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Articles by " Bev Scott"
28 Mar
2017

Women’s History Month: Sarah and Grandma’s Inspiration  

“Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history, she learns she is worth less.” 

Myra Pollack Sadker*

Women's History Month

Grandma’s Inspiration

My grandmother, Ellen Russell Scott, inspired and motivated me as I was growing up. She was in constant pain from rheumatoid arthritis, yet she seldom complained. She shared a smile with everyone she encountered. As a former teacher, Ellen valued education and encouraged me to get good grades and do the best I could.

I agree with the National Women’s History Project, (NWHP) that “We draw strength and inspiration from those who came before us.” My hope in writing a story based on Ellen’s life, “Sarah’s Secret: A Western Tale of Betrayal and Forgiveness,” was that others would find inspiration in her courage and her strength.

Sarah

The character of Sarah is devastated by the loss of her husband Sam, as I imagined Ellen must have been when my grandfather H.D. Scott died leaving her a widow with five children. Here is an excerpt from the book.

Immediately after his death, she steps outside…

”I felt myself shiver.  The wind was unusually still for New Mexico, but the air was crisp and cold. I went back inside. I wanted to feel the heat from the fire in the stove. I wanted to be warm, really warm.  I sat down in my rocking chair rocking slowly. The coldness inside moved up my back and tingled at the nape of my neck….

“’I’m, a widow.’ I said aloud. I was alone, completely responsible for the children, not just for a few weeks or the winter season until Sam returned. I felt cold, flat. I opened my Bible, hoping for solace. I began to survey the landscape of my mind, much as I had the landscape outside. My mind was a closed book with all the memories of my life with Sam shut away.  ‘I am alone’…”

But Sarah, like many women alone today, pulls herself together, finds the courage and fortitude to take her five children back to Nebraska.

Sarah Finds Strength and Confidence

The back story of Sam, a fictional character, is based only on limited information about my grandfather, a man not as Sarah experienced him nor what the reader expects. Sarah must face the betrayal of her trusted husband. Like many women who face adversity, Sarah finds through the humiliation of betrayal and her struggle to hold her family together, the strength and confidence within herself to take a position as the first woman school superintendent in the state of Nebraska.

Women’s History Overlooked

Without knowing about the women in our history or in our family stories we lose the opportunity to find role models, be inspired and dream about our future. As we know, women in our diverse American cultures are overlooked in mainstream history. Yet, as the NWHP website states, “they are part of our story, and a truly balanced and inclusive history recognizes how important women have always been in American society.”

I am grateful to the National Women’s History Project founded over 30 years ago in Santa Rosa, CA. NWHP serves as a catalyst, a leader and a resource in promoting women and their role in our American history. In 1978, they initiated a week of celebration of “Women’s History.” Congress ultimately declared March as Women’s History Month in 1987. This month is in recognition of the importance of women in our history. A balanced and inclusive history must not make the mistake of ignoring the critical role and contribution of women.

The Power of History and Inspiration

Knowing the stories of women from our own families, acknowledging the contributions of women in our cultural heritage and giving recognition to the historical achievement of the women overlooked in our history books, helps us know who we are. Then we can feel the power of inspiration and ignite our dreams.

What stories do you know about the women in your family history? What women in your life have inspired and motivated you?


*Quoted on the website of the National Women’s History Project.

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15 Mar
2017

Calling Fans and Friends

Sarah's Secret on metro building

“Sarah” and I need your help.

Self-publishing authors like me depend on word-of-mouth and social connections to help sell books. In addition, breaking my arm and having surgery put me behind in my marketing efforts. As a friend or a fan of “Sarah,” would you be willing to help spread the word?

Team Sarah Needs Your Help

I’d love you to join “Team Sarah” to help in any of the following ways.

• Identify bookstores where I could do a reading from Sarah’s Secret. Finding out the name of the person who schedules readings would be really helpful. With the book now available at IndieBound, it’s a good time to reach out to bookstores.

• “Think outside the bookstore.” I can do a reading at a different venue, such as a private “book party” for friends, at a writing class or library.

• Order Sarah’s Secret from your favorite independent bookstore. Talk to bookstore staff who are interested in local authors and new titles.

• Publish a review on Amazon.com, I-Books, Goodreads, or any other retailer or book readers’ website. Thank you to all who have already posted a review.

• Go to Goodreads.com, add Sarah’s Secret to your “book to read list” and make me your Goodreads friend.

• Post a question for me on my Goodreads.com author profile: Ask the Author! I promise to post an answer.

More Ways to Help

• Ask your book club to read Sarah’s Secret this year. A book club reader guide is available in the book. I am willing to come for the discussion for local groups or use Skype if the groups is too far away.

• Refer me to local hiCalling Fans and Friendstorical or genealogy groups. I would love to talk about my genealogy research journey, women in the West, homesteaders in the Great Plains, or similar topics from Sarah’s Secret.

• Connect me with blogging sites focused on history of the West, genealogy and family research, women in U.S. history or other related topics. I’d love to get your ideas and referrals.

• Post a recommendation of Sarah’s Secret on your social media sites, e.g. Facebook, Linked In, Pinterest and Twitter. Re-post announcements from my sites or use my website link to refer your friends.

• Recommend me as a presenter or speaker for special events or conferences. Let me know who to contact.

• Introduce me to print, radio or broadcast reporters covering books, lifestyle features, local interest or similar topics willing to do an interview or short feature.

• Ask your local library to order Sarah’s Secret.

• Include an announcement in your own websites, newsletters and blogs about Sarah’s Secret with a link so people can sign up for my updates: http://sarahssecret.subscribemenow.com

Send me your ideas for marketing Sarah’s Secret. Be creative.

Contact me for background info, descriptions and announcements. bev@bevscott.com

Sarah and I thank you for joining the Team!

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9 Feb
2017
Posted in: Book Reviews
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Book Review: “Colorado Dream” (The Front Range Series) by Charlene Whitman

 

Reviewed by Bev Scott

Colorado Dream by Charlene Whitman, book reviewed by Bev ScottMy first book by Charlene Whitman kept me engaged through most of the story to the happy ending.  The writing is excellent and the story line is unique, a young Italian girl comes from New York to commission a violin from an exceptional violin maker in Greeley, Colorado in 1877.  Of course, Angela meets a handsome cowboy, Brett.  Although she is drawn to him she rejects him as uncouth, uncultured and dangerous.  Brett falls hard for her but believes she is too sophisticated and cultured to care for a cowboy.  He is sure she rejects him and will return with her new violin to New York.  A sweet romantic story, but I found the constant description of the physical and emotional attraction between the protagonists as way over-done.  Consequently, I lost interest toward the end.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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3 Feb
2017

One Week Later

I am in shock. My head is spinning. I am sick. I am terrified! As a life-long member of the “glass-half-full” club, I keep looking for an optimistic approach to all of the damage to our democracy. There must be a small streak of light behind these enormous dark clouds.

It has been a week!! The man, who shall not be named, along with his Cabinet nominees and the Republican Congressional leadership have taken collective unprecedented action. He and they have frozen, denounced, gagged, lied, censored, defunded, threatened, arrested, discriminated against and destroyed people and programs which serve the vulnerable, defend civil rights, protect our environment, safeguard our Constitutional freedoms, conduct investigative journalism and cooperate with long-time US allies.Dear Mr. President, a Week Later Jan 2017

Then I remember last Saturday. I felt a sense of unity, respect, courtesy, camaraderie, diversity, dedication, enthusiasm. The experience was uplifting and heartwarming…a bright light shining through the clouds. The numbers of cities and towns around the country and even around the world. The latest numbers are between 3.5 and 4.5 million marchers in the U.S. alone. It was a Women’s March. But it wasn’t just women. There were a high percentage of men, and children too,…people of all ages. It wasn’t just white. There were many hues of black, brown and tan. This march suggested, organized and led by women is an expanding streak of light in those dark clouds.

The energy we felt, that we needed to lift our spirits, to focus our resistance and to encourage our actions, is beginning to move us forward. The Women’s March on Washington is encouraging ten actions for the first 100 Days, beginning with sending postcards to our senators. In an effort to mobilize and change the majority in the House, Swing Left is asking us to get involved and organize in swing districts. Senator Warren and Congressman Cummings  of Maryland led an effort to get an audit of T’s finances by requesting emails be sent to the General Accounting Office. The GAO has reportedly responded stating they have accepted the request and will “conduct the work in the same non-partisan, fact-based approach we take with all Congressional requests.” I am sure there are many other efforts underway propelled by the energy that poured into the streets across the country.Women's March Jan 2017 NYC

That streak of light I was looking for is much bigger than I hoped. It is not just in reaction to “him” but he has been the spark that lit the fire that has brought us together in ways we haven’t seen in decades. Winston Churchill said that, “The United States is like a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lit under it, there is no limit to the power it can generate.” The fire has been lit.  We must continue to add fuel to the flames. Let’s use the power of that fire to transform on our country to a more participatory, egalitarian democracy that provides opportunity, education, health care, choice, freedom, protects our environment and respects all of us regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age or disability.

That vision may be a long way in the future, but it is the future I hope for my grandsons and their children. I am going to follow Robert Muller’s advice when he said, “Use every letter you write; every conversation you have; every meeting you attend, to express your fundamental beliefs and dreams. Affirm to others the vision of the world you want.”

I am going to take action, speak out, write, march, stay informed and continue to look for the expanding light to drive the dark clouds away and move toward my vision. What will you do?

(Originally written the week of January 23, 2017, after the Women’s March)

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20 Dec
2016
Posted in: Book Reviews
By    1 Comment

Book Review: “Role Montage: A Creative New Way to Discover the Leader Within You” by Jan Schmuckler

 

Reviewed by Bev Scott

Role Montage by Jan Schmuckler, Reviewed by Bev ScottLearning how to be a leader is a challenge for newly appointed managers or supervisors and finding a mentor to help is often not possible. Jan Schmuckler has provided us with a clear and helpful process to find our own leadership style within ourselves. How I wish I had such a guide when I was a new, young manager! With an emphasis on self-awareness which is key to becoming a successful leader, the reader is guided through the steps of identifying the qualities in others both real and fiction that we admire, and creating the “montage” of the leader we would like to be.

This is a must have guidebook for every new or developing leader.

Author information: Jan Schmuckler.

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13 Dec
2016

The Season of Sharing or the Season of Taking Back?

“What matters nowSeason of Sharing or Season of Taking Back

in these dimmer days

when gloom and doom

conversations occupy the tables

in every corner of concern?…”

(From: What Matters Now by Minx Boren)

It is the “season of sharing” and the “season of hope.” Hope for peace and a better future. Yet, I find myself, like many of those around me experiencing these as days of “gloom and doom.” This year of blame, name calling, fabricated lies and divisiveness is coming to an end. I would like to feel optimistic and confident about next year, about our future. But it is hard.

In the research for my novel based on the lives of my grandparents, I was inspired by the grit and determination of the pioneer homesteaders who lived in lonely isolation on the prairie, daring to find hope, support and community. They held values of generosity and sharing, even among those with very little themselves like my grandparents. Giving to those most needy was a common practice. For homesteaders who often lived miles from their nearest neighbors, Christmas was a time of sharing and  gathering in community. I imagine my grandparents and their children dressed in their “Sunday best” traveling by horse and wagon or by sleigh to visit with neighbors. Perhaps they gathered at the small community church to meet for religious services, share potluck meals and sing carols around a piano or accompanied by a guitar or a banjo.

This is our heritage of the “season of sharing,” remembering those less fortunate and sharing what we have in community. In the analysis of the election results, we are hearing that the messages which tapped into hunger and nostalgia for our past were successful. Minx Boren captures some of the longing in the next stanza of her poem…

“What counts now

when countless folk

feel harried and hungry

for the richness of more

fulfilling times

when gold stars of hope

are needed to illuminate

their heavens and give weight to

their wishes?…”

baby-203048_640Unfortunately, that nostalgia reflected in the election results is for a past where the “richness of more fulfilling times” offered narrow benefits primarily to the privileged who were mostly white and male. Many of us do not want to return to that past. We believe in the advancement of our human rights and we appreciate our health care and our creature comforts. I have no nostalgia for my grandparents’ life in an underground dugout, traveling by horse and wagon and suffering illness and the early death of loved ones. However, I do find myself longing for the prairie heritage of community, willingness to share and to offer freely given support to those in need. That heritage contrasts with the individualism, meanness and greed… what seems to me to be the “season of taking back.” Looking for the “gold stars of hope,” described in Boren’s poem, is very challenging as I listen to the pronouncements of our new President and the appointments he is making to his cabinet.

He is taking back hope, dreams, protection, human rights and probably jobs, too. No wonder we are discouraged and dismayed by what this picture of the future suggests. However, I believe that we must not succumb to numbness, depression and despair that will keep us from envisioning the opportunities of what a brighter future could be. We must not normalize greed, meanness and bigotry. The future I want for us is a future that requires us to get involved, take action, build community, keep the vulnerable safe, speak up for individual rights and in the spirit of giving, be as generous of heart, soul and material goods as we can be. Boren says it well.

203109085159854.qYotWm8aebebBJhG5fmT_height640“…What matters and what counts

are imagination and inspiration…

and a roll up our sleeves movement

of such magnitude that the future

can hear us coming

with our heads held high

above the cloudy predictions

and our knap sacks filled with

our gumption and our grit

our gifts and our gratitudes –

the building blocks of new

cornerstones of possibility.”

Let’s create our brighter future!

(Poem excerpts from What Matters Now by Minx Boren, poet and author.)

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8 Dec
2016
Posted in: Book Reviews
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Book Review: “Fire Lilies” by Cynthia Leal Massey

Fire Lilies, by Cynthia Leal Massey

Reviewed by Bev Scott

The story of two beautiful and rebellious sisters in early twentieth-century Mexico hooked me with the opening chapter, and continued to move at a fast, engaging pace. The loves and passions of these two sisters is intertwined with the political intrigue and upheavals of the Mexican Revolution. The author provides an engaging historical context which adds depth and interest to the unfolding romances of Dolores and Alicia.

Dolores, forced by her father to marry an older man who is cruel and demanding, falls in love with a vaquero working on her husband’s hacienda. She takes amazing risks for her life, defies the expectations of her family’s social class and struggles to control the carnal desires expressed by her sister’s husband.

Alicia, the younger sister refuses a marriage arranged by her father and marries the man she loves but with lower social standing. Her love and trust of her husband results in the birth of fifteen children which is almost beyond belief, but, perhaps tolerable if one has servants. Ultimately, she is forced to cope with unfaithfulness, the disruption of the revolution, death and the loss of her comfortable way of life.

I highly recommend this historical romance set in a little known period of Mexican history.

More information: Cynthia Leal Massey

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17 Nov
2016

Hope is Like a Country Road

 

“She Made Him Vote for Hillary!”

The weekend before the election, my friend Barbara and I joined the other 1500 Californians in Reno, Nevada to canvass for Hillary for President and for Catherine Cortez Masto for Harry Reid’s seat in the Senate. Early voting had already captured many votes.  But we were charged with reminding those who hadn’t voted to go to the polls on Tuesday and vote Democratic. Canvassing is discouraging work because many people are not home or won’t answer their doorbells.

Walking on a country road

But we had some good conversations and one of the most memorable was a young man who drove up in his pick-up after I had left some literature at his door. He recognized us as canvassers, asked us to wait a moment while he rummaged in his truck. He emerged with his “I voted” sticker and proceeded to tell us his story. He was a registered Republican but he declared that Trump was too crazy to be our President, so he voted for Hillary. After we thanked him for voting, we encouraged him to tell his friends and family. He laughed and said, “My brother wasn’t going to vote, but my mom told him he had to vote she and made him vote for Hillary.” We shared a common belief in that light-hearted moment before we walked on to the next house.

We Believed His Language But We Did Not Take Him Seriously

I returned from Reno feeling cautiously optimistic. Even as I watched the returns Tuesday evening as the states in the eastern time zones were called for Trump, I continued to be hopeful. But as we all learned by Wednesday morning, my hope and optimism were totally wrong. As former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown mentioned in his column last Sunday, people who voted for Trump did not believe his incendiary language but they took him seriously. The rest of us who voted for Hillary believed his incendiary language but we did not take him seriously.

We now have to take him seriously. He will be the next President of the United States. Many like me are still in shock and disbelief with shattered hopes of seeing Madam President in the White House. I am fearful that the advances we have made for marriage equality will be lost, that the racism, misogyny and xenophobia which Trump gave permission to express will become commonplace, that divisiveness, hostility and attacks on those who are vulnerable and different will be accepted. In fact, I fear that anyone who doesn’t meet or support the standard of the traditional powerful white male will be under siege.

Wondering Where Hope Lies

quote Lin YutangFriends and family in other countries encouraged my spouse and I to consider leaving the US and move to Ireland or Canada. In addition, there are many calls to action from causes and individuals in my email and on social media. I personally am not ready to take action yet. I am still in the process of figuring it out, trying to understand those who believe so differently than I do, wondering where hope lies.

Although I don’t know yet what I will do, I am sure I need to stay here in this country. I will need to gather with other like-minded souls, to speak out, to take action, to take a stand.

I will eventually find hope.  This quote by Lin Yutang touched me. “Hope is like a road in the country:  there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.”

I am beginning to walk the road. Will you join me?

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8 Nov
2016

The Tradition of Thanksgiving

blog by Bev Scott, vintage postcard for thanskgiving

Did you know that Thanksgiving did not become a permanent official national holiday until 1941 when Congress established the fourth Thursday of the month of November as Thanksgiving Day?

Today, Thanksgiving is a most American holiday tradition in which we gather with friends and family to share a sumptuous feast and express our gratitude. Many of us assume Thanksgiving in North America began with the Pilgrims story of Thanksgiving. The roots of our Thanksgiving can be traced back to the ancient traditions of celebrating the bounty of the harvest. I also discovered there were earlier ceremonies by other British colonists and Spanish explorers in North America before the Plymouth celebration of 1621.

Although Thanksgiving in the colonies became a regular event by the middle of the 17th century, the first national Thanksgiving was proclaimed in 1777 by the Continental Congress. The early Presidents continued to proclaim a national day of Thanksgiving but it was not an official holiday. In fact, by the middle of the 19th century Thanksgiving was limited to individual state observances and had evolved from the religious and civil day of commemoration and giving thanks to a family holiday of feasting. President Lincoln was convinced to declare a national holiday in 1863 in an effort to unite the war-torn country. Lincoln’s successors proclaimed a Thanksgiving Day each year until it became a permanent official holiday in 1941.

In researching my family history and writing the story of “Sarah’s Secret,” I have often found myself thinking about life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries compared to my life today. Since I did not inherit any family traditions of Thanksgiving, my curiosity led me to explore some of the history of one of this favorite of American holiday which combines the ancient traditions of harvest festivals and the religious observances of the Puritans grateful and giving thanks for their survival after a year of sickness and scarcity.

Turkey on a farm, line drawing, blog by Bev Scott

Without any family stories or traditions, I turned to my imagination about how my grandparents might have celebrated Thanksgiving Day. Since it was not a firm national holiday and observed differently by state, my grandparents might not have even celebrated Thanksgiving as struggling homesteaders. Certainly, after my grandfather died leaving my grandmother in dire and impoverished circumstances, her ability to provide an extravagant feast would have been very limited. Yet, the tradition of acknowledging God’s blessings, giving thanks and expressing gratitude would have been important to my grandmother. I imagine that when the President of the United States did declare a day of Thanksgiving, which may or may not have been in November, that she probably commemorated the day. She may have cooked something special, maybe a wild game or fowl caught by my grandfather or her oldest son. I am convinced that she would ensure that she and her family offered a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessings in their lives. Since her birthday was November 24th and often fell on Thanksgiving, I also imagine that she probably ignored or discounted any celebration of her November birthday as too frivolous and extravagant.

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful not only for my comfortable twenty-first century life, but I am also grateful for the opportunity to write about the strong courageous woman who was my grandmother. I will honor her especially since Thanksgiving falls on November 24th this year. I have so much respect for this proud woman who was left a widow and raised her five children while she struggled with illness and poverty.

Thanksgiving Turkey drawing, blog by Bev Scott

Do you have inherited family traditions on Thanksgiving? What do you imagine your grandparents or great-grandparents did to celebrate a day of family feasting or to express gratitude and give thanks in their faith on Thanksgiving Day?

(A previous version of this article was published  in my blog “The Writing Life,” in 2015.)

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20 Oct
2016

“Women Writing the West” Conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Women Writing the West conference 2016


“We are all profoundly creative” – Julia Cameron


The amazing Julia Cameron who has written over forty books, opened the conference with her keynote, “The Right to Write.” Author of The Artist’s Way, she is a novelist, playwright, songwriter and poet. She has credits in the theater, film and television. She is incredibly prolific!

She’s a very talented and creative writer, but she argues that “we are all profoundly creative.” But how does she find the time to be so creative in writing in so many genres? She suggests that time is not the answer nor the question. And she laughs, while she confides to us that she is going to let us in on her secret.

Women Writing the West is an organization founded twenty years ago

to support authors and other professionals in promoting the contributions made by women to the history, culture and growth of the American West. More than simply a recognition that women played broader and more complex roles than being wives or prostitutes, the new view of the Women’s West speaks to the diversity of women of all cultures and all time periods. It acknowledges the rich variety of ways women responded to, and continue to respond to, the western experience. The Women’s West is based on a tradition that includes such fine writers as Willa Cather, Mary Austin, B.M. Bower, Mari Sandoz, Dorothy Johnson, Juanita Brooks, Laura Ingalls and Rose Wilder, and Helen Hunt Jackson. Women Writing the West exists to nurture today’s writers of the Women’s West, and those to come.

Since I’ve been writing a Western tale inspired by the lives of my grandparents, I wanted to attend this conference to find kindred spirits, other women writing about women in the West. I was not disappointed. I met women who were still struggling to write their first book, women who were still doing the research and women who had written several successful books. Everyone I met was welcoming, inclusive and encouraging. Women Writing the West is a supportive community.

The two-day annual conference held this year in Santa Fe, was structured to cover the Business of Writing and the Art of Writing. On the Business ofBookmark Women Writing the West Writing day we learned the rules of stand-out covers, the tax responsibility of authors and how to get a book into the library market. The Art of Writing was more memorable to me because it built on Julia Cameron’s secret tool.

What is the secret? Morning Pages: three handwritten pages at the beginning of the day in which we can dump all of the extraneous thoughts that cross our minds. “I forgot to call Sally back.” “I need to buy milk today.” “Why didn’t Jim tell me about his reservations?” Morning Pages are a tool to clear the mind and all the dark corners to help us be more conscious and focused as we move through the day. Morning Pages provide permission to write anything without worrying about grammar, punctuation, wording. Morning Pages helps to minimize our internal critic. The brilliance of Morning Pages according to Julia is that they can free us from internal censorship and perfection.

During the Art of Writing day other presentations picked up the theme of negative self judgement. One presenter, an author of several books, Jane Kirkpatrick called this self-talk “harpy chirping.” We found ourselves in reassuring company as we realized that most everyone had “negative harpies,” that internal judge who mocks our work with the stories we tell ourselves. “I am not as talented or creative as ….” Or, “My writing is not good enough to submit for publication.” Or simply, “I can’t write like that.”

Morning Pages is one tool to help us get those negative stories out of our minds and enable us to focus on writing. Another suggestion is to focus on the goal which we each have when we began our writing. Another option is to repeat “I, ____, am a creative writer”, inserting your own name, each time that negative judge shows up.

As writers, our goal is writing, writing the best we can. It is not to become as Julia told us, the “curator of the Museum of Perfection.” Instead, find your “believing mirrors,” people who mirror back to ourselves as strong, powerful and creative. And use the tools of Morning Pages, focusing on the goal and reminding ourselves that we are creative writers.


What tools or tips do you have to minimize the negative self-talk and the internal critic?


(Note: don’t forget to sign up as a VIP Reader for my book “Sarah’s Secret.” You’ll get sneak peeks at chapters, pre-publication, and more!)

 

 

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