When Did You Last Have a BIG HUG?

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Photo by: by ラルフ – Ralf RKLFoto

When is the last time you received a big bear hug? The kind that doesn’t release instantly? The kind where you feel accepted, supported and loved for who you are?Fake, pseudo LA hugs where a person lightly touches your shoulder-blades and releases, while looking away to see who witnessed it, doesn’t count! I mean, good friend hugs.

And when did you last give a big bear hug, and to whom?

Hugs are so healing. And when life is kicking you when you’re already down, you really need one. Amma the Hugging Saint lives her life giving hugs to relieve suffering (while also raising money to support charities working to reduce poverty and help the environment). But if you, like me, find yourself rarely hugging others deeply and authentically, ask yourself why? Or do you, like me, often pull away before the hugger is done, feeling embarrassed, or uncomfortable because you weren’t raised in a hugging, loving environment and aren’t used to letting others hug you?

I’ve come to know a few things with complete certainty. One is that if you didn’t receive hugs as a child, you need the power of hugs in your life today. Start by giving them and receiving them. Hug your children. Hug your best friend, sibling, parent, dog, deeply today. I gave my sister five hugs yesterday. It felt amazing!

To give and receive love requires compassion. In a me, me, and more me-focussed world of today, let go of yourself and your needs for just a moment and embrace mindfully, focussing on the other person with complete compassion. What a gift! To do so says: ‘I see your pain, I feel your pain, and I wish I could help.’

A big hug, like the best gifts in life, doesn’t cost a thing, and is exchanged on a deep, emotional level without the need for words.

This virtual hug is from me to you.

Have a beautiful Sunday.

Laura xo

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To Self Publish or Not … One Writer’s Positive Experience

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Today I met with a talented poet and artist who self published her first book in 2017 with Amazon, for less than $2,000. That’s amazing. And it’s gorgeous. Shani’s Whispers of Grace is a delicious compilation of paintings and spiritual poetry, inspired by her time in silence “with Shiva” at the holy hill of Arunachala in Tamil Nadu. Mystical, lyrical and emotional, Shani could have sought out an agent and tried to publish traditionally. Instead, she chose to self publish and to hire a friend to create her cover. As we chatted today about her next book, now in the works, we both began discussing the pros and cons of the self publishing route. As most of you reading this know, I’m pitching agents and have written three novels, now working on my fourth. Intrinsically, I worry about the costs of self publishing and managing all the self promotion, printing costs, pr costs, platform management and search elevation, contractual issues, etc. by my self. I’ve always held agents in high regard and read experts advice such as Shawne Coyne (who published this article today lauding what good agents can do: What it Takes: Art + Commerse = Better Art.).

 

But after speaking with the kind-hearted and spiritual Shani today, I see that in the end, whether a writer decides to self publish or pursue traditional publishing, it all boils down to expectation and time. Shani is happy to let her book grow organically through word of mouth referrals (including mine, buy it please!). She allows placement to happen organically within appropriate settings, such as spiritual book stores, or yoga and meditation retreat centers. As Shani said: “if I touch one soul, I am happy.” She isn’t bogged down by what frightens me: all the time consuming PR, self promotion pitching and travel and speaking engagements. And her work is doing just fine since she kept creation costs relatively low.

I love her perspective and choices. Because in no way does her choice to self publish affect the quality of her craft. In fact, I think this journey of Shani’s has allowed her to focus 100% of her time on her art, and perfecting that art, without worrying about the business side. She lets her art speak for itself—and it does.

I love this last line of her poem Song of the Self: “It is only the Supreme non-dual “I” that destroys ignorance and pure Knowledge shines forth as Self.”

I think all of us writers could learn from Shani. When one continues to write for the sake of writing and for the gift it gives us by honing the craft—while enjoying the journey—the writing will intuitively and intrinsically get better. And it is more likely that an author will make deep connections with her readers as well. From the heart-felt intention of creating an inspiring piece of art, for the sake of art, that art, in turn, will flourish and the right organic opportunities will arise.

Thank you Shani for your words of wisdom today. I can’t wait to see your paintings and your next book!

Namaste ~

Laura xo

 

Finished your novel? Think again. How the editing process is endless…

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So I naively thought I was DONE editing my third novel Between Thoughts of You. Lets just say today was humbling and frustrating. On a happy note, a publisher in the UK agreed to read 10,000 words. Yay! Right?

Sort of.

My freshest version of the manuscript was saved via pdf. The publisher didn’t want to receive a pdf format or my entire novel. That caused a little anxiety. See, after editing my novel four times and sending it to beta readers, I had saved the final version in pdf form back in February before going to a writers conference. I think I edited the word docs of each chapter so many times that I actually have 3 of every chapter saved. Don’t ask me why, but that’s how it turned out. I like to have the option of seeing and re-visiting they way the longer chapters feel, so I keep earlier, longer drafts. To give the UK editor what she wanted, I had to highlight the first three chapters within my pdf version and then copy and paste it onto a fresh word doc. Sounds easy right?

But then the editor in me, couldn’t let it go. I read the three chapters upon pasting them and realized there were formatting issues. AND a few words were missing. To add to my mounting anxiety, I found one tense that didn’t quite work. Of course, I decided at the last minute, that one entire sentence of the final paragraph of Chapter 1 had to go. Then I decided, what the Hell, I really need to re-visit the ENTIRE manuscript.

Why? WHY? WHY am I like this? Seriously?

Two mocha’s later (which I had given up last month) I’m in a complete caffeine panic. I’m thinking: “No wonder one of the agents at the conference passed on my book! She saw the tense problem. She didn’t like the last paragraph of my first chapter either.”

Dread entered my heart and anchored my ass to the chair. I had to fix this.

“Wait!” I screamed out loud in my empty house. It dawned on me that I had sent the exact same three chapters to two other agents—my top choices—before making the changes I made today. That was bad. Really bad.

I need a rewind button.

A mild version of PTSD crept into my veins. I couldn’t breathe. And I’m a damn yoga and meditation teacher. So I started deep yoga breathing and mentally repeated “This isn’t 2015, chill out.”

In 2015 a friend who has written 10+ novels introduced me to her agent. This agent, who works at one of the largest agencies in the world, loved the synopsis and first chapter of my 2nd novel Uriel’s Mask. But I had made the rookie mistake of thinking my novel was ready for a major agent to read in its entirety, before I had edited it many, many times, and with only a few friends as beta readers. This agent had me sign a contract that I wouldn’t submit to anyone else for six months. I was beyond ecstatic. And then seven months later, she passed. It was too long. The word count needs to be under 90,000 words for first time writers. Why didn’t anyone tell me that? And, it had too many characters. Uriel’s Mask is a southern, semi-historic family saga. First time authors today need short books, with short chapters and with few characters. Again, that wasn’t told to me in my MFA program, and my favorite authors often have long, deliciously complex novels. Sigh.

When I was getting my MFA in New York, it was a completely different publishing landscape. My first novel, Lucifer’s Laughter, a psychological murder mystery inspired by my days as a newspaper crime reporter, had been my MFA thesis. And it got accepted by the first agent I pitched after sending only a few chapters. That agent was the amazing Anita Diamant Berke, who had rep’d VC Andrews, author of the Flowers in the Attic series. A few weeks after she signed me, she died of a heart attack and her entire agency went into a tail spin. I was broke and owed more than $40,000, so took a job as a magazine editor in Atlanta, met my husband the first week there, and then life got lifey with kids, editing jobs, etc.

Enter today. I’ve returned to writing fiction. But in 2015, I had the mentality of someone submitting to agencies in 1996—thinking my work didn’t have to be perfect before going to an agent. It does. Today’s submissions need to be ready for publication. And first time authors should be warned that agents like to pitch short novels with character-driven, not-too-complicated plots. They are easier to sell to publishing houses who don’t want to invest and lose too much on first time authors. It makes sense. But I didn’t completely understand that in 2014/2015. I do today and am grateful to the handful of agents who let me know.

My third novel is shorter and with two main characters. It has tight, easy-to-read chapters. I paid attention to the agents’ advice. So today’s discovery of a few missing words, a wrong tense and a lengthy sentence, sent me into a complete panic. Sigh.

I have to let go. I will not re-send up-dated chapters to the two agents now considering the work. That might send a red flag. Or be confusing. But maybe I should?

The kids are in bed and I feel the urge for another mocha and an all night editing binge.

HELP!

 

 

The Reality of Writing of a Novel

I SO adored the blog post by Emily Gould, “How Much my Novel Cost Me.” We must have been sisters in another life. Honestly, I can relate to the experience of getting an MFA in New York. Of having “broke” trust fund friends. Of augmenting my writing by teaching yoga, for very little…And, of course, of the reality of how much debt one can go into when writing a novel. My first book, the thesis of my MFA program, cost me almost $40,000…and then after my agent died, I took an editor position at a magazine in order to pay off debt. I can also relate to the ticking clock need to have a baby! Insert two children and nearly 10 years of NOT writing fiction, and now I’m back at it, working on my 4th novel.

If you are an aspiring author, read her post as she outlines her years in debt, what she learned and how her book deal came about. Yes, you may go in debt, even if you get a book deal. And no, getting a book deal won’t guarantee your happiness. It might, however, help you to feed your cat, to pay off debt and to start the next novel without too much fear of not being able to buy groceries or make the rent for a few months while you write!

 

Enjoy. Thanks Emily for the wonderful post. (Read it HERE.) I look forward to reading your next book!

 

View story at Medium.com

Dating Survival Tips for Single Moms: It’s a Jungle Out There! (So don’t swing out on a vine above the online dating swamp solo!)

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This is how I feel after many of my first dates that I meet via online dating. Dating post divorce is really, really hard for anyone. And it’s especially tricky for the full-time single mom. But I’m CONVINCED, that having full custody of my kiddos has saved me from dating a slew of selfish men, or men just seeking to hookup. (I can’t tell you how many men on the first date have said: “Wait, you don’t get one weekend off? Ever? How are we going to have sex later?”

Sigh. I’ve been a single mother for 9 years. My youngest is 9, do the math. I’ve had dark, dark days, I won’t lie. I found yoga, meditation and am now writing my 4th novel and teaching yoga and meditation. I don’t often write about the trials and tribulations of juggling single parenthood anymore, as I don’t like for it to define the essence of who I am. But when it comes to dating, lets just say, there’s no way that it can’t. I’ve made SO many mistakes over the years, and have comical and scary experiences under my belt that have helped me now that I find myself dating again. I’ve come up with a list of tips and strategies to help anyone—but especially the newly single mom—navigate the crazy dating process with dignity and with their center in tact. Try to enjoy the process. And look at each blind date as just one more experience to help you gain clarity. After divorce, many women lose sight of who they are, what they are worth, and what they want. We can also get mired down in the full-time, exhausting parenting process, losing our gratitude and our excitement for life. But now is your time to grow and flow. Never, EVER settle. Never think lesser of yourself or accept disrespectful treatment from any man whose view of you is that you are a handful just because you have chosen to raise children and put them first. Each guy you say NO to, gets you closer to finding what you’re seeking. And maybe that just might be your self worth and your own inner light. Re-acquainting with your dignity, your love for life, your sense of power, center and inner-goddess is  worth much more than any man (or woman). No person will bring you happiness. It’s an inside job. Let your inner light be the beacon that attracts the souls to you who will love and respect you—showing your children how women should be treated.

Here are some more useful dating tips:

  1.  Never introduce men who haven’t made a commitment to you to your children. EVER. It doesn’t matter if you’re frustrated about not being able to spend the night together. He needs to commit to being monogamous with you and you need to get to know him better before the oxytocin bliss of sex takes hold of your brain. Trust me. Don’t take a man home for your kids to discover. Your children are the most important people in your life and any man who doesn’t understand that needs to GO. I’ve made many mistakes in this lifetime, but my children have only met one man in nine years, and I became engaged to him. I’m very proud of that when I see the harm that comes from friends who introduce many men too soon.
  2. Don’t have sex before you really really know a man is kind and trustworthy and would be a good example for your children down the road. Period. Maybe that sounds harsh? But think about it. Women get addicted very quickly to men through oxytocin bonding via sex. They, however, do NOT. Once we bond, we make a slew of excuses for our slack men who aren’t treating us well outside of the bedroom and ignore red flags. (Read this interview with Dr. Pat Allen, relationship expert, author of NYTimes best seller Getting to I DO and coach for TV series Millionaire Matchmaker to get more advice that will blow your mind! She was my divorce therapist, LOL and granted me this interview to help me on my first venture out into the dating world. I wish I had heeded all of her advice!!)
  3. Before you venture onto an online dating site, write in a gratitude journal daily for a month.  That’s right. Write down what you are grateful for every day. Some days might be hard, but you can write: food, bed, water. Write down at least three things. Start to create a vibration of gratitude before you go out into the dating world. It will help you notice straight away, even on first dates, men who are mired down in negativity. Shed yours and theirs will stand out in stark contrast. It will help you move on.
  4. Meditate every morning (or night if you have very young children). Go to Headspace, or The Chopra Center (sign up for Chopra’s 21 day meditation challenge!) or DavidJi (who started Chopra’s challenges and does 40 day ones on his own!) to find free guided meditations. Start small, do a 10 minute one daily. Put on your headphones and listen. Why? It will help you connect to your intuition. And you’ll need your intuitive voice to speak to you when on dates. It will help you avoid narcissistic men and help you to break patterns, such as being attracted to men who are controlling or mired in addiction, etc.
  5. Play with yourself. Yup. Get your sexual vibes flowing. Why? Because you can. Because you’ll realize that you can satisfy yourself and it will be easier to say no to the hot man with 6 pack abs, but who would wreak havoc on your family due to his heavy drinking, or negativity or whatever. You are a goddess and deserve to be treated as one. So treat yourself to an orgasm and remind yourself. 🙂
  6. Practice mantras in the mirror. You can find many on LouiseHay.com. I adore her. Women who have been through nasty divorces can often internalize and believe the negative things said about them (men too, but this article is to help my fellow moms!). Look deeply into your eyes and say “I Love You. You are worthy of love and deserve to be happy.” There are many other mantras. It will feel silly. But do it. Feel loving and lovable before you go out into the dating world!
  7. Be honest on your online dating profile about what you want and who you are.  Don’t post pictures of yourself in a bikini or in provocative poses either. Even if you look great, try to not give the impression that you’re looking to just have casual sex, ok? Men, in my experience over the last 9 years, like to prey on single moms. The rationale is that we don’t have sex often, are probably desperate, and aren’t available for a relationship anyway. I can’t tell you how many men (including married men) have asked me over the years if they can be my friend with benefits. And that’s fine, if that’s what you are looking for. If you want to find a partner, however, and find love and respect, hold out.
  8. Talk on the phone first before meeting men who you connect with via online dating. Why? You need to feel good about this person before getting a sitter to spend more time with them. I can’t tell you how many dates I’ve had (while paying a sitter $18 / hour) that resulted in me listening to a man complain for hours about his ex or about his divorce, etc. I’ve coached so many men to forgive and forget and to remember the ex is the mother of his children and to embrace a more positive existence. It’s exhausting. You and I have spent too much time creating a positive life for ourselves. Don’t waste hours on a negative person AND pay for it!
  9. Don’t respond to every man who messages you via online dating. You may think it unkind, but don’t. Be brutal. If there is NO way you’ll go out with a 21-year-old who is looking for a MILF, don’t respond. If a man is 65 and you’re 35, don’t even respond. Know what you want. If someone brags about being in the NRA and voting for Trump, and this offends you, ignore his hot gym pictures. If you want to find someone who is spiritual, ignore those who say they are an atheist or a nihilist. You get the idea. This is the time for you to find someone you can have a soul connection with. If you don’t want to be with a drinker, say so in your profile. Why weed through all the requests from those who drink and smoke weed daily if you don’t want that in your house?
  10. Practice saying NO. A lot. Men, after the 2nd date, often pressure us for sex. Sometimes on the first date. It’s too soon. Say no and walk away knowing another man is out there. Say it to yourself: “Another man, a man better suited for me, is out there.” A single mom I know lamented to me last week that she’d date anyone at this point “because who would want to date me? I’ve got 4 kids!” My heart broke for her. Don’t make that mistake. You are better off alone, than letting in a potentially abusive man into your home. Make space for someone better and hold the space in your heart, knowing you are worth it.
  11. Don’t let ALL of your friends set you up. Even those with the best intentions, wind up making bad choices for you. Two years ago one of the producers of Queen Latifah Show put me on air. He’s a neighbor and his son is my son’s friend. He knew I was having trouble finding a man I could relate to and he wanted to set me up with a friend, but did it by having me be a contestant on Latifah’s Dating Game. See article hereThe Queen Latifah Show Season 2
    It was really funny when my friend’s friend ended up choosing the 60-year-old contestant over me! You just can’t win them all. In the end, even friends who set you up, often make the wrong choices for you. It was humbling.
  12. Exercise more and drink less. Get the endorphins going. Yoga, walking, jogging, biking…whatever works for you. Find a way to get your endorphins going and feel good. Try not to drink vino when you are stressed or alone. It might make you more likely to drunk text someone not good for you, or to give out your number to a bad boy you met online, when you ordinarily wouldn’t. It may sound like I’m being a bit strict, but you’ll feel better and get closer to what you ultimately want—a soul connection and a partner.Good luck and enjoy the ride! For more advice, read one of my most popular articles where I interview a knowledgable LA psychiatrist: How NOT to Date a Narcissist.

    Here’s to Love & Light & Enjoying the Journey,
    Laura x

The Artists Guide to Finding Time Step 2: Trust the Universe

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Photo by Chloe Moore Photography

Hmmm, what does THAT mean, I imagine many of you fellow writers and artists asking. When a yogi says you need to “trust the Universe” it can sound vague at best and spiritually superior at worst. But as a writer for 25 years and a yogi for only 8, I can tell you that trusting the Universe requires specific actions in order to create more, produce more, and live in an abundance consciousness that can create a vibration of attraction and opportunities. And it’s a daily achievement, as each day will be different. But if you, like me, are focussed on your art and know that it is what you are born to do, then trust your instinctual voice and your universal guides—even if you aren’t completely sure you believe in their existence. If you do, you will banish your FEAR that is ultimately what is standing in your way in the first place, right? The FEAR of not being good enough. The FEAR of ‘who am I to think I can be X (insert: published, artist with gallery exhibit, musician with record deal, etc.)? The FEAR of what if I don’t make it? The FEAR of what if I can’t pay rent?

These are all serious concerns, for sure, but what you focus on grows. I’m not advocating everyone throw caution to the wind and go bankrupt, but there is more time in a day than we actually realize. There are ways to find more time to slip into a creative space on a daily basis. There are ways to minimize fears, produce more effectively and live with more joy—while you’re reaching for your dreams. This way, you can enjoy today, the moment, so much that reaching your goal almost doesn’t matter. Why? Because you’re living your art, living authentically, and enjoying your life more. Here are tools that are currently working for me:

  1. Reduce the hours at work in your day job so you can focus more on your art. Over the years I’ve encountered this lesson time and time again. At one point, I left a high paying consultancy gig with a New York PR firm. Why? Because it was taking up all my time and I couldn’t actually finish my 2nd novel. (The first I wrote in graduate school moons ago, so this was my second attempt to return to fiction in more than 12 years!) I also recently let go of co-managing a yoga studio because the hours were long, the work labor-intensive in the heat (a hot yoga studio) and I was exhausted after taking care of the kiddos every night and not actually writing. So now I just teach yoga classes and write for magazines when an editor reaches out. Yes, the money is less, but I finished my 3rd novel and am now jamming on my 4th! My days feel yummy. I enjoy the hours I write and I love the balance I’m creating.
  2. Start your day early and set positive intentions. If you aren’t a meditator, consider it. You can literally download free guided meditations from DavidJi (one of my favorite human beings) or from The Chopra Center and just listen for 15 minutes with ear plugs. All have messages to light up your agni (internal fire) and help you tap into your intuitive, creative center to manifest your dreams. We often have to let go of mental baggage, or negative fear-based programming from childhood, that trigger our less-than thinking. We have to let go of that and embrace our Divine right to infinite possibilities.
  3. Commit to your art every day, even if some days that means a mere 30 minutes. This is hard, I know. Some days I don’t write or work on my fiction. Those days are usually consumed with a sick child, or work from a day job that required extra time. But I’ve realized that the more I try to stick to this goal, the easier it is to achieve. By letting go of social media and 15 hours a week at a low-paying day job, I’m able to find an hour or more every day to write or pitch an agent, or enter a contest…getting me closer to my goal of publishing traditionally.
  4. Put aside art-focussed weekends. If you are single without children, you can really do this. 🙂 If you are married or a single parent, this can be a little challenging. I’ve asked my former mother-in-law to watch the children for weekends when I needed to get away, flying her across the state to help, even if I just went down the road to write. I’m also considering swapping kiddos for a few hours every other Saturday with another single mother who is an artist, so we both garner more time and our kids get to play. Find creative solutions!
  5. Take breaks to exercise & breathe deeply. This is important, especially when fear is creeping back in. If you can’t afford yoga classes or a gym membership, exercise in your house, or jog or take a walk. And breathe. Take 3 deep breaths, holding them at the top, then releasing slowly, visualizing all the stress melting away with the breath.
  6. Pay attention to the energy you surround yourself with. If you listen to the news first thing in the morning, or read your social media scroll, or check your email—before meditating or planning out your day—you may sink into a fear-based mentality. If you often talk with relatives or friends who doubt your abilities and don’t support your artistic endeavors, think about cutting down your time with them. Start to allow in other artists or supportive friends if you aren’t all ready. Find them via Meetup groups or start your own. Cut off the news and turn on music that inspires you when you’re home. Create the energy that fosters creativity.
  7. Read from the experts! Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird and many others, is beyond inspirational. Check out her Ted Talk video: 12 Truths I learned from Writing and Life. Steven Pressfield, author of 17 books, is another favorite of mine. The Art of War is Pressfield’s eye-opening book that explains why artists and writers often stop or get discouraged, just when they’re on the verge of a breakthrough. He describes it as the Universal Law of Resistance that manifests in procrastination, self-sabotage, fear, arrogance, self-doubt. His weekly advice can be emailed to you as well, a helpful tool of inspiration!

Believe in yourself. Be good to yourself. You are on this planet for a reason. I’ve come to believe that art is the universal language of love and compassion. It is a worthy endeavor. Anyone who tells you differently, must never have cried during a movie or at the end of a novel or when finding that perfect song that speaks to his soul. And isn’t that sad to imagine? To me, nothing trumps that soul connection via art.

Have a beautiful day. As always, thank you kindly for reading my humble suggestions and prose.

Laura x

The Artists Guide to Finding Time

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I wear many hats, but my purpose in this lifetime is to write and to publish compelling stories with characters many would not pause to consider or feel compassion for—people on the fringe of society, whose inner light is rarely acknowledged. This is my passion. Yet it seems that all my other ‘work’ demands my primary focus. Intention plus Attention, Manifests. Yet most of my Attention, for years, has been drawn in too many directions. I am a single mom who has been raising her two boys solo for nine years. I am the author of three novels seeking representation, as I desire to publish traditionally. I am a freelance journalist who writes for magazines. I am a yoga teacher who has taken 5 yoga trainings and led a yoga and writers retreat in Greece, hoping to run more! My ex lives in Europe and I have no family help, so I have few weekends off to re-charge, and no help when a kid is sick or there is an emergency at school. I guess you can say I am a master juggler. Yesterday a friend told me she can’t find time or motivation to write/create her blog because she has too many demands, yet she has no children or full-time employment. Our demands, are our demands, however. What we focus on, grows. If we focus on fear and lack, we will scramble in too many distracted directions and lose our willpower.

I am finally mastering the balance and carving out more time to focus—even within my hectic schedule. Trust me, between school runs, lunches, dinners, homework, soccer games and practices, violin performances, Taekwondo, volunteer requests, yoga classes I teach, etc…My daily life can become a blinding, dizzying, depressing grind that used to relegate my passion for writing to a mere 30 minutes a day—and that was on good days! I’ve now cut out the major fat, the time-suckers and distractions and am working on my fourth novel. If I can find more time—trust me—you can too. I want to help. Here is the first of a five-part-series on how to find the time to create:

First, cut out ALL the distractions. By that, I mean, ALL SOCIAL MEDIA HAS TO GO. For a year. It’s been seven months of no social media for me in my first year cleanse. During this period, I finished my 3rd novel (click here for excerpt), edited it four times, attended a writers conference and submitted the novel to agents who are currently considering it. Also during that period, I taught yoga classes, helped manage a studio, worked with private clients, attended a meditation retreat, raised two humans by myself and dealt with health issues. If I had stayed on social media, I would have been sucked into its time-wasting trap—losing momentum, motivation and self confidence—while wasting valuable time better spent writing. Now I know all authors and artists need a “platform” to sell their art. But while you are still struggling to create & produce art and then garner an agent or deal, social media needs to go. Here’s why social media is not only a waste of time for budding artists and writers, but it actually makes us less creative, less authentic, and less productive:

  1. Social media thwarts momentum. Why? because it turns the focus outward and not inward. You may be half -way through that novel, or composition or mural, and suddenly you become overwhelmingly self-conscious and fearful and less sure, losing your drive to move forward. We lose our ability to connect deeply to our core and hear our intuition (the birth place of creativity) and our desires, when we focus on others: on what they are doing, how they are doing it and and on how others feel about us and what we do. To create, we need to turn inward, tap into our inner power, our inner passion, our inner purpose and JAM.
  2. Social media drains our Motivation and lessens our Gratitude—which can spur bad habits that actually suck more time away from our projects becoming successful. Looking at what others are doing, can thwart us from realizing our dreams and we can become filled with thoughts like:  Maybe I should be going out more? Those drink looks good, I need a happy hour. I need to have a spa day, why don’t I get to have a spa day? I love her dress and shoes, I haven’t had a new outfit in years. etc etc. Yes we all need balance, but spending more, getting hung-over, or spending money we don’t have or time with negative friends, will NOT help.
  3. Social media lowers self-confidence by comparing our lives and our projects with others. This is an expansion of the last point. Artists often live with less before they are published or discovered. If we compare our lives by what we have or own and are constantly filling our minds with visions from Instagram or Facebook of ‘friends’ new houses, new cars, new relationships we can develop thoughts of fear and lack, that dissuade us thinking in affirmative powerful ways that manifest. Thoughts like: I should be doing more. Or I’m not as good as him. Or I need to focus on money-making projects or pick up more part-time work in order to get a date like his. etc …
  4. Studies have shown that even a mere 20 minutes of social media photo sharing or scrolling increases anxiety, depression and feelings of lack. Studies proved social media lowers self-esteem and it creates disrupted sleep patterns (likely from light erupting from a phone by the bed). One study says that not only does social media foster addiction, but it re-wires the brain to become more addictive and reactive in general. All thwart inspiration to create authentically and powerfully.
  5. The more time we spend on social media, the less we take ourselves and our art and our passions seriously. Sure, you may post a pic of yourself painting or writing, and love the 100 likes you receive, but are you really delving into the project for hours, connecting to your inner voice, inner guides and moving forward in a powerful way? Answer this truthfully.

So, my advice, drop the Instagram, SnapChat, Facebook for a year and gain back the two—or more hours a day—to focus on your art, your potential, your inner fire.

Next installment covers what to replace those two hours with. SO GOOD.

Have a beautiful day!

If you liked this article, you may be interested in:

Is Social Media Bad for You? BBC, January 2018

 

Do I Call the Cops on a Neighbor?

I’m getting triggered by my alcoholic angry neighbor. Do I call the police, or slip his girlfriend a hotline number on a card? My neighbor is often so abusive to his girlfriend’s children that I can hear every word and feel the vibrations of slamming doors and skidding car tires from my bedroom. Tonight I am writing after the yoga class I taught—the theme, finding balance and harmony and thwarting fear–ironically. I come home and have to listen to such violence. I nearly called the cops. Can you do that for verbal abuse? It’s beyond awful. And I know a thing or two about this.

So, the gal is a single mom who only has her two boys maybe 4-5 weeks a year. I don’t know why, but I do know that one is on the spectrum severely and the other is very hyper. Still. Her boyfriend is big and a drunk and loves to scream menacingly at them. He will threaten and belittle them and slam doors. I’ve heard him call them pathetic to be alive and idiots and fucking morons, etc. I’ve heard him scream and bang on walls while his girlfriend begs and pleads that ‘they all’ stop. But it’s just him. Then he’ll call her an idiot and threaten to kick her out if she can’t control her animals and then usually throws something, before maybe smacking one of the boys and driving off to go to a bar.

Lovely. I moved into this house in July and the first week I was here, one of the boys ran down the street screaming. He’s maybe 9. I went after him because I had just pulled into my garage. He was shaking and scared. I walked with him home because the mom and boyfriend were screaming. The autistic boy was walking near an intersection that was very busy. It could have been really bad. The next day the girlfriend wouldn’t look at me in the face, but she sent both boys away and they didn’t return for six months.

What I hate the most, is how the girlfriend never defends her boys. She begs them to be better for HIM. The ASSHOLE. She begs them to be quiet and good and not mess it all up. Like the ASSHOLE’s money is worth letting him abuse and terrify her boys, who likely feel like shit and like they don’t deserve to breathe or to be alive and have certainly become an imposition to their mother and her set up with the ASSHOLE. They don’t feel loved or lovable. I tried to say hello to one boy last Fall. I pretended to need to go into my garage to get something after I heard all the screaming that I worried was partly physical. I found him hugging his knees and rocking back and forth in his driveway. He wouldn’t look at me. When I reached out to touch his shoulder, the little boy moved quickly away like he was frightened.

What’s shocking is that when the kids aren’t around, the ASSHOLE is very nice to me. He’s charming and funny and always asking if I want to come over and have a glass of wine. He’s always drinking and smoking a cigar by his fire pit. I’ve heard him tell his girl (they both talk loudly when drinking and my bedroom is right above their firepit) that she doesn’t need to wear make up or get her hair done or work out. Yet he always mentions how great I look when I’m coming back from my yoga classes.

Why is this woman putting up with him? WHY? I want to scream at her “WAKE UP & PROTECT YOUR BOYS & GET THE FUCK OUT.”

But I can’t. And from what I can tell, it’s ‘only’ verbal abuse.

I have experience with explosive drunk verbal abuse that can, at any moment, explode violently. I’m shocked that I didn’t overdose from a lifetime supply of cortisol from my youth.

It’s probably why I get super anxious whenever I’m with friends at a bar or a party and one of the men has a little too much to drink and his arms swing widely. It’s why I don’t go to bars much and am extremely careful about dating. It’s fear. I fear a sudden explosion of violence. I don’t even drink anymore because of it. I can’t live with the vibration of abuse and addiction and manipulation and negativity and control EVER again. It’s what I grew up with and it’s why I used to cower when having an argument with my ex-husband and he still doesn’t really understand that. It’s a slow process to find self-esteem and self-worth and to trust the Universe after going through all of that.

And now I have to hear the little boys next door go through Hell. I ache inside. I cry sometimes. I hate it. I love children so much. All children. Autistic and ADHD children need to be protected. They aren’t trying to be ‘difficult.’ They are innocents. To be screamed at like they don’t matter and to be threatened and be terrified to come visit their mother is a sin. I know if I call the police this woman will not leave him and the abuse will get worse. I feel it deep down inside.

Say a prayer for these children and all the children who are being raised with such terrifying insanity. We are all sparks of the divine. But little children believe what they are told and how they are told and blame themselves for being bad and somehow causing the drunk’s outrageous abuse. They don’t know how to believe they are lovable and deserving. It’s a long road to recovery. My heart aches tonight for them.

In search of peace, love and angels this Monday night ~ Laura x

 

 

Underneath the Surface in Hawaii

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We’re off to Hawaii again! It’s my sixth trip back and this time, I’ll be re-visiting all the spots where magic occurs in my novel Between Thoughts of You. The boys and I are are exploring moving to Honolulu too. The freedom of being a full-time mom, means 100% custody and the ability to live wherever I feel the tug of my life pulse, where mana can be felt and built. So we’ll see. In this pic, the three of us are snorkeling in the gorgeous aquamarine waters of Waimanalo Bay. We arrived just after the sun rose, before tourists could scare away the fish and turtles. I can’t wait to go back!

Here’s a short excerpt of my novel when Lulu recalls her first kiss with Akoni as they swam in Waimanalo Bay. She is remembering this after Akoni, her husband, has left her. After he left her for her best friend—a mere three months after their baby girl Healani died mysteriously. Lulu is remembering this from Tuscany, where she escaped her sadness in order to care for a dying old man. She needed to leave reminders of her life in Oahu behind, yet she can’t. As the old man’s remorse engulfs him in a rabid lust for the love of his life, whom he abandoned after the War, sweet memories of Akoni flood back into Lulu’s consciousness. She must find a way to resolve her broken heart around the fact that a pure love can, and did exist, regardless of how it was destroyed.

CH 6: Between Thoughts of You

ko’u Pu’uwai : My Heart

The first time Akoni kissed Lulu, 15 years earlier, he had laughed afterward and said: “You didn’t know you’d fall in love with a prince today did you?”

They had been swimming in the clear, aquamarine waters of Waimanalo Bay. Lulu and Akoni were splashing around in Pahonu Pond, the ancient fish pond built hundreds of years earlier to trap turtles for the kings of Hawaii. Only royalty had been allowed to eat the turtles, others would have be killed for doing so. The wall, although weathered, enclosed a perfect place for keikis to swim safely. Lulu’s favorite spot in Kaiona Beach Park was just a 15 minute walk from Nan and Rusty’s farm in Waimanalo. Rusty had taught her how to swim there by getting her to ‘chase’ the fish in the clear waters. Out of breath, little Lulu had risen up with her over-sized goggles on, and through water droplets, had seen Rusty laughing and clapping for her. She had always felt happy there. She had never felt more safe and more loved, as Rusty’s uhane had surrounded the two of them like a warm blanket when they were together.

Of course, she would have her first kiss with a Hawaiian prince in that same spot! Rusty, who had been called this because of the strawberry hues in his hair, practically had predicted it. He had pointed off to Rabbit Island one time as he gave Lulu a lesson and had said: ‘Princes are buried there. Their spirits are smiling on you, little one, and will bring you your own prince some day.”

Akoni and Lulu had both been working on Nan’s farm that summer day. Rusty had died four years earlier and had been a close childhood friend of Akoni’s grandfather. They both had loved outrigger canoes. Rusty had become famous for carving traditional Hawaiian ones resembling what ancient royalty had been transported in hundreds of years earlier. He sold them humbly out of his barn by word-of-mouth referrals. Those in the know happily referred customers his way—as Rusty had been someone on the island people were proud to call a friend and to ride with. When Rusty died, Akoni’s grandfather made a solemn promise to Lulu’s Nan that he would always help to support her family. So, every summer after Rusty’s death, Akoni and his brothers and sisters worked on Nan’s farm. When Rusty had been living, the farm had grown corn and Nalo greens. Over time, however, the farm, called Rusty Patch, had become a popular tourist attraction. Set just at the base of the Ko’olau mountains and near the crystal waters of Kaiona, Nan decided to listen to friends’ advice who insisted it was perfectly located to attract tourists. So she started advertising the year after Rusty’s death and Rusty Patch suddenly exploded—selling tickets year-round to various events: a petting zoo, a pumpkin patch, hay rides, corn field maze games, watermelon races, even cooking classes.

That August morning, Akoni and Lulu had decided to take a break from selling mango and strawberry “nalo” lemonade to tourists and walked down to the turquoise waters. Splashing around in the keiki pond, Akoni suddenly began to talk. A boy of few words, Lulu stilled herself and paid attention.

“This pond was created for my ancestors,” he told her, raising an eyebrow.

Lulu smiled in response and teased, “So I’ve heard.”

“You think I’m being arrogant?”

Lulu shrugged. She had heard on the playground that Akoni’s family was related to King  Kamehamoa I, who had reigned Hawaii until 1819. But how many Hawaiians would have loved to have claimed the same? Besides, she had read in history books that King Kamehamoa had married more than 30 wives! So who documented all the children born from the 30 wives—and probably mistresses—200 years ago? Lulu decided that it would be hard to prove, or disprove, whether a Hawaiian family had actually been related to that King’s family today. But Akoni was handsome. And charming. He had grown into his chest. His skin was the color of cinnamon and smooth to the touch. She noticed that his eyes were soft chocolate with flecks of yellow. His cheek bones were broad giving his round face a distinct definition to go with his cleft-dented chin that Lulu suddenly wanted to bite that day. Lulu had known Akoni most of her life. She didn’t understand why that moment she felt such an urge to smell his neck or touch the place just between his collar bones. But she wanted to. Desperately. So she said nothing about his ridiculous claims of royal blood. And smiled silently back at him.

Akoni began to swim around Lulu and continued with his story.

“So, this pond was created to keep turtles for the Wakea or the ali’inui.”

“So Rusty told me,” Lulu replied.

“What if I told you that one of my great grandmothers was King Kamehamoha’s keopuolani?”

Lulu raised an eyebrow at him.

“We have artifacts at my house to prove it, but my mom and dad say it is arrogant to speak of it. They say it will cause others to not respect me if I boast.”

Akoni dipped beneath the waters surface, and emerged very close to Lulu’s chest. It had been a bit chilly that day. The clouds had come in and it started to rain lightly. She sunk down into the water to stay warm; just her chin peaked above its grey green surface. Akoni was down on his knees in order to look into her eyes. Her green eyes.

“Your eyes are now the same color of the water. I think you are a witch,” he said laughing. “You have put a spell on me,” he added.

And then he kissed her. Lightly. Sweetly. Lulu started to tremble. When he pulled his lips from hers, Akoni wrapped his arms around her saying, “You’re freezing!”

She responded, “No. I’m scared.”

Akoni laughed hard, before saying the infamous line Lulu would tell all their friends for years to come: “You didn’t know you’d fall in love with a prince today did you?”

###

 For more excerpts of Between Thoughts of Me, or Uriel’s Mask, please click Words in the Categories side bar.

Have a blessed day.

Mahalo,

Laura xo

Voice, Authenticity & the Right to Write

Tightropebalance

Is it OK for a writer to create main characters of the opposite sex, sexual orientation or with a different ethnic background from her own? Is it believable? Will the readers trust the voice of the protagonist? And IF I write a novel where the characters live in another country, is that stepping too far outside of my zone of authenticity? Since both of my novels that I’m currently selling to agents have crossed these barriers, have I now become an author that is too hard to sell in todays restrictive fiction marketplace?

These are questions that kept surfacing for me while at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference this past weekend. First, let me say Wow! What an amazing four day journey! The SFWC had more than 100 workshops, pitches to agents, meetings with editors, authors, publicists, experts and lectures by famous authors, poets at the Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill. There were hundreds of authors from all over the globe with manuscripts in hand. The level of creativity was intoxicating. I highly recommend writers go next year!

What I heard from agents, and a few published authors, however, was confusing. Two agents (after hearing my short pitch) told me I would be ‘hard to sell’ to top 5 publishers because my main character of Between Thoughts of You is a Japanese-Hawaiian woman and I’m not Hawaiian. Yup. These comments were made before reading a word of the manuscript and without asking me why I chose this character, or how much research I did, or how I felt compelled to create this person who is a strong, yet gentle and spiritual female—the perfect combination to be the hospice nurse to trigger an old man who misses the love of his life, a Japanese woman he met after WW11.

A published author who spoke at the conference, expressed her trepidation over crossing ethnic and socio-economic barriers in her first novel inspired by an NPR story. Because her protagonist was a woman from Mexico and she, a college-educated, middle class woman from San Francisco, she said she feared whether she had the right to create her. “I worried. Who am I to write about someone from Guatemala or Mexico?” she said to a large audience of writers.

As a journalist who studied with the BBC in London, researched documentary journalists such as John McPhee, and who studied and published with the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Maine, where I was asked to live with islanders and sailors for months and write about them, I was dumbfounded by her statement. I sat in the audience and thought, “Who are you NOT to write about a Mexican immigrant?”

IF a writer is inspired by a true story and wants to fictionalize the experience to create more awareness, the writer is hearing a calling. IF a story beckons to the writer, it will become inflamed with passion and purpose. And IF, even in the face of fear and doubts, the writer can’t kick the idea of the story, much like a buzzing of a bee at his ear, then the writer must follow the calling and write the damn story. The mission, then, becomes to open the eyes and hearts of the reader so that they can become compassionate towards a human whose experience they might not otherwise care about. I would then say that it becomes imperative that we cross those borders, of ethnicity, walk that tightrope of place and voice as an author, to enter into the international language of emotion. And, of course, much research needs to be done to make the voice of the writer and the sense of place and location believable. But this is achievable.

It’s not surprising that my first novel Lucifer’s Laughter, a murder mystery and my MFA thesis when in New York, has a main character that is a lobsterman in Maine. I lived there and documented that region and had been a crime reporter for years prior. My second novel, Uriel’s Mask, is inspired by a newspaper article I read back in 1991 when I was a reporter in North Carolina. I kept the newspaper clipping with me through multiple moves, knowing I would write about this character, an illiterate daughter of a freed slave, who created masks in honor of the spirits who visited her while she sat by the French Broad River in Asheville. See, I knew that I’d write about her one day, but I didn’t know exactly how. It was a story that called to me. In Uriel’s Mask, her masks (like in real life) are sold in New York, allowing all her grandchildren to become educated. One of the main characters is a southern black man, a talented musician and her grandchild, who becomes one of the first black students at University of North Carolina. As a southerner, Uriel’s Mask, may be easier to ‘sell’ to agents, but I am not black, nor am I a man or the grandchild of a freed slave. And, to make things more complicated (I write with a laugh) I also created a side character who I adore. He is a gay man having an affair with a married man in the closet. Once inside Chris’s head, we see his heart, so full and kind. At the children’s library where he works, he is more patient and compassionate with the children then most of the strict, uptight southern mothers.

When we step outside our comfort zone and allow ourselves to see another viewpoint—to enter into the heart and mind of another human being—we accept the fact that there really are no chasms too great to justify our differences, our racism, our sexism, our superior judgements.

So my reaction to the agents who want authors to look like their main characters is this: Give us a chance. If a writer does a lot of research, like a documentary journalist, there is no location too far, or background too different, to write about. We would not have Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (as Michael Larsen, Co-Founder of the SFWC so kindly pointed out to me) or The Pearl by John Steinbeck, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland,or even the JK Rowling Harry Potter series.

To write Between Thoughts of You, my latest novel and the one I pitched at the SFWC, I returned to Italy, I travelled four times to Hawaii, and I researched WW11 documents regarding northern California internment camps for the elite of the German, Italian and Japanese forces to await trial. So much research went into this book that called to me simply from a conversation with a dying old man I once loved. Our conversation in Tuscany was one where he pondered how his life would have evolved, had he followed his heart, and not his fear, after the War. If he had married his true love, what would have happened? Another inspiration for the novel came from conversations with an 89-year-old German woman whose father was high up in the SS. She, her mother and father were sent to a Northern California camp after the War…Both stories merged in my consciousness and birthed the idea behind Between Thoughts of You. It is the story that called to me. It is the story that only I could tell. And it is one fueled by the power of love, the destructive forces of fear, and the dying desire to follow one’s heart.

These are universal truths no matter sex, sexual orientation, or ethnic background—for the characters & the writer. 🙂

If you enjoyed this conversation, you may also be interested in the following articles:

When Authors Create Title Characters of the Opposite Sex, HuffPost.

The Four Rs of Writing Characters of the Opposite Gender Writers Digest.

Whose Life is it Anyway? Novelists Have Their Say on Cultural Appropriation The Guardian.

Should Authors Write Characters Outside Their Race? The Good Man Project.