Wednesday, September 14, 2016

On Literary Longing, Hope, and Despair

I’ve been working on a memoir for a long, long time. Like ten years long, since I first formed an early draft. Or fifteen years long since I was living in China and writing so much raw material that would inform the heart of it. Or almost twenty years long since I planted the earliest seeds, first grew committed to a writing practice, first allowed myself to dream that I could be a writer. If I keep reaching back, I can see how I’ve been trying to tell my story my whole life.

And yet, I had no idea that it would take so long to form a publishable, marketable draft. To go from writing many of the pieces individually (as stand-alone essays), to editing them (over and over and over), to then merging them into a memoir with a narrative arc. It feels vulnerable to tell you of my struggle, for I have wanted to publish my book for so long now. To gain “success” in the eyes of others and myself, to “prove” to the doubters, to “justify” all this time I’ve spent obsessed with my writing life. And it is tempting to question my process. Maybe if I hadn’t started writing about my twenties so close to my twenties, I would’ve had more perspective from the get-go on the overall meaning and structure of my book—which might have saved me a lot of time. Or maybe I should’ve prioritized hiring more editors to read the whole thing. But editors are expensive, and I’ve written what I’ve felt called to write as I’ve gone. I’ve sought the help of editor friends for feedback, and I’ve intuited a lot on my own. I recognize now how much my craft has grown over the years, and how some of the earlier writing is weak. I’ve gone back and completely rewritten a lot. And I’ve wanted to be done at so many stages, but I’m trying to accept that my book hasn’t been done with me. It has had more questions to ask, more gaps to fill in, more themes to interrogate and connect.

I’m also trying to accept that I am a slow writer, with a slow revision and submission process. Becoming a mother also slowed my process—even as it showed me, all the more, how much I cherish my writing path. No, I will never be one of those writers who pumps out a new book every few years, and yes I’ve let go of many of my earliest writing-related aspirations. But what I know is this: I am still writing. I have been committed to this path for twenty years now, and I know that my core desire to write comes from the most vital, risk-taking, clarity-seeking part of me. Sure, I still want to publish more in order to connect to a larger audience and advance my career. But the seemingly glacial speed of this progress has also forced me to remember why I am drawn to writing in the first place. How writing feeds me; how I’m not happy if I’m not writing—and not just editing, but also actively expressing new ideas and producing new work. Writing shows me how I’m feeling, helps me process my day, my week, my year, my childhood, my unconscious, my future. Writing turns my confusion or grief into story, into poetry, into meaning. Writing breaks silences, creates empathy, seeks redemption and release.  

Yes, the publishing world is incredibly hard to break into, and although self-publishing is a growing viable option, it is also not an easy route if you ultimately want to put out a professional product that can reach a lot of people (via reviews, bookstores, etc.). Over the years I’ve queried agents and presses in several cycles. Each time I’ve received valuable feedback and taken more time to revise. I’ve also shelved the manuscript for years during early motherhood, and started working on a new one. But ultimately, I have not given up hope, and I’ve had enough good feedback to trust that I’m not completely delusional in my efforts. Now, I am gearing up to make a few more edits, and then to send out a few more queries. I know that my book is stronger than it was before, and I see the way I was not ready to send it out when I first did. I also see how I’ve been writing my way out of the middle towards my true beginning and ending for years.  

I’m not saying that the process needs to take this long, and if you are on the path towards publishing a book, I sincerely hope it doesn’t for you. But what I do want to say is that the road from falling in love with the writing process-- to the desire to write a book-- to the reality of writing a book, as well as building a platform that the publishing industry will find marketable—is a long one. It is not the road for every writer. And it doesn’t have to be. There are so many ways to be a writer and to find an audience. Most importantly, you need to keep showing up with the time and means that you have, and to stay connected to what you love about the process. Eventually, or in different phases, it will also be important to find your people, your writing community. A group of other contemplative human beings who understand the beauty, the struggle, the obsession, the fear, and the elation that can come from exploring your most vulnerable and deepest truths through words.

Right now, I’m trying to accept that my publication journey might not turn out the way I hoped it would and that there is so much I can’t control—yet to do this without giving up on my goals. This is a hard, paradoxical state to achieve—and I’d be lying if I said my ego is not still striving for fame, success, and glory (in my own modified terms). But this lens of acceptance is the only sane way that I’ve found to stick with this whole business. I need to continually relearn and remember how the process of writing feeds me—divorced from other outcomes—at the same time that I doggedly return to draft after draft, alone at my desk, the only one who really cares if I do so.

And through this all, I have writing. Writing as my witness. Writing as my companion. Writing as my practice and path.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tuesday night section added for Building a Writing Practice!

Hello Writing Friends,

My Friday morning class for this fall filled up quickly, so the Hugo House has agreed to open another section of Building a Writing Practice. I hope this new evening time will work for some of you!

Here are the details:

When: Tuesdays, 10/11 - 12/6 (skip 11/22), from 7:10 -9:10 p.m.
Where: Hugo House (new First Hill location)
Cost: $375 (for non-members) 
Who: All levels and genres of writers are welcome!
To Register: click here 
To learn more: email me at with questions!

This 8-week workshop is akin to a support group/boot camp for writers who need a loving kick in the butt. Together, we will help hold each other accountable to our goals; free-write from prompts; read and discuss pieces about the process and practice of writing; and learn how to start writing groups, set submission goals, and otherwise build a writing life. We will ask: why do we write or want to write-- and how can we keep doing so, even in the midst of rejection, setbacks, and challenges? How can we stick with our writing practice for the long haul? Or simply: how can we start writing, right now? Together we will form a community that is open to all levels and genres, although many of our prompts and discussions will be geared more towards writers of creative nonfiction. Readings will include authors such as Natalie Goldberg, Annie Dillard, Brenda Miller, David Bayles and Ted Orland.

In writing solidarity,

Friday, August 26, 2016

New Fall Workshop- Early Bird Discount Through Monday!


October 14 - December 9, 2016
Fridays, 10:30 am - 12:30 pm; skip November 25th
Hugo House; Seattle, WA
Click here to register and learn more.
This 8-week workshop is akin to a support group/boot camp for writers who need a loving kick in the butt. Together, we will help hold each other accountable to our goals; free-write from prompts; read and discuss pieces about the process and practice of writing; and learn how to start writing groups, set submission goals, and otherwise build a writing life. We will ask: why do we write or want to write-- and how can we keep doing so, even in the midst of life's challenges? How can we stick with our writing practice for the long haul? Or simply: how can we start writing, right now? Together we will form a community that is open to all levels and all genres, although many of our prompts and discussions may be geared more towards writers of creative nonfiction. Readings will include authors such as Natalie Goldberg, Annie Dillard, Brenda Miller, David Bayles and Ted Orland.
I hope you will join us or help me spread the word! Spaces are filling fast.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Writing, Meditation, and Movement Workshop: POSTPONED


Awareness: A Bodily Exploration through Writing, Meditation, and Movement

with Anne Liu Kellor, Amy Selena Reynolds, and Alycia Scott Zollinger

When: Saturday, July 9th and 16th from 12:30 – 3:50 p.m.

Where: University Heights Center; Seattle; WA
Cost: $100 
partial scholarship available

To register: contact; send in a check or pay via Paypal below class description and bios.

In this two-part, co-facilitated workshop, we will seek to build awareness around our minds, hearts, and bodies within a supportive environment.

In Week One: Writing and Meditation, Amy and Anne will introduce us to mindfulness meditation techniques, paired with writing exercises that explore our bodies and our senses.

In Week Two: Writing and Movement, Anne will guide us deeper into writing about our body of stored emotions and feelings, drawing inspiration from poems by Nayyirah Waheed, while Alycia will lead us in experimenting with what happens when we speak, stretch, and move our bodies through our words.

Together we will aim to discover how these different contemplative mediums can inform and feed each other, and to gain trust in our own unique ways of experiencing our bodies and the world. No writing, meditation, or movement experience is necessary. Just come with an open mind and a desire to express and explore in a safe, inclusive space.

Co-Facilitator Bios:

Anne Liu Kellor is a Seattle-based writer, mother, and teacher of creative nonfiction. She has taught workshops to people of all ages since 2006. Her work has appeared in publications such as the anthology Waking Up American- Coming of Age Biculturally (Seal Press), The Los Angeles Review, Vela Magazine, and Literary Mama, and she has received grants or residencies from Hedgebrook, 4Culture, Hypatia-in-the-Woods, and Jack Straw Productions. Anne’s memoir manuscript, SEARCHING FOR THE HEART RADICAL, traces her migrations between America, China, and Tibet during her twenties. To learn more, go to:

Amy Selena Reynolds is a contemplative artist, a hospice volunteer, and a soon-to-be interfaith minister. Amy has practiced insight meditation for many years and enjoys creating rituals; building labyrinths; making collages, drawings, and sculptures; and studying spiritual teachings across traditions. She loves walking on the beach and in the woods, sharing simple mindfulness practices, and inspiring creativity in others. Born and raised in Seattle, she now lives on the Oregon Coast with her partner and cats.

Alycia Scott Zollinger  is Seattle-based healer, educator, performer and movement facilitator. She has performed around the globe as a solo artist and as a member of multi-lingual collectives dedicated to social justice and the pursuit of sincerity. Her classes embody a spirit of direct compassion and support to move more deeply into understanding, nourishing, and empowering the cellular pulses within our experiences. She weaves her backgrounds in dance, yoga, ritual and Butoh into dynamic offerings to provoke personal engagement, dynamic thinking, and authentic movement. Alycia has been dancing since birth, is a Certified Yoga Teacher, and is currently in the process of becoming certified at the Seattle School of Body-Psychotherapy. is a healer, educator, performer and movement facilitator. To learn more, go to:

Alycia Scott Zollinger and son

Anne Liu Kellor and Amy Selena Reynolds

Monday, March 14, 2016

Traveling State of Mind

Traveling through the vastness of China and the Tibetan plateau, many years ago. 

In my twenties and early thirties, I was a wanderer, moving in between states and countries and homes each year; doing stints for college or jobs in Minnesota, Alaska, Montana, and Washington; taking road trips down the coast and into the Southwest; and backpacking for many months through China, Tibet, and Southeast Asia. My email handle was “wandering girl,” and I wrote long letters to friends back home to keep me feeling connected to my extended tribe, and to the full range of my voice in English. I stayed in China the longest—for almost three years, two of which I lived with my Chinese partner—but ultimately I grew lonely and hungry for deeper friendships and greater community. I knew I could not put down roots in China, and I was tired of always leaving and saying goodbye.

Back in the States, I stayed in my parents’ basement for a month or two, before taking on extended house- and pet-sitting gigs, finding ways to live cheaply in order to preserve my meager savings and thus my time—to travel and to write. I thought I would go back to China, maybe in a year or so; I thought my life and work would be forever be tied now to speaking Chinese or translating in between cultures—but I was wrong. Eventually, I fell in love with an American and started putting down roots again in the Pacific Northwest. Each year, the idea of living a peripatetic life or working internationally receded. Maybe I could just travel back to China, I conceded, but not go back and live. Yet now that I own a home, have a young son, and am about to embark upon a home addition and loan, even boarding a plane for a vacation feels like a distant dream.

So, in some ways, it feels strange to offer a travel writing class just as I’m preparing to put down roots in Seattle in a newly committed way. But on the other hand, as I look back on and write about my twenties in my memoir, SEARCHING FOR THE HEART RADICAL, I am constantly reliving those early years of freedom, confusion, loneliness, and self-discovery in new ways. I see my former bravery, as well as my foolishness. I see my unarticulated neediness, as well as my independence. And I realize what I loved the most about the wandering lifestyle: the ability to see things through fresh eyes; to see my life as an open canvas; to stay open to the many paths that a day’s exploration might take. 

It is true that the older you get, the more doors close behind you. You no longer have all the time in the world to imagine that you will master three language, ride the Trans-Siberian express, or become an investigative journalist. A narrowing window of time, energy, and money forces you to reduce your focus and hone in on what you most want and need-- not all of these glittering yet distracting detours, but the heart of your path which remains the same. And there is a beauty in this narrowing focus, a distillation of how your twists and turns have brought you here: to face and embrace what is.

The other day I took the bus downtown to find a permitting office for a walk-in appointment. The trip there and back took me three hours, only 20 minutes of which was spent talking to someone at the office. But I enjoyed the opportunity to sit back on public transportation and be a traveler again—watching, listening, observing. Seeing a cross-section of young and old; black, Asian, and white; homeless and well-to-do; everyone in their own world, going somewhere to accomplish something, furthering the narrative of their individual stories. I enjoyed walking up and down the steep blustery streets of downtown Seattle, exchanging eye contact or a few words with strangers. I enjoyed this brief respite from the desk at home, where I do the majority of my work now, because it reminded me in part of the open-minded state of being that I once inhabited and learned through traveling—the ability to walk through the world and see all the moving parts, or to hop on a bus and not be certain where it will let me off, yet to trust that my own two feet plus asking for help from strangers will get me where I need to go. I do have a cell phone, an ability to call or google for help, which I never had while traveling abroad—so, in some ways, I’m more “protected” from uncertainty now. Yet in other ways, this sense of safety is an illusion, for I know that randomness could intervene at any moment, whether great beauty or tragedy, and that I am always dependent on others. Always, just a small porous part of this moving, shifting whole.

I like to think that traveling taught me to see the world like this. And that it’s important for me to keep accessing this “traveling state of mind,” even when it feels like I’m in a stage of life that is stationary and settled. I like to remember how to walk out my front door and through my familiar neighborhood with all of my senses alert: curious, open, and willing to be transformed.

To learn more about my Travel Writing as Pilgrimage workshop or to register, visit the 2016 Workshops Tab or click here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Early Bird Rate extended for Heart Beat: Writing as a Spiritual Practice!

Some writing needs to stay private, and some writing needs to come out into the open. You will know when you are ready!

I'm excited to announce that you can still register for my class at the reduced rate until the end of the week! I spent much of winter break reading and becoming inspired by many of the texts I plan to share with you. This includes poems by Joy Harjo, quotes from Cheryl Strayed, dense lyrical flash nonfiction by Brenda Miller, and meditative research-fueled meanderings from Rebecca Solnit. I also want to share breathtaking and brave personal essays by Lauren Slater and Kelly Sundberg, both who explore struggling relationships in their work.

If you haven't taken a generative workshop with me before, here's a taste of what it will look/feel like. We will take the time to get to know each other and build trust. We will avoid judgement or naming our writing as "good" or "bad". We will gather with the intension to explore, to take risks, to stay open to the unknown of what will come when you practice putting pen to page without stopping, without editing. We will write together from prompts that are inspired by themes or elements of craft reflected in the readings. I will ask for volunteers to share, and together we will walk that line between daring to write stuff that we feel we can't possibly share yet, and investigating what might happen if we do. 

When we discuss the readings, we will pay attention to things like language, details, point of view, structure, and the balance between showing and telling. We will limit our discussions of the topic of the essay, or otherwise digressing into conversations not related to the writing. This is not a craft or lecture based class, but you will come away learning about craft through the practice of closely reading and discussing texts. This is a workshop designed to help you dig into the stories and themes that you most need to write about. To help you establish a weekly or daily writing practice, if that is your goal. And to help you connect with others who are exploring this same path.

Writing as a spiritual practice. What does that mean? It just means that writing can be an anchor in an otherwise chaotic world and mind. Writing can be a way to connect the logical, ordering and analyizing left side of your brain, with the wild, feeling, and imagining right side of your brain-- a synthesizing, harmonizing connection. Writing can ground you, help you understand why you feel the way you do, what moves you, obsesses you, inspires you, scares you. Writing can be a place to come home to, again and again and again, even in the midst of uncertainty. Writing to me is a form of meditation, first and foremost, a practice, a process. Sure, it is also an artform and a craft, but before we worry about editing, the best writing must come from a place of honesty, from a willingness to be vulnerable and naked on the page, and from a fire for truth and for naming what you have not been able to articulate before. 

Intrigued? Come join us, or write me if you are not yet sure if it is a good fit for you. All are welcome. Details below.  

When: Thursdays, February 4 – March 24, 2016; 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Where: University Heights Center; Seattle, WA
Cost: $230 by 1/9; $250 after 1/9; Early Bird Extended! 
Includes hand-outs, access to writing resources, and individual support for your writing goals. Partial scholarship may be available for those in need.
To register: Email Anne @ to confirm space; then go to Paypal link below or pay by mail.
Pay here:



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