Archive for category: Writing

A Beautiful Gift of Friendship

Categories: Adventure, Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Endorsements, Meditation, Women's, Writing - Tags: , , , , ,

“Pulling Up Stakes: Stepping Into Freedom”–an ink and watercolor drawing by Linda Johnson Roesch

Words cannot begin to describe the surprise, amazement, delight and gratitude that I felt when I opened a large mysterious package recently.  I was agog.  I have loved our adventures and I have loved writing about them, even to the extent that writing is part of my meditation practice.  Editing and publishing my first personal book was challenging, scary and exciting.  My readership is considerably smaller than  Cheryl Strayed’s who is living the writer’s dream, whose book “Wild”, about redemption hiking the Pacific Crest Trail be selected by Oprah for her book club.

My gratification as a writer is more private, though very deep.  And I have thoroughly relished invitations to speak with readers at book clubs.  Those readers really have great questions leading to wonderful discussions, and opportunities to relive experiences and explore life lessons learned.  More than enough conditions for happiness…..

However, this surprise package thrilled me to the core.  The beautiful watercolor and ink painting arrived unbidden, created by my high school classmate, artist Linda Johnson Roesch. San Marino High School Class of


Linda lives in Vermont and we have only seen each other a couple of times since high school, but she got wind of my book, Pulling Up Stakes: Stepping Into Freedom, and bless her, was so inspired reading the book, that she took up brush and watercolors and created this mosaic, listing every single place mentioned in the story–and most of the characters including each of my children, and she signed it with an ink drawing of a llama with wings, an homage to the cover art.  Without saying a word, she packed it up, shipped it west, and gave me the deepest thrill a friendship over decades and across the continent could possibly bring to an author.

Cheryl Strayed, were you any happier when Oprah called you?  I am sure  you were in bliss, but this inspired act of generosity surely nourished my bliss as well.

Together, we Step Into Freedom practicing random acts of kindness.  Thank you SO much, Linda, Dear Friend!

Eight Great Joys of Book Touring

Categories: Adventure, Conscious Living, Personal Growth, Psychology, Relationships, Travel, Writing - Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We have crafted a book tour adventure to follow our sabbatical adventure journey, PULLING UP STAKES: STEPPING INTO FREEDOM.  To date Since the book’s publication in April, we have appeared in Los Angeles at two private events, then at READER’S BOOKS ( in Sonoma, BOOKSHOP SANTA CRUZ in Santa Cruz (, as a presenter at The DIVISION 39 Psychoanalytic Meeting in Santa Fe, at GARCIA STREET BOOKS  ( also in Santa Fe, at another private party in Santa Cruz, private events in NEW YORK CITY, and WASHINGTON DC, at the HARVARD CO-OP BOOKSTORE  ( in Cambridge, Mass, then at the VASSAR COLLEGE BOOKSTORE ( in Poughkeepsie, New York.








Most recently, we visited Colorado and made “Meet the Author” events at the BOOKWORM,( in Edwards Colorado near Vail, and BOULDER BOOKSTORE ( in Boulder, Colorado.  We have been having a ball!  (You can deduce that from my last blog entry: “How I Hit the Jackpot!”).

It has become clear to me that in this era of the explosion in books on the market brought about by self-publishing, that even those of us who are fortunate enough to have a publisher and a marketing team behind us, book promotion is a big job that falls primarily  on the shoulders of the author (and in my case, on my husband Jim Wheeler’s shoulders too!) I’ve told many curious friends that it is clear I’d better not quit my day job.  For one thing, it takes typically six months before accurate sales figures come in from the distributor and even longer before any dividend checks roll in.  And because the author’s cut from the retail sale of a book is fractional, I’m not counting on anything close to a windfall.  So, “What’s It All About, Alfie?”

It’s about having a new adventure!  I’m learning social media, beginning to blog, became the screenwriter and “star” in my own three book videos, and a travel planner for setting up the cities and towns Jim and I have friends in and would like to visit, so my publisher can arrange book store appearances.  This time, instead of traveling to the “back of beyond” we are traveling all over our own United States.  I’ve had to navigate an internal paradigm shift from my phobia and aversion to “sales”, substituting instead the notion of offering something of genuine value to people I may or may not know.  And that paradigm shift has been amply rewarded by making the acquaintance of so many interesting readers!  This tour has been a ticket to the global village and it has been, in its own right, another pilgrimage.

How Can I Know I Will Never Die?

Categories: Buddhist Practice, Meditation, Mindfulness, Personal Growth, Self-Improvement, Spiritual, Writing - Tags: , , , , , ,

Welcome back.  I hope you have been savoring the practice of our virtual retreat with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.  Let us continue…..

The next day of the retreat, Thay offered the children a powerful dharma talk on death and on birth and the Buddhist philosophy of “No coming, no going.” He spoke gently to an imaginary cloud, saying, “Dear Cloud, do you know when you were born?” And the little cloud said, “Thay I was never born. Before I was a cloud, I was rain, river, ocean, tears, water in the cells of plants, animals and people, and I was your tea. When conditions were right, I manifested as a cloud.”
And Thay replied, “And when you die?” and the little cloud said, “Dear Thay, I will never die. When conditions are right, I will manifest as raindrops, rivers, tears, and tea!” “And so, Children, there is no birth, and no death. There is always impermanence.”

This calligraphy “A Cloud Never Dies” was done by Thay and offered at the retreat  for sale to benefit hungry children in Vietnam.

On another day during the retreat, Thich Nhat Hanh offered another deceptively simple but profound teaching about interdependence that even the children can understand. He said, “My right hand is quite gifted. She can write poetry. She can cook and sew. My left hand can’t do any of those things. But my right hand doesn’t say, “Stupid Left Hand, you’re good for nothing. Look what I can do!” And my left hand doesn’t say, “You always get to do everything! It’s not fair!” They get along so nicely together. They support each other. One day, I was hanging a picture in my hut and I was using a hammer in my right hand. My left hand was holding the nail, The hammer slipped and pounded my left thumb instead of the nail. Immediately my right hand dropped the hammer and rushed to cradle and comfort my left hand. My left hand didn’t say, “You are stupid! How could you do that to me?” She just accepted the comfort of her sister. So my left and my right hands are friends. They are very different and they get along peacefully, just as we need to do with everyone and everything which is different from us.
When the children file out of the dharma hall with some of the brother and sister monks and nuns, Thay then offers his dharma talk to the adults. Each day, the talk goes deeper and deeper into Buddhist psychology and philosophy, teaching ethical values of equanimity, releasing anxiety through breathing meditation, coming into the present moment, learning to choose which “seeds” to water in the store conscious (or unconscious) , and which to let wither–of course seeds of compassion, calm, equanimity, generosity are the seeds to water, and anxiety, envy, cruelty, greed are the type to let wither.

The Zen of Book Marketing: 10 Ways To Succeed Without Losing Your Mind !

Categories: Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Health and Fitness, Meditation, Mindfulness, New Age, Personal Growth, Self-Improvement, Women's, Writing - Tags: , , ,

Are you like me?  You’ve always loved writing.  You dove into writing your book with relish, like a kid diving off the dock at summer camp.  It’s been a joy, a practice, a discipline and a relatively private exercise.

But then, the book is finished, and you’ve entered into a whole different realm.  Let’s say you’ve already crossed the publishing Rubicom—whether you are self-published or picked up by a publishing house.  You may have a PR firm behind you as well. But we all know that these days, marketing your book, ultimately falls upon your shoulders.

Marketing and sales are as far from the reclusive sanctuary of the writer, your head may spin, leaving you feeling flummoxed, conflicted, crazed, and overwhelmed.  I have certainly felt that way.  But I have both my 35 years of psychoanalytic practice and my Buddhist practice to draw on and share with you.

Harriet Wrye Enjoying One of MANY Book Signings on a Book Tour

So here are ten ways I have found to undertake book marketing without losing my center.  They all relate to:





1)  First, reflect deeply on your intention.  Did you write this book primarily for your own satisfaction, or did you write it with the intent of seeing it widely read?  Unless your answer is the latter, stop worrying about marketing. If you wrote it to be widely read, keep that intention in the forefront of your mind throughout the marketing journey.

2)  Second, consider your support system.  What resources do you have or can you turn to to help you establish a game plan for marketing your book? Do you have a publisher and or a PR team helping you with your game plan?  If you do, make sure the plan makes sense to you and that you are clear about being on board with it.

3)  If you do not have a professional support team, what are your own resources?  How much time and money are you comfortable with allotting to the project of book promotion?  Develop a timeline and a budget that you can live with.

4)  Whether you are on your own or have PR support, you will need a good web site; you will also need a strong social media presence.  That means in addition to your personal Facebook page, you need a page for your book and you need to attract people to like your page; you need a twitter account to draw more followers.  You will also benefit from joining discussions on Linked in groups related to your area of interest, and sharing images and updates on Pinterest.  Another great site to create a writer’s presence is Goodreads. And finally, to enhance your web page and your online presence, consider doing what you love best, WRITING—how about writing a blog!?

The entry into social media can be very daunting to those writers of us “of a certain age” and may be the most challenging to your equanimity.   More support to follow.

5)  Consider taking courses to support you in web design, book marketing and social media.  I took a very helpful course at my local community college on book marketing and also found a great weekend course on keeping up with social media for marketing, offered by a “social media guru” through my local chamber of commerce.  I also met other people in my community to create a mini support group.

6)  In addition, look for online courses that can help you with marketing.  Informally joining support groups with others who are on the same path in these contexts can help immensely in maintaining your sanity!  For example, I have found Beth Hayden (www.bloggingwithbeth) enormously supportive and helpful in creating a successful blog presence.

Beth's Blogging Byte
eters and established your support group(s), you are ready to go!  Now comes the mindfulness practice part of your journey.  Remember the intention you set at the outset?  You want to engage in marketing your book as a practice of living engaged fully in the present moment, setting aside attachments to future outcomes and worries about your performance in the past, living equanimously in the present.  This practice can be summed up with the simple but powerful mantra: “BE HERE NOW”

8)  Make sure you frame it for yourself in a way that is fully syntonic with your personal values and ethos.  Many people find themselves very conflicted about “selling” as if they felt they were icky snake oil salesmen at a traveling circus.  As a Buddhist practitioner devoted to “Right Livlihood” and “Speaking Only Truth” I had my own initial conflicts about selling my book, PULLING UP STAKES; STEPPING INTO FREEDOM (  But then I realized that the book itself is an act of mindfulness, it traces a journey of gaining wisdom and insight and learning how to “let go” and live more mindfully.  So, because it is about surmounting some of life’s greatest challenges with equanimity, it is an inspiring offering. If your book is a genuine offering that you believe will benefit, illuminate, inspire and or entertain readers, and not some kind of snake oil scam, then you need to keep reminding yourself that you are offing merit not compromising your core values or behaving like a sleaze!

9)  Approach your book tour with gusto.  “This is going to be an adventure!  I’m going to have an opportunity to talk with new people about something I really care about.  My book is my baby and I’m privileged to be able to find people interested in hearing about it!”

10)  Engage in your daily routine at your computer doing your due diligence on your social media sites as a mindfulness practice!  Rather than seeing it as an odious chore, consider it as an opportunity for practicing mindfulness.  Pay attention to your posture, sitting comfortably, breathing consciously, communicating openly with your book’s potential audience as a privilege not a task.  Remember you are offering something of value, something from your heart and soul, it is an offering.

If you, like me, are a writer, “of a certain age” consider that learning all these new tools is like studying Chinese—it keeps the old brain active and engaged!  Ponce de Leon, Here We Come! Practice smiling meditation sitting there at your desk.  I do.


Follow Harriet Wrye’s Blog, “Madly, Kindly, Truly” at her book website:

Catch both her zany and her meditative videos on

And “Like” her book’s Facebook Page at


Adrienne Rich: Poetess Comet’s Passing

Categories: Conscious Living, Psychology, Relationships, Spiritual, Women's, Writing - Tags: , ,

Poet extraordinaire Adrienne Rich died this week in Santa Cruz. Her neighbor, Carolyn Brigit Flynn, writer, Poetess, and my editor, was moved to write this amazing tribute:  It is so poignant and powerful, I wanted to share it with you all.

On Adrienne

MARCH 29, 2012

I awake this morning to the stunning knowledge that came last night: Adrienne Rich is gone.

She died in her home within blocks of me, here in Live Oak, Santa Cruz. Jean met her years ago, at a Sunday afternoon poetry reading at Garfield Park Church, a benefit for our local Food Bank. She had heard that a good poet was reading; it was the girls’ weekend with their father, and Jean was on her own. It was 1997, the year that Adrienne refused the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton. Jean read that the poet had decided not to sit at the tables of power and please them with her work, saying that the administration was involved with cynical politics when too many in the country were suffering. Jean thought that was cool–and feeling her own poetry begin to swell within her, went. It was a brave thing for Jean to do, in her own way; something untold and even strange in her family, to choose poetry on a perfectly good Sunday afternoon, to choose poetry over errands or work or other ordinary weekend pursuits.

Jean had also read that the poet was from Live Oak. Adrienne Rich got up, small and finely honed.  A taut and spell-binding reader, she offered, among other poems, her stunning classic “Diving Into the Wreck.”  Jean went there with her, went all the way down, went down to see the damage that was done/and the treasures that prevail, went down into herself and felt the poet had transported her. Afterwards she walked up to Adrienne, with the collection in hand, and asked her to sign it, saying “I live in Live Oak too.  We’re neighbors.” “Wonderful!” Adrienne said, and they smiled together, unassuming and true, friendly and common as neighbors are.

“I liked her,” Jean says. “She was nice, just ordinary folk.  She knew I didn’t know anything about her fame and I think she liked that. I didn’t really learn who she was until I started writing with you, and you read us her work.”

I didn’t know who she was, Jean says, but perhaps we all can say that, all of us who have read her for three decades and owe her some part of our lives. She lived in our town, she died right down the street. I remember turning from the deli counter at the local market once and seeing her choosing her bread. Startled, I almost called out. I saw her head rise, saw that she knew what had happened within me, saw her pull into herself, a kind of dread– I smiled as if at a stranger and moved on. I wanted to build a kind of zone around her, something to protect her from all she was to us, so that she could simply be all that she was. She had said too much, broken so many silences, she had opened so much in us. She had been fierce in her insistence upon intimacy and truth–not only with others, not only between women, but within the self—she insisted we dive into all the false layers to something intimate, secret, true, unspoken. She was speaking what we had not spoken, not even to ourselves, perhaps most particularly not to ourselves.

This morning I opened her collection The Dream of a Common Language at random, and this was the first poem I came to, from Twenty-One Love Poems:

(The Floating Poem, Unnumbered)

Whatever happens with us, your body
will haunt mine–tender, delicate
your lovemaking, like the half-curled frond
of the fiddlehead fern in forests
just washed by sun. Your traveled, generous thighs
between which my whole face had come and come–
the innocence and wisdom of the place my tongue has found there–
the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth–
your touch on me, firm, protective, searching
me out, your strong tongue and slender fingers
reaching where I have been waiting years for you
in my rose-wet cave–whatever happens, this is.
Adrienne Rich

Stunning. And stunning to imagine that she published this in 1974, almost forty years ago.  She broke the world open. Already an accomplished, award-winning poet of national stature, she defied the literary canon that marked women’s lives as uninteresting and unworthy of poetry.  She wrote of the intimate and the daily, she wrote of marriage and of divorce, of politics, of violence and injustice; and then, having fallen in love with a woman, wrote the truth of her own eros.  It literally broke everything open.

Yesterday, sitting in the car eating lunch–before I knew Adrienne had left us–in my private worries, I listened to a woman on the radio speak about walking the Pacific Coast Trail. She was asked how she did it, what she carried, her food, the wild animals she encountered, and the ungodly weight of her overlarge pack. Then she was asked what she read. She listed any number of literary writers, Nabakov, Faulkner, books she had packed up and shipped to various stops along the Trail to replace as she walked. But the book she carried all the time, which she read daily and which became, as she put it, her sacred text, was The Dream of a Common Language.

Ah yes, I thought, my book–and how many of us feel that way about one of Adrienne Rich’s many collections of poems, or about some other of her works and essays–that they are ours, we are intimate with them, that she pulled something out of us that we were missing, the touch of our own skin, the love we might offer ourselves, the turning to our woman’s body, saying Yes, here now, you are home.

This small moment in the car brought her to me yesterday. I thought how I never see her around town any more, how she no longer offers readings, and I wondered how she was. Of course, even then, she was gone. Then last night, I heard the news. Now I wonder how she is, how this journey of life takes her and moves her anew. I awoke to fog, and The Dream of a Common Language, which I’d put by my bed. For an hour I read her, before I moved out of bed, moved yet again–or in a new way, for I know more now–by the intimacy of her language, the voice below the voice that called me back into something intelligent and solid in my own heart. How petty our inner miseries can sometimes be. Then a writer can call us into attention. She speaks what is true, in a new/old language, and we are back with life.

This morning, I wanted her words. Before the obituaries, the essays and tributes in the media in the next days and weeks, which I will read hungrily, I wanted only her words. Her words, and my own musings, what my mind might burnish and find gleaming among her memory. Last night an email arrived showing that Adrienne Rich was trending seventh among the top ten Twitter posts worldwide. That means millions of people were sending out homages at her passing. And too, millions more will hear her name for the first time in the coming weeks, and will go searching, reading, and she will be born anew.

Deena Metzger once wrote that when a person dies, their life is thrown shimmering up into the air for a time with great clarity, greater than even was possible when they were alive–and the truth of their being rains down upon us all. And thus, strangely, for a time, we have them more in death than we did in life. In the next months, Adrienne Rich’s life will be thrown up into the sky. Millions of people, like me, will take her work off their shelves and re-read what she has left us. And many of them, I hope, will write. I hope they will write poems and essays and journal entries and blogs and musings on the backs of envelopes.  I hope they will write of Adrienne and her memory, of their grief, of their mourning, of all she gave, of her life, so tender and hard. One might think ruefully that these poems and musings will mostly be unknown writers and poets writing about a great poet. But the creative energies of the universe don’t hold things in that way. The Creative simply wants to move through as many hands and hearts as She can find. And Adrienne would not have wanted a writer to think that way. She would want anyone who is drawn to the pen and to the page to dive within, to search deep, to be unafraid to name shame and ugliness, to name the bedrock strength, and to write their own truth.

Once I went to one of Adrienne’s poetry readings at Bookshop Santa Cruz, and we in the audience lined the walls and the chairs and aisles and sat cross-legged on the floor, women mostly and a good number of men, of every shape and size, and many young women in their studious glasses and punk hair. Adrienne was impressively introduced with her lengthy list of honors and awards. Then she came out to us, small and pale and dark-haired. She had a pile of books in her hand. These books were not her own. She was painfully aware, she told us, of the privilege that came with her white skin, with her academic upbringing, with her command of what Audre Lord called the master’s language. Too many women of color, too many unknown, working-class poets in small towns were unread and unpublished. For an hour, she read them to us.

So write about Adrienne Rich today.  Write it out, while her life is shimmering all around us: how she and her work are in some way part of your life. Share your writing with a friend.  Send it on to me.  Throw her life, as it lives in you, glittering into the air, for all to see.

(for Adrienne Rich)

Yesterday mist cloaked the far
pine tree, which had once
gleamed with sunlight on the smallest
needle, suggesting to me
the possibility of new vision.

But yesterday you were gone–
though I didn’t know it yet–
and were you gone?–
You who gave voice to the dead,
(should I say voices)
you who gave voice
to dead women

whose lives floated like ragged wires
or bits of forgotten cloth
until you took them up,
braided them together
into something alive and singing.

Are you gone?–and not to say
your work, for which you gave and gave,
and which will never leave,
or your power, for which
you dove mercilessly, to which
you cleaved, unwilling to release it
to men, to the trappings of
motherhood, marriage, the academy
even prestige, honor, awards–

No, you are not gone,
rather you have slipped below bedrock
into somewhere unknowable to us–

in that place now
you are among the voices,
as you could never have dreamed
when this life held and throbbed
your frail body, so small to contain
all your fierce devotions.

You have left us your poems
which I will finger and etch
until my eyes fall prey to mists.
Like holy texts (though you would not
wish to become canon) I will study
and follow your intimate language,
your poetry of dailiness, the musings
of your mind set to track each raging
thunder, each skein of yarn, each
crack of brilliant light,
each small sediment of rock
laying wait in the riverbed.

Love was your topic: love and power.
And how a woman finds
her work, her art, how we,
any of us, dare to defy even
the broken effigies
we hang loosely about us
for the world to see, while something
true rages within–

you, you

you always dug in, to the swollen
red place pulsing
the true pain–which always
led to something gleaming,
as a shell shining in mud,
upturned suddenly by the torrent
to which you invited us,
to which you now turn,
saying Ah, I have seen you,
I have known you,

and still, this love, so new,
in the end I did not know,
not like this
–another sinking
past bedrock, into all that is real.

Carolyn Brigit Flynn