The insights gleaned from the creative journeys of others can inform our own.  In this section, you'll find our own observations about finding a voice and those of authors we've encountered in our travels.

We Have Lift-Off

We stared at the television, straining to see the grainy black-and-white footage of the lunar landscape. The spaceship looked like something built with Legos, and the astronaut looked like the Michelin man, moving awkwardly on the cratered grey surface. Neil Armstrong spoke his historic words as we – my siblings and cousins and I – […]

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Weed It Out

I was away for a week and didn’t get a chance to weed my small garden before I left. A few waterings would be missed in my absence, so I hoped that weeds wouldn’t gain too much ground. I returned to find more invaders than I expected. Two rainstorms had nourished my herbs and vegetables, […]

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Brave the Wilds

It’s clear to me that I’m on some kind of a journey. My recent book speaks to this, this blog speaks to it, and much of the conversing and reading I do these days has this language built in. I don’t know exactly where this journey is headed, and at times I find it exhausting. […]

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Light a Fire

I have a lot of talented people in my life. I suspect most of us do. Some are talented in ways that are very visible to the world: they lead successful companies, they teach, they serve, they paint, draw, write, act, and sing. Others are just as gifted, but they may not be aware of […]

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Let It Ring

Since childhood, my fourth of July traditions have included the regular BBQs, parades and fireworks. When I began literacy tutoring a few years ago, I developed a deeper appreciation for the specifics of the document the holiday celebrates, thanks to my students from Korea, Russia and Iran. Now I include a little history review and […]

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Rescue A Heart

We’re grateful that the car accident last week resulted in only minor injuries. The Toyota truck carrying our daughter and her roommate rolled twice on the Anaheim freeway. Two cars were totaled, and their belongings scattered far and wide. Their beloved pit bull/lab mix, Grizzly, bolted from the scene. After two days of exhaustive searching […]

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Need to Know

  The dream is essentially (and deliciously) the same each time. I’m walking through my house, and I open a door to reveal a room I’ve never seen before. Sometimes it’s an extra bedroom, or it’s a great room with a vaulted ceiling. The rooms are always white and light and airy, with lots of […]

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Engage In Awe

I recently went to see the MFA’s exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings with my friend, Mehri. The curation included some works by Michelangelo, and a few of their students as well. No paintings, just sketches and studies – small faces, figures, legs, torsos, hands and feet. The drawings glowed with mysterious light. It’s hard […]

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Free Your Mind

I’ve brought in reinforcements. To clarify, this particular reinforcement – my adult daughter – landed here, along with her college stuff and her future dreams, after graduation. She stumbled on Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and has been reading parts out loud to me. Kondo’s KonMari method of bringing order to your […]

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Mind Your Focus

I was moved by the recent video of a cello player who set up his instrument among the rubble of a bomb explosion. His neighborhood in Baghdad had suffered three car bombings in one day, and his anguish must have been colossal. Instead of staying home, angry and afraid, something moved him to offer up […]

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Beat the Clock

I was invited to a book group to do an author reading and discussion last week (thank you Spine Tinglers, fabulous women and yoginis!). Our conversation ranged all over the place – my favorite kind – and the questions they asked were juicy. The one I’ve been chewing on since our meeting is why I […]

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Read Out Loud

This past weekend, I hosted a brunch to celebrate the release of Leah’s book. She put together a list of guests from all stages and areas of her life. It was a solid curation of her people: family, friends, coworkers, her yoga teacher. Those who were nearby accepted the invitation and showed up to honor […]

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Sugar and Spines

The scent of paper and glue and cardboard – something reminiscent of a grade school classroom – wafts toward me just after I pass the laden bake sale tables. The large room is quiet despite its 50 or so occupants. Everyone is very intent, head bowed to their subjects, like miners panning for gold. The […]

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Give It Time

The first day of spring has come and gone, but gray piles of ice from the record-breaking snowfall persist in the yard. Mounds remain, higher than my waist, from clearing the roof and plowing the driveway. It has been a long winter. I love the snow. Battening down the hatches for a storm is exciting. […]

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Stop the Presses

My book of essays is really, truly just about done. In fact, the proof copy will arrive today. I’ve been alternately excited and terrified by the prospect of this actual book appearing in my mailbox. Things just got real. Leading up to uploading my book contents and cover in CreateSpace, there were hours and days […]

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Brave the Deep

When I was in high school, we lived in San Diego. Perfect year-round weather afforded me a delightful routine that I started when I got my driver’s license. Once or twice a week, I would drive our VW bus to La Jolla Shores, park in the public lot and head out for a swim, alone. […]

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Consider the Season

I’m trying to capture the snow in my mind’s eye to remember it this summer. Some days it seems impossible that the snow will ever be gone, but I know how these things work. By June, we’ll have forgotten just how high it was, just how cold it was, just how hard it was for […]

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Expand Your Vision: An Evening with Christo at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center

I was thrilled to receive an invitation from my friend, Yu-Wen, to hear Christo speak in Stowe, Vermont last week. The 420-seat auditorium was packed on a freezing Thursday night. I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing any of Christo’s site-specific art installations, but have followed his career since high school when I first saw […]

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Unpack Your Bags

A friend sent me an article about deal breakers in dating, since she’s getting back into the scene after a divorce. It included a mile-long list some guy made on a dating site to weed out the women who have behaviors he finds too annoying to overlook. If your baggage includes addictions, or any sort […]

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Hold Your Center

I’m in something of a reading slump these days. I have been reading, but nothing fascinates me, or stops me in my tracks. I haven’t come across sentences that use words in new ways, or ideas that help me make sense of the world. I am looking for inspiration and instead I encounter the mundane. […]

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all of you! Thank you very much for being part of the Mandala Writers Circle this year. Having you in our circle keeps us reading and reflecting and creating. We wish you all the best in 2015! Leah and Carolyn  

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Make It Real

I remember the day from my childhood when I stopped believing in Santa Claus. My nine year-old mind made the cognitive leap from a magical view of time and space to a reality-based one. Of course no one could fly around the planet in one night, even with Rudolph. The internal imbalance was uncomfortable as […]

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Go With Grace

When this country was not yet a country, an attorney named John Adams took an unfavorable position. He decided to defend the British soldiers who had opened fire on colonists and had killed five of them in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Adams was vilified in the press and among his peers. How […]

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Consider the View

Our book group is reading a highly recommended bestseller. Halfway through, all of us are frustrated by inconsistencies in the the narrative point of view. One of the characters is telling the whole story, even though he isn’t present in some scenes and wouldn’t know what is happening everywhere. It’s tedious and confusing, and has […]

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Count Your Blessings

Late yesterday afternoon, as Carl and I were tackling removal of the last of the leaves, we were treated to a stunning November sunset. The western sky turned to radiant shades of orange and pink and then spread all around us. Wayward clouds quickly gathered into plump pillows against an azure backdrop. Our faces glowed […]

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Pause for Effect: Ken Burns at Boston’s Symphony Hall

If ever an artist was inspired by the mysteries of humanity, and in particular our American humanity, it would have to be documentarian Ken Burns. As a prolific filmmaker, Burns defined a new form of storytelling three decades ago and has been chronicling eras and events ever since. Each of his 25 epic films has […]

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Let It Flow

I have always been intrigued by the parallels between laws of physics and the tenets of spiritual concepts. I see ways in which properties of the external world, what we can see and hear and touch, correspond with energies within us. Even if you don’t believe in the soul or spirit as an entity, you […]

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Hit the Road

Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania.  Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina. The state signs fly past. Fog gives way to sunshine and all day long the trees seem to tumble toward the highway, green and gold, amber, red, orange. Mist kisses the mountains and the endless valleys. Cows and sheep and horses graze, […]

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Scale the Wall

When things are going well, minimal effort is required to execute my plans. I move forward with ease, the next step uncomplicated and obvious. I appreciate the lack of obstacles, as I know this is a temporary state. This isn’t a pessimistic view, just one based on experience. I have learned to expect some stumbling […]

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Beat A Path

Deep inside each of us is a person who desperately wants to create, just for the sake of creating. Not to please, not to win awards, but simply to put his or her version of the world out in the world. It will take a lot more than simply deciding to express ourselves to make […]

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Take the Leap

When I was pregnant with our first child, I had a recurring dream. I floated in the ocean on a slab of ice that seemed to be melting. I wasn’t cold, but balanced there, looking around at the other floes of ice nearby. I needed to choose one to jump over to, before mine crumbled […]

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Walk the Line

I stood at the base of The Esses and took in the perspective of the track from the pavement. Turn 3’s rise seemed much steeper than it looks from the stands, and it banked sharply to the left, with no view over the crest. The huge billboards lining the approach screamed in bold colors and […]

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Give It Up

  A friend of mine enjoyed a successful art show recently.  Everyone had a great time at the gallery, and her work was admired by all.  A person made a comment about not liking one of the pieces, and it was hard for my friend to stop focusing on this.  It was as if that […]

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Don’t Hold Back

Here’s a thought experiment: let’s say you go to a meeting and you haven’t met any of the players. You might be intimidated thinking this group will know more than you do and that you may not have the answers or information they need. You could hold back a bit, listening to what others have […]

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See the Possibilities

  At the ICA in Boston, I checked out an exhibit by a famous generative artist I admire. Her sculptures included a giant cube made entirely out of push pins. I walked around it, marveling at the feat. My question was: is this art?  Does it move or transform me in some way? I concluded that I […]

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Follow the Signs

  There are countless self-help books promising the answer to a pressing question: What is your life’s purpose? Why are you here?  What is that thing you were meant to attempt and complete in your time on the planet? There are plenty of people who know the answer, and don’t require help in determining their […]

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State Your Case

There are over 60 million WordPress sites and more than 200 million Tumblr blogs. More than 1.2 billion people and companies have Facebook accounts. There are 250 million registered Twitter users, and 200 million people have signed up for Instagram. Clearly, a lot of us have something to say. Never before in history has it […]

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See the Truth

  I watched an old sitcom the other night that really got me laughing.  A married couple recalled an event and disagreed about its details. There were three scenarios: his version, her version, and what really happened.  It was entertaining to view from an objective seat how different perspectives altered the outcome. The show was […]

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Build Your Strength

I regularly go to two yoga classes each week that are at different levels of difficulty. Before the Advanced Beginner class, I feel excited and happy. I know I’ll be able to handle each pose and do it well. My hamstrings will be screaming, but I’ll feel good about my movement through the flow. Before […]

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Let It Ring

Today I am appreciative of the fact that I am a citizen, and not a subject. I am grateful to be represented in Washington (although presently embarrassed by those reps as well), and vote regularly. Even in the current climate of a broken Congress, I appreciate that I can rant about it and not get […]

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Lower Your Guard

One of the traits that sets us apart from our animal friends is our rational thinking capability. Something we share closely with them is our instinct for self-preservation. This survival mechanism serves us well. On one hand, we want and need to protect ourselves from harm. We do the best we can in the physical […]

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Feel the Love: PEN New England Song Lyrics Award, JFK Presidential Library

Kris Kristofferson ambles up to a microphone, fulfilling the impromptu request of Elvis Costello to sing us one of his songs. We have just heard Roseanne Cash sing Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again), her rich, contralto voice filling the auditorium and making Kristofferson weep. T Bone Burnett has been moved […]

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Fire It Up

I find that there can be a thin line for me between doing my daily work, whatever that may be, and depression. (Important to note here that I am referring to unhappiness, rather than clinical depression, which is a serious and debilitating mental illness). The blahs, the blues, down in the dumps, a funk, whatever […]

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Ask “What’s Essential?”

About a year ago, I made a list I titled “Every Day”. I stuck it in in my writing journal for safekeeping, where it promptly got buried under writing observations, blog post ideas, quotes from authors, and ideas for plot points. I found it today: In each day there should be time for Reading good […]

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Know Your Brain, Part 2

This past week, I was looking to recreate the ease I had enjoyed listening to a book on tape while painting (read Know Your Brain here). I wanted to see if something might work similarly for my writing sessions. Difficult to explain, but I have a noisy mind. Focusing on the task at hand has […]

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Speak Your Truth: Margaret Atwood at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre

On May 1, author Margaret Atwood was awarded the 2014 Harvard Arts Medal to recognize her excellence in the arts and her contributions to the public good. My good friend Mary and I were lucky ceremony attendees. Margaret Atwood is a prolific writer, having published more than 40 books, volumes of poetry, numerous plays, and […]

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Know Your Brain

I have been working on some illustrations for Leah’s book – simple brush and ink line drawings. I struggled with the proportions here and there, and ruined a few when they were more than halfway done. There’s no erasing ink. Then something really cool happened. I put on an audio book while I was cleaning […]

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Hold Your Own

My painting instructor meant well, I’m sure. With an MFA from RISD and years of professional experience, what newbie painter wouldn’t follow her directions? It went against my inclinations to paint the foreground like she wanted me to before finishing the background, so I felt unsure. She insisted that I switch gears, so I did. […]

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Let Love Rule: A Eulogy

I met my mother-in-law in 1978, when she was 45 and I was 16. Carl and I were heading off on our second date, the Snowball Dance at school. It was a cold night for semi-formal attire, my new dress was itchy, and I was nervous. Pat and Art were sitting in the den, close […]

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Change Your Mind

A few weeks ago I endured a miserable yoga class. I love yoga, so this was unusual. The teacher was great. It was my own state that ruined the class. I had decided to bump up my practice and challenge myself at the next level. This included some new skills that required a lot of […]

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Storytellers Among Us: Jodi Picoult at the JCC Boston

Wednesday night I lucked out to get a ticket to hear Jodi Picoult speak at the JCC Boston for their Jewish Literary Series.  The bestselling author of twenty novels, Picoult is currently on tour promoting her most recent book, The Storyteller.  She was interviewed by fellow author and Boston Globe book critic, Caroline Leavitt. Leavitt […]

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Make Them Laugh: Billy Collins at Boston’s Symphony Hall

On Wednesday night Carolyn and I (and a few friends) had the pleasure of hearing American poet Billy Collins speak at Boston’s Symphony Hall.  For me, he was the best speaker I’ve “met” at the Speakers Series, now well into its third season.  Here’s a Q&A to corral his conversation about writing and poetry. Who […]

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Writing Beyond Borders: Jhumpa Lahiri at BU

Wednesday night I attended a reading and interview of one of my favorite authors, Jhumpa Lahiri (Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake, Unaccustomed Earth, The Lowland).  The Pulitzer Prize-winner joined her Creative Writing alums at BU as the Ha Jin Visiting Lecturer. The full house at Morse Auditorium observed a sentimental reunion between the former classmates […]

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Can The Labels

I have always considered myself an extrovert because of my social nature and the delight I experience connecting with others.  So I was surprised by the results of a personality test my daughters and I took online for fun.  My score categorized me as an introvert.  Turns out, it’s not about how much you talk […]

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Stay the Course

It was with trepidation that I packaged up my book of personal essays – written this past year, over the course of 8 or 9 months – in a thoughtful book proposal and sent it off to a publisher.  I sent it nowhere else, as the crush of novel writing month ensued, and I was […]

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Face the Facts

What is your best quality? Go ahead, be honest.  Don’t hesitate.  Chances are it is obvious to you.  If you are too humble to answer this question, ask someone close to you.  For myself, I would have to say that my sensitivity is a positive trait that defines me.  I am a perceptive and empathic […]

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Qualify The Critics

Now that I have handed out my draft for a round of ‘first reads’, I’m receiving feedback from those who have been kind enough to take the time to read my book. Since it is for kids, and over 100 pages, these are generous friends indeed. It’s not quite ready for my target audience yet. […]

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Take A Hike

I have not been in writing mode for a couple of weeks. A family illness intervened, and I was called to duty. The illness continues, but there is progress, and I am craving the simple act of putting pen to paper. It will be pen on paper for the time being because while I stepped […]

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Hone the Zone

My mind is racing. Could it be new synapses forming? That possibility is a slim one, I think. Things are dying in there (my short term memory, for one) along with my DNA. So what’s going on? The sensation is not ‘fight or flight’ but, rather, a thrilling surge of energy from an idea. Is […]

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Change the View

Like Carolyn, I was excited from the moment we planned the first Mandala Writer’s Circle retreat.  Three days in the Vermont mountains with nothing to do except write sounded like heaven.  I was surprised then that I was feeling so down during the week leading up to our getaway.  As it got closer and closer […]

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Trust Your Gut

I had been looking forward to this writing retreat for months, so I was indignant to be feeling sick. Was it food poisoning, or a virus? I lay there trying to take some deep breaths, anxious that Leah was working diligently downstairs without me. We had planned this retreat as a way to spend a […]

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Claim Your Space

I once complained that the only reason I wasn’t a really great cook was because I had a small kitchen.  When I found a house with a large kitchen, my cooking didn’t get much better.  Instead of space, I learned, culinary skills took practice.  Now, in my galley kitchen, I make meals I’m proud of […]

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Mind the Gap

Early on, Carolyn and I vowed we’d write every day.  (Or maybe every weekday.  Or maybe 3-4 days a week depending on what else we had going on.)  In any case, it seemed important to approach this writing thing as work, and if it was work then it seemed obvious that we should be doing it […]

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“Drink your tea…

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the whole earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. – Thich Nhat Hanh

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