How (and Why) to Write a “Love List” as Self-Care

I know what makes me happy and whole. I also know the list of things I need to thrive is not simply filled with selfish wants — and, those things aren’t solely self-focused. Often, even if an act of self-care starts with a form of isolation, it will press outward in some way in want of connecting with another human being or a higher being. I believe we need downtime alone, with our loved ones, and with the world at large — all of these to thrive. To move out of survival mode. Writing a “Love List” is a good start. So, put on your oxygen mask first, friend. This has become one of my life mantras. Let me tell you that it’s not selfish to embrace what makes you happy, what makes you whole-er. It’s called “self-care,” according to Annemarie, my psychologist friend. It’s funny that I’ve had to learn this. You fellow givers, empaths, […]

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Spalding MFA Alumni Interview – A Day in the Life

On this episode of A Day in the Life we meet Summer 2014 graduate Karen Chronister, a fiction and travel writer based in Franklin, Tennessee. When Karen isn’t working on her own writing she’s helping other creatives to market their writing.  Karen has a wholistic approach to life and writing and I know I could definitely take a page out of her book to put into my daily routing. Now, let’s hear from Karen: When did you graduate? July 2014 (Berlin/Prague Residency) What are your favorite books? Oh, wow. Charlotte’s Web, The Essays of E. B. White, Rebecca, Pride and Prejudice, The Forgotten Garden, Olive Kitteridge. It’s more about authors and stories…Elizabeth Strout, Daphne du Maurier, Victoria Holt, Kate Morton, Jane Austen, Frank O’Connor, my Spalding professors…I read a lot of print travel magazines, too. Do you hold a full-time job other than writing? I have a freelance marketing business, […]

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How to Make Perfect Baked Brie

Making Baked Brie for your next gathering is a guaranteed hit. Baked Brie is easy and quick to assemble, and you can keep all of the ingredients on hand to throw together in a pinch. You can even assemble it the day before and pop it in the oven at the last minute. Voila! Delicious, decadent, gorgeous Baked Brie! Make sure you clear the area around the Baked Brie. It draws a crowd. Ingredients 1 Brie wheel or wedge (8oz + for party size) 8-12 Phyllo Dough sheets or 1 sheet Puff Pastry (thawed) Melted Butter or Ghee 2-3 T organic Apricot Jam (I like low sugar) A handful of Almond Flakes Crackers of choice Step 1 & 2 ~ Prep & Bake For Baked Brie in Phyllo Dough – Thaw 1 sleeve. Start with a large piece of foil coated with non-stick spray. Carefully unroll Phyllo Dough sheets and lay […]

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Soul Surfacing (or, Apathy is No One’s Destiny)

©11/20/14 Funny how certain experiences in life attract apathy. Physical and emotional trauma. Loss. Abuse. Dismantling relationships. Rejection. Loneliness. I’ve been apathetic before, for a few years—and they were the worst years of my life. I disappeared and went through the motions. I don’t remember much about those years. I’ve found receipts and journals from that time; these, and memory moments of my kids, are my only vivid recollections. I wonder if apathy acts like a drug and washes over our brains…our spirits? I checked out because it was easier, I suppose, and lathered on a different layer of regret. What is apathy? “I don’t care.” “Whatever.” “Doesn’t matter.” “Don’t worry about me.” Silence. Refusal to play. I’m not talking about being an accommodating dinner partner. I’m not talking about choosing passivity. I’m talking about removing oneself from commitment. From the moment. From the person. From the decision at hand. […]

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Do What You’ve Dreamed

Creative Motivation Alert! Do what you’ve dreamed. You won’t out dream it. Do it. Do it. Do it. I believe there’s a reason you’ve dreamed it. The world needs what only you have deep in your soul. Do it. Do it. Do it. Step forward. There’s a hand in the small of your back. Trust it. Let go of the stuff tangling up your path. This big bad old world needs it…that’s why you’ve been given this dream! Do it. Do it. Tell me you’ll do it.

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The Scent of Rain

Lately, when I catch the scent of rain and earth rising up, I am ten again. It’s Easter morning, the forsythia just blooming, and I sense my Mother moving somewhere nearby. I am innocent. Now, an old man packs my groceries, repacks the eggs with a tsk at a carton fallen on its side. I read his name: “Art.” My sweet grandfather’s name. He regards me with a look of satisfaction, finished his task, and returns my smile. I am twelve, maybe, riding in the middle seat of an old red Ford with the stick shift knocking my bare, bony knees. My grandfather turns his face to me crinkled into a grin (I see every line, the shade of his blue, blue eyes), “Hungry for some ice cream, SusieQ?” Oh. My daughter sends me a video of her baby daughter talking to her, sounding out “hello,” and, I wonder how it […]

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Profile: Octavia Peck (The Contributor, Nashville, USA)

21 October 2015 by INSP News Service Interview by Karen Chronister, The Contributor Where are you from? I’m a Mississippian. I was raised chopping cotton and picking cotton. My dad owned his own land and I worked for him. We raised cotton and beans, rice, and wheat. I have three sisters and two brothers. I’m the last born. My dad is the baby. He’s 92. He’s the baby? He was my mother’s baby before I came along. I was the last born and not a boy child, so I had it rough. How so? [click here to read the rest of the story…]

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Join Spalding at the Southern Festival of Books, Nashville, Oct. 12-14

In the current era where arts and humanities programs are threatened with a hard shove to the sidelines, The Southern Festival of Books: A Celebration of the Written Word is a bold and bright voice booming atop the Nashville landscape. For three days in October, the SFB gathers together book lovers and the nation’s and region’s prominent writers, offering dozens of panels on the writing arts in downtown Nashville. Spalding will debut a booth this year with program advocacy and honoring our writers in mind, including faculty member Silas House and his recent novel, Southernmost, and alum Charles Dodd White with In the House of Wilderness, both featured on the main program, as well as faculty member Jeanie Thompson and alum Juyanne James, who are featured in panel sessions. After a year of researching MFA options, the integrity and depth of the Spalding program and a 45-minute phone call with a […]

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Love List 2015

I love beauty. I can’t figure my exact definition of it, but I love it. I love interesting faces. Throaty voices. Belly laughs. Auburn hair. White hair. Blue eyes. Nung. Rodin’s sculpture. Leaves floating atop a brook. Poetic weaving of words. Melodies that ache. Belonging. The sound of a lake lapping against a shore. Pine needle and moss forest floors. The smell of a baby. Climbing waterfalls. Wind on a summer day. Witty conversation. Deep conversation. No conversation. Hope. Wood floors. Stone fireplaces. Leather couches. Creaky steps and screen doors. Porridge with strawberries and milk. Moments. Memories. Resolution. Wind chimes. Pieris Japonica. Poppies. Being 17 and 33—and now. Giant oak trees. Colorado. First sentences. Last sentences. Impressionist and Post-impression paintings. And Claude’s Camille. I’ve forgotten a thousand things… ©2015

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Love List 2017

I started writing a Love List a few years ago. Maybe we should all have “love lists” to remind us on overcast days of beauty and how it speaks to us. I’m letting my mind go again. Here is this year’s addition to my unending Love List, for Love Month 2017. I’d love to read yours… I love a crisp wind and warm Spring sun. I love talking about writing and Story with teenagers. Love seeing their eyes alight with new knowledge, at discovering humor, lightness, and darkness in the words someone else has woven together. I love chocolate—85%, specifically, and preferably with some crunchy something buried in it. Love the wash of nostalgia when an old, painful song comes on (and all the regrets it nudges out of place). Love silence in the car just as much, just like my Mom did, but I didn’t understand then. I love the […]

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Writing Spaces

Tools for my trade…words that wring the Truth out of the why writers must write, a hand-spun pottery mug from a friend (it has a dent for my thumb), an hourglass with shimmering black sand to keep me on task, a stack of little journals I’ve half filled with ideas and thin places found, and layers of warm sun or moonlight…I can write anywhere, but I’m beginning to love my new spot. Maybe because there’s a balcony beside, and a fireplace and stuffed bookshelves behind me. Oh, and my writing chair is three steps away. None of these make me write, but they are like hands from the forest as I run half-blind down the trail following crumbs. Hmm…come to me, you wee voices and fill my alabaster pages.

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Shapeshifting

I feel a shapeshifting coming on. Like a slow trickle at the beginning of a landslide after which everything changes…shifts slightly to the left. To the right. The push of a breeze on the small of my back. A hint that, soon, all will be propelling down the mountain to warmer places. Scattered about and rearranged. Exposing roots. Turning over rocks. Pushing air deep into the soil. The slide creates space for a thing once buried, dormant; it slides atop another something that had been so urgent for so long that it became normal, everyday. However, this new thing pokes its nose back into my line of vision, gulps, then lies back to loll in the sunlight, breathing deeply and smiling at its great fortune at having come uncovered.   2013, 2017

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Tune-up Your Soul With A “Small Pleasures” List

Make a small pleasures list. frozen branch with leaves closeup

Small pleasures…getting lost in a book, buying a new book, getting back in the car from wherever and listening to the next part of an audio book, Facetiming with my granddaughter, reading my daughter’s wise, pithy posts, watching my son’s newest adventure on Instagram, eating outside, standing with my back to a fire, laughing out loud, hearing a Truth that makes me sigh, petting a dog, having a conversation with a child…the silent morning ritual of making coffee, clean hair, a good haircut, a classroom of college students laughing and talking amongst themselves about a story, my Mom’s voice and my Dad’s laugh, a faraway friend’s voice, almond butter…watching a classic movie in an old theater, hiking in the woods, planning a new adventure, eating fresh fruit, doing a TRX handstand, creating something, writing a new scene, starting a new short story, getting an old story published, hanging out with […]

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Create on.

Rise. Draw out from within you what is begging to be created. Is it painting? Is it singing? Is it word weaving or gardening? Photography? Is it child or puppy training? Organizing? Business building? Touching the sick or anguished or old? Coaxing your horse to jump? What is it? What well do you tap to express your inner most? This is where healing begins and our armor is restored, battle after battle. We yearn to create, we heal in our creating, because we are like our Creator. It is in the giving that we find our wonder. For me? It is word weaving. Pulling the threads of thoughts and phrases, images and stories from the deep, shuffling and shaping them until they tremble with something je ne sais quoi. Our words lift us up into our true emerging, shifting selves. Create on.

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