Mon. March 18, 2018: Kindness is not Weakness #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, March 18, 2019
Waxing Moon
Mercury Retrograde

 

In light of the New Zealand terrorist attack, I thought it was important to talk about how kindness is not weakness.

Often, when someone is kind, it is misinterpreted as weak. Part of the premise of my not-quite-cozy Nautical Namaste mystery series (under the Ava Dunne name) hinges on the fact that my protagonist, Sophie, is mistaken for weak when in reality she is kind. She walks her talk. She does her best to live the yogic path she teaches. Part of that path is meeting the world with kindness.

That does not mean she doesn’t fight back when someone tries to hurt her or hurt someone about whom she cares. Quite the contrary. She’s strong. She can be tough without being hard.

But she is also kind. She does her best to make everyone in class feel good about where they are at that moment. It’s one of the tenets practiced at Kripalu that I admire most, and I wanted to fold that in as part of the series.

You are fine where you are. From where you are, you work for positive change to change what you know needs to change.

Offering a helping hand instead of a striking blow is not weakness.

It is something we must start practicing as individuals. If the current poison of hatred can spread the way it has, it can and must be countered with an antidote of kindness in strength.

Take a look at the Strength card in your favorite tarot deck. (If you don’t have a favorite tarot deck yet, I recommend the Robin Wood Deck or the Everyday Witch Tarot or the Steampunk Tarot). Look at the image on the Strength card. There is strength, integrity, purpose. And kindness.

We can’t change the greater world until we change our own part of it. By practicing kindness in strength, we can create a ripple effect that counters the wave of hatred that’s been the long game since the Reagan years, which is now coming into full flower.

We can stop this. We can change this. But only if we don’t turn away, pretend it doesn’t exist, and pretend that our daily interactions either enable it or counter it.

Be strong. Be kind. Make the world a better place.

 

Mon. March 11, 2019: Kindness to Self – #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, March 11, 2019
Waxing Moon
Mercury Retrograde
My birthday

Today is my birthday, which is always a mixed day. I want to have a happy day, but it’s hard not to beat myself up about not getting everything done in the previous year that I wished.

So, today, I have to be kind to myself.

That doesn’t mean lowering my standards or letting myself off the hook. But it means giving myself today as a personal holiday, and enjoying the day without bringing in unnecessary baggage.

Personal holidays are important. These are days that have nothing to do with anyone else’s calendar or traditional holidays. They are days you take for yourself, just because the day has meaning, and you get to do whatever you want. August 1 is one such day for me. I’m resolving to turn my birthday into another.

So, today, I resolve not to get caught up in other people’s drama. I’m just going to nod and smile and move on. I resolve not to focus on the half-empty, but the half-full.

On a practical level, I will write today. I will spend a few hours onsite with a client. Then, I’m going out to lunch, and then to meditation group, and then have a nice dinner and a quiet evening doing what I want with whom I want.

My kindness to myself.

How will you be kind to yourself this week?

 

Mon. February 18, 2019: Love of Country #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, February 18, 2019
Almost Full Moon
Presidents’ Day

We survived Valentine’s Day. We all deserve a prize.

On this President’s Day, on a month of essays about love, it’s appropriate to talk about love of country.

This is a contentious issue right now in the US, with two factions with opposite ideas of the definition of “love of country.”

I can’t think of any country whose history hasn’t been built on blood and pain. We keep hoping culture and society evolve into a better form of humanity. Sometimes it moves forward for a few years, and then back for a few hundred.

Too often, we don’t know actual history, just propagandized bits of history. Although it’s painfully obvious we don’t learn from it.

What inspires love of country?

For me, it is a set of ideals about humanity, justice, education, art, compassion, and inclusion that I see the country in which I currently live abandoning. Ideals that were set out by the Founding Fathers, and built on by our Founding Mothers and children, and all the rest of the anonymous people who actually did the work. There are always people devoted to their country who are willing to fight for it — be it joining the military or working on various fronts at home. But a country survives and thrives by its citizens holding a shared vision of what that country stands for, and everyone working to bring that vision into reality for ALL its members.

One can learn a great deal by re-reading documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution — and then reading diaries and letters of regular people who actually lived through those times.

One of my favorite experiences was a discovery I made in the Philadelphia Archives. I was there to research Betsy Ross, for a project for which I’m still trying to find the proper form.

By accident, I saw a diary by a Dr. James Allen. I’d gone to elementary school with a nice guy named Jamie Allen, and I thought it might be fun to read about this Dr. James Allen. So I asked for the diary, which arrived, written in absolutely gorgeous penmanship.

Dr. Allen was a medical doctor. Well educated, well read, with a strong sense of justice. He was there, at Independence Hall, listening to the original public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 2, 1776. It shook him, transformed him. He ended up joining the Army and serving under General George Washington. He was part of that Delaware Crossing.

I read his diary, knowing how it all comes out in the end, but, of course, he didn’t as he wrote it. His concerns, the times his patience and his integrity were tested — I wish I could get a grant to transcribe the diary, research his history, and publish a book about him!

I learned more from reading this man’s diary than I did from any history book.

It also reminded me how much more complex actual history is than a line in a textbook or a tweet or a sound byte.

Skipping ahead in history a bit, Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe are two of the reasons I became a writer. I admired both their work and their lives so much. As an aside, as much as I admire Emerson and Thoreau, I’m always reminded that there they were, talking and studying and writing and walking in the woods, while the practicalities of daily life were handled by the WOMEN around them. This frustration was reinforced by Susan Cheever’s terrific book, AMERICAN BLOOMSBURY (which I highly recommend).

I re-read Louisa’s diaries regularly when I get tired and discouraged.

Harriet is best known for UNCLE TOM’S CABIN. There’s plenty to discuss about that book on so many levels, both positive and negative, which could take up an entire college semester. But Harriet wrote plenty of other books, too, many of them domestic comedies. Some of her writing is very, very funny. She came from a large, lively, intellectual, daring, engaged, and flawed family. Her brother Henry Ward Beecher’s scandal when he led a church in Brooklyn, and, again, how the woman in the scandal was the one thrown under the bus, is detailed in Barbara Goldsmith’s wonderful social history, OTHER POWERS.

Both Harriet and Louisa were considered “difficult women” and
ahead of their time.” Reading their letters, their diaries, their books, one sees how they were both ahead of their time and PART of their time (and prejudices, although they were far more progressive than many of their contemporaries). We hope we’ve evolved in our understanding of humanity, although too often it feels like we’re going backwards.

History is made up of people and their messy, beautiful, terrifying lives. Societies are too often built on breaking the individuals that actually do the work to build the society. Where can you give someone room for individuality? Where does someone going too far become a threat to someone else’s basic human rights and dignity? What are basic social constructs that allow people with vastly different beliefs and points of view to co-exist in peace and dignity and prosperity for all? How does one teach people that having enough for all doesn’t necessarily mean taking away from anyone, but that everyone must contribute fairly? How can we craft laws that have more to do with justice, and less to do with religion, which, in my opinion, has been used as a tool of oppression ever since it was invented?

All of that feeds into our “love of country.”

It’s not an easy issue. Especially when competing factors have vastly different ideas of what the society that inhabits the defined “country” should believe, live, and build.

As a writer, of course, all this is fascinating. But living it (and we are all living history, every moment), can often be exhausting.

We supposedly live in a democracy (which is under serious threat), that is set up as a republic. Therefore, as part of our love of country, it is an obligation to keep up with the news (actual news, not propaganda feeds), to stay informed about upcoming legislation (you can read the text of past, present, and proposed bills on Congress.gov), and to interact with our elected officials, on local, state, and federal levels. It takes time, but the alternative is to lose our country. So it’s worth it. We need to vote. We need to serve on jury duty when called. We, as individuals and collectively, need to speak out when human rights are denied, and stop it.

This President’s Day, think about what you love about your country. Think about what you believe needs to be changed. And then take action. Because history is built by people.

Be a History Builder.

 

Mon. Jan. 14, 2019: Self-Care in Community #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, January 14, 2019
Waxing Moon

Since January is the Self-Care month for our group, let’s talk about self-care in community.

So often, we’re desperate for some quiet time, alone time, that we forget there can be power in self-care together.

That’s not as much of a paradox as it sounds.

My yoga instructor mentioned it last week, when a group of us began a season of Monday afternoon meditations together. This is in addition to my daily meditation practice in solitude. Once a week, a group of us get together to be quiet in company.

Fellow writers, you know how, during Nano, the write-ins are great, because you’re sitting in a group of other writers, doing your own thing, but being together?

That can work with self-care, too, in some situations.

Many of us in this meditation group were part of a 12-week session last summer of Savaskana/Savasana for 90 minutes, once a week. It was great to lie in a room with fellow mindful practitioners and not have any expectations. My yoga studio also does regular “sound baths” — where participants lie down in restorative positions while a variety of sound washes over us for an hour. As someone with extreme sound sensitivity, this is wonderful.

As much as alone time is vital to creative well-being, try something in company. Walk with a friend. Join a class in something you enjoy, or you think you might enjoy.

Care in company can play a wonderful part in healing and balance.

Namaste!

Published in: on January 14, 2019 at 6:12 am  Comments Off on Mon. Jan. 14, 2019: Self-Care in Community #UpbeatAuthors  
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Monday, Dec. 10, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors Holiday Decor With Personal History

Monday, Dec. 10, 2018
Waxing Moon
Uranus Retrograde

I admit it. I’m addicted to Victoria magazine, especially the holiday issue.

But when I do my own decorating, I need it to be more personal. Creating the environment I want doesn’t have to cost a lot.

But it does need patience.

I have an entire closet of Yuletide ornaments, collected over the years. Every year, I buy one or two pieces (often during the year at a thrift shop or yard sale). Or people give me ornaments as gifts. Every ornament has a story.

As we decorate each year, we tell and re-tell the stories. We relive and remember our family (meaning friends that are chosen family) history.

Nothing is there because a decorator told us to put it there. It’s there because we want it there.

When I lived in a NYC apartment, everything only fit one way. Now that I live in a house on Cape Cod, I rearrange things as I wish.

I have accumulated collections of nutcrackers, Santas, angels, snowmen, carolers, reindeer. They move around, rarely in the same place two years in a row.

Here are some other thrifty ideas that give us lots of pleasure.

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Fabric
I’ve picked up an assortment of fabric in an assortment of lengths throughout the year. Novelty holiday prints; velvets; solid colors, glittery fabric. I mix and match them, and I use them to cover tables, end tables, coffee tables, and any other surface that needs brightening up. Organza or silk or glittery strips can be used to swag around curtains or the tops of windows or door. I change out the fabric for all the holidays; it’s amazing how much difference it makes.

Most fabric I’ve picked up on sale or as remnants.

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Ribbon
Ribbon goes on sale throughout the year, and I grab it whenever I see it. We hang lengths of red velveteen ribbon along the sides of our doors and windows, topped with ornaments or found pine cones we attach to the top with florist twine.

Along the door ribbons, we tape our cards. We can look up and enjoy the holiday cards all season.

We also put holiday ribbon on any stuffed animals that are sitting around, or any of our carved or ceramic animals.

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Natural objects
You don’t have to go to the store to buy cones and shells. I gather cones in the card, or get shells, sand dollars, etc. on the beach. I clean everything, of course. Some of it, I keep in its natural state (or maybe spray with clear varnish). Some I spray with gold or silver or copper or bronze paint, so they sparkle.

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Rather than buying a wreath made by someone else, I’ll buy a plain wreath or different greens at the garden center or the library’s green sale or on the Audubon Society’s holly walk and make my own. That way, each year’s is unique and personal.

Of course, you CAN spend a lot of money on any or all of this. But the items I tend to gravitate toward are usually the vintage, the ones I find at odd little sales, or from individual crafters. Or I find bits and pieces and put it together on my own.

To me, the process of decorating is part of the magic of the season. It makes me happy. It fulfills something in my spirit.

Whether it was the year I bought a 50 cent garland of musical instruments at Woolworth’s to hang up in my college dorm room (which I still have and use every year) or the Angel Tree Advent calendar I bought at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it all has personal meaning. And that makes it magical for me.

Published in: on December 10, 2018 at 6:33 am  Comments Off on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors Holiday Decor With Personal History  
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Mon. Dec. 3, 2018: The Infamous Cookie Platters #Upbeatauthors

Monday, December 3, 2018
Waning Moon
Uranus Retrograde
Mercury Retrograde

#upbeatauthors — Thriftiness — The Infamous Cookie Platters

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Some people look at thriftiness as being cheap, or not valuing the person on the receiving end of that thrift. Far too many people believe that the value of a relationship can be measured by the financial value of gifts exchanged.

I disagree. I would rather receive a gift given from the heart with some thought to it of a lesser monetary value, but a greater “heart value” than something expensive.

As a freelancer with a budget, I have to be careful with my holiday budget. Well, with any budget, but the holidays always put a special stress on it.

I’m a big holiday card person. I believe in writing and mailing cards. I don’t do a typed letter that I print out and stuff in; I handwrite notes on each cards. I’ve had years, when I worked on numerous shows in numerous locations, where I wrote and mailed nearly 500 cards; in the last few years, it’s closer to 75.

I love receiving cards, too. Our family tradition is to hang red velveteen ribbons around the doorways and windows in our house. (To be thrifty, I buy the ribbons on sale in bulk at an art supply store when they’re on sale, cut them to fit, take them down and wind them on marked spools for “doors” and “windows” so I can re-use them for years). We then fasten the cards we receive to the ribbons around the doorways. It’s lovely to look up from wherever we sit and have a reminder of friends and loved ones.

But what I’m known for, around the holidays, are my cookie platters. Every season, I bake about 1000 cookies and several dozen small cakes or cupcakes, and put them together in large platters that I deliver to neighbors, clients, the firehouse, the library, the guys at the transfer station, the yoga studio, postal workers, etc., etc.

This is actually a thrifty way to show these individuals that they matter to me (handmade, baked from scratch goodies) while not breaking the bank.

How do I do it?

I’m organized.

I decide, over the summer, which cookies I’ll make. There are either four or five varieties, and they have to be the kind that don’t go bad after three days (although, to be fair, once the platters are delivered, they are devoured pretty quickly).

Thanksgiving weekend, I sit down with the recipes, paper and pen, and make a list. How many platters do I need? It’s usually between 18-24. How many batches of each type of cookie does that need? Instead of doubling or tripling the recipes themselves, I make batches — the quality is better.

I sit down with the recipes and figure out how much of each ingredient I need. I usually start stock piling staples in autumn, and purchase the eggs, milk, butter, etc., as I need it. I start stockpiling parchment paper and wax paper in autumn, too.

I set aside several days, and bake one type of cookie each day, starting with the cookie that keeps best. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a variety of excellent tins in which to store the cookies; they are cleaned and sterilized at the end of each season, and then, again, before I start baking.

Before I start each batch, I check to make sure I have all the ingredients I need. If not, I run out to the store and get them. There were too many years where I ran out of something in the middle of the recipe and had to run out, leaving partial batter in a bowl!

The last thing I make are the small cakes or cupcakes. I make them either the night before delivery, or the day of delivery.

Everything is baked, stored, marked.

Now, I create the assembly line for the platters. I usually prep 3 platters at a time, using the oval Chinet-thickness platters. I put the cakes in the middle, and arrange the different types of cookies around them.

Then, I slide the platter into a large cookie bag (or I use cellophane, the type used for florists and gift baskets). I’m in the process of designing a more eco-friendly type of bag with my own designs on it, but haven’t yet perfected it. I close it with a twist tie, then add a gift tag with a thin ribbon. The gift tag either lists the cookies, or I have a cheat sheet with photos of each type of cookie that I include. I don’t use nuts in any of the cookies I give as gifts, and I make sure to say so. Once the tag is fastened, I use a yard of organza ribbon in either red or green to tie a large, flowing bow, and add a candy cane to the bow.

I plot my route for deliveries. I usually do two or three sets of deliveries. I walk the platters over to the neighbors. My favorite thing to do is to leave it at the door, so they find a treat when they come home; however, I’ve lived here long enough that they start watching for me, so they can invite me in!

I do my deliveries, and I’m done! Time for eggnog, with a good dose of rum in it. Except for the postal carriers who come to the house. We’re a weird little set of streets, and different carriers hit us on different days. So I make small packets, tucked into holiday-themed Chinese-food style containers, and give them out from the Solstice through New Year’s, whenever we have a different one.

I make sure to have enough cookies left over in case we need to put together another platter, or we are invited to a party and bring something, and so we can enjoy some ourselves! In other words, I usually make at least one batch more than I believe I’ll need.

By October, people start asking if I’m doing the cookie platters again this year, and what will be in them. I keep several of the old favorites, like tollhouse and molasses spice, but change up the other types.

By keeping my eyes open for sales on ribbon, platters, paper, etc., all year, and then stockpiling as certain items that hold freshness go on sale, I can create the platters on a budget, and still let the recipients know they are valued.

Published in: on December 3, 2018 at 6:56 am  Comments (1)  
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Mon. Nov. 12, 2018: Friendliness – How Many in a Day? #UpbeatAuthors

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Monday, November 12, 2018
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

 

One of the exercises I often give my students is to track how many people they interact with in a single day.

This came out of a series of exercises supposedly set in cities that lacked any sense of the teeming life that is so much part of a city. Like the apocalypse happened, and I didn’t get the memo. If you set a scene in Times Square, I want to know, where are the people? It’s full of them, twenty-four hours a day. Even if your scene is an intimate one between two characters, someone is going to bump into them as they chat on a cell phone or laugh with their friends. Without other people, you lose the sense of place.

In the exercise, each person takes a small pad and a pen and makes a hatch mark for each person encountered in the course of the day. Whether you say anything to them or just pass them on the street.

The last time I did the exercise, I was staying in a suburb of New York, took the train in to Grand Central, attended an event at the New York Public Library, worked on a Broadway show, went out to a restaurant, and took the train home.

Interaction count for the day: 587.

Five Hundred and Eighty-Seven people in the course of a single day in New York City. And I probably missed a few.

I don’t ever want to read a scene set in that city that doesn’t have an awareness of the sheer amount of humanity in a small space again.

What does that have to do with friendliness, our topic of the month?

Try this: Pick a day this week or next week, but sometime sooner, rather than later.

Make the effort to smile at every person you pass in the course of your day. Even if you’re an introvert.

Jot down notes during the day.

What kind of difference did it make in your day?

Take a moment to think about what kind of difference it made in other people’s days.

Now, again for writers, think about how you can translate any details of any of those interactions to your writing.

How does that change the life of the piece? How does that change your characters’ experience?

How did meeting everyone you encountered with friendliness for one day change your experience?

Build on that. In fiction, and in life.

Feel free to post the results of the experiment here, or in response to any of the Ink posts.

Published in: on November 12, 2018 at 6:30 am  Comments Off on Mon. Nov. 12, 2018: Friendliness – How Many in a Day? #UpbeatAuthors  
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Mon. Nov. 5, 2018: Friendliness — Pull Up a Chair! #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, November 5, 2018
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Venus Retrograde

 

First off, let me apologize. I mis-read the list of topics, and I spent October talking about tolerance, which was September’s topic.

Let’s just say I’ve had a challenging couple of months!

I’m back on track for November, and the topic is “friendliness.” My first week on that topic will deal with friendliness at conferences.

I’ve attended plenty of conferences where I didn’t know anyone. Sometimes they were international; sometimes they were in my home country.

I’m a writer and an introvert. I need a lot of time on my own (which is why I don’t book with a roommate for conferences — I need to retreat, and I need to be able to maintain my writing rhythm).

But I still want to interact.

I’ve usually been able to meet at least a few people and be friendly enough with them for the duration of the conference so that I don’t feel like a wallflower. I’ve met people at conference who wound up being good friends for the long haul.

It was actually easier to make friends and hang out at conferences before social media. I don’t do selfies; I don’t post photos at events of myself with people; I don’t even use author photos (that’s in my contract). I publish under multiple names. What I look like has nothing, NOTHING to do with my ability to write.

I’m not an actor.

In my opinion, the writing should NEVER have anything to do with my appearance.

It’s about the work. Not about me.

It used to be that a conference was where you could attend, interact, and blow off some steam. It was kind of like Vegas — what happened at the conference, stayed at the conference.

Not anymore.

So, in my opinion, a lot of them just aren’t as much fun.

You don’t get to relax anymore. You have to be “on” all the time. Performing all the time. I wasn’t particularly wild, but I also didn’t have to worry that anything I said with irreverence or did might be taken out of context and posted for the world to see.

There used to be at least a bit of private space at conferences, where people could interact and not be on guard all the time. Vent, laugh, get to know each other as individuals, not as representatives of a brand or a company.

That doesn’t mean I advocate people being horrible to each other, treating each other badly, unwelcome harassment, and saying awful things. People did that, and do that. Sometimes it’s a moment of anger or misunderstanding; sometimes they reveal who they really are. There are plenty of talented individuals, in all the arts, who aren’t particularly stellar human beings. I’ve had my share of disappointments, meeting someone whose worked I liked, and finding I didn’t like them as a human being. I’d prefer them across the room to across the table. And yes, sometimes I’ve discovered something that is so averse to my sense of integrity that it destroyed my ability to enjoy their work.

I do believe that we should meet people on a platform of basic human dignity and work from there. But the fact that we have to be “on” all the time means that it’s harder to really get to know people. It creates more tension. Instead of a conference being a place to have some fun and a little freedom amongst one’s people, it’s one big long marketing adventure.

I was on the board of directors for a local writers’ organization for a few years. Their central event was a rather wonderful conference. Instead of panels, where attendees went to listen to other people talk process, there were workshops where they learned process and had the chance to apply it. There were evening speakers or lunchtime speakers and all kinds of great events.

Part of my job was to make sure the presenters felt welcomed and taken care of; make sure they had everything they needed for their workshops; make sure they had someone to share the meal with, and weren’t sitting off in a corner alone (unless they wanted/needed to in order to decompress).

I also felt it was my job to make participants feel more included. For me, it meant being more pro-active than I’d been as a participant. How many times did I go into the bar at the end of a conference day, not know anyone, and not feel comfortable enough to grab a seat alone?

In this case, I felt that part of my job as a trustee of this organization was to play hostess.

I’d gather up a few people, starting at the welcome cocktail party, and every evening at the bar after the day’s events ended. We’d settle in a place clearly visible from the door, and put together a bunch of tables.

As someone came in through the door, stopped, and looked around, with that deer-in-the-headlights look, I’d wave and say, “Hi! Come join us! Pull up a chair!”

The relief was palpable.

Most of the time, they did. If someone arrived and someone at the table knew them, they waved them over, too.

By the peak of the night, we had an enormous table of people getting to know each other. Often, it organically wound up being a mix of writers, agents, and editors. People moved around, switched seats, talked to a variety of people.

I also took the time to talk to every individual who joined us, find out what was working for them and what wasn’t, as part of their experience, which helped us build a better conference the following years.

By starting it at the first cocktail reception, I set a tone of friendliness. People started meeting each other. They had someone to attend talks with, or go to meals with, or even explore the area with.

No one felt left out.

Basically, I created what I always wished for at other conferences.

That also changed my behavior when I attended conferences. Instead of sidling in to the bar and taking up as little space as possible, I take a table that I like. When I see a face of someone I might have passed earlier in the day, or spoken to at some point, I invite them to join me.

As an introvert, it takes a huge effort to make that first move. But I know what it feels like to be unsure of one’s welcome. So I do it anyway. Even though I’m as exhausted mentally as physically by the end of the evening. But it’s worth it.

That doesn’t mean I wind up adoring everyone I meet. There have been times when I haven’t particularly liked some of those at the table. But I could still be cordial to them, and we could each find people at the table with whom we better connected.

Be the welcoming person you always hoped to find at a conference. It will make the experience better for everyone concerned.

So next time you’re feeling unsure at an event, smile at someone else and say, “Pull up a chair!”

 

Published in: on November 5, 2018 at 6:58 am  Comments Off on Mon. Nov. 5, 2018: Friendliness — Pull Up a Chair! #UpbeatAuthors  
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Mon. Oct. 15, 2018: When Tolerance Is Used as a Weapon #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, October 15, 2018
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Venus Retrograde

I could go on at length about this topic. There are plenty of facets to it.

The bottom line is simple: You are not required to tolerate someone who wants to harm you.

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On a side note, for those of you who are enraged by the current situation and want to channel that rage into developing art (in any discipline), I’ve started an invitation-only group for progressive artists identifying as female called Women Write Change. I created the sanctuary I need right now. The guidelines are here. If you want to participate, the email to send a request is at the bottom of the guidelines.

Take care of yourself.

Published in: on October 15, 2018 at 4:18 am  Comments Off on Mon. Oct. 15, 2018: When Tolerance Is Used as a Weapon #UpbeatAuthors  
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Mon. Oct. 8, 2018: Persistence & Definitions of Success — #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, October 8, 2018
New Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Venus Retrograde

There are a slew of misconceptions about working in the arts as a profession rather than a hobby. Among them that it’s easy, that we’re automatically rich, that we don’t “deserve” to be paid, that we’re all promiscuous drug addicts, and that it’s not “real work.”

All of them are false.

One of the most frequent questions I get from people who are doing their art on the side is the question of what did I do, working my up from off-off-off Broadway to Broadway, when the day job/temp job interfered with the show?

Very easy solution: I quit the day job.

Any “day job” I took served a temporary purpose to pay the bills until I landed my next paid theatre gig. I was upfront when I was hired – theatre comes first. Always. You get my full attention while I’m here, but when I land my next show, I’m gone.

Because unless my art was my priority, I would NEVER have been in a position to earn a living at it. And before those who don’t have the guts to make the leap start screaming that they have responsibilities and “can’t” – I have ALWAYS been the primary breadwinner in my family, since I came of age. I have a whole host of responsibilities. So don’t tell me that yours are better/harder/more important than mine.

But am I/was I successful?

When I was a teenager, I had dreams of fame and fortune. Once I started earning my living in theatre and saw what fame did to people, how it interfered with their lives and their art (and no, being a performer doesn’t mean you’re “asking for it”. Reality show celebutards are a different story – they seek the attention). But serious performers? Recognition is necessary, to keep landing quality work. But few of them “enjoy” fame. Too many are destroyed by it.

So I made a conscious decision, quite far back, that I did not want fame.

Which meant adjusting several other things.

Which meant redefining what I considered success.

If I was not willing to make the fame compromise, it meant forgoing certain elements by which OTHER PEOPLE define “success.”

Sometimes, that affected how much I was offered for a gig, or other circumstances. Or even IF I was offered a gig. I learned to live with that. It meant I didn’t land certain gigs I wanted; however, looking back, it worked out.

I decided to define success for myself as earning my living doing work I love.

That simple.

Knowing that definition means I can set boundaries when others try to get away with not paying me for my skills because “we don’t pay for that” or “it’s not real work.” Then, hon, I’m not working for you. It’s NOT a loss for me. A loss, especially in terms of self-respect, is accepting or seeking work and approval from those who don’t value my skills and my talent.

Those individuals are not worth my time.

The carrots they dangle to manipulate me into doing what’s good for them (but not for me) with the promise of better down the road? That “better” will never materialize.

MY success means walking away from them, and connecting with people who respect my talent and skills, or creating situations that draw those to me.

It means trusting my gut and a clear vision of what I want and who I am – and knowing that will evolve over time. It doesn’t mean being inflexible. But it means knowing when a situation isn’t going to offer me anything except grief. And being willing to walk away.

Not just walk away, but move on to a better situation.

That kind of persistence builds a positive career.

It’s not easy. People don’t like it when they can’t manipulate you, or if you don’t acquiesce to their agendas.

Too bad for them.

I persist in making decisions that build on what I’ve done, stretch me in interesting ways, and pay me a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.

Earning my living doing work I love – persistence allows me to do that.

 

Published in: on October 8, 2018 at 4:14 am  Comments Off on Mon. Oct. 8, 2018: Persistence & Definitions of Success — #UpbeatAuthors  
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Fri. Oct. 3, 2018: Digging In

Friday, October 5, 2018
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Venus Retrograde
Cloudy and cool

Yesterday was busy, but I didn’t get as much done as I needed to (that seems to be a theme lately).

The writing was unproductive, I had some errands.

On the up side, I got some good work done on the proposal, and got some LOIs out. I made myself take the time for my yoga class, and definitely needed it, then finally made it to the gas station to get gas in the car.

I’m still waiting on an estimate from my mechanic, so I can get some necessary repairs on the car.

Today will be an infuriating day for anyone who actually values Justice and the Constitution.

I’m doing a lot of writing in my head. That’s great for when I finally sit down and write, but now I have to sit down and DO IT.

This weekend, I need to dig in and get a lot of writing done. After tomorrow’s vote, I will probably stay offline through the holiday.

I doubt I’ll have a chance to blog on Tuesday, so I’ll be back up on Wednesday. I do have an #upbeatauthors post scheduled for Monday.

Have a great autumnal weekend!

Published in: on October 5, 2018 at 10:12 am  Comments Off on Fri. Oct. 3, 2018: Digging In  
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Mon. Oct. 1, 2018: Persistence — How Badly Do You Want It? #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, October 1, 2018
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

There are five Mondays in October, which means I have to sort my thoughts on persistence into FIVE posts. Yes, that will take persistence!

When I teach, one of the first questions I ask is, “How badly do you want this?”

The students who will gain the most out of my classes are not those who prefer “having written” to writing. I am strict, and demand a high level of productivity and commitment.

Because that is what you need if you plan to have a career in the arts.

High productivity.

Ever-increasing skills.

Commitment.

Persistence.

I spent most of my professional life earning my living in the theatre. I worked my way up to Broadway, production managed some indie films, and day-played on network television shows.

I made the decision that was what I wanted to do quite young, and started working professionally when I was 18, and still in college.

Did I ever do other things? Of course. I temped all over the country. I worked at nearly 200 different companies. I worked at many non-profits. Some of them were great experiences, like the Guggenheim Museum and the Neuberger Museum. I did a three-year stint for an art book publisher during the day while working off-off Broadway at night. I did five years working for the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation part-time, as I worked shows at night, moving from off-off Broadway to off-Broadway. Eventually, I worked enough off-Broadway to just work theatre, and write, and pick up some extra cash between gigs playing the horses at Aqueduct and Belmont and as a tarot reader.

Then, I worked at the Public Theatre for some people well-established in the field, who recommended me up the ladder to Broadway because they liked my work.

I made the leap.

At the same time I transitioned to Broadway, shows I wrote were produced in London, Edinburgh, and Australia, so I took time off from the transition in order to be with those shows in those locations.

When I worked on Broadway, I wrote. I had shows produced in small theatres. I collaborated with fellow artists.

I started getting back into writing not just plays, but short stories and novels again. I took workshops. I learned how to pitch. I learned more about effective pitching from working with film acquisitions people at conferences than anywhere else, and it is what I learned from those film people that honed my skills so that my novel pitches started to hit.

I made a tough decision that much as I loved writing scripts, I did not want to relocate to LA and start at the bottom of the ladder again. I didn’t want to do what was necessary to achieve a spot in a writer’s room. I respect writer’s rooms enormously, and the collaboration that goes on there. It is not an environment where I would thrive. Do I still write and pitch scripts? Yes. But I’m not going to earn a spot in a writer’s room of a television drama in LA. My career trajectory isn’t going to go there. I’m at peace with it. Most of the time. 😉

When it was time for me to leave Broadway, because the physical demands of the backstage work were too much, and mentally, I needed to stop splitting my focus between working on other people’s shows and my own, I left New York — and moved far enough away so that I wouldn’t be tempted back.

I dug in, and through a mix and match, and a lot of pain and frustration, made it work. I shifted and expanded what I write and how I handle my business in order to make a living. Unfortunately, I live in an area that talks big about celebrating artists, but doesn’t actually support working artists. Are you a visiting artist who likes the beauty and history of the area? They’ll fall all over you. Have a summer house? They grovel. But move here, live here year round and try to work? The attitude is that you must have failed elsewhere, so the expectation is for you to work three part-time jobs at minimum wage without benefits and do your art for “fun” because “we don’t pay for that.”

So I don’t work for them. I have some local clients I enjoy and value, who value me in return. I expanded my client base beyond the bridge, and reconnected with international contacts. I network here, sure, but have redrawn my boundaries, and when the demand is made to work for free, I say no. Because this is my business, not my hobby. I’m not living off a trust fund. I’m not writing for pin money. I am not supported by a corporate husband paying the bills.

This is my profession.

I talked in earlier posts about how if you don’t respect your own work, no one else will, either.

Saying “no” has done more to expand my business than saying “yes” to the wrong situations ever did.

Is my life perfect and without struggle? Of course not. I am still building the life I’ve always wanted. I will always be building the life I want, because life changes, breath to breath. You can either insulate yourself and pretend it doesn’t, or rage that the world refuses to change to suit you. or think on your feet and make the decisions that support your choices.

I knew, when I was six years old, that I wanted to be a writer. Once I fell in love with theatre, I wanted to do that, too. I had a dual career as long as it worked. While I have a multi-pronged writing career, it is also what I want. I like doing different things, having different facets and challenges.

Years ago, I thought I wanted an ivory tower existence. I imagined something quite different from what it is.

But what “is” is better, in many ways, than the roads not taken.

And the road I hope to build in the coming years will continue to improve. Not without obstacles, pain, and tangents — but if I persist, I can build something good.

I got here because when I asked myself, “How badly do you want this?” — my answer was, “Badly enough to do what it takes.”

 

Published in: on October 1, 2018 at 3:55 am  Comments Off on Mon. Oct. 1, 2018: Persistence — How Badly Do You Want It? #UpbeatAuthors  
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Mon. Sept. 17, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors The Small Pleasures Enjoyed By Others

Monday, September 17, 2018
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde

In this month about the Tolerance Topic on Upbeat Authors, let’s take a minute to think about what makes other people happy.

Social media has intensified the contempt people feel the need to show for those who enjoy things that they don’t. If we are going to practice tolerance, and walk our talk, then we need to stop making fun of people for liking what they like (provided their “like” is not actively causing harm).

If someone posts something about being so happy that it’s pumpkin spice season, take pleasure in their enjoyment!

Okay, I admit, I’m not a fan of pumpkin-flavored stuff. But I like that it stands for the change of season, into my favorite season. And people get so excited when pumpkin spice season comes around. Their posts make me smile. I enjoy their enjoyment, and it brightens my day. I don’t have to be enamored of the actual flavor in order to enjoy their happiness.

If you really can’t stand what they enjoy – scroll past WITHOUT MAKING A DETRIMENTAL COMMENT. Save those comments for something that actually matters, where there’s harm being caused, such as on the political spectrum, or if someone is abusing someone else.

If someone takes joy out of strangling puppies or drowning kittens, or trophy hunting endangered species, yes, absolutely call them out and report them to the appropriate authorities. If someone threatens physical harm or performs verbal abuse as their preferred pleasure, yes, do something.

But simple pleasures, the small daily joys in people’s lives that don’t cause harm? Either enjoy the enjoyment or keep going!

I’m paraphrasing an old saying that works along the line of a trouble that’s shared is a trouble halved, but a joy that’s shared is a joy that’s doubled.

Double your joy by sharing what makes you happy, and participate in doubling the joy of those who share what matters to them.

Published in: on September 17, 2018 at 5:13 am  Comments Off on Mon. Sept. 17, 2018: #UpbeatAuthors The Small Pleasures Enjoyed By Others  
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