Showing posts with label Karen Cioffi’s blog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Karen Cioffi’s blog. Show all posts

Early Lessons in the Yoga of Writing


Effort and Surrender and Writing


A personal yoga lesson, writing lesson, and review
by Carolyn Howard-Johnson



Yoga simply is. Like life. Like love. Like Writing. When we do it we may also connect. Eric Dinyer’s ethereal photographs in his Effort and Surrender published by Andrews McMeel, are aged like a Sienna landscape. They could easily be the route a beginner or a yoga sage might take to the next step. Or a writer takes to get creative juices started or to keep the I’m Not Good Enough Syndrome at bay. 

Way back in 2004 Eric asked me to write the foreword for this little treasure. 
An author-illustrator-photographer Dinyer has worked in the entertainment, music, and publishing industries with creative giants like Time-Warner Books, Columbia Records, Viking Penguin, St. Martin's Press, Doubleday, and Scholastic, as well as in publications such as Harper's, Newsweek, and the New York Times Book Review. He created cover images for Bruce Springsteen and Sting and illustrated The Breathing Field: Meditations on Yoga. And his request forced me to revisit my early experiences with yoga and I’m retelling a bit of it from the foreword for you so my writing fellows will understand why I think writers should give it a try, if they aren’t already in love with it..

I have been doing yoga since by brother directed me in a few poses.  I lay on a delicate patterned Oriental carpet before a fire in my mother’s home; he pointed my limbs in the proper directions.

            “Hatha Yoga” my brother said, “just poses…” He knew my atheistic tendencies.

            So, I did “poses only” until I saw light and knew.

            That was my only lesson.   

My yoga instructor did not believe that yoga should be uncomfortable or difficult but joyful. “Ignore those who say ‘No pain, no gain,’” he said.  “Stretch until it feels good.  Breathe until it feels better.”

Some poses came naturally. I have long muscles with little structure. Working them is like stretching warm Play-Doh. Dinyer’s photos of poses like The Plow are difficult for some but were easy for me. At 63 I was still doing that extension with variations, knees touching the floor above my head. Some poses like The Airplane he illustrates impart balance. My ability to do them improved as I practiced, mostly without my perceiving the changes because yoga benefits deliberately, leisurely.Some, like the Crane Posture require strength. I do not expect ever to achieve them.

Having said that, it does not matter to me. Yoga is not a contest with others nor with myself. I’m like that with writing, too. If practiced, it will progress. I eventually—perhaps after ten or twelve years—read (nay digested) Paramahansa Yogananda’s teachings but only when I was ready. His book materialized in the reading pile next to my bed. I still don’t know how that small volume came to be there.

I did not take expensive lessons, use special equipment, buy a Zen wardrobe or even set goals. All one needs for Yoga is willingness. I admit I ended up spending more money on things like writing classes, writers’ conferences, and reading, reading, reading on anything one needed for that like marketing. But I worked in breathing to increase the joy factor. I think it worked. I even wrote a poem about it:


Yoga is life.

                                    We see its splendor if we look

                                    Know its challenges when we choose to know

                                    Its comforts when we acknowledge them

                                    Recognize pain as a companion

                                    From whom we can learn or turn away

                                    It can quiet like the curve

                                    Of an egg in a bowl.

                                    It can be personal as a pulse

Or connect like a current.

                                    Life.  We select its ecstasies.


Such inspiration will surely move reader whether they choose Effort or Surrender or Writing—or all three. Yoga and writing is in the doing. Yoga and writing are very simply, life. 


 Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the multi award-winning author of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She is also a marketing consultant, editor, and author of the multi award-winning #HowToDoItFrugally Series ( ) of books for writers including "The Frugal Book Promoter" (, and "The Frugal Editor" both offered in their third editions by Modern History Press. Others in that series are "How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically," and two booklets, both in their second editions also from Modern History Press. The booklets, "Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers" ( and "Great First Impression Book Proposals" ( are career boosters in mini doses and both make ideal thank you gifts for authors. The one on writing book proposals is also available as an Audio Book. "The Frugal Editor "(, was recently released in its third edition. It is the winningest book in this series for writers.  

Carolyn also has three frugal books for retailers including one she encourages authors to read because it helps them understand what is needed to convince retailers to host their workshops, presentations, and signings. It is "A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques" ( In addition to this blog, Carolyn helps writers extend the exposure of their favorite reviews at She also blogs all things editing--grammar, formatting and more--at "The Frugal, Smart, and Tuned-In Editor" ( Learn more and follow it to get news on her new releases directly from Amazon at

On Mourning the Loss of Ask Amy for Her Daily Wisdom with My Oatmeal and Coffee Each Morning


The Guest Blogger with Typewriter 
She Used  in Early Ann Landers Days

To #WritersontheMove Subscribers and Visitors:

Amy Dickinson just announced that she would be retiring her Ask Amy advice column after several decades of serving readers like me who enjoy learning from others’ mistakes and successes.  Unbeknownst to Amy, we have a history that goes way back and I am pretty sure it is unique after reading her columns (and her predecessor Ann Landers’ columns) for so long.  I hope you will find it interesting and help me help her celebrate doing something new with her writing from her home in New York State.  Here it is just as it appears in the snail mail I sent to her. 

Dear Amy,                                                                            June, 2024

Chapter Twenty-Two
Getting Questions Answered 
à la Ann Landers, Amy, or Eric

“There is only one thing better than learning from our own mistakes. It’s learning from the booboos, blunders, and gaffes of others.” ~ CHJ


So, dear reader, what if you didn’t get it right the first time! What if you feel frozen or depressed about an aspect of your review process? If you’ve read this book through, you probably suspect I don’t much like being told no or that there is only one right way to do something. It is part of my onward-and-upward-with-no-delays philosophy.

That’s one reason I love Q&A formats; they tend to highlight alternative views and illustrate what destructive thinking consists of. That love comes, in part, from some of my first experiences as a journalist. The editor at my first “real” writing job put me to work making Ann Landers’ columns fit into space allotted on page layouts the advertising and backshop departments had designed for what we then called the “Society” pages. (Advertising is where the money comes from that keeps newspapers’ presses rolling so they get first dibs on the available space on newspaper pages.) Sometimes there was not enough room for all of Ann’s letters so it was my duty to edit, cut, and fix so they fit and were still intelligible.

     In the process, I learned a lot in the letters about life’s little problems including the roadblocks similar to the ones we authors run into with reviews. Q&As are an easy way to identify problems and to make them understandable because they are anecdotal. So, you are going to get a few short Q&As that answer some questions about the review process that keep you awake at night. Sometimes they are questions about specifics, sometimes general. But they are exercises in learning from one another. All are adaptations of actual Q&As à la Ann Landers (or her Ask Amy successor!) that I use in the seminars I teach.  


PS: Amy, I am enjoying your reruns this month, too. Though I have to admit I have never seen one of those professed reruns when it was (theoritically) first published. Not once. Over all those decades I have been avidly reading your column.

How can that be? My memory isn’t what it once was, but I’m still not that forgetful and I couldn’t have missed more than a few of your columns while on vacation over the years. Just wondering…

And, please pass along good wishes to Eric, too!

Very best, your faithful reader, 

Success in 2024,
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Promise yourself better editing of all your work—query letters to books--in 2024 
with the 3rd Edition of my “The Frugal Editor." 

“…The Frugal Editor is part reference guide, part do-it-yourself editing manual, part masterclass on the writing and publishing industry…and all with Carolyn’s signature humor and encouraging energy! She is a master at simplifying overwhelming tasks into relevant, can-do information…” -Dallas Woodburn, best-selling author and book coach 

Cover by Doug West
Headshot by Uriah Carr 
Amazon Series Page:
Submit to my #SharingwithWriters blog:
Twitter: @FrugalBookPromo
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PS: Learn more about my fiction and poetry at [Do not use https or http with this. Use it as you see it-- naked. LOL.]

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