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.

IMG_7153 (1)
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

Be the Solution

Finding your warrior spirit can be a difficult journey when faced with the daily drama of life and given what we see these days on the news and in social media.  Outside factors can be such strong distractions that they often make us forget how to look within, utilize our skills and talents to grow, prosper and serve the needs of others in our communities.

I believe that you can write your fate with your own hands when the rest of the world is sleeping or busy participating in the drama. Problems can be solved in many ways, including finding someone else’s experience and copying what they did, changing a limiting belief or attitude, or by joining a network dedicated to solving that particular problem. Being the solution is a great way to come out of the problem.

The Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities (ACHC) has encouraged and inspired individuals, families and communities to do just that – to be the solution. They’ve created numerous programs that help shape how well our communities live. This is especially important now since we live in a culture where every day, over 2000 teens begin abusing prescription drugs. 

I interviewed Julie Brenner, CEO of ACHC about their programs. With over twenty years of service in marketing, alliance and partnership development, Julie holds a Bachelor of Arts from Wilfrid Laurier University and a degree in Corporate Communications from Sheridan College, both in Ontario, Canada. She is a Certified Prevention Consultant (CPC-R), and is a graduate of Leadership Oakland XXVIII and Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business Executive Program for Non Profit Leaders.

Team

Julie shared their wealth of services. The Bear Truth is ACHC’s college outreach program which collaborates with Oakland University to reduce high risk drinking and misuse of other substances while integrating wellness practices and relevant resources. Their Greater Urban Community Coalition Initiative supports local experts and residents to ensure each child in every school has the necessary resources to live a safe, healthy and long life. A key component is to reduce and prevent underage drinking, prescription and opiate drug misuse, illicit marijuana and tobacco use among youth and adults in highly minority populated communities across Oakland County.

Pioneering social change in the realm of health and wellness, the Alliance strives, through their Integrative Wellness program, to reduce the fear of complimentary therapies. They want to empower individuals and families to take care of their health in holistic and sustainable ways.

keep-them-safe.jpg

Keep Them Safe, Keep Them Healthy! is another program that strengthens families by building curriculum for families who have youth ages 10 to 14 years of age in the home. A compliment to that program is Life is Your Playbook led by former NFL linebacker for the New York Giants, and 2011 Super Bowl Champion, Greg Jones. He imparts knowledge and skills needed for today’s youth using several different “life plays.” These dynamic experiences are for youth of all ages so that they gain protective factors that will help them avoid destructive behaviors, including substance use, by helping them know their value, think about what they want for their futures and what they need to do to get there.

Love a Child is a year round program focusing on areas of mentoring for children, youth and young adults challenged by circumstances of abuse, neglect, and behavioral issues through one-on-one mentoring, home visitation, camps and special events.

With 5-10 meetings held every month in Oakland County, the Alliance serves as the Oakland County Chapter of Families Against Narcotics (FAN). A partnership was formed with FAN to increase prevention, recovery and support connections. This partnership encourages strong ties to all community sectors including parents affected by addiction, concerned citizens, law enforcement, judges, leaders in education, business, and healthcare and the recovery community. 

PEEPs (Peers Educating and Empowering Peers) is a unique group that brings together coalition youth members to promote healthy lifestyles through prevention education across Oakland County. And there’s Resolve, a 16-week comprehensive life skills training program designed and developed for individuals in recovery who are 18+. The purpose of this program is to empower individuals in recovery to move forward in their life skill development targeted specifically to areas of need, whereby addressing the health and well-being of the whole person.

Children

Through my extensive travels around the world and my journalism of over ten years, I discovered that what we do at home, in our own little corners, creates the environment we dream for ourselves and future generations. I love watching individuals, families, businesses, and corporations who understand the power of that. They make conscious decisions, placing their focus on the solution within their scope, spreading it to those in their proximity, then naturally expanding to larger circles. They take a proactive role in shaping their lives and helping those around them. They help make the world a better place. 

Here’s a wonderful and informative video about their Integrative Wellness Program, which is a sponsor of the Spiritual & Writing Conference & Retreat  Click Here

For more information, visit http://achcmi.org/

Envision Your Success Using Vision Boards

Long ago, a woman gifted me a book called The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Dr. Joseph Murphy. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. This was my introduction into the science of the subconscious mind, how we can, through habitual thinking, imagery, and the belief in a higher power create our destiny.        

In all his books, Dr. Murphy provides practical methods to help a person redirect their energy and achieve the result they want. Born in 1898, he was educated in Ireland and England in Eastern religion and later became a Minister-Director of the Church of Divine Science in Los Angeles. He spent many years in India and was a scholar of the I-Ching, the Chinese book of divination whose origins are lost in history.

I was fascinated by this subject and began to set clear intentions for what I wanted in my personal and work life. At first, I used only words and feelings to shift my thought process and manifest my dreams. Later, I incorporated pictures. I was young and didn’t know whether this exercise would work, but aligning thoughts and emotions in this way felt really good. It took me away from negativity and gave me clarity and a sense of purpose. Along the way, I read of many people who had practiced these techniques successfully, such as Olympic athletes who have used it for decades to improve performance. Over the years, people that understand and utilize meditation and vision boards for their success became part of my every day circle.

My friend and colleague Sonya Julie, for instance, used a vision book to change her life. Within a few years, she went from a job in the corporate world to being an entrepreneur, facilitating workshops, creating jewelry and writing her memoir. A co-creator of Rochester Writers, Sonya has published freelance content for a variety of publications including The Oakland Press, Michigan Sports Edge and Rochester Media. She is a Reiki Master and Energy Worker and will be leading a workshop at The Path of Consciousness spiritual and writing conference and retreat in October. In this workshop, called Creative Vision Board Workshop: Envision Your Success!, participants will dig deep into this highly effective practice to help one transfer their goals and dreams into reality. She’s doing somewhat of a similar workshop for the Detroit Writing Conference in November.

Sonya3
Sonya’s Jewelry

“Every day we have a choice regarding how we live our lives,” says Sonya. “Society has told us what is expected of us and what the ramifications are if we don’t follow suit. Do you spend many hours each week working on something you don’t believe in or enjoy? Or perhaps you are working towards your dream but don’t know what steps to take? Perhaps you have too much going on and can’t seem to find the time to make anything happen.”

Sonya invites people to think about what they’d want to do if they had no limits.

“If you had enough money and security and could create anything imaginable, what would that look like? And how would you get there?” she asks. “Be specific – don’t just say you want to save the world or learn to paint – think of something more specific. What would you do if you had no limits on your power to create?”

She suggests taking perhaps 15 or 20 minutes to write down your ideas and dreams. Once you have a general idea, take time to further define your ideas. What kinds of steps would you take to get there? You can set aside time to work on this in whatever way works for you. Get a new notebook that you will enjoy using. Start brainstorming, doodling, and finding creative ways to express that which you hold in your heart. What resides in the core of your being? What are you here to do? To enjoy? To create?

Visualization is one of the most powerful mind exercises you can do. For me, looking back, I see that the majority of what I’d focused on has manifested – except it didn’t necessarily happen the way I expected or in the time period I hoped for. Most of us wish that our dreams would come true more quickly or the difficult seasons would pass by more smoothly, but things worth having, including loving relationships, require work and patience. Otherwise, it becomes a continuous fantasizing that leads to frustration. So it’s important that one has a “vision board” and an “action board” to accompany it.

Watch the half-hour interview with Sonya and for more information about Sonya’s work, visit her websites www.SonyaJulie.com and https://awakeningthecore.com

She will be presenting at The Path of Consciousness Spiritual & Writing Conference & Retreat Oct. 5-7 http://www.ThePathofConsciousness.com

She will be presenting at Detroit Working Writers Conference Nov. 10  http://www.detworkingwriters.org/conference/

Sonya2

The Beauty of Farming

My grandparents, from both my parents’ side, were farmers in Telkaif, a town in northern Iraq where, not long ago, Chaldeans [Christian Iraqis] lived a fairly peaceful life. My maternal-grandfather woke up every morning before the break of dawn, attended church, came home to eat a fresh breakfast he’d grown on his land, and worked in his farm until evening. Then he was off to church once again before having supper and calling it a day. They enjoyed good clean air, exercise, and a quiet time with nature. 

In 2012, I went to the home of a 111-year-old Chaldean woman, Warina Zaya Bashou, who lived in my neighborhood, to interview her for an article. She had just become the second oldest person to be granted citizenship to the United States. I asked her what was the secret to her longevity and she said:

  1. work
  2. don’t go to the doctors
  3. drink lots of tea

She too was from the village of Telkaif and, like my grandparents, had worked a great deal on the farm. Over the years, we’ve lost that relationship with the land and with eating foods grown on local farms rather than delivered in trucks from far away. But we’re trying to bring this relationship back. 

One person who’s helping do that is Diane Dovico, who I interviewed on my show. Diane spent 21 years as the Executive Director of the Royal Oak Community Coalition, a 501(c)3 non-profit and currently, she serves Oakland County working as a Wellness Program Administer at the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities by designing and facilitating original programs, initiatives, and campaigns. She started So You Want to be a Farmer?  which is a free event she had for kids at the Royal Oak Farmers Market. 

My niece and I took our children to the event yesterday where kids had the chance to play games and do activities such as animal yoga poses, planting vegetable seeds to take home, designing your own farm, story book time, making a healthy snack, and pretending to grocery shop and to learn how to make health food choices. 

I try, whenever possible – meaning when there’s the least resistance from my children – to get them involved in the meal’s preparation or to take them grocer shopping with me. Sometimes the easiest way to get them to eat healthier is by being an example, biting your tongue (kids love to rebel) and limit the types of snacks that enter your home. 

It’s also important to support local farmers. Small farms renew a connection between the food people eat and the land they live on. They help create jobs, improve the health of the land and the people, and they provide a foundation for a more resilient local food system. As people become more conscientious, they understand the beauty and necessity of farming. They want to know where their food comes from, how it is produced, and that it is produced in a way that isn’t damaging the environment. It is this consciousness that will shift the economic attitude to “what’s good for the world is what’s right for the company” for the rewards of brand loyalty and profits.

What’s your relationship to food and the land?

The Women of WISDOM

In response to the divisions that emerged during the recent elections, many women have come together to form unity and a more peaceful world. They began taking on leadership roles, with over 25,000 women contacting Emily’s List about running for office. This is one small example.

But the pattern of women stepping up to create harmony during difficult times is not a new phenomenon. Many women around the world have worked hard to help provide equal opportunities and healthier environments so that individuals, families, communities, and nations can strive. Over a decade ago, Gail Katz, a Jew, Shahina Begg, a Muslim, and Trish Harris, a Catholic, reached out and brought other women together to form WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Metro Detroit) which officially became a 501 (c) 3 in May 2007.

The 9/11 attacks and the Iraq War had caused a polarization as turmoil escalated in the world between and among the various faith traditions. In the belief that women could come together and form an interfaith movement where we could listen to each other, respect each other’s differences, and then take action towards change, these inspiring women started a beautiful circle of sisterhood that has gone on to present many empowering programs.

Wisdom

I met one of WISDOM’s co-founders, Trish Harris, through Padma Kuppa, who’s running for a seat in the Michigan House of Representatives. Trish is a Catholic like myself, and she definitely has a lot of wisdom to contribute to the world. In the book Friendship & Wisdom, she writes, “There is something distinctive about how women work together. We tend to take the time to build the relationships first, and then work on solving the problem.”

Friendship & Wisdom features true stories from over 50 remarkable women. One of the woman who shares her story in the book is Padma. Padma is a Hindu American and community activist working for social justice and understanding. Born in India, she arrived to the U.S. to start kindergarten in 1970 on Long Island. Returning to India with her family in 1981, she finished high school and college while living in a mainstream Hindu culture. Returning to New York in 1988 as a foreign student, she, her husband, and their two children have made Troy, Michigan their home since 1998. Padma is a founding member of the Troy-area Interfaith Group, as well as the Bharatiya Temple’s Outreach Committee.

Padma starts her story with profound words (page 89):

One of my favorite Bible verses from 1 Corinthians: “Faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” This is a lot like passages in Hindu scriptures, including these words from the Maha Upanishad: “The whole world is a family.” There also is a prayer of peace in the Rig Veda that reads, in English: “May all be happy. May all be healthy. May all be prosperous. Let no one suffer.”

The Foreword by Barbara Mahany was also touching:

Day after day I wake up with my chest feeling hollowed. The space in my heart hurts so much, so immeasurable, I can’t fathom how to contain it. I shuffle down the stairs of my old shingled house, look out the windows into the quiet dawn, into the leafy arbors, and wonder how in the world can I stitch a single thread into the tatters of this world, this oozing brokenness all around?

And then the stories of this book landed on my desk. This, I knew right away, is where the answer lies: In ordinary-extraordinary stories of women who reach across doorways, and hallways, and kitchen counters – who see beyond burkas and veils and prayer beads and venerations.

Being in the presence of these women, you know there’s something special at work that you want to be a part of. Wisdom received from anyone is very important. With women, their wisdom allows them to see in another woman what she herself might not be able to see or articulate so clearly. When I opened the book that Trish had gifted me, I saw these words: “Weam, thanks for helping to change the world – one relationship at a time.”

I’m grateful for women like Trish and Padma and others who help make communities a better place. May their sisterhood circle continue to grow, prosper, and embrace the whole world.

To learn more about Wisdom, click here:

To learn more about Padma Kuppa, click here

The People Around You

Before the publication of my first book in 2004, I was eager to launch my writing career. I imagined the wonderful life of an author that awaited me and expressed this to my Native American teacher as he sat crisscross in his La-Z-Boy, smoking his pipe, staring at me with his inquisitive eyes. After some silence, he said, “The only people that matter are those around you.”

His words remain in my heart today, revealing their wisdom whenever I get too caught up in my work. Although I always strive to improve my craft, to expand my career, and to create beautiful things in the world, what my teacher had said becomes clearer and more meaningful with time. I see a lot of people get mystified and obsessed over famous names or becoming famous themselves – neglecting to discover the treasures within their own circle.

Myself, I try to see the wonderful attributes of those who cross my path, like Siete16 Guevara. He’s an author who cares to make an impact on the lives of those around him. That’s the first thing I recognized when we met over a year ago at a book signing. He didn’t talk about his books as much he did about creating unities between literary communities. He has regular poetry readings, free for the public. In honor of National Poetry month, he will host two Open Mics at the Dovetail in Warren, Michigan (April 13th and 20th) where performers, poets, storytellers, musicians and singers are welcome to join.

Siete 16 was born in Saginaw, Michigan, and after high school moved to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas where he lived for about eleven years. When he returned to Michigan, he sought out the artistic scene of poets and writers, like the community he encountered and became a part of in Texas. It was happening in Saginaw for about three to four years, but it had dissolved so Siete16 moved out to the Metro Detroit area and found several groups and communities where he made friends and connections with.

His work was accepted by college magazine – The Gallery at the University of Texas and in ARTIFEX at Macomb Community College. He has published three books of his own poetry, and currently works on his fourth book. He’s also publishing a second book of poetry written by students in Sterling Heights. The first book of student poetry was from Saginaw.

“My greatest accomplishments are two things, my daughter, and my nonprofit organization that I started with my dad,” he said.

The nonprofit is called Artistas Latinx en Accíon Siempre (A.L.A.S.) In Spanish it means, Latinx Artists in Action Always.  A.L.A.S. means wings in Spanish, which ties into their motto: Perform with Us, Soar with Us!

Sieta 16 reminds me of Will, an artist I met in Suttons Bay a few years ago. He owned a store called Casey-Daniels where he made jewelry and sold handmade handbags. He’s also the publisher of Exposures, a Leelanau County Student Journal that has been around for nearly 30 years. He’d said to me about his artwork, “I make weird things. I’m not going to stick myself in art shows. You know why? Because I’m not looking for the approval of others. I’m going to authenticate me. You’re going to authenticate yourself.”

With that, I returned home with a whole new perspective.  

Sieta’s books on Amazon

Siete 16

Ano Dos Mil

Siete 16 -2

Where is the Sexto Sun?

Siete 16 - 3