Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Books of trhe Month

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. This was a book club pick. I didn't want to read it. I haven't read a circus book since I read Circus Shoes in elementary school. But I actually enjoyed it, especially the part where the main character is an old man creating havoc in the nursing home. I'd give it a B.

The Orphaned Adult by Mark Angel. I've had this book for years; I bought it after my father died. I read it again because I'm writing an essay about the death of my mother, and I found it even more meaningful than before. Angel tells us all humans are destined to be orphans, then he tells us what those losses mean to us. Beautiful book, thought-provoking.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. An offbeat, delightful book. It won't appeal to everyone, but I loved it. It alternates between the viewpoint of a middle-aged concierge in a fancy Paris apartment building, who hides the fact that she's ultra-intelligent, and a twelve-year-old resident of the building, who plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday. I know it sounds strange, but give it a try.

How We Age by Marc Agronin. I heard the author speak recently. He's a geriatric psychiatrist with a positive view of aging gleaned from years of working with nursing home residents.

Potluck: Community on the Edge of Wilderness by Ana Maria Spagna. This is a collection of essays about the author's life in a tiny village in Washington State. Ana Maria was my memoir teacher at Gotham. She's a marvelous writer and a creative teacher. Her life in the wild couldn't be more different than mine in urban Houston, but I get what she's saying. We all need community. We need people who are there to support us in times of trouble and to encourage us when we're feeling down. Her experiences will intrigue you and her truth will inspire you.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Quote for the Week

Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth, the egg of the phoenix.
Christina Baldwin

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Announcing My Latest Publication

I'm delighted to announce the publication of Coping with Transition: Men, Motherhood, Money and Magic, edited by Susan Briggs Wright. I am honored to be one of the fifteen Houston women featured in this book. Join us as we trudge, glide, stumble, and chuckle through the sorts of transitions women face, some funny, some tragic. Our book is available on Amazon. Search the editor's name, Susan Briggs Wright (for some reason it isn't indexed by title). We think it would make a great holiday gift for women on your list, or treat yourself to one. And if you enjoy it, please leave a review on Amazon--we love publicity.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Wishes

Have a joyous Thanksgiving.

May you have many blessings to count...even the small ones.

May you celebrate the holiday surrounded by loved ones and friends.

May you have peace and joy from this Thanksgiving to the next.

And for all you Longhorns out there, may we beat the Aggies in our last game ever!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Quote for the Week

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. ~W.T. Purkiser

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Author Interview: Heather Andersen, Author of I Nevr Intended to be Brave

Here's my interview with Heather Andersen, author of the inspiring memoir I Never Intended to be Brave:

Tell the readers how you got interested in bike travel.

I was looking for a fun way to spend part of a teenage summer and saw an ad for bike tours. I signed up for one in Maine and got hooked on bike travel as the perfect pace at which to explore the world.

What have been some other interesting bike trips you’ve taken?

Across the U.S., four times. New Zealand. Vietnam. Kerala and Tamil Nadu, India.

What made you decide to write a memoir about your trip through Africa?

My desire to share the Africa I know and love, which is very different from the Africa usually portrayed by the U.S. media.

What is your most lasting memory about Africa?

I can't really say there's just one, but they include looking lions in the eye, the red sand dunes of Namibia, and connecting with so many kind people.

Do you plan to go back to Africa?

Yes, sometime. I'd especially love to see north and west Africa, which I didn't get to at all.

Have you been in contact with your former riding partner? Is he aware that you wrote a book about your journey?

We didn't keep in touch over the years, but I sent him an email letting him know about the book just before it came out.

What biking organizations do you belong to and are there particular magazines devoted to cycling that you recommend?

Adventure Cycling Association (ACA), League of American Bicyclists, East Coast Greenway Alliance, and Transportation Alternatives. Adventure Cyclist (ACA's membership magazine) for information and stories about bicycle touring.

What would you advise someone who was considering a first bicycle trip?

Do it. And remember that one of the joys of bike travel is being able to take advantage of unexpected opportunities and beauty; leave some flexibility in your schedule. Before going on your first self-contained bike tour (carrying all your gear with you on your bike rather than in a support vehicle), go on a practice ride from home with all the gear you're planning to bring with you.

How much weight did you carry on your bike during this trip and was that standard for a long bike trip?

I don't really know for sure, but I'd guess between 30 and 50 lbs., 50 only when I had lots of extra food and water. Some people go lighter, but at least 30 is probably standard for a long tour that includes camping and cooking your own meals.

Your book just came out, but what has been the response so far?

Enthusiastic, with overwhelmingly positive reviews.

For the writers who read this blog, how are you promoting your book?

Contacting reviewers, bike shops, and other outdoor retailers. Scheduling promotional events. Working on getting shorter stories/essays published. Some social networking.

Where is the book available?

On Amazon, Barnes&,, and through bookstores.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers?

To be fully alive, you can't let fear run your life. Following your dreams isn't always easy, but somewhere deep down inside, it's right.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Widowhood Anthology: Call for Submissions

This is a call for submissions to Silver Boomer Books' upcoming anthology on widowhood. If you're widowed or know another writer, or would-be writer, who is a widow or widower, Silver Boomers invites you to submit to an anthology tentatively titled On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties. Any aspect of widowhood can be covered: grief, memories, glitches, triumphs... Submissions will be read between December 1 and January 31.
I've been trying for half an hour to to the website but blogspot won't let me; however, you can find all the information you need at Click on Call for submissions to learn more.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday Quotes: 25 Quotes about Writing

I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all. ~Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard

What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers. ~Logan Pearsall Smith, "All Trivia," Afterthoughts, 1931

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. ~James Michener

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster. ~Isaac Asimov

No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous. ~Henry Brooks Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, 1907

Be obscure clearly. ~E.B. White

A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the other one. ~Baltasar Gracián

When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing. ~Enrique Jardiel Poncela

Writing comes more easily if you have something to say. ~Sholem Asch

Writing is a struggle against silence. ~Carlos Fuentes

What would there be in a story of happiness? Only what prepares it, only what destroys it can be told. ~André Gide

The road to hell is paved with adverbs. ~Stephen King

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live. ~Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 19 August 1851

Writing is both mask and unveiling. ~E.B. White

Let's hope the institution of marriage survives its detractors, for without it there would be no more adultery and without adultery two thirds of our novelists would stand in line for unemployment checks. ~Peter S. Prescott

It's not plagiarism - I'm recycling words, as any good environmentally conscious writer would do. ~Uniek Swain

An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere. ~Gustave Flaubert

Sit down, and put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it. ~Colette, Casual Chance, 1964

Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted. ~Jules Renard, Journal, 10 April 1895

An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate. ~Chateaubriand, Le Génie du Christianisme, 1802

The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new. ~Samuel Johnson

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wikihow: How to do Everything Can Possibly Imagine, Want (or Don't Want) to Know

My home page on Google has a daily post from Wikihow. I must say I'm fascinated with these posts. Do people really want to know how to do these things? Do you? Or could you figure them out yourself without the benefit of the internet?

Here's a recent sampling of their posts. Feel free to add others in the comments section:

How to get lots of candy on Halloween

How to make clay flowers out of old bread

How to make tea in a coffee pot

How to be a cute genius

How to draw a girl elf

How to unlock a car with string

And my favorite: How to peel a banana (Who would have guessed there are nine, yes nine ways to do it?)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Quote for the Week: November

“Fallen leaves lying on the grass in the November sun bring more happiness than the daffodils” Cyril Connelly

Monday, November 7, 2011

Widowhood: Bouncing Back Guest Post by Stephen Gallup

I have a grown son who is disabled and who inspired me to write a memoir, What About the Boy? Please visit for details on that. I lost my first wife to cancer 17 years ago and later remarried. I’m now trying to be a good parent to a girl who is almost a teenager and a boy who’s still in preschool!

Bouncing Back
By Stephen Gallup
For a period of time after my wife Judy died in 1994, a strange thing kept happening to me. Again and again, I would find myself standing in the middle of a room, with absolutely no idea of what I had been doing, why I had gone there, or what I’d meant to do.
Judy’s long illness had kept me busy. She’d had frequent medical appointments and hospitalizations. I tried to be emotionally supportive, while taking over aspects of family life that had previously been her domain. Suddenly, she was gone. And with her went almost all of my focus. Adrift, I remained in Busy mode, even with no real direction. There were still impulses to go and do something, but each time the notion faded away before I could do it. That was scary.
Fortunately, I did have other responsibilities. Judy and I had a son, who happened to be disabled. Joseph relied on me for his care. I also still had a job, and definitely needed the income. These two concerns distracted me from my grief. They kept me involved with other matters.
Almost two decades have passed since those days, and I look back on them now with wonder. Every time one of my friends loses a loved one, I see that same confusion and doubt. Whether the death was expected or not, the survivor enters a period of stunned bewilderment. Things stop making sense. There seems to be no point to continuing. Then, gradually, out of the fog, questions take form.
Is my life over, too? Can I even make this adjustment? Is any more fun for me even possible? The answers to these questions are no, yes, and emphatically yes. The loss of a spouse, no matter how dear, does indeed close an important phase of one’s life. However, that loss does not mean it’s time to give up. We are still here, and I think it’s safe to say that we’re here for a reason. Reasons tend to become apparent in due course.
In the mean time, there are things a recently widowed individual can do to ease the transition back into an active life. This could be a very detailed list, I think, but for now let’s focus on the high points. I’m sure you will have heard these before. However, I can vouch for them. They worked for me.
Get involved in something.
What sort of activities or causes have been important to you in the past? It’s possible that you may have changed so that they have lost their appeal, but consider those things first. If these activities involve interaction with other people, so much the better. For most if not all of us, this is a time for human contact.
If familiar activities just don’t excite you now, consider stepping out and trying something quite different.
In my case, traveling to China was something I had always imagined doing, although I’d never thought it would actually happen. In the year after Judy died, I resumed a long-discontinued study of the Chinese language. I played language tapes in the car while driving around town, and rented Chinese movies to watch at night. At the end of that year, I actually went to China on a solo vacation. I saw the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, and I had lots of opportunities to find out if I could make myself understood there. It was a great adventure. I felt as if I were suddenly leading another person’s life.
Expect good things. Expect wonderful things.
A lot has been said about the way optimism attracts good outcomes. Emotions like gloom and self-pity might be easier, but they have the opposite effect. And there’s really no justification for them. Yes, we’ve lost someone very, very important, someone who can never be replaced. But would that person want us to spend our remaining days in sorrow? Not likely! Our spouses loved us and surely would have wanted continuing fulfillment in our lives.
My wife Judy died in a November. As the end of that year approached, I got serious about making some new year’s resolutions. As I mentioned above, I had a disabled son and a job to hold down. In addition to my son’s ongoing needs, my employer was making it clear that layoffs were coming. I had to get active and find a new source of income. Those were my top two priorities, but I ended up with a list of five or six objectives that I held in mind as I went about my life every day. That list gave me a purpose.
One item further down the list was the wish to expand my social life. In those days, of course, I had no thought of remarrying. That kind of relationship was beyond my expectations. However, because I did believe good things would come to pass, a new partner came my way. And as a result of that new union, I now find myself, at this late stage in my life, with two more children. I’ve gone from grieving spouse to a dad who helps kids with their homework and school projects. They keep me young and tuned in to this changing world. I’ve been very fortunate, and I believe Judy would be glad.
Everyone who has been widowed has a unique story, but I think these two points figure in most of them. How do we carry on? Let us count the ways.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Book Review: I Never Intended to be Brave by Heather Andersen

Heather Andersen is a woman with heart. A heart strong enough to go on when her plans go awry, a heart big enough to embrace varied lands and cultures.

After her stint in the Peace Corps, she plans a dream trip, cycling through southern Africa. She places an ad in a cyling magazine but only finds one person interested in joining the trip. Unfortunately, he's the wrong person. Almost from the beginning they are an incompatible pair, so when he suggests they split up, she agrees and travels on alone. She says she never intended to be brave, but a woman alone, cycling through unfamiliar terrain in third world countries is spectacularly brave in my opinion. Along the way during her six month trip, she absorbs the culture of the various countries, meets the people, endures bicyle breakdowns, bumpy roads, wind and heat, and marvels at the scenery and wildlife. She spends a night in a camp near a dead ostrich, meets what first appears to be a lion on the road but turns out to be a cow, and reaches the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.

Here is a book that will inspire you to follow your dreams, whatever they may be. Highly recommended and a great read.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Quote for the Week

"One of these days is none of these days." Henri Tuboch

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