ON MONDAY, I returned home from a weekend writer’s conference in Austin, Texas, bags heavy with books, inspirational quotes, and new writing tools. The conference, hosted by the Story Circle Network, an organization for women lifewriters (people who write about life), is held every two years. This was the second time I have attended. Besides being a well-organized and motivating event, it gives me an excuse to visit my oldest son and fiancé who live in this most diverse city in Texas.

Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett offered a pre-conference workshop titled “Writing with Heart: Five Easy Steps to Writing with Emotion, Energy and Color.” Familiar with Matilda and Kendra’s work, I was anxious to attend their class, and I was not disappointed. They taught a technique they call “Deconstruction” to help writers pull sensual and physical details from deep within our memories and get those details on paper. Once we have the basic ingredients, we can mix those details in creative ways to form the substance of our stories.

Heather Summerhayes Cariou, author of Sixty-Five Roses, gave us one of the most entertaining and inspirational keynotes I have ever heard. The next morning, I attended her workshop, “Panning for Gold: Using Imagery and Metaphor to Enrich Your Memoir.” Like her keynote address, the workshop was fast-paced, yet guided us to dive deeply into our own souls. Many of us had tears in our eyes at the end of the workshop. “Remember to breathe,” said Heather. And that’s just about the best advice one can give a memoirist.

All of the sessions I attended were like these first two—rich with information, demonstration, encouraging and stimulating, offering us the chance to share our writing with other women writers. Perhaps the greatest gifts of all were the opportunities to meet so many women with whom I had only interacted online, to see the smiles on their faces, share heartfelt stories of our lives, and encourage one another in our writing paths.

As I returned home, attempting to assimilate all that I had experienced, I felt happy and fulfilled. Yet, I also carried a bittersweet sadness at having to leave those sisters and my son behind. We women will continue to talk online, through classes, and through our writing and reading circles. But I am convinced that having that real, living connection is very important. So, this is the year that I will begin a Story Circle Network writing circle in my community. I may begin an online, interactive blog as well. So stay tuned. This promises to be a fruitful writing year.

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