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We are a team of writers who believe in finding ways to provide assistance to others interested in writing.

Talk About Walkabout


Among the first people of Australia, young persons on the threshold of adulthood set out utterly alone into the forbidding and uninhabited regions of the continent.  One makes one’s way relying on one’s wits, discovering along the path one’s previously unknown inner assets.  One confronts one’s limits, and defines one’s identity.  A walkabout is a test and a quest.

A walkabout is an apt metaphor for the writing task.  Writers, too, set out into the wilderness alone; they struggle to set down on paper the thoughts rattling around their brains.  Sometimes in the process one stumbles into self-knowledge along the way.  No one knows where this expedition will take us or what resources it will require.  We’re on our own  —  into the wild realms of farthest fantasy, or into the deepest, inmost regions of our own hearts.  The writing walkabout tests our spirit’s mettle for withstanding the rigors of our passage; it is a soul-search in quest of an elusive verbal art.

If life is a journey, then we all are on a walkabout.  We are always crossing under the liminal lintel that marks our transit into a new reality; we are perpetually on the verge of transformation into new levels of maturity.  With every step we move into the unknown and into the sphere of the Mystery that animates our Universe and our writing  art.  Walkabout: A Journal of Writing and Spirituality seeks to put this test and quest into words.

Welcome to Walkabout.

Celebrate Little Victories


Celebrate Little Victories

The Essence

Living a satisfying life means recognizing and rejoicing in the small successes.

Just Do It

Watching a toddler learning a new skill provides a living definition of delighting in small achievements. Over and over the child carefully places block atop block building a tower three or four high. When the final block is positioned, a look of wonder and surprise fills the child’s eyes. Hands clap – applause for the amazing feat of successful stacking. The process is repeated many times, but every time there is the same pleasure in accomplishment.

When the tower topples, there is still astonishment. The stacking continues – piling or falling, each attempt a fresh gratification and a renewed celebration.

What was your most recent “little victory”? How did you celebrate?

Imagine That

Take a sheet of drawing paper and a pencil, crayon, or marker. Make a line across the sheet. Pause and examine the line. Identify, at least, three things about the line that intrigue you. (“I like the funny little bump over here” . . . “and the way the line gets fat all of a sudden” . . . “Oh, and look at the surprising swoop at the end.”) !
Now make another line crossing the first and repeat the same draw-pause-find-three-things process. Continue drawing using your implement in as many ways as you can until the page is filled and you feel finished. Now find three or more things that please you.

Breaking It Down

Very few persons ever have the chance to do something “really big,” something “world changing,” but all of us have a hundred little victories to celebrate every day. Instead of celebrating, we discount them or ignore them. “Oh, that’s nothing,” we say. In fact, we should be congratulating ourselves for another little victory. !
You give a compliment that makes the recipient beam – a little victory. You cross an item off your to-do list – another little victory. You finally get tab A into slot B – more victory. No matter what the size, we need to celebrate our accomplishments and fill our days with satisfaction for what we have achieved.

These small celebration act like emotional fuel; they feed the soul and color our perceptions of the world. We become more energized and optimistic. Everything seems more doable and more worthwhile. Daily responsibilities are less onerous. Each little victory celebrated is an infusion of hope, power, and possibility.

The neighborhood projects chair of the Service Club had just finished his monthly report when one of the members said, “That’s all well and good, but we need to think bigger. We need to work on developing affordable housing for the west side.”

“That’s right,” another member chimed in. “We’re just dealing with one piddling problem at a time.”

The neighborhood projects chair smiled but said nothing. The housing proposal went no further. Meanwhile seventeen senior citizens were regularly transported to the grocery store and their doctors’ appointments, a new, young mother got some needed baby clothes, and two hungry families got emergency groceries. Just little victories but vitally important to the persons involved.

Little victories are small but not trivial. They constitute much of the joy of our lives. We are given the chance to be the kid on the beach tossing starfish back into the sea. Each throw is a little victory for us . . . and makes a big huge difference to the starfish.

What’s Next?

If you want to know more about little victories, learn from Sabina. She is an eighty-three-year old crippled with scoliosis who also happens to be mentally challenged. She takes great pleasure in trying new things, even though they are sometimes scary. When she learned to play kick-ball and actually kicked it, she shouted, “I did it!” Each time she successfully maneuvers down the narrow steps of the van, she exclaims, “I made it!” For Sabina life is good because it is filled with many celebrations every day.

Look for the little victories in your day and celebrate them. Think to yourself after every accomplishment, no matter how minor, “I did that” . . . “I made that happen.” If you keep track of your little victories for just one day, you may be astonished. The successes add up and accumulate. You are making a difference in your world, one little victory at a time.

1 – 1 = 1,000,000

From time to time we will be posting three Steps from the Write Spirit Store that you can sample and use. You can see if you would like to buy others as guides for your spiritual growth. Explore these three and let us know what you think. If you like what you find, consider purchasing others as downloads. Summaries of the Steps can be found under the Introducing the Steps tab. Enjoy!

1 – 1 = 1,000,000

The Essence
We don’t need to change everything. Changing just one thing is enough for now.

Just Do It
Choose just one change that you believe will improve your life. You can add something new or throw something old away. Do not worry too much about selecting the “right” item. Just choose one, and then do it.

Imagine That
The journey of a lifetime begins with a single step. Read Robert Frost’s “Stopping by a Wood on a Snowy Evening.”

Breaking It Down
It is far too easy to imagine that just because I can’t change everything, I can’t change anything, but it’s not so. Changing things means either adding or subtracting. That notion is what the title of this step means. Add one thing to your life and/or take one thing away, and the results can be very surprising indeed.

But which thing? What shall I add (or take away)? There are two important answers. The first is, it doesn’t much matter. Making any change makes room for more changes. It’s like standing with a ball on the top of a high hill and pushing the ball gently over the last level place. In no time, the ball is rolling merrily down the hill. So it is with the changes in our lives. Make one, and the door will open for making another, but we don’t have to think about all the possible changes beyond the first. One is enough to get the ball rolling.

Which change? The other important answer is that deep inside yourself you already know. There is some attractive something right before your eyes if you just get still and allow yourself to see it. Or there is some burden you have been carrying that you have long wanted to let go. A habit perhaps, a leftover promise from your past that you no longer believe in. If you are carrying a load like this, you already know what it is. Think about just letting it go.

What’s Next?
You might make two lists, perhaps on opposite sides of the same page. Title the list on the left “Dreams I Have Caught a Glimpse Of.” Title the list on the right “Rocks in My Backpack That I Want to Unload.”

Take a deep breath and start writing. Don’t worry about saying something “wrong.” These are only words, and no one need ever see them but you. Try for ten to twenty items on each side of the paper.

Then, when you are ready, give your lists a second look. Some of the items may seem silly to you. Perhaps they represent old fantasies or momentary frustrations. But at least three or four items in each list will jump out strongly and call for your attention. These are the ones to attend

Then decide what you will do.

Save your lists. They will surely be worth coming back to.


The War That Made Happiness Wait: Chapter 2


Dear Writer Friend,

Here is the second chapter for your reading pleasure. Remember the original purpose of this blog is for you to either use this short story as a prompt or share a sample of your own historical fiction by replying to this blog.


The War That Made Happiness Wait

By Bob Young

Chapter 2

A tear snuck out of my eye. I couldn’t say which emotion drove out that tear. When it dribbled onto my

cheek, he noticed it and quickly pulled his hand back to re-bandage it.

“Say now, I wasn’t going for sympathy…,”

“I’m sorry, Dennis. I’m just happy you weren’t hurt more badly,” I said quickly trying to regain my

composure and trying not to embarrass him further.

“You can still do almost everything with that hand,” Abbie said taking over for me.

“I should be taking over as a full-fledged baker in a month as I get my strength up.”

“Betts is there to back you up.”

“She’s been great as I tire out in the afternoon,” he offered picking up on Abbie’s attempts to calm me

down. “She was the employee who didn’t gawk at my hand all day.”

“From what I heard she was too busy gawking at your upper body strength,” Abbie quipped. We

laughed both blushing. Besides you are the youngest adult male in all of Greens Park who isn’t married.”

“So that’s why all the women in town look at me that way,” Dennis said, the light dawning.

“There are no eligible men,” I finally squeaked.

“Why do you think we asked you out for a beer your first work day,” Abbie added.

“You’re trying to make everyone think one of you is my girlfriend?” Dennis asked.

“That’s the idea,” I said sheepishly.

“Do you already have a girlfriend?” I asked boldly.

“I had one back in Hawaii, but getting sent home ended that.”

“We’ll be your social life now that you’re home. Our drinking group used to be much larger. Our four

guys are serving all over the world.” I explained.

“Four guys?”

“Yes, four, although none of them had the courage to take us on as a steady girlfriend,” Abbie said.


“They’re more afraid of us than the Axis forces,” Abbie teased.

We all laughed.

“How about we keep everyone in town guessing? I’ll take turns holding hands with both of you when

we are out,” Dennis suggested.

Abbie and I roared at that idea. We finished beer number two and started three. We spent the rest of the

evening filling him in on all of the changes in Greens Park since he had enlisted. The conversation

relaxed into a more familiar tone since the ice had been broken on the critical issues between sailor and

home front girls. Abbie and I seemed to relax into our old beer drinking group mode with Dennis easily

slipping into the ‘friend-who’s-a-boy’ category.

When the three of us got up from the bar to go home, Dennis made a fuss out of taking Abbie’s hand

with his good hand. When he did, we laughed out loud and were still in comic spasms as we hit the


He walked me home first. They left me as he walked Abbie home. She never told me if he kissed her

goodnight. I was afraid to ask. Truth be told, I couldn’t wait until it was my turn to have him hold my


That was the rude new reality. Dennis drove an emotional wedge between Abbie and me in my head.

Abbie acted the way she always had. She talked incessantly and told me everything, I thought. When the

old crowd of men were still with us, we talked about them behind their backs all the time and decided

together who each of us would try to push into a deeper relationship. It seemed the same with Dennis but

Abbie never offered a plan of how she would make him hers. She stuck to her lament that there were no

dateable men in Greens Park now that the war was in full swing.

The fact that she ignored him made me afraid to talk about wanting to date Dennis. Every time Dennis

walked away holding her hand, I had to fight the feeling to follow them.

But weeks went by and no one made any kind of move. We got boring and the three of us looked like

we were just regulars at Connie’s.

Dennis was functioning as a baker at 100% after three months. He would allow me to help him move

pies and iced mini-cakes only so he could harass me about something. He didn’t need any physical help.

He just seemed to enjoy a few minutes of bar talk to break up the day.

About six months after he showed up at work, he stopped out front on his way home while I was

waiting on customers.

“I’m craving sea food. Let’s go to Trainers tonight.”

“Sure,” I said giving him a dirty look for social talk in front of customers.

“Is that your boyfriend?” an old lady said grinning broadly showing me a ravaged smile.

“He wishes I was his girlfriend,” I said sarcastically. The small gathering of customers laughed out

loud. Dennis stuck his tongue out at me and disappeared through the front door of the shop.

I was putting on my coat in the hallway by the shop’s service door a couple of hours later. Dennis

stepped in.

“Hi, Betts. Hungry?”

“I’m always hungry for Trainers.”

“Good.” He grabbed my hand with his bad hand.

That was a first.

Even though that hand was half gone, he had a warm, firm hold on my hand and the fact that he had

used his bad hand gave me an emotional charge.

Abbie wasn’t in the car.

It was just us. I kept my mouth shut waiting to see just what the hell was going on. I watched him drive

the car. He had installed a knob on the steering wheel to give his bad hand something easier to grab. He

looked comfortable. He asked me what I would order. Who my favorite teacher was at Grant High

School. How long I had lived in Greens Park. He didn’t remember seeing me before coming back to

work at the bakery. I told him that was because he was ancient. It would have been illegal for him to look

at me when he was in high school. He took the kidding good-naturedly. Actually, he was only five years

older than me and I was curious why I hadn’t noticed him around town when we were kids.

We pulled into the parking lot and he took my hand again as we walked into the restaurant. They sat us

in a little booth set up for two. We ordered.

“I want to start my own bakery some day,” he said when the waitress was gone.

“Really? Where would you put it?”

“I was thinking out on the north side of town. I think the town is going to grow toward Stony Pt and the

bakery will be right where the new homes will be.”

“Interesting. I’ve never thought how things will change after the war.”

“I really don’t know the best place except not downtown.”

“Sure. Not near Lauhoff’s.”

“By the time I’ve saved up enough to rent a space, the war will have been over for some time and where

to put it will be clear.”

“I’d apply to work in your bakery,” I said with a smile.

“I’d hire you in a second.”

“That’s nice of you to say,” I said.

“Not just nice, it’s really clear you could manage a business. You’re tireless and sharp.”

“Manage…?” I asked.

“You know everything about a bakery from the workroom to the display cases to caring for customers.

Especially customers.”

“That’s very generous. So, I have the job?” I said teasing him.

“Yes…,” he said more softly and very warmly. He waited a beat and said, “You’re hired.”

I looked at him trying to see behind his eyes because I instantly sensed something else was going on.

“Here are your scallops,” the waitress said.

“Thanks,” Dennis said.

“And butterflied shrimp for you.”

“Oh, that looks good,” I said.

We ate.

It was a great meal. While we enjoyed it, we described our families, what they did, and where everyone

was around the country. He described how beautiful Hawaii was and that if he could afford it he would

like to visit there in peace time. We shared other dream vacation spots each of us had.

We talked about what it was like to live with our parents, which we both were doing. We were thankful

but both longed to live on our own.

We topped off the meal with a slice of cheesecake and then he drove me home.

“Could I take you to dinner again soon?” he asked me as we walked up to my parent’s door.

“I’d like that but we can just go out for barbeque next time.”

“Sounds perfect.” He reached his bad hand up to my cheek and gently caressed me. I put my hand on

the back of his, impulsively holding it against my cheek longer than he probably intended looking steadily

into his eyes. After a moment, I turned my head and planted a kiss into the now healed ‘palm’ of what

was left of his hand. I looked back at him and his face blushed and his eyes rimmed with tears. He took a

step closer and slipped his arms around me and gently kissed my mouth. I felt his tears fall on my face.

“Good night, Betty.”

“Good night, Dennis.”

I watched him walk to his car. He waved and got into the driver’s seat and drove away.


WriteSpirit – A Beginning Step – Lesson One: Getting Started With Your Writing


WriteSpirit – A Beginning Step

WriteSpirit is the beginning of a comprehensive writing curriculum, but how you use it is completely up to you. Our hope is that folks will bring their desires, needs, and abilities; and then we will create together learning designed especially for us. If you are already accomplished and need something more advanced than what is currently here, please say so by leaving us a comment.

Our special intention is to help folks grow spiritually by means of becoming better writers, but if the writing part is all that matters to you, you can let the spirituality part go.

We suspect that many folks will want to start at the beginning. If that’s where you are, your first question might be “Why write?” Four big reasons. Because writing . . .

– uncovers and increases the writer’s knowledge base
– requires and develops a high level of thinking skills
– insists upon and promotes the writer’s individual responsibility
– lasts

If you’re a reluctant or very inexperienced writer, please read closely this paragraph and the next paragraph. You might have a fundamental misunderstanding. You might believe that the most important aspect of writing is the end product: the story, book, poem, film script, or whatever is printed on the page or appears on the screen.

Not so. What matters most about writing is the process that it is. What matters even more than the result is the actual doing of writing. The major benefits of writing are all realized well before publication occurs. Those benefits are, of course, in that list you just read.

How does one write?

We’re not talking about the physical implements. It doesn’t much matter if one uses a lap-top, a pencil, or a sterling silver fountain pen. The “how” that interests us is how does one most efficiently and effectively engage in the writing process?

The first step is to break that process into its necessary parts. There are five stages in the writing process: creation, shaping, writing, revision, and editing. The movement between and among these stages is both sequential and recursive. Sequential means that the order of the steps listed two sentences ago is also the order in which they are engaged. First one creates, then shapes, then writes, and so on.

But the movement is also recursive. One does not only begin at the beginning and move forward. One also backtracks and circles around. We will elaborate on that recursiveness later, but first two very important issues need attention.

Good News for Beginning Writers

The success of all communication depends upon two “meta-requirements,” passion and truth. Passion includes emotion, but it is more than emotion. A more adequate synonym is “conviction.” My passion is whatever is so important to me that I am willing – indeed, eager – to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Passion is partial when it is focused upon a particular topic (gardening, stamp collecting, dance, raising children, and the list goes on), a particular purpose (to cure a disease, promote peace, build a loving marriage, increase the use of green energy, and so forth), or a particular audience (African American middle schoolers, residents of nursing homes, political leaders, one’s children, and of course the list goes on). But passion becomes complete when it is focused upon all three.

If you can’t get started on your writing, spend some effort seeking your passion. As always, write it down. When you are clearer about your deep convictions, you will find it much easier to share what you care about.

Truth is the second meta-requirement of effective communication. Truth includes the facts, but it is more than facts. Indeed, if you have truly found your passion, you will do whatever is required to root that passion in truth. You will do whatever is necessary to find the right words to address this audience, for this purpose, about this topic.

A-P-T: Audience, Purpose, Topic: the Foundation of All Real Writing

We must first uproot a habit you may have acquired in fifth grade. Most of the writing we do in school is almost always centered on topic. You were either told what to write about or it was your first response when given the assignment: “But I don’t know what to write about!”

Topic is the single word for writing content, but topic is not the only important issue. The success of all real writing rests upon three legs. Topic is one of them. The other two are audience and purpose.

Purpose means the reason the writing is being done. All real writing intends to accomplish something. Some part of the world will be different because this writing has happened. Bringing about this difference is the writing’s purpose.

“Audience” is not a synonym for “reader.” Audience means the people to whom this writing is directed. Who reads the writing is an accident that happens after the writing is published. Who the audience is, is an intention that happens while the writing is being shaped.

With academic writing the topic is often assigned. The real purpose (no matter what the teacher said) is usually to get a good grade, and the real audience is the teacher. In real writing, however, the questions are more complicated. In real writing, the writer herself is responsible for answering all three questions. The creation and shaping stages lead the writer to answer the three basic questions: Who is my audience? What is my purpose? What is my topic?

The Writing Funnel

It may help to think of the writing process as a funnel. The wide end is the beginning of creation, and the process ends with the final editing.


Much of the writing we are going to do in WriteSpirit is entries in our spiritual journals. The main purpose of a spiritual journal is to help the writer grow spiritually. The primary audience is the writer’s own self.

So let’s write something. If you simply read the words that follow this paragraph, you are not going to gain much benefit. You must actually do everything the words say, so that when the section is finished, you will have acquired the skills and knowledge necessary for what is coming next: The Creation Stage.

Put something down. Anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single word, a phrase, an entire paragraph, or even a non-verbal illustration. Turn off your critical judgment. This is not the time to evaluate; it is time to create.


Bob Young Interviews Heidi Surprenant – SWSTeam Member


Heidi Surprenant is a long time member of the Broken Walls Community Church Writers Group. She has presented a novel, musical compositions, poetry, several children’s books, and recently helped me turn a one-act play into an operetta. It was amazing to watch Heidi turn very rough lyrics into wonderful songs.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Heidi.

Bob: I really enjoyed the process of writing songs with you for our operetta, “Committed.”

So I have some questions:

How does the music come to you when you are bringing the lyrics and the music together? Is it creativity first and then training?

Heidi: Great question! When I’m working with an already-written set of lyrics, writing the music is a matter of truly listening to the rhythm and inflection of the words, then coming up with a melody that expresses the emotional nuances of the text. If the lyricist is open and flexible (as you are) there can be a bit of give and take to create the perfect match. I don’t think of training and creativity as separate things since they are completely intertwined in the process of song-writing. That said, training in music theory definitely helps me transfer musical ideas from my head onto the staff.

Bob: What is your favorite song genre?

Heidi: Musical theatre of any era! I also enjoy folk rock, indie pop, alternative rock, and world-beat. It’s exciting to hear how diverse musical genres from around the globe are influencing and being influenced by one another.

Bob: What is your formal musical training?

Heidi: I have a B.A. in music education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and a M.M. in music composition from UW-Milwaukee. My undergrad degree dates from the late 1970’s though and feels a bit like ancient history!

Bob: You play horn and piano. Do you play other instruments?

Heidi: Violin – although I’ve never actually made it past the “sick cat” stage. Also, I play organ in church occasionally, especially when one of the “big” hymns comes up, such as “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” or “For All the Saints.”

Bob: When you are writing music out of your personal interests, what are you most likely going to write?

Heidi: I love writing song cycles, piano miniatures, and anything for brass!

Bo:b: What is your favorite late night snack?

Heidi: Hot or cold, leftover pizza always hits the spot. I think I’ll grab a slice from the fridge…

Bob: Do you keep paper handy wherever you go in case inspiration strikes?

Heidi: Definitely; a pencil, too! Maybe I should invest in a laptop.

Bob: Who is the last musician you bought on CD or download?

Heidi: The last CD I purchased was Gorecki’s Symphony #3, “The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.” It’s heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.

Bob: What is your favorite activity outside of writing and music?

Heidi: I like to bike and hike (and rhyme). Reading is also a great joy for me, especially outside on the porch on a warm summer day.

Bob: What’s your next musical composition?

Heidi: I’m currently working on an extensive arranging project. When I finish it, I’ll treat myself to a brass quintet; can’t wait!

Bob: In summer do you like to stay up late and write or compose or do you like to get a good night’s sleep.

Heidi: When I’m “in the zone,” I stay up late to work on a piece without even realizing the passage of time. I think that’s what happens to most people. I haven’t pulled an all-nighter for a long time, but 3 a.m. sometimes rolls around before I look at the clock and decide I’d better call it a night.

It’s been fun answering your questions, Bob! All the best to you and your family!

Bob: Thanks, Heidi, for letting us take a peek into the life of a composer, poet, and musician. I’m looking forward to experiencing your next work.

An Interview with Historical Fiction Author Bob Young


An interview with writer Bob Young, author of the WWII-era historical novels, When Love Shaped Us and Crushed Love, Well-Shaken.

Interviewer: Heidi Surprenant, member of the Steps to Write Spirit Team

Question #1: What is historical fiction?

Reply: To me historical fiction is the creating of story in the midst of a historical time period enhancing the story with the cultural, social, scientific, and political realities of an era. The time period impacts the story and shapes the plot and characters and how they act and react. It’s a lot of fun to write historical fiction.

Question #2: What do you find most attractive about this genre?

Reply: I like the genre because it forces me to think twice about how I write dialogue. The fact that I’m in my sixties now, the genre is a guilty pleasure. I get to write old instead of having to write in the vernacular of 2015 which just isn’t as rich in my mind.

Question #3: What do you find most challenging about this genre?

Reply: The challenge is that you have to decide whether you are going to do the research in a particular moment of your plot to enrich the moment. For the story I’m writing now, I had to learn about the early years of Hitler’s reign. It had been a while since I had accessed the New York Times news section for any reason. The reporting was an incredible tool to making my story powerful and driving the motivation of my protagonist. But it’s painful to do the research and put a hold on the writing. If I didn’t have the love of the researching, I would just write non-stop but the story wouldn’t be as rich.

Question #4: Do you have any suggestions for writers who might be interested in composing a piece of historical fiction?

Reply: My suggestion is that a writer trying historical fiction pick a time period that attracts them so the research is fun also. I realize that WWII had been heavily mined by many writers but it was the era about which I had the most interest.

Question #5: What research tools have been most helpful for you?

Reply: For detail about particular battles, the U.S. Army now publishes online the histories they assembled soon after battles to give the wounded so they would know the bigger picture of the fight they had known in a personal way. These histories are eye opening and don’t hesitate to share the successes and failures. The other enjoyable source is the great historical works available these days about every age. And as I’ve already mentioned, newspaper archives are terrific.

Question #6. What drew you to the WWII era?

Reply: I’m drawn to WWII because my parents lived it and I’m jealous of the young people who were the younger brothers and sisters of the Greatest Generation. They had a front row seat as the fighting generation fought very frightening enemies across the globe. My jealousy moves me to write about WWII from the perspective of those too young, broken, or disenfranchised to serve at that time.

Question #7: Do you have any preliminary plans for novels or stories from a different era? If so, what time period(s) interest you most?

Reply: I’ve written a manuscript set in present day, but I have a lot of work to do to get it to the place my WWII manuscripts have been developed. My present day story needs a lot of work to give it the color and complication I think genre writing gives more naturally.

Question #8: Have you been strongly influenced by reading historical fiction? Who are your favorite authors, and what are your favorite books in this genre?

Reply: I’m a big fan of the historical fiction that is available on T.V. Downtown Abbey is a guilty pleasure. I own some British and Australian historical epics. I also enjoy collecting classic Hollywood movies. Anything with William Powell, Bogart and Becall, or Myrna Loy. As I like to kid at Writers Group, I am the pulp fiction wing of our group.

Question #9: I’ve heard a lot about “creative non-fiction.” Any insights into what this is (and isn’t)? How does it differ from historical fiction? Have you ever written any creative non-fiction?

Reply: I’ve heard about ‘Creative Non-Fiction’ but I really don’t know much about it. I’m happy you asked the question. I’m going to check it out so I can answer this question some day.


I Write Historical Fiction – Here’s a Challenge and a Gift


Dear Writer Friend,
Either use this short story as a prompt or share a sample of your own historical fiction in this blog. Stop back to read the next installment of this story. See whether Betty and Abbie can make Dennis a true friend.

The War That Made Happiness Wait
By Bob Young

In the Spring of 1942, my love life was a wreck. Just six months before, we were having such a rollicking time around Greens Park even though we had very simple jobs and not much money for fun. There were six of us who had found each other as we worked away after high school at a variety of jobs around town. A few of us had known of each other when we went to Grant High School. But our common ground was Connie’s Bar and Grill, as each of us gravitated to this tavern in the working class section of town for respite from the grind of our jobs.

After a year, we gradually developed into a unit, four men and two girls. Both of us girls rotated our crushes among the men. Admittedly, the men were often more interested in every other woman who came into Connie’s rather than us. But Abigail and I always figured we each would end up with one of the guys when they came to their senses and found out how wonderful we really were. But then all our plans and hopes were changed when Pearl Harbor was attacked and we were at war. All four of our men enlisted and by February they were all in the army or the navy. Only because we were known as regulars could we even walk into Connie’s without our reputations being shredded. But it didn’t matter since we were only subjected to the advances of very old men who we easily brushed off.

Most importantly, we figured a real relationship with a man would have to wait for the end of the war. We went into a more foul mood about the war than developing patriotic worry. It would have been different if we lived in New York City. But we were just far enough away in the Hudson Valley of New York State that most of the eligible men were gone or going. The boys still in high school were just boys. The result was that we ended up drinking quite a bit more than we used to as we drank away our disappointment about our singleness. My dark mood started to be noticed at work.

“Betty, are you going to bring that other rack of rolls and bread out of the back and get it on these shelves?”

“I’m sorry Mrs. Lauhoff. I apologize for being a bit off today,” I said sadly.

“You need to take it easy on the number of beers you are drinking on the weekends.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” as I scurried to catch up with my work before the shop opened at 7a.m. Lauhoff Bakery was the high end bake shop in Greens Park.

While I was moving our bread offerings into place, I had already put the fancy sweets out into the glass cases. The sweets and wedding cakes had made the bakery’s renown decades before WWII. I was a lucky girl to be the head clerk in Lauhoff’s. I knew I really had to ease up on my dissolute ways or I would lose everything I had achieved since high school. It was a normal busy day at Lauhoff’s but I was not too busy to notice the sailor with one arm in a sling and a heavily bandaged hand. He didn’t buy anything but was warmly greeted by the staff who had worked there for much longer than I. He was ushered into the second floor offices of the bakery where I had visited only when I was hired. He had stayed for two hours and when he left in his good hand he carried a small box of our signature macaroons.

“Some good news, Betty…,” Mrs. Lauhoff mentioned to me as I put my coat on to go home at the end of the day.

“Oh, Yes, Ma’am…?” I said.

“Dennis Markim is going to return to work for us here. You may have noticed the injured sailor who was here earlier?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Dennis worked for us until he enlisted in the navy three years ago. He was on a ship at Pearl Harbor called the Helena. It was badly damaged and he was hurt badly enough that he was medically discharged. He won’t be able to bake for a while until his shoulder and hand heal, but we’re taking him back to do what he can until he’s ready. I want you to do whatever you can to help him feel productive.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

I walked away from work thinking I was now a nurse and a bakery clerk. My mood was not lifted at all by this turn of events. I was headed to Woolworth’s to meet Abbie for a sandwich at their lunch counter. I could hear her before I could see her.

“Just get me my sandwich and malt and keep your snide remarks to yourself,” Abbie announced loudly so that all heads turned in her direction. The pharmacist almost knocked me down as he headed to where Abbie was sitting.

“Please, Young Lady, there’s no need to shout.”

“Mr. Baglien,” Abbie whispered loudly. “Tell your boy to keep his comments about my figure to himself. I just want my sandwich my malt.”
His head snapped in the boy’s direction.

“Darrell, have Sally make Abbie’s ticket,” and he gestured for the high school boy to follow him back into the privacy of the pharmacy office.
As I sat down, Darrell passed us head bowed.

“A compliment from the wrong guy again?” I asked.

“It wasn’t even a compliment. It was stated in terms of what he could do with what I’ve got,” Abbie said completely exasperated. “A compliment would have been nice.”

“Oh, my,” I reacted. “It just rudely makes the point of what a stateside girl sacrifices during this ugly war,” I said commiserating.

“The ‘men’ situation in Greens Park has me thinking about a move to NYC. At least there are on-leave servicemen there.”

“That’s true. I’ll move with me. We can share expenses,” I offered.

“You’re a good egg, Betts. I don’t want to pull you away from kith and kin, but some days I can’t engineer a good mood.”

“Here’s your ham and cheese, Abbie. Sorry about the kid,” the waitress said.

“Just my war jitters, Sal!”

The three of us laughed.

“What can I get you, Betty?”

“Ham and cheese but with a root beer float.”

“Coming right up.”

“Listen to this news, Abbie. Tomorrow I’m nurse to Lauhoff’s returning hero, Dennis Markim, who still is too banged up to work full out. I’ll be his hands until he is fully recovered.”


“Shoulder and mangled hand. He’s a baker but how he’ll do anything for weeks, I’ll never know.”

“But was he wearing pants?” Abbie begged to know.

“Seaman blue and jaunty cap.”

“Was he cute otherwise, the parts that weren’t mangled?”

“A six on your scale…,” and I laughed.

“I weep for you, Betts,” Abbie teased.

“You have to take the long term / short term view. He can bring a beer to his lips at Connie’s this weekend and who knows what else by Thanksgiving.” We laughed.

“All we need is another guy in our club who’s only got eyes for everyone but us,” Abbie complained.

“We just have to find you your own wounded sailor.”


We went on to drown ourselves in root beer floats.


Since, he was technically a baker, Dennis had already been at work for two hours by the time I get to the shop at 6a.m. the next morning. He had modified his bandages so he had a fore finger and a thumb on his bad hand free from restraint. Those digits looked uninjured at first glance. He wouldn’t let me carry anything for him for the first hour. He was all smiles and cheery banter. He claimed that he had gathered the ingredients, mixed, pounded down, and allowed to rise the dough that he had eventually formed into dinner rolls. He had brought them out and dumped them into the appropriate bin. I figured he would be pretty grim that first day facing hard work with barely more than one hand.

“It sure feels good to be back in the bakery,” he said sipping some coffee.

“Don’t you wish you were back on the Helena trying to get her ready to get back in action?”

“I did for a while until I realized I was only going to bug the crap out of them when I could only talk instead of actually work.”

“You’re doing just fine here.”

“Dinner rolls are a long way from getting a floating artillery battalion ready to cut enemy ships to ribbons. I’ve had plenty of time to realize my future is all about working here. I’m fine with that.”

“Greens Park is going to be enough for you?”

“Greens Park is heaven and I’m thrilled I’m alive to enjoy it,” he said brightly smiling easily and comfortably in a way that could only be interpreted as the truth. I could detect no guile in him. He was either on excellent medication or he was just one lucky guy who knew it.

“I’m going to meet a girlfriend at Connie’s for a beer and a burger after work. Want to come along?”

“Connie’s is still there?”


“Sounds like fun.”


I figured I’d keep pushing Dennis into my reality until he ran screaming away from the crazy lady. The day in the bakery rolled along normally. Dennis’ bad hand eventually got too tired to carry much and I was right there to help him as I had been instructed. Dennis took the help without sadness or regret. His day ended and he headed home promising to see me at Connie’s later.

I walked into Connie’s about 4:30p.m. and Abbie and Dennis were at the bar about seven stools apart.

I invited Abbie to join Dennis.

“Dennis, this is my friend.”

“Hi, Abbie,” he said offering her his right, undamaged hand.

“Hi, Dennis,” she said her usually brusque tone moderated by seeing him in the flesh. Her tone seemed to indicate to me that he was more than a 6.
We sat on either side of him and we spent the first beer as we waited for our burgers talking about Greens Park and the town we shared in common. He was about four or five years older than we were but he treated us like equals. We started the second beer and took the first bites of our hamburgers.

“How did you get hurt,” I asked.

“We were fighting a fire caused by the torpedo that had hit the Helena. I was running the nozzle of one of the fire hoses when the fire caught the edge of the ammunition area we were trying to protect and an explosion moved some equipment above me and slammed down on my left hand cutting deeply through two fingers and seriously damaging a third. I was stunned enough that I didn’t retreat from the space when our fire captain tried to pull us back. The fire flared up and burned the shirt right off my left side. A couple of guys pulled me out of there and took me to a place where I could be treated initially. Because the attack was still ongoing, my shipmates couldn’t get me to a real hospital right away. A corpsman kept my hand together and did a rudimentary treatment to my burns.”

“It had to be scary to be hurt with no way to get treated,” I observed.

“The large explosion that resulted from the fire I had been fighting took my mind off of the injury. The officers around us moved us farther from the fire so we were safer and suddenly we had a ring side seat as the Japanese planes finished their last run on the ships and air field.”

“The planes had to be frightening.”

“It was frustrating. I could no longer fight back.”

“I heard you did well at work today. Your injuries are not getting to much in the way,” Abbie said.

“I’ve gotten pretty far in the healing process. Want to see?”

“I wasn’t trying to push you to that,” I said quickly.

“Me either, Dennis. Please don’t feel…,”

“No, no. I don’t feel pushed. I like to get the bandage off as often as possible. I just don’t want to clear the bar. Stand close.”

We were close enough to touch him.

He unwrapped the bandages and he slowly rotated his lefty hand so his pinky space was now visible. We could see the nifty work the surgeon had done to sew the edges of the skin into the knuckle. His next smallest finger was gone and sewn into that knuckle. His middle finger had cuts in several places sewn back together and pink like it should be. His forefinger and thumb looked healed. He rotated the hand so we could see every inch of the damage. We were speechless.

“Hold out your hand,” he said to me.

I slowly put my right hand out palm up, pink and dainty compared to battle hardened and mangled hand he had to give me. He gently set his bad hand on mine. Even mangled it was twice the size of mine. To my surprise it was warm. I somehow expected it to be cold.




Thomas writes, “I think we all have experienced a time in our lives when some tragic event has set us back on our haunches and left us gasping for air. My recent example was the death of my dear friend David Trembley, who was the author of much of the material represented in this site. I found the exercise, “Liminality” of great solace and support during my early grief. Even now, when rereading it, I find it to be helpful as I work through other changes and transitions in my life.” Here it is!


The Essence

Liminality is a transition state outside and beyond our sense of the ordinary. It is like a doorway which stands between two distinct locales but has no real territory of its own.

Just Do It

In the bowels of the field house, the graduates are lining up. They help one another make last minute adjustments to robes, hoods, and mortar boards. The black academic gowns make everyone in look alike. The graduates occupy a peculiar in-between status as they begin to procession – neither students any longer nor yet fully fledged scholars. “Commencement” we call it. The ceremony is a rite of passage, a doorway through which they pass from the halls of academia out into the world. They move across the stage receiving their diplomas along with a new identity and a new definition of themselves. It will be the task of the commencement speaker to send the new graduates off into life inspired to occupy their new place in the world. ! Recall a powerful experience of being “betwixt and between.” Write it down.

Imagine That

Choose an object that includes open spaces as part of its construction; a metal folding chair is a good example. First look at the chair in terms of its component shapes. Next look at the open, or “negative,” spaces which are also part of its construction. Draw these negative spaces; let them define the chair without ever actually drawing the material parts — seat, back, legs. When you have finished, take time to appreciate your work.

Breaking It Down

Stand on the threshold of a doorway. As you stand, you are both in and out – in one place and out of another; both coming and going But since you are standing still you are also neither in nor out, neither entering nor leaving. Liminality is that strange in-between state of both/and . . . neither/nor . . . at the same time. It is a social situation that exists amid ordinary interactions. The most easily recognized liminal states are those that mark life transitions.

Funerals are solemn observances of the inevitable transition of death. Our daily routines are interrupted and special rituals are followed. We wear special clothes, often black; others care for us by bringing us food; we occupy a special place called a funeral home; our time is not structured in its normal way but is configured to meet hours of “visitation.” Friends and family convene to speak special words of condolence and eulogy. There are long-established patterns of tradition which dictate our activities: the wake, the funeral service, the interment, and the ceremonial meal after. The entire period is a passageway conducting us from the time before to the time after the death. The power of liminality acts to redefine us: I was the eldest child, but now I am an orphaned adult.

Every liminal occasion is an opportunity for change. We move through one identity and set of meanings to another. Forgoing liminal observances leads to a spiritual deficit. In current culture it is common to hear, “All that traditional junk doesn’t matter.” But every liminal event invites us into reflection about who we are and might be, how we belong to and with others and in society, and what were our old definitions and what will be the new ones shaping us now. Rites and traditions connected with the liminal events of our lives – weddings, funerals, baptisms, and so on – have developed as ways for us to process our experience and reassess our place in our families and society. Passing through liminality means stepping into a changed identity and life.

What’s Next?

We all have doorway events of liminality that denote and mark important changes in our lives. Paying attention to the underlying liminality will make the event more memorable and meaningful. The artist Rene’ Magritte once painted the portrait of a man by showing him defined by the space around him. The background wall is pierced by the man’s outline, so that the viewer sees blue sky and fluffy white clouds beyond. Liminal events work on us in a similar way, shaping and defining us by impinging their powers on us.

Think about how the next doorway of your life invites you to make successful transition. When liminality is expressed through traditional rites and observances, our spiritual awareness and understanding are heightened. We are helped to know the deep meanings of our existence. The birthday celebrates the growth and change of the kindergartener that was to the first-grader who is coming to be. The wedding ritualizes the joining of two separate persons into a synergy of newness and potential. In this way, all the liminal events of our lives shape us and move us from then to now, from old to new. If we emphasize liminal power, we stop going through the motions of mindless ritual. When we co-operate with liminality, we heighten the significance of turning points in our lives by infusing them with meaning.

Now the green blade rises from the buried grain. Love lives again. — John M.C. Crum, 1928


Green Blade Rising: Reflections on Grief and Belief

These little essays are not in chronological order. It may, indeed, seem that they are not in any order at all. Whatever logic of arrangement there is, is intuitive and idiosyncratic. Since the organizing principle is unknown even to myself, you may feel free to read at random. I wrote them because I discovered that there is much material on the “death and dying” process, but very little about what comes after for those who survive to live on into grief and grieving. Material from a first-person point of view is rarer still. What does exist tends to be from a clinical point of view, written flor counselors and clergy who deal with the bereaved.
It was healing for me to write my experiences after David’s first death on August 4 and those that followed throughout his week first in ICU and then hospice and his second death on August 9. David and I were married for thirty-five years, so the hole his death made in the fabric of ray being was extensive. He was a gifted teacher, writer, poet, and pastor. He had many abilities, but his biggest gift was the ability to love all kinds of persons, and love them well – including me. I rniss him more than I can ever say.
My intention was more than simply journaling, I was hoping to create “provocations” for others who were in the midst of their own mourning. I have, therefore, employed a phenomenological approach. Meaning, I have recorded my lived impressions, emotional reactions, sensory inputs as I experienced them as faithfully as I am able (the “Grief’ selections), and then, afterward, reflected analytically on the inherent meanings (the “Belief ‘ portions). My interpretive framework is that of a Christian clergyperson, but I hope that those who do not share my particular biases may find here something useful for understanding their own grief and encouragement for growing through and beyond their grieving.
Each entry has four components. The first is an account “in the moment.” The second is a set of “prompts” which are intended to elicit the reader’s own reflection and action. T’hird, because poetry is the condensed and powerful speech of the spirit, I have included a piece of poetry written from inside my grief. Finally, each segment concludes with an analy’tical discourse on some of the themes raised in the personal narrative section. In a small scope, I have thus sought to address heart, spirit, and mind.
A word of explanation about some of the poetry – certain pieces are inspired by the work of Kenneth Goldsmith, an advocate of oofound” poetry. Goldsmith views poetry in much the same way as visual artists viewed collage in the early years of the 20th Century. With respectful acknowledgement, I
offer my own pieces of found poetry. The first of these is “The Bag II.”
Mostly, I hope to engage you, the reader, to tell (or write) your own experience of grief and grieving. By telling our stories we come to understand our experience; by looking backward to our past, we are enabled to move forward into our future.
You may purchase a copy of the complete book in PDF format in the Write Spirit Shop.

Playwriting Tutorial – Bob Young


The Playwriting Tutorial

I came to playwriting from being an amateur actor and out of the necessity of wanting to do theatre with other amateurs and with youth groups. There were some resources out there but there’s nothing like crafting your own material to meet the needs of your local situation. I needed pieces with small casts because our little troupe had only a few members.
You are coming to your playwriting moment out of your own needs and desires. What follows is a series of activities that should be added to your process.
But first a word about how our website works. You can choose one of the activities below and we’ll work together to build a list of objectives for that activity so that when we are done you will have an effective segment of your play built.

I will suggest a few attainable but checkable objectives for the activity. This structure will help you move forward.
If you would like some help with your play, you can simply use the “Leave A Reply” box below. You can just send me a section of your work in progress with a description of what kind of help you are looking for or you can ask me for an exercise for one of the six challenges that you want to start with. For each review or exercise the charge is $14.95 and you can buy that review or exercise in our store. In the store, there will be instructions on how to send a draft of your play if you are buying a review.

Structuring Your Story

Your subject matter needs to have a conscious dramatic structure. Your audiences will be looking for logic in the actions on the stage to lead them to an ending that makes a meaningful point. Sometimes that meaningful message is buried under laughter or violence or tragedy. But you can build the logic in the process of crafting your play so that you have the bones upon which to put the muscle of the characters, location, language, and suspense that is the music of the piece.

Answer these questions for yourself.

What is the premise? What is the action driving the beginning of the play?

What obstacle(s) fall in the way of your premise causing complications?

What actions resolve the obstacles and describes the new reality?

Writing Dialogue after all of the prose you have written all your life

Listen to an active conversation in your life. Notice that it is a series of partial thoughts between two people that eventually adds up to something “dramatic.” Your real conversation usually results in a mundane action, i.e., ordering that pizza, deciding who’s going to the PTA meeting, who is doing the grocery shopping, choosing the next vacation destination.

That style of clipped speech is your task as you build into the dialogue the meaning and the dramatic action of your structural logic.
Imbuing world view and psychological dynamics in your characters.

As I’ve written my novels, the advice I have received from our Writers Group and my beta readers about the psychological grounding of my characters has been crucial to the depth of the writing. “Why would he make such an unusual decision?” stops you in your tracks but strengthens your structural goals and allows you to deepen the dialogue so that hints at motivation are there for the audience to discover. Your story may beg for interesting psychological underpinnings or you may have to add actions that give more depth.

Using the set to advance the action / Planning the set for production simplicity

You may know where your play will be staged the first time and to be practical you are planning for that space. Although usually the director’s turf, a playwright can make suggestions about the physical setting as it informs the meaning of the play. An interesting choice is to make the set one of the characters in your play. The late Milwaukee playwright, Larry Shue wrote the set as a character into his show “The Foreigner.” If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean. If you haven’t seen it, I’m not going to spoil it for you. But French and British farces as a class use the multiple entrances in a one-set show to bring intrigue and humor to their scripts.
Table Readings to discover problems

I once had to write a play whose characters were all much younger than me and would be played by youth all over the country. I worked with an area church to recruit youth from their congregation to do a read through to test my dialogue. I asked the youth who participated to stop the reading whenever it became awkward for them. It was invaluable help. Your play may involve specific content that needs testing. Don’t hesitate to get readers to help you with it.

Don’t feel bad about writing a short play

One thing I find that is hard to do is to write a five act play. I’m a long way from being Shakespeare. But I do love to write short, pithy, surprising one acts. For my personal purposes, a good one act is enough for me. If you’ve got more in you, go for it. The current play I’m working on was pretty serious until I was on vacation in Seattle and my wife booked us into the 5th Avenue Theatre when it scheduled the local Gilbert and Sullivan Society to stage “The Pirates of Penzance.” I was blown away seeing it live. My very serious play is in the process of being transformed into a one act comic musical. I’m trying to persuade one of the members of the Writers Group who has composing skills to help me write the songs.

One of my plays is on the website for you to use as a learning tool. Depending upon what you want to work on, I may point you to moments in that play. It’s called “Four White Russians Make a Coctail.” The play is also available for playing through an arrangement with our website.

Please use the Leave A Reply box below. I look forward to your next step on your theatre project.

Let’s Talk Writing


I Thought I was Dying

by David Trembley

One Saturday morning in late March, I awoke at 2:30 in the morning and believed for a moment that I was dying. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and I hope my explanation why will be one of the best things that ever happened to you.

In our congregation, we have a joke that is only partly a joke. Its name is “all good.” It’s a difficult notion to get your head around at first, but the pay-off is well worth the effort. All that is, is gift. All gift is good.

Specifically with that pain I was talking about, it looks like this. I awaken from a sound slumber with pain all over the place. Bottom of my jaw, diagonally from right shoulder to midsection; even my legs hurt. They are spasming, and the sweat is pouring off me in little rivers.

If I can just make it downstairs to the recliner, I think, I’ll be OK. I’ll get quiet there and wait upon God and see what there is next for me. Lots of my friends would interrupt at this point screaming, “Call 911. You ought to be in the hospital!” We’ll get to that issue in a minute, but first let’s get to the chair.

By the grace of God, I do [make it to the chair], and the first amusement is that even our cats are avoiding me. Usually when I sit in the recliner, one of them jumps onto my lap, and the other nestles between my ankles. Not this morning. Not a single meow punctuates my distress.

“Agony” might have been the right word for the first few minutes, but by the time I sit down, agony has become distress. Two things happened to effect that change. First was a wonderful bathing of peace. I realize that if I am really dying, it is perfectly OK. Not grimly or sadly OK, but profoundly so. I have had a marvelous life, and these last ten years or so have been utterly filled with gratitude and joy.

The second thing that happened is that I realized I had a fever. It raised the first suspicion that I am not having a heart attack. I get some acetaminophen, and my legs quit twitching and my sweating stops.

Since I am completely without medical expertise, I’ll leave the diagnosis for others. All I want to share is the process of recovery and what it has meant.
The next day, Sunday, I had a milder form of the attack after worship, but it was enough to cause one of the congregants to reach for his cell phone. “Don’t do it,” I said. “I don’t have enough energy to explain right now, but I will when I can.”

For eight months I have been improving. Not in a straight line but, as so often in life, in a recursive spiral. I’ve learned many things in this time; let’s settle for five.
The first I have already said. Dying is OK. My life is precious, and I am not eager to leave it. But when I do, please God, it will be with gratitude and joy. Strange as it might sound, the next four learnings seem to me as important as this one.

Drawing is good. Two weeks after that painful Saturday morning, my wife and I decided to spend Good Friday afternoon in a cemetery with our sketchbooks. The experience was so refreshing we made a standing date for every Friday afternoon. Actually, we have slipped in also two Mondays.

If you knew me better, you would understand how remarkable the preceding paragraph is. You have no doubt heard people say, “I can’t sing. I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket if you paid me. Even in church I just mouth the words.”

For “sing” substitute “draw,” and you have one of the more frustrating truths of my life. But Lo-Ann gave me a series of drawing lessons for my sixty-fifth birthday, and I made an amazing discovery. I am not hopeless. I can slow down, pay attention, look and really see, and the result is a drawing worth looking at.

In the two years between 65 and 67, I had let the drawing slide. No longer. I now believe that one of the most important things I can do every week is take out a couple of hours to draw.
The third thing I learned is that no one really needs me. I have been a helper almost all my life. One of my late mother’s favorite stories is how my kindergarten teacher confessed, “Sometimes I forget David is a child. He is so much help in the classroom that I often find myself thinking of him as a colleague.”

From kindergarten helper to teacher, pastor, surrogate father to fourteen, and now granddad to a multitude, helping is what I do – almost who I am.

No longer. The truth is that I have had my reward many times over, and the second truth is that the entire creation will somehow muddle through whether or not I am here.

No, I have not recklessly broken all my promises. I have simply become a bit more restrained and balanced. Sometimes now when the phone rings, I do not answer; and occasionally I even manage to say no.

The fourth learning is that I deserve good food. For most of my life, my relationship with food was that of a classic fat man. Feeling sad? Here, have some ice cream to feel better. Feeling happy? Good! Six slices of pizza make a perfect celebration. Lonely? Nothing like a chocolate bar for a friend. Scared? A Double Whopper with Cheese will produce all the courage you need. Angry? Blow it off with a chocolate turtle from Kopps.

No longer. I ordered the lo-cal steak with fruit yesterday at El Greco. Tonight’s supper was the third meal I have made from that purchase. I’ve lost fifty pounds or so, and I expect to lose fifty more.

Not, I hasten to add, because I am “on a diet.” I am not. Diets are about deprivation and discipline. I am now doing the same thing with food that I am doing with persons and drawing. We still like each other, but our connection now is appropriate and healthy.

The last thing I learned is that Maria will cut the grass. Indeed, my world is filled with folks who are eager to help and be my friend. Maria is our next-door neighbor. Occasionally over the years she has shoveled our snow and raked our leaves. This spring I decided I could not manage cutting the grass on the hill in our front yard, so I went to ask Maria.

“Of course,” she replied. “I’ll be glad to.” I suggested a figure as compensation, and she replied, “O no, I don’t want a job. I am your neighbor. This is what neighbors do.”

As I write these words, healing continues. I am still dying, of course, but I am now thinking I may have years left rather than minutes. Whichever it is, this I believe. It is all good. It is all gift from God, who knows me and loves me better than I know and love my own self. If you’ve read this far, perhaps you have at least a suspicion that I might be on to something. Why don’t you give the notion a chance and see? If you were to make five changes in your life in order to increase your gratitude and joy, what would they be?

And when will you begin?
To post your five changes, enter them below and post them.