Health, Non-Fiction

My Story | Our Story Welcomes – Jane C. Colby


It is my pleasure to welcome and interview Jane Colby on our blog today.

Jane has been writing for many years. She has a BA Hons (1st) specializing in creative writing, and was a school principal until she was hit with a severe case of ME from a virus related to polio. She runs The Young ME Sufferers Trust. Her blog is at


My Writing Process

I was very happy Terry Gibson invited me to join her to discuss my writing pursuits. I got to know Terry through Twitter and found her own blog inspiring. Recently she posed a question about memories from childhood that sparked off just the right anecdote for a speech I was writing. Thanks, Terry!


What are you working on now?

Something I can’t wait to get on with–the next episode of my book ME – The New Plague 2. Its theme is the link between the disabling disease ‘ME’ (myalgic encephalomyelitis) and the dreadful scourge of polio, and it advocates strongly for the patient’s voice – too long drowned out – to be truly heard. Given this sobering theme, I need continuing inspiration. If it all sounds terribly ‘worthy’ and suspiciously boring, I’m happy to say that readers so far assure me it’s not!

There’s just no excuse for writing a boring book, is there? I open with a scene in a television studio … I had to lay it aside for a while because June 2014 was the 25th anniversary of the UK charity I run for children with ME at As part of our Fighting Injustice focus we have joined a legal action against a law that Scotland has enacted to give all children state guardians (now called Named Persons) who, it appears from the legislation, will be able to override the will of children’s parents. Now that our anniversary event in the House of Lords (Palace of Westminster) is over,and the papers filed with the Court, I can finally get into the book again.


What makes your work unusual?

Although it’s non-fiction, it’s written using creative writing techniques. I need to draw readers into it – especially those who wouldn’t choose to read about ME – I want to surprise them out of their expectations. It’s quite controversial. You could probably call it ‘friction’. It’s the first time I’ve published a book in this way, episode by episode, while I’m still writing it. Is it a blog or a book? Some readers have called it a blog. Whatever, I excitedly follow a method used by my writing hero, Charles Dickens. And that’s a buzz.


Are you a writer with a cause? Why do you write what you do?

Because I must. I long to write something different after I complete this book. Fiction, poetry, memoir, all of which I have studied and worked at, and love.

My involvement in this is the fault of my consultant microbiologist/friend, who dragged me into it, then vanished into the woodwork when our work caused a media storm! Dear Betty. But that’s another story. Most of my published work has so far been journal articles, features, guidelines, whatever works to spread knowledge of this much misunderstood disease. The rights of families to care for and educate their children in ways that help them recover must be promoted and defended. Like the mountain, this ginormous obstacle is there and I have to try to surmount it.


How does your writing process work?

Organically. Whether I’m converting longhand notes into text, or starting a piece from scratch on my computer, I usually wait until a line or two springs into my head. That indicates that my brain is ready. It takes far less time for the words and ideas to flow and it’s very like free writing. It works best for me to edit section by section, and not wait to do so in its entirety. I treat prose like poetry; each sentence must have rhythm; I must get the wording just so. I read it aloud, over and over; it must feel good in the mouth and be performance-ready. Like music. I’m far more ruthless than I was before. I prune and prune,  and finally I read it out to my ‘critical reader’ who will point out anything that jars.

If I’m writing poetry, it’s always done in a notebook. I’m fussy about notebooks. I like them multicoloured with a good texture. They have to feel good in the hand. Pens too. I grew up watching my artist father produce glorious calligraphy and developed a love of aesthetic writing tools. Does that help the writing itself? Who knows? I like to think it does. If there’s a deadline, I work best right up to it. Scary, but it concentrates the mind wonderfully.

Thank you again, Terry, for the opportunity to tell people about my methods. I hope they inspire someone out there to try something new.  My book episodes, and my Stripeysocks blog, are at

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Non-Fiction, Poetry

One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVIII – Pablo Naruda

Mural del poeta chileno Pablo Neruda.
Mural del poeta chileno Pablo Neruda.









I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.

I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.


Pablo Neruda.


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Non-Fiction, Violence Against Women, Women

My Heart’s Longing …

The World Peace monument in a pond next to a s...
The World Peace monument in a pond next to a statue of the Buddha on a lotus in Swayambhunath temple site, Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


My heart’s longing is for a peaceful world and that warring factions everywhere somehow wake up to the senselessness of continuous destruction, bloodshed, and killing.

I yearn for a bliss-ninny’s contentment in love. To find the eternal satisfaction popular media romanticizes. To be soaked in happiness and appreciation for all that I have, instead of focusing on innocuous things that matter little.

My heart’s longing is for the ability to one-day continue my education and complete as many degrees as I want. This is not just because I must be a ‘woman of letters’, but to satisfy myself at having accomplished so much given the dodgy package life gave me with which to build something, anything and hopefully, good.

I yearn for lots of future travel. To check out Vietnam, Chile, Finland, go to Scotland and Cuba again. I hope to work for a friend of a friend’s NGO in Nepal.  All of this—while I write books.

My heart’s longing is to purge my body of the tumultuous emotional tangents I wander off on occasionally.  I want to feel rage against the ails of the world but not lose myself to them.

I yearn for an ever-widening global community, the resources I need as an effective source of support to women’s groups in developing countries. To find some way to honour the struggles of women, especially the isolated and poor, and help advance them toward their immediate goals.

My heart’s longing is that my father-in-law fares well tomorrow for his first chemotherapy treatment for an aggressive stage 4 non Hodgkins lymphoma. However, he said yesterday, “I feel rotten!” and I am afraid he will not do well. I think he will deteriorate rapidly and feel distraught about it. The toll this is taking on my mother-in-law is gut wrenching to watch.

I yearn for the day when people (including myself) become mindful of their choice of language.  Their intentional and inadvertent use of sexist stereotypes, regular ‘slams’ (verbal abuse) against women, even when the speaker is also female.

My heart’s longing is for harmony within this soul of mine, hewed brutally by repeated criminal victimization.  I need courage when I feel like an empty scarecrow faking bravado in a corn field, too alive with the flapping wings of six half-starved four-foot buzzards. I hope for strength.

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Like a kid stuck in a guilty stammer

I just failed a test in grammar

Adverbs and verbs did not agree

They quibbled, declaring

Themselves more worthy!

Why do I bother?

I thought in a huff

Allow them to mingle

Play the role of

Hot Stuff!


Terry Gibson, 2014.






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Adelstrop – by Edward Thomas


English: Adlestrop station sign in the bus she...


Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

by Edward Thomas


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Mental and Emotional Health, Non-Fiction

Sitting Quietly

Shambhala Buddhist Shrine



While I was sitting quietly, I thought about our discussion of Blaise Pascale on Roadmap this week. I ran across the name ‘Blais’ once. It was an ex-employer’s surname and the ‘s’ was silent, so you pronounced it as if you were spitting a bit of lint off your tongue. It didn’t have the command or sophistication of so many French words and names. To me, it was like calling your son ‘Milieu’.

While I was sitting quietly, I startled myself with a cough and realized that I was getting sick, again. Then I remembered the husky-voiced star of a movie we watched recently, who reminded me of Susan Brown’s comments on writing sex scenes. How bad ones are, well, really bad. Touted as exhilarating and erotic, this was a primetime stinker. It did not happen, people. You can laugh, throw your hair around and proposition while rasping all you want but if there is no chemistry between the pair, it won’t work. It can’t be sexy just because those three letters, in that order, are in the word. It was a punctuated snooze-fest.

While I was sitting quietly, I realized I wasn’t asleep at all but awake and having fun, wandering through my amazing but ugly-looking brain. (Yes. I saw a diagram of one recently in a course about that very organ.) Opening my eyes, I discovered that I was in my Shambhala ‘Contentment in Everyday Life’ class and the room was full of people of all ages. Many sat, cross-legged, warrior style, on gold satin zafu pillows filled with buckwheat hulls, while others, with bad backs like myself, sat on chairs. I recalled how Shastri Leesa said that our belly muscles would strengthen as we deepened our meditation practice. I looked forward to sitting on the floor with everyone else soon and relaxing, certain I wouldn’t burst into a Tourette-like whirl of profanities in a room so quiet you could hear somebody’s zen state fizzle.

While I was sitting quietly, I discovered that I wasn’t sitting at all. Nor was I silent. In fact,  it was the last night of the Commonweal retreat and I was standing on that tiny white stool in front of the podium, projecting my voice to the last row of the audience. The air was stifling and thick with emotion. I was reading a poem in honour of Laura, given her Mom’s health took a sudden turn sending her daughter off on a two-and-a-half hour drive just after midnight. My mouth was dry and I was at one of those split-second intervals where, as I explained to David later, I was on the verge of panic. Inhaling deeply, fighting back tears, I felt a surge of fire within me. I carried on with the story of my mother, while flashing on Bushwhacker’s flaring nostrils during a random ad for a bullfighting competition. (Although I have cut down on my TV by eight-five percent, occasionally some stupid commercial will pop into my awareness.)

While I was sitting quietly, I realized, yes, life entails suffering. Lots of it. Women are hurting. Aboriginal and Indigenous peoples the world over are hurting. People in the Gaza are dying. The First Nation’s woman who had half her family wiped out in a month was in agony. Despite our differences, I knew that emptiness. The shock. Hurt. Unanswered questions. Why? What did I do to deserve THIS? I knew what it felt like to be so livid you think your head will spontaneously combust after leaving brain tissue on the walls.

While I was sitting quietly, I knew it was all such an exquisite pain. I appreciate every second of this life although my mother threw me and it away like last week’s garbage. My emotions steer me on many tangents at the most inopportune moments but I want this life. People can and will refuse to give me work, look at me with suspicion because I’m depressed, and make me feel like wasted space when my defenses are down. I do, however, want this life–even when my spine is screaming at me, “It’s time for more steroid shots!” I am alive to it all, good and bad. Finally, I can explore who I really am. Between that, and loving others, I have everything. Even if I live in the streets. Thankfully, I am not a Blaise or Milieu and there is nothing average about Terry despite my name.

Now that I can’t even pretend to sit quietly–I’m bursting with life–it’s time to get up and go give my best friend a long nurturing hug.






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Poetry, Quotes

Letters to Milena – Franz Kafka


“In a way, you are poetry material; You are full of cloudy subtleties I am willing to spend a lifetime figuring out. Words burst in your essence and you carry their dust in the pores of your ethereal individuality.”


Letters to Milena, Franz Kafka.






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My Writing Process #MondayBlogs

Thanks to David Colin Carr for the invitation to take part in #MondayBlogs. I first met David in July 2011 in Bolinas, California at The Writer’s Retreat of Your Dreams, where he assists Laura Davis with this amazing six-day event. Since attending two more retreats with David present, we have shared writing, laughter and plotting mischief.

Here are my answers to the questions:

What am I working on?

Currently, I am writing a memoir called ‘That Terry’. This is my true-life story of surviving a violent, sadistic family who would have destroyed me if I did not run away with Police help at seventeen years old. I was smart and creative but depressed and suicidal. My all-or-nothing thinking took me from hospitals in Ontario to South Korea, from the fields of rural China, to the bustle of Tokyo streets and Parisian cafés. Finally, I landed in Sydney, Australia, where I lived and worked until the brutal murder of a young woman put me in danger of human trafficking and losing my life as well.

I am also in the midst of compiling ‘Traces of Silence’, a chapbook of poetry, and writing a novel tentatively called ‘Puffery Magazine Dishes On Wilbur’.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My writing is different because I am telling my unique tale. It is a story of survival, loss, and the effects of being poor and too afraid of more suffering and violence to ever speak or challenge authority. It is a journey toward self-discovery while living on the edge of a razor. It is my struggle to find my childhood, grow up and parent myself along the way. It is at once an exceptional rendering of an unlikely fight to defy suicide statistics for a child like me, and an awkward invite into my often confused and troubled process, and slightly warped humour.

Why do I write what I do?

I have been fascinated by words since I was a girl with only my imagination to keep me company while locked in the attic. I started writing poetry because I was passionate about life. I had so much empathy for other people people in pain; of course, I was far too isolated to know my life was not normal but I somehow sensed it was not. I was only eight or nine then but I knew that you do not continuously ridicule, humiliate, beat, berate and ostracize any child, let alone your pre-adolescent daughter.

I have an enormous debt of gratitude. The happiness and laughter I now enjoy is like a huge sack of presents dumped on my desk by a postie. I want to give back in a big way. Many good doctors, therapists, and friends gave me the tools not only to survive, but also to carve out my wee corner of the world. I want to reach out to other young women (and men) who are clawing for any groove into which to sink their bleeding fingertips. To those hardly hanging on and feeling suicidal.

Before I die, I want to look back on my long healing process and know I shared what I learned and helped in every way possible, within my means, to effect change.

How does your writing process work?

These days, my writing process involves waking up, stumbling to the coffeemaker, while trying to avoid my cat Paco’s tail, plunking down at my laptop, fumbling for a password, and buckling up for yet another adventure in #wordmongering. That is–joining a few friends who invited me to their timed writing practice on Twitter.

I am always inspired by reading fiction–with a penchant for Victorian novels thanks to Carleton U–memoirs and poetry. (There must always be poetry!) I love watching movies, attending live musical events and theater. Yes. I did see ‘Les Miserables’ three times and thoroughly enjoy Theatresports at the Arts Club.

People who impact the world affect me a lot. In fact, some of whom I want to hug so often, I tell them, “If you see me coming at you with my arms out, and it’s not a good day, just point me towards the nearest tree.” They need hugs too.

I have invited the following writers to blog on June 16th:

Marta Moran Bishop

Marta Moran Bishop is a versatile author and poet.

Her poetry books are for children as well as adults. ‘Wee Three: A Mother’s Love in Verse’ was a collaboration between the short verses her grandmother wrote in the late nineteen thirties and her own work.

Her adult poetry is an emotional journey through the human condition. Taking one to the heights and depths of the good, bad, and beautiful of being human.

Ms. Bishop layers her novels and short stories with the mythical, paranormal, fantasy, and from there into the mind and heart of her rescue horse (‘Dinky: The Nurse Mare’s Foal’).

She grew up the middle child in a large family and credits her parents for giving her the ability of imagination, empathy, and reading.

You can find Marta here: and

Lorna Suzuki

After multiple, failed bids at world domination, Lorna Suzuki was forced to create a fantasy world where she reigned supreme, until her characters orchestrated a military coup! She is a martial arts instructor with over 30 years experience in this field and a novelist, best known for the epic adult fantasy series, the Imago Chronicles as well as the YA fantasy series, The Dream Merchant Saga that she co-writes with her teenaged daughter, Nia. The first three novels of the Imago Chronicles have been optioned for a major motion picture trilogy for worldwide theatrical release in 2015. Film production is currently underway with an Oscar-winning producer at the creative helm! Visit the official Imago website here:

Susan Herman

Susan Herman is an independent editor living in Northern California with her husband and two school-age kids. She loves to travel and observe those little quirks that make places and people special. She will imitate your accent without meaning to, but will stop if you buy her a beer.,,


Thanks to everyone for participating. Despite technical glitches with the site today, I still had fun and learned a lot.

Please note: I will be looking for guest posts starting two weeks from now. Leave me a comment here if you are interested or tweet me at @Bookmark_Terry.



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“I Believe”

Deutsch: Franz Nölken: Schreibendes Mädchen, 1916
Franz Nölken: Schreibendes Mädchen, 1916

I believe in love and commitment.

I believe in the sanctity of late night ritual by candlelight.

I believe in the basic goodness of every person.

I believe in meditation and acting in such a way that I do not cause suffering to a sentient being.

I believe that when someone entrusts me with her or his heart, I become a better person every day.

I believe in giving and receiving, although the latter is excruciating for me!

I believe it is never too late to learn and explore old curiosities.

I believe in friendship, ensconced in the sharing of umbrellas and shorts, puppies, and yurts.

I believe in honesty or, at least, striving for that above all else, despite the need to protect the tender hearts of people.

I believe in the spirit of adventure but one must temper it with realism.

I believe at this point in my life, I have at least two handfuls of wisdom from which I can sift for complete sentences.

I believe in dancing because we are gorgeous when swaying to a searing guitar and pining saxophone.

I believe in process, taking time—whether that is to sleep, eat, cry, hold hands, be alone, read, make love, or taste the resounding quiet in a forest, just before spotting a blue jay.

I believe that peoples’ body language offers a more accurate assessment of their feelings than just words alone.

I believe I have a chance at a good job starting this July. It could make Chile a potential go!

I believe in #YesAllWomen, a Twitter hashtag in use the world over. Whether you are two or one hundred and five, all females should be safe in their person, homes, going for a walk, at schools, and in groups.

I believe in #YesAllWomen because in India recently, a group of men (including Police officers) raped and murdered two young teen girls and hung them from a tree. This must stop! The problem is not just India but everywhere on this globe.

I believe we need more good men to speak up and violent men to stop raping.

I believe in making things right.

I believe I always have trouble with closeness with women friends, given Mom’s six-decade long rejection and hatred of me, with she being my first relationship with another living soul and female.

I believe that, despite ideology (including positive psychology), not everyone can just change their thinking and nullify their eligibility to having bad things happen to them. It helps a lot but does not cure society’s ills.

I believe in assisting and empowering the people who need it. That is one reason I love free online courses from universities worldwide. I do not have the money to finish school yet but can expand my knowledge, expertise, flexibility, teaching capabilities, and confidence.

I believe that by broadening my knowledge, I can give back on a much bigger stage.

I believe in workouts that bring on a good sweat, followed by a swim, and half-hour in the steam room, where I can see nothing. It is then, while I rub my eyes, that I imagine myself perched on the precipice of branding a whole new life.

I believe I do not know how to deal with people at all and yet a part of me knows this is untrue.

I believe in continuing my life struggles with the same stubbornness that has held me thus far.

I believe in Words with Friends, Texas Hold’em poker (with play money), and word mongering, the last of which is online writing practice with a growing group of friends on Twitter.

I believe in meeting people’s eyes, standing solid in my truth.

I believe being self-disciplined is equally important to letting it all fall away at the proper time.

I believe in hugging a moment fiercely, squeezing the ‘be Dickens’ out of it.

I believe comparing ourselves to others—especially those society deems ‘better’ or more ‘respectable’– is soul damaging.

I believe in snowshoes, walking sticks, roughing it, and sharing dorms in youth hostels on windy autumn nights.

I believe society’s view that having resources or not is rooted solely in merit and hard work (never luck), laziness and a weak mind (never circumstances), does not reflect everybody’s truth. This may be valid for many but I think it is not a science, by any means. This matters to me because I am an exception, as are thousands of people I encounter in life.

I believe that as much as I need to discuss class, people will greet me with equal push or pull depending on where the pendulum swings at any given moment.

I believe and know that the topics I must write about are not to force my views on someone else. I work on myself only and can, and will, be wrong. All I want to do is learn and understand. That takes dialogue, not monologue.

I believe one side effect of needing therapy to live and being lonely is that I sometimes talk to people as if I am in an interview. I do not wait for questions and do not notice they never come. I tell some people a lot and only realize later, in tears, that I had not really made friends. I look at those people and can almost see them using their fingers to form an ‘L’ for loser over their heads. At these times, I feel I am just a pathetic example of what not to do and be in life.

I believe in struggling through this and all fear, ridicule, physical pain, defeat, negative thinking, disillusionment, and depression. Group think. Bureaucracy. Old tapes that are deafening. People who reiterate with exclamation marks all those old messages.

I believe and know it is great for me to encounter good men. I know they are there and value their presence in my life.

I believe in fair play, appreciating people at every turn, and meeting generosity and trust with heaps of the same.

I believe in second and third chances but also believe in stopping before it gets ridiculous and people get hurt.

I believe in optimism and hope; I will enter any skirmish to find it.

I believe in fun, yacking all night, and laughing myself silly.


Terry Gibson, 2014.

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The Invitation – Written By Oriah Mountain Dreamer

HS-Oriah-709-BW-BorderIt doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Orion Mountain Dreamer

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