through me, nothing is hidden yet I am a mystery Like light, transparent Light, at once given and receiving Yet mystery.

*****

If you haven't sent me a 150-word "nekkid" piece and you'd still like to, please do with a photo of yourself if it's okay for me to include it. Even though we'll have a new challenge later this afternoon which will also give you opportunities to share your work, these unedited, from-the-heart passages are always welcome. I'm loving how our community is evolving. Yes, Emii, it is indeed a mystery.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


Nekkid Writing Exhibit C

Kate BrickleyLadies! Our guest author today is Kate Brickley, who I have known since she was a young teenager. I have loved watching her become the marvelous young woman she is. (She just turned thirty!) Kate writes fantasy and shares her work with several other women from the Colorado clan. They're amazing at supporting each other. We also know from a recent Zoom gathering that she has the coolest basement apartment on the planet, complete with fireplace. 

When she sat down to do this exercise, she realized that she normally just writes like this anyway. Lately, though, she's found herself "boxed in" and unable to freely express herself. Apparently, she got unboxed, as you're about to see. 

*****

Title: Keys and Lies
Authored by - Kate B.

Naked and bare, a soul laid clear.

Transparent, wild. Vulnerable, guarded

How do you lay bare what is normally closed and sealed?

Locked away, we protect the innermost depths of ourselves. To those that reach out, do we really open up? Or do we close off the restricted area, even from ourselves? How much do we keep the pure center guarded, when we throw away the key and tell lies to our own face that is for the best.

A soul, silent and bright, brushing against the walls it's created.


It pulses. Low and quiet as it tentatively pokes at the aged lock. When had the haven become a cage? Where is the key that it long since thrown away? Far beyond the bars and out of reach.

Or maybe, it lays behind and wasn't thrown in the first place.

Oh little soul, all you need to do is look within and find the key to your freedom.

*****

I find the imagery in this exquisite and the theme startling. Who among us has not told lies to her own face? Thank you, Kate.

Tomorrow I'll post the pieces submitted via comments, just in case you've missed those. Maybe I'll even tuck mine in there too.  Meanwhile, I'm humbled and inspired by all of you.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 


Nekkid Writing Exhibit B

NatashaMeet Natasha! Are you not at this moment just dying to hang out with this woman? I. Love. Her.

Natasha is Canadian and is currently doing her last year at University -- but at home. Dang that Covid anyway, right? She's a whiz at languages, has deep compassion for third world cultures and she is a WONDERFUL writer. Like many of you, she's finished her first novel and is shopping it around. I have no doubt it will find a home.

She's also an active member of this community, always posting comments and supporting other writers. That's just so her. Here's an interior peek at Natasha which she wrote while struggling with a particularly resistant scene. It's going into the book.

*****


I’m sorry that I’m not angry enough, and by sorry I mean you can take your coffee-bitter heart and add some *** sugar. I do not know how to be sharp, how to slice, how to use my words like a wrecking ball on a building that needs to fall down. I would rather wish it down from the sky, would rather learn to sweet-talk the wind into blowing it over, would rather sit in its looming shadow and pretend it was never there to begin with. I do not know how to release empathy without losing myself with it. I do not know how to make a fist without crushing my own bones. I do not know how to touch the darkness without being consumed. 

*****

I've never seen that concept expressed with such intensity and vibrancy. And courage.

Thank you, Natasha.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue  P.S. Stand by tomorrow for Kate B.!   


Nekkid Writing: Exhibit A

Andrea 2

Hey, Naked Writers! Whether any of you actually removed any clothing to do the suggested exercise from Thursday is not known (nor does it need to be!), but the pieces you've emailed and posted have been some of the best writing I've seen in a while. Truly.

First to respond was Andrea. Isn't she lovely? She hails from Hawaii and is a Master of Disaster. Seriously -- that's her job. She has a master's degree in disaster management and works for a company that is on top of every hurricane, volcano eruption and tropical storm. Andrea shares that knowledge with kids, doing school visits and writing for Clubhouse magazine. And -- if that isn't enough -- she is a budding fiction author. I don't know anyone else who is spinning tales about contemporary sea monsters. Just sayin'.

This is the piece Andrea sent me. Again, great naked writing.

   *******

It began with a glittering ball, descending on a crowded city square. 3...2...1… Happy New Year, 2020, the start of a new decade. A year of promise, of opportunity, of dreams...or so it seemed. 

Then came the virus, and the streets were emptied. Dreams deferred, promise paused, and moments faded, as the world sheltered and waited. Lives and livelihoods lost. Hurricanes, wildfires, floods, derechos and swarms of livestock-killing mosquitoes followed, and one began to wonder if the Mayans might have gotten their dates wrong.

Uncertain, unsettled, untethered. And yet...a tentative step, a reclaimed joy and a new life born into a chaotic world. The flicker of hope, though damp, still burns. A year two thirds done. A year many want to be done with. A year still holding promise. Chance to capture each moment, celebrate the changes in the seasons and dare to dream again. 

****

Daring to dream WITH you, Andrea.

Look forward to Natasha's piece tomorrow -- and more after that. There is so much promise here.

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue


Write Nekkid!

Orchard HouserHey, Writerly Women! Three more have chimed in to say that they have joined us: CAYLENE, GLORIA and LORRIE. If you're here, peeking in, and haven't introduced yourself, please, please do. We're delighted you're here, as you can see from the picture. That is not, by the way, my home. It's Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women in -- wait for it -- six weeks. I'm not sure she even paused to eat.

I'm not suggesting any of us do that. What I am suggesting today is that we write naked. Or as they pronounce it here in the South: nekkid. (You are fortunate that I did not post a photo depicting THAT ...)

Arthur Samuel Joseph, nationally known voice teacher and author of the book Vocal Power: Harnessing the Power Within, gives his newest students an assignment that is interesting to say the least. He tells them to go home and record themselves reciting a poem and then singing a song. Sounds tame enough. Then he tells them to take off all their clothes (at home!) and repeat the exercise. Joseph says that when he listens to the two recordings, he can always tell which was done "nekkid" because that version is much more vibrant. Less inhibited. Less correct and more heartfelt. Asj

I will admit that I haven't tried this with writing. Just my luck someone would show up unannounced and find me in the buff at my computer. Nobody needs to see that! If you want to give it a go, have at it. The results might be fascinating. And by all means, if you do it, tell us about it.

What I have done, and hope you will do as well, is write as if I was naked. As if nobody was looking over my shoulder at my nakedness. As if nobody was watching at all. Because nobody is.

Have you ever danced in the privacy of your own room and just let it all hang out? Or sung full-on with everything that's in you while driving alone out on the open road? Or run across a field of wildflowers with your arms spread wide like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music and just laughed out loud? If you have, you know exactly the feeling I'm talking about. It goes beyond freedom into a kind of self-expression that seems to know no bounds. You and your Julie Andrewsdance and your song and your laughter are at your best. It's gorgeous.   

It makes perfect creative sense (the right brain kind of sense, not the left) to write that way. We can become so hung up on the following that we forget how to use our own voices. These are the things that we need to shed like clothing until we are entirely naked in spirit:

        * getting it "right" -- whatever the Sam Hill that even is

       * writing what an agent is going to want to see

        * fitting into what's trending and selling

       * wondering what our critique group will say

       * trying to write like John Greene or Suzanne Collins or Jane Austen or anyone but you

      * making each sentence perfect before you move on to the next one

 Take it off! Take it ALL off! Get down to the bare YOU and record THAT on the screen or page. Pretend no one is ever going to see it. That you are the only person you have to please. That nothing matters except that you are dancing, running, singing and laughing. Or crying.

That's what writing is. What happens after that is editing. If we don't write free -- full-out -- naked, there will be nothing worth editing. One among you -- Karen Kay North -- sent me a marvelous paperweight that says: Write Without Fear  Edit Without Mercy. Notice the order. Let's not forget what comes first. Write without fear

Here's what I would LOVE to do. I would LOVE for you to try this naked writing exercise --- literally or figuratively -- by writing 150 words without fear (or maybe clothes!). Don't edit. Don't second-guess. Don't even think very much. Just write like nobody's watching -- because nobody is. THEN, comment or send me an email about that experience. If you really feel free, email me your 150-word piece, and with your permission I'll post it here. That email address, again, is nnrue@att.net. 

I'm going to write one first thing tomorrow when I'm fresh. I'll share. I hope you will too.

Meanwhile, I have this to report, which has happened as a result of our coming together here. Our own Abigail H.  wrote to me: I finally took a step after the post. I unburied my desk from the chaos it's usually in. I'm preparing to launch my first podcast. One step at a time.  This podcast won't leave me alone. The yearning desperately to connect with more creatives won't leave me alone. Even though it's scary and hard, I'm doing it!  

Let us all do it. Clothed or otherwise!

 

Blessings,

Nancy Rue           


I couldn't wait to say ...

Walden I'm going to post for real on Thursdays, but I couldn't wait to pop in and say ...

THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!!

Your response to the invitation to join this new-again convivium of women writers has been nothing short of awesome. So far we've heard from ...

 

Jenny M. ... Lily ... Cathy ... Abigail H. ...Colleen ... Jennifer G. ... Jenny D. ... Emii ... Amalie ... Margie ... Lily ... Andrea ... Natasha

If you're in and you haven't posted a comment or sent me an email to say so, please do. We love knowing who is in our midst, thinking, "If not me, show? If not now, when?"

See you Thursday.

Blessings,

Nancy Rue

 


If Not...

With ErisLadies! In our last YWW Zoom session, Caylene, both Abigails, both Kates and Jennifer agreed that coming together as a community is beyond vital right now. So I want to start with an offer (drum roll please) ...

Once a month I'll hold a Zoom session for anyone who can make it. These will be at a different time each month to accommodate everyone at some point. I'll announce a topic for discussion -- hopefully generated by you -- and I'm even going to ... wait for it ... pay for Zoom so we don't have to ram through our meetings like we're running for a train! The word Zoom itself doesn't lend itself to depth of conversation!

If that sounds like something you'd avail yourself of, please leave a comment or shoot me an email at nnrue@att.net.  I admit my motives are somewhat selfish: I basically melted at the sight and sound of women writers longing and hoping and creating for the world. It's a feeling I want to have again.

Because here's the deal. There are a TON of blogs out there on the craft of writing, and I'm not sure I can add to that body of work beyond my own methods, which aren't necessarily for everybody. I've gotten my share of blank looks at workshops, believe me! What I DO want for us here is:

  • Community. A safe place to say, Is anybody else struggling with this, because I am a hot mess. A space where you can be sure you will be accepted where you are and encouraged to go further. A convivium of creative women. That may be my new favorite word, actually. Hair
  • Practical help with the process. Again, scores of writers and mentors are giving advice on point of view or character arc or plot structure. Many of them can guide you in your process too, but that's my sweet spot. We're talking one on one here. You post a comment about, as Gloria always puts it, that potato masher stuck in the drawer, and I will respond with a reply and/or a post on the subject. I am committed to leaving no question unanswered, no pondering left unaddressed. Committed as never before. Sarah at Glen
  • Spiritual support with the deeper writing and creating issues. I left the last Zoom group with this thought:

Remember that we are here on this earth to self-express in                                                                                                                     a way no  one else ever has or ever could. With megan at Boni

I wish I could remember where I read that, and I wish I had actually said it myself. The point is that it's true. God has a desire for each of us, uniquely. We'll explore how to know what that is. Which leads me to this week's two questions:

 

If not you, who?

And if not now, when?

 

I'm going with the hope I find in the above picture of my nine-year-old granddaughter and her best friend. They are already creating a better world. That is their expression. If not them, who, and if not now, when? Them. Today.

HeidiIf you don't express what YOU have been put here to express, who else is going to? What is that thing? What is yours to do?

If you don't express it now, when will you do it? Isn't today that day? Whatcha gonna do right now? Caylene

Okay, I can hear the resistance rising. Isn't it conceited to say I'm the only one who can do a particular thing? I've wrestled with that myself. Didn't I just say above that other people provide writing blogs better than I can do it? You yourselves answered that question in our Zoom sessions. I was completely humbled by comments like, Just seeing your face ... just hearing your voice ...  I came away inspired and refreshed, ready to dive back into my story ... How can I, Nancy Rue,  NOT do this? If not me, who, exactly? In this time and in this place? It won't leave me alone.

What won't leave you alone?

Would love to hear your answers and know if you're up for future Zoom sessions. What shall we call them? Writing Conviviums comes to mind ...

Blessings,

Nancy Rue 

Goofy YWW 2019