Travel Notebooking

T is for Takeaways! This little book was stuffed into my only luggage (backpack) for three weeks.

After a traipse through Belgium and a twirl through the Netherlands, I am home from a European adventure. I’m so thrilled I did this, especially when my pre-trip jitters were through the roof. It never would have happened without my travel mentor, Julie.

(We coaches and mentors really are worth our salt. It is no shame to need support! What luck when the right teacher comes forward.)

So what are my trip takeaways?

Number one takeaway: track the takeaways!

If I don’t capture discoveries, insights, inklings, overwhelms, and understandings of my expedition, they disappear without a trace. I can’t catch them all, but I can jot them down in real time for reflection later.

It’s magic to process life as it happens. Ironically, in the everyday, you and I may have access to writing, but we are looking through “same-old, same-old” lenses, as if looking at a pile of rocks. Not much to write about. Conversely, when we leave home, we find tons of things to say, but it’s hard to write anything down.

My solution is to jot briefly in a travel notebook  . . . adding color and images which brighten the page. Any moment or feeling, no matter how tiny or fleeting, warrants a line.

For this trip I used a handmade journal by Rosemary Hill of Florence, Oregon. I had a uniball water-resistant pen, and a tiny watercolor kit. When I leaf through the pages, I feel once again the rush, the wonder, the trepidation and the excitement of my voyages.

Which, by the way, don’t just happen.

Number two takeway: adventures require planning. Even for this spontaneous person.

I must allow the discomfort of racing thoughts as I absorb info from guidebooks, pamphlets, conversations, and visions about where (I think) I want to go. I note these in a full-size journal, and sometimes collect them in a physical file folder as well. Bits and pieces trickle into my smaller notebook. The brain loves physical sensory touchable objects and retains knowledge gathered this way much more effectively than through computer links. If you want to build a vision for travel (or anything) cut out photos with scissors, using your own hands.

In planning, I gather gear. This year I bought three travel dresses. (Two were $10 at the thrift store with the original tags on). I discarded each one after scrutinizing in the mirror. Those pockets were nice but stuck out on my hips. The straps were slouchy. The black was too busy to meld with my animal print scarf. I finally went with my tried-and-true little black Prana travel dress that I’ve worn in France, Germany, Austria, and on the East and West Coasts. Isn’t it a thing that our favorites are our favorites because they fit a need so well?

What I realized as I journaled (in my bigger journal) about the pickiness of my packing was this: it was all part of my process. I had a ton of nervous energy, and making careful choices helped me express those emotions.

Number three takeway: writing helps emotionally. I can move through emotions with my own witnessing. Rereading those entries underscores courage and strength. Here are some emotion snips from my travel notebook.

Worry. Two days before leaving the country: “I feel worried I’m overlooking some important detail . . . leaving some task undone that will create disaster.” At the airport: “Issue with my boarding pass! Nervous and stressed. Waves of tired and wired, in the afternoon glare, with dizzy feet.”

Gratitude. “Nancy N., thank you for the tips and support 26 years ago!” On the airplane, remembering the travel guide who led my very first trip to Europe.

Spiritual Intention. “Pilgrimage, I’m up for you. However you are. This is grace. Melded with creativity . . . something new and unique and just right for me . . . just right for now.”  On my flight to Frankfurt where my journey would start.

Shame. “It’s hard to ask for help because I am so afraid of looking stupid. I feel embarrassed without the power of language.”

Triumph. “Hurray for the information officer in his storybook conductor suit and hat, and his thick French accent and thin mustache, who got me to the central train station!”

Awareness. “Finding my way is hard when I’m tired, stressed, and scared. I recall other lostnesses.”

Curiosity.  “Geese honking as if about to fly, the way our geese at home squawk and gather before arching out of the pond and into the sky. But they aren’t leaving. Just now came another rapid-honk ruckus, insistent, with one higher voice like a rusty bicycle horn, joined by a throaty-voiced goose and now and then another or two. In this music-making all night, all morning, they flitted from green slow water to riverbank. One goose stood against the guardrail as I passed by on my evening stroll. They are homebodies, busybodies in this bucolic town. They have seen it all.”

Hobbit Feelings. “I love my home life and routine. Half my brain says, adventures are such a bother!”

Forgetfulness. “I can’t remember how to spell.”

Paranoia. “These kids are maybe middle school. The girl is fake-sleeping across the boy, his arm under her head. She has pink gauzy leggings and white Nikes under her long, black abaya. ‘Madame?’ she said to me when I kept walking around to choose a seat on the train. Now she opens her eyes and all four of these kids are gurgling and bursting with laughter. Laughing is annoying in another language . . . it feels derisive.”

Welcome. “Getting tea this morning, reading labels on unrecognizable packets and boxes and jars. Not finding tea bags, seeking a strainer. Puzzle solving, map reading, deciphering. Kind of wonderful. I’m not savvy, not a good navigator. But my sturdy pilgrim heart finds a way. I am always embraced! And now I decide the kids on the train were indeed laughing at me, but wary, too, that they were in my seat. And the geese are bleating a happy welcome. All are saying: we are all your home.












Springing Into Story

The nature of creation is that it wants to be witnessed. Ray Bradbury called the universe “a big theatre,” remarking how theatre needs an audience.

We are the audience for what surrounds us. It is our human task to appreciate creation – and this includes the things we ourselves create!

I love the exuberance of beholding fresh creations. (Gerard Manley Hopkins does too!)

I’m celebrating some fresh stories that blend real events with fantasy . . . they are what-if tales.

Dappled Things will feature “Girl U Want” in their forthcoming (Spring 2024) issue. It all starts with a Craigslist Ad, with a woman in a suburban driveway inspecting an antique desk, before she is lifted into another realm.

I love Dappled Things journal so much! They explore faith through such evocative lenses. (Incidentally, they take their name from a line in “Pied Beauty,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins.)

In May, the fantasy podcast Imagitopia will air my story “Blood Feathers” . . .

. . . in which a suburban mom finds eery connections to a life she no longer remembers.

Links forthcoming.

Happy Spring Creations!



Hopkins brings the giddy goodness of creation to the surface. My paintbrush finds it too.


Spring                                                                                    / Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
   The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
   The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
What is all this juice and all this joy?
   A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
   Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
   Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

Poetry Marathon III

Dear friends, I’m challenged, excited, baffled, stumped, inspired, energized, disorganized, and not exactly sure if I’m in my right mind. I’m volunteering again to be a Tupelo Press 30/30 Poet for leap year! Perhaps it’s for the love, the challenge, the creation, the wonder—but probably not for the stress, the demand, the discomfort of sharing unfinished work. Regardless, in February 2024 I’ll be doing a marathon of writing 30 poems in 30 days for Tupelo Press. Your sponsorships will mean so much!

The countdown to February begins! Enjoy the poems of January 2024, and wait expectantly with me to see what the next month brings. All will be working poems—most in draft form—because no poem lands whole the day it emerges.

And this shivery newness/discomfort/vulnerability/possibility/strength is an integral part of growing as a creator. We never feel just one thing. But willingness to leap ahead is everything!

This Writing Train Chugging Along

Wildwrite* 15 minutes

(typed from handwriting)

It’s hard, abandoning my agenda for the page. Not knowing how it will all shake down.

I notice—whew! Thoughts of to-dos bursting in my thoughts like fireballs. How does one ignore a fireball?

I notice how simple this practice is, how good for my soul. It feels completely new and I realize I’ve been resisting actually doing it for some time now. Much easier to save for the class, do when I absolutely have to—

My train of thought goes off the rails** oh so easily. And when it is finally adjusted upright, all the kinks in the train car links worked out, this toy train balks at the crossings where it has to switch tracks—roll into the hands of another force.

Dream Kid. Big, giddy, dreamy-eyed. How do I know she’s not demented? How can I be sure she knows what she’s doing? I’ll just sit here looking shiny if you don’t mind, my little cowcatcher pointing down a track I’m scared to take. I’ll blow my whistle, look loud, look busy. But it’s a different country that direction—wild, uneven, dipping and twisting through ravines and around a mountain. I can’t know the bridge will hold.

If I stay where I am, I can feel oh so comfortable. I’ll check my email—maybe there will be an acceptance, a yes. Surely there will be some clear, even track that requires little fuel, few turns, low risk.

The wilds are calling.

A new way is calling. That says leave the drab, citified, normalized way. I want to do things—edit forever, muse over this verb, over that, clean my kitchen, clean my kitchen. Get my office together. Get my whole world together one safe paper clip at a time, and smile contentedly from the home station, a becalmed attendant in a pressed uniform who never goes anywhere. Let me stop pretending this is adventure.

Time to go.


*Wildwriting is 15 minutes of writing without outlining, drafting, forethought, or attention to “writing rules.” This wildwriting was not edited except I added a missing “e.” Note: publishable writing requires editing. This is not publishable writing and yet worthy in itself. Wildwriting prioritizes courage over refinement.

**I’m a train engineer for Halloween.

Your Needs Map

Watercolor & Ink, Christi Krug


Noticing my needs!  Plotting them on a map of my imaginary creative landscape.

What do I need? Vast territories of unstructured time, rivers of spark, plains of solitude, easterly reaches of space, the borderlands of challenge, mountains upon mountains of art, a sea of creative pals, a gulf of adventure, more lands of nature, southwest-y ideas, and a shore of mentors, not to mention a gargantuan lake of rest.

What do you need as a writer, artist, creator? So many writing women need time away, self-care, nurturing, friendship, and inspiration–which is why I created Wild Words Camp.

Your needs might be different, or similar.

What will it take, to do what you most want to do?

Imagine, paint, doodle . . . allow.

Your needs should be named. They should have a place in your world.




Wonder, Transformation, and Pain

Yesterday I met Sterling, a gifted memoir writer who has been learning to tell his story. I encouraged him to launch . . . not just a writing life, but a reading life.

When we read, we connect, absorb, grow. So much more becomes available to us than when it’s just us, with our limited experiences, our habitual words.

Sterling asked, then, for my stories.

What were the times you struggled in your life? Did you write about those? What about broken relationships, depression—dark times?

Yes, I wrote about those, I said.

(Those stories became fiction, or poems, much of the time.)

I told Sterling I would share some dark adult moments encapsulated in story.

I’ve been writing about my traumatic childhood for decades now, such as my recent piece at The Good Life Review. After all these years, there’s distance, safety. But I love that Sterling challenged me to share things hard, recent, heartbreaking.

Oh how I love these brave writers in the world!



Brain Creativity Training and Nature

According to Bas Korsten at the Harvard Business Review, spending time in nature is one of the best ways to train your brain to be more creative.

Because you can!

And you must.

Contrary to what we often hear, creativity is not inborn, but a tendency toward which we can train our neural networks. When we slow down and take in nature, we are getting into step with what makes our brain function best: elements that have supported heightened awareness and sharp focus and intelligence for thousands of years: fresh air, light, beauty, the rhythm of the tide or the whispering of the trees, and even the chemical compounds produced by forests, which have a positive effect on the brain.

We don’t increase intelligence through technology. In fact, studies show detrimental effects on focus and attention. By contrast, our brains function more like plants than machines—as Amanda Gefter points out at Nautilus.

If you’re feeling separated from your creative life, find a way to let nature speak to you. Go to beauty. Take time out to walk or pamper a plant or drive to a park or meadow or mountain or shore.

This brain training might be the best fun you’ve had in days.

The Real Danger of Social Media – for Artists and Writers

Or What I Learned About My Addiction

Hal mentioned how hard it is to be creative these days—but he’s on Facebook every day making puns with friends’ posts.

Ben is alluring on Instagram—that smile, and all that transparency, sharing antics of his kids—no wonder his followers love him.

But Hal and Ben are writers and artists who never have time for their creative lives anymore, and feel dried up inside, have no ideas, can’t find their passion.

I have many clients like Hal and Ben. Especially during the pandemic, it was hard to find that inner grit—creating alone, in quiet. It was easy and convenient to share on social media channels.

As someone who spent one to two hours on social media for years, I understand. In my own social media forays, I had a wonderful time. (Well, some of the time.*) I was engaging in most excellent conversations. I was spreading word about what I do, and my business, and this was of utmost importance—right?

When honest with myself, I had to admit my attention span was tiny, my novel-reading been replaced with scrolling, and that I’d taken an unnecessary, sometimes unhealthy detour on my creative journey.

I still get caught in that loop. Now I have a bit more understanding about how it happens.

It starts innocently.

I think, “Oh, what a beautiful shot of these sanderlings running in the waves and wouldn’t this make a wonderful post?” Or I think, “I should let my followers** know about my recent (trip, event, published story, green smoothie). So I post on Instagram or Facebook or Linked In and, boomerang-like, check to see, first, how many responded, and second, who responded and then I think, “Maybe I’ll get a better response if I . . . ” or, “Maybe they’d like . . . ”

As a creator, I’m losing touch with what I want most deeply to create FOR MYSELF.

There’s nothing inherently evil going on here, but I’m obliterating the time and space and mental energy I need for:







getting curious


I’ve pushed my inner creator aside while an imaginary audience takes up residency. I’m spending my writerly-artist currency on what other people want—not even that, but what I imagine other people want, which is all a guessing game.

Doing so, I lose touch with that free, original artist, the Dream Kid.

Daily I have to choose away from this, feeling the tension of my choices. I do love sharing—but it has to be prioritized far below that sweet creative absorption which only happens when I make psychic room for it.

I think of my creative life as concentric circles, and the inner rings are the most private, quiet, least shared—but the most rewarding, too.

It’s about your purest passion.



*The nature of addiction is that the brain finds a hit that isn’t one hundred percent all the time, such as a slot machine. When it’s hit-and-miss, the brain gets an extra chemical boost, and engages and re-engages with fervor.

**Think about it. Isn’t there something creepy about craving “followers”? Would you follow you? Do you listen to yourself? Are you worth listening to? It’s enough to work on my most important relationship, the spiritual connection between self and the Divine.





Poetry Marathon – Will I Make It?

When I applied to be a Tupelo Press 30/30 Poet for February and was accepted (for the second year, hurray!), I had no idea that my client and work schedule would be exploding—in a good way—making it rough to write a poem every day.  I’d made a commitment. I had to be okay with rough.

The writing process was distilled down to capturing impressions. It became a matter of: “just feel and go.”

It’s exciting to discover that no matter how blank my mental slate is, something will always arise. No matter how spent I feel, I can find one more drop of energy and reach for the pen once more.

Yesterday’s poem was born out of words within thirteen inches of where I was sitting. (I was too tired to go digging around any further.) I got curious, snapped photos of things – the label of my slippers, the tag on the heater, my mug, my lipstick. I created a poem from these random words, thirteen in all.

In the home stretch, I’m 88 percent to my fundraising goal for Tupelo Press. Will you consider supporting me? Three days to go, and I’ve burned so much mental and creative energy, and I feel joy of knowing I’m bringing good things into the world through the amalgamation of a literary nonprofit and the work of my heart.


Having formatting issues, so this is just a piece of today’s poem.

Being Thirteen

Thirteen Words to Hand Within a Thirteen-Inch Radius




How the camp

counselor de-


me in her letter.

Granna chewed

on the word.

“Why weren’t you

friendly?” Granna

wore reading

glasses steeped in

White Shoulders perfume.

Peered at me as if

the letter were a

report card, which

it wasn’t,

merely a concerned adult

noting a child

who was quiet—

too quiet.

Please pay attention.




How Mother began

every letter from the

hospital. Also a term

of endear-

ment I never heard from

anyone real but her.

June and Ward

Cleaver used

it for each other.




at the mouth. How you

know to stay

away from the bloodhound

loping behind

the chain link fence.




went out of my ‘69

Corona six years

later, but my friend

the mechanic poured

jug after jug of

fluid under the hood,

into a tinny, airy engine

so light you could see

the street underneath.











Poetry Marathon! A Month of Writing Poems

Dear friends, I’m challenged, excited, baffled, stumped, inspired, energized, disorganized, off and running in the month’s marathon of writing 30 poems in 30 days for Tupelo Press. Your sponsorships mean so much! Enjoy the poems of my fellow marathoners, or scroll to see what landed on other days. They are working poems—most in draft form—because no poem lands whole the day it emerges.

Here’s my Day 9 poem . . . .


Pigs in a Blanket

At the IHOP

silver-quarter horse in the lobby—

Giddyup! Pat the shining mane.

Get down it’s time for breakfast.

Sun glows giddy amber and cherry

through glass jugs of table syrup.

Grandma Mimi—Isn’t this fancy?—

orders for Mother, Theodore, and me.

Your mother’s doing much better.

Probably we won’t have to stay

with Grandma Mimi like we did last year.



Mother won’t roll out of bed.

I pull a sock soft and wheezy with dust

from under my twin bed, doing things I don’t know how

while Mother drools on her pillow—

pills on her nightstand, numbers by the phone.

I go looking and looking for a shirt,

the gruel of the day.



At the end of every line, lunch, recess.

Unchosen to bat, run, catch, kick.

Bitter as the thin skin of the red apple I eat for breakfast.



Late to school, a bad time to walk in,

heads turning, teachers frowning,

I wait on the swings for lunchtime

spooning the porridge of loneliness.



Theodore doesn’t bother eating,

walks out with math book,

hand-me-down shirt dragging its tail.

I shake down the rattle of cereal with no milk.



Log Cabin syrup on Wonder Bread

kind of like french toast.

Last drops sweet like sugar all the sugar all the sugar.

Find dirty pants, wear those.



Lincoln Logs on the floor.

Breakfast an idea forgotten in the tall stack of the day,




Grandma Mimi says it quiet, like other tables shouldn’t hear.

Doing better, aren’t you, Marilyn? 

Mother’s hand halfway to her mouth,

ruffly egg white on her fork.

Theodore pokes his over-easy.

It pops and runs orange yellow.

My plate. I unfold the blanket.

Three brown-pink sausages, safe together,

hot, close, stuck.

Roll out of bed, piggies.

I pick up the syrup and pour, drowning all.




Saying Yes in 2023

Lighthouse - site of Write at the Light retreat


It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out—no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.
—William Stafford, from The Way It Is

The title of the above poem, YES, is my word for the year, inspired by the yes’s of 2022.

The nonprofit, Centrum, said yes to my application for a residency as an emerging literary artist. Every morning in October, as a ferry coasted in, I poured out my heart on paper while overlooking the sunrise on Admiralty Bay in Port Townsend.

My biggest YES from my experience was reframing my roles.

When I left on September 30, I was a coach who writes.

When I returned on November first, I was a writer who coaches.

I said YES to scheduling writing. I said YES to a new writing office. I said YES to creating quality time for stories, poems, and novels, rather than squeezing writing into spare moments. I saw that my energy and enthusiasm and joy would benefit every writer and creator I work with.
I learned to say YES to finishing a story rather than first answering an email. To quit wasting time on social media. To say YES to what I love, rather than something Instagram fans might like.

I braved rejection. I relaxed ideas of how my house should look, how I should celebrate Christmas, and whether I’m being “responsible.” I chose to be responsible to my most personal, creative, and spiritual goals, and in turn, to let this responsibility flow out into the world.

I found balance despite the discomfort of doing things differently.

I witnessed your YES’s, too. In Clark College classes both live and virtual, Zoom sessions short and long, a Vancouver women’s workshop, a stunning group of Master class writers, and in the blossoming Mastermind writers’ series. I enjoyed hundreds of awe-striking one-to-one sessions with phenomenal writers.

I feel grateful not just to be your coach, but to be one of you.

Wild Words Camp in July, along the Siuslaw River North Jetty, was a landmark event. Thank you to the writers who were part of the longest and most rustic adventure I’ve ever led: three nights leading the way to YES, unfolding in vulnerability, authenticity, trust, and community.

Thank you for showing your power and creativity at Wild Words Retreat in August at serene Siltcoos Lake, where fantasy stories mingled with southern roots on an old river dock in the fog. We kayaked, hiked to the beach, and journaled in sun and wind by the waves.

I felt awe leading your December adventure of Write at the Light at Heceta Head Lighthouse. We climbed forest hills, combed beaches, and witnessed night beams of the lighthouse sweeping through mist over craggy ocean cliffs and velvety trees. Toasty beside our Victorian-Christmas fireside, we shared darkness and light.

We writers say YES when we boldly take time for ourselves or our work. Whenever we sit with pages and laptops and notebooks. Every time we listen to each other, admire what we’re reading, or treat ourselves to adventures, classes, cohorts, and coaches.

Without guarantees, but with a full heart, I’m saying YES to whatever is next, for me and for you.

Don’t Leave the Beach!


I can’t believe it’s been nine months since I moved to the Oregon Coast. Some adjustments have been huge, some small. One thing that’s changed: all my jacket pockets are lined with sand.

When I walk the beach, the sun gleams on frills of incoming tide. Waves ebb, revealing sunset striations of shells. Driftwood branches twist like the elegant limbs of dancers. The rocks are warm and curious in their smooth, odd shapes. I stoop, turn a stone in my hands, stand breathing.

Can’t resist filling my pockets.

Then I get home and empty my pockets. The rocks are ordinary, dull, flat rocks, and the shells are all broken, and the driftwood is riddled with knotholes, leaking grit all over the floor.

What happened?

I left the beach.

It’s the same with our art. When you or I absorb ourselves in wonder, relaxation, musing, and breath, we recognize the beauty we are holding. But then we walk away, removing ourselves to a harsher light. We set down our ideas, shake our heads and say, “What was I thinking? That idea (story, painting, poem) isn’t special. It’s a waste of time.”

Being a brilliant artist seems to require technique or talent or something we haven’t got.

Not true.

Being brilliant is this:

Staying on the beach.

You can’t sustain passion for writing or creating if you are hurrying yourself along to states of obligation and judgment. Away from the beach, away from the rapture.

I’ve learned how to help myself and others get back to the beach—figuratively, as well as literally.

We can experience breath and ocean, a salt breeze, a stone sparkling. We can fall in love again with our own way of seeing the world.

Don’t leave the beach! Join me in taking time out this summer, a little time every day, a little more time every week, or perhaps a deeper plunge on a retreat. Relish your deepest ways of being. Notice and collect all the beautiful things worth keeping.

Why Be a Rockstar? Why Get Published?

I was at Willamette Writers when first introduced to the writing of William Stafford two decades ago. The poems seemed understated and bland, and I was hoping the speaker would move onto a sexier topic. I have to chuckle, because now Stafford is my favorite poet, his beautiful, spare language full of music and zesty truths. Sexiness at its most elemental.

I stumbled upon this video of the poet (who died before I met him).

Stafford reads “First Grade,” which reminds us of what it is to be children conflicted about performing.

Stafford, the acclaimed Oregon poet laureate, then tells about: writing a poem about garlic for a free dinner. Getting published in some unremarkable high school newspaper. Incidental places where his work found a home.

This great soul found joy in getting published, wherever his work was welcomed. The giddiness he feels over these little wins is evident. Just look at that grin.

No haughtiness, no self-consciousness, no ego.

I had to admit that somehow, I had come to be deeply suspicious of my own desire to get published. I began leaving it out of the equation.

“Oh, that’s just prideful and conceited. You’re a show-off,” I told myself.

I lost touch with that child inside who is just so happy and proud about what she is able to do. “I made something! Look! I’m sharing it with the world!”

What could be purer, sweeter, or more fun?

If you’ve relegated “getting published” to the rubbish heap of selfish dreams, think again. It’s not about showing off, but showing up as the rockstar who is enjoying her place in the glittery lights for the sheer, humble sense of fulfilling her purpose.

This impulse to share our talent is something good. Brenda Ueland says writing is “not a performance but a generosity.”

I was able to sort out what was selfish and what was beautiful. I am grateful to William Stafford for showing me with his smile, what the difference is.

If you’d like to take the next step toward getting short writing published, join me for Get Published class at Clark College July 11 & 12, 2022, on Zoom.



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