“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are…..”

Inspirational quotes, favorite writing books, and stimulating quotes decorated the scene.

Today marked the annual celebration of our little writing group—an event we relish every year. This is the time when we gather to share writing inspiration and celebrate our victories. And what a year! Between field trips to the forest, classes at Central Carolina’s Creative Writing Program, and multiple story and poem acceptances for publication, we had many reasons to celebrate. To paraphrase the words of poet e.e. cummings, our little group is investing the courage to become who we really are, as a group as well as individuals.

We were especially excited to learn about Michele’s recent acceptance to the Room of Her Own Foundation’s week-long writing residency/retreat next month in New Mexico. Not only will she be hobnobbing with fellow emerging writers, she’ll also get to to meet celebrated writers such as Janet Finch and Maxine Hong Kingston! In addition to soaking up the collective wisdom, Michele will also be presenting a one-hour workshop on “Tone Your Creative Core: 5 Secrets for Artists.” Way to go, busy lady!

As part of the meeting, we traded our writing for the month, gave feedback, and each of us committed to taking a CCCC writing course for the fall, as these experiences only reinforce our own commitment to the craft.

My beloved group members also indulged my love of charades and kindly participated in a special version, where we all acted out our favorite literary works. As in keeping with our support of each other, even with a little friendly competition, our two groups (me and Robin vs. Michele, Nancy, and Linda) tied with two wins each. But as it turned out, everyone won as nothing could have been more fun than watching Linda acting out a “bear” for “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” (guessed by Michele!) or Nancy going for broke in gesturing for “Far from the Madding Crowd.” Perhaps it wasn’t fair to ask the competition to act out “Troilus and Criseyde” but smart women aren’t easily intimidated, and here Michele cheerfully gave it her all.

We also took the chance to nosh on hummus and carrots, guacamole, mango salsa, spinach dip, bruschetta, and Robin’s famous deviled eggs. We finished the event with a special dessert—s’mores ice cream with warm chocolate sauce, what I hope was a fitting tribute to a gathering of truly extraordinary women.

Wanna make it? The recipe is in the July issue of Cooking Light magazine.

A Little History, a Little Hawthorne, and a LOT of Rain: Day 5!

Today was a busy day! We actually arrived in Concord, Massachusetts yesterday, and even though we didn’t have much time, we went to Walden Pond first, where Ann and Jen hiked to the site of the cabin of Henry David Thoreau (THAR-ow — yes, they do say it like that, repeat after me: THAR-ow). I sat on the beach and tried my best not to shiver while other people actually swam in the cool water. At dusk, to save time, we rode over to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to gaze on the graves of Louisa May Alcott, Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Ann (5 foot, 1 and a half inches tall) as scale model in front of a replica of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond

Today brought us rain, darkening both the sky and our literary ambitions. The Old Manse (built by Emerson’s father and home to Hawthorne and his family for a while) and The Wayside (the only house actually owned by Hawthorne) were CLOSED! We compensated with a little historic detour, driving over to the site of the Battle of the North Bridge, otherwise known as the “shot heard round the world.”

Fortunately, the Concord Museum opened at 9 a.m., and there we saw one of Paul Revere’s lanterns and Emerson’s actual study, which had been completely reassembled (books and all) within the walls. We also toured The Orchard, the house owned by the Alcott family, and I stood inches away from the desk used by Louisa as she penned the bestselling Little Women. We gently snickered at the way our Northern friends pronounced Raleigh (RAWL-eee).

Hungry for more Hawthorne, we decided to drive to Salem, the place of his birth and where he lived for a while. There we toured The House of Seven Gables, the house of his cousin Susanna and where he drew inspiration for his famous novel. While the incidents in the novel were fictional, the eventual restorer of the site took great pains to honor the novel by representing how the house may have appeared in the tale, even inserting a secret staircase in the chimney which might have been used by Clifford, one of the main characters. A highlight for me was seeing the actual desk where Hawthorne wrote another masterpiece, The Scarlet Letter. 

The inspiration for The House of Seven Gables

Being 3 p.m. and safely out of the rush hour traffic, we decided to next try our luck in Boston, a little ahead of schedule. I was a useless navigator for our driver, brave and dedicated Jen, who persevered against the rain and unyielding drivers to get us safely to our destination.

(Drivers beware. If Jen calls you “buddy” or “sweetheart,”  such as “Get out of my way, buddy!” this is not a term of endearment.)

Although the rain did not cease, Boston still gleamed. Here history and literature converged again. Forgoing a tour of Paul Revere’s house, Faneuil Hall and much more, we focused instead on just a few literary highlights, as you can see below. See you tomorrow, as we make our way to Provincetown.

sylvia plath
9 Willow Street in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston. Sylvia Plath lived briefly on the sixth floor of this building.












ee cummings
The grave of poet e.e. cummings, who might not be happy to see the use of capital letters on his marker. Hint: If you’re in Forest Hills Cemetery and want to see this for yourself, look for the Clarke family headstone just below the slope on Cherry Avenue.









The grave of Anne Sexton, one of the first confessional poets, known for her courage to write about what most people at the time considered taboo.