Author, Speaker, Advocate, and Entrepreneur

Author, Speaker, Advocate, and Entrepreneur
Valerie Anne Burns

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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

A Writer's Life

A Writer's Life

Coffe spot where I drafted most of my book

As I’ve muddled my way through and, at times, flowed through my writing life, it’s obvious that I’m on a roller coaster. Rejection, rejection, rejection, acceptance, rejection, rejection, rejection, acceptance, acceptance and back to rejection. Like working in Hollywood, you find a way to grow a crocodile layer of hearty skin or the precious artist in you disintegrates. Unless you hit it like a lottery and success comes all at once, you begin to wear out, a weariness sets in. It has for me anyhow. You step back and dive deep into the water to reflect and when you resurface, you are hopefully rejuvenated to create once again.

I keep plugging away and busy all the time. As a writer, it’s not unlike a shark, you must keep moving to keep it alive. Writing, editing, and submitting. Rinse, repeat.

I’m grateful for the success I’ve had as the emerging writer that I am. There’s still so much to learn and there are countless times when I’m struck by just how much, I don’t know. Example: Tackling an application for artist residencies, writing a compelling synopsis, an eye-catching statement of purpose, etc. It expands and changes and grows. And I must do the same to keep up.

I love writing but I am capable of drifting to disheartenment. Writing in memoir genre means you are expressing in a raw and honest way. It’s cathartic and it’s frightening to expose oneself. It can also feel satisfying. Roller coaster. The best is to be in the zone where all track of time is lost, and the writing is flowing like a strong river. Right now, not so much.

In my experience, I find it best to write in ritual as much as possible. Beginning in the morning after tea and staring out the picture window to the early morning light and the hummingbirds buzzing around the feeder, and if I don’t have appointments, I open the laptop and start writing. Sometimes I continue to stare out the window as I think where to start. Editing is such a big part of it and that means struggling over one word or a one sentence.

I am on my own and writing is a solo endeavor. Loneliness is a part of life and has been for some time. It’s good to be in writing groups with writer friends and colleagues. It is a reliable source for support and a place to commiserate, enhance skills, and to gain resources. There are times I must get away from it altogether and that happens by getting in bed at night with Stephen Colbert or cute animal videos. It’s also good to get together with friends for coffee, a concert, or the ballet and most of all... international travel, which has a way of dropping inspiration into my lap.

When I write poetry or journal my travels, I handwrite everything. I need to work out a poem in writing which I edit with cross-outs and out of margin changes. I don’t travel with a laptop and enjoy writing about my day in all its descriptive colors and adventures when I’m back in my room recalling the day's events. No one would ever figure out what I'm writing when drafting a poem even if read sideways.

I know that a good deal of writers would share my sentiment (complaint) on how challenging it is to sit for hours and hours. It is for me and my neck, back… my entire body. I get up, do a power walk, stretch, Qigong practice, pick up the mail, errands, or walk the kitty for breaks. I don’t have the luxury of a desk, so I have a lap table that just fits my laptop. We make do. For a change of scenery, a coffee shop is the best way to go. It’s part of a writer’s life. So is coffee.

The number of distractions can not only be staggering but a constant challenge. Chores, walking my cat who’s on a schedule like a doggie, regular Dr appointments, daydreaming, worrying and horrified by the degrading and shame in this country whether it be the traitors, democracy at serious risk, self-righteous gun lovers who worship the NRA over protection of children and all citizens of this declining country, and so on. Across the ocean in Eastern Europe is a brutalized Ukraine struggling to hold on. The world is upside down and too much is heartbreaking, as well as infuriating.

My biggest daydream is becoming an expat in Europe. I’ll pass on my activist torch and fly far, far away over the sea to Italy, Portugal… whoever will take me in some miraculous way on my modest income. I am staying strong in my conviction that I’d be best suited living out the rest of my reinvented writer life in Europe. I’ll stroll the cobblestone streets, sit at outdoor cafes with a laptop or journal wearing big Jackie O sunglasses and a teal-colored pashmina if it’s a cool day, where I’ll write my heart out over an espresso or glass of prosecco.      

Keep on swimming through life,

Valerie Anne



Monday, May 9, 2022

Revision for Hope in Spring Carries On

Revision for Hope in Spring Carries On

Ukrainian Girl


Spring arrives regardless of a dead-dry drought

Even as gusty winds ignite imposing flames.

April only knows to bring hope into our world.

But why –

 

Heaven comes in the scent of pink jasmine

while hell is in the shape of war I can’t reach.

But why –

 

Trees sprout honeydew-colored leaves as

unwitting humans cease to see spring again.

But why –

 

Sitting on a warm patio with abundant Fuchsia

as male dictators slither in cold blood power.

But why –

 

Birds building intricate nests with purity

when our earth cries in agony but isn’t heard.

But why –

 

I am as bereft as a broken-stemmed bud

We live on a ruptured, barnacled ship moving

toward black waters; spring’s light seems unjust.

But why –

 

~Valerie Anne Burns
(Poem dedicated to our troubling times)


I Stand with Mother-Earth


I stand with Ukraine and Against All Tyranny



Stay strong and stand-up for what's right.

Keep on swimming through life,

Valerie Anne







Sunday, March 27, 2022

Limbo, Chaos, and Cats

 Limbo, Chaos, and Cats

Lucia Fortuna

Since I was a very little girl, cats have been my refuge and a source of deep affection. After losing my mother at the age of three with a father that wasn't present much physically or emotionally, I buried my face in my cat's fur and purring. Animals are pure of heart and, as we all know, a source of unconditional love. In the present times of a brutal and unprovoked war, a slow moving fascism in the US where Democracy is at risk, suffering of innocent people; mother earth, and wildlife at risk and peril, and whatever burdens we carry in our own lives -- how do we cope with it all? Where best do we find beauty and moments-of-peace?

In the last few months, I have felt stuck and in limbo with my writing, the path to getting my book published, and how to move forward as a writer. I'm so grateful that I completed a final draft of my book and especially grateful that individual essays from my book have been published and that I received (very unexpectedly) a finalist award for an international writing competition. And then, it all slowed down. I focused on going to the Dominican Republic this past Dec. to share my workshop "Living and Healing in Color" for breast cancer survivors. It was so fulfilling. I read "Venice Vision" from my book as a launching pad to my workshop. I found it exhilarating to feel a purpose, especially being a breast cancer survivor myself. The ordeal is a grueling one and lovely to be in support. The holidays and beginning couple months brought on a sense of separation and a slow beginning to 2022.


I stare out the window in contemplation and meditation. It brings momentary peace to see my blossoming plants, the hummingbirds taking nectar, the majestic trees and pretty landscape outside my patio. I sip tea. Lucia rests on my legs and stares out the big picture window, mostly interested in the hummingbirds. I need these moments of quiet in the early morning hours before the noise of the day and the world takeover. I have the capacity to take on the hurt in all my sensitivity. I worry. I feel helpless. I imagine that most of us feel helpless and sad over brutality thrust upon humans so undeserving of this tragedy. I gave to Direct Relief and another organization that supplies necessities for feminine care to women in need staying in refugee camps. I will also give to an animal organization to provide care for displaced animals from the war. It's not a lot. We do what we can but it doesn't feel like enough.

I wouldn't mind strong shoulders to lean on a little, but I am literally in 'love limbo'. I'm in limbo with my book and writing, and somewhat in limbo on what path to take in order to move forward. I think part of the reason I've been taking classes from Santa Barbara City College for the last three years is not just due to my desire to learn, but to stay productive and distracted during the pandemic. I'm still taking classes and currently loving my poetry class with a stellar professor. If nothing else, I'm writing poetry and it's a stimulating challenge for me since I find poetry intimidating. Writing is work but writing well is the hardest work I've ever done. I can't resist a beautifully written love poem in all its forms;
unrequited, lost love, and desire. Writing a standout poem is a creative endeavor that proves to be a good challenge. My feeling is, writing poetry can only make my prose better. Our latest assignment was to write a political poem and creating it was like a tricky puzzle. Because of what's going on in the world, my words were biting and laced with utter heartbreak. I find it easier to write about life, love, and loss. Finding just the right partner where chemistry and simpatico meet for the perfect puzzle fit. The pieces of the puzzle are floating out there somewhere and I'll find my way.

What do you do to find moments of peace in the midst of chaos? I still bury my face in my cat's fur and give her kisses. Lucia is smart, sassy, and sweet. She loves to receive and give affection and it reminds me how my cats (dog friends too) bring me great calm and pure love. Lucia's purring against my heart takes away anxiety and grounds me. With things opening up again where I could see the Van Gogh exhibit at our local museum and the ballet premiere of Sleeping Beauty were both a much-needed magical departure from the ugliness. Staring out the window to nature and power walking by the ocean decreases stress. When I can swim in warm, aqua-blue water again, I'll experience my bliss. Giving back even in the smallest way to help with the needs war brings can make us feel a little less helpless. 

Does any of this resonate to put into action in your own life? I hope so. It might inspire seeking a personalized version of peaceful and loving distractions in your daily life. 

Happy Spring! 🌷

Keeping on swimming through life,
Valerie Anne



Friday, January 14, 2022

Where is the Muse and Better News?

Where is the Muse and Better News? 


There's a reason life has been known to be a roller coaster ride. It certainly has been that for me. I find the muse, I find the joy, and I experience the amazing adventures. Then I crawl into a holiday cocoon, struggle to capture the muse and inspiration, while I contemplate life and the unavoidable news.

December was such a mix of events and emotions. After running ragged in preparation for being out of the country, I was on my flight (thanks to an airport angel helping me with an international e-ticket everyone was having trouble with) on a red eye flight to Newark. In the United comped club room, it was 7:30 a.m. but 4:30 a.m. for me with no sleep. I loved people watching in my fatigue haze as people were grabbing muesli and ordering drinks from the bar to start their vacations. I can't imagine alcohol that early. The booked flight to the Dominican was a bit delayed but I finally arrived in one tired piece for www.sendmeonvacation.org breast cancer survivor retreat. Being a part of the retreat and to be in the role of a facilitator as a workshop leader again was a true honor.  

It was the strong, balmy breeze welcoming me and big, white clouds threatening tropical rain that I remember well from my mermaid days on the island of Key Biscayne. It was a comforting deja vu. 
I was also welcomed by the 6 women from east to west coast and one Canadian on our group. I found the muse to lead my workshop and it went better than I could have hoped for. A colorful and lyrical essay from my book titled, "Venice Vision" was the launching pad to presenting "Living and Healing Through Color". All-in-all the retreat was great other than one lose canon participant we had to deal with in its unpleasant manner. The Dominican people are warm and friendly and we had VIP treatment all the way. The ocean was not the calm turquoise blue I yearned for, but being in the tropics was lovely and connection with fellow-sister survivors treasured.