Andi Cumbo

Write On Wednesday: The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Andi Cumbo first crossed my path in cyberspace about five years ago when I began writing Bookstack, and she then participated regularly in my Write On Wednesday blog meme. So it's fitting today's Write On Wednesday post should honor a major step in the achievement of Andi's long-held writing dream. Last fall, Andi purchased a farm in the hills of Virginia. She named it "God's Whisper," and then wrote a book describing her vision of the community she hoped to grow. Today (thanks to Mindy Koenig!) Andi's friends have come together online to help launch this book into the wider world. GodsWhisperFarm-finalcustom-194x300The God's Whisper Manifesto is a lovely and thoughtful little book. It starts out as Andi's vision for her home, the God's Whisper farm, where she dreams of a community of artists who will come together under the ten guiding principles set forward in this volume. Yet as you read, you become aware that the God's Whisper Manifesto is much more than just one woman's dream for her ideal community. It's really a set of principles which could govern the world, each set forth in gently beautiful prose. Andi's writing style is easy and true, and she makes the reader feel the practicality and necessity of each of these precepts.

"Here at God's Whisper we practice 'Do unto others' by figuring out how the 'other' is like us. We love people first and hard. Every day. All day." At God's Whisper, the work of the artist is valued as much as the work of the lawyer or plumber or teacher. Play is "good," at God's Whisper, and rest is "treasured." Rolling down grassy hills is "wildly encouraged." You can lay on blankets and do nothing for hours if you want.

But service and work have their place, the earth is honored, food is simple and shared with love. And story - well, story is paramount at God's Whisper. "We know that our stories are our very lives. That we thrive and grow and fight and love because of the stories we know, the ones we live, and the ones we want to create."

The God's Whisper Manifesto will both calm and excite your spirit. Yes, you think with a deep satisfied sigh. This life is the stuff that dreams are made of. And you will want to be part of it, to make it come true in your world as well as on the God's Whisper farm.

In honor of today's book re-launch for The God's Whisper Manifesto, I am giving away a copy of Andi's book. For an opportunity to win, simply share this blog post via Facebook or Twitter, and leave a comment here telling me you've done so. The winner will be chosen at random on Friday, March 22, 2013. 

For Twitter folks, join us tonight, 8:30 p.m.,  at the Twitter party (#godswhisper) where Andi will join us in discussing her  vision for the God's Whisper community.

Write On Wednesday: Just Desserts

Money and writing don’t need each other. We can do all kinds of things to make our living – shining shoes at the airport, walking dogs in the city, teaching 6th graders how to write really good sentences.  Those are all worthy and wonderful occupations, and they may even be your vocation. But you don’t need to do them in order to have money to write. Writing is free.  And while we hope, love, dance joyously when we get paid for our writing, we don’t need the pay to value our work. That value comes in the way it shapes us as people, in the way a reader writes an email to say, “yes, just that, yes,” in the way someone, someday keeps a copy of something we’ve written tucked into his Bible and reads it with teary eyes on a Sunday morning.  Writing and money are mutually exclusive. ~Andi Cumbo, To You, Writer


Although I get paid (a little bit) to write, the writing I get paid to do isn't the writing that feeds my soul. Still, I take pride in making sure that it's concise, accurate, and that it conveys the pertinent medical information in an accessible way. Sometimes it's necessary to say things carefully in that writing so that it doesn't legally implicate people in the wrong way. And sometimes that writing must spell out hard medical facts which clearly denote wrongdoing that must be rectified.

This is my professional writing, and I do it well.

But then there's my real writing. The writing that takes me down meandering roads of thought, that sends me to the library to research something that's caught my interest (right now that's reclusive women writers). The writing that searches my soul, that helps me uncover feelings I never knew existed. It's the writing I share in my stories on the blog and as a contributing editor at All Things Girl. The writing I get lost in for hours at a time, until I look at the clock and wonder where the day has gone.

There's no remuneration for that writing. Unless you count the satisfaction I get from doing it, which can't be quantified with dollar amounts in the bank account.

Do I wish I made money from writing? Sure. Who doesn't wish they could make a living from doing the very thing which feeds their soul? Writing is my dessert at the end of full day, the sweetness that comes from thinking about ideas and feelings and expressing them on the page.

But as Andi says, I don't need money to write. The value comes from the way writing makes me feel, the pure pleasure of doing it and sharing it. For the love of it.

And in this consumer driven society, we writers should loudly proclaim our willingness to work for love.

For more thoughts on the relationship between art and money, check out these posts at Andilit.

To You, Writer

Art and Money - Why We Write

A Work in Progress

My friend Beth Kephart instigated a flurry of writerly activity this morning when she "tagged" her Facebook friends to post some lines from their "work in progress." Since she was kind enough to include me among that number, here is a snippet of memoir resulting from the online class I've been taking (led by the incomparable Andi Cumbo).

Over the years, I gathered enough information from innuendo and overheard conversations to understand why I was an only child. It was a reason that I’d probably never share with any of the people who asked me outright about my singleton status, but one that made perfect sense to me.

My mother didn’t have more children because she didn’t like children, especially babies.

The story of her unexpected pregnancy was legion in our little family. She told it to me every year on my birthday. “I was so mad at that doctor when he told me I was pregnant,” she would say, as she brushed my long, wavy hair and fussed with the bow on the back of my new birthday party dress. “I came home and cried and threw things. ‘Damn that doctor!’” She laughed. “And your Granny would say, ‘Well, missy, it’s not the doctor’s fault!”

Then we would both laugh, even though I wasn’t sure what was so funny about that comment.

But rather than making me feel insecure or unwanted, my mother’s professed dismay at my impending birth always made me feel a little smug. Because my mother (and my father and my grandparents) obviously loved me so much when I arrived, and continued to love and pamper and adore me more every year, I must have been something very special in order to change those initial feelings. So the thought that my mother at one time didn’t really want me – well, that was just laughable in the face of her abiding love and affection, as well as her obvious happiness with her role.



The Sunday Salon: Of Dear Life and God's Whisper

9780307596888_p0_v3_s260x420This week more than most I realize how much of my thinking comes from books, how the words of others stir my heart, turn the rusty gears of my mind, bring tears to my eyes. This week more than most I have lived vicariously through the eyes of women whose books I have read, whose visions I have shared, whose imparted wisdom I've taken to heart.

This week I've read a collection of stories by a woman I consider writing royalty for her ability to distill everyday experience and emotion into it's purest essence. A woman who has written almost countless such stories in her 80-some years, stories that span now two generations, encompassing all the great change that implies, but remaining true and relevant to human experience.

And I've read a book by a (much younger) woman who has been for some years on the trail of a dream, one that is rock-solid in some respects, but also made of gossamer wings, lending itself to flights of fancy.

First, Dear Life, Alice Munro's new collection of stories. It is not a paean to the loveliness of life. No. Every story in this collection (whose emphasis is on the decisions made by ordinary characters and they ways one small moment can alter a life forever) has a rather stern personality. Ms. Munro is not overly affectionate with her characters and their situations. This is just how it is, she tells us, this dear life we all cling to. With the fatalism common to her generation, she knows we must accept the consequences of our actions and the fickle hand of fate. We must simply play the cards that we've been dealt. That is not such a bad thing, really. Now we all expect so much, feel entitled to so much, that occasionally it seems right to have the reins pulled in just a bit.

51ILxZO6kBL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-67,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Then, after reading Dear Life, I fell into the comforting arms of my friend Andi Cumbo's manifesto about God's Whisper, as she has christened her farmhouse and its surrounding acres (God's Whisper Manifesto, the Makings of a Dream). Andi has been incubating this dream for a long time, and I've watched vicariously through her blog and Facebook posts as she has made it come true, assisted by grace from God and her own true grit. This small book lists ten principles for life at God's Whisper farm, but of course they are really principles for life anywhere. "Love people first and hard," Andi says. "Live with intention but without pretention." "Art matters, play is good, rest is treasured."

Simple precepts, and pure. Not easy to accomplish given the complexity of this Dear Life we all live- as Munro writes about with such aching understanding in these new stories, and in the hundreds of stories she's written during her lifetime.

Story is paramount. That is Principle Number 8 at God's Whisper. "Here at God's Whisper, we know that our stories are our very lives. That we thrive and grow and fight and love because of the stories we know, the ones we live, and the ones we want to create."

This week, more than most, I have been blessed by stories and the vision of two extraordinary women who told them.