Empowering beliefs are ideas that launch us forward and help us to become the person we want to be. Empowering beliefs are freeing, encouraging, and inclusive; they nurture and uplift. When we find ourselves harboring a limiting belief, we need to replace it with one that cultivates joy. —Laurie Buchanan, NOTE TO SELF

When someone we know releases a book, we are curious, aren’t we? What’s it about? Who will decide to read it, share it, recommend it? Why did they write it? What life steps led to this moment? Where do I find a copy? And when someone we don’t know releases a book, we are also very curious. Should I read it? Will I like it? Does the subject intrigue me? So here, per my interview with someone I do know and hope you’ll want to know, is insight into the work and motivation of author Laurie Buchanan. I know you are curious about her and her new book, Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth. 


Admittedly, I’m usually not a big fan of overly prescriptive books or methods, but NOTE TO SELF is the exception! Exploratory. Inviting. Thoughtful. Thought-provoking. Laurie has created a unique book, in fact, that speaks to all ages and backgrounds, especially if you are looking for some new ideas to brighten your path. I endorsed Laurie’s book with a cover quote, which I am sharing with you at the close of this blog post. It was my honor to contribute to this project!


Welcome, Laurie! Thanks for taking the time to respond to a few questions.

1) What is going through your heart and mind as you savor the release of your new book, NOTE TO SELF?
I would love to tell you that I’m collected, poised, and graceful. But in reality, I’M OVER THE MOON with giddy excitement! This book has been quite literally years in the labor and birthing process. Now that the baby’s arrived, I’m beyond tickled giddy-with-excitement pink!
2) When you wrote your book … did you have a certain audience in mind, a specific message you wanted to impart … or did the motivation spring from a more literary perspective, i.e., a strong desire to write? 
While NOTE TO SELF appeals to both men and women, my target audience is women. Why? Ninety percent of my client base is comprised of women, so it made sense to write in that direction. The message I want to impart to my readers is that you don’t have to live encumbered with heavy baggage that weighs you down. In NOTE TO SELF, I share actionable tips and techniques to offload debilitating life luggage so people can live lighter.
3) If you were to sit down with a group of people to explain the key themes of your book, how might you begin?
I’d begin with the 50-word “elevator pitch” that all authors learn to craft for their book at writers conferences:
“Baggage! We all carry it with us through life. And no matter how we dress it up, it’s frustrating, inconvenient, and slows us down. Chock full of real life examples and actionable techniques, NOTE TO SELF is designed to help you offload emotional baggage and discover a lighter, joy-filled you!”
4) How did you stay inspired during the writing, editing, publishing phases? Any advice for other authors?
I’ll be the first to tell you it wasn’t all merry sunshine. I shed my fair share of tears. That said, I’m also the kind of gal who “picks myself up, dusts myself off, and is willing, able, and ready to start all over again.”
The advice I gave to writers at the most recent Writers’ Institute at UW-Madison was three-fold:
  • Confidence
  • Persistence
  • Concision


5) Turning back in time … is there a voice from the past that has stayed with you over the years? A philosopher, spiritual leader, author? 

Yes, indeed. The Dalai Lama’s response to the question, “What is your religion?” has never left me. He responded, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” That resonated to my core and has made a huge, positive, lasting impression.
6) In a chaotic, unpredictable world, what can readers glean from your book in terms of solace and wisdom?
Readers will glean from my book that HAPPINESS is based on externals; it fluctuates up and down every day. JOY, on the other hand, is internal; it can be cultivated and nurtured. We can be joyful even in the midst of a chaotic, unpredictable world.
7) How can readers find your book?
NOTE TO SELF is available wherever books are sold. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and if your local bookstore doesn’t have it, they can order it for you, or request that your local library acquire a copy. If you’d like a SIGNED copy, please call my local bookstore—Rediscovered Books—at 208.376.4229 and let them know you’d like to purchase a signed copy of Laurie Buchanan’s NOTE TO SELF. They’ll ship it to you within 24 hours.
8) Anything else that comes to mind … !?
I’m excited to share that NOTE TO SELF is a 2016 Idaho Author Award winner in the Inspirational category. The reception/ceremony was on Nov 1, NOTE TO SELF’s official release date. I love serendipity!
Author Bio
Board certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, Laurie Buchanan is
a holistic health practitioner and transformational life coach. Her areas of interest include
energy medicine, inner alchemy, spiritual awareness, writing, and laughter. Definitely
laughter! Embracing the belief that life is an expression of the choices we make, Buchanan is a
teacher and student of purposeful living. With tremendous respect for the earth’s natural
resources, she strives to leave the slightest footprint on the planet while at the same time
making a lasting impression on its inhabitants—one that is positive, uplifting, constructive,
and healing.A minimalist by intent, Laurie Buchanan, Ph.D., lives a beautiful life with
fewer things—simple yet full. Please visit her blog, Tuesdays with Laurie. And look for her
on Facebook and Twitter. Her new book is also on Goodreads.
“Regardless of the religious tradition, spiritual path, or personal perspective we choose to embrace, the potential exists for it to encourage and uplift every aspect of our being and to affect the types of goals we may choose to set for ourselves.” — Laurie Buchanan, NOTE TO SELF
Thanks so much, Laurie, for being my Studio Guest today.
Wishing you a successful book release and many moments of joyful gratitude!
“While we are all passengers on a planet called Earth, we can choose to enhance the way in which we travel: emotionally spiritually, intellectually, and physically. In fact, we can, through the pages of this book, discover new ways to travel that are lighter, more fluid, and life-enhancing. The author, a wise and dedicated traveler, is also the right kind of guide–caring, inspiring, uplifting, knowledgeable–for your journey of self-discovery. I recommend this tremendous book to anyone seeking the companionship of good energy and joyful presence. A five-star read in every way!” –D.A. Hickman, author of The Silence of Morning, A Memoir of Time Undone 
the other Mccrory Garden (26)
Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits. See you again next week!

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“Beware thoughts that come in the night. They aren’t turned properly; they come in askew, free of sense and restriction, deriving from the most remote of sources.” ― William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways 

  • As his fans likely recall, the first edition of Blue Highways stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 42 weeks in 1982-83. Not bad for a first book. Of course this was just the first of many for Heat-Moon.

It’s my pleasure to share a short interview with the prolific author, William Least Heat-Moon. Many of you know his work from the wonderful classic, Blue Highways. I recall reading somewhere that Heat-Moon was a “travel writer” because his books often focus on geography. But this isn’t remotely accurate in my estimation.

Heat-Moon’s books (including: PrairyErth, River Horse, Roads to Quoz, Here, There, and Elsewhere: Stories from the Road, Columbus in the Americas, and Writing Blue Highways: The Story of How a Book Happened, etc.) are an in-depth look at significant experience as framed by a certain geography. The “sense of place” is nearly a central character in many of his books, as he (birth name, William Trogdon) deftly weaves intriguing layers of perception and knowledge into a cohesive, often revealing, statement.

“Literature that keeps employing new linguistic and formal modes of expression to draft a panorama of society as a whole while at the same time exposing it, tearing the masks from its face – for me that would be deserving of an award.” — Elfriede Jelinek


Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Heat-Moon attended the University of Missouri where he earned bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees in English, as well as a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism.

“Memory is each man’s own last measure, and for some, the only achievement.”
William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways

  • I hope you enjoy the brief Q & A that follows.

1) Would you still become a writer IF you knew then what you know now … about the process, the time, the politics? Yes indeed.

2) When Blue Highways enjoyed such lasting success, how surprised were you? What did your success tell you about your readers, the world itself?

Beginning writers, in their innocence commonly imagine  their first effort as drawing massive sales. I was an innocent when BLUE HIGHWAYS appeared, but twelve previous rejections of the manuscript  tempered my expectations. The world of readers contains enough intelligent people who will seek out quality writing, even  quality writing that challenges. It’s agents and young editors who lack foresight about the possibilities of  a truly well-written  book.

3) Your book about writing Blue Highways is a wonderful take on the realities of the writing process. When you spoke about your commercial publisher not “getting” the book … I can imagine your frustration. Luckily, University of Missouri Press had a different vantage point. But in many ways, wasn’t this development simply part of the Blue Highways experience, as you continued to chart your own course regardless of what others labeled significant, important, or worthy?


Big commercial publishers, especially today, are transfixed by the greed  to find a potential blockbuster (and that usually translates to schlock). Too often their goal is for fast, mega sales, even though history shows the longevity of a book to be the true gold standard.
SIDEBAR: I reviewed this book here in SunnyRoomStudio in 2015 in a blog post called FIRST OF MANY.

4) As you know, I have prairie roots in Dakota … geographic roots that evolved into spiritual roots, such that I wrote about in my book about prairie wisdom … which is really a kind of life wisdom. If you were to live in the middle of nowhere at this point in your life, would you miss the rest of the world? Or would you just sit down and write another book?

I’ve spent time in many places across America that could be called pockets of deprivation. For dozens of reasons, they are not for me beyond a  week or two–but that week or two can be highly informative and often damn delightful.

5) Last question, is writing a lonely and isolating occupation OR is it the grandest form of freedom available to us? Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life, notes: “I do not so much write a book as sit up with it, as with a dying friend. During visiting hours, I enter its room with dread and sympathy for its many disorders. I hold its hand and hope it will get better.” Does this description resonate with you, or not really?

Annie’s description does not resonate with me except by reversal: I see writers as midwives helping new life come healthfully into the world. If I become hospice care to what I’m writing, then I need to find an undertaker for my writing. ~
TO READ my review of Writing Blue Highways: The Story of How a Book Happened, here’s a link to FIRST OF MANY.
Photo by Don McLeer, Missouri River
“All of those things – rock and men and river – resisted change, resisted the coming as they did the going.
The nature of things is resistance to change, while the nature of process is resistance to stasis,
yet things and process are one, and the line from inorganic to organic and
back is uninterrupted and unbroken.” ― William Least Heat-Moon
  •  I began this shiny new year in SunnyRoomStudio by considering how smallish changes can deliver significant impact … often in ways that surprise us with their staying power. Looking upward more frequently to study the sky, for instance, can yield a needed change in perception, a calming pause in a hectic day, a chance to connect with nature and something beyond our immediate environment. It doesn’t require a financial investment or ask to be scheduled into our day.
  • So, today, I wanted to mention another smallish change with wonderful potential. Give something away as often as possible. Big or small … make it a spiritual practice. Find things around your home that someone else needs more than you do. Letting go of “things” can remind us of the temporary nature of life, and help us build a bridge to others at the same time. Let me know how it goes, what ways you find to extend or refine this idea. Small changes are the magic of our lives!
Book update … 
My memoir, The Silence of Morning: A Memoir of Time Undone, will be available in KINDLE format February 10th, which is my son’s birthday. The print edition has been released.
A poignant, courageous narrative; a book for all seasons that forges lasting
bonds of connection and understanding; a determined and inspired spiritual journey.  

“When I began writing this book I wondered what was left to say, to do, after a sudden death.
When everyone had returned to schedules, routines, and responsibilities that were insistently framed by
calendars and clocks, not by the stirring passion of grief–and I felt alone like never before.
Is that where the conversation ends, I’d wondered.”

  • I’ll be back on Monday, February 15th with another smallish change that holds the promise of something more. Thanks so much for dropping by!!

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About my 2014 book release …

Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place is about digging into our surroundings to unearth an organic, timeless wisdom. If you’re looking for inspiration or want to lean more about a landscape, a place, that helped me to unearth my spiritual roots, this is a book you’ll enjoy. We are much wiser than we imagine; it’s only a matter of tapping into what we already know. ~ D.A. Hickman


I’m honored to have author Ellen Stimson in SunnyRoomStudio this week. And though it may seem early to get into the Christmas spirit, Ellen’s latest release is the perfect way to gently bring the season back into focus. She’ll tell you more about that, however, and she’ll also tell you about turning fifty. Ellen is blessed with a wild pack of children; not-so-wild but completely adorable husband; and a very civilized group of chickens, dogs, and cats. She writes about the whole divine catastrophe from an old farmhouse in Vermont.

Welcome, Ellen!

smaller ellen

Turning Fifty
(author of the bestselling book, Mud Season)

SO I WAS TURNING FIFTY. This was the first birthday that had really gotten my attention.

Well, okay, there was actually one other. Twenty-seven was a game changer, too. I remember standing in my kitchen talking on the phone to an old high school pal. Her sister had just enrolled in medical school. That would not have been so notable only she’d already graduated from law school, so it seemed like overkill. And there I was listening to her tell the story of the med school applications, On. My. Birthday.

  • My eyes happened to wander over to my living room coffee table.

Sitting on top of it was a silly vampire novel, called The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. Law school, medical school and Anne Rice. I thought, “Ellen, we really could be doing better here”. (So twenty-seven … but not since then.) Now came fifty. Fifty really isn’t really half of anything. You know as a middle age barometer 37.5 might be closer to the mark, but it just doesn’t have the same ring. We look instead to fifty.

As my birthday approached I started doing the math. My mom, who had recently died, had lived to be eighty-four. I had just read an article, in the Atlantic, about women who were born in the decade of the nineteen sixties (like I was) living an average three years longer than their mothers. So that would get me to eighty-seven.

But those last few years of hers had been a hot mess. So maybe eighty. If everything went all right, I decided I could reasonably expect to live pretty well until about eighty. I mean I don’t smoke. I don’t really drink. Cheese is kind of a hobby of mine but except for that … this gave me thirty years. Then I did some more math. Thirty years equaled fifteen hundred and sixty weeks.

Fifteen hundred sixty.

That surely didn’t sound like very much. It felt like, what the hell?

I was practically dead.

I went to bed kind of depressed. But then in the middle of the night the best thing happened. I woke up realizing that I wasn’t fifty yet! This was only April, and my birthday wasn’t until August. I had a seventeen free weeks, a death row reprieve.

I immediately set about trying to think up something cool to do with all that extra time. I had always wanted to learn the stand up bass, but that could take a lot longer than four months. I wondered how long til’ I could play “My Funny Valentine.” Plus as a girl who had been drunk on book love all my life, I had always meant to write my own book. That had the added benefit of not needing some expensive piece of equipment to get started.

  • Luckily I had a great story.

A few years earlier our family had moved across the country for a romantic country life in the mountains of Vermont. We’d fallen in love with the area one glorious October, cashed in our 401Ks and picked a whole new life at the “lifestore.”


I’d dreamt about raising chickens and drinking my morning coffee by a waterfall. Only it hadn’t exactly turned out like the commercials. We did get those sweet chickens, but there were a few little … bumps, along the way.

For just one tiny thing, we still had to make a living. I’d sort of forgotten that part. (This is what it is like to be me.)

So when we got here, I bought what may have been the oldest continuously operating country store in America. It was one of those charming places with old candy counters and gorgeous ancient wooden floors. There was even the perfect old-fashioned bell above the door. It didn’t look like the kind of thing that could practically kill you. It had been happily humming along since 1817, and then I managed to run it, BAM! straight into the ground in a little less than three years.

Now that was a story. And I set out to write it. My first memoir was called Mud Season. Published by W.W. Norton in 2013, it set the tone for all that followed. I loved everything about this book project so much that I set out to write the second while I was on tour for the first. A memoirist gets to look at all the big questions through the lens of just a few characters.

Mud Season was all about parenting, living intentionally, business failure and place. The second one, Good Grief!, explored the boundaries of family and grieving. Both often get shelved in the humor sections of the bookstores because humor is one of the lenses I use to tell myself my stories.

In my life there is the wonderful and the hideous, (I have a wide emotional range) and the hideous is mostly just waiting to get turned into a funny story. The birthdays kept coming of course. This year I turned fifty-three and took a few flying lessons to celebrate.


My third book, An Old Fashioned Christmas, was released this week, again from Norton. It is all about tradition, family, and food. The same characters are back, loving and fighting and doing all their regular human stuff. The critters, such a big part of our lives, are all here, too. Naturally I am writing another. Cause, as of this moment, I probably have about fourteen hundred and four weeks to go, and the way I figure it, playing the stand up bass would have been awfully hard on my back. ~

Thanks, Ellen!
You’re right … you have a great story.
Enjoy the season.

Find ELLEN on Facebook and Twitter.
Or via her website.

  • SEE you again on Friday, November 13th, as I continue to focus on memoir — the genre, the path, the point of it all. I will also be keeping you updated on the release of my forthcoming memoir: The Silence of Morning — A Memoir of Time Undone.

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When we value the journey itself, new realities are revealed amidst the old.  –dh

  • Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place is about digging into our surroundings to unearth an organic, timeless wisdom. If you’re looking for inspiration or want to lean more about a landscape, a place, that helped me to unearth my spiritual roots, this may be a book you’ll enjoy. We are much wiser than we imagine; it’s just a matter of tapping into what we already know. ~


Those of us who write understand the difficulty, yet, the importance, of finding our own voice. Its authenticity will either resonate with readers, or it won’t, but if it doesn’t ring true to anyone, even to yourself, then writing a memoir could be difficult. So here’s an intriguing studio guest to tell you a bit more about “voice” when it comes to literary matters.

“Write them all down. The mistakes and the blessings and the places you cracked in two. Write the
prayers and the tantrums. The sacred and the profane. The open roads and the closed doors. Nothing is permanent.”
Jeanette LeBlanc

I’m very pleased to welcome author Susan Weidener to SunnyRoomStudio as my 44th Studio Guest. An editor, writing coach and teacher of writing workshops, she founded the Women’s Writing Circle, a support and critique group for writers in suburban Philadelphia. Also, a former journalist with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Susan left journalism in 2007 and after attending a women’s writing retreat, wrote and published her memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, a memoir of love, loss and dating again, about being widowed at a young age. Two years later, she wrote and published its sequel, Morning at Wellington Square, a woman’s search for passion and renewal in middle age. Her novel, A Portrait of Love and Honor, completes the trilogy, inspired by and dedicated to her late husband, John M. Cavalieri, on whose memoir the novel is based.

“I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast daily into still waters, will produce a ripple. ”
Anne Schroeder, memoirist

Susan Weidener photo

By Susan G. Weidener

The writer’s toughest job is finding her voice. I think it is especially hard for women. We’re taught early on not to be “outspoken,” not to complain or “air dirty laundry.” We worry how friends and family might view us if we write the truth of our story. Fear depletes our creative energy.

Worse . . . if we try and manufacture a certain type of voice . . . literary, or “what sells”, or is “popular”, there’s an inherent deceit, a lack of authenticity. We have lost the ability to connect, not only with ourselves, but with our readers.

When we find our voice, we understand it is unique.

Everyone has an individual voice, based on their backgrounds, personalities, dialects . . . way of viewing the world. And that’s good.

  • Different voices need to be honored, not hamstrung by society’s expectations of what a woman “can and cannot say.” Distinctive voice offers a welcoming diversity of storytelling.

When I wrote my memoirs, Again in a Heartbeat and Morning at Wellington Square, I wanted to convey the voice of a woman who owns up to her own naive expectations and illusions . . . and her bitterness and unwillingness to accept the inevitable. She rails against the fates, so to speak, because her youthful and vibrant husband is dying of cancer. Her anguish is centered as much on his pain, as her own selfish anger at the unfairness of it all and how his illness destroys her dreams.


“The things that make you a functional citizen in society – manners, discretion, cordiality –
don’t necessarily make you a good writer. Writing needs
raw truth, wants your suffering and darkness on the table,
revels in a cutting mind that takes no prisoners…”
Natalie Goldberg, Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir

In Morning at Wellington Square, she has arrived at a more comfortable place – despite the major life setbacks of being a widow and single parent of two young sons. She still believes in “magic” – that it can all change in a heartbeat but now she is more hardened, more cynical. Nevertheless, she comes to accept, however grudgingly, that in grief and loss many important lessons are learned. She begins investing in the day-to-day adventure of finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.

I’ve often been told that my memoirs are unforgettable because I didn’t pull any punches . . . I wrote with clear, hard honesty and objectivity. I wasn’t centered on how the reader – might, or might not, view me. I’ve sold a lot of books – not a ton, but enough that I’m pleased readers cared more about the story and the themes I wanted to express, than whether or not they liked me.

  • In other words, I owned my voice.

Here’s an example of voice in writing from Morning at Wellington Square:

I’m the girl who typed away on a Smith Corona until 2 a.m.

I’m the bookworm who read Gone with the Wind.

I’m the woman with platinum blond hair in a sleek white gown with pearls at her throat, taking the arm of a tall, dark-haired man with Italian good looks. He smiles as we pose in front of a red oak door.

I once dreamed of falling in love with Prince Charming. The funny thing . . . the fairy tale came true. He was always there in my dreams. Then one spring day he walked into my life – just like that. No warning. Young, arrogant, his intense dark eyes locked onto mine.

Loss cannot be remedied, only lived through.

I’m a cynic and a romantic. Complex, creative, never dull. That’s me, or the woman I hope others see, not the person who sometimes wakes up at 3:30 a.m. and feels desolate, wishing I could hold him again, hear his voice. Yet I have said goodbye, realizing I have lived whole lifetimes without him. I am letting go . . .


“The writer’s business is to find the shape in unruly life and to serve her story.”
Dorothy Gallagher

  • Let your voice resonate from the first page of your book, until the last. Honor and own your voice. ~

Thanks so much, Susan, for sharing your creative voice here in SunnyRoomStudio … a pleasure to have you here! Wishing you all good things as you continue to share your voice with others. – dh

Susan earned a BA in Literature from American University and a master’s in education from the University of Pennsylvania. Please feel free to leave her a comment, or look for her on Facebook and Twitter. If you click on her name, you’ll discover her website.

  •  See you again on Friday, October 2nd, as I continue to focus on memoir — the genre, the path, the point of it all.
  • ALSO … I’ll be sharing the book cover and title for my memoir on the 2nd … thank you artist Paul Jackson for your lovely watercolor that helped create such a lovely cover!
  • Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place is a book about digging into our surroundings to unearth an organic, timeless wisdom. If you’re looking for inspiration or want to lean more about a landscape, a place, that helped me unearth my spiritual roots, this may be a book for you. We are ALL much wiser than we think; it’s just a matter of tapping into what we already know. Enjoy!
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When we value the journey itself, new realities are revealed amidst the old.


Welcome back to SunnyRoomStudio where we are immersed in questions of life purpose and life meaning per our 2015 journal, Exploring Meaning. My Studio Guest, Susun Cooper, shares what is making her life meaningful.

Journal Focus Question:
With personal growth, how has your life path evolved — have steps along
the way helped you to authentically express what has come to pass within you?

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