Category Archives: writing

remember . . .

xray2How many drafts can I write before finally finishing a new post?

Seriously. I think I’ve written at least fifteen.

There have been posts about crazy people, posts about jobs, posts about love, posts about war. I’ve had thoughts on Robin Williams, thoughts on poetry (I haven’t written any in a while) . . . My most effective writing comes from what is closest at hand, closest to my heart.

I’ve had this week off and expected I’d get something written — anything. But then last weekend I broke my collarbone on a ride in Napa, and now tomorrow I’m having surgery. And now I’m no longer sure I can write at all: my mind is so scattered.

But here’s to never giving up — and to the people we love. Here’s to Jon for wiping away my tears when I’ve been frustrated; for putting my hair in a ponytail for me because I can’t. Here’s to my dad for being the best dad and surgeon ever. And here’s to you for being the wonderful person that you are –

Because whether you’re facing Ebola, or brain cancer, or a broken arm, or high bills . . . Whether depression, or job dissatisfaction . . . Whether bombs, or terrorists, or starvation, or natural disasters . . . Your struggles are valid and important. YOU are important.

But remember to be thankful for the little things. Don’t ever forget to be grateful for what you have. When you raise both arms above your head to slip on your shirt this morning, say “Thank you, Jesus!” because, honestly, some people (like me) can’t!

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teach them to read

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Thought for the day, and week, and month, I suppose, at the rate I’ve been blogging:

If you want children to write, teach them to read. If you want them to read, show them reading is fun. As a kid, I was a bookworm, but it wasn’t until I became a teacher that I realized how much reading had impacted my understanding of the structure of the English language. No one cares about adverbs and subjects and predicates and helping verbs. No 8-year-old wants to break that stuff down. What they want are action and adventure and ideas. What they want are the things of life.

Except for that one student. If you really think “will” + “not” = “willn’t,” we may have a problem . . . Except that, there, the study of grammar failed you, too. You wouldn’t have said “willn’t” in day-to-day speech. You were following a pattern, and “won’t” breaks all the rules.

– Miss Jess

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fate?

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Writing Camp, Summer 2014

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My favorite professor in college used to tell a story. As a young man, he’d been in a jazz band and then the army. He’d traveled solo around the world, dreamed of being a pilot, gone to flight school. After receiving his pilot’s license, however, he couldn’t find work. Times were desperate; money, scarce. One day, in a moment of frustration, he cried out, “Lord, please . . . What do you want me to do?!”

Five minutes later, he heard a knock on the door. A classmate needed help with an English assignment: Could he . . . ?

Over the next few weeks and months, *Dr. I’s reputation as an English tutor grew. People seemed to be coming out of the woodwork for his help . . . Suddenly, the answer was clear: Dr. I went on to get his masters and, later, doctorate in English and has been teaching and inspiring lives ever since.

I can relate to Dr. I.

Hong Kong

In my classroom in Hong Kong

After college, I thought I wanted to go into journalism. I loved to write, and journalism was a way to write, right? I got a job at a publishing company, and I enjoyed it — sort of.  Deadlines got old quickly. I couldn’t write about things I cared about. My perfectionism killed me. After a year and a half, I quit and moved home to California — and couldn’t find work. I ended up working as an ophthalmology assistant for a year and cried every day on my way to work. I hated it. But it was exactly this set-up that led me to teaching in Taiwan and Hong Kong for three years. And it was exactly that set-up that led me to where I am now — working with kids and loving every minute of it.

You see . . . If people are people, kids are even more so. I don’t care what their nationality, or where they were born, or what kind of food they like, kids are kids. Kids are eager, enthusiastic, curious, open. They’re excitable and impressionable. Kids love to love and be loved. They don’t understand hatred and meanness and bigotry: These are things we teach them.

Over the past two weeks, I had the privilege of teaching a writing camp in the mornings before my regular afternoon classes at an after-school learning center in San Ramon. I only had seven students, but it was an absolute blast to share what I love with those seven eager faces. We wrote stories, created skits, did How-To presentations, and a whole lot more. And even better? The kids loved it. Here is some of what they said about the class:

Wow… I must say, my expectation was far exceeded at writing camp this year . . . I feel like Ms. Jessica taught us so many things and she did it incredibly well. I was able to have fun and learn plenty all at the same time. Her feedback was incredibly honest and I was excited to improve from it. I’ve grown to love writing in only two weeks. Through creativity and imagination, I learned how fun writing can be.

– J, 9th grade

I really liked sharing our stories. At first I didn’t like the idea of reading what I’d written to others, but it got me out of my comfort zone. I’m really proud of myself for actually reading out loud to others.

– D, 9th grade

Writing camp was really fun. Miss Jess was really nice. My favorite part was doing the skit! I learned more about dialogue because I didn’t know much about it before.

– A, 5th grade

What I liked about the summer camp was seeing and making new friends, and of course, the writing. Miss Jessica was really doing her best to help us enjoy writing. I mean, who would’ve known? Writing is fun! . . . Making new friends and meeting friends again — that is fate.

– M, 5th grade

I loved acting and writing in our jornals! I learned what is a metafor and simile. I also liked writing storys and planing the show thingy.

– K, 2nd grade

I liked everything about English. I liked the journal a lot, but the part I liked best was the “How To.” It was fun learning how to do certain things. This is probably the best summer camp I’ve had. If I could, I would redo the last two weeks (including this one)!!

– G, 5th grade

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Miss Jessica, writing teacher. Fate?

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*Name changed for privacy

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leave it to me . . .

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Sometimes I feel like this guy: bumbling along, never knowing what trouble I’ll trip into next . . .

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To build my blog and then abandon it because life has just gotten too dang busy.

To finally get a job I love but for that job to only be part time.

To get a part-time job I love and for that job to be more than thirty miles away. (Gas is more than $4 a gallon.)

To get a ticket for talking on my cell phone in my car for two seconds. Why can’t you go after the real trouble-makers, cops? (My co-worker’s bike was stolen from right in front of our office the same day.)

To have a clean apartment but never spend time relaxing in it (writing my blog) because I’m too busy cleaning (thinking) and exercising (thinking).

To break my boyfriend’s beautiful glass thermometer because I was trying to clean it.

To cut my finger so deeply (I could see the tendon) that I need stitches because I broke my boyfriend’s thermometer.

To cut my finger so deeply I need stitches on the weekend my brother is getting married in Tahoe. (Love you, bro!)

To be lucky enough to have a dad who’s a doctor who, it just so happens, will also be at the wedding in Tahoe this weekend.

To want to clean my car because I just can’t take the dirt anymore, despite the fact that I need stitches and my car is just going to get dirty this weekend, anyway. (We’re driving it to Tahoe.)

To want to ride my bike today because that’s just what I love to do, even if I do have a cut finger!

To beat myself up for the mistakes I’ve made, and then to just make them again.

To never give up despite making the same mistakes over and over again, because that’s just how I am — stubborn as hell.

To have just written an entire draft of this post and not saved it, then pushed save, and for it to have been deleted.

To miss reading your blogs and connecting with you (you know who you are) but to be unable to catch up with everyone right now.

To miss you all and know that someday soon I’ll be back — blogging regularly, loving endlessly.

Promise.

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Pictures from my brother’s wedding to come. I hope you all have a beautiful weekend!

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why we write

writer….
Tell tell a story.

To tell our stories.

To share our hearts.

To fall apart.

To pull ourselves together.

To communicate.

To inform.

To breathe in.

To exhale.

To forgive.

To forget.

To remember.

To hope.

To kill hope.

To grieve.

To understand.

To apologize.

To express.

To think.

To garble.

To worry.

To cry.

To laugh.

To sigh.

To hurt.

To heal.

To give.

To receive.

To send secret messages.

To laugh.

To learn.

To love.

To fight.

To die.

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We write because we have no other choice.

Because writing consumes us or we consume it.

Because it gives voice to our tears, wind to our wings, air to our everything.

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We write because we are alive.

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Why do you write? Do you?

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“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”

– Lord Byron

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nature has it

After writing about writer’s block the other day, I did my usual. I cleaned my apartment (surprise, surprise), did laundry, responded to emails, hung out with Jon, and decided to “man up” and get over my dislike for riding in the city. I took off on my bike (Jon wanted to go for a run instead) and rode thirty miles up the Berkeley hills — to here.
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View from Grizzly Peak

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On the backside of the mountain, I saw these guys:

cows

Looking at San Pablo Reservoir. California has happy cows!

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And then on my run down by the water last night, I saw this:

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The Bay

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Nature really does have it, folks.

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writer’s lament

writer's blockI’ve been trying to write a post all morning. Trying to reach deep within and pull out something deep and meaningful to which you might all relate. I’ve been thinking about black and white and gray and how I don’t believe in gray and how that is why I know religion doesn’t matter: We all know right from wrong. But instead of flowing like a waterfall, my thoughts are congested spillway blocked by matters of immediate importance: I’m stressed. Interviews and new tutoring positions (I’ve recently been signed on as a kids’ tutor at several companies in the Bay Area) are on my mind, not to mention bills and dreams and exercise things. It’s harder to ride my bike in Berkeley. I miss it.

And so I reach and fall and try and bail and am reminded of a poem I wrote more than a year ago:

I’m reaching and falling.
I’m hemming and hawing.
I’m trying and failing.
I’m rowing, now bailing.
Stop.

Another day.

And I wonder if this ever happens to you? And I wonder how authors do it? Writing comes so easily to me when my subject is on my mind. But when it’s not? Writing is like pulling teeth, only worse, because I want SO badly to do it, and do it well.

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my thai lullaby

I was trying to write a blog post tonight — I have so many on my mind — but, to be honest, it’s been a long day. I write best in the morning. I should know better.

And so I decided I would log out of “Shift,” check facebook, log out of that, and head to bed . . . And then on facebook I saw this. And I just had to share.

This, my friends, is what life is — or at least should be — all about.

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The news clips call this a tear jerker. Why? Why is that? Should it be? Should tears form when, universally, we recognize what we all should have been doing in the first place? Interesting how emotions know no cultural lines.
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the book inside my story

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T-Wall — near where I fell

Most people I tell my rock-climbing story are more impressed by my story than I am. Sure, I’ve got scars. There’s a white mark just above my lip that annoys me every day. And?

That’s why it always surprises me, though, when readers suggest I turn my story into a book. After re-reading my story this past January, my friend Vance sent me a message: “So, I just finished rereading your ‘How Not to Die‘ story, and I’m asking myself: How is this not a book? Or, at least, the beginnings of one? It is truly an amazing story, however you take it . . .”

In the past, I’ve always brushed such suggestions off. That’s what I did to Vance. “To be honest, I’ve already written nearly as much as I know to say about my rock-climbing accident. I have no idea how I’d turn it into a book . . .” is what I told him. And that was the truth. In “How to Not Die,” I’ve given the reader everything I can — from my perspective. Continue reading

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poetry

canoe2

Poetry’s in the journey . . .

Poetry I cannot force,
it comes and then it goes.
Like a river at its source,
it ebbs and then it flows.

Words, you see, are only that,
and rhyme and rhythm, too.
Poetry’s not pit-a-pat,
but here in me and you.

–in the sun and in the rain,
the things that quiet tears;
in the love and in the pain–
experience of years.

Then the poet, what is she?
She’s nothing like a muse.
Rather, she’s a puppet, see,
and words her only use.

So poetry, my fickle friend,
I wonder what’s in store?
Will you stay until the end,
or show me to the door?
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For an audio recording of this poem, click here:

“Poetry is what happens when nothing else can.”
Charles Bukowski

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Note: The first stanza of this poem came to me in a moment of frustration when I was trying very, very hard to write another poem on a very different subject–and getting nowhere. Since that time, it has taken me FOREVER to finish this. Fickle is right!

Image: Pinterest

Related Articles:

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walls are for head-banging

elephant

Some days I feel like this — especially when I’m writing poetry!

When I created my blog, it was to share ideas. To share ideas and experiences, and to engage with others — yes, that includes you. I detested blog posts that were simply daily journals or gripes or complaints or even inspirational photos or quotes. To me, those things seemed empty: Unless I know you personally or have established a relationship with you, I don’t want a recap of your day, I want a point. I want something that makes me think, or smile, or that catches my attention in a meaningful way.

The trouble with that line of thinking, though, is that it’s the same kind of thinking that makes me cry when I hear songs like “Message In a Bottle,” which I talked about here. It’s me being “Little Miss Intense,” the one who can’t stand “fluff” and could turn even the silliest situation into an internal philosophical debate. “To bake the cookies, or not to bake the cookies — that is the question.”

. . . Kidding! Continue reading

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the importance of “this”

IMG_0112edOne hour and eleven minutes. That’s how much time I have to get this post written before midnight. That’s how much time separates me from posting once every three days and once every four.

What’s the big deal? some people might say. Blogging just seems like a lot of work.

Well, yes . . . Yes, it is . . . and yet it’s not. It is because there’s pressure to post regularly and to write well. As a writer, I hope to continue building my blog and that, someday, writing Shift will lead me to bigger and better things . . . It’s not, on the other hand, because writing is what I LOVE and interacting with readers makes all the effort I put into my blog worthwhile. (You, dear readers, mean everything to me.) Continue reading

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the bad blogger

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One of my first views in Florida, not far from the Tampa Airport.

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It’s been funny, these past few weeks, not writing regularly on my blog. I feel like such a bad blogger. A good blogger — one seriously committed to her readers and to growing her blog — would have written posts ahead of time and scheduled them to appear at regular intervals during her absence. But not me. Those of you who know me well know that that’s not how I operate. I’m spur of the moment, genuine as can be, or not at all.

And so here we are: Two posts in . . . how many days?

I’ve missed my blog — and you. Writing is such a huge part of my life. And yet . . .

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What kind of blogger reads while waiting for her ride at the airport instead of blogging on her iPhone? A bad one!

It’s been good to live away from my blog for a few days, too. Good to think without writing, to ponder without sharing. Not that I’ve been thinking deeply or found many profound things to say. This trip has been crazy — visiting New Orleans, participating in my good friend’s wedding, taking long walks on the beach (beneath the stars, of course), catching up with old friends . . . I’ve even extended my trip to this next Sunday so that I can visit Chattanooga. I can’t wait to revisit my old stomping grounds . . .

But with so much activity, there hasn’t been time for deep thoughts and great writing. It’s been good, and yet . . .

I can’t wait to get home so I can catch up with all of you! :)

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Image: Mine. All rights reserved.

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see you . . . soon!

Dear All,

I miss you. What? How is that possible? I don’t know, but it’s true.

Funny that my little blog has become something of my home. I share my thoughts here, and you respond. You tell me that I’m not crazy. For that, I owe you everything.

A few weeks ago I proposed a regular Friday section focusing on travel. I should have known better. I can’t even get myself to bed on time let alone post a weekly section on time. I’m sorry. I do plan to write at least once a week about travel, though. I just can’t swear that it will pop up in your “Reader” section at a specific time.

This Friday (yesterday) I took a day trip to San Francisco. The weather was perfect, and I got to drive over the new Bay Bridge, a white, sleek monument to modernity that stands in stark contrast to the dark metal contraption — the old bridge — beside it. I broke the law and took a few pics for your benefit while driving. ;)

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The new bridge to the left and the old on the right.

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the visitor, revisited

full moonTruth is, I’m struggling.

I’m reaching and falling.
I’m hemming and hawing.
I’m trying and failing.
I’m rowing, now bailing.

Stop!

Another day.

from my poem “Writer’s Block

My mind has been going a million miles an hour in a hundred different directions lately, and it’s making writing difficult. I’ve been working on a new poem (which I love) for the past several days, but I’m having a hard time finishing it. What am I trying to say? It’s a question I haven’t been able to answer . . . Continue reading

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message in a bottle

bottle2So I’m chatting with a blogger friend today, and we’re talking — what else? — blogs. And I say, “I feel bad — I haven’t been keeping up with anyone’s blogs lately. Even just responding to comments on my own silly site takes a lot of time . . . I really enjoy your stuff, though! You’re a good writer.”

And he says, “Thank you. You’re an excellent writer, too. And your blog isn’t silly. It’s intense.”

Suddenly, I can’t breathe. I freeze in my tracks.

There it is — that word. INTENSE.

[Banging my head against the wall] “Lol. Intense. Yeah, that’s me . . . Too much so. It’s my greatest strength and biggest flaw.”

And he says, “I only see it as a strength, but . . .” Continue reading

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the thing about poetry

imagesEvery time I write a poem, it starts with the first two lines. Maybe I’m experiencing an emotion and the words come tumbling out.

The tears do tumble down my face,
the one who doesn’t cry.

Or perhaps I’m riding my bike on a cool summer evening, or walking beneath the stars.

Empty streets, and she awake,
the one who walks alone.

Maybe I’m in the supermarket, or listening to birds outside.

Little birdie out my window,
chirping, calling, “Come and play!”

Whatever it is, those first two lines are the key to the rest of the poem. They will either make or break it… Continue reading

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this is me

stand aloneed. . . and this is real.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is that makes writing powerful. What is it about a blog that would bring you back and leave you wanting more?

One of my favorite bloggers is one of most irreverent, vulgar, say-it-like-it-is bloggers on the Internet. His writing is awesome, but what makes him powerful is that he is REAL. He doesn’t hide behind a curtain of pretense. Oh, no — he owns his shit. (Pardon my french for those of you who aren’t used to cursing on my site.) He talks about everything from alcoholism to fighting for custody of his child to his religion (or lack thereof) to parenting to . . . And, what’s more, he doesn’t give a damn what others think. He would never apologize for cussing like I just did. Continue reading

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the butterfly

jar_butterflyThe tears do tumble down my face,
the one who doesn’t cry.
You wonder why I’ve lost my grace
who watch the poet die.

There is a place ‘yond time and space,
it’s here alone I fly.
And yet it’s here you’d me encase,
my wings apart you’d pry.

And so it is when you embrace
this poet from the sky,
be not surprised, in keeping pace,
if all I do is sigh. Continue reading

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thank you . . . and you and you and you and . . .

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Sketch by Matthew Curry

Something I didn’t expect when I started blogging was a) that anyone would actually read what I wrote, and b) that I would make true friends through my blog. Some of you have been following me for a while now, and I too have been following you. I value all of you sooooo much, and for those of you that are new, I’m sorry if I haven’t had time to stop by your blogs yet! When I first started blogging (this blog really took off last October, though technically I started it much earlier), I tried to stop by every person’s site who either “liked” or left a comment on one of my posts. These days, as my readership is growing, it is getting more and more difficult to do so. There is only so much time in a day!

Recently, a friend and fellow blogger was a dear and sketched a picture based on one of the images in “i love . . . me?” Matt is a very talented writer and artist, so I thought I’d try to bring his work to your attention today. (Thanks, Matt!) Please check out more of his work at The Chia Pet Circus. Continue reading

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for all that you are

My beautiful picture

My mom with Derek . . . and fire!

For all that you are,
and ever will be,
I’ll love you forever,
Happy Birthday, Mommy.

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finding freedom

birdsAnd another thing . . . Why would anyone want to go into a field where half of the people you work with are jerks?

As many of you know, I am currently freelancing for a couple of papers in my area. It started out with an article last November. I’d recently moved home from Hong Kong and was trying to break into writing in print. I contacted the editor of my local paper and asked him if he’d be interested in a feature on a WWII/Korean war vet of my acquaintance for Veteran’s Day. Much to my delight, he said yes. Continue reading

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why “shift”?

4shiftToday is a bit rushed. I have several posts in draft, but recently have been working on updating Shift. In particular, I’ve made quite a few changes to my menu. If interested, check out my “about” section where there are now three sub-items, including one that explains in greater detail why I chose the name Shift. I’ve also dedicated a page to my rock climbing story beneath “top posts,” and well . . . Just check it all out. I promise you won’t be disappointed. (Well . . . Maybe I shouldn’t make such boasts. But I can at least say I’m happy with the way my blog is slowly coming together!)

Much love to you all,

Jessica

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a poet who didn’t know it

I used to think I couldn’t write poetry. To me, poetry has always meant rhythm and rhyme (versus free verse), and I didn’t think I had it in me. As I have continued to write more and more, however, I have found that, maybe, I was wrong.

Overall, Shift is not a blog about poetry. It’s a blog about travel and ideas and perspective. I still have much to share, and I am loving the conversations arising out of posts such as “Success, or Something Like It” and “Let There Be Light.” But, as my tagline aptly states, the only thing constant is change, and that’s true for writers, too. We all go through phases, and I hope readers don’t mind that I am now also sharing some of my poetry.

Recently, I created a “Poetry” section for my menu to make locating my poetry a bit easier. In doing so, I remembered one of my favorite quotes from one of my literature classes in college. This led me to looking up more quotes on poetry, and, voilà, this post appeared. Continue reading

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the elation of validation

beach girl3I recently sent an email to my local newspaper editor. In it, I apologized for a few small errors that I’d made in some articles I’d written for him. The articles were about local businesses that will be showcased at a local Home and Garden Show this weekend. They went to print this past Monday, and a few of the business owners were not happy with what I had written.

As I mentioned in a previous post, although I knew I’d done a good job (the editor published my articles almost exactly as I had written them), I was devastated by the negative feedback. I knew I needed to develop thicker skin, but my mistakes, especially the preventable ones, really bothered me.

Tonight, the editor wrote back. This is what he said: Continue reading

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