Tag Archives: story

Write to the Heart

First day of Spring, sunshiny and lovely here in South Carolina. After you get a little sun on in the morning, come on in to North Main Yoga and Write to the Heart.

 Write to the Heart with Heatherthistle for write to the heart

March 21, 2015 @ North Main

Write to the Heart: The Story of Your Life as A Heart-Centered Pilgrimage.  Whether you are walking in to work, to your home, to the coffee shop, everything in your life is created as a result of who you are at your core, at your heart. Every time you step into a space, you bring more than what’s needed for the next item on your calendar, you bring yourself. You’re on a pilgrimage of sorts; each moment is an intersection of hopes and fears and challenges. Each moment offers us the opportunity to meet it at the heart.

Using image as inspiration and creative writing as a tool, participants will explore where they are on their pilgrimage, reconnect with the heart center that drives that pilgrimage and see where they would like to journey next.

Class includes gentle movement and writing.  No experience in yoga or writing is needed.

Bring a journal / paper and pen.

Cost: $20
Time: 2-4pm


Four Weeks of Fiction, part two: Sentences and Setting

We opened the second session of the four-week fiction workshop with a discussion of Andrea IMG_4167Barrett’s  Theories of Rain,  from her collection, Servants of the Map. The story not only provides a variety of settings–large and small, from cottage to woods, to the William Bartram’s garden–but also offers excellent examples of how setting can be a character itself and can reveal elements of other characters that might otherwise remain hidden.

To move from this story to an exploration of sentences and setting, we read paragraphs from Annie Proulx (People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water, from the collection, Close Range), Murray Bail (Eucalyptus), and Michael Ondaatje (In the Skin of a Lion).

Working with the characters we created in the previous session, we listed several settings the character might inhabit or wish to inhabit–large (bigger than a house), small (smaller than a room), comfortable, out of his or her element, a bucket list place–and then began to pladark sun on water muddy mountainy with setting and sentence length.


Our characters snuck into one of these places, exploring them over the course of around 150 words, all in short (five- to seven-word sentences). We noted how these short sentences heighten the drama and anticipation in these moments.

Our characters then meandered into another place in a sentence that took up a half page or more. Here, participants noted how they were able to really drop down into the place and observe more fully.

Later in tR0012460he session, another character entered the setting–one who felt differently than our initial character.


What are some of your favorite settings from works you’ve read? Why do those appeal to you as a reader? Do you have favorite places you like to write about? What makes those appealing to you as a writer?

We’re taking a week off next week. When we return, each participant will bring a completed draft with which we’ll play, exploring a variety of ways in which writers can choose to allow a story to unfold.

Four Weeks of Fiction

My Four Weeks of Fiction class started last night with a diverse group of participants, each working on different projects in genres from fantasy to tales of immigrants. Thanks to Emrys, the organization that offers The Writing Room, the umbrella for lots of classes and workshops that help get writers started, keep them writing and find their best voices on the page.


Each week in this fiction workshop, we’ll play with language a little to get warmed up and then look at a craft element to help us develop our stories. Last night, we used one of the exercises from Ursula LeGuin’s book, Steering the Craft, to open up some language play with alliteration, onomatopoeia, repetition and rhythm. We then jumped right in to character. The opening of Amanda Coplin’s The Orchardist offered inspiration and an excellent example of a compelling physical description. 


Dale Ray Phillips and M. L. Steadman helped us get our characters moving into work they know well. The protagonist in What Men Love For,  from My People’s Waltz gave us a boy setting to a favorite chore.


The Light Between Oceans offered a glimpse into the work of a lighthouse keeper.


Each of these is an excellent example of how much the details of daily tasks can reveal about character.

For homework, we’re reading Andrea Barrett’s Theories of Rain,  from her collection, Servants of the Map.


Next week, we’ll look at setting, and at the use of setting as character.

Mindfulness, Writing and Letting Go of Expectation

In my post with the  link to my TED talk on Letting Go of Expectation (https://heathergmarshall.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/tedx-greenville-what-to-expect-when-you-stop-expecting/), I wrote that I’d connect the concept of releasing expectation tofoggy woods for blog mindfulness and writing. I think that writing requires both the letting go of expectation and mindfulness.

When we come to the page, we must clear the space of expectations. That could mean shedding the expectations that the writing be good enough, long enough, or any other kind of demand our critical brain might make. It also means that we let go of any expectation of where the writing will go. We might think that the plot has to turn in a certain way, or try to insist that the story go in a particular direction. Clearing the space allows us to remain open to possibilities we hadn’t considered. It’s about always being curious.

Once we clear the space, we can then be fully mindful, allowing ourselves to drop fully into the moment we’re exploring. We can do what poet Cathy Smith Bowers (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/cathy-smith-bowers) calls, “writing into the mystery.” In a class at Queens University of Charlotte, I heard her explain that she starts with an abiding image — this could be any visual that has hung with you (it doesn’t have to be a work of art by any stretch) — and writes into the mystery. So we’re curious and fully immersed in what we’re writing.

Clearing the space, dropping in and being fully mindful as we write helps open places we hadn’t even known existed. It brings a richness to the writing, both as an experience of the process and for the reader. It’s a way to begin. It’s also a way to open up and explore stuck places in our stories and novels.

The next time you sit down at the page, clear the space or expectation — there’s just you and the pen and the page. Whatever comes is enough. Start with an image or a sound or whatever resonates, drop in, stay present, let it flow.

What’s your story? Using story to design, implement and evaluate

“If we own the story we can write the ending.” — Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly.

Through simple writing strategies, this two-hour workshop provides teachers and administrators with tools to use story to understand what they really want in the classroom, to see gaps between what they aspire to and what they practice, to design their paths forward and to evaluate progress.

This process can be used to assess what is needed to meet new Common Core goals as well as to evaluate the impact of culture in administrative settings, at the school level, at the classroom level and at the personal level.

Please email Heather at heather@heathergmarshall.com for rates and availability.

The Wholehearted Life — Three Workshops

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light…If we own the story then we can write the ending.”                  — Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Using Brown’s 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted Living, and taking inspiration from Daring Greatly and other texts, The Wholehearted Life is a series of workshops designed to help us own our stories, decide what part of our story we’d like to explore next, how we would like it to unfold and what steps we can take to make it a reality. We’ll use discussion, writing and meditation to guide our way.

Dates: Wednesdays, June 12 and 26 and July 10                                                                        Time: 7:15pm

Where: Greenville Yoga – Augusta Road: 2021 Augusta St., Greenville, SC                                                                                          Cost: Free

To register: email Heather at heather@heathergmarshall.com

A to Z: Lean

Week two, day six of the A to Z Blog Challenge: Lean. Actually, it’s Lean In, but not Sheryl Sandberg style; more Brene Brown style.

In case you’ve missed it, Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Women, Work and the Will to Lead, recently was published. It’s about the lack of women in leadership positions in government and industry, how women unintentionally thwart their ability to have a seat at the table and how to Lean In to the things that will get women there.  Great. I hope droves of women heed her advice and take their seat at the table. I won’t be among them. I’ll be leaning in to the key elements of my life, one of which is writing, and I’ll be doing it Brene Brown-style.

Brown’s books, The Gifts of Imperfection, and, Daring Greatly, explore the results of her work as a shame researcher as well as her own story of transformation. One of the actions she encourages people to take in order to practice what she calls wholehearted living is to lean in to discomfort. Yes, instead of feeling something uncomfortable or downright painful creeping in and scurrying for the nearest Starbucks, mall, bar (or whatever else you do to escape and numb it all away), lean in to it. Feel that shit. All the way. It won’t break you. And it won’t last forever. (In fact, I have a little theory that if you lean fully into it,  and really feel, you might get through it faster. A bit like running — you can plod through the 5k and feel mildly crappy for half an hour or you can burn like hell for 20 minutes and be sipping a cold one while everyone else drags in.) There’s growth in leaning in. It makes your heart bigger (again, sort of like running). It makes you more honest. It makes you stronger. And kinder. And if you’re a writer, you should be living there anyway. You’ve got to lean in to your characters’ discomfort. They might not have guts enough to lean in fully, but you, the writer, must know all the options. When things get tough, lean on in and know that you’re not only growing as a person, you’re deepening your writing practice. And if you need it, you can give yourself a pat on the back from me, because I agree with Brown, who says,

I think courage is the ability to tell your story.

Lean in. Tell your story.