Announcing: The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest III!

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”  — Philip Pullman

Love for book

Like many writers, the preciousness of words and story led me to become one. They were my escape from difficult times in my youth and helped pave the way to my recovery from anorexia. As many of you know, Sam Levinson’s poem, The Beauty of a Woman, holds a special place in my heart for that reason. It found me at the seemingly precise right time, becoming somewhat of a mantra when my battle with ED (my eating disorder) seemed futile.

When I shared a story of my personal turning point with ED two years ago, I was so blown away by readers’ support, I decided to launch a celebratory fest that had ended up reaching thousands. Each one of you who’s participated is a tremendous gift! Not just to me, but to countless readers. We never know who our stories might reach, becoming the friend/inspiration/sunshine/cheerleader another so desperately needs.

Without further ado, I’m beyond thrilled to announce the third annual Beauty of a Woman BlogFest. Woo hoo!!! I hope you’ll consider joining us. 🙂

An exciting change!

Because we’ve had such awesome participation in the past, the fest will take place over a full week, participants’ posts appearing on my blog on two separate days. As a blogger, you can opt to participate in the original Beauty of a Woman BlogFest or the Beauty of a Woman, Girl Boner Edition. What’s the difference? While the original fest will address beauty in general, the Girl Boner segment will address beauty and sexuality, however you so choose.

Of course, everyone will be welcome to read and celebrate both!

How to participate as a writer:

1. Go to the signup page (using the link below or the tab above) and post a comment to reserve your spot, letting me know if you’d like to join the original or Girl Boner edition.

2. You’ll then write a post related to the fest theme to publish on your blog the day before the fest you’ve selected or by 7am PST the day of. Include the appropriate fest logo and a link to my blog (https://augustmclaughlin.wordpress.com) in your post, inviting readers to check out the fest for fun, inspiration and chances to win groovy prizes!

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3. This year, you must email me a link to your post the day before the fest day—Sunday, February 23rd for Girl Boner posts (for the fest on the 24th) and Wednesday, February 26th for original theme posts (for the fest on the 27th). If you schedule your post to appear by 7am PST on fest-day, please still email me the link in advance! Write BOAW in the subject line so I’ll be sure to spot it.

4. Throughout fest week, visit my blog to read and share others’ posts and potentially win prizes! Readers and writers who participate will have chances to win gift cards (up to $50 in value) and more. Seriously, it’s a lot of fun!

A special prize: To celebrate our very first Girl Boner BOAW edition, I’ll choose two posts from that fest to read on Girl Boner Radio on February 24th! 

If you have any questions, please post it below or send me a Tweet (@AugstMcLaughlin), email or Facebook message. To read Levinson’s poem, check out BOAW writing prompts, sign up and nab the logo, visit the BOAW III Registration page. I can’t wait to celebrate beauty with you! Remember, this fest is open to ALL—women and men of all ages. Feel free to invite your pals!

Lots and lots of love,

August ♥

Any thoughts or questions about the fest? Post them below! I love hearing from you.

Empowering Facts About Beauty: A #BOAW Wrap-Up

Dior quote

If I had any doubt in Dior’s assertion before, the Beauty of A Woman Blog-Festers wiped it full out. I can’t express how grateful I am to everyone who participated. Your stories, remarks, interaction and exponential, far-reaching support lit up the blogosphere, inspiring thousands. If you haven’t yet done so, please give yourself a huge hug, tell yourself how freaking beautiful you are and know that you done GOOD! I hope you enjoyed it at least a tenth as much as I did.

Before the fest, I shared thoughts on Miss Representation, a powerful documentary that explores the media’s portrayal of women. The starting statistics I posted struck me as sad, eye-opening and motivating. We can’t make positive changes if we fail to recognize the problems, or take pride in the differences we’re making (by for example, telling stories) if we’re unaware of their significance.

Fueled up with gratitude, I’ve decided to highlight positive facts regarding beauty today. Rather than see the glass as half full or empty, I prefer to consider it no longer empty, and rich with potential. Focusing on uplifting facts and positive changes underway instills hope. Without hope, there’s no glass at all.

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5 Empowering Facts About Inner/Outer Beauty

1. Happiness breeds beauty. Happiness makes us vibrant inside and out. “When you’re happy your skin will appear healthier, and your hair and nails can actually grow faster,” says dermatologist Richard Fried, M.D., Ph.D. Positive folks also tend to stand taller, he says, and take greater measures of self-care. Studies have also shown that emotional fulfillment and confidence make us more attractive to ourselves and others. So happy people are not only more kind, energetic and grateful, but hot!

2. R&R beautifies. Spa days, vacations and therapy  arguably go further than makeup or chic clothes in terms of beautifying. Stress contributes to everything from low-moods and relationship turmoil to skin problems and unhealthy weight shifts (gains and losses). Real beauty, as so many blog-festers pointed out, relates to personal spirit, gratitude and inviduality. Don’t let stress taint those.

3. Self-acceptance increases sexual satisfaction, making way for increased attractiveness.  Multiple studies indicate that embracing our bodies as they are enhances sexual desire, ability and pleasure. A happy sex life facilitates inner and outer beauty in various ways, by reducing stress, increasing that healthy post-sex “glow,” boosting energy and improving hormone levels.

4. Smiling helps us feel and appear lovelier. “When you smile, even if you’re upset, it feeds the brain signals that make you feel more positive,” explains Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., a happiness researcher at the University of California, Riverside. People who appear happy are more likely to be perceived as beautiful by others, according to her research, and exhibit happiness physically, which cultivates more of both.

5. People are standing up for real beauty and speaking out against demeaning media. And there’s tremendous power in numbers. Over 87,500 people have signed the Miss Representation pledge, supporting fair, empowering media. All over the world, people are tweeting harmful media, using the hashtag #NOTBUYINGIT—and you can, too. Our voices can be heard. What’s yours saying?

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We teach and attract what we believe and reflect.

Last but not least, the winner of a Kindle Fire or Amazon equivalent gift card is…. *drum roll* Jess Witkins! If you missed her uplifting post on what makes a woman “REDHOT,” be sure to check it out. Congratulations, Jess!

How do you celebrate or perpetuate inner beauty? What makes you feel beautiful inside and out? Any highlights or thoughts to share on the fest? I love hearing from you, and am crazy grateful for your support. ♥

The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest II!

“The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart.” —  Audrey Hepburn (poem by Sam Levenson)

BOAW 2013

My trusty thesaurus lists 35 synonyms for beauty: blessing, fairness, loveliness, allure… If you bundled them all together, the result wouldn’t come close to describing the beauty in this fest. I can’t thank you all enough for participating in the second annual BOAW BlogFest. ♥  Whether you’re here as a reader, a contributing writer or both, get ready to laugh, ponder, glean inspiration and possibly shed a few tears.

How to fest (and potentially win a Kindle):

Click on the links below to read bloggers’ posts. For a chance to win a Kindle Fire (or Amazon gift card equivalent), post a comment using the prompts below. For an additional chance, share this post on Twitter tagging me @AugstMcLaughlin and/or #BOAW. For 10 more chances, visit all of the links between now and 5pm PST Monday, February 25th. Post a comment and/or “like” each one, then come back here and let me know you’ve done so. I’ll keep tabs on entries and share the drawing-based winner next week. The best news? As corny as it may sound, we all win by simply participating. (Once you start read contributors’ stories, you’ll understand what I mean…)

Contributors: If you do not see your post, it’s because I wasn’t able to locate it or it wasn’t posted by the cut-off time. Don’t worry—I can still include it! Please post your link in a comment on the registration page and I’ll jump on it promptly.

Without further ado, I’m thrilled to present the The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest II!

  1. Amber West: A Beautiful Stream of Consciousness – Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
  2. Liz: The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
  3. Bill Parker: On the Multitudinous Beauties of Women
  4. Coleen Patrick: Service Chic vs. Soul Deep: The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
  5. Barbara McDowell: Beautiful Things Blossom From Coccoons
  6. Kourtney Heintz: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest: Lessons From Grandma H
  7. Kassandra Lamb (Misterio Press): You Are Beautiful and Strong, Sweet Child of Abuse
  8. Marcy Kennedy: What Would You Trade to Look Young Forever?
  9. Rebekah Loper: 2013 Beauty of a Woman Blogfest – Comfortable in My Own Skin
  10. Lissa Clouser: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest: Part 2—An Unlikely Role Model
  11. Jennette Marie Powell: Beauty of a Woman: Don’t judge us by our covers!
  12. Amaryllis Turman: Beauty BlogFest 2012 – What is REAL BEAUTY?
  13. Kathryn Chastain Treat: The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest II
  14. Donna Galanti: Beauty is the Place Where Love Resides
  15. Linda Adams: My Relationship With My Glasses
  16. Ellen M. Gregg: The Beauty of a Woman: Inside Out
  17. Audrey Kalman: I want to be like Carol Winfield even when I’m dead
  18. Catherine Johnson: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest and Giveaway!
  19. Tameri Etherton: Shakespeare Totally Knew the Beauty of a Woman
  20. Catherine Krummey: Beauty (tumbler)
  21. Jenny Hansen: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest: Do Breasts Define a Female?
  22. Lindsay: Chronically beautiful…
  23. Inion N. Mathair: Beauty of a Woman’s BlogFest
  24. Jennifer M. Zeiger: The Eye
  25. Michel King: BOAW Fest – Eye of the Beholder
  26. K.M. OSullivan: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest 2013: The Beauty Box
  27. Kate Wood: The Beauty in Me
  28. Sabrina Garie: Owning Your Own Beauty
  29. Kerry Ann: Beauty of a Woman: Beyond Skin Deep
  30. Kim Jorgensen Gane: The Beauty of Women Friends
  31. FactoryMaid: Lying in the Mirror
  32. Renee A. Schuls-Jacobson: The Beauty of a Grandmother
  33. Jess Witkins: What Makes a Woman REDHOT?
  34. Sue: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest: Skin Deep
  35. Misty Dietz: The Paradox and Beauty of a Woman
  36. J. Keller Ford: The Beauty of a Woman
  37. David N. Walker: Beauty of a Woman
  38. Erin/Lux: One sees clearly with the heart
  39. Reese Ryan: Phenomenal Woman – That’s Me
  40. Maggie Amanda: 30 Years of Learning About Beauty
  41. Lena Corazon: Beauty of a Woman Blogfest: The Power of Natural
  42. Subtextreadalwaysnew: Moments of Beauty
  43. Nicole Basaraba: Beauty of a Woman – Body Culture
  44. Ingrid Schaffenburg: The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
  45. Clearly Kristal: Mirror, Mirror
  46. Kristine Erickson Parker: Woman, love thyself!
  47. Patricia Sands: She Walks in Beauty ~ Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
  48. Vivian Kirkfield: Martha Washington: America’s First First Lady
  49. Debra Eve: Beauty of a Woman: An Ode to Erma Bombeck
  50. Julie Glover: Don’t Hate the Skinny Girl: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest
  51. Kecia Adams: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest: Beautiful Moments

What has struck you most about this fest? How do you define beauty? Who do you feel most embodies it?

To join our discussion on Twitter, use the hashtag #BOAW.

IN HER SHADOW Paperback Release and Giveaway

As a kid, my mouth seemed to house only sweet-teeth. I’d eat sugar cubes by the handful, given the chance, and once trick-or-treated in the heat of July (dress up plus free candy: a total sweet-o-holic win-win). Years later, when disordered eating set in, sweets became the bad boyfriend I had to resist, or face punishment. It’s a beautiful thing to be past all of that, particularly since it’s allowed me to recognize and pursue my writing dreams.

Good thing nature makes "candy," too.

Good thing nature makes “candy,” too.

In his book How to Write a Damn Good Thriller, James Frey describes concern over social injustice as the reason authors write certain thrillers, such as Blood Diamond, Dr. Stangelove, Serpico and The Constant Gardener. The authors feel compelled to shed light on and perhaps help correct these injustices, he says, thereby improving the world. I certainly relate to that motivation, and in my own meager way, that’s one of the things I’ve tried to do with In Her Shadow: shed some light into what eating disorders feel like from the inside. From understanding stems growth.

Since my e-book release last month, there have been exhilarating highs and proverbial dips. One day after I received praise from Kirkus Reviews, a reader called my novel unedited, and my use of the acronym  E.D. “lazy” and mistakable for erectile dysfunction. (You can laugh. I have. :)) Like all books, mine is not for everyone, nor is the rocky ride known as publishing. When our work resonates with readers, though, WOW. It’s a remarkable feeling that makes bumps seem bearable and sitting down to the empty page again and again a near given. (Every one of you who posts reviews for books you enjoy, give yourself a big ol’ hug!)

I thought about sharing the worst and best reviews today, but Mr./Mrs. Erectile Dysfunction included spoilers. Instead I’ll share two of the most touching:

I was breathless from the first word I read!, January 28, 2013

This book touched my heart before I even turned the first page.

Ms. McLaughlin’s writing is elegant, gentle, subtle, and drew me into her story by the heart, stirring concern and compassion for her exquisitely vulnerable characters. She writes about pain without assault or brutality. Whereas the stories of many authors leave one feeling bruised and hurting, August evokes caring, tenderness and a deep empathy.

Of special note is the sensitivity with which she dealt with the dynamic of an eating disorder, bringing me into the experience in such a vulnerable way that I was allowed to live it, sharing the anguish of it, not just looking at it and “understanding” as an observer. This is not only incredible writing, but a gift to those who struggle with eating disorders, unable to find the words to describe their torment to a culture that cannot comprehend the “illogic” of their behavior. — Psychologist/Author, Jan Harrell

The other came via email from a woman who’s struggling with bulimia. With her permission, here is an excerpt:

I’ve read lots of books about eating disorders, but this is the first time I was like, “Yes. The author gets its.”  I gave it to my boyfriend to read. I think it’s helping him understand it, and me… Thanks for writing In Her Shadow. It gave me strength. I also had fun reading it, which is saying a lot. (It must be good to distract me from my freaking disease. :)) I hope you always keep writing. — J.

And here is the brand-spankin’ new back cover, by the ever-fabulous Steena Holmes:

IHS back

In celebration of my paperback release and in honor of J. and her courageous battle, I’ve decided to offer a fun little giveaway. To qualify, follow these two steps:

1. Pop over to Amazon between now and February 2nd—and order In Her Shadow.

2. Email me your purchase confirmation (august at augustmclaughlin dot com) and where you’d like your LOVE YOUR BODY affirmation magnet sent. Yep! Everyone who orders within the first two days can claim one.

Thanks so much for the continual support, all. It means more to me than healthy or sugary sweets ever could.

What’s your main writing motivation? Any funny/horrible or rave reviews of your work you’re up for sharing? What feedback or compliment has taken you by surprise?

Announcing: The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest II!

Words, stories and music… I struggle to think of entities more powerful. When I was enduring the darkest time of my life, the eating disorder I shared in my last post, this poem struck me like a dart between the eyes, pinning me to a wall of “What if?” What if its words hold true—not just rationally or solely for other people, but in my heart, soul and beliefs? What if we’re all beautiful and the truest, deepest beauty has little to do with shape or size? What if the “something more” so many of us long for exists inside of us, waiting to be unlocked and cherished? What if I wasn’t afraid of being large, but living large? And in doing so, missing out on the most remarkable beauty of all?

The Beauty of a Woman

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody.
Remember, If you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows, and the beauty of a woman with passing years only grows!”

Authored by Sam Levenson, quoted often by Audrey Hepburn

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Eating disorders, like many addictions and fixations, have little to do with aesthetics. Whether we’ve had such an illness or not, most of us are not strangers to insecurity or harmful attempted ways to cope. We try to diet away our lack of self-esteem, drink to douse our pain or party, sex, eat or shop our way to fulfillment. Sadly, these efforts only mask and stunt the authentic beauty we’re capable of while the underlying issues grow deeper.

The answer? There are no simple ones. But life has taught me that sharing our thoughts, beliefs and stories, expressing ourselves creatively and joining forces with like-minded others has the power to uplift, open eyes, bring healing and even turn lives around.

Last year, over 40 writers shared touching, honest, poignant and laugh-out-loud funny posts in the first annual Beauty of a Woman BlogFest. Thousands collectively enjoyed the submissions, turning that day and numerous following into a beauty-celebrating extravaganza. Thanks to everyone who made last year’s event successful, I’m THRILLED to announce the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest II.

What: A blog-fest designed to celebrate beauty, however you define it. BOAW 2013

Who: YOU! The fest is open to women and men.

When: Friday, February 22nd

Where: Right here!

How: Sign up on the blog-fest page. On fest-day, stories will appear in order of appearance, so the sooner you sign up, the better. You’ll post your installment on your blog on Thursday, February 21st, along with this year’s badge. On the 22nd, submission links will appear here. Participants will then read, comment on, “like” and share everyone’s posts throughout social media.

Why: To have fun, be inspired and entertained, inspire or entertain others, gain exposure and blog readers and, potentially, win a Kindle Fire or equivalent Amazon gift card. (All participants and commenters will be entered into the prize drawing. The more blogs you visit, the greater your chance at winning becomes.)

To signup and for blog post prompts, head over to this link: Beauty of a Woman BlogFest 2013. To check out last year’s fest, visit the BOAW BlogFest 2012. If you’d prefer to participate as a reader only, please do.

Did you participate in the BOAW blog-fest last year? What was your experience like? Any questions about this one? What words have struck you at a particularly important time? If you have questions about the fest, please post them in the comments below or email me. (The BOAW tab is intended for signups only.) I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!