I can’t tell you how much finding your organization has meant to me. I am convinced that lifewriting is a tool for health and healing as well as leaving a legacy for our children and grandchildren.

—Sylvia in Idaho

These circles have changed my life in these last months. And I don’t mean that in a small way. It is huge. It is as if each writing topic, each book selection, each offering by all the members is ‘godgiven’ directly to me, for my benefit. Amazing. Makes it crystal clear that we all have such common ground, such common heart. I am not dancing in these circles because I am bored and need a hobby. It is something else entirely. And it is Spiritual.

—Grace in New Mexico

I wish I could let people know the degree to which SCN is responsible for my writing more, writing better, feeling more confident, and getting some public writing attention. It all feels like miraculous progress and I am floating…

—Duffie in California

Thank you so much for your uplifting letter and your “welcome back” to Story Circle Network. I have really missed my SCN sisters… I feel like it will save my life in many different ways by allowing me to share my story once again and to hear the stories of beautiful women. Listening to other’s stories is one of my favorite pastimes. Also, when I went to SCN workshops I loved sitting in a circle and reading my words out loud. What a powerful tool for each of us to share our truth.

—Jeanne in Texas

These are just a few of the words of praise we receive at Story Circle Network on a regular basis.


The Story Circle Network is dedicated to helping women share the stories of their lives through memoir, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama, and to raising public awareness of the importance of women’s personal histories. We carry out our mission through publications, a website, classes, workshops, writing and reading circles, and woman-focused programs. Our activities empower women to tell their stories, discover their identities through their stories, and choose to be the authors of their own lives.

For a limited time, we are offering a free copy of our compilation, Kitchen Table Stories, an anthology of sixty-some stories and recipes contributed by nearly 75 women (an $18 value!) to both new and renewing members.  KTScover

It’s the perfect time to gift you, a family member, or friend with a membership to Story Circle Network!

To sign up, or give a gift membership, go here:

Questions? Contact us via email: or phone: 970-235-1477 or mail: Story Circle Network, PO Box 1670, Estes Park CO 80517-1670

Home for Henry Blog Book Tour: Slow Writing

By Anne Kaier

AnneKaierphotos 008

Note: We are pleased to be hosting a blog book tour stop for author and Story Circle member Anne Kaier’s delightful memoir, Home With Henry.  For more information on the book, visit .


Do you write best under deadline?  Can you sit at your laptop, bring all your wiggly brains to bear on a subject and just spit something out? Come up with five hundred words of deathless prose in a zippy half-hour? I have a very accomplished friend who works as a speechwriter for a fortune 100 company. She routinely writes complicated speeches for the CEO in no time. Sits down on a Friday morning and has a draft of a half-hour speech ready for review by all the corporate muckety mucks by lunchtime.

I cannot do that. I need to ponder, contemplate and rewrite. It takes a good year for me to write a long prose memoir piece. This includes walks and dreamingtime and –my personal favorite—writing down brilliant ideas on scraps of paper as I am driving.  And I live in Philadelphia—a big city with crazy drivers. They don’t scare me. I can easily steer with one hand and scribble with another. But deadlines drive all the good ideas right out of my head. As the great Romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge admitted:  “deadlines stun me.”  Now Coleridge wrote, possibly while stoned, several of the best poems written in English, including the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” So I am comforted by this. Great minds can, it seems, think slowly. Anyway, mine does. Great or not, that’s how it works.

AK&cats 001When I wrote my new memoir, Home with Henry, about rescuing a feral cat, I kept a journal, written in longhand, mainly at work, when I should have been doing other things such as writing sales brochures. I took my time about it—and didn’t tell anyone I was keeping the journal. So I could write in it with a feeling of freedom, every day—or whenever I wanted to. I certainly didn’t have a deadline. I was writing for myself, because I was interested in Henry’s progress from hiding under a spare bed to coming downstairs and showing himself to be a sweetie. After about a year, I put the journal aside. I didn’t go back to it until a publisher asked me for a manuscript and I convinced her that my cat tale would make a good book.  Even then I was able to take some time in revising the story.

In our fast-paced life, there’s a premium on being able to multi-task—and do things quickly. Efficiency experts rule. But I need to take my time and dawdle, let my mind wander where it will. I need to sleep on my drafts, mosey out into my garden and stare into space when I’m writing something. I believe in slow writing. Like slow food, good writing, for some people at least, needs to simmer, bubble, and stew.

henrycoverFINALpublicityHow about you? Are you a dawdler? A master multi-tasker? Let us know in the comments below, and please support Anne by checking out her other Home with Henry Blog Book Tour stops. 



June 29

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July 9


At Seventeen

For a long time I have kept and maintained, admittedly sometimes sporadically, two very different kinds of journals – the first the repository of my daily writing practice, the other a kind of on-going commentary outlining my thoughts and musings about everything to do with writing, both my own and that of others, a writer’s diary if you will. Recently I have turned this practice into something a little more focused. I begin by choosing an event in my life, something from the past which shimmers a little around the edges, the light reflecting upon the waters of my sometimes still, sometimes turbulent mind, and while all that glitters may not be gold, still it is usually worth exploring. And so I dive in and mooch around a little, first in this spot, then in that, and if I am lucky, if it is a ‘good’ day for writing, I might discover something new, something that might reward sifting through the sieve of mindful interrogations. Of course ‘good’ by its very definition is a relative thing, so what might be treasure today may, on the morrow, be nothing more than sand slipping through spread-eagled  fingers, offering no gifts worth grabbing on to. But that is tomorrow’s problem. Today, this moment, is all that concerns me now.

That this moment extends beyond the limited expanse of my habitual quotidian and paltry vision, stretching the eternal now upwards, and inwards too, to the furthest frontiers of space and time, transforms the experience into time beyond time; it is all there ever was, or can be. Herein lies freedom, the spaciousness of mind which carries me above and beyond the petty shenanigans of a life hardily lived. Even my dreams are beggarly in comparison, for I fail to dream big enough! But if I dig and delve, if I am not afraid to dive in, take a deep breath and jump, trusting that there is something much bigger and grander and a whole lot more powerful than me out there ready to catch me, call it what you will, who knows where my curiosity might take me?

To prepare myself for these big adventures, first I sit and meditate for 15 or 20 minutes, just breathing, following the breath however it is in the moment. Then I take up my pen and start writing. When I am done, and I always know when I have said all that needs to be said, for now anyway, I walk away from my writing desk for about 10 minutes, just enough time to make a cup of tea and carry it back to my desk, sipping it as I re-read my own words. Next I pull out my writer’s diary, and I begin to ponder what it was I was trying to express. What exactly was I trying to say? What did I mean here? And what of this word there – is there another which might better express, more accurately, what I am attempting to articulate? I become my own first reader.

Invariably this part of the process opens up multiple possibilities, an almost endless stream of themes to consider and explore. I pick a few, the ones which appear most pertinent to me in this moment; they would be different at another time – it is this specificity I believe which makes this kind of writing ‘mindful’, for here I am focusing upon the treasures, the gifts of this moment in time without thinking about the future, or worrying about the past; I am simply open and receptive to what lies in front of me now, unfurling, unfolding at my feet.

Today I wrote about an incident that happened to me when I was 17, desperate to escape from the shackles of a life I believed was slowly strangling me. I wanted so much more than what I had, but the wanting itself, the yearning was the impetus, the motivation, the trigger to do something, to change. All I knew was that I wanted to run as fast as I could, believing that the freedom I experienced in my fantasies would be borne out by lived experience far away from home. Sometimes I still hear the siren call of this dream of another way, something different and new, something elusive and ephemeral, beckoning to me, whispering my name, calling from across vast swathes of time and space, inviting me to walk on from the mist of memory into the sea of possibilities, to not be afraid, or rather to release the fear, to breathe deeply and to feel that breath seep down, lower and lower, slipping past shoulders and chest, tight with unresolved pains, down, down, dropping down, behind my belly and it’s fluttering knots, sliding across sore sciatic nerves of dis-placed hips, the price of a rushed birthing a very long time ago [what was the hurry?], slithering over sore knees and swollen ankles, too painful to take any weight. But the breath itself is magic, and as if I am swooping downwards in a kamikaze leap, I leave my fear behind, and become all breath, until by the time I reach my toes I am free, utterly free. Feeling my feet, I am flying!

So why couldn’t I then, and why can’t I now, just be happy, content with this, just this? Why must there always be this yearning for something more? What is this yearning, this burning desire to find something anyway? What, for God’s sake, do I think is out there? And why is it always writing, only ever writing, which seems to touch upon this inexplicable impulse to stumble upon meaning, to track down and ferret out the significance of the events set down and laid out like the living dead upon the slab of the microscopic gaze?  What is it precisely that draws me back so relentlessly, eating me up and spitting me out, and still I crawl back, over and over again, incessantly chasing the dream that this time, today, I will write my way back home, wherever home might be? And just for the record, it wasn’t where I landed when I was just 17! Still, though that soon-to-be young woman didn’t get it all right, she did intuit a thing or two worth re-visiting. Good to know my writing can take me back any time I feel inclined to mine her-story again.

Edith Ó Nualláin lives with her family in a small village on the east coast of Ireland, snuggled between the mountains and the sea, where she reads, writes, and sits at her spinning wheel, spinning dreams with words and fibres. Some day she hopes to learn how to spin straw into gold. Her poetry is published in Crannóg, an Irish literary journal, and her book reviews are published in Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, as well as online at Story Circle Book Reviews. She writes occasionally on her blog, In a Room of My Own

What’s in a name?

Cherry blossom

As long as I have been writing I have struggled with the challenge of defining what exactly it means to write ‘mindfully’. In this post I thought it might be useful to attempt to tease out some of the differences between writing practice, mindful writing and journaling. At various times I have appended any one of these labels to my writing process. At various times I have been perplexed as I have tried to figure out which label best described my practice. My mother always said I liked my ducks in a row, and when I was younger I had no idea what she meant. Now I know! Perhaps it’s a touch of OCD, perhaps it’s an attempt to pin down and force meaning upon the chaos of words, or perhaps it’s simply an attempt to understand and grasp what exactly it is I am trying to do when I sit down to write; in other words, why I write.

One of my favourite personal essays is “On Keeping a Notebook” by Joan Didion. In this inspiring work of creative non-fiction, Ms Didion muses upon her reasons for writing in her journals, the explanations not always readily evident when re-reading past entries, many of whom remain a mystery to the author herself, as she wonders what on earth she meant by words and phrases which obviously struck a chord when first she wrote them down. In the end Ms Didion suggests that it’s not what the words recall in themselves, but rather what they evoke in the author’s imagination, the memories they stir, the associations they generate. The words we write bring it all back, so that it is as if we had returned to times past. With our words we can re-live previous experiences, not always in a direct relationship to the facts of the event per se, but rather as conduits of their emotional undercurrents, traces of shadows still lingering, echoes of the past. Keeping a notebook is one form of journaling, that is, a method of capturing moments in time, painting life as it happens in the raw with, hopefully, the sensuous imagery of richly evocative words. Is this mindful writing? Yes, if it is written with attention, and a deep listening with the inner ear, lingering languidly over the nuanced newness of the moment as it unfolds. Of course, some journaling is a simple noting of a few pertinent facts and no more. Then the only mindfulness required is in the initial noticing.

So much for journaling! What then of the difference between it and mindful writing? Mindful writing incorporates more than the seizing and word-capturing of an event, the apprehension of an episode or an encounter. When we write mindfully, we don’t always have a thought, (though we always have an intention, more about that below) initially anyway, with which to begin. So the writing itself is the practice, the words spin out from the initial desire to sit still, in silence and solitude, and simply write.

But what do we write? Ah, now at last we are coming closer to the heart of the matter. Herein lies the difference between writing practice and mindful writing. Though they are related, they are not quite synonymous. In writing practice we open our notebooks and set down whatever is stirring our minds at that precise juncture. We don’t edit or re-read; we just keep writing until the timer goes off, usually 10 or 20 minutes after starting. And then we stop. Writing practice, like mindful writing, is best embarked upon after a period of sitting meditation, for then the mind is open, spacious, and free; thoughts, ideas and sensations have latitude and license to rise up from the murky depths below. All of which sounds very similar to what we might reasonably expect from the practice of mindful writing.

But still there remains an important distinction. Mindful writing differs from both journaling and writing practice in one essential element – intention. Thus, before beginning our mindful writing practice, we have normally decided what our focus in any particular session is going to be, that is what the bedrock of our writing shall be, where we shall direct our concentration and attention, whether we plan to pen a haiku, or respond to a specific writing prompt, or some such other.

Is this splitting hairs? Perhaps. Perhaps too it doesn’t matter what we call it, nor even what our particular approach might be on the day, so long as we write. For it is the act of writing, the process of transferring our wild thoughts to the page that generates the alchemy, playing with the elements which serve as the foundation for future creative works, whether these manifest as transformed and transforming works of creative non-fiction, memoirs, short stories, novels or personal essays.

Each form shares one important detail in common – raw writing which awaits transfiguration through the alchemical shaping of craft. As Alice LaPlante writes in her seminal book ‘The Making of a Story’, first “immerse yourself in the intuitive creative process. That you may then take these raw, early pieces and shape them into something meaningful…”. [p. 25]

Journaling, writing practice and mindful practice then are the ‘process tools’ through which we discover what it is we wish to say. Which brings me back to the beginning – why I write. Ultimately I write to discover who I am. Mindfully.

Why do you write?

Edith Ó Nualláin lives with her family in a small village on the east coast of Ireland, snuggled between the mountains and the sea, where she reads, writes, and sits at her spinning wheel, spinning dreams with words and fibres. Some day she hopes to learn how to spin straw into gold. Her poetry is published in Crannóg, an Irish literary journal, and her book reviews are published in Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, as well as online at Story Circle Book Reviews. She writes occasionally on her blog, In a Room of My Own

Mindfully Mining Memories

Memoirs are a strange, unpredictable beast. They cover the gamut from straightforward linear autobiographical writings, to carefully crafted works of creative non-fiction, where impressions are gently set in shimmering juxtaposition, like grace notes, suspended between intermediary paragraphs of glistening prose. Memoirs such as these necessarily border fictional re-creations of past events hardly remembered, except perhaps, in the lingering echoes of the lithographic pressings which weightless remembrances lay down, like feathers, upon the susceptible sub-conscious mind. The best memoirs, or at least those I favour, combine a sense of truthfulness not always co-extensive with actual factual events. Sometimes there is more truth to be found in the lies, or imagined re-constructions, than in the quotidian details of the happenings themselves.

Is it not precisely this which we do when we dive in deep to the subterranean depths of our murky memories? I mean, of course, that we lie, if lying it is to try and understand, to impose meaning upon the unfettered chaos of the past. The best, the most potentially fruitful of these reminiscences are the ones we cannot quite grasp or understand immediately. Before we can even begin to penetrate their meaning, we must first wipe away a little muck here, a dirty mark there. We brush and burnish, shine and polish, until the insignificant stone reveals its precious bejewelled kernel, irradiated with suggestions of symbolic significance.

Mining memories takes time, lots and lots of what Brenda Ueland called ‘moodling’, resting in the moment, sitting in silence and solitude, waiting and not-waiting, still, yet simultaneously alert to the inner rumblings of possible internal volcanoes. Mindfully mining memories demands oodles of time from its devoted practitioner, what the ancients called ‘kairos’ time, the non-ticking clock of eternal time, that ever present moment which our most assiduous words transport us towards, allowing us to hover above the chasm, an invisible border between perceived chaos and imposed order. Now and then, mindful writing simply drops us into the furnace, that place of mystical burnishing from whence we re-surface altered, a little transformed, not enough that anyone might notice, but carrying traces of another way of being, of see-ing, shifting our vision just a little off-centre. Yes, we might forget what we experienced, but never really fully. We always emerge from our pilgrimage through the meandering, labyrinthine corridors of our minds a little different from before. Bit by bit, like snails and mosses and the soft, contemplative contours of Japanese bonsai , in ever expanding circles of slow time, we begin to intuit the way back home. We follow the path we knew, and not-knew, was always there. And in our knowing, and even more in our not-knowing, we begin to understand what it means to write mindfully.

Edith Ó Nualláin lives with her family in a small village on the east coast of Ireland, snuggled between the mountains and the sea, where she reads, writes, and sits at her spinning wheel, spinning dreams with words and fibres. Some day she hopes to learn how to spin straw into gold. Her poetry is published in Crannóg, an Irish literary journal, and her book reviews are published in Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, as well as online at Story Circle Book Reviews. She writes occasionally on her blog, In a Room of My Own

Winged Glories

roadrunner, catalina state park

As we sat outside with friends one evening with spring surrounding us, the conversation turned to birds.

Mary Ann had recently seen and photographed a special “triple” here in the Texas hill country:  a painted bunting, an indigo bunting, and a lazuli bunting.  I would love to see all three of these gorgeous birds together.   We chuckled that it’s a sure sign we’re getting older that we’re so interested in watching birds now.

But we’re in good company.  Henry David Thoreau wrote:

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.

I think that’s how Mary Ann felt when she spotted the buntings.

It’s how I feel when I listen to the descending songs of canyon wrens, when I watch a golden-fronted woodpecker land in the Spanish oak tree near the garage, and when I spot the bobbing flight of a vermilion flycatcher along the creek.

I even agree with what Charles Lindbergh is supposed to have said:

If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.

Can you imagine days without birdsong?

One of the secret glories of a February bike ride with my husband in Baja California Sur, Mexico, was the sight of a roadrunner crossing the singletrack “Quail Trail” just in front of me.

No–not the one pictured at the top of this page, who approached us at our campsite at Catalina State Park in Arizona a couple of years ago.

And not this one either, shown below, who perched on the birdbath and peered at me through the window of our dining room at home one morning in 2011.

roadrunner on birdbath

February’s Mexican roadrunner was too quick for cameras, one who showed himself only to me, one I considered to be one of the day’s ordinary miracles.

And one which I believe Thoreau would have counted as an honor.

Writing Practice:

Have you felt honored by something as Thoreau was by the bird lighting on his shoulder?

What things do you pay more attention to now than when you were another age?

For quite a few years, Chris Bradley taught English and creative writing to high school students in the Texas hill country. She now has time to travel, garden, ride horses, and mountain bike, but she still misses those discussions with students and continues to be thankful for all the lessons which they taught her.  Chris blogs at
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Photos by Chris Bradley.

A Fellow Bird

synchronized swans

A little girl, perhaps eighteen months old, accompanied her mom into the bank lobby where I was waiting.

The young woman seated across from me spoke to her, “Hi. What’s your name?”

The little girl didn’t answer verbally; instead she trotted the ten or so feet over to the young woman and snuggled up to her legs.  She covered her face and soon appeared to go to sleep standing up while leaning on this complete stranger.

little girl leans on stranger at Wells Fargo

We all need someone to lean on when we’re tired.

One of my favorite passages in literature occurs in Wallace Stegner’s 1976 novel The Spectator Bird (winner of the National Book Award). Central character Joe Allston narrates, commenting on the briefness of our lives and on our lack of knowledge of what came before and what will come after:

The truest vision of life I know is that bird in the Venerable Bede that flutters from the dark into a lighted hall, and after a while flutters out again into the dark . . .

The narrator continues, reflecting on the comfort he has found in his decades-long marriage:

. . . it can be everything to have found a fellow bird with whom you can sit among the rafters while the drinking and boasting and reciting and fighting go on below . . . one who will . . . straighten your ruffled feathers and mourn over your hurts when you accidentally fly into something you can’t handle.

 We need partners with whom to share our joys and sorrows, and we also need encounters in which compassionate words from a stranger cheer us.

But to be whole, we need to be the one to speak those words sometimes, to see that we can provide a brief resting spot for someone who is tired.

In other words, we need a fellow bird, perhaps a lifelong partner as do the swans pictured above, but we also need to be a fellow bird.

Writing Practice:

Have you recently witnessed someone providing another with a place to rest?

Complete the following: “To be whole, we need ______________________.” or
“It can be everything to have found _________________________.”

For quite a few years, Chris Bradley taught English and creative writing to high school students in the Texas hill country. She now has time to travel, garden, ride horses, and mountain bike, but she still misses those discussions with students and continues to be thankful for all the lessons which they taught her.  Chris blogs at
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Photos by Chris Bradley.