Author, Speaker and Entrepreneur

Author, Speaker and Entrepreneur
Valerie Anne Burns

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Written Word Manifesting in Real Time

Written Word Manifesting in Real Time

Photo of me in Florence at age 19

Writing essay after essay without ever thinking it would become a book has finally brought me to a final draft... as much as one can ever really reach a final draft. Years ago, when I was in a writing group, two of my co-writers generously gifted me the book, "Bird By Bird" knowing it would give me hope. I just couldn't cope with the idea of managing an entire manuscript. Thinking of writing in terms of frame-by-frame felt doable.

After my acceptance and scholarship to the Prague Summer Writing Program in July 2016, I gained the confidence to believe I had a book, albeit raw and in need of many reincarnations. What I learned from the instructors who were all published writers, English professors and artists-in-residence is immeasurable. One of the instructors (famous author) described an essay I work shopped as a piece about a woman day-dreaming and night-dreaming through life. Indeed.

I wrote through 8 surgeries, 8 recoveries and 8 moves while going through 4-years of breast cancer and complications. The writing gave me purpose. Devoted writing proved to be exhilarating, exacerbating, cathartic, maddening and rewarding... sometimes all at once. 

Throughout the book, I demonstrate that while I've been swimming through harrowing waters as far back as a toddler, I am, and continue to be a seeker of beauty. There is longing for passion and romance; to live life as if it were a movie. I speak about my experience of being in Europe for a 2 1/2 month fashion study trip at the age of 19. When I was in Rome and Florence, it was the first time I felt at home. It was also the first time I had a cappuccino and a ritual I've cherished ever since. I realized that I'd never felt 'at home' in my own family home but in Italy, I flourished. Back then, in a dreamy youthful state, I thought I'd live a fabulous creative life in Manhattan and travel to Europe every year. Life has a life of its own leading us down paths we did not anticipate

Decades later, with a final draft just sent back to my editor that will be put into a Pdf so that I am ready to take the next step toward the daunting world of publishing, I'm off on an adventure to Italy. It's dawned on me that I'm literally manifesting desires I write about in my book. 

I head to Milan today and make my way to Cortona as a mentor and facilitator for a breast cancer survivor retreat. I will be sharing a workshop that I created titled, "Living and Healing Through Color" developed from my background in fashion/design, writing and my own experience with a health ordeal. I'd been awarded a retreat with sendmeonvacation,org to the Caribbean of Mexico August, 2018 and it was so lovely and transformative. 

Since then, I became friends with the founder/director, Cathy and wrote a blog for them describing my experience, which they posted on their site. Several months later the idea of being an alumnus was presented to me and everything just magically fell into place, including a supporter of the organization donating miles for my round trip ticket. I'm staying a month and will spend my birthday in Florence. It's an amazing gift.

I intend for this adventure to be the beginning of my 2nd book. Although I brought my laptop to my friend's place where I'm staying overnight, I'm leaving it behind. I will be schlepping on planes and trains and realized it's too damn heavy and cumbersome. Instead, I'll journal, take notes. But mostly, I'm going to immerse myself in the ambience and culture and let go of sitting in front of the screen.

On another note, I also write about being a hopeless romantic who longs for passion but rarely finds that ever-illusive connection, Sparks. Self conscious after breast cancer and many surgeries, aging rapidly, and isolated about a month ago and out-of-nowhere the stars lined up in a very particular way for a very particular man to land in my orbit. Younger, worldly, passionate, intelligent and confident he catapulted me out of my traumatized stupor. While it's unlikely this will be a true partnership and relationship for many reasons, it's a gift from the heavens and an awakening of my true self.

I return to California on October 21st and once settled, I will take a look at the journaling and note taking I'll do in Italy so I can launch into a 2nd book of creative non-fiction. 

I feel so blessed that I am manifesting dreams I write about in my book where it's jumped from my imagination into real time. I am also grateful that I stuck with the writing even though I wanted to give up at times since writing (writing well) is the hardest work I've ever done. What I've envisioned for this new chapter in my life (on the other side of a life-threatening ordeal) is not just getting published but to be launched into public speaking and sharing my work shop. My only wish is that my raw honest words resonate with those who've gone through their own choppy waters so that they might feel less lonely and deeply supported. 

I wish for all of us to be manifesting our hearts desires in real time.

Cortona, Italy where SMOV retreat will be held

Keep on swimming through life,

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A Valium and A Cookie

A Valium and A Cookie

The photo above depicts my sentiments most pointedly after discovering that three weeks of writing work was lost. I received the red edit final from my editor mid-July so I had the task to accomplish a line-by-line review toward my final draft. More than two weeks later, I was half way through, which involved a steady writing morning ritual where words and sentences were cut and/or replaced, as well as a couple chapters completely re-written--re-written in a much improved and, dare I say, near brilliant fashion. I can't possibly recall all I've done in this umpteenth edit up to 130 pages of a 275 page book.

A week has passed and I'm still spinning from hours of my own ineffectual attempts and three hours on the phone with Windows tech support in India to recover my work. During that three hours, you'd have heard me say, "what" far too many times due to a cultural language barrier, not to mention a technological language barrier.

I compulsively save and like any other night, one last save before closing down my manuscript word document last Friday, August 2nd. The current manuscript incarnation is always on my desktop to get back at it the next day. As I powered down, there was an update and restart. It involved several restarts. The next morning, I powered up my laptop and the first hint that something was amiss was seeing that my manuscript document was missing from the desktop. I found it in a search and to my horror, discovered that it reverted back to the original red-edit document from my editor. All the hours and hours of work I'd done the last few weeks was lost. How does this happen? To add to the stress, I had a goal to complete my final review before I leave for Italy in September and send it back to the editor where she'd put it into a permanent pdf in preparation for publishing.

A writer's worst fear is losing work. I have to say, my heart dropped to my feet and a current of anxiety rose from my feet to my solar plexus. Normally, I email updated drafts to Gmail account but I was on a roll and remiss. Ugh. After two hours in a fruitless search for where my work might have landed and hours talking to India where two different representatives came into my laptop remotely, no luck. No luck even when a 'restore and recover' took over my screen.

Writing lost and two days lost in a document recovery vortex. Once I hung up with Windows India in the late Saturday afternoon glow, I got up off the couch stressed out of my mind, took a Valium (reserved for needle phobia from too many surgeries during breast cancer) drove a few blocks to Lazy Acres (natural grocery store) and bought a giant chocolate chip walnut cookie kept in a warmer right out of the oven. They seem to constantly be right out of the oven because customers can't stop buying them. It's rare for me to do so; also rare since I work so hard at holistic health regime, which includes staying away from sugar and all naughty things.That was not the case on this day. I didn't care.

All this occurred on Fiesta weekend. I have a feeling that shouting, "Oh My God!" after becoming aware that my writing work had magically disappeared, which then grew to heightened panic where a few favorite curse words escaped and no doubt, heard over the Fiesta music.

After a Valium and a big, messy warm cookie dripping chocolate on my fingers, I fell on the couch and watched "Under the Tuscan Sun" (nonfiction story by Frances Mayes) for the 5th time. I'm preparing for Cortona, Italy where the film was shot and where I'll be sharing my workshop, (at a retreat for breast cancer survivors) "Healing and Living Through Color"--a workshop created from my fashion/design background as well as my writing. It organically developed beginning with my own use of visual imagery vibrant with color when I would lay on a gurney in prep for one of the many surgeries I endured. I'm delighted for the opportunity to share tools and tips on creating blissful visual imagery as well as desired color into one's wardrobe and home. Cortona will be presenting a village bursting with color and a tangerine glow at magic hour--unique Tuscan light I distinctly remember when in Florence decades ago. There will be many memories to cherish in a journal.

The film and thoughts of Italy distracted me for the time being. Another distraction (also unusual) was two glasses of sparkling rose at the enchanting El Encanto with a close friend the day after India tech support, and then out on a 'date' a few days later at Intermezzo where I had two shots of a high-end (smooth) Tequila. Both shots (one is my limit) ordered by the worldly gentleman I was with. I indulged. However, I'm quite sure this was an anomaly and I will not be treading down the tragic path of alcoholism like too many talented and tortured writers before me.

Several days have passed since this unfortunate oddity entered my life and ignoring the task of beginning the final review all over again. There was one last ditch effort at Geek Squad yesterday where some explanation was given but the millennial techie expert could not be my superhero as I'd hoped, and present my work hidden in some unknown depth of my laptop. I visualized my work magically reappearing as it magically disappeared. Crestfallen, I walked out of Best Buy realizing I'd have to start from square one. I couldn't face it--still not quite able to face page 1, once again. I'd already hit the wall on this project with its conception several years ago, stream of consciousness writing essay after essay to a massive revision last year and the many passes of tweaking and refining since.

Instead of getting back to page 1 and begin the laborious task of a line-by-line review and seeing the red edits and notes again that I'd just successfully erased, I'm writing this blog. Well, at least I'm at the keyboard.

Keep on swimming through life,