by Mari Angulo
Creative Visualization for Writers: An Interactive Guide for Bringing Your Book Ideas — and Your Writing Career — to Life
Author: Nina Amir
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books (October 18, 2016)
Paperback: 224 pages
To become a more creative, confident, and productive writer, you need to focus your attention, visualize your desires, set clearly defined goals, and take action toward your dreams. Let Creative Visualization for Writers be your guide on this journey of self-discovery. You’ll learn how to:
About the Author
Nina Amir started as a journalist. She has a BA in magazine journalism with a concentration in psychology. After working as an editor and writer for a variety of regional magazines, a national corporation in New York City, and a small consulting firm, she started my own freelance writing and design business.
Working on other writers’ manuscripts sparked her desire to write a book of on topics she felt passionate about: personal development and practical spirituality. More than publishing a book, she wanted to build a business around those books.
Setting out to learn all she could about the publishing industry she got involved with the San Francisco Writer’s Conference and started the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge (now known as National Nonfiction Writing Month). In April 2012, her first book How to Blog a Book was published, became an Amazon bestseller almost immediately, and has remained one ever since. The Author Training Manual was published by Writer’s Digest Books just two years later and was a bestseller before any books passed through the register on Amazon. In addition she’s self-published several more ebooks, all of which have made it onto the Amazon Top 100 right away. In fact, she’s had as many as four books on one Amazon Top 100 list at the same time!
Thoughts on the Book
Amir's new book is hard to categorize. It's an activity book, it's inspiring to read, yet highly informational. She's going deep, bringing in research about left/right brain, and even chromotherapy to support her material. It's a book that asks you to dig deep and know yourself in ways you might not expect. It's a call to action.
I, myself am not an author, and writer is far from a noun I'd use to describe myself. However, I found this book to be a fantastic exercise even for "non-writers." Interestingly enough, my background is in business and marketing and I found direct correlations to crucial elements of business and strategic planning in "Creative Visualization." Even the sections are organized in a way that flows like a strategic planning process (except it's so fun you barely notice). You can practically write your own author Mission and marketing plan once you're done with the book!
Amir makes it clear at the beginning, that you don't have to read the book from start to finish to get what you want out of it "You may want to focus on the Goals section if you need to set intentions, or spend time with the Creativity section if you want to develop ideas or stimulate your muse. Use the coloring pages when you want to relax or focus. Use the affirmations when you are ready to commit to changing a particular negative thought." I found this to be true. This book is a companion that you can read again and again and build your own adventure each time.
There are six clearly outlined sections in the book. She begins with Self Exploration, she's asking you to dig deep and ask questions about what you know about yourself. Where are you now as a writer and person? As Amir explored the concept of "knowing yourself" as essential to being a good writer, I couldn't help but think of Hemingway, who wrote his weight down and kept a log of what he ate on the wall of his bathroom. Talk about really striving to know oneself. In the next section, Vision, you're looking at the future. What's next for you? Can you visualize your book, your success, even your ideal reader? In the Goals section, she addresses intention and goal setting, and she's literally asking you to draw a map to success. In the Creativity section, there are exercises to help develop ideas and stimulate your own creativity. In Focus, there's even a section with coloring pages, but it's not all "fun and games," even in the creativity section you're prompted to brainstorm and plan ideas for things like your author website, a potential talk about your book, and even blogging topics. All things that authors need to know and think about "outside" of their writing. I think the section about focus is extremely important because writers/authors tend to be creative, interested individuals at the core, so it's easy to jump from one thing to the next. Amir is asking you to check yourself and stay accountable to the plans you make and outline a clear path. And finally, there are the Affirmation Pages that lead with a Muhammad Ali quote: “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” This is literally a section of affirming prompts where writers (or anyone!) have a chance to build confidence and weed out negativity by writing about themselves, in their craft, in an positive way.
There's so much to be learned and practiced in "Creative Visualization." It's not just about the ideas and the craft itself, it's also about accountability and goal setting. Amir is not only asking the reader to make a plan but also to believe enough in oneself to know that you can do it.
This book will make an excellent gift for so many writers I know.
by Tange Dudt
My Name Is Wonder Synopsis
My Name is Wonder is a tale of adventure that will have you thinking from the first page until well after you’ve closed the book. This beautifully written novel chronicles the transcendent adventures of a little goat with big dreams. Join Wonder and his wisecracking guide, the mysterious crow Mac Craack, on a journey through the scenic landscapes of the American Southwest and into the heart of a mindful presence. Along the way, you’ll meet an unforgettable cast of creatures, each with an important lesson to teach.
About The Author
Ronald Chapman is owner of an international speaking and consulting company, Magnetic North LLC. In addition to international accreditation as a speaker and national awards for radio commentary, he is the author of two novels, My Name is Wonder (Terra Nova Publishing, 2016) and A Killer's Grace (Terra Nova Publishing, 2016 and 2012), two works of non-fiction, Seeing True: Ninety Contemplations in Ninety Days (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2008) and What a Wonderful World: Seeing Through New Eyes (Page Free Publishing, 2004) and the producer of three audio sets, Seeing True: The Way of Spirit (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2016, 2005), Breathing, Releasing and Breaking Through: Practices for Seeing True (Ozark Mountain Publishing, 2015), and Seeing True – The Way of Success in Leadership (Magnetic North Audio, 2005). Ron provides a wide array of social media content at www.SeeingTrue.com, content for people in substance abuse recovery at www.ProgressiveRecovery.org, and other content from his master site, www.RonaldChapman.com. He holds a Masters in Social Welfare from The University at Albany (New York.) Prior to his relocation to Atlanta, Georgia in 2008, he was a long-time resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Ronald can also be found online at:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/seeingtrue/
My Name is Wonder Review
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It is an anthropomorphic book which follows a goat named Wonder as he travels through life trying to figure out where his place is in the world. As a young goat, Wonder knew he never truly belonged at the farm and was different from the other animals. He wanted to explore and know more of what the world has to offer. His father finds him a teacher, Oren, to make him strong spiritually to help prepare him for his upcoming adventures. When Wonder finally leaves the farm, a trusty side-kick, a crow named M.C., acts as a guide in order to help him along this journey. All along the way, Wonder meets interesting characters and faces new challenges.
I took away many messages from this book such as to keep your head up and eyes on the ‘Light’ when others try to keep you down or when facing sorrow; it is okay to be different and follow the path laid out for you; and do not live your life as others would have you live it. These are wonderful messages for children and adults alike. I know I would have benefited from this as a child, but reading it as an adult it doesn’t hurt to be reminded from time to time how it is important to live in the moment and show kindness to everyone around you. This would be a great book for parents to read together with their kids to discuss the messages in the book. The children will love the characters and adventures Wonder encounters, but the adults will love the spirituality in this book. I know I will reread this one again and probably learn something new that I didn't catch the first time around. It will be fun to accompany Wonder along the way once more.
About Tang Dudt
By Alicia Guzmán
Instagram is a powerful tool here in Santa Fe and elsewhere. It has and continues to foster an “artist’s community” by bringing like-minded people into each other’s social media lives. In fact, Book Santa Fe found Matilda Gutierrez’s “50 Days of Book Covers” on Instagram while cruising photos taken at Downtown Subscription for a worthy repost. A witty photograph of Matilda’s face covered by Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood piqued Book Santa Fe’s interest, which then led to the discovery of the growing trove of artistic reinterpretations of some of the most iconic book covers from the past century. With a new kind of book art at hand, and facilitated by something so seemingly common as Instagram, the idea for an interview was born. When I got on board shortly thereafter (also aided by the handy Instagram), Matilda had just completed her fiftieth and final cover.
In a quiet corner of Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s Fogelson Library, surrounded by books about the history of opera music, Matilda Gutierrez began to tell her story. An aspiring artist and illustrator from Laredo, Texas, a town that borders Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, Matilda had just finished her sophomore year at SFUAD. With some time on her hands, Matilda gave herself an assignment for the summer months: create a project that would last until the fall term started. The resulting set of ink, watercolor pencil, and marker illustrations was titled “50 Days of Book Covers.” Joined by Mari and Art of Book Santa Fe, we touched on the project’s origins, the influence of Instagram and the role of social media accountability in keeping Matilda on track until the very end.
Each day, Matilda chose a book cover; some of the books she’d read and others she hadn’t. Mostly, it was the appeal of the cover design and the illustrative impact of each book that influenced her choices. Here, she judged each text by its cover, showing that what beckons readers to books is indeed a visual first impression. Far from copying, Matilda reinterpreted the designs of fifty book covers. Through her own hand and “mind’s eye,” iconic covers from books such as Lolita took on a graphic quality, where strong line work, prismatic color and an embrace of the white of the page, transformed old into new. The role Instagram played was significant, as it became the primary mode for showcasing the project; the title “50 Days of Book Covers” was, at first, a hashtag, one that was up for grabs and perfect for recording the project’s course (her own handle is @matgutz). To post each day’s cover on Instagram was to continue the project, to send it out into the universe, and to introduce an audience to her creations. And to have an audience, more significantly, was like adding a system of accountability that kept Matilda going.
The interview is excerpted below and contains my questions as well as Book Santa Fe’s regarding the inspiration for the project and many other topics, ranging from speaking Spanish, process, medium, discipline, the role of social media and last, but not least, selfies. We seem to have covered it all. Read on!
September 28, 2016
Alicia Guzmán (AG), Arts Writer
Mari Angulo (MA), Book Santa Fe
Art Tucker (AT), Book Santa Fe
Matilda Gutierrez (MG), Artist
AG: First of all tell us about your history and then you can tell us how you arrived at your project.
MG: I’m from Laredo, Texas, which, is a small border town and my family is from Mexico and living there (Laredo) is pretty much like living in Mexico. So all through my elementary, middle and high school I was in art classes and I got lucky because I always had really creative teachers. In high school, my art teacher there really pushed me to keep working and basically she would really push us. Recently I was going through my old sketchbooks from high school and I realized that I had a ton of text-drawing just stuff that I would copy like if I was reading them I would copy the cover and a ton of magazine drawings and sitting there thinking I should’ve studied design or illustration. So it was kind of this epiphany that I really want to be an illustrator and I’m a junior and only have a year left and have spent the past few years as a painter so I was trying to make up for lost time so I was trying to learn from these illustrators that have kind of created these book covers that I was always attracted to so I was trying to pick up a few tools from them.
AT: Where is your family from in Mexico?
MG: My dad is from Durango and my mom is from Chihuahua.
AT: My other question is what do you like to read?
MG: It varies. When I was little whatever I read in English I had to read in Spanish. I had to match what I was reading in English and my mom was always encouraging my sister and I to read out loud in Spanish. I loved Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I grew up reading Harry Potter in English and then I read it in Spanish.
Art: So did your family speak Spanish at home?
MG: Yes. To this day.
MA: They didn’t want to let it go.
MG: Yeah. I love Spanish.
AG: You’re a painter, right, so this is a project to try out your hand at illustration? The marker and the pen drawings were something new, then?
MG: Well, I’ve always drawn in ballpoint pen. That is what I drew in high school, but I never took it as seriously as my paintings. My paintings were my artwork and my drawings were my doodles, things I did during the day when I had free time.
AG: So then (50 Days of Book Covers) was about taking the drawings and making them into a finished project?
MG: Even with my sketchbooks I would make my (sketches) obsessive and try and get them really perfect and make them look like paintings, I guess, like make them look like finished artworks. But I was playing with those two (approaches).
AG: Well, it’s interesting because you did develop a style in the book project... so it’s surprising for me to hear that the paintings were the “finished product” because your style of illustration looks finished even if it doesn’t cover the page.
MG: In school you’re always taught to fill the whole page. It must be so saturated that you can’t see the white of the page.
AG: But there’s so much white (in the project)! So much negative space. Was that part of the illustration?
MG: Yeah I think with my time here and with my time in studio arts, I’ve become looser in my drawing. I’m not afraid of negative space anymore. I leave my sketchy lines in. I don’t erase mostly. It’s been kind of freeing.
AG: To get past the medium question, you went back to your high school notebooks and saw that you were drawing based on things you saw. Was that the inspiration for the actual book project or did the project just come independently?
MG: So at the same time I was looking at my sketchbooks, this was during the summer. I didn’t have any assignments. I wasn’t in school, but I was listening to this podcast, from “The Jealous Curator” and she was saying that when you leave school it’s important to give yourself assignments and keep yourself busy so I think she pushed me to start a project and see how disciplined I was. I was also getting scared of graduating.
AG: The world of self-motivation (laughter)?
MG: Yeah and finding a purpose for myself.
AG: Well, you proved it. Now you can say that it’s over.
AT: How hard was it? Seems to me it would be pretty hard.
MG: It was pretty hard. There were a few days where I definitely skipped and just caught up later. I think I ended up finishing a week later... toward the end I was running out of book covers and I was in the library a lot looking for something. But I also live with a creative writer so there are books everywhere, so I guess that’s where I got the book idea because at first I was gonna do labels and album covers, board games or DVDs.
AT: Just out of curiosity, typically what time of day did you do these?
MG: If I did anything in the day, it would be the first thing that I do because I have to keep in my lighting and natural lighting is the best lighting and try and finish by a reasonable hour, but there were some days I didn’t, so I would use a projector setup because projector lights are so bright and I’d make them with projector lighting.
AG: Did you read all of the books?
MG: No. To me it was literally judging a book by its cover and what attracted my eye and that’s where I would go.
AG: Did you feel compelled to read the book after you drew the cover?
MG: I did at first. I feel kind of guilty I was afraid someone was gonna call me out on it (laughter).
AG: It was purely design impulse then?
AG: Which I think is interesting because I think a lot of time we’re compelled to read a book based on what it looks like. Buying is so much about looks.
AT: Yes. A cover can change the sales of a book.
AG: This proves the rule right? Why did you start with Haruki Murakami then?
MG: That one I did read (laughter). There are a lot of (examples) in here that I read, but some are ones that were on bookshelves
AG: That leads me to another question about the variety of books because there is an immense variety of books from Norwegian Wood, to The Little Prince to Where the Wild Things Are, so from iconic novels to children's’ books, to artist’s books—I saw the Yoko Ono book in there, too—was that what was available?
MG: I didn’t have a specific pattern or anything. The first ten are my favorite books and then after that I started going into my childhood and then there were days where I would google attractive book covers. At one point I would do a children's book cover and then do something weird the next day. I did Matilda, here, and the next day I did Slaughter House Five (laughter).
AG: That’s great.
AT: What’s the name of this series?
MG: Well, it’s 50 Days of Book Covers. I was looking for a hashtag on Instagram that hadn’t been used.
MG: Yeah. Instagram is pretty great.
AG: How much did Instagram help determine the direction of the project?
MG: So much. I think, at first I was so scared to do this project because if I put it on Instagram then everyone would see it and if I flaked out on it later, then everybody would know I didn’t finish it.
AT: You made a commitment.
AG: Accountability. Social media accountability.
MA: I like that term.
AT: There is that on Instagram. An accountability.
MG: Yeah because then people start expecting it from you and it was my motivator I guess.
AG: I’ve seen some other projects before where people are going to do 365 days of something, like...
AT: Selfies? (Laughter)
AG: I knew one photographer who would type quotes on a typewriter and place them everywhere and take very artful photos. So did you see things like that because I seem to see them in abundance?
MG: Yeah I think that’s everywhere. I think Instagram is becoming an artist community.
AT: I think so. More so than originally. Originally there was an awful lot of selfies. It’s kind of calmed down though. But there are a lot of very good artists on Instagram.
MG: That’s where I find all the artists that I like now—that I’m inspired by, and illustrators and they’re also super motivating.
MA: What was the response that you got?
MG: It was really great, not what I expected at all. I thought “who would be interested in my project
that I’m just doing for myself?” But then a lot of people had a really great reaction and everybody could relate to it, books that they’re reading now or books from their childhood.
AG: I think that’s a really great point because when I went through this and the pictures on Instagram I was like, “I read this at this specific point in my life.” And that’s where you can relate back to something. Like Harry Potter defined a very specific point in my junior high years. Or Norwegian Wood I read two summers ago. There is something about relating a place to a book that’s really special. And like Where the Wild Thing Are, everyone could relate to that.
AT: And to me I could associate with the authors, like Kurt Vonnegut. I can reference what I’ve read and that I really appreciate.
MG: On Instagram someone wrote about my Esperanza Rising book, “I love this book. I stole it from my fourth grade teacher’s class” (laughter). It was just really great to hear everyone’s experience.
MA: Yeah you can get everyone’s dirty book secrets. You know what struck me was I wondered if you picked up a couple of covers of the same books and thought, “Hmm which one is better?” Like Lolita, with the skirt and the little school girl outfit. I thought, “she probably looked at multiple covers and had to make a decision sometimes.”
AT: On the same book?
MG: That definitely happened with the Great Gatsby, too, the blue one, Celestial Eyes. That’s the painting that’s on the cover. I drew that one a few years ago, so I decided not to go with that one and tried one from the 1920s (gestures to page). That’s how I decided on that one. But with Lolita, I kept finding so many book covers and they’re all so cool and that Lolita cover I had also drawn in high school, but I had drawn it very perfected and I was very meticulous so I kind of wanted to see how my style had changed from high school so that’s why I drew that one again. But yeah it kept happening where later I would find a different book cover and would rather have drawn that one.
AG: Next 50 book covers! That’s fascinating, too. I think what’s coming out of this is the sense of playfulness in your work. Is that something that you consciously put into your style, something that you developed or something you saw in other people’s work?
MG: I think that’s just something that I’ve developed because my number one critique in all of my painting classes is that all of my work is too pretty and I often get that my work is too illustrative and I think that when I do this work it just comes out.
AG: What do you think about that critique?
MG: I used to hate it. I tried to be edgy and paint in all black... in my other painting projects and now I kind of accept it.
AG: So much of it is the color and so much of it is the line work that lends to being “illustrative.” Do you have illustrators specifically that you look up to?
MG: Yes, I’m blanking on their names. I mean these book covers, those are the illustrators that I was really researching. I also love fashion illustrators.
AT: How much license did you take from the current book cover to what you created? What percentage of it is…?
MG: Not a whole lot because I was really trying to pick up on what they were doing so I was trying to learn from them. I was really trying to learn their thought process. But with color and line work and not filling in the entire page, that’s where I took liberties.
AG: When you see this it doesn’t seem like this a learning process for you. When you come to this (project) as a viewer, it’s like “oh, this isn’t her own way of working through something.” It’s a very different experience as a viewer, I think, than what you’re telling us, which definitely turns around expectations.
MG: That gives me something to think about.
AG: It doesn’t appear as a “process work” is what I mean.
MA: You have a legitimate perspective. I don’t think we saw you as trying to do something, we saw you as…wow, that’s pretty cool.
AT: Not just elaborating from what was already done, this was really (your) take on it. And I can see that. Has this led you to think about this not just as art, but as (career) to create book covers?
MG: Yeah. Definitely. This is what I want to do.
AG: Do you plan on doing something with this (project) in particular...would you consider making it into a reproduced series?
MA: Or a gallery show?
MG: Yeah, I would consider that. I just haven’t thought about that. Notebooks are so... this is just a book, so I never really think about tearing out the pages.
AT: I completely understand what you’re saying, you take a book cover and create it with your own mind’s eye, basically and that’s a good process. And it’s a feeling good process. It’s kind of addictive, actually.
MG: It is addictive. I think on day fifty, I was really happy to be done and the next day I thought “which book cover am I gonna have to do today?” And I just didn’t have to and it was a weird feeling.
AT: And Instagram has that element of addiction, too. “I have done this regularly for this long and oh my god I’m not doing it.” It’s kind of like “what a loss this is; I don’t have anything special to do for it.”
MG: Especially when (Instagram) is there, always.
AG: And then you started doing portraits, right? Was that the new assignment, the selfie portrait?
MG: I didn’t want to lose momentum so I just threw in another project...This is day 2. It’s basically twenty days of selfies. People can tag me in their image, I’ll draw it and then I’ll put it on my Etsy shop and if they like it, they can buy it. So it’s like the 20/20 portraits.
MA: I am super impressed.
AG: Here we were talking about how Instagram was being taken over by selfies and this is one degree further.
MA: It’s about narcissism. People love themselves. And then for her to be like, “I’ll draw your selfie.” People are going to be all over that.
AG: And (your subjects) are probably coming to you wondering which selfie (is the best). “Which selfie should I tag you in?”
MG: Yes. I was thinking yesterday that this is a psychological experiment because the way different people react, it’s really interesting.
AG: How did people react in the selfie project?
MG: I was expecting it to drag on and maybe get like one person a day but I basically got flooded. I had to keep reiterating, it’s only twenty. People were just like “are you sure you want to draw me?” And then they would tag me in like six selfies and ask, “what about this one and this one, and this one, and this one...” (laughter). Some other people were just straightforward, like “this is the best selfie I have,” so you can definitely see people’s levels of self confidence.
AG: “Selfie” confidence…It’s kind of a funny selfie critique.
AG: Do you have any projects after this one?
MG: I thought of the portrait one like five days before I finished the book cover one so I was ready to throw that one out there. I like this project idea so I’ll think I’ll keep going.
MATILDA'S #50DAYSOFBOOKCOVERS FULL GALLERY
You can visit Matilda's Instagram here.
This is a book that stays with you...
A Killer’s Grace follows Kevin Pitcairn, a New Mexican journalist and recovering alcoholic, on a journey to understand the concepts of innocence and grace after receiving a letter from Daniel Davidson, a convicted serial rapist and killer. What starts seemingly as a thriller quickly becomes a treatise on the nature of these topics, challenging the reader’s understandings thereof alongside Pitcairn’s own struggle, while tying in a very nuanced discussion of religion.
I, personally, had some issues with the book—for starters, it is revealed early on in the story that, years ago, in an alcohol and drug-fueled frenzy, Pitcairn killed a man and was never brought to full justice. While the character struggles with it and tries to reconcile that act through his work toward bringing understanding to Davidson, it’s just accepted by his girlfriend and Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor as something that happened. In fact, it’s so accepted that his girlfriend takes Pitcairn yelling at a dog as more of a threat of violence than his dark past. Perhaps I’m bringing a personal bias against murderers into my reading of this book, but I can’t shake this overwhelming acceptance of manslaughter as being horribly unrealistic.
The larger issue is more with the overall message of the book. Pitcairn’s eventual thesis is “violence begets violence,” a hard pill to swallow for me because, while I understand and even readily accept it, it still seems a bit dismissive to the actual crimes. Chapman, in his defense, repeatedly tries to reconcile this by saying that, while the cause of the transgression may be other violence, the offender is not without fault; essentially, it’s not a question of innocence, but one of causality. However, this focus on causality disconnects Pitcairn from what actually sent him on this journey of understanding. Although Pitcairn’s eventual article on Davidson references some abuse, the killer himself doesn’t bring any up in his initial letter, instead blaming his mental illness and associated biology that caused him to act in such a way, proven by the fact that he no longer has such gruesome urges after anti-androgen treatments. He wrote to Pitcairn in an effort to spread the word of his disorder, and instead of the article sparking a discussion on the role of mental illness in horrendous crimes, it becomes focused on the thesis of violence begetting violence, with only passing mentions of biology as a source of causality. In that sense, Davidson is done a disservice in favor of Pitcairn’s search for his own absolution.
This is a story that stays with you, and the fact that I was able to write 200 words strictly on my thoughts of how causality is presented in the novel is proof of that. I’d recommend this book, even if it were only to have someone with whom I could discuss it fully.
Elizabeth Seratt is a child of the Deep South, but upon graduating from Ole Miss in 2014, she made an ill-advised move to Santa Fe, where she had no job and no friends. It worked out: she now works as a social media coordinator and occasional freelance writer, and she has enough friends to throw cool theme parties.
She enjoys books, travel, horror movies, green chile, beer, playing outside, taking too many photos, and spending time with her cat. You can follow her adventures on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/elizabethseratt/), or enjoy her snark and love of memes on Twitter (https://twitter.com/elizabethseratt).
Paperback: 240 Pages
Author: Ronald Chapman
Publisher: Terra Nova Books; 2 edition (September 1, 2016)
UPCOMING BLOG TOUR DATES
Thursday, September 15th @ Bring on Lemons with Cathy Kwilinski
Cathy Kwilinski reviews Ronald Chapman's A Killer's Grace.
Friday, September 23 @ Renee's Pages
Tange Dudt reviews A Killer's Grace by Ronald Chapman; find out what she had to say after reading this highly acclaimed novel!
Guest Post by Rebecca Pott Fitton
One of the joys of writing was reading what I had written and thinking “that is really good.” This revelation was like cooking a meal that tastes surprisingly good. Writing allowed me to focus and articulate my emotions. The topic could be deeply personal or about public events. Language became a tool of precision.
Because I wrote when the poems came to me in the middle of the night, my sleep pattern was interrupted. I had lots of groggy mornings and afternoon naps. For about a year and a half, I adjusted to the poetry.
Reading my poetry to friends was the greatest joy. Having always been a very private person, I gave voice to myself and my experiences that resonated strongly for others. Knowing that my poetry was meaningful to others was deeply gratifying.
Rebecca's new book "Waver Rider" will be published early 2017.
Guest post by Santa Fe author, Claudette Sutton
New York is the city of my past -- in fact, several of them.
It's the city of my young-adult past. In my early 20s, in the early '80s, I got my BA from the Seminar (now Eugene Lang) College, worked, and lived in an East Village walk-up with my cat Pekoe.
It is the city of my parents' past. Dad arrived here in 1947, a handsome, fresh Syrian émigré by way of Shanghai. Mom was born in Brooklyn, though her parents moved to Washington D.C. when she was a little girl. She came up frequently to see her cousins, and her parents moved to an apartment in the Franconia on W. 72nd Street (just off Central Park, near the Dakota) when Mom was in her early 20s, so she could find a Syrian husband. (There are differing versions of that story.) She found one. Mom and Dad married in 1950 and lived there briefly before moving to Washington.
And it’s the city of my ancestral past. The Syrian-Jewish immigrants began arriving here at the turn of the last century -- my maternal grandfather, Abe Beyda, and his family among them -- and settled in the Lower East Side before moving to Brooklyn.
On this trip, all my pasts are interlacing with one another and with my hopes for the future, and -- since New York never fails to keep us firmly rooted in the present -- with the exquisite now.
Yesterday was Memorial Day, our last day up in Westchester, and Charles's last day before flying home to go back to work. David and Carolyn took us to the beautiful Innisfree Garden in Millbrook ("one of the world's ten best gardens"), then drove Charles to JFK and me to the train station in Hartsdale, where I caught the commuter train to Grand Central, for a taxi down to Soho. Initially sad to be alone in the station Charles and I passed through three separate times in the past few days, my spirits jumped when I checked into my very own room at the Solita Soho Hotel (recommended by a friend from New Mexico who is also here for the Jewish Book Council conference). I unpacked and headed just next door to a French restaurant for a glass of white wine, a bowl of chilled melon-mint soup, and an hour with my journal before going to bed early.
On this Manhattan stage of my trip, I'll be giving a reading tonight at Congregation Edmond J. Safra, the synagogue in Manhattan for the Syrian community. This morning, I'll visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, just a few blocks from my hotel. I read there's a nice tea shop, Harney and Sons, a few blocks away, which I'd love to check out, and this is Soho, on the edge of Chinatown and Little Italy, which means, who knows what else...
First, breakfast: Baz Bagels, a few blocks down Grand Street from my hotel. Eggs (scrambled), tea (English Breakfast), a bagel (“everything”), and cream cheese (“plain”). I don’t know what it is – we can throw rings of dough into boiling water in Santa Fe, too – but there’s nothing like a New York bagel.
The Tenement Museum visitors' center has a fantastic bookstore honoring New York’s many immigrant stories (I hope soon to include Farewell, Aleppo; I sent them a copy.) The museum itself is a restored old tenement at 97 Orchard, built in 1863, home in its time to over 7000 immigrants before being abandoned and shuttered for decades. Today it has been upgraded to modern safety standards as a museum, while stylistically preserved in its earlier state.
On their "Shop Life" tour, our bright young guide tells us about the German, then Jewish, families that ran businesses here from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s. In the 1870s a German couple opened a saloon in the basement that served as a restaurant, bar, bank, post office, support center and social hall for the upstairs tenants. In time "Kleindeutschland" spread north to 14th Street, and east all the way to the East River, enticing people down from wealthier uptown neighborhoods for German food, music, dancing and bier.
By the end of the century, the Germans had disbursed and Eastern European Jews took their place. By 1900, our guide explains, the "Jewish East Side" was not only the largest Jewish community in the world but the most crowded place on the planet -- with a higher concentration of Jews even than back in the shtetls in Europe.
Our guide doesn't mention the small subgroup of Middle Eastern Jews. Their far more numerous European Jewish neighbors greeted these swarthy-skinned, Arabic-speaking immigrants with skepticism, sometimes outright disbelief, that they were really even Jewish. My Grandpa Abe was part of this first wave of Syrian Jews, arriving with his mother and three siblings in 1902 as an 8-year-old boy who didn't speak a word of English. His father had come two years earlier, selling dry goods door to door and on the streets with a pushcart, until he saved enough money to send for the family. They lived for a time just a few blocks from here on Hester Street, in a two-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor (because rent was cheaper than on the lower floors), with a potbelly stove for heating and cooking, a sink in the hallway shared all four apartments on that floor, and an outhouse behind the building. Eventually they moved to Brooklyn, to the Syrian-Jewish neighborhood that thrives and expands to this day.
“The end of of a community like Little Italy or Little Germany means its success,” our guide says, "because they've moved up." For most immigrant groups, I can see this is true. The curious thing about the Syrian Jews is that they measure success precisely by their resistance to assimilation. Financial success has made the community more self-sufficient, more contained – more like a hive of bees, functioning together as a unit, than individuals making it on their own.
On the way back to my hotel I call Mom and Dad, who have just arrived in Maryland from Florida for the summer. My family's migration to this country once took them across oceans and continents. At this point in their lives, my parents have the migratory path of birds: south in the winter, north in the summer. This is good. I give Mom as vivid a sense as I can of the sights, sounds and tastes of my trip. To Dad I give a description of the talk I'll be doing tonight at the Safra Synagogue. I'll take him with me in spirit. Wish I could take him physically.
Guest Post by Santa Fe author, Francie Healey
"Creating and writing Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s from concept to publication has been a three year long journey that has been full of technical, creative, personal and spiritual growth."'
- Francie Healey
This book has been an avenue for all kinds of learning: how to deal with obstacles, how to have a strong voice, how to advocate for what really matters to me, how to compromise, how to relate concepts to readers that educate and empower, how to be brave, which is also, how to be vulnerable.
I couldn’t have persevered and succeeded without my team, my family, and the support of friends and mentors. And even with help, there are some moments that must be walked alone, that really are about the growth we yearn for on a very deep level. I believe any creative project or risk we take, anything that feels like a leap of faith into the life we hope for, will bring about situations where we need to confront our own shadow. In other words, taking action towards a meaningful dream will lead us along a path that must address the inner places that had been previously holding us back. For example, it had been my habit, formed very early on in life, to surrender my voice and defer to another’s authority, even if that other’s viewpoint differed from my perspective or need. When I was faced with the opportunity to go back into this old habit and sacrifice my own vision for the book, for what another proposed it should be, I had the chance to become more conscious of this temptation and to choose differently. I am happy to say that I used that opportunity to speak up and advocate for what I wanted for Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s, and was very well received. Of course that scenario had nothing to do with anyone else, and everything to do with me, and what I personally was learning from this creative process.
From my perspective, addressing this level of psychological and spiritual growth was essential for the writing and publishing of Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s to continue moving forward. Even as I was refining my writing, researching and organizational skills, I still needed to address the deeper growth opportunity for this experience to be successful in a way that was aligned with my own vision and needs.
"There were, and are, many levels operating when we pursue a project like a book, and especially I think, a first book. My experience all the way through was a bit like a juggling act, constantly moving parts that needed tracking and attention, while always holding the whole picture in mind."
Researching for Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s opened up so many paths that it was important to stay focused on what needed to be in this book, versus what would overwhelm it. I really wanted to have rich research-based content that would ground the premise of the book for readers; so they would know why I used the ingredients and recipes I did and what was happening in their bodies from the foods they were eating. Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s is based in science and good data. I want my readers to have access to that information so they feel empowered in their decisions around food. As we looked into all the research, it became clear that this is an abundant and emerging field, so it was necessary to contain the information we gathered, and bookmark areas for later research and writing projects. Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s has been an incredible project that has meant a lot to me personally and professionally, and it appears to be just a starting point for more to come. As I continue to learn and grow, I am inspired to continue sharing what I am discovering about healing and wellness.
And now that Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s is published and in the hands of readers, I am really delighted to have made such an accomplishment that will also serve as a stepping stone to even deeper dives into this area of brain health and overall wellness. I couldn’t have sustained such a project if it wasn’t a passion of mine: bringing good information to people and helping clients and readers to awaken to the potential they have, right now, to make significant positive changes in their lives. On the other side of publication, looking back, I am grateful for the process, even the rigorous challenges, which only served to strengthen me as an author. I trust that Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s will offer readers valuable insight and healing because it certainly did that for me in the writing of it.
There is something very powerful about bringing an idea into form. To make a concept, that begins somewhat as a fantasy, into a reality is a birthing process. And like birth, it is hard and messy, and takes a lot longer than we think it is going to take. Moreover, it is transformational and humbling and very tender to put something that is precious to me (like healing with foods and empowerment with education) into form and out into the world. At times the pull to protect my idea and keep it safe appeared to be in conflict with completing the book and getting it out there. So much of the journey has been about surrendering and trusting. I think that is why Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s feels like a beginning to me, rather than the end of a project. Writing it has stirred up so much passion, curiosity, and inspiration to continue learning and writing and being a voice for wellness. I had to constantly surrender any fears that would push me towards perfectionism, control, and worry. Fear does not serve the creative process. Instead, invoking trust in the writing, and my life, helped the book take form and become clear. As much as my vision for Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s was important to me, it was not about controlling the process. Allowing the book to unfold, and using my vision as an anchor point was the way I was able to move along the trajectory and eventually finish the book for publication. Writing, for me, is a dynamic process that synthesizes all the points vying for attention and wanting to be heard. It is important to honor each voice, or each point, allowing room for all, while holding the gestalt so that everything eventually flows within one stream, accentuating the underlying message of the project. For Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s that is a message of hope and empowerment. It is a message that I had to live and breathe as I wrote the book. Infused within the content of Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s, is the grit required to put one’s health as a priority and the courage it takes to awaken to our inner authority, which knows how to take the rein and steer each of us on a path of true vitality and wellness. Ultimately, disease is not inevitable, though death will come. We can all continue to awaken to our innate worthiness for health. Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s offers a lot of tools for turning in this direction, for choosing into life more deeply and honestly, by putting our needs, physiologically and otherwise, first and foremost.
Overall, I think any creative process can be a metaphor for living life. Bringing forward authentic expression about what we care about, what we love, and who we are is indeed, a recipe for health. Eat to Beat Alzheimer’s is infused with the many layers of healing and wellness, from the nutritional basics and biochemistry, to creating a mindset of openness and kindness, to instructions for cooking and creating health with foods. As I move forward as an author and a health and wellness professional I am excited to continue exploring each layer more intimately, and sharing my explorations with the world.
Guest Post by Marty Gerber - Terra Nova Books Editor
Bookends is a New York Times column in which two writers go mano a manoover a book-related issue chosen by editors to put them at opposite ends of the widest possible spectrum.
One such recent spectrum was book subjects that are "underrepresented in contemporary fiction." (Though the question “Compared with what?” was ignored, I think the intended answer would be the world we breathe and bleed and breed in.)
For Ayana Mathis, joy was on top of the “missing” list. Today's writers, she said, have dived into a sea of "despair, alienation, and bleakness." And she sees the reason clearly—a need to "write against" our culture's most common images of how people live: those created by ad writers and political speech-makers. As a result, Mathis says, "We have elevated suffering to the highest of virtues."
However, the counterpointing Siddhartha Deb awards writers more personal responsibility for what they ignore: refugees drowning at sea, life in solitary confinement, endless doomed struggles to merely pay the rent. "Literary fiction," he says, "seems cut off from . . . the very substance of living." And the cause that he sees goes deeper than Mathis's view; it is "the narrowing of sensibilities and interests of those writing today."
I realize there's a theory that "literary fiction" is impervious to the marketplace, that its creators should somehow be able to buy gas and pay the babysitter with specie consisting of the good, the true, and the beautiful. This is fantasy, of course. Reality is that those allowed by idealism or trust fund to avoid considering what people might want to read—the "demand" part of the capitalist equation—are pretty few on the supply side of the writing world. The large majority might wish they had that luxury but know they’re sadly stuck with the need to at least occasionally consider their audience.
Deb holds out Elena Ferrante, a writer focused on "unpalatable truth," as someone who "might free herself from the tired pursuit of fiction as a matter of professional advancement" and replace it with "indifference to what the market wants." He probably regrets that she's shown no interest in having her novels go unread. As a fallback, my best suggestion is that Deb, an author praised for both his fiction and non-fiction, step forth himself into that land where writers answer only to themselves.
"The rot of today’s literary scene," he laments, is "reinforced by the corporate demands of mainstream publishing houses"—clearly unacceptable for any person of honor. It's only a matter of time, I'm sure, before Deb will be bravely putting his keyboard fingers where his mouth is—except, that is, for the middle one proudly reserved for his readers.
Guest Post by Santa Fe author, Michael R. French
I hope readers of the novel can relate to [the characters'] struggles and impulsive judgments, even when we react by thinking, “no, please don’t do that!” Their lives twist and turn like ours, and realistically not everything ends up tied in ribbons. But life lessons are real.
In Once Upon a Lie, a story of the Eighties, my two principal characters seem as different as the Americas they live in—one in a white and privileged enclave in Los Angeles, the other a Texas town with walls to climb if you’re poor and black and have the ambition and talent to escape. Their paths cross and a relationship as complex as their differences begins to bloom. Jaleel and Alexandra (“Alex”) deal with societal problem as well as the personal ones they make for themselves. I hope readers of the novel can relate to their struggles and impulsive judgments, even when we react by thinking, “no, please don’t do that!” Their lives twist and turn like ours, and realistically not everything ends up tied in ribbons. But life lessons are real. Jaleel and Alex even have their own Facebook pages, their interweaving stories continuing in the present, picking up where the book leaves off.
Jaleel and Alex even have their own Facebook pages, their interweaving stories continuing in the present, picking up where the book leaves off. I chose Facebook as a storytelling platform because while a book does end, a story can and should continue if you like the characters.
I’m looking forward to watching the CNN series on The Eighties, a dissection of an important decade of politics, culture and technology. I’m sure I will spot parallels to the society and the challenges we face today. Understanding history, as many of us learned in school, is the first step in not endlessly repeating our blunders.
Post by A. Tucker
Santa Fe, New Mexico is a city known for its art and artists but the creativity doesn't stop there. Santa Fe is is also a city with authors around every corner. We are fortunate to live in a locale with such creative talent swirling around us and we know it. Their literary efforts are recognized around the world. From writers of fiction and non-fiction to screen plays our town helps create what people are talking about all over the world.
Here are three recently published local authors.
Michael R. French
National best selling author Michael French is a graduate of Stanford University and Northwestern University. He is a businessman and author who divides his time between Santa Barbara, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is an avid high-altitude mountain trekker, world traveler to developing countries, and is a collector of first editions of twentieth-century fiction.
Michael has published twenty two books, including fiction, young adult fiction, biographies, and art criticism. His novel, Abingdon's, was a bestseller and a Literary Guild Alternate Selection. His young adult novel, Pursuit, was awarded the California Young Reader Medal.
It’s no coincidence that family is the central focus of both Farewell, Aleppo and the work that has been the driving force of its author’s professional life.
Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in the close-knit community of Syrian Jews all were part of Claudette Sutton’s childhood in suburban Maryland, along with her parents and siblings. Years later, as a young mother in Santa Fe, it seemed only natural to think of creating a similar kind of close support for families in her new hometown by means of her journalism training and experience.
Laura D. Hays
Laura Davis Hays is the award winning author of Incarnation, a metaphysical thriller set in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a remote Island off the coast of Belize, and the lost continent of Atlantis. She is also the author of the forthcoming fantasy series, The Atlantis Material, and a collection of linked stories set in Denmark, her ancestral homeland, in the early part of the 20th century.
Laura writes with a mind balanced between right and left-brain capabilities that leads to a combination of flights of fancy and complexity of structure in her work.
A graduate of Rice University, Laura lives in Santa Fe with her husband, Jim, and two cats, Rufus and Dexter.
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