Thursday, January 30, 2014

Click, click, click -- links to download OPEN ROAD: a life worth waiting for

            Here's an interesting question for you -- what do Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins, Dorothy Gale and Luke Skywalker all have in common? 
            Yes, they're some of the best known icons from the last century. 
            Yes, they were all on a journey into unknown places ripe with fear, excitement and trepidation.
            And yes, three of them originated in well-loved books before they were featured in films.  But can you guess the other common thread?
            All of them were orphans. 
            Incredible isn't it?   Each one was blessed with friendship along the way (think Ron and Hermione, the Scarecrow, Samwise Gamgee, and Han Solo), but in the end, each character had to face a daunting task...alone.

            I'm an orphan or sorts, too.  While my agent pitches my fictional work to publishing houses this month, I've made the choice to self-publish my memoir.  There's been no professional editor calling for rewrites, although my dear friend, Joyce, has been a faithful collaborator from the first draft to the last.  There's been no publicist preparing me for what will come next once the book is out in the world, although my pal, Lisa, has been a sounding board for my hopes and wishes...and a few anxieties thrown in for good measure. 
            And sorry to say, there's been no one to format the manuscript for KINDLE and NOOK, so I've just spent the past four days figuring out the wonderful world of "if you make one wrong keystroke, it can mess up the whole document."  So my inner perfectionist has to accept what I cannot change as one of the chapters would not format correctly, no matter what I did.
            Ironically enough, the chapter that almost undid me is entitled "Undone."  So when you get to that one, know that I did my my broken life at the time and now as I'm celebrating the mended pieces.

            It's a joy to realize the fulfillment of two years worth of reading through a decade of journals, conversations with friends, writing, editing, crying, laughing, re-writing, and editing the manuscript over and over again.  I had a lot of help along the way, but in the past few days, I've had to face the finish line by myself.
            I've had to throw my old rings of power into the fires of the past.  I've had to recognize the shadows within myself.  I've had to acknowledge the fact that I embody facets of everyone I've ever known and make peace with those who will let me...and let go of those who will not.
            Most importantly, I've learned that the image I once had of myself as a published writer has been replaced by something much better.  Wiser.  Stronger.  And not easily seen by the outside world.  In walking this path alone, I've learned to rely on my instincts.  To trust my spirit.  To hold my integrity.  To allow the finished product to move through me so that it can go out into the world unencumbered by what I had once longed for...and to invite the reader not only into my heart and mind, but also open the door into their own. 
            And so here I sit in my home office on a chilly winter's night ready to launch my first book into the world.  My day has been filled with wonderful yoga students and friends.  With laughter.  With joy.  With release. 
            Like Dorothy said as she clicked her heels three times, "There's no place like home...there's no place like home...there's no place like home."
            After all this time, I'm beginning to understand she may not only have meant the home we see with our eyes, but the home we embody in our hearts.  So here are three links to click as I invite you share a little of my home...a little of my heart...a little of my life.  

No NOOK or KINDLE? No worries! 

The NOOK is the best version with great formatting and photos. If you have Windows 8, a tablet, an I-pad or any kind of mobile phone with internet, you can download a FREE app from NOOK, then find the book on the Barnes and Noble website.

For KINDLE or, you can download a FREE app located to the right of the book information to your PC, phone, tablet, etc., then download the book through their store.

Link to NOOK book with photos and lovely formatting:

Link to KINDLE book:
Link to Facebook page:

Saturday, January 25, 2014


          It's another snowy day in Toledo, Ohio and I just came in from shoveling.  Beneath layers of fleece and wool, the twenty-two degrees felt downright balmy.  Still, we're under a level two snow emergency and sub-zero temperatures are on the way, so I cancelled my morning yoga class and a workshop I was to teach at noon.  Until my little knitting friends come over for their lesson, the day is all mine.
          My friend, Amber, and I were talking earlier this morning and I told her I had completed the edits on my memoir last night.
          "Oh, you must be so excited," she said. 
          "No...that's not it," I replied calmly.
          "Yeah...I was earlier in the week," I said.  "But now all I feel is thankful.  Thankful that I was able to follow through and finish the manuscript.  Thankful for all the help I had during the writing and editing.  Thankful for the wonderful support I've had in getting licensing agreements."  Then I smiled.  "And thankful that this time next week, I'll be teaching yoga and the book will be out in the world.  People will be reading it while I'm moving the mystery of what comes next."
          "That's interesting," Amber commented.
          "Not what I expected to feel either," I admitted. 
          And truly, it's not. 

          Maybe if things had gone a different route, excitement would have been at the top of my emotional list.  But as I'm self-publishing, it's a quieter process, a more solitary undertaking.  I've been able to steer the ship through every step -- through often unknown waters -- and in the end, I'm thankful for that, too.  Because now that I've made it to the shore, the stability and momentum I feel is not something I can clearly articulate.
          As Pandit Ravi Shankar has said, "The magic happens only when the artist serves with love and the listener receives with the same spirit."  I am so very thankful that writing has always been a labor of love and I hope that you all receive my memoir and this blog in that same spirit.  In the end, that has always been my purpose and my pleasure.

          So now on this blustery day in January, I'm looking forward to reading the pile of New Yorkers and the eclectic stack of books that have been calling my name for a few weeks.  I'm looking forward to writing fiction again as I don't know how the plot in my next novel will evolve. 
          And I'm looking forward to wherever this open road will lead me, thankful for the never-ending journey.

My winter literary list....

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Age of Aquarius

          Yesterday the sun entered the sign of Aquarius...and hooray!  That means some of my favorite people on the planet will celebrate their birthdays in the next four weeks.  Sue and Linda.  Beth and Presley.  Mrudu and Karole.  Diana and Lynda and Diane.  Laura and my little pal, Harshil.  I'm so blessed to be surrounded by a plethora of people who are bright, open-minded and able to see the forest for the trees.
          It's interesting for me to note that in the past four years, a whole slew of Aquarians entered my life...and for good reason.  I have much to learn from each of them.  Being a Virgo can be exhausting as I jump into projects striving for perfection and organization.  Aquarians take a step back, survey the totality of a situation and then decide when or even if they want get involved.  And more often then not, when they do, it's to help others.

          Last weekend my Astrology 101 class was in full swing when we were discussing the planets and houses of a natal chart.  One of my students asked, "So is that what the song Age of Aquarius means?"
          I know the tune like the back of my hand, but couldn't recall the lyrics.  "Which part?"  I asked.
          Bobbi sang a little of the first verse, "When the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars...."
          I smiled.  "Now that you know the seventh house represents relationships and partnerships and others...and the moon represents our emotions and how we express them, it follows that when the moon shifts from the sixth house into the seventh, we become more aware of creating balanced relationships.  More aware of how our behavior affects other people.  We move beyond, 'What's in this for me?' and shift into 'What's in this for us?'"
          Bobbi and the others nodded.
          "When Jupiter aligns with Mars...," I continued.  "Well, to me that means when good fortune and opportunity line up with our hard work and industry, it will expand in ways that benefit more than just what we can see with our eyes.  Meaning that our work is not just for ourselves, but for the global whole."
          My students' eyes brightened. 
          "We've seen this shift coming for a while," one of the ladies said.  "But the song says we're in the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.  When will it happen?"
          "According to some astrologers, it already did," I smiled.  "On the winter solstice in 2012."
          "How long will it last?" someone asked.
          "For a little over 2,000 years," I replied.  "Isn't it interesting to be alive during this shift?"
         For me, this dawning has been awakening, but "interesting" is not the word I would always use.  Upsetting?  Perhaps.  Disheartening?  Sometimes.  Challenging?  Always.  For I can feel the friction of the rising consciousness as it commingles with the status quo.
          For someone who is used to being steeped in silence most of the day.  Who teaches yoga and writes.  Who spends most of her time in quiet, solitary pursuits, it's often a struggle to be in the fast-paced world of "I want what I want when I want it...and that means matter how many people I may irritate or step on in the process."
          It's one of the reasons I choose to keep it simple.  To walk through this world as quietly as I can, working with those who are magically sent to me through friends and other students.  To engage in the outer world when I feel grounded and healthy.  And when I don't, to stay home and regroup. 
          Perhaps that's one of the most wonderful lessons I've learned from my Aquarian friends.  They may not live the same lifestyle that I do, but their inherent ability to see the forest for the trees has taught me to not worry so much about what I can't control.  To let go of the petty crap from yesterday's circumstances.  To continue to look for passageways out of my linear thinking and realize there are infinite pathways to awareness.

          A few weeks ago, my little yoga students and I were talking about the meaning of our names.  One of the girls said, "My name...Sophia...means wisdom."
          I nodded.  "I have a cat named Sophia just for that reason."  Then I turned to the rest of the class.  "Do you know the difference between being smart and being wise?"
          A heavy question for anyone, let alone my primary-aged kids.  They shook their heads.
          Harshil looked pensive and I asked him, "Do you know the difference between knowledge and wisdom?"
          He tilted his head.  "Well...knowledge is when you know something, but wisdom is when you know how to use it."
          Spoken like a true Aquarian.
          I winked at him.  "And you, my friend, are very wise indeed."


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Old school

          Next weekend is West Side Montessori's annual Open House.  As I've been an extra-curricular yoga instructor for -- oh, my gosh -- fifteen years, I was asked to create a tri-board with pictures and information about the Yoga for Kids program.
          "No problem," I told the Admissions Director.  "I'll have it ready ASAP."
          After gathering the board and some colorful paper at the Dollar Store, I drove to Meijer to have some pictures printed.  Then, realizing I had given away my tracing letters in my exodus from public education in 1999, I called a friend who still teaches for Toledo Public.  They arrived yesterday morning, and by nightfall, I had cleared off the dining room table and got down to business.
          The moment I picked up a pencil and started to trace one of the letters, memories came flooding back.  The smell of Elmer's paste and Magic Markers.  The sound of chairs scraping against a tile floor and pencil cans being accidentally knocked off of a desk.  The sight of child's face when he/she realizes that learning can be a lot of fun.
          I spent eleven years with Washington Local Schools and experienced firsthand the technological shift from typewriters to computers.  From mimeograph machines to copiers.  From writing notes home to parents to sending a quick email at the end of the day.  For the most part, I embraced these changes as they gave me more time to prepare the classroom and work with my kids. 
          As I spent most of my career as a first grade teacher, I wanted the room to be bright and inviting.  Colorful and eye-catching.  Educational and inspirational.  So to that end, I traced and cut colorful letters until blisters formed on my thumb.  I drew pictures from my favorite picture books and featured one a month on our "Awesome Authors" board.  And each week a child was highlighted as the "Special Kid" with a poster board story I created with photographs and a short biography. 
          And even though it took hours and hours, I did most everything by hand. 

          So last night, I laughed as I flipped the letter over so the tracing marks wouldn't show on the final project.  Old teaching habits die hard....particularly for this Virgo girl.  I used fancy scissors to trim the photographs, then embellished them with little cut-out clouds.  It was delightful to watch the project come to life...and even more exciting to know I hadn't lost my teacher's touch.
          I was old school back then...and truth be told I still am.  I love taking my time while knitting a sweater or a sock.  The days and weeks and months tending the ever-growing flowers and herbs in my garden.  The slow and steady pace of writing a manuscript.  What takes time asks more of my attention.  More of my talent which can improve as I practice.  And for me, in taking the time to let the creative process ripen, I find even more inspiration.
          One of my friends recently wrote me a sweet note commenting on the blog, "For what it's worth."  Sue said that her sister, a master quilter and knitter, "measures time in projects, not days or years."  I love that idea...that time is not linear, but exists in each sweater or blanket or poster board or lovely flower bed.  
            So I'm off to knit a little, write a little, and practice a little on my yoga mat.
            It will be time well spent, I'm sure.

Miss Ingersoll's Class -- First Grade Thanksgiving Feast, 1996

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Finish line

          Twenty years ago this month I started writing scripts for a small performance group.   Six months later I wrote a short story about a woman and her brother who was dying of AIDS that eventually grew into my first novel, completed in 2000.  The sequel was written in 2004.  The sequel to that, in 2007.  The fourth book in the series was finished in the summer of 2012. 
          None of them have been published....yet.
          Strange that after two decades of waiting and wondering when I would be published, my memoir will be released in less than three weeks.  The one book I had no desire to ever write, for I prefer fiction, although as E.B. White wrote, "All writing is both a mask and an unveiling."  Now, instead of hiding behind characters and scenarios I create in my imagination, I'll soon be both unmasked and revealed.
          Not that whole story will be told. 
          I've been careful not to skew events or leave out important moments in my history.   Friends who have read earlier drafts tell me I've told the truth and yet have been able to be discrete, a balancing act that hasn't been easy to manage.  I'm picky, you see.  Pickier than I used to be in terms of finding just the right word, the best punctuation, the most succinct way of getting my point across without being terse.  Without pointlessly embellishing the events.  Without being redundant.
          It wasn't supposed to be this way.  Near the end of this long marathon to the book launch, I was supposed to be waiting on pins and needles while a publicist at a publishing house planned my tour itinerary.  Book signings and speaking events and public relations interviews were supposed to be lined up.  A press pack sent to media companies all over the country.   And like the last shot in the film, Julie and Julia, I was supposed to hold in my hands the tangible, hardcover copy of all the years of my hard work. 
          But it was not to be...and surprisingly, I'm glad to be the only one running this race.  There may be plenty of friends and well-wishers in the stands, but in the end, it's up to me to keep going.  To cross the finish line on my own.
          Self-publishing online was not a reality when I began writing my first novel.  But now I find myself eagerly reading through a stack of documents from Amazon, Kindle and Apple and know that this is the best way for me to dive into the new and ever-changing world of writing.  Just as I've learned the difference between wanting to have a baby and wanting to be a mother (see Good Mourning), I've learned the difference between wanting to be published and wanting to share my books with the world. 
          Thank God I didn't get what I wanted when I wanted it.  And as you'll see when you read the memoir, that applies to a lot more than selling my novels.
          In the meantime, I've had the time to hone my skills.  To practice patience.  To let the stories breathe.  To grow as a writer and a human being.  To realize I still have a lot more learning to do.  And to know I'm now ready to take a leap of finish this race on my way to new destinations. 
          How could I have known twenty years ago that the road would be so long?  How could I know that I would have to wait through endless obstacles?  Long periods of frustration and doubt? 
          But how could I have known the joy discovered within the process...the hours of silent reawakening as I sat at my computer and let the stories pour through me.  The delight in holding my vision and seeing it through.  The integrity found in learning how to write novels that let the characters speak their truth...and then in turn, learn how to speak my own.  To listen to that part of me that never fails to provide inspiration, even in the midst of the unknown.
          Every day since the New Year has brought momentum.  Every day a new connection with someone who is helping me with licensing agreements or cover photos or rewrites.  Every day a new blessing that leads me on.
          Earlier in the week I was talking with my dear friend and editor, Joyce.  "Any last words of wisdom as I make my way through this last edit?" I asked her.
          "Yes," she chuckled gently.  "Eventually you're going to have to stop and just let the book go as it is.  You're ready," Joyce said confidently.
          Now, as I smile through my tears, I know she's right.


Monday, January 6, 2014

For what it's worth...

The public sees only the thrill of the accomplished trick...
no one except myself can appreciate how I have to
work at this job every single day, never letting up for a moment.

Harry Houdini

The other day I ran into a fellow knitter and we chatted about our holiday season. 
"Did you knit any of your gifts this year?" I asked.
"Oh, no," she said sadly.  "No one appreciates all that hard work."
As someone who's put in more than my 10,000 hours behind the knitting needles, I know how long projects can take.  But honestly, I've found that those who are the recipients of my endless string of projects are more than happy to open them.
Especially the kids.
Last year my little pal, Satish, and his sister, Nidhi were putting away Christmas decorations when they came to their red felt stockings.
"These are really old," Nidhi said sadly.  "Maybe we should get new ones next year."
My ears perked up and as soon as JoAnne's had quilted fabric on sale, I snapped up enough to make Satish's whole family stocking for this year's celebration. 
Over the years, I've made stockings as wedding gifts, as a surprise for a new baby.  Last year I made some for my friend, Barb....just for fun.  I've knit countless socks and handwarmers.   Hats.  Dishcloths.  Toys.  Sweaters.  Shawls.  Over twenty-five Little Lambs for Peace.  Each one took a while to make, but I couldn't really tell you how long.  I don't keep track.  For it's in the creative process that I find a project's true worth.
I'm lucky to have artists of every kind in my life:  writers and jewelry makers.  Actors and singers.  Gardeners and potters.  We often talk about how much practice, how much work goes into a final product.  Work the public never sees.  Work that others often take for granted.  People see the finished product and have no idea how much time it took to write the album.  Polish the sterling silver.  Hone the manuscript until it shines with just the right words. 
I've taught yoga and creative workshops for years and the weeks before a new session, I read through my notes.  Research updated information on the Internet.  Carefully prepare the updated handouts my students will receive.  I'm happy to do all of this, as I'm always open to the evolution of learning. takes time.
And no one really knows how much time it takes unless they've walked in my shoes.  Or sat behind my knitting needles.
A few days before Christmas I was helping Satish finish a couple of knitting projects he wanted to give as Christmas gifts.  While simple, the scarf for his Papa and an eyeglasses case for Santa took more time than my pal imagined.  I was so proud to watch him weave in his last loose end and then proudly display his handiwork.
Afterwards, we were enjoying some hot cocoa and cookies.  Satish leaned over and said in a very serious voice, "Katie...I need to thank you again for my sweater."
"What sweater?" I asked.  "The one I'm making for your birthday this year?  You haven't seen it yet."
Satish shook his head.  "No...the one you made me when I was five."
I smiled.  "That was four years ago!   I'll bet it doesn't fit so well now."
            He shrugged.  "The sleeves are a little short, but I still wear it around the house when I'm cold."
"Well, I'm glad you still enjoy it."
Satish nodded solemnly.  "And I need to thank you for it again."
I winked at him, knowing that what he really meant was, "Now that I've done some of my own knitting projects, I know how much work it is."  Satish never ceases to amaze me with his loving awareness and kindness, and I can't wait to see how his Harry Potter sweater will fit in a just a few weeks.

The Midwest is enduring an arctic blast after having over a foot and half of snow fall since New Year's Day.  I've been outside shoveling away, covered from head to toe with things I've knitted over the years.  Right now, as we head into nightfall and the temperature continues to drop, I'm wearing a warm, woolly sweater, a pair of woolen socks, and some comfy handwarmers as I write this blog. But...the best thing I've made to endure this wild winter has been a pair of felted mittens.  Those lifesavers have proven to be sturdy, warm and best of all:  waterproof.  
Because of me at least...they are worth their weight in gold.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A little taste of what's to come....

       Happy 2014!   As I spend the day editing, I thought I'd share a little nibble from my memoir, Open Road:  a life worth waiting for.   I've often said it takes a village to grow a writer, and I've been blessed to have so many wonderfully supportive gardeners along the way.  It's almost time to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
       Blessings for a year filled with joy, hope and kindness!


            My mother kept meticulous records in my baby book.  In the "Famous Firsts" section, she wrote:  "First cartoon movie:  April, '69 Snow White."  I was two at the time and, of course, have no memory of the event.  But when I turned six, Mom insisted that I have a birthday party and invite some girls from the neighborhood.  Not wanting any attention focused solely on me, I balked endlessly.  Finally, after some cajoling, Mom promised the party could be any theme I wanted.
            Now satisfied that I could have some choice in the matter, I replied, "I want a Snow White birthday party." 
            "What's that?" Mom asked.
            "I want you to find a Snow White at the store and put it on the dining room table with all your little ceramic animals." 
            My mother had a delightful collection of birds and fauna that decorated the corner shelves of our kitchen and living room.  I cheerfully explained that they could be like all the animals Snow White met in the forest before she discovered the seven dwarves. 
            There's only a brief mention of this party in my baby book, accompanied by a short list of the girls who attended.  What I remember most is that I absolutely did not want to play games, so we went to the movies instead.  And I can also remember sitting in the darkened theater at Southwyck Mall relieved that everyone was paying attention to something other than the fact that it was my birthday.  Yet, I also felt disgusted that the movie I had chosen ("What's Up Doc?") was not about Bugs Bunny at all, but a tedious love story between Ryan O'Neil and Barbra Streisand. 
            Enter the pattern of my life:  I can ask for what I want, but it rarely turns out as I imagined or hoped it would be.
            Still, my favorite memory of that birthday is standing in the doorway of the dining room, looking at the table where Mom had carefully assembled Snow White in a makeshift forest surrounded by her collection of little animals.  Even now, I can see myself as a young girl, wondering what those animals would say if they could speak. 
            What would Snow White say? 
            What would I say?
            Longing to discover my own voice, I started keeping a journal in my adolescence and eventually became a novelist.  In the process, I've created dozens of characters who marginally personify pieces of myself.  Many of them have been written into a life I had once planned, yet never experienced.  None of them reveal my own life as it has truly been.  So last year I began writing this memoir.
            The process has been daunting...yet ultimately freeing. 
            I tend to be more content with writing fiction.  Sculpting a story is much like sculpting clay.  I am free to do anything...create anything.  I can mold my characters in a variety of shapes and sizes, all the while directly touching the novel with my narrative hands, smoothing a plotline here, adding texture to the conflict there. 
            In contrast, writing a memoir is much like working with an erector set.  It's limited and finite, since I can only use the components provided.  The tools of real life events are in my hands, creating a barrier between me and the object I'm constructing.  There are pieces I can't alter or influence, because their rigidity is unchangeable.  In every instance, I must tell my life experiences as they were, not as I would have liked them to be. 
            And through it all, I've been amazed that the story of Snow White continues to shape my life's lessons.  Like her, I have encountered wicked, green-eyed queens who have wanted to diminish or silence my existence.  I have escaped to the silence of a solitary forest in order to recreate myself beyond what I had been taught to be.  I have spent decades as a teacher, working with little people of all ages, unearthing jewels of learning while they mine their own talents and abilities.  I have been terrified of the unknown, the unfamiliar, and the endless search for who I am and where I belong.       
            Naturally, my favorite part of the story of Snow White is when she enters the forest and all the animals befriend her.  They take her to a little cottage in the heart of the woods where she will be safe.  Where she will eventually meet the seven dwarves and face the trials of being the object of the Queen's wrath.  Deep in the forest, Snow White is nurtured by the natural world and it is through being in nature that I am continually healed.  Like Snow White, I live in a little cottage and tend to the lovely gardens which surround it.  What a blessing to touch the earth and experience more clearly the unspoken, yet profound life lessons flourishing in my own back yard. 
            This memoir is the story of my journey as reflected through the seven stages of gardening.  Part One contains the essential lessons of groundwork: tilling the soil of my past, planting seeds of regeneration, and tending the fragile life experiences as they became more clear and vital.  In Parts Two and Three, the more intangible and dynamic qualities of both inner and outer gardening are enhanced.  It's here where I reached for the sunlight that encouraged each bud.  Where I pruned away that which no longer served me in order for new, healthier growth to occur.  Where I now nurture love, wisdom, and a divine connection that allows me to embrace joy and grace in every waking moment.
          Throughout this conscious awakening, the tale of Snow White keeps me ever mindful to listen carefully to that which sparks my attention, which engages me beyond words or thought.  Which allows me to feel my authentic heart that has never been stolen.  This journey echoes a message I have spent a lifetime trying to decipher: my truth, my own enchantment is not what I had been taught to want, but rather a new reality that has risen from its ashes. 
            This memoir is my literary phoenix. 
            It reflects the life I have chosen to recreate in light of all that has happened and not happened.  Of all I had once dreamed and feared.  Of holding on and letting go.  Of seeing what is Truth and not necessarily what is true in the moment.  In its reflection, I hope you see yourself, a friend, a sister or an aunt, a lover or a wife.  Most of all, may you discover you are not alone in your journey, neither before nor after this moment in time. 
            Those of us who are creating new paradigms are blessed to find each other along the way.

Katie Ingersoll
Toledo, Ohio
January, 2014

          Garden apprentice, age 2