Women Who Write: Fall 2011

Here are my workshop and retreat offerings for the fall. I hope to write with you soon.

Amy Lyles Wilson

OCTOBER 1, 2011: Women’s Writing Circle @ ALW’s

Gather at 9 a.m.; Write and Reflect from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Cost: $45

OCTOBER 22, 2011: “The Language of Loss: Putting Grief Into Words”

Workshop at Holy Family Catholic Church in Brentwood, facilitated by ALW. Details to come.

NOVEMBER 13-14, 2011: “The Language of Loss: Putting Grief Into Words”

Retreat at St. Mary’s Sewanee facilitated by ALW; more info here.

NOVEMBER 19, 2011: Women’s Writing Circle @ ALIGN Wellness Studio in Belle Meade

Gather at 9 a.m.; Write and Reflect from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Cost: $50

Call ALIGN to reserve your spot! 383-0148

DECEMBER 3, 2011: Women’s Writing Circle, Holiday Edition, @ ALW’s

Gather at 9 a.m.; Write and Reflect from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Potluck Lunch (I’ll do the main dish, which means Precious will cook for us) and Readings (bring something you’ve been working on) from 12:15 until we get tired of each other.

Cost: $45:00

Here’s Hoping Fifty Really Is Nifty…

From Her NashvilleAugust 2011

This month I turn 50. As in, half a century. As in, at least half of my life is gone. It sounds depressing, and in some ways I guess it is. But for the most part, it feels like a gift.

Earlier this year, I vowed to become as healthy as I could before my momentous birthday. I increased my visits to the shrink, started getting acupuncture, hired a personal trainer, scheduled facials on a regular basis, tried to give up carbs, and took up yoga. I had hoped the big day would approach and find me 30 pounds lighter and boasting a low cholesterol number. Alas, those things did not happen. What I can celebrate, though, is feeling more like myself than ever.

Read more here…

Dream On

By Amy Lyles Wilson, Her Nashville, June 2011

Laura Hileman is a dreamer, and she wants you to be one, too. Hileman, who has been leading dream groups for more than 10 years, believes that “dreams become a portal to prayer and to deeper relationship with the Holy.”

A former high-school teacher, Hileman holds degrees from Rhodes College and Vanderbilt University, as well as certifications in Dream Leader Training and Spiritual Direction from the Haden Institute. Working under the moniker “Dream. Pray. Live.” (dreampraylive.com), Hileman encourages people to document and explore their dreams in order to access and embrace the “night wisdom” they can offer regarding discernment, relationships, creativity and problem solving. Read more here...

Women’s Writing Circle Set for April 30 in Nashville: Join Us!

“It’s the sharing of our stories that saves us.”

We are not a critique group, but a community of women who have something to say and have not yet found the time, permission, or space to write. In the Circle, writing prompts and guided exercises tap your creative spirit in a mindful and intentional way. Conducted under the principles of Amherst Writers & Artists, all writing is treated as fiction, and you are not compelled to read aloud. Come claim your chair in the Circle; your stories are safe with us.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

9:00 to 9:30 a.m.: Gather

9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Write and Reflect

Cost: $45.00

Drinks and Snacks Provided

To reserve your spot or get more information, email Amy Lyles Wilson at hamblett2@gmail.com.

In Which a Middle-Aged Goober Steps on the Scale and Weighs Her Options

from istockphoto.com

And so today I looked at the scale in the doctor’s office and found out I weigh more than I have ever weighed in my life. Ever. For years now I have avoided the number, telling the nurse I didn’t want to know. I would take off my shoes and shut my eyes, waiting to hear her say, “Okay, you can step off now.” I’d make sure not to look down at my chart while talking with the doctor, so as to avoid glimpsing the truth. But today, in this year that marks my fiftieth birthday, I decided it was time to stop kidding myself: I’m overweight.

This is not a news flash for me, of course. I’ve known for a while now, even though I’ve managed to kid myself into thinking I look okay and feel pretty good. Neither of those things is true. Photographs show my full face, wide hips, and soft belly. My knees ache, I snore (Precious describes this, lovingly, as “fog horn like”), and my cravings lean more and more toward sugar and carbs.

One of my friends, a woman I met just three years ago but feel I have known for decades, lost 30 pounds on Weight Watchers. I thought she looked fine before, and she did. But now, she’s just about the best-looking sixty-something woman I know. And she’s way cool to boot. I would like to be her when I’m 63, that’s how fabulous she is. She says she was never driven by vanity; it was her creaky knees that made her lose weight. That’s the way it is for me, I think. I don’t seem to scare small children when I go to the mall, and Precious loves me as I am, about 20 pounds heavier than when we married in 2002. But now I make moaning noises when I get up from the couch, which isn’t often, because that’s become my favorite place to park myself. I complain about back pain, low energy, and blue moods. My cholesterol is through the roof. Can you say put down the cheese doodles?

Another friend says she lost weight by eating only on alternate Tuesdays, and yet another swears by the hCG diet, which seems to involve injections and possibly urine from pregnant women. As it is with most meaningful undertakings, I will have to find my own way to better health. I suspect my path will involve smaller portions and more workouts, but I’ll keep you posted.

In college, I thought I was too heavy. Pictures from those days make me teary-eyed with envy, as I see now that I was “normal” back then, back when I weighed 40 pounds less. Today, though, my weight is not the only thing I’m paying close attention to as I plod toward the big five-oh in August. I’ve taken up yoga, and I like how it’s putting me in touch with my body in new ways, making me aware of moves I didn’t even know were possible and affording me a sense of calm (thanks Hilary and ALIGN!) Also in my arsenal are a therapist (no website!), a personal trainer (thanks Stephanie!), and an acupuncturist (thanks Eden!). A supportive husband, a loyal dog, and plenty of women who have gone before me.

“It’s the sharing of our stories that saves us.”

What’s a Middle-Aged Goober Doing at Blissdom?

I don’t really know from blogging. As a professional writer and editor who has worked in the publishing world for 25 years, I know about words. As a woman nearing fifty, I know about marrying late, burying my father (the first love of my life), caring for my elderly mother, and wondering if I’ll get it all done before my time is up. As a retreat leader and workshop facilitator, I know it’s the sharing of our stories that saves us. And here I’m talking about the tough stories, the ones about loss, and grief, and regrets, and dreams denied that all too often our society/family/religion/ego wants us to keep to ourselves.

But this whole blogging thing has me a bit stymied: Do I need a catchy theme, with a title that enhances SEO? (I do actually know what that stands for, thanks to Randy Elrod.) Do I have to be a “mommy blogger”? If so, I’m screwed, because I blog under my own name and I do not have children. So where does that leave me, a middle-aged goober who encourages women to write their hearts out?

For starters, it leaves me looking for all the guidance I can lap up. So last week I headed out to Gaylord Opryland Hotel and attended the Blissdom Conference. (I was miffed last year when I heard about it after the fact, and couldn’t believe I was so out of the loop in my own town.)

I walked in knowing I would see at least one familiar face, because we’d promised one another we’d take turns rescuing whichever one of us was feeling more vulnerable, as we were both stepping outside our comfort zone. I ended up knowing several folks, and even ran across a co-worker from Her Nashville. But mostly I interacted with women I had never met or even heard of.

And here’s what I learned:
There are women—women just like you and me—doing amazing things online: advocating for charitable causes, exposing issues surrounding small farms and raw foods, inspiring better parenting, making all sorts of crafty items, cooking healthy food, finding their way through addiction. The list goes on, and that list can be both freeing, “there’s room for everyone,” and intimidating, “who do I think I am.” What the Blissdom panelists and speakers modeled for me is that there is still plenty of room, and that if I think I’m the one to tell a certain story in a certain way, then I am. Funny, that’s exactly how I advise the women in my writing workshops: you’re the only one who can tell your story and yes, the world has room for it. Let’s write it, and then we’ll worry about what to do with it.

But there was more: conversations with women from all over the country that I never would have met otherwise; time for socializing in an environment free from competition for who has the most Twitter followers (not me); great swag, really, the best conference happies ever; delicious food; and the playing of “Party in America,” “Party in the USA,” which made the menopausal me burst into tears (in a good way). On top of all that, I heard Brene Brown, whose book The Gifts of Imperfection is already informing my work; and Scott Stratten, on whom I think I have developed a crush. (Please don’t tell Precious.) I think I even made a few new friends.

In the end, there were women there who’ve been blogging longer than I have, and women who have just started; women who have confidence in themselves, and their words, and women who wonder if they’ll ever bring themselves to hit “publish”; women who are younger and thinner, and women who share my creaky knees and desire to lose weight. But our common denominator remains: we all have stories worth telling.

“Do you work?”

Clark Gable: “Oh, Mr. Faulkner, do you write?”

William Faulkner: “Yes, I do, Mr. Gable. And what do you do?”

It’s a simple enough question, posed to me by the office manager at my dentist’s office this morning while I’m paying my bill. (I’m not really dressed to be out in public, so this may be one reason she’s wondering. Sometimes I forget that everyone doesn’t run around town in their sweats. Without makeup.) This, after just being told that one day my gum may separate from my teeth, bottom left, thereby allowing “stuff” to accumulate in the resulting pocket.

“What happens then?” I ask, not really wanting to know. I am still gripping the sides of the dental chair, even though the examination and cleaning are over.

“We send you to a gum specialist,” says the smiling dentist. Man does he have nice teeth.

“But let’s not worry about that just yet. For today, everything is fine.”

Obviously the smiling dentist does not know me as well as, say, Precious or my therapist. For worrying about instances that might never happen is my favorite hobby. Right up there with borrowing trouble and catastrophizing about events that statistically occur once every gazillion years if you live in the Outback and don’t have insurance. At least that is what the old me would do; the new, 2011-me is going to be laid back, carefree, a go-with-the-flow kind of middle-aged goober. So I smile back at the smiling dentist with the perfect teeth and sort through the basket of free toothbrushes looking for one with a purple handle. I have just read, in Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life: How to Use Feng Shui to Get Love, Money, Respect and Happiness (Karen Rauch Carter, Fireside, 2000) that purple is a color of prosperity. I can’t find a purple toothbrush, so I throw caution to the wind and go with red. The old me would have never done that. I’ll have to look up what red means asap. I’m hoping it indicates “bold” and “confident.” “Published.”

“Yes,” I say to the woman behind the counter. “I work. I’m a writer.”

I am terribly pleased with myself for answering her so directly, free of excuses about not being in the New York Times or not having been an Oprah Book Club pick when there was still time to be an Oprah Book Club pick.

“Do you enjoy your work?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say. “Yes, I do.”

“Then you’re lucky.”

“Yes,” I say. “Yes, I am.”

In Which I Break Down in Midway Airport

Photo from iStockPhoto.

Last week I faced one of the most challenging developments in my career. It was exciting and scary all that once. And I was pretty much out of my mind with apprehension. As well as insecure, curious, happy, nervous, giddy, and sick to my stomach. Throw in being about 800 miles from home and you have quite the recipe for one freaked-out middle-aged goober.

Knowing how worried I was, Precious said this: “I’ll believe in you until you can believe in yourself.” And so he did. And then finally I did, too.

But not before I had a meltdown in Chicago’s Midway Airport, attracting a sympathetic gaze and grandfatherly pat from a chaplain. Think sweet (the priest) and pathetic (me) simultaneously.

Others assisted me along the way as well, maybe more than they know, although I have tried to tell them how much I appreciate their support, and their prayers, and their text messages. I love that at my age, 49, I can reach out and ask for what I need without worrying if people will consider me “needy.” I was needy last week, and so ask I did. I’m not sure I could have completed my assignment—or even gotten on the plane—with any sense of grace or aplomb if I hadn’t been sustained by such loving souls.

I’ve Got Mail


Sunflowers by Pat Coakley, http://www.patcoakley.com


In my inbox I find an email from one of the precious young people I had the pleasure of studying with at Vanderbilt University Divinity School a few years back, when I decided that a college campus would be a good place to have a mid-life crisis. Surrounded by thoughtful twenty-somethings who were convinced they could change the world, I learned a lot about God, and myself, and the human condition.

She was thinking of me, she said in her email, and wanted me to know that on a bulletin board in her office rests a note I wrote her in the spring of 2007. Reading it never fails to cheer her up when she’s having a bad day. Words matter.

I don’t remember writing the note, as these days I’m often unsure as to whether I’ve brushed my teeth before leaving the house. And I haven’t a clue what I might have said to her. But I remember this lovely young woman, studying to become a preacher and dedicating herself to working for good. She gives me hope.

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