Have you had your hug today?

I recently went to an event with friends where, when it was over, everyone was hugging, like people do after an evening when feelings of closeness and well-being surround everyone. As I leaned in to hug one person, she said, “Oh, no, heart to heart.”

I looked at her questioningly, quickly cataloging my hug knowledge. Regular hug, polite hug, bear hug, lover’s hug, one-sided hug, smothering hug – like the one from a relative you wanted to escape when you were a kid.

She saw I was in hug turmoil.


Heart to heart – courtesy of Flickr – Donnie Ray Jones

Following that, we danced a ballet of arms and heads. The trick to hugging heart to heart is to lead with the left arm rising, lean to your right, left cheek to left cheek. We finally  hugged heart to heart.

Why did I feel so awkward?

I step into a hug with my right arm rising. The heart to heart hug felt strange because nothing seemed in the right place. I’ve been a right side hugger all my life.

Did the heart to heart feel more close?

I know the words “heart to heart” have an intimacy to them. We have heart to heart talks, why not heart to heart hugs? The idea of heart to heart also feels good. Maybe it’s a mental thing that prepares you for the heart to heart. Did I feel more warmth? More closeness? Did our hearts synchronize? If so, these are positive benefits, especially after one article I read stated that in a traditional hug we hug “liver to liver.”

But to answer my question, Did it feel more close? I’m not sure. I haven’t done enough heart to heart hugs, without self-consciousness or deliberateness. I’ll have to do more research. (Somebody has to do it.) But it felt good.

There are any number of articles and much research on hugging in general. According to a Huffpost feature called “Healthy Living,” here are some definite hug benefits:

  1. Hugs make us feel good and energize us.
  2. More hugs = lower blood pressure.
  3. Hugs may alleviate our fears.
  4. Hugging can be good for our hearts.
  5. Adults can benefit from hugging the most.
  6. Hugs are a natural stress reliever.
  7. Well-hugged babies are less stressed as adults.

You’ll want to decide for yourself if a heart to heart hug is for you, if hearts synchronize. If it’s more close, more intimate. However, whether you hug to the right or to the left, I think the most important thing when you do hug is this: your heart is in the hug.

Something to remember – from Bill Keane, American cartoonist: A hug is like a boomerang – you get it back right away.

And one last thought – remember to give yourself a hug. You deserve it. And add a little positive self-talk.

Have a Fabulous Fourth!

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A Walk With Her Father

Did you ever, as a little girl, dance with your father? You know. He held your hands, you placed your feet on each of his, and he waltzed you around the room. Remember? As you grew, he steadied you on your new two wheeler and then, after a few years, helped you learn to drive the family car. When you married, you thought how handsome he looked as he walked you down the aisle. But life happened. And one day he was no longer young.

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A Time to Remember

A Walk with Her Father

She puts her small hands
in his, unsure. She wobbles,
her steps atop his.
Gently, he steadies and guides.
They glide across the room,
her first dance.

She slips her arm in his.
From behind a white veil
she smiles at him.
They walk together
down a carpeted aisle,
step by step.

“Who gives this woman?”
“I do,” he answers.
He squeezes her hand,
not wanting to let go,
but steps away.

She joins her husband-to-be.

And now … 

She takes her father’s hand.
They walk beneath the maples,
their fingers entwined.
His cane taps the sidewalk,
leaves crunch underfoot.
She steadies him with each step.

                                                                                                                                    by Carol Mann 2016

“A Walk with her Father,” Watercolor by Lynn Centeno

Happy Father’s Day. Thank you for all you do!

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A Time to Remember

Memorial Day. A day to remember those who have sacrificed. It’s impossible to see an honored last resting place or a national monument without feelings of loss, of love, of deep appreciation. Without thoughts about lives denied.

APTOPIX Memorial Day California

Memorial Day Weekend courtesy of Time.com

On this day we pay tribute to our military of days gone by, to those who are in harm’s way today, and to those of today who have paid the highest price. I can’t begin to know the anguish of parents and spouses and children, those who wait at home. I cannot begin to know the courage, the determination, the fear, the sacrifice of those on military assignment around the world.

But I can respect and honor them.

Recently, I was part of a program called “Reflections.” In it, artists submitted work and writers chose one of the pieces of art to write about. When I saw the painting below, I had no idea of the artist’s concept. I was drawn to several things. To the young man’s eyes. To what perhaps is the yearning or remembering in them, to the loss or hurt. To what seems to be a military uniform. To wondering about what he had done, what he had seen. To the birds. A good sign, a bad omen?

We each bring our own experiences and ideas to a painting. We each see and are touched by something different. That is the beauty and enduring gift of art. What do you see? What would you write? Below is what I saw and wrote.


Portrait – oil on canvas by artist Barbara McEwen

The Soldier

Morning skies illuminate
a wistful face, reveal eyes
haunted by memories
destined not to fade.

Gone is the laughter,
gone is the innocence.
Faces of men
wander his mind,
faces of those he lost.

Harbingers of hope
mourn the emptiness within,
seek to calm his world forever changed,
to bring him peace.

                                                                                                            by Carol Mann 2017

As I participate in Memorial Day celebrations and activities, I’ll hold dear the sacrifices of our military and their families.


Memorial Day in my family is also a day to remember family and friends who have passed. Mothers, fathers, husbands, wives. Family. My husband and I always went to the graves of his parents sometime during the Memorial Day period until we moved out of the area and could no longer do so. He tended the sites. Pulled away grass and weeds, brushed the detritus from the marble markers, placed fresh flowers in the sunken urns. He’d talk to them a bit. I did, too. Simply a quiet moment of remembrance.


Whatever your tradition, I wish you an inspired Memorial Day as you honor the sacrifice of the men and women who serve.



A footnote – the commissioned portrait in the blog is of Frederick Sleight, who became an anthropologist and later Executive Director of the Palm Springs Art Museum. He oversaw the transition of the Desert Museum, founded in 1938, to that of the PS Art Museum.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a special day, whether your mother is nearby, across the country, or across the ocean. It’s a time to reach out to her, hear her voice, hold her hand. It’s a time to renew that special bond. Even though my mother is gone many years, memories of her are not. And, strangely, those mother/daughter bones of contention that arose over the years are no longer important.

What is important are the special activities that will fill the hours: having a family gathering, taking your mom to brunch, placing a cross-country or Skype call, visiting a gravesite with her favorite flowers in hand.

In the book All Ways A Woman, a collaboration I did as a writer with artist Lynn Centeno, are several poems that ring true for Mother’s Day. I’d like to share them with you. The first is called “My Mother’s Hat.” An aside: Billy Collins was Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. He suggests using an object as a key to unlocking a door to a larger, deeper idea. This was indeed the case with my mother’s hat.


A simple hat woven of straw …

My Mother’s Hat

My mother’s hat is woven of straw,
a worn and weathered circle
of complicated love.

Its presence
recalls her special gifts to me.
Choices, rainbowed with dreams.

My mother’s hat shields from summer’s sun,
a wide-brimmed haven
of sacrifice and constancy.

Wearing it
brings her memory close.
I hear her words, feel her near me.

by Carol Mann


Motherhood offers life’s greatest joys, challenges, and rewards. As a mother, you form a special bond with each child. The following words are for you.

Mother and daughter share a special moment …


In My Arms – Watercolor by Lynn Centeno

In My Arms

My precious little girl,
your every breath
takes mine away.

Forever I remember the first time
I held you, the moment we became
mother and daughter.

Know always I’m here,
your soft cloud, your safe
haven in life.

I savor your sweet
innocence, the beating
of your heart against mine.

“Mommy,” I hear as you snuggle close.

by Carol Mann


A young boy’s first experiences with art …


White Paper – Watercolor by Lynn Centeno

White Paper

blue paint dollops and green
on paper

fingers slide across the sleekness
swish backward
wiggle forward
whirl in circles
twist and twirl

ocean waves curl
become rugged peaks
meld to a monster’s face
blossom into
a giant rayed sun

a smile lights my little boy’s face
of finger paint
his cheek, his nose

by Carol Mann

Wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day! 


Hope your day is fabulous!

Posted in Creativity, Finding Ideas: The Creative Process, Inspiration, Looking for Inspiration, poetry, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Book Marketing Adventure Continues

The book marketing adventure continues with All Ways A Woman. Lynn and I learn something new with each Reading and Conversation we do, either about ourselves or about our material. We’ve learned how different audiences can be and how to adjust. Some audiences are reserved, others are highly participatory. Physical environments are different, too. We’ve learned to adjust quickly, whatever we encounter. Our events culminate with book sales at a signing table.

We continue making our calls to different venues. It’s a process. Some brick and mortar locations need corporate approval, others managerial approval. When we contact organizations, we must wait for their board meetings to convene for our information to be presented and then we do follow-ups. Sometimes, an event that looks promising isn’t and one that isn’t becomes terrific. And sometimes, we’re not really sure what we’re getting into. A recent event exceeded all expectations.

Gallery Event

The gallery managers at Cambria Gallery located on El Paseo in Palm Desert where we recently held an evening event definitely know how to host a happening. When we arrived, the tables and chairs were set up for the audience, surfaces cleared for our books and marketing materials, and areas ready for serving appetizers and wine, catered by Il Corso Restaurant.


Cambria Gallery located on El Paseo in Palm Desert

Guests arrived, were offered appetizers and wine, found their seats, and the event was underway. At each seat the managers had placed a brochure about the gallery and an individual favor – two Oreos covered in white chocolate. Sinful. One of the managers spoke briefly about the gallery and then introduced us.

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Cambria cookies for each guest

Lynn and I did our Reading and Conversation to an interested and receptive audience. We followed with a Q & A session. How do we get our ideas? How did our collaboration begin? How did our process work in putting together the book? A good evening. Obviously, the arrangement was beneficial for both the gallery and us.

First Lady Notes

I wrote previously that we had sent letters and books to all living first ladies. Here’s another note we’ve received – from former first lady Rosalyn Carter.

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Rosalynn Carter, wife of the 39th President


We encourage reviews. In fact, if you’ve read All Ways A Woman, and would like to take a moment to post a review on our Amazon page at amazon.com, that would be great. By clicking on the author’s name, you’ll find more information and a book trailer to enjoy. Please also visit our Goodreads page at goodreads.com.

Upcoming Events

Two girlfriend events are coming up on May 2 and 4. They will be the finale for the season. We’re combining a Reading and Conversation with an opportunity to see and sample Arbonne products – a line of vegan skin care, make-up, and healthy diet choices. Add snacks and wine for a fun evening.

Visit our All Ways A Woman Facebook page for details.

The Season

We live in the southern California desert so our “season” of high activity winds down as summer knocks on the door. I welcome the chance to return to the writing and editing of my short story collection. Also during this down time, Lynn and I will continue to organize next season’s activities for All Ways A Woman.

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Introduction to All Ways A Woman


A Celebration


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Marketing Your Book

We’ve been busy marketing All Ways A Woman and no one ever said marketing was easy. If you ever watch the TV show Shark Tank, shark Mark Cuban always asks the entrepreneurs who want the sharks to invest if they have gone out and knocked on doors or hit the pavement so to speak to market their product. Well, Mr. Cuban, we have.

Coming up is a Reading and Conversation at a local gallery. My associate Lynn made a “cold call” and talked to the gallery manager. After a few back and forth telephone calls, voila!, we had a date. We’ve sent this invitation:

Carol and Lynn
cordially invite you and a friend to a
Reading and Conversation
with their book

Thursday, April 20, 6 pm
Cambria Gallery
73520 El Paseo, Palm Desert

 Give a keepsake book for the special women in your life for
Mother’s Day, Graduation, Birthday, Anniversary 

 Wine and Lite Bites catered by Il Corso Restaurant
We look forward to seeing you!


As a result of a Reading and Conversation we did at the La Quinta Museum on March 8 (also originating from a cold call), we were able to place All Ways A Woman in the museum store.

Bright pink stands out on the shelf.


One of the fun things we did was to send a book and letter to noteworthy women such as the past and present First Ladies. This is the letter:

We, author Carol Mann and artist Lynn Centeno, have created the enclosed book All Ways A Woman as a tribute to and celebration of women. Through original poetry and art we tell the story of a woman’s journey … her thoughts, her loves, and her many roles in life.

All Ways A Woman is for the woman who, in a quiet moment, reflects on her life and who knows she is in all ways a woman, always. This is her story, her poetry, her art, her inspiration.

In the introduction, we invite the reader to …

walk with us

For together
we grow
we discover
we become

The final piece, “The Gift of the Gathering,” honors our lives as women, the universal bonds we share, and the strength and support we give each other.

We send you this book in recognition of the richness of the life you live daily and the inspiration you give women as they make their own life stories. We hope you enjoy.

One of the thoughtful responses we received is from former first lady Barbara Bush:

A lovely note …


These are just some of the things we’ve been doing. On my desk right now is a list of calls I’m working on as follow-ups to some cold calls we made to several local shops and hotels. My associate Lynn has the same. Our next step is to line up presentations with local groups who are now planning their programs for the coming year.

Do we get discouraged or annoyed sometimes? You betcha. Have we run into some “interesting” situations? You betcha. But authors know marketing takes energy, time, and creativity. We just keep working our ideas, connections, and cold calls.

So, fellow authors, we wish you success with your book in your own marketing adventure! Work your ideas. Share your successes. Share your frustrations. We hear ya!

Keep making those calls!

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The Next Writing Project

I’m anxious to start on my next writing project. The book of original poetry and art called All Ways A Woman, done in collaboration with artist Lynn Centeno, is launched and we are well into marketing it at various venues. Our schedule of appearances for April is full. I’ve been sharing the journey with you. It’s exciting and fun. But now I’m ready to dig into another project.

It’s a collection of short stories. I’ve been pecking away at the work and now I want to move it into the main stream of my attention. Some of the stories are new which, I discover, I’m not really finished with yet. I’m still writing. Others, older work, I want to fine tune, parts of which I’m seeing with new eyes, especially the endings. And, interestingly, there is one I don’t want to touch at all. It’s called “The First of the Season” and the story represents the first time I saw myself in print, my first story accepted by an editor of a literary magazine.

Looking for Carol Mann in the Table of Contents

I can still feel the thrill of picking up the literary journal, excitedly running my finger through the Table of Contents, finding my name, running my finger over the type several times. I know how hard I worked, how insecure I felt, how I wanted to paint pictures and scenes and invite the reader to feel what the character Tommy was feeling.

Opening paragraph from my first published story

There’s another story called “Parallel Worlds” which will receive a new title and a new heartbeat. I’m currently reading a novel called Georgia by Dawn Tripp, about the artist Georgia O’Keeffe. On page 78 Tripp describes her imaginings of O’Keeffe returning to a work she’d done previously:

I go into the back room and pull out sketches I made last summer of the natural bridge I visited once in Virginia. I remember passing through it, the smell of the greenery, the cool gray of the rock, and how, when I looked back, the orange dusk struck its edges.

I leave the drawings on the table and begin a new sketch. Lines over the paper, shadow by shadow, details stripped – not the bridge as it was but as I felt it blow through me in that moment I turned and looked back, the moss ripped with light.

I’d lost something in the writing, trying to bring the story to a conclusion. I’d lost what had “blown through me” as I created the story of a man called Ray and his relationship with his father. I lost the feelings, stripped them away, instead of writing Ray’s truth. I’m excited to work with this story.

There’s another which is overly dramatic, based on a newspaper article I read. It needs to be swept of its artifice. It especially needs more craft. It’s a story in which less would be more. The title is Baggage and if after working on it, I’m still not liking the story, it will be cut.

Then there’s the problem of the whole collection needing a title. Right now I’m using an interim title of one of the stories, Not Even Gloria, but I know that title will not hold. I need to see more of what the collection has to say in total. At the moment, I only have this statement:

for those of us everywhere who do what we must

riverSedge literary journal was the first to publish one of my stories – “The First of the Season.”

At the Desert Writers Expo Book Festival on March 30, I talked with Heidi Simmons, writer for the Coachella Valley publication called CV Weekly, and lover of short stories. (I interviewed her for my blog a few years ago when I discovered a series she did on the short story. She was kind enough also to interview Lynn and me about our book All Ways A Woman while at the Expo.) Her articles and reviews have introduced me to writers and short stories I haven’t read before. I like her enthusiasm for the genre.

Keeping up with events in the Coachella Valley.

So the bones are set for my next project. The short story writer has fewer words and less space to grab readers and their thoughts and emotions, to make them care. I have work to do.

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