Z is for Zzzz

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Is there anyone crossing the finish line of the A to Z Challenge who is not ready for a good long nap? I know I am. It’s been quite a marathon. Or is it 26 consecutive sprints? Whatever it is, I’m exhausted. And exhilarated.  Glad that it’s over, really glad I did it, and really, really glad we are not talking Cyrillic alphabet here.

Before I retire, some shout-outs to:

  • Claire, who encouraged me to take the Challenge (I will take this up with you privately later, Claire!)
  • The Write On Mamas and my two small writing groups, always encouraging, gracious, and generous
  • The Challenge hosts and their minions, who put in huge efforts to make it all work
  • My family, who accepted very casual dining (not to mention spotty housekeeping and spottier attentiveness) with good cheer
  • My fellow bloggers, who provided inspiration and camaraderie
  • My readers, who made it all worthwhile
  • My commenters, who erased that dreadful feeling of writing into a black hole, and who really keep me going.

Now, to catch some Zzzz’s.

Except that I can’t.

For one thing, there’s all that catch-up from a month of neglect: Bills to pay, correspondence to respond to, laundry to fold, groceries to buy, Facebook to scroll through, the New York Times to read. (On the other hand, in my Challenge-hazed world, Freddie Gray is still alive and Baltimore and Nepal are still standing, so perhaps falling behind has its advantages.)

For another thing, as a post-menopausal woman, I never sleep well, even when I am good about shutting down those electronic devices early and limiting my caffeine consumption. Long-time readers of Shrinkrapped may remember my Holy-Grail-like quest for a new mattress. Alas, third time’s not been the charm.

And finally, how can I possibly sleep when alphabet visions keep dancing through my head? For more than a month my brain has been exploding with letters and corresponding ideas, and I can’t stop obsessing! Whatever happened to L is for Lucky Charm? Or N is for Narcissism? Or R is for Recycling/Repurposing? Or S is for Serendipity? Or W is for Weight Watchers; Writing About One’s Children; Write On Mamas; Wikipedia (where would we be without it)?

WTF! That’s a lot of W’s! Well, there’s always next year!

So thanks, and good night! Sweet dreams . . .


 What did you think of the A to Z Blogging Challenge? Any favorites?

L is for Listen to Your Mother

LTYM badge-2015Listen to your mother:  Good advice, unless your mother is the toxic sort, in which case you should ignore what she says.

But no matter what kind of mother you have—or are, or even know–Mother’s Day is coming! And so is Listen to Your Mother, a national live performance event coming to a place near you (if you happen to live near one of this year’s 39 venues) in the run up to Mother’s Day

LTYM is the brainchild of writer and founder Ann Imig. Its tagline is “Giving motherhood a microphone,” and it does just that to local writers sharing their stories of motherhood from the heartbreaking to the hilarious. Some of the writers have been published before; some labor in obscurity; some have never put pen to paper before they submit to LTYM.

There’s no better topic than motherhood to spawn perpetually fascinating stories and a perpetually fascinated audience. When LTYM first debuted in 2010 before a live audience in Madison, Wisconsin,  almost 300 people laughed and cried as a dozen women shared stories about every aspect of motherhood.

Since then LTYM has mushroomed—not just to this year’s 39 live performances (all produced by volunteer producers with the help of local sponsors),  but to thousands of videos, and now even a book collecting some of the best stories from LTYM shows. A portion of the proceeds from each show is donated to a local charity supporting families.

I first found out about LTYM in 2012, when someone in my writing group put out the word that LTYM San Francisco was holding auditions. Late to the party as usual, I submitted a short humorous piece at the 11th hour, auditioned via Skype, and was selected! (You can watch me sharing one of the guilty secrets of motherhood live at LTYM SF 2012.)

It was incredibly fun meeting my fellow cast members—we were 11 women and one man in all—at our two rehearsals and of course for the event itself, in San Francisco’s historic Fort Mason’s Cowell Theater. Our producers, Kim and Kirsten, who met at BlogHer, epitomized kindness and grace while never seeming to break a sweat as they pulled a million details together. (Of course—they’re mothers.) Our stories ranged from the poignancy of having no mother to listen to after she dies to the comedy of persuading young children that yes, their gay grandmothers can get married even though they never wear dresses. (It turns out that as long as there’s cake, it’s a wedding.)

Now, several dynamite women of the Write On Mamas, to which I belong, are producing this year’s LTYM SF, May 9 at the Brava Theater Center in San Francisco’s Mission District. It promises to be a wonderful show. You might even want to bring your mother.

I just bought my ticket, and you can buy yours by clicking here if you’re in the SF Bay Area, here if you live elsewhere, and here if you want to buy the book–far more meaningful than flowers or chocolate for a Mother’s Day gift.


Do you listen to your mother? What’s the best and worst advice she ever gave you?



A is for April Fool

At least I feel a bit foolish committing to a month of daily blog posts with only Sundays off. When it comes to describing my writing practice, A words like avoidance and ambivalence spring to mind. A few years ago when I cut back on my work life to devote more time to writing, and people asked how it was going, I had to confess, “Well, it turns out I’ve freed up more time to avoid writing.”

Not only am I undisciplined, I have also made a sad discovery: The Spirit—the one I rely on to speak through me as if I am just taking dictation rather than toiling away —also suffers from writer’s block.

But rather than throw in the towel, I have thrown myself into the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I’d heard about it a couple of years ago from my writing friend Claire, who participated. Then last year, the Write On Mamas, to which I belong, participated in the Challenge in a kind of round-robin way, with the members each contributing a letter. (Mine was E is for Empty Nest, which I reveal here with some trepidation in case I want to recycle it for this year’s Challenge. On the other hand, recycling is a conscientious choice for a planet threatened with environmental degradation, so if you see it here again in a few days, it is not because I am ambivalent and avoidant—aka lazy—but because it is the ethical thing to do.)

As part of our writing group’s effort, I also wrote a post on my own blog called A-Z: A Writer’s Alphabet. I was not yet ready to take the plunge, but I could at least come up with a line pertaining to writing for every letter of the alphabet. I had gotten into the habit of writing one line, a far less daunting task, with my friend Mary’s encouragement.

Then the aforementioned Claire said, “You really ought to do the A to Z Challenge! It’ll be good for you.” (Actually, she said “A to Zed,” because she’s British, which makes everything she says sound persuasive.) So now I am trying to think of writing as just a bunch of lines, strung together. One line upon another building into a paragraph, a post, an essay, an article, even a book. Or at least a month of daily blogging.

As you can see, my blog is called Shrinkrapped. It’s not about therapy, but I am a therapist, so psychology suffuses my world view. I’m particularly interested in how the personal, the political, and the psychological come together.

Some of my current favorite obsessions include: Motherhood; The Empty Nest (and, since my daughter has recently moved back, the not-so-empty nest); Politics; Psychology; Friendships; and Ruptures in Women’s Friendships. Plus, since everything is copy, one unwelcome obsession: What I’m calling my Cancer Detour, a new muse that showed up in my life in September 2012 (I’m fine now).

I hope you enjoy Shrinkrapped. Let the Challenge begin, and please chime in!






V is for Village

Write on Mamas Co-founder Janine Kovac reads her essay, “The Next Prompt,” at Mamas Write Book Launch, Diesel Bookstore

It happens to be V-Day for the A to Z Blog Challenge, which I did not officially participate in except for carrying the letter E for a tiny stretch of the blogging relay on behalf of my writing group, the Write On Mamas. Unofficially, I cheated, and wrote a single blog post with just a lazy line or two for each letter of the alphabet to help kick-off our new anthology, Mamas Write: 29 tales of Truth, Wit, and Grit. WOM co-founder Janine’s initial entry for the official blog was “A is for Anthology.” You can read what she had to say then here, and what another WOM co-founder, Claire Hennessey, has to say today, in “V is for Victory.” (You can also read all the other letters in between on WOM’s blog.)

Victory because we had our first Book Launch event last night at Diesel Bookstore in Oakland, and it was a blast! The place was crammed with people who laughed and cried through the excerpts we read. The overflow crowd gobbled up the books almost as fast as the chocolate-zucchini bread from Bittersweet Cafe, the same treat that over the last few months had fueled the creative juices of our editing team, Janine, Mary, and Joanne. (Chocolate Muse, anyone?)

Just as all our children were once gleams in our eyes, so the anthology was once a gleam in Janine’s eye. Two years ago, when she threw out the idea of the Write On Mamas’ publishing an anthology, I thought, “Yeah, right, this will never happen.” The initial working title was “Writing Our Motherhood, Mothering Our Writing,” which none of us really understood. But wanting to be a team player and also to fake my way into productivity, I signed on, submitting a somewhat shitty essay before moving on to other projects. Why invest in something that was going nowhere?

The great thing about the Write On Mamas, besides the wonderfully talented, competent, and supportive mothers (and one dad) who constitute it, is that nobody else thinks that way. Or possibly everybody does when staring at the blank screen or page in isolation. But the alchemy of the collective transforms inertia and demoralization into something altogether different. It’s easier to be there for others than it is for yourself, and MUCH easier to be there for others when others are there for you. As the saying goes, many hands make light work (even though a small WOM core did the bulk of the heavy lifting). The Goddesses of WOM would not accept why bother, would not accept shitty. They kept at it, coaxing, inspiring, never guilt-tripping anyone through two years of submissions, rewrites, fundraising, professional editing, PR campaigns. And they did all this while also coaxing, inspiring, and never guilt-tripping their own children!

It really does take a village, particularly one blessed with kick-ass village leaders. I am so grateful to be a part of the WOM village.



Check out WOM’s website for more book launch events and a whole lot more. Maybe you even want to join our village. And if you can’t find Mamas Write at your friendly neighborhood bookstore, you can always do the Amazon thing. Thanks!


A-Z: A Writer’s Alphabet

MomsCover_v3.inddMy writer’s group, the Write On Mamas, has an anthology coming out in late April: Mama’s Write: 29 Tales of Truth, Wit, and Grit. (It would make a great Mother’s Day gift, by the way, and I would say this even if I didn’t have an essay in it.) As part of our anthology’s kick-off, we’re participating in the A to Z Blog Challenge, where more than 2000 bloggers post every day except Sundays for 26 days, until they have run through the alphabet, letter by letter. Our group is cheating smart–blogging in a relay fashion, where one WOMer takes one day, then passes the blogging baton onto the next, for the month-long marathon. Today’s official WOM entry is here, but I thought I’d cheer along from the sidelines by jotting down a quick and dirty Writer’s Alphabet. Join in with your own entries!

  • A is for Avoidance, which is the most time-consuming aspect of writing. It also leads to . . .
  • B is for Binge Eating, which is one of the worst ways to avoid writing.
  • C is for Children, as in, “Please go away so I can write about how much I love you.”
  • D is for Deadline, without which I would never get anything written. Or done.
  • E is for Everything, as in “Everything is copy.” (Thanks, Nora Ephron’s mom!)
  • F is for Friends, who will (a) buy your book; and (b) stop being your friends after discovering that you’ve used random bits of things they’ve done or said in your writing.
  • G is for Grammar Girl, a handy online resource, particularly if, like me, you were too young to protest the Vietnam War so instead boycotted Miss Dubinsky’s attempts to brainwash 8th graders into parsing sentences.
  • H is for Huffington Post, a to-die-for publication venue whose compensation plan may lead to actual death should you depend on HP income for your livelihood.
  • I is for Internet, which you should turn off if you hope to get any writing done.
  • J is for Journaling and wondering whether or not you should arrange for your journals’ burning or publication upon death.
  • K is for “Kill Your Darlings,” the process of eliminating your precious verbiage to which you are erroneously attached. (Not to be confused with actual acts of sometimes-tempting violence that could land you in prison.)
  • L is for “Like Me” on Facebook. Or as my friend Julie said when asking everyone to go online to endorse her son’s entry in some competition, “Thank you for ‘Liking’ Michael’s project. And if you don’t like it, thank you for lying.” Oh, and by the way, please “Like” the Write On Mamas at https://www.facebook.com/WriteOnMamas.
  • M is for Modesty, which you must overcome enough to do the social media thing, but not overcome so much that everyone hates you.
  • N is for Nattering Nabobs of Negativity, by which Vice President Spiro Agnew meant the anti-war press. But all writers know the real meaning of NNN: those damn voices that live in our heads.
  • O is for O Magazine, an in-my-dreams submission venue.
  • is for Procrastination. Try to make it productive procrastination so you at least have a clean house.
  • Q is for Query Letter, as in, “Dear Editor, If I put in ungodly amounts of time and energy for this fabulous idea, will you pay me in actual cash rather than in the opportunity to build my platform?”
  • R is for Rewriting. You can’t do enough of this, unless we are talking about your first and only sentence, or if you suffer from severe OCD.
  • S is for Social Media. About which I still know too little.
  • T is for Twitter. About which I still know nothing.
  • U is for “Under-commit, over-achieve,” my favorite bit of writing (and life!) advice from writer and teacher Leslie Keenan. Another favorite is from Joyce Maynard: “Pretend every word you use costs $5.”

  • V is for Village, as in “It takes a Village”—to which the creators of our anthology, Mamas Write, can attest!
  • W is for Walking, a crucial step in writing! Clears the cobwebs, gets the juices flowing, coordinates left and right brain hemispheres, and helps the puzzle pieces fall into place—or at least ameliorates the effects of B.

  • X is for XXXing out, which “Track Changes” will magically do for you. (Caution: “Track Changes” may also make you want to shoot yourself.)

  • Y is for Youth, which is wasted on the young but might eventually make its way into your memoir if you were far-sighted enough to keep a journal.
  • Z is for Zyzzyva, a literary magazine. When you google it, as I just did, you will also discover that Zyzzyva is a genus of tropical American weevil and the last word in many English-language dictionaries. Hence Zyzzyva’s tagline: “The Last Word.”

What’s your last word (and first 25) for your alphabet soup of writing?