Thoughts on Sense of Place in “Controlled Burn” by Charles Dodd White

Sense of place as the notion of collective identity is an important undertone in much Appalachian literature, and the story “Controlled Burn” by Charles Dodd White represents this in subtle yet powerful ways. Dodd White conveys this through inner dialogue and shared events. Dodd White has a distinct way of portraying group place with a tight sentence structure that conveys attitude (disgust, anger, concern) as well as emotion (fear, hatred, longing.)

The story centers on a situation where a collection of weapons and ammunition have been found in the mountains of western North Carolina near the former home now hunting cabin of Dayton and son, Tommy. Even though no one lives on the land anymore, Dodd White uses dialogue and particular diction to explain the importance of place:

  • I need your help, is all. There’s a controlled burn being laid down up on Parson’s Den. If we don’t do something, your Grandaddy’s cabin won’t make it.

(Dodd White 24)

Dayton is saying that a piece of his family and heritage is in danger of not surviving into the future and that his son has an inherent obligation to go with him to protect it. The tone is that they are guarding not just a house on a mountain, but an innocent member of the family who can’t care for themselves any longer. Additionally, he speaks in the ‘native tongue’ when he says “being laid down” to explain what is going to occur but by employing the unique word choice, the special relationship of family and land are imparted.

Dodd White criticizes the lack of respect for the land by some men while communicating the character’s bond to place when the controlled burn is in full bloom on the mountain, and he has no recourse to stop it:

  • I stared at the burn, wondering how a man could put a spark on all that, how we had let it happen. I don’t know exactly why I kept watching, why I didn’t let Tommy take me home. But I wanted to drive the pain of it through my eyes and into my brain. Bury it there like a hot needle. (Dodd White 31)

Dayton proceeds to lament events in his life (death of his wife, lack of grandchildren, estrangement from his son) mentioned earlier in the piece as the reason this was happening so close to home.

  • Looking at Tommy I could see it, as plain as plyboard: a space between the two of us had grown up that no matter of talking or sitting would ever change.

(Dodd White 29)

Not caring about your own often leads to poor awareness of others as this passage indicates. The language is distinct and regional with words such as ‘plyboard’ and ‘no matter of talking’ capitalizing on the shared history of dialect to explain the breach between him and his son. If there had been more vigilance, would the danger have been averted and this threat non-existent?

Dayton gives the fire the capability of doing more than its usual destruction. He assigns it the role of creating a painful, permanent memory making it one he won’t forget soon. The reader is left to wonder if it serves as a call to action or is a symbolism of defeat for Dayton. The image of the hot needle in the brain is severe and lasting. With “Controlled Burn,” Dodd White is declaring that everyone has a responsibility to care for and preserve land for future generations. The burn so close to the place of family origin is also symbolic of letting go of something from one’s past that is non-essential.

In her book Between the Lines, Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing, Jessica Page Morrell mentions the potent impact of incorporating “man-made geography” into a story:

  • Use the influences of humankind on geography to lend authenticity to stories set in a real or famous locale. (Morrell 153)

Dodd White employs this tool about a man-made event having an influence on an actual place in western North Carolina where the mountains can be safe yet wild at the same time.


Works Cited

Dodd White, Charles. “Controlled Burn.” Sinners of Sanction County: Stories. Huron, OH: Bottom Dog, 2011. 7-18

Morrell, Jessica Page. Between the Lines, Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest Books, 2006.


If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler: Metafiction for a Cold Evening Read

Humor as a Device to “Lighten”

As a work of meta-fiction (a story within a story), author Italo Calvino (1923-1985) presents the beginnings of ten different novels framed by the singular account of the ‘Reader’ who encounters the beginnings and his journey to find the rest of the books. The stage is set by Calvino in Chapter One with, “So here you are now, ready to attack the first lines of the first page. You prepare to recognize the unmistakable tone of the author. No. You don’t recognize it all.” From there, Calvino pulls ‘Reader’ through a maze of stops and starts (9). Admittedly, if you pick up this book and are not warned in advance of its structure, you, reader, may get very lost. However, it is worth the rambling journey.

Humor in literature may include irony, satire, parody, sarcasm, etc. Humor provides tension relief, describes a ludicrous situation, mockery, or explains character among other purposes. It’s cautionary to mention that one person may find something funny that another person does not view in the same way. Concerning Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler, it is occasionally necessary to perceive his particular notion of comedy through the lens of cultural, historical, and sometimes individual backgrounds. His wit is brusque at times but stick with it.

Writing humor isn’t easy. Not everyone has the timing or the perspective to write funny. Calvino refers to humor as “lightness,” a principle explained in his posthumous publication Six Memos for the Next Millennium (1988). Indeed, without comedic relief, some of the intricate prose in Traveler would be cumbersome. To lighten the load on the reader of deep subjects like murder, Calvino inserts comedy, which give reader-me time to relax, take a breath, or smile before moving on into the complicated but exhilarating narrative structure of the novel.

This example from Traveler illustrates his ability toward the absurd:

  • Nobody ever thought of reading on horseback: and yet now, the idea of sitting in the saddle, the book propped against the horse’s mane, or maybe tied to the horse’s ear with a special harness, seems attractive to you. (3)

The image is comical and the addition of  “…or maybe tied to the horse’s ear with a special harness…” adds to the ludicrous tone and visuals. This is a pattern in Traveler: approaching serious topics from the light-hearted direction.

Take this additional example. To illustrate the nervous, comedic feeling experienced when trying to impress the opposite sex, this served the purpose:

  • Hmm, perhaps you could have coordinated it a bit better, but you have at least expressed the main ideas. Now it’s her turn. (29)

It is facetious the way he chastises the ‘Reader’ with internal dialogue, i.e., “You’re a screw-up, but at least it’s out there.”

Among the variety of topics in Traveler, Calvino mocks academia and the publishing world with exaggerated scenes implying that both groups regard themselves in high esteem. It’s been said that this may be due to Calvino’s frustrations with the publishing world of the early twentieth century.

For example, when the origin of a text is questioned:

  • “It’s a fake!” Professor Uzzi-Tuzii cries. “It’s a well-known case of forgery! The material is apocryphal, disseminated by the Cimbrian nationalists during the anti-Cimmerian propaganda campaign at the end of the First World War!” (73)

The overzealous, arrogant professor who uses bombast to dismiss a challenge to something he has based his whole existence on is easily recognizable. We’ve all been in that classroom. There are several passages where Calvino takes accurate jabs at academic haughtiness, competitiveness, and presumption.

Dark humor is evident in Chapter Five, “Looks down in the gathering shadow” and surprises with its comedic events of killing a man then discarding the body in Paris.

  • It was all very well for me to pull up the mouth of the plastic bag: it barely reached Jojo’s neck, and his head stuck out. Another way would be to put him into the sack head first, but that still didn’t solve the problem, because then his feet emerged. (103)

Putting someone headfirst into a plastic bag is not funny at first glance. However, some readers may see humor or lightness in the image of feet sticking out.

A particularly funny moment during a dark situation is evidenced here:

  • At that moment the gas that accumulates in the belly of corpses is expelled noisily; the two cops burst out laughing. (105)

The craziness of the sex scene in the car consummated while also holding a corpse upright in the back seat stopped me in my tracks with its rueful tone and hilarious descriptions:

  • Meanwhile with one hand she was holding the dead man and with the other she was unbuttoning me, all three of us crammed into that tiny car, in a public parking lot of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. (Calvino 111)

The contradiction of deadpan language for a ridiculous yet sad scene aptly demonstrates Calvino’s sense of using “lightness” to soften the blow of difficult material. He notes this tactic about his writing:

I would suggest this: my working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language. (3)

It appears that the notion of anyone being offended by such treatment doesn’t burden Calvino.

It concerned me to poke fun at some very serious business such as mental illness, education, and murder, then I read  Six Memos and his thoughts about lightness. Traveler made more sense. Calvino’s remarks about lightness versus weightiness in science, philosophy, literature, and language helped me read behind the print on the page. Similar to the sweet details in Agatha Christie’s works, Calvino writes If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler to confound yet confirm his principles about writing fact and fiction. There is satisfaction in paying attention to the details whether one is reading Christie or Calvino.

Calvino artfully begs a reader to trust him, a writer, even though his method flies in the face of conventional fiction writing wisdom, which is grab the reader within the first five pages. But it works for Calvino to save the epiphany for the end where all great resolutions should reside. There’s also his choice to employ a second-person point-of-view which adds another dimension that is too much to consider in this post.

I encourage you to spend one of these chilly nights with If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler and Calvino’s particular sense of humor.

One more note. If you’re a poet, you will love this book…


Works Cited

Calvino, Italo. If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 1979. Print.

Calvino, Italo. Six Memos for the Next Millennium. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988. Print.









“Ship Fever” by Andrea Barrett: An Epidemic of Emotions

I first read “Ship Fever” six years ago. The current pandemic caused the short story to bubble up to the surface of my brain as there are tragic similarities between the typhus outbreak onboard a ship and the global trauma we are enduring today.

Andrea Barrett is a masterful storyteller and a beautiful wordsmith, but be aware that her tales, while worth the read, have the power to stay in the brain and the heart whether you want them to or not. A trait I appreciate…most of the time.

Barrett, Andrea. “Ship Fever.” Ship Fever. New York: Norton, 1996. 159-254. Print.

The setting in “Ship Fever” by Andrea Barrett is just as much a character in the story as Dr. Lauchlin Grant who follows his wish to bring meaning and purpose to his career by volunteering as a physician on the Grosse Isle Quarantine Station in Quebec in the spring of 1847. It is after the Irish famine that thousands of immigrants journey to America for a better life. Many end up contracting “ship fever” or typhus en route aboard ships without proper food, shelter, or hygiene resulting in the death of hundreds and a lifelong struggle by survivors who sacrificed their own health and lost loved ones to the deadly epidemic.

The place and period might be analyzed as characters unto themselves with the power they yield over communication and current medical knowledge. However, as I examine “Ship Fever’s” locale in relation to the trials and emotions of Lauchlin, I notice a mirroring effect as if what he experiences is a reflection of the setting he finds himself within at any given time. It is as if Barrett wrote him into particular places at particular times experiencing specific events to enhance the emotional impact of Lauchlin’s life choices.

We meet Lauchlin as he is living a dismal, lonely life and an unfulfilling professional path against the backdrop of a rundown house. Previous events beyond his control prohibit him from marrying the woman he deems his true love, but current circumstances permit him to visit her often. This makes the love-lost situation worse for him. His career as a doctor is bleak since returning from study in Paris, France with the latest procedures and thoughts at his fingertips, but the environment in 1847 Quebec is behind the times and doesn’t appreciate his skills.

He is frustrated in love and miserable as a research scientist and physician. His depression is reflected by the lack of energy in Quebec to seek new answers and take chances toward new discoveries. Disease prevention and public health are new fields as noted in the story (Barrett 171) but it is exactly where Lauchlin feels his training and expertise are most valuable. He leaves the smothering atmosphere of Quebec to land on an island, the quintessential metaphor for getting away from your troubles.

On the isolated quarantine station, Lauchlin is surrounded by a mammoth challenge to his desires to make a difference in the world of medicine. Thousands of people lay dying of typhoid fever everywhere he turns. It is as if he wished for an opportunity to show what he could do, and the setting provided him with more than any person might handle alone. In the safe, quiet upper class of Quebec, he believed that the surroundings kept him from realizing his true worth. His pouting and petulance landed him in a deeper dilemma. Lauchlin has two choices: stay or go home.

  • It was too much, it was impossible. He would go home at one, on the next steamer out, and when Susannah chided him he would tell that this was not what he had bargained for: this was madness, he could be of no help. (Barrett 181)

Then Lauchlin saves the life of the young immigrant, Nora, and the madness throughout the island becomes somewhat tolerable, and he notices a sense of hope developing in himself. As Lauchlin’s mental state slowly improves, so does the state of the medical surroundings. Lauchlin accepts the circumstances and sees the research potential of the situation. Fewer and fewer ships arrive, and the epidemic becomes somewhat manageable.

As things improve slightly, a sense of empowerment results, and he attempts to participate in the politics overshadowing the circumstances by returning to Quebec to appeal for aid and supplies. Things are clean, organized, and the same in the town where the quarantine island is exactly the opposite.

He meets with failure on political and personal fronts then returns to the quarantine station with renewed vigor because he has finally developed empathy for the survivors and their dreams. This is due in part to his relationship with Nora who tells him about her people and their reasons for leaving Ireland.
The words of writer Jessica Page Morrell support the idea of engaging the elements of setting to do more than offer a site to a story:

  • But setting is more than a mere backdrop for action; it is an interactive aspect of your fictional world that saturates the story with mood, meaning, and thematic connotations. (Morrell 151)

In “Ship Fever,” Andrea Barrett portrays the realities of human suffering as a journey made up of choices by placing the main character in a number of settings that reflect his emotions. Even with his interior self mirrored in front of him, he struggles to see his purpose and value.





Books By My Friends That I Recommend

“Books by My Friends”


Shopping local is my latest passion, and that includes books written by my writing friends that are available online. I will be sharing some of the latest titles hoping you’ll find a good read for yourself or someone on your holiday shopping list.


First Kiss at Christmas

Lee Tobin McClain

Publisher: HQN


I know Lee Tobin McClain from graduate school where she was one of my mentors while I studied writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University. Lee’s books are well written stories of love, hope, working through struggle, and faith.




Not many women still have “first kiss” on their Christmas list, but somehow Kayla Harris is permanently in the friend zone with men. So when veteran Tony DeNunzio shows up in her preschool classroom with his nephew, Jax, her focus is solely on helping the troubled little boy adjust. But as Tony takes on a volunteer role at the school, she can’t help noticing his softer side is as appealing as his rugged male presence.

Tony will do anything to make Jax’s first Christmas without his mom a happy one. And that includes spending more time than is typical with the teacher who’s drawn Jax out of his shell. Beautiful and kindhearted, Kayla makes Tony long for family and a happiness he doesn’t think he deserves. But with the magic of Christmas in the air, a first kiss might lead them both to a forever love.


Falls Bend Christmas

Barbara Jean Miller

Publisher: Independent


Barbara Jean Miller was another of my graduate school mentors. Her books are fast, flirty, and fun with great storylines. There are many books in the Falls Bend series. Enjoy them all. This one is brand new and holiday-themed. Has a great mystery in it!




Nick Greyson comes to Falls Bend searching for his 5-year-old abducted son, Billy. Deputy Diane Flint pursues the case as she falls for Nick. When they rescue Billy he no longer speaks. Young psychic Evie Bovard is the key to healing Billy. But his addict mother is still on the loose and she has a gun, which may ruin everyone’s Christmas.


More Amish Christmas Miracles

Adina Senft and others

Publisher: Blessed Publishing


Shelley Bates writes across multiple genres and has a story in this new Amish Christmas collection under her pen name Adina Senft.




The Amish Cowboy’s Christmas by Adina Senft
In the beginning, there was no Circle M ranch. Thirty years ago, there was only the girl next door and the boy who was too shy to tell her he loved her…For Reuben, showing Naomi he’s the right man for her will take all the courage and love in his heart—and maybe even a Christmas miracle.


All good things,



Mindset, Motivation & Well-Being Online Workshop in November



Hi, everyone!

I’m really looking forward to leading the online workshop “Mindset, Motivation, and Well-being A to Z for Writers” for AGED TO PERFECTION RWA November 1-26. As an author, educator, speaker, and dedicated journal keeper, the idea for this course came to me after reading Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. I was also inspired by The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works. Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal, Ph. D.

These topics readily apply to the writing life, and I’m always on the lookout for ways to keep myself and my clients motivated, healthy, positive, and forward moving. Both books mention the stick-to-ive-tive-ness of several famous authors, and I started to collect a list of all the modes and methods suggested by Duckworth and McGonigal. The list was long. To make it manageable, I alphabetized each idea and POOF! This workshop blossomed from there.

As a lifelong learner, I put the ideas into practice and recognized immediately how practical and accessible the techniques are. I decided to share my experience in a workshop in the hopes of helping others achieve their dreams, goals, and aspirations. Besides alphabetizing the tips, the workshop demonstrates the specific ways writers can make use of them in daily life and work.

What Is Mindset, Motivation, and Well-Being?

Here’s the workshop description:

“Mindset, Motivation & Well-being A to Z for Writers” presents a host of suggestions for overhauling your writing life inside and out. Some of the topics will resonate and some will need to percolate for a while, but everything from coping with anxiety to applying zero-based thinking can potentially recharge your existence until you are unstoppable in every aspect. These premises apply to more than just writers, but the creative juices needed to produce stories is more draining than it looks. These concepts could be the missing ingredient you’ve been searching for.

The course will present the ideas and offer outside readings or internet links to explain each one. Course participants will be encouraged to post experiences and thoughts.


I like how psychology researcher Carol S. Dweck, Ph. D. of Stanford University describes mindset:

“Mindsets are just beliefs. They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re just something in your mind, and you can change your mind.” (16)

There are basically two mindsets: fixed and growth. In the workshop, we’ll tinker with what this means to writers.


Of course, motivation means how much horsepower or get-up-and-go you have to accomplish a task. Looking at motivation from a writer’s perspective, we’ll take a peek at the consequences, competence, choice, and community aspects involved in being motivated.


Although the term wellbeing is typically associated with emotional stability in psychological circles, I look at it with a wider lens that includes the areas of physical, emotional, spiritual, and communal strength. For my purposes, the hyphenated version well-being is more accurate because I’m a writer and because ‘well’ is an adjective and ‘being’ is a verb and such things require the punctuation. The workshop will present a myriad of ways you can choose from to improve your personal well-being.

From Action to Zero-based thinking, I’m sure you’ll discover something new in this workshop that can be added to your personal tool kit to move you from confused to confident when it comes to your writing career. Writing is not just about arranging the twenty-six letters of the alphabet over and over. Writing success depends on the writer/operator maintaining a good attitude and making the best choices. Please join me in the workshop to learn how the right mindset, motivation, and well-being attitudes can support your health and career.

Questions? Love ‘em!

writerwellness at gmail dot com

Be well, write well!

All good things,


Women with clean houses do not have finished books! ~Joy E. Held

Works Cited

Dweck, Carol. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballentine Books, 2016.

Registration link:

Every yoga pose is a profound teacher. After years of practicing and teaching yoga and meditation, it’s a daunting chore to pick one favorite pose because I am keenly aware of the subtleties and micro-practices inherent in each asana. However, with its many challenges, effects on perspective, and demands on concentration, headstand is my favorite yoga pose.

The first reason headstand finds its way into my practice is the respect it demands from me. Core strength, breath awareness, spinal alignment, and laser mental focus combine for a successful headstand. Of all the balance poses, headstand requires wholistic stamina and physical control and rewards me with a new understanding of what equity means in my corporal and spiritual senses.

The lesson in humility is the second reason I like headstand. Because of how it changes my perspective, headstand insists that I appreciate a different view of myself, the world, and others. The pose teaches me perspective through attention to detail then laughs when my mind wanders. My body follows my wayward focus, and gravity pulls me into its palm. And I fold like an ocean wave finally reaching the sand.

Lastly, I like headstand because of the determination it encourages. Every headstand offers me the opportunity to approach the edge of my comfort zone then accepts my decision to either step over the boundary or back away from the question. I take this education from my mat into the world where I set healthy boundaries with self-love and courage.

Online Workshops in November

“Learning from the Masters” looks at the journals of published authors, explores how they used them to support their creative process, and how you might emulate their practices.

HOST: Contemporary Romance Writers of America


“Mindset, Motivation, and Well-being A to Z” looks at a wide range of ideas for improving your overall inspiration and health.

HOST: Aged to Perfection Romance Writers of America


All good things!


Get my e-newsletter here and receive a free “Yoga for Writers” download.

Noodles, Winners, & Workshops

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

From the Joy desk


Congratulations to Christy E of Ohio who won the newsletter subscriber’s September drawing for a signed copy of Writer Wellness: A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity (Headline Books, Inc., 2020.) Watch for an announcement about the October contest in a couple of weeks.

If you’d like a chance to win the next drawing, please sign up for my newsletter here:

On to the news…

Online workshops I’m leading that anyone can sign up for include:


50 Ways to Leave Your Muse: Creativity Hacks

Sponsor: Northeast Ohio Romance Writers

Link to register


Mindset, Motivation, and Wellbeing A to Z for Writers

Sponsor: Aged to Perfection Romance Writers

Link to register


50 Ways to Leave Your Muse: Creativity Hacks

Sponsor: Romance Writers of America Online

Link to register

Reflective Writing: A Journal Workshop for Writers

Sponsor: Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers

Link to register

The workshop descriptions and registration links to the sponsors are also on my updated website

Nutrition note

You may already know that am a fan of the blood type diet as explained by homeopathic physician Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo in his book Eat Right 4 Your Type. My blood type is O negative, and wheat products are hard for me to digest. D’Adamo suggests trying the ancient grain granddaddy of wheat called spelt. Less processing and high in B vitamins.

It was tough to find spelt bread and pasta when I first looked for it. It’s more available today thanks to my absolute favorite bakery located in Amish country in Berlin, Ohio. Give them a try. They are a small, family owned, multi-generational company that makes great products, and the customer service is awesome. Tell Nicole that Joy sent you!

All good things,


Women with clean houses do not have finished books.

Questions? Love ‘em!

Let’s connect!

Writer Wellness: A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity (Headline Books, Inc., 2020)

Who is your writing champion?

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

From the Joy desk

Hi, sweet reader!

This is our moment. Yours and mine. And as my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Mary Young, was very fond of repeating, “You can’t get this moment back, so don’t waste it.”

Many years later, I think about Mrs. Young using this call-to-action to teach eleven-year-olds the value of time. I believed and followed everything Mrs. Young said. She was the first teacher to encourage my writing and tell me that I could and should follow the path of a writer. Even though she knew that I was the heir apparent to my mother’s thriving ballet school, (Mrs. Young’s granddaughter took ballet from my mother,) Mrs. Young let me know that I was a writer. She was also the first person to impress the importance and meaning of a deadline. She is why I became a writer, got a journalism degree, and have pursued the craft and publishing for fifty (yep) years.

The point of this vignette is that everyone must have a champion, someone who sees their potential and supports them in every way, even when the going is tough, and the champion falls off the horse. Who is that person for you? Who first voiced, “You can do this” convincingly enough to motivate you to pursue it? This person is due your thanks.

I often thank Mrs. Young in my journal and sometimes I complain to her that being an author isn’t a piece of cake. Those are the moments when I’ve fallen off the horse and am looking up from the dirt searching for someone to blame. That’s when the query letter doesn’t hit the mark. When a reviewer says something less than adoring (they’re allowed, but it still stings.) Simply dumping my frustrations into the journal helps clear away the doubt, and I’m able to remind myself that writing and teaching it is what I do. I get up, dust off my cheeks, get back into the office chair, and start typing or researching or whatever again. It’s what I do.

I write, publish, and teach to reach out, to connect with other people. Thanks to Mrs. Young, I have the belief (not always the confidence because I’m just human) that my words and ideas may help someone else.

This support notion applies to everything, every field, and every person. Who first pointed out that you make a fabulous fill-in-the-blank and drove you to be better at it? Send this wonderful soul an unsent letter of thanks by writing to them in your journal. Unsend the letter. Keep it in your journal, unless you want to send it in some way-message in a bottle, email, snail mail. It’s all good.

All good things,


Women with clean houses do not have finished books.

If you’d like to receive a free download YOGA FOR WRITERS exercise routine click the link below to sign-up for my newsletter.

Online Workshop: Writer Wellness

“Be well, write well.”


STARTS: Monday, October 4

ENDS: Friday, October 29

COST: $29.00

DETAILS: Lessons, activities, and discussion covering the five key WW concepts





*Creative play

Taught in private forum

12 lessons

REGISTER: Email writerwellness at gmail dot com


By Joy E. Held

The idea for my book and workshop Writer Wellness: A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity (Headline Books, Inc., 2020) came to me when some of my critique partners asked how they could be my clones. They wanted to shadow me for a week to see what I did every day that led to my prolific publishing (over 500 articles and counting,) life as a homeschooling mom, and part-time hatha yoga teacher. Up to that point, I hadn’t done any self-examination of my processes, but when they asked, I stepped back and watched myself for a month while documenting my doings and beings in a journal. This article is a peek into what I learned.

Please take out a pen and paper (or your phone or computer) and list five things you’ve done in the last thirty days to promote/support your writing.

Now list five challenges or obstacles that you believe are standing in the way of accomplishing your writing goals.

Next, list five writing wishes or desires you want to come true.

Following the Writer Wellness plan will help you to always have five things on those lists.  It will also allow you to maintain a level of health and creativity that some writers are missing.

Are you happy with your writing in general?

Are you happy with your health?

Do you ever notice a direct relationship to the productivity and quality of your writing and quality of your life?

A physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy individual is by far a more productive, creative, and pleasant person.  This is evidenced by the fact that many corporations have implemented programs to keep employees happy and healthy.  Programs range from day care centers in the workplace to personal trainers for every ten employees.  A healthy, happy employee is more productive, misses less work, and is a more cost-effective employee.

As a writer, you are the employer and the employed.  Happiness, productivity, and health are definite factors in the quality of work you produce.  It is therefore in your best interest as a writer to do everything you can to stay healthy and be the best writer you can be.

But where are you supposed to get the time?  Let’s not jump ahead of ourselves to the time factor.  Hopefully, you will instinctively see that working these ideas into your life will make positive use of your time while adding to the quality of your life and the productivity of your work.

The whole premise of Writer Wellness is that creativity and productivity are crucially dependent upon an overall quality of life.  This includes the physical, mental, emotional, communal, and spiritual aspects of life.

To serve the purposes of Writer Wellness, I’ve broken down a writer’s quality of life into five interdependent components necessary to sustain a healthful, creative life. 

The five key concepts of Writer Wellness are JOURNALING, EXERCISE, RELAXATION, PROPER NUTRITION, AND CREATIVE PLAY.  These areas contribute to an overall wellness way of living and working.

I was raised in my mother’s dancing school.  Before she retired after 52 years, she kept the books, wrote the grants and publicity announcements, directed weekly rehearsals, and taught five ballet classes a week. Thanks to her excellent example, the principles of physical fitness and eating right were pounded into me from an early age.  At age fourteen, I began the Writer Wellness life (even though I hadn’t labeled it yet,) when a local newspaper carried a weekly column I wrote about my junior high school.  I saw my name in print.  I was hooked. From then on, I was a dancer and a writer. 

I discovered yoga, meditation, and modern dance in college, and everything fell into place for me.  Thirty plus years later, I still journal almost daily unless I’m working intensely on a writing project, exercise five to six times a week, follow a strict eating plan with supplements, practice daily meditation, and engage in creative play through art journaling, crafting, and scrapbooking.

When other writers in my critique group asked me how I published so much, I reviewed my life and named the process “Writer Wellness.”  Now I teach other writers the basic principles and encourage them to find their own versions of the five concepts.

Today I maintain myself as a writer by incorporating each of the five key concepts of Writer Wellness into my day. Depending on obligations and scheduling, I’m able to journal, exercise, follow a prescribed food program, and meditate seven days a week. The creative play happens more on the weekends when I’m not writing, editing, promoting, or teaching online. I have two new book releases in 2020,  a two-book contract with an independent publisher, teach college English composition online, teach hatha yoga three times a week, and run online workshops for various writing associations. I’m also on the board of directors for my RWA chapters.

You can do this as well.

Looking back to the lists of five things you made at the beginning of this article, make a pact with yourself to create a new way of life that will support your goals as a writer and a healthy, productive person. My book and workshop will show you the way so that you’ll always have five things done every month to help you live the writing dream.

The workshop I’m leading October 4-29, 2021 is a detailed look at the five key concepts of Writer Wellness and an exploration of how you can incorporate the practice into your life. With Writer Wellness as the foundation, you can achieve the writing dreams and personal goals you desire.

Be well, write well. See you in workshop!

All good things,



STARTS: Monday, October 4

ENDS: Friday, October 29

COST: $29.00

DETAILS: Lessons, activities, and discussion covering the five key WW concepts





*Creative play

Taught in private forum

12 lessons

REGISTER: Email writerwellness at gmail dot com

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