Friday, March 5, 2010

Happier Days

It's been eleven months since my last entry to this blog, just after my husband became seriously ill. Since life has improved for us since then, I wanted to provide a quick update.

Best of all, my husband is doing better! The brilliant doctors at Stanford Medical Center have been working wonders. Though his illness still causes us to wrestle with lots of change in our life, the disease has stabilized for now. We've been able to travel a little, mainly to Los Angeles to events at the University of Southern California, from which our daughter will graduate in May. We've been overnight at the beach a few times, and are now in the process of planning our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebration, which will include a trip up to the Pacific Northwest.

Another joyful development is that I'm back doing my writing. Though I have less time to spend than I used to, I do usually have the ability to spend a few hours a day. I've even been able to attend a few writer workshops, and again can regularly attend my RWA and California Writers Club meetings.

To avoid frustrating you if you try to access my blog, I'd also like to mention that my web site is likely to change. Now that Google has announced Blogger will no longer handle "FTP," my blog will be non-operational as of the first of May.

I plan to revamp my web site anyway, and given my current care-giving responsibilities, I will have to suspend this blog until the new website is up and running.

All in all, though life isn't perfect (and when was it ever?), my family and I are doing quite well. I hope the same is true of you and yours.

I look forward to your presence at this blog, via my new website, at some point in the near future.

Until then, I wish you the best!



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

When Crisis Hits

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To me, this old saw isn’t just a cliché. As I write this, I’m living the results of my focus on health. I share my experience in the hope that what has happened to me will help you in your quest for healthy writing. My story is a sad one; even so, there are a few good parts. I may not be able to write on this blog for quite a while, but as I sign off temporarily I wanted to leave you with something to think about.

It’s no secret that I’ve been working on exercise, diet, and losing weight. When I started this blog I told you the story of how my ankles, calves, and feet swelled to elephant-like dimensions when for six weeks I spent eighteen hour days typing the first draft of my first novel. From that experience, I learned a lesson: if I was going to be a professional writer, I’d have to sit for long periods of time. Thus, I’d have to compensate with a big increase in exercise.

I worked long and hard to get into the swing. I participated in an exercise and nutrition study at Stanford. My husband and I joined a swim and racquet club where he played tennis and where he and I did strength training under the direction of a personal trainer. Most recently, I took swim lessons with the goal of joining the club’s Swim Masters program and maybe even doing the Women’s Triathlon with my daughter next October in San Diego.

All this ended about a month ago when my wonderful husband took ill during a ski vacation at Lake Tahoe. There, we found out his spine was collapsing due to lung cancer eating into it. Needless to say, this was a heinous shock. No. My husband never smoked.

Now that my husband has had major, major spine surgery, I’m spending 100% of my time taking care of him, both for his post-op recuperation and also in preparation for his upcoming radiation and chemo treatments. Though I’ve struggled to get in my daily walk, I’m learning how to continue to exercise during this time. I’m learning, too, how to be a good nurse, which involves mental strength as well as physical. I’m constantly on the go with little time to rest. I often have to lift things as I help my husband get out of bed and to the walker.

And, you know what? I feel a strength I never knew I had. So much of this strength—mental as well as physical—I attribute to all the good exercise I’ve done. While nothing could ever have prepared me for a crisis like this, my good diet and exercise now serve me well. I have strength and energy, and stamina to meet the challenges ahead.

My husband may be a candidate for a clinical trial of a new biological drug for lung cancer. Of course, his condition and medical history will have to meet stringent scientific requirements, but one of the big reasons doctors think he might be a candidate for the trial of the new and somewhat miraculous drug is his excellent health except for the cancer. His tennis, ballroom dancing, strength training, and long hours spent gardening outside have put him in better shape than he ever was as a young adult. This may make a difference in his medical treatments and thus aid his healing process.

While my husband’s and my story isn’t a happy one, I hope it will inspire you to maintain good health practices as you continue to write. OR, if you haven't already done so, please start your own personal writer wellbeing program. We never know when additional demands will be put on our body and mind, or when we’ll be called upon to do more than we ever expected. It’s good—very good—to be prepared.

Please send prayers and good energy our way so that we may be able to continue our happy family life together for a long, long time. Please pray for my husband's healing.

Here’s a little poem by Pat Bustamante, my friend and critique partner, to remind you and keep you going. Use it to inspire you during this glorious month of May.

May Apples

I wish I may eat fruit all day:
I wish I might be thin by night.
Better yet, we all stay healthy,
Something one can't buy when wealthy.
Hence you'll often hear me say:
MAY writers keep health-goals in sight.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's not just exercise--it's portion control, too

I have to admit I've been remiss in posting to this blog. That's because for quite a while, life has pulled me in many directions. Nonetheless, I'm celebrating double today. Let me share my news:

1)I've lost the sixteen pounds I'd put back on a few months ago while I had to handle a family crisis (nothing with my husband and daughter, rest assured). Now I'm back to that twenty-five pound weight loss I had completed last June. I'm happy, even though I still have more to take off.

2)My short story, Chateau, has finally been published and now appears in the current issue of New Love Stories magazine, available by subscription and at some local Borders bookstores.

You may be interested to know how I lost the weight I'd gained back. (I won't dwell on how I gained it back. Let's just say I was caring for a loved one, helping with serious problems. In the process, I ate poorly, didn't exercise much, and generally didn't take care of myself.)

Well, here's how I succeeded in getting that weight off, and how I'm still working to take off even more. First, I'm paying attention to nutrition. I've re-joined Jenny Craig and have mostly been adhering to the program. The second thing is that I'm back to my regular exercising again, and feeling so much better because of it.

In my next few posts, I'd love to share my experiences with you. But first, I'd like to alert you to something I saw today on -- a discussion of how we all can put on weight when we're not aware of the calories we shovel in as we eat "usual" portions of certain popular foods.

Portion control. That's one thing I've learned from two very good weight loss programs, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. Besides teaching basic balanced nutrition, the lion's share of these programs is portion control. Or so it seems to me.

So, here's the link to a great explanation of how "portion distortion" contributes to obesity. Check it out. I found it enlightening. Just click here.

Oh, and if you'd like to subscribe to New Love Stories magazine, here's where to click. If you subscribe right away, you might even receive the current issue and be able to read my story, which starts on page 51! Also, if you'd like to submit a short story for possible publication, go to their home page, where you can find writers guidelines.

In any case, I raise my glass of water to toast you as you work toward good nutrition and getting more exercise.

Rita St. Claire

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ready, set -- pause!

All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking
—Friedrich Nietzsche.

Do you have writer’s block once in a while? Have you experienced a growth spurt, especially around the middle or where bottom meets chair? Perhaps your ankles swell after a day’s work at the computer when inspired prose sailed through your fingers onto keys and screen? If any of this sounds like you, it may be time to acknowledge one of the realities we face as we pursue our passion for story and the word.

To write, we sit.

If your life resembles mine, in December my chair feels more like a top spinning than a calm place from which to write. Life hurls extra work at us now: cleaning the house and decorating, shopping, baking, gift wrapping, cooking meals fussy and festive, hosting or attending social gatherings. And don’t even mention that low-key statement, some assembly required.

Whatever holidays you practice, all the extra work must be completed by the date they roll around. Deadlines are nothing new to us as writers. But during this merry season, tasks are heaped on top of looming requirements of editors and agents, or on top of self-imposed target dates we must meet if we’re to achieve our writing goals.

December’s time crunch can be a stressor, and you might want to stop the merry-go-round to pause for some time to yourself. In keeping with the gift-giving of the holiday season, why not give yourself your own present—the gift of a nice, brisk walk? You don’t have to wait for 2009 and another set of New Year’s resolutions. You can make a modest start now and reap the benefits. Medical science tells us we receive physical and mental goodies when we walk most days of the week, even for only ten minutes a day.

All of us know that walking for exercise can set you on the path to better health, but do we realize it can spark our creativity as well? Research and testimony support Nietzsche’s assertion. Just google around and you’ll fine a plethora of articles and studies on the walking and wellbeing connection.

Do I sound preachy? If so, I apologize. In writing this post I’m hoping both to encourage you and to help myself. After cheering you on, if I don’t walk, I’ll look pretty foolish, won’t I?

So, here’s a tip: go to This new site has checked out more than 2,500 neighborhoods in America’s 40 largest cities. You can enter an address somewhere in the Silicon Valley and get the environs’ instant walkability score, along with a map of locations such as parks, coffee shops, theatres, markets, etc.—even fitness centers—the types of things you might want to enjoy during your walk. This is useful whether you’re shopping, visiting, or aimlessly roaming. You can check out the neighborhood’s walking potential before you’re even out the door.

As you bring in the New Year, here’s another quote to ponder, one by Raymond Inmon. If you are seeking creative ideas, go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he goes for a walk. May you have hear whispers of many angels this holiday season!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Days of Dreams Come True: the mystery of success

This is a departure from my usual topic, but I have a writing success to share. This happy event got me thinking about persistence, risk, and the before and after of success. So, I'm taking the liberty of sharing my musings here, in hopes of bringing a little inspiration to your day.

(I don't think my blog today is all that off topic, since the success we dream of can also be increased strength, better cardio vascular health, good nutrition, or reduced weight.)

Dreams come true; without that possibility, nature would not incite us to have them.

--John Updike

Dreams. I've always believed in them, that they come true. John Updike did, too--the above quote came from his memoirs.

In my own case, I can honestly say that every serious dream I've had in my life has come true, in one way or another. Maybe it's because my dreams were realistic in the first place, although some of them I'd never expected to become reality. Or maybe it's because I'd worked hard to make things happen, although some things were indeed beyond my control. Or maybe it's just serendipity, plain ole good luck. But whatever the cause of a dream fulfilled, dreams do come true, and I think we all know this.

I'm often struck by the idea of the before and the after of a dream come true. We don't know what's just around the corner--we can't know the future.

The second before something great happens to us, however strong our suspicions that what we long for might come about, we can't ever know we're on the threshold. We can't know that our wish is about to drift down from its star and take concrete shape in our world.

What if we'd given up on our dream in that second before? Stopped striving, stopped working so hard? Stopped caring?

Published authors say that the name of the game is persistence. That once we have a manuscript, we'll never sell it if we don't submit. They tell us if we don't get past the first, or second, or hundredth rejection, if we allow those no's to stop us from submitting, we'll certainly never place our work with a publisher. They say we must persist, that we have to keep submitting in the face of rejection, which means we have to keep on taking risks.

With every submission, there is the risk of rejection. This risk is universal, experienced by every writer who submits work with the goal of publication. I've had best-selling authors tell me that even they get rejected!

My point? before, we don't know.

Then, an infinitesimal instant takes us from before to after, and the yearned-for milestone occurs. In a writer's case, that yearned-for event more often than not is publication.

After, we respond, we feel--joy, satisfaction, increased self confidence--a variety pack of emotion--because our reality has changed. Our dream, or a step toward that dream, has actually come true. What a mystery this seems, the mystery of success.

The other day, when I made my first sale (of a short story entitled "Chateau"), I happened to travel from Tokyo to San Jose, California, winding up a family vacation in Japan. That morning, and all that day, for that matter--in other words, during the entire before--I had things on my mind: forcing my jammed suitcase closed and hoping its weight wouldn't result in excess baggage charges, getting to the airport on time, trying to sleep during the long, red-eye flight, and upon arrival home with severe jet lag, dealing with unpacking and laundry as I strove to renew a normal schedule ASAP. I certainly wasn't thinking of what might be happening with a recent submission to a magazine publisher.

Then, it happened: I found in my in-box an e-mail saying my story had been chosen to appear in a magazine, with a contract included to sign and return to the publisher. Before time snapped its finger, I had no idea that in less than a second, a dream of mine would come true.

Now, I'm in the after. I walk on the other side of the door that leads from unpubbed writer to published author (pending the appearance of the issue, of course.) I've sold my writing.

Though a modest success, this milestone feels like a great success to me, a key step on the way to fulfillment of my dreams. Which reinforces my faith in the mystery that every day is a day of dreams come true.

I'd love to hear comments on this mystery of dream come true, of success, however great or modest. For example, the time you received "the call" that your manuscript had sold, or that an agent offered you representation, the time you finaled in a contest, the time you finally got to type THE END in a hard-wrought manuscript. Or non-writing successes, non-writing dreams come true. For example, the day you got the promotion you worked so hard for, the time your tyke learned to tie his or her shoe after your patient teaching, the moment that special someone first declared his or her love. What was happening just before that milestone? What was your world like after? What did you feel?

Dreams big and little, the mystery of the before and after. Thinking of this inspires me, makes me hang on, helps me keep the faith--which means I keep trying, keep going for the gold. Maybe some day there will even be that mysterious moment just before I find out my novel has sold.

Does thinking of this mystery help you, too? If so, please leave a comment. I'd love to hear your musings about the before and after, of what makes you keep the faith and believe in what you are doing. What were you doing before the yearned-for happened? What was the after like? How did you respond? How did you feel?



P.S. Here's a link to another writer who sold to the magazine the same time I did.
For further inspiration, go there and read what she has to say.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm back (but groggy)

After a wonderful family trip to Japan with my husband and daughter and our former next door neighbors of seventeen years, I'm back and (I wish) raring to go. I do have to say that since I don't deal well with jet lag, it'll probably be a few more days before I'm up to speed.

Thank goodness Japanese food is healthy, because I ate and ate and ate, throwing all caution to the wind. However, I did make up for this a bit with a walk in Hibiya Park in Tokyo, and also took advantage of the fitness center at the Westin Hotel in Kyoto, where I rode the exercise bike, did some gentle working out with weights, and even swam a few laps. This seems to have paid off--miracle of miracles, my scale here at home says I'm exactly the same weight as I was when I left three weeks ago.

Vacation can be a bonanza, as long as one doesn't pig out too much. Walking every day to tour around is certainly much more active than my sedentary occupation as a writer!

Tomorrow I have my first session in almost a month with my personal trainer. I'll let you all know how it goes. I sure hope my muscles haven't turned to jelly.

And I hope you're doing well with your own diet and exercise goals.

xo, and ciao for now,


Sunday, May 18, 2008

See you in mid June

Hi, all!

I can hardly believe I haven't blogged since Valentine's Day, but I have a good excuse. I've been working extremely hard on my novel, "Lost Mountain," and finally feel ready to market it in earnest. It sure has been a lot of work, but a labor of love.

Although it's been tempting to be sedentary and just write, write, write, in front of that laptop all day, I've been careful to keep my appointments with my personal trainer, working out with him, and walking and biking for cardio-vascular exercise. Interestingly, my weight has remained stable (I've been dieting, but not extremely strictly.) Even though my scale shows no weight loss (no gain, either), lateley, people always seem to be telling me that I look slimmer.

I mentioned this to my personal trainer and he reminded me that five pounds of fat is twice the size of five pounds of muscle. He even showed me a model of both. That visual was so compelling to me that I'll never forget it. His take is that I'm probably losing some fat due to my gentle dieting, but also I'm probably gaining muscle mass. So, if I lose three pounds and gain a pound and a half of muscle mass, it looks like I've only lost 1 1/2 pounds, but I've actually achieved a double success! And it might actually look like I've lost three pounds instead of the 1 1/2 on the scale. (At least, that's my way of thinking--this isn't scientific at all, since I'm no expert, just an enthusiast.)

I'm wondering if any of you also have experience with this phenomenon? Looking slimmer, but not losing weight while you diet and work out. If so, let us hear your comments. Post away!

Before I start abovementioned marketing blitz for my novel, I'm taking a vacation with my family. We'll be in Japan for the next month. There, I'm sure I'll find fertile material for all kinds of stories.

I do plan to keep up my exercise program as much as I can while I'm away. I'll check back in when I get back to let you know how it went.

In the meantime, I wish everyone a safe, blessed, and fulfilling month. May you make continued progress on your goals, and may all your dreams come true.

And here's to vibrant health through nutrition and exercise, wherever we may be over this wonderful, wide world.

Talk to you soon,

xo, ciao,