Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tesser Well!

Tomorrow is my grandmother's birthday. She would have been 94. She gave herself to the world and we loved her back. She inspired us - her family, friends and fans to embrace all parts of ourselves and live life to the fullest with conviction and imagination. She encouraged us to "tesser well".

"Tesser Well" is how she signed copies of A Wrinkle in Time. It references not only the fourth dimension travel through time and space, it also alludes to her basic philosophy that whenever we open our minds and heart - whether it is mind-travel through reading, or spiritual-travel through being vulnerable and loving, we and the planet are better off.

Madeleine was one of the most accessible writers of her time. If she were alive today, she would be all over social media and interacting with her fans in new and fun ways. We have been mourning that she can't do this herself - we have been feeling the pain of her loss.

But what if we got together as a community to keep her legacy shiny and golden? Hmmmm . . . well guess what? There IS a new fan page on Facebook called Tesser Well that launched just yesterday! It's that virtual place where Madeleine we can all share, interact and gather information.  You can also have more access to all things Madeleine by following her on twitter @tesserwellMLE.

In Madeleine's honor, let's have the phrase "tesser well" join the ranks of "May the force be with you", and "Live long and prosper". Join the revolution!

To celebrate my grandmother's birthday, and the upcoming holidays, I will give away one beautiful hardback copy of the 50th edition of A Wrinkle in Time. How to enter? There are five ways! (If you do all four things I will put your name in the lottery five times.)

1) Comment below on your favorite way to tesser

2) Follow this blog!
3) Follow me on Facebook
4) Follow me on twitter @lenaroy and retweet!
5) Share this blog post on Facebook!

The random winner will be picked and announced next Wednesday, December 5th.

Tesser Well!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rose Colored Glasses

Happy Thanksgiving!

It doesn't take much for me to cultivate an attitude of gratitude: all I have to do is think back to a Thanksgiving in my early 20's when I had been so heaped with misfortune and spiritual blindness that I couldn't think of a single thing to be grateful for.  I was sinking into a deep depression, and it would take a miracle to get me out of it.

Has anyone else been in so dark a place?

Of course you have - we all struggle.

I kept trying on different glasses with which to see the world, but until I learned and believed that a miracle can be as simple as a change in perspective, a change in attitude, I would keep falling back into the darkness.

Cynics may roll their eyes and say that I don't live in real world, but I disagree. How can there only be one reality, one truth? How can cultivating an attitude of gratitude and a relationship with a Higher Power be anything but courageous?

Being in a state of gratitude is a daily practice, and I often miss the mark because, well, shit does happen, right? In our own lives and on a global scale - murder, war, suicide, natural disasters like Sandy, cruelty.

So we make a decision to practice kindness. We make a decision to live in the moment, because tomorrow it could all be gone. We make the decision that things - like computers (broke mine) manuscripts (lost mine) don't make us who we are. When I focus on the small irritations - our house isn't finished yet . . .we can't go on vacation like x, y and z . . . I'm overweight . . . they become larger than life and paralyze me from feeling grateful. When I focus on wanting what I have already, I experience abundance. When I remember how I was lifted out of a truly dark and terrible place by a new pair of glasses, there's nothing left but gratitude.

I have wonderful friends, a family that I cherish, work that is fulfilling, and an inner life that nurtures my creativity and keeps me writing no matter what.

So yes, I am putting on my rose-colored glasses not to be a Pollyana, but as a conscious choice to view the world as a place of abundance. Life is short!

What glasses are you wearing?

Friday, November 16, 2012

My Computer is Kaput


  [kah-poot, -poot, kuh-]  Show IPA
adjective Slang .
ruined; done for; demolished.
unable to operate or continue: The tall glass of water toppled on the laptop and it went kaput.

And with it, my manuscript, Afloat. Granted, I hadn't gotten very far - maybe 15k words, but still. 
Writer, person, fail.

I never backed it up.

So. As a writer, what do I do? Write the old-school way by hand, or borrow a Chromebook and use google documents. Pray that after a few days of "drying out", the hard drive can be rescued, and thus my work.

I hadn't been treating very well, I was taking it for granted.  I had been lusting after shinier, sleeker laptops. It was exactly four years old - I had gotten a Macbook just before Thanksgiving to celebrate the fact that I had just signed my first publishing contract.  And I LOVED it. Until the MacBook Air came out and my eye started to rove.

I had finally convinced my husband and kids to get me one for  Christmas.

So I can't get a new one immediately to solve my writerly needs, right? I have to delay gratification. 

Now that's a concept.

A teachable moment for everyone.

I was irresponsible. I put my full drink (cranberry juice and seltzer) next to my laptop (no drinks near the computers please kiddies!) and . . . KABLAM! KAPUT.

And you know what? It's not the end of the world. It's frustrating and I feel more than a little stupid, but it happens.

It's not the first time that I've lost work, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Stiff upper lip, and all that.

Hmmmm. Wait - I need to scream.

Aaaaaaaarggghhhhhhh! There, I had to do that, and probably will have to several times before Christmas, but my inner parent is telling me I have to wait, it will be good for me in the long run.

Will it?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Write What You Know?

I don't know what I know until I've written it.

Until I've listened, until I've opened up myself enough to the possibility that I don't know everything, to mystery.

How can we know something without stretching our imaginations to discover and explore? What a wonderful adventure writing is!  To know something or someone is to be open to exploration and discovery. Knowledge and experience shouldn't be rigid - we need to be flexible in our definitions, and open to the possibility that we don't know everything. My imagination knows things, my subconscious knows things, and yours does too. There is something you know in everything that you write.

Many of us start a project writing what we know in a concrete way until it begins to take on a life of its own. Or we start out completely the opposite, wanting to learn about something and finding our own truths, knowledge, within the story.

Our first novels are often the most autobiographical. I happen to have experience with alcoholism and recovery in my own family, so it makes an appearance in between the pages of EDGES. Another novel was inspired by the Reality TV show I was on, and the novel I'm writing now is based on something I had on my bucket list when I was a teenager: to be a performer on a cruise ship. (It's not on my bucket list anymore, although I think that writing about it counts, don't you?)

Every novel, story, even blog post, has a different trajectory. We get stuck, because we don't "know" something. I don't know where this is going . . . how many times have I told myself that?  But our job is to keep writing, even through the undulations of self doubt. I practice writing something almost every day, even if it's just one hundred words.

Yes, it may be NaNoWriMo, but don't let low word count get you down, keep writing, and know that you will get better as you practice, whether the words fly across the screen or drip slowly like molasses: keep plugging away and keep the faith.

In other news, I am selling my own copies of Edges! If you would like a personalized copy for yourself or someone you love, I will charge only $10, which includes the shipping.

Read and write on my loves!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Inner Bully and Writing in November

I'm feeling like a wet blanket this morning, and it's not because of the mountain of snow outside my door. Is it the Sandy (powerless for a week) and election hangover?

Maybe a little bit, most mostly I'm feeling resentful that I signed up for National Novel Writing Month this year and my lack of progress is a slap in the face. Why did I do this to myself?

My inner bully is waving her fists in the air and yelling discouraging words.

Go AWAY. Or at least whisper so I can think.

The process of writing every novel is unique - not just from writer to writer, but from novel to novel. I have written four novels and published one, all first drafts "shitty" and written very fast, by the seat of my pants. This one is different, doesn't want to go so fast and I've done some things differently to make me less of a "pantser" without having an outline. I have a synopsis, a setting, a protagonist/ antagonist and supporting characters, I have 6000 words yet this novel does not want to be written in a linear fashion.

6000 words is good for a week where the kids were out of school most of the time and I still had other work to do as well.

On election day, the kids were finally back in school but I was too nervous to write fiction, so I wrote a blog post instead. It was a relatively light op ed piece (by political standpoints) on voting to move forward with Obama at the helm. I decided to post it on our local Patch as well, and even though I was scared to put my heart out there, I was also excited. Why shouldn't I have a voice? I have been known to NEVER give my opinion on certain things for fear of conflict.

Yet it only took three nasty responses for me to ask that the post be taken down. (But don't worry, you can still read it here!) I had a "voice" for less than twenty-four hours, but I did not want to be the target for people who needed to vent somewhere because their guy didn't win. I felt misunderstood, as I'm sure they did, but their comments left me no room for response or to seek to understand. I felt BULLIED.

So I didn't work on my NaNo Piece yesterday either, watching the snow storm and moving through my feelings instead.

And now the kids have just gone off to school after a two hour delay and here I am, writing to see if I can let myself off the hook for not writing, so that I can write again. Does that make any sense? I need to take my inner bully head on - I know that I can't get rid of her entirely, but I can't let her take the fun out of writing - I can't let her make it a chore.

Writing is my way of processing the world - I don't need my bully to co-opt NaNoWriMo to tell me to write - it's who I am.

NaNoWriMo is not the bully - it's not the enemy - it's a fabulous community tool. Doing things as a collective can give us energy and restore our faith in the process.

The only way that bullying works on me is to get me to shut down - it's never gotten me to do anything.

I just now can start getting back to my routine of writing two to three hours a day, so we'll see what happens, okay? I'm unhooking myself from the lofty goal of writing 50,000 words in a month. And I'll try to get off of Facebook too for those hours - although a life-line during the storm AND the election - it is VERY distracting.

And congratulations to anyone and everyone who has taken the NaNo plunge!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Election, Mother Nature and Gratitude

This year, Election Day happens to fall on a beautiful crisp autumn day in the North East, sandwiched between two storms. My friends and I are all giddy to have heat and electricity again, AND to exercise our right to vote. We are cautiously optimistic, yet I am still anxious, proven by the fact that I can't seem to focus on any project for any reasonable amount of time.

However, Mother Nature and the election have both helped me to see the bigger picture.

I run around like everybody else on a daily basis, sweating the small stuff and working hard at keeping the faith.

Now in this election and with these storms, our faith is being put to the test: What do we really believe in? What matters to us?

Like everybody else, I worry about money.

And it becomes crystal clear: my bottom line is NOT about money, it always has and always will be  about human rights; being an individual in a larger community where we support and help one another. Yes, I am a huge idealist. But look at who I share genetics with? Writers, artists, priests, social workers . . .

Human rights encompass women's rights, gay rights, educational rights. Not to mention FEMA, war, health care, the environment - so much more. 

My youngest daughter went around kissing the heating vents and the fridge this morning. My eldest son is showing signs of maturity, intellectually, physically and spiritually. My middle son still hugs me and tells me he loves me several times a day. They are growing up and I want them to have a world where we acknowledge the science of climate change, where they won't feel less-than if they aren't wealthy, or marginalized if they or their friends are gay,  or pushed around for having a vagina.

Being a human is messy, complicated and beautiful. 
I voted for Obama in '08 and I certainly voted for him again this morning so that he gets to finish the job he started - which I believe is going to help everybody, and not just a select few.

There are people I care deeply about who vote differently and to you I say - whatever happens, let us seek to understand each other, and to understand that our integrity and conviction is what makes us better people, and the planet a safer place. Let us look for the things that we have in common and not the things which divide us. I still want to be in conversation with you and be in community with you, now more than ever.

It is the human condition that warms us, and our humanity that is the most sacred.
Am I worried about the Nor'Easter coming tomorrow? (That's something we can agree on.) Yes! (And still no generator!)
And another thing: NaNoWriMo is sooooo not happening for me right now - but I love all of the writing mojo going on around me and I encourage everyone to ready, set, write!!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


It's a funny word, powerlessness. The sibilance of the word alone coils around me, and can either choke me, or set me free.

Many of us are feeling powerless these days in the aftermath of Sandy, the superstorm that rocked the East Coast. Homes were lost, lower Manhattan was flooded, parts of Long Island and New Jersey are gone - and the lights flickered out in my home in Northern Westchester on Monday at 6:30pm and remain . . . out. 

Yes, I am grateful that temporary loss of power is the worst of it, and that my mother can give us shelter now that it's getting cold, but I have to admit that I am grumpy.

Is that okay?

I walk around in my life, thinking that I am in control of so much. Having routines, getting the kids off to school, going to the gym, writing, teaching. Both structured and unstructured time with family and friends. Sure, things don't always go my way and I often have to do things that I don't want to do for the larger good, but that's part of being a grown up, right?

And spiritual sages say that the key to happiness is to accept our powerlessness over other people, places and things. That our only real control is over our attitudes and the way we feel.

But I seem to be feeling particularly out of sorts this morning, so that's why I am writing - struggling with the shoulds: I should feel grateful, I don't have it that bad, etcetera - not giving value to my feelings of %^&&^.

Valuing my feelings shouldn't be the same as giving into them as I did when I was in the throes of adolescence when  I let my feelings consume and control me.

It's a delicate balance, isn't it? If I feel disgruntled and depressed about a bad situation, that doesn't mean I am spiritually bereft; it reminds me that I need to honor the negative feelings that I have in order to let them go.

I take comfort in the fact that I'm not alone in my frustration that our "power" is in the hands of one electric company that has a monopoly on us. We had time to prepare for the storm: Con Ed was ready to hit the ground running, but our company, NYSEG, wasn't. We have seen more NYSEG trucks in Connecticut than in New York. They have cooked their books and are reporting to the press that more people have power than they actually do. They have been unresponsive to local government.

But then there's the spiritual adage to practice principles before personalities. Hmmm. How can I apply this here? Do I pray for the people at NYSEG to get their #$%^ together?

I am grateful for our local government standing up for us and for our local Patch team keeping us informed all along the way. Some power in town has been restored: I was able to run three Writopia Lab workshops in Katonah yesterday and get some delicious hot soup from Noka Joe's - celebrating with the people who got their power back and commiserating with others who didn't. We are all trying to get back to some kind of normal.

But the kids want to know if they will be able to go to school tomorrow, and we still have no word on whether or not that will happen. It lies in the hands of NYSEG. In this case, it feels as if the sibilant s's in powerlessness are trying to choke us.

Still. Powerlessness. Taking actions and letting go of the results, let go, let go, let . . .

Commit to doing the best you can in any situation and the new normal will be an increased gratitude, and a new awareness.

(And possibly a new electric company?)