Congratulations to Elaine Mansfield on forthcoming publication of Leaning into Love; Upcoming Author Events

January Calendar of Literary Events

Tues., Jan. 14, 6:00-9:00 pm
Getting Down to Business
AFCU, Ithaca
9-week comprehensive business planning course, designed for entrepreneurs at the start-up stage or newly in business. The course walks through the "nuts and bolts" of planning, starting, and running a healthy business venture including financial feasibility, marketing strategies, tax and legal responsibilities, and much more!

Wed., Jan. 15, 4:45-5:45 pm
Teen Reads Group at TCPL
TCPL-Thaler/Howell Program Room
Hosted by the Tompkins County Public Library every third Wednesday in the Thaler/Howell Programming Room. “Teens Read” participants will discuss books and select future titles. Some books read by the group will be available for members to keep. Refreshments will be provided. For more information, contact Teen Services Librarian Regina DeMauro or (607) 272-4557 extension 274.

Thurs., Jan. 16, 3:30 pm
Reading: “Bring on the Birds”
Cornell Lab or Ornithology, Ithaca, NY
“Bring on the Birds” written and illustrated by Susan Stockdale. A beautiful introduction to the behaviors of both exotic and familiar birds presented in fun, rhyming text and richly colorful illustrations. Come explore the diverse world of birds with us! Hands-on activities follow the reading.

Thurs., Jan. 16, 7:00-8:30 pm
Arthur’s Meadow-Read Aloud Group
Fall Creek Studio-1201 North Tioga Street, Ithaca, NY
Arthur's Meadow presents a weekly read-aloud of classic literature. Beginning January 9, the group will read Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. For Thursday, Jan. 16, the group will pick up at Chapter Six. For more information, contact Sarah Jane Bokaer at

Tues., Jan. 21, 6:00 pm
Swann’s Way
Buffalo Street Books
Reading group focused on the works of Proust.

Tues., Jan. 21, 7:00-8:00 pm
After Dinner Book Club
Edith B. Ford Memorial Library, Ovid, NY
This month, “Shadow Woman” by Thomas Perry.

Thurs., Jan. 23, 4:30 pm
James McConkey
Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium
Part of the Barbara & David Zalaznick Reading Series. Reading by fiction and non-fiction James McConkey.

Thurs., Jan. 23, 7:00-8:30 pm
Arthur’s Meadow-Read Aloud Group
Fall Creek Studio-1201 North Tioga Street, Ithaca, NY
Arthur's Meadow presents a weekly read-aloud of classic literature. The group will read Woolf’s “To The Lighthouse.” For more information, contact Sarah Jane Bokaer at

Sat., Jan. 25, 12:00-2:00 pm
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion
Presented by Tompkins County Public Library and the Ithaca chapter of the American Association of University Women will host a discussion of Elizabeth Cline’s acclaimed book. For more information, contact Carrie Wheeler-Carmenatty at (607) 272-4557 extension 248 or

Sat., Jan. 25, 3:30-4:30 pm
Mother/Daughter Book Club-Anastasia Krupnick
For girls in grades five through eight and their moms. Facilitated by author and educator Emily Rhoads Johnson, the Club provides a wonderful opportunity for participants to learn about themselves and others by discussing literature in a welcoming, judgment-free environment. This month's meeting examines “Anastasia Krupnick” by Lois Lowry.

Mon., Jan 27, 6:00 pm
Buffalo Street Books
Theater group meeting.

Tues., Jan. 28, 7:00 pm
Language of the Civil War
Newfield Fire Hall, 77 Main St., Newfield, NY
A dramatic reading presented by the Tompkins County Civil War Commemoration Commission. This reading will feature letters, diaries, and newspaper accounts from around the county. Includes Capt. Joseph Gregg, of Newfield. Explores ideas of patriotism, race, volunteering, boredom, and fear. Captures the drama of the era

Wed., Jan. 29, 3:00-4:00pm
Lake Country Book Club
Edith B. Ford Memorial Library, Ovid, NY
Poetry by Wallace Stevens – select a few poems to share.

Thurs., Jan. 30, 6:00-8:30 pm
Intro to Entrepreneurship
AFCU, Ithaca, NY
Intro to Entrepreneurship provides an overview of business ownership for those exploring a business idea. This one-evening workshop shares basic information and tools that will help participants address key questions: Is my business idea viable? What skills do I need? How can I research and develop my idea further?

Thurs., Jan. 30, 7:00 pm
Pushing the Limits: Survival
Southworth Library, Dryden, NY
Part of a free, four-part reading, viewing and discussion series at the Southworth Library. The series brings together books and video featuring authors, scientists and everyday people who thrive on exploring our world. This event focuses on Clive Cussler's "Artic Drift" with a discussion facilitated by Dr. Karen Downey, avid reader, optics engineer and assistant professor in Chemistry at SUNY Cortland. Registration is recommended, as materials are limited. For more information, please contact Diane Pamel, at the Southworth Library in Dryden at 844-4782 or

Thurs., Jan. 30, 7:00-8:30 pm
Arthur’s Meadow-Read Aloud Group
Fall Creek Studio-1201 N. Tioga St., Ithaca, NY
Arthur's Meadow presents a weekly read-aloud of classic literature. The group will read Sherman Alexie’s “Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian.” For more information, contact Sarah Jane Bokaer at

Mon., Feb. 3, 4:30-5:30 pm
Graphic Novel and Manga Club
TCPL-Borg Warner Room
For teen readers. The club meets every other Monday in the library’s Tompkins Trust Company Study Room. For more information, contact Teen Services Librarian Regina DeMauro at (607) 272-4557 extension 274 or

Wed., Feb. 5, 5:00-6:00 pm
Cortland Book Club
Cortland Free Library, Cortland, NY
The Adult Book Club will meet to discuss "My Beloved World" by Sonia Sotomayor. Registration is not required and new members are always welcome. Please contact the library for more information or to reserve a copy of the book.

Thurs., Feb. 6, 4:30 pm
Cynthia Hogue
Hollis E. Cornell Auditorium, Ithaca, NY
Part of the Spring 2014 Barbara & David Zalaznick Reading Series. Hogue's forthcoming collection is entitled “Revenance”, and she is the Distinguished Visiting Writer of the Department of English for the Spring 2014 Semester. She has published twelve books, including “Or Consequence” and “When the Water Came: Evacuees of Hurricane Katrina.”

Thurs., Feb. 6, 7:00-8:30 pm
Arthur’s Meadow-Read Aloud Group
Fall Creek Studio-1201 N. Tioga St., Ithaca, NY
Arthur's Meadow presents a weekly read-aloud of classic literature. Beginning January 9, the group will read Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. For Thursday, Jan. 16, the group will pick up at Chapter Six. For more information, contact Sarah Jane Bokaer at

Sun., Feb. 9, 2:00-3:30 pm
Montezuma Book Club
Montezuma Audubon Center
Nature Wars: the incredible story of how wildlife comebacks turned backyards into battlegrounds by Jim Sterba.

Thurs., Feb. 13, 7:00 pm
Trampoline Presents: Physical
Lot 10 Lounge
Ithaca's Competitive Storytelling Event. Just in time for Valentine's Day, Febraury's installment of Trampoline ain't talkin' bout love.

Thurs., Feb. 13, 7:00-8:30 pm
Arthur’s Meadow-Read Aloud Group
Fall Creek Studio-1201 N. Tioga St., Ithaca, NY
Arthur's Meadow presents a weekly read-aloud of classic literature. Beginning January 9, the group will read Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. For Thursday, Jan. 16, the group will pick up at Chapter Six. For more information, contact Sarah Jane Bokaer at

Elaine Mansfield:

Writing Through the Rough Spots

Jill Swenson: Congratulations on the forthcoming publication of your book, Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief, by Larson Publications in fall 2014. What is meant by the title of your book? 

Elaine Mansfield: After Vic’s death, I leaned into his love. I leaned into the love of the land, the life I created with him, our sons, close friends, and found support. Spiritual help came from meditation, various healing practices, and teachers, alive and dead. I lean my body and spirit into these teachings as I lean into the biggest trees in my forest. They protect me, hold me up, and heal me. 

After Vic died, we buried his ashes where he had requested in the woods. My sons and I built a cairn there. This had always been an important place for both of us—a massive healthy red oak at the top of a knoll in the woods and big trees all around. A group of basswood trees there was always my praying place. But a few months after Vic’s death, I began to visit daily, bring flowers and prayers and leave my grief there. The trees didn’t mind and I was soothed.

Vic and I always loved nature, but since his death I find the forest is my healing sanctuary, more than ever before. I meditate, walk in the woods, and love combining spiritual practice with protecting the environment.

Jill Swenson: Grief has its own calendar and seasons. How does your spiritual journey allow for those expansions and contractions of the sense of time when grieving?

Elaine Mansfield: I write about each season and my meditation ritual includes the directions:  a movement through the seasons of east in spring, south in summer, west in autumn, and north in winter. Eight days after Vic’s death, I dreamed I would live in the house of the Green Man for a year. I had heard of the Green Man but didn’t know who he was. I learned he was the pre-Christian nature god of death and rebirth, the one who presided over the cycle of the seasons. I understood that Nature and the cycles of Nature would heal me. So I focused on watching the details of where the sun sets on the horizon, when the buds swell, when the moss greens in the forest. It became a conscious practice, a healing practice, to feel myself and Vic’s death as part of the natural cycle of things. It made me feel less alone and more a child of the universe.

Jill Swenson: You included some excerpts from poetry like the Sonnets to Orpheus in your manuscript. Why was it important to include these?

Elaine Mansfield: Vic and I loved and read poetry. He courted me, our first night together, by reading poetry. We loved many of the singing poets – Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Buffy St. Marie, and Bob Dylan. During Vic’s illness, we read more poetry. I often read aloud to him and friends sent poems. Many great poets touch the heart with the sacred.

In my book, I recount how I read aloud the poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, “Kindness,” at Vic’s request during a medical procedure made more unpleasant by a grumpy mean-spirited doctor who terrified the resident and interns. I thought Vic was off his rocker when he asked me to read the poem in the middle of the procedure, but I read it anyway. It transformed an ugly situation into a healing sanctuary. The students relaxed, the doctor took in the message, and everything changed. When I asked Naomi’s permission to use her poem, I sent her this chapter and dared to ask if she might endorse my book. She gave me an enthusiastic yes.

Jill Swenson: Poet Naomi Shihab Nye describes your book as magnificent and profound; offering encouragement and solace. It has been a long road from writing notes in your journals to publishing a book. 

Elaine Mansfield: During Vic’s illness, I kept detailed journals of what was happening. I didn’t want to forget, and I knew he or I might because sometimes so much happened at once. When I felt exhausted and at wit’s end, I ranted in writing. It didn’t make my fear disappear, but it made it conscious, and then I could speak to my fear and soothe myself a little.
Jill Swenson: So writing began before you had any notions of publishing. Writing has therapeutic effects. When do you take it to the next stage?

Elaine Mansfield: I began to write within months after Vic’s death. I went to one writing class, but was embarrassed to sob as I read my pieces there. Then I found a smaller writing group called “Writing through the Rough Spots” with Ellen Schmidt. There I could write my stories and cry. I let it all pour out and went back to my journals for details.

After two years of writing stories, Ellen told me she thought I had a book. But it was more like a series of short stories. I filled in the spaces as best I could. My cousin who is a published author told me I needed to learn how to write a book proposal. The next day, I saw an announcement for a workshop by Jill Swenson of Swenson Book Development LLC on how to write a Non-Fiction Book Proposal at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca. 

Jill Swenson: I recall that workshop and meeting you there. 

Elaine Mansfield: You read the rough draft of my manuscript and kindly let me know all the problems with it—and there were many. Many of the short stories were powerful, but they didn’t make a whole narrative. So you read it, made editorial recommendations, and advised me to have others read it, too. From all the feedback, I rewrote and began the book in a new place. I omitted much and added more. Then I had more readers and more feedback and reworked it again in a writing group.

This book was rewritten 100 times, but it finally feels finished. I’m grateful to you, Jill, for believing in me and my story and for Paul Cash of Larson Publications for giving me clear editorial direction from the beginning.

Jill Swenson: So the book manuscript is finished, and yet you still continue to write. Where do you write now?

Elaine Mansfield: I usually write at my computer, in the office that was once Vic’s. It’s quiet and there are windows on the east, south, and west, so I feel in touch with nature even though I’m inside. I take writing classes and find this keeps new ideas flowing. I carry small notebooks with me and sometimes have ideas on walks or in the middle of the night or while driving (and pull over to the side of the road to write them down). I usually do serious focused writing in the afternoon. I spend mornings with the business of publishing a book, building an audience, and reading other people’s blogs and articles. I devote most afternoons to writing. I try to write a blog or do something for my book every day—and still have a life of political activism, caring for friends, socializing, and caring for my body. It’s a constant balancing act. 

Jill Swenson. Balance. Breathe. Wise words for writers.

You can learn more about Elaine Mansfield at her website, subscribe to her blog, find her author Page on Facebook, connect on LinkedIn, and follow her on Twitter



Ira Rabois is an author and educator of empathy and emotional intelligence who is working on a book about mindful questioning. He plans to launch his new site in the coming weeks. 


Need a few tips on using Facebook's features? Want to make LinkedIn work better for you? Trying to feed your blog posts to Google+? Clueless about Twitter? In 15 minutes we can answer your questions and show you how to do it yourself. Swenson Book Development LLC now has the capability of offering assistance with web-conferencing software that will allow screen-sharing. If you need a brief session, let us know and we will send you a link and arrange a time to help you. 
Ann Elise Reichlin is an author-illustrator who launched her website this past week. Her blog, The Creative Mess, is a wonderful resource for inspiring creativity in young children. You will enjoy getting to know Mr. Kitty and Eliza. 


A last minute cancellation means there is one spot open in the writing workshops meeting every other Saturday. The next session is January 25, 1-2:30 pm at The History Center in Ithaca. The other sessions are held Feb. 8 and 22, and March 8 and 22. If you are interested, please contact me at your soonest convenience.
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