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.


Communication: The Story of Two Anns

Ann Langrall

The woman in the yellow feathered boa is my great-aunt, Ann. She’s ready to toss rice at my wedding.

When I turn to this photo in my album, I hear her voice, all the words over all the years.

Stories:  About her girlhood, her adventures with her twin sister, my grandma.

The Twins

Explanations: Of the bells in her bell collection…

Ann's Bell  Collection

Her Danish Christmas plates…

Christmas Plate

The dolls she brought me from her travels.

Ann's Dolls

And advice, lots of it:  “You can lose your looks and you can lose your money, but you can’t lose your education.”

VCFA MFA Diploma

Two years after my wedding, my Aunt Ann, frozen from Parkinson’s Disease, went silent.

The grand lady, who once entertained and guided us with her words, never spoke.

A sad ending to a vigorous life.

Here comes the story of another Ann, Annie Glenn, the wife of astronaut John Glenn.

This story has a happier ending.

Annie Glenn

Annie, like her father, stuttered as a child. She and John, hometown sweethearts, married in 1943.

John and Annie Glenn

Frequent moves as a military wife proved challenging for someone with a communication disorder.

Then John Glenn soared into outer space.  As the wife of a national hero, Annie was called on for interviews and public speaking opportunities.  More challenges.

In 1973, she enrolled in a  program at the Communications Research Institute at Hollins College in Roanoke, Virginia.

Wonderful success!

When John heard Annie speak  for the first time without stuttering, he dropped to his knees in prayer. Read more about her speech therapy in this article titled “John Glenn’s True Hero.”

Listen to Annie speak in this video:

In 1983, the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) awarded Annie Glenn their first national award for  “providing an inspiring model for people with communicative disorders.” The Annie Glenn Award, established in 1987, is now given each year to an individual who achieves distinction despite a communication disorder.

Two Anns.

Both vibrant women with insighful and witty words to share.

If my aunt were alive today, help would be available for her.  Here’s one article addressing communication and Parkinson’s Disease.

ASHA’s website will lead you to excellent information on communication disorders. Click here.  To find an audiologist or a speech-language therapist in your area, use this search tool.

Don’t let a communication disorder silence those you love, young or old (or yourself). Help awaits!

ASHA Logo Horiz_Apollo

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