Writing Life Updates!

Weber: The Contemporary West, Spring 2014
Finally I can return here with some news and some plans (however amorphous these might be at the moment).


I have a personal essay in the Spring 2014 edition of Weber: The Contemporary West; it's entitled "Intersections." Of interest to those with a deep connection to the Olympic National Forest, especially in the southwest part of Washington State. The archives at the Weber website aren't live with the latest edition yet, but if you can get hold of a hard copy, please look for my work there! There might be a link to my piece in the coming months, so stay tuned!

Poetry Corners poem broadsides displayed at Eagle
Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island, WA

I also have a poem broadside posted at Island Fitness as part of the local National Poetry Month effort; this Poetry Corners project here in Bainbridge Island. Many thanks to BI Arts & Humanities for their continued effort with this successful campaign to get more poetry out in the community.
year's theme is "Don't Be Afraid," and my poem is entitled "Bus Stop Meditation." I believe it will also be included in a poetry anthology, a new development in the


I have launched my new career in sleep technology and I'm really loving the work! I put in two 12.5-hour overnight shifts a week (Mondays and Tuesdays) and sleep during the day (Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with a nap on Monday afternoon as well). On top of that, I'm now secretary of the Washington State Sleep Society and helping out with the organization of their annual conference as well as their website. You can imagine that having a working life does cut into writing time.

However, having an active working life out in the world has afforded me some great experiences with people, technology, medicine and society that are beginning to fill my creative well with ideas. I'm narrowing my focus, for now, on science journalism, personal essay, creative nonfiction and some flash fiction for the time being. Part of my goal in becoming an RPSGT was to get quality credentials to solidify my place in the science journalism world. Now I am studying for an additional credential, the CCSH (Certificate for Clinical Sleep Health) which will allow me to become even more involved in patient sleep education and general health literacy, two pet subjects of mine. I'm also looking into writing more about multiple sclerosis.

As for flash fiction, it's a pleasurable pursuit I can wait to return to. I'm taking Sam Ligon's class in the form at the 11-day Port Townsend Writers Conference at Centrum this coming July and can't wait to generate some new material in a focused environment. I'll be camping out in the campground in our FunFinder this time so I can make use of an open fire every night, one of my favorite energizing practices. It'll be great to see old friends, make new friends and generally re-immerse myself in the writing landscape for that time.

I'm still getting requests for consulting and editing via Writer's Rainbow and, yes, even Margin. Just a reminder: I retired Writer's Rainbow in 2010 and Margin was archived in 2007. They were both wonderful pursuits, but I have moved on and will be focusing my non-work time on my own writing projects.

That's it from the trenches. Wish me luck as I return to the land of wandering word minstrels; I must confess I've missed quite a few of you out there!

~ Tamara


[LIFE] September Stream of Consciousness

Original digital photomanipulation from PierceXy

SO MUCH going on this month. The usual being:

  • getting kids back to school
  • kicking off a new swim team season 
  • kicking off a new dance season
  • kicking off a new marching band season
  • birthdays (mine, my daughters, my MIL's)
  • seasonal yardwork

and adding some new things to the mix:

and trying to maintain some of my old favorites:

  • regular exercise (volleyball, walking, pickleball, yoga, aquatic therapy)
  • scratch cooking
  • reading for pleasure!
  • a life WITHOUT homework, yippee!!
  • gardening and home improvement
You'll see in the next few weeks how it all sorts out, but here's a hint: I'm mostly going to use the RWC site (where you are at right now) to crosspost from other sites until I get into a groove with them. This means mostly sleep links and an occasional post from me. My food blog, Extra!Extra!, is on the back burner for now (pun intended) because I am going to restart my CSA subscription next spring and the blog will be my reflection of that experience. My personal website will, with any luck, be transformed by the end of October and my goal is to have an active sleep health presence in social networks and via journalism, PR and other writing routes by November. 

As for my creative writing life? It's still on hold as I wrap my mind around a lot of new science and technology writing (which I'm thrilled about!), but of course the urge to write a poem or story or personal essay persists, so it's just a matter of time until my brainspace opens up enough to allow me to reenter the world of literary writing. And that's just fine. If there's one thing I know about myself as a writer, it's that I have more stories to write than years to live, and I expect to live a long time, so... all in due time, right?


[EATZ] True Confessions: I don't care about your diet

I learned a pretty important lesson as a "foodie" over the last 15 months. Actually, three... here's a third one for True Confessions time.

Lesson #3: What I eat is my business.
Original artwork from roaringsoftly -- subtle pop culture art made with love

If I've managed to cement one mode of thinking about food these last several months, it's the idea that diets are just plain bad unless they are prescribed specifically for you by a dietitian, a nutritionist, an MD or a naturopath. BadBad. And more bad. Specific food avoidances are really and truly only for people who absolutely have a verifiable need to do so. Diets, in this vein, are GOOD for diabetics, for instance. These people definitely need to cut out simple sugars and increase complex carbs. Someone diagnosed with celiac disease is definitely going to be better off cutting out gluten, a known antagonist for this painful chronic ailment. Cutting down on sodium is useful if you have high blood pressure. I'm good with these efforts to be healthier, for these particular people and their conditions.

That doesn't mean these diets are going to be good for me.

Listen... if you have not been diagnosed with a health condition which is directly impacted by the consumption of certain foods, then be very careful about eliminating foods from your diet unless you have proof they are the devil. And I mean real proof. And if you can find real proof, please let the rest of the world know because, frankly, unless it's coming from a major research facility with decades of replicated studies, it's not going to be real proof. Not in my book.

Everyone has different dietary needs. I need to eat animal protein, for instance. I choose to eat lean animal protein of the kind that is most ethically raised or harvested (as in, grass-fed, free-range, hormone-free, wild caught, etc.) whenever possible. But it means that sometimes I don't or I can't. I also eat gluten (wheat and its many forms, barley, rye, oats) because my body does very well with whole grain soluble fiber and the rich source of B vitamins these foods provide. I like soy and it likes me back; my kids fared much better on soy formula, as well, but none of us are lactose intolerant or dairy sensitive. Skim milk dairy does my body good (kefir, fresh mozz, lebna and crème fraîche, anybody?). And nuts... don't get me started on nuts, I eat them all day long. I'm not fat-fearful; I love me some avocados and olive oil and peanut butter and kalamatas and flaxseed and cold water fish.

I'm not without my sins, of course. I eat eggs, yolks and all. You busted me in my last post when I admitted to eating carry out pizza; the same goes for Thai, Indian, teriyaki and Mexican take-out. Sometimes you'll catch me cooking with ghee. Heaven forbid I eat a steak or a hamburger every once and again. I confess to eating McDs french fries while waiting for the ferry recently and, guess what... lightning did not strike me dead, because I'm here to tell about it! Indian buffets are a portal to Nirvana for me. And I'm not one to turn down a piece of cake at a celebration or pass by cookies at Christmas or a piece of dark chocolate for no good reason at all.

My relationship to food reflects mostly who I am, and one of the things I am not is obsessive about unnecessary dietary restrictions. I eat to live. Eating gives me pleasure. The variety of what I eat is part of what makes me a happy camper. One way to make me an unhappy camper is to tell me to put away the fixings for S'mores.

That's about all I'm going to say about special diets. At this point, I have truly learned the art of avoiding dietary conversation much in the same way one typically avoids chatting about politics or religion in polite company. Just don't go there. It gets too ugly and, ultimately, it doesn't matter. I'm gonna eat what I damn well like. If you're not convinced, allow me to repeat my six-word memoir penned many years ago: "Tell me I can't, I will." That applies to everything about me, including my job as sole arbiter of my own omnivorism.

Lesson #2: [EATZ] True Confessions: Scratch Cooking = Not Easy
Lesson #1: [EATZ] True Confessions: Privilege and eating "right"

—Like this entry? Send your "one dolla" (that's right, just $1!) pledge to the Clarion West Write-A-Thon in my name and help support writers of every stripe in this excellent writing program.


[EATZ] True Confessions: Scratch Cooking = Not Easy

I learned a pretty important lesson as a "foodie" over the last 15 months. Actually, three... here's a second one for True Confessions time.

Lesson #2: Privilege sugar coats the realities of how "easy" it is to cook from scratch.
"Cold Pizza" by Rick Audet, courtesy CCA 2.0 Generic

This is what the Universe taught me over the last 15 months when I found myself barely able to cook at all while in school, doing homework, raising teens and trying to keep active. Me, the scratch cook, dialing for pizza! There just wasn't TIME.

This is not a blank check permission for anyone to school me on time management, mind you. College homework for me took, on average, 6 hours a day, every day. At the end of the day, there is still the shuffling about of kids to and from their activities, housework and all the other commitments that daily life demands. Sure, to someone who doesn't have to work full time, spending 2-3 hours a day preparing healthy food in advance is easy peasy. But listen. Even Superwoman cannot master the extraordinary burdens of a Sandwich Generation schedule. When it's 10 pm and you're still doing homework while cycling laundry and need to get up super early for labs the next day and your teenager is telling you about their really bad day and you have just learned your elderly parent might be heading off to the hospital again, the last thing you'll be thinking about is peeling carrots, boiling down a chicken for stock or making a sourdough sponge.

It's not that I don't know how to cook from scratch in a totally simple way. I do. I tend to arrange a meal based on food groups and keep the food as close to its original form as possible. Some sort of whole protein, check. One non-leafy vegetable, check. One whole grain side, check. One fruit side, check. One leafy vegetable, usually in a salad, check. Fruits and veggies, simply made, are good: I have perfected fruit salad and steamed broccoli and sauteed mushrooms and fruited salsas and myriad salads incorporating whatever's in the fridge with the best of them. I use appliances to speed things up, too: the microwave, the rice cooker, the pressure cooker, the immersion blender, the mini choppers, the Advantium 120 (a secret weapon, I tell ya!).

Here's an example of what I can do: I know how to make a quick vegetable sauce of mushrooms, garlic, spinach and olives in about 10 minutes flat. Or a quick tomato sauce of chopped Romas with garlic, balsamic vinegar and basil. But in order to do that, I have to already have mushrooms, garlic, spinach, olives, Romas, balsamic and/or basil on hand. I'm better at most people when it comes to keeping the pantry stocked, but once I started school, just fitting in a trip to the store was a challenge. And here's the thing: when you go out, all well meaning and gung ho, to buy fresh produce, you can only buy a few things because you will need to prepare those few things very soon or else they ROT. And when you get home, Lifus Interrupticus happens and all those plans for making fresh food? Poof. I got tired of throwing out fresh fruits and vegetables because of the failures of best laid plans and the fact that my family isn't quite as into the "eat your greens" mode of thinking (aside from my youngest, who can be a vegetable genius). If I didn't go to the store for a few days, the fridge would fill up anyway... with boxes of carry out.

Any do-gooder who wants to tell me how I need to educate my family about eating well can just take their gospel elsewhere. Been there, done that. Nagging loses its charm pretty quickly. You can't turn a corner in my house without tripping over a whole foods cookbook of one kind or another. I have one head on my shoulders and it does not, in any way, control all the other heads on shoulders in my immediate vicinity.

In the final analysis, food in my household will always come by way of the path of least resistance unless I do all the shopping and cooking. Now that I'm entering a new career path and have become recently employed, what are the odds of that happening? Well, I'll be working night shifts, so what do you think? The good news is that I don't have 42 hours of homework a week anymore (it's more like 25 hours a week from now until I take my board exam). So my goal for now is to be a bit more vigilant about working my way back into the kitchen as well as back into the good graces of the whole foods gods. When I do eat well, I feel fantastic, so there's a known payoff and a future in scratch cooking for me. I just have to get back into the food groove.

(PS for those who hope I'll write a cookbook, I'm still working toward the goal! It will definitely be the same concept but I plan to keep in mind the path of least resistance we all endure when it comes to cooking and maybe I'll even include some notes about how to keep a stocked pantry on a budget with a mind to time and resource management now that I have had a serious reality check with regard to managing a "scratch" kitchen.)

Lesson #1: [EATZ] True Confessions: Privilege and eating "right"
Coming soon: Lesson #3 [EATZ] I don't care about your diet

—Like this entry? Send your "one dolla" (that's right, just $1!) pledge to the Clarion West Write-A-Thon in my name and help support writers of every stripe in this excellent writing program.