The Orange Notebook


The Orange Notebook

by Jennifer Grow ’94

Unbound, I am dismantling notebooks. And it feels so good. Throwing away old lists. Forgotten sentences. Half-finished writing projects and plans for writing projects. I am streamlining the places where I record my own creativity. Trying to spill out into only a few notebooks this fall, a season of change, both atmospheric and academic.

I’ve de-spiraled two notebooks already, salvaging only the pages that still interest me, pulling the long silver coils from cardboard bindings. As I sit on a bench outside my daughter’s ballet studio (because don’t the biggest moments of writing progress always happen during times of forced waiting, when there is simply nothing more to do but check Twitter one more time or face the writing demons) I hold on my lap an emaciated composition notebook, its guts in a pile beside me. Now the blank pages fill up behind the organized lists of various projects in progress–or not–and I feel ready. Ready to stop procrastinating. Ready to stop making excuses. Ready to write–both for here and not, keeping my eyes set on bigger goals.

And as I sit here, I read this quote again, the third time since discovering it in the small, orange notebook that now is in pieces in the bottom of my bag and will be safely discarded when I get home.

Jennifer Grow ’94 lives in Florence, Mass., and blogs at about life as a mother writer of three children. In the professional world, she is a writer, editor and, most recently, social media strategist at Williams College. Her work has appeared in Meat for Tea and (the late) Shovel Magazine, and she has written guest posts on several blogs, including

November is National Novel Writing Month!


November is National Novel Writing Month

From November 1-30, NaNoWriMo challenges writers and would-be writers to write a 50,000-word novel in one month.  While the organizers of this event (going on 13 years now) clearly state that quantity is far more important that quality, the main purpose of National Novel Writing Month is to help demonstrate how easily the pages can add up if you simply commit to writing every day.

If you want to sign up for the contest (and last year more than 300,000 people did), please click here.

But I would like to challenge all writers and readers of The Lyon Review to use this month to develop your own writing project–whether that means committing to writing one page a day of anything you are interested in–poetry, stories, plays, a novel, even a journal entry.  I’ve made my own commitment to focus less on trying to get the prose “right,” and indeed simply get Chapter Four of my latest novel down on the page and worry about revision later.

Sometimes speaking your promise aloud or telling someone else about it as it helps keep you  on track. It also gives you “permission” to do something just for yourself without worrying about how it will impact the other people in your life for a change.

If you want to join us in this journey, use the form below and “vote” on how you plan to make the most of your November.  If you don’t want to write each day, perhaps pledge to read a certain number of books within 30 days, or paint a picture a day, or do yoga.  Just pick something you love that always wished you had “time” to do every day.  Then do it.

And you don’t even have to wait until November to start!


Poetry: Mexican Sunflowers

Grace E. Gray (1981) is a professional writer and editor, with publications that include scholarly articles on developmental neuroscience, feature writing, medical writing, nature writing, and interviews. She has been writing poetry as long as she can remember. Her only published poem, included here, is “Mexican Sunflowers,” which was published in Poet Lore, 2005.

Mexican Sunflowers
My daughter plays in my mother’s shadow,
Hiding in the unpredictable shade.
She stirs up the murky water,
Groping after goldfish and water-lily roots.

Flanking the fountain
Huge planters filled with exotic and half-wilted plants
Run the length of the museum courtyard.
My sister and I wander around them, avoiding my mother,
Faking interest in the limp Tithonia and elephants’ ears.
Oppressed by the sun,
Too much tourism, and each other.

My mother—Obstinate sunflower–
Disgusted with us and the whole inadequate planet
Turns her arrogant face
Directly into the light.
Looking back I have to wonder how my daughter
Who wasn’t even born at the time
Managed to get loose in that tired courtyard.
In my mind she flings up her wet hands–
The drops shoot from her fingers
Flying beyond my mother’s shadow to flare briefly in the sunlight.

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