Tag Archives: inspiration

The Beach…

I was lucky enough to go on vacation, yet again, without my children. I am terming the summer of 2010 the summer of Jen’s selfishness.  A cruise with my husband, a writer’s workshop in Disney, and now my favorite place in the world with my best friend: Cape May.

My girlfriend and I made a pact when we were teenagers and discovered that both of us felt spiritually connected to Cape May. We had gone to other vacation spots and beach places, but nothing else called to us like the end of the Garden State Parkway. I have memories of late nights spent on the wraparound porch of the bed and breakfast inn, hearing the horses hooves clop steadily over the pavement. Old oak trees bent and tangled with time stooped low over the uneven sidewalks. The ocean roared in your ears, the breeze tugged at your hair, and delicious boardwalk scents rose to your nostrils: pizza, hot dogs, fudge, ice cream and popcorn.

Over the years, we lost two of our girlfriends to marriage and babies and pleas of no time. My friend and I have battled through five pregnancies between us, husbands, work, and a million other factors to keep our vow. Every August, it is our time. A time to reflect, to meditate, to relax and to shop.

I have been dedicated to my writing journey since returning from the conference. My brain and spirit are attuned to the work, my senses are open to the voices around me as I pull from life to make something on the page come alive. Today, I spent the day on the beach and finished reading the novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein It’s a brilliant book written from a dog’s perspective. The pages are filled with lessons on life from the soul of an old dog who believes when he dies he will be reincarnated as a man. I sat in my beach chair with my feet in the sand and read the entire book in a few hours. I would pause between the chapters, catching my breath and allowing myself the respect an author deserves to think about the words written – words that were rife with meaning and subtlety and a soft brilliance. The key to many life lessons were contained in this novel, more so than any self-help or Secret book I have ever read to date. As I closed the book, I felt as if the layer of veiled ignorance had lifted from my view. I gazed at my surroundings with fresh perspective and meditated on this journey of life.

I walked to the shoreline and looked at the endless expanse of colorless gray ocean and sky to watch and listen. The screech of seagulls commonly called rats of the sky – but in their element so full of grace as they tuck their wings in and soar through the air in silence and peace. The scream of little children chasing waves, and teenage girl conversations filled with giggles and gossip behind glossy magazines such as Cosmo and Redbook. The sights and sounds of the beach surrounded me, and my brain was free of thoughts, free of anything but the sharp tang of salt in the air and the sting of the water lapping around my ankles, cleaning the cut I got from shaving this morning. I expected the water to be icy cold and held my breath as I made my way in, but the water was warm, and swirled with temptation to gather me in. I waded deeper. The ocean roared with satisfaction and spilled great pools of white saliva in an attempt to take my life, then retreated to try all over again. I breathed in and out and thought about people, and our life here, and how brave we have to be in order to gain anything worthwhile. We have to be very strong to believe in ourselves and our dreams and let no one steal them.

The novel teaches many things about race car driving. I learned the sport is much like writing. And life. We manifest what we see. We must believe in every turn of the journey and never think to be passed or to retreat is to lose. Sometimes, we have to adjust and accept where we are, but never give up. We have to finish the race. Sometimes we will lose, and sometimes we will win. But if we finish the race, in a way, we always win. Always.

We have to finish the book and we have to write as much as we can. On that beach, I realized I had so many emotions and thoughts about the time on earth we have here, as a mother and a woman, and the only way I can possibly make sense of this world is to write. Some people race. Some act. Some dream. We must find that place buried deep inside where we recognize the person we were when we were young and foolish and not afraid to believe in things that did not make rational sense.

The end of The Art of Racing in the Rain completes a cycle. I believe we are meant to read certain books at certain times in life, to delve deeper than we could before because the words the author wrote are meant to be yours. Maybe on that one hot afternoon on a beach. Or one quiet night snuggled beneath your covers as the rain falls outside the window. There are words that soothe and heal and inspire and make us happy. That is one of our gifts of being human, of being writers and readers.

My fingers quiver to write the words flowing through me, knowing I will get some right and more wrong. Knowing when I get home I will get down on my knees and pull my family close, because the curve around the racetrack is a hairpin turn and we never know what comes next. I will grab my two rescue dogs in my arms and scratch their bellies and let them slobber over me with gratefulness because I realize the souls I have glimpsed when our gazes meet and lock are timeless, old souls who may become human in their next go around.

The beach is my place, in Cape May. I remember who I am there, I revisit the person inside who is making this journey, and I say hello. I am then able to go back to my reality, and make dinner and give baths and run errands and fall into bed exhausted. I remember what I am here for, and then I am full again to go back and do it again and again.

What is your place? A beach, a special book, your comfortable bed? Is it in the corner of a room in your favorite chair where you remember who you are, even for a moment?

I hope everyone finds that place to reconnect…and to remember.

Stein, Garth. The Art of Racing in the Rain. Harper: New York, 2008.


I attended the RWA National Conference this year.

Inspiration comes in many ways.  There are so many things that can inspire on a daily basis but my favorites come in the forms of “lightbulb” events.  Those are the ones that make a difference.

On a writing scale, I was surrounded for 4 days by people who were both gracious and all talented. Our favorite icons took time away from their own writing to come and inspire others. I learned various information on craft and theme and dialogue. I learned about publicity and marketing. I met with editors, agents and writers. Throughout the whole conference though, there were certain nuggets of inspiration that has made a difference in my career and my life I’d like to share.

Writers inspire me. Writers who work hard. My icons such as Suzanne Brockmann, Jayne Ann Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Linda Howard and Nora Roberts are my American Idols in the romance industry. I heard all of them speak, and they each write different type of books and had different advice for both the published and aspiring author but one theme pushed through them all.

Writers write.

They seem to have a pretty glamorous life. NYTimes bestelling authors who have money and fame  and  public adoration. But once you get to the nitty gritty, you realize they do the same thing you are doing every day. They just write. Some for two hours. Some for 4 pages. Some more and some less. The writing is not marketing or revising or editing. Just writing.

Not very glamorous, huh?

More like the commoner such as me.

They all took precious time from their writing to go to the RWA conference. Most of them admitted they stopped attending conferences because it took up too much time. As does blogging. Sure, they pay for a publicist, but they always honored the integrity of the job and their work: they write first. Then everything else comes next.

Nora Roberts  says she is her own boss and mean as a pitbull. There are no sick days or whiney days allowed because this is a “real” job and it doesn’t have many sick days or vacation days. I think once we begin demystifying and realize the most important thing is writing and getting new work on the page, we even the playing field. Nora Roberts had one line to write for when she began. We have many – new markets are actually opened thanks to e-books. I came away with a positive energy from all the editors and lines looking for fresh voices. They want to buy if it’s good. If we write enough, it will be good enough.

 RWA members inspired me. I was lucky enough to hook up with some fabulous women who seemed like my writing soul sisters. We shared wine and laughs and plot and suddenly it didn’t feel so lonely.  Everyone had different stories to tell about the market, or their struggles or their sale. We all had butterflies in our stomach at our pitch – and high fived afterward. These are people from Texas and CA and Atlanta and the Black Hills (shout out to Amy!). They inspired me to keep the friendship going and meet them next year at National. I feel more comfortable reaching out to new authors I admired because they were so happy to talk to me and realize I love their work. Everyone was gracious and enthusiastic and my networking “net” expanded more in these four days than the past year. This inspires me.

Disneyworld inspires me. At the laser show in Epcot, I watched the countries light up one by one. Crowds merged together in awe over the showers of sprinkles dripping from the sky, set to haunting notes of music that made my heart swell in all of the clichés I have ever written. I felt as if we were one in this world, and not separate.

Walt Disney inspired me. My girlfriend was able to do the back tour of Magic Kingdom and told me a beautiful story I need to share. There is a sculpture in Magic Kingdom of Walt with Mickey Mouse. Mickey is pointing down the road at something. If you follow, you will find a bench where Roy, Walt’s brother, sits beside Minnie Mouse. There is a space on the bench that is empty.

Walt Disney knew he was dying and only had a short time left. The story goes like this:

Walt Disney: “Mickey, I’m not going to be here much longer, old buddy. I need to leave but you’re going to be ok.”

Mickey:  “Don’t leave. I want to go with you.”

Walt shakes his head sadly. “No, you can’t come where I’m going, Mickey. But when I leave, I want you to walk over there.”

Mickey turned his head to where Walt gestured and pointed his finger. “Over there?”

 “Yes. Roy is going to take care of you. There’s a spot for you next to him and Minnie on the bench. This will always be your home, Mickey so never be afraid.”

I teared up imagining that scene. Love inspires me.

Books inspire me. When I read something where words sing and romance is hot and plot moves and I go into a fugue state into another time and place – I am inspired.

My children inspire me. They are loving and open to every new thing thrown their way. They may react with fear or trepidation or enthusiasm but they are present for every part of life and it inspires me to create the same present tense type of day for myself. My children make me to look at the world differently and strive to be a better human being.

When Jake was graduating pre-k, the teachers listed what each child stated he/she wanted to be when grown up.  I proudly skimmed through the notes such as firefighter, superhero, astronaut and doctor. When I got to my son’s name it read: Chicken robot. Yep. Chicken robot. My son did not just want a career – he wanted a whole new species.  After the initial rush of laughter and embarrassment, I realized how awesome my son was. Nothing held him back – his imagination and vision was vast and held no boundaries.

Love inspires me. Sacrifices for family, friends or a spouse.  Decisions to give up money and fame to pursue a passionate dream. Being brave to risk your heart being broken. Again. and Again.

Here’s to writing and following our passions and doing the hard work so we can then enjoy the good stuff.

Here’s to good friends who cheer us on even though they have never met us.

Here’s to the endless capacity of the human heart which sometimes disappoints but mostly awes me.

Here’s to inspiration.

Drop me a line and let me know what inspired you.