i wrote a novel called what matters most, and once again i've been putting a question mark at the end of the title, asking myself the question.    i guess you'd say i'm an emotional sort, and i really want to understand what i feel. writing helps me with this.  the most wonderful things, the most painful things, all of life touches my heart, and i bring it to my desk. characters come to me, and through them i tell the stories that tear me apart and put me back together.  when i was younger i was motivated by need and desire--full-out, pedal to the metal, have to have it kind of thing.  believe me, i still have my moments, but now the feelings are tempered by, i hope, some degree of self-awareness.  that comes from writing.

my early novels told what i knew as a young woman.  as time goes on, and life hands me more experience, they reflect what i have learned--not just factually, but emotionally.  shades of marian the librarian in "the music man", sadder-but-wiser-girl that she was.  am i saying too much here?  i'm in the mood to tell you everything.

last night i took a ride along the coast with a friend.  there was moonlight on the sea.  lots of new houses had been built in the once-open space.  nature is so staggeringly beautiful, and we were saying how sometimes we don't appreciate what we've got till it's gone.  at which point i began to sing joni mitchell's big yellow taxi -- i couldn't help myself.  "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot..."  (poor friend, having to hear me sing.)

you know me well enough to know that seeing habitat destroyed and creatures killed makes me cry.  (it really does...i actually hug trees.)  but life has many metaphorical parking lots.  you can pave over relationships, too.  i know, because in the past i've done it.  such a human tendency to want resolution--i'm right, you're wrong, i'm bad, you're good.  or, maybe you're bad, i'm good.  no in between, no grey area, no room for the maybes that come with taking a more compassionate, realistic, look at life.  (see above: sadder but wiser.)

i may be falling in love--with the world as it is, not as i would have it.  to put it another way, i'm finding it easier to look at what is true than to pretend something else.  yesterday someone told me that things happen if they're supposed to--no amount of forcing or denying or hiding will change what is.   so why not practice radical acceptance, and lovingkindness for where we are right here, right now?

so what matters to me is love, family, friends, honesty, this broken paradise, moonlight on the sea and knowing it won't last forever but will come back again, gratitude for what i've been given, and the awareness that comes through living life one day at a time.


By the Sea

We've been posting videos on this website for some time now...but I'm at the beach shooting a video for The Silver Boat and can't wait for you to see it (soon!) Mike O'Gorman, my friend and video director, shot footage on the beach and by a fireplace with white tiles of dolphins, sea horses, starfish.  

I talk about characters, sisters, a few secrets from the novel.  The sea is so blue, the sun shining, and while we were shooting, a pod of dolphins swam past.  I built a sandcastle, and the waves washed it away.

Then we went swimming, because how could we not?

Advice To Young Writers

Luanne Rice, author of 29 novels, shares some of the methods that have made her such a successful writer.

Luanne Rice's Shark Video

New York Times bestselling author, Luanne Rice, tells of her chance encounter with a Shark.

Sea Education Association

Sea Education Association by Luanne Rice

November 1975, Woods Hole.

One stormy November night, studying in a carrel at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) Library, I picked up my pen, wanting to capture the moment.  Feelings of being at SEA, living in Woods Hole, learning about the oceans from great teachers, preparing to join WESTWARD in the Caribbean…  I wrote: “The wind is howling across Eel Pond, clanking in the halyards of boats on their moorings.  Soon I’ll be going to sea.  What will happen?”

I still have that notebook.  Looking back now, did I realize then that I was in the midst of the single most influential experience of my life?  I knew that I wanted to be a writer, and at nineteen had the resounding sense that I was completely unqualified by life to write about anything worth reading.  SEA changed all that.

We met WESTWARD in St. Thomas, and I was assigned to C-Watch, with Mike Phelps as the watch officer.  I spent the first night on lookout—standing at the bow, watching for obstacles, more vigilant than I had ever been.  The wind was so salty and warm, the sea flashed with bioluminescence, and by the time I was relieved by the next student, I was already transformed by the fact of having helped guide my ship and shipmates through the night.

Our cruise track would take us through the Lesser Antilles, across the Old Bahama Channel, and into the Turks and Caicos as we tracked humpback whales.  We hung hydrophones over the side and recorded their songs.  We watched the whales breach and dive, swim alongside the boat with their newborns.   The science we did challenged previously held ideas about migratory routes and about where and when the whales mated and birthed their young.  I internalized the experience of what I observed and felt, and I have been writing about it ever since.

So many of my characters have benefited from my experience with SEA.  The oceanographer in ANGELS ALL OVER TOWN, my first novel, got started aboard a schooner like WESTWARD.  The marine biologist in SAFE HARBOR researched humpbacks in the Caribbean.  I write a lot about artists who paint nature, and I attribute their attention to the beauty and minutiae of various species to my time spent in the shipboard lab.  The meteorologist played by Gena Rowlands in the film version of CRAZY IN LOVE studied in Woods Hole and used to hear the halyards clanking in the wind blowing across Eel Pond.

Most of my novels take place on oceans and shorelines; I can’t even imagine my work without everything I learned from my time in SEA.  Not just the facts taught in class and on board ship, but the sense I gained of the world and my place in it.  The enormity of the sea, the capacity we have to sail it, our responsibility to each other, to future generations, to the sea itself…

I stopped believing that young writers, including myself, lack things to say—instead, it’s more a matter of learning to trust oneself and one’s voice.  Even so, I consider SEA to be my Hemingway experience: Young Woman and the Sea.  I sailed by the stars, followed whales, climbed a mountain on Mona Island, spent Christmas far from land on Silver Bank, watched sharks in a feeding frenzy in Mayaguez Harbor, pondered existence.

Amy Gittell, my Woods Hole roommate and WESTWARD shipmate, has remained a wonderful friend.  I’ve always felt grateful to Dewitt and Lila Acheson Wallace, founders of Reader’s Digest, for giving me the scholarship that made my time at SEA possible—ironically, my work is now published in many languages in their Select Editions, and my gratitude extends to SEA every time I see one of those volumes and realize how much of my material comes from my time there.

One of my favorite words, and states of being, is inspired.  To inspire means, literally, to breathe life into, to impel, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration.

I think back to the wind that long ago November night, when I wrote: “Soon I will be going to sea.  What will happen?”

Now I know: I was about to be inspired.

For more information about SEA, please visit

What Matters Most

With every New York Times bestseller, Luanne Rice illuminates yet another of the secret wonders of the heart. Her unforgettable evocations of family, friendship, and loves lost and won in such novels as The Edge of WinterSandcastles, and Summer of Roses give voice to our most powerful emotions. Now she brings back two of her most beloved characters to tell of their journey across the sea to unravel the mysteries of a shared past—and two undying love affairs... Sister Bernadette Ignatius has returned to Ireland in the company of Tom Kelly to search for the past—and the son—they left behind. For it was here that these two long-ago lovers spent a season of magic before Bernadette’s calling led her to a vocation as Mother Superior at Star of the Sea Academy on the sea-tossed Connecticut shore. For Tom, Bernadette’s choice meant giving up his fortune and taking the job as caretaker at Star of the Sea, where he could be close to the woman he could no longer have but whom he never stopped loving. And while one miracle drew them apart, another is about to bring them together again.

For somewhere in Dublin a young man named Seamus Sullivan is also on a search, dreaming of being reunited with his own first love, the only “family” he’s ever known. They’d been inseparable growing up together at St. Augustine’s Children’s Home, until Kathleen Murphy’s parents claimed her and she vanished across the sea to America. Now, in a Newport mansion, that very girl, grown to womanhood, works as a maid and waits with a faith that defies all reason for the miracle that will bring back the only boy she’s ever loved.

That miracle is at hand—but like most miracles, it can come only after the darkest of nights and the deepest of heartbreaks. For life can be as precarious as a walk along a cliff, and its greatest rewards reached only by those who dare to risk everything…for what matters most.