March Like You Mean It

by Lillian Csernica on January 16, 2018


This coming Saturday, January 20th, all over the world women and their allies will march together to support each other and to protest all the wrong things happening in our world right now.

This is my first march, so I asked people with experience what I should keep in mind, what to wear and what to bring.

I’m here in Northern California, with its weather and its laws. Some of the suggestions given to me may not apply where you are. Still, I do want to share this information, especially with those people who are also about to experience their first march. Here is a compilation of the advice I’ve received:


  • Find someone willing to post bail. In my case, this would be my husband.
  • Write the phone number of said person on my arm in permanent ink, just in case my phone is confiscated or something else happens to it.
  • Stay with your group. If there are anti-protest people present, they may try to provoke confrontations. Do not let them corner you, cut you off, or get you alone.
  • Be ready to take videos.
  • Maintain situational awareness. That means know who is around you, where you’re at, and keep alert for signs of trouble.
  • Schedule check-in times.
  • Have a panic word ready so your support people know you can’t get to your car and you need to be picked up.

What to wear:

  • Most comfortable shoes
  • Layered clothing
  • A hat for shade and/or warmth
  • Sunscreen


  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Mini First Aid kit
  • A spare pair of glasses (if you wear them)
  • Face wipes
  • Electrolyte drink, powder, or tablets
  • Vitamin C and/or Zinc to combat potential airborne illnesses

Optional, but encouraged:

A sign. Our local law permits cardboard or posterboard weight signs mounted on a “stake” made from the cardboad tubing inside paper towels or rolls of gift wrap.

Need some inspiration? Check out these signs from last year.





Filed under autism, charity, dreams, Family, Goals, history, mother, neurodiversity, Special needs, therapy

The Benefits of Solitude

For creative people, solitude is essential. Here are some excellent and inspiring thoughts on the nurturing power of solitude. Thank you, Kara!

Faith Over Fear

There is nothing I love more than sitting at home, alone on a rainy day, coffee in hand, reading a book or listening to music (which for me means about 90% Lana Del Rey, 10% other artists, lol) while I write. Besides a day spent at the beach or exploring a beautiful place in nature, this is my favorite kind of day. For most people, this kind of day is dreary and boring. And I get why they would feel that way. But for me, spending time alone is one of the best feelings in the world.

If you are an introvert like me, living in today’s fast-paced society can be mentally exhausting. You may frequently wonder what is wrong with you, asking yourself, “Why don’t I like doing what everyone else likes doing? Why don’t I want to go out and party every weekend?” It is easy…

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How to Stand Up and Be Counted

by Lillian Csernica on January 8, 2018


It’s time to shout with one great voice. It’s time to take to the streets and look each other in the eye. It’s time to exercise several of the constitutional rights we still have before the Powers that Be try to strip them from us.

On Saturday, January 20th at noon in Santa Cruz, CA, women and their allies will assemble at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Water Street. We will march from there to the Louden Nelson Community Center on Center St.

Similar marches will be taking place at the same time in other cities in California. We are the West Coast, the Left Coast, living on the edge of the San Andreas Fault Line. We are black, white, Asian, First Nations, multi-ethnic, cis, binary, non-binary, trans, LGBTQ, neurotypical and neurodiverse. We are the whole rainbow.

Join us. Add your colors to the rainbow.

We celebrate the anniversary of resistance, of every woman of whom it can be said:

“And yet, she persisted.”

Damn right we do.




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Filed under dreams, Family, Goals, history, home town, Lillian Csernica, love, neurodiversity, special education, Writing

Journalism: a statement of principle

Caitlin Kelly has my sincere respect and gratitude for fighting the good fight so long and so hard.


By Caitlin Kelly

IMG_20170411_131322486My husband’s team Pulitzer prize…

Some of you might be readers of The New York Times, a newspaper some consider the best of the U.S. press, and my husband’s former employer of 31 years. I also write for them, freelance, several times a year.

The paper now has a new publisher, a member of the same family that bought it in 1896.

He, A.G. Sulzberger, wrote this:

The Times will continue to search for the most important stories of our era with curiosity, courage and empathy — because we believe that improving the world starts with understanding it. The Times will continue to resist polarization and groupthink by giving voice to the breadth of ideas and experiences — because we believe journalism should help people think for themselves. The Times will hold itself to the highest standards of independence, rigor and fairness — because we believe…

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How to Make Room for Fresh Ideas

by Lillian Csernica on January 4, 2018


Courtesy of Debby Young

A New Year. A fresh start. We’ve got the laptop or writing journal ready, we’ve got our favorite source of caffeine to hand, and we’re ready to write.

Hello, blank page. The cursor blinks at us like a tapping foot, impatiently awaiting some outpouring of brilliant ideas. That’s when the trouble starts.

  • Anxiety
  • Self-doubt
  • Imposter Syndrome
  • The Inner Editor
  • All those other racing thoughts about everything else we should be doing right then.

Did you know that such thoughts can have their starting point outside our minds just as easily as inside? One of the principles of feng shui says clutter inhibits the free flow of energy. Stagnant energy interferes with a lot of activities, especially communication. What is writing if not communication?

I don’t have many writing rituals, but I do need clear space to spread out my notes, manuscript, laptop, pens, and whatever else I need for that writing session. This is why I go to the library a lot. There I can find nice long tables with plenty of space.

Want to do more and better writing this year? Clear out your space. We must make room in our lives for the fresh, new ideas by removing the physical items that jam up our minds with old negative energy and thought patterns. Open up your writing space, clear out the clutter that is damming up the free flow of energy, and you will see immediate results.

In the spirit of solidarity, I will show you exactly what I have to deal with, and how urgent the need really is.



Books Yes, I have too many books. More precisely, I have too many books for the amount of space in my office. This has resulted in cardboard boxes of books taking up floor space. Not good. I have to prioritize the books according to what I need for my current novel, what I need for reference, and what I need for recharging my word batteries by reading for pleasure.

Notebooks Piles of notebooks sit here and there in my office. Some are writing journals in that I’ve written scenes, outlines, and notes in them. Others are the more classic writer’s journal full of ideas, character sketches, lists, and critique notes. What I have to do here is go through and see which whole notebooks are worth keeping and which ones need to have a few key pages torn out and filed where they belong.


Stuff I’ve let a fair amount of miscellaneous stuff collect in my office for one simple reason. I have a bad habit of not putting things away. Clothes, reusable shopping bags, jewelry making supplies, and my amazing collection of tote bags filled with who knows what. Time to take a bite out of that mess by devoting 15 or 30 minutes at a go until all of it has been cleared up and cleaned out!

For more specific suggestions on how to do this, I recommend reading:

9 Clutter Clearing Tips for Good Feng Shui

Four Life Changing New Year’s Lessons for Writers

How to Kick Your Clutter Habit and Live in a Clean House Once and For All

How to De-Clutter Your Mind and Become a More Productive Writer



Filed under creativity, Depression, Family, frustration, Goals, housework, Lillian Csernica, perspective, publication, research, therapy

Too Much of A Good Thing!

by Lillian Csernica on December 28, 2017


This has been the year I got serious about weight loss. 80 pounds gone! A great relief, both to my joints and to my various doctors. I knew the holiday season would present an obstacle course of temptations and trials. It would also bring many lovely gifts from the people who know me too well. A life without books, cats, and chocolate would not be worth living.

Here, then, is an account of all the goodies bestowed upon me.


My Christmas stocking: (Yes, I’m about to turn 52 and my mother still stuffs my stocking.)

  1. Nutella with pretzel sticks.
  2. Necco wafersNecco wafers
  3. European solid chocolate Christmas ornaments.
  4. Two milk chocolate elves

Homemade Ghirardelli brownies

A Harry & David Tower that includes fudge, baklava, chocolate-covered cherries, cookies, and chocolate-covered popcorn they call Moose Munch.

A box of Mrs. Fields cookies.

A big red metal bucket full of four dozen Mrs. Fields cookies.

A Ferrerro Rocher Chocolate Set, dark, hazelnut, and coconut. (18 candies total.)

A Russell Stover Box, the Nuts & Chews.

Homemade Christmas cookies and a bag of homemade spiced nuts.

A Ghirardelli gift set.

Another box of Moose Munch.


Have I eaten all of this? Good heavens, no! Have I put a dent in some of it? You bet. Those Ghirardelli brownies didn’t last 24 hours. My husband and younger son did have their share. I confess the Moose Munch is all gone. We watch a lot of movies during winter break, and Moose Munch is the perfect snack.


Soon I must go back on the wagon. Last January saw me commit to the California Medical Weight Management Program. This January I shall continue that commitment. It’s fine to whoop it up during the holiday season, especially when my friends and family were kind enough to give me the really good stuff!

Seamless Christmas borders


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Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – How To Be One of Santa’s Elves by Lillian Csernica

Sally has been kind enough to run one of my blog posts about the nuts and bolts of answering letters to Santa Claus. Thank you, Sally!

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Last Saturday we found out more about the wonderful job that Lillian Csernica takes on very Christmas as an official Santa’s Elf.. This week she takes us through the process of becoming one of these very special volunteers.. Obviously the information is related to the United States but I am sure there are similar organisations in your specific country.

How To Be One of Santa’s Elves by Lillian Csernica

I’ve been a volunteer for the local post office answering Letters to Santa Claus for almost ten years now. During that time I’ve read requests that range from outrageous (in the funny sense) to really sweet to downright heartbreaking. When adults grow up and leave the magic of childhood behind, I think many of them forget that in the minds of children, Santa Claus can be the court of last resort. I highly recommend the movie “Dear God,” which is all…

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5 Quick Tips to Get You Through That First Draft

by Lillian Csernica on December 20, 2017


Write the ending first. It will probably evolve. That’s fine. You can change it. When you have a destination in mind, it’s easier to map the route, right? Same goes for stories. When you know what you’re aiming for, you can figure out how to put the best obstacles in your main character’s way. He or she will fight harder and then win a bigger victory.

Go where the energy is strongest. Listen to your characters. Write down what they want to tell you. They may have ideas that haven’t broken through to your writing mind yet. I know, some days you just can’t figure out what to write next or how it should be written. Find a conversation, a bit of internal narrative, or some big disaster in the story that captures your imagination. Run with it! See where it takes you.

Experiment with POV. Who has the most to lose? Who has nothing to lose and everything to gain? Writing from the antagonist’s POV can provide useful insights. You don’t have to use this writing in the actual story. The better you know what’s going on in the minds of each of your characters, the more precise and vivid their actions and dialog will be on the page.

Go big or go home. Push your action, your characters, your magic, your tech, as far and as hard as you and it can go. Don’t be timid. Readers want powerful writing. Yes, there’s a lot to be said for the brushstroke technique, but when you’re trying to finish that first draft, it’s better to go all out. Throw in everything and the kitchen sink. The editing process is the time for picking and choosing which story ideas to keep.

Finish it. Until you finish it, you can’t submit it. Until you submit it, you can’t sell it. I know that’s obvious, but it’s important to bear all this in mind. Writing is hard work. The initial rush of a new idea wears off and then you have to figure out the rest of the story. It’s easy to get swept up in a new idea and leave that other one sitting on your mental back burner. FINISH IT. The only way to learn how to write better, stronger stories is to get all the way through them one at a time.




Filed under creativity, editing, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, historical fiction, publication, science fiction, Writing

The One Writing Skill You Must Have

by Lillian Csernica on December 11, 2017


Here we are in the holiday season. This time of year will stress out anybody, even those people lucky enough to have a “normal” family life. Writers often come from dysfunctional families. Writers often have mental health issues. Put it all together and the holiday season can be quite a gauntlet to run, between day jobs, holiday preparations, family gatherings, and the desperate struggle for time and space write.

My therapist taught me a skill that I will now pass along to you. This skill is designed to buy you the mental and emotional space you need to survive when you find yourself overwhelmed. Your mileage may vary, but give it a try. Three simple words:

Achieve literary distance.

How does one do this? Here’s my method. I always have my tote bag with me. At the moment it contains four notebooks, two manuscripts, one of those zippered pouches for pens, and a few other odds and ends. I take the tote bag everywhere. When life gets too intense, I pull out a notebook and a pen. If I’m stuck in a line, I spot the most interesting people and jot down quick lists of their notable physical and behavioral traits. If I’m in a waiting room, I might write a scene involving two of the people waiting there also.


The point here is to derail our anxiety by making our trains of thought switch tracks. Becoming consciously more observant puts us into a more objective state of mind. Sometimes what we really need is to get out of our own heads. By calling on the skills that help us achieve literary distance, we can at least get out of the Anxiety Attic and go hang out in the Creativity Corner.  When we deliberately shift our focus outward, we may very well lower our anxiety levels.

I know this works for me. I get all stressed out about being on time, getting everything done according to my To Do list, or I’m all knotted up mentally because of a conflict with a family member.  When I achieve literary distance, that helps me step back, take that deep breath, connect pen to paper, and re-establish a calmer, more flexible state of mind.


Make this skill work for you. If you like texting ideas on the Notepad function of your phone, go for it. If you need a blank journal with no lines and a few broken crayons, more power to you. If you just want to sit in a comfy spot and take some mental notes along with a few deep breaths, that’s good too.

Writing is our superpower. We can use it to rescue ourselves.





Filed under Christmas, creativity, Depression, editing, Family, Fiction, frustration, Lillian Csernica, neurodiversity, Special needs, therapy, Writing

Reblog: Your Autistic Teen and Family Holiday Gatherings

Little kids with autism grow to be teens with autism. As is true with all adolescents, pressures both inside their bodies and in the social world can make them sometimes be irritable and reactive. Parents who live with them adapt and adopt new strategies for supporting their children over time. Relatives who see the kids intermittently often aren’t prepared for what it means to interact with a bigger kid who can’t be as easily directed or managed as when they were young. This is especially true if some of the teen’s behaviors are socially awkward or even potentially frightening. Christmas is a time of year when many families have a big family gathering to celebrate. Parents of teens with autism and their extended family members are often torn: The teen is a loved member of the family who should be included, but will including him be disruptive to the family or even harmful to the teen? If you are a parent of a teen with autism, you are already well aware of the need for preparation

Source: Your Autistic Teen and Family Holiday Gatherings

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