Monthly Archive

March 2016

No talent required

My piano teacher has this posted on a bulletin board in her studio. I noticed it today during my lesson; she told me she wrote it up because she was tired of people telling her how “talented” her students were. Talent in music, she said, means little; mostly, success comes through hard work. I can’t count how many writers–professors, authors at conferences, authors in their books on craft–have reiterated these same tenets. Talent is MADE, not born. Everyone thinks that anyone successful in a creative field–artists, writers, musicians, actors–has been born with some sort of innate talent or gift that the rest of the world wasn’t lucky enough to get. Dustin Hoffman said something like, “I worked half my life to become an overnight success,” which pretty much sums it all up. All of this–talent, effort, hard work, success (whatever that is)–has been swirling around in my mind lately. I began writing in 2000, and I wrote in complete privacy and silence for ten years–TEN years, a full decade–before I could admit aloud to anyone that I really wanted to be a writer (never mind that every day I wrote, I already was a writer). I just told a friend…

Continue reading...

Practice practice practice

I recently finished a mindfulness-based stress reduction class. I’ve been a spotty meditator for years but have never been able to commit to a daily practice because, well, meditation is hard. I also knew that the originator of MBSR, Jon Kabat-Zinn, requires his students to meditate for 45 minutes a day, six days a week during the class. Frankly, that scared me. I have so little time as it is–especially time when I am not being interrupted continually by children–that the thought of sacrificing nearly an hour a day to doing NOTHING just frightened me. But I also knew that when I meditated, I felt better. And I want to be able to do hard things, things my brain tells me I can’t do. So I signed up for an MBSR class as my birthday present to myself. The class, which I took through a local hospital, ran for eight weeks. We learned a variety of meditation techniques, including the body scan, mindful eating, yoga, walking meditation and traditional sitting meditation. We also learned informal practices that we could use all day in our daily lives. We started off only doing formal meditation for ten minutes a day in the first class–very…

Continue reading...

Wooden spoon survivor

I’ve seen this image floating around on Facebook lately. Whenever anyone shares this, it’s in the vein of, “Haha, isn’t this hilarious?” and “Yep, I survived, and look at how GREAT I am because of it!” As if they belong to some private and wonderful club. I don’t find it funny at all. I find it repugnant. Many of my published essays center around the topic of my childhood, specifically my mother’s rage and how it manifested in abuse. My mother and I have shared a long and rocky road in our relationship, but I’m proud to say we’ve come to a good place, and I’ve forgiven her for my childhood (thanks in no small part to my own entree into motherhood. It’s a real humbling experience, folks). I understand now why she did what she did; she couldn’t help it, she didn’t know better, and she was a mere child when she got pregnant with me at seventeen. (Seventeen!) She knows all about my writing and was bighearted enough to tell me she understood that it was my story to tell. How lucky am I, that she has given me this gift? Still, it should not be a surprise…

Continue reading...

Welcome to Cesena!

Welcome to Cesena! Home of my husband’s family, and home of Arturo Donnini, one of the main characters in my novel, House of Truth. I visited Cesena, Italy (in Emilia-Romagna, which is in northern Italy, very near the Adriatic Sea) for the first time in 2010. I was there with my then-boyfriend Paul (now husband) and we were staying with his family; his aunt and uncles and cousins still live in the same city his father emigrated from in 1957. I spent the first week of my trip in Florence with two friends for a creativity workshop; in the mornings, after eating breakfast in the high-ceilinged pink ballroom of our pensione, my friends and I walked along the Arno in golden Italian sunshine to our class. There, we would begin class by lying on the floor meditating before we set about whatever exercises the instructors had waiting for us. Sometimes we drew, sometimes we journaled, sometimes we worked in small groups. It is absolutely a cliche to say that my week in Florence was magical; the air there tasted different, as if the dust motes carried the remnants of those long-gone Renaissance artists and scholars. The trip changed me as…

Continue reading...