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.

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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.

The Authors Guild Co-Ambassadors

The Authors Guild of America, the nation’s oldest and largest professional writing organization, with approximately 10,000 members, has served the collective voice of American authors since its beginnings in 1912 in New York. Earlier this year, the Guild expanded its national outreach by launching 14 regional chapters to host a variety of programs serving members in their local writing communities.

Twenty-eight Guild members were chosen to serve as ambassadors to lead the first group of chapters, in Los Angeles, San Diego, the Bay Area, Washington, D.C., St. Petersburg/Tampa, Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Raleigh-Durham, Las Vegas, New York City, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Seattle. The two members selected to serve as ambassadors in Detroit were myself and Violet St. Karl. The first time I met Violet, we enjoyed discussing ways to design literary events and programs and we discovered we had so many other interests in common.

Violet’s first novel in her series, Collection of the Negatives, is available for pre-orders. The book will be published January 11, 2019, making her the first Albanian-American science fiction and fantasy author. St. Karl is a German translation of her Albanian last name, which is the surname she writes under, as her Albanian name has four constants in a row and is often too difficult for English speakers to pronounce.

Violet’s love affair with science fiction and fantasy began at the tender age of four when she was introduced to the film Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, but it took nearly three decades and nudges from the universe to focus on writing. While living on the Upper West Side of New York, Violet learned her apartment was the former site of Edgar Allen Poe’s farmhouse, where he completed writing The Raven. Although an interesting fact to share, she shrugged it off as coincidence and was unconvinced to give writing and the stories in her head any attention. It wasn’t until the following year that her mind changed, as she once again, without prior knowledge, found herself living in the former residence of a famous writer. After learning that not only the flat but the room she was sleeping in belonged to Mercè Rodoreda i Gurguí, a famous Catalan writer, Violet believed it was a bold attempt from the universe to push her to write because, she says, “Coincidence doesn’t strike twice.”  

The dictionary describes coincidence as two or more events coming together in a surprising, unexpected way without an obvious casual explanation. There have been many studies about coincidences. Austrian biologist Paul Kammerer believed that coincidences arise out of unknown forces, or waves, that he called seriality. Psychiatrist Carl Jung in the 1950s came up with a similar idea, his so-called synchronicity theory, to describe these remarkable occurrences. Regardless of the scientific meanings that try to define them, these experiences can be valuable or worthless depending on how we listen to them.

Many good writers I know have fallen short of materializing the articles, poems, or books they want because they’ve ignored numerous nudges from the universe. They felt paralyzed by fear, lack, inferiority, or dependence on a person or an institution to validate their work. In Violet’s case, she stopped to think of what’d occurred, looked at the situation, listened to the message being communicated, and took action. Today she’s celebrating the result of her hard work.  

Violet lived for over a decade in New York, and after her return, she’s proud to be representing the Authors Guild as co-ambassador. When not writing or focused on strengthening the local literary community, she is planning which country, city or restaurant to explore next. She says that outside of writing science fiction, travel and food are her other two passions. I’m very excited to work with her to help nurture and expand the literary community in Michigan.

Recently, we met up with Andrew Raupp, also an Authors Guild member, at Skyline Club’s monthly event in Southfield. Andrew is the founder of STEM.org, a credentialed journalist with over 15 years of international experience, and he’s the organizer of Skyline Club, which is hosting our next Authors Guild event on Tuesday, December 11 at 6 pm. Our guest speaker will be Joseph Drolshagen, the author of Life’s Lessons.

Joseph

Joseph will discuss how to explore your creative passion in the New Year. (light refreshments will be served) For more information, visit https://leadership.pagecloud.com/ Please RSVP by emailing detroitchapter@authorsguild.org

Special thanks to those who support our literary world! 

Authors Guild             Dec. Event2 Dec. Event

Interview with USA Today Bestselling Author

Janel Gradowski is a USA Today and Amazon #1 bestselling author who emailed me earlier this year inquiring about the Path of Consciousness spiritual and writing retreat. Checking out her website, I was impressed by her accomplishments and immediately drawn to all seven of her book covers. They portray a smart, strong and unique woman who is creative in many ways and places, including in the kitchen.

“My book covers always hint at what will happen in the story,” she later told me. “It could be the culinary competition that my main character, Amy, is competing in or events that are happening in her life. Since it’s a cozy mystery series, there’s also a skull and crossbones included somewhere on every cover. I love that my cover artist, Lyndsey Lewellen, always does a good job in conveying Amy’s confidence and creativity.”

Janel and I have several similarities: we care how women are portrayed in our books and on the book covers; we are both prolific writers; coffee is an integral part of her writing process; exploring new places and going on culinary adventures are a few of the passions that fuel our creativity.

Beyond her culinary mystery series, Janel has also had many flash fiction stories, her first writing love, published both online and in print. Her next book will be in the women’s fiction genre. The main character is a solo entrepreneur who has worked so hard to establish herself in the business world that the rest of her life has fallen apart.

“The new story will detail how the main character will go from living only for her work to enjoying her life again,” Janel said. “I think it’s something that a lot of women can relate to, putting ourselves last in order to help everyone else.”

I definitely can relate to that. In my four-part memoir series, Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School, I share how hard I worked on myself to establish boundaries, follow my dreams, and allow myself self-care.

After a few months of emails, I met Janel in person at the spiritual and writing retreat. We connected on a deeper level. Within a matter of three weeks, we saw each other several times even though the drive to my side of town is some 90 minutes. One reason is that, outside of writing, we have a love and appreciation for a lot of similar things. In our last gathering, we barely discussed writing and yet we had a great time because, after all, there’s more to life than writing. There’s life!

I’ve often advised emerging writers that, along the writing journey, it’s important that they keep their priorities straight and have a balance rather than obsess over their writing. What’s the use of having a great book if you have a lousy life? These days especially, having a great life can easily translate into a great book.

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At the Path of Consciousness spiritual and writing retreat

Janel lives in rural central Michigan surrounded by farm fields and wildlife, a community that has a yearly Corn Festival. Her family consists of her husband, a son, and a daughter. She has a plant named Hitch. She followed her intuition, started her writing career later in life but easily succeeded. She’s into things like energy healing, aromatherapy, malas, mantras, journaling, law of attraction, manifesting, energy crystals and smudging. She loves that her hair is turning gray, says that “Silver hair rocks!” and her favorite quote is by George Eliot: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

Given her personality and involvement in spiritual work, Janel and I evidently also have many similar beliefs. Janel believes that the right thing to do is not always the easiest; the more one uses their intuition, the stronger it becomes; a person is in charge of the vibes that he/she projects into the world; we get what we focus on – thoughts become reality. And my favorite belief of hers – which I learned through my shamanic apprenticeship and which I’ve been teaching for years now – is “When I change the stories I tell myself about my life, I change how I live my life.”

http://www.janelgradowski.com

The Value of Your Attention

Written by Sandy Naimou
Yoga Teacher,
B.A. in Psychology and
M.L.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies
https://www.sandynaimou.com/ 

Your attention is your greatest asset and everyone is trying to get it.  Your partner, children, boss, parents, family members, friends, are all trying to get your attention.  You agreed, on some level, to give them your attention.  In some way, you all agreed, and you have chosen to give your attention in exchange for theirs.  

Others are trying to get your attention and you don’t know who they are.  You haven’t chose to have a relationship with these people, but they’re forcing their relationship on you.  For example, advertisements are everywhere and they are forcing themselves on you.  It sounds violent, doesn’t it?  It sounds like a physical assault, actually.  It very well is a form of assault on your mind, especially in the way that it can be done; in the way that changes your values without you realizing it.  Similarly, in the way that advertisements are meant to make you do something that benefits others (those who are advertising on you), it is a robbery.  

Now, you and I both market to others.  I understand.  So this is a sensitive topic, but I have to go forward.  It’s too important.

In all ways, your attention is your greatest asset.  It’s like a precious rare and unique jewel, a gem, a diamond.  We all have these jewels, but each one is so unique and so powerful, making them beautiful and highly valuable all at once. 

Making them most valuable, is the power that these jewels hold.  That power is what everyone is trying to get from each other.  Why?  Because once someone has taken that jewel, that power, they can control us.  Yes, that sounds dramatic.  But, it IS dramatic.  Controlling our attention can lead us to a seemingly insignificant decision of making a small purchase.  It can also lead us to significant decisions like supporting an idea that will affect billions of human lives and multiple generations.  Attention is a big deal.

Recently I was learning about crystal singing bowls to make a purchase.  I felt that the bowls people are selling on Amazon didn’t have enough information; it seemed incomplete.  I felt that many sellers didn’t really understand the bowls, but they were advertising them as if they did.  So, I decided I needed to research singing bowls to make the right purchase.  In the process, I found a seller, Zacciah Blackburn from Sunreed Instruments, who has been working with sound healing instruments for decades.  He could explain what I really wanted to know.  His knowledge got my attention and I chose him because of his expertise.  That’s what I was looking for, and with his help and expertise online and over the phone, I purchased two bowls to harmonize with the single bowl I already had. 

Through him, I learned that it was the computer industry that first created frosted crystal singing bowls in order to grow silicon.  Silicon quartz crystals are used to grow silicon chips.  The purity of the bowls made for a beautiful sound that was discovered in the tossing of the leftover bowls.  Single-crystal silicon is described as “the most important technological material of the last few decades” because of its semi-conducting properties and affordability which changed how we make electronics and led to the wide availability of our now, everyday devices.  It’s amazing to me that we use a by-product of the computer industry for sound healing.

Focusing your attention.

When you listen to a crystal singing bowl, your attention is with the bowl.  You hear the sound that captures your attention.  It’s hard to focus anywhere else.  The sound is so soothing and depending on the size of the bowl, it has a beautiful resonance that can last for minutes after the bowl player has stopped singing the bowl, which is done with pressing the mallet around the bowl in many revolutions.  When you’re in the same room as the bowl, it enraptures your senses – your auditory sense and your touch sense.  You can feel the vibrations embrace you.  Getting closer to the bowl makes the touch sense much more apparent, but as the room fills with these vibrations, they eventually are felt consciously.  Nonetheless, you feel them, whether you’re aware of them or not.  The vibrations soothing your senses, also soothes the vibrations in your mind, and so directing our attention becomes more available.  It’s easier to work with attention when the mind is relaxed.

This is one way to learn to focus your attention.  To listen to a sound and be with the sound.

When you are not focusing your attention, your attention is being pulled and pushed.  Forces around you, people’s ideas and desires, forces, are pushing and pulling your attention.  When we don’t claim attention as the precious jewel that it is, it is taken and thrown around as if it is expendable.  It’s like others are playing monkey in the middle with our minds.  Once the push and pull occur, getting a hold of our attention becomes a more difficult task and that can create more mental tension if we don’t already practice relaxation.  

I’ll say it again but more directly: Attention is not expendable.  When we act as if it is, we can easily easily so easily lose ourselves.  We lose who we are, what we know, what we want to know, what we care about.  We lose meaning.  We don’t know why we do anything.  All meaning is lost.  We become robots and do what the programmers around us tell us to do.  It’s a depressing thought, but that’s why so many people seem to be asleep.  Because they haven’t held their own attention as the jewel that it is, as the gem, the crystal, the diamond.  

Attention is precious.  When we see a billboard, commercial, magazine advertisement, and allow our attention to get sucked into it without awareness, we become vulnerable to the messages.  Those are the subliminal messages that marketers learn and employ – working with your subconscious mind because you are not aware.  Awareness, attentiveness, counteracts the forces of manipulation.  I’m happy to make a purchase if I consciously make the decision and I know what, why, how, when the purchase will be good for me or others.  But consider when advertisers who sell addictions slyly get into our minds.  It’s a dangerous game that is being played.

Ask someone who knows that they can’t keep their attention focused, someone who believes they have ADD or ADHD or has a brain injury.  They’ll tell you how painful it is.  Maybe you already know that first hand.  How painful is it to not be able to direct yourself, to control what you think about, why, how, when, and where you think about it?  We take attention for granted.  When we know that we struggle with holding our own attention, we understand its true value.

All of us can strengthen our attention, and hold such a jewel with respect.  But our attention doesn’t begin as a jewel.  It begins as the “diamond in the rough,” an unshaped stone that has potential to be shaped.  

Meditation is so powerful because it aims to completely focus and shape attention; that’s the purpose – to come to a “razor-sharp focus” or an attention as focused as a laser-beam.  

Meditation

This razor-sharp focus is what cuts the rough stone that our attention begins as, and shapes it into the beautiful gem it always had the potential to become.  It just needs practice and yes, attention.  With this gem, we ourselves can cut right into the matter at hand and shape an idea with more intention.  We can shape ourselves with more intention.

So, we have to practice being attentive to our attention if we want to shape our own lives.

There are ways to ease into meditation practices.  We ease in because holding our own attention is a learned task that requires practice.  “We need more practice,” says my son’s martial arts teacher.  It’s written on the wall as the school’s motto.  

We need more practice.  What if each of us live by that motto?  What happens when we practice holding our own attention, not easily swayed by those around us who have their own motivations?

We live how we want to live, not how others want us to live.  Again, we shape our own lives.

So, here’s a way for you to focus your attention on a daily basis so that you strengthen this muscle of attention daily, you shape this diamond in the rough little by little.

Daily Exercise for Attention 

This is a journaling exercise I’ve been committed to since about 2007 when I was trying to complete my thesis for graduate school, which life had interrupted.  I can attest to this method.  It’s probably one of the most important things I do daily and little by little it creates huge effects in my life.  When I don’t use this method, or I do it lazily, I live lazily too.  My priorities get shifted and spun around and my actions can easily go against myself, against my intentions and my values, which affect me and those around me.  You’ll want a dedicated journal for this practice alone, though important daily notes can be written here too.  

I call this my “work journal.”

Journal

Begin every morning setting an intention for your day and write it down in a journal.  Let the intention focus on how you would like to feel, what state of being you want to be in for the day.  For example, to feel joy around me, to feel connected to others, to feel love at all times, to be calm, to be relaxed, to be energetic.  In my journal, I title this the “Thought for the Day.”  Add any other descriptions, reasons, understandings, reflections in this section.  Now and then, I write my thought for the day in a poetic voice.  Those speak to me the most.

Consider some of the actions, no more than three actions, that would be in line with that intention.  You’ll write these in the next two sections.

Title the next section for the day “Personal Goals” for some of the things you will do to accomplish that intention and any other things that need to be done.  Being a “personal” section, you’ll be thinking about yourself, your family, friends, personal responsibilities.  

Title the next section for the day “Professional Goals,” and identify some of the things you will do to accomplish that intention as well as any other things that need to be done.  Being the section focused on the “professional” aspect of your life, you’ll be thinking about the work you do.

The personal and professional intermingle, but for attention’s sake, we’ll keep them in separate sections.

For the rest of your day, bring your attention back to that intention and the little steps that you recognized in the personal/professional goals that would help fulfill it.  

Notice what happened when you kept it in mind and acted accordingly.  Notice what happened when you forgot about it, got pushed or pulled in another direction, and acted in opposition to that intention.  We only notice, we don’t need to judge it.

At the end of the day, or the very next morning, you’ll write a “Review and Reflection” to reflect on how the day went and what you noticed.  Did you stay on task?  Did you get pushed or pulled around?  Ask yourself questions here, what helped you stay on track and what took you off track?  

Whatever method works for you, go with it.  Focusing on sound and intentions are two available ways that have worked for me.  

With time and practice, your attention will be shaped into the beautiful gem it could always become.

Sandy(3)