Wednesday, October 14, 2015

WTLI-Author Andra Marquardt

AndraMarquardt“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ~ Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

"The words and I will be locked in mortal combat until one of us surrenders.” ~ G-Kar, Babylon 5 - Season 5, Episode 1

LK asks the question: How did (does) writing save me? The question brought up so many memories, it's difficult to pin down just one. I will give it a go, however.

As a young teenager, writing meant little to me. I wrote only during school assignments such as essays, or the occasional letter to a family member. When I was in junior high, I had to write an essay about a famous person (I don't remember who). Uncertain how well I did, I asked my mom to read it.

Her response, “This was very well written.” I could tell by her expression that she was actually impressed, an emotion she didn't show often (her standards for her two daughters were quite high; but she also knew we were capable of it. Thanks, Mom).

I reread my essay with more objective eyes and had to agree.

Fast forward a year or two.

I hated my teenage years. For one, I was far from popular, often teased and called names. One friend even went so far to tell another friend that she didn't want to hang around me anymore because, “I would keep her from being popular.” Add to that the normal confusion that comes with being a teen – neither child nor adult, wanting more responsibility, but not, aching to be an individual yet pressured to be like everyone else, and all the physical changes that goes with it.

Communicating with speech was never my strong suit. Still isn't, which is why I avoid confrontation at almost all costs. I like to say God didn't attach my mouth to my brain properly. The thoughts in my head never come out of my mouth the same way, and as such I am often misunderstood. Frustrating to say the least. Lonely at worst, because no one knew or understood what I was going through. Not their fault; I simply had no means of expressing it well enough. Heck, I myself didn't know what I was going through. My thoughts and emotions were so jumbled and intense that I coudn't make sense of any of it.

I don't know what started it, but I began writing a journal when I was about 13 or 14. What I found after reading what I wrote, it all made sense! Especially during those highly emotion-charged moments when I couldn't give voice to why I wanted to scream, lash out or cry. Once I saw it on paper, however, I understood the why. And in understanding the why, I could push through all that icky angst, and better, know I was going to survive. How's that for an epiphany?

I still have the journals I filled up from the age of about 15-17. They're simple spiral notebooks that barely held together by the time I was done with them. I also have a notebook filled with miscellaneous sheets of paper, some torn from other sheets of tiny poems, thoughts or story ideas.

No matter where I was, even during a concert at church with no lighting, I would put pen to paper and let my hands fly. Oddly enough, some of my best poems came from writing in the dark when I had no idea what I was writing at the time.

I often miss those days.

Now as an adult with a full-time job and taking care of my family, finding time to sit and write has become more of a challenge. I don't keep a spiral notepad on hand, but I do have my iPad mini with a ZAGG keyboard. I've been caught by my boss several times furiously writing a thought on said iPad. I know. My bad.

Part of the reason writing can be torture as the quotes above say is because writers pore out everything they are into them. That includes the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. Scary stuff. But as the quote by Maya said above, keeping it in is worse than letting it out.

Writing can be hell, but it can also be our salvation, often at the same time. It has for me.

All I can say at the end is thank you, God, for the gift of language. It has saved me in more ways, and more times than I can count.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Andra Marquardt works as a Land Surveyor in North Dakota, is happily married and has a young son. She writes Christian science fiction and likes to throw her opinions around on her blog at

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

WTLI-Poet Catherine Moore–One Healing Center

CatherineMooreThey are asked to paint the cancer. Most reach for the ochre, the black, the red, and their paper becomes hideous, jagged, ferocious, infernal, howling, and torched. An enemy drawn in its vilest forms. The tall woman does none of this; she proceeds to paint a beautiful garden, a bright sun, a lady sleeping on the cool patch of grass. The tall woman, is always quiet and composed; as a painter this manner intensifies. Her flower blooms are gifted with bees and butterflies. The following week they add narrative to the paintings. Most are stories of the grotesque, some stay in the darkness, some stories move to the light. The tall woman went last, after a stretched sigh, she holds up her painting of the wonderful summer scene. She points to the small area in gray, in the stone path, there hidden, a shadowed face, its cloak, and its sliver-like sickle. She reads, “Once upon a fine day it emerged from its silent tomb to slay the woman.” The horror in the room is palpable, this tall woman is 32 years without cancer, if she’s still hostage when will they ever feel free?

He declines the magnetic poetry board. Many do. Composing a “poem” is unnecessary stress in a room of the necessary. Forty-five minutes into the first hour he wanders around the art corner like a caged panther. He briefly picks up the mallet and taps a few notes on the Chakra chimes. The next day, about an hour after he returned from lunch he asks about the paper cranes hanging in a mobile made from wire clothes hangers. He expresses an interest— in seeing it done. And watches the slow careful creases become a bird of flight. Then silently nods and returns to his usual bench to stare out the window in concentration, as if folding it all over and over again in his mind. Weeks later, at four and a half hours into confinement he picks up an errant magnetic board that someone placed in front of him when leaving the waiting room. He flicks at the words in the determined way of working an abacus. Then he begins to move the words pushing left to right, up and down, like a slide across puzzle. When he scrambles for the car in his routine gallant way of whisking his wife away, we see the intimacy of the words he left behind. Some random. Some in margins. Some grouped naturally in a haiku-ish formation— one clearly intact.

s urge blood shot
in whisper watch goddess
boil scream

These stories are from my experience as a volunteer with an art therapy initiative at an oncology center. When people are going through illness or any stressful time, creating art, or more specifically journaling, is a very powerful tool to help cope. It can open a portal for reflection, growth, and healing by forcing us to think more clearly, giving a sense of purpose, being visual proof of having accomplished something, survived. Just seeing your thoughts and feelings written down somehow validates them, even if you are the only one seeing them. Don’t judge what you write, just write.

After my own cancer diagnosis, I often wrote as a way to expel the darkness and anxiety I naturally carried about my prognosis. Sometimes it was the only ventilation for my most distressing emotions. A journal is a place where the writer does not have to put up a brave face. Its primary purpose, like any art therapy, is catharsis.
~~~ ~~~

Catherine’s work appears in Ars Medica Journal, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing, and an upcoming anthology with the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. She is an eight-year cancer survivor.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

WTLI–Author Malla Duncan-Writing the Journey Within


I was very kindly invited by accomplished writer, LK Hunsaker, to guest post for “Write the Light in” – so thank you LK for the honor of being allowed to contribute here.

The question she raised was: what is the emotional effect that writing has had on my life. I believe that writing has a profoundly emotional effect on anyone who engages in it – whether you just enjoy letter writing, journal keeping, or simply like to clarify problems by writing them down – we create on paper the mood, the moment, the meaningfulness of our inner thoughts. We make our minds visible and intelligible through the act of describing our feelings on paper.

For me, writing is about discovering my own power. I say power and not talent because writing is fundamentally for everyone. We can all engage in its journey of discovery in our own private ways. Writing is the most individual imprint we can make on our daily experience; it is the closest, most intimate connection we can make between our world within and the world without.

My discovery of the power of writing (aged 7 when I penned my first poem) has driven me emotionally all my life: when I can write; what I can write; what will connect with the reader; what can I say that is fresh and different.

I can honestly say, that I have no idea what my life would have been like without writing – I cannot imagine a life where there is not something interesting going on in my head, or where there is only daily work in the week and empty spaces to fill at the weekend with general family and friends – and the same the next week and the week after that. While for some this is life – and a perfect life – for me it presents a quiet fear. What if I am wasting time on other things when I could be writing?

Emotionally, writing has made my life purposeful above all other things. It has been the subconscious force in all my life choices: to settle, to be quiet, to be alone and enjoy that aloneness, to continually organize my life with time for writing in between the daily busyness. Writing gave me my dream when there were both good and unhappy times. Writing has moved me from inner dwelling to an inner journey. It has developed my mind, my way of thinking, my insight and capacity for emotional intelligence. Without it, I believe, I would be half the person, half the intellect I have made myself.

I am a poor cook, a rotten gardener, a scrappy housekeeper. But I can write a credible thriller or two – and I sometimes wonder how well I might have excelled in these other areas had I not let my fascination for the written word supersede everything else. Writing has made me a dreamer, a bit of a loner, but definitely a happier, more positive person. I am driven by the passion of new ideas wrapped in the passions of imaginary people.

When I see unhappy people or discord in relationships, I want to reach out to those people and say, write! Start a journal, write what you feel, put your mind where you can see it and it will speak to you. Writing is a mirror of the mind, it shows us all the shadows and the light. Writing gives us the brushstrokes for the bigger picture.

Whether you write a journal, poetry or embark on the great journey of a novel, writing allows you a very individual key to personal freedom and power. It shows you the inner map of who you are – and astounding potential for new journeys.
~~~ ~~~

Malla Duncan writes psychological suspense thrillers, cozy mysteries, and children’s fantasy. She hales from South Africa. Visit her at

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Words Are Powerful

MaryCassatt-ThePensiveReaderIt was 1996, 20 years ago next year, and I was living in a place I didn’t like. Okay, let’s be fully honest. I detested the place. It was the antithesis of everything I wanted in a place I had to live.

I couldn’t just move. My life then was Army. An Army spouse, subject to the whims of wherever they decided to send us.

At the time, my husband had been sent to Korea for a year, with only three weeks at home in between. I was an 18 hour drive away from my family. I knew two of my neighbors and talked with them at times, and my husband’s good friend was down a couple of streets, but due to protocol, he came into the house only when my husband was home. By all rights, I was on my own most of the time. With two young children. In a place I hated. Doing a seasonal job to help pay bills that caused anxiety attacks, along with family issues back home I couldn’t be there for.

Let’s just say that when you’re prone to depressive episodes, this is a situation you strongly want to avoid.

Back in high school, I started creating a story in my head based on a “okay, but what’s behind the scenes that we don’t hear” continually burning question in my mind. The characters became very real to me. I’d been writing or creating since I was able, so it was second nature already. I only wrote one scene of it, but a whole long, involved story had formed.

Then I gave all that stuff up for college, marriage, babies, and moving.

At some point, you have to return to who you truly are inside.

So, on a very low point on a day I finally got my rambunctious, stubborn 4-year-old to take a rare nap that I needed far more than he did, I knew something had to change. That one scene I’d written was long gone – disappeared somewhere along with a bunch of other starts and letters and such in my file box.

It came back to me that day. I could see the dock in that scene I’d written years ago. I could see the couple. I knew them inside-out already. I knew their story mattered, at least to me. So I wrote the scene again.

That simple act of writing on a piece of lined notebook paper with a well-sharpened pencil snapped me back to who I was.

I didn’t stop. I filled page after page with any spare moment I had. My fingers cramped. Then my wrist got sore. The pain started to creep from my wrist up my arm into my shoulder and I finally had to stop using it for some time while my wrist was in a brace to let it rest. So I learned to write again with my left hand, as I had to do once when the same thing happened during a 20 page term paper in high school, and I kept going.

A funny thing happened. That “I can’t take this anymore” depression lifted with each page. It was a badly written story since I had no actual novel writing instruction, but at the time, that didn’t matter. It was for me. It kept me sane through very long days and nights of wondering how I’d get through the next one, through not wanting to be out among the place where I was stuck for over five years. The place that took my social phobia and exasperated it to my wits’ ends.

The act of writing that story (and it could have been any story) returned my wits.

Writing is a powerful thing. It’s soul-searching. It’s problem-solving. It’s awareness-raising. Most of all, it’s healing.

I encourage everyone to write something regularly. If you want to burn it afterward, do that. If you want to share it or lock it in a fire safe, do that. If you want to put it in an elegant journal or plain lined or unlined notebook, do that. But write. Anything. Just start with a simple thought and let it go from there.

Today I thought I would … but…
I wonder why it is that …
… made me so angry today because …
I feel so guilty that …
What I love about this season is …

Just write it. And keep going.

You’ll be fully amazed at what you discover.