Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

These past months it's been hard for me to find things to feel grateful for. Anxiety has thrummed through my body like a tom-tom drum on vivace. There have been days--many days--when instead of driving to the metro parking lot to go to work, the desire to keep driving has so overwhelmed me that I had to talk myself into taking the exit.

I wanted to run away from my life.

Because it is that bad at times.

But then I remember, this IS life. Good and bad. Calm and nerve-wracking. Beautiful and devastating. My friends console me with multiple cliches: "God won't give you more than you can handle"; "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger"; "You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have."

And they're right.

Life is a rollercoaster, full of ups and downs. The last five years have seen a lot of downs, And like a rollercoaster, I feel I've been barely able to breathe between each plunge, to grieve, to mourn, to rail against the seeming unfairness of it all. But now, today, I'm still standing. I am still alive. My son and daughter and husband are alive. We love each other, and we know about that love, and we're learning how to strengthen it.

I've been able to weather life these past five years for lots of reasons. For these reasons I give thanks:
--My family, here and afar
--My friends, real and who live through my computer portal
--My mentors, especially those who have taught me to sit with my scary emotions
--My students, present and past
--My writing friends and colleagues
--My mental health community
--And, not least of all, the higher spirit who shines when I need the spirit most

It all comes down to people, and the relationships we share. Thank you for being a part of my life.

Happy Day of Giving Thanks.


Saturday, November 08, 2014

Thanks, Barry!

A tremendous thanks to extraordinary editor (and writer) Barry Basden for publishing two of my very short fictions at Camroc Press Review. I am honored.

These are my two publications for 2014--I've been 'noveling' the entire year, working on Pure and my Master's thesis, The Minister's Wife. But these two shorts are among my favorite written--ever. I hope you enjoy them!

Thank you again, Barry, for sharing my words.

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Preventing Suicide

 Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

As someone with a family member who's actively considered suicide, I can say that preventing it is about as difficult as finding that proverbial needle in a haystack. Luck is more involved, I think. Luck that you find your loved one before it is too late, luck that your loved one was inexpert at handling guns or calculating dosages or carving into flesh.

But there are ways to address the underlying risks for suicide. Screening our children--and ourselves--for depression and other mood disorders is a start. Seeking treatment. Supporting increased research in finding better treatments.


I hope that got your attention.

Because here, in the state of Maryland, it is close to impossible to find outpatient adolescent psychiatrists and therapists 'in network'. If your child is hospitalized for depression, once 'stabilized', your child is discharged to outpatient care. If your child needs more intense treatment, there are few resources available, and those that are require you to relinquish your child to the Department of Social Services.

Private resources are located out-of-state, and are obscenely expensive. Insurance doesn't cover these expenses, nor does the public education system, which won't pay for out-of-state placement in educational programs that can help emotionally ill children. To obtain access to in-state private resources in Maryland, you almost always have to be dually-diagnosed with a learning disability (ADHD) and/or a spectrum disorder (Autism, Asperger's) in order to get the placement and resources needed.

So yeah, I am angry. And committed to yell and stomp my feet and make noise until we really do achieve parity in treating emotional illness. Depression IS a brain disease, just as is bipolar and schizophrenia and addiction. We wouldn't deny diabetics their insulin or cancer sufferers their chemo and radiation. So why deny our children the help they need?

Help me prevent suicide. Make some noise. Be vigilant for the signs and symptoms that signal depression in those you love. Love them by asking if they want to harm themselves, and if they say yes, get them help.

One Survivor's Story

Peace, Linda

Saturday, August 09, 2014


The thing about going away is every day you stumble upon surprises. Like the morning I walked out the back of my hotel in Taos after breakfast. I dragged my fingers through the sage, and lifted them to my nose. The ground was damp from the remnants of the prior night's thunderstorm, and I noticed how my feet sunk a bit in the sandy soil. And then, in the midst of my wandering, a grave. An infant, from the teething toy left on the cross. It made me wonder how this child died, who she or he was, did the mother still mourn. Such a mystery.

Although I’ve been back almost 3 weeks from New Mexico, it still feels like yesterday. That’s when you can tell a break does what it's supposed to do—recharge, rejuvenate, reinvigorate. Every morning, I write, something that had stopped for a few months. What I want to do is dig back into PURE, move around the scaffolding, force Phoebe and Kevin to emote more. I have more troubles to throw Ben’s way, and a few more for the others. I want to feel like God with this book… but first, I have to finish my thesis, a totally different project, one a bit different from my first two novels. THE MINISTER’S WIFE is about family and home, and what that all means after betrayal and lies. It plumbs deeper psychological dirt than PURE, and interests me because of that depth. So I work hard on TMW, due September 4, and while my thesis advisor reads and critiques, I'll spend my down time on PURE.

Down time. Right. School starts in a couple of weeks. School for my kiddos, and school for the kiddos I teach. But I'm committed to re-enter both my books, and will find the time.

I miss my Taos friends. We talk by email, but I wish I could see them again, talk about books and writing under the sky of stars. There's something about the vast lonesomeness of the mountains that inspires conversation that matters. We intend to keep pushing each other through the next set of revisions, and I welcome their kind but exacting eyes on my words. 

Mostly, I miss the intensity of Taos. Everything there feels magnified--the blue of the sky, the lightning that rips apart the summer night, the sage that grows to the horizon. The moments feel separable, unto themselves, not the blur that is Baltimore time, the dizzy rush from work to home to sleep. Taos time is like the pause one makes after the inhale and just before the exhale. 

And that is my inspiration in the morning. The space in between breaths. Peace...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Taos Time

I've been away, in Taos, New Mexico. In this small town tucked almost two miles above sea-level, nothing happens with any regularity or schedule. No internet? No phone service? Oh well. I spent the week learning how to go with the flow, an easy feat since I was surrounded by mountains and writers.

I spent a week at a writing conference working with BK Loren who, if you've never read, you should. An award-winning author, she's a woman who wields words that way RC Gorman wielded a brush. In THEFT, a novel about stealing on multiple levels, BK immerses the reader in both character and setting. She writes with transparency, something all writers should strive for. Emotion drives her stories and essays; an undercurrent which makes every page believable and satisfying. A generous teacher--a mentor--I'll miss the intensity of our classes.

My classmates and I--six of us--work-shopped our entire novels. Months before the conference, we read each other's books. Nothing develops intimacy between people faster than reading each other's stories. By the time we met, it felt as though we all knew each other. I am blessed to have developed friendships that will extend beyond the novel.

Taos is beautiful county. The sky doesn't stop, even when interrupted by the blue-green of mountains. Back in Baltimore, I close my eyes and see the clouds rolling in from the west, enveloping the mountain ridges, the sun streaking their underbellies in red.

More later--on BK, writing, the process, the experiences. But I just wanted to say I was back.


Sunday, June 15, 2014


Once again, it has been awhile. And once again, it's all life's fault. Or should I say, life has diverted my attention. The Troubles, I call this time. Which is still ongoing, but what the hell.

April was rather horrible, and May even worse. I am afraid to say anything about June so far because I do not want to jinx the last half.

So let's focus on the positive.

The morning feels like a New England summer morning--crisp air, the smell of grass and songbird fills my yard.

I have an urge to write again. I have not really written in over two months.

Most people in the world are very kind. This is one thing that I have discovered during The Troubles. I had forgotten this fact.

Remembering I cannot fix other people or situations is most freeing.

Every moment, every feeling, will pass. So accept it and move to the next moment and feeling.

I have a great job and work with some amazing colleagues. This is my 'for life' job, so how can I complain?

I have a great husband and children, who try their best. What more can I ask for?

I have a circle of friends who gently ask how I am doing, who provide small kindnesses which mean more than extravagant ones.

So, what's up with you? Peace...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

They Say It's My Birthday

But I don't really feel my age--a good thing, I suppose. It is funny how as I get older, each birthday feels less important and more special all at once. When people ask me, "What do you want for your birthday?" the answer becomes less and less about me and more about others: keep my children safe and healthy; let them find happiness; provide my loved ones purpose; give us sunshine and warmth this weekend.

There's not much I need that can be bought in stores.

Though I really, really, really would like an agent.

But if you don't have an agent to give me, could you please take time to read and review my novel excerpt? PURE has made the Top 100 in the General Fiction category of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. It would make me feel even younger than I feel today! ==> PURE--ABNA Entry

Now, off to blow out those candles. Peace...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Preview and Interview

Robert Brewer, Poet Magnificent at Poetic Asides (Writer's Digest), interviews me and 24 other poets as we get closer to National Poetry Month. Will you accept the mission--to write a poem a day, every day, in the month of April?

Interview with Top 25 Poet Linda Simoni-Wastila


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Where the ____ is Linda?

I realize I've not written in here in over a month. It seems I don't feel I have much urgent to say about writing, other than I am doing it. Daily.

Once my children hit their tweens and teens this past year, my time and head and heart have been preoccupied. I don't talk about them here--to do so would be a form of privacy invasion. But what I will say is this: over the past year and continuing forward, I believe both my children have begun to recognize the loss of childhood and the beginning of adulthood--and they do not like where they find themselves. For them both, their antics and angst are not symptoms of disease or deviance but of mourning.

And who can blame them?

Appearances must be maintained in school, at the mall, on facebook. There are pressures none of my generation ever faced. Sure, school is tedious, boring, "stupid", filled with few applications relevant to real life. As when I was younger, much younger, their classmates brag about getting high, having sex, stealing.

But daily, my kids tell stories of their peers taking joy in making fun of others who don't wear "Ever Crummy and Bitch" shirts or who can't spike the ball over the net during gym. Of celebrating a kid who "finally killed himself" because he had been cyber-harassed. Despite all the attention paid by principals and teachers to counter it, bullying has become the latest style. Bullying takes many, often subtle forms: calling someone a ghost because they have pale skin, grabbing another's binder and throwing it on the school roof, peeing in a cup and telling another to drink it. My children have been on the receiving end of these affronts, and more.

My son tells my daughter high school is little better than middle school. It does not giver her too much hope. I think about pulling my children from public schools and sending them to private ones, but I fear similar problems are found there, just involving other drugs, other brand names, other forms of violence. Besides, public school is a cross-section of the real world, and where better to prepare for the real world?

Because, by golly, I see the same issues in my daily life, the same basic lack of civility and compassion and kindness.

I didn't intend for this post to take this form. I thought I'd talk about the process of revising PURE, of the constant snow, of learning guitar. Of the books I've read. But this is where Linda is these days, mourning the end of my children's childhood and trying to understand how that must feel to them.


Saturday, February 08, 2014


My daughter calls me a reading worm. It's a joke that harkens back to toddler-hood, when she confused bookworm with the act of reading. She's not so far off.

Anyway, as a writer one of my 'jobs' is to read. And that I do, a lot, often having several tomes going at once. One of the things I wanted to do this year is keep track of what I've read, and why not share it with you?

January was a prolific month. I started the New Year by finishing EMPIRE FALLS by Richard Russo. This is a gorgeously structured book, with multiple POVs and time periods weaving in and out until its grand conclusion. Russo is a master of creating essence of place, paying as much attention to the telling detail as the white space in between. This little town--and its history--come to life under his pen. I learned a lot reading this novel, lessons I intend to apply to THE MINISTER'S WIFE once it comes out of mothballs.

Santa gifted me WILD by Cheryl Strayed. I walked and brooded with her along the Pacific Crest Trail. At first, I was afraid this was another self-indulgent foray into memoir, another EAT-PRAY-LOVE, but with hiking boots and trail mix. But Strayed reeled me in, and the environs and the characters she meets on her journey came alive. I could not put this book down, and when I finished, I stood up and gave her a standing O.

I have a new writing group, and one of the members is Rebecca Coleman, who has several books to her credit. I read THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD and INSIDE THESE WALLS, both superb reads. Rebecca has an uncanny knack for understanding--and exploiting--her characters' weaknesses, but in such a way I feel complicit in their secrets. Coleman tackles tough subjects--including child sexual abuse and prison--without flinching. The characters from THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD haunted me for days after I finished.

Then, a very fast read through THE ISLE OF YOUTH by Laura van den Berg. I picked up her latest collections of shorts at ARTIFACT COFFEE, where she read (along with Katherine Noel, who read from HALFWAY HOUSE, one of my favorite novels). Not sure how Laura manages to so nail exotic locations--Patagonia, the Artic--but she does. I live/breathe/sense it all in her lush, unsettling stories.

I am halfway through an incredible little book, invaluable for anyone who considers themselves a writer. SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING is the best book I've read on the craft of writing since Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD. Klinkenborg deconstructs the written word to the molecular level, focusing on each word and its placement among other words. He does not focus on the meaning of sentences, but what they are saying. Every sentence in this unusual book is a gem--and after reading it, I hope every sentence of mine becomes one.

Just a sampling of what I've read the past month--what about you? Peace...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

They Say It's Your Birthday

Dear Mom,

Happy Birthday! If I was with you now, I'd make some raspberry-chocolate thing for dessert, maybe a gooey, flour-less cake, or maybe we'd put candles in a box of truffles. Though it would have to be a big box to accommodate all those candles!

We'd have a lazy day, maybe work on a puzzle or go for a drive. Definitely play a hand or two of cribbage. Watch the birds at your feeders. Later in the afternoon, after our rest, we could drive to Starbucks for a Mocha pick-me-up to get us through whatever movie we decided to watch that night.

Dinner would be whatever you wanted: popcorn: Chinese take-out, Alfredo or pesto pasta, lobster.

Before we went to bed, at some point during the day, I'd tell you how much I love you. How happy I am that you are my mother. How sorry I am for any times I have hurt you or disappointed you, and that I never do mean to hurt or disappoint you. I would remind you how strong you are, and how strong you always have been. And how wise.

I would tell you how glad I am that you were born, how proud I am to call you Mom, to call you friend.



Your Number 1

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Same Old, Same Old: Or, the Juggling Recommences

My sabbatical officially ended January 2, and yesterday marked my first day back on the job. I did find my way back to the office. It was good to see colleagues and, most of all, my students, but most of the day found me behind closed doors working hard on a final report due to a sponsor. My mind felt sluggish, despite the double espresso, and despite my resolution to keep to healthy work habits, I found myself eating lunch at 2:45.

But the report got drafted.

That said, I am grateful for my sabbatical. And grateful for my job.

The six-month 'leave' provided me a proper focus for my life. It reminded me what was important, and how to prioritize these things. It requires a delicate balancing of competing interests--work, family, health, self--and, within each of these items, another rebalancing.

For example, my work priorities are my students and trainees, and my research. Luckily, those are intertwined. For family, it is about providing love and structure, about being available. For health, it is yoga and being mindful, and for self, it is (and likely always will be) writing and all that writing entails: reading, noticing, listening, engaging.

The nice thing about sabbatical is it lessened the number of balls in the air. I think, though, I am refreshed enough to add the work ball back more fully to my act, remembering my priorities: students and research. To keep those balls aloft will require concentration, mindfulness of my chosen priorities, and the courage to say NO when requests and temptation do not align.

School is two-hours delayed this morning due to frigid temperatures. It is time to rouse the chickies, throw another ball in the air. Peace...

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

How to Live in 2014

This morning, the first morning of a new year, comes as a relief. I am glad to see 2013 pass--it was one tough year. My mother told me her sister dreaded the odd-numbered years--they seemed to be wrought with pain and overall badness. So my greatest hope for 2014 is that is surpasses 2013 in providing some peace, some joy, and even some boredom. 

I am not a big fan of resolutions—they are so often easily broken. But I would like to start thinking of rules to live by. Though rules may be a bit strong—perhaps principles to live by. So here are seven principles I will try to abide to as this year unfurls, bringing its myriad challenges and opportunities and surprises.

1. Remember to breathe before acting or reacting.

2. My words are powerful—use them wisely.

3. Most thoughts are not true, and therefore can be discarded.

4. Every second is sacred—be grateful for each one.

5. I cannot control people or situations, only my reaction to them.

6. Fear is the absence of love.

7. The most important moment is the present one—the last moment cannot be gotten back, and the next one has not yet happened.

Yes, these principles sound very mindful, but mindfulness has gotten me over all the nasty humps and bumps of the past year relatively intact. It's a practice that takes perseverance and patience, and while I have always persistent as a mosquito on blood, I cannot claim patience as one of my virtues. So I will practice and practice and practice, and keep you posted on my progress.

How will you live this year?