Saturday, January 26, 2008

Write Away Your Excess Weight? A Book Review

I've read more than enough diet books during my lifetime, from the sensible to the faddish, from the scientific to the ridiculous, without solving my weight problem. After absorbing the "wisdom" of all those books, I swore to ignore this year's diet book crop.

Then, I discovered Julia Cameron's The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size (Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin, 2007). With a title like that, how could I resist?

It seems that Cameron, author of The Artist's Way and much more--non-fiction, fiction, plays, poetry--teaches a twelve-week course in "creative unblocking." As her students became more creative, they astonished their teacher by becoming slimmer as well. She observed that "weight loss is a frequent by-product of creative recovery." Apparently, "Overeating blocks our creativity [and] we [also] can use creativity to block our overeating."

This book is divided into two sections, "The Tools" and "Situations and Solutions." The tools begin with "Morning Pages": basically writing three daily pages of a journal. This is the same mind-clearing, self-revealing journal exercise I've long recommended and frequently practiced. "Writing Morning Pages, our mindless lives are behind us." These pages are great places to examine all relationships, including that to food. The Morning Pages evolve into full-fledged journals, by this time addressing eating matters for those with weight concerns. Other useful tools include walking and finding a "body buddy" to cheer one on, among others.

The "Situations and Solutions" of Part Two cover more than thirty common food situations, generally with writing suggestions and/or examples. For "Scaling the Scale," Cameron quotes a student who writes, "I feel the scale is all that stands between me and disaster. I can only imagine what would happen if I tried to go a month without its input." The cure for bathroom scale panic, according to the author, is to weigh oneself monthly, not daily.

In "Eating to Please," the author points out that many believe that food is love, so we eat what a loved one eats and join in extravagant meals. We may eat to show our appreciation for "Aunt Helen's cheesecake" or other festive goodies. The suggested writing task to overcome this tendency is to "write out the worst scenario you can imagine if you refuse a dining experience." Use humor; what will happen if you stand up for yourself? "How would it feel to stick to your own agenda and even lose weight during the holiday season?" That would be great, but it's never happened to me.

This is an interestiong book, and I suspect that any fledgling or would-be writer who completed all the suggested writing tasks could develop a better relationship with food, a better figure, and some additional creative skills as well.

While the sheer number of situations and writing tasks intimidates me a bit, this book is full of cleverly-written common sense. This is a book that requires action. It does not suit the couch potato style of reading for escape or entertainment, so put down that bowl of chips and pick up a pen!

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Amazon Shorts: An Interesting Idea

Have you heard about Amazon Shorts? The gigantic online bookseller and vendor of other goods as well includes a section offering short pieces of writing (fiction and non-fiction) for download at $0.49 each.

In order to participate, an author has to have at least one book for sale on Amazon, and then any submission has to be approved for inclusion as an Amazon Short.

To my surprise, two of my short stories (yes, short stories--fiction) were accepted. I am not basically a fiction writer, but two stories I wrote last year, "Volunteer" and "Marie's Story," appeared as Amazon Shorts yesterday. To find them, do a search for my name under "Books" at Search Amazon Shorts for other choices, too.

I found the idea fascinating, although it is not likely to be a revenue producer. Some authors use the Shorts to generate interest in their related books, or even to provide updates or additions as Shorts. Others offer serial episodes of longer stories or books. My stories are not related to my books, although they are written by a senior and feature seniors, perhaps encouraging other seniors to write, and writers in general to include sympathetic senior characters.

If you are an author with a book or books offered by Amazon, consider submitting shorts as well. If you have a dollar to spare, I'd appreciate your downloading, reading, and reviewing my stories (as customer reviews). I am interested to know what someone, anyone, thinks of them.

If you have any experience with Amazon Shorts, either as a reader or as an author, please let me know. To me, it's an interesting experiment; it's existed for several years, yet I had not heard of it until fairly recently.

My books and shorts:

Amazon Shorts:

For authors: How to participate in Amazon Shorts:

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Write Your Way Through Winter

"According to health experts, the extreme cold can cause major health problems, such as pneumonia and hypothermia, in senior citizens.

"People over the age of 65 are more likely to develop these complications than any other age group because their bodies tend to have more difficulties regulating temperature."

Are you tired of reading and hearing facts like this (quoted from a typical on-line weather feature) or the usual dismal weather forecasts? Is winter getting to you, despite your comfortable indoor environment? What are your coping methods? Do you overeat, bury yourself in soap operas, exercise, sleep most of the time, or what?

In case you can't or don't want to escape to a warmer climate, I'd like to suggest writing as a way to beat the winter blues. Your basic life writing may fill the bill, but how about emphasizing some warm memories? Do you remember a wonderful summer day at the beach (local or foreign)? Do you remember a walk along the lake on a beautiful, warm, sunny day?

Thank about the good days from summers of the recent and/or distant past, from childhood or adulthood. What did you do? How did you feel? Writing has to be one of the best ways of coping with inclement weather, and it won't make you fat.

While it may be hard to do, why not follow Italian author, playwiright, and poet Pietro Aretino's advice: "Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius." For more quotations about winter, go to

For a humorous look at winter weather, go to

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Senior Writing

If you have any doubts that seniors can write, or that they should, or that senior writing workshops are worthwhile activities, read "Students Outshine Instructor" on the Wintersong blog. I would love the chance to "facilitate" such a group!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

More About Blogging

I've written quite a bit about the joys of blogging. Now I invite you to watch a video from "Blogging in Paris." Claude, the author of "Blogging in Paris," is featured at the end of an interesting, short France 24 TV show.

Claude is a sixty-three-year-old widow, a former English teacher who obviously lives in Paris. Like most blogs, hers offers a view into the world of another elder blogger. It's a wonderful new world in which we can visit other countries without leaving home.

If you have considered a blog, especially to help your family and friends keep in touch, give it a try. It's very easy to do, thanks to Blogspot and similar sites.


Monday, January 7, 2008

The Joys of a Good Book Review

Do you read book reviews? Do they influence your reading choices? Book reviewing provides good writing practice, and you may discover some wonderful books in the process.

I have dabbled in the art of book reviewing; you can see a few of my reviews on this blog. Also, as an virtually unknown writer, I have eagerly sought reviews of my own two books. While neither book is a best seller, I've been pleased with several good reviews of each.

Did you know that any customer can write a customer review on Perhaps some filtering goes on to avoid unfair personal attacks and porn, but there are a lot of non-professional reviews there.

If you're a reader and a writer, why not read and review some books by obscure authors for your blogs and/or for Amazon?

As an author, I was especially pleased by one of the more recent reviews of my book Seniorwriting (there are several other good ones, too.). This review from Midwest Book Review (on line) strikes me as a very good example of a short review--and I don't just say that because it's about one of my own books.

"Seniorwriting: A Brief Guide For Seniors Who Want To Write, by Marlys Marshall Styne, is a succinct 81-page instruction manual specifically designed and intended for older men and women wanting to record their thoughts, their memories, their experiences, their observations, and their commentaries for the benefit of themselves, their friends and family, and future generations.

"Short writing examples and samples are provided based on Marlys Styne's own writing skills, expertise, and personal experience as a retired college English teacher who took up writing an award-winning book at the age of 73.

"Seniorwriting is a non-technical "how to" manual and guide that is ideal for those who have never written anything before -- and holds much of value for those who have written things earlier in their lives, but who have not done anything along those lines since. There are no rigid rules or straight-laced requirements in Seniorwriting, only practical advice, inspiring examples, alternative ideas, and motivating choices.

"If you are a senior and would like to record your thoughts be they simple observations or the next Great American Novel, then give Seniorwriting your attention. It will be one of the most rewarding reads you can do!"

Happy reviewing!