Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘nonfiction’

Once You Wake Up

51NTSaSA13LWhile You Were Watching the Waltons: A collection of essays and short stories by Gormla Hughes. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

A short book, with short writings, and short powerful sentences. A brilliant writer. When scribes, and writing teachers, say, “make very word count”, they must have read the words of Gormla Hughes. While You Were Watching the Waltons combines fiction and non-fiction as few do, and uses every space to its full potential.

Here is a brief glimpse from the essay, Pink Ink and Cyberspace, which looks at the influence of media, role expectations, and maintaining the status quo. “Having stigma attached to you folds you up in eights as citizens. An invisible tagging system. One designed to keep you in line. In line long enough for the Power Holders to acquire more bricks for their empire. But, once you wake up. Once you wake up the anger is transformative.”

The story The Rocking Chair kept me on the edge of mine. There is tension, pain, an encroaching past, and constant threat of violence. “Sitting in the rocking chair, I pour the wine. I take three gulps. I need to numb the desire to kill. Me or Her. I lean back and rock. I like the motion. It makes me feel nurtured. What I think nurtured feels like. I can only speculate.” This tale is a perfect example of the author’s use of rhythm and precision. What could be simpler, or more menacing than, “I need to numb the desire to kill.”

Other stories include The Insemination, about Elsa’s hopes of getting pregnant; Elizabeth’s reaction to her mother’s death, with painful memories of abuse, and not believing, in The Funeral; and the final essay, My Disappearance, which describes the process of loss, discrimination, and finding one’s self beyond expectation. “But I have lost everything that kept me a visible part of humanity, and with it found a freedom. I know how polite works as a tool of subservience.”

While We Were Watching the Waltons is an affront – an affront to “normalcy”. It not only helps us see the world from other perspectives, but also challenges its readers’ to question authority, support those who do, and look inside and out, to see what lies and stories we believe and tell ourselves daily. Creating characters (real and imagined), and using words that have meaning and depth, is no easy task. Not many do it justice. Ms. Hughes is an exception to that reality. She does it very well.

 

 

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Fictional Realities

41jh2yi72qlThere is a friend of mine, who worked with me as a nurse at hospice a few years back. One day, after work, I met her husband. When I asked her the next day how they’d met, she told me she’d been married to his brother. Well, I thought, that’s interesting. Tell me more. What arose from her telling was a story that sounded like a movie. She isn’t the kind of person who jokes around, so I knew she was telling the truth, though it could have been the best of fiction. That’s when I decided to make it just that – a fictional story based on real life. Loving Annalise was the result.

After years of poverty, heartbreak, loss and betrayal, Tomas enters Annalise’s world and shatters the iron casing she’s erected around her heart. Tomas is kind, intelligent, romantic and handsome, but he’s also her husband’s brother! Once Tomas and Annalise meet, they are forever intertwined and repeatedly ripped apart by fate, self-doubt and blackmail. Her husband, Jens, is a brilliant, jealous and manipulative scoundrel who keeps her psychologically under lock and key, until her passion for Tomas sets her free.

Writing Loving Annalise is the second time I’ve written a novel based on historical realities. Buddha’s Wife was the first. Though most of the people in the story existed, and some of the places, times, and words are reported to have been accurate, the majority of the conversations, interactions, and story-line were imagined. Like Loving Annalise, Buddha’s Wife is based on history, and people that were living breathing beings.

Loving Annalise, and Buddha’s Wife, are the only time I have written stories in this fashion. Normally (whatever that is), I either write straight fiction, or non-fiction, about a specific person, place, or issue, and do not attempt to combine these disparate genres. That doesn’t mean that parts of my life, and personal experiences, do not influence or become part of my writing, but not intentionally (that I am aware of).

Searching For Someone

Some people are easy to find. Others, not so much. Especially when you are trying to meet up with someone to interview for a story and/or book. That’s what I’ve discovered through the years in my attempts, and some success, in tracking down people I’ve wanted to talk to, especially those that are well known.

With the internet it has become easier to get people’s information and background, but getting their contact data, or getting through there gate keepers (managers, agents, family, lawyers, etc.), is another matter. It can take persistent emails, and calls, to get a response, let alone an interview.11898_cover_front

When I was putting together a book about loss and grief sometimes being the catalyst for people to not only change their lives, but to also create social movements and influence public opinion (Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call), it literally took years to get ahold of everyone and complete the interviews.

Obviously, people who were less known were easier to contact and meet, but women like Nancy Goodman Brinker (who started the Susan B Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, after her sister Susan died); Candace Lightner (who founded Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, after her daughter Cari was killed); and Leah Rabin (who gave speeches about reconciliation and peace around the world, after her husband, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated) were another matter.

The difficulty isn’t always due to an individual’s reluctance, or apprehension, about being interviewed, or not knowing who you are (if you are not a known author, journalist or organization), but most often it is their schedules. They have limited amounts of time, and some are booked years ahead. In those cases you have to be willing to go where they are and get whatever snippet you can.

I’ve also had unsuccessful attempts at getting interviews for different articles. and news organizations, as a freelance journalist. Even though I went to Rwanda twice, I was never able to meet with President Kagame. The closest I got was his press secretary. An interview with Christina Aguilera and Joan Baez has also alluded me, after many attempts and conversations with there managers.

If you need to interview people that are heads of government, well-known in entertainment, or in social movements, don’t give up before you try. Be persistent, yet courteous; creative, and respectful; and be able to explain briefly (in a call, email, or personal contact) why you want the interview and who you are.

Articles: http://tinyurl.com/glpyt2p

Books: http://tinyurl.com/z8pdtj7

LGBT Writers In Schools

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LGBT WRITERS IN SCHOOLS connects authors with classrooms via free Skype or in-class visits to discuss the author’s work and LGBT issues. Designed for teachers of high school classes, universities and colleges, and student organizations, the LGBT Writers in Schools program is an opportunity for writers to discuss their work openly with students and to encourage diversity not only in the students’ reading and writing lives, but also in society at large. This initiative will broaden the foundation of experience for students of Literature, Creative Writing, English, and Secondary Education.

OUR GOALS

To bring LGBT writers into high schools, colleges and universities to share their knowledge and experience in order to promote diversity and encourage understanding of the LGBT community.

To enrich the high school, college and university English curriculum by incorporating and teaching LGBT texts in the classroom which will acknowledge LGBT writers’ contributions to literature.

To foster an open environment to discuss LGBT issues and their impact on society and the individual through LGBT texts in a vibrant and moderated classroom atmosphere.

Giving a voice to those who have long been silenced.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The teacher will state which type of author she would like in one of four genres: Adult Fiction, YA Fiction, Poetry and Nonfiction/Memoir. Once the information is gathered from the teacher, we contact an author who would be a good fit. If they request a specific author, we try to contact that author.

WHAT HAPPENS ONCE AN AUTHOR IS CHOSEN FOR THE TEACHER’S CLASS?

Once the author has agreed to do the visit, then an introduction is made between the author and the teacher via LGBT Writers in Schools. After the introduction is made, it is the responsibility of the teacher to work out the specifics of the visit (ie: date of visit, length of visit, in person or via Skype, etc).

WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE VISIT?

Teachers would assign the work of the author and once the class has read it, the author would do a twenty minute (or longer) Skype session with the class. Depending upon what the teacher and author discussed, the session can be as general or as specific as each would like. It is supposed to be fun, lively and educational.

WHY SHOULD I PARTICIPATE?

This is a really exciting venture for Lambda Literary Foundation and for the Gay Straight Educators Alliance. LGBT literature should be represented as one voice among the many in any contemporary curriculum. The way to help counter prejudice and bullying is through educating others and it is vital to support any efforts that would help achieve this goal. Opening up channels of communication definitely begins with understanding and what better way to understand the LGBT community than through literature.

HOW DO I SIGN UP?

Contact Monica Carter (mcarter@lambdaliterary.org), Program Coordinator, LGBT Writers in Schools Program

Lambda Literary Foundation

Writing for Our Lives at Esalen

Writing for Our Lives at Esalen
with Ellen Bass
November 15 – 17, 2013
Esalen, Big Sur, CA

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Esalen. The wonder of the place itself, 120 acres of fertile land carved out between mountain and ocean, blessed by a cascading canyon stream and hot mineral springs gushing out of a seaside cliff. There is the salty Big Sur air on an early morning in January, the late afternoon sun slipping into the Pacific, the riot of midnight stars. There are nights so clear the Milky Way can light your walk along the darkened garden path. And always there is the sound of the sea.

“There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”
—Martha Graham

This workshop will help keep the channels open. It will be an inspiring environment in which to write, share our work, and receive supportive feedback. We’ll help each other to become clearer, go deeper, express our feelings and ideas more powerfully.

We will evade, elude, and distract the censors that silence or limit us. We’ll approach our experience from new angles to find the story or poem within the events of our lives. We’ll question the stories we think are true and experience the power of not-knowing and discovery.

If you want to encounter more truth in your poems and stories, if you want to tell that truth in the most beautiful way possible, if you want to craft work that reflects the inextricable marriage of truth and beauty, love and death, the luminous and the ordinary, please join us for this inspiring workshop.

Ellen will talk about the craft of writing (poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction) and we’ll have time to write and share our work.

From beginners to experienced, all writers are welcome. Whether you are interested in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, or journal writing, this workshop will provide an opportunity to explore and expand your writing world.

Esalen fees cover tuition, food and lodging and vary according to accommodations—ranging from $405 (for sleeping bag space) to $730 (and more for single or premium rooms). All arrangements and registration must be made directly with Esalen.

Please register directly with Esalen at 831-667-3005 or at http://www.esalen.org

jpeg-1ELLEN BASS has a new poetry book Like A Beggar, forthcoming from Copper Canyon in 2014. Her previous books are The Human Line, which was named a Notable Book by the San Francisco Chronicle, and Mules of Love, which won the Lambda Literary Award. She co-edited (with Florence Howe) the groundbreaking No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The American Poetry Review, The New Republic, The Progressive, The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, The Sun and many other journals. Among her awards for poetry are a Pushcart Prize, the Elliston Book Award, The Pablo Neruda Prize from Nimrod/Hardman, the Larry Levis Prize from Missouri Review, and the New Letters Prize. She is part of the core faculty of the MFA writing program at Pacific University. ellenbass.com

Grief’s Wake Up Call

Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.
by Gabriel Constans

Events that can and often do, devastate us emotionally, can also be used for personal transformation and growth. Some individuals find hope and opportunity in the midst of adversity. They reach out to help others find comfort and healing. Some succeed to change laws, institutions, policies and assumptions.

Meet Leah Rabin, Le Ly Hayslip, Maggie and Reg Green, Jeanne White, Hazel Johnson, Lee Mun Wah, Nane Alejandrez, Candace Lightner and others, to discover how they have found strength, courage and sheer tenacity to overcome the worst that can happen and use it as a catalyst to rediscover them selves and help others in the process.

What People have been saying about Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something!:

“In Don’t Just Sit There, we have the privilege of listening to these inspiring people as they tell us what they have endured and how. These are lessons on living that come direct from experience, lessons we all need. I hope this book reaches many, touching hearts and infusing us all with its wisdom.”
Ellen Bass, co-author of The Courage to Heal

“A deeply moving work … highly recommended for hospice workers, grief counselors, and ministers and as a powerful affirmation for life.”
NAPRA ReView

“Gabriel Constans searches out the key to living after a loss by interviewing survivors who use a variety of activities to cope with a death … this book is an inspiration to both the bereaved and those who support them.”
Lynne Ann DeSpelder, author of The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying

Please consider a copy for yourself, family member or friend at Fast Pencil Publishing.

What Doesn’t Kill Us…

Review from New York Journal of Books

What Doesn’t Kill Us: The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth
by Stephen Joseph, Ph.D.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans
Released: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Basic Books (256 pages)

“Ordinary people have the power to live lives just as dramatic and driven as those of superheroes, overcoming traumas no less daunting.” So claims Dr. Joseph, who uses part of Nietzsche’s time-tested phrase “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” as part of the book’s title. His experience, research, and writing back up this proclamation and provide perspective and hope for everyone who has, is or will, experience a traumatic event(s) in their life. That includes about 75% of humanity who must face some form of trauma during their lifetime.

Professor Joseph starts out with a little perspective and history of the term “Posttraumatic Growth,” which was coined in the mid-1990s by clinical researchers Professors Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun and is in line with many philosophers’ adages about how to live a “good life” and adapt to and live with loss and trauma. The insight and compassion of holocaust survivor, philosopher, and psychologist Viktor Frankl, is also sprinkled throughout the manuscript in support of the author’s thoughts, case studies and perspectives.

The three existential themes at the core of posttraumatic growth are described as: 1) Recognition that life is uncertain and changes; 2) Psychological mindfulness or how one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are related to one another and 3) Acknowledging personal agency or responsibility for choices one makes.

Dr. Joseph says, “Trauma leads to an awareness of all three of these existential truths.” It might be added that they “can” lead to such awareness, but such awareness does not always take place. He also shares three commonly related aspects of post-traumatic growth, which include personal, philosophical and relational changes and provides examples and case studies of each.

Trauma is taken from the Greek word, which means wound. Our physical wounds are dressed, stitched and/or removed. In the chapter titled The Biology of Trauma, Mr. Joseph shows how our emotional wounds are interconnected with our bodies’ autonomic nervous system and not so outwardly apparent or as easy to fix. “Most of the time our assumptions serve us well,” he says, “but throughout life we are always making revisions to them.” Never is this more apparent than after one has had a traumatic event assault their body, heart and mind.

He also points out that not everyone who experiences post-traumatic stress (PTS) develops Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as many have been led to believe. This is discussed throughout the book and is an important factor to consider for both survivors and those providing them support.

Read complete review at New York Journal of Books.

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