A Love Story

Madison Women's March, photo by Lydia Ishmael

Madison Women’s March, photo by Lydia Bear Ishmael



The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.  –Caribbean poet and playwright Derek Walcott


thisoneThere are so many love stories to live and write. Every good story, at its core, holds a love story. I hope for each of us that we experience this love in all the flavors and forms it wants to take in our lives.

Anger and resentment are good qualities to include  in the description of our antagonist. But to write from a place of anger and resentment will ultimately turn off readers. I worked with a woman who was writing an entire manuscript on how her boyfriend of 10 years cheated on her. Her writing was decent but quickly bored me. It was a rant about how not to be duped (and she was convinced that every woman would be). She not only wanted the reader to understand her but to agree with her. However, in writing and life, understanding doesn’t necessarily translate into agreement. She ended up firing me as her Writing Sherpa since I did not agree with her and she took this as yet another person not understanding her.

I invite us to find the love story at the core of why we write and what we are writing about. (No matter what the subject and theme.) Look to your favorite authors, writers and poets. Where is the love in their work and message?

One of my earlier spiritual teachers often repeated: “You can’t heal in isolation.”  We can’t love (or write well) in isolation either. To love ourselves, or another, we must find ourselves in the center of a full and peopled life. We must heal the inner divides, as Parker J Palmer invites us to do in his book A Hidden Wholeness, so that we can heal our outer divides. Be assured that this journey toward love and wholeness never ends, and that sometimes it is our yearnings and divisions that keep us in the story.


Photo by Lydia Bear Ishmae





Photo by Lydia Bear Ishmael

Photo by Lydia Bear Ishmael






Be warned, self-love can be seen by others as an act of defiance and selfishness (but do it anyway).


If you are not in love, or falling in love with your writing (or writer’s life), then ask yourself these two questions.  (I ask these every time I am writing on a piece):

What experience do I want to have while writing this piece?

What experience do I want my reader to have as they read this piece?

(So, where’s the love?)

When Farmers Can’t Work The Field


When famers can’t work the field

They repair tools,

Mend the fractures in containers

talk to the land

beg her to be kind

pray for a bountiful harvest

A good rain

but who knows how this gap holds them.


When we can’t be together

It’s time to repair our hearts

Fill in the fractures while still letting in light

ask for the grace of recognition

beg for kindness

pray for bounty

A good friend


The climate inside rarely calm

all I know is this ache that

holds me


Until I see

the fields of your eyes.


–Julie Tallard Johnson, 2016


Please check out my home page for upcoming events like Writers’ Institute, Write-By-The-Lake and a (free) March writers’ retreat. 



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