5 Gifts Under $50 (for You & the Writers You Love)

blessingIf you’re anything like some people I know and love, you’ve left some of your holiday shopping for the last minute — or (gasp) neglected to get something special for your own beautiful self!

I’ve assembled this quick and dirty list of writing-related gifts for you and/or the writer(s) you love, in case you’re looking for something but didn’t quite know what it was until you did.

Please note: If you are purchasing any of the items below as gifts, be sure to contact me with the recipient’s information. From my home to yours: Happy Merry. 

30-minute coaching session $50

13558921_10209162731121933_2635687224181490059_oWrestling with a piece of writing? Having trouble getting out of your head? So beaten up by the state of the world that you just can’t even? Time to get back in the ring, my friend. A 30-minute call completely devoted to your creative juices. Purchase + contact me to schedule.  

Dive Into Poetry + Jena’s new book, “Why I Was Late for Our Meeting” $49

Roar-Sessions-First-BirthdayHave your cake and eat it, too! Spend a month *playing* with poetry AND pre-order a personally inscribed and signed copy of Jena’s newest collection of poems to read at your leisure. Purchase.

10 Self-Paced Writing Prompts $36

10-daysEvery day for 10 days — on the start date and time of day of your choosing — receive a beautiful and original prompt in your inbox. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and start writing. That’s all there is to igniting or deepening your practice — at your own pace. Purchase.

Dive Into Poetry – January 2017 $31

diveA month-long online poetry party, for the people, by the people, and of the people. (Hint: You are the people!) No experience or prerequisites — this group is low stakes, super supportive, and loads of fun. Register.

“Don’t Miss This” and “The Inside of Out” $19.90 each

dont-miss-thisJena’s first book, “Don’t Miss This,” traces a fierce 15-year journey through marriage, motherhood, and coming out — when she risked everything she knew in order to claim what she had denied for so long: herself. Purchase.

inside-of-outBlending poetry and prose, the personal and political, and the ordinary with a 30,000-foot view, “The Inside of Out” is an intimate look at what happens over the course of a year, after life falls apart and reconfigures again. A beautiful gift for anyone who has ever wished love could be easy. Purchase.

“Why I Was Late for Our Meeting” $18

coverJena’s new collection of 50 poems caps off a year of darkness with these words: “The sun’s up there somewhere.” This book is equal parts invitation, prayer, protest, and love song to the pain and beauty of humanity and everyday life. Inscribed and signed for you or the beloved recipient of your choice. Purchase.

It’s All Made Up: Freewriting Fiction

chandelierAre you tired of your own stories? Keep writing about the same stuff? I get it! But guess what?

It’s All Made Up

One of the stories I tell about myself is that I suck at fiction writing.*

But from time to time, I do it anyway. And you know what? It’s fun. It’s freeing. It’s intriguing.

Whether you suck at fiction writing or just want an infusion of prompted inspiration and the camaraderie of a small group of readers, this new group’s just for you.

JOIN ME FOR three weeks of freewriting fiction.

Before I get into the details, let me tell you the back story.


“Want to go to an open house?” Aviva had just hopped in the car after an appointment one Saturday morning. We sat in the idling car not a block away from the realty sign that had caught my eye. “Ummmm, sure?”

We turned onto Sparrow Road and saw the “For Sale” sign about halfway down the dead-end street. It was a pale pink Victorian with white trim. As we reached the front door, a disembodied male voice called us to come inside.

“Hi, I’m Ross,” said the lanky realtor, who gestured first toward himself and then at the living room, as if introducing an invisible friend at his side. A vase of long-stemmed red tulips on a side table by the bay windows caught my eye. I introduced myself and my daughter as he handed us an info sheet. Though I’m not in a position to buy a house at the moment, somehow it didn’t feel entirely fake to be there. Well, ok, maybe it did. But I work my ass off, and a girl can dream.

Ross invited us to look around and said he’d be available for any questions. Aviva and I moved through the sitting room with the tulips and the crystal chandelier, then down a hallway that led to a cozy sunroom. The wood floors looked smooth and worn, like they had stories of their own to tell. Threadbare, faded cotton blankets in layers lent the south-facing daybed the appearance of a hundred-year nap. I could see myself falling asleep there like a cat.

When we stepped up into the adjoining kitchen, I think we gasped simultaneously. Holy mother of God, it was magazine-worthy: Funky, old, and rustic meets modern, hipster, and elegant. Adjoining deep porcelain sinks, exposed brick, a big attached pantry, windows overlooking the deep backyard. “If this house could talk…” I thought to myself, listening for its whispering bones as we made our way upstairs.

Four smallish bedrooms and what was clearly a new half-bath greeted us, all situated around a generous landing with a subtle slope.  Aviva and I immediately sussed out who would get which room, and I zeroed in on the smallest one in the back of the house as my Virginia Woolf space. A room of my own is among the things I miss most about owning a home with some “extra” space, and it remains high on my list of “someday” house wishes.

Mind you, I write all of this from the warmth of my kitchen in a beautifully maintained and cozy three-bedroom apartment; we have great neighbors, an awesome landlord, and more than enough room. So it’s not that I’m “complaining” as much as I’m letting my imagination of its leash. And when I do that, oh mama does she ever like to run free and sniff far. The craziest things catch her fancy, and sometimes I can’t find my special whistle that calls her home. She always comes back eventually, though.

Aviva and I completed our tour with dropped jaws — the house had a fully heated, two-story STUDIO space behind it that our accountant would love (perfect for the writing, yoga, and meditation workshops and retreats Mani and I will lead together!). We’d learned from Ross that the house was, as of that very morning, under contract. It was ridiculous that I felt disappointed, as I have neither the paperwork nor the down payment to make an offer. But rational emotions fled the scene as I looked around one last time, wistful that we’d never call this place “home.”

It took a few days before my imagination came bounding back home from her adventures. I’d been sitting around, just a tiny bit mopey maybe, working my way back to gratitude for the home we have rather than focusing on the one we don’t. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel  crazy thankful and amazed that we are able to pay rent here, cover our bills, and even have the ability to save, spend, and give away a little each month. The fact that my work as a promptress and writing coach afford us the ability to live in what is not an inexpensive town is a true blessing, one of the biggest of my life.

I went from bummed to inspired as I looked through the photos I’d taken during the open house.

Narrow closets covered in peeling wallpaper.
A single old-fashioned shoe, left behind.
The blur of exposed brick.
A circle of tree stumps.
An old cupboard.
A rusty letterbox.

Anything could happen in these rooms.

These fragments from fake house hunting could call anyone’s imagination in so many different directions — which is why I decided to use them for a brand new writing group. Because creating fictional stories sounds like way more fun than wanting what we don’t have or getting stuck telling the same stories we already know inside out.

Doesn’t it?

It’s All Made Up: Freewriting fiction

A three-week online writing group for people who love fiction and a) are totally intimidated by writing it and/or b) could use an infusion of inspiration and good company on your writing journey.


I have no idea. Anything could happen! That is kind of the point.

Through a combination of guided freewriting and other creative exercises on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we’ll try our hands at freewriting fiction three times a week for three weeks. Working with a trusty timer (10 minutes per freewrite) and evocative visual prompts, we’ll let our imaginations take the lead, running roughshod over our well-worn true stories and introducing us to moments, characters, and incidents we never before dreamed up, much less wrote down.

*What if I suck at it?

Sucking will not only be acceptable in this group; we will CELEBRATE SUCKING. The goal will be to loosen up the reigns and make some shit up, without worrying about submitting and publishing, without stressing about who’s better than us, and with good cheer and great fun.

group participation

There will be TWO sections of this group, each limited to TWELVE participants. These groups will be top-secret, so you don’t have to worry about anyone else seeing what goes on in that wild imagination of yours. Participation is optional, but it’s also super fun so I hope you’ll go for it.

will i get feedback?

Yes and no. We won’t be focused on craft so much as generous reflection and encouraging comments on each other’s forays into made-up scenes and scenarios. That said, if you find that you want feedback on a specific aspect of any of your writing, you are welcome to ask for it.


Monday, November 14 — Friday, December 2


With the intention of this group being widely inclusive, I’m once again offering three different (confidential) payment tiers, based completely on the honor system. Please choose according to an honest self-assessment:

  • Tier 1: Folks who have to scrimp, squirrel, and save to participate in this kind of group.
  • Tier 2: Anyone who’s moderately comfortable and has some disposable income.
  • Tier 3: Those of you who have the ability and desire to pay it forward.

:: $63 ::

:: $126 ::

:: $189 ::btn_buynow_lg
We are going to have so much fun in these groups. Join me!

Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid and Other Notes to Self


I am not flashy. I have no fancy packaging or branding. And you know what dawned on me this afternoon? I have been going about my business (of building a business) largely in blissful ignorance as to “what else is out there” in terms of writing groups and other comparable offerings.

Of course, I’m aware of some of the many wonderful opportunities to write and learn and practice. I love encountering these and feeling like I’m in such amazing company.

What I didn’t realize before this afternoon is that I have a general philosophy about this. But it seems that I do, and it is this: Be inspired or walk the other way.

Notes to self (and you, if you can relate):

  • Don’t drink the kool-aid!
  • Comparison is a rabbit hole that leads to envy, insecurity, and self-pity. NOT GOOD!

One nasty gulp of this near-fatal cocktail, and boom — I’m reeling drunk on imaginary stories about other people’s lives, what they’re really thinking, who has it better or easier, etc. And there is simply no good way to wrap up this dismal paragraph, because the list, of course, could go on and on.

And on.

The thing is, I’ve reached the 72-hour mark of a headache that, at its peaks, has been in migraine territory. It started Sunday, reaching a crescendo that evening with nausea and tears, and has hung on stubbornly though two night and now a third day. I’m hopeful by tomorrow it will have made itself scarce and I can continue with my regularly scheduled programming, which involves — rides on, even — not being flat and foggy of brain.

Last night, I tried to write here, and after several incoherent paragraphs, scrapped the effort and sidled up in bed next to Mani to watch Downton Abbey, a show I resisted for a long time (sure it would be stuffy and dull), only to fall for hook, line, and sinker. The costumes alone are enough to keep me watching.

On Saturday, we looked at art. And it was like coming home, to enter into those gallery spaces together after being largely homebound, as a couple, for well over a year now. We began in the gift shop, ooohing and aaahing over books, bags, jewelry, and even socks (Mani bought a pair that say “I got this,” so fitting — haha — seeing as wearing socks is part of her physical therapy as she slowly recovers from debilitating neuropathy in her feet).

Our one-night getaway at The Porches Inn in North Adams, right across the street from the museum itself, could not have been more welcome and wonderful; we are already scheming to save up enough for another jaunt to the Berkshires. And I can’t wait to go back with the kids, too. In short, I am hungry for life — a good sign, by all counts.

Notes to self (and you, if you can relate):

  • When you’re feeling physically vulnerable, everything else feels vulnerable.
  • This is a good time to practice not catastrophizing.
  • Listen to your wife (or husband, or BFF, or sister, or therapist) when they tell you that even if you really were down for the count for a few days, nothing is going to come to a screeching halt before crumbling before your eyes, like a cartoon character’s demise.

Self-employment (oh, and life) takes huge stores of faith. It’s good to remember that I’m in it for the slow burn on the slow path, not the one-trick pony or the flash in the pan, not a firework or the zero-to-sixty, not a brilliant storm that puts on a good show before clearing skies and returning to normal.

Notes to self (and you, if you can relate):

  • This is the new normal.
  • There is no normal.
  • What’s normal keeps changing, ain’t that the truth.
  • Ground down, sister.

What I know is that the chair beneath my ass, the keys beneath my flying fingers, my wife’s soft, soft hands, my kid’s voice on the other end of the line — these are solid and real. So is the food in the fridge and the hot water that pours from the shower head, over my physical, naked body. Amen.

Yesterday morning, I wrote on Facebook: I couldn’t sleep and was writing in my head. Sometimes I wonder if most of my poems and blog posts don’t amount to basically this.(Variations: I was falling asleep; I was waking up; I was napping; I was having a dream within a dream.)

I wrote this on Facebook because the words I wanted to write here had gone the way of dreams — and I was disappointed. And a little worried. Each day, I’ve come back to try again, competing with the headache that has kept on keeping on.

So what to do? I napped. I snuggled. I worked on other things. I showed up for the writers in my groups and wrote right alongside these women whose words and stories bring music and poetry and heartbreak and joy to my door, each entry a gift to unwrap slowly and savor.

I marveled at the shared insecurities voiced by so many people I write with and encounter through this work, the nearly universal doubts about what counts as “real” writing, what’s good enough. I found myself feeling ponderous, and stood before our new bookshelves, in silent conversation with so many titles that have traveled with me, loyal companions all.

I got the web page ready for this summer’s Unfurl retreats — two sets of dates for doing this very thing in person: Getting together, but not to compare, not to measure up, not to get ahead, and not to prove a thing. I’m not interested in any of that. I’ve spent my whole life so far wanting to blast open the whole charade of some people being better or cooler than others. It’s all kind of trickery and fuckery and no, I’m not sorry. I don’t buy it.

Maybe if I were flashier, I could find a way to make a lot more money. Maybe.

Notes to self (and you, if you can relate):

  • If making money alone were the goal, most beautiful things — art, photography, music, memoir, poetry — would never be born.
  • Imagine having a baby driven mostly by the goal that the baby would grow up, become rich, and take care of you.
  • It’s preposterous! Poor baby.

I won’t do that to my babies. Not the actual growing-up ones, nor the ones that are my writing groups, the coaching work I’m doing more and more of again, the words themselves that bless me when they come.

On the other hand — and I’m Jewish so there are at least three of those — I like making money and taking good care of my family, and there is no shame there, only deep pride, gratitude, commitment, and love.

Violet Crawley, a fabulous curmudgeon also known as the Dowager Countess of Grantham, said it well: “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s an atmosphere.”

Notes to self (and you, if you can relate):

    • Atmospheric changes are unavoidable. But creating an atmosphere where there needn’t be one at all — that is just silly and a waste of time and your God-given gifts.
    • Take a bath instead and watch Netflix until you feel better.
    • A headache will not bring anything to a halt.
    • Not every blog post has to knock it out of the park and not every day in the life of your business (writing, parenting, job, marriage) will feel winning.

Just don’t be a slave to the illusion of flashy, perfect, or easy.

It’s never the whole story — and rarely the most interesting one, at that.