Writing takes practice. First, it requires finding a quiet space inside so you can put words on the page. Easier said than done. Here we share exercises, tips and tools to get you going.    

Ring the Bells

Whether we planned to or not (and we didn’t), we ended up taking a hiatus from this blog. The Mandala Writers Circle itself is still going strong, though, and we have some exciting news to share. First, Carolyn published her book! The Protectlings at Woods Edge is a beautiful, heartwarming story; Carolyn has created memorable […]

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Know One Rule

A few years ago, Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats published a list of rules for storytelling, a compilation of the wisdom she’d picked up working on animated films. It’s now a widely referenced tool, finding its way into business books and TED talks and even branding webinars. Its universal appeal lies in both its casual […]

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Rearrange the World

Growing up, I was always lucky enough to have my own room. Sometimes I would lie awake at night in the moments before sleep grabbed me and think about how I could rearrange my domain. My ideas were so exciting, they’d keep me up past the hour when I should have been asleep. In the […]

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Return to Life, Ishmael Beah at Boston’s Symphony Hall

When Ishmael Beah strides across a stage he lights up the entire room, an irrepressible combination of intelligence and charisma. He stood at the podium at Wednesday’s Speakers Series event and his joyful presence lifted all of us a little higher. If you didn’t know his story, you might assume he is one of those lucky few who has […]

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Strengthen Your Core

If there’s a quiz floating around FaceBook, I’ve probably taken it. These colorful, simple tests catch my eye with their snappy titles: What Color is Your Aura? (violet); Which Profession Should You Be? (writer); Which Star Wars Character/Harry Potter Character/Dog Breed Would You Be? (Obi-Wan Kenobi/Prof McGonagall/yellow Lab). On and on I go, collecting these […]

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Account for Magic

When I was very young, I spent many evenings listening as my father told me and my older brother stories he invented on the spot. They were what he called his Black Jack the Pirate and the Golden Princess series, and they involved daring rescues, flying turtles, ominous birds of prey, and lots of cliffhangers. […]

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Grease the Pan

A conversation with my dear friend, Sue, often leaves me with a valuable nugget that improves my life. Recently, I filled her in on an upcoming event I was dreading. My participation was required in a space that didn’t suit me well, and had previously left me with a migraine. She knew the story. It […]

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Follow the Rules

I’ve been reading Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style lately, for fun. Some say grammar rules are boring and archaic, and question why, in a world of LOL and WTF and everything in between, anyone needs to bother with them. I have a few reasons, some personal and some practical: I am a grammar […]

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Work Both Sides

I jump at any opportunity to hear a published writer speak, even if I’m not familiar with his or her work. Last week I was at a meeting where James Levine spoke about his novel, Bingo’s Run. Its topic, drug trafficking in the slums of Nairobi, broke my heart with its tragedies, so I had […]

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Tie It Up

Much of advanced physics makes my head hurt, but I’m fascinated by quantum mechanics and general relativity discussions (although I can’t participate in them). The method that might connect the two theories – universal string theory – really grabs my attention. In it, eleven dimensions and parallel universes connect by sub-atomic strings. Their vibrational frequencies […]

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Build the Foundations

  Typically, we publish our book reviews under a Worth A Read title because Carolyn or I have liked them enough to recommend them. From time to time, a book one of us reads is not that well written or not that interesting (or sometimes both), and it doesn’t make the cut. It’s especially frustrating […]

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Fan the Fire

A lot of what we write about on this site is about writing, but it goes deeper than that. We have struggled with speaking up and figuring out what we want to say, and these are not concerns reserved for writers. Anyone trying to make something of his/her life gets shy at times and holds […]

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Keep It Real

If you’re not looking for it, you find writing instruction in the most unlikely places. At my husband’s request, I just read a book he highly recommended, Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic. Since I’ve been recommending books to Carl all our married lives, it seemed only fair that I comply with this request. Now, this […]

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Run Your Race

I was drawn to the marathon this Monday for a few reasons. I wanted to see and feel my city come out and show our strength. The sun was shining after a long, harsh winter. I had spent last year’s Marathon Monday, the day of the bombings, in the hospital having major surgery. Proving one’s […]

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Keep It Short

My mother has been on my mind a lot lately. She died almost 18 years ago, and she has missed so much. She was a writer at heart, although a teacher and mother and grandmother in her day-to-day life. One of the things I miss most about my mother is her combination of curiosity about, […]

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Consider It Done

I have ruined more than a few paintings by working past completion, adding brush strokes beyond what was needed.  The result was muddy.  It is also easy to overdecorate a room, or to put on one too many accessories before heading out the door.  When are our efforts just right? Finished? Ready to stand on […]

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Do One Thing

I have a confession to make. After giving my book of essays to my early readers and getting their thoughtful feedback and edits, I made no progress on the book for two months. This was even after I made a pact with myself in January to self-publish by the end of this month. I can […]

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This Day Counts

Note: Some years ago I came across a writing exercise that I’ll call the ABC Challenge.  The idea is to write a story in 26 sentences, each one beginning with the next letter of the alphabet.  It’s a great way to force yourself to be more creative in both how you craft sentences and in […]

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Tell Your Story

When I was growing up, there were three TV networks, a handful of LA movie studios, and a half dozen publishing houses in NYC.  Today there are more than fifty US networks broadcasting over hundreds of channels.  Independent film makers operate easily outside of Hollywood. The publishing industry has expanded, with smaller houses in every […]

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Get a Grip

Yesterday I woke up feeling overwhelmed.  The day loomed ahead of me, and I felt immobilized by all I had to do.  There wasn’t anything truly challenging or out of the ordinary going on.  So why was I shrinking from the morning? This happens sometimes when a neglected problem is churning away in a dark […]

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Save Some Time

I appreciate any help I can get organizing my life. Some areas are running smoothly on well established, streamlined routines. Others falter, with the dreaded casualty of wasted time. But I’m wasting less time these days, thanks to everything Apple. If only there was an app to help me organize my cluttered, overloaded mind… I […]

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Mark Your Words

For reasons I will explain shortly, this week I needed to research Bartleby the Scrivener.  Herman Melville penned this story about an irritating lawyer’s clerk in 1853, a time when writers had to contend with drafty rooms, smoky fires, candlelight, and quill pens.  I can only imagine how many times Melville had to throw open […]

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Bend the Rules

I have attempted to keep a journal half a dozen times, starting with a lock and key Scooby Doo diary I got from my grandmother in fourth grade.  I still have it, and the first five pages contain an adorable account of how excited I was to write in it.  But the rest of its […]

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Look Both Ways

I finished the novel.  In its own quiet way, it was pretty exciting.  I wrote a few words over the 50,000 mark and had to stop and say out loud “I just wrote a novel”.  Then I did a little chair happy dance.  Then I submitted my word count to be validated and I got […]

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Hand It Over

A good friend sent me the link to a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) on creativity and where it comes from.  I like what Gilbert has to say about the way the idea of genius has changed over the millennia, and that what used to be considered a channeling of […]

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Write A Novel

As if it were that simple, right?  Just write a novel, or bake a cake, or rake the leaves.  It takes some people years, even a lifetime, to write a novel.  Plus, they would have to be “real” writers, wouldn’t they?  In the interest of shattering that myth, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was born […]

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Enter A Contest

One of the biggest challenges in starting out writing is the lack of deadlines. With other daily work calling, and no agent or publisher breathing down your neck, it’s easy to put off finishing that chapter. Sure, you can set a deadline for yourself, like a New Year’s resolution. It might go the way of […]

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Celebrate Good Times

(OK, admit it, you suddenly have that iconic 80’s anthem running through your head.) Now that we have your attention, we’re announcing a few reasons we have to celebrate: 1) Yesterday, October 24th, was the one-year anniversary of the founding of the Mandala Writer’s Circle. Carolyn and I celebrated not by having an impromptu dance […]

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Write A Letter

Yesterday I got a letter. Not in my inbox – my mailbox, the one at the end of the driveway that fills daily with catalogs and heaps of ads that end up in the recycle bin. The letter was a thank you note from a dear friend who had stayed overnight on her way through […]

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Find Your People

I have been intrigued by the reactions I get from people when I tell them I’m writing a book and a blog.  Lovely people are extremely encouraging.  They’re excited for me, and their enthusiasm shows.  “That’s so great!,” they say, “I can’t wait to read your book when it’s done.”  It is wonderful to hear […]

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See It Done

Last spring I attended a weekend writing workshop run by Wayne Dyer and his publisher at Hay House, Reid Tracy. Five hundred budding writers were eager to hear any words of wisdom about getting their books out there. We completed writing exercises and listened to presentations about creativity, the changing world of publishing, and the […]

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Leave A Clue

I’ve come to understand exactly what writer’s block is.  It’s not that I’ve run out of ideas or a desire to write in general, but simply that I have no idea what to write next.  I picture myself sitting down at my desk and just sitting.  Not writing.  It’s almost as if the path I […]

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Create A Space

After several weeks of MWC meetings, we were discussing the structure of our writing process. What time of day worked best? How did our environment help or hinder our progress? For each of us, the answers to these questions were evolving. We were experimenting to see which scenarios oiled our creative gears. I expressed my […]

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Just Start Writing

Sitting down to write, I was delighted to notice that I was eager to be there. I enjoy writing, so one might think that I would always be eager to do it. Why then, have I repeatedly put it off, choosing to vacuum (I hate vacuuming) or take out the trash instead? I have even […]

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Honor Your Words

The connection goes back many years. In our book group, we identified each other early as like-minded readers. Aligned on many levels, we were not surprised to discover that we both enjoyed writing. Our daily lives did not include it, but we wanted them to. We didn’t know how this could happen, or if we […]

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