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Preview: Write Your Life!

Write Your Life!

From the Author of Reinventing Myself, Seniorwriting, Elder Expectations, and "Never too Late!": Write to Discover, to Heal, to Reinvent, to Share, and to Enjoy. I'm here to help you.

Updated: 2014-10-06T19:22:46.282-05:00


The Awards Ceremony (with NFPW President)



This photo was takn by our local IWPA president, Marianne Wolf Astrauskas. My comments: I look old and fat, and I'm wearing the same outfit I wore for the ceremony two years ago in Richmond, Virginia. It's time for a complete makeover!

Conference Inspires Me to Write Here Again!


(image) The National Federation of Press Women held its 2009 conference in San Antonio, Texas, September 10-12. Desspite a few difficulties (see "Never too Late!"), I enjoyed many aspects of the trip. What inspired me to resurrect this blog, at least for a while, was the fact that I received two national writing awards, and the First Place award was for two posts to this blog: "In Defense of Self-Publishing, Parts I and II" (August 12,16 2008). You may read them below in the archives.

The judge commented, "Writer provides clear advice without preaching or ego. Offers something for every level of self-publisher, from the wannabe to those looking for new options."

Since the idea of self-publishing is scoffed at by many professional writers, I was elated to win first place and such a positive comment.

My little book of poetry, Elder Expectations: My Life in Rictameters, won second place. Of my three books, this is the least-read, yet everyone who has read it has praised it. Doesn't anyone read poetry any more?

Anyway, I liked the judge's comment: "I really enjoyed the use of the rictameter. Its use to describe the different parts of a life was really unique. A very good piece of work!"

If anyone is interested, Elder Expectations costs about $10 and can be ordered from

Rictameter from a Morning Person



"Time to rise and
Shine," they say. I do that,
Facing each new day with courage,
Anticipating challenges, new joys.
Why do some despise alarm clocks,
Resist the call of day?
Time to embrace

Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Goodbye for a While


To the few followers of this blog:

Because of its low readership, I have decided to semi-retire this blog in favor of my other, more popular one, "Never too Late!" I'll still come back when I'm inspired to write a rictameter or two, but don't expect much new content.

You can find my writing assignments and other material on writing here in the archives, and the site will remain live, at least in the near future. Your comments are still welcome.

You can also find my thoughts on writing in my eGenerations columns, now approximately monthly, at

Meanwhile, if you want to know what I'm up to, read "Never too Late!" at

Cultural Center Information Desk Routine: A Rictameter


Comforting, not
Dull or dreary. Getting
Out to meet and greet the world of
Eager visitors who want to share the
Beauty of Chicago and its
Arts and culture. Here I'll
Sit, enjoy my

Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Flowers in a Seniors' Dining Room: a Rictameter


Bloom in little
Vases, bringing cheer to
Diners, veterans of many
Winters turning into spring. The colors
Make white tablecloths less boring.
They bring us hope that soon
Parks will blaze with

Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Guest Post: A Rictameter about Winter


Many thanks to Pat Murphy, an old friend and former neighbor (not the Pat from "Pat's Place") for today's guest rictameter. Pat is a fellow northerner who appreciates the season.

Is a respite
Under a white blanket.
We warm ourselves and we get strong.
There is a season when we can reach out
To meet the world with new vigor.
Everything will be fresh,
Until the next

By Pat Murphy. 2009

Snow Again: A Rictameter


Snow Again

Snow fell last night
As spring hopes retreated.
It's hard to see snow's beauty as
February fades toward dreary March, with
Early flowers still far away.
It's time to write more poems
As winter speaks

Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

A Writing Challenge!


As winter slowly winds down, most of us reflect on its beauties and challenges as we eagerly wait for spring. Where you live undoubtedly makes a difference, but most of us have some winter thoughts to express.

How about writing a rictameter (or more than one) about winter? If you will submit them to my email address (there's a link in my complete profile here), I'll put them together for a mid-March collection. I'll consider other poetic forms as well. Let's celebrate the coming end of winter, share our winter disasters and/or our winter joys.

Thanks to Pat of "Pat's Place" for this idea! (

Early Morning Musings: A Rictameter


Early Morning Musings

Time to rise and
Shine, the cliche has it.
Tired? Perhaps, but life starts now.
New day, new challenges, new things to do.
A cup of coffee starts the day.
Who knows what adventure
Looms ahead this

Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Happy? A Rictameter


I have had a bad case of the winter doldrums, among other problems. If winter is getting to you too, why not join me in a poetry-writing project (choose your own form)? Guest contributions are welcome!


Yes, I will be.
Time to shed sad thoughts, to
Begin anew, awaiting spring.
Sun shines brightly, lake turns blue, buds appear
To bring renewal, brighter days.
These poems will ease winter's
Grip to make me

Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Old and New Realities: Self-Publishing Gets a Nod From the Media


(image) "Saying you were a self-published author used to be like saying you were a self-taught brain surgeon." Lev Grossman, in "Books Unbound: The Forces of a New Century are Shaping a New Kind of Literature. It's Fast, Cheap and Out of Control," in the February 2 issue of Time, reminds us, and he gives some grudging respect to beleagured self-published authors. Some of their books have gone on to best-seller status.

I've written before about the agonies and perils of the traditional publishing process: the long and often futile search for agent and publisher, the shrinking advance, the slight chance of seeing a book actually published, the quick trip to the remainder bin if a book doesn't sell well.

The traditional publishing industry is suffering, but people are still reading. What's happening? "Old publishing is stately, quality-controlled and relatively expensive. New publishing is cheap, promiscuous and unconstrained by paper, money or institutional taste." Publishing as a whole is expanding in new forms.

According to Grossman, this is "neither good nor bad; it just is." Once, novels were considered vulgar and immoral, but "they shocked and seduced people into new ways of thinking." The very idea of self-publishing anything, fiction or non-fiction, still seems undignified or contemptible to many. Still, self-published books give everyone a chance at self-expression and are likely to seduce us into new ways of thinking. This is, indeed, a brave new literary world.

Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Casual Musings from a Non-Bestselling Author


(image) Occasionally I consult my profile, looking for news on my book sales there. To say that they are disappointing is to understate the case. It's a good thing I don't depend on book sales for a living.

Anyway, this morning (at 6:25 a.m., to be exact), I discovered that my little $9.95 book Seniorwriting ranked #46 in the Books> Nonfiction> Education> Adult & Continuing Education category. I've never seen it higher than the 60's there, so I was elated. It's not the money; I make only a dollar or two on each sale. I think it's just that a book is like a child to its creator, no matter how minor or insignificant it may be to others.

I still hope that this little book will help some senior non-writers get started on their memoirs, and that anyone affected by the book will contact me. Never mind that one reviewer objected to the fact that it doesn't help the reader to write "serious novels." If I knew how to do that, I'd be a novelist myself. The rest of the reviews are very positive.

Written on Moving Day, January 9: It's the Little Things that Matter


One of the saddest things about my move was seeing my former cat Lyon's favorite toys suddenly revealed when a living room cabinet was moved. There they were: a light blue catnip mouse and a red-and-yellow hedgehog. The latter was a funny-looking toy, but I still remember marveling at the soon-gone identifying label. Without the tag, I wouldn't have had any idea what it was. Both toys still bore traces of cat hair mixed with dust.

Chasing those toys, and others, across the floor, where they eventually disappeared beneath the furniture, was Lyon's favorite pastime until he got too old for such frivolity. I always tried to retrieve the toys, but obviously those two got away from me a few years ago. Suddenly I remembered those years of watching Lyon and the cats that came before him at play, and I was sad. As I approach what will probably be my final move, nostalgia reigns.

When I first contemplated this move, back in 2004 or so, I made a point of asking if pets would be allowed at The Clare. I wouldn't have signed up if the answer had been "no." But little more than a year later, Lyon succumbed to complications of his diabetes. Will he be replaced? I don't know, but seeing his old toys reminded me of pleasant years.

In the traumatic process os moving, it is, indeed, the small things that are memorable.

Tomorrow is Moving Day!


I'm finally moving into The Clare at Water Tower, after many problems and much angst. Check my other blog, "Never too late!" for part of the story and two pictures.

There probably won't be new posts here for a while, but later I hope to write about my efforts to get my fellow residents writing.

On Moving to a Senior Residence: A Rictameter


On Moving to a Senior Residence

This is the week
To leave a familiar
Scene behind, with memories good
And bad, joys and problems, things to deal with.
Is anyone ready to move?
For me, a final choice.
Better or worse?

Copyright 2009 by Marlys Marshall Styne

New Year Question: A Rictameter


(image) New Year Question

New Year:
What will you bring?
Happiness and joy to
Make a year much better than the
Last, or problems big and small to make the
Year too much like the past one we
Choose to forget as soon
As possible?
New Year?

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

My Just-For-Fun New Year's Wishes


I'll get to my serious wishes and resolutions eventually, but here are my only-in-my-dreams requests:

I'd like to win millions in the Illinois lottery. I've had a yearly computerized ticket for years, and my occasional winnings have usually been in the $9 range. Isn't it time for something bigger? Just asking.

I'd like my three books to become best sellers. If most of the senior citizens in the country would buy Reinventing Myself: Memoirs of a Retired Professor, Seniorwriting, and Elder Expectations, my financial difficulties would end. Of course the chances of such a thing happening are slim and none. Actually, I wrote those books for fun, not profit, but some profits would be nice. Oh, well.

I'd like to take up long-distance walking again. My knee replacements are supposed to get me walking again, but it's taking a long time. Perhaps with patience, this wish will come true. Hope springs eternal!

How about sharing your new year's wishes, serious or fantastic?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


(image) Enjoy your day, your family, and all the good things of the season! Happy writing, too.


On Visiting The Clare: a Rictameter


On Visiting The Clare at Watertower

The Clare:
Dream and promise,
Soon to come true as I
Plan my move for January.
Problems? Yes, but now I've been inside to
See reality, think ahead,
Hope for a happy life,
I welcome you,
The Clare.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Books: the Perfect Gifts for Seniors (and Others)


During the past year, I have written quite a number of book reviews, both here and in "Never too Late!" From new to older, from fact to fiction, from serious to humorous, these books have in common only their connections with aging and its problems. Many of these books are little known. For the most part, I don't review best-sellers, but try to encourage people to buy books that may be overlooked, but are well worth your attention. You may find some good last-minute Christmas gifts here, for others or for yourself. All these books are available at They may be difficult or impossible to find in book stores.Here are seven favorites from among the books I reviewed this year--and forgive me for recommending my own books as well. Links are to my on-line reviews (and for my books, reviews by others).1. Measure of the Heart: a Father's Alzheimers, a Daughter's Return, by Mary Ellen Geist (Springboard, 2008). Leisure Daze, by Mike Mihalek (Heartland, 2008) (Fiction/humor) Where River Turns to Sky, by Greg Kleiner (Perennial, 2002). (Fiction) As We Are Now, by May Sarton (Norton, 1973) (Fiction) In the Arms of Elders: a Parable of Wise Leadership and Community Building, by William H. Thomas, M.D. (VanderWyk and Burnham, 2006) (Fiction/fantasy) One Last Dance, by Mardo Williams (Calliope, 2005) (Fiction/senior romance) The Fiction Class, by Susan Breen (Plume, 2008) (Fiction) Reinventing Myself: Memoirs of a Retired Professor, by Marlys Marshall Styne (Infiniuty, 2006) Seniorwriting: A Brief Guide for Seniors who Want to Write, by Marlys Marshall Styne (Infinity, 2007). Elder Expectations: My Life in Rictameters, by Marlys Marshall Styne (Lulu, 2008) (Poetry)[...]

A Writer's Confession--and Some Holiday Advice


(image) To my friends and family:

For the first time in many years, I am not sending holiday cards or writing my usual holiday letter. I hope that none of you conclude that I am either dead or permanently disabled. You should all hear from me in January.

If you read my other blog, "Never too Late!" you know that my life has been filled with challenges lately. An account of my knee surgery, my unsold condo, my coming move, and other problems could only be depressing this time of year, and I've run out of time for all the steps I usually take to communicate with everyone at Christmas.

I'm sorry. Last year I was strongly advocating the holiday letter, even though it has a bad reputation. Despite my own challenges, I advise that the rest of you make it a point to send cards and letters to your old friends at this festive time of year. I'm enjoying the cards I've received, and I hope to continue my tradition in 2009.

Happy holidays to all!

Some Realities About Writing to Heal


I've often written about the importance of writing to heal: from keeping a pen and paper near the sick bed to writing down your concerns and complaints for your caregivers. My recent hospitalization and nursing home stay (a total of nearly six weeks) should have provided an excellent opportunity for me to practice what I've preached.

It didn't quite work out that way. For one thing, I did not have easy computer access. I did, however, have a pen and a notebook. So why didn't I write much? Yes, I had a roommate and nearly continuous TV. However, there are other reasons, too. For me, writing is a reality of my life, and I seemed eager to escape from reality. I drifted into the routine of the institution, not thinking much about my "real" life. Writing was something I planned to do after I got home.

Did I write anything while I was in the nursing home? Yes, I wrote down a few notes for future writing, and then I wrote three rictameters. For me, an experienced user of this odd poetic form, this was tha perfect way to express myself. My three rictameters were "Kindness," "Patience," and "Painful." All three appear in my two blogs, this one and "Never too Late!"

So what is the message here? Poetry can be brief, direct, and meaningful (see "A Good Review Brings Cheer," below). When illness or injury makes one reluctant to write, a short poem can express a lot. As I look back, I notice that my three rehab rictameters tell the story of my experience better than more extensive writing might have.

If the thought of writing at length, especially in difficult times, is depressing, try writing simple poems: rhymed, unrhymed, free verse, or whatever. I found my magic in the rictameter, but there are many other possibilities. The idea of most poetry is to say a lot in a few words, and that's what I did. I seem to have redefined my understanding of writing to heal.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Another Testimonial to the Importance of Writing


(image) I am always elated to find experrt references to the power of writing. I just discovered another that I would like to share:

In the November/December 2008 issue of AARP magazine, Dan Buettner's article "Find Purpose, Live Longer" discusses ways to get, or stay, connected with life at any age. "Finding that 'something more' in your life can mean a big health boost." Suggestions include "Keep Working," "Find your Flow," "Explore Religion," and "Volunteer," but of most interest to me was "Take Stock of Yourself." How? One important way is to keep a journal.

According to Gregory A. Plotnikoff, M.D. of Abbott Northwestern's Institute for Health and Healing in Minneapolis, writing in a journal can be a big help, especially after a major life change. "When a spouse dies, you retire, or your kids leave home, you interrupt your personal story. If you can figure out how this episode fits into the plot of your life, you'll be one step closer to seeing its purpose--and yours." Plotnikoff suggests writing at least thirty minutes per day. Write about crucial events in your life and how they made you feel. "Discovering purpose is like uncovering patterns. If you understand the first chapters of your life, you're in a better position to write the next chapters. We all need to be part of a bigger story."

Thanks, Mr. Buettner and Dr. Plotnikoff, for another reminder of the importance and power of personal writing. I've tried it, and it works.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Patience: Another Rictameter from Rehab


I wrote three rictameters while I was in rehab at a nurising home. See the first one below and the second in "Never too Late!" This is the third and last


Prime need here in
Rehab hell. Everyone
Does her best to get things done, but
Waiting is required for help with all those
Things I can't do myself. I long
For independence, but
I need to wait.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne