Journey 166: Journey Home…But First, Temple University

Today marked the end of my Philadelphia trip. The effects will continue to ripple onward and outward, but the plane took off at 3:45 arcing toward Dallas. Soon I’ll fly north to Joplin. 

On my last morning in Philly, I had the pleasure of accompanying Lu Ann to Temple University, where she assists students in the Communication School. What a gorgeous campus, sprawling over 115 acres. In between calls and tasks we walked a tiny portion of the campus, virtually a ghost town during the summer months, when 37,000+ students are on holiday.

As in the neighborhoods of Philadelphia, a wide range of architectural buildings form the campus. We walked through lanes that offered faculty and students a wide choice of food and drink, and green spaces and beautifully manicured parks. 

Before taking me to the airport, Lu Ann and I shared one more meal together, trying something new. What a great way to conclude our visit!

There are meal wagons that line the streets around the university. We selected The Creperie at Temple, which offers fresh ingredients folded within a warm crepe right off the griddle. We both had the Enzo, stuffed with chicken, avocado and grilled veggies. Oh my goodness this lunch was bliss served in a triangular box. 

What an amazing trip, with a friendship deepened,  new connections made, and a heartfelt call to leap forward in my growth and life. I know it will all unfold perfectly! As I was boarding the plane in Philadelphia, an advertisement flashed on a screen on the wall, “The best thing about a trip to Philly? The return visit!” Sounds great to me. 


Journey 165: The Neighborhoods of Philadelphia

The writers conference concluded today. It was an amazing experience and I’ll be sharing insights from this trip and the impact of the conference in the next few days. Today, my last full day in Philadelphia, Lu Ann and I explored the grand old city further. 

We started with brunch in a neighborhood of Philly called North Liberties. The restaurant, North 3rd, is classified as “creative North American fare served in a dimly lit space with mismatched decor”. That pretty much sums this place up! The dining experience was interesting and the food, superb. I had Jersey frittata. Scrumptious! 

As we walked back toward the conference, watching for a cab to hail, we noted the mix of architecture in the area. New, contemporary apartment buildings reside next to 200+ year old brick Georgian townhouses. Lu Ann explained that Philly is comprised of many diverse neighborhoods that together form this sprawling city with its mix of architecture and variety of cozy restaurants. 

After the last class this afternoon we set off on foot, walking through some of those neighborhoods. We visited The Book Trader which holds a vast collection of gently used books. The old building is the perfect location for this shop with its tall bookshelves crowded with books on every subject. I could have spent hours browsing for treasures. 

Across the street is Christ’s Church. Founded in 1695 as a parish of the Church of England, this brick building was the home church of city fathers such as George Washington, who sat in pew 58, and Ben Franklin, who occupied pew 70. Such a beautiful, sacred place surrounded by well groomed grounds that have more the look of a garden rather than a cemetery. 

I am so fascinated with the historical nature of Philadelphia. Everywhere we walked in the Old City there were reminders of the antiquity of this area. It did not require a stretch of the imagination to see Franklin and Washington strolling down a  cobblestone street or rounding the corner of the church. 

There’s so much more to Philly than history though. Lu Ann drove me by one of the city’s most iconic spots…the stairs Rocky climbs in the movie by the same name. Considered a symbol of determination and perseverance, the steps lead to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Nearby is a larger than life bronze statue of Rocky. Both attractions are a must see for tourists and there was a line of people near the statue waiting to have their pictures snapped with Rocky. 

As we drove to Lu Ann’s house, cruising along the river road, she pointed out the boathouse where a scene from the movie The Sixth Sense was filmed. And she told me of Grace Kelly’s childhood home located nearby. Actor Kevin Bacon is from Philly as well, along with many other notable performers, writers, artists and musicians. 

As with the architecture in the neighborhoods of Philadelphia, there is a diverse culture here too…a mix of the historical and contemporary, past and present heroes, people from all over the globe. I am so glad I visited this city and so grateful to Lu Ann and Phil for their hospitality. Even after long, full days at the conference, Lu Ann always took the time to explore the city further and show me one more thing. I look forward to a return visit to Philadelphia. 


Journey 164: Philadelphia Writers Conference

The oldest writers’ conference in the US, Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, PWC henceforth, was established in 1949 and continues to serve as a place for writers to learn and connect, be encouraged and inspired. Day two of PWC was very full and rich and it was my focus today, with a brief time out for a lovely excursion into Old Town.  

Lu Ann’s class on non-fiction writing was up first. She began her teaching time by having each of us blow bubbles! What a brilliant way to tap into our creativity. Lu Ann reminded us that we must approach writing with passion and play with it, enjoying the process. Having fun, loving what we are doing, opens doors and connects us with others. I KNOW this to be true. 

Lu Ann is skillfully teaching us to write powerful proposals and query letters. Knowing what I am compelled to write, doing my research to define my market and my competition, and sharing why I am uniquely qualified to write my book are all essential components. 

Tom McAllister continued in the memoir class, instructing us on essay and memoir writing. I’ve realized from his class that I am drawn to writing essays, which are short non-fiction pieces that both dramatize and create reflection. We learned about being specific in what we are writing about and when to narrow in on a subject and when to broaden the view. Tom has an engaging teaching style and speaks rapidly, which is essential since he has so much to share. 

The social media class has been a surprise! Don Lafferty  is extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of online marketing via websites and social networks like Facebook. While his class doesn’t teach about writing, it DOES instruct writers about reaching their intended audience, which is crucial for all authors no matter their chosen genre. 

I have learned so much about how Google works and what  I can change in my WordPress blog to increase my chances of appearing higher on the first page of a Google search. Don is sharing invaluable info, and he does so with skill and humor. 

After my last class, and with a couple of hours before the banquet this evening, Lu Ann and I headed out into the city to explore. To my delight, we took a horse drawn carriage ride through Old City and Society Hill. Pat the driver and Spot the horse made quite a team. What a beautiful ride through charming neighborhoods steeped in history. 

I saw the home of James & Dolly Madison, Washington Square, Ben Franklin’s Printing Shop and wonderfully restored Georgian townhouses built in the 1700’s. Pat told us stories, accompanied by the steady clip clop of Spot’s hooves. 

Back at the conference center, we had time for a cold drink before  dinner and the keynote speaker. Joining us was poet and instructor Anna M. Evans. I’ve loved meeting so many writers. Anna, originally from England, has published a couple of books of poetry, so far. Her most recent book, “Sisters & Courtesans”, is a delightful and scandalous collection of poems that highlights different women throughout history. When Anna recited one of her poems spontaneously for us, in her lovely accent, we laughed and whooped with approval. I promptly bought her book. Check out her blog here and enjoy!

The day concluded with a formal sit down dinner, shared with wonderfully open, creative souls. Everyone is so sincere, so encouraging. Keynote speaker Stephen Fried shared from his life journey as an investigative journalist, non-fiction author and adjunct professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. 


Using personal experiences and humor Stephen presented his perspectives on what a writer’s life looks like and the nature of writing today. He has published many articles, essays and books on a wide range of topics. With droll realism he warned that the writing life isn’t what one expects it to be, yet he spoke with great passion regarding  writing about the things that capture your interest and heart. 

“Ride the waves,” he told us, “don’t resist them.” Which echoes my sentiments about life, and my current journey. It’s a mighty big wave I’ve caught, and with shaky but determined legs, I’m prepared to do just that. It’s going to be an amazingly spectacular ride!


Journey 163: A Taste of Philadelphia


What a full and delightful day, in Philadelphia, PA! Day one of the writers conference brought opportunities to learn from and meet with amazing writers and literary agents. Opening speaker Sara Shepard, author of the young adult series Pretty Little Liars, started us off with high energy and a peek inside her prolific writing career. 


Classes followed, which I selected from the non-fiction path: Writing Your Non-Fiction Book with my mentor/friend and hostess for the weekend Lu Ann Cahn, Memoir Writing with Tom McAllister, Social Media with Don Lafferty and Improv Writing with Dan Stabb. I gained knowledge from each instructor and enjoyed the interactions within the classes. More on PWC 2015 as the conference progresses. 
During the lunch break Lu Ann took me to the Reading Terminal Market, housed within the old train terminal. On my flight into Philly, the passenger next to me suggested I visit here for a snapshot of what Philadelphia is all about. What an amazing place!


The moment we walked through the door, tantalizing aromas from a variety of food vendors drew us deeper into the massive building. Booth after booth offered all kinds of wares. Bakeries, restaurants and confectioners vied with meat and fish markets, fresh produce, bulk herbs, flowers and gift items. The place had the bustle and noise of a thriving market and throngs of people crowded the aisles. 
Lu Ann suggested an authentic Philly Cheesesteak sandwich for lunch. We tried the Ben Franklin Cheesesteak, which includes cream cheese, and it was so delicious! We splurged on dessert and sampled freshly prepared, hand rolled donuts from Beiler’s. Incredible! The BEST donuts I’ve ever eaten. The salted caramel was melt-in-your-mouth goodness

After the conference concluded for the day, Lu Ann and I met her sweet husband, Phil, and we walked downtown Philly. Such gorgeous old buildings, imbued with history. I gawked like the tourist that I am. I saw the liberty bell, and Independence Hall where our nation’s forefathers debated the constitution. 

The narrow cobblestone streets, the old brick buildings, the statues, all lend antiquity and charm to this bustling city. Ben Franklin is buried in a cemetery nearby. And the Delaware River flows under a beautiful suspension bridge. Forty miles up that river, General Washington crossed. I’m enjoying viewing these places where our country’s history was forged. 

For dinner I enjoyed another first. Phil and Lu Ann took me to their favorite Vietnamese restaurant in China Town. I had the house special, a delectable bowl of meats, vegetables and a spring roll over noodles. 

What an incredible day of learning and experiencing new things! I’m working on writing assignments this evening and anticipating an eventful day two of PWC.  And I believe we are returning to Reading Market for lunch. Tomorrow we are sampling authentic Italian cuisine!


Journey 162: Joplin to Philadelphia 


Today’s journey has been a long one as I made my way from Joplin MO to Philadelphia, via Dallas/Fort Worth. It’s the first time I’ve flown out of Joplin’s new airport. 

I was glad to learn business is doing well there, with two flights out a day to the Dallas airport, on American Airlines. DFW Airport is HUGE. I had to take the Skylink to move from one terminal to another. I had the opportunity to help a young woman from Joplin locate the correct terminal and gate. It was her second time to fly and first time through the massive Dallas airport. 


I was excited as the plane climbed into the air and Texas dropped away. I’ve only flown out east one other time. I read to pass the time, with frequent bouts of gazing out the window. It was beautiful, soaring above the clouds, and we only encountered mild turbulence as the plane skirted a thunderstorm. The towering clouds were gorgeous. 

The sun slipped over the horizon and darkness fell. I put my book away and watched as lights flickered on far, far below. What a magical time. The lights captured my attention and my imagination. They spoke of life below, and became to me little beacons of hope. 

Philadelphia sparkled and glittered like scattered jewels as we approached the city. It was a smooth landing and ta da…here I am. I’m grateful to Lu Ann and her husband Phil for picking me up. And anticipating the new day. Welcome, me, to the City of Brotherly Love! 

Journey 161: Trip to Philly

philly trip

Ask any realtor. If you want an increase in business, just plan a trip out of town! That’s certainly held true for me. I’ve had this trip planned since January, when my mentor and friend, Lu Ann Cahn came to Joplin. Lu Ann’s book, “I Dare Me” was the inspiration for my year of firsts in 2014. What an honor and privilege to meet her when she stopped in Joplin so that we could do a first, or dare, together. After we served lunch at Watered Gardens, a ministry in Joplin that feeds and shelters the homeless, Lu Ann and I had a late lunch together, and she invited me to Philedelphia to attend the nation’s oldest writer’s conference.

In the spirit of doing new things and journeying far this year, I said yes! The next five days will be full of adventures: first time to fly out of Joplin’s new airport, first trip to Philedelphia, first time to attend a writer’s conference and what a fun time I will have as Lu Ann’s house guest. This personable, lively woman continues to be such an inspiration to me!

philly trip Lu Ann

The Philedelphia Writer’s Conference was established in 1949. The founders were guided by the belief that writers gain from fellowship with other writers and from constructive professional help. The first writer’s conference in Philly hosted four workshops, a banquet and an evening speaker over two days and has grown to offer 14 workshops, four seminars, manuscript rap sessions, a Friday roundtable forum, speakers and the annual Saturday night banquet with keynote speaker. I am so excited to experience this conference, and revel in the creative energy that is sure to be surrounding the event.

Tonight, after the obligatory run to Walmart for necessities for the trip, I am putting offers together, finishing up laundry, hauling out my carry on suitcase and reading an article that is part of an assignment for one of my classes. And, I am full of gratitude…to Lu Ann for cheering me on and inviting me to visit her in Philly, for Greg who surprised me with a card that was encouraging and contained extra cash for the trip, and for you all, my readers, who have journeyed with me along the way, some for the entire 525 days (so far) as I have honed my writing skills and fallen in love with the craft, and others who have joined in at various points along the path, walking alongside, offering words of praise, hope and love. Thank you, from my overflowing heart.

I am full of anticipation and joy as this amazing trip is unfolding. To quote my favorite Hobbit, “I am going on an adventure!” I’ll post next from Philadelphia!

philly trip writers conference