Writing Advice – Stephen King

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Stephen King is one of the most prolific writers in the world. I’m embarrassed to admit that I have never read any of his fiction. Not one. I’ve also never seen the movies except part of Stand by Me. His genre of horror has never been something in my wheelhouse, but I did admire him as a writer and a person. I follow him on Twitter and he wrote a magnificent essay on JK Rowling for Time magazine.

The one book I did manage to acquire and read was his memoir/advice for writers book, On Writing. I found it engaging, brilliantly written and so beautifully in his voice. Writing this reminds me that I should re-read it just because.

Here are a few of his quotes that I feel drawn to: 

  • The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.
  • Let me say it again: You must not come lightly to the blank page.
  • You go where the story leads you
  • If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

  • I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.

Stephen King’s Writing Toolbox is a strategy after my own heart. I love the idea of tools and toolboxes to get us through everyday life – that specialized item that is exactly what we need right at that moment in time.
Two Interviews with Stephen King

with The Independent (from 2017)

with The Atlantic (from 2013)

Ways to Pray with Prayer Cards

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I’ve mentioned my friend, Brother Mickey McGrath often. After one of his retreats I come away with a renewed sense of peace in myself and my faith as well as a renewed energy to expand my creativity. You often see that depicted on these pages with my photography and artistic attempts, some of which are quite good, and others….well, I tried.

One of his new products is a card set called Prayer Starters. Below the cut, you will be able to click on the picture to be taken to his website to purchase them if you are interested in that. Simply, they are a set of about thirty cards with an easel under the theme of Wise and Holy Women featuring the words of the four women Doctors of the Church, Sts. Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Theresa of Avila, and Therese Lisieux plus Dorothy Day and Sister Thea Bowman combined with Brother Mickey’s beautiful art.

I’ve been using them as a daily devotional although I haven’t swapped out the cards every morning. Sometimes I leave them up for a few days and let them speak to me as long as I can feel it. This usually lasts two days. 

I mention this because two cards ago I came across a quotation from St. Hildegard of Bingen:

“Only when we connect misery to our cravings can we begin to solve our dilemma.”

I did not understand its meaning. I read it again, and then went about my work. Whenever I passed by my dining room table, I read it again, paused a moment, thought to myself, again, that I do not understand this; what does this mean?

Some of you may read it the first time and think, of course, this is not hard, what is she not seeing?

Honestly, I didn’t know.

I began to read it a bit more slowly. I’d sit with it and read it out normally, then a bit slower, and then I’d emphasize the punctuation, adding in my own commas, like you would with a poem, each line paused for absorption. I think I did this for two full days. I still did not get it.

Simple words, but they simply weren’t reaching me.

I don’t know how many days passed, each day I’d read the card at least once, more likely twice. I stared at the card on the easel. I held the card between two fingertips. I read it over and over and over again.

One morning, probably about very nearly a week ago, I read it, each word on my tongue, my inserted comma giving pause, and as I reached the period at the end, my eyes opened wide.

It was there!

Right there the whole time.

And now that I’d seen it, I couldn’t unseen it; I couldn’t not understand the meaning, and the most significant part was how much it related to my life, to my cravings of things and thoughts and symbols and signs. Little things and big things, and there in all of it wasn’t misery but the idea that misery could be brought on with too much of the cravings or the opposite that if I think of the cravings as misery perhaps I’d crave less and therefore be satisfied with less. And maybe that’s not it at all, but that was what it was for me.

Because that’s what has happened in my life. I can feel it and I’m living it in some ways. I am not a pious, ascetic, silence seeker, but I also do not crave everything the way I once did. Not only do I prioritize secular, monetary and time things, but I am also prioritizing my faith in relation to my secular life as well as the items of faith that I want to follow and adopt into my lifestyle. That’s not to suggest a change in doctrine, but in a feeling of where I want my faith to bring me, and for me to bring to others.

Only when we connect misery to our cravings can we begin to solve our dilemma.

Card from Prayer Starters Wise and Holy Women Card Pack, Brother Mickey McGrath, All Rights Reserved. Photo mine. (c)2019

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Transgender Day of Visibility

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Today is the Trans Day of Visibility.

It is a good time for us who are not trans and are allies or want to spread awareness of trans issues and areas where we can do better to support all transgender people. This day has been celebrated since 2009, started by Rachel Crandell when she saw that there weren’t any trans acknowledgement days apart from the Transgender Day of Remembrance where trans murders from the previous year are memorialized. As an ally, I too was looking for a positive day to explore trans issues and celebrate trans lives.


Links to start off your exploration:

Trans Day of Visibility Facebook

Transgender Law Center

National Center for Transgender Equality

NY’s Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA)

Transgender People and Bathroom Access

Sister Thea Bowman, A Ministry of Joy

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Sister Thea Bowman addressing the USCCB:

Sr. Thea Bowman was born in 1937 on December 29th. This was in Mississippi and her parents named her Bertha. She was the granddaughter of slaves; her parents were a doctor and a teacher. She was raised Methodist, but when she was nine years old, she converted to Roman Catholicism. At 15, she joined the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

Over the years, she received a B.A., a M.A., and a PhD in English and then went on to teach. She also received an honorary doctorate in theology from Boston College. She was a poet, a preacher, and a teacher, and she used all of those embodiments to bring a light to her calling that couldn’t help but be infectious to her contemporaries and those of us who have come after and continue to read of her works.

“When we understand our history and culture, then we can develop the ritual, the music and the devotional expression that satisfy us in the Church.”

She said this and it illustrates her impact on the development of a particular worship dedicated to and for Black Catholics. She was invaluable in the 1987 publication of the Catholic Hymnal, Lead Me, Guide Me: The Arican-American Catholic Hymnal.

Her essay, The Gift of African-American Sacred Song can be downloaded by clicking on the title.

Her “ministry of joy” led the Diocese of Mississippi to bring her on as a consultant for intercultural awareness. In reading up on Sr. Thea, I really preferred this descriptor of intercultural rather than multi-cultural. It feels more natural to me. A person who knew her called her “the springtime in everyone’s life,” a visual that leaps out in color and light and blue sky.

Imagine what more she could have done and influenced in the past twenty-nine years had she not died at the young age of 52, on today’s date in 1990 of bone cancer.

There are at least twelve institutions named for her from Boston in the east to as far west as Illinois.

The Diocese (of Mississippi) has begun the research into Sr. Thea’s “heroic virtues” after which a cause for canonization can be opened in Rome if warranted.

Two of her written works you could look into for more from Sr. Thea are:

Families, Black and Catholic, Catholic and Black. Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference. Commission on Marriage and Family Life, 1985.

Thea Bowman: In My Own Words. Liguori, Mo.: Liguori Publications, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7648-1782-3. index of Bowman’s speeches, writings, and interviews, with a brief biographical sketch and epilogue (with Maurice J. Nutt)

I will leave you with her own words that spoke to me prayerfully earlier this week:

“Maybe I’m not making big changes in the world, but if I have somehow helped or encouraged somebody along the journey, then I’ve done what I’m called to do.

Writing Memoir: All About the How (Link)

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It’s that time of year for me again – the twice yearly, six week memoir writing workshop returns to my local library. If you’re interested in past prompts, just go to the left sidebar of this page and search the word, prompts, and write away.

Instead of sharing twelve weeks of our prompts with you, I thought this spring I would do something slightly different and share some advice that I’ve found helpful as well as resources and links. I will also be updating my Writer’s Resource Page in the upcoming days.

I discovered this blog from South Africa and writer, Amanda Patterson: Why Writing a Memoir is All About the How. Apart from this article, I do not know anything about any of their services and products that they have for sale.

Two of the things I took away from this was setting and timeline. These are two things that I don’t often think consciously about when writing memoir despite my wonderful teacher mentioning it fairly regularly.

Sixth Anniversary of Pope Francis

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Click to visit an article on Pope Francis’ coat of arms and motto. He kept both coat of arms and motto from his time as Cardinal with the addition of papal symbols. MISERANDO ATQUE ELIGENDO translates to “he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him” from a writing of St. Bede. All Rights Reserved, Vatican and Pope Francis. (c)2019

Jorge Mario Bergolio was chosen as the 266th Pope after Pope Benedict XVI resigned his position of Pope in 2013. Jorge was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1936 to Mario and Maria Bergolio. He had four siblings: two brothers, and two sisters. 
Cardinal Bergolio chose Francis as his papal name after St. Francis of Assisi, indicating his concern for and his commitment to the poor. His focus is towards the poor, and the church meeting its people where they are as well as encouraging mercy by and for Catholics worldwide.

Pope Francis is also a pope of many firsts: he is the first Pope who is a Jesuit; he is the first from the Americas as well as the first from the Southern Hemisphere. He is also the first pope from outside of Europe since the 8th century.

You can find Pope Francis on Twitter and on the Vatican website, where you can read all of his writings (as well as other Popes) and homilies. I’m currently in the middle of reading Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad; an Apostolic Exhortation on the call to holiness.) The website is a fascinating virtual pilgrimage of its own.

He was inaugurated as Pope in 2013, on March 19. That was nearly exactly one year since I had been visiting and praying at my church.

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Are Libraries Still Essential?

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Libraries are the thin red line between civilization and barbarism. – Neil Gaiman


I originally saved the Vox link, thinking that this was a fluff piece; a ridiculous headline that they easily debunked in the article. I hadn’t realized that someone had actually written in favor of getting rid of libraries in favor of Amazon bookstores/coffee shops.

I need to preface this by saying that I happen to love bookstore-slash-coffee shops. Whenever my family goes to Barnes & Noble, I find a comfortable space in the cafe and read or write. I frequently (before Howard Schultz began running for President) went to Starbucks with the specific intention to get something to eat and drink and to write. There is a comic book store that is also a coffee shop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that is on my list of places to visit. I love bookstores and coffee shops, together or apart.

However, I don’t confuse them with libraries. Libraries have a whole different feel to them. They also have a different necessity to them. In fact, I’ve just come from my local library. I meet a group of people there once a month for a writing group. We’ve been getting together for about seven years, although they had been meeting prior to my joining them. I woujldn’t have met them if not for the memoir workshop that I began to attend, which not only gave me a wonderful learning environment but was also one of the important things that led me out of the darkness of my depression.

I returned two of my daughter’s books that she had finished reading, and I collected the forms to file my taxes.

In summer, I bring my kids for special programs as well as their summer reading program that includes prizes and a special celebration at the end of the summer. My older son attended a Harry Potter evening in costume and my younger kids met therapy dogs and learned some cooking techniques during two separate events. We’ve attended Olympics activities and Halloween parades. All of these activities were either free or for a nominal activity – one or two dollars.

I almost always see people using the computers, checking their email, searching for jobs, and whatever else they’re doing that they can’t do at home, either because they don’t have access to the internet or because it isn’t safe to (domestic abuse victims and the homeless).

There are several daily newspapers and hundreds of magazine subscriptions.

On my Kindle, I will often have the maximum loan of four library books. I am currently reading Timothy Egan’s The Immortal Irishman. I can hold books and sign up for programs through my Kindle.

Libraries often have local art exhibits, both from local artists working in several different mediums and school kids showing off their artistic talents from art class in school in all grade levels.

I’ve attended concerts and lectures, and will be attending a storytelling event on the first of March.

Last year, one local library had a comic book convention with activities, free items, and displays both to see and/or for sale.

I remember being a kid growing up in NYC and having the bookmobile come. What a special day that always was.

Every community needs a library.

If you don’t believe me, listen to Neil Gaiman; or to librarians.]

What was your favorite thing to do at your local library?

What was your favorite book?​