movie-ticketsI didn’t know when I met Dave at the multiplex on Monday that I’d get a blog post out of it. As I normally do, I charged my ticket so that I’d have a receipt in order to claim the deduction. I saw his raised eyebrow and explained that when I’m in a learning environment, I write off the cost. How seeing a Western would fit that bill came into focus as soon as we gave our tickets to the collector outside the main venue.

Sizing up these two senior citizens, this fellow 60-something asked, “Florence or Sully?” which made me burst out laughing. For those of you not current on what’s playing, she was referencing the movie that Meryl Streep stars in about a would-be opera singer and the new Tom Hanks flick about the pilot who landed the plane on the Hudson River.  Both would have great appeal to us Baby Boomers. Feeling entirely pre-judged, I corrected her with a laugh, “No, actually, we’re seeing Hell or High Water.”

Looking a bit surprised, she laughed, too. “I loved it,” she contributed. I asked her if we had to sit in the pre-assigned seats that the computer forced me to select. “I’m not allowed to tell you you don’t have to,” she said and added, “Wink, wink.”

I loved that the company she represents has a policy that she should enforce, but allows employees leeway in advising the clientele. As there were only 10 of us total in the audience (it was a 10:10 am. showing), we didn’t compare our stubs to where we chose to sit.

So, in addition to having several learning experiences I could write about–what it feels like to be pre-judged, validating entertainment as tax deductible and other company’s policies–we saw a fantastic movie, one I was not pre-disposed to pick on my own. Dave had already seen and described the bank robbery plot line shot in a depressing West Texas location, starring Jeff Bridges. After my sister and daughter told us that they’d seen and loved it, I changed my mind.

What I discovered was a character-driven plot with intriguing backstories, entertaining characterizations and cinematography that was captivating. I’m going to stick out my neck and say Oscar contender for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress. The waitress, played by Katy Mixon, was memorable, vulnerable and deeply touching. If you go, please let me know how you like it.

retreat-planning-in-lenox

The view from Ken’s in Lenox, MA

If I had any doubt as to why I had selected Ken Nelson to co-lead a retreat with me this November, he quickly and naturally provided a perfect reminder.

“Would you like to have a cup of tea, sit outside, and get settled before we begin the planning?” he asked when I arrived for our work session in Lenox last Wednesday afternoon.

I’d driven for nearly 3 hours to reach his home and assumed that we would plunge in. With my A-type personality, I was all set to spread out my notes on his dining room table and start brainstorming immediately. I could feel a wave of relaxation spread over me as I took my mug of tea and followed Ken out the door.  When I walked onto his porch and saw the view (at left), I exhaled, lowered myself onto an Adirondack chair, and felt a surge of creativity and peace begin to flow.

Ken offers a complementary style that will provide our attendees with a balanced team effort. His expertise in qigong, yoga, meditation and relaxation nicely integrates with the more cognitive exercises we’ll also employ.

We chatted a bit, then out flowed a dialogue and, fortunately, I remembered to switch on my iPhone’s Voice Memo app so I could capture our conversation. We’re on the same page about offering the dynamic group of women enrolled a safe, nurturing, bonding experience. The retreat is entitled Grand Renewal and will be a transformative experience of self-love, self-acceptance and self-actualization.

What I love best about partnering with Ken is that he led a workshop I’d taken at Kripalu – Creating Powerful Experiential Workshops – many years before. To have him as my co-leader is a long-held and cherished goal of mine.

Although our November retreat is fully enrolled, we plan to offer this again in late winter to men and women seeking transformation, a sense of community and self-love. Let me know if you’re interested. This will be my first co-ed retreat ever. If you’d like to participate in that premiere event, please let me know, and I’ll hold a place for you.

Ken Nelson, Ph. D

Ken Nelson, Ph. D

Jane leading mastermind

How many times have you moved that to-do on your list, catalog clipping, or invitation to deal with at another time?

With the hurricane-like weather prediction and lots of catching up to do after a really delightful time with family, I cleared my desk today, barreling through those choice points, and got going on what feels like a new term as we enter September.

Reading through the multiple catalogs and offers I’ve received recently, one in particular caught my eye. It’s a 4-week course on Breaking Free from Clutter, which I’ve successfully done. What I loved about the course description was this quote from Andrew J. Mellen:

Clutter is nothing more than deferred decisions.

While I don’t teach organizing skills, I do help women to achieve their goals through the power and magic of the Mastermind experience, a concept dreamed up by Napoleon Hill nearly a century ago. Group accountability combined with dynamic coaching is a powerful combination for those success-minded women who enroll. If you’d like to stop deferring the decisions that will lead you toward your vision, please join me in September – in New York City or Fairfield County, CT – to be part of my newly forming groups.

Ready to lead a retreat, get out your book proposal, update your online image or something that’s been on your list for months or years? Whatever you decide you want to achieve by the end of 2016, I can promise you a successful outcome, a new cohort and revitalized energy.

kill your darlings image

I had my final memoir draft call today with my writing coach. I’d sent her the last 5 chapters to review before she gets married next week. It went well, even when she asked me to cut one of my favorite episodes. Faulkner is the one who initially stated, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”

Willingly, I capitulated, even though it was a favorite story of mine. I wanted to show a bit of my boyfriend’s character and had a lot of backstory to wade through to get to my point.

Because it’s a hot summer day and you’re reading this, I’m going to share the cut copy with you–a sneak preview to one of my chapters.

Before meeting Dave, I had kept my calendar full on the weekends to avoid feeling lonely and dateless. Even though we both looked forward to seeing each other, it was a couple of weeks before I could fit him into my schedule. We arranged to see each other on Sunday, mid-afternoon, subsequent to my son Rob’s running the New York City Half Marathon and hosting a brunch at this TriBeCa apartment.

Rob’s apartment was not far from the finish line, so it was only a short wait between cheering him on as he sped by on the streets of lower Manhattan and his return home. Before my son arrived back, I came upstairs and joined the other guests who’d already gotten there including his father-in-law, Jim. There was another male named James (unrelated) in attendance, an adorable two-year old who was there with his dad, a friend of Rob’s.

Jim was comfortably seated on the black leather couch opposite the widescreen TV in the living room. He was wearing an Irish fisherman knit pullover sweater with three leather buttons at the neck. I only mention this because, coincidentally, the toddler James had on a miniature version of the identical top. Maybe it was the matching  apparel that drew the young child to Jim. who sidled over, extended his arms to be lifted up and sat on Jim’s lap for the next hour. Everyone in the living room noticed this delightful coupling. I snapped a picture. Something about this moment tickled me.

The point I wanted to make about Dave in my chapter was…well, you’ll have to wait until my book comes out.

A moment of silence, please, for this deceased segment.

Jim Healy and little James

 

The EndWhen I returned back to New York City after my Semester at Sea in May, 2014, I recognized that I wanted to tell a bigger story, more than simply a travelogue.

I took my first writing course the following month at Kripalu, led by the inspirational writer/performer Ann Randolph. From there, I hired my first writing coach, signed up for classes at Gotham Writers Workshop and the Iowa Writers Festival. I formed a writer’s group with three other women and got more serious about creating a narrative. Now, two years later, I’m close to completing what I began nearly 2 1/2 years ago.

After adding the 111 pages I set down while away for two weeks in Vermont in July, I had over 200 pps all together which propelled me toward the finish line which is now in sight. I’m about to write the last chapter: my travel around the world. There will be an epilogue, but I want to conclude the book with coming home, like Dorothy…

I can feel myself slowing down and savoring the process these last few days. There’ll be weeks of editing and getting the manuscript into shape to pitch, but the light at the end of that cliched tunnel is burning bright.

I wanted to share this with you because so often you hear about books-in-progress and then they fade into oblivion. Saying it out loud, via print (not to mix metaphors or anything) is my way of holding myself accountable. I also have a September 15 deadline with my Visions Group to keep me moving forward. I’d be happy to receive any words of encouragement you might have to someone completing a marathon like this.

I’m not picking out my book-signing pen yet, but with that visualization in mind, I’m continuing towards that goal.

 

Client Appreciation Power Shuffle Exercise

Before I left on my two-week writing retreat I held a client appreciation event for the remarkably amazing women I’ve worked with over the years. Nearly 50 women joined me on Thursday, July 13 at the Westport Woman’s Club for networking, a revealing group activity, and lunch.

I wanted it to be special, so designed an invitation with everyone’s name on it, had my assistant print out the envelopes and mailed them with actual stamps.

The invitation I designed for the occasion

Remember those days?

I have to throw in an age-related challenge that came up during lunch. Kim DeYoung, who looked beyond gorgeous, said her cool outfit was doing double-duty as she’d be attending a camp reunion later in the day. “I even remember our camp’s zip code,” she said reciting it rapidly.

“I went to sleepaway camp before there were zip codes,” I reminisced.

Every other woman at the table looked at me blankly. “There was a time before zip codes?”

“Yes, the dinosaurs and I found each other without google maps or zip codes back in the day.”

Other than that (hee hee), it was a totally delightful day.

I’ve always loved bringing remarkable women together. Magic happens when you set the stage for connections. And who doesn’t appreciate knowing they’re appreciated?

Here are just a few of the Remarkable Women who came:

Cristin J and Malene BDiane Rip and Beverley MarrJoanne K and Lynne Marinolouise albin

Martha and goats

Martha, a co-owner of my AirBnB retreat

I know everyone says this, but I can’t believe how quickly these two weeks have gone!

I arrived 13 days ago, and I leave tomorrow afternoon. I’m completely satisfied with the experience and am also eager to go back home.

I wrote 12 pages today, and if I complete 8 more tomorrow, as committed, I’ll have hit my target of 100 new pages of my draft.

To break up the day today I started out early this morning to try that cafe again in Norwich, the one that was closed on Monday, using only main roads this time. Their coffee and granola were delicious, and I bought the housemade Tuscan tuna salad from their deli cabinet to take home for lunch.

Needing a few more veggies, I checked out a general store kind of place, Dan & Whit’s, a short walk away. They displayed beautiful fresh veggies with the name of the nearby farm they came from on the bags they were packaged in. When I mentioned this shop to Alex, one of the owners here, she said, “Their motto is, if we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”

What I’ll miss when I leave here is the stillness, the well-behaved and gentle animals (there are goats, ducks, chickens, a cat and several dogs) on this property, and the ease and simplicity of being just a writer.

What I look forward to getting back to, other than the people I love most, is a flush toilet, exercising regularly, and a greater variety of foods than what I can prepare on one burner.

I’ve always known I’m in introvert, but having this prolonged time away has substantiated it beyond any doubt. Wayne Dyer always said, “you won’t feel lonely if you like who you’re alone with.” I can say, unequivocally, I loved being alone.

This doesn’t mean I ‘vant to be alone’ from now on. I absolutely don’t. I do want to repeat it annually (or in some capacity) as a way to complement the intensity of my life and as a place to restore my soul.

 

Vermont Page OutputWith only one full day left to go after today on my writing retreat, I wanted to keep my output up. I hit the keyboard at 8am and finished printing out the first 10 pages of Chapter 8 by 2pm. I knew that I’d be driving to Stowe later in the afternoon to meet good friends who just bought a place there.

My hosts here at the AirBnB recommended a restaurant called Hen of the Wood which is where we made an early dinner reservation. After seeing Sharon’s new place, she gave me a driving tour of ‘her mountain’ and the town of Stowe, then headed to Waterbury.

The maitre’d asked if we wanted to be seated inside or out. It was a spectacular day with temps in the mid-70’s, but we still wanted to be inside, though opted for a quick tour of the patio. We didn’t change our minds in spite of the beauty and rushing waterfalls. But got Stan to take our picture in this beautiful location.

I was treated to the best meal I’ve had since I arrived, much to my surprise and delight, as a belated birthday gift. Humbled, I accepted the generosity of good friends. Jane and Sharon in VT

A Road Less Traveled

A Road Less Traveled

With no plans at all on my calendar today, I wanted to break up my writing hours with an outing at lunchtime. I’d read positive reviews of the Norwich Square Cafe on TripAdvisor, so put it into googlemaps and had to pick from three alternate routes. Since they were each within a minute of the others, I opted for what I figured to be the most scenic route, the one furthest off the main drag, VT Route 14.

Off the main drag in Vermont is not the same as off the main drag in Manhattan. When I turned right on Tigertown Road, it became dirt all the way. Narrow dirt. Trees-leaning-every-which-way, narrow, dirt. I felt frightened. If anything happened on that road, I would have no way of signaling someone. I started sending out foxhole prayers. And, you guessed it, they worked!

Fortunately, I had copied the turn-by-turn instructions onto a slip of paper because my WAZE app was nowhere to be found until the end of the journey.

Unfortunately, the cafe was closed today. I refilled my gas tank at a nearby pump and went back to White River Junction where I’d had a delicious meal at Tuckerbox a few days before. They were open, and it was good.

Got my ten pages done and may top it off tonight with a few more as I’m into a juicy part that is flowing well.

Yvonne Cassidy - Writer

Yvonne Cassidy – Writer

Wow, double digits for my time here in VT, which means I have only a few more days left in my two week rental. I’ve gotten great traction on my page count and am feeling satisfied regarding my output. I love the writing life as well as being completely independent up here.

I wake up when I wake up, go to sleep on my body’s clock. Meals, picking up groceries, exploring–all based on my desire of the moment. It’s a spectacular change of pace from my work and world. I’ll be very happy to resume my ‘real’ life in NYC. I believe it’s the contrast that makes this country lifestyle so enjoyable. I would not like a steady diet of this, but as a balance to the other 50 weeks of the year, bring it on!

Before I came away on this journey I paid a visit to my friend Yvonne Cassidy, a writer I’ve met since moving to New York. She recently had surgery and has been laid up at her apartment. I’ve been over to keep her company a number of times, but only this last time did we get into a discussion about writing. Her next book’s timeline caught my eye in her bedroom. When I asked her about it, she showed me her wall map of her as well as the printed version of her novel in progress, a thick spiral bound volume with multiple highlights in varying colors to indicate which character it’s following. I was inspired and loved seeing how another author organizes her work. It’s an amorphous project, hard to see all at once, and I’m a visual person. Yvonne’s model will be very helpful to me.

Timeline with Post-Its for Yvonne's next book

Timeline with Post-Its for Yvonne’s next book

I had considered imitating her chapter by chapter timeline while on retreat, but the walls of my cabin are uneven, and attaching a wide enough roll of paper would be more challenging than I’m willing to attempt. But when I get back to my apartment, I fully intend to imitate Yvonne’s creative lead. I have a large blank wall in my living room awaiting an eventual art purchase. But until that day, I can see my own arrangement of colorful sticky notes to map out my book’s arc and characters.

I’ll post the photos of Yvonne and her wall pieces tomorrow. My iPhone isn’t getting a strong enough signal to send the images to my computer tonight. I’ll post them in the morning, but wanted to stay on track with my blogging.

 

 

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