Weaving the Web of Life

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I have a friend who is going through a difficult time right now. He wakes up everyday, looks in the mirror, and says “You again!” He feels disconnected, alone, and lost in a world that puts too much emphasis on … Continue reading

Wanted: A Home for My Baby

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Imagine this scenario: A woman gives birth to a child in the usual way and then spends time helping the child become a unique individual ready to face the world. But, in the strange world where this woman lives, the … Continue reading

My December Challenge

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Did I mention that I am a winner? Yes folks, on November 1st I took the NaNoWriMo challenge and on November 24th I completed that challenge with over 50,000 words. Of course, I still haven’t finished the actual manuscript. I … Continue reading

Enough About Me . . .

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What do you think of me? ONLY KIDDING!!! I feel like I’ve been blathering on about myself and my projects ad nauseum  lately, so today I would like turn things around a little bit. Bit by bit, more and more readers … Continue reading

Creating a Web of Kindness: The Connections We Make

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A few days ago I got a message from a former student ago asking if I would mind looking over an essay she was working on for a  graduate school fellowship. I readily agreed, even though I haven’t had this … Continue reading

Teaching, Touching, Transition and Theatre

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There are moments when it all comes together and makes sense. There are moments when you know, deep inside, that something you are doing is making a small difference in the world. Maybe it’s not going to bring about world … Continue reading

Getting to Know You . . .

Hello everyone! Welcome new subscribers!

I’m sitting here in one of my favorite summer coffee shop escapes, thinking about the life of my blog/website. My move over from the original Woman Wielding Words led to a HUGE drop in followers. Understandable, I suppose. I try not to take it personally. I have also noticed a general drop in posts from blogs I follow, and an overall drop in comments. So perhaps it’s simply that blogging has its ebb and flow. That’s okay too.

After all, it is summer and perhaps people are out living lives, enjoying nature and family, and avoiding technology. I’m all for that.

As much as I wish I could claim hundreds if not thousands of readers, I also realized something today. I’ve found the most joy out of blogging from the relationships I’ve formed. I love the discussions, the comments, the questions, the support. In the past, I’ve written a lot about the web of connections that joins us all, and the power of those relationships. They are the most wonderful things in life, whether those connections are made in the virtual blogosphere or in real life face to face contact.

However, I have been REALLY bad about that myself lately, because it’s time-consuming to read every blog, comment on every post, and create those relationships with everyone who fascinates me as a writer and a person.

Yet, each day a few more people sign up to read my words. Today I began to wonder, who are these people? What drew them to my blog? What are their interests? How do they spend their time? Where do they live?

You know, the questions you wonder as you get to know a new person. The questions that you learn about each other as you move from strangers to friends.

So today I would like to invite you to join me here at this coffee shop (which is called Hey Good Cookies! and has lots of good cookies). Take a seat, get some tea or coffee, and let’s get to know each other better.

Snapshot_2013708New followers and long-term friends, use the comments to introduce yourselves. Then, perhaps, reply to someone else’s comment or make a new friend by visiting another person’s blog.  I’d love to hear from the lurkers–the one’s too shy to make comments. This is a safe place, where you can drink a cup of tea and meet amazing people.

Unsure what to say? Here are some of the things I would love to know:

  •  What’s your real name, or (if you don’t want to share that) what name do you like to go by for comments and interactions?
  • Where are you from?
  • What drew you to blogging? What makes you follow a blog?
  • What interests you in life?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What makes you unique? Now, don’t say nothing. We all have unique things about us.
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What kind of books do you read?
  • What kind of blog do you write?
  • What fun/interesting/exciting things are you doing this summer (assuming you are in summer, if not what are you doing this winter).
  • Where is your favorite place to travel?
  • etc. etc. etc.

Now, of course, you don’t have to answer all these questions or any of these questions. Share what you wish and make a new connection or two or three. See you at the coffee shop.

 

 

 

 

Reading Recommendations

For a short time as I ventured deeper into the world of writing, I thought I would write book reviews as a way of building a larger audience.

That didn’t last long for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most important reason, in my opinion, is that reviews tend to either crush the breath out of someone or make their heads swell so much they stop trying to improve. Reviews don’t help, except when it comes to book sales.

Another reason, closely related to the “crush or swell” possibility, is the fact that I am actually starting to form relationships (virtual and in person) with many writers–all of whom have ventured into a scary and emotional journey. Many of them have decided to go the route of self-publishing, which is fraught with its own pitfalls and challenges. Who hasn’t read a book or two or a dozen that was published before it was ready, by an author who simply wanted to bypass a (sometimes much-needed) editorial process? This doesn’t mean all self-published authors are like this–but the true gems and fabulous works often get lost in a deluge of mediocrity. Sadly, some of that mediocre work has come from author’s whom I have established relationships with. Do I want to be the one that crushes their dreams when my own is in such a fragile state of impossibility? Not on your life.

As a theatre director I’ve received reviews, good and bad, sometimes for the same show. As is true to my self-doubting nature, I always tend to focus on the negative reviews. Why didn’t he get it? What could I have done? How could I fix it? Should I give up directing altogether? Yada, yada, yada. . . .

I Stand Before You Naked  directed by me at the University of Hawaii. One critic complained because the women didn't actually get naked--he completely missed the point.

I Stand Before You Naked directed by me at the University of Hawaii. One critic complained because the women didn’t actually get naked–he completely missed the point.

The thing about reviews is that it is just one person’s opinion. One person, who may not like the genre, or may be in a crappy mood. One person who might prefer writers who use short choppy sentences over languid flowing language. One person, who may always prefer dominating male characters over strong female characters. One person, who . . . well you get my point.

Everyone is an individual, with individual tastes.I can tell you what I like or dislike about a book, a play, or a movie but that doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to you. Case in point, a couple of weeks ago I took my daughter to see Epic, a movie which–for the most part–got bad reviews in terms of story but excellent reviews in terms of animation. Let’s just say those reviews weren’t written by ten-year-old girls, the audience that really counts.

“Can we  get the video?” she asked as we left the movie theatre–a question she reserves for movies she will watch over and over again.

While I do feel I have a critical eye for good writing, for what makes a story flow and character strong, I would prefer to use that eye in a constructive way. If asked, I’m happy to give feedback on drafts of things (and hey, maybe someday I could actually make a living doing that, who knows?). Giving constructive criticism to help strengthen a work so it can succeed feels much better than destroying a person’s dream when it’s already too late.

I no longer want to write reviews.

I enjoy recommending books to people. Books I loved for all kinds of reasons. Books that made me think even if I didn’t love them. Books I may not have enjoyed, but that suit another person’s taste. Books that I think everyone should read. And now, added to the list, books written by friends that deserve to see wide audiences. However, I prefer to recommend books to people because I know the people–I know what interests them and what they might like. I will give caveats if I found a book poorly written or something bothered me, but still recommend a book if I think the story or topic will interest someone.

There are a few people whose recommendations to me I trust completely. I will read anything they suggest. We don’t always agree on books, and we have some different interests when it comes to reading but I have implicit faith that their recommendations will be interesting, thoughtful, well-written, excellent storytelling and challenging in some way. What more could you ask for in a book?. What more could you ask for in a friend? One of these trustworthy souls (occasionally) blogs over at Schmidtty First Drafts and is a font of information about literature, pop culture and other fascinating things. If she suggests something, I take note.

All of this is a rather long-winded way of saying that I try to take recommendations seriously and will not just recommend any book without being sure it will appeal to the people who might ask for my opinion. It’s about respect . . . for my fellow writers as well as my fellow readers. Why should anyone trust my opinion if I know nothing about them and their reading interests/habits? Would I trust theirs?

With all that, I now want to recommend some books.

For Lovers of Mystery

Read Desired to Death by J. M. Maison, aka my blogging buddy, Julia Monroe Martin. This is a delightful summer read (actually any time you feel like a little mystery). Miss Marple meets Jessica Fletcher, meets modern woman facing a big change in her life as murder and mayhem make their way into her cozy little home in Maine. Julia is a fabulous writer and I truly enjoyed this book. The book description:

The empty nest can be murder! Just ask stay-at-home mom Maggie True whose daughter has just left for college—leaving Maggie with a burning question for her husband Joe: “Now what am I going to do with the rest of my life?”

Never in her wildest dreams does small-town Maggie imagine the answer will come in the form of a middle-of-the-night call for help from an estranged friend who has just been arrested for the lurid murder of a much-younger lover: A.J. Traverso, AKA Tattoo Boy—a sexy kickboxing instructor who had captured the fancy of all the women in Halfway Bay, Maine.

But solving this mystery will be no walk in the dog park. For below the surface of her sleepy coastal town, resides a dark world of secret lusts and desires that Maggie has never imagined. And when an anonymous tip to the police suggests that happily-married Maggie was involved with A.J. Traverso, the investigation becomes more than just a curiosity. For Maggie True, the solution to the mystery of what to do with the rest of her life—and the identity of the cold-blooded killer—might be closer than she thinks…

For anyone who has ever faced a life transition and wondered “What next?” Desired to Death answers with an irresistible mix of suspense and intrigue, humor and heart.

For Lovers of Creepiness

 I have known Craig O’Connor for more  years than I care to count. (Let’s just say there are pictures of us in a high school musical production of Guys and Dolls). I didn’t know he would grow up to be a screenwriter and an author. He has begun sharing his book Memorial Tales (2012) in installments on his blog, and can I just say . . . creepy stuff! I love creepy stuff, but I only recommend this for those of you who enjoy a little trip to the dark side. Wander over and check it out.

 

 

For Lovers of YA

“1 Concert
2,000 Miles
3 Ex-Best Friends”

I took a workshop with Hilary Weisman Graham at the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference in May, and bought her book then. This is a fun road trip/coming of age/friendship contemporary young adult novel. Graham also had an interesting approach to publicity for her own work, which involved creating a fake band and videos to go with the songs she wrote for the book. This is a fun read by a really interesting woman.

There you have it folks, some recommendations. Once in a while I may make more, once I get to know you better, of course. ;)

When do you recommend books? What kinds of books do you recommend? Do you pay attention to reviews?

To Follow or Not to Follow

Family Portrait

A mother’s day family portrait. It all comes down to family.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how and why people follow blogs and websites.

Since trying to make the transition to this new home, I have had several people follow the original Woman Wielding Words, while very few have made the transition over to here.  Obviously these new readers must be finding past posts, and following me based on them. That’s good news for the idea that my posts are searchable, interesting, and that they might live on for a while even though I’m no longer writing there. However, there is also the possibility that I will lose those followers quickly because I am not writing new posts.

I’m not complaining–although perhaps I am panicking a teeny, tiny bit–but it has made me think about what draws us to following a blog or a website in the first place.

What makes me sign up and add yet another site to the already overwhelming list of people I follow? I acknowledge that I already can’t keep up, and have had to scale back on my reading and commenting on some blogs. Why? Because if I spend all my time blogging, I never have time to do anything else.

So why do I follow a blog? I follow blogs when I read a post that draws me in either because of the writing style, or the passion, or both. I follow blogs after poking around for a while, to see if the person seems interesting and welcoming.  I follow the blogs where it appears that the blogger takes the time to craft posts with care. This doesn’t mean they are all brilliant writers, but that they take time to post quality posts. I follow blogs when the blogger seems like they might possibly become a friend, which I learn either through comments on my own posts, through responses to comments, or from the pictures they share. I follow blogs that touch me in some way.

This doesn’t mean I read every post written by the people I follow. I simply don’t have the time. I also don’t follow every person who follows me. I follow the people who seem to be part of an ever-growing web of connections.

I follow the people who I think might be family.

Do you fit in with the silliness?

Do you fit in with the silliness?

What makes you follow someone’s blog?

Life is About Learning: Celebrating Fabulous Friends III

I know a lot of intelligent people. Since I’ve spent most of my life connected in some way with academia, I have often been surrounded by people who blow me away with the way their minds work.

But this morning I had a little revelation, life is not about what you know but about continuing to learn.

While I’ve met a lot of intelligent people who can wax poetic about everything under the sun, many of them don’t interest me. I find myself zoning out when it becomes obvious that the person I am talking to is more concerned with showing off his/her knowledge and sounding intelligent than contributing to a conversation and being open to learning something new.

In the end, the people who remain part of life, the people who I count as friends are the ones who see the world as a place to learn something new every day, and then share that knowledge with others as they seek more learning. So today, as the third part of my (hopefully ongoing) series that I call “Celebrating Fabulous Friends” I would like to celebrate some of the learner/teachers I’ve met in my life.  (For the first two installments read Celebrating Fabulous Friends and Night Marchers in the Bathroom.)

Nancy Lum, World Adventurer

Nancy is in the middle, with myself, my sister Deb, and her friend Karen celebrating my wedding.

Nancy and I met in Japan. She was there teaching for the JET program, and I was teaching for a private Language School. While I’m sure we met when she first got there, we didn’t become close until my last year in Japan, when I discovered an amazing person who had a passion for learning all she could about the world. Our friendship has lasted, with Nancy visiting me whenever she can in all of my various locations. She came to my wedding in Hawaii, while friends who I had known longer were unwilling to make the trip. While she wasn’t part of the wedding party, officially, she stepped up and helped in ways that made her truly the maid of honor.

Nancy returned from Japan to her home in Canada for a short time to get a masters in ESL. She then went back to our home in Okayama and has been there ever since. She takes every opportunity to travel and see the world, learning as much as she can about the places she visits and sharing her knowledge through the eyes of her camera. She and I keep fantasizing about traveling together on some wonderful adventure, but it hasn’t happened (yet). Maybe I should see if she wants to come to Slovakia. ;)

Anyway, I include Nancy in my list of Fabulous Friends because she cares and shares and is always learning more. When she visits, she wants to go out and explore the world. The last time I saw her, when she visited me in Durango, CO, she was distracted by news that her sister was in the hospital, but even then she carried her camera and shared adventures with me and my family. I am so honored to count this wonderful, intelligent, creative, learner among my friends.

Jackie Haltom, Inspirational Artist

Figuring out the hands for a piece of art.

I’ve known Jackie for only a year. We met when Sarah started taking art lessons in Independence.  We probably socialized for the first time last Halloween as we took Sarah out trick-or-treating with Jackie’s girls and other kids in the neighborhood.  However, a relationship that started slowly blossomed into a friendship of mutual support and encouragement. Jackie helped me discover the courage to express myself in a new artistic way, and the results are in the header of this blog. Jackie also took on the challenge with me of learning how to share our love of art and creativity with a different population, as you can read about in “Appropriate Age Appropriateness.” Without Jackie, I would not have had the courage to try to self-publish (although that project is still slowly moving forward). Jackie inspires me because she is continually learning, admitting what she doesn’t know, searching for more knowledge, and challenging the status quo. She lives and breathes art and recognizes how important the arts are to our culture–so she strives to share that passion with others by encouraging them to find their inner artists. Jackie helped me through a complex transition in my life, and I am grateful she has become my friend.

Jackie inspired another fabulous friend, Heather of Little Red Henry (link in my blog roll) to paint this wonderful creation.

There you have it, a couple of other examples of the incredible people you can meet throughout your life if you are simply open to learning about the world around you.

What have you learned today? Who have you met that you would like to celebrate?

Here's a beautiful piece by Jackie.