Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Job done! = Ex Libris Maine: May 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

There’s a lot of work involved in promoting a book. It’s something I did only minimally for the first one, Sing . . . The Poems. For this one, Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – A Love Story, I not only set up dates for readings and book signings (July 10 at Longfellow Books and August 1 at the Portland Public Library), but I also spent a good bit of time submitting required information and photos to the directors of two allied nonprofit organizations – Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance (MWPA) and Find Maine Writers (FMW).” But that important part of the job is now done (I say with an exclamation point)!

Click here to read MWPA’s monthly “Ex Libris Maine” E-newsletter. Then you’ll see the bare bones synopsis I had to write and the cover photo of my book. And that, in turn, will bring you to my website where you’ll see - but just click here find.mainewriters.org to see both my book cover and profile now included among those of other Maine writers. 

(By the way, people really like the cover photo. It was taken by my publisher, David Gawlik of Wisconsin, who is also an excellent photographer. He took the photo at a CORPUS Conference, in 2005. One couple after another – married priests and their wives – lined up before David’s camera.)

To be honest, this is the part I like least –  getting these little tasks completed. It’s daunting for a newcomer like me who is not hard-wired to grasp web formatting, if that’s the right expression. But I hasten to add that it’s been rewarding to experience the kindness of Joshua Bodwell, of MWPA, and Stephen Abbott, of FIND MAINE WRITERS. Co-directors of these organizations, they patiently directed me as well. Their work makes us Mainers proud; it’s responsible for keeping our literary community vibrant.

If you haven’t yet received a copy of my Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – A Love Story, you could support local bookstores where I’ve brought copies – Nonesuch Books in both South Portland and Biddeford, The Book Review in Falmouth, and three bookstores in Portland – Letterpress Books at Northport, Sherman’s on Exchange Street, and of course, Portland Portland’s well loved independent bookstore – Longfellow Books.

In fact, if you’re out of town and need either of the books or the CD delivered, www.elainemcgillicuddy.com has a direct link to Longfellow Books. Chris Bowe its co-owner said: “You do the writing. We’ll do the distributing.” Now I’m eager to get back to work on the third book and to garden!

With loving gratitude,
            And now – go to Ex Libris Maine: Click here

Monday, April 14, 2014

Another Synchronicity!

Dear Family and Friends,

I just finished getting copies of Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – A Love Story to local bookstores – in Portland (Longfellow and Letterpress Books), South Portland, Falmouth, and Biddeford, Maine.

If you would like a copy but cannot reach these bookstores, my own local bookstore – Longfellow Books – will, from now on, be the distributor of my books, the CD of my reading the poems, and the next one in the trilogy (now in progress) – Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – the Uncollected Poems and Journals. (“Journals” here refers to my own journal since Francis died).

Of course you can go to Amazon.com to buy this second book, Sing . . . A Love Story, but if you’d like to support “Indie” bookstores instead – the folks at Portland’s beloved local bookstore can mail it to you.

All you have to do is use the link posted here on my new website: http://www.elainemcgillicuddy.com/books/synopses/  Called “fiercely loyal to Maine's community of readers and writers,” Longfellow Books – when it suffered water damage from a burst pipe last February –  experienced how much our community appreciates them; many rallied to help them. 

But what does this have to do with “Another Synchronicity”?  It’s the result of what happened three Sundays ago.

When my friend, Lesley Hoey, asked to interview me for a personal project she had undertaken, I agreed to meet with her at a local tea shop. In the middle of our conversation, a young woman, Jessica Bland, approached to inquire if she could interview us. She explained that she was commissioned to write the “PlayNotes” for an upcoming play at Portland Stage Company. (For years, Francis and I bought season tickets to attend performances at this longest running theater in Portland.) For this one in particular, “Savannah Disputations,” the staff at PSC wanted input from the community. So Lesley and I gave her forty minutes of our time.

Well, today, with my bookstore deliveries completed, just when I was planning to write this letter – Jessica emailed me the link to PSC’s PlayNotes. This means you can read her interview with us in the PlayNotes! It will be handed out to theater-goers when the play opens next week.

On top of that, there’s this added bonus: Jessica used, in that PlayNotes interview, my book’s actual cover photo! What perfect timing, since just last week I also dropped off copies of the (attached) 4x6” promotion card in strategic places on Portland’s main Congress Street – places like the Maine Public Library, the Maine Historical Society library, Maine College of Art, etc.

More visibility means more books for Longfellow Books to sell. And it means more people can hear of the love story I was privileged to live and am now privileged to share. Our world needs love stories.

Just scroll down to page 18, here: http://www.portlandstage.org/Page.15.PlayNotes

Joyous spring to all,
PS: Please don't hesitate to let me know if you'd rather not continue receiving these letters. (Just write REMOVE on the subject line). We'd still be family and friends.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Blame (or Credit) My Publisher

Dear Family and Friends,

It’s David Gawlik, married priest from Wisconsin and owner of the small publishing company, Caritas Communications, whom I blame or credit. Anticipating the publication of Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – A Love Story (coming out soon!), he proposed that I get my own website to promote this second book.

After some scouting around, the person I chose to create the website is my editor, Mike O’Connor’s own graphic designer – Nina K. Noble. Like Mike, she also lives in Port Townsend, Washington state, on the Olympic Peninsula.

Nina turned out to be just the right person, just as everyone “sent” to help me with my writing imperative has been just the right person (like David and Mike). I call those three my team. Nina is a Russian Orthodox Christian, and a yoga practitioner, to boot. She’s even a student of Jung studies. So Nina and I have become friends in the process of my sending her material, and her “designing” the website.

Look here to see the fruit of Nina’s work . . . outstanding work, I think you’ll agree:  www.elainemcgillicuddy.com

Initially, it was a website focused on just that – promoting the first two books, the CD of my reading the poems, and later, the third book in progress – Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – The Uncollected Poems and Journals. But I found myself drawn to make it also a site for collecting various memorabilia.

The “memorabilia” that I most appreciate is the Portland Community Television’s “The Second Act” interview with Francis and me, in 2005. We had to go to some lengths to use it. I thank Lee Slater, my goddaughter Rowan’s dad who made a “MOV” out of the only DVD I was given at the end of that interview in 2005. For the 2012 interview with me by Bill Gregory, the TV station already had it uploaded and available on their website. Nina just had to copy it from there. But those earlier interviews were not uploaded then. But now, after Lee’s work, emailed to Nina, you can see on my website that “Second Act” interview conducted by Susan Hirsch with me and Francis.  

I realized after that, that I wanted to do even more with the website. I thought that my hip problem and yoga-to-the-rescue story might be of help to others. My annotated list of books on grief and death which helped me after Francis died has already helped others, so why not share it more widely?  Spreading the word about permaculture (edible landscape) is needed in our precarious times, and the chants which, at the end, helped Francis in facing his death – (That’s what the “Sing to Me” is all about!) – those could inspire people as they did us. So why not include those as well?

Now viewers can see Francis and me (very briefly) in another video, a youtube video showing Aramaic scholar, Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz leading us in the recitation and chanting of the first line of the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic. Of many Aramaic prayer retreats Francis took with me, that one in the spring of 2009 was his last– only months before he was hospitalized. There he is in that video, wearing a blue top my mother had made for him.

With that website work completed, I am ready now to work on the second half of the third book. The prospect is a joyous one because I know by now that writing is a work of discovery.

Just last week, after a long supper conversation with my friends, Joe and Claire Brannigan, I dropped off two books I’m loaning them – Old Age, Journey into Simplicity, and Jung on Death edited by Jenny Yates. (Because of Joe’s terminal condition, please keep them in mind and heart as they face together what is approaching.) My loaning them the books occasioned a little research on my part through which I came across this fitting quote by Helen Luke.

"Wisdom consists in doing the next thing that you have to do, doing it with your whole heart and finding delight in it — and the delight is the sense of the sacred."

Yes, it fits me like a glove. From the poems that came after Francis died, and through the telling of his story and mine, and now with my own widow's story coming next – writing, at this time of my life – feels to me like a calling. And people’s hearty response to my Maine Jung Center presentation only seems to confirm it. For that I give thanks.

And with loving gratitude,

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Sweet Synchronicity + Poem and Reminder

Dear Family and Friends,

I went to a funeral this morning. Another friend in our parish, Rosemary, became a widow last week. Francis and I used to sit in or near the same pew in church on which she sat with her now late husband. The two eulogies were no exaggeration: Bob was a very kind, accomplished, generous, compassionate man. We will miss him!

At communion time, another friend, Anne, who was rounding the corner of the section where I sat, touched my shoulder and showed me what she had found in the hymnal she was using – Francis’ memorial bookmark! (Ask me if you’d like a copy, as a PDF). When I passed on this message to Sue, next to me (another widow), we both teared up. It felt like a sign — Francis’ way of saying “I’m among you!” which of course he is, as Bob, Sue’s late husband, is too.

When Anne came to our pew offering to give me Francis’ card, she pointed to the title of the hymn on the page; its last word was “dance” (and it was not “Lord of the Dance”) – but clearly, the last word in that hymn’s title was DANCE.  My eyes widened again, for a second reason.

Since January 30, three poems have come to me. The second one, “My Deceased Husband Speaks to the Men in My Life,” starts out with the “guys at Hamilton’s Garage.” The February 15 poem, “Them I Know,” is a serious one, even longer. But the first one which is relevant to my story here is called “When My Time Comes.”

Remember that Francis’ memorial card marked the page for the hymn with the word “Dance” in it:


     will I cower before the dark,
     in an unknown void,

     Or, when my time arrives,
     will I take Death’s hand,
     enter in the Ballroom
     joyful in knowing
     you’re waiting for me there?

That’s the sweet synchronicity part.
Now the reminder:

Three people recently double-checked with me – “Is your talk next Sunday?”  The basic facts are on the mainejungcenter website.

Chris Bowe of Longfellow Books will be present to sell copies of Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – The Poems, and to take orders for Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – A Love Story (available in March).
Thank you for supporting our well-loved and “fiercely independent local bookstore!

Loving regards to all,

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A More Succinct Announcement

Dear Friends,

One among you who admitted to feeling “overwhelmed” by all the information in my email, “Invitation,” asked me:

Are you going to send out another more succinct email about this event?

I’m so grateful she told me this! When I sent out that overly detailed email, the Maine Jung Center hadn’t yet posted this, but here it is now, straight from their website, in good time for you to save the date.

Loving regards to all,

Aspiring to Live Authentically 
Elaine McGillicuddy
Sunday, February 23
 2—4 p.m.
Portland Friends Meetinghouse
1837 Forest Ave, Portland ME
Elaine will share both her journey through grief since the death of her priest-husband, Francis, and the providential way that writing her 
poems and telling their love story restored her will to live and gave her a new purpose in life. Besides relating how becoming a published poet and writer became a healing experience for her, Elaine will read 
selections from her books. Participants will also be invited to sample a few energizing yoga stretches and savor a few lines of the soul-satisfying Lord’s Prayer chanted in Aramaic.  
Elaine G. McGillicuddy, MA, poet and writer, is a former nun who married a resigned priest. She is a retired English teacher, certified Iyengar yoga teacher who co-founded Portland Yoga Studio, and a  leader of the Dances of Universal Peace. She is now writing her third book, Sing to Me and I Will Hear You–The Uncollected Poems and Journals. The titles of this and her other books are drawn from her husband Francis’ words to her before he died. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Dear Family and Friends,

For the same reason I said yes to two interviews (for a radio/podcast by Dr. Lisa Belisle, and for a Profile column in Maine magazine), I said yes to my former yoga student and friend, Jennifer Stanbro. She emailed me on September 24, 2013 – exactly four years later, to the day, the day Francis was first hospitalized.

Jennifer, now a member of the Board for the Maine Jung Center, asked if I would be willing to give a two-hour program under the heading “Tools for Individuation,” on February 23, 2014. She explained that the Center occasionally holds these programs in which someone shares a personal experience of inner growth. There’s usually some sort of expressive dimension involved. For example, in the past, artists came and talked about their process.

“I immediately thought of you and your poetry,” she said. “I know you have another book coming out and I was thinking this might be a nice venue for sharing your story and your publications.” I agreed, and then drew up a “Proposal” in the form of an outline. The Board liked it. That was three and a half months ago.

Amazed once again by the unexpected, unlooked-for nature of these opportunities for me to share Francis’ and my love story, I spent hours pondering, revising, and refining the content of my outline. I knew right away I would be mentioning Greg Mogenson’s book, Greeting the Angels – An Imaginal View of the Mourning Process, and for two reasons. He is not only a Jungian analyst (and so, an author certain to appeal to such an audience), but his book also deeply moves me. (I first read a chapter in it after my mother died in 2000.) Then, after Francis died, I found it so affirming to find my experience described in it, that when the time came to select who might write a blurb for the back cover of Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – The Poems, I thought of him. That’s when I discovered he lives in London, Ontario, Canada. So I emailed Mr. Mogenson. He not only said yes to my request, he agreed with me that my poems reflect much that he expressed in that marvelous book.

At that time, or likely, even more than two years ago, I had typed three pages of notes from Mogenson’s book. They are notes I’ve found myself drawn to read and reread. So I reread them then, and got an idea I suddenly put into motion: I wrote down in the margins, or right over those typed notes, using a red pen, the titles of my poems which illustrate his words. I felt some excitement about this because the correspondence between certain words and my poems was something I could see, now, concretely. It wasn’t just a vague feeling I had had. My poems did and do, in some way, echo his words!

Some months before I had started working on the outline, passages from my own poems began coming up for me, either with new nuances, or by way of almost stunning me with their enduring truth. Being a new poet, that phenomenon surprised me. You can imagine my delight to hear Richard Blanco say something similar during Diane Rehm’s excellent interview with him on public radio, on January 2 (and here’s the link): http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2014-01-01/richard-blanco-all-us-one-today-rebroadcast
My own poems had begun reverberating new meanings for me, and now here I was finding yet more, by examining which ones might match with the words of this Jungian analyst.

In the end, I carefully selected twelve quotes from Greeting the Angels which resonate with fourteen of my poems.  My outline took on new life. There will now be a part two to my presentation – a powerpoint projection onto a screen of one of Mogenson’s quotes and its page number, and the title of one my poems. After a pause to let those present absorb his text, I will recite the poem I feel exemplifies it.

Why am I telling you all this? Because the two-hour presentation on Sunday afternoon February 23, from 2 – 4 pm will be held at the Friends’ Meeting on at 1837 Forest Avenue, in Portland. The general public is invited, not just members of the Maine Jung Center.

I was asked by Katie Miller, coordinator of the Maine Jung Center, to email her information to use in their newsletter which is now posted on their website: http://www.mainejungcenter.org

It may not be wise for me to give you a copy of my outline now (attached in my email only) but it’s only an outline. It can’t deliver the live interaction that will surely take place with those who come. (I’m looking forward to that, even though, frankly, I feel a little nervous about doing this . . . though that’s probably good too). But for those who can’t come – at least you’ll get to see what has been much more than just a project for me in the last three and a half months.

I invite you for now, if you’d like to come, to mark your calendar – Save the date February 23 from 2 to 4 pm, a Sunday afternoon. And better still -  register online now at the Maine Jung Center's website, under "Programs"  http://www.mainejungcenter.org

I’m touched by everyone’s encouragement and support – thank you!

May you all be well and blessed beyond your expectations in this new year,


Friday, December 20, 2013

It's Different This Year

Dear Family and Friends,                         
Four years ago today, Francis and I were embarking on the most momentous days of our lives, approaching together his death and transition twelve days later. Last year, because I was writing about that journey, I used the expression “nadir and zenith.” But it’s different this year. I still tear up easily, but I am so filled with gratitude and joy about the second book that this year, joy overcomes grief. It feels as if completing Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – A Love Story is the biggest thing I’ve done in my life. It was like something I had to do before I die. With only one more spiral bound hard copy galley proof to scrutinize, the book will be available early in 2014. 

Two things made a big impact on me in recent weeks: a reflection by the Aramaic scholar with whom I’ve studied since 1996, and, hearing the Portland Symphony Orchestra play Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantata # 140 – “Sleepers Awake.”

A few times a year, those who study with Dr. Neil Douglas-Klotz receive from him an online reflection to ponder. (He’s the one whose two biblical chants helped Francis through his final days.) “The Psalms,” he wrote, “mention seven times of prayer, according to the progress of the sun. The stages of the sun through the day can help us remember the preciousness of life and the stages of time passing--birth (morning), full bloom of youth (midday), mid-afternoon (wisdom of maturity), late afternoon/sunset (the day 'nearly over' - reminding us that life in these bodies doesn't last forever), evening (preparing to 'die before we die')”      
It’s clear that at 78, I’m in the evening time of my life. I don’t mind that because aging has its gifts. Then there’s this:

The text of Bach’s cantata based on Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish virgins, calls for the inhabitants of Jerusalem to waken, take up their lamps, prepare the feast, and go out to meet the Bridegroom. In Bach’s 17th-18th century world, faith was simpler; heaven was understood literally then. Even knowing that, and by contrast, a bit about modern scientific views, in hearing the glorious cantata, I felt transported by that Coming it announced. After pondering this for days, I can’t help believing that the desire for life after death, engrained in the human psyche from earliest times, is so strong, that that fact in itself argues in its favor. No one could convince me that love dies with the person who dies.

Francis and I heard Sister Elizabeth Johnson speak at a conference in 2000, about her book, Friends of God and Prophets, A Feminist Reading of the Communion of Saints. She found it hard to face, she told us - what she discovered after extensive research and reflection: “Empirically, the darkness of death is unconquerable.” Death is a genuine end to historical life. Her book concludes: “the only possible response {is} faith in its rawest form. Taking the risk that God will be there. . . . The promise of God is bound to what is empirically the end of all promise.” (p. 220) I give thanks for this gift of faith. Her next chapter “Companions in Hope” builds on faith. That part of my book is underlined even more.

In the earlier years after Francis died, I was tempted to think I just wanted to write my books, and then, “join” him. But then, as expressed in my poem “Widow’s Time,” (from Sing . . . The Poems), I saw that I have additional work to do – rallying to protect the environment for our children, work for peace and justice in the world, and work also, for example, teaching English to Africans. I already love doing that, but for now, it’s on a limited time basis - after mass on Sundays.

 In a sense, the first two stanzas of that Widow’s Time poem allude to what I’ve focused on in the last four years - “not moving on, but in,” and  “crack(ing) open memories’ nuts.” Now, after having written this especially demanding second book, Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – A Love Story, I sense that I’ve jumped over the highest of three hurdles. With the first half of the third book already written – Sing to Me and I Will Hear You – The Uncollected Poems and Journals, the third “hurdle” is the journals. (By the way, I’m in awe at how the poems in the first book continue to speak to me, confirming and revealing as they do - new nuances.)

I’m also in awe at many unexpected developments, two I haven’t  told you about yet. This one I’ll mention now is more personal, not oriented to promotion of the books: I was invited to chant during Christmas Eve mass the ancient Christmas Proclamation from the Roman Maryrology. I did that once before in 1955, in Latin, while in the novitiate in Missouri. It moves me no end to have this privilege a second time - fifty-eight years later! The English text I’ll use is a combination of these two on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cWykjM1k90  and  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niFqd2miMCM

 As a friend in CORPUS puts it - Enjoy the wonder and blessings of this Christmas season – and I add Solstice too, with its “long moon.”

With Gratitude and Love,