Go Towards the Love

I first saw the phrase: “Go Towards The Love” written on a small scrap of paper on John Lee‘s mirror in his counseling office bathroom many years ago. I liked it for its simplicty. It reminded me of the genetic code written in plants to go toward the sunlight.

Of course, we aren’t plants so we need reminders like Go Towards The Love written on our bathroom mirrors because, we humans love to struggle. It makes us feel alive and purposeful until one day, we realize, “Oh wait minute, this ‘love to struggle’ ethic is painful and draining and…” That’s when the bad marriage ends. The sucky job gets quit. The move to Hawaii is made. We just realize that struggling isn’t the way to live.

So I had one of those moments with my column in Good Life this month. I had actually written the story about eating local for another magazine but when that magazine wanted me to cut the story in half and take out my personal experience, I decided not to shrivel and conform. I would have done it years, even months, ago. But this time I decided no, the voice of the piece is my personal experience and it is valid, so no, I won’t try to create a reporter’s voice to make the piece acceptable or authoritative. Nope. Not this time.

Don’t get me wrong. I think a story or column can always be made better with more quotes and statistics. Besides, they’re kind of fun to research. But I had to look at the voice of the piece and the truth is I like writing from my perspective. And I think that many people like reading stories that are about human trials and tribulations of eating locally. But this magazine wanted something different, a little but more industry driven (yes, even eating local is industry driven), a little bit more from the viewpoint of: we know more than you. That’s okay. That’s them. Not me.

And so I reworked the piece into a column, added about 300 words, found a great new ending and received high praises from my editor at Good Life. I placed the piece where I knew it was valued and it became a better story.

Go Towards The Love. Because when you do, good things happen.


When I heard the news back in January that Tina Marsh’s cancer had returned, I was shocked and saddened. I had been a part of her support community on her first bout. I knew I couldn’t be on the support team this time around, but when Sally Jacques created a fundraising event at Laguna Gloria for Tina, I was there. That evening led to this column, which I hope may lead to folks being inspired to send her love and support and who knows what else.

A gathering of 26 children’s book writers

It only makes sense that a gathering of twenty-six children’s book writers would be a warm supportive affair. After all, the intention of our writing is to touch and expand the hearts of children and young adults. But we are writers and that means we have egos, which means we have fears, which means we can make snarky, jealous comments with the best of them. But deep in the heart of Texas, deep in the heart of Austin is this woman named Cynthia Leitich Smith who stuns and humbles me with her generosity and good ideas.

Her latest good idea was to gather twenty-seven children’s book writers, ask them to submit ten pages for a three day critique weekend and call it the Awesome Austin Writer’s Weekend (AAWW). The participants were: Brian Anderson, Varsha Bajaj, Chris Barton, Gene Brenek, Shana Burg, Anne Bustard, Tim Crow, Betty X. Davis, Meredith Davis, Alison Dellenbaugh, Erin Edwards, Debbie Gonzales, Helen Hemphill, P.J. Hoover, Varian Johnson, Julie Lake, Lindsey Lane, April Lurie, Mark Mitchell, Jane Peddicord, Liz Garton Scanlon, Greg Leitich Smith, Jo Whittemore, Phil Yates, and Jennifer Ziegler. Donna Bratton and Carmen Oliver assisted as pages.

Two months prior to the weekend, Cyn and her just-as-remarkable husband Greg Leitich Smith delivered 26 manuscripts to each of us. And we started reading. And reading. And reading. I know that I spent at least two hours on each ms, thinking about it, writing a critique, rereading the critique. By the time the weekend rolled around, I was deeply invested in each manuscript. And so was everyone else. Which was great. But it is also might have led to fist fights. That was where the magic of Cyn came in.

For three days, she led forty-minute discussions of each piece. What made it sane was Cyn’s sense of order. She started and ended each critique with positive comments. In between those comments, she led a hands-raised/called-upon discussion, which was both respectful and spirited. The writer of the ms. on critique listened. On pain of Cyn’s mischievous wrath. Every once in a while, Cyn would steer the discussion with questions of craft, thoughts about marketability and personal reflections.

By the end of the three days, I was wrung out. But I was energized, thrilled and deeply grateful to be a part of this community. I mean, down-on-my-knees thrilled and grateful.

As I head off next week to Vermont College to begin my MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults, I not only feel the support, love and recognition of my Austin community but I also feel ready to expand that sense of community to the writers I will meet in Vermont.

Just say AAWW.

My editor

My editor at GoodLife Magazine Ken Martin is a dream. First, he trusts me and believes in my thinking and writing. Second, his edits are subtle but make what I’ve written shine. Third, well, the list goes on but in the case of this month’s column, he knew when I told him that Rene’s story was a two parter, he had confidence in my thinking and gave me the space.