Sailing around Swampscott, Massachusetts, a charming little town nestled fifteen miles up the coast from Boston, I looked out on the water and wondered, “who am I?”  That the thought first occurred to me the summer I lost my job in 1999 was itself a mystery.  Up until then, it was either defined by my place in my family, my relationships, my job, my community, etc.


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Second only to my love of writing comes reading a good book.    When my own pen stalls on the page, I know it’s time to pick up a good book and see what someone else has to say.  There’s always a good tip on style, voice or rhythm that inspires me to keep writing.   


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The late 1990s were a dark time for me.  My mother was in her third round of treatment for a rare form of cancer and her mother, who lived with her, had suffered a debilitating stroke. My job was secure, but an ambitious decision to go to law school at night required me to spend four nights a week in Baltimore.   


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It’s a new year and several of my friends have asked me what they need to do to develop a journaling practice.  My first thought:  patience and empathy.  It takes a bold writer to keep a journal but it is the best writing you will ever do.  


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Writing a “thank you” note following the holidays can be as threatening as picking out the right gift.  Why?  Some of us, haven’t  composed two or three simple sentences in a creative, single-thought paragraph since 8th grade English composition.  Here are five pointers that cover the basics.


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