The Importance of Handwriting

Earlier this year, I led a journaling workshop at the Theosophical Society. Robert E. Haskins attended this workshop and when it was over, he asked if he could take a look at my handwriting. Observing the few lines I’d written, he began to describe my character, state of mind, emotions, skills, and some of the blocks preventing me from moving forward. I listened with amusement to his accuracy, wondering how he could know such a great deal of information about a stranger by only reading a few lines.

Robert explained that he’s a master handwriting analyst, graphotherapist, herbalist, and homeopathic practitioner who uses a holistic health care approach to early detection and treatment for various issues such as stress, depression, ADHD, PTSD, and many more. He’d studied in various universities including Bowling Green State, University of Tubingen in Germany, and Wayne State University. He said, “My objective is to highlight the personality and character traits of each person: emotional disposition, aspiration level, sensitivity, goal setting abilities, one’s spirituality, benevolence, manic depressive conditions, self-blame, suicidal tendencies…”

The list went on and on and it was impressive, given his analysis of my handwriting which stayed with me long after we departed. I learned quite a bit from what he said and for the next several months used the analysis to release some old patterns. One thing Robert said about me is that I’m quick to listen. We all get messages throughout the day to guide us through our lives, but how many of us really listen to them? Oftentimes, it’s not because we’re so hard-headed that we ignore these messages, it’s because our world has too many distractions. Our mind is filled with noise, our heart with fear.

Robert quoted Socrates; “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates believed that philosophy, the love of wisdom, was the most important pursuit above all else. Wisdom is different than knowledge in that wisdom is generally considered to be morally good. Albert Einstein once said, “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” Knowledge is watching and reading about a certain people and culture, maybe visiting them as a tourist. Wisdom is experiencing that people and culture by living among them.

Most people seek knowledge and few gain wisdom. That’s because the love of wisdom is not on their high priority list, although if it was, it would transform their lives and humanity in general. In my interview with Robert, he talked about trying to prevent bullying in schools by helping children and adults bring their body back in balance. But he discovered that the school system did not yet embrace his expertise.

One day, I’m sure they will. They will realize what my Native American teacher often said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing, expecting different results.” Sadhguru, an Indian yoga, mystic and New York Times bestselling author, says, “There is no such thing as modern world and ancient world. At every time in society there is a certain set of people who are trapped in their own logic.”

Sadhguru adds that people have a “constipated intelligence and over-used intellect” where they find frivolous things profound yet discount the profound intelligence of, for instance, the plant that produces a fragrant flower.

“There is more intelligence in the air around you than in your brains,” said Sadhguru. His message is to employ our intelligence without the limitation of our intellect.

Graphotherapy may be applied in multiple situations. It can improve one’s ability for concentration, memory, school performance with the subsequent improvement in self-confidence and self-esteem in children. It is a tool for parents to get to know their children, monitor them and guide them in the right path.

It is useful for rehabilitation after brain damage, dysgraphia, dyslexia and Parkinson. In Psychiatry, it’s used to study mental disorders, different types of stress, lack of will, concentration and attention, behavior disorders, obsessions, disorganization and disorder in general, self-esteem issues and personal insecurities, among others

Robert says that he highlights positive and negative personality and character traits on initial contact with anyone, adding, “Keep in mind, there are no universal formulas for self help, in that, each person is different and must be dealt with this understanding in mind. However, once he is reintroduced to his ‘subconscious being,’ we can help him consciously see himself from a new perspective. Once he is exposed and then acknowledges his latent personality and character traits, he can respond to situations rather than react to situations and rationalize too quickly.”

To contact Robert E. Haskins, call (248) 541-4412 or email

The Scriptorium,a Place for Writing

About a year ago, I heard a good rumor that a new bookshop, The Scriptorium, was opening in Clawson, Michigan. What made it unique was its goal to serve the Michigan literary community by carrying new titles released by Michigan authors. Its owner, Diana Kathryn Plopa, was already quite active in the writing community as the associate publisher, editor-in-chief and a writing coach at Grey Wolfe Publishing, LLC, an independent publishing house. The author of six books of various genres, she had previously led writing and critique groups at Panera Bread.

“I focus on mentoring other writers and supporting their dreams of publication,” she’d once said. 

Diana spent time as a features writer for a Detroit newspaper, and for several years she wrote copy part-time for a popular local radio program. She holds a degree in English, with a concentration on creative composition, as well as a certification in early childhood development.

“Writing and a sincere love for the written word are passions that have followed me since early childhood,” she said. “Whether poetry, fiction, memoir or any other genre; my words create worlds to step into with enthusiasm and wonder. I don’t write because it’s necessary fun – although it truly is – I write because like breathing, if I don’t do it, I would die!”

Her Muse, Drake, a duck her son gifted her long ago, helps her with the tough stuff, quacking inspiration in her ear whenever necessary.


During the summer, I visited The Scriptorium and learned that it also offers a wide variety of used books by national bestselling authors, writing workshops, writing groups, critique groups, book clubs, children’s literary adventures and a host of other bookish events. When you walk into the bookstore, you’ll immediately notice that they have a special space set aside for writers to focus on their work.

I went in one Wednesday evening to meet Diana when I noticed several tables getting filled with writers, their laptops, coffee cups, and even their dinner of sushi or whatever else. Diana explained that unless the space is temporarily being used for an event, you’ll always be able to find a table and an outlet to comfortably add energy and creativity to your works-in-progress. They even provide hot beverages, bottled water, and snacks (supported by donations) to help fuel one’s enthusiasm because, Diana says, “Our imaginations are fueled by the abundance of hot cocoa whenever we write together.”  

The warmth of the atmosphere and the fact that there was coffee available to energize me, I decided to take out my pen and journal and join the writing group. It was a productive two hours, from 7 pm – 9 pm, so I returned the following week. Now that my children are back in school and I lead a Girl Scout Troop with a conflicting schedule, I haven’t been able to go much, though it still lives nicely in my memory. Not just the writing space, but the spirit of the place and its people.

Diana lives with her husband, Dave, and their two dogs, Alex and Finnigan in Birmingham, Michigan. She enjoys writing, sailing, kayaking, escaping to their cabin in mid-Michigan to write and spend time with the family, especially her son Zachary. Wolfe Cub: The Inspiring Story of a Woman who Made the Conscious Choice to Raise her Child as a Single Parent is the story of Diana’s Wolfe Cub, Zachary, and how together, they re-imagined their limitless American Family. Diana writes about how she raised her son as a single parent not by death of a spouse or by divorce, but by choice. She made a plan to raise her son with intelligent love, reasonable boundaries and lots of patience.

Throughout the years of raising her son, she found many creative ways to support her family. She has spent time in the theater as a technical director and lighting designer, worked as a nanny, a preschool computer teacher, and a medical transcriptionist. During Zachary’s teenage years, she opened a website design company called Wolfe Technologies, Inc. In her free-time, she writes with enthusiastic abandon. She’s currently working on a number of books.

“My personal goal is to write one book in each of the major genres,” she said, “and then choose a favorite – if that’s possible.”

Check out Diana Kathryn Plopa’s website to learn more about her work

Here’s a link to the Scriptorium Bookshop

Link to Grey Wolfe Publishing

The Beginning of My Gong Journey

By Vince Anthony Pitre

Licensed Psychotherapist, Master Hypnotherapist & Healer

Have you ever been in paradise or even imagined it?  For me it’s Kauai.  Sandy beaches for miles, waterfalls, tropical jungles, cleansing rains, and mostly sunny days in the high seventies — that’s what does it for me.

Six years ago, this quaint island nudged us to come back and play.  I’m so grateful we did. An hour after checking into our condo, my partner Diane announced, “I signed us up for a gong meditation.”

My sense of interest swelled inside like waves cresting and crashing along the ocean shoreline. Diane handed me the flyer. Included was a picture of our teacher, a beautiful description of the gong meditation and what I felt was a high fee. I remember thinking, “This better be good!” but felt very excited and curious about the upcoming experience.

Vince 2

Tomorrow came quickly and we arrived early at the community room by the pool. Doors opened, eyes front and center, and there she was…a beautiful shiny symphonic gong.  Soon the room was full and the air buzzed with excitement. Our teacher Guru Purkh Kaur (Diane Cline) introduced herself, tuned in and opened the space for healing.

I laid back, took a few deep cleansing breaths and began to surrender into relaxation.  After a long pause, Diane invited the gong to open up a wave of sound that I can only describe as a primordial OM. This cosmic sound drew me into sacred space. The quieter I became inside, the more I could see, hear and feel.

More about that in a moment.


Now, think of a time when you tapped into your creativity. What was that like for you?  How did you let it flow? Are you expressing your creativity as much as you want to be creative? Letting go is the secret sauce for allowing your creativity to flow.

Now, there’s a claim for you…Letting go of what exactly? Remember, if it’s not loving; it’s not you. Accept what you feel fully as you release everything that’s not you, so you shine brighter.

How does that relate to creativity? The answer’s pretty obvious if you think about it…When you relax, release fear and trust yourself fully, you’re tapping your creative genius. Have you ever overanalyzed something only to be reminded that when you surrender, everything starts to flow in your favor?

Intellect is really good for setting intentions and routine problem solving. Beyond that, trusting your creative powers opens up a whole new world of limitless possibilities. Now, you could write those possibilities off as luck, the placebo effect or pie in the sky – I love cherry.  Or you could do the smart thing and ask: How can I allow this to work for me?

In all industries, knowing and using your creative power matters.  In creative fields and healing, they’re doubly important.  Knowing who you are and trusting the deepest parts of you significantly opens up your creative powers and very definitively influences all your relationships.

Your creative power only gets stronger every time you invite it. Now…knowing yourself and trusting your creativity enhances your sense of value. How much you value yourself directly impacts how you share value in your relationships. Deep work brings deep rewards.  Only the deeper work of discovery unlocks your ability for unconditional positive regard, true healing, and being a greater force for good.

Which reminds me of our story.Once the stress and boundary dissolving gong meditation was complete, I wiggled my fingers and toes, opened my eyes and very slowly got up. My partner Diane made her way over to me with the most unforgettable look on her face.  She enthusiastically shared highlights of her journey.

Having had an equally profound and yet different experience, I said, “I’m getting a gong and I’m going to share this at home.”

Diane smiled and replied, “Yes you are.”

And just like that, in that moment of creative genius, my attention and intention agreed to see this through and soon enough, I purchased our first gong and set out to share this spiritual technology with thousands.

And that, kind folks, was the beginning of my gong journey.

Experience it for yourself, but only if you want to:

→ let go deeper

→   allow your creative genius to flow

→   be a greater force for good by acting on your creativity

→   integrate your learning

→   experience peace

For the upcoming spiritual and writing retreat (Oct. 5-7) Vince will be doing a gong meditation inside the chapel of Colombiere Retreat Center. To register, visit Chapel.jpg

Previous interview with Vince (January 2018)

A Story’s Moral Meaning

For decades, Stanley Williams, PhD, has been helping writers in the art of storytelling.  Many of his teachings are based on his book The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue and Vice for Box Office Success, which Will Smith called “the most important tool in his tool kit.” Stan has consulted with Will and his team on over a dozen motion picture projects, which have totaled over 1 billion dollars at the worldwide box office.

Stan was my screenwriting instructor at the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan (MPI). Over the years, he was supportive of my work by attending, sometimes with his lovely wife, my events and giving me advice on my first feature documentary, The Great American Family. In January of this year, I invited Stan as my first guest on my TV show. Earlier this month, he invited me as his first guest on a podcast he’s starting called, “VERISIMILITUDE, Conversations with Storytellers: How the narrative arts reveal what is good, true and beautiful.” To listen to the interview, click here To listen to the interview, click here.

We met one Saturday morning at a nearby park where, we learned, there were some renovations being done. From the start of the interview, the topic of Gone with the Wind surfaced. I read that novel at the age of nine, while living in Amman, Jordan and awaiting a visa to come with my family to the United States. The novel was in Arabic and it grabbed my interest to the point where my family had difficulty getting me to the breakfast, lunch, and dinner table. I felt such a connection to the character of Scarlet O’Hara and her tribe that I didn’t want to separate from them.

Imagine a nine-year-old girl from the Middle East being able to relate to a Southern teenage girl from Georgia. The two were worlds apart, but the author’s storytelling transcended their differences through the common human traits we all have of love, fear, family, and desire. Margaret Mitchell knew how to tell a story, and won the hearts of many people with her storytelling abilities. She took readers on a journey and, despite the trials the characters faced, she didn’t let us feel hopeless.

What I didn’t realize then is that the story also formed a foundation for the type of woman I looked up to. Scarlet was a confident girl who didn’t let her tribe’s limiting beliefs, criticism, or her gender to stand in the way of what she wanted. Her courage helped her pursue her dreams as well as defend her home. Also what I didn’t realize was that Atlanta, Georgia in the 1800s was not Detroit, Michigan in the 1980s. I was disappointed not to see the horse carriages and puffy dresses in the streets as we drove through the highway to our new home in the suburbs.

Picture With Stan2

I believe that artists, whether they’re writers, filmmakers, or painters, have a responsibility to society, to unearth the truth of things but also to help shift consciousness. We see with our brains and our perception, not our eyes, and so, whether we know it or not, the words and images that we use, and the actions we participate in, have a great impact in the world.  

In his book, The Moral Premise, Stan writes,“A Moral Premise describes a story’s moral meaning. The moral meaning of messages is the cornerstone of historical and popular narrative and is the reason stories, in general, are so important to us as human beings… Whether we look at the novel, television, or film, moral messages are everywhere. For instance, A Time to Kill, as a book and as a film, is about how ‘faithfulness leads to justice for both the innocent and the guilty’ or how ‘unjust hatred leads to a just death.’”

I try, through my writing, to infuse my stories with love, life, culture, humor, and authentic people who make my real world interesting. Some of my role models, Margaret Mitchell, Jane Austen, Henry James, and Lynn V. Andrews, have this romance with their stories give us timeless lovers, heroines and cunning social satire.  

Link to Stan interviewing me on his new podcast

Below is the half-hour interview with Stan (Jan 2018)

Stan’s book:

Spiritual and Writing Labyrinth

In my fourth year apprenticeship in Lynn V. Andrews’ shamanic school, our group walked with our mentors to a desert area in Arizona and set our pipe bags on a sitting bench with a table. We unwrapped the items in the bags, like tobacco, sweet grass, a lighter, and began the ceremony. Afterward, we went to the labyrinth nearby. One of the apprentices brought her flute, others brought their rattles. The woman with the flute led the group. She played charmingly, reminding me of when my Native American teacher played his flute. 

I had nothing to hold and was last in line. The moment my feet touched the sand, I felt myself walking as a child in the streets of Baghdad, on the way to school, dressed in a uniform, silk ribbons tied around my braids and ponytails. The memory caught me off guard. How did I get here?

The flute and rattle sounds kept bringing everything to the surface, the wide boulevards, the grassy traffic circles, but mostly, the vast desert oasis with unpaved roads, some of which I had heard have the biggest and best types of hawks and an abundance of rare birds. By the time we left the labyrinth, I fell into utter silence. I couldn’t speak. The next day, my teacher, Lynn, did a healing ceremony with me which took years and years back and then brought to the present moment, to full circle.

I wrote about my experience in Lynn’s school through a four-part memoir series which chronicles the teachings of each year. The books are called Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School and the labyrinth experience is in Book 4. Prior to this, I’d never known the spiritual or historical context of a labyrinth which has been known to the human race for well over 4000 years.

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The Labyrinth I walked in Arizona

The word labyrinth comes from the Greek labyrinthos and describes any maze-like structure with a single path. That’s what differentiates it from a maze which has multiple paths. A labyrinth is unicursal and the way in is the way out. It can be found in ancient cultures, traditions and countries including China, Ireland, India, England, Scandinavia, France, Crete and others.

One of the best known legends is the story of Theseus, who with six Greek youths and seven maidens was sent into the Cretan labyrinth to face the terrible Minotaur. He killed the monster, but would have been unable to find his way out of the innumerable twisting passages of the labyrinth had not Ariadne given him a skein of thread to unwind as he entered. The great labyrinth of Egypt, which Herodotus considered more marvelous than the Pyramids, was long ago torn to pieces, but its site can still be traced. The massive temple complex was said to contain 3,000 rooms full of hieroglyphs and paintings and it’s said that perhaps it holds the key to mankind’s history.

Prehistoric labyrinths may have served as traps for malevolent spirits or as paths for ritual dances. Many Roman and Christian labyrinths appear at the entrances of buildings, suggesting that they may have served a similar apoptotic purpose. The oldest existing Christian labyrinth is probably the one in the fourth-century basilica of Reparatus, Orleansville, Algeria. It was a time when pilgrimages were popular. Christians used labyrinths that were built on pre-Christian site and modeled their own after ones used by earlier cultures. For Christians who could not take the long hard pilgrimage journey, the labyrinth served as an alternative form for prayer. Its path of seven circles was shaped like a Cross. Gradually it became one of the central symbols in the Christian tradition.

Labyrinth has long been used as a meditation and prayer tool. In recent years, there has been a rebirth of interest in it as it is a physical representation of the journey of your life, including experiences, changes, discoveries and challenges. As you walk the path you are invited to remember the story of your life. The center can represent Heaven, God, self-discovery or a personal goal. There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth. It is a sacred experience for everyone who takes the time to journey its circular paths.

In an interview, Lisa Argo, second level Reiki practitioner and a student of the Center of Enlightenment Ministry program, shares her recent experience walking the labyrinth. Lisa serves the congregation as a certified Medium of spiritual messages and Spiritual Healer. She is a nanny and is working on a series of children’s books centered on a group of boys and their spiritual and emotional growth. 

Lisa will be leading a workshop at the Path of Consciousness spiritual and writing retreat called “Spiritual and Writing Labyrinth.” Upon entering the labyrinth, there’s only one path to follow – same with the writing path. You need to trust that you are exactly where you need to be, surrender to the process of writing, and allow it to take you where you need to go. There’s something about the mindfulness required to navigate the gently winding path that makes the cares of the world drop away.

For more info, visit

Making Dreams Come True

It was July of 2016. I arrived a little late at the Yule Love it Lavender Farm to attend a Detroit Working Writers interactive workshop led by Cynthia Harrison. Cynthia immediately captivated me with her storytelling as she talked about her days as a young loving bride who kept the house clean and orderly, and as a result of living this particular dream, she wrote in her book Your Words, Your Story, she’d lost the desire to plop her “bleeding heart between the covers of a notebook.”

Then one morning, she woke up to find out that the basement had flooded during the night. She called her husband at work and he promised to come “to the rescue” during his lunch hour. He brought down the water that had reached halfway up the stairs and told her to go through the boxes, to sterilize anything she wanted to keep with bleach and Lysol because the water had been sewer water and the place was now contaminated.

With yellow gloved hands, Cynthia started to open the boxes when she came across her journals – all soaked! She’d been writing diaries and filling notebooks with poems since she was 11 or 12 years old. She saw that they were ruined but grabbed the top notebook anyway. Although wet, the ink had only smeared, not completely disappeared.

Her husband was already on his way up the stairs when she said, “My poems! Mike! What should I do?”

He looked back down at her, but she could tell he was already thinking about work. “Throw them away,” he said, and then he left.

Although initially, she thought he was right, that she should get rid of it all as it had simply been a phase in her life, that she was done with the 10 years of recording her every agony, she did try to save her poems. She also came to realize how precious her talent was, ended up marrying someone who actually valued her writing life. Cynthia became quite a successful author who is represented by The Wild Rose Press and Amazon Encore. Earlier this week, her tenth book Lily White in Detroit was published. This book is about a private investigator, Lily White, and Detroit police detective Derrick Paxton. In a sometimes racially divided city, a black cop and a white PI work together to solve a complex double homicide. What they find leads them closer to danger, and to each other.

Cynthia has evidently had a wonderful career since she published her first award-winning book Your Words, Your Story in 2007. Back then, she was a creative writing teacher at Macomb Community College. The book came about when she couldn’t find a text that worked for her students so she decided to turn her college lecture notes into her first book. The print edition sold out but the book lives on, in an updated version, as a Kindle e-book. Though she is no longer teaching, her only non-fiction book continues to sell and has hit #1 on numerous Kindle lists over the years.

Everything after Your Words, Your Story has been a novel with strong female characters, which is her first love and what she tried to teach people to do in the first book. She has been blogging at since 2012, she writes full time, and loves to read novels, memoir, and spiritual self-help.

After the workshop at the lavender farm, the next time I saw Cynthia was at the Detroit Working Writers conference. Our author tables were next to each other. We quickly became friends because, despite our age difference, we had quite a bit in common. Both are prolific authors who are ambitious but always take the time to shine the spotlight on someone else, to help elevate careers, to create meaningful relationships and do some good in the world.

Cynthia & Weam.jpg

After reading my four-part memoir series, Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World: My Life-Changing Journey through a Shamanic School, she invited me to be keynote speaker for the Detroit Working Writers and nominated for vice president of DWW. That meant a great deal for me, and it still does because Cynthia is not just about being a writer, she’s about empowering and uplifting those who she comes in contact with.

Aside from writing, she, like me is in love with her family. Cynthia is married to the man of her dreams and they have two grown sons who have their own beautiful families. She is a lifelong Michigan resident who, although loves her city, would sometimes rather live in Hawaii (I wonder during which seasons that would be). Thus she spent much time on the Great Lakes, looking out to big blue water, imagining it is the Pacific Ocean. But not long ago she did buy a home near the beach and she firmly believes that dream came true as a result of her popular Blue Lake series, set in a Michigan beach town. She lived there so long in her imagination that it manifested in real life – which is another thing we have in common. We don’t just dream. We make our dreams come true through intent, action, and the belief that we will receive what we request of the Universe. We use our words to make up our stories.

To learn more about Cynthia’s work, visit


Be the Solution

Finding your warrior spirit can be a difficult journey when faced with the daily drama of life and given what we see these days on the news and in social media.  Outside factors can be such strong distractions that they often make us forget how to look within, utilize our skills and talents to grow, prosper and serve the needs of others in our communities.

I believe that you can write your fate with your own hands when the rest of the world is sleeping or busy participating in the drama. Problems can be solved in many ways, including finding someone else’s experience and copying what they did, changing a limiting belief or attitude, or by joining a network dedicated to solving that particular problem. Being the solution is a great way to come out of the problem.

The Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities (ACHC) has encouraged and inspired individuals, families and communities to do just that – to be the solution. They’ve created numerous programs that help shape how well our communities live. This is especially important now since we live in a culture where every day, over 2000 teens begin abusing prescription drugs. 

I interviewed Julie Brenner, CEO of ACHC about their programs. With over twenty years of service in marketing, alliance and partnership development, Julie holds a Bachelor of Arts from Wilfrid Laurier University and a degree in Corporate Communications from Sheridan College, both in Ontario, Canada. She is a Certified Prevention Consultant (CPC-R), and is a graduate of Leadership Oakland XXVIII and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business Executive Program for Non Profit Leaders.


Julie shared their wealth of services. The Bear Truth is ACHC’s college outreach program which collaborates with Oakland University to reduce high risk drinking and misuse of other substances while integrating wellness practices and relevant resources. Their Greater Urban Community Coalition Initiative supports local experts and residents to ensure each child in every school has the necessary resources to live a safe, healthy and long life. A key component is to reduce and prevent underage drinking, prescription and opiate drug misuse, illicit marijuana and tobacco use among youth and adults in highly minority populated communities across Oakland County.

Pioneering social change in the realm of health and wellness, the Alliance strives, through their Integrative Wellness program, to reduce the fear of complimentary therapies. They want to empower individuals and families to take care of their health in holistic and sustainable ways.


Keep Them Safe, Keep Them Healthy! is another program that strengthens families by building curriculum for families who have youth ages 10 to 14 years of age in the home. A compliment to that program is Life is Your Playbook led by former NFL linebacker for the New York Giants, and 2011 Super Bowl Champion, Greg Jones. He imparts knowledge and skills needed for today’s youth using several different “life plays.” These dynamic experiences are for youth of all ages so that they gain protective factors that will help them avoid destructive behaviors, including substance use, by helping them know their value, think about what they want for their futures and what they need to do to get there.

Love a Child is a year round program focusing on areas of mentoring for children, youth and young adults challenged by circumstances of abuse, neglect, and behavioral issues through one-on-one mentoring, home visitation, camps and special events.

With 5-10 meetings held every month in Oakland County, the Alliance serves as the Oakland County Chapter of Families Against Narcotics (FAN). A partnership was formed with FAN to increase prevention, recovery and support connections. This partnership encourages strong ties to all community sectors including parents affected by addiction, concerned citizens, law enforcement, judges, leaders in education, business, and healthcare and the recovery community. 

PEEPs (Peers Educating and Empowering Peers) is a unique group that brings together coalition youth members to promote healthy lifestyles through prevention education across Oakland County. And there’s Resolve, a 16-week comprehensive life skills training program designed and developed for individuals in recovery who are 18+. The purpose of this program is to empower individuals in recovery to move forward in their life skill development targeted specifically to areas of need, whereby addressing the health and well-being of the whole person.


Through my extensive travels around the world and my journalism of over ten years, I discovered that what we do at home, in our own little corners, creates the environment we dream for ourselves and future generations. I love watching individuals, families, businesses, and corporations who understand the power of that. They make conscious decisions, placing their focus on the solution within their scope, spreading it to those in their proximity, then naturally expanding to larger circles. They take a proactive role in shaping their lives and helping those around them. They help make the world a better place. 

Here’s a wonderful and informative video about their Integrative Wellness Program, which is a sponsor of the Spiritual & Writing Conference & Retreat  Click Here

For more information, visit

Treasure Chest of Memories

Our stories don’t start the day we are born but long before that. The decisions made by our parents and their parents, whether biological or adopted, have an impact on our lives. Their legacy, their dreams and ideas influence our childhood experiences and the choices we make as adults. Understanding who they were helps us recognize certain patterns in ourselves, and gives us a sense of love and belonging. It also brings us closer to them, especially if they are no longer on this beautiful earth.

Laura Hedgecock, a freelance writer, blogger, and speaker, has a passion for helping others share their stories. This stems from a gift left by her grandmother. Shortly before her death, Hazel Crymes passed on an old spiral notebook filled with a lifetime of memories, which she dubbed her “Treasure Chest of Memories.”  Her writings included childhood memories, stories of her children as they grew, good recipes, and wisdom she had gathered along the way.

So Laura wrote a book to guide hobbyists with writing prompts, exercises, and varied examples. The book is called Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life. Using this guide, even beginning writers will find that they too are capable of sharing their memories and compiling a legacy for their loved ones.

Drawing on her grandmother’s “Treasure Chest,” as well as her experience in genealogy, photography, scrapbooking, writing, and blogging, and her own journey compiling such a “Treasure Chest,” Laura empowers memory collectors with down-to-earth, practical advice and creative ideas. Similarly, her second book, Blogging for Family History: How to Launch a Blog and Make it Successfulprovides a road map for family historians to launch a professional blog.

The process of collecting memories can be quite fun and adventurous.  One of Laura’s blog posts, for instance, talks about how to identify emotional family heirlooms. She writes, “Heirlooms can be a bit like flowers. One person’s flowers are another person’s weeds.” To figure out what one should pull and what they should fertilize, she advises to look around and start asking questions. To look for objects you’ve always taken for granted, travel treasures, such as items brought back from military or business travel overseas, and even furniture. To explore the attic, basement, or garage for long-sealed boxes.

For immigrants or refugees, or people who lost their homes to fires or disasters, the items might be few in number but the story behind it could fill hundreds of pages. The process could be therapeutic. For me, it was very healing to write a memoir series which helped me discover the powerful women in my lineage and to recognize the affects our departure from my birth country of Iraq had left on me.

The day we left Iraq was so hush-hush I didn’t even know about it. One day I was in Baghdad, and the next day – poof! – I was in Amman, Jordan. I have no recollection of our actual departure, which type of transportation carried us across the border or what happened when we arrived. Everything happened so fast and in secrecy, because we couldn’t let anyone know we were heading for America. We disappeared as quickly as sugar in a cup of hot tea, and then we began a new life.

We spent almost a year in Amman awaiting our visa to the United States. Until we arrived to Michigan, I had no idea that I would never again enter the home, school, and neighborhood where I grew up. Suddenly, I discovered I was no longer going to see my friends. We never even said goodbye.

I spent years wanting to ask my family, “Why have you uprooted me from my birthplace and brought me here?” I felt like a plant taken out of the soil. After repotting, plants often enter a state of shock as they adapt to the new environment and struggle to get over the shock of being uprooted and moved.  But my family was so busy acclimating and surviving, I could not express how I felt – until decades later, when I began writing my memoir. I was able to share story now and for future generations.

You too can start sharing your memories, ideas and stories through journaling, blogging, or a book. It might be difficult to be honest about your discovery and finding a loving and authentic way to share it, but this would be an opportunity to write what you’re most passionate about – you and your loved ones.

Visit Laura’s website to learn more

The Life of a Writer

The life of a writer can be magical and adventurous, but it’s also a lot of hard work. Aside from the year(s) it takes to write a book and the revision and editing process associated with it, there’s the business aspect. Some writers can afford to write full time but most have full or part-time jobs to help support that lifestyle.

Even some of the most successful writers hustle to maintain a balance between their writing, speaking gigs, and family life. I remember reading that after their success, Gone With the Wind’s author Margaret Mitchell and Harry Potter’s JK Rowling had difficulty finding time to write with the nonstop phone calls from the media and people making numerous requests or offering them dozens of opportunities. The hard work and unsteady income could cause a person to want to quit. For the dedicated, however, when they try to stop, the art always wins. Over time, they learn to simply surrender to it. They persist, despite the instability of it all.

Author Laura Bernstein-Machlay is a good example of persistence. Rejection letters never deterred her from doing the work, at one point repeatedly and boldly but politely sending to the same magazine until they accepted her piece. Laura teaches literature and writing at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit where she also lives. Her poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and magazines including The American Scholar, Georgia Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, New Madrid, Poetry Northwest, Redivider, Southern Humanities Review, and so on. She’s been nominated for six Pushcart Prizes in both the nonfiction and poetry categories (including one this year).

Last summer, Laura completed a multi-essay series on Detroit for The American Scholar. Her full-length collection of creative-nonfiction essays, Travelers, was published on May 1st of 2018.  The essays map her journey as she makes sense of her recovering city, Detroit, the generations that preceded her, and her own definition of wife, mother and home. The intimate, humorous and heartfelt essays offer an honest and discerning look at the moments which both challenge and redeem us; the shaping of our lineage; and the profound necessity of hope.

Deftly observed and thoughtfully crafted, Laura’s lyrical prose brings to life Detroit’s survivor spirit and the indefatigable nature of family. This collection discovers the inherent grace and defining necessity of place, heritage and the search for our own footing within the vast world we inhabit. Travelers examines the intersection of the connections we form and those we inherit and how, with distance and trust, and a little luck, we might find more than just our way home.

At the Detroit Working Writers (Nov. 10, 2018), Laura will lead a workshop called “The Tinkertoy Essay” which is a form of creative nonfiction that eschews conventional transition devices and instead utilizes short, vivid scenes “to tell stories in artfully arranged fragments rather than in one specific narrative line.” (Elena Passarello). By throwing away the restrains of rigid, often chronological, plot structures such as conflict and rising action, the writer is freed to focus on voice and image to surprising and powerful results.

Laura’s story is inspirational!

Through my decades of writing, I’ve met and worked with hundreds of writers from different backgrounds and “success” levels, from emerging writers to award-winners and bestsellers. I was most impressed with those who have found a balance in their lives, who enjoyed a “success” that was based on their terms and not everyone else’s.

When we take ourselves too seriously, we tend to also take the joy and creativity out of the writing process, even take it out of our lives. Our egos can get in the way of our authenticity, causing us to forget why we became writers in the first place. Our light becomes absorbed by pain and a sense of failure. As long as we don’t get ourselves stuck in that state too long, pain and darkness can be good in that they raise us to new awareness and create more depth in our writing.

So much happens in the writing process. You become informed of the subject you’re writing about. If the subject is close to your heart, you heal and transform as a person. After you release the story into the universe, you may touch someone in a way you’ll never know about. Then you have, knowingly or unknowingly, served yourself and others. You have come full circle.

To learn more about the DWW Conference, click here

To read more about Laura’s book, visit this link:

Healer’s Almanac: Journey into Health

Alternative medicine has become popular because treatments such as acupuncture, massage, osteopathy, yoga, meditation and nutritional therapy treat the whole person –  body, mind, emotions, and spirit — with the focus on staying balanced and well. Patients are seeking less invasive, non-drug, low-cost methods to strengthen their good health.

In her search for a way to heal her family and herself, Patty Shaw learned that there are many alternative therapies available to treat a variety of illnesses of the body, mind, and emotions. Her discoveries led her to write a book called Healer’s Almanac: Journey into Health with Wisdom from the 21st Century Goddesses. In it, she defines the many alternative therapies available and introduces you to health practitioners that provide those treatments.

“My advice is to keep an open mind, keep searching for something that works for you, and remember no therapy is a cure all,” she said. “A healthy approach to healing is balance and treating the body as a whole, not a sum of parts to be fixed or replaced individually.”

Patty stresses that prevention is the best medicine, so “start early, and never stop healing yourself.”

“I believe that within our bodies is the wisdom needed to bring us buoyant health,” she said. “Learn to ask and then listen to your body. It will guide you and be your path to healthy living.”

In her book, Patty offers meditations, inspiration and humor, journal pages with insightful daily inspirations, creative ways to work with moon energy, and much more. The co-owner of Coventry Creations, who are the creators of the Original Blessed Herbal Candles, Patty is devoted to her spiritual path, and offers her clients support as a spiritual counselor and Reiki Master. She’d leading a nature walk called “Wake Up Your Senses” at the Path of Consciousness spiritual and writing retreat (Oct. 5-7).

Healer's Almanac                                                                   Click here to order

Why 21st Century Goddesses? Patty writes that feminine energy has been re-emerging for decades and is present everywhere we look. It is waiting to be harnessed and brought to its fullest potential within our own lives. Realizing that empowerment means acting like a goddess, we can express our feminine energy in a mature and fully actualized way. She adds that, in the past, goddesses represented the creation of life and its continuation. Those found in our history are varied and versatile and not limited to the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant, unless they chose to be.

I found these parts of Patty’s book quite intriguing, given that I’m currently revising the manuscript of my next book, Mesopotamian Goddesses: Unveiling Your Feminine Power. In writing my book, I came upon a great deal of research that illustrates much of what Patty talks about regarding feminine power and why the world today needs the goddesses’ wisdom. As she says, “We’re taking steps toward our own empowerment and they are our guides.”

The Healer’s Almanac is quite interactive. As you read through the information, you’re invited to participate in the meditations, follow the rituals, and record your feelings and experiences on the blank journal pages.

Another book that Patty Shaw authored, along with her sister Jacki Smith, is Do it Yourself Akashic Wisdom: Access the Library of Your Soul. It’s a guide to understanding your life and its lessons. Akasha is a Sanskrit word which means ether. The Akashic Records have existed from the beginning of time. They are the record of your soul’s journey. Each soul has its Akashic Records, like a series of books each book representing one lifetime. The wisdom of the Akashic records is very transcendent and for centuries was only accessible to seers, saints, and highly evolved souls. In the Age of Aquarius, as humanity is growing, we have come from a condition of dependency to one of responsibility. We are now taking conscious ownership for our spiritual development.

To learn more about Patty Shaw’s work, visit