Dear Small Writer Desiring to be Huge (A Love Letter).

“You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.” ~ Liz Gilbert, Big Magic

Dear Small Writer,

I see you. I see you journaling and churning words into publishable pieces.

I see you slogging through the blogging, learning the techniques to land the large audience.

I witness you apprenticing for publications that pay in bylines below their big names.

You’ve gone to school, gathered degrees, filled your toolbox, and taken too many classes from the masses you call masters.

You’ve written your book, hired an editor, held focus groups, invested your soul, and revised yourself into numbness.

Now, you find yourself on the floor praying your small voice can mean something more.

I see you. Standing on the precipice, wondering if you’ll ever fly.

Maybe you should just jump. End it all—because if you can’t do this—the thing you determined and believe to be your divine destiny, what’s it all worth?

You thought you had a purpose: to be of benefit and make a difference by giving your words to the world.

Maybe it will never be enough.

Maybe this noisy world will never hear you.

Maybe the world wide web is weaving itself around you, burying you.

It’s possible you’re not as capable as you imagined.

So, you consider returning to the world, working for the man, going under your self-doubt, and living a life of loud desperation.

Joining the masses, for you dear writer, is death.

Let’s not forget your contribution conspires for the good of the collective.

How dare you measure your worth by if you land on Oprah’s booklist?

All the writers who stand beside her do the reality pinch because it’s so far beyond where they started.

They started where you are, but that’s not to say you’ll be there one day.

Probably, like most, you will not sit in sunny Maui with inside chairs outside under lush trees, a camera crew, and the queen herself.

Let it f*cking go!

Instead, tell me about your joys on your journey so far.

Reading in your writers’ group—and they cried.

Your previous pastor’s brother (who you’ve never met) confessed you helped him heal after losing his soulmate of 30 years. Gulp.

A check for $300 from Chicken Soup for the Soul (even though your professor told you it was the worst contract in the world and you should’ve never signed it).

Writing about being raped and keeping it quiet for a decade. One reader said she finally understood the denial and the desire not to tell.

How about the night your family gathered on your parents’ back porch to listen to your words and you heard laughter and saw tears, evoked by you?

What did you feel in those “small” triumphs? Did you want to quit?

You crave the world stamp you legit, but baby, don’t forget, you were born for this.

You are on your path.

You arrived on this earth to spread your soul on the page like one big messy map.

Remember when you were a kid and your dad taught you how to read a map?

It blew your mind that one inch equaled 500 miles. You started in New Mexico meant to go all the way to California.

Since then, my dear, you’ve travelled back and forth in a car across the country multiple times, so often solo.

Yet, you never once confused a rest stop for your destination.

You’re always surprised about the long drives, until you arrive and realize the pure pleasure of the trip.

Stay on the road. Keep driving yourself.

Oh, how wonderful it’ll be for your ego when you land that life-changing book contract!

Isn’t that silly since your soul’s been dancing since the day you said yes?

The day you vowed, God, whatever it takes. I want to be a writer, you became one.

Money and fame may follow. Or not.

I see you. Confusing worldly success with your purpose.

Stop pretending that’s your why.

You’ve come so far. Now, you must go back.

Go back to being small and willing.

Go back to the whispers of your soul and the dancing of your heart.

Writing is a craft and a profession, but for you, it’s the calling you’ve heard since 3rd grade.

To pretend you’d ever put down your purple pen is deceit.

When the world is full of fools aching for accolades, let the angels kiss your tears away. Let your guides whisper, Let’s go.

Today, Valentine’s Day, love your small writer self so you can grow, not loud and large, but full, fulfilled, and true. Be true.






If you were told to

pipe down,

settle down,

quiet down,

And you learned to

tamp down,

shut down,

look down,

Isn’t it time to

step up,

stand up,

speak up?

You don’t have to

give up.

Just lift up

& look up.

Now is your time.

Awaken the authentic you.

Turn the page.

Be the author

& the character

in a story

worth telling.


Finding Comfort Outside the Comfort Zone

I started this Lose 10 Pounds in 7 Days Diet along with several girlfriends. By the way, it’s nothing crazy. It’s all fruits and vegetables and I’m just looking at it for a health restart. Plus, I’ve gained weight since moving in with my sister.

It’s interesting to see how our resistance to change and our fears arise in the face of something hard. Day One: I gave into coffee, because yes, I’m addicted. My sister asked did she have to eat all four oranges and all four apples? Our friend Steph had hardly eaten, but had finished her ten glasses of water. Crap, at 8 p.m. I still had seven waters to go! Yep, it was actually hard to eat fruits and vegetables and drink water even though I love fruits and vegetables and water. Just because we love something or it’s a great idea doesn’t make it easy. Just because something’s hard doesn’t make it unworthy. Anything outside of our comfort zone is hard.

If we’re going to make a big change (like losing 10 pounds in one week) it’s going to take moving outside of our comfort zone. Because what’s inside the comfort zone? Chocolate. Law & Order. Beer. Scandal. Facebook. Moving outside of our comfort zone is sometimes as simple as just getting outside. Simple, obvious steps to a better life aren’t always easy.

A lot of things sound good in the moment of decision. Fruits and vegetables for a week, no problem! I’ll do it! This is going to be great! Let’s all do it together! Then, we realize since we’ve been living on pizza and French fries and nachos and drinking beer and coffee, the change feels uncomfortable.

It’s in the uncomfortable where we find out what’s truly important to us. My friend in the group who probably had the most weight to lose questioned the whole thing on day one. I care so much about her health and happiness and want her to remember feeling good in her body. I encouraged her and reminder her, of course we knew this was going to be hard, right? But, that’s the thing. Sometimes we don’t.

We focus on the end results and forget the difficult process. We do this in several areas of life, but each of us tends to embrace or resist the uncomfortable differently. For example, my sister is a phenomenal manager. She’s into having courageous conversations and managerial integrity. She easily confronts situations that her boss avoids.

For me, I’ve had the habit of exercising, at least sporadically, throughout my life. So, even if I go months without working out, I bust through the uncomfortable more easily than my sister who’s never felt the runner’s high. We’ve each got to prioritize which areas we’re willing to push through the uncomfortable. What’s the price of this change, really? How much discomfort? Am I willing? Do I believe? Am I ready? What would be the reward? Is it worth it to me?

For years, I wanted out of sales, but I was so comfortable in a world where I’d mastered the necessary skills. For years, I wanted to complete my bachelor’s degree. I went to five different colleges before finally, at age 37 I completed something I’d started at age 17 and had found too uncomfortable each time in between. I had to finally get to the spot where I was committed to going through the discomfort: of feeling stupid, long nights of studying, asking questions and working in groups that intimidated me. Earning that degree did something for my identity, as challenge and change can do.

Sometimes, it’s the fact that something is hard that makes it worthwhile, whether it’s weight loss or education or writing. We forget that something we love and want more than anything in the world can be the most uncomfortable thing in the world, while things we care so little about can lure us into years of comfort but leave us feeling unfulfilled.

At age 49, I’m now pursuing my writing passion. It’s been my dream since the third grade. Some days, I have to remind myself, of course it’s hard! If writing a book was easy, people would be saying, “Yeah, I wrote a book, too” instead of “I always wanted to write a book.” If getting published was easy, the question wouldn’t be so irritating. If getting an agent was easy, people would be saying, “I’d like you to meet my agent.”

This going for goals and dreams and the things that are really important is hard. It’s uncomfortable. But for those things that really matter, the uncomfortable is worthwhile. And I find comfort in that.

When Your Father’s Friend Gets His Book Published


Carl’s been my father’s best friend since elementary school. He’s now 77-years-old, sitting across from me in a booth at Olive Garden in Wichita, KS.

I’m an aspiring author frantically trying to find my path into the publishing industry. My memoir hangs on me like a child I want to protect, prepare and send into the world.

Over the post-Christmas holiday celebrated with my parents, they once again repeated how thrilled they are that a publisher picked up Carl’s book. Wow, isn’t it great?

I’m not sure they intended to say: What’s taking you so long? Carl didn’t need an agent. Why aren’t you really going for it and getting published, like Carl? If your book is so damn good, why isn’t it published? But, that’s what I heard.

My writing dream is being supported by my older, wiser, and more successful in the corporate world sister. Her grand gesture felt like the lucky tap of a magic wand. It has been, in that I have what every writer dreams of: time to write. Hell, I had enough time to write a book. I wrote a book—a damn fine memoir. I also wrote a book proposal and polished it with some high-priced and well-worth-it editing and coaching.

Still, I’ve yet to land an agent. Carl says he was told you don’t need an agent.

I wasn’t born yesterday. Just because I haven’t proven my publishing knowledge—by way of being published—doesn’t mean I haven’t been studying the industry like a menu at a fabulous restaurant.

Here I am at Olive Garden in Wichita with Carl. He’s my dad’s age. A couple years ago, Carl’s beloved wife, Clee passed away after battling Alzheimer’s for years.

After she died, Carl found the numerous stories Clee wrote in writing classes she took to ward off the memory thief.

Her stories reflected her life in Iran with her first husband. Well, more like life with their daughters and his Iranian family. She wrote about lighting up when Carl came around and negotiating her way out of her marriage while maintaining close connections to the family she’d come to love. The stories revealed Clee and Carl stories, starting in Iran, going on to various places in the US, and Germany.

Compelled by these stories and his discovery that his late wife had aspirations of being published, Carl was compelled to complete a mission. It was a mission of love when he desperately missed his mate, playmate, friend, lover, wife and wise counsel.

Carl put Clee’s stories (along with photos and his words to fill in some missing pieces) into a book. I read the book and wondered what I would say to Carl about it.

I asked him what some of his favorite parts were. I honored both the book and the writer (mostly Clee) by telling the truth.

The truth is, through Clee’s Odyssey, I came to know a woman who was a friend of my parents for decades, but who I “never really knew very well.”

Carl said, “You didn’t know her at all.” I’m familiar with grief’s reflexes.

He was right. Now, I feel honored to know of this woman, Clee Fox, in the same way I’ve known other heroines, like Jackie Cochran or Eleanor Roosevelt.

In this book, I learned of a woman owning mistakes and choices, and leaping into opportunities like failing was foreign. For her, it was.

Carl told me they led a charmed life. As I read the book, I kept waiting for a person to turn on Clee, or a plan to fall through. They did have some travel challenges. Mostly though, the writer Clee’s attitude and life on the page revealed flow, grace and nonjudgment.

No wonder Carl, some 30 years later, and less than a handful of years since her death, remains enchanted.

I’m enchanted with this woman I met in a book Carl paid to have published. I knew when I saw it. I knew when I heard the process. I knew when I looked at the publishers’ website.

I tried to explain to my folks the difference in what Carl had done to what I was doing. “I’m trying to build a career as a writer,” I said. “But, isn’t it just wonderful what happened to Carl?!” my parents said, again.

As I ate my chicken Marsala, which Carl suggested, and drank a wine he favored, I leaned into my memories of the book. Across the table, Carl and I played with Clee’s stories, and marveled at her magnificent character, and the luck of their love! And ski trips across Germany! Stepdaughters blended in like the Brady Bunch. It was all so fabulous I dripped on the inside with hope, jealousy, and sadness over Carl’s loss.

I had to shift gears. I had to know. Had he paid to have Clee’s book published? Yes. He told me the figure, in the ballpark I imagined. The truth I knew all along. If only my only goal was to be published…

Back at Carl’s house, he showed me his earnings on Amazon. So pitiful we laughed. Carl was silly.

Happy to have talked about his beloved, to be sharing her book and the joke of it all, along with the out loud wonder about how a guy who grew up in South Dakota got so lucky.

He told me how pleased he felt when the publisher agreed to take him on. I thought, “Yeah, because you paid him.” Then, Carl said he asked the guy why he agreed to publish Clee’s Odyssey and heard, “When I read about a guy who’d given up on love and then got this life, I was hooked.”

I was hooked, too, as I witnessed Carl glowing talking about Clee. My cynical self quieted. I applauded Carl and Clee and dreams coming true. I celebrated the power of stories and individual paths. I considered the price Carl paid to get this book published—well worth it. For Carl.



Beauty, Brains or God?

In both subtle and direct ways, my mom taught me it doesn’t matter if you’re pretty or have a boyfriend; what matters is if you’re smart, strong and capable. Women who rely on their looks, a man or God are weak. Women who use their brains are free and powerful.

I never felt free, powerful or smart as a kid. To this day, I don’t know if when I was young my mom believed I was smart, but lazy or if she thought I wasn’t smart and it frustrated her to think she and my dad’s brains combined should’ve created more. She used to scream when I did something she didn’t like (as if I could predict what that would be). “Alice Ann! You’re not stupid!” I tried harder not to be.

At school, looks mattered. When you’re the ugly kid, the mirror repulses and the looks from other kids shame.

Looking at my mom, I think she hid her beauty, the way some women exploit theirs. I wasn’t hiding my beauty any more than my brains. I was ugly. As a little girl, I wanted to be a boy. I thought I knew how to be a boy.

I didn’t know how to be pretty. No one taught me. Even the most naturally beautiful are rarely recognized until they’re groomed. Mothers teach their daughters to groom, like fathers teach their sons to play sports.

Not in our house. The answer to every question, I was told, could be found in a book. From my perspective, my parents didn’t give credence to the human heart or any sort of spiritual knowing. In fact, both my parents were so smart they knew there wasn’t a God.

They sent me out to churches with friends so I could see for myself. Somehow, intended or not, I got the message that what I was supposed to see was just because they believe in God, it didn’t make them bad. They’re maybe just not as smart was the message. Is that any different from They’re not as educated or as wealthy or well-bred? Wasn’t it just another form of “We’re privileged and we’re proud,” whether it was true or not?

The truth adhered to in our house was tolerance. Decades later, I’d learn tolerance is a distance from acceptance. I was free to choose whatever I wanted to believe, which was supposed to be better. As it was explained, Christian children are told there is a God, like my parents once told me there was a Santa Claus. The poor deprived Christian children never got to choose. Choice was a gift.

Imagine me in 4th grade, scrawny girl who may or may not have combed her hair or brushed her teeth that morning, wearing goofy glasses and clothes from People’s Department Store (which wasn’t a thrift store, but sure didn’t sell style), hanging on the playground, explaining my families’ religious philosophy to a gang of kids heckling me.

That day, especially, ugly mattered. All that thinking, evaluating and deciding I didn’t believe in God didn’t make me feel free or powerful.

Later, as an adult, I’d look back and know that yes, for me, choice worked. It worked for me to develop my relationship with God based solely on our communication, not on reading the handbook, attending the meetings or participating in the philosophy.

God and I just found each other when I was a kid. He’d hang out with me, convince me not to jump off cliffs or run too far from home. He comforted me and often carried me. It was just He and I. I didn’t discuss my relationship with God with my Christian friends, although I occasionally went to holiday services with them. Saying I believed in God out loud felt like betraying my parents.

Plus, I kind of liked the McGrath family, with 10 kids, trying to save me. It meant I always had a place at their dinner table.

I stayed with Theresa McGrath in my late 20s while working in Tulsa, OK. The McGraths are the rare family who live their Christian faith—in their businesses, their families and their excessive successes. They’re American Christians.

“This is what we know to be true, Alice. Jesus Christ died for your sins and unless you believe in Him and follow the Bible’s teachings, yes, you will go to hell. I know you love your parents, but they will go to hell. I’m sorry. That’s just the way it is. Read the Bible.”

I read the Bible the way most people do, picking and choosing the parts I liked the best.

I’d long since announced my faith in God without much apology or explanation. The McGraths seemed to believe I was a beautiful child of God who needed their protection. Theresa, by that time, and by the grace of God and American opportunity, had built a successful salon business.

During the six months I stayed with her, she transformed my appearance, catching me up on a lifetime of beauty tips. Oh, I’d mastered the curling iron and mascara, but I never imagined spending $10 on a lipstick.

During my work time (10 days on) I stayed with Theresa. During my off time (4 days off) I lived with my mom. By then, I’d grown “successful” in my own male-dominated field—sales. I’d done my parents proud, in spite of not having a college degree. I presented myself to the world as, “I may not be the smartest and I may not be the prettiest, but I’ll work harder than anyone and learn whatever I have to because I am a strong woman.” Can you hear my parents clapping? I did, and oh, how it made me dance.

While I danced and worked, Theresa did my hair, taught me skin care, what styles were in and where to shop. When I came home, I visited my mom, who lost her job at age 55 and hadn’t been able to replace it, even with that PhD in her pocket.

I became beautiful before her eyes, and for once, she wasn’t too busy to look. To my mom, beauty had always been a frivolous pursuit. She stood blown away by how it looked on me. She savored my beauty, the way one does when falling in love with a new food she never intended trying.

Beautiful, strong, spiritual 28-year-old me watched my mother’s physical strength succumb to cancer. I knew it was bad when she couldn’t read a book. After she died, I found a scrapbook of hers, filled in with goals, quotes and affirmations. God, surprisingly, was included in her plans. That was beautiful. And, damn, she was smart.


How to Write Memoir that Rocks

“I’ve said it’s hard. Here’s how hard: everybody I know who wades deep enough into memory’s waters drowns a little.” ~  Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir

As my old writing professor used to say: “Tell the truth, but make it a good story.”

Truth is nonnegotiable in memoir.

Writing memoir, good memoir, requires going deep into your experiences and your truth.

It’s only your truth, but if you want to bend it, call it what it is–fiction.

As you craft and revise memories, be willing to question yourself–because your readers certainly will.

Deep contemplation and consideration brings intensity, meaning and depth to your memoir.

Without depth, it’s just a story to tell at happy hour.

The art of memoir is in the crafting of the behind the scenes, understanding the unspoken, and sharing insights with your readers without coming off as a know-it-all.

Memoir can be thick with the everyday dramas of life, but it need not be tedious, boring or insulting.

If the writing is strong, it can seduce the reader to turn one more page.

Rich memoir is a map to the reader, taking them on a journey that reminds them of something inside themselves or helps them imagine another life altogether.

Well-chosen memories help us better grasp where we’ve been and we’re going. They serve as mirrors. Not every memory is vital to the story, even if important to the writer.

Solid memoirs awaken readers’ own sense of direction, or at the very least, help them make way for others’ choices.

Memoir that rocks not only reveals the writer’s revelations, but shift the readers’ awareness and understanding.

To write memoir that moves people, you’ve got to allow yourself to be moved, nudged and even shoved by life. You’ve got to live it fully.

There’s no room for surface dwellers in the realm of rich memoir.

Writing of this sort requires the same time and effort other writing does.

Of course, it demands showing up on the page, but memoir writers who earn rapt attention spend time studying themselves, their stories, and their lives.

Memoir writers like Mary Karr or Glennon Doyle know themselves in a way few do.

Much of that knowledge comes from painting words on paper, but memoir is more.

It’s cohesion of memories, ideas, lessons, values and visions. It’s wisdom, not only in the words but in the character of the writer behind the words.

As a memoir writer, I’m out to expose myself—not as a flasher, but as a woman who’s put herself under the microscope, fledged through the darkness and awakened to beautiful blessings.

A memoir writer must not be afraid of the dark, or shining the light on it.

If you want to write memoir, great memoir, dive in, dig deep.

Expose the underbelly of life, but do it in the way that only you can.

Shine your light into your darkness and expose the lessons you’ve learned like a grandfather tells tales on a camping trip with the fire snapping in the night.

Make us lean in.

Date Like a Gentleman

I have a friend who dates frequently. He’s on and obviously attracts dates—first dates, some second and thirds. He told me the other night, after the fizzle with yet another woman, that he doesn’t mind listening as women dump their issues at his feet. After all, he’s a nice guy. And, he doesn’t expect sex right out of the gate, but he doesn’t want to wait six months wading through someone else’s baggage. He seems sincerely confused.

I haven’t been on his dates, so I can’t be sure, but I suspect what he might consider carrying baggage, these women may be trying to show him who they are by exposing their wounds. Yes, some women definitely dump too much on day one. However, in general, it’s our way of connecting. Consciously or not, we’re testing to see how you react to our wounds to see if you’re safe.

Being a nice guy isn’t enough to make a sane woman jump into your bed.

Plus, frankly, most of us can buy our own dinner and drinks these days. We also consider our time valuable.

My friend Bill keeps saying, “I’m a kind guy, but these women…” Well, first, being kind or being a gentleman is like being powerful. If you have to announce it, it makes me wonder. Second, who gives a crap? Nice guys are a dime a dozen. Oh, sure there are plenty of jerks. But, by a certain age, strong, successful, secure women spot the seriously flawed character as easily as crooked teeth and bad grammar.

What we’re concerned about is, if I invest my heart in this guy, will it bring me joy or pain? It doesn’t matter that you’ve bought dinner, shown us your BMW, pulled out our chair and opened the door. That’s just the bow on the box and we’ve been burned before.

Bill would say, “But I really am a nice guy! I am a gentleman! My mother raised me right!”

None of it matters if we don’t feel safe and connected.

And, if we do, we’ll make all kinds of allowances for your income, political affiliations, and even being short.

The thing Bill isn’t counting in the equation is women’s intuition and the intensity of our feelings. We know things. We know things we don’t even know we know. The things you think you’re presenting we’re peering beyond, even without intention. If you’re trying to get something from us, rather that actually get to know us, it doesn’t matter if you say and do all of what you consider to be the right things. To us, to women of quality, those actions are common courtesies. They don’t matter because we can FEEL your intentions. We can feel whether you truly care about us as unique individuals—our struggles and desires—or if you just want sex.

The fact that you think that’s something you’re out to get from us lets us know you don’t get women at all, because we actually have the same desires you do.

If we feel connected and protected, we naturally want our bodies to be part of the expression.

If we feel like you let us into your heart, we’ll let you into our body. We know (it doesn’t matter how well you do the dating game) giving our bodies doesn’t win your heart. Women want your heart. (Bitches!) You’ve revealed your unavailability and that’s a turn-off and therefore, you get turned down for sex.

I get it, guys. You don’t want the big commitment because you’re happy with your life. Well, why not consider an escort service? It’s only offensive if you’re pretending you want something you don’t. You want a beautiful woman who will do things with you when you want, especially sex, and go away so you can be happy with your life.

Women get that. We know. Really, we do. We get where you’re coming from. We just don’t like it.

If you can’t meet us where we are, how can we give you what you want?

We need to feel safe. We need to feel connected. Sometimes, we don’t like that about ourselves, but most of us, at one time or another have tried giving our bodies without our hearts, and that’s just not where we are now. The truth is we long for a man’s touch as much as you wish for a woman’s. We’re just hoping there’s some way, someday, we’ll meet the right guy, on the right path, and we’ll feel safe enough to let him seduce us, you know, like a gentleman.