Ten Minute Tuesday: Talking to Your Critic

We all have at least one in our head. One critic that doesn’t shut up. He or She is the critic in the stands that Brene’ Brown often refers too. They aren’t supposed to matter because they do not get down in the arena with you. They don’t wrestle with the world and come up dirty. This critic tries to stay above it all. Always criticizing  but never trying. Since this is National Letter Writing month  let’s write  a letter to this critic, Tell this critic what you think of them. See who they are clearly in your mind. Man or woman? Insolent child? Think of this letter as standing up and addressing them directly. If they are a critic that is not willing to get down in the mire with you, do you fire them? Send them on vacation for a while? What do you want to say? I once wrote a letter to this critic firing them. He was a cranky old man in my head. One who was never happy with anything at all. It didn’t matter how good something was, HE did not like it. So I fired him. Now, I will warn you, since firing him, he does not come around as often, though a couple of new ones took his place. But everyone once in a while the cranky old man slips past my defenses and into my head once again like an employee who never gets the hint that he is doing terrible at his job. So I have to fire him again. Here is my letter to the critic in my head and how I fired him.

Dear Critic in the Stands,
I’m letting you go.
I’m saying good-bye to your harsh tones and your sandpaper words
that scrape away
the soft parts of my heart.
I’m turning away from you,
Leaving you standing with your arms crossed and
frown lines on your face
while tapping your foot.
This relationship is not working for me.
I do not enjoy having you shred my skin away,
expose the broken bones beneath
while you are up in the stands, keeping your hands clean
and your bones safe.
I have made my list of the ones who matter,
tucked it in my pocket… the loved ones who get down in the mud with me.
So, I will tell you again.
I’m letting you go.
I’m saying good-bye.
Please leave the arena now,
you are fired.

Four Poems

Four Poems to Inspire You



Let’s gather by the golden, red fire
in the early morning,
before dawn breaks through.
While the madness of sleep still inhabits our minds.
Time to dance before the flames,
heal our younger selves,
while laughing and singing,
wildly spinning around the circle,
howling like wolves
under the moon.
Medicine women,
with the pharmacy of the earth
in our hands.
The windows we keep
between being inside
or out,
shattered away,
and the concrete barriers
we built around out hearts,
tumble down,
crashing in the fire;
the red flames reaching to the stars
and we do not burn.
The drumming goes faster.
The wild howling,
stomping of feet,
a feverish circling of the pit.
As the blue sky appears,
the sun slowly
ascending into dawn;
the small bits of ice formed at the edges of our spirit
melting away.
Hands held,
a circle formed,
a promise made,
as the flames die,
we are Reborn.
My inner child dances,
in movement to beating drums
only she could hear.
She stands on the edge of cliffs,
into the rushing, turning ocean,
and rises:
chilled, excited
She carries sword and wand,
rides into battle
protecting villages,
rescuing beggars,
the children,
the lost ones,
bringing them home safely.
As for dragons,
my wild child,
she rides farther,
higher on the backs of dragon’s
that others
are terrified to slay.


ALL POETRY is the property of Susan Sontra, author of The Creating Room. The post may be shared but the poems cannot be shared outside of this posting.

wrting acrostic poem

Ten Minute Tuesday: Acrostic Poem

“An acrostic poem is a type of poetry where the first, last or other letters in a line spell out a particular word or phrase. The most common and simple form of an acrostic poem is where the first letters of each line spell out the word or phrase.”
Young Writers Free Glossary

For example I could use my name SUSAN with each letter beginning the sentence of a line in the poem. You can choose to use any word or even the whole alphabet. Sometimes it is easiest to start with just using a name.

Such as the morning came, the dawn so cautiously rising and the day

Unwritten. I savor the gray light that arrives just before the dawn,

Surrounding myself in its quiet blanket

And keep myself warm in its solitude, listening only to the

Noise of the doves cooing in the gray light.

It is a great way to learn the feel and rhythm of poetry. It’s form also lends itself to learning to choose words carefully as we write poems. In a poem, unlike a story, you may only get 5-10 lines to tell your story, so words need to be chosen with care. Today I want you to play with the Acrostic poem. If you are having a hard time getting started I am including two sets of word tiles for you to draw words from. Print them out and cut them apart and draw a word, or simply pick a word from the list. I find that words with five or more letters work best but short words are a particular challenge that could be fun. Save them the word tiles because there will be other poetry prompts this month that will call on them to be used. Good Luck and have a bit of fun.

word tiles 1 word tiles 2


That 20 Random Facts Post

We have been formally introduced on my about me page. I even gave you some fun random facts about me. Well, it’s been a while, and I thought let’s tell you a little bit more about myself. So just for fun here are 20 random facts about me.  Do you relate to any of them? I would love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below.

1) I wrote my first story when I was 12. I had just read a Little Princess and The Secret Garden. I wrote about a unicorn in a hidden garden waiting for a lost princess to find her.

2) I wrote my first play when I was 13, with a lot of Madonna songs in it. We never performed it but my friends and I practiced it for two weeks.

3) I love giving surprise parties but hate getting them.

4) I wrote my second play when I was 18. I produced and directed it using friends that were actors and used a local church for the stage.

5) Clouds are one of my favorite inspirations, especially for photography.

6) When I graduated high school, I traveled to Alaska with my grandmother my great aunt and uncle for two weeks.

7) I journal almost nightly.

8) I can go to someplace once and find my way back there again without directions.

9) I graduated high school a whole semester early. I had taken zero period debate class and had earned extra credits.

10) I have three causes that I feel are very important: 1) mental health education 2) domestic violence 3) addiction and recovery. All of these causes are dear to my heart.

11) I have been known to shout out random Harry Potter lines to test my kids on their movie trivia.

12) I have a habit of reading 2 to 3 books at a time depending on my mood.

13) It is my goal to throw a giant blanket for party and invite all the amazing cool creative people that I know. It is in my plan to have workshops inside many forts, coloring, crafting and fun.

14) Hells kitchen is one of my favorite TV shows.

15) I love to cook, especially comfort foods. I also like to make homemade granola bars.

16) Orcas Island, WA was my home for six months. I loved living in my little trailer by the sea.

17) Since my hand surgery and learning how to use Dragon Naturaly Speaking for all my writing and my blogs. It has been a very interesting experience trying to translate what I normally write into spoken word.

18) I doodle or draw when I am anxious or nervous, sometimes even when I’m just waiting on the phone or listening to people speak at meetings or conferences. My favorite things for doodling our mandalas.

19) I believe in magic. I know it exists. I have seen it. Some people may call them miracles, but I call it magic.

20) I struggle with my weight. It has been a lifelong battle, losing and gaining, losing and gaining. Even in my 40s I am still learning to be comfortable in my own skin.

So that’s it for me for now. Tell me one or two things about yourself. Inquiring minds would love to know.

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a callto failure


How often have you felt that you take up too much space in the world? Or maybe you were in the wrong place, an outsider not wanted? Have you ever been displaced? I think most people experience it at least once in their lifetime. We feel must shrink away and not be so loud, or so bright, so smart, or so strong. Here’s to all those who have ever felt displaced. I want you to know, you are seen. You are Heard. And we need your creative voice as much as we need anyone else’s.

She has been told
she takes up too much space
in the world.
Her roundness consumes
the seat for two
on a bench,
maybe over fills the bus seat,
has had to fake buckle her belt on the plane.
She shrinks
when she can,
slipping in and out of rooms
pressing herself against a wall,
holding in her belly
in an effort to take away from who
she is.
Not wanting to
or impose
her stature on anyone,
she makes her voice soft,
keeps her head turned down,
does not raise her hand.
She remembers being young,
Cybil Shepherd looks from her
Moonlighting days,
and even then she was not small enough,
her “football” shoulders, she was teased,
her curvy hips,
her wide ribcage.
She whispers,
to make up for all the physical space
she devours.
It is all she sees when she looks in the mirror;
not silver blue eyes that change to green
or her smile;
instead she sees the round belly,
her thick thighs,
her round face.
She cannot see the curly hair,
her kindness, her empathy.
She sees she takes up more space than you,
so she quiets her tone,
hoping you won’t notice she is there.

The Post that Wasn’t

What if I didn’t have a post for you today?
What would you fill the space with?
What Creative trail would you walk down if there were nothing too read today?
The post that I had for today “poofed” away. I had notes and a rough draft and now they are both misplaced, lost somewhere in all my blogging notes and brainstorm pages and I just can’t seem to find them. 
The truth is this happens often in creative endeavors.
The computer deletes the four pages we have just written.
The cat spills paint across the new picture we just finished.
A little brother spills his milk across the sketch of a new character design.
We lose stuff. It gets broken. Or Ruined.
we have stop and begin again.
I believe this is one thing that make creatives so strong.
The knowing that at any one moment,
our precious creation could be forgotten, lost, or ruined,
and then we have the terrible
The void were a piece of work once lived.
On the other hand,
maybe we start over, and
we are better for it.
Maybe we throw out the idea all together and
begin from the blank slate before us.
What makes creatives so strong is our ability to keep moving forward.
Never giving up. 
Allowing set backs to be just set backs
but not permanent obstacles standing on our path.
This applies for all creatives.
From the cook to the painter,
to the writer and the animator.
From the scientist to the mathematician
and the graphic designer to the comic book designer.
There will be times, either through our fault or not,
that we will have to start over.
We will have to begin again.
We may feel defeated or heartbroken, but instead of allowing
it to claim our creative souls,
we rise through the darkness and defeat to create again. 
We were born for our creative endeavors;
we were born creative souls.
We are born to live our lives creating, over and over again.

Ten Minute Tuesday: Writing Prompts Part 2

Here are some more fun writing prompts for you to explore in a journal, in a poem, or in a story. If you feel like sharing please feel free to do so in the comments or on my Facebook page. I love hearing from you.


HAPPY WRITING for you Ten Minute Tuesday!!!!


I forgot…
I forgot
the way she loved purple
and tye dye clothes.
I have forgotten the sound of her voice
the way she used to laugh.
I have seen her daughter,
from time to time,
around town,
and I remember,
her blue eyes
and white blond hair
and how we would drive
through the foothills nearby
in the middle of the night.
I forgot,
for a moment,
how much I loved her,
like a little sister and
even how much I missed
her laughter.

Bari Tessler: Healing Our Money Stories


For creative people, just the word alone can make you squirm a little, whether you have it or whether you don’t. With Bari Tessler as your money liaison, money does not have to be scary or the giant elephant in the room that everyone is afraid to talk about.

She points it out.

Calls to it.

Brings you face to face with it with compassion.
I first heard of Bari through her husband Forest. Forest and I had gone to Vermont Colllege together for a few semesters and when Facebook became popular, we were friends on there (By the way, you can find him at his Clarity Lab). Naturally, he posted about the cool things his wife was doing, and intrigued, I followed the path she was taking with money.

Bari’s approach to money is more than just creating a budget. There are a hundred or more people to tell you how to do that. Instead she brings gentleness, compassion, and healing towards each persons money story. What is a money story? It is our history and relationship to money. We all have one. For many of us there is a fair amount of shame and secrecy attached to money. For others, it may be how they define their life. Each money story is as unique as the individual telling it. Bari, with her kind spirit and intelligent work, allows each person to work through the blocks of their money story in order to reach their full potential. She works one-on-one as a financial therapist, meeting the individual where they are and working with private sessions or she has created The Art of Money, a year-long course that works with emotional and practical aspects of money.

In her interview we talk about the origins of her money learning quest and how it changed the course of her life, how she decided to create The Art of Money program, and her beliefs about money.
Bari is my first audio recorded interview and I was delighted to spend some time talking with her. She is a wonderful storyteller, weaving her money beliefs through examples of real life money stories. A few times, I got lost in listening to her tell a story, that I nearly forgot I was doing the interview. Click the link below to be taken to the interview.
PS: there was a storm the day we interviewed so towards the end, I cut out a little but she comes through. I hope you are as enchanted by her as I was.

Interview with Bari Tessler.

headshot-favorite-500-200x300Bari Tessler Linden, M.A., is a Financial Therapist, Mentor Coach, Mama-preneur, and the Founder of The Art of Money. She has guided thousands of people to new, empowered, and refreshingly honest relationships with money through her nurturing, body-centered approach.

Bari earned a Masters in Somatic Psychology from Naropa University and worked in body-centered therapy for over a decade before unexpectedly falling in love with bookkeeping systems and money work. Her unique methodology integrates these two worlds into deep money healing that honors all the facets of our money relationships: body to spirit, lineage to career, smart practices to deep visioning, and much more.

Bari is currently leading a global conscious money movement via her year-long program, The Art of Money, which weaves together personal, couple and entrepreneurial money teachings. Bari is also the Author of her upcoming book, The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness, published by Parallax Press on June 14th, 2016. To learn more about Bari and enjoy her: Pocket Map for Your Money Road Trip: A 7 day journey into The Art of Money Method:


sunset candle 2

My Fave Blogging People Part Two

Welcome to Part Two of my favorite people. Seven more fascinating and creative people that inspire me  often.

1) Leonie Dawson: I remember Leonie from the planetsark forum many years ago. I remember when she posted that she sold her first print to Blue Mountain. Now, this phenomenal  woman has taken on a life and business of her own. She runs an online academy to help women succeed in their lives and businesses, and creates and sell planners to help them discover their path. Leonie does not hold back. She is funny, real, and cusses often in her blog. Down to earth she brings her life into her business as they overlap.

2) Bari Tessler: Bari is a financial coach and offers financial therapy to help people get on track with their money stories. She runs a year long course called The Art of Money that is about getting to the heart of the “elephant in the room”, MONEY. Her husband, Forest is someone I attended college with and respected. When he began helping her bring her program into the world, I was impressed by their supportiveness ability to work together on a topic many people would consider difficult at best. I follow her free podcasts and newsletters. It is a goal that possibly next year, I would be able to take her Art of Money course.

3) Jeanette MacDonald: Jeanette has amazing artwork that is beautiful, quirky and delightful. Her art often tells a story that is relatable on many levels. I did an interview with her a few months ago. Check it out here: Jeanette MacDonald:Painting from Her Soul

4) Jim Steinberg: Jim is a one of a kind author located in Humboldt. I met him a few years ago at a writers retreat. The author of three books (one novel and two short story collections), he is working on his second novel. His stories pull from the imagination often sparked by that little something that may have occurred in the “real world”. His interview,  Jim Sternberg: Following the Scent of a Story is also on my blog.

5) SARK: Susan Arial Rainbow Kennedy. SARK is my hero when it comes to writing. She never gave up and her first book was not published until later in life. I have met this wonderful woman three times and each time she was delightful and kind to everyone who attended the events. Her writing, her connection to herself and to others, is what gives her storytelling so much life. Her books are written from her life. I have followed her career as a writer and overall inspiration for twenty years and, at one point, owned every book she had written.

6) Kelly Rae Roberts: Kelly Rae Roberts is a mixed media artist living in Oregon with her husband, and their son, True. Her art has been seen on everything from prints to scarves and coffee cups. Inspirational and dynamic, her down to earth style speaks to so many people. In her Facebook posts, she talks about her life outside the studio as well as her life within. They work together in world, a balance that is often difficult to make.

7) Elizabeth Gilbert: Elizabeth Gilbert surprised to the world with her book Eat Pray Love (mentioned here). The follow up was not so much of a hit but her newest release, Big Magic (still on my to read list; just waiting for extra funds to do it) has been a big bit. I love watching her Ted talks on You Tube; they are inspiring and motivating. Her funny, energetic manner make her a joy to watch and listen to.

I would love to hear about some of you favorite people to follow, blogs or on Facebook. I am always looking for creative inspiration.


Jim Steinberg: Following the Scent of Story

On a writing retreat a year and a half ago in a place called the Lost Coast, on the Mattole River, I met writer, Jim Steinberg, author of two short story collections and the novel, Boundaries. Jim is a quiet man with a friendly disposition. He is warm and welcoming and was always up early writing away, drinking coffee with one or two of us early birds. This last year at the retreat,
as we were chatting while I was laying out all the breakfast stuff, he said to me that he was just going to have his coffee. “Breakfast is a social affair,” he told me.
That to me, sums him up well; friendly, thoughtful of others around him, and when writing, his nose is to the keyboard, following the scent of his story line by line, scene by scene.
Why do YOU write? What motivates or inspires you to write?

I write to scratch itches. I feel the impulse rising from within, wanting attention, so I want to scratch it. I follow impulses telling me there is a story that is waiting.
In my writing, I follow the words of Richard Ford, author of Independence Day, “I want everything I write to be useful.” My writing is serious fiction; I want to say something useful to my readers. I want to connect to them.

Writing is how I communicate with the world, like a long-term conversation between writer and reader. In writing, it is my hopes that I may also inspire others to have the grist to be creative and find their story.

As a teacher, I was getting by but knew it would to learn more about storytelling. I enrolled in a summer institute at Humboldt State University: the Redwood Writing project for teachers who teach writing.

During the course, I fell in love with writing stories. Eventually I turned one assignment into a work of fiction that now appears in my second short story collection: Last Night At The Vista Cafe, Stories.

2) In discussing “the genesis of a story” you said it is something “seeking a place of greater repose?”

a) What does this mean to you?
b) How do you begin?
c) What is it to “follow your nose?”

When I am responding to an impulse, it is a chance to visit, or revisit, memories. In this way, I settle them. I put them to rest within me, in a better relationship, making my peace with whatever emotional or psychological aspect that came to the surface. I pull the essence of the failed marriage or relationships, childhood experiences, or from mediation experiences, to spring into the fictional story. It never looks the same as the real experience, and the fiction does not rely on the actual account, but the greater truth that needed to be settled, is allowed to be expressed and peace made.

Let me give an example of “following my nose.” In my short story collection Filling up in Cumby and Other Stories, there is one titled “Highway 47.” It began as a story of a man unhappy in his marriage about to get stuck on a highway in a snowstorm. Inside a cafe, a young boy sets the table for the man. His mother owns the restaurant. The mother reluctantly offers up her hide-a-bed, and the story turns toward two strangers deciding whether they are going to have an affair. However, the story takes a turn when he begins talking to the child, who had no father, during the evening. The friendship that develops between the man and the child, rather than the dreamed about affair, becomes more important for the man than what he was dreaming of.

Character, setting, a conflicted situation, or the emotions from real life become a springboard into entirely fictional people and storylines. I want to give free rein to my imagination. A once famous writer, I forget who, said “write your stories as if everyone has been dead for one hundred years. Good advice for discovering the emotional truth of a story. I find the emotional truth by pulling the fiction from my imagination.
This is what I mean by following my nose. I allow the characters to determine and change the path of the story. It’s their story.

If you ask how I begin, I sit at the keyboard with my impulse, start writing and see what comes. I don’t outline, write a synopsis or do character sketches. I give the story the room to breath as it needs to.

My novel Boundaries is a blending of two stories that decided they needed to be the same book. They are incidents from from two different experiences. The first was a law case I had when practicing law in the 1970’s in Colorado Springs, working for a legal service that served impoverished clients. The second was a chance encounter I with a woman I met in a restaurant on the north coast of California during unusual circumstances in the 1980’s. The client in the first experience was very powerful and influenced me greatly in the case and in my practice. The woman in the restaurant really got my attention. I combined them into a single character. In doing so, I created a story about a lawyer and a client having a very unusual relationship.

3) Please tell me a bit about your video series on your blog. 

There are twelve videos in total. Ideally one comes out each week but son has graciously been helping me during his free time, so we do our best to get them out. They are conversations between myself and poet Bob Davis. They are conversations on what it means to be human, meant to bring the writer and reader together on the same conversation. We talk about the genesis of story, writing to explore the story, revision, and allowing the story to happen. Here is the list of topics:

1. Genesis Of A Story
2. More On Genesis Of A Story
3. Take A Ride On Your Work
4. I Love The Exploration
5. A Theme Discovered: “Highway 47” – (a short story)
6. A Theme Discovered: “Uncle Eno’s Bad Day” – (a short story)
7. Always Fiction, Always True: “An Apple Totem” (a short story)
8. Genesis Again: “Boundaries,” A Novel
9. A Crystal Memory
10. Revision
11. Reading Stories Aloud
12. Writing Or Reading? What Do You Prefer?
4) What kind of conversations would you ideally like to have with writers and readers?
What are your favorite topics of discussion with other writers and with readers?

I want to create a virtual salon or cafe for writers and readers to discuss fiction in the same way you may sit in a coffee shop with a writers group or a readers group and discuss topics related to story. Writers and readers are all storytellers, and we can give and take from one another in a conversation that includes both. I want conversations about the flesh and bones and bumps and scars that I think serious stories should include.

5) What is it for the story to have “real flesh and bones with bumps and scars?”

It is to examine what really hurts people. I write about characters who struggle with misfortune and difficult experiences. For example, characters who dwell on a moral edge, making the wrong choices for perhaps honorable reasons. I stay away from stereotypes, writing instead from the perspective that not everything is pretty. I want to expose their wounds to the reader, allowing them to watch how the character deals with them. It is my hope that readers will see the characters with an “unconditional positive regard”, keeping them open to compassion and empathy towards the character.

6) Tell me a bit a you next novel, Third Floor.

Third Floor is the story of fraternal twins, Rachel and Joseph. It begins when they are seven years old. There are issues between the two parents, and in an effort to escape the nighttime fights, Rachel creates a retreat on the third floor. One night Joseph joins her when he discovers she isn’t in her room. They continue to hide out there. Rachel is very strong, and Joseph relies on her strength. I am hoping to tell it in seven-year increments, but in following my nose, that may change. Eventually the twins will be separated and will come together when their father is ill. At least that’s what I expect thus far. I never know for sure! To know the rest, you will have to wait until it is published next year.

7) What is your favorite, no holding back meal, and where is one place in the world you would like to travel to?

Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and molasses and green beans. That’s comfort food for me.

Once I wanted to travel to Kiev or Lithuania where my family is from, but now I want to go to the Scottish Highlands. It’s a landscape with a history that fascinates me.


coffee with Jim on the SquareJim Steinberg has been a lawyer, blacksmith, middle school teacher of English and Social Studies, college teacher of Criminal Justice, hippie, and director of basic law enforcement training at a community college. He now divides most of his time between his loved work as a mediator (thirteen years in a small private practice in his home and in tribal courts in Northern California) and his greatest love of the last two decades, writing fiction. He has published one novel, “Boundaries,” and two short story collections: “Filling Up In Cumby And Other Stories,” and “Last Night At The Vista Cafe, Stories.” His current project is a second novel – “The Third Floor,” a story about twins, a brother and a sister.

Jim’s stories have appeared in Clapboard House, The Greensboro Review, The New Renaissance, Sensations Magazine, Cities and Roads, The Lone Wolf Review, The Bishop’s House Review, Voices From Home – A North Carolina Prose Anthology, and Best Of Clapboard House. He writes his stories to scratch the itches that rise up from within him, to answer the impulses that ask him to visit and lay them in greater repose. When these impulses arise, he finds himself at the beginnings of trails he knows he will follow with minimal planning and no synopsis, plot, timeline, or character description. He jumps right in and finds the stories, making each a discovery for him, the first reader.

Jim is a Fellow of the Redwood Writing Project of Humboldt State University and a founding member of the Lost Coast Writers’ Retreat, a week-long gathering on the Mattole River on the remote Northcoast of California. For the last fourteen years he has described this time in a close knit writers’ community as his best week of every year. He believes that writing stories is the best way he can get his hands around experience. He believes that the world would be a better place if everyone wrote stories because they all have them, and they are all worth passing on.

You can talk with Jim about writing stories on his blog: “Follow Your Nose Fiction, A Blog About Writing By A Guy Who Writes.”

Amazon Link
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Amazon Link
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Amazon Link