Tag Archives: college

THE WRITE STUFF: Official Newsletter of Word Journeys Inc. and Robert Yehling

V 20, N 1 • January, 2016

Celebrating 20 Years of Serving Authors, Publishers & The Written Word 

WELCOME!

Welcome to the 20th anniversary of Word Journeys, Inc. In 1996, I started the company to provide editorial services to magazines and corporate publications. Soon, my goals and the company shifted into the book world, where we have camped since 1999, providing writing, ghostwriting, editing, marketing, promotion, and publicity consulting services to authors, editors, agents, and publishers. We will provide this newsletter of stories, links, and specials to our Google + readers, and mailing list. We cover everything concerning the works of Robert Yehling, Word Journeys clients, and related publishing activities and events. Beginning in February, past issues will be archived on our website, www.wordjourneys.com.

HOT OFF THE PRESSES…

2016: The Year of the Writer

We’re declaring 2016 the year of the writer, and are re-releasing a pair of books to commemorate: The Write Time: 366 Exercises to Fulfill Your Writing Life; and Writes of Life: Using Personal Experiences in Everything You Write. Both books are being published in second edition by Open Books Press of Bloomington, IN. The Write Time is now available, while Writes of Life will soon be available for pre-order on Amazon.com, and will be published in mid-April.

The Write Time features a different exercise for every day of the year — and a story to enhance it. All genres and styles are covered. This is perfect jump-start material if you’re stuck or just need some fresh creative juice. Used in writing conferences, colleges, high schools, and by many published authors. Links to more than 125 top writing and reading websites. http://amzn.to/1O2skaG

Robert Yehling, Martha Brookhart Halda to appear on Write NOW! TV show

Robert Yehling and Martha Brookhart Halda will talk about the writing life, and how they’ve collaborated, on Write NOW!, a TV program in Orange County, CA. The show will air Friday, January 22. Yehling will discuss his various works, while Halda will talk about the German launch of A Taste of Eternity, her remarkable story, and the book’s forthcoming release in the United States. The show hosts are author/publisher Charles Redner, and Judy Saxon.

Just Add Water a Finalist for Dolly Gray Literature Award

Just Add Water is a finalist for the Dolly Gray Literature Award, given to the top family-oriented book with autism themes. It joins ten other finalists for the prestigious award, which is followed by all of the autism organizations and schools. The ceremony is January 25 in Tampa, FL. For more information: http://daddcec.org/Awards/DollyGrayAwards.aspx

The Hummingbird Review: Michael Blake, E.E. King, memoirists featured

The writing of personal story serves as a theme of the winter-spring edition of The Hummingbird Review, now available through bookstores and online. Featured contributors include the late Academy Award-winning Dances With Wolves author/screenwriter Michael Blake, fictionist-poet and Ray Bradbury protégé E.E. King, novelist W. Thompson Ong, Beat-era poet Michael C. Ford, an interview with guided autobiography facilitator Sheri Kohlmann, and the first excerpt of Martha Halda’s memoir A Taste of Eternity to be published in English. Plus more than 60 poems and essays from a dozen nations. Just $10. Order yours! http://amzn.to/1VohQIp

Appearance at Just Add Water at L.A. Times Festival of Books

Robert Yehling will be discussing the development and writing of Just Add Water at the L.A. Times Festival of Books, the nation’s second largest book festival, which takes place April 9-10 on the USC campus in Los Angeles. He will be signing both after the presentation and in a booth on-site. In 2015, more than 150,000 attended the event. Stay tuned for more details. http://events.latimes.com/festivalofbooks/

FROM OUR CLIENTS

  • Brandon Cruz, star of the smash late 1960s/early 1970s sitcom The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and I are shopping a pair of titles we’ve been developing for a year, one The Courtship of Eddie, his memoir; and the other a deep look at his work as one of the nation’s foremost alcohol-addiction recovery specialists. Both books are packed with powerful, emotional stories, messages of great hope, and Brandon’s entertaining storytelling style, laced with his sharp wit and insights. Stay tuned…
  • Cracked, Not Broken author Kevin Hines had quite a thrill on January 9, when he spoke at a White House conference on men’s health. Kevin is busily preparing a documentary about his story and speaking engagements worldwide; look for a second book by 2017. http://amzn.to/1Gle6Sf
  • Jeff Emmerson’s long-awaited book, Beyond ADHD, is making the publishing rounds through agent Dana Newman. Emmerson looks beyond the conventional ADHD protocols in this riveting work that combines personal story and the insights of more than 20 medical, neurological, and therapeutic experts. Its findings are not only revolutionary — but potentially transformative. View his Beyond ADHD blog at http://bit.ly/1Rk2lCt
  • Motocross racing fans of a certain age… Remember Gary Wells, the racing and jumping phenom of the 1970s and 1980s? The man who routinely outjumped Evel Knievel for years? As Gary celebrates his 60th birthday this year, his story, Closure, is on its way to publication, thanks to author Tyler Anderson, himself a champion racer. This is a no-holds-barred biography at the up and down sides of America’s love affair with one prodigy and his prowess on a bike, during the biggest 15-year period in U.S. motorcycle racing history. https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=gary%20wells%20closure

FEATURED TITLES

ON THE WORD JOURNEYS BLOG

How Just Add Water Was Written: Behind the Scenes Story: http://wp.me/p8UUi-hB

BLOG OF THE MONTH

Kristen Lamb’s Blog is annually selected one of the Top 100 writers blogs by Writer’s Digest. Not only is it packed with resourceful materials for writers, but readers will delight in all of its behind-the-scenes features. This is a MUST blog to add to your blogroll. https://warriorwriters.wordpress.com

WORD JOURNEYS SPECIALS

Service: 20% off editing of your next book! We’ll bring your manuscript to a publish-ready polish, as we have done with more than 150 others. All genres. Email ryehling@wordjourneys.com. Through Feb. 29.

Product: $5 off hard-cover, signed copies of Just Add Water: A Surfing Savant’s Journey with Asperger’s, the biography of autistic surfing great Clay Marzo. Shipped direct from author. Email: ryehling@wordjourneys.com. Through Jan. 31.

WRITING/READING TIP OF THE MONTH

“Reach into your bookshelf and grab twenty titles of any kind. Read the first paragraphs of each, quickly and in succession. What pops out? What really grabs your eye? How did the writer grab you? Now return to your work, and in the spirit of what you have just read and compared, make your sentences pop and snap.” — From The Write Time, by Robert Yehling

JOIN THE WORD JOURNEYS FIESTA!

Connect with and follow us on social media, and stay informed on latest news and happenings from Word Journeys, where publishing, writing, editing, teaching, reviewing, and love of the written word join forces.

 

Facebook: Word Journeys — Resources for Writers • Robert Yehling, Author

Twitter: @wordjourneys

LinkedIn: Robert Yehling

Pinterest: Robert Yehling

Google +

Word Journeys Blog: https://bobyehling.wordpress.com

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Action Fiction, Adult Literacy, Author Platform, Books, Classic Novels, Creativity, Digital Publishing, E-books, Editing, Education, Featured Websites, Fiction, Film, Ghostwriting, Hybrid Authors, Internet, Interviews, Journaling, Journalism, literature, Magazines, Marketing, Memoir, Mental Health, Music, Mysteries, Online Media, poetry, Promotion, Promotions, Reading, Self Publishing, Social Issues, Social Media, Spiritual Subjects, Sports, Surfing, Technology, Teen Literacy, Thrillers, travelogue, workshops, writers conferences, Writing, Writing Education, Writing History, Young Writers

An SI Article Trip Down Memory Lane

Since it’s football season, wanted to tread back into memory lane as a writer — with a big assist from Sports Illustrated.

While flying from LA to Kahului, Maui, where I’m working with surf star Clay Marzo on his biography, “Just Add Water,” I read an article in Sports Illustrated that stopped me in my tracks. Well, two of them. The first was  “Exit Sandman,” an incredible story of the greatness of Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera — with an ending that will take your breath away.

The second concerned an old friend and a very special time in my life, when footballs flew all over San Diego and many great careers germinated in the same tiny place. It happened within Tim Layden’s article, “You Spin Me Right Around, Baby”, concerning the back-shoulder pass that drives NFL defensive backs crazy — because they can’t defend it. This pass has become a part of several quarterbacks’ repertoires, most prominently Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. It’s been around in various forms, this Kryptonite play to all defenders, but who used it consistently first?

That’s where the article stopped me. Turns out it was Bob Gagliano, a journeyman USFL and NFL quarterback for 10 years in the 1980s and 1990s. Bob was the quarterback at U.S. International University in San Diego in 1979, when I was a student and assistant sports information director there. Bob and I formed a good friendship, and I always took him with me to community outreach events, such as meet-and-greets with junior high and high school students. He took what Division I  schools considered average ability, used his incisive brain, and after leaving USIU, became a strong D1 quarterback and a spot starter for Kansas City, Detroit and San Diego.

I remember sitting with Bob in the Chiefs locker room in 1982, after he’d made the team as a rookie. He told me about this new pass he was trying out, which turned out to be the same pass I’d seen him throw a few times in USIU games: you hit the receiver on the trailing shoulder, he reaches back to get it, and the defender can do nothing about it.

A few years later, Bob did it on a regular basis for the USFL’s Denver Gold. That got him a second chance in the NFL.

Every so often, I think back to the USIU team that Bob quarterbacked. It was one of those freaks of fate, a ragtag group cobbled together when USIU made its short-lived jump into Division II football. I was publicizing the team, part of my trade-out for a free ride so I could get through school. THe group looked shaky at first, but finished the year 9-3 and beat a pair of Top 20 Division II schools along the way. No one wanted to get into a shootout with USIU, just like their neighbors eight miles down I-15, the San Diego Chargers.

Bob wasn’t the only one from this collection of young guns and Division I rejects to make a splash in the NFL. Not even close. The head coach, Tom Walsh, went on to become offensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders. His offensive assistant, Mike Sheppard, did the same with the Cleveland Browns during their glory years in the late 1980s. As did Mike Solari with the Kansas City Chiefs. Defensive back Vernon Dean won two Super Bowl rings with the Washington Redskins. Three other players made NFL rosters, at least temporarily.

Then there was the young defensive backs coach, just out of San Diego State, a former safety who wasn’t fast enough for the NFL: John Fox. Then in his early 20s, Fox whipped his defensive backs into one of the top units in Division II. He was tough, he connected with his players, and he instilled in them his passion for the game, his passion for excellence.

Fast forward to 2013: Fox is commanding the greatest offensive ship in the NFL, the Denver Broncos. He’s been an NFL head coach for 11 seasons after a brilliant run as a defensive coordinator, during which he won a Super Bowl ring with the New York Giants. Now, he goes to work every day and sees Peyton Manning. How great is that?

I can only imagine what Fox was thinking when he opened his Sports Illustrated and saw the article on the back-shoulder pass — which he loathed while coaching the Giants and Carolina Panthers — and then seeing who first put it to use regularly in games. Fox always praised Gagliano in USIU practices, because of the way Gagliano’s accuracy made Fox’s defensive backs better.

Those were fun times — and a joy to relive 34 years later.

Leave a comment

Filed under Creativity, Education, Featured Websites, History, Interviews, Journalism, Magazines, Memoir, Online Media, Sports, Writing, Writing History

Twists & Turns of a Mystery Author: Part 2 of Interview with Claudia Whitsitt

This is Part 2 of our interview with Claudia Whitsitt, the author of mysteries Intimacy Issues, Identity Issues and The Wrong Guy, all based on real-life experiences. Claudia’s taut writing and captivating story lines have made her a fan favorite of a lot of readers the past two years. In this interview, she talks about how she developed a narrative voice that turns every day life into an event, laced with equal parts humor and seriousness – and then converted it into mysteries with more twists and turns than Six Flags.

READ PART 1 OF THE CLAUDIA WHITSITT INTERVIEW

Claudia’s latest work, Intimacy Issues, released on April 28, but this is a woman on a mission. After 37 years as a schoolteacher, specializing in Special Education, Claudia retired in June. She wrote four novels (Two of Me) in the past three years while teaching full-time. One can only imagine what we’re in for now from this delightful, engaging tour de force. Speaking of which, her next novel, Two of Me, is being prepped for publication in the next several months.Claudia Whitsitt copy

Word Journeys: What do you enjoy most about writing fiction?

Claudia Whitsitt: I love storytelling. In the classroom, it was one of my favorite things. I’d tell my students, “I’m going to tell you a story.” Their ears would perk up, they’d take a collective lean forward, and I had them in the palm of my hands. An electricity takes over when you tell or hear a good story. I love that element of writing fiction. When the story and the characters take over and lead me down an undiscovered path, the adrenalin rush is amazing, and oh so satisfying.

WJ: What about the mystery intrigues you so much? Why does it play so well into both your personality and the way you write?

CW: I grew up in the “olden days”. We had a 12-inch black and white television, which the seven of us crowded around to watch The Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday nights. Reading provided me with some alone time. Mostly, I picked up mysteries. I’ve always loved solving puzzles. With five brothers and no sisters, it seemed like a good skill to develop, as they were always cooking up some kind of scheme! While I wasn’t always successful at figuring out what they were up to, I was quite accomplished at guessing what would happen next in the mystery I was reading. I took great pride in putting the pieces together.

READ THE OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE FOR IDENTITY ISSUES

IDENTITY ISSUES COVER copyWJ: Your main character in Identity Issues, Samantha Stitsill, has been a crowd favorite since she was first released to the reading public. I could see you writing a series around her. What about Samantha made it so much fun for you to write her character?

CW: Samantha has a fiery spirit. When I sit down to write, her voice flows through my fingertips. She’s smart and sassy, and she has a comeback for everything. I give myself over to her. I trust myself with her. She trusts me, too. Sometimes I disagree with her, but she’s strong and stubborn. It’s very difficult for me to change her mind after she’s made a decision. I love her. I think she feels the same way about me.

WJ: A question from one converted academic writer to another: How did you move beyond critical, objective writing? Did you practice journaling, writing exercises, etc.? Or were you able to make the shift in the course of writing the story?

CW: I welcome the opportunity to divert my writing from thought-based to emotion-based and from objective to subjective, but I need coaxing at times. Because my life is so full (CRAZY), it’s often difficult to transition. Journaling and free writes have helped me enormously. I’ll put my fingers on the keyboard, or better yet, pen to paper, and let the words flow. That, and listening to music, opens my soul to the depths required for novel writing.

WJ: How did you develop your taut, humor-laced writing voice? Did that come from what you intimacy issuesread, or through finding the novelist within yourself and trusting how it flowed out?

CW: Good question. I grew up in a sarcastic household. I have five younger brothers. FIVE! There was teasing and joking in our household 24/7. I carried that caustic nature into adulthood, so much so that people don’t always know how to take me. As a result, I’ve learned to be more careful about what I say, but my inner dialogue is fast and furious. I tend to be critical, so it was essential that I learned to temper that in the classroom. When an acerbic comment slipped out like, “Seriously, dude. You’re going to talk when I’m teaching?” my students enjoyed it. They’ve always considered me “nice” and “sweet”, so I guess I haven’t damaged too many psyches.

The tautness in my writing comes from juggling so much in my real life. I’m quick to cut to the chase because I don’t ever have “extra” time, and I’ve always viewed my life as a “to-do” list. There isn’t much wiggle room, so this part of my personality comes through in my voice. I’ve even been accused of jumping ahead, writing the second paragraph before the first. Hmm.

WJ: Humor really enhances a book, doesn’t it? I find it works great to provide levity after, or in the midst of, deadly serious scenes. Plus, most of us use humor for any number of reasons. How do you see it?

CW: Humor is a healthy release and a welcome coping mechanism in times of strife. It’s a natural defense, and a very helpful tool in surviving life’s body slams, or controlling a tenable situation. The funniest people are those who’ve suffered great pain in their lives. They look at life in a way that allows them to survive those wicked blows, and say, “Go ahead, Life. What else have you got? Give it to me. ‘Cuz I can throw it right back at ‘ya!”

The Wrong Guy Cover!!WJ: Who were your favorite authors growing up? Who are they now? And which authors did you promote to your kids?

CW: Growing up, I was a huge Nancy Drew fan. I hid under the covers with a flashlight and read into the wee hours of the morning. Hence, I became a mystery writer.  My high school years were all about discovery. I loved the classics. The Scarlet Letter. Catcher in the Rye. And anything by Hemingway or F. Scott Fitzgerald. For years, Holden Caulfield held the honor of being “my favorite character”. Then, D.H. Lawrence and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Nuff said. One of my favorite passages is when Holden Caulfield says:

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”

Raising kids, I read to them each night. Maurice Sendak, Dr. Seuss, and Shel Silverstein were the top requests at bedtime during those twenty years.

For a while, I read mostly Michael Connelly, Sue Grafton, Mary Higgins Clark, and Janet Evanovich. Quick, easy reads for a busy mom. Then Anita Shreve, Elizabeth Berg, and Anna Quindlen. To this day, Fortune’s Rocks, by Anita Shreve, is my favorite book.

WJ: What gives you the greatest satisfaction as an author?

I’m in my element when I’m writing. Losing sense of time and place and becoming immersed in my characters and story gives me untold joy. Having someone read my work and enjoy it is rewarding, too. It’s nice to know readers care about my characters as much as I do!

WJ: Finally, what is the most surprising thing someone said to you about your books, or your writing, at a book signing?

CW: I’d met a gentleman at a book signing at Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago shortly after my first mystery, The Wrong Guy, was released. He read the book, sent me a creepy email about the parts he would have changed (all related to the sex scenes, and very graphic, of course), then had the nerve to show up at Printers Row the following year.

When he saw a man standing behind me, he had the nerve to ask, “Who’s he?”

“My husband,” I answered.

He was indignant. “What’s he doing here?”

Wish I hadn’t been so darned naïve and nice the year before. (It does make for a good story idea though…writer stalked by reader! Scary!)

ALSO VISIT THE 366WRITING BLOG!

Leave a comment

Filed under Adult Literacy, Author Platform, Books, Creativity, E-books, Featured Websites, Fiction, Interviews, literature, Marketing, Mysteries, Promotion, Promotions, Reading, Uncategorized, Writing

Where Truth and Fiction Collide: The Sleuthing and Writing Life of Claudia Whitsitt

(PART ONE OF A TWO-PART INTERVIEW)

Most novelists weave fragments of their own stories, experiences, friends (or enemies) into every book they write. For instance, in my novel Voice Lessons, I have nearly 100 fragments in there – but you’ll never know. The book is fiction. A fewer number write novels based on actual experiences, fictionalizing just enough to muddy the waters of the actual truth.

Rare is the author who bases novels on actual events, twisting timelines and events while keeping the essential truth intact – and pulls it off.

Claudia Whitsitt copyClaudia Whitsitt is that rare author. Her mystery thrillers draw directly from events in her life, which she unabashedly admits and promotes. When you write as well as Claudia, with a taut narrative style and compelling, unforgettable characters that keep the pages turning, you can say and do whatever you want. Her books are damned good.

Claudia is the author of Intimacy IssuesIdentity Issues, The Wrong Guy, and the forthcoming Two of Me. Without having to blast the spoiler alert, I will give you this: Intimacy Issues deals with a very pissed-off mother whose kids and dog are seriously messed with. Identity Issues is loosely based on the real-life stolen identity crisis involving her husband, Don, and the hell it put them through for years. She writes through the character of Samantha Stitsill, a mother and teacher who tracks down hilarious moments as well as she chases leads. The Wrong Guy is derived from the Michigan Murders, the horrifying co-ed murders that took place on the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan campuses in the late 1960s. A college freshman, Katie, is the protagonist – a girl loosely based on Claudia, who enrolled at Eastern Michigan just after they caught the serial killer.

READ THE PR WEB RELEASE ON CLAUDIA WHITSITT

In all three books, Claudia lets it fly with a combination of tragedy, drama, some of the ever-engaging sassy, tough-chick persona, emotional roller-coaster rides, great characterization and dialogue, and a trademark of every great mystery writer – humor. Damn, she’s funny! (More on that in part 2 of this conversation). And an obsessed amateur sleuth, drawn from her childhood fascination with Nancy Drew mysteries. Every mother with a beating heart would laugh their tails off at the first 10 pages of Identity Issues – and frequently thereafter, even though this is a dead-serious novel that speaks to an epidemic affecting up to 2 million people per year.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Claudia for almost four years; we met at the Southern California Writers Conference, where we both are presenters. Now, it’s your turn. Enjoy this conversation with the fabulous, recently retired Special Education teacher from Saline, Michigan – and then treat yourself to her books for some truly entertaining summer reading.

intimacy issuesWord Journeys: You sure seem to find, or fall into, real-life situations that activate your mystery instincts! 

Claudia Whitsitt: I love to play “what if?” with real-life scenarios. My brain seems to be wired to tap into situations that I’ve heard about and ask myself how I’d handle myself in the same situation, or imagine the ways in which things could have gone differently. I never have trouble thinking of ideas for my novels.

True stories fuel my fiction. I often say, “I write my life as fiction.” There’s always a jumping off point from the actual story to fiction though. Once I reach that point, which is often before I even begin to write, I feel the magic begin!

Word Journeys: What are the advantages — and pitfalls — of IDENTITY ISSUES COVER copywriting fiction so close to real life?

Claudia Whitsitt: Because the early parts of Identity Issues are based on my own experience, it was easy to write the beginning of the book. The funniest part though, was that initial readers didn’t believe that anything like what I’d experienced could ever really happen. I ended up making several changes to make the story more plausible. Truth is stranger than fiction! In all honesty, I got much more of a rush fictionalizing the back end of the story. It was liberating, in fact.  Sam is a much braver woman than me, and it was a delight to have her say the things I wish I had the nerve to say, and do the things I wish I had the guts to do. She’s a force to be reckoned with. Of course, my husband would probably say the same about me!

the wrong guyWJ: What about your husband? He was the loosely depicted “model” for the Jon Stitsill, the husband in Identity Issues … which must have been interesting on the home front! 

CW: My best friend reads all of my work. When she first read Identity Issues, she was furious with my husband. She could barely look at him after she read what his fictional character had done to put his family and marriage in jeopardy. Family and other friends also have had trouble distinguishing fact from fiction. I think I’ve conjured up all kinds of questions for them about my “real life”. Because the book is based on our own life experience, the lines sometimes become blurred between fact and fiction.

WJ: While Identity Issues is disturbing in the way identity theft can compromise and even devastate its victims and their families, The Wrong Guy is downright disturbing – a serial killer, a rapist, young co-eds scared to death. Could you describe this time of the Michigan Murders, and how you drew from your experience at Eastern Michigan to develop Katie?

CW: My college experience paralleled Katie’s in several ways. I entered college on the heels of (convicted murderer John Norman) Collins’ arrest. I experienced firsthand the fears of negotiating a campus where coeds lived with the constant worry of a predator’s existence. I attended countless meetings about safety. We were warned at every turn that there was no assurance we were safe just because a suspect was behind bars. We carried mace on our key rings, were taught to weave our keys between our fingers (in order to be ready to defend ourselves), and advised never to travel alone on campus. It was a tense time, and not the “typical” college experience.

I also had the most unlikely roommate, my complete opposite, just as Katie did. Katie’s roommate sits on closet shelves, tosses around profanity like loose change, and teaches Katie that there is more than one way to view the world. Katie learns to respect differences and forms a lasting bond with Janie. (My roomie and I are still best friends to this day!)

WJ: Your books have great plot twists. How did the necessity of switching gears as a parent, teacher, and in life shape your narrative style?

CW: As a reader, I love it when I’m comfortable with the plot and ease into predicting the next course of events. Then, wham! I’m blindsided. To me, that’s what creates the mystery and suspense. It’s my goal to create that same suspense in my own novels. Just when the reader settles back, I dish out something completely new and unexpected. It also mirrors what I went through after Don’s identity was stolen and I received late night phone calls in which the caller tried to convince me I didn’t know my husband. Much like Samantha, I had to be quick, smart, and savvy. Even when I’d only had a few hours of sleep.

WJ: Thirty-seven years of dealing with schoolkids made your flexible, I’d guess.

CW: Switching gears has been my M.O. for years. Life tosses me surprises on a daily basis. In my teaching of Special Education students, there was always some behavioral crisis looming. In raising my family, a sibling squabble, a last minute trip to the ER, or a broken heart to mend.

WJ: How did the theft of Don’s identity directly affect you?

CW: When my husband’s identity was stolen, I learned that thinking on my feet, flexibility, and multi-tasking were my friends. The identity theft occurred when my four older kids were in elementary school and my youngest was an infant. I held a full-time teaching position, and my husband traveled the world for business. I had an astounding amount to manage. Attitude was everything. I adopted a survival approach. Every day was a new and unexpected adventure. I learned to appreciate the surprises, and challenged myself to act rather than react. It became a game of sorts. I approached each day wondering what new wrench would be tossed into my day. The ordinary days became few and far between. Great writing fodder!

WJ: When we write fiction, we all have unanticipated surprises that just “fly out of us” during the writing process – and they become invaluable to the work. What were a couple of those surprises for you?

CW: When I become one with Samantha, she leads me through her innermost thoughts and feelings. They are sometimes deep. And dark. And way more personal than I anticipated. Being with her in her darkest hours takes me to surprising places. I feel privileged that she allows me to accompany her on her journey. The depth of emotion, or her internal timeline, as I like to call it, taps something in my soul that I didn’t know existed. There are times I walk away from a writing session completely spent. Sam faces her inner demons. When she does, I’m at my best as a writer. She’s opened my soul. I thank her for that.

(PART 2 will appear on Tuesday, July 2)

Leave a comment

Filed under Adult Literacy, Author Platform, Books, Creativity, E-books, Featured Websites, Fiction, Hybrid Authors, Interviews, literature, Reading, Uncategorized, writers conferences, Writing, Writing Education

CELEBRATING A JOURNEY OF WRITING AND LIFE (so far)

This week, my life partner and sweetheart, Martha Halda, and I will be returning to my alma mater, Carlsbad (Calif.) High School, where I will be inducted into the CHS Hall of Fame. The news of my nomination and induction came as a big surprise, but in receiving this award — along with five other CHS grads, two of whom I attended high school with — I’ve thought deeply about what this honor means.

First of all, the honor isn’t given lightly. With our induction group, CHS will have 25 members in its Hall of Fame (out of approximately 50,000 different students who have attended since CHS opened its doors in 1957). These include highly successful and influential people like Robert Stromberg, who won the Academy Award for production design on Avatar and is directing the upcoming adventure movie, Safari; Greg Nelson, my old Boys Club coach and inventor of the Don-Joy knee brace; Dr. Sally Melgren, one of the top ophthalmologists in the country; and Sal Masekela, a familiar face for more than a decade to millions of action sports fans who have tuned into the Winter and Summer X Games on ESPN.

Among those being inducted along with me is Patti Regan, who recently was featured as one of L.A.’s top 50 businesswomen. Our families grew up together on Basswood Ave. in Carlsbad, so that makes the day a little more special. Meanwhile, Martha and I went through all 12 years of grade and high school together, so having her there completes what will be a very sweet day.

High school is a where we’re supposed to study intently and zero in on our career aspirations. What I realized while thinking about the Hall of Fame is that I’m still doing the same things I was doing in high school — writing, distance running, listening to music, and mentoring. I began my professional journalism career while a junior at CHS in 1976, ran on highly successful cross-country and track teams, and tutored other students in Latin, writing and social studies. In a day and age when so many high school students feel aimless and are not necessarily getting good life/career direction from their overwhelmed teachers, this above all else feels very gratifying.

I was one of the lucky ones. The early and mid-70s were watershed years for diverse education and teachers who tried anything to get through to their students. Testing was a once-a-year inconvenience. The man who will introduce and induct us, Tom Robertson (known to countless thousands of thankful students as TR), was one such teacher. In 1973, while futilely trying to teach our freshman English class the romantic poets (Wordsworth, Longfellow, Keats, Shelley, Byron, etc.), he realized we were, well, clueless freshmen. He switched gears, and brought in a stack of records along with printed lyrics. These weren’t just any records or lyrics; they contained the music of Cream, David Bowie, The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane, Fleetwood Mac (pre-Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham), Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and others.

For the next six weeks, we listened to music and studied the relationship between the lyrics, their meanings, and the feelings and thoughts evoked by the musicians as they sang them. When we returned to the romantic poets, we suddenly understood what they were conveying.

Almost 40 years have passed, but on the few occasions I’ve seen TR since high school, I remind him of this brilliant move and thank him for it. During those six weeks, my love of poetry, writing, music and innovative teaching crystallized. I knew I wanted to write publicly like these musicians, I loved the beauty of language and imagery conveyed by poetry, and I knew music would always be central to my life. By the age of 17, I was writing poetry, writing professionally, and writing regular concert reviews for The Blade Tribune (now North County Times), where I worked as a sportswriter. I was also the sports editor for Excalibur, the high school paper, and won the San Diego Union staffer of the year award for high school students in San Diego County. The paper’s advisor? TR.

Talk about the impact one teacher can make! Talk about the value of a single teacher in unlocking the doors of one’s potential!

I never forgot this. Many years later, my teaching opportunities came, first through writers conferences and workshops, later as a high school track and cross-country coach, and more recently, as a writing professor at Ananda College. I always looked for the opportunity to bring out the very best in my audiences, athletes and students — even if they could not yet see their higher potential. I also employed this approach with many of the more than 100 authors whose books I have edited or ghostwritten. The experiences with my professional writing and college students, along with the authors with whom I have worked, have built the measure of much of my life to date. When I think of my Ananda College students, for instance, I am filled with love for them as people, and admiration for their wonderful writing talents. Our class sessions resonated with mutual love, respect, and a deep desire to become the best writers, editors and people we could be. They pushed me as hard as I pushed them.

Meantime, my career has been quite an adventure aboard my pen, whether through newspaper writing, magazine writing and editing, book writing, scripting videos, or website writing and blogging. I have worked with the Apollo astronauts, great sports champions, Olympic gold medalists, iconic filmmakers like George Lucas, top business leaders, the men who planted the flag on Iwo Jima, surfing’s ASP World Tour during its formative years, great artists and artisans, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame musicians like Jefferson Airplane’s/Jefferson Starship’s Marty Balin (he wrote the mid-1970s megahit Miracles, among many other great songs), American Idol-launched stars like Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry, marathon superstars like Bill Rodgers (four time Boston Marathon champion), innovative healers and spiritual leaders of many different faiths, and medicine men in both South America and Native American traditions. I’ve also run three Boston Marathons after renewing my love of running at age 40. This included a number of training runs with Bill Rodgers, with whom I formed a friendship about five years ago.

The book I just co-wrote with Dr. Steve Victorson, The Champion’s Way, sums up what my drive has always been: to take the measure of someone’s greatness, find out how they got there, and tell the world about it. And, hopefully, integrate a trait or two within myself along the way.

Now, 36 years and quite a few books into my writing career, here is what I have learned: Nothing is more gratifying than knowing you made a difference in someone’s life through giving of yourself without consideration of reward. The happiest people are those who give selflessly to others. This has been my goal with every client, author, student or fellow runner with whom I have worked. When you ask me how many books I’ve worked on, I’m just as likely to say, “I’ve edited more than 130 books” as to give you my own book count. Giving to others is what makes us great human beings.

So on Friday, when I walk onto the stage at a packed assembly at Carlsbad High School, I will do something long overdue: I will give TR a handshake and a hug, and thank him for unleashing the writer within me. While I have had other great teacher/friends over the years (Steve Scholfield, Dr. Bev Bosak, Dr. Don Eulert, Dr. Madeleine Randall and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder top the list), TR started a ball rolling that has defined my life.

When it comes to greatness, what can top that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Platform, Books, Creativity, Editing, Education, Featured Websites, Journalism, Music, poetry, Promotion, Writing, Writing Education

Guest Blog: My Journey As A Writer, by Dhyan Davis

Today begins a week that gives all teachers great cheer, yet produces a bittersweet feeling as well — Graduation Week. I’m delighted to know that summer break begins on Friday, but likewise, it’s time to say goodbye to students that have been as much a part of my life as I have been of theirs.

Blog guest author Dhyan Davis

One is Dhyan Davis, who graduates from Ananda College on Thursday. Early last year, I was brought onto the faculty to energize the writing program. In just over a year, we’ve turned it into a strong curriculum that can cover all genres with group and individual classes, and more than meets standards for freshmen through seniors. In one of those “timing + opportunity” moments, Dhyan was one of the first two students in the writing program — so he helped to build this curriculum by pushing me as much as I pushed him. In the meantime, his writing improved so much that it helped to create other changes in his life, the changes that merge with higher purpose and meaning. Watching this man transform has been a blessing of the highest order — and I’ve had an inner ringside seat as well, seeing everything evolve through his words.

Today, I’d like to pay tribute to Dhyan by posting his latest essay, “My Journey As a Writer,” on this blog. I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I did. To me, it speaks of what happens when writing and life purpose meet on an open road.

 

My Journey As a Writer

By Dhyan Davis

In life, there are countless paths we can explore, all of which provide another piece of life’s puzzle to our consciousness. Some paths expand our awareness to previously unseen depths. Others, however, close our hearts to life’s boundless gifts. Regardless of which path we choose, life offers just the right ingredients for lessons to be learned. Growth is inevitable. Whether our natural spiritual evolution is painful or painless, it’s up to us to choose our life’s direction wisely.

One path that has made a significant impact on my life’s direction has been writing.  My heart has finally found a platform for genuine expression, where an uninterrupted flow can produce poetic prose. The written word has expanded my life’s perspective, allowing me to live more wholly in the present moment and to express my vision through essays, stories, and other forms of writing.

Ananda College offered me the tools necessary to mold and shape my ideas into golden nuggets of self-expression. Since my arrival, every writing class encouraged me to drive my focus inwardly, extracting my creative jewels so they may be shared with others.

My development as a writer has been long and arduous, whereas, I’ve always had a knack for verbal communication. Considering I’m naturally an extrovert, my understanding easily expands as I express my feelings verbally. If a particular conversation strikes my interest, I simply allow my intuitive feelings to guide my thoughts and speech. Bob, the creative writing director, insisted from the very beginning that my writing voice was no different than my speaking voice. He often said that my written words should be in sync with my verbal flow; I should hear myself on paper. To improve my writing, he said, I simply needed to transfer my speaking flow to writing. Both writing and speaking require sensitive attunement to the subtle messages of intuition. Writing, however, draws my attention more deeply to my core, simply because it requires reflection and personal exploration, which are both inward processes.

Interiorizing my mind benefits both yoga practice and, of course, writing. From the very first class offered in spring 2011, I’ve struggled immensely with developing my writing voice. I knew it was essential for genuine, accurate self-expression, though I often found my ideas scatter when I sat to write. Every assignment was not only stretching my analytical reason, but also my ability to articulate subtle, spiritual realizations to others. Gradually, my ability to hear my inner voice deepened while my potential to express myself sharpened.

The more I write, the more my thoughts become organized, making my written and spoken word more coherent and fluid. A prime example of this occurred just a couple weeks ago. A few students, some faculty members and I visited Ananda College’s future campus near Portland, Oregon. We hosted an open house for prospective students. Both faculty and students were asked to talk about their classes and experiences at the college. Though I didn’t prepare my speech beforehand, my intention was to speak from my heart and to relate my honest experience. When I was called to center stage, my heart raced and my palms moistened. What will I say? How will I say it? As soon as I looked into the audience, however, words flowed effortlessly as if I was reading from cue cards. My thoughts were crisp, clear, and lucid with insight, depth, and heartfelt honesty. When I finished and sat back down, I realized I spoke in the voice I’d labored to cultivate in writing. Writing proved in that moment to be the chisel to which my ideas are shaped into the perfect masterpiece. A clear mind is essential for coherence, whether expressed verbally or on paper.

Within the past year and a half, I’ve taken writing much more seriously; I have now seen its benefits. Since then, my entire vision has been pleasantly rearranged to view life more deeply. Every day, I gazed upon typically labeled mundane experiences with a renewed curiosity. How can this instance illustrate a spiritual truth? I would constantly stay alert throughout the day, seeking out new material for my writing assignments. Nothing was taken for granted; everything offered a message to be heard. Ideas for new, insightful papers flooded my consciousness, inspiring me to no end.

An example of this occurred when Bob took his class on a field trip to the Yuba River. As I turned tranquil from the river’s roar, I realized how symbolic this riverbed is to the path of yoga and spiritual liberation. The river (our subtle energies) continuously flows through many treacherous gullies (delusion), relentless seeking union with the ocean (God). Though only one example, there has been many instances where my observations of day-to-day life has sprouted into spiritually relevant material. Writing has taught me to keep a keen awareness so nothing is overlooked; everything is placed into a deeper context.

Life is filled with boundless wonders. Whenever my heart taps into the creative flow, some of life’s mysteries lose their veil. The more I ponder the depths of yoga, the more writing plays a critical role in organizing, integrating, and expressing my realizations. Writing demands that I dig deeper into my consciousness and excavate new insights. This, I’ve found, is the joy of writing. Since the writing process requires deep introspection, I find myself becoming calmer and more attuned to my heart’s song. Where there’s calmness, there’s also clarity of mind and purity of thought. These are all necessary not only for good writing, but for a healthy and fulfilling life.

I’ve always wondered what distinguishes a bona fide writer from a non-writer. Does a writer possess an inborn talent that only a few are blessed with? Maybe so, but I highly doubt that’s all there is to the story. Everyone has an inner voice that can inspire and uplift others. Creativity, insight, and lucid self-expression are inherent in everyone, but realized by few. Within the past year and a half, I went from being blind to having 20/20 vision. Before I started taking classes with Bob, my writing “tool bag” lacked concrete methods for professional grade writing. In those preliminary weeks, I thought my case was hopeless; that I would never be able to express my inner depth outwardly through writing. After time, however, the advice Bob continually offered kept pushing me towards refining my approach.

As a sculpture isn’t born overnight, the skill of writing requires patience, endurance, and a whole lot of energy. Some people simply aren’t interested in exerting the necessary time and energy for the laborious writing process. Editing, proof-reading, and re-writing require dedication and discipline, which most people generally lack in the overall sense. I deeply feel I have reached a point in my writing career where I’m ready to embrace these demands. This, to me, places me in professional magnetism simply because I’m willing to endure the hardship, embrace the expansions, and continually exert an ever-increasing amount of energy towards attaining literary greatness.

Leave a comment

Filed under Adult Literacy, Author Platform, Creativity, Editing, Education, Featured Websites, Journalism, literature, Memoir, Reading, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Education, Young Writers

Intersection of Excellence and Joy: 2011 Ananda College Commencement Address

Dedicated to Matthew Frederickson & Nitai Deranja

Distinguished faculty, students, families, residents and guests:

Like the mysterious dancer in an ancient Persian tale, excellence disguises herself in many forms. For 14 Union County High School cross-country runners trying to advance to their state high school championships, she appeared as a gut check — a decision by the kids to make their all-or-nothing push in the final 1,000 meters of a 5K race. The seven members of the boys’ team surged as never before, passing opponents, fighting off discomfort, and soaring out of fourth place to reach the state championships. Six set lifetime best marks. Their seven female teammates dominated the girls’ regional final and went on to excel at state.

Afterwards, things really started happening. All of the runners assessed what they wanted to do with their lives, how education fit into their plans, and the value of trying their hardest. The results speak for themselves – today, the runners from this team include numerous college students, a member of the U.S. Army, a regional 100- and 200-meter sprint champion, the #2 and #3 runners in western Kentucky, and one of the top wrestlers in the state.  All from one team.

What happened here? How did one race effect such a sweeping change among the people who ran it that they became young champions in life?

The answer: these kids reached into and grabbed their excellence, embraced it, trusted it, and manifested a joyous outcome that inspired them to always strive for the top. They came face to face with what was possible — and kept going. To quote Confucius: “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… These are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”

We hear about the need to achieve personal excellence from our parents, teachers and other adults. We hear it from society. We at Ananda College of Living Wisdom do our best to show you the keys and help you identify and walk through your doors. But really, what long-term, sweeping benefit does excelling at yoga, writing, teaching, playing music, dancing or building websites really provide if we don’t share it with others? Or connect to a larger mission, a greater work that touches many hearts and souls? What good is a roomful of awards if we don’t wake up every day with a commitment to better ourselves, dedicate ourselves to Spirit, and inspire others to find their excellence?

That’s where joy enters our lives. True joy, whether expressed in work, relationship, compassion, kindness, service or generosity, a smile or a laugh, bellows outward from a single realization: God alone is the doer. When joy and excellence unite, everything becomes possible. Our energy becomes magnetic. Our potential expands beyond our imagination.

It’s interesting how this works. When a new challenge arises, we typically pass through a progression, from ‘that’s impossible’ to ‘maybe it’s possible’ to ‘I think I can do it’ to ‘It’s likely I can do it’ to ‘I can probably get it done’ to ‘Done’ — the evaporation of all limitation. We inwardly summon the tools, guidance and will to manifest what we need, when we need it. Eventually, the ‘impossible’ becomes ‘second nature’. Question is, who fueled that quantum leap? Was it you? Or the Divine? Every time we welcome and embrace God in our lives, we experience a blessing. A measure of excellence and joy. Growth.

We’ve all had that experience. Just look at the last two weeks: the poetry you read Gary Snyder in tribute to him, the Song of St. Francis performance you gave, the way you pulled all-nighters and fought off fatigue to excel in your finals. Do you even recognize the person you were nine months ago? By giving credit to the Divine, and joyfully offering our best effort, excellence becomes a constant flow, not a random occurrence.

Joy is the natural state of our soul and heart. It serves us 24/7 – if we allow it. When we integrate it with our commitment to excel, we truly inspire others. Note how the word “integrate” breaks down — inter- and great. The keys to the kingdom of heaven belong to those who bring joyful, humble hearts and minds into the daily arena, and focus on learning, improving and serving.

If we don’t enjoy what we’re doing, how can we impart lasting knowledge, learning and life skills that others would want to emulate and apply in their lives? If we don’t deeply enjoy the process of learning, how can we pass it along? If we don’t pour our consciousness joyfully into every asana, affirmation or pranayam of Ananda Yoga, or lovingly help students improve their practice, how can we excel as yoga teachers? These are questions that often sink like iron balls in a public school setting, but they are questions that you, the emerging teachers, writers, artists and leaders of this world, would do well to ask yourselves from time to time. By doing so, you nourish the quality that sweetens the heart of life itself — humility. Always be ready to serve and give of yourself.

Ananda College of Living Wisdom is, above all, a school of and for teachers. We come here to learn, but we leave here to teach. While some of our core EFL principles date back to Ancient Greece, and others lie in the fertile fields of raja yoga, tied together and expanded through Swami Kriyananda’s prescient views on education, we truly represent a new vanguard for these times. We educate around the student’s spiritual, academic and emotional needs. We bring our knowledge, joy and wisdom to the table to nourish minds, hearts and souls. We carry not only our light and wisdom into our professions, but also the energy to effect change and the potential to touch every heart and soul.

We’ve experienced learning and growing as an inner process. That creates a constant, lifelong thirst for knowledge and wisdom. We’ve excelled in various ways. That germinates lasting achievement. We’ve gone deep into our own souls. That percolates fulfillment and joy. Most of all, we’ve connected ourselves to this ray of Divine guidance.

When we combine excellence and everlasting joy, we can transform the course of every student we teach and every project we undertake. We can extend an education that not only lasts for entire lives, but gives lives greater purpose.  Our light will shine upon souls young and old, wherever we go.

Congratulations again to all of the students on a wonderful year. Thank you all for joining us in this celebration.

– Bob Yehling, June 2, 2011

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Platform, Featured Websites, literature, Reading, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Education, Young Writers