Who Is Bonnie Neubauer?
The Sorta Short Bio:
Bonnie Neubauer is the author of motivational writing books: The Write-Brain Workbook Revised & Expanded: 400 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing (Writer's Digest Books); 303 Writing Prompts: Ideas to Get You Started (Fall River Press/Sterling Publishing); and Take Ten for Writers: 1,000 Inspiring Exercises (Writer's Digest Books). She is also the inventor of Story Spinner, a handheld and digital tool for generating millions of creative writing exercises. Bonnie runs fun and funny writing workshops for all ages and levels.
After her husband died in December 2016, when Bonnie tried to express her grief, she found that words abandoned her. Fortunately, she discovered visual art where she generated a new vocabulary of colors, shapes, and textures. This creativity proved to be transformational and life-affirming. And it also set her on a mission to seek a course that would teach her all sorts of innovative and engaging tools to assist others in their grief. The result was an intensive experience at the Creative Grief Studio where she received a certification as a Creative Grief Support Practitioner. Bonnie works one-on-one and in groups, helping others access their resiliency.
While studying grief, Bonnie attended what should have been a memorial service... but the organizer never showed up. Not wanting everyone to leave without honoring the deceased (one of her husband's best friends), Bonnie gathered everyone and held an impromptu ceremony right in the parking lot. It was such a heart-warming experience, she knew she wanted to bring this concept of nontraditional life celebrations to others. At the Celebrant Foundation & Institute where she became a Certified Life Cycle Celebrant (R), Bonnie learned all about ritual and non-denominational ceremony creation. She is available for funerals, death anniversaries, life celebrations, memorials, and all other healing services for both humans and pets.
By the way, when Bonnie's words finally returned, they showed up in the form of poetry. She is writing a book of grief poetry coupled with art and journal prompts to help others process their loss and gain meaning in life experiencing loss from death.
In her spare time, Bonnie can be found playing, teaching, demoing, or designing board games. With her love of words and language, it's no surprise her first published party game is called ADJitation and has adjectives on cubes.
Bonnie lives in suburban Philadelphia surrounded by waaaay more than a few of her favorite things, including her books, games, craft and design supplies, and cats (Booger and Coolio).
The Way Too Long, and Not in 3rd Person, Bio:
I was born June 29, 1958 in Philadelphia, PA to Arnold and Sandy Neubauer. Back in those days, Dads paced waiting rooms and, in delivery, Moms were knocked out cold. After I was all cleaned up, the nurse brought me in to meet my brown-haired parents. When they saw a baby with a full head of thick, curly, bright red-orange hair, my Mom exclaimed, "That's our baby?" And so my life began.
Three years later when my sister Hope was born, my reign as only child and spoiled first grandchild ended. She had straight, fine blonde hair. But by now, my parents were used to miracles. Three years after that, our sister Kim was born. Finally, a brown-haired baby!
I was an early talker, starting with phrases and shifting quickly to full sentences; I have not shut up since. In school I was a good student - teacher's Pet on occasion, always the goody-two-shoes. I went to a wonderful Kindergarten through 8th grade school in Philadelphia called Finletter Elementary. As an adult I had the honor of being on the board of a non-profit organization, 2andC Cares, that raised almost $20,000 to give back to that school.
I have always been very impressed with humor. Alan Sherman (Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah) was a staple in our household. I STILL pull out the old vinyl LPs and sing along, even though I was one of 2 girls in my elementary school class not chosen for chorus. I also adored Carol Burnett and the Smothers Brothers. If I could have been any character in a TV show, I would have chosen Rhoda - both in her self-deprecating, frumpy side-kick to Mary Tyler Moore days, as well as in her svelte, sharp-tongued, own-series days.
Fast forward now: High School was okay. My first year was at Philadelphia High School for Girls of which I remember little, except that there were pink marble bathrooms. There was also an eight-week teacher's strike which meant I got two summer vacations that year. In tenth grade we moved from the city to Upper Dublin, PA. What a shock that was to my system! One day I was riding inner city subways to school, the next I was on a yellow bus that went by a sheep farm on the way to my new high school. One highlight of these years was my adulation for Harry Chapin. I saw him in concert as often as I possibly could.
My first 2 years of college at Temple University, commuting from home, were very meh. Then, in my Junior Year, I lived in France with a fantastic program from Rutgers University. Every minute was an exciting learning experience or, at worst, a weight gain. A diet of Camembert cheese, baguettes, and wine covered all my favorite food groups not to mention my hips and waist. Rutgers let me attend their campus in New Brunswick, NJ and graduate with only one year in-residence. This was an exception to a school rule, provided I would agree to live on the French floor of a dormitory my senior year. What a weird scenario that was - being in a triple with two freshman roommates! But many of my friends from my junior in France decided to room in the dorm, too. It turned out to be quite a fun year.
I paid a lot of my way through school by working retail jobs where I sold everything from shoes to vitamins to toilet seats. I loved those retail jobs, especially at Christmas when the malls were crowded and stayed open late. Since we didn't celebrate Christmas, this was the only way for me to get my dose of holiday decorations and the anticipation and excitement that I always craved.
I attended one year of graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania where I studied Sociolinguistics. If you're wondering "What's that? What do you do with it?" I asked myself the same thing one morning and dropped out shortly thereafter. True confession: The night before my Master's Exam I bought a book on String Figures and learned how to make an Eiffel Tower out of string while crying over not knowing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
I then had careers in apartment management, advertising sales, telemarketing, and consulting. Nothing jazzed me; nothing ignited my passion. But in the midst of a very dark, phobic, depressed part of my life, during a telemarketing sales call, I met a man who had just started a business-to-business greeting card company. Something clicked (and no, it was NOT call waiting) and I knew from the bottom of my being that I wanted to write greeting cards for him. After a bit of out-of-character persistence from me, he agreed. Three days later I sold him 11 card concepts. THAT WAS WHEN I CAUGHT THE WRITING BUG! And I have never let it go.
The only 'D' I had ever gotten in all my years of school was in Freshman English Composition. What a surprise to find out my niche in the world had to do with writing. I immediately started reading more fiction, reading about writing (especially books by Natalie Goldberg) and actually writing. I wrote resumes for friends and family, hundreds more greeting cards, telemarketing sales scripts, ghost-written articles, handouts for public speakers, scripts for seminars, advertisements, catalog copy (my favorite was for a company that sold erotic chocolates) and brochures.
I also loved timed-writing exercises and the magical pieces they prompted me to create. So much energy in such a short period of time; never knowing what was going to come out of my pen. I attended some workshops using this technique. I even started a novel, Carly's Diary, using this method. Before I knew it, I was leading the workshops. I developed my own style using lots of sensory stimulation, visual prompts, combining unlikely subjects, and not knowing your topic until right before you pick up the pen to write for 10 minutes. Watching a new writer catch the spark is a magnificent moment. Helping a writer get unblocked is a gift. Some folks turned their exercises into published stories and articles. Everyone kept mentioning how they wished they had these types of exercises to do at home.
I thought about writing a book of exercises, but that seemed daunting. Then I remembered a toy I had as a child where you turn wheels with sections of characters' heads and faces to make funny and weird-looking facades. I used that premise to come up with my first invention, Story Spinner, 3 joined wheels (starter, setting, words) that generate millions of creative writing exercises. On this site you can try out some sample exercises or purchase your very own hand-held one. Thousands have been sold throughout the world to writers, teachers, improvisational actors, story tellers, and home-schoolers. The biggest challenge I met with Story Spinner was that it wasn’t a book. All the retailers and catalogers liked it, but wanted it to be in a traditional form so they could sell it easier.
So, after all that, I went ahead and wrote the book that had originally been too daunting. A couple agents and a healthy dose of rejection letters later, in 2005, that book, The Write-Brain Workbook, became a reality. (A big thank-you to my fantastic agent, Jennifer DeChiara and to Jane Friedman at Writer's Digest Books / F+W Media who acquired it!) In 2009 I wrote a follow-up book of writing prompts, Take Ten for Writers which has thousands of exercises geared toward building momentum in the craft of writing. It's quite a thrill and an honor to read blogs, reviews, and postings about these books and how much they help people discover their writing voice, get unblocked, or move a stalled project forward. I adore running creative writing workshops for people of all ages and levels. Note: Please check the calendar for upcoming workshops and, if you would like me to present interactive workshops to your group (any size at all) or at your conference, please contact me.
One day, while trying to figure out why time seems to move more quickly the older you get (like a roll of toilet paper), I realized it had been almost ten years since The Write-Brain Workbook had launched. On a whim, I dashed off an email to my agent asking whether she thought Writer's Digest Books might be interested in a 10th Anniversary Edition. She made an inquiry and they immediately agreed. It's officially called The Write-Brain Workbook Revised and Expanded: 400 Exercises To Liberate Your Writing. And it is big and beautiful. All the complaints I had about the original - it was too small to write in, the art was too dark to write over, and a few of the exercises were not PG-Rated - have been fixed. It is now truly a write-right-in-the-book-workbook with lots of new content. It is spectacular! And you can buy it wherever books are sold. For an autographed copy, please shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Also in 2015 I wrote a book titled 303 Writing Prompts exclusively for Barnes & Noble. It's got a ton of story starters. It's out of print, I believe, but there are still copies floating around.
In the middle of all this creativity, back in 1997, I met my husband through books and writing at a bookstore. At the age of 41 for me and 36 for him, on April 2, 2000 we were married at the Borders Books and Music Store in Springfield, PA where we met. He wore a kilt and I wore a bright red gown for our "storybook" non-traditional wedding. It was written up in all the local papers and even appeared in a national women's magazine. No one falls asleep during out wedding video because it is the 2-minute piece that one of the local news stations filmed during the wedding. We were so sad when Borders but my husband bought the sign that hung in the front of the store as an anniversary present for me the year they closed so we could keep up our Borders addiction.
Sadly, this fairy tale part of my life came to an end when my husband died of Stage IV Renal Cancer on December 15, 2016. By the time he was diagnosed it had already metastasized to his lungs and lymph. We did all we could, but in just 13 months it was all over. The last weeks of his life were quite grueling and I feel a great sense of honor that the last gift I was able to give him including caregiving for him so he could die at home. It was his last wish. As he died I was right by his side, holding him.
After he died and some of the numbness wore off, I realized that words almost completely abandoned me. Writing was no longer something I did. I wasn't even sure I wanted to write again. It took almost a year before the words returned - and with a vengeance. The y came back in the form of poetry, a genre that had always been quite a mystery to me. My plan is to use the poems as a backbone for a book of generative journal prompts for widows. I felt very alone, especially in the early stages of grieving, and would have loved a companion book to help me sort out and express the feelings that changed like the wind. It is my honor to create this for others who sadly have to walk the widowhood path.
Some excerpts from the book are already appearing in journals and anthologies. Here are some links for you to peruse: Months To Years Fall 2018 Journal, What Remains, The Many Ways We Say Good-bye Anthology.
One surprise that happened while I was grieving is that I discovered visual art where I generated a new vocabulary of colors, shapes, and textures. This creativity proved to be transformational and life-affirming. And it set me on a mission to seek a course where I could learn innovative and engaging tools and techniques to assist others in their grief. When I found the Creative Grief Studio I knew I had found my home. The course was quite an intensive and experiential experience. I now have my certification as a Creative Grief Support Practitioner. I now work one-on-one, and in groups, helping others access their resiliency. I have developed a deck of cards that helps open conversations about loss and leads to seeing possibilities other than sadness. It's called Metaphors for Loss and Resilience and I hope to bring it to market so that anyone who needs it can locate their sources of internal and external resiliency.
While studying, I unfortunately had to attend a memorial service for one of my husband's best friends... but the organizer never showed up. Not wanting everyone to leave without honoring the deceased I gathered everyone and held an impromptu ceremony right in the parking lot. It was such a personalized, intimate, and heart-warming experience, that I knew I wanted to bring this concept of nontraditional life celebrations to others. I studied ritual and ceremony creation at the Celebrant Foundation & Institute where I became a Certified Life Cycle Celebrant (R). I am available for funerals, death anniversaries, life celebrations, memorials, and all other healing services for both humans and pets. If you would like to check out my eulogy writing skills, please scroll to the bottom of the page where you can read the one I wrote for myself (for many years into the future) for a class assignment. It would be my honor to help you celebrate your loved ones by creating a space in which they come to life through words and ritual so that their legacy will carry on. I am happy to answer any questions you have about celebrancy, too.
It would be odd if my bio didn't mention another of my great loves - games. As a kid I was very into playing card games and board games (especially Mystery Date, Clue, Yahtzee, and Scrabble), doing puzzles and word games, playing tag, Chinese jump rope, and even play-acting games of school with my best friend, Melinda. (What a sucker I was; when we played school, Melinda was the teacher and I was the student.) As a side note, I never understood dolls. Barbie only became interesting when my friends and I locked her nude in the case with GI Joe. I did, however, think the idea of using straight pins for earrings was pretty clever, albeit a bit dangerous.
Thanks to my enthusiasm for the hobby, it's impossible for a family gathering or evening with friends to go by without playing at least one game. Almost every Friday evening you can find me at open gaming with all my favorite meeples at suburban Philadelphia's best games store, The Games Keep, in West Chester, PA, where we play much more gamerly games. As of this writing, my favorites are Shards of Infinity, Carpe Diem, Riverboat, and Hero Realms. That will likely change before I hit the button to upload this. All you need to do is find my car, however, and take a look in the hatchback. That's where I keep my favorites so they are always close-at-hand.
The part of gaming that I truly enjoy the most is designing them. I signed my first game to BreakingGames.com. It's called ADJitation and it's a party word game with 64 cubes with different adjectives on all sides and a dozen games to play with them. It will hopefully be released during 2019. In the interim, I have a couple other designs up my sleeve. Game design is a hobby that, even though it's a lot of trial and error, really relaxes me.
Speak of relaxing, I think it's now time for me to stop writing. I will leave you with this quote by Henny Youngman: “Triumph is just oomph added to try.” I urge you to go ahead and take that first (or next) step. It's how I live my life and it feels great to wake up every morning knowing I am living my dreams... and sharing them with you.