A Self Review

The prompt  for the January  Write On! Online Challenge  was to write a review of something we’ve written. It was challenging indeed, to strike just the right balance between modesty and blowing my own horn.  In the end, I decided to approach it by pretending I was writing a review of someone else’s work. 🙂 I was thrilled to learn today that I won 2nd place (http://bit.ly/b1m4uY), for this review:

The Ten Best Things, in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings (http://bit.ly/34wABN)

Category: Creative nonfiction

I stumbled across Cara Holman’s story The Ten Best Things in a volume of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings. As a cancer survivor myself, I appreciated the forthrightness and honesty with which she presented the story of how a writing group she joined shortly after her cancer diagnosis helped her to deal with her treatment and aided in her emotional recovery.

A cancer diagnosis can be a frightening and isolating experience. Many studies have shown the value of support groups for cancer patients, and in The Ten Best Things, Cara recounts how joining a writing group for women cancer survivors functioned both as a support group for the “eight or so” women in it, and as a way to channel their creative energies into the process of healing. While Cara is quick to conclude that obviously no one would have chosen to have been diagnosed with cancer in the first place, she firmly believes that she and the women of her writing group are in a better place as a result of having to confront their own mortality, and reassess their priorities in life.

As I reflect upon the lesson of this story, I find myself in agreement with the sentiments expressed by this author, namely, that many of us cancer survivors have learned “to be kinder, more compassionate, more life-affirming people and never to forget how much we still have to be grateful for.” I found this story to be life-affirming, without ever becoming maudlin.

I would encourage readers who are interested in honest writings about surviving cancer, losing one’s parents, and just everyday stories about raising children, becoming a writer, and hitting midlife to check out some of Cara’s other equally engaging, and often humorous writings. A full list of her publications, both online and in print, can be found on her blog Prose Posies.

Thanksgiving Thanks

I wrote this piece yesterday in writing group. Our prompt was the words “thank you” written on a sheet of paper, a mini pumpkin, a fabric turkey, and an ear of Indian corn:

 

So we have some family traditions that for me are inviolable, but for the rest of my family are strictly take-them-or-leave-them. Going around the Thanksgiving table before we eat and saying what we are grateful for is one of those. I just can’t seem to let go of it. Mom started it, and I guess I’m a bit afraid that once you let go of one little tradition, then the whole works will come unraveling.

 

Take the Macy’s Day Parade for instance. There was a time when we all clumped together in the family room to exclaim over the floats, but now, more often than not, the TV drones on in the next room without an audience. For me though, it would be pure heresy not to at least be aware that a gargantuan Snoopy is gracing the rain-soaked skies of NYC on a raw, grey East Coast Thanksgiving Day, and that the Rockettes are still doing their high kicks, as scantily clad as ever. So the TV stays on.

 

But what of the tradition of saying what we’re grateful for? Is it destined to go by the wayside? I just can’t decide if I’m going to force the issue this year. Let’s face it, there’s only so many times you can hear people mumble “I’m grateful for family and friends”. Thus it was with delight that I stumbled on one of those quirky little reposts on Facebook.

 

From now until Thanksgiving, the post said, think of one thing that you are thankful for and post it as your status. As it gets closer to Thanksgiving, the post went on to warn, the task will become harder. I was stunned. What? We’re talking in the ballpark of twenty posts here. Whoever started this thinks people can’t come up with twenty things that they’re thankful for? Yikes!

 

I of course just had to take the challenge. And I took it one step further. I decided to write a gratitude poem every day in haiku and post to FB and my blog until Thanksgiving. And who knows, I may even take it beyond. Twenty things to be thankful for only? That’s barely scratching the surface.

 

For starters: I’m thankful for family, relatives, friends, casual acquaintances, fellow writers, editors, cyberfriends, and just plain old people in general, both of my writing groups, living in Portland, the rain that keeps things green, the abundance of electricity that heats my home and provides light even in the darkest months. I’m thankful that I live in a land of opportunity, for my personal freedoms, that my family is weathering the current economic crisis, that we have our relative health, and that we have health insurance. I’m thankful for the roof over my head, for having had the unconditional love and support of my parents for so many years. I’m thankful for Facebook and Twitter, and Google Chat and Gmail, and the web in general, that allows me to stay so connected with family and friends from all over the world. I’m grateful for books, and for Amazon and Powell’s and a free public library system and for the time to read books. I’m grateful that my cancer is currently in remission. I’m grateful for my cats, our cars, the gym I belong to, and my yoga and Tai Chi teachers…well, I could go on and on. You get the idea!

Triple Good News

Last week’s Komen Lunch for the Cure that I attended raised $132,000!

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings, containing my cancer writing group story The Ten Best Things, is now available on Amazon(http://bit.ly/34wABN) , at Powells.com(http://bit.ly/4xsrpz) and presumably also at your favorite bookstore. I was excited to receive my contributor copies last week!

My streak of good luck seems to be holding. My story, The Eyes Have It, took first place in the Write On! Online October Challenge. (http://bit.ly/2fJCZE) What made this an extra special win for me, was that I was writing outside my comfort zone, trying my hand at fiction instead of non-fiction.

A Whole Egg, or Humpty Dumpty Revisited

I recently came across this piece I wrote two-and-a-half years ago, right after I had completed the first round of treatment for breast cancer. I was rereading T.H. White’s: The Once and Future King with my son at the time. Can you tell?

The prompt came from writing group, and it was simply to take a well-known poem or nursery rhyme and insert text between the lines. Try it!

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
“Well okay, I just want to set things straight here. I have been accused of everything from clumsiness to having a self-destructive streak, but that’s just not true! I am a law abiding, self respecting egg. I went to sit on the wall because it was a lovely sunny day, and because I wanted a better view of the tournament. Being short and round, I needed to be higher up to take in all the sights and sounds of pageant day. Who would have known what was to come?”

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
“True, true, I did. And this is how it came about. I was perfectly perched on the wall, with my weight evenly distributed, when a great cheer rose up from the crowd. A black knight rode out, his face completely obscured by his visor, and charged toward his adversary. It was as he unhorsed his opponent with some of the most skillful lance work I have ever seen, that I in my excitement leaned a bit too far forward, resulting in the famous “great fall” that you’ve doubtless heard so much about. “Fall” it was, “great” is another thing. It certainly wasn’t “great” from my perspective.”

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
“This is the part I don’t like to think about. I mean, all eggs take a tumble from time to time. It’s due to our shape: “middle heavy”, you can call it. It really takes quite a bit of practice to find our center of gravity. So I guess what I’m saying is that it was really no big deal that I took a tumble just when I did. But the king made a federal case of it; I mean, he called off the tournament just at the height of the excitement and had all of his knights, all of their squires, I mean everybody, come on horseback to assist me in my humiliation. By the end of the day, there wasn’t a subject in the entire kingdom who hadn’t heard about what had now gone from a “little tumble” to a “great fall”.

Couldn’t put Humpty together again
“Okay, and this was the final straw. Its not as if anyone is absolutely perfect, or that they don’t age and change as they go through life. It’s not as if I was mortally wounded. So I’m a little cracked now, and not quite so round and smooth as I was before, but for goodness sakes, I’m still whole. I’m not exactly the same as I was before, but I consider the cracks in my shell battle scars from my own personal “tournament”, if you see what I mean. I’m still me after all, a little rearranged, but very much a whole egg, and back together again. Well, now you know the true story behind my very public tumble. I’ll just have to be more careful in the future, I guess!”

“So now that you know how it happened, here’s the preferred version of the rhyme:”

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
On a bright and sunny day
He took a fall off the wall
But now, he’s quite okay!

Another story published in the Oregonian

For a long time now, I’ve been meaning to submit an essay for the My Turn section of the Oregonian. Well, I finally did it it!  “Writing group inspires breast cancer survivor” appears in the Washington County Weekly section of today’s Oregonian.

For you non-Portlanders, the piece also appears online on OregonLive with the somewhat more provocative title “Breast cancer survivor finds healing through reawakened passion”. 🙂 http://bit.ly/XqArM

Cancer Lessons Story Published in The Oregonian

This morning, I was delighted to find, upon opening the Race for the Cure special pullout section in The Sunday Oregonian, that right there on the top of page 11 was my “What I Learned” cancer story. It can also be found on the OregonLive.com webpage: http://bit.ly/VnzM1

I must say, though, if you can get ahold of a print copy, do. The online version somehow removed the bullets from each of my points and ran them all together. 🙂 Still, the content is all there!