Aging, Menopause

Mirror, Mirror! Louise Hawes on Writing and Aging, Plus a Free Novel Giveaway

Black Pearls

A post by writer Louise Hawes:

When you’re a working writer/teacher, you have more occasion than some to mark the passage of time—in your own face!

With each new book launch , conference gig, or writing workshop I commit to, there is always the request for a bio and “recent photo.” Ackkkk!

While I sometimes wish I could send out an airbrushed, retouched, ageless portrait, if I did it’s unlikely anyone at the event to follow would recognize me!

Botox? I’ll pass.

Face lift and tummy tucks? My body and I came to a mutual agreement years ago: we’re in this for the duration, and we’re in it together.

Hair color? Now that menopause has ended regular visits from my “friend,” I’ve decided to spare myself that other monthly pain as well. If I never inhale peroxide again, or wrestle with plastic gloves, or wonder if I put in so much toner my hair will turn purple, well, as the ad says, I’m worth it!

Snow White’s evil stepmother worried a lot about her image.

But it seems to me, her mistake wasn’t putting in all that mirror time; it was the way she looked at herself.

For Queenie, it was all about comparisons: who’s the fairest?

In other words, how do I stack up against my younger self, my daughter, the models in magazines, other women my age, how I looked yesterday, the women I pass on the street?

If you play that game, you’re bound to lose.

But what if looking in the mirror was a win-win?

What if each time you checked your reflection, you laughed out loud? Or cheered? Or clapped? Or cried.

That’s what I do, and it’s not because I’m early onset, either. Thanks to my sister, who’s a painter and teacher, I’m learning to come to the image in my mirror with fresh eyes and an open heart:

When her students start critiquing their work instead of responding to it, Helen asks her students to take a fresh look, to study it as if they’re seeing it for the first time.

“Close your eyes,” she tells them, “scrunch them tight, then open them and see your whole painting at once. Don’t focus on just one part, and don’t worry if some detail is right or wrong. Listen, instead, to what this brand new experience is telling you.”

That’s how I try to look in the mirror now—with my eyes, not my head.

I don’t zero in on the fact that one side of my mouth turns down further than the other, or on that tiny age spot shaped like Bolivia on my right cheek.

Each morning, I introduce myself to me, the me who’s here NOW, not in the past or the future.

I don’t fault find or take out my mental airbrush.

Instead, I smile and say hello. When we look at each other with that unconditional friendliness, my reflection and I?

Mostly, we like what we see.

And hey, if not, there’s always the sign I’ve taped to the glass: “At least, I still have my teeth!”

*  *  *

Speaking of Snow White (writers are sooo good at segues, aren’t we?!), I hope the winner of this book drawing enjoys dark fairy tales.

Black Pearls features all the old favorites, told from angles you’d never dream of!

Booklist called it, “Twisted, clever, and artfully written.” Named to the Hall of Fame of and chosen as a Best Book of the Year by the Austin-American Statesman, this collection was written for both adult and YA readers.

You can watch the trailer here:

Giveaway! To enter the giveaway for a copy of Black Pearls, post a comment by May 6 saying you’d like to win. Winner will be chosen at random.


Louise Hawes is a founding faculty member of the MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program at Vermont College. Her short fictionhas appeared in anthologies and journals in the US and Canada, and is collected in Anteaters Don’t Dream, and Black Pearls, a Faerie Strand. Her novels for young adults include Rosey in the Present Tense, Waiting for Christopher and The Vanishing Point.

Louise has a grown son and daughter, as well as four grandchildren (not yet grown, but shooting up fast!) She lives in North Carolina and travels frequently, often to give Four Sisters Playshops with Helen (mentioned above) and her three other sisters. These creative retreats explore film, music, writing, and painting, and have been held all over the world.

For more information on the Sisters retreats and a look at Louise’s books and lectures on writing, please visit

Photo of Louise:  The un-retouched, all-natural photo above was taken by writer and photographer Mamie Potter.

The Cover of Black Pearls was created by Rebecca Guay.

29 thoughts on “Mirror, Mirror! Louise Hawes on Writing and Aging, Plus a Free Novel Giveaway”

  1. “Twisted” Ha! I’m in! I would love to win (read) this book.

    Thank you so much, Barbara, for introducing me to this lovely writer.

    Louise, I have been so critical of my looks, both in the past and now as I get older. I dislike pictures of myself, and the mirror is not my friend. That is, until now. I’m going into the bathroom right now to introduce myself to my image, shake hands, and have a laugh. I’m going to delight in getting to know my image and become friends. I have my teeth, too, so it’s all good! 😀

    Thank you for this excellent post. It was a good reminder… okay, maybe a little kick in the pants, to quit judging ourselves so harshly. Thanks!


    1. Yes, teeth are a real plus, aren’t they, Patti? Good for smiling and for second helpings 🙂
      Seriously, I’m glad you and your mirror are friends again.


    1. Thanks, Karen — that’s something I didn’t mention, isn’t it? Your friends can make you look even better than your mirror!


  2. It’s a struggle, isn’t it? We tend to compare ourselves to others (and to our younger self). You’re right: there’s no winning that particular battle. Thanks for the advice. It’s good to make peace with the years and everything they bring – good and not-so-good. (Oops, I almost said “bad”!)


    1. You’re so right, Susan! Humans love comparisons, and metaphor-happy writers are no exception. But the truth is every moment we live, every thing we see, every person we meet, is incomparable and one of a kind — including you!


  3. What a great, brave post from a gorgeous lady! Rock on, Louise. No need to enter me in the contest – I’ve already read this fabulous book. You’ll want to win it!


    1. Janet, you are too kind. Well, not too kind, since I’ll take all the posts like this you want to send my way :-). Thanks!


  4. Yes, Louise, you are beautiful inside and out! And the generous teacher in you comes out in this post. I already have your book, too — so no need to enter me.


    1. Wow, thanks so much, Lisa! I’m beginning to think I’ll just skip the mirror and just read these lovely posts!


  5. Louise,
    I enjoyed your sense of humor and coming to terms with your mirror image. I don’t need a copy of your book–but just wanted to say–it’s a great thing that we still have our teeth! Keep smiling! 🙂


    1. Thanks for writing, Carol, and from all the people that already have the book, I’m wondering why my royalty checks aren’t larger 🙂


  6. You know, I think it’s possible – just possible – that we actually look better as we get older. We certainly do look more interesting. When I look at my high school portrait I just see a girl – generic girl. But now I think I’m rather unique. Life has marked me in some special ways. Don’t you think that happens to all of us? And wouldn’t it be marvelous if that were the beauty goal of our culture – to look as much as possible like ourselves?


  7. Hi Louise..from the first time we met I recognized your special spirit and beauty..inside and out. What joy you share with all you meet…joy and love for each other and life. Thank you for sharing these thoughts on aging. I know that first morning mirror view will be different from now on!


    1. Bev, after all the love you’ve shown your mom, your family and your friends, I know you’re getting lots back. But I’m glad if you’ll be taking time to send some to yourself, too!


  8. Hey, Louise, I’m going to introduce myself to me each morning, too. And I’ll share a few fond memories as I do. Love that idea. But I think I’ll do it without my glasses on and before my first cup of coffee. No need to enter me in the contest, I have your awesome Black Pearls. Someone is in for a real treat.


    1. I’m near-sighted, too, Bonnie! And I love that soft-edge world I see without the specs! Thanks for your comment!


  9. I just think if I hit the road and keep moving, I will be a happy blur and will not need to think about my saddlebag stomach and chicken neck. Life is good. Thanks for reminding us.


  10. Oh, Louise! What a beautiful post and one that I needed. You are so right, there is no need to be critical of one’s reflection. I love the idea of smiling and clapping. A smile makes us all look 100 % better, anyway. Barbara’s blog looks so interesting. I’ll have to check in occasionally. And you know I love Black Pearls. Each tale is miles better than the original! Miss you, beautiful lady. You are timeless! or would you rather be ageless?


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