Friday, July 28, 2017

Breath: A Challenge

When you inhale, you take into your body the flow of energy around you. At the top of the inhale, there is a slight pause where the outer breath merges with the inner breath. When you exhale, you surrender to the world around you, trusting that as you let go you will be filled back up.
--Laraine Herring, Writing Begins with the Breath

I struggle with breath. Or perhaps with trust. When I pay attention to my breath, death appears: one sister strangled, another fighting lung cancer, a father suffocating in his own phlegm. Yoga and meditation challenge me beyond the natural limitations of flexibility and patience because they conjure death. My focused inhale is forced.

Now, as I train for the 100-mile Obliteride, a cycling fundraiser for cancer research, breath becomes my enemy. Yes, my muscles scream. Yes, I wear myself out, get sick, must take a weeklong break from training. Lack of oxygen, the tightness of breath, is my true nemesis.

A cycling buddy encourages me to slow and deepen my breathing. She suggests yoga, the practice that taught her proper breathing techniques. I could try again, accept the pain of loss associated with breath, learn to trust that my lungs will fill if I allow them to do so. We all have losses, and as we age those losses multiply. The manner in which we deal with them influences the quality of our day-to-day life. I thought I’d dealt with my losses, thought I’d walked through scarred, but resilient.

I wonder how deep scars penetrate, how easily they are disturbed. I wonder if there’s more work to be done, if there is always more work to be done, if the work is never done. I wonder if I continue that work, if I learn to surrender to the world around me as Herring suggests, will my lungs refill without images of strangulation and suffocation invading my thoughts? Will I learn to cycle hills without panting so hard my stomach ties in knots?

Trust begins with awareness. I’m grateful to whatever forces of coincidence or synchronicity caused my eyes to land on Laraine Herring’s title last week at the University of Washington Bookstore. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fingers Crossed

Here it is mid July already, a month and a half into summer break—my time to be a full-time writer, the time I planned to spend working on a new memoir. But life has a mind of its own and doesn’t always follow our plans, does it?

My three novels—Running Secrets, Biking Uphill, and Walking Home—were originally published by an independent Seattle publisher. That publisher went out of business in spring 2016. Electronic copies were immediately unavailable. Within a few months, print copies all but disappeared from Amazon. 

But I wasn’t worried. I’d been offered a new contract from a small press in Texas and felt confident my work would be re-released within a few months. In an odd way, I was pleased to have the opportunity to re-edit the books. I knew there were typos and inconsistencies I’d missed in my amateurish rush to publish.

A year passed with minimal communication from the new publisher. Spring 2017 brought the news that my contract would not be honored. Marketing was difficult. Sales minimal. The Texas press decided to narrow their focus and become a niche publisher for Texas authors. Neither my books nor I are Texans, so I found myself again without a publisher.

Last month I decided to do what I should’ve done a year ago: self-publish. I reached out to Adam Bodendieck and Loretta Matson. Adam was the layout designer with my defunct publisher, and Loretta created the original covers. When both agreed to work with me on the re-release, I gained the support and confidence I needed.

It's been a month and a half and I still buried under edits, but now I’m reviewing layouts, so we’re getting closer. There’s still hope. There might still be time to spend on the new memoir before summer ends. Fingers crossed.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Writers Need Readers

Writers need readers. Writers who polish and publish a piece of work—whether poem or short story, novel or screen play—do so for an audience. Perhaps journals are different. They are unpolished and rarely published. Often when we scribble in journals the only audience is the self. Still, I wonder how many secretly hope their journals are found and read, their secrets revealed, their voices heard.

Writers write to give voice to thoughts, feelings and perceptions of the world, as well as that of the imagination. Writers write to entertain, examine, explore. Giving voice and having that voice heard is what writing, what creativity is all about—the joy of creating is to share.

One joyful way to share stories and all they convey is through book clubs. What a thrill when your book is selected as a book club read, when you are invited to field questions and discuss your work. I was fortunate to have this pleasure a few weeks back. I am grateful to Barbara, Becky, Janet, Ruth, Sue, Trish and Wendy for reading and discussing BIKING UPHILL. Thoughtful readers with interesting questions led to a far-reaching and meaningful discussion on a variety of topics ranging from the roots of creativity to current immigration policy in the United States. And a very enjoyable evening!