Fellow poet, Jennifer Payne, welcome to Choices today!

That I love poetry should be no surprise to my readers here, so it pleases me to no end to host the author of the book of poetry, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, today during her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. Jen has also provided us with her thoughts about meditation, something I've dabbled in over the years and always feel guilty about when I don't do it. I thank Jen for her guest post below.  Exploring Mindfulness by Jen Payne 1. A Meditation on Bugs I hadn’t walked five minutes up the trail before they ambushed me. A swarm of gnats dropped down in front of my face like a thin, black veil. Two flies laid claim to my ears—bzzzzzzzzzzzzzing in stereo. Their siege left me breathless—afraid to inhale. My swatting—swat, buzz, swat, buzz, swat, buzz, buzz!—was moot. By coincidence, I had recently watched that scene in the movie Eat Pray Love in which the Julia Roberts character successfully sits in meditation for a full hour despite an enthusiastic swarm of … [Read more...]

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Poetry lessons learned at Esalen, Big Sur, Part 1

I just spent five days at The Life of Poetry workshop with Ellen Bass and Roxan McDonald at Esalen, in Big Sur California. The workshop structure is to hear a craft talk in the morning and then have about three hours of writing time, before we meet in the afternoons in smaller groups to share and discuss our new poems. Throughout the week I wrote four poems* in keeping with the four craft talks Ellen presented. I'll discuss the first two craft talks today, and continue on with the other two later in the week - so as not to bore you too much. Metaphor: Defined as similarity between things that are otherwise very different. Use of fresh vital images to jar us, to heighten the emotion and achieve intimacy. Through quality of the metaphors, the poet can grab the reader. Try to find metaphors in your junk drawer, your garage, your closet, your throw rug (look at the fibers in the rug rather than whole). Here is an example of a poem with great metaphors: My Father’s Tie R … [Read more...]

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George H.W. Bush groped #MeToo

In May 2012, my husband, Bob, and I toured New England, Boston, New York City, and Washington, DC, as an anniversary treat. We stopped in Kennebunkport Maine for a night or two, and I joked with Bob that I hoped I’d get a chance to say hi to Barbara Bush – I called her Babs – at the local grocery store. Little did I know that I’d see her and her husband while we ate dinner at the recommended Italian spot, Grissini’s, that night. The couple sitting at the table to our left asked for a photo with them as the Bushes were leaving the restaurant, and we asked for a photo as well. Both the president and Barbara Bush were very gracious. When we said it was our anniversary, Barbara asked how many years, that triggered a little discussion about marriage longevity these days. That year we were celebrating forty-two years. We got one of the servers to take our picture – in fact, she took two shots. And during both, the former president rubbed my buttocks with the palm of his right hand. … [Read more...]

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Our guest today is Mary Maurice. Welcome!

I'm happy to host Mary Maurice today, author of Burtrum Lee, a scientific mystery, during her WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. Also, Mary has shared her thoughts on "keeping readers engaged," especially for our Choices readers. Thanks so much, Mary, for your interesting ideas for engaging your readers. Keeping Readers Engaged by Mary Maurice First and foremost, I try to get the reader’s attention with a good title, and then I reel them in with a semi-hypnotic rhythm, while making sure that there are no stump-words. (words that are complicated, making the reader stop and go over the sentence again, losing the momentum that you’re trying to achieve). Speaking from experience, when I come upon a word I have to think about, most times I set the book down soon after, and sometimes never return to it. Simplicity is a key, as well as colorful and spicy words. I have a box of Crayola’s on my desk which I use for descriptive detail, as well as fruit colors, and anything else to capti … [Read more...]

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Dr. Leona Stucky writes about violence against women

Dr. Leona Stucky has written an eye-opening account of the violence she experienced in her own home as a young Mennonite woman in her memoir, The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God. She calls this treatment the Invisible American War. The numbers of those affected are staggering, and bringing their turmoil into the light still escapes us. Dr. Stucky says there is denial about the violence against women and men in America. To. This. Day. Choices readers: please tell us your ideas of how to bring these atrocities into the light. We need your help. Public Denial of Violence Against Women by Dr. Leona Stucky The Fog of Faith: Surviving My Impotent God is an historical personal account of a young Mennonite woman who finds herself on the front lines of the Invisible American War. I remember the breathless reaction I had when, years after my war experience, I read in Jeff Wolf Wilson’s book, Children of Battered Women, that during the same years that the US lost 39,000 s … [Read more...]

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Larry Kilham – thoughts on fiction vs. nonfiction

Choices is so excited to have Larry Kilham here today - the last day of his WOW! Women on Writing blog tour. His work with creativity, invention, and artificial intelligence is fascinating. Please check out his latest book, Free Will Odyssey. You won't be sorry. Larry has also written a post especially for Choices about his thoughts on writing fiction vs. non-fiction. I can relate since I've also written both. Here is what Larry Kilham has to say: Fiction vs. Nonfiction by Larry Kilham I have written about an equal number of fiction and nonfiction books. Each time I start thinking about my next book, I confront the difficult decision about which modality to use. With fiction, you are not held to a high standard about detail and truth. Writing a nonfiction book, on the other hand, about a current topic like addiction generally requires a team of researchers and a noted research institution in order to gain gravitas and establishment acceptance. Nonfiction is clearly the … [Read more...]

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Revisiting journal writing

My writing in the last couple of weeks has been made up mostly of journaling. That has inspired me to revisit a piece I wrote about how important I think journal writing is and share it with you. The Power of Journaling A friend gave me a little leather (or faux leather) bound five-year diary complete with tiny lock and key when I was in high school. And for a while I wrote in the teeniest script about typical teen-age angst – especially about my first crush who gave me my first cigarette and first French kiss and then dumped me for a girl he met at summer camp. I think my parents must have thrown that diary out when they sold our house and moved to California because I never saw it again after I went away to college. I took up journaling again during my thirties while my husband and our two sons and I lived for nineteen months on a remote island in the South Pacific. I felt so isolated on this tiny island that the best I could do was write long rants every morning before the b … [Read more...]

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Getting in balance

Balance is important especially as we age My mother fell all the time in her late eighties and early nineties. She wouldn’t use a cane either. Or if she took a cane with her, she’d wear the handle on her wrist like a bracelet. At first she did little damage, but her last fall resulted in a broken hip. She died a year and a half later at the age of 94. The fear of falling, which becomes more pronounced as we age, is very real. It’s not only undignified, it can cause serious fractures and internal injuries.  Therefore, our body’s ability to right itself and regain control against gravity depends on our muscles’ abilities to bring us back to the proper center of gravity. If you combine weak muscles with a lack of balancing practice, you have a perfect prescription for injury. The opposite of this equation is equally true. Practicing balancing poses and developing strong muscles that can pull you back to center after a stumble, misstep or accidental push. It can mean the difference be … [Read more...]

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Friends in stone

My darling niece, Dara, sent me this piece a while back. It needs re-sharing: TWO FRIENDS WERE WALKING THROUGH THE DESERT DURING SOME POINT OF THE JOURNEY, THEY HAD AN ARGUMENT; AND ONE FRIEND SLAPPED THE OTHER ONE IN THE FACE THE ONE WHO GOT SLAPPED WAS HURT, BUT WITHOUT SAYING ANYTHING, WROTE IN THE SAND TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SLAPPED ME IN THE FACE THEY KEPT ON WALKING, UNTIL THEY FOUND AN OASIS, WHERE THEY DECIDED TO TAKE A BATH THE ONE WHO HAD BEEN SLAPPED GOT STUCK IN THE MIRE! AND STARTED DROWNING, BUT THE FRIEND SAVED HIM. AFTER HE RECOVERED FROM THE NEAR DROWNING, HE WROTE ON A STONE: 'TODAY MY BEST FRIEND SAVED MY LIFE' THE FRIEND WHO HAD SLAPPED AND SAVED HIS BEST FRIEND ASKED HIM, 'AFTER I HURT YOU, YOU WROTE IN THE SAND AND NOW, YOU WRITE ON A STONE, WHY?' THE FRIEND REPLIED 'WHEN SOMEONE HURTS US WE SHOULD WRITE IT DOWN IN SAND, WHERE WINDS OF FORGIVENESS CAN ERASE IT AWAY. BUT, WHEN SOMEONE DOES SOMETHING GOOD FOR … [Read more...]

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How to have a sober Halloween

Photo by Beth Teutschmann on Unsplash I'm so glad to have Caleb Anderson share his suggestions for a sober Halloween.  As a recovery addict he wants to share how one can live their life alcohol and drug free even during times when our society prefers to use harmful substances to celebrate. Thank you Caleb for offering to write this post for Choices. Your suggestions are spot on. How to Throw a Spooky, Sober Halloween Soiree by Caleb Anderson It's the witching season again and you're wondering how to celebrate the spookiest night of the year while sticking to your recovery plan. Well, have no fear. Halloween and sober living can go hand in hand. In fact, you may find that you enjoy the festivities more with a clear mind and a clean body. But having a party worthy of the holiday means paying attention to the details. In this post we'll share some terrifying tips for creating the right setting for your sober celebration. Some of these ideas require just a dash of crafting skill, … [Read more...]

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My favorite writing retreat

For the last twenty years I’ve booked myself into a writing or poetry workshop at a rustic Big Sur, CA retreat, Esalen Institute, and I let nothing get in the way of my going. It is my time away from family and friends – including my husband – alarm clocks, traffic, grocery shopping, cooking daily meals, telemarketer calls, daily newspapers, television, politics, cell phones, and if I choose, all internet connections. It’s a breath of fresh air. It’s my yearly chance to get away and unwind. As soon as I’ve packed up my car and gotten on the road, my special time begins. And once I’m out of the Los Angeles area and well on my way toward Santa Barbara, I begin to relax, sink deep into my driver’s seat, take some long deep breaths and watch the beauty of the world go by. The hills look like they are painted with sweeping brush strokes of mustard yellow, the rows of newly planted grape vines stand tall and proud, and the clear sky except for a few Georgia O'Keefe clouds beckon me up … [Read more...]

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A review of Farewell, Aleppo by Claudette Sutton

It is a pleasure to showcase Claudette Sutton's memoir, Farewell, Aleppo: My Father, My People, and Their Long Journey Home on Choices today.  I hope you'll all read her book. You will certainly learn a lot about the history and culture of the Jews who came from Aleppo, Syria. Book synopsis: The Jews of Aleppo, Syria, had been part of the city’s fabric for more than two thousand years, in good times and bad, through conquerors and kings. But in the middle years of the twentieth century, all that changed. To Selim Sutton, a merchant with centuries of roots in the Syrian soil, the dangers of rising anti-Semitism made clear that his family must find a new home. With several young children and no prospect of securing visas to the United States, he devised a savvy plan for getting his family out: “exporting” his sons. In December 1940, he told the two oldest, Meïr and Saleh, that arrangements had been made for their transit to Shanghai, where they would work in an uncle’s export bus … [Read more...]

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The Me Too hashtag

Earlier this week the Me Too hashtag drew more than twelve million Facebook posts, comments, reactions in twenty-four hours. I was one of them. Thanks to social media, this response has gone viral around the world. Now women worldwide are using the hashtag, #metoo, against sexual harassment. Women are breaking out of their shells and telling their stories. Even one hundred forty female legislators, lobbyists, and political staffers in my state capitol, Sacramento, signed a letter saying sexual harassment is pervasive there. They said, “Each of us has endured, or witnessed or worked with women who have experienced some form of dehumanizing behavior by men with power in our workplaces.” My first job out of college was at a fashion trade magazine in downtown Los Angeles. I quit after three weeks because of the editor/owner’s constant sexual harassment and humiliation. Then I went into the aerospace industry, and though it was little subtler, men still thought they could say sugge … [Read more...]

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Should we let a family member read our drafts?

When I finished revision nine of my novel, I decided to let my husband read it. He’d been asking for a long time, and I always held back from letting him. I had heard early on that asking family members – especially such close ones – and good friends to read our work could be a problem. It they hate the work they would be reluctant to tell the truth, and if they love it, they may have a subjective rather than objective point of view. Well, I decided to risk it anyway, and considering how hard he worked on reviewing, I’m not sorry. He saved a copy and renamed it with his initials and started going through it – marking edits and/or typos in red font and inserting questions and comments along the way highlighted in yellow. He also created a separate timeline in a Word table. That is really his forte – he’s a numbers guy. And, he found a lot of inconsistencies in my dates (my novel is divided in three parts – each starting with a date in story’s history) and inconsistencies in the birth … [Read more...]

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Come on over to the Sunscreen Film Festival West

Our son and daughter-in-law's film, "Gentlemen's Fury," will be shown at the Sunscreen Film Festival tomorrow, Saturday, October 7 at 5 pm in Hermosa Beach, CA.  Please come on over and become a part of all the excitement. The film is hilarious. Go to  http://ssffwest.com/ for more info and tickets. Gentlemen's Fury is about a professional tennis player, Aaron Faust, who goes on a desperate mission to prove that tennis is not a soft sport by punching an opponent and joining a cult. He had a promising career as a professional tennis player. But he also had a few issues. Suspended by the ATP for brawling with an opponent, his life has taken a turn for the worse. During a particularly dark period, he encounters Dwayne, an intense and charismatic zealot, who recruits Aaron for Gentlemen’s Fury, an underground tennis league that just might not be strictly about tennis. Gentlemen's Fury stars: Ben Sharples, Jake Head, Audrey Ellis Fox, Kyle Leibovitch, Taishi M … [Read more...]

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Writing poetry again

I’ve been writing poems to Writers Digest Poetic Asides blog editor, Robert Lee Brewer’s prompts for years – at least since 2009 when I first entered his poem a day challenges in November and April. As a result, I have reams of poem-a-day poems, and poems to his Wednesday prompts. Right now, my Wednesday prompt document is eight-three pages and has 27,084 words. So when I decided to declare victory on my novel – at least for now, I thought: why not go back to my Brewer poem document and write poems for all the prompts I’ve skipped over? I missed quite a few in the last few weeks because I was working, and I’m sure there must be many throughout the document as a whole. Another thing I want to look at is: are there any good enough to submit for publishing? As far as I know there is only one – the first one on the list – that’s been published (actually twice). Here’s the prompt and poem. For this week’s prompt, write a box poem. This poem is either about a box or includes a box so … [Read more...]

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Traditional or self-publishing: that is the question

  It’s time to report back about the status of my novel. First of all, I’m happy to say I’ve completed revision nine. The purpose was to cut out unnecessary words and bring my word count more in keeping with the number agents and publishers suggest. After I added a lot of needed new material, as suggested by my critical assessment editor, my word count grew from 85,000 to 103, 052 words. So, my goal was to cut at least 5,000 of them. I’m happy to say I exceeded my goal, and cut 5,675 words. Hopefully I didn’t cut anything that I’ll have to put back later. My next job is to break up several long chapters into smaller ones. That is an easy fix. And now I feel I’m at a point to think about getting my book published. The question is, should I shop around for an agent or publisher or should I self-publish? That’s a question I never thought I’d be asking. I’ve always said I didn’t want to self-publish. I didn’t self-publish my memoir, so why go that route with my novel? … [Read more...]

1,654 total views, 6 views today

Honoring the International Day of Peace

In honor of the International Day of Peace on September 21st, my friends Alice and Richard Matzkin asked me to share this short heartfelt video with my friends. In these times of violence, hate, and imminent threat of war it is important to spread the message that we each have the capacity to cultivate peace within ourself and our loved ones.  Like a candle flame that is passed on from person to person, that peace can expand out and light the entire world. The video, narrated by author Richard Matzkin, is the Afterward from Richard's dual award-winning book, LOVING PROMISES: The Master Class For Creating Magnificent Relationship. The original music is composed by Grammy Award winning composer/pianist Roger Kellaway. "Peace in the world will not happen by force and decree. It will happen one heart, one mind, one person at a time. That person is you." This is the message of this short visual poem about personal responsibility for planetary peace. If this powerful truth has touched y … [Read more...]

1,288 total views, 4 views today

I loved the movie, Rebel in the Rye

I don’t care what the reviews say or what the rotten tomatoes score is, I loved the movie, "Rebel in the Rye." It kept me enthralled from beginning to end. Maybe it’s because I was and still am a huge fan of J.D. Salinger and his novel and short stories. And maybe it’s because I am a writer. My first thought as I left the theater yesterday is that I must tell my writer friends to see it. I think every budding writer should see it. The teaching of Salinger’s professor Whit Burnett, a lecturer at Columbia University, editor of Story magazine, and a mentor of young Salinger, played by Kevin Spacey, and the encouragement he got from Dorothy Olding, the loyal agent who supported the young Salinger throughout his career, played by Sarah Paulson, is something all writers should strive for. This movie also gave me a greater understanding of Salinger’s decision to become a recluse and never publish again. He suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome as a result of his World War II ex … [Read more...]

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Eric Trant returns to Choices. Hello Eric!

Please welcome Eric Trant back to Choices - his second stop on his WOW! Women on Writing virtual book tour. His new book, Risen, is in the historical supernatural fiction genre. How much more creative can a guy get! Before I go into details about the book, Eric will share his thoughts about a career in the arts - something I can seriously relate to. My husband worked his entire career in science and engineering (I like to call him a rocket scientist), and I worked as a technical writer in the aerospace business. However, both our sons chose careers in the arts. Our older son was an accomplished jazz musician and composer before his untimely death in 1999, and our younger son is an actor and movie maker. However, each found realistic ways to earn a living while pursuing their dreams - one as a computer expert, and the other is a tennis instructor. Eric Trant has some very wise words about the situation we and so many other parents find ourselves in. "Is a Career in the Arts … [Read more...]

1,990 total views, 2 views today