Author, Teacher, Psychologist and Speaker


Posted by on Oct 8, 2012 in Blog, Monday Musing, On Writing | 2 comments

One of the finest moments of the annual SCBWIC conference in Charlotte, NC last week-end was the keynote address by Molly O’Neil, Children’s & Young Adult book editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books.

During Molly’s inspirational speech, “We Are All Apprentices: Learning Publishing’s Past While Writing & Illustrating for the Future“, she read to us the following passage from Bobbie Pyron’s A Dog’s Way Home.


A Dog’s Way Home
“I got to follow my north star, Abby honey. Being a professional musician is my dream.”

“Just like the three wise men followed that other star to Bethlehem?” I said.

“Just like.” Daddy nodded like he was agreeing with himself. “Most folks got a north star in their life – something that gives their life extra meaning. Mine is music.”

Without even thinking, I said, “Mine is Tam.”

Tam is Abby’s Shetland sheepdog. An accident separates them and this story is about their efforts to reunite. Not only is Abby certain that Tam is her north star, she is confident that she is Tam’s. It is an excellent story, and a great example of what it means to have a “north star”. And how empty it feels to be without one.

Abby’s story stirred something in me. I realized I had lost my own north star. Certainly, I had had many connections, directions, and paths throughout my life. My star’s description had changed many times. But suddenly I felt a loss, a hole, an ache deep within me – and I knew – I didn’t have that connection, that direction, that beacon.


Ask people what a “north star” is and among the varied answers might be:

It’s Polaris, the brightest star in the sky (even though there are at least 50 stars brighter) and the star that’s most useful for navigating in a northern direction, either by land or by sea.
Or a mountain in Colorado,
North Star Mountain CO
Or a small town in Ohio,
North Star OH
Or a retreat center in California.
North Star Retreat
To others it is a connection,
A beacon,


A moral compass,

Moral Compass


If you find yourself way off course, lost and surprised where your life direction has taken you. If you wake up one day and realize that you aren’t where you want to be – where you thought you would be – where you were headed. If you have lost your way, strayed off your path, changed direction in midstream – you may have lost your north star.

Eye of the storm

If you feel as if your life is trapped in the eye of a hurricane, swirling in the center of a tornado, plummeting through the crevice of an earthquake. If you find that you are sometimes confused, dazed, unhappy, and lonely. If you wonder or question where is your center, your control, your balance – you may need a compass. A beacon. A navigational instrument.

navigational tools


For me, a north star is means of survival. It gives my life meaning, purpose, and direction.


Do you want to change direction and don’t know how to chart your course?

First of all, keep in mind that you can have more than one north star.

For example, some define the north star as anything that guides a person’s decisions based on morals or virtues. This is the moral compass. Certainly an examination of your conscience and spirit joined with your faith will lead you to this north star.

Others, like well-known author and life coach, Martha Beck, describe the north star as the “place where the relationship exists between you and your right life, the ultimate realization of your potential for happiness.” This is the connection. This discovery is made based on a multitude of personal choices, past experiences, desires, needs, fears, ambitions, and emotions.

Still others view the north star as a guiding force that gives their life purpose, meaning, and direction. This is the beacon. This is the “star(s)” that to me is the most vital. This is the zenith of my life. What is my primary goal, my defining reason, my ultimate climax? What do I want more than anything else? Like a character in a novel: What do I want more than anything and what will I do to get it?

Second, your north star may change over time, as you grow and change direction or path. We are constantly evolving and learning new things about ourselves. We might need to reevaluate, refocus, renew.

Once you discover your north star, set your internal compass and follow. Let nothing distract you. Just like Tam and Abby in A Dog’s Way Home.

“I reckon they were all following their north star, just like Daddy.

Thinking of Daddy and his north star made me think of Tam, my north star.  My heart got all heavy and sad.”

My north stars are out there in the universe waiting and shining on me guiding me home. Where is yours?

North Star

For more:

A Dog’s Way Home, Bobbie Pyron

Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live, Martha Beck

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, Rick Hanson PhD

Nike, my North Star





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  1. Ruth Waites and Susan Waites

    Well-done, Ann! Mom and I enjoyed your thoughts.

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