Mindfulness & a Signing

Into the woods front coverOn Saturday, I’ll have the pleasure of participating in the Hockessin Book Shelf’s Local Author Showcase. I will be signing copies of Into The Woods, the charity anthology compiled by the Mindful Writers Retreat Authors.

I’ll also be happy to chat about mindfulness and how it has benefited me as a writer and as a human being.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of living with awareness. Mindful living means that, rather than channel surfing through your day, you live each day with purpose, even the mundane of days of work or rote activities. Mindfulness means you pay attention to the world around you, whether it’s your home office or a place you have never seen before. Mindfulness means raising your head and looking around at the world and all of its colors, smells, sounds, and sensations as you journey through it.

From a physical perspective, mindfulness encourages familiarity with your body and acceptance of its quirks and wonders. A mindful person learns to breathe one breath at a time and to recognize that each new breath brings fresh energy to the body. A person breathes 12 to 16 times per minute. Shouldn’t you pay attention to something you do so often?

Mindfulness might mean learning the practice and benefits of meditation. There is nothing tricky or hard about meditating. One way to meditate is to listen to a guide’s voice as it takes you on an imaginary journey through a wood or along the ocean, or through the energy points of your own body. Another way to meditate is to sit, be still, and notice the silence around you and in your mind. Silence allows your mind to empty so it can become free and calm. A free mind is open to self-exploration and new external ideas. A calm mind makes it easier to find focus.

Mindfulness might mean learning a mantra—a comforting word or phrase—to repeat over and over during a meditation session or during times of stress. The repetition of a comforting phrase helps re-focus your energies to where they can be relaxing, rewarding, or healing.

How does Mindfulness help writers?

A calm and free mind is open to creativity. A routine of meditating for a few minutes followed by a writing session allows you to write when you are relaxed in body and focused in mind. A daily habit of meditation followed by writing means you will be more productive.

Each fresh breath you take with mindful intent brings new energy to your mind, your body, and your writing. Fresh energy brings clarity that you can apply to investigating new story ideas or tinkering with current ones.

Questions? Stop in at the Hockessin Book Shelf and let’s chat!

Hockessin Author Signing

Buy my book, cher

“After three weeks in jail, Mama asked me to talk to Judge Rousseau about getting her some decent food to eat.”

This is the opening line to “Light of the Moon,” my short story contribution to Into the Woods, an anthology of short fiction, essays, original music, and one walking meditation. The collection comes from writers who attend the Mindful Writers Retreats in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. After years of bonding and enjoying guided meditations, walking in the woods, and silent writing in the lodge’s great room, the twenty-six writers decided to share our work in an anthology for charity. All proceeds from Into the Woods benefit the work and research of the Children’s Heart Foundation.

Into the woods front cover

The print version of the book will make its debut at the Pennwriters Conference later this week. The eBook will release on May 21. We love orders and pre-orders!

I contributed a prose poem as well as “Light of the Moon,” which is set in the fictional Louisiana town of Bayou Rosa. The story includes love and death, war and myth, and the woods, of course.

grom

My grandmother, Grom.

The print version of Into the Woods was released on Mother’s Day, so of course I thought of my grandmother. Grom taught me storytelling and oral history, and made me appreciate the travails of my Acadian ancestors. She believed in hard work and le Bon Dieu; she appreciated good food and good-looking men; and she spoke a mixture of Cajun French and English that peppers this story, and many of my others. Every story I write, in a small way or a big one, is a tribute to her.

Grom called people she loved cher, which is the French word for “my dear.” Grom had a big heart. So, my dears and chers, I hope you’ll open your own hearts and buy this book to support children who need your help–and to enjoy the work of writers who found inspiration in the woods.

Swimming with the Guppies

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgIn every career, there is a project or a contact or a conference that is a game changer. For me, a professional boost came in 2010, with the offer to edit the first Guppy anthology. Continue reading

2016, in Review

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgA few days ago, I wrote a year in review post. I listed my 2016 accomplishments (Masters Fellowship in Fiction!), raved over writing retreats (all 6 of them!), and boasted about organizing a literary reading series that placed poets and prose writers in historical sites (5 venues and 22 artists—argh!)

As always, I let the post rest overnight. After 10+ years as an editor and I-won’t-tell-how-many years as an author, I have learned the habit of patience. Never hit Send or Post or Submit until you’ve allowed the Whatever a rest. Continue reading

Crash Course in Cajun French

Acadiana-Flag

Official flag of the Acadians

On the first day of first grade, my mother could speak exactly one sentence in English: “My name is Vivian.”

My mother’s family was Louisiana French and her household communicated via the patois called Cajun French. In schools in the 1930s, however, it was believed that speaking English was necessary to get ahead. Speaking your ancestral language would hold you back in modern society. At my mother’s school, children who spoke Cajun French got their knuckles rapped with a ruler by the teacher. Louisiana French children learned to answer their teachers in English or not speak at all. The language wars are nothing new. Continue reading

Get to Know Louisiana, part deux

Acadiana-FlagI intended this to be a 2-part series, but after I began answering questions, I saw the need for three parts. Today is a history and culture lesson. On Wednesday, a lexicon of Louisiana and Cajun French phrases and words.

 A Louisiana Q& A

 Who are Acadians? Continue reading

Get to Know Louisiana!

Acadiana-Flag

Acadian Flag

When my sons were in second grade, their favorite part of the school day was the “Get to Know Me” half hour. At that time, each student got up before the class to talk about himself and share some show and tell about her favorite things. Today’s blog post is a “Get to Know Me” about my home state of Louisiana.

In September, hundreds of crime writers will descend upon the city of New Orleans. If you’ve ever attended a writers’ conference, you’ll know that the venue city can be as much a lure as the gathering of your peers. New Orleans has plenty of lure, and allure, and mysteries in all of its nooks and crannies. Continue reading

What Do Judges & Jurors Want? Part 3 of Writing for Contests and Anthologies

RamonaGravitarThe judges and jurors quoted below won’t be evaluating your criminal activities. They’ll be evaluating your mastery of the writing craft, your interpretation of theme, your narrative voice, your ability to hook a reader with a well-crafted opening, your skill at creating an emotional connection with a character.

To round out this short series, I contacted people who read submissions and select stories for inclusion in a couple of regional anthologies. Most of the folks below are also writers, so they understand the joy of acceptance and the disappointment in rejection. Continue reading

Why Enter a Short Story Contest? Guest Post by Nancy Sakaduski

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Today I am welcoming Nancy Sakaduski, owner of Cat & Mouse Press and creator of the Rehoboth Beach Reads Short Story Contest.

The RBR contest is in its third year and is currently open for submissions. This year’s theme is “beach days.” I had the pleasure of judging last year’s entries for Rehoboth Beach Reads, published in The Boardwalk. Although the beach and Rehoboth are tied into the stories, the contest is open to all writers, from anywhere. Continue reading

3-Part Series on Writing for Contests and Anthologies

RamonaGravitarLast week, two new short story anthologies bearing my name as editor were released for publication. Those marked my sixth and seventh time working on an anthology based on a specific theme. In addition, as a writer, I’ve contributed stories to three other themed anthologies, plus I’ve gathered some fellowships and grants for my work in short stories. In the arena of short story anthologies and contests, I feel pretty comfortable.

I love the short story form with the heat of a thousand suns. To spread the love, this week, I am posting a three-part series on writing for contests and themed anthologies.

Today, I will share my “rules” for entering contests. Continue reading