I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Stigma Fighters’ CEO and founder, Sarah Fader. Here is the podcast from that interview.
Via Stigma Fighters November 29, 2014 Press Release:
Stigma Fighters is an organization dedicated to spreading awareness about mental health issues in high schools and colleges around the United States.
Stigma Fighters began as a blog series where people shared 1000 word essays about living with a variety of mental illnesses. The organization was founded by Psychology Today and Huffington Post Blogger, Sarah Fader. The basis of the program focuses on the invaluable benefits of sharing one’s story. Now, Stigma Fighters is coming off the Internet and into high schools and colleges. Stigma Fighters chapters are being established throughout the United States, beginning with the New York metropolitan area.
Choosing to bring Stigma Fighters to a school will allow students a place to safely discuss mental health issues. The organization seeks to empower student’s voices and allow them the opportunity to share their stories with confidence and without fear of being judged.
Contributors to Stigma Fighters include Keith Law, ESPN journalist, Rachel Thompson, best-selling author and HuffPost Books Blogger, Michael Coleman, Once Upon a Time actor as well as people from around the world including Australia, The United Kingdom, and Canada.
For further information or to bring Stigma Fighters to your educational community for speaking events and student involvement contact Sarah Fader, founder. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interesting conversations with readers give me a lot to think about, so I like to provide a platform for those conversations.
Someone recently brought up amateur/aspiring v. professional.
I have known people who create guidelines for when a person can call himself or herself an author (or even a writer). It’s the same with most artists. Are they amateur and aspiring or professional and experienced?
Many of us have had this burning passion or determination to do something since childhood. Ideas and urges came, and we responded. We delivered. I feel we know whether we identify as poets, writers, artists, musicians before we ever have a book published, show our work in a museum or get on stage with a band. We may be aspiring to succeed and to master our crafts, but we are not aspiring to be what we are.
I remember a fifth-grade poetry assignment. The kid behind me copied my poem. When the teacher (nun) caught him, he told her he copied it from a book. I imagine he thought he’d get in less trouble for that, I don’t know. Maybe he just wanted me to go down with him. Nevertheless, she believed him. She asked for the book, and I was so confused that I was trying to find this book that didn’t exist… in my desk. (Nuns raising their voices to me invoked terror.) Then something strange happened. All these kids began calling out that this boy was lying because I was a writer, and I had always been a writer… other ten-year-olds! Amusing as it seems, they touched my heart for a lifetime. She asked me again if I copied the poem from a book, and I finally found the courage to say I didn’t. She gave me a gold star and displayed it on the wall for Parent-Teacher Conference Day. I will never forget this; how the kids knew this thing about me because it was already part of my identity.
As another example, my nephew was drawing since the age of five. I have never seen anything amateur about his approach, his expression, or his final product. (As an aside, he’s amazing.)
People may tell you things like, well you’re not published, you’re not an author, or you’re not a writer, even though you have been doing this thing ever since you can remember.
If there is anything to separate the amateurs from the pros, for me, it is the desire and willingness to give your best and give your all.
Pros focus on mastering their craft. They set goals. It is a priority in their lives, and they will devote as much time to it as is possible. They can’t “not” do it. They know the passion is the fire in their soul. It’s their heart. They know it’s who they are.
Whether we are good or not, that is another story, but we have control over that, too.
From early on, characterization and dialogue were my strengths. Description was my weakness. I was not observant. I kept my mind clouded with other things, the obsessions of the moment. Eventually, I realized I had to work hard on that area, and I did with much success.
There’s no doubt in my mind that we often feel we don’t measure up, as people, as artists. If we believe that, that’s when we work to get better: identify problems, find solutions, expand our knowledge, and hone our skills. The desire exists for a reason, and learning is perpetual. We can always do better. That is all a part of mastering.
Of course, this comes with high hope and unsettling realizations.
I can take a little credit for keeping everything (all my clutter) neat and clean and for giving things away when I could sell them. That is right to do if you can do it; therefore, on second thought, no brownie points for this consideration. On this matter, I am serious, but going through cabinets, drawers, closets and shelves, I had to see some humor amid the horror.
Like why are there three jugs of the same laundry detergent and three tubes of aluminum foil and two things of carpet deodorizer or whatever the hell? Did I not bother to check when I needed these things? Yes, we get busy, but that’s nuts.
I can’t count the number of books, yet they moved with me again and again, boxes full of books, and I offer no apologies about hoarding literature. I will make one adjustment. I will give away the bad books. Yes, there are bad books, much as I hate to admit it.
I can certainly throw away those books about things I wanted to do for five minutes like “Become a Personal Trainer” and “The Dumpling Cookbook.” I don’t know when I would have found time for personal training, and by the time you find all the ingredients needed for some of those dumpling recipes, yeah, no…
In my desk, I found pay stubs going back for eight years. Why? Who is going to ask me for my pay stubs from eight years ago? Nobody, that’s who… I will vow to keep a year of stubs and no more.
In the drawers, I rummaged through tops, tops, and more tops. I am talking to myself saying, oh, hey, I forgot I had this top; this is so cute. How much of a hit could it have been, really? I never missed it.
It shouldn’t matter that clothes still fit after twenty or thirty years, and my logic tells me, for that reason, I should keep it. If this is the rule, I get to keep them all.
I have a cashmere coat my mom gave me in 1992. It was hers.Who knows how long she had it, but she kept everything in great condition. It reminds me of her. How do I part with that? I can’t.
The top shelf of my closet was hilarious, even to me. I had cowboy boots, some weird white knee boots, thigh-high boots from the 90s I may have worn once or twice. I had Harley Davidson biker boots from another 90s phase, and boots I never wore that hurt when I tried them on because they obviously didn’t fit…ever. I tossed all of them in the good-bye pile along with the cowboy hats that went with the boots. I counted four cowboy hats, going back to the 80s. I know I was a fan of the TV show Dallas once, but I am a New Yorker. I doubt I’ll ever be required to don the whole cowboy get-up just to visit a ranch.
I found a bunch of hats I never wore and likely would never wear, like this pink baseball cap that somehow reminds me of Britney Spears. I remember using it for a photo once. Other than that, I have no idea how it got in my closet.
There were sweater dresses. You can wear sweater dresses and jerseys with a tiny hole for your head when you’re sixteen or twenty-two because you’re not suddenly hot out of the blue… and then cold again ten minutes later.
I have shoes, shoes, and more shoes though most of them just sit there in the dark. I wear my favorite shoes and boots all the time, and that’s that. They are comfortable. I no longer see a reason to feel uncomfortable ever. As much as I love three and four inch heels, I am tall, so they serve no purpose for me.
It was liberating to part with sacks of stuff. I was almost giddy.
My son, at a young age, told me, “When you have too much stuff, mom, you get rid of some stuff. You don’t just go out and buy more storage (dressers) for the stuff.”
You have probably seen this George Carlin video before, but if you haven’t, you must. I’ve watched it many times. He sure had me pegged.
Never fear. I am changing my ways…
My sister, Denise, recommended minimalist.com to me along with their Facebook page.
While I see the humor in this, I also find it sad.
I realize more and more, how unimportant all this “stuff” is, and while some habits are hard to break, it weighs heavily on my conscience. We take much for granted and become accustomed to a way of life that is far out of reach for many. It can put us out of touch. I have more than enough “stuff” while some don’t even get what they need.
Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to my fresh start in another place on my journey. See you there.
My mother, Carmen Sanchez (or Carmelita/Carmecita/Carmita as her family often called her) was born in Havana, Cuba, the youngest of ten children. She grew up poor and fatherless, since her father passed away when she was only two.
In the photo above, we are in Cuba, and I am holding her hand. My older sister, Maria, is standing next to me and my Abuela is standing behind.
I remember a lot about that visit to Cuba.
We must have gone to some large marketplace in Havana. I imagine my mother had described Fidel Castro to me, so each time a man with a beard passed; I pulled her skirt, asking, “Mommy is that Castro?”
“Shush,” she would say, stifling laughter. “Quiet. He’s not going to be walking around here, and people can hear you.”
“They can hear you,” my older sister repeated. “Stop it!”
I quickly lost interest; for it appeared, there were baby chickens for sale on every corner.
“Those are pollitos,” my mother said.
“I want a pollito.”
She laughed, taking my hand. “Come on.”
I kept lagging and lingering. She kept urging me on.
An aunt we were about to visit had a thatched roof farmhouse with a backyard full of pollitos, and my mother knew this. I would spend the afternoon admiring pollitos and feeding them corn.
I found this video of Havana and another of the gorgeous beach she took us to during our visit, which is a nice treat on this cold winter day. If you don’t have time, skip those, as I will get back to the subject of my mother.
My mother was tiny but fierce, a force to contend with, determined to learn English and to work hard. She did that from the beginning up until the day she retired, same as my father who came to this country from Italy. They were proud to be American citizens. He fought for his new country. She felt honored to be a soldier’s wife. He worked as a butcher then meat department manager for a Grand Union supermarket in Astoria, Queens, New York. She worked as a meat wrapper then an assembly-line bench worker at Bulova Watch Company in Woodside and ultimately a salesperson for A&S.
My mother never immersed us in the Cuban culture. She was afraid of people judging her, people who perceived Cubans as freeloaders. I wish she hadn’t felt that way, and it warmed my heart to see a glimpse of pride in her heritage when she taught us Christmas songs she had learned in Cuba and talked about their traditions. I never wanted her to feel ashamed of who she was.
My fond memories of her include her love for holidays, her decorating with a giddy enthusiasm, no matter how many years had passed. She and my father made every holiday and birthday special, celebrating us along with their life together. Our lives were far from perfect, but they gave so much, with their hearts always in the right place.
In the first photo below, I am the girl on the far left with my mother standing over me. In the second photo, I am watching my mother cut the cake on my birthday.
She taught me unconditional love because she gave it. For many, many years, it was the rarest thing to receive in an unapologetically harsh world. If I had doubts, she restored my faith in who I was, and in the dreams I cherished. She was proud of her daughters, her girls. When it came to my father, her love and devotion knew no bounds.
As an aside, she loved to shop, especially for clothes. I inherited that, along with her lack of impulse control. My sisters did, too.
In the three photos below, the first is me with my true hair color. HA! In the second, I am the blonde with my arm around my mother during one of our New Years Eve celebrations. My younger sister, Denise, is to the right of the little cousin I am holding. In the last photo, my mom is in front of her daughters. That is me on the left, my older sister in the middle and my younger sister on the right.
My lovely mother died of a stroke in June of 2011. That first night she was gone, I remember feeling she was frightened. In retrospect, I think I was the scared one. Despite her age, she looked beautiful in her eternal rest. I’m sure she was at peace.
Me…not so much. I had panic attacks in the months that followed. My world grew darker and colder, so much darker than those sunny days of laughter in her comforting presence. Something was gone from my soul, a part of me. I thought about all the times she called just to hear my voice, and to see if I was okay—those times I was too busy and figured I would call back later. I should have taken every call and savored every moment I could hear her, hold her, laugh with her. For the most part, I did but not enough. It is never enough. I just miss her so much.
I had sent my newly published poetry book to my friend, John, someone I have known for many years. Weeks later, I asked if he had received it, and what he thought of the book.
He responded with, “I have been rather absorbed in my own world which has been a struggle. I have been sick with walking pneumonia and yet am still working daily. I am on a bunch of medication, which doesn’t leave me with the clearest head. When not working, I am sleeping. Am slowly getting better but about four days bed rest would be ideal. I can’t afford to miss work so, you know the drill. I’m tired, sick, frustrated, but still fighting.”
He went on to explain, “Poetry has never been my strong suit. You are certainly elegant with words. I can appreciate the flowery wording but feel like I am missing something, and that applies to all poetry not just yours. I feel embarrassed to admit that it seems to have crashed over my head like a huge wave at the beach. It takes some doing to overcome the feeling that I am too dumb for this.”
John revealed more as the conversation continued. “A couple of the poems were almost frightening in their intensity. I could sense the emotion behind it, but I felt like such an outsider. Then it dawned on me; I am an outsider, but you are trying to provide a window for me. Stop feeling like a peeping tom and enjoy the view. I can so over-complicate things.”
He messaged me later with more thoughts. “I reached another realization. There was much mention of family and closeness. I realized I was somewhat jealous because my family is tiny with no closeness whatsoever. In defense against those feelings, I put up a wall against your poems. It is painful to read about something I can’t experience. I am happy you have it but sad that I don’t. As I have and accept these awakenings, I may be able to better appreciate your poetry.”
Well, here is my take on all this.
First, you learn so much from the other end of the author journey, once you have released your first book child into the world. (Yes, these books are our children. Any writer can tell you this. We give birth to them. We send them out into the world. We worry about them, protect them, defend them.)
I have had people apologize to me for not having read the book yet, although they instantly bought it to support my efforts. I get it. I buy books all the time to help the authors who wrote them, and these books sit in line for a good long time on my Kindle.
Next, you do need a clear head for reading, especially poetry. You are reading between the lines of someone else’s fleeting thoughts and trying to process their meaning.
John thought he was raining on my parade with these remarks. He wasn’t. After decades of hoarding my work, I am happy to have put myself out there. This is merely a starting point. While I have been at this long enough to feel confident that I know what I’m doing, I see no reason to expect everyone to understand and love everything I have to say. It surprises me more that so many people, including strangers, continue to tell me how much they love and enjoy the poems.
John may be someone who feels poetry is not his strong suit, yet he expressed his thoughts beautifully and while he thinks he is “too dumb,” he is rather insightful. His assessment was relevant and helpful, because he is not alone in his feelings. Most of us want to love poetry. We associate it with romance. Much of it is introspective, like glimpsing into a diary. Sometimes we get it, yes, and sometimes we don’t.
Many poets are intentionally cryptic. Others don’t intend to be vague but, as they say; poets are artists painting with words and yes, we distort everything and can make deep-wrenching heartbreak a thing of beauty.
Then there is the perception factor. This had me thinking of the time my professor in college asked our class to write an interpretation of William Butler Yeats’ The Coming of Wisdom with Time. He gave me an A on the assignment then scribbled something unsettling, in red ink, in the right margin. What he said was, “This is a wonderful explanation of what the poem meant to you, but I was asking what the poem meant to the poet.” My thought was, yeah good luck with that.
In my poetry, John got this impression of a happy family with happy memories. Others I spoke with perceived a very deep sadness. People interpret things differently. We are all in different places, consciously and subconsciously. People have misinterpreted me, just as I have misinterpreted others. The poet is not usually there to explain it to you. Poetry is about what resonates with the reader, what strikes a chord and why, be it negative or positive. It’s about stimulation of thoughts, realizations, and reflections. It is often a soul experience, triggering emotions, and it is bound to be intense.
As I stated in the book’s Preface, I wrote those poems over a few decades where my perception had gone in different directions. I wrote many of them in my twenties. I mixed the good with the bad, the light with the dark. Some things healed and resolved in the end. Some didn’t.
Shutting down is one of the responses people can have in reading (and listening). Some are discouraged by an opposing perception. It took me a long time to feel secure enough in my beliefs to listen to different opinions with an open mind, to look at things from another perspective without fear. Often I am able to understand and sometimes agree. I had to get beyond this feeling that a person could take something away from me that had no substance to begin with—or that I could be wrong. With all this progress, however, there are deal breakers. Mine include justification of rape, violence, and oppression. We all have deal breakers. We are also triggered by the memories of our life experience. Another’s opposing view, however, can take away only illusions. It cannot take away what is real.
I appreciate John’s honesty. I will take that any day over:
“Nothing… I love you dearly!”
Then the passive aggressive behavior continues.
No, give me honesty. When people are honest, they present us with a gift of teaching us what we need to know or reminding us of what we tend to forget.
As if we need reminding, life sucks at times, and people may be struggling to get through the moment. I have no idea what is going on with another unless I ask.
Among my favorite teachers was one of the two male teachers in an all-girl high school. He taught English, my favorite subject. In junior year, he took our class to see the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall. The original black and white version of A Christmas Carol featuring Alastair Sim was part of their holiday spectacular.
Though I saw the movie decades after its original release, I found this old 1951 trailer for the film rather interesting.
Dickens painted Ebenezer Scrooge sympathetically and quite vividly. I fell in love with the spirited imagination of Dickens in all of its brilliance, his extraordinary larger-than-life characters, and the potent messages behind every one of his tales. My love of 19th-century British literature began, along with an ongoing yen for England. I was sixteen years old.
It may have been Oliver Twist that I read next. I recall being shocked by the harshness of this child’s reality.
By the time I turned 25, my love for Dickens knew no bounds. I named one of the two dwarf parrots I owned “Pip” after Philip Pirrip, the protagonist in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. I named the other one Nicholas after the character in Nicholas Nickleby. I had a fish tank I called “Copperfield Gardens” in homage to the hero of the Dickens’ book I loved most, David Copperfield. David, with his courage, strength and beautiful, benevolent heart, triumphed through one heartbreak after another. In this version, below, he was portrayed by a very young Daniel Radcliffe, better known to all as Harry Potter.
The same year I got the dwarf parrots, a precious friend from England gave me a miniature book of Dickens’ life story as a Christmas gift. I moved several times over the years, and this little book has always made it back onto my bookshelf. I loved reading about the man behind the fascinating tales.
Charles Dickens was already famous when he helped injured passengers in England during the 1865 Staplehurst train crash.
I saw, in Dickens, true heroism in the face of disaster and everyday heroism, as he was a tireless champion for the oppressed.
This final video is fitting in wrapping up my tribute. It’s my favorite song from the 1970 musical version of A Christmas Carol with Albert Finney in the role of Scrooge. In future visions foretold by the third visiting ghost, a town celebrated Scrooge’s passing singing, “Thank You Very Much.”
I also thank my beloved Dickens for his incredible contribution to the world, for all the inspiration, and for truly enriching my life.
Some of my favorite Charles Dickens quotes:
“Not knowing how he lost himself, or how he recovered himself, he may never feel certain of not losing himself again.” ― A Tale of Two Cities
“I wear the chain I forged in life….I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” ― A Christmas Carol
“I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”
“A day wasted on others is not wasted on one’s self.” ― A Tale of Two Cities
“Give me a moment, because I like to cry for joy. It’s so delicious, John dear, to cry for joy.” ― Our Mutual Friend
“I hope that real love and truth are stronger in the end than any evil or misfortune in the world.”
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”
“Never,” said my aunt, “be mean in anything; never be false; never be cruel. Avoid those three vices, Trot, and I can always be hopeful of you.” ― David Copperfield
On this month’s Heart-to-Heart with Kyrian radio show, my guests, Michael John Sullivan and Kathleen Nash shared their experience of having been homeless. They also talked about their recovery and their advocacy for the homeless. They have wonderful messages for everyone struggling and anyone who cares about the struggles of others. You can listen in on this podcast.
Kathleen Nash is a uniquely creative individual. Photography and other forms of artwork are her passions. She also builds websites and works with her son, Dennis, who creates beautiful wire wrap jewelry.
Kathleen shares more about her journey in this blog:
Michael John Sullivan is the author of Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness (Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster). Library Journal named Necessary Heartbreak one of the year’s best in Christian fiction for 2010. His second novel, Everybody’s Daughter (The Story Plant), was named one of the best books of 2012 by The Examiner. Michael published his third novel, The Greatest Gift (The Story Plant), in October of 2014. He is currently working on his next novel, The Second World. He is also the creator of the SockKids children’s series. Visit thesockkids.com to learn more. A former board member of the Long Island Coalition of the Homeless, Sullivan has written several articles about the plight of the homeless that have been published online by CNN, the Washington Post, Beliefnet.com, the Huffington Post, and Patch.com.
Michael has contributed a blog relevant to our topic today, along with a link to an article he wrote for CNN a few years ago. You may read it here:
By luck, I have always had plenty of food and water. I have not had to experience the extreme oppression that is prevalent in other parts of the world. I have warmth. I have more clothing than I will ever need.
As if that is not enough, I have much more.
I am grateful that the passion in my heart lives on; that I can wake up every day and do what I love. I am grateful for the privilege of sharing what I love with the world.
I am thankful for people to cherish, people who need me and believe in me, people I can also believe.
I am grateful for all our heroes, warriors, and survivors.
I wish everyone could have what he or she needs, feel safe, and have the same rights. Therefore, I am grateful for people who spread peace, help others, help animals, help the planet and stand up for justice.
I am grateful for everyone I have ever known, and what they taught me.
I am grateful for forgiveness that brings peace and second chances.
I am grateful for solutions.
I am grateful for freedom.
I am grateful for change.
I am grateful for truth.
I give thanks for everyday pleasures—writers and books, music, art, dancing.
I am grateful for the sun, the clouds, and all the beauty that surrounds me.
I am grateful for home.
I am grateful for this moment.
I am grateful for imperfection, silliness, and madness.
I am grateful for fantasy and imagination.
I am grateful for kindness, for hugs and all the love and light in the universe.
I am grateful because there is something beautiful in everyone.
I am grateful to be alive, to have this day.
I am grateful for fond memories of childhood that overshadow the painful ones.
I am grateful for eighteen years of sobriety, for increasing clarity and for having been ready to heal.
I am grateful for all I have been able to resolve internally, for the darkest moments and rising from every fall.
I am grateful for the realization that my ego was my worst enemy and distorted my perception.
I am grateful for learning from my mistakes, for being able to work through the tough stuff.
I am grateful that I am not bitter.
I am grateful for not giving up, for hanging in there until it was okay.
I am grateful for laughter.
I am grateful for all the learning and evolving.
I am grateful for the beaten dragons.
I am grateful for finding my truth and my voice.
I am grateful for letting go of unworthiness, for self-respect and learning to stand up for myself.
I am grateful for learning to love myself as I am, for letting myself become kinder, learning to love deeply and be there for others.
I am grateful for learning how to be strong, how to share joy, for having learned to trust my instincts and myself.
I am grateful for defying limitations, for not shrinking to please others.
I am grateful for the desire to grow finally exceeding my desire to hold on, for the strength and courage to let go of the things that weighed me down.
I am grateful for the surviving child in me, for my strong wings, for doors opening for me and for the ones that closed behind me after teaching me what I needed to learn.
I am grateful for the shedding of masks and my embracing of authenticity.
I am grateful for the ability to see people and things as they are, including me.
I am grateful for being able to see things from another’s point of view.
I am grateful for the ability to feel empathy and witness the empathy of others.
I am grateful for the amazing struggle that is life.
I am grateful for the ability to keep learning, for all the opportunities to be better and do better, and for all these reasons to smile.
I am grateful because I have everything I need.
Lastly, I am thankful to those who care about my journey and who care what I have to say. Thank you for reading and listening to me.
To those who are struggling, I walked through fire to get here, and I am still walking. Don’t you give up!
Serendipity Summer is a wonderfully written love story reminiscent of classic old movies with its simplicity, angst, sweet romance, goofy moments and comedy. The author provides excellent visuals with descriptive scenes and characters we care about—Anna, a warm, courageous woman with admirable strength and Jake, who will ultimately win you over with his tender heart. Both characters are realistic with problems and insecurities everyone experiences, including all the awkward moments often glossed over or excluded in fantasy-based romance. The story moves along quickly. The dialogue is great. Many readers will identify with Anna’s reality of single parenting and co-parenting in difficult circumstances. Many will also relate to her conflicted feelings about committing to a new relationship. Lovers of romance will thoroughly enjoy this book.
I had the opportunity to interview the author, Laurie Kozlowski, on my radio show, Heart-to-Heart with Kyrian. Here is a podcast of that interview.
About the Author:
Laurie Kozlowski resides in Northeast Georgia with her daughter and husband. Having small town roots, she’s intrigued with the charm, drama, and humor of the south, often weaving those themes into the fiction she writes.
Her first contemporary romance book, Serendipity Summer, is the first of four books in the Riverbend Way Series. The Riverbend Way Series is contemporary small-town romance fiction. The series touches on serious modern day issues, a twist of earthy and sometimes bawdy humor, and a heavy dose of love.
Laurie enjoys incorporating family-centered themes and stories including friendship, hope, and healing.
She also writes under the pen names of Roxie Nash and Lulu Zoko.
When not writing, she loves to make music and jewelry, picnic near the river, or catch the latest comedy or drama flick at a local cinema.
She hangs out mostly on Twitter @lauriekozlowski when she isn’t “moming”, writing, or driving her husband crazy.
Connect with Laurie to learn more about her and her work:
Like many of you, I love Halloween! I have fond memories of past Halloweens and get excited about it in every new season.
We did a Halloween show on ‘Heart-to-Heart with Kyrian’ tonight and here is the podcast if you’d like to hear it. It was silly fun, and we enjoyed it.
During the show, I read from Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’. However, another of my favorite poems to set the mood for Halloween is ‘Darkness’ by Lord Byron.
Finally, here is a poem from me. I wrote it many years ago while visiting a friend in Richmond, Virginia. It was the 30th of October, and Halloween was certainly in the air.
Tree after tree, in mere flashes,
Pulled onward so quickly on wheels.
An endless cavity,
A hollow place on a hillside.
Very dark, very black night,
The eve of All Saints Day in Richmond.
Secluded place of abode
Amid a forest of woody-trunked perennials—
I am the diminutive Hansel in the infinite forest!
I come upon a candle-lit haunt of mere shadows.
My eyes wander toward a mysterious and welcoming stairway
Leading to grand doors,
Silent and slightly ajar.
Peering through the open space,
All I see is blackness.
And seated there, on the floor,
In a corner where the candle seems to grow more in tensely,
The gourd-like fruit painted orange
Has a cocky, twisted grin.
Peering out the window,
All is calm
As sun shines
Upon the autumn leaves,
The abandoned rake,
And the green toolshed with chips in the painting.
*’The Eve’ is included in ‘A Dark Rose Blooms’. For a limited time, you can get ‘A Dark Rose Blooms’ in paperback for $5.28 and the Kindle version for only $.99. They are both available here: A Dark Rose Blooms on Amazon.com
Such sweet memories I recall
When the sun blinds my eye,
And bluebirds of joy and contentment cry.
The ones that are cold,
Frightening omens foretold,
I want to make them slip away,
Yet they’ll haunt me night and day.
For years, I have been hard at work on a fiction series that will include up to nine books. Since the series has been my main focus, I’ve been tempted to warn people ‘A Dark Rose Blooms’ is just a poetry book. Then I remember an older woman who had corrected me years ago as a teen when I said I was just a secretary. She said forget that word “just.” Just forget it.
She was right about that. I couldn’t imagine a world without poetry any more than I can imagine a world without novels. Its value is more than enough.
I was thinking, however, this seems to be a huge deal for such a little book. It is little. It was easy to throw together. I had all these poems sitting around for decades.
Well, it turned out to be a very special undertaking. I wrote some of these poems at age twenty, others only months ago. I came to realize, too; I was sharing my heart. For that matter, I would also be sharing the first two chapters of the first book in my series.
So by the time Jeff Fielder began working on the cover design, I wanted amazing. And I got amazing in terms of Jeff’s formatting and design. It’s now a beautiful little book.
I know my mom, of all people, would have been thrilled to see this day. She tucked away the first poems I wrote at ages ten and thirteen. Every so often, she’d take them out and read them, smiling and shaking her head, sometimes laughing a little. She passed away three years ago, but I can still see her smiling. I can feel it in my heart.
I hate labels that create delusions of superiority—even something as altruistic as “light worker.” I’ve met light workers who believe they are angels while engaging in smear campaigns and sabotage of others with a high school “mean girl” mentality. They would show no empathy for those they attempted to break and destroy. They managed all of this, too, while claiming to be humble and holy, making sanctimonious judgments and patting themselves on the back for being somehow better at this human being stuff than the rest of us.
We are not “angels.”
We can go around and around in circles on the issue of judgment, just as we can on the issue of tolerance. (Yes, throughout most of my life, I have been completely intolerant of the intolerant!) As far as judgment, I have done many of the things that frustrate me to no end these days when others do it—even the light-working angel bit—halo, wings, the whole enchilada. I believed I was the shining example of everything everyone else should be. I often believed, when I didn’t have a particular character defect, or what I perceived to be a character defect; I could take the moral high ground and condemn the offender. I didn’t try to understand it because I hated to coexist with it and didn’t want to understand.
In my “angelic” pursuits, I was on board with the “one love” and fighting for humanity. I still am, but I had to fight to keep my ego out of it. That’s what being human is. It’s not fairy wings.
When I think about how much I have grown and changed in my life (and with such a long way to go), it seems unfair to be impatient and judgmental of others. I don’t know the circumstances that led them to where they are. I don’t know their struggle to get better.
I’m not advocating that we excuse or accept bad behavior. I am simply trying to understand.
Sometimes people are so committed to a perception about something or someone; they won’t give anyone a chance to help shed a little light or truth on the matter. There is some payoff in the denial. I have done this, too, in my life. So I keep putting myself in other people’s shoes, trying to look at situations from a place of compassion. I know I have needed that in my life, for others to do this for me. We all need this.
It’s difficult not to judge. We need to be able to judge in order to make wise choices. It is hard, too, not to hold a grudge. We develop expectations of people, and people will often fall short of these expectations. For me, releasing expectations must be an ongoing daily effort. Just like letting go of resentments. It takes work. In the meantime, I have to remain in check about my motives. We are humans dealing with humans and often, in punishing others, we also punish ourselves.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinéd flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barréd clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
John Keats is one of my favorite poets and for most of my life, fall was my favorite season.
I grow more resistant to the dark evenings of fall as I get older and more inclined to embrace the endless light of summer. However, autumn would not be the same with infinite light and glorious sun, would it? It is a cozy time of cool breezes, warm fires, and precious memories. The darkness, while haunting and a bit unsettling, has its mesmeric beauty.
The video below shows the splendor of fall with audio of Eva Cassidy’s spellbinding voice in ‘Falling Leaves’, a song about autumn and loss. For me, it is bittersweet. My husband died young on a summer day. I can relate to this sentiment—saying goodbye to two seasons. As I parted with a season of light, I parted, too, with a season of love. It is the end of a time and a necessary rebirth, yes bittersweet but beautiful.
A few years ago, when I began my literary fiction series, I chose New York City as the setting for my story. I was born and raised in Woodside, Queens, New York, so it seemed the obvious choice. I soon realized this was not the story I wanted to tell. The determination to write since early childhood had nothing to do with wanting or needing to tell my story. Fantasy drew me in, and I loved a challenge. Somewhere along the line, I became stuck in reality, and this created limits in the limitless realm of fiction.
I decided to find a different setting for my story, a place I’d never visited. I chose Glastonbury, on the banks of the Connecticut River. I would visit there eventually and numerous times but only after I created it first in my mind. Of course, these days, we have the Internet for research—images, maps and that little yellow Google person. One could travel the roads and study the map while sitting in a comfortable office chair drinking coffee, which I did.
This past Sunday was my first “actual” visit. I traveled there with my sister, Denise, my son, Jesse, and my nephew, Christopher. We decided we would go to Hartford first, which is about twenty minutes from Glastonbury.
We set out at 9 a.m. on the most beautiful September day. After an hour of driving, we stopped for breakfast at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store in Milford. Christopher tried the apple streusel French toast breakfast. Jesse had a bacon cheeseburger. Denise and I ordered scrambled eggs with biscuits.
Now, Jesse never wants photos of him on the Internet, which I thoroughly respect. He took these photos at Cracker Barrel, except for the goofy one where I tried on the cowboy hat. Denise took that one while Jesse watched Christopher take videos of a toy pig singing ‘Wild Thing’ and a toy dog singing ‘Dance to the Music’.
Our arrival in Hartford was at least an hour later.
We bought tickets for a tour of Mark Twain’s house and poked around the museum until it was time for the tour.
I was thrilled at the first glimpse of Mark Twain’s Victorian Gothic revival home. I could see why this place was so special to him. (As an aside, the guide usually referred to Mark Twain as Samuel Clemens, Mr. Clemens or Sam. As I am sure most people are aware, it was his real name.)
When we went inside the house, the guide asked that we refrain from taking photographs or touching anything except the banister while walking up and down the stairs. I must say, the décor is impressive. I loved the ambiance, particularly in the cozy library, which faced a conservatory that had a fountain and lush plants. The interior of the house remains dark for the tours because the Clemens family had gas lighting when they occupied the home. I love dim lighting, but I imagine this much darkness can become dreary, not to mention a little spooky at night, going up and down those stairs, probably with a candle. It prompted me to ask about ghost stories. The guide informed us that people claimed to have seen the ghost of Susy Clemens, the oldest daughter. She died alone in the house, from spinal meningitis, at the age of 24. Employees also made claims that the butler’s ghost continues to work there. We learned that the show ‘Ghost Hunters’ featured the house. Apparently, there are ‘Graveyard Shift Ghost Tours’ that sell out quickly, so tickets must be bought in advance.
Some people in attendance were not thrilled to hear about the ghosts. I hadn’t thought about that since I don’t seriously believe in ghosts. Denise reminded us of the time we all walked through the haunted maze at Bayville Scream Park. While searching frantically for the exit, I said (loudly) there was no way out, then suddenly all these kids were crying hysterically. Their parents had to assure them there was an exit somewhere. It’s a good thing I believed in ghosts when my own son was a child. I was less oblivious to people’s fears and concerns about ghosts and other creatures that likely don’t exist.
The tour, while quite interesting, took much longer than they said it would. Through most of it, I didn’t focus on our confinement to a relatively small space where only three people weren’t strangers. Toward the end, this reality became painfully obvious. I wanted to ball gag anyone who asked another question.
Outside on the grounds, we took more photos. I came up with the unoriginal idea to pose with a book, since I like those seemingly candid shots of authors reading books. I am still laughing about this. Denise (and even Jesse) took a dozen photos like that—me reading on the grass, on the steps of the museum, on a bench, etc. Everyone made me laugh with funny comments about these “photo-ops” especially since I hate photos of me, let alone sharing them on social networking sites. During the last attempt, Jesse thought he had the perfect shot when Denise came over and said, “Still with the book?” I lost it and laughed hysterically in the only picture you will see of me with the book. It was the way she said it. She is funny. They are all so funny. Christopher later decided he, too, wanted a picture while reading a book. It became a thing…a silly thing. Silly is good.
Here are a few of the photos, which include some other houses on the property, like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house. The Twain and Stowe houses are captioned at least one time.
I am including the link for anyone who would like to see the interior we could not photograph and some other interesting links.
By the time we arrived in Glastonbury, it was late afternoon. It was not easy to find certain places, and we often found ourselves on private property during the search. One or two of us got out of the car anyway, camera in hand. Jesse said we should have brought bail money. He wouldn’t budge from the car.
We drove around in circles trying to find the entrance to Shoddy Mill Coon Hollow’s pristine woodlands. That didn’t happen. The one person we asked sent us to the wrong place, though we thoroughly enjoyed the scenic drive through the woods of Kongscut Mountain Open Space and Mountain View Estates. It was gorgeous, but we didn’t take any photos. We were too busy looking for Shoddy Mill Coon Hollow.
Glastonbury is a pretty place. I wish we had more time to capture this in photos; however, it was great to be there. We did more laughing than anything, but that’s the best part of any trip. We had fun.
These are photos of my main character’s neighborhood (which is a bit too close to the cemetery). She attended Smith Middle School. Addison Park was part of her childhood.
Here is a link to the preserve we were looking for (Shoddy Mill Coon Hollow).
On the way back to New York, we saw the most incredible sunset. Denise loves to photograph sunrises and sunsets, but she was driving. I took a picture for her with her phone, except I never heard the click. I thought it didn’t work the first time, and somehow she ended up with I don’t know how many pictures of that sunset.
She was busy deleting sunsets at Red Lobster while we ordered our food, scolding me. We all joked. We were home in New York by then and starving. We savored every bite of our meals. Eating is part of the fun, too, isn’t it? Besides, we ran out of Twizzlers in Hartford.
Michael John Sullivan is the author of Necessary Heartbreak, a novel published by Simon & Schuster, the sequel to Necessary Heartbreak, Everybody’s Daughter, published by The Story Plant, and the final book of this trilogy, The Greatest Gift published by The Story Plant. The Greatest Gift will be available in October of 2014. Michael is currently working on his next novel, The Second World. He is the creator of The Sockkids children’s series. Michael is also a former board member for the Long Island Coalition of the Homeless and has written several articles about the plight of homelessness for CNN, The Washington Post, Beliefnet, the Huffington Post, and America Online’s Patch service.
Learn more about Michael John Sullivan and his work:
“Adversity is the first path to truth.” Lord Byron
Weary of all the conjecture, the slants,
Belly full of trite and typical rants.
It’s enough for the troubled, the broken,
Who have to amend it with so little spoken.
Die trying while you wait for the bomb;
Pray for the respite of happy and calm.
Fly out in euphoric bliss, dance of death,
On days it is torture to merely draw breath.
Eyes nearly close, tresses whirl in the breeze;
Touch my face, then graze my lips and appease.
We must embrace these things we abhor.
Rise up, rise up—
Mangled wings need to soar.
From ‘A Dark Rose Blooms’
A poetry book by Kyrian Lyndon
Of all the poems I might have shared from my forthcoming book, I chose this because I learned it is harder to interpret than the other poems. I wrote it eight years ago, following a long battle with illness, which I ultimately won. I had returned to the corporate world, not my favorite of worlds. There were some difficult days. On this particular day, I left the building and walked to the corner. As I waited for the light to cross the street, this little poem formed in my head.
I guess I was saying something like this…
Hope you enjoyed the poem and video! Have a great holiday weekend.
My nephew, Christopher, was about six when he gazed out the window in the backseat of the car and said, “I’m just afraid I will run out of things to draw.”
He began at an early age, sketching and drawing – leaving people in awe of his talent. Every year his mom helped him put together a calendar featuring his artwork.
You can see brilliance in his eyes when he talks to you, especially about art. When I ask him if he can do a certain thing, the answer is, “Of course, I can!” He is chock full of confidence.
It is not hard to believe in someone like him. He is, above all, kind, caring and a sensitive soul. We not only believe in him, we celebrate him. He touches our hearts and remains such a light in a dark world.
I feel the same way about my own son who was educating strangers about Jupiter’s moons in the first grade. They are two people who came into the world with their own gifts and talents, giving you a clear sense of who they were from the start. I can attest to this much: when you know, from childhood, what you are and what you love, you cannot imagine any other life. I feel strongly, people must allow you to be the person you are, not the vision of you and your future they have in mind.
It is easy to recognize the apathy and pain of someone who never lived their dream, someone left to wonder what the outcome might have been had they followed their heart. You see glimpses of their fire, traces of the light gone from their eyes. They had their spirits crushed, their voices silenced, their true selves obliterated.
Children need to hold on to their natural confidence and infectious enthusiasm, along with the ability to trust their instincts. My heart tells me, we need to not only believe in them, but also show them how much we do.
Perhaps this is one reason experiencing an incredible contribution to the arts – everything from singing and drawing to dancing – can move me to tears. I realize people make incredible achievements every single day, ones I don’t see. They may not have an audience or applause, but their achievements are no less important. Seeing people get out there, however, doing the thing they love most and nailing it speaks to the person inside many of us that says, I want to do what I love as fearlessly as that. I want to celebrate that fearless moment where I succeed in reaching the hearts of others, where we all participate and share the passion and joy. My heart sings in contentment. It is one of life’s beautiful and most cherished experiences.
For me, it is.
In these moments, I don’t think about the harrowing destruction of our world or the harrowing destruction of humanity. It is a brief lull, because I don’t want to ignore that – all the suffering, all the pain, all the hatred. It has affected me profoundly since childhood, and while I search my heart for solutions, I can only counteract with love and a message of oneness. I believe we all can in some way, especially if we have a voice or means of communicating our passion and love to the world. It is one small contribution of many, until we can do better.
Those of us who have made it thus far with our dreams intact are eternally grateful. Whatever the passion – no matter what happens in life, it is there, and it saves you. It just might save others, too.
Like many, I am crushed by Robin Williams’ tragic death and saddened by the emotional toll life takes on even the brightest lights in our world. Another gentle soul and kindred spirit is gone. We remember the world can be cruel.
We don’t have to be suicidal to understand this kind of suffering. I know the excruciating heartbreak of not being able to reach someone who is depressed or addicted, thinking you finally made progress, then you hit another wall – hard. I understand the fear of losing that person forever.
It reminds me we have no idea about anyone else’s pain. We don’t know how hard they tried to bear it or what the rationale was. Addiction and obsession will distort perspectives and impair judgment, but addiction and obsession are not simply about narcotics or alcohol. The world we live in and the circumstances of our lives heighten sensitivity, and it all begins when we are too small to comprehend it.
Everyone is narcissistic to one degree or another, but extreme narcissism is so mercilessly destructive. Some people are afraid to “be seen” authentically, while others are afraid to truly “see” people and allow them to shine. The serpent that bedevils us is ego. I know it well. It is an ongoing effort to keep that sucker reigned in and right-sized.
I am no stranger to fear of failure/fear of success, two sides of the same coin, and I’ve watched friends achieve their goals only to find people pulling away. In either case, there is fear and maybe some need to punish ourselves or punish others. Sometimes people have the mindset that others don’t deserve success, because deep down they fear they themselves don’t deserve it, and they’re afraid to try.
I will never subscribe to the belief that I don’t deserve happiness or you don’t. I don’t believe in karma. Some people simply continue doing what they do and ultimately punish themselves. They don’t learn from their mistakes. However, everyone has the opportunity to right his or her wrongs and turn that ship around. I want everyone to learn and triumph and ultimately find happiness and make his or her dream come true.
It is all about healing or not healing. External validation is only a temporary fix. I saw this somewhere, and I believe it: “Everything we seek externally must be resolved internally.” Past turmoil is a boulder we carry everywhere we go. Some hold it up forever while others chip it away, one piece at a time.
My own inner circle has been small the past few years. I’ve spent the time healing and learning from cataclysmic mistakes. I have the fearful anxiety Robin Williams talked about. I know what it’s like when your mind doesn’t stop – the thoughts, the ideas, the obsessions. I deal with a less severe level of agoraphobia. Many people have difficulty, and it’s important not only to acknowledge this but also to share how we have been conquering one battle after another. I don’t want anyone to feel alone in these struggles.
Robin Williams talked about living with shame. It is often shame over things an adult might be able to sort out, i.e., this is theirs not mine. A child cannot do that, and that child is alive deep inside of us feeling shame that belongs to someone else. This is not to say we don’t look back on our own mistakes and feel overwhelmed by guilt and mortification. The combination of what is ours and what we take on as ours can be difficult to bear.
We don’t heal until we feel we deserve better. Everyone deserves healing, but for some it takes a long time and, sadly, some never heal.
I learned we must be patient with the healing processes of others, as beautifully expressed in this piece by Jeff Brown @ http://soulshaping.com/
“Emotional armor is not easy to shed, nor should it be. It has formed for a reason- as a requirement for certain responsibilities, as a conditioned response to real circumstances, as a defense against unbearable feelings. It has served an essential purpose. It has saved lives. Yet it can be softened over time. It can melt into the tender nest at its core. It can reveal the light at its source. But never rush it, never push up against it, never demand it to drop its guard before its time. Because it knows something you don’t. In a still frightening world, armor is no less valid than vulnerability. Let it shed at its own unique pace.”
Rest in peace, dear Robin. We loved you, and the world grieves.
I’m going to end this by sharing a few more things I found helpful.I’m always grateful when people share these great insights and reminders. I always need reminders!
18 Ways You’re Making Your Life Harder Than It Is
“Life is suffering. We have desires and expectations and egos, and we compare the reality we have, which is miraculous and wondrous, with this reality we desire. That somehow distances us from actually taking part fully with the reality we do have, and that creates suffering. For me, the thing that I love is that it’s all about the present moment.” Alan Ball
As I read Peter Cottontail to my son for the third or fourth time, feeling a bit tired, I bungled a line.
He said, “No, mommy, he lost one shoe amongst the cabbages and the other shoe amongst the potatoes.”
Yes, that is important! I hugged him dearly for that.
It was quite an improvement from six months earlier when he ripped Alice in Wonderland to shreds.
I wanted to be a relaxed, nurturing parent. I did not want to raise my son in a palace of dangers. I childproofed. I permitted him to take books from the bookshelves, sit in a pile of them and explore. When he tore up the book, that party was over. I had to tell him only once, because he knew already, I was reasonable and always for him, on his side. I taught him, we love books. We respect books. We read them. We enjoy them. We never destroy them, and we never crush the spirit of their creators.
The love affair with books began in my own childhood. I fell in love, first, with writing and reading. Writing is still the love of my life.
The fantasy genre inspired me – Wizard of Oz, Pinocchio, fairy tales. It provided me with a much-needed escape from reality.
As I grew, the books I cherished most fit into the category of literary fiction, which is reality-based and generally more profound and philosophical. However, I never heard the term ‘literary fiction’ or all this talk about genres. Many people are still confused about it and have no idea what literary fiction is. I was confused myself.
I struggled to categorize my work. Yes, there is a love story. There are quite a few. There is a psychologically thrilling mystery. There are many of those. Yes, it is dark and intense with elements of gothic fiction and quite a bit of horror, but the ongoing saga does not revolve around any particular theme. Do you know why? It is literary fiction.
Literary fiction is pretentiously termed ‘serious’ fiction, though that could be misleading. It indicates a profound work with literary merit, a celebration of language, a critically acclaimed classic. However, genre fiction can also be poetry in motion and a work of art worthy of acclaim.
If I have to answer as to whether I am working on ‘serious’ fiction, well if it means painstaking torture, yes, I am quite serious, and this is as serious as it gets.
The well-constructed plot in literary fiction should be riveting, but it is not the focus. Literary fiction has a slower pace with many rewards for your patience along the way.
It is character driven with well-developed, introspective characters. The story is about the character’s journey. We become emotionally involved in his or her reality, the struggle, the challenges, the losses and triumphs. We glimpse into the character’s psyche, experiencing the love, the hate, the joy, and the pain. Works of literary fiction are good human-interest stories that move and inspire those of us fascinated by the human condition. Genre novelists can create deep characterization, but this is the hallmark of literary fiction.
Literary fiction defines some of the best books ever written: Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, David Copperfield, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Iliad, The Odyssey, Rebecca, Little Women, 1984, Brave New World, Anna Karenina and many Shakespeare tales. The list goes on. My favorite authors, including Charles Dickens and the Bronte sisters, wrote literary fiction in classic Victorian-style, which I love with all my heart.
I believe creative work in every category has potential for greatness. I have yet to find a genre unworthy of respect. I don’t think we should make fun of people for enjoying some nonsense book or series where the writing isn’t up to par. As professionals and critics, we may seek a certain quality, but I am of the opinion, if there is a mass audience for a book or series, and it made scores of people happy, it has earned its place in the world of literature. I am simply another writer in an endless sea of writers and one of billions of readers. It doesn’t matter whether I like it. Readers, by consensus, have the final word.
Here is the bottom line for those of us who share this passion: books are a treasure. I feel fortunate in a world of books. I am infinitely grateful. I am giddy with delight. This is our inspiration, our high, our bond. There is plenty of room for everyone, and I am beyond thrilled to be on this journey.
I would love to hear from you about what you love to read or write. In the meantime, enjoy these videos as part of my celebration of literary fiction with an appreciative nod to all genres.
I wake up at 4 a.m. every day, including weekends and holidays, and write for hours. It starts with nothing more than a 40-watt amber-shade lamp lit in the darkest hours, where I can see the moon outside my window. The focus is so intense, it is light before long.
Creating characters and the worlds they live in began as a childhood obsession. I wrote down names then added descriptions, developing their stories by continuing to add details. I had no idea why I did this at the time. My parents worried for a while. They relaxed a bit as I went on to write fairy tales and poems. When I wrote my first novel at 16, I used parts of those descriptions.
I held many jobs since then – secretary, assistant book manufacturing representative, assistant to casting director, computer system administrator, and paralegal/legal assistant. One summer, I was shooting photos for a model’s portfolio. Another day I’d be chatting with musicians about putting a band together. My ego was insatiable, so I was all over the place, wanting to do everything. I told myself, all I want to do is write while getting sidetracked at every turn.
Life went on, rife with challenges, full of adventures. I roamed the darkest corners to learn about the world and about myself. Setbacks knocked me down. I would get up eventually and find my way again.
More and more so, I began telling my story in the novels I wrote. I became so immersed in the reality of it, I would not steer off its course long enough to let my imagination truly come alive. I started over several times until I realized I didn’t sign on for this to tell my story. A storyteller can tell any story she wants, and so I was back on track.
To be fair, I learned about the book publishing process working in publishing. I chased down literary agents, got a press kit, and formed a writer’s club. I continued to educate myself about writing. I subscribed to the relevant publications. I contributed to an anthology, had letters published. There were assignments and proposals I turned down wanting to be true to myself and to the integrity of my work. I was devoted to mastering my craft.
I realize, too, I’d been busy healing. It was necessary for me to find the courage to free myself of belief systems that kept me in bondage. Until we fully heal, we remain in bondage to something or another and prone to all kinds of obsession. Disentangling from all that is a painful process and a lot of work but well worth it. Past turmoil is the baggage we can carry forever or make lighter and less cumbersome by checking it.
Perhaps it’s different for everyone, but the process is the same. It is discovering what you do not want nor want to be; who or what impedes you; who and what strengthens you. Learning to trust your instincts is essential. If I couldn’t do that as a human being, I surely could not do it as a writer.
In the healing process, I got a much-needed downsizing of ego. I went from “needing” attention to shying away from it with a reluctance to put myself out there. I am a firm believer that when it comes to extremes, neither extreme is right. It had to be somewhere in the middle. It’s been all about balance for me.
Becoming a parent along the way helped. It is a rare and unconditional love, and love of that magnitude motivates you to be the best person you can ever hope to be. It lifts you out of victimhood and allows you to live as the empowered hero in your own heart and to set the example.
Today I feel the greatest gift I have to give anyone is a true and genuine heart. That means questioning my intentions and, if necessary, correcting my steps.
Now, with a clear view of the story I want to tell, I’ve been busy incorporating my past novels into a series that could be six to eight books and possibly more. I have outlined and drafted the series and am in the process of finalizing.
I’m grateful to have a passion, something I love to do, and get to spend time doing every day – a joy that saves me, always.
The author as a young ego-driven New Yorker in Central Park. 🙂