Today is my birthday, and I thought I would celebrate the day by making a list of things I treasure. These are in no particular order, starting with …
- You! (my sweet readers, family, and friends)
- Good books
- Deep conversations
- The sound of mountain streams
- Shade trees on hot, sunny days
- Connectedness to nature
- The beautiful mountains of North Carolina where I live
- Good stories
- Mystical and mysterious things
- Inspiration from all sources
- Birds at the birdfeeders
- My dogs (and author assistants) Jack and Charlie
- Our planet
- Our country
- Milk chocolate with almonds or hazelnuts
- A good cup of tea with friends
- Change that transforms for the better
- My inner journey of thoughts, feelings, and aha’s
- Nourishing, satisfying foods
- Caring friendships
- Good luck
- Best wishes
- Good reviews
- Feeling satisfied with my work
- A good night’s sleep
- A walk by the river when the leaves are falling
- Leisurely walking through an art museum
- Spending time in libraries and bookstores
- Music that touches me
- Warm soup on a cold day
- A good series on television
- Forests and wildlife
- The privilege to vote
- The chair I sit in to write my novels
- Thoughtful people
- Porch swings
- Creating art in my studio
- A good poem
- Being alive
If you are so moved, I’d love for you to tell us one or more things you treasure.
Stay safe, resilient readers!
Sending you love,
P.S. To those of you who are curious about where I am in my writing process, I have finished a rough draft of the new novel, the final book in the Temple Secrets series. (Book 1 is Temple Secrets. Book 2 is Gullah Secrets.) There are still months of revising and polishing to go. I usually read it through and make changes 5 or 6 times before I finally give it to my first readers, who are a handful of people that provide me with feedback. I make changes again based on their feedback, and then it goes to my editor. All that to say, I’ve made good progress in the last few weeks, and I’ll keep you posted!
You matter to me. My first resilience dispatch was on March 19th, 2020. A national emergency had been declared. A pandemic was upon us. I wanted to do something to help my reader community. As a former counselor turned novelist, I have always believed in resilience. The characters I create in my novels are resilient, and though they go through rough times, they persevere with courage. I wanted to pass that on.
I committed to posting something uplifting on my Facebook Author Page and personal blog every day at 4 pm (Eastern) until we got through the Covid-19 crisis. At that point, I thought I would be creating a daily dispatch for a month or two (at most) until we got this scary pandemic under control. Little did I know.
Over the months, I adapted to the long term, writing an additional 84 dispatches, as well as working on my latest novel (the final book of the Temple Series). I trusted that I would know when it was time to step away and go back to my regular routine.
Lately, it has become harder to come up with fresh content for the dispatches. At the same time, I have been closing in on the first draft of my new novel. Months of revisions will follow—the nitty-gritty work of writing a good story. So, it makes sense to me that this is the time to return to writing books full time.
While this will be my final resilience dispatch, please know that I am not going anywhere. I will continue to post on my Facebook Author Page and blog, just not as frequently–spontaneous instead of scheduled.
In the meantime, thank you for reading. It has been an honor to spend time with you. I have greatly appreciated your numerous comments and the opportunity to get to know you better. You are a great group of folks, and I genuinely care about you.
Stay resilient, sweet readers. We will get through these challenging times and continue on—hopefully with more compassion and courage than we ever had before. Never lose heart. I promise to do the same.
P.S. This is a photograph of the chair that I sit in to write. I have had it for over a decade, and I have written several novels in this very spot.
Read the previous dispatch here.
I will let Mr. Rogers do most of the talking today, except to say that it is the deep part of you that I also like. The part of you that is kind, compassionate, and courageously doing your best.
May we all choose love over hate, peace over war, and justice over greed, and challenge ourselves to put these choices into action every day.
Have a good week! Stay steady. Be well.
What is the most courageous thing you’ve done lately?
Becoming a parent may be the most courageous thing I’ve ever done overall. Or maybe it was becoming a writer. Or maybe it was getting out of bed this morning.
Courage is relative. It depends on the person and the situation. It may even depend on your time of life.
I’ve collected 20 of my favorite quotes about courage—from fictional characters to real people—to give you some things to ponder when thinking about your own courage. Maybe you are braver than you think.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
—J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
—Winston S. Churchill
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
—e. e. Cummings
“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.”
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.“
“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”
“You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”
“Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to let you know that something is worth it.”
—C. JoyBell C.
“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.”
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.”
—Emma Donoghue, Room
“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”
“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.
“But sometimes it doesn’t.
“Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.
“That is the sort of bravery I must have now.”
—Veronica Roth (the Divergent series)
“Courage is found in unlikely places.”
—J. R. R. Tolkien
“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Courage is grace under pressure.”
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”
“At times the world may seem an unfriendly and sinister place, but believe that there is much more good in it than bad. All you have to do is look hard enough and what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events may in fact be the first steps of a journey.”
Do you have a favorite quote?
Please send courage to the brave souls impacted by Hurricane Laura, as well as the people dealing personally with Covid-19.
Be safe. Be kind. Be courageous.
You can read the previous dispatch here.
Although I’ve talked about self-kindness before, I want to circle back to it.
In the 90s, when I was a licensed professional counselor in Charleston, SC, most of the women clients I saw did not think they deserved kindness or gentleness from anyone, and especially not from themselves. This saddened me, given how resilient and amazing they were.
It reminds me of the mother on the plane who in case of emergency is instructed to put the oxygen mask on herself first, in order to save her children. Kindness to ourselves needs to come first, so we can then pass it on.
Since this is a concept that many of us struggle with, what might kindness to yourself look like? Here are some ideas:
Rest when you are tired.
Take a walk.
Seek beauty in nature.
Read a book.
Say “No” when you need to.
Let people help you.
Go easy on the self-criticism.
Have a nice cup of tea.
Enjoy a phone call or a FaceTime chat with a friend.
Listen to your favorite music.
Write in your journal.
Make yourself something nice for dinner.
If the news scares you, take a break, don’t watch it.
Sing in the shower.
Dance while making breakfast.
Smile at yourself in the mirror, and maybe throw yourself a kiss.
Laugh more often.
Do something creative.
Do something silly.
Forgive yourself for being imperfect.
Trust the process.
What would you add to this list? What are one or two things you might like to try this week?
Stay safe. Be gentle with yourself.
Read the previous dispatch here.
Do you ever take naps? Sometimes in the afternoons after a full morning of writing, creative exhaustion sets in. If I don’t have anything else going on, I will lay on my bed for a quick snooze. This feels like such a luxury.
As a girl growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee in the 60s, I would sometimes take naps in the summertime. My parents had an oscillating fan sitting on their bedroom dresser, that would keep me cool as I napped on their bed.
Something about the sound of that fan droning on as it swiveled and tossed the cool, warm air in my direction (we didn’t have air conditioning in those days) was the perfect recipe for an afternoon nap. Even now, I will turn on the overhead fan in my bedroom to try to recreate the effect.
In my novel Trueluck Summer, set in Charleston in 1964, I put an oscillating fan in the Trueluck kitchen. Though my novels aren’t my personal story (that would be way too boring!), they are full of little memories like oscillating fans moving the air around in the summer South.
With the pandemic still a constant concern, now seems a perfect time to allow ourselves a cat-nap every now and again. Our pets are great at demonstrating how to relax. Study their ease, and then maybe this weekend practice imitating them. Take a quick, stress-reducing nap and let me know how it goes.
In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts on naps.
With love and zzz’s,
Can you imagine going through a pandemic without reading books? It’s hard for me to even go there.
Reading is a huge part of my everyday life. As I write my novels, I am also reading them. The editing process is reading the story over and over again and making the changes that will make it the best story I possibly can.
When I am not writing, I also read other books–fiction and nonfiction–and articles. I always read before bed, as well. And I read for all of the reasons shown in this cartoon. Not so much the last panel until more recently.
Books are constant companions. As constant as my four-legged family. They are something I count on every day. Touchstones that remind me who I am, and what I am exploring. Every book I read is like a diary entry. They document my journey as an inquisitive, creative person.
What about you? Why do you read? What is your favorite type of book? Feel free to share your thoughts on reading.
Stay safe. Be kind.
Read the previous dispatch here.
As our world becomes more chaotic, there has never been a better time to seek clarity.
Clarity about what our values are.
Clarity about who and what gives us energy, and who and what costs us energy. Then deciding how to let go of as much of the stuff that costs us as we can, because we need our energy for better things.
Clarity about what is important to us. Not the things that we think SHOULD be important to us, or OUGHT to be important to us, but the things that truly are.
Now is the time to decide how you want to spend the rest of your life. What do you want to pursue? Kindness? Good health? Compassion? Love for your neighbors? Art and beauty? Deeper spirituality? Social justice? All of the above? Something else?
Now is the time to seek clarity on what gives your life meaning, and then to let go as much as you can of the stuff that DOESN’T give your life meaning.
Now is the time for self-reflection, for sitting with your thoughts, for asking yourself the questions that have been standing in line in the back of your mind for years, waiting for you to notice them.
Now is the time to get to know yourself better. NOT the evidence you’ve collected over the years to prove how unworthy you are and how you don’t measure up. We all collect that stuff, and it is useless in crucial times like these.
Instead, this is the time to discover the wonderful and good and creative and precious parts of yourself. The parts that you haven’t made time for. The parts that would enrich your life if you were to let them in.
In our history, there has never been a better time to seek clarity. Decide where you go from here.
Stay safe. Stay steady. Be kind.
P. S. In case you aren’t aware, Meredith Grey is the fictional main character from the TV series Grey’s Anatomy. A reminder of the power of story and fiction!
Read the previous dispatch here.
Will you help me celebrate?
Life can be monotonous and challenging these days, so it’s important to celebrate every chance we get. Celebrations can be about all manner of things: watching a sunrise, a glorious sunset, seeing a friend or family member that you haven’t seen for a while. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Getting through a rough day, and so on. Celebrations remind us that we are alive and (hopefully) thriving.
With that in mind, I am delighted to announce that the audiobook version of my novel, Gullah Secrets, won the top prize in the general fiction category of the 2020 Independent Audiobook Awards on June 12. (You may have already heard about this if you subscribe to my newsletter.)
Gullah Secrets is performed by the amazing Holly Adams, who has recorded several of my books. (She is great with southern voices!) Due to COVID, the ceremony was held virtually, so this little trophy arrived in the mail recently.
Gullah Secrets is the sequel to Temple Secrets, and as many of you already know, I am currently writing a third and final book to this story. It is still in the beginning stages, but stay tuned.
Thanks so much for reading my books and for celebrating this honor with me. Be kind. Be well. Celebrate!
P. S. You can even listen to the Gullah Secrets audiobook at no charge with a 30 day free trial on Audible (you can cancel before the end of your 30 days if you want): Gullah Secrets on Audible
P. S. Thanks to my friend John Popiel for this wonderful photograph of the award.
Life bursts through the cracks even in the most difficult of environments. Because we are living beings with an imperative to survive and express ourselves, we are much more resilient than we realize. But that doesn’t mean challenging times are easy, by any means, and it is important to acknowledge the difficulties.
For those of you who feel like sharing, how are you holding up? Are you weary? Struggling? At ease? Grateful? Everything in between? Considering the current crises going on, it is perfectly normal to have a variety of feelings on any given day.
For those of you who have a more private nature, perhaps ask yourself this question. And then really, really listen to your answer. Respond accordingly. Be gentle with yourself. Throw yourself a kiss in the bathroom mirror. Give yourself a few kind words and a hug. Or all of the above. Respond in loving ways even if it feels silly. Sometimes being silly lessens the struggle…
In the meantime, may we all be flowers bursting through the sidewalk. Resilient. Beautiful. Hardy. Uncrushable.
(Thank you to my friend, Susan P., for taking and sharing this photograph with me. 💙)
Read the previous dispatch here.