An Author’s Journey

R.L. Herron once worked for some of the world’s largest advertising agencies, and had a long public relations/marketing career with an international Fortune 10 company. After he retired, he decided to be a full-time writer. Ron has published eight books since 2012, received fabulous reviews and has won multiple awards.

“I have to admit, it feels pretty good to know critics and reviewers like my books,” he says.

Reviewers have said about his characters that they become quite believable, a few adding that they couldn’t wait to find out what happens to some of them.

“I’m extremely pleased by that,” says Ron, “because the characters were obviously seen as real people with real issues, and not characters in a book.”

While his characters are not based on real people, there are elements of people he has known in most of them.

“For myself, and many writers I know, character usually takes the top spot in a story,” he says.  “Humans connect with other humans, after all, so it’s often easier to invest one’s self in characters and their conflicts. A place, though important, is a bit more difficult and, if you’re one of those writers who struggle with setting – I know I am – I’d like to share an approach that might help. Treat your setting like a character.”

Ron says that memorable fictional characters always have strong characteristics. You need to explore how to assign equally vivid characteristics to your suggests, and suggest those characteristics to your readers.

How does Ron plan out his writing? He writes at least 1,000 words a day, but, he says, “Life has a funny way of telling you what you need to do at any given moment. It often doesn’t include writing at all.”

He doesn’t plan an outline, doesn’t think that life is much like that, so instead, he starts by imagining a few personality traits for each of his characters. Then he asks himself some basic “what if?” questions. After, he tries to imagine how each character he created will react to the hypothetical situation he posed. “Then I let them surprise me and tell me their story,” he says.

Whatever his approach, his novels have been well received by readers. Reichold Street was a 2012 Readers Favorite Gold Medal Winner that Kirkus Reviews called “Skillfully written and emotionally charged…” and Writer’s Digest commented, “Readers are in for a treat when they pick up Reichold Street…”

His 2013 fantasy collection Zebulon was a Readers Favorite Silver Medal Winner. His novel, Blood Lake, a modern horror/thriller that begins with a Cherokee curse uttered in 1838, won The BookLife Prize in Fiction (Publishers Weekly), calling it “…strong prose and well developed characters… an atmospheric tale.”

“That’s nice to hear, but I think the best thing that has happened so far is having my wife say she likes the way I write.”

In his first book, Reichold Street, the dedication is written for three people, “… who didn’t come back…” and also “For Lucy, who believes in me.”

“The ‘three’ were school buddies of mine who were drafted and sent to Vietnam,” he says. “Sadly, they died over there and ‘Lucy’ is one of my nicknames for my wife, Mary Lu. She was my high school sweetheart. She’s still my best friend, confidante, and critic.”

R.L. Herron’s earliest known ancestor arrived in the colony of Virginia, from what is now Northern Ireland, in 1635. A mere 313 years later, Ron was born in central Tennessee.

His parents moved him north as an infant and, despite a monumental dislike of the winters in Michigan, he still lives there with his lovely wife, his youngest son and one <em>enormous</em> cat. A National Merit Scholar, he attended Wayne State University (Monteith College), where he worked on the college newspaper, and earned enough credits to be offered his choice of BA or BPh degree. He later earned an MBA from Michigan State. He submitted his first story at 17, maybe not imagining then that, decades later, he’d publish multiple works of fiction, including five award-winners.

You can learn more about Ron Herron’s work by visiting his website http://www.ronaldherron.com

Visions of Peace Through Art

The eldest of six children and the peacemaker in the family, Ilham Badreddine Mahfouz is the daughter of the East, that faraway land in Damascus, Syria. Her father was a teacher of history and her mother was a homemaker and educator by example. Her loving and kind parents raised their children to be the best of their knowledge and ability and good citizens of the world. But, as tradition had it, they prepared Ilham mentally to get married at a young age.

At age 16, Ilham found herself the wife of a physician who was going to America to pursue his medical specialty. Not only did she have to adjust to being a wife, but to a new culture in the United States. She had to learn a new language and become acquainted with different traditions and ways of life. Her husband encouraged her to learn English by taking adult education classes at night school and by attending Berkley High School, where she eventually graduated.

“I always knew that art and music were my patrons,” she says. “At Eastern Michigan University, I studied ceramics and paintings. I received a lot of encouragement from professors like Robert Piepenburg (ceramics and the art of RaKu) and Barry Avedan (painting).”

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Ilham received her bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a double concentration in ceramics and painting and a minor in art history.

“My dream came true,” she says. “I wanted to set a good example to my children, for them to pursue a higher education than I achieved.”

Ilham’s artwork has won awards and been displayed at numerous exhibitions including Amnesty International Cell Museum in Vestervig, Denmark. She considers herself very fortunate to have come from the Old World, so rich in heritage, culture, and history, and to have the blessing of living in this young country with new ideas, culture, and traditions. She has taken the better part of both worlds and worked hard.

Her artwork is abstract style painting, ceramic, and mixed media.

“In my paintings, I try to capture my life experience as well as my outlook on life,” says Ilham. “I try to display emotions and reactions in my work through several layers of paint. Beneath the many layers may lay the subconscious.”

In her book, Whispers From the East, she writes, “Through art, I express life’s events that reflect pain and the feeling of helplessness… Through art, the truth is delivered for the viewer to experience.”

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Her book includes her artwork, heartfelt poetry, and reflections about her birthplace Damascus, where she recounts the memory of jasmine bushes along the streets, the scent of jasmine in bloom spreading throughout the city and bringing joy and contentment to everyone passing by. Most of all, she remembers the kind, hospitable, and generous people who were always ready to help others in need.

“Life is give and take,” she says, repeating lessons her mother gave her. “With giving, we derive great happiness and joy; and with sharing and helping others, we also help ourselves. We must also know when to be a good receiver. Being a good receiver makes someone else a good giver.”

Ilham points out that “The world is so vast and yet so small with our reach through the net. We are able to reach people all over the world through art and exchange ideas and learn from one another. A beautiful concept of learning and living in harmony and peace.”

Personally, I believe that through art, we can find harmony and inner peace. We’re then able to mirror that into the world. We can use writing, art, and other creative ways to spread beauty into the world, raise awareness, and end destructive forces.

To learn more about Ilham and her work, visit www.artistilhambadreddinemahfouz.com

The Moral Premise

“Every commercially successful story, be it a movie or novel, has at its heart a true and consistent Moral Premise,” says Dr. Stan Williams. “Without this crucial element, your story is destined to fail.”

Stan is the vice president of Unique Voices in Films, a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization, a veteran producer of hundreds of documentaries, and an active Hollywood story consultant who has worked most notably on multiple film projects with Will Smith. He’s the author of The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue and Vice for Box Office Success, which Will Smith considered “The most powerful tool in my new tool box.”  

“The Moral Premise is the crux of successful storytelling since Plato, 2,500 years ago,” he says. “Yes, it’s been around that long… and yes, I know, my book came out only in 2006.”

In 2006 Michael Wiese Books published Stan’s book and almost immediately he was asked to give workshops on the topic, which he has done across the country, most notably in Los Angeles and S.E. Michigan where he resides.

As a result of his book, the workshops, and the numerous motion picture projects he worked on, which have grossed over a billion dollars worldwide, and due to repeated requests, Stan created a training that’s widely and readily available to people. Through story craft training, writers are able to master their story, whether it is a novel, screenplay, or stage play. Here’s a link to learn more http://storycrafttraining.blogspot.com/

I met Stan at the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan where he taught Directing and Screenwriting classes. He always had a fresh approach to the art and craft of writing, one which helps a writer focus and get to the heart of the story. We recently worked on my feature script, Pomegranate. His eye for detail and respect for the writer’s own moral premise for the characters made the process incredibly productive and fulfilling.

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Working on the script Pomegranate with Stan

Stan offers one-on-one story consult, but if you’re not local, there are many other ways to learn from him. You can read his book, watch the 10 episodes of Storycraft Training (7.5 hours in 20 videos) and read over 200 of his blog posts which offer much inspiration. Stan’s appreciation for storytelling has led to an abundance of material where he talks about why stories are so important to culture, and what do stories and natural law have in common? His program covers, among many other things, the correlation between a story’s moral validity and box office receipts, the role irony plays in every aspect of a successful story, why impossibilities are necessary in every story, and how Aristotle’s 6 pillars of a great story contribute to drama and suspense.

  1. PLOT: The arrangement of events or incidents on the stage. 
  2. CHARACTER: The agents of the plot that provide the reasons for the events.
  3. THEME: The reason the playwright wrote the play.
  4. LANGUAGE: dramatic dialogue which consists of narrative and dramatic.
  5. RHYTHM: The heart of the play.
  6. SPECTACLE: Everything that is seen or heard on stage.

Stan structures his Moral Premise this way:

(Vice) leads to (defeat), but (Virtue) leads to (success).

Choosing the movie Finding Nemo as an example, he writes that Marlin is a clownfish living in the Great Barrier Reef. When tragedy leaves him a widower, with only one remaining son – Nemo – his protective instincts kick into overdrive. He’d do anything to keep Nemo from harm, but in the process he’s smothering his son. Then Nemo is taken by divers, and Marlin has to navigate an entire ocean to find his son and bring him home.

Throughout the movie, the quest to find Nemo is the external story, but the “real” story is about Marlin overcoming his fears for his son. This is seen clearly at the climax, when Nemo and Marlin are finally reunited against all odds. Within moments, however, a school of nearby fish are caught in a net, and Nemo insists he knows how to save them. Marlin has to face his worst fear – the possibility of losing his son yet again – and choose to release Nemo to swim back into danger.

The Moral Premise of the story could be expressed like this:

Overprotective anxiety leads to losing those we love, but releasing those we love leads to finding them again.

In his latest blog post, Stan talks about why he is always encouraging young screenwriters to find friends who are filmmakers to make their own films. Forget Hollywood, he writes, because getting stuff done is ultimately more satisfying that spitting into the Santa Ana Winds.

Having an insight into Hollywood, he helps writers set realistic expectations and yet also encourages them to dream big – through their own work and not through a dependence on others. He appreciates the heart of a story while in the process, ensuring that the writers entertains, challenges, uplifts this generation and the ones to come.

Stan will be doing a workshop for the upcoming Path of Consciousness spiritual and writing conference & retreat (Oct. 4-6) http://www.thepathofconsciousness.com

You can contact Stan through email at Stan@MoralPremise.com 

Unique Voices in Films Website http://www.UniqueVoicesinFilms.org

Literary Atmospheres

Literary atmospheres are important at home and outside it. Writing is a solitary act and being in groups will not finish an article let alone a book. However, the support, inspiration, and education that a writer can receive from workshops, conferences, retreats, and other writers help us move forward with our projects. It keeps us going.

I’ve taken as much care in my personal literary atmosphere – my home office – as I have with my outside literary atmosphere – my writing communities that go back decades. There’s a whole world out there to explore, but to have a sense of sacredness and get things done, local organizations provide the type of human relationships that keep us grounded and connected.

In the mid-1990s a university professor advised me to join a writers group that met at Barnes and Nobles in Rochester, Michigan. I was very shy about showing my work to anyone outside of my niece and my then teacher/editor. Finally, I gathered the courage to attend and for the first time read aloud Chapter 1 of my first novel, The Feminine Art. The constructive feedback I received was amazing and the friendships I made from that group was priceless. I’m still close friends with the author who led the group, Marie Gates.

The Rochester Writers Group eventually folded and then Michael Dwyer formed the Freelance Marketplace Writers Group at the same Barnes & Noble location (2800 S. Rochester Road). They meet on the third Tuesday of the month at 7:30 pm and have different topics and guests each month. However, the main conversation is always about the business of writing as it’s not a critique group.  

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At the time he started the group, Michael was already an established freelance writer, with articles published in local newspapers, national print magazine and online news outlets. I met the late Hawke Fracassa at one of these meetings. Hawke was an award-winning journalist and mayoral candidate who had several newspapers, the Macomb and Oakland Observer, where I had a column for a few years. Soon, Michael saw a want and need for professional development in the Southeast Michigan for new, working and published writers, so in 2008, he founded and organized Rochester Writers’ Conference.

The first conference, which I’m proud to have presented at, was held at Rochester College. In 2010, it moved to Oakland University where it continues until today. By then, Sonya Julie had come on board, eventually becoming the executive administrator for Rochester Writers. A voracious reader since the age of five, Sonya has been writing creatively for decades. She has published columns in company newsletters and created freelance content for print and digital publications about health, fitness, spirituality, lifestyle, travel, adventure, and community.

Sonya is a passionate believer in creative growth. She enjoys teaching, sharing, coaching, and encouraging people to find their inspiration. She loves interacting with the Michigan writing community and that love has nourished the growth of Rochester Writers. Her support has also allowed Michael a little more free time to do things that he loves, including brewing coffee kombucha, watching Doctor Who, teaching skiing, and feeding peanuts to squirrels out of his kitchen window.

With Michael and Sonya working as a team, the conference quickly grew to being held twice a year – in the spring and the fall – as well as now including tailored workshops throughout the year. The annual fall event in October is a traditional writers’ conference for fiction and non-fiction writers with a variety of genres presented in lecture, workshop, and panel discussion formats. The annual spring event is more of a focused approach – topic, genre, business – that changes every year.

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What’s so special about this conference? It’s an easy one-day event for a reasonable rate. You don’t have to travel to New York or L.A. to find good, effective writing instruction, to meet other authors, and to move your career forward. Local writers’ groups and regional authors are involved with making the event happen each October.  Most presenters are Michigan based or have a strong connection to the area. The event is truly Made in Michigan.

I’m happy to present at the upcoming spring conference (March 30) where my wonderful colleague, Sylvia Hubbard, will be keynote speaker. I’ve had her on my show before and she’s truly a great inspiration for emerging and established writers. This year’s theme is “All About Self-Publishing” and other speakers include Lev Raphael, Mel Corrigan and Colleen Gleason. 

A writing career can be quite a struggle, but it has many rewards. Aside from the ability to express ourselves on paper and share our stories with people we may never meet, the lifestyle is beautiful, contemplative, and permits us the opportunity to meet creative writing souls who are worth our time.

For more information or to register for the conference, visit https://rochesterwriters.wordpress.com/conference-registration/

Encouraging and Fostering Writers

Once a retired professor of Middle Eastern Studies said to me that the highest thing any of us can achieve is to be human beings. “Al-Inssan,” he said, is an Arabic word that means more than being man or woman, but being humane, caring, governed by reason and searching for purpose. This man did not try to sell anything to anyone. His motives were simple: “to encourage and foster as the end of my life is nearer than the beginning.”

I learned much from this man and people like him who make it a priority to encourage and foster others as they make their dreams come true.  One such person is Terry Hojnacki, author of I Can See With My Eyes Shut Tight. Terry is an award-winning flash fiction writer, children’s book author, poet, novelist, editor, and lover of words. When not lost in her own words, she edits manuscripts, reads, and encourages other authors to improve and promote their work. Although she had written for decades, with stories getting published in various publications, last year was the most productive year for Terry.

“You never know what moves timing along,” she said. “A great motivator was showing dad something I produced so I got it done.”

The founder and editor-in-chief of Sterling Script: A Local Author Collection, Terry feels that this book is one way she can promote her local writing community.

“In Detroit we have an incredible writing community,” she said. “So many people don’t know that and many writers are afraid to submit their work. Sterling Script was my way of opening up that opportunity for the community. The reward was seeing these authors of diverse background and stories see their name and work.”

Amazon link to Sterling Script

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Terry is involved in a multitude of writing communities. She is a member of the Detroit Working Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Rochester Writers, and the Tuesday Morning Writers. She is the facilitator of the Creative Writers Workshop and volunteer event coordinator for the Local Author Book Sale at the Sterling Heights Public Library. Check out this link for scheduling https://www.sterling-heights.net/590/Library

Her current projects include a contemporary fiction novel, a middle grade adventure, and the 2019 edition of Sterling Script.

The secret to good writing is simply to continue to write and write. If you write a book, continue to the next and the next. For that matter everything comes from plugging away at it. Artistic projects like other endeavors of creativity start with the author and when shared with other collaborators gain life as opposed to being mere words on a page. When the work is finally produced it becomes about the audience. Like the words that you see before you, it’s all about how they can move life forward in the manner where you can find them useful.

We all have something to learn from each other. What’s most important is the singular focus on being the best person you can be and let that reflect upon those you come in contact with. Knowing who you are solves the problems of purpose and your reason for being here. Labels do not serve anyone while you’re in the grave.

Those closest to you are the most important people. Here in America there is too much focus on fame to the point of distraction. The process is more relevant than the fame and fortune because the love of doing something with passion lasts longer. The saying goes, “Be patient with most things, but mostly with yourself.” I wish you success in a whatever field you’re in, but most importantly to find fulfillment in whatever you do.

To learn more about Terry Hojnacki’s work, visit http://www.TerryHojnacki.com

 

Conversations in Silence

Narenda (Nick) was a customer at a family video store I managed for 12 years, called Video Castle. He would often have long conversations with me about God, meditation, and how to live a healthy and well-balanced life. He eventually invited me to his meditation group where I met interesting people from all backgrounds who were in professional fields and dedicated to spiritual growth and connections. Originally from India, Narendra was an engineer so his practical concepts were easy to understand.

“True spirituality is simple, contemporary and practical,” he would say. “It never loses the yardstick of common sense.” 

He introduced me to life-changing books such as Conversations with God and Daughter of Fire. He later wrote his own book, Conversations in Silence, which is a diary of three years which reveals his transition from a fairly typical, stressed-out businessman to a blissful, loving man eager to share his newly spiritual gifts. 

Conversations in Silence

To learn more about Conversations in Silence, click here:

The book focus on his experiences with spiritual master, Mother Meera. Narendra met Mother Meera through a picture. He noticed something extraordinary loving and mesmerizing about this young Indian lady’s big eyes. He learned that she lived in Germany and hoped that one day he would get to meet her. That opportunity came when his work sent him on an assignment in Germany.

Born in a small village in India, she allegedly had her first samadhi, a state of complete spiritual absorption, at the age of six, which lasted for a whole day. When she was 12, her uncle met her for the first time and was convinced that the girl had already appeared to him in the form of visions. He came to believe that she is the Diving Mother and started to take care of her, allowing her to unfold her inner experiences. In 1981 she made her first trip to West Germany, where she settled with her uncle. She married a German in 1982.

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Mother Meera is an embodiment of the Divine Feminine, the Divine Mother on earth. She gives thousands of visitors her unique blessing of Darshan – in silence – and teaches the unity of all religions. Everyone can go their own ways. It is only important to be connected with the light (the personal spiritual role model) every day by praying, reading or meditating. She doesn’t charge any money for her work and she will not give lectures. Her reported task on Earth was in calling down a dynamic light-force from the Supreme (Paramatman – the supreme Self) in collaboration with other saints and diving beings, as she says, making spiritual progress on earth easier. About this light she says, “Like electricity, the light is everywhere, but one must know how to activate it. I have come for that.” 

Narendra’s accounts in this book, his determination to attain enlightenment, are inspiring. After work as an engineer, he is anxious to drive for hours to sit – even if briefly – in front of Mother Meera. One wonders how this world would be if we gave as much attention to our spiritual growth as we did to the physical and mental aspects of our lives.

In her presence he had numerous supernatural experiences, including many healings. When fully convince, he accepted Yogananda as his Spiritual Master. Through Mother Meera’s help, he was put on fast track and given many spiritual gifts. Most of his spiritual education came in the form of pictures during meditations. One of the gifts is his ability to measure a person’s consciousness level. As a Perceptor, Narendra has the ability to quickly transform people of all faiths and Masters, as ordered by the Divine. In his workshops, he uses everyday language, graphics, and common-sense approach. 

He notes in his book: Reading holy books is a great; the practice of prescribed values comes next. Beyond a point, an individual spiritual journey is so unique that copying someone else’s path alone will not help. During the advanced stage, one cannot join a spiritual club and expect faster results. This journey has to be completed alone just like a surgeon performing a surgery himself. During training, however, a surgeon must be in the company of other experts. Similarly, the spiritual journey requires that we accept our unique true-self once we have been “normalized.”

Here’s a video where Narendra talks about meditation and he holds workshops on some Saturdays in the mornings at the Rochester Library.

The World of Wellness

I was at the hospital a few days ago, waiting for my mother’s procedure to be done. She had a blood clot in her left arm which needed to be removed in order for the blood to flow through the arm. I decided to take the stairs from the fourth floor to the first floor to grab a coffee from Starbucks. On each level, there were signs encouraging one to walk and take steps to maintain a strong heart and have a good night’s sleep. That’s interesting, I thought, that we, the two-legged ones, are encouraged to do a movement that ought to be a regular part of our routine when other animals, especially the non-domesticated ones, don’t need to be reminded. I take walks every day unless something urgent prevents me from doing so, like being here with my mom in the hospital.

Over the centuries, humans have steered very far from doing the simplest tasks that bring us joy and good health. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. It’s rare for us these days not to encounter obesity at every corner, even in children. People have become obsessed with food and, for the most part, abandoned nature and exercise, not necessarily a regiment exercise but the act of, for instance, mopping the floor in an old fashioned manner. In Iraq and even here in America, the woman in my family mopped the floors using the famous posture known in yoga as downward facing dog. It was an excellent way to clean and stay fit and we didn’t have to go to a yoga studio to do it.

“As both a stretching and strengthening asana, downward dog provides incredible balance for mind and body,” says Lauren Weisman, senior yoga and Core Fusion teacher at Exhale Spa in Santa Monica, California. “It also targets your upper and lower body at the same time, so you’ll feel it in your hands, arms, shoulders, back, calves, hamstrings and even the arches of your feet.”

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Our relationship with food and nutrition is tumultuous, to say the least, and it has created thousands of harmful diet fads. The word diet first appeared in English in the 13th century. Its original meaning was the same as in modern English, “habitually taken food and drink.” But diet was used in another sense too in the Middle and early modern English periods to mean “way of living.”  

What is your way of living? That’s what matters. How do you care of yourself in a world that is bombarded with unhealthy ways of living?

Given my upbringing in an eastern country and my teachings of shamanism and other ancient traditions that were passed down to me, I have learned quite a bit about health and wellness. I have learned the importance of balancing our yin and yang energies, our Sacred Wheel – the physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual aspects of ourselves. As a storyteller, I see how our words and stories affect our way of life. I’ve been sharing these ancient teachings through my books, workshops, and spiritual and writing retreat, and I’m very happy to see the world embracing this new but technically old way of life as, frankly, they’ve come to realize they have no other choice.

Over the years, I’ve met and collaborated with many practitioners and experts working to help people transform their lives and to make this world a better place. Diane Dovico is one of them. She and I have formed a friendship based on our desire to serve.

Diane is the Integrative Wellness Program Administrator at the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities. She creates and facilitates educational programs, initiatives, and campaigns for all who live in Oakland Country. Diane spent 21 years as the Executive Director of the Royal Oak Community Coalition, a nonprofit and has over 40 years of experience facilitating successful collaborations between individuals, families, businesses, schools, and social organizations to address challenging social conditions and creating sustainable solutions.

Diane played a pivotal role in helping me with the administrative aspects of The Path of Consciousness, the spiritual and writing conference and retreat that took place last October. This year, she invited me to be one of many wonderful speakers at the World of Wellness (WOW) Symposium taking place on Saturday, February 9. WOW’s goal is to equip the audience with take-home skills they can do on their own.

Diane asked me to discuss narrative therapy as she’d attended one of my workshops at the Royal Oak library and found the topic fascinating.  The other speakers have many fascinating topics as well, from the powerful role that art can have on your overall health and healing to mindfulness medications to promote greater mind/body healing. This event is a beautiful way to be reminded of the ancients, of techniques that were used thousands of years ago which need to be brought into our daily lives today.

The World of Wellness Symposium is Saturday, February 9th from 9:30 am to 2:00pm at UFCW Hall – 876 Horace Brown, Madison Hts., MI  48071. The doors open at 9:30am and the program begin at 10:00 – 2:00.  A light breakfast and lunch will be served. Early registration is encouraged at: www.tinyurl.com/ACHCWOW2019 For more information, like us on Facebook: www.tinyurl.com/infoonWOW2019

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The Healing Power of Memoir

A few weeks ago I sat next to Angela Rochon at Marcus Grill, enjoying the Christmas luncheon hosted by Detroit Working Writers. Angela recently had her first book published, a memoir called Fatherless. I remember many meetings over the years where Angela shared her writings for this book with the DWW critique group. I always enjoyed reading about her Italian relatives and the kitchen flooded with various ingredients and aromas. It reminded me so much of my Chaldean family and culture. 

Angela’s book is really about her father, Angelo. His family was joyful, hard-working, devout, and kindhearted, except for Vito, the murderer. Born to a widwo who was widowed again, Angela helped raise his half siblings. Sicilian immigrants in steel-city Youngstown, Ohio cherished this thoughtful boy. World War II brought him to Algonac, Michigan, as a leader of men.

“Hope and love were his signature features,” said Angela. “The village embraced him, commending his kindness.”

Angelo became wealthy, but haunted by the memory of hunger. He built a church and treasured his family, who soon became fatherless.

During our lunch, Angela and I spoke about how we each felt writing our memoirs, the healing power in the process. We traveled centuries back, visited family stories we never knew existed, understood the root of some feuds, and in our hearts, reconciled a lot of relationships. Through our memoirs, we also shared beautiful memories, including our culture’s customs, cooking, and celebrations.

Fatherless, which spans two centuries, describes Ellis Island immigration, world wars, the Great Depression, national prosperity, and recessions. In it, there’s a reconciliation after a fifty-year feud. Angela writes, “Instead of Ancestry websites, Aunt Agata and I researched our ancestry at Ellis Island, sharing the date with our family. We discussed details. Our memory mining conversations became her gifts to me. Mine were her brief diversions from her deteriorating health.” 

In writing memoir, happy scenes comfort us while difficult ones arouse a painful past. But they also help us understand and stop reliving that past. When you take the time to look at a situation from beginning to end, when you write it down, you’re able to see it from a different perspective. Maybe you blamed one parent for an incident without having sat down and putting yourself in his or her shoe. Taking the time to look at your memories objectively and to make sense of them helps you come to terms with your feelings, with old wounds. It shows you family patterns, such as in Angela’s case, sudden deaths at early ages, resilience, and reconciliation. 

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As a psychiatric therapist and an educator who held management positions in university and secondary schools, Angela’s experiences led her to teach memoir writing, guiding reminiscence groups, grief support, and doing public speaking. She continued writing throughout this time, winning awards for her poetry, as she published work in newspaper columns, magazines, and academic journals. She earned the Toastmasters International DTM. 

For her memoir Fatherless, Angela went as far as doing genograms that placed six generations in relation to each other, prompting memories and giving her reader concise visuals. Genograms graphed generational effects of tragedies and joys and focused on medical, genetic, or emotional relationships.

Writing memoir is healing, and it’s also fun. Angela recalls a grandchild calling the Statue of Liberty “the Statue of Literally.” 

“It is,” said Angela. “All my genes literally are from Italian immigrants to New York City.” 

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Contact A. M. Andino Rochon at a.m.rochon@aol.com to comment or schedule Mining Memories or Introduction to Genograms events or speeches.

Some upcoming events:

 

02/07/19:

Legacies of Life Memories, 6 PM, Algonac/Clay Library, 2011 St Clair River Drive, Algonac MI 48001, Reservations requested at 810 794-4471

 

02/21/19:

Legacies of Life Memories, 6 PM, Algonac/Clay Library, 2011 St Clair River Drive, Algonac MI 48001, Reservations requested at 810 794-4471

 

02/28/19:

Legacies of Life Memories, 6 PM, Algonac/Clay Library, 2011 St Clair River Drive, Algonac MI 48001, Reservations requested at 810 794-4471

 

03/05/19:

Legacies of Life Memories, 11:30 AM, Port Huron Senior Center, at 600 Grand River Ave, Port Huron MI 48060, 810 984-5061, 800 297-0099

Embracing Your Passion

As 2018 comes to an end, I’ve been winding down and reflecting, looking back at a fulfilling and productive year with family, friends, and work. Some of the highlights were starting my weekly show on January 2nd, having my first spiritual and writing retreat, called the Path of Consciousness, and establishing a nonprofit organization, called Unique Voices in Films. Through the process, I met the most wonderful people and invited them on my show to share their inspiring stories. One of these people is Joseph A Drolshagen.

Joseph is an author, transformational coach, and a speaker, sharing the stage with world-renown teachers such as Mary Morrissey. For over 23 years he has worked with individuals, helping them build their dreams. He has appeared on numerous radio programs, writes a monthly column called “Coaches Corner” in the Magic Happens magazine and has a Youtube Channel. Check out Thursday’s Coaches Corner with Joseph A Drolshagen!

During the summer Joseph led a workshop at the Unity Church in Farmington Hills where he talked about some of the challenges he faced growing up in a society that places pressure on men to make a lot of money to succeed and to be competitive and winning. Earlier in his life, he did what was expected of him, had the ideal corporate job, but he knew deep down that he was living someone else’s dream. He one day decided to throw away the expectations, embrace his own passions, and live his own dream. His decisions transformed his life, leading him to live in the mountains of South Carolina, to write a book, called Life’s Lessons, and to provide coaching in an effort to help others transform their lives as well.

To learn more, visit Joseph’s website www.IFGTcoach.com

“I’ve worked with people who dread Mondays and the work week ahead,” he said. “They start the week already feeling worn out and tired. I help ignite their dreams so they feel re-energized with passion and excitement toward living their dreams.”  

Joseph asks,

  • How would it feel to wake up Monday mornings excited about how you’re spending your week?
  • What would being creative look like for you?
  • How can you breathe life into our dreams on a daily basis and do so with ease and enjoyment?

“Some of my clients who were in a relationship lacking passion or seeking to bring an awesome relationship into their life, felt lonely and let down, and craved a love relationship,” he said. “I helped them build a strong vision of the relationship they want in their lives.”

Joseph asks,

  • What is your vision for a special love relationship?
  • How would it feel to have a real closeness and true heart connection?

“I’ve worked with people who have struggled with their health and wellbeing,” he said. “Through building the dream of a life of vibrancy, health and true happiness, their lives are literally transformed. Some have come off of anxiety medications and moved from a life of worry and fear into soaring into their greatest vision and dreams.”

Joseph asks,

  • How would you feel to wake up in the morning with vibrancy and excitement to get your day going?
  • How would you spend your day based on having energy, health and passion?

“I’ve worked with clients who battle with time and money freedom,” he said. “They work so hard and are so tired by the weekend that they didn’t have the time or energy to enjoy the benefits of all their efforts. But through opening up their dreams and bringing those forth with passion and abundance they had the chance to enjoy traveling to wonderful places with breathtaking surroundings like Alaska, Hawaii, National Parks, France, waterfalls, and camping.”

Joseph asks,

  • How would you feel waking up seeing the ocean and taking a morning stroll on the beach, or enjoying sitting near a breathtaking waterfall?
  • What is that dream place for you?
  • Where would you go?
  • What would you do if you knew you had time and money freedom on your side?

“It all starts with a clear vision, with a single decision,” he said. “Some people live for 90 years. Other people live one year 90 times, and continue to repeat the same patterns holding them back. The number of years we live is limited, but your life doesn’t have to be.”

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Sharing the stage with Mary Morrissey in L.A. during a Life Mastery Institute event, to inspire and motivate over 400 people.

At the end of the workshop, Joseph did an exercise that I found really effective. I ended up scheduling a one-hour Strategy Session with him where we talked about my wanting to create more of a balance between family and work. He’s offering anyone who sees this interview a complimentary Strategy Session (just tell him you saw his interview or read this article).  

I’ve been fortunate, and smart enough, to work with some of the best coaches, and it has helped my life on a personal and professional level. If you want to build momentum for 2019, take advantage of this generous offer, to really ignite your passion and dream, and to have a blessed New Year!

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To learn more, visit Joseph’s website www.IFGTcoach.com

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The Goddess Within

It was such a joy to connect with a woman writer who shares my Mesopotamian roots and my interests in the role of feminism within a patriarchal culture where, Helen Talia says, “We need to end the finger-pointing and place ourselves back on the roadmap to honor our feminine power as we turn to self-care.”

Helen is a CPA, Assyrian feminist, and writer and contributor for the Chicago Tribune. I read her article “Gender and Engenderment” published by the Tribune in 2013 and, appreciating her perspective, felt I must quote her in my upcoming book Mesopotamian Goddesses: Unveiling Your Feminine Power (publication date January 6, 2019 and available for pre-orders). I also invited her to come on my show to further discuss this topic.

The land of milk and honey, known as ancient Mesopotamia and the cradle of civilization, is located between two rivers: the Tigris and the Euphrates. Mesopotamia is mostly modern-day Iraq and Kuwait and parts of Iran, Syria, and Turkey. It is the setting for much of the Old Testament, including the Garden of Eden, the birth of Adam and Eve, and Prophet Abraham.

Some of the most significant developments or inventions credited to the Mesopotamians include writing, the wheel, agriculture, beer, sailboats, irrigation, religious rites, and separation of time into hours, minutes, and seconds (the clock). Many “firsts” were discovered there: laws, contracts, written music, doctors, bicameral congress, mitigation, mathematics, astronomy, and much more.

A great number of stories come from that region, but up until the last hundred years or so, it seemed as if the men had single-handedly built the civilization that influenced the city-states as we know it today. What role did women play in the building of this great empire that gifted us with our modern-day lifestyle? Well, they had plenty of roles which ranged from writing to brewing beer. Every male triad had its feminine counterpart, wrote Russian noblewoman and co-founder of the Theosophical Society H. P. Blavatsky in Isis Unveiled.

In her article, Helen writes that in ancient civilizations such as the Sumerians (3500-1750 B.C.) and in Hinduism (2000 B.C.), where spirituality was more customary, women were regarded in high esteem and hailed as deities, mainly due their ability to procreate. Yet as man strayed away from spirituality and scrimmaged into organized religions, the divine being engendered a male-image (one supreme being), ruler of all, heaven and earth. The dominance that birthed Judeo-Christian, and later Islam, three domineering religions, all founded in the Middle-East, gave way to the very woman, once hailed, to became the ultimate sacrifice – veiling, stoning, honor killing, and female genital mutilation.

Chapter 5 - Innana and Ereshkegal

Through the research for Mesopotamian Goddesses, I discovered that there was a design and rhythm to the Garden of Eden, a balance and harmony. Then, women lost their power through a pattern of falsehoods. We live in a time of vision when people are searching for a new and more balanced way of life. To create that balance, we first have to heal the earth by opening up these stories and putting them back onto the page and into our collective memory. To bring forth a transformed understanding of feminine consciousness, and create a healthy marriage in society that’s based on equal male and female energies.

“In the Assyrian culture, without a doubt, motherhood is hailed as the highest role that a woman will take on in her lifetime,” says Helen. “However, in the Western societies, the Assyrian woman has also taken on additional roles, mainly working outside of her home. And while this is a highly praised socio-economic role, the Innana in all of us, without a question, has been neglected… due to pressed schedules, competition, or our own desertion.”

In the year 2013, she pointed out that women who take on social issues are likely to be more outspoken and have a proactive approach that offer change in present systems, yet are also quickly shunned and cast out by their societies which lack democracy in their backbones. And that it is in these same climates that you will find the only women who climax to power are the ones who stand on the crutches of men.

She is right, but things are quickly changing, especially in America where we’re witnessing a rise with women in political, social, and religious roles. Women are stepping up to help restore peace and balance into our lives. Together with their male counterparts, we have a wonderful opportunity create a beautiful future for our children and grandchildren.