Friday Feature: Chris Pellizzari and the Unattainable

granada 3.pngI started writing when I was a freshman in high school. My very first writing efforts were poems filled with rhymes and cliches. During my sophomore year of high school I took a creative writing class, the only creative writing class I’ve ever taken. I hated it. I especially hated the teacher. She liked this weird, semi-beatnik/hippie style of writing, poems filled with “crazy” images like “throwing batteries at dead cows” and things that tasted like “copper pastries”. She liked short stories with bizarre characters and situations, things that were weird for the sake of being weird; weird that did not move the story in any direction.

The class was a nightmare and I rebelled against it and her standards of “good writing”. I received a C+ and vowed I would never take another creative writing class again, a promise I kept. But I kept writing in my spare time and was finally rewarded my senior year of high school when a short story I wrote about my grandfather, the one person who encouraged me through my early years as a writer, was a winner in a national writing contest. I won $500, had my story published in a magazine, and was presented a plaque by former president George H W Bush at a ceremony in Chicago. My high school newspaper published an article about it and I found a level of redemption concerning the creative writing teacher from hell.granada 2

Throughout college and journalism grad school, I continued to write fiction but never tried to publish any of it. The only things I published during this time were articles for small local papers like the Elmhurst Press and Villa Park Argus as a stringer, covering board meetings and stories about preserving mansions from the 19th century and such. I also covered high school sports for the Daily Herald. I didn’t start submitting short stories to literary magazines until I was thirty, and even then, I only submitted a handful. It wasn’t until I was 35 that my first short story was accepted for publication. The story was titled “Granada”, a story about Spain that was published in The Awakenings Review. I’ve been writing and submitting short stories and novellas like crazy ever since.

granada coverI studied abroad in Granada, Spain during my junior year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2003. I fell in love with the country and with a young woman in my study abroad group. Today, Spain represents the unattainable in my life. I have since developed an anxiety/claustrophobic disorder and refuse to fly. I can no longer physically travel to Spain. I can only travel to Spain through my mind, through memories. The young woman I fell in love with in Granada was also the first woman I ever truly loved. It was an experience of first-time, authentic love, love for a person and place. I know I can never recapture that kind of intensity in regards to love. One can only feel that kind of love when young. Everything after that is fine, marriage and such, but it will never be as pure or intense. And that’s what Last Night in Granada is about. It is a story about the unattainable.

Chris Pellizzari, author of Last Night In Granada 

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Thanks, Chris. Best of Luck to you!

noreen

Writer Wednesday: Ode to Professor King

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“Most of what writers write about their work is ill-informed bullshit.”

 

 

 

You gotta love Stephen King, if not for his fiction, for the way he sets things straight and to the point.

This is the line that begins King’s rewrite for his novel The Gunslingerking4, originally released in 1970, rewritten and rereleased in 2003.

He rewrote and released the novel – only Stephen King could do that.

In any case, I found his forward notably valuable. His words are not only ever for his readers, but for writers as well.

His approach to revision he says, “hasn’t changed much,” and it is “to plunge in and go as fast as I can, keeping the edge of my narrative blade as sharp as possible through constant use…. Looking back,” he says, “prompts too many questions.”

I agree. I’m one to power through and not consider edits until I’m completely finished. This way I don’t get hung up wondering if this is right, if that flows, should I change this word here? Nothing is finished until the end is on paper, then comes the time for change; however, King puts his work away for a time. I, personally, give it an edit or two or ten. I give it to my friends, I reread, fawn over every word, sentence and…. it still has errors I don’t catch for six months or a year.

king2For the original writing of The Gunslinger, King has this to say about his younger self, “too many writing seminars, and had grown used to the idea those writing seminars promulgate: that one is writing for other people rather than oneself; that language is more important than story; that ambiguity is preferred over clarity and simplicity…”

I was once in one of those very seminars when someone brought up Stephen King, “don’t worry,” the professor announced, “he’ll never be remembered in the annals of history.”

The same professor, the same class, a few sessions later, eyed me after my story had been workshopped and discussed. “I’m still trying to figure out the reason for writing the story.”

“I think,” braved another student, “she wrote it for pleasure, for publication.”

The Professor’s eyes narrowed, her lips thinned, and she sat forward in the old wooden desk, “we don’t do that in this class,” she hissed.

My nervous smile slipped away as silence rose from our feet up. No one moved. No one breathed. One girl had already run out crying, perhaps they were waiting for me. I didn’t want to cry, nor run out, but I’d felt everything I’d done up til that point undeniably wrong.

I learned to write, over the next few year, the way of the MFA, ambiguous, language king5heavy, story slipping under the covers of darkness of words and rhythm.

Stephen King, I thought then and now, by sheer volume and honesty of craft, will not be forgotten. And I’m not sure he cares one way or the other.

I think we can all learn a thing or two from Professor King.

Food Crimes: Ohhh… Honey…… I like it raw…

That is, my preference for honey is unprocessed, unadulterated, and in other words raw.

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Raw honey appears opaque, thick, yellow. I feel like I’m getting the real thing. The thinner honey is questionable to me because many companies mix their honey with high fructose corn syrup and do not disclose it on the label.

I’m not sure how that happens, but it’s true. It’s true of other sweeteners as well; take honey1note agave lovers and brown syrup believers, your alternative all-natural sweetener may contain some Karo.

The secrets of honey are muddled in hives of misunderstandings, half truths, and changing laws.

Raw honey should be opaque and thick; it’s supposed to contain more enzymes which heat and processing destroys. However, it comes straight from the hive and will contain honeycomb, royal jelly, and possibly some bee parts. One article suggests any black spots may be a leg or joint – fun stuff!

honey2Manuka Honey, which sells for $20-$40 per 8oz is said to have significant antibiotic effects.

But honey, overall, says most articles, is not any healthier. The fructose in honey has the same effects on your body as any other sweetener.

 

 

Friday Feature: Snowflakes in a Blizzard, Darrel Laurant’s Project to Assist Writers

Darrel Laurant contacted me some time ago about featuring my book, West End, on his project website. I’m only happy to now have him talk about that project here.

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Completing and publishing a book — any book — is a noble accomplishment. Unfortunately, it’s only half the battle.

Writing, publishing and marketing used to be co-joined triplets, or at least close cousins. Now, though, they have drifted apart into separate entities. As a consequence, the new mantra from publishers turning down a manuscript has become: “We really like your book, but we don’t think we can sell it.”

What you realize, as you skim over the Top 100 best-selling offerings on Amazon or even the hallowed New York Times list, is that “marketability” now has very little to do with what we used to perceive as “quality.” Not that a well-written book can’t be successful, but writing well is no longer a crucial requirement, writing not-so-well no longer a deal-breaker.

The good news is, thanks to current technology and increased self publishing options, almost anyone who really wants to get a book published can now do so. The bad news is, almost anyone who really wants to get a book published can now do so.

The fact that 30 million or so books are now listed on Amazon has drastically changed the rules of engagement. The issue is no longer getting published, but getting noticed.

Writers are obviously the losers in this not-so-brave new world, but so are readers. Books go surging past us like flotsam on a flood-swollen river, never to be seen again. If it was published in 2016, it has already become a relic.

The idea of Snowflakes in a Blizzard, which started three years ago, is to become just one small voice shouting: “Whoa!”

I spent more than 30 years as a newspaper reporter and columnist, wrote a lot for magazines and Websites on the side, published two books that sold over 3,000 copies each locally, and won a lot of writing awards from the Virginia Press Association.

In some occupations, all that would have helped ease my transition when I retired from journalism to write books full-time. In the publishing field, I had to check it all at the door.

When my first novel, “The Kudzu Kid,” went up on Amazon, I was excited. I now had my own little niche, exposed to the world. I had a publisher who, at least in theory, was prepared to spread the word. I had a distributor to transport my books to the far corners of the nation. Smiling contentedly, I sat back and waited for the orders to pour in.

And waited. And waited. Eventually, it dawned on me that since nobody outside of Central Virginia had ever heard of me, the odds of anyone randomly clicking on my Amazon page were infinitesimal. Why would they?

At some point during the mini-funk that followed, aggravated by the winter blahs, I was standing in front of my living room widow in Lake George, NY, watching it snow, when this thought occurred to me: “Getting noticed for a new writer these days is like a snowflake trying to stand out in a blizzard.”

A few months later, I started the Snowflakes in a Blizzard blog.

Each week, Snowflakes highlights three books. They could be novels, poetry, short stories, non-fiction, memoirs or a hybrid. What they have in common are that they are a) unique in some way and b) could use more attention. The “template” for every book is filled out by the author and goes individually to each of our 3,000-plus followers, complete with a few reviews and a sample chapter. It’s a way of getting one-on-one attention.

Also, it’s completely free. I like that for several reasons:

First, it takes the pressure off. Charging for a service is all about making a promise — in this case, pay me and I’ll sell books for you.  I can’t do that, because I have no way of tracking who might have purchased a book because of a Snowflakes post they received.

Second, it makes for a better vibe between me and other writers. They are colleagues, not customers.

Finally, I don’t feel competitive with any other writer-friendly blogs or Websites. In fact, I’d be delighted if a thousand other sites sprang up just like Snowflakes in a Blizzard, because that would still not take care of all the writers who need such a service.

You may have heard it said that the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. In the case of the book-buying public, the enemy is our very human tendency to stick with what we know. Early in our lives, most of us have settled in on what food, music, movies and, yes, books we like.

This fact unquestionably drives the book publishing business. It has become a lot like politics — survey the public to find out what they think they want, then give it to them. It accounts for the focus on genres, the reliance on best-seller lists and the dicotomy of wealth between the top one percent of authors and everybody else.

I don’t like to point fingers at the publishing industry, because they need sales to survive. So do agents. I do, however, think that the current glut of books has contributed in many cases to tunnel vision and laziness. What used to be “Wow, this is a great book — we need to tell people about this talented new author,” has morphed into “Oh, too bad — it doesn’t have the right genre for our demographic.”

This genre fixation is one of my major gripes about the book business today. Instead of offering unique work that only they could produce, some authors are “writing to genre,” following a list of pre-prescribed rules in an effort to “fit.” Yet so many of the books that made a big impact upon arrival — think “In Cold Blood,” “The Color Purple,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Roots” — probably would have flunked the genre test.

To their credit, a lot of small “indie” publishers do seek out and nurture talented new writers. Sometimes, they are richly rewarded for it.

My other gripe is the attitude held by some gatekeepers that they are doing writers a huge favor by publishing them. I growl, internally, every time I see this on a Website: “If you don’t hear from us in two months, it means we’re not interested.”

How much time and trouble would it take to type “Thanks, but not for us,” and hit “send”? Or maybe, “We’re thinking about it.”

This lack of communication shows a naked disrespect to authors who, after all, just want to enter into a business deal with them. Think of how you’d feel if you walked into a restaurant, sat down at a table, and were then ignored for an hour before you finally got up and left.

OK, so the creative universe is awash with other books. Publishers and agents can be uncaring, potential book buyers unlikely to try something new, both realities especially hard on new writers who haven’t yet accumulated prior publications, lots of good reviews or a book club fan base.

So what can we do? I make no claims of being an expert (I’ve never had a best selling book, so what do I know?), but I do have some suggestions.

  1. Look at the myriad niches that might be hidden beneath the main thrust of your book. These could include the setting, the occupation of main characters, a societal issue that is addressed, etc. Find some on-line clusters of people who reflect those nooks and crannies and send them a sample chapter. Do everything you can to show a publisher or agent that your book will, indeed, have a ready-made audience.
  2. Don’t forget the local connection. After your book is published (or even before), show up at your local newspaper office, meet the book editor, and suggest a review of your book. Don’t forget the little free papers than have mushroomed everywhere.
  3. Arrange similar meetings with small bookstore owners in your area.
  4. Set up as many book signings as you can handle, including businesses other than bookstores.

I invite you to check out the Snowflakes in a Blizzard site, and perhaps even follow it. Or, you may have a book you’d like to have featured, or know someone else who does.

My e-mail address is writersbridge@hotmail.com, and I love to talk about writing, any time.

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Much luck, Darrell. Thanks!
noreen

Food Crimes: Lavender Misdemeanors

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I like lavender, I do. In calming oil, in the vapor misting at the yoga studio, and in my shower gel. I have a few bushes in my yard, love to pick a sprig or two for the patio and to bring in the house to scent the air.  When I travel, I have a roll-on oil that I put on my scarf. Not only does it calm me, but it masks any odors left behind by previous travelers or brought on by the snugly conditions on airplanes.

lavender4I am not ignorant to the lavender cookies, ice cream, drinks and everything else floating around shopping aisles at the local markets and calling to me from the bakery store windows.

When I went to San Juan Island, I discovered there’s a lavender farm with, I think they said, 40 different varieties of lavender from all over the world. It’s absolutely beautiful.

Lavender has a light floral scent, not at all over powering, and it’s lovely to look at. It’s lavender3musk reminiscent of the sweet earth on which we thrive.

But, I have recently discovered, I’m not a fan of lavender infused food. While they are beautiful creations, the lavender macaroon I tasted at a nearby bakery was barely flavorful, made with a synthetic extract barely hinting of the purple flowering plant. The made-for-me lavender cupcake was moist and not overly sweetened – both of which I appreciate – and I ate it, liked it. But, ultimately, decided, what’s the big deal?

Overall, I’m not a fan of cross-over and maybe that’s what’s tripping me up. I have no lavender6desire to scrub my pores with chocolate scented exfoliate nor spread a mocha cappuccino mask over my hands, I don’t want a minty fresh eye gel or an apricot foot cream.

I desire separation. I don’t want to be tempted to lick a pineapple-coconut shower spray, and I’d prefer my cake not to reek of argon and tea tree oil.

Enjoy your fluff and fold mango laundry detergent and your vanilla frap leave-in conditioner; night-shade dryer sheets and white chocolate cookies are good enough for me.

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Food Crimes: How PSL Saved My Life.

We’ve all had those days. For one reason or another, we didn’t get enough sleep, on the verge of exhaustion, or worse – near ill, but we need to make it through, we need to show up and be functional.

Enter: Caffeine. psl3

Every day I read a different article about caffeine, it’s good, it’s bad, tea has more, coffee has more, they have antioxidant effects, people live longer, live shorter. No one study has definitively come up with one right answer.

But here’s the truth:  Too much caffeine can cause anxiety.

psl2See me two months ago for my first set of anxiety attacks. There’s a lot going on right now, but I’m usually the queen of calm. But too much caffeine and not enough physical exercise, and the onset of anxiety happens.  I know this because my sisters have anxiety and the first thing their doctors said is “cut out the caffeine and chocolate.”

Well, before I let a doctor tell me to cut out chocolate, I decided to ease back. During the summer, I’d been drinking three or four cups of tea by 2pm and sometimes an added cup of coffee by 4pm.  I know some people drink coffee all day long and are not affected; it’s what you’re used to and what your body can take. Mine decided too much was too much. I cut back to one cup a day. It wasn’t too hard. I actually still had two cups made from one tea bag; my way of cheating.

Then, school begins. Not related to caffeine, or coffee, psl1tea, chocolate or any guilty pleasures, but to a new schedule and my body trying to get used to it – I spent one night tossing and turning and getting up and laying down, breathing deep and keeping my eyes closed, but to no avail – I ended up falling asleep around 4 in order to wake up at 6am. I felt zombie-like.

I made it through my first class, but had another class to teach after an hour of office meetings.

Enter: PSL.

pslStarbucks sent me an email (yes, me personally, about their early release of Pumpkin Spice Latte), but I ignored it, telling myself I was off the hard stuff. I didn’t need any espresso and sugar to get me through the day, just good healthy food and clean, clear water. Besides, it’s far too early to imbibe on pumpkin anything.

But, see, it was one of those damn dirty lies we tell ourselves. When our next sleep is off on some unknown horizon, we must continue to function. My car turned, almost automatically into the Starbucks parking lot, and I found myself in a mist, floating to the barista as they handed me an iced-grande-half-caff-PSL-no whip.

The mixture of caffeine and sugar, the delishness of it all, kept me awake so I could earn a living, not fall on my face in front of 30 some students, and hold worthwhile conversations (I hope), with my colleagues.

Good, bad, friend or fiend, crime or not, caffeine isn’t going anywhere. Thank goodness.

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Friday Feature – Motivational Author Anda Stan: “To Be or Not to Be the One of Your Own Life…”

Man jump through the gap between hill.man jumping over cliff on              Funny title, right? It is. But, it is also true and powerful on many levels. “The one” usually represents your one and only significant other in love matters. Still, how about being yourself “the one” in all the aspects of your life? Sounds crazy? Maybe, at first. But, being the one of your own life means tremendous power for yourself and your overall life….

We always look for support from others and we think we have no one in our life to rely upon in times of need. We feel that we are weak, and backup is needed. And we are right, but we forget the most important thing: we forget about ourselves.

Remember my dear one, we are our first most reliable party in our lives. Friends, lovers, even family at times, tend to betray us, let us down, make us feel alone and in misery. Hence, find the power of your own self. That doesn’t mean to isolate yourself from them, that means to be “the one” of your own life.

Understand the fact that you are someone of great importance in your own life. You are someone that can make things happen for you without delay. You are someone that can manifest your biggest desires. You are someone amazing that can really get the sun or the moon from the sky and put it on your own feet. You are THE ONE!

You may think that what I am saying may be to big of a theory. In fact, it isn’t. How many successful people have you heard they became successful with the help of others? And how many successful people have you heard they became successful with the help of their self? I think and know the answer is more, way more for the second question. They were “THE ONE” of their own lives.

See, you may become the most powerful person in your life. Can you say that you aren’t the most reliable person in your own life? Can you say that as long as you have a mindset and a goal in your life you will not make anything that stands in your own powers and more to accomplish that? Can you say that you will betray yourself and your success? Yes, you are the most reliable person in your own life. Yes, you can accomplish anything you have a mindset and goal upon. No, you will never betray yourself and your own success.

anda4              For example, you want to be a writer? Who is the first person that can help you with that? You are! You want to start a successful business? Who is the first person that can help you with that? You are! You want to have money? Who can do that fast enough for you? You can! You want to become independent in a way or another? Who can first help you with that? You can! See? Why would you wait for others to do or make things for you as long as you can? Why wait and meet with disappointments of all kinds? Some promise and never keep their promises. Some don’t say a word, but keep you on your toes, and again, you meet with disappointment, and so on.

We always forget of how powerful we are as individuals. We always tend to rely on others for solutions and resolutions, when we can simply take a decision and act strongly upon it. It’s not going to be easy. That’s a given my friend. But, what’s easy in this world? The difference is that you are THE ONE making a huge difference in your own life. You are THE ONE that solves things. You are THE ONE that is reliable for you. You are THE ONE that won’t disappoint you. You are THE ONE that will first taste the success of your accomplishments. You are THE ONE that will become respected. And last but not least, you are THE ONE that will gain respect towards your own self! And that’s huge my dear one! Respecting yourself and acknowledging your own self, your own value is something incredible!

Why do we always belittle ourselves and think that others will have the power to help us in a way or another? Why do we always tend to be supporting characters of our own lives? Why don’t we want to be the main character? Why don’t we allow ourselves to become the heroes? Why?!

If we find that “love yourself or lose power” thing in our lives, we are capable of magical things. We can achieve everything we want and need. Well, true, you might say that it’s too much in naming “everything”, but how about “almost everything” and leave room for the “element of surprise”? It’s doable. Trust me. Compared to the numerous occasions when you had hope from others, were promised for things, were let to wait for ever and so on, how many of those materialized for you? Too little, right? And when you found the power, will within you to do something, to make something, to accomplish something, how many times you were disappointed, didn’t accomplish? I think that 90% at least you were a winner for yourself.

anda3           The power of being THE ONE of your own life is at your finger tip.  Start being THE ONE! Let others become your supporting characters and you the action maker! Be the writer of your own story! Create your own destiny! Create your one and only! Manifest amazing things for you that only you can! Taste the sweet success of your own efforts! Make things happen according to your own will! Be the magician of your own life and materialize your wants and needs! Be the next Bill Gates, Oprah and so on! They both started on their own, one had more misery at first than the other and see them now! They had the power and magic on relying on themselves and on nobody else! They both believed in being THE ONE of their lives! They took action, they became their own heroes, and now they bask in the success and material needs they themselves created with the power of being THE ONE!

You can do it too! Just find yourself, believe in yourself, rely on yourself, persevere, never let yourself down from others, and hit the jackpot for yourself and for your own life my friend!

Well, if you don’t believe me, why don’t you give it a try and see for yourself what magic powers being THE ONE has for you too? 😉

Wish you all to find yourself and manifest everything you want with an element of surprise! 😊 😉

Blessings!

Your true friend always,

Anda Stananda

http://andastan.com/

A few things about me: Among other things I am a writer. I am currently working on two books. One is fiction, “Chris Carter and The Prince of Darkness”, a supernatural, paranormal story with a bit of romance, and the other is nonfiction, “Love Yourself Or Lose Power”, a motivational, inspirational, self-improvement book. For a taste of them, you can go to my website and read first parts of them. Love yourself at all times my friend!

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Many thanks, Anda, for sharing!

noreen

 

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