I consciously choose to remove anger and fear from my life…

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My friend Bethany Hegedus wrote an amazing picture book about a grandfather, family and the search for peace.  Reading Grandfather Ghandi reminded me that my own life is often lived in a whirlwind of activity and movement from one thing to another, coupled with the strangely engulfing fear that I’m losing something. But what? I worry that I’m losing time to write even when I’m writing. More important, I fear I’m so busy I’m losing the chance to connect to friends and family. And they might be losing the same.

The whole cycle of being too busy to live fully in the moment turns anxiety to anger and fear. I don’t like how I act when I’m in that space. I need to change it.

For instance, this morning, I woke up aware that I still haven’t resolved a recent telephone conversation with my daughter in which I was super-crabby, sitting with my shoulder wrapped in ice, hating that I hurt, and wishing my daughter were with me rather than 6 hours away. I took it out on her by being wickedly critical of everything and everyone. I was far from peaceful and far from feeling the light of my life. I imagine it made her feel she was in the dark corner with me. So, this morning, when I saw this pledge on facebook, I decided I’d take it. Then I’d share it. But I also want to take this opportunity to publically apologize for allowing myself to be caught up in the busy-ness of life rather than the light of conscious being. Here’s the pledge to live your life as light in case you want to join me — and now I’m going to call my daughter and tell her I love her.

The “Live Your Life as Light” Pledge

I pledge to listen to my anger, to see what it has to teach me.

I pledge to not bully or cause harm, with words or with weapons.

I pledge to look for the light, to see it in every situation.

I pledge to find my own unique tools and talents.

I pledge to forgive myself and others. I pledge to live my life as light.

 

On writing biography and nonfiction

   

Although I’ve always loved to write about real people, I didn’t actually set out to be a biographer. There were times I refused that role and worked exclusively on fiction.

But I am a biographer and nonfiction writer. In fact, I’ve been teaching these forms to graduate students at Mount Mary University. I have some expectations when I teach and so I thought some of you might want to know a few simple rules — I don’t think of these as guidelines. They’re really rules because if you don’t abide by them, you’re writing fiction.

1 — Always try to find two sources who agree on the details. This rule could save you a ton of embarrassment because you chose to believe one source only to learn that source was inaccurate or had a personal agenda that shifted or twisted the truth of an event.

2 — Never ever make up quotes. This means you only quote what witnesses heard and reported or the subject wrote or said and you attribute each quote to the source.

3 — Never make up scenes. But you can interpret them based upon what witnesses say. For instance, Myra Friedman told me that Janis Joplin was concerned about the way she looked and feared she was starting to look old. She also told me that Janis had a great sense of humor. Any story that Myra told about Janis in the book, Janis Joplin, Rise Up Singing, also includes Myra’s views on whether Janis was worried or purposely being funny or provocative.

4 — Use a self-effaced narrative style. This means you are the one telling the story, but you’re a bit invisible, like a reporter. But you can write in close 3rd person and choose language to demonstrate the passion you have for this subject. For Janis Joplin, Rise Up Singing, I believe I wrote from the perspective of a fan crush….a fan who loved her flawed hero and was devastated to learn that Janis died because of a drug overdose when became my cautionary tale.

5 — Do not make up a narrator. Ever. This means you can’t create a fictitious bystander and set that narrator in scenes to tell the story of a famous person or event. That would be historical fiction.

 

In my newest book, Adopted Like Me, My Book of Adopted Heroes, the narrator is me telling the story from the perspective of someone who appreciates the heroes. The book contains 20 heroes who grew up in formal adoptions and in informal adoptions such as kinship care or guardianship. My goal is to help adoptees and their families recognize that adoption is only one aspect of a family and that they can achieve many great things through the strength of the relationships created by family. You can pre-order the book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or your favorite local bookstore.

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Link to this Book

Considering the act of writing in a snowstorm

 

 

 

 

 

The view from my front door is pretty enough to remind me of Camelot. But winter in Wisconsin is cold and gray.

 

I’m not actually writing in a snowstorm. I’m writing in my house which is warm except where I actually sit at my computer; this corner is probably the coldest corner of the house. In fact, it’s so cold I sometimes wear fingerless gloves while I type. So here I am typing and for the third week in a row a storm is brewing outside. We’re being promised 3 to 7 inches, depending upon which weather guy offers the news.

This is the coldest, darkest part of a Wisconsin winter, made even more so because I’m writing and reading constantly but without the sense of joy and light that being totally in a creative zone can bring. So I yearn for warm weather and sun inside my own head and outside.

My writing includes proposals for Mount Mary to bring new offerings to our graduate writing program and it includes emails to students suggesting major revisions. These are all worthwhile pieces of writing. But they’re not the sort of creative writing that leads to all things imagination. There is one small glow — I’m writing a picture book biography of my friend and poet Lenard D Moore.

Lenard will be performing his poetry in a spoken word performance at Mount Mary on April 9. He’ll be accompanied by the Dennis Klopfer trio. Immediately preceding this event, the English graduate program is hosting a wine and dessert pairing/author reception. There is a donation request for this part of the event to help offset the cost of bringing such strong writers to our campus. If you’d like to learn more or make reservations, please go to this link:  http://moorepoetry.brownpapertickets.com/

But back to this picture book I’m working on. Lenard, who is a master of haiku seems to have always measured his life in seasons and so I’m using that metaphor to write about what it was like for Lenard to grow up in the rural south. Writing this is the glimmer of light that I hope will keep me warm until spring finally comes.