Tag Archives: San Miguel Writer’s Conference

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.


The Magic of San Miguel de Allende

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

The cobblestone streets of San Miguel… ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

I know. I have been unusually quiet since arriving home from the International Writers’ Conference in San Miguel. Forgive me. It is hard for me to believe that it has been one month to the day that I was on a plane headed back to the U.S. Where did those four weeks go?

The interesting thing about social media and building relationships in cyberspace is when you finally meet in person, something truly amazing happens. In ways, my cyber connections have been afforded the chance to know quite a bit about me even before our first face-to-face foray. This allows for all those shallower “Glad to meet you, this is what I have done in the past, etcetera, etcetera” niceties to be cast aside so we can get right to the deeper, more meaningful conversations about life.

Although I had met several of my writing friends in the “real” world at previous physical gatherings, the conference in San Miguel provided me with the opportunity to be introduced to some of my life-long idols and to add new contacts to my growing list of wonderful human beings I am happy to know.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

La Parroquia in the Jardin.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

There are so many claims about San Miguel de Allende being “magical.” Some swear it is because the city is built on some mysterious bed of crystals. Some blame the 6,000 foot elevation that limits the amount of oxygen to the brain. Some attribute the magic to the number of Huichol Shamans known as “mara’akame” that reside in the area. Whatever the reason, it is beyond any doubt an astounding city. My personal experiences while in San Miguel were full of “OMG! This is truly a magical place” moments. And it has taken me four weeks to digest those experiences…

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

The first bit of magic occurred the moment my shuttle dropped me off at the front door to my host’s beautiful home. As faculty members we were each offered the opportunity to be hosted by one of the many wonderful residents who are lucky enough to live in this mecca. When Barbara opened the door, I was immediately taken by her warm personality and the beauty of the courtyard that greeted me. I had my own room on the upper floor of her casita and felt so welcomed the entire time I spent there.

The faculty luncheon was held the day after I arrived and was hosted by the Mayor and city of San Miguel.  There was glorious food, margaritas and fabulous company.  I had the pleasure of eating lunch with Cheryl Strayed, author of the New York Times bestseller “Wild”; Amy Ferris, author of “Marrying George Clooney” and one of my co-editors on “Dancing at the Shame Prom”; Hollye Dexter the other glorious co-editor of “Dancing at the Shame Prom”; Sarah Stonich, author of “Shelter,” “These Granite Islands,” “The Ice Chorus,” and the recently released “Vacationland”; Samantha Dunn, co-contributor to “Dancing at the Shame Prom” and author of “Failing Paris,” “Faith in Carlos Gomez: A Memoir of Salsa, Sex, and Salvation,” and “Not by Accident: Reconstructing a Careless Life;” and Jody Kobak Feagan, original co-founder of the San Miguel Writers’ Conference and all-around wonderful human being.

From left to right: Hollye Dexter, Cheryl Strayed, Jody Kobak Feagan, Amy Ferris, Sarah Stonich.

From left to right: Hollye Dexter, Cheryl Strayed, Jody Kobak Feagan, Amy Ferris, Sarah Stonich. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

And did I mention Cheryl Strayed???! ;-).  What a down to earth, fabulous and funny person!  I, who adored her book along with countless millions, never in my “wild”est dreams thought I would end up breaking bread with this remarkable icon of memoir.  Right off the bat I began to believe in the magic of this place.

Jody's table

Jody’s table. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

And then there was Jody’s table…  Jody Kobak Feagan’s table in her beautiful home, served as a meeting place for an endless stream of amazingly creative human beings.  A throw back to the days of artist colonies and enclaves where conversations waxed poetic, philosophical, and occasionally surreal.  And oh yes, there was always an abundance of margaritas.  Perhaps that’s why some conversations felt so surreal…

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2012. All rights reserved.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

The grounds of the Hotel Real de Minas where the conference was held provided a wonderful gathering area during the afternoons.  Blankets and pillows were strewn around the shade covered lawn for reading and relaxing.  Those same blankets seemed conductors of magical experiences like a picnic lunch with none other Suzanne Braun Levine, first Editor of Ms. Magazine.  Now that is something I never imagined would happen in my own humble lifetime.  But it did!

Suzanne

Suzanne Braun Levine (middle), first Editor of Ms. Magazine. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

One of the most memorable moments happened when I joined six other amazing women on the stage for the “Women Write Their Lives” panel that was moderated by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter.  The room filled up with 400 people who laughed and cried with us as we shared our lives and stories with the audience.

Photo © John Ware, 2013.

From left to right: Samantha Dunn, Brooke Axtell, Laura Davis, Amy Ferris, Hollye Dexter, Suzanne Braun Levine, Tracy J. Thomas, Brooke Warner. Photo © Jon Ware, 2013. All rights reserved.

Lucky me between Suzanne Braun Levine, first Editor of Ms. Magazine and Brooke Warner, former Executive Director of Seal Press and founder and Editor of She Writes Press. Photo © John Ware, 2013.

Lucky me between two of my idols: Suzanne Braun Levine, first Editor of Ms. Magazine and Brooke Warner, former Executive Director of Seal Press and founder and Editor of She Writes Press. Photo © Jon Ware, 2013. All rights reserved.

For those of you who know the story of my sordid childhood, this trip was akin to traveling full circle when I was introduced to a woman whose book literally saved my life back in my 20’s.  Laura Davis, co-author of the iconic book “The Courage to Heal” was not only a presenter at the conference, but was also on the “Women Write Their Lives” panel.  Laura’s book was the first I read that honestly propelled me into my own journey of healing from my ghastly past.  I got to spend many amazing moments with this wonderful human being and feel blessed to be able to now call her my friend.

Photo ©Erin Doyle, 2013.

Me and Laura Davis.  Photo ©Erin Doyle, 2013. All right reserved.

On Sunday I taught my “Dominating Social Media: How to market your writing to the masses” workshop that brought in a full house of eager and inquisitive writers which culminated in several private consultations.

Photo ©John Ware, 2013.

Me having a lot of fun teaching my workshop.  Photo ©Jon Ware, 2013. All rights reserved.

Luckily I had a few hours during each day to wander, take photographs and get to know this wonderful city on a more intimate level.  Those hours were by far the most magical.  I would spend time outside the small cafes that surrounded the Jardin, where I would sip Cappuccinos, breathe the people into me, and watch the activities of the day unfold before me.

One afternoon while wandering the streets in search of my next photo op I ran into “The Three Amigos.”  Jon Ware, John Drake and Ken Ferris twisted my arm and I joined them for a few cervezas and photography talk.  Jon Ware is a fellow photographer from Minnesota who is married to the wonderful Sarah Stonich, while John Drake and Ken Ferris are cinematographers who both have quite an extensive list of Hollywood accomplishments (just peruse the links from their names).  These three great, supportive men mesmerized me with their knowledge of photography and made me feel like one of the gang.

"The Three Amigos" - Jon Ware, John Drake and Ken Ferris.  ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

“The Three Amigos” – Jon Ware, John Drake and Ken Ferris. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

The morning I had to pack my suitcase and catch the shuttle back to the Leon airport was a sad day indeed.  But there was to be yet one more moment of magic when I stepped into the van and found Amy and Ken Ferris being shuttled to the airport in the same vehicle!  It was like the icing on the cake for me.  A way to slowly and gracefully peel myself away from all the magic by spending several more hours in a peaceful transition back to reality with these two wonderful human beings.

I felt mesmerized with San Miguel.  I was smitten in a deep way.  Even now when I think back on my time in that beautiful city, I struggle to convey in words the impact this place and the people I shared it with have had on my soul.  It’s a quiet, deeply internal, life-changing, eerily mysterious, effect.  I get the feeling the true magic of that place will continue to be revealed until I find myself strolling along the cobblestone streets once again.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

Until we meet again… ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2013. All rights reserved.

**Back to iPinion Syndicate**


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: