I definitely have a family. I have a boyfriend who has kids, and we do normal things every day, like get up and go to school. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.
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I definitely have a family. I have a boyfriend who has kids, and we do normal things every day, like get up and go to school. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.

-Tina Yothers

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I do not write every day. I write to the questions and issues before me. I write to deadlines. I write out of my passions. And I write to make peace with my own contradictory nature. For me, writing is a spiritual practice. A small bowl of water sits on my desk, a reminder that even if nothing is happening on the page, something is happening in the room--evaporation. And I always light a candle when I begin to write, a reminder that I have now entered another realm, call it the realm of the Spirit. I am mindful that when one writes, one leaves this world and enters another. My books are collages made from journals, research, and personal experience. I love the images rendered in journal entries, the immediacy that is captured on the page, the handwritten notes. I love the depth of ideas and perspective that research brings to a story, be it biological or anthropological studies or the insights brought to the page by the scholarly work of art historians.When I go into a library, I feel like I am a sleuth looking to solve a mystery. I am completely inspired by the pursuit of knowledge through various references. I read newpapers voraciously. I love what newspapers say about contemporary culture. And then you go back to your own perceptions, your own words, and weigh them against all you have brought together. I am interested in the kaleidoscope of ideas, how you bring many strands of thought into a book and weave them together as one piece of coherent fabric, while at the same time trying to create beautiful language in the service of the story. This is the blood work of the writer.Writing is also about a life engaged. And so, for me, community work, working in the schools or with grassroots conservation organizations is another critical component of my life as a writer. I cannot separate the writing life from a spiritual life, from a life as a teacher or activist or my life intertwined with family and the responsibilities we carry within our own homes. Writing is daring to feel what nurtures and breaks our hearts. Bearing witness is its own form of advocacy. It is a dance with pain and beauty.

-Terry Tempest

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It wasn't only my friends who suffered from female rivalry. I remember when I was just sixteen years old, during spring vacation, being whisked off to an early lunch by my best friend's brother, only to discover, to my astonishment and hurt, that she was expecting some college boys to drop by and didn't want me there to compete with her. When I started college at Sarah Lawrence, I soon noticed that while some of my classmates were indeed true friends, others seemed to resent that I had a boyfriend. It didn't help that Sarah Lawrence, a former girls' school, included very few straight men among its student body--an early lesson in how competing for items in short supply often brings out the worst in women. In graduate school, the stakes got higher, and the competition got stiffer, a trend that continued when I went on to vie for a limited number of academic jobs. I always had friends and colleagues with whom I could have trusted my life--but I also found women who seemed to view not only me but all other female academics as their rivals. This sense of rivalry became more painful when I divorced my first husband. Many of my friends I depended on for comfort and support suddenly began to view me as a threat. Some took me out to lunch to get the dirt, then dropped me soon after. I think they found it disturbing that I left my unhappy marriage while they were still committed to theirs. For other women, the threat seemed more immediate--twice I was told in no uncertain terms that I had better stay away from someone's husband, despite my protests that I would no more go after a friend's husband than I would stay friends with a woman who went after mine. Thankfully, I also had some true friends who remained loyal and supportive during one of the most difficult times of my life. To this day I trust them implicitly, with the kind of faith you reserve for people who have proved themselves under fire. But I've also never forgotten the shock and disappointment of discovering how quickly those other friendships turned to rivalries.

-Susan Shapiro

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