Thursday, September 30, 2010

Poem request

Yesterday I received two requests from The Compassionate Friends members asking me where they could read my poem, "Aftermath." I'm not quite sure how they heard about the poem since it was published in The Compassionate Friends newletter, "We Need Not Walk Alone," Summer issue way back in 2001.

So, I'm posting it here in case anyone else is interested. It will also appear in my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On, to be released on May 9, 2011 by Lucky Press LLC.


They came in droves at first
out of concern, out of curiosity.
They sent flowers, cards
and sweet notes saying
call anytime
anytime at all.

Now it is quiet.
A few friends
invite us out,
or come by.
The rest have moved on
glad to have done their duty.

Don’t they know I’m not contagious?
My son’s death will not rub off.
I’m the same person I was before.
A sadder person, perhaps
but needing my friends
just the same.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Getting permissions -- second, third, fourth, fifth rounds

After I proudly thought I was on my way to getting permission to use a quote from a Paul Simon song in my book, I got an email from the organization (the third one) I had last communicated with telling me they were not the guys who give out the permissions. However, they were kind enough to give me the name of another permissions-giving-out organization, and I promptly send off a query and information I thought would be pertinent for their going ahead. 

But, no. The next organization wasn't the right one either. They too gave me the name and contact information for another organization that gives permission for using Paul Simon lyrics  (the previous one only dealt with the music side of permissions). 

And, duh! It's called Paul Simon Music.

Well, I called them right away, left a voice mail for the contact in charge, and within minutes I got an email back with a form to fill out with the book’s cost, when it would come out, and the publisher. They also requested a couple of things I hadn't been asked to provide before: an excerpt of the book where the quote would be used and a short book synopsis. Perhaps that’s so they can determine how much to charge me for the use of the precious two lines I want to quote. So far no mention of money has come up from any of the permissions organizations I’ve contacted, though my publisher Janice said I would have to pay for using song lyrics.

Well, if the cost is prohibitive I can certainly paraphrase the quote. It won’t be the same but what the hey? 

Anyway, we’ll see what Paul Simon Music comes back with. I'm still waiting to hear from them and the two book publishers I've sent requests out to as well. 

I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Remembering Paul (12-31-1971 to 09-23-1999)

I woke this morning at 4 am with a start and wondering if he was still alive at 4 am the morning we found him dead. Another thing I'll never know. At least I still have my memories of him while he was alive.

Perhaps I've posted this poem before. Even so, it is appropriate for today.

Remembering Paul

I’ll always remember he slept
without closing his eyes all the way
I’ll always remember he walked fast
and way ahead of us
I’ll always remember he had long, thick, black eyelashes
surrounding clear blue eyes
I’ll always remember he played the piano
legs crossed at the knees, leaning
way down over the keyboard
I’ll always remember he liked to wear
second-hand clothes and didn’t mind
if they were ripped
I’ll always remember he stood
at the pantry door munching almonds
I’ll always remember he liked to climb –
trees, rocks, diving boards
I’ll always remember he was meticulous and anal about his things
I’ll always remember he could play almost any tune by ear
And that he was always a loner
And how much he loved his girlfriend
and wasn’t touched enough after she left him
I’ll always remember he was sensitive
I’ll always remember he drove too fast and erratically
I’ll always remember he got lots of parking tickets
I’ll always remember he was in love with John Lennon
I’ll always remember he liked Doc Martin shoes
I’ll always remember he tapped his foot when he sat down
I’ll always remember how he sat
all folded over like The Thinker
when he drank coffee at Starbucks
I won’t ever forget the feel of his cool pale skin
the last night I saw him
Or the sound of his voice
I’ll always remember his hair was thick
I can’t forget he knew all the nursery rhymes
by the time he was two
and he said he wanted to watch a record
when he lay down on the red and black plaid couch to take a nap
I’ll always remember he and his brother
called the back of the station wagon,
“the really back”
I’ll always remember he loved to fish. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Guest blog from The Sundance Kidd

My friend and fellow blogger posted the following on her blog. It's about my son, Ben, and his film project, Breaking Evans. So you see there's more than one writer in the family -- however, he's a producer, director, and actor as well. But, I'll let The Sundance Kidd do all the bragging. You can read The Sundance Kidd blog at:

Breaking Evans

I recently had the opportunity to interview actor turned writer/producer Ben Sharples about his new film Breaking Evans. Breaking Evans, the up and coming indie-drama, takes you into the life of struggling tennis player Aaron Evans. Aaron returns home, after years of avoidance, to visit his ailing father. Coming home forces Aaron to confront his past, which may be the only way to save his failing tennis career. But is it too late?

While attending the University of California Berkeley, where Ben played on the tennis team, he took an acting class, a decision that forever changed Ben's life. He caught the "bug" and from that moment on, knew he wanted to be an actor. Ben, inspired by his new found love of acting, continued taking acting classes through his senior year at UC Berkeley. After graduating from UC Berkeley, Ben applied to acting school, and was accepted into the prestigious ACT in San Francisco.

Ben decided to combine his two passions, film and tennis, into a film, that explores the abusive side of a parent-child relationship that he always found so interesting while watching other tennis players and their parents. The film itself branched from an idea Ben had for a music video to the song Blurry by Puddle of Mudd, but after discussing his idea with friends, he realized that it was heading in the direction of a feature length.

Trying on the shoes of a writer and producer has been a new experience for Ben, who spends most of his time in front of the camera. I asked Ben about the new roles he has taken on for his film.
"Do you enjoy being the actor, the producer, and the writer? Or does that make the film more challenging?"
"Yes, I very much enjoy it, and yes it does make it more challenging. Producing is fun, I really like it. You have intense responsibility because your hands are in everything. I like writing the least. It takes a longtime and is not enjoyable during the process, but after you finish, it feels like a great accomplishment. Acting is my favorite, I love it. A high, exhilarating feeling comes from acting, that makes you feel like you can do anything."
Breaking Evans is currently in production, and is guaranteed to make its way into the hearts of indie film lovers and tennis lovers across the globe. A movie that can present issues that everyone can relate to, is a winner, and that is exactly what Breaking Evans does.

What advice can you give to aspiring filmmakers?
"Get your friends together and make a movie. Make sure you have a strong script- take the time and be okay with edits because a good script is the most important thing. Also, be sure you make the movie you want to make. Don't steer into other directions."
Links for Breaking Evans:
- Follow Breaking Evans on Twitter
- Sign-up for monthly updates on Breaking Evans
- Become a fan of Breaking Evans on Facebook

Stay tuned for more news and special interviews about Breaking Evans!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kudos to Facebook

I must give huge kudos to Facebook and its networking ability. I received a friend request this week from someone whose name I didn’t recognize. This happens from time to time from authors I don’t recognize, but who are mutual friends with other authors I know.

But, this request was different. I went to her page, saw who our mutual friends are, and immediately recognized her as the little granddaughter of my now-deceased brother and sister-in-law (my husband’s brother and his wife). We met her as a little girl while visiting them in Glendale New York many years ago -- I think 1998. She must have been about six or seven. But, that visit always stuck with me. She was so lovely and talkative. She sat next to me on the sofa in the living room, and we talked about her school and her home in upstate New York – her father, divorced from her mother lived with his mother in Glendale. He is now diseased as well.

Another subject I’ll always remember is hair scunci’s. She had a pony tail and her hair pulled back in one, and we wanted to know what her hair tie was called. And at the time I didn’t realize it was a brand name, not just the word scrunchy – something to tie back one’s hair.

So after that visit, I always thought of her when I bought a scunci product. This smart little girl had introduced me to them.

I asked about her when I was with her uncle in New York at the time of Bob’s brother’s death last January. And, it turns out she saw my comment on her uncle’s wall after his wife died a couple of months ago. So, it seems we were both thinking of each other.

Then all it took was one little click on Friend Request on my page for us to reconnect and catch up after all these years. From her photo I can tell she is quite grown up. I can’t wait to get to know her better.

So, thank you Facebook. You did good!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Is there really a process for getting permission to use a quote?

Yesterday I spent a lot of time figuring out how to ask for permission to use a few quotes I have in my book. I’ve always been into quotes. I write them down when I happen on them. You can see a few of my favorite ones on my Facebook page profile.

So, I thought nothing of it when I inserted a few in my memoir manuscript – actually one is the first line of one of the poems that will be in the book. Then I asked Janice, my Lucky Press publisher, whether or not I needed to get permission to use them. And, the answer was resounding yes.
So, I began down the path of finding out about the permission request process. First Janice suggested I go back to the two books containing two of the quotes and find the page numbers they are on. And, since I didn’t have the books anymore, I decided to go to my local library. I actually thought I’d pick the book off the shelf, thumb through it, and voila, there would be the quote. It would just jump out at me.
Not so simple. The library didn’t have a copy of one of the books on its shelves. So I had to order it. And, it took a full week to arrive.

Once I had both books in hand I had to methodically go through them page by page looking for the quotes. That also wasn’t simple. I felt like I was rereading each of the books again. Sure I was just scanning, but that scanning too lots and lots of time.

So, there’s a huge lesson. If you want to quote from a book, write down the page number the quote is on, and of course write down the title, author, publisher, print year, and ISBN number of the book from which the quote came. Needless to say I had done none of that when I originally decided that the quotes would make nice additions to my book.

Once I had all the pertinent information I went on line and looked up the publishers. In my case I looked up Random House and HarperCollins. It turned out one of the books was published by Anchor Books, a division of Knopf which is a division of Random House. Confusing, right?

And, each publisher has a list of requirements. They of course wanted to know about the book I was quoting from and even requested a photocopy of the page my required quote was on. Then they wanted particular details about the book in which the quote would appear like: title, author, publisher, publish date, format, and territory of distribution, price, and print run for each format. And, since my book isn’t in its final form yet, Janice had to do a little estimating to come up with all the details. Again not so easy.
Anyway, after working most of a day I sent off letters, Random House’s  permission form, and photocopies of book pages to each publisher.

But, I wasn’t done. I had also decided to use a quote from a popular song. And finding out how to get permission for that was a whole education in itself. Janice suggested I call ASCAP or BMI, organizations that represent the music industry. Well, after calling ASCAP I found out my required song was represented by BMI. I then called BMI and was promptly told doesn’t give out permissions. I needed to go directly to the song’s publisher. So, I again went online and typed in the name of the song and added the word publisher, and voila it came up. The publisher’s website had a query form so I thought how easy is this and went ahead and typed in my request and the actual text of the quote I wanted to reproduce. Again, not so easy. I received word very quickly that the publishing company didn’t handle such requests. I had to go to their permission handling corporation. Luckily I could query them via email, and once I did that I received word I would have an answer in about three weeks.
Not so for the book publishers. They would not do business by email – only snail mail or fax. And I can’t expect a response from them for at least six weeks.

But, with that done, I can go on to the rest of my writing work. And, when that’s done, perhaps I’ll develop a course in how to ask permission to use a quote – if anyone is so inclined even after reading here how difficult and frustrating the permission process is. Maybe they make it so hard to discourage rampant quoters like me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Doubts beget doubts

I’m 16 minutes late starting this. I had set my goal to start a journal entry/blog post at 10 am, to give me enough time to complete it before going on walk to the beach with friends. And what I managed to do was find a few distractions causing me to miss my start time. And the distractions were: putting away the folded laundry, cleaning the bathroom sinks, making the bed, putting away the purse and shoes I wore to dinner last night, taking the sneakers out of the washing machine. All of those things could have waited, but I wanted everything done just in case our guests gaze around our house. I don’t want them to catch a glimpse of a mess somewhere. That’s how I am. I always have to have things just so before anyone comes over.

And that’s at the expense of my writing time. Sure I know it’s only 16 minutes, but a lot of 16 minutes could add up to a lot of time over the long haul.

Right now I’m feeling pressed for time. It’s September 12, and my deadline is to have the book in my publisher’s hands by October 31. And before I send it off I want it copy edited and merged into one document – for my convenience as well as hers, so I have to lop off a week at the end to do that. So, right now I think I have a scant 5 weeks left. And, so, every 16 minutes counts.

So far I think I’ve made pretty good progress. I have three chapters to go to complete my second revision pass through the book. That means I’ll have revisited all the partss I felt were repetitious, I’ll have fixed any inconsistencies, and I’ll have reread the sentences and fixed any wording problems.

But, that’s not the end of it. Yesterday while I was rereading Chapter 12 I kept thinking that it was in the wrong place. It seemed like I was backtracking. I got up and went to my storyboard wall and took a look around – thank goodness for the storyboards, and I’ve pretty much decided to move Chapter 12 to just before Chapter 8. Then if I do that, I have to think about what impact it will have on the rest of the flow of the book. Just a few weeks ago I was so sure I had the chapter sequence correct, and now I’m in doubt again.

Is this usual?
Do other authors feel this way?
Please tell my your concerns.
I’m new at this and needless to say I need some good advice. Hopefully, when Marlene comes over on Tuesday and walks the wall with me she’ll be able to help.

But, you know one doubt begets another. Now I worry that I’m fulfilling all of things I said I’d do in my revision plan. So I have to go back and check. I also have to make sure that I’ve added all the new material I developed, first making sure that that material is still relevant. I’m beginning to feel there is no end in sight.

One thing I’ve learned from my long career on proposals and reports in the aerospace industry. When there is a deadline, there is an end. I used to be the one to tell people they had so many days until pens down. And I can remember all the moaning and groaning when that pens down day finally arrived. Authors never want to stop with the changing and editing, and I’m finding out that I’m no exception. I’ll probably be thinking of ways to change the book way after it’s been published and selling like hot cakes off bookstore shelves. (I’ve got to keep thinking positive about that, right?)

Anyway, in the next five weeks I plan to finally get it all done and get it done right.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

More about The Emerging Goddess

Some very exciting news about our photography/poetry book, The Emerging Goddess:

Paul Blieden, the photographer, and I will be interviewed next week by the arts editor of one of our local newspapers, The Easy Reader, and we expect to see the story in the September 23 or 30 issue.

Also Pages, our new independent bookstore downtown Manhattan Beach, will host a book signing and poetry reading in the store on October 21. My job is to get a couple of poetry readers for the event. Well, I have a couple of actors in the family. Perhaps they'll take on the job.

And, next summer in June or July, one of our local galleries, Cannery Row, will have an exhibition of Paul's beautiful and original "goddess" photographs and a poetry reading as well.

Things keep happening for this book. I think its time has come.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A few poems from my books

Here's a little taste of my poetry from The Emerging Goddess and The Great American Poetry Show.

Floating on the Clouds

I see her reclining in the clouds.
Her long torso shows
just a hint of full breasts
Her nipples point
upward and proud,
her knees raise slightly,
then lower.
And like a lazy cat
she languishes, stretches
to her full length.
She looks up at the dark puffs above her
and floats by
melding into her white cushions
for protection
for warmth
or just to keep dry?

Wedding in Green Silk (for Wendy and Doug)

We sat on white folding chairs
arranged in a large circle on the lawn.
The sun off the ocean
warmed our backs.
At each quadrant – north, south, east, and west –
a small table, covered with silk cloth,
held a gift.

On another table in the center
were two blue velvet ring boxes
and a broom laying crosswise.

First came the drummers
dressed in soft sage greens
to honor Brigid, Celtic goddess of healing and growth
and the bearer of prosperity.
Their fingers rippled along the edges
of large flat drums
to beat the rhythm of the procession

Next came flower girls.
Hair in golden ringlets
they wore dark green velvet
and dropped petals
in bunches wide enough
to match their strides
on the grass.

Finally the bride and groom arrived.
He in a suit of white silk
and a long emerald green cape,
she in a flowing dress
of chartreuse silk charmeuse
and a lime green pau de soie wrap

To quiet, slow drumbeats
they walked within our circle
nodding, smiling, blowing kisses
with their guests.
They stopped at the center table,
their marriage alter.

At each quadrant a woman
offered her gift – flowing water, flowers,
fruits, and wine.
We offered our 6-foot lengths
of silk ribbons in all colors
to be woven into a coverlet
for the marriage bed.
The bride and groom offered each other a ring
fashioned of intertwining gold branches
and green gems.

As the sun slipped into the horizon,
not even late August’s night chill
could tear us away. We danced on the green
to beating drums
and Celtic goddess songs
in our hearts.

Pomegranate – The Last Hope
With flowing white hair
she ran with light dancer’s steps to the tree.
She ran around it chanting,
singing its praises,
then bowed, raised her arms,
and brought her palms together
to her heart in respect.
She plucked the round fruit
from its thorny stem
and fell to the earth on her knees,
her homespun skirt swirling and spreading
on the ground.
Tearing the tough outer skin open
long pointed fingernails
pried the crimson seeds
from the yellowish rind.
She pushed one shiny seed after the other
into her mouth
and as she chewed the thick red juice
ran down her chin,  through her fingers,
and on her bare breasts
leaving her sticky
with the sweet fruit of life.
She ran her tongue
over and over her lips
lapping up every drop of the liquid.

She had longed for a child
for all eternity.
This was her last hope.

Dream World

 I look toward my mother's bed
in its sunny spot by the window.
Her young nurse is smiling.
So is mother.
She lies in a blue hospital gown
printed with triangles, squares and circles
in shades of gray, burgundy and dark blue.
Her skin looks healthy.
Her thin, white hair brushed off her face.

After the nurse leaves, she looks at me
with wide eyes and asks,
"Do you want to play bridge? We need a fourth."
"I haven’t played in years," I say
She accepts that excuse
and points her long painted nails
to two or three other people
she imagines in the room.
"They will play," she says.

I stroke her damp forehead,
holding her bony hand bruised from the needles
that had been stuck into it.
I brush my fingers down her white, silky legs,
now devoid of hair.
"Do I look a mess?" she asks.
The sun casts a shadow across her bed.
"No, you look wonderful," I say.
She smiles at me, not minding
that her mouth has no bottom dentures,
and brags how her cousins
tell her how good she looks
and how well-dressed she is.
Even here with her gown hiked up to her diaper,
she cares.
I try to pull her gown down
but she keeps grabbing it.
I cover her with a sheet,
and sit down to watch her play cards.

"Six spades," she proclaims,
"Play out." I play out.
Using her night gown as her bridge hand,
she tries to lift off each pattern section
one by one as if it were a card
and place it on an imaginary table
in front of her.

I want to know what happened to her,
and what can be done about it.
 "Hospitalitis," the nurse says.
She has seen it a million times before.

I go back to the bed and continue play-acting.
I am thankful too. Her mind is taking her to that other place
where she is young and beautiful
and lives on the west side of Chicago.
"I like this little room," she says.
"I’m glad," I say.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pseudonyms or not?

When my Lucky Press LLC publisher and I spoke the other day, I brought up the subject of writing about folks still around and the use of pseudonyms or not. She said the book will have a disclaimer so I shouldn’t have to worry. But I decided to have my dear friends Linda, Alice, and Richard approve a piece beforehand because these are the folks besides Bob and Ben whom I still see. These are folks I love very much, and I do not want the risk of their unhappiness about anything I write about them. I don’t plan to use pseudomyms for them. 

That leaves the folks in the book whom I haven't seen since Paul died -- by their choice or mine. I don't  plan on using their real names, and I've taken the risk test where they are concerned. As a result, I don’t think I need to worry about a privacy or defamation charge as defined by Amy Cook, an attorney who wrote a piece on what every memoir writer needs to know in the July/August 2010 issue of “Writer’s Digest.” Except for her first and last criteria that I’m writing about real people who are private and not public people, they won’t be recognizable to the readers, I’m not making disputable statements of fact, I’m not disclosing private and possibly embarrassing information, the matters discussed are not of concern to the community at large, and I’m not disclosing a crime.

Of course this issue is a concern to all writers – not only memoir writers – because so often fictional characters and stories are derived from real life.

In another article in the September 2010 of “The Writer” magazine, Gregory Martin states: “A memoir is a reckoning, and among its final reckonings is the author’s decision to tell the story at all.” He also says, “…you need to think hard about the real-life implications of your work long before it reaches any editor. If you have, and afterward, if you can’t quite breathe deeply, if you become aware of a low-level underlying anxiety to all your waking hours, a kind of agony, at the thought of what might happen if your story does get published, then maybe you’re ready for submission.”

I love that he wrote that. A man after my own heart.

Suffice it to say, I’m way past the submission stage. I’m getting my story ready for publication. I’m moving slowly toward my deadline. So  my deep breaths are few and far between and my anxiety level has risen up toward high. And, it’s all good. It’s all about my excitement of getting published.