Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Ekphrasitic Explorations

This is the second ekphrastic poem I've ever done, which is a poem written in response to a work of art.  Henry Tanner's "Salome" has long been one of my favorite paintings. I am drawn to the deep blue hues in several of his pieces, without really connecting to the religious theme of the subject matter at first. Neither did I know the story of Salome, who is King Herod's daughter. Researching that story further for this poem not only led to a deeper appreciation of the painting, but gave me multiple perspectives from which to frame my poem.

Blue Note
By Anne Eston

(After Henry Tanner’s “Salome”)

I danced for him
but did not become
the lover I thought myself to be.

I step into the half-light.
Moonlight shimmers
on my nudity…

Waiting for a lover
who can see
the filmy hesitancy of my 

My hidden eyes will tell you,
my mother’s prize is not my own—
ignore the dead man in the corner.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Dragon Within

Today's session of Dorothy Randall Gray's workshop Writing the Rage, Healing the Soul was powerful. I had already taken the International Women Writers Guild's Free Write Friday on July 7 with Dorothy (read an excerpt of what I wrote for that workshop here), so I was ready to join her workshop today in its second week. Here's what flowed to the page today:


(After "Dragons" by Sarah Kay)

She waits inside me, this stunning beauty,
harbinger of truth that will soon be
said out loud. I may speak in a whisper at first,
just as I was taught,
tail between my legs.
But as I find it, my silver, sapphire scales
begin to sparkle from beneath my skin,
shaming the facade
I've carried for so long.

I sing, and cry more loudly and sweetly
by the instant.
In the fervency of all I have to say,
my tail whips out and
levels your playing field,
scattering your kings and pawns alike.

I roar, and burn it to the ground.
Game. Over.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Starting Over at 70 - Guest Blogger Barbara Barth

I was truly excited to be part of Barbara Barth's blog tour for her new memoir The Unfaithful Widow Ten Years Later: My Life with Dogs and Every Day Magic, because she is a living example of what I champion for women everywhere, but especially for women writers: that's it's never too late to start over, never to late to pursue your dreams. And while I connected most with Ms. Barth's moxie and commitment as a writer, the whole book is an inspiration (check back for my upcoming book review).

Without further adieu, Barbara Barth on starting over (at 70!):
The introduction in my memoir ends with these words, I recreate myself each year, not to be different, but to find my creative path. I’m pretty much the same person I’ve always been; a homebody, a nester, a writer, sometimes antique dealer, and dog hoarder.  I don’t travel because I love coming home at night to my dogs. Still, life is full of wonderful adventures if you have a creative path and an open heart. With my big birthday (turning seventy) staring me down I decided it was time to make the move I’ve dreamed about for years, finding that Victorian cottage that has haunted my dreams. In 2017 I moved from metro-Atlanta to a quiet historic town an hour away as the crow flies.
       Other than wanting an older home and different scenery, I moved to recreate myself again. Life was easy and fun in my old home, but nothing changed. I would always be the same me doing the same things. I wanted to be more involved and my town was too big for me to make a difference with what I had to offer. In 2011, I had an antique shop in Old Town Lilburn, a small hub about thirty minutes from my house that became a writing/art center. While that adventure only lasted nine months it was a glorious time for me with book signings, art openings, music, writing classes, all taking place at my little shop, putting me in touch with so many talented folks. Visions of making that happen again danced in my head. Moving to a smaller area might make it possible, I thought. I took the leap of faith, uprooting my life of thirty years in the same house to begin my new adventure in 2017.
I discovered the Monroe-Walton Center for the Arts in Monroe, Georgia, a short drive from my historic cottage in Social Circle.  The director welcomed me, embraced my ideas for writing activities, open mic nights, a monthly writing group, and more.  I became the Literary Arts Chair on the Board of Directors, and while I’m not exactly Board material, meetings not my favorite thing, I wear my title like a crown and love being around all the members who enrich the community, teach me new things, and fill my life with friends.
     Inspired by all the incredible artists, I’ve started painting again, too. Mixed media pieces that are fun and keep me busy at night painting like I’m Picasso. I’m moving into a small studio space, a booth in an antique shop this month, where I can sell my pieces if anyone wants to buy them. I’ll also have them for sale in the gift shop at the Monroe-Walton Center for the Arts.    
     Now at seventy-one (OMG, really?), I’m energized, doing all those things I love. Change can be hard. Starting over can be scary at any age. A favorite quote says it all, “What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” ― Erin Hanson.
I think I’m flying into my new decade.

Picking up where The Unfaithful Widow ended, Ten Years Later continues the author’s journey from widow to a slightly askew woman. A memoir written with warmth and candor on being single again, aging, and finding a creative path surrounded by dogs, friends, laughter, and a bit of craziness. Barbara Barth shares stories on the adventures that followed her first year alone as she moved headfirst into a new life, listening to her heart, sometimes not so wisely, but always full speed ahead. Join her on the ride of her life, from owning an antique shop to moving to a Victorian cottage outside of Atlanta, and all the follies in between. Going into the next decade with six dogs by her side, the author proves you are only as old as you feel, and happiness begins with a grateful heart. A funny and engaging memoir for anyone who wants to be their own superhero facing life’s good and bad moments.

Print Length: 374 pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, LLC

About the Author, Barbara Barth

Author, blogger, sometimes antique dealer, dog hoarder, bedazzled by life. Widowed ten years ago, Barth writes about finding a creative path back to happiness. Her recent move to a 1906 historic cottage brought many surprises, including discovering the Monroe–Walton Center for the Arts where she started the monthly Walton Writers group and is on the MWCA Board as Literary Arts Chair. Barth is a contributor to Walton Living Magazine and a former blogger for The Balancing Act, Lifetime Television’s morning show for women. Currently she lives with six dogs, rescue dogs that rescued her.

Visit her website at, follow her on Twitter @writerwithdogs, and follow her Amazon author page.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Review: Heal Yourself with Journaling Power

I know from personal experience with more than one of Mari McCarthy’s courses and books that she’s onto something—Mari’s journaling methods opened up my journaling practice and transformed it from a “Dear Diary” record of life events to a meaningful practice in which I found inspiration and answers by looking within. And it’s no surprise that her previous work Journaling Power strikes a chord with her personal account of transformation through journaling.

But what I didn’t expect when I delved into Heal Yourself with Journaling Power was for such overwhelming evidence that the journaling community, specifically Mari’s has expanded, and what’s more, that it has included experts in science and medicine as well as writing. For those who missed Journaling Power, the book opens with a recap of Mari’s own story of the transformation of her health. What emerges in the following chapters is a collection of testimonial essays that pick up where Mari leaves off, expanding on and deepening the concept that a consistent journaling practice can be transformative. Each essay includes an introduction by Mari, a personal story, a lesson learned, and a journaling prompt that helps readers to begin a path to similar results.

What was even more impressive was to read that science and medical communities are now endorsing journaling as a viable component of healing. It’s something that Mari and members of her “CreateWriteNow tribe” have experienced for years and is now being validated by a wide array of professionals. Turns out that the fine shimmering thread that runs through any successful writing practice, whether it be journaling or any other creative writing, is also found in our search for health and happiness: a “healthy internal dialogue” according to screenwriter turned psychotherapist Dennis Palumbo in his Foreword to the book.

The chapters on rewriting your life story and manifesting your dream life are particularly inspiring. Reading the essays is uplifting. The lessons learned resonate with all of us. Follow any of the prompts, and you’re a member of the burgeoning global journaling tribe. All you need are a pen and some paper. And this book. Get yours here (signed copies here).

Print Length: 143 Pages
Genre: Non-Fiction/Self-Help
Publisher: Mari L. McCarthy
ISBN-13: 9780463807361

Find the writer within you. I'll be launching a new workshop to help women writers establish and maintain a meaningful writing practice soon. Learn more

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Writing as Meditation

"Meditation and writing practice are coincident." - Natalie Goldberg

Lately, when I ask someone about their writing practice, they get nervous. The whole conversation seems like it’s on a slip-n-slide. Responses range from the vague (“I don’t really know what that is” or “I don’t really follow one”) to the emphatic (“I don’t need one” or “Writing regularly hinders my creativity”). Most people also think that a writing practice refers to writers of fiction, poetry, memoirs, or anything they consider to be literary.

While I am a writer of fiction (and sometimes the accidental poem), I had a serious epiphany about my own writing practice recently. I was revisiting Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. Unbeknownst to her, Natalie has been my mentor, via her book, for a long time. When I read it again for a class, I wondered how I had missed all the gems in it, and why I had been so remiss in making use of the wisdom she imparts therein.

Throughout the book, she quotes and refers to her Buddhist Zen Master. Early in the book she writes: "In 1974 I began to do sitting meditation. From 1978 to 1984 I studied Zen formally with Dainin Katagiri Roshi (Roshi is a title for a Zen master) at the Minnesota Zen Center in Minneapolis. Whenever I went to see him and asked him a question about Buddhism, I had trouble understanding the answer until he said, “You know, like in writing when you . . .” When he referred to writing, I understood. About three years ago he said to me, “Why do you come to sit meditation? Why don’t you make writing your practice? If you go deep enough in writing, it will take you everyplace.”

Suddenly my writing practice took on a completely different (and deeper) meaning. Beyond word counts and deadlines, this was a framework to better understand the way the craft of writing had taken hold of me in the third grade and hasn't let go since. By coming to my practice of this craft with mindfulness, as a meditation, I am honoring the best part of myself. On the best days, it does take me everywhere, and gloriously so. 

A big part of this is creating the right space. When people hear "meditation" they thing of quietude and closed eyes, which it certainly can be. But meditation is also mindfulness, and creating the right mental and physical space for your writing means whatever will allow you to do it mindfully. For me, this is writing in my favorite cafe on sometimes, or writing in bed in the last moments before turn the light out to go to sleep other times. It might mean an entire afternoon spent cranking out a huge swath of my novel, jotting down notes in stolen moments on a busy day, or a short block of time at the same time each day. Those in the know about meditation and mindfulness suggest starting small. Your writing practice might develop in the same way, and will change and evolve over time.

illustration by Ben Thomson
Another important factor is the intent with which you begin and engage in your writing practice. I have learned to approach many things in life, especially important goals and activities, with a sense of how I want to feel in doing them and accomplishing them. Writing is my bliss---when I approach it as a meditation of what I love to do most in the world, rather than something I need to cross off of my list just to say that I've done it or because I'm supposed to do it. In a women's group I belong to, we recently worked with "gift" goals, vs "should" goals. Even when my writing practice must include a homework assignment for grad school, I approach it as a meditation, and a gift goal. 

But deadlines and word counts and homework assignments are inevitable. So are writer's block, physical and mental exhaustion, distractions, and any number of other ways life challenges a solid writing practice and your commitment to it. So what can be done in the face of all of this?  In addition to getting yourself into the setting that best supports your own writing mojo, breathe. Set your intention for your practice when you begin. Realize that you're safe with the page, and with yourself. Be kind to yourself. A recent homework included an article by Lauren Sapala, which led me to her book, The INFJ Writer. In it she suggests beginning each writing session with a short gratitude list. This has been a wonderful implementation to my writing practice, and has done a lot to thwart any anxiety, fear, self-doubt or self-sabotage that might plague me at the outset.

Writing is meditation, if you'll allow it to be, whether you're writing a poem or a blog post, a mystery or a memoir, a journal or a literary jewel. Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Anne Eston is a storyteller, author and mentor. She gets by with a little (really a LOT) of help from her husband, and her two Imp Muses (cats) Stanley and Sofia.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Voices We Must Not Listen To

We need to honor, love, give voice to, and protect our wild, creative self--the writer within. In doing so, we cannot be controlled by the critic within, or the critics who seem to surround us.

Here is a  repost from The Writing Life...

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Mindfulness: Next

Where were we?  Oh yes. In my previous post, I gave some background on what led me to this "mindfulness" idea. I had reached out to a friend, taken a webinar, met some really wonderful women and made connections on a couple of stellar Facebook groups, but was still feeling quite stuck. One thing that kept popping up was meditation. Yeah, I knew I needed to get with the program, but I already felt overwhelmed enough so trying to push a whole hour of anything out of myself, much less meditation as the webinar had suggested, was proving to be too much. But I hung in there, because "meditation" was also the first thing out of my friend's mouth when I reached out to her for help. And one day, it popped up again (third time's a charm, right?), this time in a post in one of the FB groups I'm in. It was a video post by one of the members offering to help anyone who was having trouble with their meditation practice. Just as generous and beautiful as that. What did I have to lose? So I made arrangements to connect with her via Skype.

Wow, what a gift it was. Because it unlocked two very important things for me. The first was to give myself permission to be where I was with all of this meditation stuff. If I'm not able to do an hour a day, THAT'S OKAY. It was like a huge weight was lifted off of my consciousness. I wasn't failing Kyle Cease (it was his webinar), hell, I wasn't even failing myself, as long as I forgave myself and gave myself permission to still be "in process" with all of this. And isn't that how life is anyway? Have we ever really "arrived?" Aren't we always growing, changing, evolving?

The second thing I learned was to view meditation as mindfulness. Sure, there are times when I just need to shut the world out, and put on meditation sounds for a long while to recharge and recover from whatever life has thrown at me. But in addition to giving myself permission to do whatever I was able to on a given day---sometimes that means five minutes, sometimes I get the luxury of 30 minutes or more---it's about taking mindful moments---being mindful with every activity and being present in moments.


Another thing that I got out of my discussion with this lovely soul was that if I started small, I would find that I COULD do more. That is exactly what happened, and it has been amazing! I learned to be more consistent, and also more mindful in moments. It doesn't mean that suddenly I have more than the same 24 hours in a day than I've always had. But so much began to shift. I'm sure if I looked closely I can also see other things that I'm doing less of, like hanging out on social media (although when I do, it's with so much more mindful intent, and so much more enjoyable), but with this small shift came more peace, more rest, more energy, more kindness to myself.

Around the same time, I received an email from a place I didn't recognize, but something told me it wasn't spam. When I opened it and looked into it, I ended up enrolling for this amazing women's day at a new community center nearby. I also saw that they had yoga classes, so I signed up to take some of those. It turns out I was on their mailing list because I had belonged to the studio that closed before and they had become part of this new community center.  The place is stunning. It used to be a private home, so you'd never know what was inside from the street. It's an oasis that I am so grateful for, and my new yoga teacher is fantastic. I also started two Daily OM classes that I could do on my own during the week between yoga classes.

Then something else happened. I had always wanted to be like those beautiful women my age that I see in vitamin and make-up commercials who look so energetic and ALIVE. But I have felt the opposite of that most of the time: tired, fat, angry and drained.

But about my second week of Yoga, I felt a significant shift at the end of class one night. I felt STRONG.  I felt BEAUTIFUL. And when I went to a spa with my friend the day before my 20th wedding anniversary vow renewal ceremony, she took a picture of me and I felt stunning. I felt like Audrey Hepburn, one of my cinema idols. I realized that this otherworldly woman that I've been in pursuit of (or envious of) has been inside of me all along.

I did have a setback when I saw the video from the vow renewal. Ugh. And the ebb and flow of stress would pull me away from all that I've built up. But I just stayed the course and kept listening. I continue to climb out of my old story. Another big process, aside from the physical, is taking place in our home. We are going through YEARS of detritus (20 to be exact). I wanted to be Wonder Woman and get it all done in one weekend.

I also wanted to take my newfound consciousness and act on it all NOW. One of the videos Kyle sends to his subscribers talks about what to do when we reach a new level that doesn't match our circumstances: "The root cause of almost all of our suffering is wanting to be somewhere other than where we are right now. As you make your connection to yourself bigger than your circumstances and accept where you are right now, you'll find peace in the present moment and a new clarity that will allow you to create a new set of circumstances."  This is one of the ideas that reminds me that I'm in process and it's okay. I don't have all the answers, and it's okay. I'm still moving forward, and that's the most important thing.

So what's next? you ask. I hesitate to claim a specific plan, because those hardly ever turn out exactly as we expect. Life is more fluid than that. I am taking specific steps that reflect the life I want to lead on a daily basis. I'll see where they lead me. Beyond that, my intent is focused, but open. I'm learning all over to trust the Universe. She's got my back.  I take the steps, she takes care of the rest. I have a bit more to share, but I've rambled on enough for today. You're probably on your fifth cup of tea by now and need to pee. Stay tuned for "Mindfulness: Now." Love and light to all!