Margaret Lukas

Literature & Fiction

Author Profile

Margaret  Lukas

Margaret Lukas taught at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in the Writers Workshop for over a decade. She received her BFA in 2004 from the University of Nebraska. In 2007, she received her MFA from Rainier Writing Workshop in Tacoma, Washington. Her writing appears online and in a number of anthologies. Her award-winning short story, “The Yellow Bird,” was made into a 'short' and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. She is a recipient of a 2009 Nebraska Arts Council Individual Artist fellowship. Farthest House is her first novel. Her second novel, River People, is scheduled for release in February 2019.


River People

Literature & Fiction

River People centers around seventeen-year-old Effie and eleven-year-old Bridget in the late 1890's. They must struggle to survive religious patriarchy and abuse at a time when women have few rights and society looks upon domestic abuse as a private, family matter. River People is a story of hidden strength that rises to the surface in even the most unyielding of circumstances.

Book Bubbles from River People

Remembering My Mother

Effie has never managed a wagon before and certainly not one headed down a steep incline. She’s completely out of her element and scared. When I wrote this section, I was thinking about my mother. We lived on a farm in central Nebraska, and she hated being called on to work around machinery…especially under my father’s eye. He, of course, was quite comfortable around any kind of equipment, and naturally didn’t understand her hesitancy or lack of expertise. What’s so hard about driving a car up a ramp? (Two boards, the width of the car’s wheels apart, propped against a flatbed trailer.) Or towing him with the pickup while he’s on a short chain five feet behind in the towed vehicle. If she went too fast, his arms flew up like a hawk’s in her rear-view, but should she immediately slow, there he’d be on her bumper, the arms even wilder. “Ah,” she’d moan whenever he stuck his head in the house saying he needed her to come out and help. And when his back was turned, “I’d rather clean the house for a week, then spend ten minutes doing that.”

Troubled Times

Sitting outside this morning with my journal, I was lost in thought considering George Floyd and what seems to be unending racism. All of a sudden, a loud huff startled me. I live in the country, and a large deer stood about forty yards away. He’d obviously not expected me to be sitting there, or he would never have come that far into the clearing. We stared at each other. He huffed again, which sounded like gusts of steam being vented. He stomped down one foreleg than the other. Went through the ritual again, the huffing, the stomping. Then he flew, white tail up, huffing away into the trees. I laughed and thought, “What’s so scary about a woman with a pen?” Yeah! The answer was there in half a second. The same thing that’s scary about a man with a pen. Write my friends. Write, and then write some more.

I Challenge You

Happy Memorial Day to all military personnel past and present. Thank you for your service. And happy weekend to every bublish reader. Like you, I’m determined to make this lockdown matter. For me that's trying something new. So, I’m beginning a weekly newsletter with writing tips. (Since we all have so much reading material put in front of us, mine will be short enough to read in a minute or less. If you’re interested, sign up at I taught writing for over a decade at the university level. That qualifies me, but still I’ve put this off, and off again, thinking maybe I’m not up to the challenge. New things take commitment, test our will, and until we've learned them, make us uncomfortable. There’s a philosophy that says we should push ourselves just a bit outside our comfort zones. Not force ourselves to jump off the high board before we’ve learned to swim. Doing so leads to unhappy outcomes and supplies us with seemingly legitimate reasons for not trying anything new again. I challenge you. What are you doing to push yourself? What step just outside your comfort zone are you taking? Warning: Comfort zones travel. If you stay just a step ahead of them, over time, you'll travel to all kinds of new adventures.

Humans reduced to labels

A label is an idea. A man or a woman reduced to a label can be dismissed in the blink of an eye. Soldier, Negro, Indian, prostitute. Faceless all of them; concepts in a disinterested world.

We Will Survive

It’s a tough time in the world right now, but we are a tough people. In our veins, we carry the blood of ancestors who survived realities we can’t imagine—even now, in the midst of Covid 19. That’s one of the valuable lessons historical novels teach us: The human spirit is powerfully resilient. We are survivalists.

Kindle Select Book for February

I'm thinking about the loss of parks and Indian lands today.

Touched by the Mystical

Six years have passed.Here’s a snippet of the sequel. The sight of a stag climbing the bank from the river and into the yard made Bridget’s hands jerk with surprise. A second, third, and then a fourth animal sent steaming coffee splashing over the rim of her cup. Seeing a male deer in mid January with an unshed rack wasn’t unusual, but she’d never seen one with such large antlers. And never four, or so close to the buildings. The first animal reached the side of the barn and stopped. One-by-one, the others came on, stopping and waiting for the next. Standing four-abreast, they started for her. Their eyes fixed, aiming. She sucked in a deep breath. High stepping through the snow, they crossed the wide yard, keeping such precise formation they might have been harnessed to a sleigh. Without physical reins, yet shoulder to shoulder, they marched in supernatural reins. She’d believed the animals fully formed, but as they continued coming, their bodies thickened. Copper coats deepened in color, antlers swelled and swept higher, chests expanded with surety. The closer they came, the more quartered she felt. Each stag taking his acre.

Losing Belief in Ourselves

I had a wonderful discussion a few days ago with a book club from another state. {Oh the magic of the modern age. Contact me via my website/ if your book club is interested.} The discussion centered on how we all do our best, given our belief systems, and at what a young age trauma can make us lose our faith in ourselves. The group believed this especially so for young girls. Today, by the age of ten, girls are already judging their worth based on their beauty. Or what they see as a lack of it. Effie lost her sense of worth even earlier. An event at eight-years-old, would haunt her for over a decade and lead her down a path of near ruin.

Images In My Work

#WritingCommunity #BQBPublishing. When writing, I make extensive notes even on single images. Cleaning, I found these on the snow dress: "Bridget wondered, had the dress been to warn her of today? Was the future so much a part of today pieces of tomorrow—if one dared look—had already arrived? * Silent and empty, the dress shouted. Bridget sucked in a deep breath, wanting the story of the dress, and yet, it might be only snow. Cold vapor. Nothing. * It danced for her, came close. The way the owl had landed close and stared at her. Only a moment, before the bird lifted on great wings, but its visit left her touched. * Effie would think her foolish, and the thought made Bridget wish for Grandma Teegan. Grandma Teegan might not have an answer, but her face would soften, and she’d understand something had happened." Several long paragraphs on these ideas were condensed into a few words. The snow dress feels like an entirely new piece of writing seeking its own place, perhaps in memoir.

Embrace the Future

“A silence had fallen,” Loren Eiseley wrote. “The bison had perished; the Sioux no longer rode. Only the yellow dust of the cyclonic twisters still marched across the landscape.” Those words make me think of Henry, (Chief). How does an Indian in 1899 keep his soul alive after the destruction of his culture, the massacre of the buffalo, the genocide of his people? How does he live with a peaceful heart among whites who believe themselves progressive simply for allowing him to exist on the outskirts of their town? How does any man or woman construct a life when all seems lost? For Henry, the answer was to build an ark, a symbol of survival in the midst of complete destruction.

The Tree of the Self

When we plant the tree of the self, we do not know how wide the canopy will stretch, how deep the roots will grow, or how strong the trunk will become. We do not know how far the wind will carry the seeds, the number of new trees that will take root from them, seed themselves and spread wider still. We simply tend the tree of our being. Busy there.

In Celebration

I’m celebrating having finished another draft of my next novel: The Broken Statue. I thought I’d share of bit of that beginning with a bit of River People’s beginning:... ¶“Bridget sucked in a deep breath at the sight of a stag climbing the river bank and into the yard. Then a second animal, a third, and even a fourth. A male deer in January with an unshed rack wasn’t horribly unusual, but seeing four, and so close to the farm buildings was extraordinary. Their eyes fixed on her at the window, and they started forward. ¶ High stepping through the snow, they came four abreast, keeping such a precise configuration they might have been harnessed to a sleigh. Shoulder to shoulder, they obeyed supernatural reins. ¶ She’d thought them fully formed, but as they neared, bodies thickened, copper coats deepened, and antlers swelled. ¶ Bridget’s knees trembled inside her worn dungarees. Breathing was hard, backing away from the window, impossible. The closer they came, the more quartered she felt. Each stag taking his acre. They stopped just outside her window, the pools of their eyes deeper than human eyes. What other-world prompting had sent them?

Every Gain Divine

I have a friend, finishing up a beautiful novel. The theme is racism. The working title is: Every Gain Divine. She reminded me that her title comes from the 2nd verse of America the Beautiful: "Oh Beautiful, for heroes proved In liberating strife Who more than self Their country loved, And mercy more than life. America, America, may God thy gold refine, And all success be nobleness, And every gain divine." I don't know if we will ever be a country free of prejudices, but so long as we never give up trying, there's hope.

Meeting a Future Self

How could Bridget know that in six years she would find herself in Omaha, not just looking for her mother amongst ‘ladies of the night,’ but also living in a famous brothel? (The Broken Statue).Would she want to know that now? Do any of us have the courage to know what lies so far ahead? The last few evenings, I’ve been watching D A R K on Netflix. If you want a mind-bender on the nature of time and meeting your future self, this series will suit you. Personally, I’m happy to leave the future safely asleep, not having today torn open by it. I try to stay in the present, writing X-number of hours each day and finding things for which I’m thankful. Still, as I’m writing The Broken Statue, I keep thinking, “What if Bridget knew what I know about her future?”

So many gains and further to go

Mark Twain is credited with saying history doesn't repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme. I'm reminded of that when I think of the issues women faced in 1898. River People is a testament to how far women have come, how far we have yet to go, and why the fight for equal rights must continue.

Accepting Other's Opinions

This is a very low moment for Effie. More so because she doesn’t yet realize it. When she first arrived at the cabin, she’d been insulted to hear she was thought of as one of the “river people.” The months of hardship, both physical and mental have damaged her. She’s normalized the idea of being lesser than and has come to accept for herself what she'd first found repulsive. She longs for company in her suffering. Suggesting Pete’s mother was no better, represents her willingness to bring down another female to ease her own loneliness--even a woman she secretly admires. Taking it a step further, Effie would destroy Pete as well. Joan Chittister uses a term, “nurtured for greatness.” Certainly women were not nurtured for greatness in 1898. Are we today? And how do each of us nurture our own greatness despite the world's ideas?

Tyrants Remain

The novel is set in 1889, yet eerily, Rev. Jackdaw's brand of religion remains today.The news cycles are full of tyrants who still believe the judgment of others is their divine purpose. “History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes,” Mark Twain gets credited with saying.

Old Women in Fiction Live On

I write about women, and I’m discovering that over time my characters--even in work already published--change for me. These women who come to me, wanting on my page, wanting to share their humanity, their losses, fears and missteps are not done. I think how strong women often live unglamorous lives and in the shadows. The wisest have risen up through paltry concerns for dress size, wrinkles, and sags. They no longer accept others’ judgments of them nor disrespect themselves with their own judgments. But when life turns them old and crusty, even confused like Granny, we discount them. We’re taught they no longer matter. So they sit obediently in their houses, or in their cells at the home—waiting, as we also wait for them to die. They know nothing of Crone-hood. They are there at the curb waiting for pick-up. The next time I see an old woman on the street, a “wet brown bag of a woman,” [Lucille Clifton] I’ll think of Granny and wonder. I’ll wonder at the incredible life this woman has lived and all the experiences that put her where she is now. I'll know her life story would very likely make my own tepid by comparison.

#Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, this week's bubble is meant to remind us of those with whom we share this wondrous place: Animals.

A Child in Peril #OrphanTrain#Historical Fiction#W

Bridget is a child in peril. She has two choices, return to the threat of imprisonment or place her faith in the hands of an unloving stranger. Thinking about Bridget’s character, I wanted the decision to be hers. Characters need to take wrong turns, or what they believe are wrong turns. Those fateful actions humanize them and add dimension to their struggles. To survive an event thrust upon you requires courage, determination, and trust in yourself. But to survive that event realizing you, at least in part are responsible, compounds the level of grit needed.

Flooding in the Midwest

I live in Nebraska where fields are flooded, cattle drowned, bridges washed out, homes gone, and people have died. Heroes in all areas are working to help others. It may take a few seasons for a full recovery, but there isn't a hardier stock of good folks. I wish everyone the very, very, best.

The power of enchantment

“Sealskin, to her selkie,” is a wonderful poem by KT Herr. It’s about shutting ourselves away, regretting choices we’ve made, and losing the memory of “how to wake a body/to its home’s emphatic music.” Reading the poem, I was reminded of Bridget, lonely, afraid, and walking in the moonlight along a river. Despite what she’s suffering, at eleven years old, she’s still brave enough to keep her faith in selkies. She believes that all water is connected, and since Mum must be a selkie, she’ll come. Won’t she?

100 Years Later

I find wonderful synchronicity in the release of River People in 2019, one hundred years after the Nineteenth Amendment was passed. This was achieved only after more than half a century of women fighting, marching, facing massive criticism and even imprisonment. When Alice Paul organized the largest suffrage rally yet in Washington, D.C. on March 3, 1913, it’s estimated eight thousand women marched from the Capitol to the White House. But 500,000 spectators watched. Some harassed and threw slurs, some attacked the women and over 100 women needed hospitalized for injuries. River People takes place in 1898 when women’s equality was still a distant dream. Still, women did dream. We honor them by not forgetting what they endured.

A Passion for Writing

My passion is writing, the delicious work of creating characters, scenes, worlds. See it symbolically as a circle where for long hours, I happily lose myself. A second circle is my outside life: job, finances, family. When the two orbs slide partway, one over the top of the other, like a half eclipse, a third sphere forms in the center. I overhear a conversation while having dinner out with my husband, and a question about one of my characters is answered. Or a book I didn’t know I needed falls off a library shelf just ahead of me. Caught up in the juggling, there’s a fourth ball I’ve not yet worked into the mix. The time consuming business of marketing and social media. If you enjoyed this bubble, please drop by my BookBub page and give me a follow. I’ll meet you there.

Myths Hold Power

The purpose of myths is to project us out, to transport us from our present conditions into new worlds of magic and possibility. Like parables, myths aren't meant to tell us about lost cultures but about ourselves. In that way, they continue to live and grow. For Bridget, selkies promised that those she loved--though they appeared gone--were always close.


If River People is about anything, it’s about getting free. Everyone is caught to some degree by the tethers of society’s expectations, but our strongest chains are the bindings we hold fast within. Effie, in this scene fragment, is beginning to admit her role in the oppressive marriage that will nearly kill her. Though she’s a long way from finding her freedom, she is at least, beginning to tell her truth.

Farthest House

Literature & Fiction

When Willow is born and her mother dies moments later, only the narrator of this spellbinding debut novel knows the death isn't from complications of childbirth. Amelie-Anais, buried on the Nebraska hilltop where the family home resides, tells the story of deceit, survival, and love from beyond the grave. Following Willow's life and Willow's incredible passion to paint despite loneliness, a physical handicap, and being raised by a father plagued with secrets, Amelie-Anais weaves together the lives of four enigmatic generations.

Book Bubbles from Farthest House

Days of Protests

We are all hopeful that George Floyd's death is the last one in the hands of police. So hopeful, that unlike the experiences of Jonah in this novel, things will finally be different for blacks. Not lip service, but real change.

Humanity reduced to labels.

A label is an idea. A man or a woman reduced to a label can be dismissed in the blink of an eye. Soldier, Negro, Indian, prostitute. Faceless all of them; concepts in a disinterested world.

Nourish the Soul

Today, I’m again savoring The country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, by Edith Holden. I can imagine Amelie and Edith sitting over afternoon tea. At the end of June in 1906, Holden records a few remarks about the month’s heat and paints a rich, Scarlet Poppy. Holden was a British artist and didn’t become famous until long after her death. Her work seems more that of a hobbyist than a professional, which I love. I admire her for going on long walks and painting the beauty she found. We are all busy—as she must have been in a time of few household conveniences. Her work was soul nourishment; she likely never imagined her diary would be published. Now, at the end of June, 113 years later, someone on the other side of the world, a woman in Nebraska, has the good fortune to admire her pictures and feel inspired. I encourage everyone to take a long walk, pick up a paintbrush, and feed your soul. You never know how far your reach will extend.

Lynching of Willie Brown

2019 marks 100 years since Red Summer and the lynching and killing of hundreds of blacks across the country. Willie Brown was lynched in my hometown, Omaha, on Sept 28th. A mob of 10,000, a horde of angry, racist men stormed the courthouse, breaking windows and lighting fires, to drag Mr. Brown from his cell. Seeing pictures of the grinning white faces over the burning body (lynching wasn’t enough, nor dragging the body through the streets) makes one’s blood run cold. That so many could be driven into such, mindless fury against a fellow human being is terrifying to consider. Imagine being a small black boy, hiding in the dark, afraid for his life, listening to the din, and witnessing this through the cracks of a flimsy cellar door.

Mary Oliver's Wisdom

The unseen presences in Meme's room, waiting on her death, remind me of this passage from the brilliant Mary Oliver: "Discovering a "different" world assumes experiencing manifestations of that different world. To begin, then, it is necessary to dissociate from the world as it is ordinarily experienced. And not casually. [A person] must unstring the universe to its farthest planet and star, and restring it in another way." That's what great stories do: unstring us and restring us in a new way.

Being Vulnerable

*White Mask is Willow’s first successful painting. It’s not successful for its execution—talent never reaches an end—but successful for its ability to move her. That’s what good art does. The painting symbolizes her fears, and it won’t let her shut down in them. She is afraid of her authentic self, afraid of being so vulnerable. What she learns is that not being authentic IS shutting down. It’s self-attack. White Mask is a mirror. A promise too, of her ability to step out of the dark place of fear. She’s the only one who can take off the mask. In this scene she’s still scared, but understanding the mirror is a huge step.

Formidable Women

This passage reminds me of a passage in Frantumaglia by Elena Ferrante: "It's a shortcut to set aside what is formidable about women, to imagine us merely as organisms with good feelings, skilled masters of gentility. Maybe that's useful for encouraging us, for political growth, but those who create literature have to make hostility, aversion, and fury visible, along with generous sentiments. It's their task, they have to dig inside, describe women from close up..."

Life Through Art

It's a tough political world at the moment. I want to take a break from the news, settle in with an old journal of my great aunt's, and reflect on how she flourished despite the burdens in her life. She did it through her art. Of course, life through art. Today I will paint more, write more.

I won't be silenced

Le Guin has been my role model for years, and in our current political climate, it's more vital than ever to listen to her words. "I want to hear your judgments. I am sick of the silence of women. I want to hear you speaking all the languages, offering your experience as your truth, as human truth, talking about working, about making, about unmaking, [...} about taking in seed and giving out life, about thinking, about what women do; about who presses the buttons and what buttons get pressed."

The weight of hate

So often we fail to see the heaviness we carry is a choice. We believe it benefits us, even while it does the opposite.


The conversation must be kept alive. The stories told. They give courage and voice to previously silent victims and save an untold number of innocent sisters.

When I speak of Goddess

"When I speak of Goddess I am in no way referring to an entity 'out there,' who appears miraculously as a fairy godmother and turns the pumpkin into a carriage. I am in no way referring to a Goddess 'back there' as if I participate in resurrecting an ancient religion. In the sense that I am woman I see Goddess in myself." Nelle Morton

A Winter Scene for Christmas

The temperature is below zero here in Omaha and the ground is covered with snow. In honor of the season, here is a cold scene to chill you just a bit more. I hope everyone continues to have a Happy Holiday Season. Happy Reading.

The Profoundest Thinkers

Not so long ago in history, women who healed the sick, demonstrated intuitive powers, or knew the properties of plants were considered evil.Church leaders needed a label to disparage and suppress such women. They chose "witches." Matilda Joslyn Gage writes: "The witch was in reality the profoundest thinker, the most advanced scientist of those ages." Of course, I had to add one such special woman to my novel.

Denying the holy feminine

Select verses, carefully lifted from scriptures, are constantly used to advance those already in power and to justify their being there. Why are the priests and religious leaders not howling? Why are they not screaming black lives matter? Why are they not screaming women’s lives matter? I think it’s because they can still get away with not doing so. They can hide behind church elders and tradition. And so it’s up to us, who can no longer endure the lies, to demand honesty from them. Silence is still heard. Silence says agreement. Silence wounds. Remember, you can read 25% of Farthest House for free on Bookgrabbr

The task belongs to woman

I’m reading a wonderful book: American Madonna by John Gatta. It’s a study of “images of divine women in literary culture.” This morning I came across a passage in it from Nathaniel Hawthorne. I was surprised. Here’s Hawthorne’s Cloverdale in The Blithedale Romance. Remember, this was written in 1852. “Oh, in the better order of things, Heaven grant that the ministry of souls may be left in charge of women! The gates of the Blessed City will be thronged with the multitude that enter in, when that day comes! The task belongs to woman. God meant it for her. He has endowed her with the religious sentiment in its utmost depth and purity, refined from that gross, intellectual alloy, with which every masculine theologist…” and it goes on. I thought of this passage in Farthest House.

Supremacists in Virginia

It’s hard to look at the images of what happened in Virginia and see the angry crowds of supremacists. It’s hard to believe fellow human beings can be so brainwashed, so afraid of magnificent creation, they'd view the color of a person’s skin as a reason to hate. Jonah wrestled with the same prejudice in the 1960s, afraid to marry the love of his life because she was white. Afraid of how prejudiced against him might make her suffer rejection even bodily harm. Now over fifty years later, if he were alive to see the national news, he might wonder if anything has changed at all.

For the father I loved

This bubble is dedicated to my father.I’d pay anything for another afternoon with him, watching a Cub’s game on television.I modeled Papa in Farthest House after him. When I say so, I hear how the fictional Papa — though he has all the myriad aspects of a great character — was not always a good man. He drank too much and lost his temper too often. He was misunderstood and didn’t care what others thought. Being misunderstood and reticent with family secrets, people drew erroneous conclusions. My father wasn’t troubled by secrets in his past (though who really knows another’s thoughts) but he was strained with feeding and clothing fifteen children.On a small farm where failed crops, failed prices, and broken machinery were a constant worry. After he died, an ex-neighbor said to me he’d been a bad father anyway. I was stunned by her comment and the grin on her righteous face. I wondered where she got her information. Like Willow in Farthest House, I never doubted, not for one minute, that my father loved me. Just as Willow sees here Papa loves her. Isn’t that the best father in the world-the father who makes his child feel loved? To all papas out there, Happy Father’s Day. Don’t forget, read 25% of Farthest House free on

At the Intersection of Two Worlds

"The magical realist vision exists at the intersection of two worlds, at an imaginary point inside a double-sided mirror that reflects in both directions." Wendy B. Faris

Ghost-helpers in your life.

This weekend I spoke at a local library. In a room full of people, I covered many aspects of writing and publishing. But the questions that brought out the most discussion were these: Which of your deceased relatives do you feel is most interested in your life? Why? Do you feel their presence at joyful times or stressful times?

Morgan Freeman as Jonah

Morgan Freeman would make a wonderful Jonah. Don't you think? He even keeps bees.

Woman as the Old or Waning Moon

"The moon, as daughter of the Great Mother, is known as the Triple Goddess. (....)She is, as the New or Waxing Moon, the White Goddess of birth and growth. She is, as the Full Moon, the red Goddess of love and battle. She is, as the Old or Waning Moon, the Black Goddess of death and divination." The Great Cosmic Mother by Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor I love this description and capture the spirit of the old woman in Luessy and this excerpt.

This was happening in real time

There is a new order falling into place. People are looking for their personal truths, finding their pathways and answers. Decades ago, Lewis Strang, one of the first new-age thinkers wrote, “…receptivity is accomplished when one is convinced [her] views and visions are sound. [S]he must do more than listen, more than read, more than say, “I accept.” [S]he must go through an individual, intelligent thought-process that is distinctly [her] own—original and creative….” Are people realizing, albeit often subconsciously, that they not only need their own revelations—these revelations can be trusted? Each must find the courage to ride off into the darkest part of their forest in search of their Holy Grail.


In honor of Juneteenth, the horrible killings in South Carolina, and the black churches being burned, I share a bit of Jonah's life.

A ghost is unfinished business

“Now I know what a ghost is. Unfinished business, that's what.” ― Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses. When I read this quote, I knew he was speaking of Amelie, kept earth-bound by the weight of her unfinished business.

Life Grows a Woman Down

In honor of all the mothers and grandmothers who nurture not just their own children, but the world.

Sister Dominic Agnes's miracle

Religion versus living a spiritual life.

Women's Day

I offer this bubble in honor of Women's Day, and all the women, who even 150 years ago were quietly fighting back.

Shades of Writing sex scenes

I'm not surprised by the current block buster movie and the success of the books. I had a lot of fun writing the love story between Willow and Clay. Their lives are not easy--especially living with someone who wishes them dead--but their intimate moments allow them to put that all side. At least temporarily. Enjoy the excerpt.

Out of grief, inspiration

We have all had moments of inspiration that change us in an instant. Often these moments come on the heels of grief, as though the grief itself was necessary to break down our walls. Oprah often jokes about this sort of learning, saying, “God, don’t teach me nothing today.” We don’t know why misfortunes fall on us, but then somewhere in our darkest time, the clouds part—if only for a second—and our lives take a new turn. It’s not exactly a near-death experience, but we are shown something lasting from beyond the veil of our current lives. In this excerpt from Farthest House, Willow, on the heels of tragedy, is hit with a realization of that magnitude. She was raised Catholic, and though she no longer holds any affiliation to organized religion, she remembers walking into churches and seeing the statues and stained glass honoring saints. Individuals she’d been taught to hold in awe. Suppose, just suppose, she could give to others the gift of seeing themselves as Divine. As their highest spiritual selves: the pinnacle she believes all souls eventually reach. She also believes everyone who’s seen such an image of himself must be changed. When a person’s divinity is understood and experienced, how can they act otherwise?

Facing ourselves

"White Mask" is Willow’s first successful painting. It’s successful not for its masterful execution—she’s still learning how to paint—but it’s successful because it moves her. I really believe that’s the purpose and value of all art. The painting is a symbol of her fears; she sees that. It represents her inability to be her authentic self. She is afraid of being vulnerable and attacked again. What she must learn is that not being authentic, hiding one’s self, is a form of self-attack. I have incredible belief in a person’s ability to change. I’ve seen it in my own life. So I don’t want "White Mask" to serve as a reminder of how poorly she’s doing. I want the painting to be a mirror, but filled with hope and a promise of what waits for her when she steps out of the dark place in her psyche. In the scene, Willow realizes these things. She still lacks the courage to make the leap, but she’s looking in that mirror, which is a huge first step.

Thoughts are things

Readers often ask me if I really think those words are true. Then before I can speak, they go on, "I know they're true." Everyone has a fantastic experience to share when they are open to this sort of thing. The trick is staying open.

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