Books

A Glorious Freedom

A-Glorious-Freedom_cover

Today is a special day for me. A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives by Lisa Congdon, was released today and I’m thrilled my essay, “True Roots” is included! The book is about women over the age of 40 who are thriving.

I’m over the moon to be included in this book because I feel a huge positive shift in my life as I age, AND because my essay mingles with so many of my heroes from the literary world and beyond. Cheryl Strayed, Vera Wang, Christy Turlington Burns, Debbie Millman, Dara Torres, and many others contributed to the book. And check out who wrote the opening in the introduction…

“Age has given me what I was looking for my entire life—it has given me me. It has provided time and experience and failures and triumphs and time-tested friends who have helped me step into the shape that was waiting for me. I fit into me now. I have an organic life, finally, not necessarily the one people imagined for me, or tried to get me to have. I have the life I longed for. I have become the woman I hardly dared imagine I would be.” – Anne Lamott

Here’s an excerpt from my essay, “True Roots.”

“As I took a seat beside my colleagues at a business meeting in Washington, D.C. to discuss toxic chemical reform, I could already feel my scalp tighten. The environmental scientist we were listening to began discussing low-level chemical buildup left in our bodies by personal care products. As she rattled off a list of chemicals, I was struck by a profound contradiction in my own life.  

I work for a large environmental organization. In three years, I would turn sixty. Like many women who care about their appearance, for more than twenty-five years, I had joined the ranks of the 75 percent of US women who color their hair. My personal aim for coloring was “natural-looking” hair to complement my natural lifestyle. To achieve this, I spent hours upon hours, and thousands of dollars, attempting to embody the hair color company’s slogan, “hair color unique to you.” But who was I kidding? Whatever was unique to me was buried under layers and layers of hair dye…”

I shared on Instagram a cute video that author/illustrator, Lisa Congdon created for the book. She says about A Glorious Freedom, “No matter what your age or gender, may each of you find inspiration in this book to live bravely and fully, and to use your experience as your most powerful tool in living your best life.”

Come Write With Me In Vermont!

barns

Just close your eyes and imagine the writing possibilities of riding out a snowstorm snuggled in a 1809 farmhouse next to a crackling fire, while peering out upon acres and acres of powdery landscape. Nestled in the quiet hollows of the Green Mountains, with the demands and distractions of life falling away, I enjoyed an incredible writing opportunity — a few days at an intimate writer’s retreat in Vermont.

It was pure writing heaven. I even went snowshoeing each day when I needed a brain boost. With the ‘ol heart pumping goodness to my muscles, I rediscovered how my writing gets a mega-boost from outdoor exercise.

While I was readying my book for the next phase of its publishing path — to meet and greet publishers, I met the writer-in-residence of Where Words Count, Marie White Small. We became instant friends. And when she read an excerpt from her soon to be published novel, Stony Kill, I was captivated by her literary voice and compelling subject — a family experiencing a child’s senseless death due to irresponsible gun owners. Marie is also a writer’s workshop leader — and she invited me to teach a blogging workshop at the retreat!

wwc_retreat_smWhether you want to create a “blog-to-be” and need to demystify blogging, or already have a blooming blog and want to juice up your writing, I would love you to join me!

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the food. Chef Aaron cooks up a gastronomic feast. Each meal served was inventive and indulgent, using locally-sourced ingredients to the max. Think New England comfort food with a gourmet twist. Even cocktail hour was a scrumptious event.

Here are all the particulars for the So You Want To Blog? workshop. And please let me know if you have any questions.

See you in Vermont?

Photos: Ronnie Citron

Gray Matter

gray_fabric

This is a hard post to write. How do you put into words something you’ve held so close for so long — something you’ve worked on when you weren’t working — when your time was yours to play and you reset time and space to write?

I used to think in blog posts. There was this voice in my head that kept the blog gears churning hard and fast. Something would strike, visual or visceral, and it would send me coveting, needing to share. Without filling up pages and pages, I marveled at how a small bite-sized morsel could be so satisfying.

Then my time filled up with work. My last unpublished post titled, “No Time To Blog,” seemed frivolous and obvious. Why would anyone want to read about not posting? Life happens. Everyone’s busy. Give it a break. Delete.

Now I wonder how to answer people who say, “Where do you find the time to write a book?” You get up early. You write on weekends, holidays, on the train. Once it’s woven into your fabric, you flesh it out and wear it any which way you can. Writing a book has become both muse and craft. I’ve fallen in love with the process.

So why share news of my upcoming book now…in its gestation? Because a 21-month milestone was hit and the editor I’m working with sent this newsletter to her publishing network today…

“One day a friend called to say she was going to let herself go gray…finally…after being gray for a decade, and the next day I received a phone call from Ronnie.

I’m thrilled to be helping Ronnie Citron-Fink, journalist and managing editor for the Environmental Defense Fund’s Moms Clean Air Force. Ronnie has written and published thousands of articles about the environment, health, politics, green living, and beauty for websites, books, and magazines. Yahoo named her one of the “Top 10 Living Green Experts.”

It was during a Moms Clean Air Force business meeting in which a scientist from the Environmental Defense Fund was discussing what products consumers use that are detrimental to their health when she found herself at the tipping point; she could no longer ignore the curtain of headlines that broadcast how dangerous toxins lead to disease. At that moment, she decided she would stop subjecting her body to hair dye. UNCOLOR follows Ronnie’s hair trajectory as she comes out as openly gray. The manuscript will take an investigative look at the history of consumer advertising, feminism, health, mothering, hair care, men, money, our warming planet, and how women of a certain age can redefine beauty without hoisting the surrender flag. Unlike other literature on going gray, UNCOLOR takes a rigorous look at the ramifications of hair dye on our bodies and on our earth.

Ronnie’s book is an important addition to a cutting-edge discussion on how female boomers are redefining themselves. Let me know if you’re interested in taking a look at Ronnie’s book proposal.”

Gulp. For some reason, the first thing that came to mind when I read this was, “La-di-da.” Like Annie Hall’s nervous romance, publishing is a wobbly adventure. Not that I would know about this yet because I’ve just cracked the mystery of writing a book proposal. Along with creating a better book, writing the proposal helped me make peace with my true roots.

Photo: Junya Watanabe, “Techno Couture”

Free To Be

Marlo Thomas with children of Free To Be writers and performers in a 1972 publicity photo.

Forty years ago, Free to Be…You and Me was released. The children’s platinum-winning record (remember those?) and book was created to expel gender and racial stereotypes of the era. Marlo Thomas described why she created the collaborative classic:

“Our mission was simple: to convince children that their dreams were not only boundless, but achievable.”

Free To Be was wedged between school and my not-so “That Girl” work life. I took notice of Marlo fanning the feminist flame because as a teacher of young children, I was becoming well acquainted with the Free To Be demographic.

Me on the cover of a Vassar College brochure when I was teaching at the college’s campus school.

When I was studying to be a teacher in the ’70’s, I wrote a paper based on a passage in the Dr. Seuss book, And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street. My feminism was in full bloom, and my professor scrolled across the top of the paper in red marker, “a provocative title.” I titled the paper, “Dr. Seuss Is A Sexist.” Braless, long-haired, Earth Shoe wearing young women from Long Island were weaned on the good Doctor, and I was shocked when I unearthed so many perpetuated stereotypes…like this one:

“Say – anyone could think of that.
Jack or Fred or Nat
Say – even Jane could think of that.”

Of course, despite being caught up in the sexist rhyme of the time, I loved, and still love Dr. Seuss. He mastered the art of empowering confident children. So throwing the baby out with the bathwater was a futile, but informative exercise because noticing pushes the needle in the right direction.

Realizing the power of the potential of children is something we must continue to value and nurture. The reality of our children and their children’s future will require them to muster up an activism that can only come from being educated and engaged citizens.

Kurt Vonnegut may have touched the future when he wrote in the afterword for the Free To Be book,

“I’ve often thought there ought to be a manual to hand to little kids, telling them what kind of planet they’re on, why they don’t fall off it, how to avoid poison ivy, and so on.”

Sleeping With The Enemy

I love books. I love to read in bed. I love to fall asleep reading.

It took me a while to get used to reading books on an iPad. Now I read books on my iPad…in bed.

Right before the launch of the iPad, I wrote a fun piece questioning the idea of cozying up with an iPad. I ask:

Will these new electronic readers be the demise of the demure book?…I am sure it will be love at first touch…The rise of the handy Kindle and the soon to be cuddled iPad (sigh), have already had an adverse impact on newspapers, textbook companies, publishing houses and magazines. While these companies are working hard to catch up with their own technologies, many will expire trying…Although a bit star-struck, I am ready to put my selfish love of new tech toys aside for the strong tactile love of books.”

Dah, I did no such thing. So how did I, and zillions of others, fall head over heels for the backlit screen?

In typical 3-step flip-flop fashion (good thing I’m not a politician), the course of events played out in my mind like this:

1. The nerve of those people who banish books in favor of electronic devices!
2. Embracing well-designed computer technology can not be a bad thing!
3. I loooove the convenience of downloading books and reading on my iPad…and what an oh-so sexy traveling companion!

And now, here’s the latest flop: I’ve been having trouble sleeping (A middle-age malaise?)…and then I read this:

“The new iPad may be a great way to store and retrieve the world’s great books, but sleep experts warn against settling in with this virtual page-turner before bed. That’s because the light emitted by the iPad (and by cell phones, TVs and other back-lit devices) inhibits the body’s ability to secrete melatonin, a brain chemical that signals the need for sleep…For this reason, many neurology and sleep experts suggest that we avoid interacting with most types of electronic gadgets directly before bedtime.”

Hello, dreamy dear old friend…my local bookstore.

Photo via Linen and Lavender