Some tidbits to ponder….

Dear Readers,
Today, I want to give you a few juicy tidbits I’ve picked up in my reading around the web. Since researching The Pen and the Bell, I receive many, many great notifications about writing and the contemplative life. Here are just a few.


Hedgebrook is an amazing community of women writers; their retreat center on Whidbey Island, WA, offers retreats for women writers at all levels of experience. Holly and I wrote part of The Pen and The Bell there, in the wonderful Meadow House. From the Hedgebrook blog, The Farmhouse Table, here is an excerpt from Kim Todd’s post, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to Write)”:

And what would I recommend if I were writing What to Expect When You Are Expecting (to Write a Novel, Play, Essay, or Poem)? Walk along the road to a cold October beach. Try to hear a winter wren. Waste time wantonly. Read your work out loud to an empty room, one that appears to understand you. Burrow into afternoons of solitude with no one to offend or impress or startle with your strangeness.


Dinty Moore is the editor of Brevity Magazine, and a prolific writer himself. His latest book. The Mindful Writer, makes a wonderful companion to The Pen and the Bell. Here is Dinty speaking about  the role of “listening” in Writing:

I almost never mention Buddhism or mindfulness in my writing classroom – my spiritual path is something I feel fairly private about, and I certainly don’t want to push it on my undergraduate students.  But the answer, as it is with so many things, is mindfulness: slow down and really hear what you have written.


Don’t listen to your daydreams about your writing, or your fantasies, or your intentions, but listen to the actual words on the page.  Listen to the meaning of the words you have written – do  they really tell the truth, reveal the actual, or do these words just sound good?  Listen also to the music and rhythm of the words.  Often the latter tells you more than the former.  When what you hear is rhythmically sound, smooth, satisfying aurally, then chances are the underlying meanings are also intact, but when your words jam up against one another, move haltingly and sluggishly, like an L.A. traffic jam, there is probably something wrong with the underlying sense of the words as well.

That’s it.  That’s my answer.  Listen.  Read it out loud, and pretend you have no idea who wrote it.  What do you hear?

And if you listen really hard, and relax while you are listening, and if you are mindful enough, maybe you will be able to sense that faint voice, recognize that line of poetry or snippet of unexpected dialogue, crawling down your sleeve.


And finally, Jen Loudon, at Savor and Serve the World, writes to us from her own writing retreat and has suggestions for how to create your own:

Retreat time has its own rhythm. Of course, life does too, but we I often override that rhythm. So the first order of retreat business: trusting that rhythm. Self-kindness trust through compassionate vigilance. As in: Am I walking to water again because I need to lighten up on my “agenda” to get a lot done or am I walking to the water again because I want to get away from the anxiety I often feel when writing?

Today’s a big day for The Pen and the Bell. We’re having our official book launch at Village Books in Bellingham, WA! If you’re in town, stop by to meet us at 4 p.m., for some reading and writing and community.

We’ll also be having a Seattle area book launch at Eagle Harbor Books on June 28th, 7:30 p.m. (You can always check the “News and Events” page on our website for current information).

If you can’t meet us in person, but would like to read an interview with Holly and me about the creative life, check us out at Writing our Way Home, Fiona Robyn’s amazing website that supports writers of all kinds.

And wherever you are, may you have a day that’s fruitful and delicious,



8 thoughts on “Some tidbits to ponder….

  1. Oh yes. True. very true. I have done the first part of a short story, and have gone over it from
    the start – changed some words, and made corerctions. Seems when you go back to it the
    next day, you don’t like what you’ve written, or where some words may be better put. I also
    found your environment during your writing makes a difference.

  2. Thanks for responding, Bruce. Good to hear from you–glad you found this resonates with your writing experience when you “slow down and really hear what you have written,” as Dinty says. What kind of writing environment have you found works best for you?

  3. I always read what I have written aloud. If it bores me, how could I expect it not to bore others? When I resume writing after an interruption, I always read from what I was writing when I stopped. I helps me continue the rhythm and flow of my writing, and it puts me back in the place I felt when I was interrupted. My retreat is the ancestral farm where I was raised. The farm feeds my spirit–except for the opossum that is digging up the yard in search of grubs right now! I enjoyed the post. Thanks.

      • I must share this… There is a mulberry tree in the front yard that draws animals like a free buffet draws senior citizens. Our 50th class reunion is this weekend, and I bought some CDs from that era to play at our party. I found myself dancing, having a great time because I believed no one was watching. I happened to look out the glass front door, and there was a young deer, transfixed by my 60s moves. The deer often come to eat the mulberries, but if they see us watching, they run away. Apparently this young buck’s curiosity overcame his fear, and he continued to watch long after he knew I had seen him. I had a fan! My writing retreat gave me a special gift that evening.

  4. Since I will not make any of the book signings (unless you’re signing in Alaska, which would be super fun), I just went ahead and purchased a copy from Skinner House. Can’t wait to read it!