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Monica Bhide and Read. Write. Reflect.

We’re so pleased to share WU contributor Monica Bhide’s latest release with you today: READ. WRITE. REFLECT. Inspiration for Creative Minds, with a foreword written by WU’s co-founder and editorial director, Therese Walsh! 

Monica is a bestselling fiction and internationally renowned cookbook author, known for sharing food, culture, mystery, and love in her writing. Having roots and experience in many places, Monica inspires readers everywhere with present day stories which transcend cultural, chronological, geographical, economical, and religious borders.

As a noted international food writer, Monica has built a diverse and solid audience through her books and articles in top-tier media such as: The New York Times, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Bon Appétit, Town and Country Travel, Food and Wine, Cooking Light, Better Nutrition, and many others. Her work has garnered numerous accolades and has been included in four Best Food Writing anthologies (2005, 2009, 2010, and 2014).

Her memoir, A Life of Spice, was picked by Eat Your Books as one of the top five food memoirs of 2015. Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi picked Bhide’s Modern Spice (Simon & Schuster, 2009), as one of the “Best Books Ever” for Newsweek in 2009. The Chicago Tribune named Monica “one of the seven food writers to watch in 2012”.

A respected writing authority, Monica appears regularly on NPR and conducts sold-out workshops on writing, food, culture, and scheduled speaking events at prestigious venues as the Smithsonian Institution, Sackler Gallery, Les Dames d’Escoffier, Georgetown University, and Yale University. She has taught all over the world including conferences in London, Dubai, US etc. She has also been the “Writing Coach in Residence” for the annual conference of the Association of Food Journalists.

Said Dan Blank, author of Be the Gateway:

“Read. Write. Reflect.is the perfect blend of creative inspiration and pragmatic action. It breaks past the fears that hamper most writers, empowering you to find a renewed sense of clarity and purpose in your writing. If you feel stuck in your writing, Read. Write. Reflect.will help you get unstuck.”

Enjoy learning more about this delightful book.

Q1: Can you introduce us to your book, and tell us how it’s unique in today’s market?

MB: As a writer, I often look for inspiration in my most quiet times, but instead find it during the craziest/most mundane/silliest moments! These everyday moments not only inspire me but also help me find solutions to my own writer’s block, help me feel more present in the now. They make me slow down and just focus on the pure pleasure of life. I liken these moments to meditation. Typically, meditation is a time of calmness, but for me these moments are times that have made me reflect, made my mind wander a bit, and forced me to just be with no judgments or failure or success.

It was during one of these insane moments, inspired and motivated by my friend Casey Benedict, that I decided to run a free program on my website. The program, titled Powered by Hope, was designed to inspire and motivate writers and artists to find their own moments (crazy or not) to reflect. The response was spectacular and beyond my wildest dreams! Everyone who subscribed to it, from far and wide, loved it. The comments ranged from motivating to inspiring to lifesaving. I would get emails from subscribers every week telling me what worked, which stories they loved and identified with, and how the simple nuggets helped them!

Encouraged by the feedback I received from my subscribers, I have pulled together my crazy moments—professionally referred to as bite-sized essays—featured in the Powered by Hope program and created this little book – Read. Write. Reflect. For you.

Q2: Why this book, now? 

MB: Read. Write. Reflect. is intended to provide fun, motivation, and perhaps even some gentle self-reflection. I have taught writing classes all over the world, I have mentored aspiring and published writers, and I have learned from all of them. And the biggest lesson I have learned is that almost all of us face the same sorts of creative blocks. It is my hope that this book will help you deal with these blocks.

Q3: What do you hope people take from this book?

MB: The moments showcased in this book focus on common fears, and provide us with a different viewing lens for the problem. Perspective, as they say, is everything—and changing it can help change your life. I am hopeful that the moments I have shared will provide you with a fresh, uplifting perspective.

Q4: How did the book challenge you, as you wrote it? What did it gift to you?

MB: It slowed my crazy mind down. I had to stop and process every point. I had to consistently apply it in my own work. Some days, though, I have to admit, the noise in my mind won!

Q5: Can you share an excerpt with us?

READ —

FOCUS

A few years ago, I found myself in a difficult spot. I was surrounded by noise; it seemed I needed more of everything, and yet nothing that I got made me happy. I recall feeling overwhelmed and yet very empty at the same time. It was a classic situation of “water, water everywhere.”

In a feeble attempt to clear my head, I began to clean my sons’ toy room. As I was putting away their books and toys, I found a bunch of Indian comic books lying around. I picked up the one about Arjuna, a talented prince in Hindu mythology. My younger son is named after this brave warrior prince, and I thought perhaps I could read my son the story that night.

Turns out the lesson applied to me more than it applied to my son. The story opens with a teacher, Guru Dronacharya, training a group of royal Indian princes, the Pandava brothers, in the art and skill of archery. The guru tied a fish to the branch
of a tree. He then called all the warriors and said to them, “See that bowl of oil placed below the fish? I want you to aim your arrow at the fish’s eye, while looking only at its reflection in the oil below.”

“Oh, this will be easy,” the princes said out loud.
The oldest prince, Yudhistra, came first, ready with his bow and arrow, and the guru asked, “What do you see?” He answered, “I see the fish, the leaves . . .”

The guru shook his head. “You are not ready. Move on.”
The next prince came up and the guru asked him the same question. He responded that he saw the sky in the bowl of oil.
He was asked to move on.

The third one saw the fish, the branches, and fruit. The fourth saw the leaves and the oil. They were both asked to step aside.

Finally, it was Prince Arjuna’s turn. “What do you see?” asked the guru.

“I see the eye of the fish.” The guru smiled and gave Prince Arjuna the order to shoot. The ace archer’s arrow pierced the eye of the fish.

The story hit home for me. I was focused on the sky, the branches, the numbers, the followers, the echo of praise gone by and the hollowness of the feared future—when what I needed to do was focus on the moment at hand and what it demanded of me. For me that meant working on a dream writing project.

WRITE —

Your thoughts:
What is your moment at hand? Are you focused on the sky, the leaves, the fish? What do you need to be focused on? What is your “eye of the fish”?

REFLECT —

Based on your answers to the previous questions, what one thing are you willing to commit to that will feed your creative soul?

Now think about it and use the space below to make a commitment to yourself. Just one small thing. You can do it! Come on!

I will focus on …

Additional recommendations:
Tim Ferriss has a terrific podcast and I highly recommend it. He does interesting and practical shows on productivity and focus. Well worth your time!

Read Daniel Goleman’s Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.

You can learn more about READ. WRITE. REFLECT on Monica’s website. Write on!

About

Writer Unboxed began as a collaboration between aspiring novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton in January, 2006. Since then the site has grown to include ~40 regular contributors–including bestselling authors and industry leaders–and frequent guests. You can follow Writer Unboxed on Twitter, or join our thriving Facebook community.


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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.