Tag Archives: This is not the story you think it is

Modern Love: The Podcast

My Modern Love essay finds its way to NPR!

If you liked the essay, you’ll love the book:
“This Is Not The Story You Think It Is”

 

After so many people, literally millions, read my Modern Love essay in the New York Times in 2009…and after so many people didn’t receive its message, it is just plain manna for this writer to listen to the fantastic, spot-on, podcast that the NPR Boston station WBUR, the editor of the column, Dan Jones, and the actress Alysia Reiner put together.  That essay, called “Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear,” was reproduced all over the internet, and to date, it is the #2 Modern Love essay and the #1 most read article in the history of The Week.  And now…it has the kind of support and integrity that I always wanted it to have.  My deep gratitude goes out to the whole team who gave their hearts and elegant minds and voices to my essay.

What many people don’t know is that the essay was the short version of a memoir I wrote in real time, during that six month period, called This Is Not The Story You Think It Is:  A Season of Unlikely Happiness.  bookjacket_ThisIsNotTheStory_smWhile the essay was written in hind-sight, the book shows a woman going through a deep time of rejection with a very different, and in some ways counter-intuitive, approach to well-being.  My book shows a woman, in her daily life, working with what it is to live in the moment, right there at her kitchen sink, driving her kids to school, in the mundane…with a commitment to emotional freedom.  How?  By becoming aware of the way the mind works, recognizing how it does and doesn’t serve me, and choosing to claim responsibility for my emotions.  Whether they were fear-based, or joy-based, confused or ashamed, I learned in that time of my life, that nobody can control my mind or my heart and that I have choices in response to the things people say and do to me.  Emotionally, that is.  My message was never a strategy about how to stay married.  It was always a philosophy about how to live your life, no matter what hardship you face.  Thank you for listening, and thank you for receiving this message.   Click here to listen to the podcast!

To buy the book, click here.

Modern Love Podcast

To learn more about my Haven Writing Retreats, click here.

Now Booking our Fall Retreats:

September 7-11 (only a few spots left)
September 21-25 (only a few spots left)
October 5-9
October 19-23

And now booking our full 2017 Haven Writing Retreat calendar:

Feb 22-26

June 7-11, 21-25

Sept 6-10, 20-24

Oct 4-8, 18-22
Subscribe to the Modern Love podcast for more illumination!

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5 Tips for Powerful Writing

Teaching Haven Writing Worshop

Teaching Haven Writing Worshop

Haven Writing Retreat 2016 Schedule:

June 8-12 (STILL ROOM!)
June 22-26 (FULL WITH WAIT LIST)
September 7-11
September 21-25
October 5-9
October 19-23

If you want to write more powerfully no matter whether it’s the next great novel or memoir, or simply emails to friends, family and colleagues, journal entries,  speeches or presentations for work, or even your holiday card letter…here are some words that might help, inspired by Girl Friday Productions– one stop shopping for writers of all levels. I have personally used their services and all Haven Writing Retreat alums get a special Haven rate!  I wish I’d had them at my table a long time ago…  Here are their great questions, and my responses.  Hope they help!

  1. You wrote a widely read memoir (as well as an essay that went viral) about a very difficult period in your life. What is it like for you to have the public know so much about your personal life? And what advice do you offer to writers who are confronting something deeply personal or even traumatic in their own work?

With memoir, the inherent difficulty is that we’re exposing ourselves, and likely others, and it’s usually driven by a difficult time in our lives; otherwise we wouldn’t have a story to tell. Here’s what we as memoir writers must hold fast to our hearts: why we’re doing it in the first place. We must be intentional about why we write. My statement of intention is: I write to shine a light on a dim or otherwise pitch-black corner, to provide relief for myself and others. And I believe that if we shine a light on ourselves in memoir, claiming responsibility for our experience and trying to parse it rather than pointing the finger, then we can pretty much write about anything. We have to write past fear of exposure, and it helps to understand that by sharing our story, we are writing out of service to ourselves and others. If, at the very least, telling our story helps people to know they’re not alone.

  1. You’ve written both memoir and fiction. What are the biggest challenges of each? What is most satisfying about each?

I think the biggest challenge of memoir is crafting it into a story. The harsh reality is that just because we go through something profound for us that we want to chronicle in a memoir . . . it doesn’t mean that other people care about it like we do. Memoirists can lose sight of this. The story needs to unfold like a novel, even though it’s nonfiction. Whether it’s nonfiction or fiction, however, the structure is critical, and not necessarily linear in its delivery.

I find that it helps to create an outline, even if the book takes on a different form in the end. You have to know where you’re going and why, what’s at stake, and what the central conflict is and make sure there’s some sort of resolve at the end. Ultimately, though, in all forms of writing, it’s about what’s behind the words, what’s in between them, and what’s in their wake.

  1. What makes a good writing environment for you? What are your writing habits, and what makes you keep coming back to the page again and again?

I have been writing for three decades every day, not because I’m highly disciplined, but because I’m obsessed. It’s not much more elegant than that. My writing is a movable feast. I’ve written on the backs of cocktail napkins when I bartended, in the margins of newspapers on commutes, in my journal, on various screens and devices. I make time to write every day no matter what, and the time frame varies. Even if it’s for a short amount of time and even if it’s for my eyes only. It’s a matter of asking myself what shall I write, what do I care about, what confuses me, what do I need to understand? And then I write my way into the answer.

  1. You lead writing retreats that focus on giving writers at all stages of their practice an accepting place to do their work and connect with other writers. What do you think makes a good writing community? What can imperil one?

There are all sorts of writing communities. The main thing is that every writer finds one. I did it alone for too many years, either because I was too stubborn or too scared. Then I started Haven, and I realized what was missing in my writing life. Support! Kindreds! Willing and helpful feedback! Writing is hard work in every way. The truth is: no one asked us to be writers. It’s actually rather inconvenient for our loved ones and colleagues. And that makes it even more critical that we find our kindreds. In my work with Haven, I’ve chiseled too many people out of negative writing experiences in workshops, classes, writing groups, and even MFA programs. I believe in academia, but I don’t believe that you need academia to be a strong writer. You need awareness, stamina, and support. So be choosy when you sign up for any sort of group writing adventure. If anyone is promising you five easy steps to getting published or setting themselves up to be a guru . . . run for the hills!

  1. For writers who aren’t able to come to something like a Haven retreat, what is your advice for creating a productive and supportive environment in which to pursue their writing dreams?

Let’s face it: we’re not going to do anything consistently, especially something hard, unless there’s a payoff. I treat my writing practice like I’m a little girl getting away with something, like I’ve faked sick from school and am at home in bed. In fact, I often write in bed. In other words, I make it comfortable for myself to go into subjects that are often very uncomfortable. I delight in my writing practice. I value the role it plays in my life. My best advice for writers is to find your most natural voice on the page. Don’t try to force it. Find the flow that already comes out of you, even if it’s like a tiny stream rather than a roaring river. That means you might not write every day. So what? Find a writing practice that works for you based on your true self—your habits, your personality, your responsibilities, your real life. And commit to it. Start small, like with working out. Three times a week from 10:00 a.m. to noon, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday? Saturday morning? Twenty minutes before you get out of bed? Make it work based on who you truly are, not who you think you should be or how other people do it. And no matter what, find delight in it. Writing has the power to transform your life. It’s something that you can control. And all it takes is a pen, a piece of paper, and an open heart.

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Inspiration from Haven Writing Retreats

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A video from my screened porch to wherever you are.


VIDEO
I have heard from so many of you as my book is now published in nine countries. And I hear over and over, “When I was reading your book, I felt like I was sitting on your screened porch with you, having a cup of tea. I feel like we’re friends.” So I made this video. This is for you. This is what I’ve been up to in the last few years. These are some of my audiences and some of my speaking topics. You have all inspired me. Thank you.
yrs. Laura
Here is the youtube video. Please enjoy and share:
VIDEO

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Hay House Radio with Dr. Christiane Northrup

I am so absolutely thrilled and honored to be going live with the esteemed and inspiring Dr. Christiane Northrup on her Hay House radio show! 

Wednesday April 6th from 11:00-12:00 EST.  Tune in and give a call if the spirit moves you.  I’ve got a few questions for the good doctor too!  Can’t wait.  Here’s the link!

Here’s what this amazing woman had to say about my book:

“Ever hear about the power of positive thinking?  Ever wonder what it looks like in real life?  Ever run up against some rocky places in your relationship that scare the crap out of you?   If you answered yes, read this book.  Now.  I for one devoured it in 24 hours.  It’s pure real life illumination.” —–Dr. Christiane Northrup, Author of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom

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Free Love

I’ve been asked to answer countless questions in the last year from radio, newspaper, and magazine interviewers– mostly about how to take care of yourself during a hard time. Sometimes the interviewer is trying to turn my story into one of “Holding onto your man” which irks me because that’s not what my book is about. It’s about letting go. It’s about empowerment. It’s about not letting things outside your control define your personal happiness. But when this writer approached me for her article, I was intrigued. Her question was unique: what kinds of gifts can we give our partners that do not have a dollar value on them? I liked being asked this question because I love my husband, and it got me thinking. How do we gift our loved ones? Especially in this season of giving. Here’s what EXPERIENCE LIFE magazine has to say about it.

Excerpt:
Gift 3: Allow Space for Solitude
When author Laura Munson and her husband got married, their ceremony included a quote from the poet Rainier Maria Rilke, which read, in part: “A good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust.” Almost two decades of marriage and two children later, Munson’s husband began to have doubts about the marriage. But instead of begging him to stay, Munson took Rilke’s quote to heart and gave her husband the emotional space she felt he needed to reflect and reconnect with himself.

read more here.

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Interview with Audrey Adams.

I like this phone interview with Audrey Adams.  I sound like I’m on a treadmill though.  Maybe I was.  Last six months:  bit of a blur.

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My Book Hits #4 on Arielle Ford's Huffington Post Blog!

Arielle Ford has inspired so many with her groundbreaking book Soulmate Secret and her trove of professional treasures as a long time publicist and speaker in Everything You Should Know

I am so honored that my book is #4 on her Huffington Post top picks for 2010. Check it out: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arielle-ford/my-top-7-great-reads-this_b_754885.html

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Extending THE SENTIMENTAL RECIPE CONTEST! Send in by 10/10


In my book, THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS, I include a recipe that I hold near and dear. Not because it’s particularly hard or original, but because of what it represents to me. It is the tomato sauce commonly made in the summer by Tuscans and put up in jars for the winter. They call it the Pomarola sauce, and for it they use the freshest tomatoes from as close to the sea as they can find. The goal: to capture summer.

To me the Pomarola sauce captures much more than that. It is a symbol of a year in my life in which I found my heart language in a place and a family far from home. It is a symbol then, of finding home inside myself in a time of my life when I was morphing from child to adult. It is with this heart language that I went into the “rest of my life” and it was this heart language which I revisited with my daughter 21 years later (a few years ago). I had longed for it for all those 21 years, aching for it, naming it as the most important year of my life, yet not granting my return. I had realized a few dreams, some of which felt within my control: Getting married, having kids, building a home in Montana. Writing books. But I couldn’t seem to get those books published.

So after years of longing for it, I realized that I needed to stop basing my happiness on things completely outside of my control. I could write the books, and I could submit them for publication, but the rest was out of my hands. I decided to embrace the freedom of this surrender. And I started to look at the un-realized dreams of my life that I COULD control. Going back to Italy, with my daughter, to live with this wonderful family, was just that.

So I booked it and went.
One afternoon, my Italian host mother, Milvia, showed us how to make this sauce, how to can it, what to look for in ingredients. It was magical.

Little did I know that my new philosophy of surrender would be put to the test in a way I never dreamed, when my husband announced he wasn’t sure he loved me anymore and wanted to move out—this just two days after my return home from Italy.

There began a season of my life depicted in my book, THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS: A Season of Unlikely Happiness, wherein I got the chance to practice what it is to embrace the present moment in a place of creating, not wanting. Of claiming responsibility for my own well-being despite what was going on with my husband. Of focusing on beauty and freedom and even joy. On p. 295 you will find a scene in which I make this sauce with my children, shopping for just the right ingredients, and spending the day up to our elbows in tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil, parsley. carrots, celery and pots of boiling water. On p. 300 you will find the recipe.

In re-visiting those pages now, six months after my book’s publication, I find it not coincidence that we came up with twenty-one jars of sauce. Instead, it feels quite deliberate, subconsciously. As if each jar represented of year of not claiming a dream that was completely within my control, and focusing so hard on another dream that was not.

So I pass on this message to you, in the form of a recipe. What is your Italy? What do you deprive yourself of that you CAN create in your life? What place do you long to re-visit in your life? So often I find that there is the nurturing element of food attached to our fondest memories and even our wildest dreams. Afternoons in a kitchen with a grandmother, a holiday feast with family in town from far-away places, picnics on a beach, a particular glass of lemonade. I’d love for you to share those sentimental recipes here. And a scene or story that shares why you hold that food, that memory, so dear.

The winner will be randomly selected and will receive a free signed copy of THIS IS NOT THE STORY OU THINK IT IS. I look forward to this sharing. Yrs. Laura

My Italian Family’s Pomarola Sauce Recipe
This is a light sauce that is the epitome of the summer harvest and is usually canned to capture summer in the middle of winter. It must be made with the freshest Roma tomatoes to get the right consistency, preferably from somewhere close to the sea.

Sauce for one pound of pasta. Serves six.
2 1/2 pounds unpeeled ripe Roma tomatoes
1 onion
1 clove garlic (Americans generally use more garlic than is the Italian custom.)
1 stalk celery- just the white part, not the leaves
1-2 carrots (depending on how big they are)
3-5 leaves basil
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley- no stem
A pinch of salt
A pinch of white sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Cut tomatoes in half. Cut vegetables into small pieces. Rough-cut basil and parsley with scissors. Put all ingredients into stockpot. Simmer, covered, very slowly until the carrot is soft and can be easily mashed with a fork (about an hour and a half). Then pass everything through a passatutto, or food mill– a wide-mouthed hand-cranked strainer. Keep turning the passatutto until only the seeds and skins are left. Then put the sauce back on the stove until it reaches a boil. You may need to cook it for a bit longer to ensure desired consistency.

If you’d like to make a big batch of this sauce for canning, then adjust ingredients proportionately, adding an extra hour or so before passing the ingredients through the food mill, and after returning the sauce to the stove. Working with eleven pounds of tomatoes at a time is a good amount.

At this point you can serve or keep it in the refrigerator for a week, or put it in jars. Use the ones that have a self-sealing lid– which pops as the sauce cools and provides a vacuum seal, making it possible to store for months. The wonder of this sauce is in its fresh ingredients and its simplicity.

Here’s a blurb for my book written by my dear friend and literary hero. If you haven’t read his “Brother’s K,” you simply must.
“With amiability, wit, and a modicum of self-pity, Laura Munson’s memoir reminded me of the twenty-one jars of organic tomato sauce she and her children hand-made. A chapter is like a jar lid: if it doesn’t pop as the contents cool, the seal is faulty and the sauce is worthless. Exhausted from their all-day effort, mother and kids sipped hot chocolates and listened as twenty-one jars cooled. To their satisfaction, they counted twenty-one distinct pops. In reading this brave memoir I counted about the same.” —David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and God Laughs & Plays

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Audio Book: THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS


For those of you who would rather listen to a book than read one, here is the link to my Audio Book read by the fabulous Joyce Bean, whose velvet voice and pitch perfect intonation makes me seem a lot cooler than I am. And a lot more mature.

http://www.amazon.com/This-Not-Story-You-Think/dp/144186766X/ref=tmm_abk_title_0

Review
THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS . . . :
A Season of Unlikely Happiness
Laura Munson
Read by Joyce Bean

Instead of falling apart when her passive-aggressive husband announces he’s leaving their fifteen-year marriage, Laura Munson, a frustrated writer, said to him,” I don’t buy it.” Then she asked how she could give him the distance he needed for his “midlife” crisis without harming their children, ages 8 and 12. Joyce Bean delivers Munson’s debut memoir, first published in a New York Times column on modern love. With dramatic energy she captures Munson’s determination to achieve two goals: remain married and become a published writer. In a plain-spoken yet compelling style Bean contrasts scenes of Munson’s reasonableness and appearance of serenity with a simmering rage that from time to time unexpectedly explodes with f-bombs. Bean’s presentation of Munson’s heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud vignettes makes the listener her confidante. G.D.W. © AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine [Published: AUGUST 2010]

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ANNOUNCING: "THINK OUTSIDE THE BARN" CONTEST WINNER!!!


May I introduce to you the…drum roll… “Confounded Sneetch”

Congratulations to E. Victoria Flynn of http://www.pennyjars.blogspot.com!!!
YOU WIN A FREE SIGNED BOOK! My kids (the judges of this contest– skilled out-of-the-barn thinkers) are die hard Dr. Seussians and have always loved this story about racial profiling, even though they see it simply as a tale about the pain and trouble that ensues when we live in a world of Us/Them. Thank you, Victoria!

AND THANKS TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED! Your wit and outside-the-barn thinking truly mesmerized me. I have some of the coolest blog readers around, and for that I am deeply thankful. When I started this blog a year ago and had zero readers (okay, maybe my mother), I never dreamed that I would find an audience out there in cyberland, and especially one so loyal and supportive. You all teach me so much. Thank you for showing up here at These Here Hills. The next contest will be announced soon… Hint: turn to page 301 of my book (THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS)

I’m going to be travelling in the next few weeks doing book promo in the New York, Hartford, and Chicago areas, so I may be thin on the blog entries… yrs. Laura

Hello, everybody. I’ve been having fun barn chasing this summer– which is how, at least this gal, deals with FINALLY getting a book published after 20 years and all that comes along with it. Better than therapy. Thinking outside-the-box as a practice is a total blast. I encourage you to try it. What designs do you see in the world over and over? For me it’s often heart-shaped things, especially rocks. But as a little girl growing up in Illinois, it was always faces in barn fronts. Living in Montana, there are lots of opportunities to engage this childhood fantastical thinking.TO THAT END:

I’m holding a contest here on my blog from now until September 12 (which my calendar tells me is Grandparents Day– seems somehow approriate).

To enter the contest, simply send in your best shot at naming the above barn in the comment section here on this post. Is it a celebrity? A concept? A country? A kind of sandwich? Let your common sense go and dream a little. It’s good for you.
The winner WINS A SIGNED FIRST EDITION copy of my book THIS IS NOT THE STORY YOU THINK IT IS. This contest will be judged by a team of highly skilled professional out-of-the-box thinkers: my two kids. (14 and 10. Girl and a boy, to be gender fair, but hopefully not ageist, as I’ll probably weigh in too. And probably my husband too– 44 years old, each of us.)

Additional opportunity for the extra outside-of-the-boxers: A signed book will also be sent to the person who sends in the best original barn photo and name…

Please feel free to pass this contest and link along to your friends. Imagine what could happen with a whole lot of people thinking outside-the-box and sharing as much. (Even if you live in the city, I bet there are barns in your life somewhere. If not, feel free to name any building that has a face to you and submit that photo. Could be really interesting…)

To get the out-of-the-box juices flowing, you can see what I did on my summer vacation here:

Kalispell, Montana (side-talker)

Valier, Montana (needs braces)
Belt, Montana (has braces)

Red Lodge, Montana (that mean Nellie Olson)


Lewistown, Montana (Cyclops, the 8th dwarf)
Lakeside, MT (Meow)
Evergreen, MT (Mrs. Havisham maybe better on a foggy morning…)
Great Falls, Montana (Namaste or Burl Ives as the snow man in Rudolph. Can’t decide.)
Whitefish, MT (Hannibal Lecter)
Chester, Vermont (Gerorge Washington and his wooden teeth 1700s barn from Amy)

Kenosha, Wisconsin (a literal face sent in by Robb)
Bartow County, Georgia (Rapunzel Rapunzel, let down your hair… from Lisa)
Bartow County, Georgia (Old Mother Hubbard–the face is in the cupola, her skirts below– from Lisa)


Proctor, MT (Dr. John.)

Proctor, MT (Jim Henson)

Lake Mary Ronan, MT (Tweety bird)

Somewhere in Montana (Little Red Hen)

Libby, MT (Baby Face)

Sweden (A Work In Progress from Terri)

Missoula, MT (Ghost of Christmas Past)
Arlee, MT (Fu Man Chu)
Polson, MT (Not the gum drop buttons!)

NAME THIS BARN!

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