Announcing the Able in This Diverse Universe Essay Competition

That’s right! Four Paws for Noah has a third writing competition under its banner and it goes live today. This contest is for nonfiction essays focusing on ableism, disability, access and overcoming. Noah has faced all these themes in his daily life.


You can read more about the how and why of this competition on the Submittable page. I hope you will submit your work. Voices are needed on these issues. This is an opportunity to share yours. First place walks away with a cash prize of $250.

As an added incentive, one random participant will be selected to receive consultation/feedback on a research-based personal essay of 20 pages with head judge Karrie Higgins. This prize has an estimated worth of $350.

Permission to publish the top pieces in a Four Paws for Noah fundraising anthology bearing the same title as this competition will be requested. Writers retain all rights to their work and can decline to participate.

Today is Self-Harm Awareness Day

Did you know that self-harm is not a suicide attempt or even necessarily a cry for help? 


I practiced self-harm as a teen as did many other people I know. I was fortunate in that my harming only lasted for a couple of months and I was able to recover with little relapse. This is not the case for many. 

Have you struggled with self-harm? Do you know someone who does? 

Find out more about self-harm, support and recovery in my piece On the Verge.

November 27 #LinkYourLife Roundup

With the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., #LinkYourLife was quieter this week. Despite it being a slow day, there were an enormous number of excellent links shared. Shareen, my #LinkYourLife partner in crime, spent the day shopping and otherwise in a wardrobe I hope transported her to Narnia because, wow, that mama needs a break. I held down our three forts as best I could, but it really wasn’t too hard because this community really is turning into a family that shows up and pitches in. It’s weird. I love it.

friendship bracelets
friendship bracelets, one for each of you

Because I’m sick and in full mom mode, I can’t link all you pieces. I’d love to do that because they were all amazing. Seriously. You all know how to write the heck out of yourselves. What I am going to do is revisit a pretty fabulous problem-solving conversation we had in our Facebook comments.

The topic was trigger warnings. Think trigger warnings are unnecessary bs that allows survivors to perpetuate their status as victims and avoid being uncomfortable? Keep reading. This will interest you.

As a survivor, I am easily triggered by written images of abuse. I handle these images with little problem when I’m prepared for them. It’s when triggers take me by surprise that I struggle. While reading this beautiful piece by Jackie Cioffa, I stumbled on some of my personal triggers. Kimmie Edwards (aka @stuckinscared) had shared the piece and quickly added a trigger warning when I requested it. That’s when the conversation started.

Kimmie took note that triggers are personal and different for every person. We can’t predict what will bother whom. But, as many of us are survivors of violence or trauma, we need a way to remain compassionate when introducing writing. The goal is never to harm, always to help, as Jackie said.

Kimmie shared that trigger warnings can keep individuals from clicking in the first place. She provides a content warning at the beginning of some of her posts instead of a TW when she shares in order to get readers there. They can read the warning and choose to go further or not, but a connection was made and that’s often the best first step.

I have seen this done, but I hadn’t thought very far into Kimmie’s suggestion. We continued talking about the problem of introducing a post with a warning to stay away. What if we added a link to another post readers could click if they weren’t emotionally prepared for engaging a trigger?

You may think trigger warnings are for avoidance. They can be. Certainly. We should all have agency over what we are exposed to. We don’t show children snuff films because it can harm their development. We don’t show survivors violence without warning for the same reason. The process of healing is long. Lifelong. Some days we aren’t in an emotionally safe place to read about abuse. Some days we are. We need to be able to recognize readiness in ourselves in order to self-regulate and not regress.

Being triggered puts individuals in a non-receptive state in which blood flow to the brain can change, making it impossible to retain new information. In short, reading imagery or action you aren’t ready for can make it impossible for you to learn.

I teach writing through trauma to survivors of addiction, sexual assault, abuse, war and more. Part of learning to write is reading. I offer a content warning for every piece I select for classes. Every piece can trigger. That’s why it was chosen. Reading our triggers can help us heal when we are ready to engage them

My students sometimes don’t read past a trigger warning, but most of the time they do. They do because the reason they are in my class is because they are working to overcome what has harmed them. 

Think about that. People sign up for and attend a class in which they know they will be triggered in order to help themselves heal. 

I have seen amazing transformation in a six-week session. I have felt incredible growth in myself. This is not an argument for survivors to go out and read their triggers. It is a request for the rest of the world to reconsider why trigger or content warnings are useful. And for bloggers to consider offering a link to a safe piece when your reader might not be ready for what you are sharing. Kimmie is right. If I see a TW I might not click at all, and then I might miss out on getting to know people like Kimmie or Jackie. The point of #LinkYourLife is to connect, and I think our comment conversation may have found a way to protect that possibility. 

Here is the piece that started the conversation. It is sensitively written, beautiful and necessary.

This post on talking to your children about the people who hurt you came from Rebecca Lemke.

Thomas Ives from Bestowing Fire wrote about choosing what we put into the world.

Kimmie Edwards gave us a great laugh by sharing her adventures with Hetty Hoover.

Elaine Mansfield recorded how she received a message of love from the other side.

Laura McGowan terrified parents around the globe with this suggestion for children’s origins.

These are just a few posts from the #LinkYourLife Facebook group. Check it out for more links and conversations. Posts pop up there every day, and new people are joining all the time.

In addition to our weekly Twitter exchange, we also have a #LinkYourLife Pinterest page (which I am still learning to manage so forgive the slow adds). It’s a group page which means you can join it, pin to it and also add your friends so they can link up with us.


Meet the Judges for the (De)Caffeinated Confessions Writing Competitions

(De)Caffeinated Confessions

The main reason I decide to submit my work to writing competitions (aside from that prize potential) is admiration for the judges. There’s plenty of that happening with this competition. So much, in fact, I’m bummed to be coordinating the contest and thereby unable to enter. That limit most likely does not apply to you, so have a seat, pick up your (de)caffeinated beverage, and let me introduce you to my friends.


Shareen Mansfield wears her heart like a sweater. When you need a friend, she’s there. When I think of her, I hear James Taylor. Shareen’s endless compassion has swayed her from journalism, seduced her into nursing, made her a one-woman rescue team for kids and kittens alike, earned her Mother of the Year every year since her 10-year-old’s birth, had her take on #LinkYourLife, generated #LinkYourCompassion, and led her to create On the Verge, a home for voices of all ages and experiences. It also made her squint until her head hurt as she tried to think up the best competition for you all; one that would reflect her sense of humor, meet friends and readers in a common space, and raise money for Noah’s service dog fund.


Diana Gordon you know from #WeekendCoffeeShare, a coming-together of friends at the Twitter table every Saturday. Grab your mug, pull up a chair and step into the life of your cyber-friends. Diana is a writer, bookworm, feminist, and social media junkie. You can find her blogging about monsters and holding regular coffee chats at Part-Time Monster. You can also follow her on Twitter @parttimemonster or find her on Facebook at She lives in New Orleans with her son, her husband, and one very energetic terrier. 


London-based, deep-thinking humorist and heartthrob Tom Hocknell writes on “the main questions of modern life, such as Pop music, Social Media, and the desperate need for the return of Lyons’ tea houses in London. Between January and June 2010 [he] enrolled on the Faber Academy novel writing course under the guidance of Richard Skinner, and in 2012 won the Brighton Fringe’s Writer’s Den.” Tom does not drink coffee, but he knows and enjoys a correctly made cup of tea.

Find full competition details on our Submittable page.

Strawberry Cream Cheesecake Pie

Looking for a last minute Thanksgiving dessert to share? This pie is quick and easy. Make it even easier by using a ready-made graham cracker crust. Added bonus: your pie will look better than mine. I have yet to meet a person who can’t apply toppings better than I can. Also, I am terrible at food photography. No lie.DSC_0193

If you are asking why a “cheesecake” pie, the answer is this filling tastes like cheesecake and, well, I got your attention didn’t I?

8-10 graham cracker sheets
1 stick butter, melted (1/2 cup)

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
1/3 cup sugar

2 cups sliced, fresh strawberries
1/4 cup strawberry preserves or jam


Preheat oven to 350. Crush graham crackers and mix with butter. Press into a greased pie plate and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven.

Place sugar, butter and cream cheese in a microwave safe mixing bowl. Microwave at half power for 15-20 seconds or until cream cheese and butter are softened. Cream ingredients together one minute until smooth.

Spread cream cheese mixture over crust.

Top with sliced strawberries, layering them in a spiral from the outside to the inside of the crust.

Microwave the preserves for 30 seconds so it liquefies. Stir and spoon over the top of the pie.

Refrigerate pie for at least one hour before serving. Enjoy!

#LinkYourLife #LinkYourCompassion

Consider this Day 3 of my sadness quotes. Once again, there will be no sadness. Here’s the thing: it can easily feel like the world is falling apart, but this community we are building is amazing. Thank you for being a part of my life, for showing up every week since the #LinkYourLife inception (what was it, back in March?).


I had this tiny idea that maybe it wouldn’t feel so lonely online if I could actually get to know some writers more deeply.

Not only is it no longer lonely, but this group is one of my favorite hangouts. In fact, it has been through #LinkYourLife that I was able to set up the Four Paws for Noah writing competitions. You have been more than friends to me. What we are building is family.

Thanks for being you and all that you do. Thanks for your heart and your words and your love. Thanks for being a part of this journey. You are all amazing and I am thrilled to be getting to know you.

And a special thank you to Shareen for stepping up to keep #LinkYourLife alive when she saw me struggling to manage far too many projects at once.

3 Day Quote Challenge: Sadness Day 2

I started my 3 day quote challenge and used up all my quotes in one go. To be honest, I’m not a quote person. I do enjoy a universal turn of phrase or that observation that makes you turn around to see who has been spying on your life. My issue is I can never remember words in the right order or their attributions.

Because pegasus!
Because pegasus!

So for Day 2 I’m going to link three sites where you can find brilliance in word work. I don’t expect the owners of the sites to begin the challenge themselves. I simply hope you’ll take the time to lose yourself in their truths, because they are all truth-speakers and heart healers alike.

The first writer I’m pointing you to is Karrie Higgins. Read her site for necromancy and ink magic.

The second is Darlene Kriesel. Read her site for wisdom and balance.

The third is Kirsten Clodfelter. Read her site for humor and happiness.

I hope you find yourself lifted.