Gray Matter


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 My last unpublished post titled, “No Time To Blog,” seemed frivolous and obvious.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”

Capturing the Muse


I have passed the Point Way Inn, home of Noepe Center for Literary Arts and Martha’s Vineyard Writers Residency, advice hundreds of times. My family vacationed on the Island for years, and now my daughter lives there, a full-time resident on the cusp of marrying a Vineyarder.

Familiarity aside, I was a total writers residency newbie, not at all sure what to expect from living in a place where writing seeps into every conversation, and stories are written in the nooks and crannies of every space. A poet laureate, a few novelists, a crime reporter, a playwright and two musical memoirists — sequestered, and expected to share a home and meals for a few weeks like sleepover campers. Would I be able to focus on my writing while others inscribe to their own immersion, to the rhythm of different genres?

A kind of frozen fear hit me when I questioned how I could possibly work on my book with all the demonic electronic diversions threatening to sweep me into my “real” life of work and family.

Secretly, I wondered what I was doing in this grand inn, inhabited by equally distinguished writers. Over wine the first night, I voiced my concerns. One of the novelists said, “Focus on focusing on nothing. The writing will ebb and flow.”

Sigh, I was never great at meditating, and I’ve rarely had a moment lately to pry open the hood wide enough to find out what’s bubbling up. I’m a planner, a plotter. I like to know what to expect from the inner workings of a situation, anticipating an upward trajectory.

After that first doubt-filled day, a new plan emerged, focusing on nothing but what I came to do — write my book. Miraculously, I fell into suit, becoming wildly productive. I was completely and utterly inspired. Writing to the point of skipping my morning shower, lunch, check-in calls with my husband, kids. I had never written like this before. At the end of each day, I tallied the word count. Remarkable progress. My best writing ever. I was giddy with the belief my book would find its way out of my head, out of my computer and into the hands of adoring readers.

A few days into the euphoric rise, as if to pace myself, I tiptoed into my work email. I rationalized the reward, like I rationalize shopping for shoes at Zappos, without need. This shifted me deep into a gaping rabbit hole. Lost in the hinterlands of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Googling the other residents. Now I was cooked.

Facing hours of internet chatter and entirely distracted, I knew I needed a self-inflicted intervention. I had to protect those intensely blank moments that cleared my mind, allowing me to focus inward and sweep out procrastination to reclaim momentum.

Knowing that I could not scale back completely from technology — for goodness sake, I can hardly write a sentence with a pen and paper anymore — I put myself on a diet. Turning off the dings, rings and pings that make my technological heart hum, I coaxed my jumbled thoughts out of inertia and reigned them into coherent sentences, redirecting my attention to my book.

This spring delivered on its promises. It ushered in newness, growth, the gift of unfurling warmth and the replenishing of words, filling up the pages, reminding me of what writers do best: tell stories.

Photo: Chris Scott Snyder

Winter’s Mood Swings


As days and nights revolve around weather, with apocalyptic wrath, the frozen skies repeatedly opened, dropping 3 feet of snow on my nest. Winter’s mood swings erupted – first, angling in with a warming nudge, and then in a full hot rage – rain, thunder, fog – leaving us waterlogged.

I’m one of those snow lovers. It’s an accumulated love. The more, the merrier. Even if you despise the chilly season, you’ve got to admit you’re waiting for the weather to equalize to some sort of normalcy. I know from many reliable sources, if you’re barking up that tree, you’ll end up mighty hoarse.

Young snowboarder, Forrest Shearer,  sums up it up:

“The winter season is a magical time, my favorite of the year. The peaks and hills get covered in a fresh coat of white providing a palate for all of us artists to use our mind and imagination to draw our own lines on the mountains. But it won’t be here forever if we don’t all take some time to protect it.”

I long to sprinkle a little seasoning on the moody blues of our changing climate. So I spent last month worshiping winter. Here’s a peek into 3 questions I asked:

  1. How well do you know snow?
  2. Why did NY Fashion Week visitors trade in stilettos for Sorels?
  3. Do the winter Olympics even have a future in a warming world?  

With spring waiting in the wings, at the cost of sounding shrill, let’s not forget WE MUST PROTECT WINTER.



Card: Sapling Press via Design Milk

Crafting A Legacy


Snuggled in our respective nests, my family drifts into maker-mode. Daughter is throwing pots on her pottery wheel. Son is woodworking. Husband‘s shooting up a storm with his camera. And of course, my needles are clicking.

Although we’re merrily crafting a blizzard of goodies, curiously, we never seem to remember it all takes an enormous amount of time to complete these energetic handmade gifts. I predict there may be more than a few IOU’s.

As an experienced knitter, I look for a challenge this time of year to add to my crafting legacy. I do not crochet. Not because I can’t (mom taught me). It’s because of a long-standing attitude that knitting is more beautiful than crochet.

Don’t start throwing hooks at me yet.

When I started knitting, granny square afghans lit up the craft world. Granny…Afghan…SO not cool. Gorgeous Crochet Snowflakes…SO cool.

I’ve changed my tune and want to share with non-knitters — who have no idea what I’m talking about — the difference between knitting and crocheting:

Knit and crochet are distinctly different crafts with different tools that work up various stitches. Knitting is done on needles — straight, double pointed or circular. Crochet uses hooks of varying sizes. Straight knitting looks like a bunch of interlocking “v”stitches. Crochet stitches are “chains” — crochet hook gets inserted into a stitch and yarn is looped. Knitting tends to be tight. Crochet is looser, more open weave. I’m told crocheting is quick (not so much for me), while knitted garments take many, many hours to complete.

Wrapping, twisting, cabling, chaining, braiding…who cares? Inspired by these gorgeous snowflakes, momentarily, I put down my needles and pick up a hook.

In the maker spirit, here’s a round-up of my 3 favorite crocheted snowflakes:

Frosty Filigree Snowflake from Martha Stewart

Rustic Twine Snowflake from Aesthetic Nest

Beaded Snowflake from AgaKnickKnack

What’s your craft legacy?

Photo via flickr