Category Archives: Life leaps

I stARTed with words.

I stARTed with words.
I stARTed with words.

I call myself a stARTist to honor all the ways I spend my creative energy – and to recognize that art and writing and entrepreneurship and traveling and knitting and parenting . . . and all the rest of the magical things we begin . . . use the same muscle.

My stARTistic passions started young . . . with words. Building the ability to look at a blank page and not run the other way is a strength that helped me find my way in business, the art studio and life.

So when fellow writer and Missouri J-school grad Mary Novaria ( invited me to a blog hop to answer some questions about writing, I said “yes.” Because that’s a stARTist’s favorite word.


What am I working on?

For the next few months, most of my creative energies are going to promoting the book I wrote and illustrated, Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone: Advice Your Mom Would Give if She Thought You Were Listening, It’s more fun than I expected. I’m channeling my inner college coed to engage young women my daughters’ ages in conversations about advice in the book and how to spread the word.

I’m using the opportunity to learn all the social media strategy I’ve avoided for the past several years. Instead of bemoaning it, I’ve decided to treat it like a self-staged writers workshop. If you think about it, writing a Tweet is like writing haiku.

People have told me I should be starting the next book, and I intend to. Right away. As soon as I get 72 more Pinterest followers.

Press proofs for Do Your Laundry or You'll Die Alone

Press proofs for Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone

How does my writing differ from others of its genre?

I worked hard to keep the book from being a limp-wristed list of etiquette tips. I take some risks – with subject matter, imagery, and examples. I try to drive home points with tone of voice, like sarcasm and snark. I’m not terribly funny, but I try to use humor in a playful way, like we are allowed to by our most intimate loved ones.

I hope my writing is light enough to be accessible to those who aren’t in the mood to “sit and read,” and that some of the layered metaphors will take intelligent readers to deeper places.

I look for visual ways to reinforce the cadence of the words – punctuation, font selection, even mixing fonts for impact. And, of course, there are pictures.

Why do I write what I do?

Mostly, I write to hold onto things, and then to let them go.

By examining beloved topics through writing, I get to be with them fully. I get to enjoy them privately and without judgement. This is why my best work begins as journaling.

My book, for example, was a year of journaling about my daughter leaving home. I observed her days and her ways without getting into her business. I talked to myself about what frightened and amused me. Once the conversation took on a comfortable cadence, I found more to say than I knew was there. Once I arrived to it, I held on for dear life to the exercise of parenting my daughter in a voice that felt finally balanced – a voice that was more fun and honest than our actual relationship was at the time. Writing in this voice was so satisfying that by the time my daughter was to leave home, I had polished the words to something sharable.

How does my writing process work?DSC_1209

I write in two ways:

In the first, I get struck by something in the course of the day that requires capture on the notepad/journal that lives in my purse that day. I usually have my radar up for the project I am working on, so these observations are not random. When working on the book Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone for example, I found myself noticing how young women treated their mothers. I watched their relationships with their phones and their clothes. I noticed pop culture and research that I would have otherwise ignored.

Then, when I sit down to journal, (almost every day) I pull out lots of notepads – from yesterday, last week, and five years ago – and browse. I let one idea lead me into a point or a hypothesis, and I play with it for a while. Eventually, on no certain timetable, it emerges as an article, a mini essay or a “blit,” which is what I call tidbits that grow up to be book entries, Tweets, or prose for artworks.

The second way I write is good, old-fashioned journalism. I go at a topic with an open mind, a deadline and a list of people to interview.

The first type of writing feels like play. The second type, after so many years, feels like work. So these days, you’ll find me playing more in the first playground.


A blog hop is like passing the microphone around the room at a song write, with aspects of a chain letter.

I’m passing the mike to two women who will no doubt make you forget the last song you heard. They are both women whose work I admire, but whom I have never actually met. Join me and hop on over to their blogs on May 12.

MRO 213Maria Rodgers O’Rourke is a mom, wife, author, and speaker who cries at movies. Her favorite things include music, scarves, baseball, autumn, thrift stores, and her family’s laughter. She’s still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up, but she’s pretty sure it will include watching her daughters do the same. Her podcast and current book are called Every Day Inspired and you can find her work at Chicken Soup for the Soul and on the Huffington Post blog. In her retreats, workshops and writing, she blends wisdom, humor and down-to-earth spirituality. Maria has over 20 years of experience in communications and nonprofit management, and holds a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Studies. Maria and her husband have been married for over 20 years and have two children. Visit her blog:



profile pic 6Shelby Bouck ​writes about cooking, dancing and other things she’s mediocre at on The How Not to Suck Blog. Her website is dedicated to promoting adequacy in everyday activities, so people can spend more energy on their passions and less energy on trying to be great at everything. The blog’s motto? “Competence, not excellence.”

After the joyful discovery that she could make her time on the Internet into a job, Shelby began to manage the social media presences of businesses in Tallahassee and elsewhere. On the rare occasions when she’s offline, Shelby studies creative writing and communications at Florida State University, sells discount cards at Books A Million, reads voraciously, and writes short fiction. Her first work, “Sari”, was published in Teen Ink in 2012.

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Children Will Listen

Children Will Listen

It is not lost on me.

My youngest daughter is playing the role of the Witch in her high school musical, Into the Woods. I’ve just finished a book anchored in the fact that our children don’t pay attention to their parents. Good art tells truth more deeply than reality. Here are the lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Treat yourself, and go to YouTube to hear them with their haunting melody.

Careful the things you say,
Children will listen.
Careful the things you do,
Children will see.
And learn.
Children may not obey,
But children will listen.
Children will look to you
For which way to turn,
To learn what to be.
Careful before you say,
“Listen to me.”
Children will listen.

Careful the wish you make,
Wishes are children.
Careful the path they take,
Wishes come true,
Not free.
Careful the spell you cast,
Not just on children.
Sometimes the spell may last
Past what you can see
And turn against you…

Careful the tale you tell.
That is the spell.
Children will listen.

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stART with ‘hello’

stART with ‘hello’


I have a friend who is a party stARTist. She starts parties every time she enters a room, because she just can’t help herself. She has one of those hostess personalities that wants people to know one another, to have fun and to find the food easily. It’s as if every office, every street, every city is her own event space. She says “hello” in such a welcoming, responsible tone, that it’s as if she’s saying “Hello, this is my planet. Can I help you find your way around?”

What if we all stARTed the day this way?

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Paris is a good place to stART

Paris is a good place to stART
Plan a trip to Paris.

Plan a trip to Paris.

In my book, “Do Your Laundry or You’ll Die Alone,” I offer up advice for my daughters, plus some advice that I wish someone had given me.
For example, #76: Plan a trip to Paris, says: “Plan a trip to Paris. Though it may be a faraway fantasy, setting your sights on trip to Paris releases your inner French girl and makes every day more chic and romantic. Studying Paris – or anyplace you long to visit – is a luscious way to spend your web surfing time. By the time you get there, it will feel like home.”

Tomorrow, I leave for a well-planned trip to Paris with nine creative business women. Ooh-la-la. I’m even jealous of me.

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stARTing a selfie

stARTing a selfie

One of the first wrinkles in my self promotion adventure was staring at me in the mirror this morning. Maybe a second or third wrinkle, too. (Given my aging eyesight, I can’t be sure.) Either way, the 50-something face staring back at me may not be the best face forward for promoting a book that I want young women to find hip.

I feel hip. I feel sharp and young and in the game. I feel like I can hang in social media circles with the vulgar college girls and the snarky new moms. I can write in an ageless voice. I think I just need to quit looking in the mirror before I put on makeup.

Sadly, how we create is often defined by how we see ourselves. Science shows that the mere suggestion to a person that they are old or sick or tired will instantly stunt their problem solving and work product.

So I’m working on a profile picture overhaul. And it’s the most fun I’ve had all week!

I’ve sketched me, clipped vintage photos I wish looked like me, and painted some really bad self portraits. So far, everything represents me better than the head shot on my LinkedIn profile.

The best part about playing creatively with my profile is that I can try on looks that might not work for my entire patchwork life. For instance, since I have some conservative business responsibilities, like serving on the board of an insurance company, I can’t really dye my hair blue. But in one self portrait, I’m a blue-haired lady.

That’s hip now, right?

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