Widdershins | W.O.R.D. Ink
Whether it’s teaching a student to become a more vivid creative writer, a more effective analytical writer, or a more selective business writer, Vanessa can do it all.Meli and Stephen Rose
Vanessa captured the essence of what I wanted to relay on my site without sounding trite, unlike my experience with previous writers.Martin Pugh, Musician
Vanessa Ziff Lasdon possesses the dynamic combination of an incisive intellect and boundless passion when it comes to teaching her craft and sharing skills with her students.MaryLynn Richmond
Ms. Vanessa has challenged me to stretch my writing and I am excited for what I will do next.Evan, 3rd Grade
I know that the many fun and challenging lessons I’ve learned from Ms. Ziff will help me achieve my goal of one day being a professional writer and filmmaker.Jaren S. 7th Grade, The Buckley School
The writing skills my daughter, now excelling in ninth grade English Honors, left Vanessa’s class with continue to be an invaluable set of resources.Betsy Leva
Ms. Ziff set the foundation for my analytical, constructive, and creative skills. Whether writing a sonnet or writing an essay, I still have her lessons in my mind.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
My son learned more about writing and literary appreciation from Ms. Ziff in fifth grade than in any other year of school. I wish all teachers had Vanessa’s passion for teaching and inspiring!Kim Ford
It's obvious that Vanessa is a wordsmith: "Write. Observe. Revise. Discover...W.O.R.D."  These are the four essential ingredients for becoming a writer; two of them about the work (writing and revising) and two of them about the joy (observing and discovering.) Vanessa accomplishes it all.  Julie Larios, award-winning poet and children’s author
Vanessa got my 8-year old son excited and intrigued to dig deeper into his experiences and bring his thoughts to life. Now Evan’s words dance and sing, which makes me want to dance and sing!Sally Micelotta

Vanessa is an outstanding writer and a joy to work with.

Aimee Trudeau, Web Developer,
What our daughter values most about her time in Vanessa's class is being inspired to become an organized writer who could convey her thoughts in a meaningful manner.Laurie and Chris Harbert
Ms. Ziff is definitely not just my teacher and tutor; she is my mentor.Lexi 7th Grade, Harvard Westlake
The skills Vanessa taught my son--particularly the value of revising many times […] attention to detail, and high standards—are still with Nico several years later.Liz McNicoll, Attorney, Paramount Pictures
Vanessa’s methods are creative, thorough and innovative. She makes writing fun and has turned our daughter’s “like” of writing into a true “LOVE”.The Altmans
I learned as much from teaching with Vanessa as any of her students under her guidance. Where so many others fall back on old tricks, Vanessa taps into her extensive experience to invent new methodologies for each and every one of her clients.Patrick Kieffer, Fifth Grade – English & History, The Packer Collegiate Institute
Having an eight-year old highly gifted boy was not enough to make him put all those brilliant ideas on paper. Daniel feels constantly challenged by Vanessa and that ignites him.Liliana Benitez
Ms. Ziff always pushed me to do my best, and never let me slack off.  She introduced me to my love of writing and gave me the confidence I needed both academically and in myself.Georgia 9th Grade, The Buckley School
Vanessa transformed our son Josh from a decent writer into an excellent writer.  We wholeheartedly recommend Vanessa and her ability to draw out the best in your child’s writing ability.Jill and Larry Krutchik
Ms. Ziff is always organized, resourceful, and ready for anything. She believes in a process, [...] the best of all being the Ms. Ziff approach, which makes her spectacular.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Ms. Ziff’s friendly demeanor and enthusiasm made communicating easy and learning exciting. She taught us to understand and appreciate the material, and have fun in the process.Alivia 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
All of us remember teachers who inspired us to greater heights and who influenced our lives. Vanessa Ziff Lasdon has played this role in my daughters' lives.Jack Tauber, M.D.
I honestly don’t know what kind of a writer and reader I would be without the tools I learned with Ms. Ziff. She was always a very understanding, rigorous, and involved teacher, and an incredible mentor.Maddie 9th Grade, Marlborough School
Vanessa is high-energy smarts and charm, the kind of writer and teacher who captures and captivates readers of all ages.New York Times bestselling author, Cynthia Leitich Smith
Vanessa is truly a one-of-a-kind teacher. She’s extremely organized, communicates ideas effectively, helps motivate, and has a lively, engaging teaching style that brings out the best efforts in all of her students.Howard Tager
Ms. Ziff maintains a good balance of knowing when to give more help and when to insist that you rise to the challenge of the learning situation. She instills confidence, honors excellence, and respects effort.Kenneth 8th Grade, Harvard Westlake
Vanessa is a true master of her craft. She is a blast to work with, completely trustworthy and utterly authentic. To work with Vanessa is a privilege; you just want to soak up all her talent, and bottle it up for yourself! She is an inspiration.Sarina Fierro, Head of Lower Elementary, Curtis School
Vanessa’s vast skills, complete dedication, and clear purpose construct a solid core for every student she teaches. Her passionate nature produces both a fun and rewarding learning experience.Michele Noble, Director, Writer, Filmmaker
Vanessa’s greatest ability is to help each student realize his or her own untapped potential. It’s the stuff that changes lives!Jacqueline Frohlich
While we continue to be impressed by Vanessa’s many attributes, it is her high energy level, extraordinary patience, and passion for what she does that make her truly unique.Melissa and Rob Weiler
Vanessa has a gift for inspiring even the most reluctant writer and her passion for writing is infectious. She is a favorite workshop leader at our Young Writers’ Conferences.Julie Moore & Rena Svetic, Young Writers’ Conference Founders

Alice…in Widdershins

Widdershins. Isn’t that a great word? Means “counterclockwise energy” in Wicca tradition. I actually borrowed the word from an interesting 2010 lecture by poet, author and professor Cynthia Huntington, while at a VCFA alumni retreat. I collect weird words (wabi sabi is another favorite of mine. Means “perfection in imperfection” in Japanese), in case I ever decide to recycle them into new creations, such as for today’s post. 

On Widdershins, and counterclockwise energy.

The kind of unusual, down-the-rabbit-hole energy required for…Revisions.

down the rabbit hole

Mary Blair

Bear with me while Cynthia and I get a little Out There. During the revision, process part of the writer’s job is to test her story, to, as Cynthia tells it, Unwind its parts without the intention of reaching a set destination.” (a la Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, her chat with the Caterpillar, the triumphant victory over the Jabberwocky, and back again to Alice’s napping spot in the grassy knoll.)

tea party

Mary Blair


Mary Blair

Kenney Mencher


Mary Blair

Once a work-in-progress is in full-draft form, the writer feels as though she’s fought her way, blind and pregnant, through a war-torn country, and survived. She’s alive, thanks to her Muse, but jaded. Exhilarated and exhausted all at once. The wellspring of spirit and drive that gave birth to such a story must be replenished. And at such a vulnerable time (a time when so many stories wind up stuck in a drawer the rest of their days), the four-faced feral wildebeest of writer’s block, Mr. Grumble (aka Bully-Procrastinator-Downer-Micro-Manager), emerges on the page, ready to crash, slash, crush, and dash it all to hell.

Grumble, the Writer's Block

This is a time to be kind to yourself. Muses respond to kindness. They are wispy and wonder-full, nimble and playful, wreathed in widdershins. Coax your Muse back out by starting from a tiny place of daring within your self that simply says, “I accept.” Cynthia tells us that these two magic words allow the form of our story to return back into spirit,” unwinding back to the birthplace of our story: the dreams and images we first generated in our mind’s-eye. This is the home of widdershins and rabbit holes. Where every ending is a doorway.

Mary Blair

Mary Blair

this way that way

Mary Blair

cheshire cat

Mary Blair

Once you have returned, then do as Alice would: Ask Questions. The Cheshire Cat will gleefully explain, “Why, you already know the answers to all of them.” And Cynthia reminds us that, “It’s not a matter of qualification, but of opening yourself up to providing the answers. Be willing to relent to the pieces in your story; they are not nearly as powerful when they are in your conscious control.”

For who or what is your character without the power objects you’ve placed inside your story: the Drink Me bottle, the flower garden, The Queen of Hearts and White Rabbit, the deck of cards. These are archetypes. Metaphors. Each person, place or thing you set inside your story can be the center of story. (In fact, each IS the center of its own story when the main character is not around.) Listen and observe each object, person, and place. “They have so much more to offer than what is in your conscious control,” Cynthia says. Allow them to “live beyond the goal and direction of your controlled story. They are rich gifts,” ones that – when you listen and observe closely, will take you down a new rabbit hole of wonder for your story.

drink me

flower garden

queen of hearts2

deck of cards

During the revision process, use the power objects in your story to wind and unwind the world you’ve created with 


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