Posted in interviews, journal prompts, journaling, Jung, personal transformation, self improvement, spirituality, Writing for healing

Journaling Tarot, an Interview with Mary K. Greer


Mary K. Greer2016-Mary Greer


This week I’m excited to introduce you to Tarot expert, Mary K. Greer. She’s the author of eleven books and has been a tarot teacher for years. I use her Tarot for Your Self, a Workbook for Personal Transformation regularly. I recommend that all memoir or journal writers take a serious look at tarot as a tool for self-discovery through symbolism and metaphor.

greer books

Some keywords defining the tarot journey are

  • perspective
  • imagination
  • spirituality
  • discernment
  • symbolism
  • process
  • theme
  • Jungian psychology
  • personal transformation

My personal story with oracle cards began around 1986 when I bought my first deck. I started with a non-traditional oracle deck, The Medicine Cards. Then I purchased the classic Rider Waite Tarot, and the Crowley deck intrigued by  the illustrator Pamela Colman Smith. The Jamaican-American woman artist who created the original tarot images so well-known today, supposedly was not mentioned for her work when the deck was published. Unfortunately, they say she died in poverty and obscurity, but her work is beloved by many through the ages.

the hermit sue rowland copy

      my collage  tarot card – the Hermit

Tarot is about the human saga. For brevity’s sake you can look up Tarot here. It’s uncanny how spot-on the card pulls can be as a fun tool for writing.

Aside from the twenty-two Major Arcana or Trump cards there are four suits with general associations making up the lesser arcana. When you read the cards you look at the relationships generated by the images and their meaning.

  • Cups represent emotions and water
  • Wands represent action and fire
  • Swords represent thinking and air
  • Pentacles represent materials (coins) and earth


  • What I want to explore for journal-keepers and seekers in this segment is the excavation of symbols and metaphors that help you, as a writer, discover your own personal story.

Please join me in talking with Mary K. Greer below:

SR: What got you started in the tarot path?

MKG: I was in college in Tampa Florida in the late ’60s and my best friend got Eden Gray’s Tarot Revealed for Christmas but no cards. I was fascinated and asked everyone if they knew where I could find Tarot cards. Someone told me about a “metaphysical” bookstore on the other side of Tampa. I borrowed a car and went on my first magical “quest” to find a deck. I discovered not only the cards but the whole world of the occult and metaphysical at that bookstore. Within a year I decided I would teach Tarot in college and that someday I would write a book on the subject. I had found what I never knew I was looking for. What really drew me to the Tarot was my interest, as an English/Theatre Arts major, in “archetypal criticism” involving a Jungian approach to symbolism and Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, all things I was just learning about then. I soon discovered that the stories I would spontaneously tell about the cards were easy-to-interpret metaphors for what was happening in someone’s life. To me it seemed as natural as breathing, although it could be disconcerting when potential boy friends nervously complained that I knew too much about them after they asked me to read their cards!

SR: How did you decide to write about tarot?

MKG: I had been teaching Tarot in colleges for several years and started doing large lectures and wrote an article. About this time I started going out with a travel writer. We went off to live in Mexico for a year and he encouraged me to write a book. I started it there and continued it when I returned to my teaching job in San Francisco. My college had a degree-completion program for returning adults. We required students to keep a journal recording their work and life experiences. I taught the journal writing workshops and also directed the school’s “learning skills” program for which I had found a workbook that was highly effective. So my first book addressed the then-taboo that one should never read tarot for him or herself. (I love to break taboos!) I used journal techniques and the workbook format to help people overcome the so-called “problems” with reading for oneself and use Tarot for personal insight and creativity.


SR: How would you advise new students to examine their lives by using tarot?

MKG: There are so many ways I can’t even begin to describe them all. Definitely keep a journal in which you write card meanings, your own readings and what is happening at that time, plus make up spreads, gather info on related myths and symbols, and so on. Do a reading at the beginning or major turning points of everything in your life. Note the patterns that appear: certain cards for certain people, when a card keeps coming up and what it finally means for you. You can go back to these readings later and write what actually happened—revisiting them again and again as you gain more insight. Write about the cards particular to you based on your birthdate numerology, astrology and so on. Dialog with these cards as if you were characters in a play, figures in an “active imagination,” asking advice or answering questions posed to you by the Tarot “archetypes.” Explore the many spreads and other processes that are found both in my books and in so many other books today. Try a variety of decks. Each will require that you look at your life from a different, perhaps totally new and fresh perspective. Create Tarot art. By the way, your “journal” can be a public or private blog, a computer file, a ring-binder, an artist’s notebook—whatever works. Start with what interests you most and go from there; you have your whole life with Tarot as your companion and your relationship with it will develop over time.

Last bit of advice: When in doubt, simply describe the card! It’s amazing where you will naturally go from there.


Thank you so much, Mary! What a treat to talk with you.  Readers, you can find Mary in the links below.

Bio: Mary K. Greer is an independent scholar, writer, teacher and professional Tarot and Lenormand consultant. She has an M.A. in English from the University of Central Florida where she first taught Tarot in 1974. With more than ten books and nearly 50 years experience in Tarot, Mary pioneered many of the Tarot reading methods used today, including reading Tarot for yourself and methods that are interactive, transformational and empowering. She leads intensive workshops every year at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck NY and travels internationally teaching Tarot. Visit Mary’s blog and on-line courses. Check out the “Tarot Magic Tour in Merlin’s Britain” that will take place in June 2017.



Journaling prompt: find yourself a tarot deck and try a reading. How do you like working with Tarot? What Tarot card do you resonate with?  Write about your experiences.

Discussion: A note to people who are afraid of divination or who might fear Tarot study, or are concerned that oracle decks are dangerous. (They’re not). Briefly, people are often afraid of the “occult” and imagine robed devil worshippers dancing around a fire encouraging making human sacrifices. Not true. I’ve never met any such characters.

With any study group one has to follow one’s intuition and if something or someone makes you uncomfortable, then don’t pursue it. There are times when I use “lighter” oracle decks such as Fairy Tarot or Guardian Angel Tarot.

Yes, there are cards that represent the archetypes of “the devil” and “death” etc, but these cards about symbolism rather than a literal event. Breaking the chains of addictions or illicit behavior (devil card) or the need to  change behavior or look at things from a new perspective (death card) are only indications of elements in life. Find a good teacher. Do research.

Each person who chooses to work with oracle cards or the tarot can choose a deck that isn’t frightening. There are all kinds of decks available that do not use these classic “negative” images. I will devote another blog entry to this topic.

Copyright © 2016 by Susan E Rowland

Posted in Gandhi, inspirational, interviews, journal prompts, profiles, spirituality, Writing for healing

Learning Peace From the Inside Out, an Interview with Arun Gandhi

arun gandhi for int


Dear Readers,

Today I am honored to introduce to you author Arun Gandhi, the fifth grandson of India’s legendary spiritual and political leader, Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi has written a children’s book, Grandfather Gandhi with co-author Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk.

I was so excited to be able to talk with Arun by email. He exemplifies the caring and wisdom of his grandfather. However, as he shares in his book, patience was not always his strong feature. As a child he had to compete for attention among the many people who daily surrounded his grandfather. Arun struggled with childhood things such as occasional fights with other boys on the playground and learning to write Gujarati. Life in India was different from South Africa where young Arun dreamed about Western movies.

Recently I have delved into the etiology of negative emotions such as anger and frustration. Why is violence so prevalent? One wonders how spiritual teachers such as Mahatma Gandhi,  Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and Thich Nhat Hanh could endure ridicule, hostility, even exile, yet be so unpretentious and truly peaceful.

The answer seems to lie within ourselves. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

The interview is below:

SR: What made you want to write a book? Why a children’s book?

AG: I was twelve years old when I went to live with grandfather and some of the lessons he taught me were life changing. For more than 30 years I have been sharing these lessons with adults and they have always told me how important and inspiring these lessons have been. About 20 years ago I incorporated these lessons in a book for adults called Legacy of Love which was first published by a small time California publisher who went out of business so I took over the publication through my non-profit Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute. I sold over 50,000 copies of the book and the income is used to rescue and rehabilitate impoverished and exploited children in India.

I always felt these lessons should be shared with children but I don’t know how to write for children. Then 9/11 happened and the Unity Church in NYC invited me to come and speak and give New Yorkers a positive message. They had over 700 people packed in the auditorium, among them was a young lady called Bethany Hegedus. I shared the story of anger and how grandfather had always maintained that it was a good emotion to be used constructively rather than abuse it the way we do and cause grief. Bethany was impressed and some months later she wrote to me asking if I would consider working together on a book for children. I said yes. For 12 years we could not find a publisher then Simon and Schuster bought the manuscript and Grandfather Gandhi was born.

SR: I see that you are a journalist by training. How do you usually organize your material? Do you outline? Do you keep a personal journal? What is your writing process like?

AG: I am what people would call a disorganized writer. No, I don’t journal but I write from my heart which means I write and rewrite several times until I feel satisfied.


SR: You have been an established writer for many years: did having a “name” help in finding a publisher?

AG: No the name was not an advantage. If Grandfather Gandhi took 12 years, my biography of Grandmother: The Forgotten Woman, took more than 25 years. All the publishers wanted a manuscript on Grandfather but no one wanted to touch the book on Grandmother. Then in 1989 Ozark Mountain Publishers in Little Rock who specialized in spiritual books decided to take a chance on this one. It received no publicity nor reviews and so it was not available in book stores. Once again, I sold more than 50,000 copies over the year by selling them wherever I went to give a talk.

SR: What advice would you give to writers who are interested in publishing children’s books?

AG: I think a good artist is as important as a good manuscript. Publishers of children’s books like a book with a message but delivered in a subtle way without being preachy. The success of Grandfather Gandhi is shared by the artist Evan Turk. He was just 12 years old when we started writing the book and this book happened to be his first upon graduating from art school.


Thank you so much, Arun. Reading Grandfather Gandhi and speaking with you has been a privilege. I’m sure others will gain new insight into your grandfather’s life as well as yours. I feel that Grandfather Gandhi could be considered a spiritual memoir as well as a children’s book.

INFO: Arun Gandhi is president of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute and writes a blog for The Washington Post. He lives in Rochester, New York and travels the world doing speaking tours. You can listen to a wonderful talk by Mr. Gandhi here at the Cleveland City Club. I hope you will be as captivated and inspired by his true stories. I’m envisioning and holding an anger/resolution journaling class.

      Bethany Hegedus lives in Austin, Texas and has a writing school called the Writer’s Barn. Artist Evan Turk lives in New York City, originally from Colorado. See his work at the Mystic Seaport Museum.


Journal prompts:

1) Try writing about your life in a format that would be suitable for a children’s book. How does this feel to you? What would you want to say to the world? Do you find writing from a child’s point of view is cathartic?

2) Do an interview with an author. Describe the process from beginning to end. Include all the details. Please don’t hesitate to share here. All are welcome!

Posted in inspirational, interviews, poetry, Writing for healing

A Friend to the Homeless: Interview with Dennis Cardiff


dennis cardiff author smaller size


Once in a while you come across a couple of bloggers who really catch your attention. You wait eagerly for the next installment.

Today I’d like to introduce you to Dennis Cardiff, an extraordinary listener. His blog is Gotta Find A Home  and his new book by the same titleGotta Find a Home, Conversations with Street People, is coming out soon. Check out the give-away and promos for it.

I found out how talented and modest Dennis is after he agreed to do an interview. He is also a serious artist!  Added to his art and writing, Cardiff also is a poet. His own story is one that inspires compassion and motivation.

Here is the interview:

SR: What got you started in writing?

DC: My first wife was a poet. She got me interested in writing. I wrote mostly poetry at that time. I became a voracious reader. I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace in two weeks. I’d read everywhere, even while walking down the sidewalk.

 In 1969 I attended York University, Toronto and studied Poetry and Creative writing. I was introduced to some of the best poets from Canada and around the world. My poetry professor once said to us, “If you fully understand what it is you want to say, there is only one combination of words that will thoroughly explain your viewpoint.”

 I’ve worked in art galleries most of my life and some of my duties included writing exhibition catalogs, newsletter copy and giving tours. Learning how to subdue a group of high school students, and to mollify a group of nuns, viewing the erotic sculpture of Gaston Lachaise is challenging. This experience taught me the importance of brevity and impact.

 SR: So, do you journal? What inspires you?

DC: I have journaled sporadically, but I was away from writing for a long time. Reading Bob Dylan’s book Chronicles: Volume One, gave me more understanding of his writing process, especially deconstructing the work of authors he admired. He made it sound easy.

 In 2007 I joined where I was able to get feedback on what I had written and encouragement to explore new directions. In April of 2013, I joined and received even more feedback and encouragement, for which I am very thankful.

 SR:What called you to write about homeless people? We all seem to categorize people who stand on the streets with signs. We often just pass them by with urgent feelings of avoidance. Why is this?

DC: My first encounter with a panhandler was, when I moved to Toronto in 1968, to live with my older brother, Jack. Being a storyteller himself, he viewed panhandlers as follows: If they present you with an interesting, unique story of why you should give them money, that story has value and should be rewarded accordingly.

My poem The Silver Fox reflects that period of my life.

Slouching in forgotten tap-rooms

dirty old men, forgotten old men,

slop piss-colored beer from, wet, dripping glasses.

The hollow din,

the retelling of “the good old days”,

echoes sadly as life quickly passes.


“They used to call me ‘The Silver Fox’

What do you think of that? They used to care.”


An empty glass crashes

to the muddy floor.


“I guess I’ll be hitting the street tonight.

Sleep in an alley tonight. Nobody cares.”



in forgotten tap-rooms

dirty old men, forgotten old men,

slop piss-colored beer. Nobody cares….


homeless 1 copy.jpg for blog post

 Cardiff continues:

In 2010, I noticed a woman seated cross-legged on the sidewalk with her back against a building wall. A snow-covered Buddha, wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. I thought, There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day.

I have always been told not to give money to panhandlers because they’ll just spend it on booze. I thought to myself, What should I do, if anything? What would you do? I asked for advice from a friend who has worked with homeless people. She said, ‘The woman is probably hungry. Why don’t you ask her if she’d like a breakfast sandwich and maybe a coffee?’  This has become a morning routine for the past four years. The woman (I’ll call Joy) and I have become friends. Often I’ll sit with her on the sidewalk. We sometimes meet her companions in the park. They have become my closest friends. I think of them as angels. My life has become much richer for the experience.

I have asked homeless people what could be done to improve their situation. The most eloquent response came from Bearded Bruce.

“I get a welfare check now, seven hundred and thirty-two dollars a month. I’ve never taken welfare before, but I had to in order to qualify for my apartment. It’s a program they started me on in prison. Before that I was content to sleep behind the dumpsters, but after I was crammed in with a bunch of guys for three months, with no privacy, no freedom and I got to talk to my worker in a spacious, quiet interview room… what she was saying sounded pretty good.  They pay my landlord directly. It’s subsidized, so that leaves me with about two fifty. A person can’t live on two fifty a month, so I pan when the weather’s decent. There’s a restaurant that gives me their leftover food. When I cook I use a big pot. I have Tupperware containers; one for Shakes, one for Little Jake, one for Chuck. I have to take care of my boys.

“If I wasn’t on this program, the least expensive room, that’s ROOM, mind you, would cost five hundred and thirty a month. It would be in a rooming house crawling with cockroaches, infested with bed bugs, crackheads. Guys running up and down the stairs all night. I’d rather sleep on the street. If the city wants to cure homelessness they need to provide affordable, clean housing.”

SR: It’s amazing how much compassion you have for people, and how your writing and art bring the world alive to the reader, and to the viewer. Where do you find the passion for this kind of work?

DC: What has influenced my life the most was being diagnosed with polio at the age of eighteen months and six major surgeries, one hundred and fifty stitches, over a period of sixty-seven years.

The following poem, The Lost Boys, is biographical.


I was a young boy with a withered leg,

abandoned, in a cold hospital bed.

Faceless attendants wore gloves, masks and gowns.

No parents for cuddles, kisses or love.


Alone were the Lost Boys with polio,

the silent, unpredictable killer.

Quarantined, isolated like lepers,

our only strength came from one another.


Expected to die, we boys joined forces.

We supported each other, forming a bond.

After lights were turned out we would whisper

together, “Shush, the Sisters are coming.”


Older patients had access to wheelchairs.

Sometimes they’d transport me to other wards —

to meet other boys was high adventure.

An empty bed usually meant a death.


Six decades since, in the still of the night,

after lights are out, I can sometimes hear

that haunting refrain I heard as a child, whispered,

“Shush, the Sisters are coming.”


I don’t feel sorry for myself. In fact, I am grateful for polio, it made me what I am today. We all have scars, it’s what we do to overcome those scars is what is important. It seems that for most of my life I have been recovering from one operation or another or fighting arthritis. I lift weights and train at a gym three nights a week. I’m in better shape than most men half my age. I identify with the marginalized because I, too, have been marginalized.

When I sit on the sidewalk with my homeless friends, I see the looks of disgust, the averted eyes, sometimes hear the rude comments. Most people don’t realize that they may be only a couple of paychecks away from being homeless. They don’t realize how quickly the bank will take your house if you lose your employment and can’t make the mortgage payments. They fear that, and don’t want to be reminded of it by panhandlers or the visibly homeless.


Thank you, Dennis! I’m honored to be highlighting your work. My husband is a polio survivor and also an artist–a woodcarver. Your poem about being a little boy in the hospital resonated deeply.  It just goes to show how much people can do when they set their minds to the task.

i am joyful

I encourage readers to buy Gotta Find A Home and to sign up for the blog.  Through your writing I feel all your people, from Joy, to Bearded Bruce, Weasel, Shakes, and all the others, especially their pets.  Even though the stories of the street people are intense, we are all touched by the true grit of their lives.







Posted in inspirational, interviews, memoir, Writing for healing

Awareness and Sensitivity: Educating Parents About Bipolar Disorder

                                Madeline Sharples

Parents usually know what to look for as children age and develop. Young ones have predictable stages as they start to form their own identities and enjoy areas of interest. Yet, for some of us the danger of an unfamiliar imposter sometimes enters our lives in the form of mental illness. Regardless of comforting words and knowing looks from well meaning friends, dealing with bipolar disorder is still a mystery for many of us.

My guest this week is a brave woman, Madeline Sharples, who wrote as a way to cope with the tragedy of her eldest son’s suicide. Together  we make it through, but our pain is individual.

Paul was a talented musician, charming, intelligent and well-liked.  Later on his twenties his behavior changed and at times he became a stranger to his own mother and family members. How does a parent explain, let alone begin to understand, her child?

Below his my conversation with Madeline Sharples:

SR: What would you like to say to us about dealing with your son’s death?

MS: One of my greatest regrets is that I did not try harder to find out what support organizations were available at the time my son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The couple of groups I attended early on were so depressing; I didn’t believe my son was so sick that I needed to subject myself to that kind of “help.” How wrong I was! Our son Paul didn’t know enough about his illness either. I truly believe he felt the stigma and shame that can come with mental illness and that is what kept him from admitting he had the disorder and seeking the help he needed.

 So, I recommend parents find out as much about bipolar disorder as they can—the best doctors, hospitals, medications available, and how to get to them. It also is important to know that bipolar disorder is a disease of the brain just like asthma is a disease of the lungs. It can be treated. A person with bipolar is not violent, is not a sociopath, is not weak, is not stupid. A person with bipolar is like everyone else except with a treatable chemical imbalance in the brain. They need to also know that when left untreated, this disease may also result in suicide – my son took his life after a seven-year struggle with his illness.

Here is some information about a few support organizations. There are a lot of them out there, easily found on the Internet.

From its inception in 1979, the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) has been dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness by:

  • Educating people about mental illness
  • Peer education and training programs, initiatives and services for individuals, family members, health care providers and the general public
  • Being the voice on Capitol Hill and in state houses for the millions of Americans living with serious mental illness.

Another organization is  bringchange2mind, created by Glenn Close, who has a sister with bipolar disorder and a nephew with schizoaffective disorder. Its mission is to provide quick and easy access to information that combats stigma and quick and easy access to information and support for mental illness

 The work Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services does in the Los Angeles area to erase the stigma of mental health and to prevent suicide through its mental health programs and suicide support groups and suicide-prevention hotline would have been so useful to us while Paul was alive if only we had known that a place like Didi Hirsch existed.

SR:  How did the stigma of having a child with mental illness affect your self- confidence and career?

What a great question – one I’ve never been asked before. And, looking back, I don’t think the stigma of Paul’s mental illness affected my self confidence and career at all.

I didn’t think about stigma when my son was first diagnosed or shy away from openly talking about his mental illness to friends, family, and work colleagues, Unfortunately that didn’t translate into getting him proper help. I just had my head in the sand about how serious his mental disorder was. I knew he needed help, and I don’t feel I was proactive enough in urging him to get it.

Later on my son’s mental illness raised my awareness about it. After his death (much too late) I began to learn more. Then once my awareness was raised, I decided my mission in life would be to help raise awareness in others and help erase stigma and prevent suicide.

 Of course that is not to say that stigma doesn’t exist,

A couple of years ago my cousin came to our house to review and discuss the family history my husband had been writing. After reviewing the material he made one request – leave out the part about his father’s bipolar disorder. In fact he didn’t want to see any discussion of any of the mental illness that permeates my side of our family in the history.

 That was proof enough for me that the stigma of mental illness still exists.

 Although my husband did not mention our family’s mental illness in the history, I openly discussed my grandmother’s, uncles’, and mother’s mental illness in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On. I truly believe that our family’s genes passed on bipolar disorder to my son. I wanted to put our story out to the public and didn’t let stigma stand in the way.

SR:  How have you changed since your son’s death?

I was 59 years old when my son took his life. Following an aftermath filled with guilt and grief, I made the decision to come out of that experience alive, whole, and productive. Instead of doing the expected: getting a divorce, having a breakdown or an affair with a beautiful younger man, or going into years of therapy, I chose to live and take care of myself as a woman, wife, and mother.

First, I went back to the job I had retired from several years earlier – as a technical writer and editor and proposal manager for a large aerospace company. This job provided the routine and socialization I needed – getting up at the same time every morning, dragging myself to the gym first thing, dressing in business attire, putting on make-up, doing my hair, and interacting with groups of people on the job every day. I thought about my work almost twenty-four/seven. I had no more energy or time to wallow.

Then I began to hone my creative-writing skills. Instead of taking creative detours into drawing and painting, sewing, quilting, and needlepoint as I had done in the past, I went back to writing, a love I discovered in high school and college. I took writing classes and workshops, I got into the journaling habit, I began writing poetry to keep my son’s memory alive, and I created a memoir about living with my son’s illness and surviving his suicide. Leaving the Hall Light On that was released on Mother’s Day 2011. Writing became my therapy and a healing balm. It still helps in my work toward erasing the stigma of mental illness and suicide in the hope of saving lives.

Now, almost fourteen years later, I’ve retired from my day job and embarked on a whole new writing career. Since my memoir was published and re-released in paperback and eBook by Dream of Things press in 2012, I’ve reinvented myself into a published author, poet, and web journalist. And, I’m now writing my first novel. As my husband now says, my will to survive the tragic events in my life have made me a much stronger person than I ever was before.

Find Madeline’s website here .

 BIO: Madeline Sharples is the author of Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide (Dream of Things) and Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs  (New Horizon Press). She co-edited The Great American Poetry Show and wrote poetry for The Emerging Goddess photography book.

Her articles appear regularly at Naturally Savvy, Aging Bodies, PsychAlive, and Open to Hope and on her blogs, Choices and Red Room. She is also writing a novel.  Madeline’s mission since the death of her son is to raise awareness, educate, and erase the stigma of mental illness and suicide in hopes of saving lives.


                                    * Mental illness can be camouflaged *

Thank you Madeline. I feel strongly about women supporting women, and writers supporting each other. We live in a competitive world where often the deepest subject may be avoided in order to look good to the outside world. I’m sure readers will find courage by reading your work.

                                   sue's love yourself stars

Keep the light on with your journaling!

photo credit prairie dog: Jesse C. Jones

Posted in animal rescue, Hip Hop, interviews, true crime writers, writers

Breaking into Journalism and Keepin’ it Real with Cathy Scott

CathyAvatar for blog

This week I’m talking with powerhouse true crime writer, Cathy Scott. You can find her at and at her blog Crime, She Writes or at her email

Scott made her debut writing about  hip-hop legend, Tupac Shakur, killed in a mysterious 1996 Las Vegas shootout. Shakur, a “conscious rapper”  wrote prolific, often crude  lyrics reflecting the brutality and realism of poverty, chaos, addiction, racism, and oppression in the mean streets of America.   He died at age 25. That was 17 years ago.

As I read Scott’s book, I wondered who Tupac Shakur would have become had he lived  and matured? Would he have continued to write, and to act; would he become a mentor?  A  husband and father? Would he have found peace from the despair he so deeply felt? Would he have been able to channel his rage  into deeper works of music and artistry that so many fans loved?

I never knew much about hip hop until I heard the fantastic  and original  folks on Brave New Voices on HBO, then my heart opened up and I was able to appreciate and listen.

 Back to the interview and just the facts. Cathy shares the basic tenet of  her career and that is,  journalism is all about the writer’s responsibility to report the facts and to get the story right.

                                         tupac shakur.jpg four

 Here is our conversation:

SR:  Seems like you have been a writer forever. How did you get started? What inspired you?

CS: I always wanted to be a writer, since childhood when I used to journal and write poetry. But I didn’t do it for a living until after I went back to college to finish my degree when my son entered college. I was a secretary for 13 years (my mother, also a writer, taught typing, and I learned to type at a young age — a skill that has served me well in both journalism and book writing). I took a buyout from my secretarial job and broke into journalism by writing for small community newspapers and regional magazines, gathering clips. I won an award and, almost immediately, a daily newspaper hired me for the crime beat. I was hooked on crime. I’ve covered it ever since.

SR:  You are probably most recognized as the best-selling author true crime such as the Killing of Tupac Shakur and then The Murder of Biggie Smalls.  Why did you write about these cases? IE Isn’t it kind of intense to be dealing with topics such as botched crime scenes, corruption, misconduct, high profile stars,  and money- wrapped violence?

CS: I was on the police beat at the Las Vegas Sun when Tupac was shot and I was assigned the story. It was entertainment writers back East who contacted me, mostly interviewing me for their articles, who encouraged me to turn my daily reporting into a book. And so I wrote The Killing of Tupac Shakur. Huntington Press, a regional publishing house located in Las Vegas, published it, and it made the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. I was just notified by the publisher that they want a third edition, so I’m working on the revised edition, which should be out by winter. One book leads to another, I learned when Biggie Smalls was murdered six months after Tupac in a similar car-to-car shooting. St. Martin’s Press published The Murder of Biggie Smalls. I’ve been with large traditional publishing houses ever since.

I blog about evidence and forensics for Psychology Today and about crime in general for Women in Crime Ink. It makes me feel like I still have my hand in journalism, and I enjoy it.

Yes, it can be sad writing about how victims’ lives sometimes end in acts of violence. For those people, we, as crime writers, flesh out who they were as people without just writing about the circumstances of their deaths. We give them a voice.

SR:  What’s your latest project? What would you like to say to aspiring writers?

CS: A modern novella I’ve written has been serialized in the The  Social Media Monthly  (the fictional crime is solved using Facebook), and I’ll probably get it published as a book. But my latest true crime book includes two related historical crimes from the late 1960s. I’m writing two sample chapters for the book proposal for my agent. Once it gets picked up by a publisher, I’ll release who it’s about. I can say that the cases are related to a high-profile horrific crime spree.

I’m also writing a book — Murder in Lomita — about the Dawn Viens murder out of southern California. Her husband, a chef, killed her — accidentally, he said — and then, to get rid of the body, slow cooked her remains in a 55-gallon cooker at the couple’s restaurant (he did not serve her up to customers!). That’s the only grisly part of the story. He has quite a background — a mid-level drug dealer in Florida who, after a short stint in a penitentiary, started anew in California with his wife.

My advice to aspiring writers is to keep at it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. Follow your passion. But also remember that no one is born a great writer. Lots of people have talent, but writing is a craft, and the more you do it, the better you get. I constantly read national magazine articles and other authors’ books to analyze and see how they turn a phrase and how they lay out the facts of a story in their voice and weave a wonderful narrative. I love researching facts and gleaning documents for information, but my favorite part of writing is polishing the story before it goes to print. That’s the beauty of writing. We can rewrite and rework our words into something we’re proud of.

BIO: Cathy Scott is an investigative journalist, blogger, and author, and has written eight books. Her work has appeared in New York Times Magazine, New York Post, George magazine, Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, and Reuters news service, among others. She taught journalism for five years at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas until she left to report on the largest animal rescue in U.S. history in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, culminating in the book Pawprints of Katrina.  Her latest crime book is The Millionaire’s Wife,  and her most recent TV appearances include Investigation Discovery, VH1 and A&E. She’s currently writing a mystery crime novel set in Las Vegas as well as a historical crime book.

dashboard old car copy

I’ve been a true crime reader since my teens.   Good crime writers are such a treat. Thank you Cathy, for your immediate willingness to discuss the issues, your books, and for your moxie.  I can’t wait to read Pawprints and the Millionaire’s Wife.

Readers, I hope you will enjoy all her books.

Journal prompt: Write about a famous crime or how crime may have touched your life. What happened? Do you feel writing is a good way to process tragedy?  Feel free to come back and talk about it here.

Happy journaling!

Shakur sketch (acrylic)and car photo credits: the author Susan E. Rowland

Posted in adoption, interviews, memoir, social commentary

A Father, Two Boys, and Four Angels: An Interview with John Waldron

john waldron author interview

“Our time together not only made me a better man and father, but highlighted a shared value system that would overshadow any of our differences” – John Waldron, A Father’s Angels

Every once in a while I come across a real page-turner. A Father’s Angels, by John Waldron  is the true story of a man struggling to meet the demands of being a new parent. The odds are against him. Social prejudice, the immigration controversy,  and the state adoption system threaten to drown his enthusiasm.  He needs help.

Enter the angels, four Hispanic women who, one by one, come to work as nannies. They face their own uncertain futures despite outstanding loyalty.   First is talented and devoted Paulina, an aspiring artist. She’s undaunted by the behavioral challenges of Waldron’s son, Miguel, one of millions of angry and abandoned kids who end up in the foster care system. Dealing with meltdowns doesn’t deter her…

I won’t be a spoiler. You can read the book and find out what happens.

cropped copy woman in shawl

My conversation with the author is below:

SR: When did you decide to write your story? Did you keep a journal?

JW:  Pretty much from the first couple weeks after I adopted my oldest son from the State of Arizona, I began to keep a “loose” journal of thoughts and more importantly stories.  I knew I was on a unique journey after I began interviewing the many potential caregivers that would become such a big part of our lives.  The stories of these women who had migrated to the U.S. from Mexico had amazing stories to share and I began to make notes of their experiences throughout the process.  My journal was a way to footnote touching or difficult times in the day or acts of kindness that were demonstrated by my babysitters.  Candidly, I was usually exhausted by the end of most nights and I was lucky if I scratched out a couple sentences before falling asleep.  However, as a way of processing all that was happening, I did begin to write…one story at a time.  When it came time to share certain stories that described specific locations, I would go back and revisit these spots which would trigger all kinds of memories of raising my two boys.  After several years, I realized that I had the makings of a book.  With the help and insights of two different editors, I was able to tell an honest story that allowed readers a glimpse into our lives.

SR: How did you deal with the heartbreak of learning that your adopted child had behavior problems for which you were not prepared?

JW: As I describe in the book, I knew my older son had issues and that his birth family as well had a history of challenges.  However, I think it’s impossible for a new parent to ever imagine the challenges that come during the initial transition period and the extended challenges that follow from a child who misses out on love in the earliest months of their lives.  One of my messages in the book is that gay parents have a much harder journey within the State of Arizona adoption system and if they are looking to adopt healthy children without a lengthy history, they have an uphill battle.  It is sad to see so many children locally in need of adoption and yet so many feel they must go oversees or seek a private adoption within the states.  Ultimately, this was my situation the second time around.  I adopted my younger son from Guatemala as a result of the difficulties and biases experienced in the Arizona state adoption system.

 SR: What are you working on now?

JW: I am in a part-time doctoral program in Leadership so I am doing a lot of academic writing but I have two other book concepts that I am writing for enjoyment  One is a parable book in keeping with Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager.  This time around, I am having fun creating fictional characters and it has been a creative outlet.  As for my second group of stories, these remain focused on my family and the lighter side of raising kids in Arizona as a gay dad.  Rest assured, there are many funny stories to share.

                                         three on a boat dock at a lake

Thank you, John!  You have an admirable story that captured my heart. I wish you all the best and look forward to reading more of your work.

   “The truth was now before me.” -John Waldron, A Father’s Angels

Lake photo and collage art credit: Susan E. Rowland

Posted in forgiveness, interviews, memoir, psychology, writers, Writing for healing

Giving the Inner Child a Voice: An Interview with Sherrey Meyer

                                         sherrey final blog post 2013

Let’s talk about how hard childhood can be and how writers  express the pain. Regardless of religious background, ethnicity, nationality, or socioeconomic status, all writers vent in some form through memoir.  Think of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes or Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.  The writing style is a matter of choice.

Today I’m introducing blogger and memoir writer, Sherrey Meyer who is writing about abuse and forgiveness.

SR:   How do you as a writer deal with hurt or trauma?

SM: Susan, this is a good question. I thought when I started writing that the childhood hurts and trauma would not still be fresh enough to be bothersome. Was I ever wrong!

With each word, sentence or paragraph, I felt myself cringing at some of the memories dredged up with my writing. I began slowly because of the recalled pain and soon realized I needed to find a way to cope with these resurgent memories.

One fortunate occurrence for me was the forgiveness I felt for my mother shortly before her death. There were multiple reasons for this forgiveness, none of which were verbal between us.  Yet to share them here would give away an essential part of my memoir.

However, quite often even that forgiveness would not be enough to block the pain and at those times I found several avenues for coping. I would simply stop writing, unless I was at a point where I might lose something I would never reach again.  If that were the case, I would immediately turn to a verse of Scripture that was a favorite and if I may, I’ll share the one I sought most often.  In Jeremiah 29:11, God shares: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This always centered me on the promise that God never intended me to be hurt, that my mother had an inherent problem due to a dysfunctional childhood, and that the hurt actually was not the result of her not loving me.

If all else failed, I turned to music, reading a lighthearted book, or getting outside and stretching my legs.

SR:   Do you think a particular style works for writing about childhood wounds? IE how does a writer effectively deal with trauma without sounding like he or she is reciting a litany of complaints?

SM: Funny you should ask this question. I have recently been struggling with feeling like I have turned into a whining 67-year old daughter. I certainly do not wish to seem to be writing solely about my mother as the “Wicked Witch of the South.”  Mama had her good points too, which my memoir will share.

In recent weeks, I have brainstormed about circumventing this easily adopted pattern of writing about the “bad parent.” On my blog, I have a page devoted to Letters to Mama, where I attempt to give my inner child a voice against Mama’s verbal and emotional onslaughts. As I considered those for inclusion in my memoir, another idea came in a light bulb moment. Incorporating vignettes as I write about those bad times between us would be the way to “show” rather than just “tell” the facts of Mama’s temperamental shortcomings. My nearest and dearest critic, my husband, has agreed this is highly workable and the option of choice.  I’d love for any other memoirists to weigh in on this idea.

SR:  What are a few of your favorite books or writers?

SM: You have opened the gate widely now, Susan. As you may or may not know, I am an avid reader and I review books for several publishing outlets on my book blog, Found Between the Covers.

I’ll try to keep the list short!

Among my favorite authors are Anne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg, Maya Angelou, Jane Austen, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Faulkner and a local Oregon author, Jane Kirkpatrick.  There are many more but I’ll stop here.

Among my favorite books are Emma, Pride and Prejudice, The Anne of Green Gables series (a gift from Dad), The Little House books (you never grow too old for these!), Stephen King’s On Writing, Bird by Bird,  The House Behind the Cedars, A Sweetness to the Soul, The Year of Magical Thinking, The Power of Memoir.

SR: What are you working on now?

SM: Currently, I’m working on the first draft of my memoir. I’ve had my share of false starts meaning I would get started and life would insert itself in a rude fashion. I would be forced to give up my writing for a while, and then start over again.

I have two other projects in mind, both historical fiction. I love to research and these two books will allow me to dig into some interesting history.  The first is the story of orphanages in this country in the early 1900s centering on my father’s admission to an orphanage at age four and the 12 years he spent there before being apprenticed to a small town newspaper.

The other project is a book my recently deceased brother-in-law had hoped to write. His story idea is built around what was once The Poor Farm here in Portland, Oregon. The central characters visit the now restored facility on their honeymoon and become obsessed with the old photographs on the walls. They begin researching and soon find that the records they are uncovering lead to some interesting facts about their individual ancestries.

                             spagnum moss and reeds

Sherrey’s Bio:

A retired legal secretary, Sherrey Meyer grew tired of drafting and revising pleadings and legal documents.  She had always dreamed of writing something else, anything else!  Once she retired she couldn’t stay away from the computer, and so she began to write.  Among her projects is a memoir of her “life with mama,” an intriguing Southern tale of matriarchal power and control displayed in verbal and emotional abuse.  Sherrey is married and lives with husband Bob in Milwaukie, OR.

You can reach Sherrey on her websites:  Healing by Writing  and Found Between the Covers or via email at

Thanks, Sherrey! I’m looking forward to reading your memoir. Here’s a shout out to helping children everywhere. I’m a dedicated advocate for kids and families.

                      chey by horse touching nice

 Journal prompt: Try writing a letter to someone who caused you harm or with whom you have unresolved issues. Let loose, use bad language if necessary and allow yourself to release. Do not send the letter. Wait a few months and go back and read the letter and see how you feel about it.

Suggestion: Try writing from the other person’s point of view and answer your letter. What happens? Is this difficult?

                             side view roadside nice

Readers, if you have a blog or a website and are interested in sharing your journaling, memoir, poetry, or writing about life contact me at:

Coming up: Native American author, musician and visionary, Joy Harjo.

photo credits: Susan Rowland

Posted in earth friendly, inspirational, interviews, journaling, recovery, spirituality, writers, Writing for healing

Nature Heals: Writing the Hero’s Journey with Mary Reynolds Thompson

                              MARY REYNOLDS THOMPSON

Happy Summer Solstice! What a great time for celebrating life and the longest day of the year. The turning seasons cycle and change right along with our own bodies as we live on the great mother, the earth. Without her sustenance and sacred gifts, our vital essence may dim.

In writing to heal, raw honesty is absolutely necessary. As the saying goes, “we can’t change what we don’t acknowledge.” Starting with a journal or notebook is a perfect tool.

This week for the summer solstice I’m talking with author and naturalist Mary Reynolds Thompson. She’s a kindred spirit from California who revels in the earth’s wisdom and shares her powerful messages about healing and recovering Spirit.

SR: What is: Write the Damn Book? How do writers utilize this resource?

MRT: Write the Damn Book is a program that guides people on the heroic journey from procrastination to publication. Most people who fail to complete their books do so because they don’t realize that writing a book is an heroic journey. They think working on craft and concept is enough. These things are important, but they don’t address the internal challenges we all confront as writers: the demons of self-doubt, the harsh inner critic, the wicked witch of confusion. Writing a book doesn’t just depend on your intellect and imagination, it also depends on your willingness to confront your deepest fears and share your deepest truths. That’s why it’s an heroic journey.

                               the rock of the world

SR: Your own writing is about eco-spirituality. What draws you to that topic?

MRT: I believe that separation from the Earth is the root cause of much of the psychological and spiritual suffering in the world, as well as destruction of the planet. Our sense of separation and superiority is manifest in the way we dam mighty rivers, genetically modify crops, and blow the tops off mountains. Our mechanized, high-tech, high-speed culture also causes tremendous internal stresses, anxiety and despair. People are seeking aliveness–we long to cross the false divide between humans and nature and merge with the Earth again so that we can live and express from our wild souls.

To read some of Mary’s newsletters on the topic, please go to Reclaiming the Wild Soul.

                                                 this is it madrone

SR: Embrace your Inner Wild   (White Cloud Press, 2011) is a beautiful collaboration. How did this book come about and what is its significance?

MRT: Photographer Don Moseman spent 35 years in San Quentin State Prison. I met him at a 12-step meeting shortly after he’d been released. I’d also see him when walking the trails of Marin County, California, where we both live. He carried a camera; I carried a journal. The idea for the book was born after Don started sending me his amazing wildlife photographs. I’d been teaching and writing about the connection between inner and outer nature for years, and the collaboration just seemed a natural fit. The fact that we both felt we owed much of our recovery from alcoholism to our relationship with the natural world, only brought us closer together.

SR: You are on the core faculty of TWI–How do you feel women can truly support each other?

MRT: The Therapeutic Writing Institute, based in Denver Colorado, is the professional training division of the Center for Journal Therapy, founded by Kay Adams. While it is certainly open to men, the area of poetry and journal therapy is dominated by women. I think, in part, this is a reflection of a bigger story: women are training and equipping themselves with the skills and knowledge they need to help shift us into a new consciousness. Women are coming together to support each other in order to change the world.

Mary Reynolds Thompson is a facilitator of poetry therapy, author, writing coach, and guide to the Inner Wild. An international workshop leader, she helps others experience the power of wildness through exploring the connection between the natural world and our psyches and souls. Her book Embrace Your Inner Wild was a finalist for the Best Nature Book of the Year, 2011. Her forthcoming book, Reclaiming the Wild Soul: How Earth’s Landscapes Restore Us to Wholeness is due out in spring, 2014. Please visit Mary at the above highlighted links.

                                                hollyhocks and the clouds

Thank you brave Mary! We need more courageous, nature-loving souls like you in the world. I am looking forward to reading Reclaiming the Wild Soul.

Happy journaling in the wild places!

photo credits: Susan E. Rowland

Posted in inspirational, interviews, journaling, Writing for healing

Full Circle: Stories from a Healing Heart with Rae Hight


Nurses and medical personnel are dear to me. My mother had a near fatal brain aneurysm when I was ten. She made it, lived into her 80’s. My husband is a polio champion who raised 12 children, earned an AA in Administration of Justice and became an excellent woodworker. Our granddaughter is a warrioress over cystic fibrosis.  This blogpost is dedicated to all caregivers and the people who love them.

Today  my guest  is multi-talented Rae Hight. You can check out her blog here.  Anyone who lives from the heart will relate to hers.

SR: I see you are a nurse, a professional therapist, and a Certified Journal Therapist. Why did you decide to go into nursing  and then journaling? Do the two go together?

RH: In all honesty, I now understand that the connection between journal therapy and nursing is more  interwoven than I ever could have anticipated.  Nursing was my first professional career and I thrived in the home health setting because I could listen to my patient’s stories while helping them with the  basics of health care and education.  As the medical system became more complex, and home  health became an extension of the hospital setting with so much technology, I made the difficult  decision to leave nursing.

When I began my second career as a mental health therapist, I was thrilled to discover how much of   my nursing training and experience dovetailed with my clients’ needs.  I felt the same deep passion in listening to their stories and providing support as they journeyed toward holistic health and wellness.  I often found my nursing background valuable because I could listen to their concerns  about medical issues in a way that wouldn’t have been possible with the counseling degree alone.

I’ve always loved journaling and art work and found this was a natural aspect of my counseling. When I discovered Kay Adams’ Journal to the Self ® program and then earned my credential as a  journal therapist with the ability to bring in the nursing and counseling backgrounds, I knew I’d come  home! Everything in my professional life came full circle.

SR: Is teaching journal therapy rewarding for you?

RH: Absolutely!  I believe strongly in the power of journaling and journal therapy.  Every person who is   touched by this work – as provider and as recipient – becomes a spokesperson for journaling as a tool   for insight, wisdom and self-empowerment.  Knowing that I am an integral part of this process is    fully rewarding.  When teaching on-line, I feel an additional element of responsibility because my    coursework reaches across the United States and around the world.  When I take classes on-line, I  am personally impacted by my instructor’s engagement and knowledge far beyond what I’ve  experienced with on-site classes.  I’ve made the commitment to provide the same support in my own teaching.  If you believe in something as powerful as journaling, how can you do anything other than  respect and encourage individuals who are committing themselves to learning and integrating this   rich resource into their own lives, which is, in turn, shared with others?

SR:  Do you have any published books?

RH: Yes.  In 2004, I published an oral history of World War II veterans (Voices of WWII:  A  Kaleidoscope of Memories).

This book was fully a labor of love and I felt deeply honored to hear  the veterans’ stories and bring them all together.  Many of the family members sat in during the   interviews and spoke about how much it touched them to witness their parents/grandparents share new stories and to learn new details of stories they’d already heard a dozen times before. I am in the   process of having a second printing and hope to have it available by the end of July (2013).

In 2011, I developed a 6-week nursing course that is available on line and offers nursing continuing education.  Part of that process was the creation of a 200+ page journaling workbook that provides  information on the role between journaling and wellness and includes over a dozen specialized journaling techniques.

I am currently working on three projects.

Women of a Certain Age:  Poetry and Journaling Prompts for Women Who Have Stories to Tell.  This is a chapbook  of my own poems that is fully committed to reflecting many of the issues that  touch women’s lives. 

  A Kaleidoscope Woman:  from Maiden to Crone.  This is a full memoir written in vignettes in a    cross-genre format.  It will include poetry, prose, historical narrative, photography and miscellaneous ephemera related to the culture of the 1950s through the 1970s.

 Heart and Health:  Journaling for Nurses and other Health Care ProfessionalsThis is a smaller workbook for nurses and provides techniques that are foundation for health and wellness journaling.

 SR: What advice would give to journal writers who are transitioning into writing books and blogging?

RH: What a terrific question.  I would encourage them to remain curious and open.  Read everything they  can that relates to their area of interest – or areas they believe they might be interested in.  The web is  such a rich resource now.  Invite a sense of being comfortable with who they are as unique  individuals.  Plan to take what is their creativity alone and share it.  Too often we are concerned about  writing something that no one else will be interested in.  We never know what creative works we offer (in the form of blogs, newsletters,articles, books, art work, etc.) that will turn someone’s life  around.


I would also encourage them to work outside the box.  Explore artistic ways to be creative, even if  they don’t see themselves as someone who does art.

 SoulCollage®  is an amazing process of creating collage that provides a powerful opportunity to blend writing with   the magic of collage.

the angel of mercy copy

Thank you Rae! Carry on writers, healers, and collage people. The world is waiting for your heart and mind.

Happy journaling!

Posted in interviews, writers

You do Have an Audience: Dreams do Come True with Brooke Warner

Brooke Warner interview copy

“Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you” -David Whyte, The House of Belonging. 

I found this quote in Brooke Warner’s book and it made me blink. Who me? Really?  Ya’ talkin’ to me?

Yes, you. Stay with it.

Warner shares,  “When we aren’t writing, we aren’t owning our writing.” I’m bowing in supplication as she calls my bluff. Aspiring authors simply have to believe they can write their book. It’s a duty.

So if everybody’s writing a book nowadays how does a writer know where to pitch a book proposal and get noticed?

Just ask Brooke. She’s a powerhouse author, coach, and editor, who graciously gave her time for MINI VIEWS this week. I found her through Dan Blank’s Grow Your Author Platform class. Warner conducts webinars and presents up- to- date trade secrets at the Self Publishing Summit in Berkeley.

Below is our conversation:

SR:  Tell me about life as an author and editor.

BW: I got started in publishing working at North Atlantic Books as a project editor in 2000. I spent 13 years in traditional publishing before striking out on my own last year, in 2012. Now I work fulltime at my two businesses, Warner Coaching and She Writes Press.

I’m not, by any means, a fulltime author. I wrote my book, What’s Your Book?, because I felt I needed to capture what I knew about writing books and publishing into a book, and because I wanted to have the firsthand experience of writing a book.

 My work with authors is largely editorial, but it’s also often emotional and psychological. I come to the process of writing a book from the vantage point of having been an editor, and from a background in traditional publishing. However, I am also a life coach, and I bring my skills as a teacher, listener, and collaborator to my process with authors. I have developed a process I know works to help authors work out their stories, but every author comes to the experience of writing the book with unique challenges. So I like to say that the work is very organic, and meets the author wherever they are.

Meanwhile, I’m the publisher of SheWrites Press, a press I co-founded with Kamy Wicoff, founder of

 The press is one year old, and so far we’ve signed forty authors. I am working to write and publish an ebook this fall. I want to make sure I still write while I have all these other balls in the air, but it does require carving out the space and making a real commitment to my writing. In this way I have to live what I coach.

SR: Do you ever journal? As usual, I want to know all about how you arrange your time. How do you get it all done?

 BW: I don’t journal. I’ve only ever journaled with any real consistency when I’ve traveled. That said, I am big on organization. And I have to be given the number of projects I manage. I never took a time management or organization course. I figured out a system that works for me and I’ve stuck to it. I use some systems, like a contact management system and a project management system. I’ve had to adopt a lot of good habits in order to keep straight all the various projects and timelines I manage. It’s great that with the digital age there are so many amazing tools at our disposal. It’s just a matter of figuring out which ones you like best and then learning how to use them!

 SR: Do you have any tips for the older generation or people who still love the classics? I have some true crime stories to polish but the vintage non-fiction authors seem to be a thing of the past and nobody mentions them.  True crime is published like fries, a side with every order.What advice do you have for facing such a competitive market?

 BW: What I write about in my book is not using older titles as competitive titles in your book proposal. They are too old in the sense that they don’t have a sales record that the publishing industry can track. So you want to think about your competition being among books that have been published since 2000. This is very specific to shopping your book to publishers.

 For older writers, I say this: Write your truth. Don’t let anyone tell you you are too old to publish. Don’t let anyone tell you you don’t have an audience. I work with a lot of writers who might consider themselves to be of “older generations.” A lot of them are so spunky and vibrant and enchanted with the possibilities around publishing and self-publishing. Many of them are building platforms for themselves, publishing books and ebooks, and making a little money on the side. It’s very inspiring.

In my opinion, the genre is beside the fact. There’s not only one type of story that’s getting published, and self-publishing, in a lot of ways, is making it possible for anyone to defy traditional publishing and make a case for the fact that there are all types of audiences out there. So don’t give up! Write your story and worry about how you’re going to publish later.

“And yet if we don’t dream big, how can we ever realize what we truly want, what we believe is possible?”  -Brooke Warner, What’s Your Book?

stay focused look up

Stay focused, look up!

Happy writing.