Tai Chi and Qi Gong for Your Characters

Tai Chi Qi Gong
World Tai Chi and Qi Gong Day was great!

 

The Opening Ceremony was an elaborate Lion Dance from Virginia Commonwealth University. Costumes for the Lion Dance Team and Panda were compliments of The Confucius Institute at William and Mary College. Great fun! It was long and strenuous—and I wonder what sort of college student would join such a team, and agree to perform during finals week.

 

Some of the demonstrations were more reminiscent of the martial arts origins of tai chi, including swords, spear, saber and push hands. A focus on the martial arts application might get your character into interesting situations.

 

But the most frequent application of both tai chi and qi gong is health. For example, one of the groups present was veterans, practicing at the VA Hospital in Richmond. They work with both physical recovery and PTSD sufferers. Do you have such a character?

 

Tai Chi Qi Gong
According to The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi, more than 600 academic papers have reported the beneficial effects of tai chi and qi gong practice on physical and mental health. Among these are enhanced balance, flexibility, and agility; increased immunity, muscle strength and aerobic capacity; lower blood pressure, improved heart health, reduced inflammation, and weight loss. Arthritis is a case in point. One of the participants said that she’d been incapacitated by rheumatoid arthritis for years before taking up tai chi—and she moved beautifully.

 

Among the mental health benefits are lower levels of stress, depression, and anxiety; increased mental clarity, focus, and positive thoughts; and a lower risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

 

The practice of tai chi is often called meditation in motion. Maybe it should be called medication in motion. And it is a life-long activity, low impact and slow but as good for you as cross-fit. Do any of your characters have health problems? Why not give them some?
 

Tai Chi

tai chi
Come on down! I’m going to be there, performing tai chi moves and qigong breathing with other members from my class. Participants and watchers are welcome. There’s to be a lion dance in the opening.

 

I got involved in tai chi because I wanted to try something new and my sister-in-law had been practicing tai chi for years and telling me I should do the same. Now, this sister-in-law tends to think that everyone should think and do what she does—for she does things for good reasons. This is pretty much the first time I’ve succumbed.

 

So, tai chi is a Chinese martial art. (For alternative spellings of tai chi, go online.) Tai chi is practiced both for its defensive training and its health benefits.

 

tai chi
Tai chi, rooted in Taoist and Confucian Chinese philosophy, has been found to be beneficial for meditative movement and for general health. Focusing solely on the movements of the form bring mental calm and clarity, good for general health and stress management. The three main aspects are health, meditation, and the martial arts.

 

tai chi
My tai chi teacher explains the martial arts application, but the focus is on slow movement, meditation, and health. We also practice qigong breathing. Seated tai chi moves are suitable for older people. Research shows that seated tai chi can make big improvements to a person’s physical and mental well being, including improvements in balance, blood pressure, flexibility, muscle strength, peak oxygen intake, and and body fat percentages.

 

tai chi
Which brings us back to World Tai Chi and Qigong Day. It is the last Saturday in April, annually. At 10:00 a.m. local time, people participate alone or in groups. The idea is that the wave of energy and goodwill will circle the globe, starting in the earliest time zones of Samoa and then traveling around the world until it ends with events in the last time zones of Hawaii, almost an entire day.

 

One of the stated goals of the day is to provide a global vision of cooperation for health and healing purposes across geopolitical boundaries, and also an appeal to people worldwide to embrace wisdom from all the cultures of the world. Who can argue with that?

 

tai chi
One breath… One world.

Shot in the Arm

shot arm
I spent Saturday afternoon at the Bon Air Library at Mysterypalooza 2018.  A great afternoon to reconnect with my Sisters in Crime/CVA. I chatted with people I didn’t know heretofore. But of course, the real meat of the afternoon was the panel—a great group of women with dozens of books in print.
mysterypalooza vivian lawry
Mary Burton moderated the panel deftly. The panel (not surprisingly) were articulate in discussing their varied pathways to publication. Some were traditionally published, some self-published, some both.
mysterypalooza 2018
Energy hummed through the room as the panelists assembled for the presentation. The audience contained many writers and aspiring writers, and topics covered included tips about agents, the pros and cons of each route to publication, and lots of insights into the varied methods of self-motivation and making time to write.

 

One particularly interesting tip: if you get stuck, take on the persona of one of the characters and write from that POV. I might not/probably won’t make it into the final book, but knowing your characters from the inside out makes the writing richer.

 

vivian lawry author mysterypalooza 2018
I wasn’t on the panel this time, but I was there to sign copies of Dark Harbor, Tiger Heart, and Mysteries Most Historical.

 

vivian-lawry-books
My book signing gigs generally yield very little money, and this was no exception. BUT, talking to attendees, whether they buy books or not, is always a treat. As some (many?) of you know, I collect carved wooden Santas, now numbered more than 450. And now I’ve actually met Santa and Mrs. Claus! They are frequently cited during the season in Williamsburg, VA.
shot arm
AND I know what they do in the off-season: they attend Mysterypalooza!

 

shot arm
In fact, Santa is also a writer! And his fiction has nothing to do with Christmas. Check out Bradley Harper’s historical fiction, entangled with Sherlock Holmes.

 

[Source: Bradley Harper]
The event was rife with useful tidbits. Check out the MFA program at Full Sail. Check out Stumble Upon. Check out the Independent Authors Association and what they might do for you.
mysterypalooza 2018
Last but not least, the next Sisters in Crime/CVA anthology is now officially open for submissions. Check the website for requirements if you are interested.

 

Bottom line: there’s lots of local writing talent. Check them out!
 

#PubforPR

Due to the overwhelming need in Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria, the publishing community is coming together to raise money for relief efforts.

#PubforPR is an auction put together by hundreds of authors, editors, illustrators, and literary agents, who have donated time and goods for you to bid on in order to raise money for those affected by the hurricane. All funds raised will go directly to Unidos por Puerto Rico and ConPRmetidos, two carefully vetted local charity organizations.

Please consider bidding on some of these items, or simply donating to one of these charities (the link is below). After the tragedies in Texas, Nigeria, Florida, Mexico, and now Las Vegas, it’s time to help in whatever way we can.

Missing Nimrod

A year ago, I attended one of my favorite writing retreats: the writers’ weekend at Nimrod Hall. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it this year, and I missed the camaraderie and stimulation I find at Nimrod. I recommend my readers find a good residential writing workshop; in addition to the community of writers you’ll meet, you’ll also receive great feedback on your writing. Below is a blog post from this time last year, telling a little about Nimrod and the programs it offers. I hope you’ll check out the opportunities they have!


For many years I’ve traveled to Nimrod Hall in Millboro, Virginia, for their annual writing retreat. Nimrod has inspired several of my stories and given me hours of valuable writing time.

Nimrod Hall main buildling
Nimrod Hall

Last year I kept a travel log of my two weeks at Nimrod. I shared everything from packing my bags…

Packed for Nimrod Hall Writers' Workshop

…to the wild women writers I met there.

women writers at Nimrod Hall Summer Arts Program
2015 Week One writers at Nimrod Hall Writers Workshop
Note card showing women standing in a stream. Text reads, "We arrived at Nimrod with no baggage"
Note card by Susannah Raine-Haddad

As I prepare to depart, I look forward to my misty morning walks,

Nimrod Hall Writers' Workshop misty lane

and family-style meals with writer friends,

Nimrod Hall Writers' Workshop writers at lunch around table
2015 writers at lunch
Nimrod Hall writers lifting fake wedding cake at breakfast table
Who but Nimrod Writer Women would be passing around a paper mâché wedding cake at breakfast?

and uninterrupted writing time.

"Do not disturb" sign on door knob
No writer is ever disturbed between breakfast and lunch–and seldom otherwise.

This year I will share my travel log on my Facebook page. I hope you’ll join me there.

Happy writing!

view of Cowpasture River near Nimrod Hall during walk
Cowpasture River near Nimrod Hall during my morning exercise

Nimrod Hall, established in 1783, has been providing summer respite from everyday stress since 1906. It has been operating as an artist and writer colony for over 25 years. The Nimrod Hall Summer Arts Program is a non-competitive, inspirational environment for artists to create without the distractions of everyday life. 

Celebrating the 4th of July!

american flag decoration
From early childhood—before I was even old enough to know what the holiday commemorated—before I could even say “independence”—the 4th of July meant a family gathering. Given that my mother was one of thirteen children, that meant a BIG family gathering. It would be a potluck, with tons of food before dark, kids playing tag and catching fireflies, men playing penny-ante poker and drinking beer, women gossiping and keeping the food table laden.

 

fireworks
We typically gathered at one of several relatives’ farms. Food was under the trees. And after dark there were fireworks—illegal fireworks. The children had to stand way back, but at least we could hold sparklers.

 

independence day sparkler
The next time I got into a 4th of July tradition was when I moved to Ashland, Virginia, self-styled The Center of the Universe.

 

ashland center of universe
The Ashland parade goes a fair way toward being unique. Besides the old-time vehicles, military marchers, and onlookers dressed in red, white, and blue, they often have a kazoo band, Miss Liberty in costume, and people on horseback. Then there is the Bicycle/Tricycle Brigade, and Uncle Sam.

 

But the truly unusual aspects (IMHO) are the Lawn Chair Brigade…
and The Bassett Brigade.
basset brigade ashland
When the parade is over, everyone gathers on the lawn of the Hanover Arts and Activities Center to hear the community band play patriotic music.

 

ashland community band
This is also the time for food—brought from home or bought from vendors. AND to find out who won the apple pie baking contest!

 

This year, now that I am living in Richmond, I’ll celebrate by watching John Adams and family, Ben Franklin, John Hancock, and Thomas Jefferson (impersonators, of course) share memories of 1776 meetings.

 

ashland presidential impersonators
And then there will be a performance by Williamsburg Musick Fife & Drum.
That will leave most of the day free to read—maybe my latest Gabaldon purchase.

 

seven stones stand fall diana gabaldon
Whatever you do, see, hear, or read, enjoy your day of Independence!
 
american flag decoration

The Value of a Top-Notch Writing Workshop

nimrod writers workshop
Each summer for more than ten years, I’ve attended Nimrod Hall summer writing workshops. Unfortunately, I cannot attend this year. But you could! There are still a few spaces left.

 

Why am I recommending Nimrod? You could see my blogs from years past. But here is a brief overview.

 

Excellent writing teachers. I’ve worked with all of the Writers in Residence—Cathy Hankla, Charlotte Morgan, and Sheri Reynolds—and they are all great. Published writers all, they give informed comments in one-on-one conferences and lead productive group critiques. And every one of them goes above and beyond the scheduled hours.

 

sheri reynolds
Sheri Reynolds [Source: Nimrod Hall]
Valuable writing colleagues. Attendees are a combination of returnees and newbies. Maybe it’s self-selection, or maybe it’s the atmosphere of collegiality, but everyone wants everyone else to succeed—no back-biting, no competition. All accept the responsibility to read and critique the work of others in their group. They are honest, telling what is strong and what needs work, always delivered respectively.

 

Protected writing time. No meals. No laundry. No childcare. Every morning and as many afternoons as you want can be devoted to your own writing projects.

 

Leisure options. There are several walking trails, swimming, tubing on the Cowpasture River, just to mention a few. Personally, I love going to the nearby Jefferson Pools, where the women’s (and men’s) baths allow me to relax in the historic waters—bathing-suit optional!

 

Great food. Prepared fresh, creative and tasty, and vegetarian is always an option. Meals are served family style, and seating is fluid. Over meals, one can get to know people not in one’s own writing group.

 

Wonderful conversation. Some of this happens over meals, but also at evening readings, while relaxing on porches, etc. I have never met a boring writer!

 

Lasting friendships. I am in touch with Nimrod colleagues all across the country, especially within Virginia. It’s an enduring network.

 

A productive week. I’ve polished short works for submission and edited sections of novels while at Nimrod. The energy is contagious.

 

A bargain price for so many benefits, room and board, for a week. I cannot recommend it too highly!
 
nimrod writers workshop

Celebrating Independent Bookstores

logans bookstore
[Source: Textbooks.com]

The last Saturday in April is Independent Bookstore Day, which made me think of such bookstores I have known and loved. The first was during my college years in Athens, Ohio. Logan’s was way more than a bookstore. One could buy Ohio University memorabilia and textbooks, of course, but also everything from greeting cards to Vanity Fair underwear!

st lawrence university bookstore
[Source: School Designs]
My next bookstore love was during my years in Canton, New York. It, too, sold more than SLU textbooks and related items. My cookbook collection started there. Everything from candles to pottery was at hand, as well as the work of local writers and artists. When it moved into what was once a hockey arena, the expanded space allowed for a coffee bar and comfortable seats scattered about.

 

Both of these bookstores are located in small towns with no easy access to larger cities, and so they took on the character of general stores of old.

 

Indie bookstores in cities are typically more focused on books and closely related items, such as journals, bookmarks, etc. And sometimes they have a specific mission. For example, Politics and Prose spotlights political and social issues in the books it caries and in the speakers it features.

 

I tend to seek out independent bookstores wherever I spend a lot of time. The Tattered Cover in Denver is an old, multi-story bookstore carrying books for all ages and interests. One can easily spend hours browsing books, magazines, and newspapers. The space is charming, with sunken reading pits, elevated areas, and appealing woodwork. And people ready and willing to help one.

 

fountain bookstore richmond
[Source: Turnberry Press]
The Fountain Bookstore on East Cary Street, in Richmond, is much more intimate than the Tattered Cover, but Kelly Justice is a treasure. She owns and operates the store and often features book signings and talks by local writers. Do stop in!

 

Other independent bookstores in the Richmond area include Chop Suey Books, bbgb Tales for Kids, Book People, Stories, and RED Books.

 

Independent bookstores are more than just stores; they’re community centers run by passionate readers. They are as good as secondhand bookstores in offering the possibility of serendipitous finds. In addition, they support the local economy through job creation and tax dollars. So buy local!

Independent Bookstore Day is a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country. Every store is unique and independent, and every party is different: authors, live music, cupcakes, scavenger hunts, kids events, art tables, readings, barbecues, contests, and other fun stuff. Check out what’s happening in your area!

celebrating independent bookstores

In a world of tweets and on-line searches, bookstores are not dying out.  They continue to grow and expand and enrich the lives of readers and communities. So prepare to party down tomorrow!