Why I Wrote — And Published — Cold Rock

I am a writer, photographer, educator, and speaker. But more than any of those things individually or together, I am a strong advocate for all of us to accept the challenges we face daily and do our best to live an inspiring and fulfilling life.

I wrote and published Cold Rock because I believe in sharing this desire to live fully with as many people as I can. Everything about my writing, teaching, photography, and workshopping is meant to inspire others to recognize the beauty in living in the present; it is imperative that we embrace our individuality and be confident with who we are.

This is my latest book, first published in December 2011 as a print book. It quickly became an inspired reading shared across the country. I am really excited to release it as an eBook and share it with an even larger audience. It’s available on Amazon here, and I priced it as low as I possibly could (it’s just $2.99) to give everybody an opportunity to read it.

Many of the subjects in Cold Rock deal with really tough issues — bullying, sex abuse, depression and even suicide. I wrote about these topics because they are out there — not exclusively in the churches, or in our neighborhoods, or in our schools. They are in all of these places, and so many more. We need to have the courage to stand up to these atrocities, help those in need, and find the strength within ourselves to believe in Love, to believe in each other, to believe in living an inspired and fulfilling life.

It wasn’t easy to write about these topics, and I don’t mean to single out any single group (such as religious leaders) or mental illness (such as depression); rather, these are representatives of the larger issues we face every day. They are in our past, and they often reveal themselves in our present; we need to do our best to combat them with strength, self-confidence, and love.

Some of the incidents in Cold Rock did happen to me, on various levels. It was especially hard to write about them, but the driving force in me to do so was to open the door for others to do the same: find the courage, confront the obstacles and the atrocities, and live a fulfilling and loving life.

Many of the things I do today support this mission. I run a nonprofit group called LinesofLove.org, which is an outreach program for teens and young adults struggling with anxiety and depression.

Smash365.com is one of my latest projects. It is a culmination of decades of research and writing in spirituality and living life fully. My creative partner, Cara Moulds, and I write daily creativity prompts to help others just like you and me SMASH our fears and live inspired lives. Our prompts are challenging, but they are also free. And they always will be. We hope they provide individuals the chance to experience their journey through life with passion and happiness.

Finally, there’s MarylandVoices.com, an ever-transforming journal of literary advocacy focused on publishing cutting-edge creative nonfiction that tackles taboo issues like the ones I confront in Cold Rock. I encourage you strongly to get involved at your local level and advocate for fairness, equality, and social justice.

I received my MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College, and I am available for speaking engagements and workshops in writing (specializing in journaling and writing memoir), photography, publishing, and inspired living. Follow me daily at rusvw.net/blog, and feel free to contact me directly at rusvw13@gmail.com.

I believe in you. I believe in the power of Love. I believe we all have a chance to make the choices that will change this world. Contact me. Let’s get started on making a difference within ourselves first, and then with the rest of our communities in general.


Contradiction: The First Days of November

photo: rus vanwestervelt, october 29, 2011, glyndon, md

The snow last weekend that just barely touched us in Baltimore but devastated the New England region was the best and most timely contradiction for me in all ways. Yesterday, over at Maryland Voices, our True Tuesdays prompt focused on Contradiction and the opportunities we are suddenly presented when such situations arise. What do you do when something goes against your routine, defies your everyday expectation?

The contrast existing between the old and brilliant autumnal leaves against the virgin white snow allowed me to get off this annual surge of creativity, just long enough to really appreciate what this time of year means to me.

Historically, this has been my most creative period, whether that be with a camera or a pen in hand. The touch of golden melancholy is just strong enough within me to stir the muse in wondrous ways, and I almost always emerge in December with a batch of pre-polished creativity that was as intense as it was joyful to make.

Seeing the reds and yellows sprinkled with white only strengthened that surge in me to write and create. But it was because I stopped and took the time to absorb it, let it play around inside a bit, work its most unusual magic in this most magical season.

We need to do more of this, this slowing down and taking the time to absorb the existing beauty around us. Our trains move too fast through this life, a shortened ride for many it seems these days, and I can only beg you enough to realize the joys and pleasures that await simply by slowing down, even just a little.

These contradictions in our lives allow us the chance to do exactly this. They are the hiccups that make us catch our breath, focus for a moment on something we did not expect, ponder a little color and splash of virgin white to spin the wheels in the other direction and make us see that we don’t need to wait until the end of the journey to realize glory and beauty.

It’s here right now, all around us, all the time.