Submit your writing for publication

October 4th, 2012

Submit your stories for possible publication in our Summer and Fall Tending Your Inner Garden books to be released yet in 2012.

Over the past ten years of Tending Your Inner Garden workshops, dinners and retreats, we’ve heard hundreds of women’s stories. Some have been stories of healing both body and soul. Others have been touching, inspiring, poignant, heartbreaking, and laugh-out-loud funny.

They all prove one thing: As women, we all have stories that matter. And when we share them with one another, we expand and deepen a sacred circle of women and support one another on the spiritual path.

That’s why we’re publishing four Tending Your Inner Garden books this year, and we want your voice to be part of them.

We’re inviting you and every woman you know to submit a story, poem, essay or other creation for either or both the Summer and Fall Tending Your Inner Garden seasonal books. Each book reflects the overall theme of Tending Your Inner Garden: Helping women listen to and trust their inner guidance as they connect with Spirit and the Earth.

This is the best way we know to honor the tenth anniversary of Tending Your Inner Garden. And it’s also the most lasting and impactful way we can think of to celebrate women, Spirit and nature. We’ve spelled out all the details below, and we encourage you to take part.

We’ve published two books so far: Winter: Women’s Stories, Poems and Inspiration for the Season of Rest and Renewal and Spring: Women’s Inspiration for the Season of Hope and New Beginnings.

Now, we’re looking for women and girls who want to share their life experience and insights that reflect the seasons of Summer and Fall. Maybe you’ve faced a challenge and have grown as a result, or maybe you found a new perspective on a relationship. In Summer, have you faced storms and grown in self-knowledge and awareness? Have you savored beauty and abundance in your life? In Fall, have you harvested life wisdom? Learned how to let go? Experienced gratitude? Here are additional details on the books:

Q. How will the books be published?

A. Each book will be published to e-readers (Kindle, Nook, etc.), and we’ll do a limited run of print copies as well. If we choose your submission, you’ll receive five print copies of each book you’re in, plus a 25% discount on any additional print copies. Each book will have a brief bio of each woman whose submissions are included.

Q. How will you select the material you publish?

A. We want writing that’s honest and heartfelt, whether it’s a poem, a humorous story or a poignant essay. We’ll also select material that provides a wide spectrum of inspiration, ideas and points of view within each book.

Q. I don’t consider myself a writer and have never been published. Can I still submit work?

A. Absolutely. We’re looking for fresh, honest, compelling material. Our only requirement is that you write from the heart.

Q. Will all work be included?

A. We can’t guarantee that your entries will be included. But the more you submit, the greater your chance of being published in at least one of the books.


Please share this information with any female who may be interested, of any age anywhere on the planet. We hope to include writing representing all ages, walks of life, religions and parts of the world.


Submission guidelines:

Please follow the submission instructions carefully. Be sure to keep a copy of everything you submit.

• Submissions will be accepted via email only. Send them to

• Please send each submission separately. In the subject line of the email and the name of the Word document, include the season of the book for which the submission is intended.  For example: Story for Summer book.

• Submissions must be in Word documents.

• Each submission should be no more than 600 words.

• With your submission, include your name the way you’d like it listed if it’s published.

• We’ll contact you if your submission has been accepted.

• Please note the deadlines for submission, below.

Submission deadlines

Submissions for the books are due according to the following schedule:

  • Summer book: Now closed
  • Fall book: June 1, 2013

If you have questions, please contact us.

• Send your submissions to:


Thank you for being part of this project celebrating and unifying the voices of women everywhere. We look forward to hearing from you!


Savor the Spring in Your Life

September 20th, 2012

The new Tending Your Inner Garden book, Spring: Inspiration for the Season of  Hope and New Beginnings, releases Thursday, Sept. 27. We’re delighted to introduce this second in our series of four seasonal books, all made possible thanks to the submissions of essays and poems from around the country and other parts of the world.

This is a book to keep by your bedside or your favorite chair–and to pick up and savor whenever you feel the stirrings of new possibilities in your life.

It includes stories about finding your own space, transforming your life, moving into new stages of motherhood, accepting unexpected transitions, growing on a soul level and so much more. And it provides just the right hope and inspiration when you’re nurturing new beginnings in your life.

Transformational author and change agent Margaret Wheatley offers this endorsement of the book:

“Each offering invites you into the mind and heart of the writer, promising a rich, reflective experience that both stays with you and moves you forward.”

In the central Iowa area? Join us for a book-signing Thursday, Sept. 27 at Beaverdale Books from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Or pre-order your copy now at a special price:

You’re not the person you used to be

September 4th, 2012

My husband and I differ in how we communicate. I process thoughts out loud. He mulls over things internally and takes him time to speak. It’s taken me a long time to both notice this rhythm and adjust my conversational style accordingly. How have I changed? I’ve learned to be silent and wait, knowing that he will most likely respond to my comment in a thoughtful way when he’s ready.

So I’m not the person I was, exactly. Interaction with another person I care about has helped me learn about myself and grow in flexibility and patience.

Our theme for this month is “Who am I becoming?” The question assumes that our “self” is not a fixed entity that never evolves or changes. At a soul level, that is the case. We’re born with a spark of divine essence that we spend a lifetime attempting to discover and bring to the world. The self, on the other hand, is our expression of that divine essence as we understand it. It’s malleable, responding to life circumstances, desires, relationships, life stages. Who we’re becoming depends on how observant we are of that self and how intentional we are in shaping our thoughts and behavior in an authentic and creative way.

From time to time, it’s useful to ask, “Who am I becoming?” To start you on your reflection, here are questions you could journal or draw a response to or discuss with a friend. The point is not be judgmental about yourself, but to play the role of the witness, noticing changes that provide useful information to you.

  • When do you feel out of sync with your surroundings or circumstances? Is this a new feeling or something you’ve experienced for some time? What do you observe about yourself, based on your discomfort or dis-ease?
  • How has your response to a family member or friend changed over the past year? What has prompted this change? Has a new insight about yourself emerged?
  • Has your taste–for food, fashion, lifestyle, leisure–evolved? Are you giving away clothes that no longer suit you? Shifting to a new hobby or volunteer commitment? Step back. What does this say about you?
  • Reflect on any feedback you’ve received from others who know you well. Or ask them for feedback. What do they notice about you that has changed?
  • How do you feel more in sync–or out of sync–with who you know yourself to be? What values are you expressing or not expressing? What do these values represent?
  • How are you like the child you recall being? What has not changed about you after many years?

Stay tuned for more thoughts on this topic. Share with us what you’re learning about yourself.

Claim your resilient self

July 25th, 2012

What is your “go-to” quality that has seen you through numerous life storms? That characteristic trait of yours that shines through, even in the most challenging of times?

This week Inner Gardeners reflected on this question over a potluck dinner and came up with words like “creativity,” “humor,” “determination,” and “confidence.” Some expressed surprise that, not until being asked this question, did they give themselves credit for the strengths that come into play in their lives again and again.

Do you remember life storms for the difficulties they caused? Or do you recognize how you’ve grown because of them? You are who you are today because of what you’ve faced and what you’ve learned as a result.

During this season of summer, marked by unexpected and sometimes unwelcome events, as well as the beauty and bounty of all that is growing, reflect on your lifetime of stormy weather. Use these questions as prompts for journaling:

  • What comes to mind when you think of the life storms you have faced? Pick two, three or more and briefly describe them.
  • What images do you recall as you witness yourself enduring the storm and eventually moving beyond it?
  • If you were describing yourself in third person, what words would you use to capture the strengths that allowed you to not only survive the storm, but also grow because of it?
  • How do those words feel when you apply them to yourself?
  • Pick one or two that best fits who you were then and who you continue to be.
  • Claim these attributes by posting the word or words in a place you will see every day.

Know that you can trust your resilient self, regardless of what may be happening around you.

Life’s storms: The loss of a husband…one year later

July 22nd, 2012

One year after her husband’s death, Polly Flug still flies the American flag on holidays. “Ron was a veteran of the Vietnam war, and I think of him a lot,” Polly says.

Picturing him in concrete ways is one way Polly has allowed herself to grieve. “I try to remember how much joy and happiness we had and be grateful for the time we had together,” Polly says, “but I was (am) very sad. Nearly every day of this year of firsts I have had tears.”

Polly describes with gratitude all the ways people have helped her. “Our couple friends still include me, although I’m not part of a couple anymore. Friends prayed for me, sent me cards throughout the year of firsts, called me and said encouraging things to me on Facebook.

“Although I try not to burden others with my grief, my family and friends always listen and care for me,” she says. “My grown children have been wonderful, although they’re mourning the loss of their dad. When I have moments with tears or sadness, people don’t try to talk me out of my grief, they just listen.”

Yet Polly acknowledges that it’s not easy to experience loss fully in today’s world. “When corporate America allows five days’ bereavement leave for the loss of a spouse, child or parent, that means business as usual after five days. Unfortunately for the person who is grieving, it will never be business as usual, at least not in the same way,” she says.

What counsel does she have for people in similar situations? “A person who has suffered a loss MUST allow himself/herself to grieve, even if he/she must ‘carry on’ at work. The grieving person should take the time to think about the loss, to remember the good times, and never, ever be ashamed or apologize for tears.”

As you journal this week, consider how Polly’s story resonates with you. Do you have losses you have not fully allowed yourself to grieve? Are there ways to recall and celebrate the good times associated with the person or life you lost? How can you be a compassionate listener for others experiencing loss?





The nature of grief

July 19th, 2012

If a life storm, however dramatic or subtle, has left you feeling sad, frightened, or lonely, ask yourself: “Have I given myself time to grieve?”

Too often, the answer is “no” or “I’m not sure.” We don’t know how to grieve or express the loss we’re feeling.

In traditional societies, rituals provided a community setting for grieving. People wailed, shaved their heads, wore special dress or engaged in ritual dance. In our society, expressions of grief may produce awkward silences or well-meaning comments like “You look great!” “You’re sure handling this well.” “Your loved one is so lucky to have you for support.”

Without support, the person who has experienced the loss attempts to “get on with life,” rather than mourn the person or the life they’ve known. Suppressed grief can lead to illness, depression and isolation.

Grief is a natural response to loss. “It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away,” according to, an online resource for people facing health challenges. “The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief.”

Although experts have identified predictable stages of grief, more recently they have acknowledged that each person grieves differently. How you grieve depends on your personality, life experience, and the nature of the loss.

Know that there is no right or wrong way to express your loss or no timetable for this process of grieving to unfold. If you need assistance, seek professional help, join a support group, find consolation in your faith, and/or turn to friends and family members.

Journal with these questions, knowing it’s necessary to fully experience your loss before healing can begin:

  • What is the pain I feel?
  • What have I lost?
  • How can I express my pain through words, images, or movement?
  • Who or what will allow me to express this loss freely and without judgment?
  • How can I take care of my health during this time?
  • What is likely to trigger feelings of grief, realizing this is natural?

If you want to help someone who has experienced a recent loss, know that your presence and a simple expression like “I want you to know that I care” can be reassuring. A willingness to listen compassionately and offers of concrete assistance like grocery shopping or childcare also provide meaningful support.

Find inspiring grief resources, including photography, books, e-books, DVD’s, at

Next topic: One woman’s experience with grief one year after her husband’s death.





“Life has been very good to me”

July 12th, 2012

You may wish that this moment and this time in your life could last forever. You may feel blessed with meaningful work in the world, loving relationships and a place that is truly home.

Or you may be longing for a new life. Maybe you’re searching for a sense of purpose, a caring community and a place that feels safe and nurturing.

Or maybe you’re somewhere in between.

Regardless, your life will change.

This reality allows you to keep growing and learning. When you welcome change—even the difficult parts—you’re invited to go deeper inside, delving into who you truly are and the gift you are to the world.

Writer P. Susan Buchanan, who contributed the poem below to our Winter book, knows that as well as anyone. Due to an auto accident at age 16, she now lives as a quadriplegic. That accident and a difficult childhood led her on a search for wholeness and well-being. She now says, “Life has been very good to me.”

We featured Susan in our latest Tending Your Garden newsletter. Her poem “Deep Still” from Winter recalls the moment when her life changed dramatically. What have been your defining moments? What have they taught you? In what ways can you say, “Life has been very good to me”?


Deep Still

By P. Susan Buchanan

White-knuckled steering wheel
cold seeping through his hands.
Curses blaze through an icy night
along an uncleared road
over slush-frozen ruts.
Bare patches gleam oily black
in headlights too weak to penetrate the deep night.
Car whips sideways lunging
a wild horse on stiff reins, bucks, frightened.
Hold breath hard, ice seeps along my veins hold tight
hold tight
Crazy hill in a long plunge
we slide out of control.
Gather speed, car slams against deep ruts skitters across black ice.
One last wrench then all is lost all is lost all.

Fly from the road, connect with a telephone pole, flip end over end.
My nerve ends roar back at me no more no more no.

The profundity of stillness settles heavy on my shoulders. Everything is deep still.
Stillness so complete it is everything.
Stillness echoes through that first icy night.

Erie quiet.
Am I alone?
Yes, alone in a new world without a map.
I will be the cartographer of a new landscape. I am me, still.
I will chart a new way back.



How can I survive life’s storms?

July 5th, 2012

This past week left thousands of people hauling away fallen trees and working to restore power. The storm that swept the Midwest and East claimed 26 lives as well.

Life brings not only damaging acts of nature but also personal storms–illness, job loss, death of a loved one, relationship break-ups and a host of other disappointments and crises. This month, we’ll explore with you how to not only survive such storms, but also how to thrive in the midst of the turmoil they create.

Life is not predictable.

If you’re like most of us, you recall at least one event that changed your life forever. You remember not only the event itself, but what came before and after it.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, I never imagined facing such a disease. Born with spina bifida, I imagined dying from some condition related to that birth defect. This new diagnosis taught me a lot, most importantly that I’m not in control.

It’s not easy surrendering this illusion of control. You like to believe you can plan your life based on what you’ve learned in the past.  When new events don’t jive with this past, you experience shock, disorientation, loss, anger or confusion. Don’t be surprised when a crisis, setback or obstacle prompts a range of feelings.

If you’re facing a life storm or major change now or if you’d like to reflect more deeply on something that has occured in your past, free-write with these questions as starters. If you’re describing a past event, change the tense of the verbs. If you prefer, do visual journaling, drawing or painting in response to one or more of these questions.

  • What happened? Describe in concrete terms the nature of the life storm or change you are facing.  Document not only the event but how you feel about it.
  • What loss have you experienced?
  • How has this event surprised, shocked, disappointed or otherwise altered your life view?
  • How can you care for yourself in the midst of this event? What feels soothing to you?
  • How can you reach out to others who care about you and will listen to you?

Reflecting on this major life situation will open you to insights from within, as well as potential support and guidance from friends, family and professionals. Share your thoughts here, if you’d like to connect with others.

Next topic on our month of discovery and reflection: Life always changes.

Letting your beauty shine

June 27th, 2012

During this month of savoring beauty, it’s time to take a look at whether you’re allowing your beauty to shine, or whether you’re hiding it unknowingly.

Several years ago I went through a series of personal growth classes, and one of the exercises revealed something surprising to me: Throughout my life, I had been suppressing my joy because a member of my family was not happy. If something good happened to me, I felt guilty. If I had something to celebrate, I downplayed it. I couldn’t talk openly about joy in my life because part of me believed that until she was happy, I couldn’t be.

Not only was this emotionally damaging, but it just didn’t work. In fact, it never does. If we think we can’t be happy until everyone else is, we’re all going to suffer a long, long time. But if we go ahead and let our light shine, we put more joy out there in the world and give others permission to be happy, too.

So take a really good look at the beauty within you. Are you allowing your light to shine as fully as possible? Or have you put yourself on hold and given someone else the power to determine whether you’re happy or not?

Ask yourself:

  • Is there any good that comes from me hiding my light?
  • What would happen if I allowed my light to shine?
  • In what ways could my inner beauty make the world a better place?

In the next few days, journal about these questions—and let your inner voice guide you to all the ways you can share the fullness of your beauty within.

We’ll give away two more books

June 25th, 2012

Wow…those first comments came in fast. Congratulations to our winners! We’d love to hear what you have to say, so please post a comment below before midnight Central time on July 9, and we’ll draw two more names to win a copy of Winter. Thank you for your inspiring comments and for being part of the Tending Your Inner Garden community!

Check out Carol Bodensteiner’s interview with us at