Brand building through storytelling

Published in Chatelaine

Remember this photo? It appeared at the top of my Editor’s page in Chatelaine. Every month for 10 years, I’d set aside a day for my favorite task: writing to readers like you about life as a woman in these times. The more personal this column became, the more heartfelt the response. That cherished monthly ritual informs every word I write and every workshop I lead for other writers. It showed me that one person’s story, honestly and vividly told, is to some degree everyone’s story.



  • September 3, 2010 : Beauty in motion
    I once thought I wanted to be a ballerina. What I really craved was the beauty of every woman who moves with assurance and grace, never mind a less-than-perfect body. An eccentric, small-town ballet teacher pointed the way.
  • July 20, 2010 : Losing it
    I once owned a man's silk paisley scarf in burgundy, cream and navy blue. It was the kind of thing that looks expected on a silver-haired guy in pin-stripes, but playful on a 30-something woman in jeans and a T-shirt. I wore that scarf so often that it smelled of my favourite scent and felt like an extension of my skin. One day I wore it to a movie. Halfway home, I realized that I'd left it on the seat. I rushed back but no one had seen a paisley scarf. Something plummeted inside when I knew for sure that I had lost it.
  • April 27, 2010 : The walking life
    It started years ago as a multi-tasking move. With one brisk daily walk to work, I could turn my commute into a fitness program. No more jostling for space on crowded subway cars, no more sprints to the gym between meetings. Come to think of it, maybe I wouldn't need the gym at all (no more annual fees). What a plan!
  • April 22, 2010 : A fine funeral
    Way back before anyone I knew had died, I cringed at the very thought of funerals. I pictured dark rooms, fussy floral arrangements, ministers droning pieties about people they'd never even met. I've since discovered that a funeral can be rich in potential---for creativity, for celebration, for a deepened connection with the world. And I've developed a few rough working principles about the elements of life's most underrated ritual.
  • April 21, 2010 : Five years old and smitten by love
    Adults belittlingly call it "puppy love." But there's nothing trivial about the tenderness of children's first longings for each other, or the anguish of their first heartbreaks. That's what I learned from the five-year-old boy who named his doll Rona after me.
  • March 2, 2010 : A word of advice
    At the bottom of my purse lies a battered leather case containing a fistful of cards from people with corner-office titles: Executive Producer of This, Senior Vice-President of That, Grand Poo-Bah of Whatever. My favourite card puts them all to shame. It belongs to a much older woman who announces her well-earned role in life with one authoritative word: "Advice."


  • December 10, 2009 : No safe place: what the Montreal Massacre means to women
    I was heading home from a Christmas party, sated on champagne and smoked salmon, when the car radio broke the news: 14 young women killed at l'Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal by a gunman shouting, "You're all a bunch of feminists!" While I was deciding which earrings to wear with my new silk suit, they had been separated from their male classmates and mowed down just because they were bright, ambitious women intent on careers in engineering.
  • October 13, 2009 : Hats of my life
    My mother died nearly 13 years ago, but for a fleeting second recently I could have sworn I saw her striding by---a gray-haired woman in a chiffon scarf, a billowing black raincoat and her signature touch, a broad-brimmed hat worn at just the right angle. It was my own reflection, proof that after a lifetime of doing things my way (which once included going bare-headed in heat waves and blizzards), I'm not all that different from my mother.
  • May 19, 2009 : My first love
    Robbie and I were five years old when he named his doll Rona after me. We were going to get married someday. Relationships like ours are belittlingly called "puppy love," yet there's nothing trivial or cute about the tenderness of children's first longings for each other or the anguish of their first heartbreaks.
  • May 14, 2009 : Mothers and mentors
    Why every young woman needs a wise female friend to cheer her on---someone who never worried about her report card or grounded her for missing curfew.
  • May 12, 2009 : The daughter I never had
    I always thought I wanted a daughter, but the time was never right for a second baby. I had one excuse after another---until at last I realized that one child was enough for me. It was time to make absolutely certain that my birthing years were over.


  • August 4, 2008 : My son, myself
    I'd been hoping for a daughter who would play with dolls as I used to do. Instead I had a son with a passion for trucks (the noisier, the better). It was not what I expected, but I've learned to like surprises.
  • May 27, 2008 : Away from it all
    When we rented a getaway cottage in Maine one long-ago summer, we pictured ourselves eating fresh-caught lobster on a deck overlooking the water. Little did we know we had rented the homeliest of yurts.


  • November 18, 2007 : Written on the body
    The scars and sags on my body are like dings on a well-used car. But to me these so-called "imperfections" are mementos of where I've been and what's happened along the way.
  • November 9, 2007 : Friends no matter what
    Like a good marriage, the good friendship bends and expands to accommodate life's transitions.
  • September 10, 2007 : Mommy’s too old
    When a woman in her 50s or 60s becomes pregnant, she has another shot at youth. But what does she lose?
  • September 7, 2007 : It’s not my problem
    Liberation means no more search and rescue.
  • August 22, 2007 : My bicultural identity
    I chose to make Canada my home, but the U.S. is still my native land.
  • August 22, 2007 : The hat that got away
    It was perfect in every way, as if the hat gods had created it just for me. But I told myself I couldn't afford it.
  • August 21, 2007 : A parent’s place
    I didn't want to say yes when my right hand man requested an eleventh-hour adoption leave. But I couldn't afford to say no.
  • August 14, 2007 : When your mother dies
    Around the time my mother died, the tender words of other women enveloped me like a quilt stitched by many pairs of hands. Longtime friends, mothers of friends and friends of colleagues, these women had one thing in common: their mothers had died. ("It was 40 years ago," one said, "and I still think of her every day.")
  • August 1, 2007 : Food for the soul
    Every time my whole day falls apart, I know there's always one last chance to set things right. It's called dinner.
  • August 1, 2007 : May I help you?
    I have just spent a weekend unpacking from a move. You can picture the results: armfuls of cut-up boxes and a mountain of overstuffed garbage bags full of junk I should have tossed long ago. Late Sunday night, I made what felt like the hundred-and-forty-seventh trip to the garbage room of our new condominium. I was wondering how many more trips I had to go and whether my back would hold out when I heard a friendly voice call, "Let me help you."
  • August 1, 2007 : For bed or worse
    Why some of the happiest couples choose to sleep in separate beds.
  • August 1, 2007 : My day care kid
    I have a wonderful son. At 24, Ben has friendships that have lasted for close to a decade, passions that range from Greek philosophy to graffiti art and a deep appreciation for women (one woman in particular).

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