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Category Archives: Blogging

by Xavier Fargas

2010 has been a wonderful year, full of accomplishments and new beginnings for me and my family. Pat has begun recording another solo guitar CD (see his blog). I finished the third draft of my book and am a quarter of the way on the fourth draft that starts with the DC9 action. Some firsts: I joined the Writer’s Center and received great support and advice from courses there, did a public reading from the book and started this blog. I organized several meditation retreats and workshops for women and gave private meditation training. I attended a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh and a Guitar Craft Course in Italy. My granddaughter is teaching me games on her Ipod. Learning and growth continue.

So, hopefully 2011 will allow me to maintain my awesome life and relationships and to keep growing, learning and “shipping” my writing to agents and publishers. Thank you, to each of you who have read and responded to my blog posts. Perhaps this is the year The Power of Love: How a Nun became a Revolutionary or the Mini-Skirted Nun or whatever the final title might be is PUBLISHED! Wouldn’t that be terrific!

It will only happen if I treat each day as a new beginning, a new opportunity for growth, love and service to people I meet along this path called life. I will plan without planning the results, living in gratitude for each precious moment as it is. Happy New Year, New Day, New Life.

Photo by LT

I am leading a workshop on November 6 about relaxing and relieving stress during the holidays, celebrating in ways that feel right for us, letting go of old paradigms from family dysfunction. The producer wanted to put my picture and name as the “lead” for the workshop poster. It still feels weird. Although I am writing this blog for the whole world to see (although mostly friends and the porn folks are the ones finding it), I am shy about promoting myself! The part of me that suffered from negative press during my trial, the part that wants to enjoy my quiet and private life screams “NO” at self-promotion. The budding Buddha in me that knows all things pass, that there is no “separate self” to promote. It is important to keep the focus on the message, the people I am serving, the work, the writing, the workshops, not on my SELF.

I love giving workshops and retreats. I want my book to sell, to be successful, to reach people who need inspiration to solve today’s problems. So, this promotion and “shipping” stuff seems to be part of it all. Life is short. I have a little candle to shine with all the other candles in the dark night. So, my granddaughter and I spent the morning Saturday posting the flyers on telephone poles, in store windows and on bulletin boards in our wonderful neighborhood. We had fun!

So, do come. We’ll have fun there too, reducing stress, relaxing, laughing at our silly selves, enjoying the fact that we are so interconnected in our feelings and contradictions. For more info see 10% off for the next FIVE DAYS!!!!

Do you have issues with “self-promotion”????????? Share!

After helping to lead an amazing women’s meditation retreat this weekend, I turned my attention to my homework assignment for class at the Writer’s Center last night. I had the opportunity to submit a draft proposal of my book (for publishers) and sample chapters for my teacher and classmates to read and critique. Picking up where the last blog left off – at the choice for a new beginning for the book – I explored possibilities. Which story would grab the reader, whether a busy publisher or agent, or a person in the bookstore flipping through the first page of my book?

Instead of using the chapter “Journey to Loretto” as my beginning (in which I travel by train from Kansas City to Louisville, Kentucky, then by bus to the Loretto Motherhouse at age 17 to join the convent), I decided to jump ahead to the incident that stimulated my first batch of hate mail. The chapter begins with a phone call from a leader of the Black Liberators in St. Louis in 1968 asking me to find a way to free him from police headquarters before the cops killed him. I had to organize a protest of 50 nuns and the press to get the attention of the police chief. You’ll find out what happens when you read the book.

A gripping beginning. But it shortens the action of the whole story to just 17 months of my life! Is that enough? It is the most “action-packed” and public part of the story, covered in the press in Missouri, Washington, DC and eventually throughout the country and other parts of the world. But it might leave out some of you who are reading this blog!

Will I be able to weave in the “backstory” that explains “How a regular nun, high school teacher, committed to her vows and to religious life, became a revolutionary?” I will need to establish the “ordinariness” of my life, the progression of the radical changes in my thinking, awareness and behavior and also the changes that were happening in our society in the late sixties. I had established these changes in the original first five chapters of my book, so I also included some excerpts from those chapters for class critique.

Again, a waiting period until our next (delayed) class in two weeks!
What do I do while waiting? More WRITING, revising, cutting!

What are you doing this week? Any writing? Revising? Cutting of anything?

Photo by Joann

What a glorious day! Blue skies, light clouds shifting, some slowly, some quickly. Warm breezes over the ocean. We varied our routine today – after writing and meditation, we rode our bikes to the ocean for an early swim. To be honest, Pat swam while I wobbled through the onslaught of waves. We stretched on a sheet on the sand to dry, meditating on the changing shapes of the clouds. Sometimes when I am meditating indoors, I observe my mind as a clear blue sky with each thought, feeling or sensation drifting and changing as it migrates across my mind. I know that my mind can be expanded, stretched as wide as this sky today, connected to whatever One Mind might be. The clouds of physical pain, distraction, worry and fear rise, move slowly or quickly and disappear. Impermanence is so wonderful, so freeing. No need to cling to the delightful because something more delightful might be waiting to take its place. No need to worry that pain will remain forever. Nothing does.

So, I am writing my blog later in the day than I have other days this week. Now clouds have suddenly filled the sky. The weather can change so quickly, just as our physical aches, our emotions, our thoughts change. Yesterday I struggled with discomfort and had difficulty working. Today, I woke feeling terrific, without pain, energetic. I could have plunged into completing my writing/publishing tasks first as we have on other days, and left my reading and sunning until now. But this beautiful morning summoned us and we responded. I don’t regret the choice. It is such a privilege to have this week to combine rest and work as we choose, sometimes shifting like the clouds moment to moment.


Today we slept in until 8:00am, very late for us. I am suffering a bit from poison ivy on my chin and throat and pain in my arthritic hip, perhaps from walking in the sand. It was throbbing by the time we reached our temporary home after a lovely walk on the beach last night. So, my energy level is lower than it was yesterday. I don’t feel as productive. What do I do with discomfort?

I pay attention first to my body, to signals that I might need a bit more rest or the regular exercise I am missing (weight-lifting, biking and swimming). Then I scan my feelings, my mind, do some meditation and seek that “emptiness” that invites solutions to my discomfort. I continue with the routines that ground me – writing my dreams and morning feelings and insights, doing some inspirational reading (Light as a Feather by Ruth Fishel, prayer, Qi Gong and meditation. What a delight to be able to do the Qi Gong in the sun, surf and sand!

Then I turn to the tasks I wrote down to do today – read more of Linchpin, write this blog, sign up for a course at the Writer’s Center. Keep moving ahead, discomfort or none. Looking at the discomfort as an opportunity to grow, to lean into it as Pema Chodron suggests in Comfortable with Uncertainty.

Find the pages in Linchpin that inspire me with the discomfort of taking risks in seeking an agent, publishing my book. Seth says (p. 116) “Inevitably we exaggerate just how uncomfortable we are…that embracing the discomfort that others fear is likely to deliver real rewards. Discomfort brings engagement and change. Discomfort means you’re doing something that others were unlikely to do, because they’re busy hiding out in the comfortable zone.”

So, I did my morning writing, meditation and exercise routine, felt pain dissolve, signed up for the class, comforted a suffering friend, read my assignment, checked to see if the agent had responded and wrote this blog. I took risks doing some things I didn’t feel like doing, sharing discomfort, leaning into it.

What do you do with discomfort? Physical, emotional, spiritual?


Seth Godin‘s blog today gave me the last kick of courage I needed to do it! Press SEND on the email to my first potential agent! I am away from my home internet service, so the typeface wasn’t quite right. I cannot access my home phone to receive an instant reply. But I am in a beautiful place with the freedom, time and space to draft this version of my query letter. It is, actually, the reason for this working vacation, our “art camp.” I have been reading Seth’s book Linchpin at the suggestion of my friend Tom who IS a linchpin. A “linchpin” is “an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create and make things happen.” Every worthwhile institution has indispensable people who make differences like these. Tom’s courage in searching for an agent for his book-and finding one- bolsters mine.

Godin also urges us to not only create, invent and choose to work without a map, but also to “SHIP” – that is, “hitting the publish button on your blog, showing a presentation to the sales team, answering the phone, selling the muffins, sending out your references.” “Shipping” is the collision between your work and the outside world.

In his blog today, he explains how most of us waste time on the small gap between being a novice at something and an expert. I’ll never become an expert at sending query letters if I don’t start SENDING them! And is that even my goal? No, I want an agent, not expertise on finding one.

“We diddle around in the novice stage because we’re afraid. We polish (but not too much) and go to meetings (plenty of them) and look for deniability, spending hours and hours instead of shipping. And the product, in the end, is not so much better.

I’m all for expertise. Experts, people who push through and make something stunning–we need more of them. But let’s be honest, if you’re not in the habit of being an expert, it’s unlikely your current mode of operation is going to change that any time soon.

Go, give a speech. Go, start a blog. Go, ship that thing that you’ve been hiding. Begin, begin, begin and then improve. Being a novice is way overrated.” Check out the whole blog.

By elycefeliz

As I draft this version of a letter to an agent a writer friend of mine has recommended, my “lizard brain” fear says, “Joann, just who do you think you are! You read great writers. Does that make you one of them? So many wonderful writers have been rejected by agents and publishers. Why are you doing this to yourself?

Then I read the words of a memoir writer I admire, one of the most successful in the world at the moment and take hope. If I don’t believe enough in myself and my writing, I’m rejecting it before the agents and publishers have even had a chance to look at my book for themselves. How unfair – to myself, to them and to the world! Thank you, Elizabeth, for encouraging us fellow writers.

Some Thoughts on Writing (by Elizabeth Gilbert)

“Back around the age of 19, I had started sending my short stories out for publication. My goal was to publish something (anything, anywhere) before I died. I collected only massive piles of rejection notes for years. I cannot explain exactly why I had the confidence to be sending off my short stories at the age of 19 to, say, The New Yorker, or why it did not destroy me when I was inevitably rejected. I sort of figured I’d be rejected. But I also thought: “Hey – somebody has to write all those stories: why not me?” I didn’t love being rejected, but my expectations were low and my patience was high. (Again – the goal was to get published before death. And I was young and healthy.) It has never been easy for me to understand why people work so hard to create something beautiful, but then refuse to share it with anyone, for fear of criticism. Wasn’t that the point of the creation – to communicate something to the world? So PUT IT OUT THERE. Send your work off to editors and agents as much as possible, show it to your neighbors, plaster it on the walls of the bus stops – just don’t sit on your work and suffocate it. At least try. And when the powers-that-be send you back your manuscript (and they will), take a deep breath and try again. I often hear people say, “I’m not good enough yet to be published.” That’s quite possible. Probable, even. All I’m saying is: Let someone else decide that. Magazines, editors, agents – they all employ young people making $22,000 a year whose job it is to read through piles of manuscripts and send you back letters telling you that you aren’t good enough yet: LET THEM DO IT. Don’t pre-reject yourself. That’s their job, not yours. Your job is only to write your heart out, and let destiny take care of the rest.”

See for her website and appearances.

I’m a bit stuck. I have probably gone as far as I can go with writing my book on my own. I want readers. Feedback. Response. Interaction with an audience. The blog helps, especially when you tell me that you’ve read a post. You keep me going, keep me writing, keep me working on getting this book published.

Last week I gave the first five chapters to a fellow writer to read and critique. I also gave ten chapters to a friend who has an idea for vetting the story to a film director. Amazing! But now that I’ve placed the chapters in the hands of others, it is hard to keep writing while I’m waiting. Finishing such a major work, one that has been percolating in my head and heart for years, leaves the inevitable question – WHAT NEXT? What do I do while waiting for responses from readers, editors, and eventually agents and potential publishers? WRITE, you say. So, you’ve noticed an increase in blog posts. But is that real WRITING??? It is, but not the same as writing a memoir, novel or a short story.

So, I’ve looked at notes on the computer, the beginning of a novel, a play and several short stories. I’ve read John Kelly‘s article “I have plenty of books in me. Now, do I want to write any…” None of my ideas excite my imagination today. There are more stories in me, stories happening around me at this moment. Am I missing the present moment while WAITING for the next book or the responses from my readers? Waiting for Godot? Be here, now, Joann.

What parts of my story do you want to hear?

Photo by Bao-Tich

Monday, August 30, 2010

On Saturday, my husband and I had the opportunity to spend the whole day in mindfulness and meditation with the Mindfulness Practice Center of Fairfax. We have practiced with this sangha, led by Ahn Huong and Thu Nguyen, for many years in the tradition of her uncle, Thich Nhat Hanh. Ahn Huong is my inspiration and model for the days of mindfulness and women’s retreats that Ruth Fishel and I have been conducting.

I realize that leading the exercises of mindful breathing, walking, eating, and deep relaxation is a type of work that is also restful, not only to the people who are breathing and relaxing to my guided meditation, but also to me. We inter-are. But it was a treat to return to my teacher’s beautiful sangha, to be guided by her peaceful voice, to just REST.

For many people vacation is over today. Schools opening. Teachers teaching. Traffic increasing. Stress increasing. It’s a work day. So, here I am at my desk, working on a blog and my next retreat. Without traffic, without the stress of my many years in the classroom. Also without the excitement of meeting my new students. So I turn to you, my new audience of readers, less visible, less audible, but there.

There is a time for everything under the sun. I am so grateful for this period of my life when I am able to rest between periods of work and to attempt to make every task I do one of mindfulness and joy. I am still capable of becoming stressed about writing and publishing, capable of working without pausing. But, if I come back to my breath, at least three breaths when beginning a new task, occasionally during a task and at the end, my work is more productive and happy. My life has become so restful, so filled with joyful opportunities to merge work and rest.

How do you find rest within, before and after your work? Do you STOP occasionally to rest and breathe? What reminders do you use?