Tag Archives: Dancing at the Shame Prom

Writing is Good for the Soul

From an early age books swept me away to better places where magical things happened to innocent children. Where mean giants were slain, frogs turned into princes, and even a poisonous apple was not enough to keep love from prevailing over evil. 

I learned to read books about “Green Eggs and Ham” and as a four-year-old pondered the question “Are You My Mother?” Later in my pre-adolescence Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, Little Women, and Watership Down became my goto books for validation of a better life outside my mini-Universe.

These books stirred something deep inside my soul that felt like a perfect fit. I secretly longed to be a writer that would make a difference in someone’s life. For years I wrote in the confines of my private space, rarely sharing my words with others. These words were an integral part of me and who I am. I was terrified at the thought of releasing them for others to read. The idea left me feeling vulnerable. In ways it was as if I was offering up my soul on a platter to sacrifice for anyone who dared.

Jump forward to three years ago when I was handed an opportunity to contribute a piece to an anthology that was going to be published by Seal Press. I was asked by one of the Editors, Hollye Dexter, who had become aware of my writing through my blog, through the writing community of She Writes, and a few other places where I had become brave enough to post. I was humbled and blown away to be asked. The topic of the anthology was shame. God knows I have had plenty of that in my life. Haven’t we all?

The book “Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the Stories That Kept Us Small” was published by Seal Press in 2012. My piece shares the pages with some extraordinary women. 0Being a part of that book has lead to some amazing opportunities for me like becoming a member of the faculty and speaking on the “Women Write Their Lives” speakers panel at the San Miguel Writer’s Conference in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in 2013. But the best thing to occur was my newfound sense of confidence in my ability to write.

** From left to right: Samantha Dunn, Brooke Axtell, Sarah Stonich, Laura Davis, Amy Ferris, Hollye Dexter, Suzanne Braun Levine, Tracy J Thomas, Brooke Warner. “Women Write Their Lives” speakers panel, San Miguel International Writers Conference, 2013. Photo by Jon Ware. **

I definitely don’t strive to be the next literary genius nor to make it onto the New York Times Bestsellers list with anything I write. Those amazing writers are few and far between. My only hope is to entertain and help others through my words. That alone is my greatest reward. Although of course I would be happy with any royalties that roll in so I can continue to pay my bills :).

I was thrilled this morning to find my little motivational Kindle ebook, “Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature” had moved up into the top 100 in the Kindle paid store for three categories on Amazon. It was perched at #32 in “Spiritual Healing,” #68 in Short Reads “self-Help,” and #78 in overall “Self-Help.” I am fully aware these rankings are precarious and go up and down on an hourly basis but am still giddy with excitement every time I see these numbers.

Whoever said “writing is good for the soul” was correct. Whenever I write I am immediately transported to my happy place and my soul feels renewed and quite often vindicated when I give it a platform on which to speak. My photography is on an even plane with my writing in regards to the cleansing of soul. Whenever I have the opportunity to combine the two I reach that elusive state of Nirvana. 

If you would like to download “Zen in the Garden” you can do so here: Zen in the Garden: Finding Peace and Healing Through Nature.

I welcome any reviews and would also love it if you would gift it forward if you feel so moved.

Sipping Coffee With Maria Shriver

Maria Shriver at Capitol Park, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA. 2009 - ©Tracy J. Thomas. All rights reserved.

Maria Shriver at Capitol Park, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA. 2009 – ©Tracy J. Thomas. All rights reserved.

I have always been a huge admirer of Maria Shriver.  She has been a staunch supporter of many things that are near and dear to my heart such as Special Olympics, programs that support low-income and at risk youth, and she has provided major support for women through the annual California Women’s Conference.  To top it all off, she is also an extraordinary journalist.

In 2009 I spent a lot of time wandering Capitol Park at the California State Capitol while interviewing and shooting photos and video of homeless individuals for my M.F.A. thesis project.  On one sunny Spring afternoon I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Maria Shriver, then California’s First Lady, who was touring the grounds around the Capitol for the launch of her “WE Build and WE Garden,” a playground and community garden-building initiative for school-aged children.

Maria Shriver at Capitol Park, State Capitol, Sacramento - ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

Maria Shriver at Capitol Park, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA.  2009 – ©Tracy J. Thomas. All rights reserved.

I stood there in jaw-dropping awe as I watched her interact with the media and a group of children who were planting in a garden plot set aside for the purpose at hand.  This iconic woman was so genuine, intelligent and warm to everyone that surrounded her.  It was an honor just to be in her presence and a privilege to capture several photos during those moments.

She was the type of woman I could envision grabbing a cup of coffee with just to chit-chat about the state of the world and what we can do to change it.  A big fantasy, I know…

But then it happened.  This year Maria Shriver read the book “Dancing at the Shame Prom: Sharing the stories that kept us small” (Seal Press) and her staff said she loved it!  Myself and 26 other amazing women just happen to have stories in this book.

So now I can more realistically envision Maria Shriver curled up in her big comfy chair next to her fireplace (if she has one), sipping on her cup of coffee (not sure she even drinks it), while “listening” to me “tell” her my personal story.  Wow!

"Dancing at the Shame Prom" on Maria Shrivers blog.

“Dancing at the Shame Prom” on Maria Shriver’s blog.

And now, our spectacular co-editors, Hollye Dexter and Amy Ferris have a piece about the book on Maria Shriver’s official blog! (You can read it here)

So, coffee with Maria Shriver, check! One more thing knocked off the old bucket list…

Un Viaje a San Miguel

“Set in the mountainous reaches of the Mexican desert, this astounding city of colonial architecture, thermal hot springs, perpetual blossoms and perfect light has an everlasting spring. Recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, San Miguel de Allende, contains a lively mix of Mexicans and foreigners. Ten percent of its 80,000 residents are expats from the U.S., Canada, Europe and elsewhere, people who’ve left their old lives behind to immerse themselves year-round in San Miguel’s myriad cultural offerings, climate, and dynamic artistic community.” – Laurie Gough

On Saturday morning I received word that I have been added to the Faculty for the 2013 San Miguel International Writer’s Conference in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The conference will be held February 13th through the 17th and I will be teaching a workshop titled “Dominating Social Media: How to Market Yourself to the Masses.”

I am more than thrilled. I am over the moon ecstatic with happiness to be a part of such an amazing conference in such a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world. Just the thought of roaming the historic cobblestone streets to capture photo after photo in such a magical place gives me goosebumps. A week surrounded by amazing writers and creatives will surely have a life changing impact on my soul.

This morning while out on my run I couldn’t help but think what a wonderful year this has turned out to be thus far. I graduated Cum Laude with my M.F.A. from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco; I finished my first half marathon in May; my photos are landing in galleries and private collections all over the world; I am a contributor to the upcoming Seal Press anthology “Dancing at the Shame Prom: The stories that kept us small;” and now I am on the Faculty of one of the premier writer’s conferences in the world.

I can’t wait to see what other wonderful things are waiting for me around the next corner!

For more information on the San Miguel Writer’s Conference visit their official website here. Registration and schedule information for the 2013 conference will be released in August.

Highlights from the 2012 Conference including Margaret Atwood & Naomi Wolf: