Thanksgiving 2020

This Thanksgiving is going to be different, quieter and smaller, which is exactly what I need. It will be at home, just me with my husband, and far fewer sides on the table. I wish more of my family could be with us, but all of us are staying closer to home this year. The COVID pandemic has required that we shift, and shift we will, because we have so much for which we are grateful, and hopes for a calmer future when things settle down after the pandemic.

I am grateful for the fact that although we have had family members come down with COVID, everyone has recovered. Not all families have had that good fortune, and I wish them comfort during what has to be a hard time.

We have our jobs, and with jobs, the chance to help others who have lost theirs. That is another blessing. We also have our hobbies and other delights – some like to fish, others go to their instruments, or read, build furniture, cook, watch sports or movies, write, or play in the teepee that is resident in the living room. A weekly Zoom call is another way we stay connected and has made the distance much easier to bear.

I am grateful because even though I miss my mother—we all do—she taught us the importance of family and made our holidays special. That is a good memory. And my father is with us, still teaching and learning, sharing his insights, and reminding us where we come from. 

This Thanksgiving will be quieter and smaller, but no less rich because of the huge changes many of us have had to make because of the pandemic. I hope you are able to celebrate the day in a way that has meaning for you. And if it is not quite what you had hoped for, I hope you will experience some measure of peace that helps you get through until the world gets better.

Have a peaceful and safe Thanksgiving,


Workshop News! Write.Pause.Reflect


The last two months have been busy—I launched my workshop series, Write.Pause.Reflect, in October and have been planning and delivering workshops, connecting with friends and meeting new people who are interested in reflective writing.

Write.Pause.Reflect is for anyone who is interested in using writing as a tool for managing stress, situations that cause you to worry, thoughts that keep creeping up, or issues of concern. Expressive writing, pioneered by James Pennebaker Ph.D., uses writing as a way to improve health, including mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. In April I experienced and learned the techniques, and after my first day I knew this was a method I wanted to share with others.

What is it?

Reflective writing uses prompts and reflection on the prompts to move towards better health. In the workshops, we pause to examine the writing and our thoughts about it and consider its impact. This type of writing is different from a diary or most people’s ideas about journaling; it asks you to consider the possibility of reframing the stories we hold about our lives.

Do I have to consider myself a writer?

It is not designed solely for writers, and no, you do not have to share your work; the writing is personal.

Each workshop has been engaging and the feedback very positive. Participants are thoughtful, willing to do the writing, and respectful of each other. I continue to learn more about this process and look forward to conducting more of these workshops in 2020. Feel free to contact me if you have questions or you can comment below.

~ Ramona

Valentine’s Day, AWP17, and Mornings



Happy Valentine’s Day! I celebrate this day because I was brought up on the idea that love extends outside our front doors, goes in the neighborhood, schools, and the world around us. And the world needs an extra hug, wink, or a blown kiss right now. So don’t worry about not having a date, or the box of chocolates, don’t rush out and buy gifts. Just send a little love and hope out today. That will be enough, trust me.

I went to Washington, D.C. to Continue reading

Writers and Readers: Festival of Faith & Writing



Things looked quiet Saturday morning but within an hour, the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan was bustling – full of writers, readers, editors, publishers, and the friendly students who responded to our questions about how to get around. I was there for the biennial Festival of Faith & Writing and this was my second time.

The word faith has many meanings depending on whom you ask; it is kind of like the words religion and spiritual. Faith implies a search for something deeper to define us, but also implies that as much as we search, some things that we profess to believe remain a mystery. I am okay with that. From name tags to tote bags, you saw the word “Reader” everywhere; reading is the heart of the Festival. Through writing, reading and discussion, we can come together to talk about the many issues in the world and in our private lives.

The writers were from various denominations and beliefs and much like through writing, they seek understanding, at times through their faith, and at other times, in spite of it. The focus was always on the writing, but a few authors addressed the process of finding an audience or getting published. Bob Hosack, executive editor with Baker Publishing, emphasized the importance of having a platform because writers are expected to bring an audience with them. As writers, we have heard that before, but for some in the room it confirmed the importance of building a community.

Over the three days, I listened to panels, started the day with poetry readings, and took time to jot down ideas for my own writing. There were more speakers and panels than I could possibly attend, but here are some of the highlights and quotes from the Festival:

Zadie Smith, novelist and essayist, spoke on creativity, saying “Creativity is more than finding the perfect product for the perfect audience.” Her book, Changing My Mind, is one of my favorite essay collections.

Poets Susanna Childress, Barbara Crooker, Tania Runyan, and Anya Silver graced the audience Friday morning by reading their poems on motherhood in all of its forms, and the connections between motherhood, faith and writing. Their readings took place in the College Chapel and it was a perfect setting for sharing the sacred and challenging bonds between mothers and their children.

Dani Shapiro asked an essential question, “Aren’t we all stumbling towards a faith that works for us?” and described her journey, from growing up in an Orthodox Jewish home to embracing Buddhism.

David Dark – “Maybe we already have an audience, a few people who are interested in what we have to say, and maybe that’s enough.”

I took notes, met many authors, had a meeting with an editor, browsed the exhibit hall, bought home books to read and share, and tried to immerse myself in discussions about writing. The writing life can be quiet and solitary, like the campus was at the beginning of each day, but at events like these we gather to share our love for writing.

Mark this date on your calendar, April 12-14, 2018, for the next gathering for the Festival of Faith & Writing.

Happy reading and writing!

Assay@NFN15: “Writers on Essays that Took Forever to Get Right”

The NonfictioNow2015 conference was a while ago, but there were many great sessions on creative nonfiction. Here are my comments on one of the many interesting sessions I attended.

Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies

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 Aviyah Kushner, Mary Margaret Alvarado and Kerry Reilly, read and discussed essays that took years to finish, and examined the process by which a story can start quickly but take time, reflection and editing to get just right. There was discussion about how latter events can send you back to an older, unfinished essay; these events can be portals to a fresh look at a piece. Alvarado advised that as writers, we think about the means, not the ends, and be faithful to the means.

Mary Margaret Alvarado set the tone with her opening comment that these essays can “come in a rush…but sometimes they take years.” She said that she did not write one essay, as much as she pieced it from letters, using sentences as the unit of composition, taking the piece from found poem, to a found essay. She read from her essay, “Dear Joshua”, based on…

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