Sunday Style: Pen on Fire

penonfire_home_pofcoverThanks to a great family weekend getaway and a not-s0-great car ride home (thank goodness for gallon-size Ziploc bags), my Sunday Style installment for this week is morphing into a Monday Style. Ah, the life of a parent who is also a writer. Ironically the book I wanted to write about for this week’s installment is very fitting: busy women writers.

One of my favorite books on writing is Pen On Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett. The style in which the book is written (thoughtful, personal prose), the way I can relate to the topics (busy women, need I say more?) and DeMarco-Barrett’s  down-t0-earth approach are some of the things I like most and are what keep me coming back to the exercises and advice in the pages.

I carry it with me in my back pack for my train commute. Recently I took it out and read a chapter titled, “Celebrate Your Otherness”. Aside from watching Lost, I haven’t thought much about otherness. That changed with this chapter.

Whether it’s a result of being a writer or a result of life in general, I realized that I relate to being “other”. I don’t feel like I’m an outsider or that I’m an odd-ball, but I do find that by observing and processing my experience through the written word, I have to step outside and take on the role of other. What I read in DeMarco-Barrett’s book helped me embrace this characteristic as part of my creative method.

One of her students, Jess Beauchaine, said this about otherness:

One reason I write is I am a watcher…I love observing my world and trying to make sense out of it…I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what I was made to do. Writing helps me embrace my life.

Brilliant. I completely agree.

DeMarco-Barrett goes on to talk about how writers often find themselves experiencing an event two-fold; as participants and also as writers. We find ourselves thinking about how we might write about this experience, this conversation, this detail that we’ve observed, or that we are experiencing right in that moment. (E.g., at the child’s high school graduation, or listening to an argument on the bus, attending a loved-one’s memorial service.)

Yup. I know I do this but it wasn’t until I read this chapter that I really thought about how this quality of being partially present and partially crafting the prose, is in some ways, related to “otherness”. And how this otherness helps me write and helps me embrace life.

At the end of each chapter,  DeMarco-Barrett offers an exercise.  They are often thought-provoking, writing-inducing gems. Below I share with you Barbara’s exercise for celebrating your otherness:

Set the timer and write for fifteen minutes about how it felt to be an other and what you feel like now, now that you’ve identified yourself as a writer, are beginning to know other writers, and are on the path.

Book jacket photo courtesy of

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3 Responses to Sunday Style: Pen on Fire

  1. Kimberly says:

    Great post! I am looking for a new book about writing for women, so I’m thrilled to have read your recommendation! Thanks 🙂

  2. Liz says:

    I hope you enjoy Pen on Fire, Kimberly! Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Okay, I’ve heard this title, and now it’s sealed. The next time I’m at a bookstore I’ll be perusing the shelves for this one. Thanks for letting us know your thoughts on this book.

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