Monday, May 28, 2012

happy take-a-moment-to-remember day

Today, take a moment to remember the men and women who serve or have served in the armed forces. Remember those who lost their lives at war. Think about what it must be like for those who returned deeply wounded--physically, emotionally, and psychologically. And remember their families--the husbands, wives, and children whose lives will never be the same again because of what happened to them.

My father was a veteran of WWII. This is what I know about him now:

1. As a young man he left home for Austria to study for the Catholic priesthood.
2. Before the Nazi invasion of Austria, he fled and returned to the States.
3. He entered the Army, attained the rank of Captain, and was one of the first men to enter the concentration camps when they were liberated.
4. He never recovered from that experience.
5. I never knew any of this until after he passed away at the age of seventy-one...

...meaning that I never really knew my own father. I knew him as a kind-hearted, gentle, nature-loving man, an easy-going soul. But I had no insight into his emotional, spiritual, and psychological truth.

Had I known about my father’s pain, his courage, his faith, and what informed his decisions in life, I’d have been a better daughter to him, a better wife to my husband, and a better mother to my own children. I would have respected him differently, admired him more, forgiven him freely, and loved him openly. And I would have carried that same kind of respect, admiration, and affection into my other relationships.

I wish my father had told me his story. It is disturbing to think that shame, or fear, or pride may have silenced him…the way it silences so many of our men. So I have a favor to ask of all the men and women in our armed forces, and to their families:

Please tell us your story.

Share your experience and wisdom with the people who love you. It doesn’t have to be the tale of a conquering hero, or a generous benefactor, or a successful conquest. It doesn’t have to be the story of courage or strength or victory.

It will help the rest of us bear our own weaknesses, sorrows, and defeats to know how you bear yours. It will help us acknowledge our own faults and failings if we understand yours. We are connected through our shared humanity. We are separated by silence and shame.

Remember that today is NOT Happy First-Backyard-Cookout-of-the-Season Day.

Today is Memorial Day.

What story will you share with us?
I believe that what we become
depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments,
when they aren't trying to teach us."
--Umberto Eco--

Thursday, May 24, 2012

bring on the bulldozers

I don't usually post in the middle of the week, so something must be up, right? Well, it's like this:

Have you ever been moved by a book you've read? I mean, like when they send the bulldozers in?

I don't mean moved to tears, or to laughter, or to fear. I mean: moved to action.

I've been doing a little background research and reading in preparation for my second novel. Its underlying theme has to do with sex tourism, that is, human sex trafficking. This subject, for reasons I don't fully understand, has been an itch I just haven't been able to scratch, for a long, long time. If this is a topic that doesn't chafe at you somewhere deep inside, then you really should read the book I just finished:

"A riveting and beautiful memoir
of tragedy and hope--by a woman named to
Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people
in the world."

This is the memoir of a simple Cambodian woman who was sold into sex slavery as a young girl, managed to escape, and made it her lifelong quest to rescue children from the horror and utter hopelessness of their victimization.

Did you know that girls as young as five years of age are sold into slavery? That they may be chained or caged in filth, threatened, beaten, and tortured until they surrender to their fate. Are you aware that they may be sewn shut without anaesthetic so that penetration is even more agonizing for them? That they are exposed to STIs and HIV without concern for treatment or prevention. That many children die at the hands of their abusers.That there is no escape for them? Not a glimmer of hope?

The scope of this global human tragedy is inestimable. It is cloaked in secrecy and lies, denied by governments, and ignored by agents of the law. It is an untreated wound that festers, undiagnosed and untreated, without regard to socioeconomic, cultural, or spiritual boundaries.

If you don't believe this...if this is none of your concern...if you feel you have more important issues to contend with...then please read this book. Somaly Mam survived unspeakable torture...and relived it moment by moment in the writing of this book in order to raise awareness and support for her work. This includes rescuing, sheltering, and protecting victims like herself. It includes educating and training them to become self-respecting and self-sufficient members of society. Her work involves educating men, women, and children about the scope and horror of human sex trafficking. It involves working with law enforcement agencies and governments in order to intervene on behalf of children everywhere.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Somaly Mam Foundation. To learn more, go to

And...if this doesn't move you...or you would like to know might prefer to read a novel:

"A deeply moving story and a searing reminder
of the resilience of the human spirit."

The Blue Notebook was written by Dr. James A. Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic. The story grew out of his research among the homeless children on a street in Mumbai known as the Street of Cages, where child prostitutes work. It is the first-person account of a young girl, Batuk, who records her journey in a small blue notebook.

All of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. You can access the site at

I was moved to post this blog tonight because my awareness, anger, and empathy were aroused by these books. Perhaps you will be moved to read one or both of them as a result of this post. Perhaps you will be moved to support the efforts of these organizations  because of what you have read.

Bring on the bulldozers. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

"no means nothing"

Today I came away from the annual Pennwriters Conference feeling encouraged, energized, and eager to get back to writing. For three days we were connected with like-minded writers, editors, publishers, and presenters, all of whom shared wit and wisdom with us. We learned about the art and craft of writing, about technique and tools of the trade, and about the publishing industry. We were motivated and inspired by the success of authors who started out just like us...meaning that we confronted the issue of rejection.

We learned that even best-selling authors (the ones who make it look so easy) have endured rejection after rejection on the path to eventual success. You may encounter rejection because the agent is having a bad day when your query comes in--his bum knee is acting up, or she just discovered that her husband has been on the prowl, or that the biopsy came back bad.

Perhaps the agency has just taken on a YA paranormal suspense thriller and has no immediate need for yours.

Maybe your book actually is the next "great American novel" but your query letter somehow doesn't make that clear.

Good manuscripts are rejected all the time for reasons that have nothing at all to do with the quality of the work. Bobby Carducci ( explained, "No means nothing!" Her advice is to keep trying. Never give up. Continue to query. Have your work critiqued and be willing to make the necessary changes. Continue to learn the craft. At the right time, with the right person, you will find success. She is certain of it.

My question is this:

If your work is rejected over and over again, how can you be certain of that? For example, I have no talent for math.

No matter how hard I study or practice, I will never understand calculus. I've tried. Similarly, some people truly have no talent for writing and probably shouldn't go on and on wasting their time at it, laziness and arrogance aside. How can a writer know if, in truth, her work is just that bad, that it will NEVER succeed...

...because I think we all wonder about that from time to time.

When does "no" mean "never"?
"No means nothing."
--Bobby Carducci--
I have three MAJOR projects started. I need to decide which one to move ahead on. Hopefully, I will have decided by the time I post again, next week.
ps: Thanks, Bobbi!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Looking back at the 2012 A to Z Challenge

First, a huge round of applause goes out to everyone who had anything at all to do with the A to Z Blog Challenge this year…from the innovators and enablers, to the participants, to those who simply stayed posted and read our stuff.

The creative spirit is definitely alive and well despite any attempt by evil forces to thwart it. You know what I mean—fatigue, time constraints, financial woes, disparagement, failed attempts…whatever it encounters. It thrives because it has support.

In business, in politics, and even in the health care, competition is the name of the game. Marketing, promoting, and selling a product or service are the motivational tools that fuel the machinery.

In the creative arts, on the other hand, community appears to be the sustaining force. People supporting one another’s efforts, encouraging each other, and most notably, rooting for someone else’s success! The greatest thing about the Challenge for me was this sense of connection, comaraderie, and encouragement…from total strangers…from around the world! I love the thought that there are people everywhere who share my passion for writing, who work quietly and steadily without any guarantee of success, who pass their days in solitude…and in just thirty days, become mutual friends and fans…thanks to this Challenge!

If you have been following my blog for awhile, you may have noticed that some of the posts had a familiar ring to them. This is because, for this year's challenge, I went back through my blog and tweaked a few of my old posts, keeping with the theme of "beginning again". The purpose of this exercise was to decide whether I might have the basic outline of book here...something I can expand upon in hopes of publishing it. A book for people who long to dump their day jobs and indulge their artisitic yearnings, whether by writing, painting, composing, or performing. I've already interviewed CJ Lyons and Tess Gerritsen, both of whom, like me, abandonned careers in medicine to write.

So...if you are reading this reflections post, I'd really appreciate your input. A book for people who would love to "begin again"? If you'd like to share your thoughts or suggestions, comment below or send me an email at

During the month of April I also worked on "Cherished Illusions", the blog I dedicated to my recent medical mission to Tanzania

I also saw my first short story published in The Storyteller Magazine.

It was a very good month for me in many ways... but especially because of this challenge and the opportunity to get a glimpse into the hearts and souls of other writers, and to have a share in their passion and purpose in life. For this, I say, "Thank you."

“Writing and reading
decrease our sense of isolation.
They deepen and widen and expand
our sense of life.
They feed the soul.”
--Anne Lamott--

Sunday, May 6, 2012

a font of time and energy

I set a number of goals for myself today. I intended to finish edging and weeding the flower beds. I meant to pick up a couple of plants to fill in the empty spaces.

I hoped to finish spreading tan bark. To catch up on laundry. To run a few errands. To get some writing done.

So, even though it was a gloomy, damp day, I dragged myself outside. I weeded and edged for a while...but I didn't finish the job. Never got around to putting down the tanbark. Ran one errand that didn't involve picking out flowers. Never did get to back to my WIP.

First, I ran out of energy, something that is getting to be more and more of an issue as I get older.

Then the phone rang. Again. And again.
This week, my daughter announced her engagement (woo-woo!) and already we are deep in discussion about venues and flowers and music and gowns so I expected her to call. Then my sister-in-law called to say that my niece had gone into premature labor overnight and, thankfully, delivered a healthy baby girl. Then I received a call about leading a women's spiritual retreat in small task.

Needless to say, I somehow ran out of time today. With nothing much to show for it.

There should be a diagnosis code for Obsessive/Attention Deficit Disorder--when the only thing you can think about is getting back to writing...but there are so many distractions, you can't concentrate long enough to get anything down. There should be a code for Writing Withdrawal Syndrome--

--when you get restless and irritable and impatient because you want to be need to be writing...but you just can't get to it. There should be an eternal font of energy and time that we can dip into on days like today.

Do you sometimes run out of time and energy for writing? Do you ever get caught up?
"I expect the gift
of good and industrious hours."
--Rainer Maria Rilke--
God knows what I'll come up with next week...given sufficient time and energy.