In Which The Author Disappears Into A Cabin In The Woods to Finish Her Book

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Lisa is a freelance writer, consultant and life coach. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton and her MPA from Harvard. Lisa recently finished the first draft of her book manuscript, Burning Down the House. Her dream is to publish this first book and teach the world how to discover their hidden joy. Her post day is Tuesday.
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Jeans and sweaters, check. Warm fuzzy socks, check. Sleeping bag, check.

Coffee and hazelnut creamer, check. Tea, check.

A few (okay, several!) bottles of good red wine. Check.

Laptop, check. iPhone, check.

Printed copy of my draft book manuscript – check!

And This Is Where The Author Unplugs For A Week….
Later this morning, I am disappearing into a cabin in the woods for a week to finish writing the first draft manuscript of my book, Burning Down The House.

It feels surreal. I have been working on this book, and writing about that here, for almost one full year.

I knew when I was a very little girl that I wanted to be a Famous Writer someday. I knew I wanted to write books.

Yet, life happened, and it took me years and years and years to work up the courage to actually attempt writing one.

What if I couldn’t pull it off after all? What if I was no good? What if it never got published?

What if, what if, what if???

And yet – much worse – what if I NEVER TRIED and had to live the rest of my life regretting the fact that I never used my natural gifts or lived my dreams.

That seemed like a much scarier prospect.

How I Made It Happen With The Help Of My Dream Team!
And so, one year ago, I signed up for a Memoir in a Year class with best-selling author Ellen Sussman hoping that 1) she would provide some much-needed guidance for a first-time book author and 2) some of her greatness would rub off on me. (So far so good on part one, and we shall see about part two!)

And, I applied to be part of a blog called 8womendream. Miraculously, they accepted me!

And the rest, as they say, is history (and blood, swear, tears, late nights, early mornings, bouts of frustration and hopelessness, and finally and hopefully triumph!).

Before I disappear this week I am going to treat all of you (at least I hope it will be a treat!) to an excerpt from my manuscript.

Enjoy! And I will be back in touch next week, after the draft manuscript is completed… Here’s to a restful, relaxing and inspired week of writing.

Let me know how your dreams are going, and let me know if this is a book you would buy and recommend to your friends! After all you, as my readers, are the ones who can make my dream come true of being a best-selling author someday if you love my books.

And so I will always do my best for you.

The two questions I will leave you with this week before I go are the following:

1) What childhood dream have you neglected that still calls to you? and 2) What can you do this week to reactivate that beloved dream?

Have fun and I look forward to hearing from everyone next week when I emerge into the “real world.”

Wish me luck! Wishing you all the best as you make your dreams a reality this week.

AND NOW (drumroll, please….!) an official excerpt from Burning Down The House

“Your house is on fire.”

It was my neighbor John on the phone.

“Have you heard the news?” he’d asked, moments ago.

“What news?”

“Your house is on fire.”

It was surreal, like a moment out of a movie or someone else’s life. I’d been enjoying a quiet dinner on my own – lentils, curried vegetables – at a favorite Mediterranean restaurant in Noe Valley in San Francisco.

Mint garnish, spiced tea, a solitary relaxing evening, an easy stroll from my hillside home on Laidley Street down the steep hills to Church Street, wandering past the little shops and cafes and boutiques, heels clicking on the sidewalk, feeling happy to be alive and living in such a beautiful city on a breezy night. All had been well in my world.

I set down my fork to answer the phone, surprised to get a call from my next door neighbors, 3,000 miles away in Troy, NY where I owned a Victorian home. I should have known something was wrong, considering the time — 8:30 Pacific time, and therefore 11:30 at night on the East Coast.

Now, I clutched my phone like a lifeline.

“Right now?” I asked.

“Right now.”

I had so many questions — was everyone okay? Were the tenants inside the house? Was the fire department on the scene? What would happen next?

Yes, no and yes and who had a clue what to do next — certainly not me.

John told me he was currently on vacation in Florida, and had received a call from his daughter Jamie, who lived on the second floor of his house next door, telling him about the fire. He wanted to reach me before I got a call from my former mother-in-law, who lived across the street.

It all felt like some kind of big cosmic joke. Forty-eight hours prior, my ex-husband and I had finalized our divorce paperwork after two and a half years of an excruciating divorce process. We were finally done. We simply needed to sell the house and split the profits.

Instead I would be working with my mother-in-law to put the house back together. If I even still had a house!

To make matters worse, I would soon learn that my ex-, who lived in Canada, had just left to spend a month in India with his then-fiance. He wasn’t going to be able to help much from there so dealing with the aftermath of the fire would be up to me and Harriet, my former-mother-in-law. She was not my biggest fan at the moment. There are two sides in any divorce, and she had not surprisingly taken her son’s side.

Right now I was left with a half-eaten plate of food, no appetite, and no idea what to do.

And I really had a quibble with the universe. I felt like I had already been dealt more than my share of tragedies and burning down stories, already having risen from the ashes in this lifetime.

My personal symbol in fact was the phoenix rising, the mystical bird of mythological lore, which lives for 500 to 1000 years, builds a nest of myrrh, lays its eggs, and then sets the whole nest aflame. A new bird rises from the ashes.

This had been me. Over and over. Yet I thought I was done with the “burning down” part. I just wanted to go straight to the “happy new life” part.

Years earlier, my whole life had been like a USA Up-All-Night B-grade movie, something you would stumble onto while bored out of your skull, thumbing the remote, flicking through random channels at 3 a.m. You would feel for this lovely young woman, so full of promise, and yet so broken — so much tragedy at such a young age. How could so many bad things happen to one good woman? And, how could so many bad things happen period, seemingly all at once?

Poor broken college student, life seemingly at an end, somehow escapes death more than once and pulls it all together.

I thought I had fast-forwarded into my happy ending.

No one ever knew what had happened to me years ago. It was my big secret.

And my life lately had been so lovely, stable and calm. I had worked so hard to create peace, ease and flow in my life. I meditated daily. I had paid thousands to yoga instructors and life coaches to find this peace. I exuded the essence of Dalai Lama, or so I thought.

Nothing burned down anymore. I was done with the whole “phoenix rising” lifestyle of “burn down, start over.”

Hadn’t the universe gotten my memo? That I was done with drama? Was this really happening to me?



Lisa is a freelance writer and consultant who has published articles, essays and poems in journals and newspapers across the United States. She has her BA in English and Creative Writing from Princeton University, and earned her MPA at Harvard in 2005. Lisa launched her dream to write her first book by signing up for Ellen Sussman’s “Memoir-in-a-Year” class, speaking her story out loud at a Take Back the Night rally. She recently achieved another milestone — 250 pages written in her manuscript! Lisa is bi-coastal with her home in Troy, New York and her heart in San Francisco. Lisa is also a lindy hopper, blues dancer and belly dancer. She has traveled extensively on four continents. Lisa’s post day is Tuesday.

  • Mariska Smith

    Wishing you the best Lisa!!! -M

  • Maureen Wilson

    Have a wonderful, creative week away Lisa!
    Love your gorgeous spirit!
    Love Maureen xx

  • Toni Schram

    Ah, a week in paradise to complete your book. Priceless.

    You should be so proud of yourself for finishing your memoir. What an achievement and we are rooting for your success with this book. Can I get a hell yes to getting on the New York Bestseller’s List?

    Love ya-


  • Catherine Hughes, Editor & Chief

    Love the images – I can see you there!

    Congratulations on your journey and being where you are on your dream! Very exciting! We will be thinking of you working away in such a beautiful spot.

    Hugs, Cath

  • Veronica

    Blessings come in small and large doses, this obviously is a large dose blessing. Very engaging post my dear.
    You are love

  • Remy, Photographer & CEO of Cornerstone Creative

    good luck Lisa! A week away to create….we should allllll do that. lol take your camera too!
    xox Remy