All That Really Matters

She explores the worKarma_water, dog, creekld with a tentative wet nose. Carefully sniffing a damp spot on the trail, a clump of shrubs, a rock. Spotting something strange, she stretches her neck out as far as her body will allow without advancing forward, then a careful step, sniffing cautiously only to discover an oddly shaped log in the brush. And then she’s bounding off to the next mystery.

My thoughts flit from her to my writing, to my to-do list, to bills due, then back to her as she pulls toward the creek, desperate to splash her paws in the water. She has forgotten the log, the damp spot, the clump of shrubs. Each moment is a new discovery, an opportunity for adventure and play. She, a mere dog, knows better than I how to get the best out of life. She would keep me outdoors all day, if I let her.

Daisy, flowersI should appreciate each moment the way she does, but my mind fails me often. Thoughts roll like waves, flowing toward hopes and desires, ebbing to fears and anxieties; a constant roiling between past and future. What if? What could be? I wish that hadn’t happened. I wish this would. This attention to what I can’t change or control brings discomfort in both my mind and my body as tension gathers around these thoughts. This focus on what has gone and what has yet to come disturbs the tranquility of this moment, this glorious moment filled with beauty and peace … if I’m willing to see it.

Dandylion, flowersI take a breath, expanding my lungs, filling my belly with fresh air and look around me, enjoying the dew glistening on the low shrubs, the flowers peeking through greenery, and the tall leafy trees newly awakened to spring. Birds flutter and sing, some squawk at the presence of a dog in their midst. Squirrels scamper through grass, leaping from ground to branches high above. And my companion pushes through the high grass in search of another hidden treasure.

Stone_heartEach moment holds an opportunity for joy, to be present and mindful to the only thing that truly matters: this moment right now.

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A Trip of a Lifetime

Bali was more than words can express, though I did try. Please click through to my essay where I describe this amazing experience. Below are some random pictures.

Enjoy!

A wonderful birthday surprise!

A wonderful birthday surprise!

Beautiful doorways. Not one the same.

Beautiful doorways. Not one the same.

Ganesha is everywhere

Ganesha is everywhere

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High Priestess’ Temple

Being blessed with water by the Hindu Dharma High Priestess of Bali.

Being blessed with water by the Hindu Dharma High Priestess of Bali.

Bali clouds

Bali clouds

Hindu gods watch over all

Hindu gods watch over all

At the market

At the market

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Virgin Beach

Blossoms were everywhere

Blossoms were everywhere

A small village outside Ubud

A small village outside Ubud

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Another doorway

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More elaborate entrance

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Fun Times at Sankofa Bookstore

Photo by Leigh

Photo by Leigh H. Mosley

In September, I had a wonderful opportunity to read with my friend and author Cheryl Head at Sankofa Video and Books on Georgia Avenue across from Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Rashid Darden

Photo by Rashid Darden

Though it was a fairly small crowd, we received a very warm welcome and had a lively discussion after the reading. I read a short story from my collection and an excerpt from my novel, and Cheryl read several excerpts from her novel, “Long Way Home,” which tells the little-told story of the lives of Negro soldiers who served stateside during World War II.

Photo by Rashid Darden

Photo by Rashid Darden

We got great questions and had a wonderful time. Our books are still available at Sankofa, an independent bookstore focused on the African diaspora and third-world countries. Keep it in mind if you’re looking for gifts for friends.

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Featured on Vocal Expressions

Me and Dee at the Gaithersburg Book Festival earlier this year.

Me and Dee at the Gaithersburg Book Festival earlier this year.

Many thanks to local author Dee Lawrence who asked to interview me for her blog. I met Dee a few years ago at a book festival and we continue to bump into each other at book festivals.

Click through to the article and then check out her website. She wrote “Gotta Let It Go,” a romantic-suspense novel set in Baltimore.

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Meet the Authors Event, Sept. 27

You are invitedunnamed to join me and Cheryl A. Head for a reading of our work on Sunday, Sept. 27 at 3 pm, Sankofa Video and Bookstore, across from Howard University on Georgia Ave. The event is free and open to all. Hope to see you there!

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Planning has begun

The flight has been booked and I fly from Dulles to Tokyo to Jakarta and finally to Bali. The journey is 30 hours including layovers. I have been assigned a writing coach and we will talk soon about creating an outline for my project. Yikes! I have work to do!

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Summer Sales

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Juneteenth Book Festival at THEARC

11665364_10152924903047823_2286385568675276781_n It’s been a great summer so far for selling my books and bookmarks. I spent a couple of Saturdays at the Fenton Street Market in downtown Silver Spring, and spent a day with my friend Dottye at the Juneteenth Book Festival, which didn’t turn out to be such a success. The day threatened rain and the event was moved but we didn’t get word until we were sitting at the original location wondering if we had gotten the wrong address. We couldn’t get anyone on the phone, then when Dottye checked her email she found a message had been sent at 8 a.m. announcing the new location, THEARC, a few miles from where we were. We got there and set up, and had a fun day chatting with folks who wandered through.

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All original designs made by me.

Both days that I was scheduled to be at the Fenton Street Market thunderstorms were forecast and this event goes on rain or shine. Fortunately, both days turned out to be sunny and wonderful. I enjoy this market, not just because it’s only a mile away from my house, but because I always meet interesting people there. And the organizers create a family-atmosphere between the vendors. It’s a great event to visit if you can. I’m not scheduled to be there again this summer, but if you’re in the area, do stop through and enjoy the music and variety of vendors there. It’s open most Saturdays through September.11219031_942961192412995_8123715486747238168_n

On July 11, I not only spent the day at Fenton Street Market, but then drove down to Ekoji Buddhist Temple for its annual Obon Festival, where I offered chair massage and sold books. I don’t get to visit as often as I used to because of my crazy schedule, but it is always a joy to return “home.”

Thanks to all who came out to those events, stopped to chat and bought books. You’re all awesome!

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Go Bali or Go Home!

In November, I will have a big birthday. And when I say big, I mean 5-0 big! (I can’t say the word, it’s too disconcerting. As a friend of mine said, it’s like coughing up a fur ball.) Most birthdays come and go fairly quietly, but this year I envisioned something more adventurous … a trip out West or a big birthday party, something fun to mark the occasion. After all, as scary as aging may be, I am grateful to be here to celebrate another birthday.

But something much more amazing has come about. I have been accepted to a month-long writing retreat in Bali, Indonesia,bali-09 starting on November 6. With the help of an assigned writing coach, I will spend four weeks with 29 other participants, completely immersed in writing my next novel. The program’s goal is for each of us to complete a first draft of a book by the end of the retreat. This supportive, writing-intense environment will include yoga, meditation and sight-seeing trips on Sundays. I don’t doubt it will be greatly productive and, in many ways, personally transformative.

At first, I was hesitant to accept because of the cost, which is overwhelming, along with the fact that being self-employed means no income for the month I’m gone, but a friend reminded me that this was the reason – the chance to write full-time and embrace life-changing experiences – that I struck out on my own, rather than continue the corporate grind. This truly will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I cannot turn down for fear of being in debt.

I give thanks to my friend, Michon, who has also been accepted and encouraged me to apply. We will take this journey together.

And I invite you to (virtually) join me on this journey. I will post updates and pictures on Facebook and Twitter (@mshatter1) as often as I can. In the coming months, your love and support will be important in keeping me focused and motivated to reach my financial goal so that I don’t incur too much debt.

No, I won’t be asking you to send me money (although if you want to as a birthday gift, I won’t say no!). But I hope that you will support me by using and/or referring my services (massage and editing). I have set up an account on Fiverr, offering low-cost writing services, and my web site provides details of my book editing services, but I’m open to discussing your writing needs. Also, look out for me at various book festivals and events over the summer. This Saturday, June 13, I will be signing books at the Fenton Street Market in downtown Silver Spring. Do stop by and say hello. And mark your calendar for Saturday, June 20 when I will be at the inaugural Juneteenth Book Festival at the St. Elizabeth’s East Gateway Pavilion in Southeast D.C.

I am thrilled to have this opportunity to focus on my writing in an inspiring and stunning part of the world. I look forward to sharing the experience with you.

 

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Big Read at McKinley High

Super excited to announce that my novel, “The Color of My Soul,” has been selected as the “big read” at McKinley Technology High School in Washington, D.C. All the students will be reading the book this summer and I’ll make a few visits in the fall to chat with the students.

Many thanks to Rachel Broudy, the English department chair at McKinley, and to the PEN/Faulkner Foundation’s Writers in Schools Program, which is sponsoring this event.

What a great honor!

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Short Story Collection Now Available

I’m super excited to announce that my short story collection, “Let No One Weep for Me: Stories of Love and Loss,” is now available for pre-order as an e-book (see above for where to order). The official publication date is May 7 and the paperback edition will be available soon.

These are short stories I’ve written over the years. When I reviewed them all together, I noticed a theme of love and loss – failed relationships, troubled families and heartbreaks. There is some hope in there, as well, but they reflect the struggles we often experience in our lives.

About half of them were published in small literary magazines, but are likely new to most of you. Some I had written more than 10 years ago. Every so often I would reread the stories that had not been published and make tweaks until, finally, I felt I needed to release them to the world.

It’s true what they say, stories are like your children. It was time to let them go to make their own way, without me continuing to fuss over them. These are not stories a big publishing house would be interested in, so I thought I would publish them myself. I’m releasing them to the world and hope they bring some enjoyment to you.

I give enormous thanks to Richard Peabody and Donna Britt who both provided encouraging words on the collection. And a huge thanks to my son, Chris Darden, who designed the cover, and to many friends who provided feedback along the way.

Thanks to so many of you for your support and encouragement.

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