Hopeless in Seattle: A Mythotherapy Commentary

hope

I woke up today, a beautiful sparkling day in Costa Rica, mad as a hatter. Then I just found myself crying into my pillow. My heart hurt and I had to wash my face, click on my computer and tell you why.

When I started this site nearly a year ago I had three inspirations: To encourage people to tell their stories, to help writers get published and to share what I know about writing, navigating the publishing world and most of all, to honor story as power in the world.

Most of my clients are first world citizens who enjoy many of the luxuries that most of the planet do not have the opportunity to experience: Clean and free water, electricity, watching a show before bed while eating Ben and Jerry’s, a bed, buying food on every corner, one or two Starbucks coffees in a day and money. I think it’s safe to say that my clients are mostly Caucasian, privileged in my sense of the word and writing is a luxury, sometimes a hobby and most of the time a story that is true in their lives and the telling of it will help others and heal the writer at the same time. All but one storyteller. This is who I want to speak about in this post.

Over the past two years I have been getting to know a young man in his twenties from Zimbabwe. He has a story to tell, passion for his people and his family, a large family that his mother is raising, and he has no vehicle to tell his story other than Facebook.   And in my mind the best writers are those who cannot help themselves and have to write, are roused in the night and must jot down ideas or begin a new chapter, dig into a new flash of insight or who have lived through the unthinkable and still possess a light in them and their story of triumph is the medicine the world needs. A writer who does not write as a hobby or a tangential part of life, but sees writing as their life, like breathing, is a very different animal. Emmanuel is one of those writers and storytellers. And he has gotten under my skin.

I grew up in a black and white world of the 50’s. Yes there were pink poodle skirts, bobby socks, diners, 38 records and then came the Beatles, the Vietnam War and chaos and cover-ups. But there was also growing up in the south where an African-American person was a “nigger”, when Brazil nuts were call “nigger toes” in my family, where I grew up with maids and drivers and black gardeners who pruned our hedges and clipped the grass around a four-foot metal lawn ornament of a black man holding a lantern and wearing a butlers outfit. This was my norm as a child. Then it all changed. I saw more sides of the black and white issue, as I became a teen.

My knees buckled as race riots were out of control in Watts. As front-page news was Selma and countless other towns and cities brutally murdering black citizens. I sat with my parents with our aluminum TV trays and Swanson TV dinners in front of a black and white television as JFK was gunned down and began hysterically crying as my parents sipped a vodka tonic and praised the conservatives and bashed the liberals. I became despondent when our government murdered Martin Luther King, and then the same people assassinated Bobby Kennedy. By 17 I was hopeless.

watts

The black and white issue began to eat away at my soul. Why? Because it was a human story for me. It was about people intentionally killing hope. From those days forward I was all about keeping hope alive. My hope, the hope of people in poverty, people who had so much less than me, people who had no future in our country back then because of the color of their skin. As for me I was lily-white, blonde, blue-eyed and wanting for not one thing in life.

Fast forward. I moved from hand writing letters to my congressman on stationary with my embossed initials at the top and mailing it to them by snail mail for eight cents to emailing those letters decades later. The KKK had gone underground and reappeared dressed differently. They were now corporate leaders, governing officials and not very interested in my emails. The Internet opened doors for all of us and there was a new power of the word birthing itself every day in cyberspace. Facebook shattered barriers and became a tool I would come to use religiously. Not because I wanted to simply dazzle the world with photos of my children or inspiring quotes, but because it connected me to stories around the world. I then started a Facebook page called Equilux, all about the dark and the light, all about the not so black and white issues we face. Then I met Emmanuel through Facebook and was instantly transported back to the days of my life at thirteen when life was becoming hopeless.

Emmanuel in his twenties, lives in a country in Africa that is a regime dedicated to keeping people from telling their stories, keeping people in poverty and powerless. Zimbabwe is not necessarily a black and white story though; it is a black and black story that is perpetuated by white values. Emmanuel is one of several children, the oldest, raised with the rest of them by his mother, living a life in a house with dirt floors and tiny brothers and sisters who dream of school and an easier life. Emmanuel is the only one to graduate school and who wants to go to college and follow a dream. His dream is not to get a job in IT and adopt empty western values, his dream is to go to film school so he can tell his story, his mother’s story and the story of his people. Emmanuel knows that is the only power of change for him and for his country; Words, stories and telling his truth.

If you go to Facebook and look Emmanuel Mazivire up, you will see him post photos of his family, his people and say things like “One kind word can change someone’s day” or “Do not judge by appearances, a rich heart may be under a poor coat”. He has not lost hope. So Emmanuel and I started to talk two years ago. He shared some of his writing of a story he wants to submit for a documentary on his mother and all the single mothers raising children in Zimbabwe. I posted about him and tried helping him get a basic video camera, which took six months to reach him because of how they monitor the mail in Africa. He still wishes to find a way to go to film school in the United States, still needs a video camera worthy of a documentary and is working on his writing.

So before the sun came up today I was roused by the part of me who after five decades of watching the black and white story, which is really the privileged and underprivileged story, the money and no money story, the entitled and not very entitled story and the turn a blind eye story because it is too inconvenient to know too many inconvenient truths, my heart hurt. Because Emmanuel is one in a sea of young people with stories to tell, dreams to live, love to share and who has very little means of doing so without help, without compassion, without others sharing the load. And like many I am not one to swoop into Zimbabwe on a plane with great video equipment and shoot a doc on Emmanuel and his life. Why? Because, no one can tell the story better than the person who is living it.

And I am one single mother in the world myself, privileged to live my dream, and not wealthy by a long shot. What I can do for and with Emmanuel is help him tell his story, be a voice along side of his, read his writing, coach him for free, share with people who are touched to help with a camera and support him on Facebook. But he needs more. He needs to have the flames of his hope fanned. What power each of us has to do that. He is pushing against all odds even in circumstances you or I would cry uncle to have to face. He needs a mentor, a documentary camera, a plane ticket, help for his mother, his siblings, his story. He needs to go to school, have a patron, get his video into film festivals. He needs me, he needs, you. I do what I can but as Emmanuel knows first hand…it takes a village. He is one person in a sea of stories. But as he posted last week:

few sincere words

So these are my few sincere words. There is an ocean filled with Emmanuel’s in this world, on every street corner, in Mumbai, Russia and New York City. Story is power. The power I chose to use in my world. We hold it in our hands every day and have a choice what to do with that story, sometimes failing to see that words are one of the most powerful tools we all have and only second to the power of the heart. Put the two together and we would all be unstoppable.

Note: If you are interested in knowing more about Emmanuel, helping in any way, running a Kickstarter Campaign to raise money for him, buy him a plane ticket, give him your video camera that is documentary worthy, or help me to help him please contact me personally at mayachristobel@gmail.com or write to Emmanuel directly at emmanuelmazivire@gmail.com and visit him on Facebook at Emmanuel Mazivire and send him your support. Become part of the global village.

emmanuel in school

 

Emmanuel doing some teaching.

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Publishing is a New Game

dragon and kindle

This is a great bunch of information on the changing publishing world.  It is one thing to take a leap off the high dive into unabashed writing, but then what?  You have a book, a series of stories, a memoir, but where to go is your next question.  The self publishing world is changing daily so here is a lot of info you need to know.  Excerpt from http://www.writerscircle.com

Amazon Is Completely Changing Self-Publishing… Possibly How We Write Too!

When it comes to publishing in the 21st century, self-publishing is a hot issue. With modern technology and the Internet working in unison, writers no longer have to wait to get recognized. Now, by simply uploading you story to a website, you can get paid for your work.

The downside, however, is that authors who self-publish are then put in charge of all the extra work that goes into getting a book into the hands of readers. By self-publishing, authors are tasked to do their own marketing, choosing covers, previews, and finding eager readers who will pay for their stories.

But Amazon is trying something new that could change self-publishing for authors everywhere!


Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has made self-publishing extremely easy for authors. Amazon handles the distribution end of things so all authors have to do is set a price, pick a cover, and publish! But this week, The Atlantic ran a story about the new system for allocating royalties with KDP titles.


HOW IT WORKS


Amazon sets aside royalty funds every month for authors publishing in their Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library programs. These funds are then divvied up between self-published authors based on the success of their writing. The old system gave authors money based on how many people “borrowed” their books on Kindle.

The new system for rewarding authors will not be based on “borrows” but based on the number of pages read!

According to Amazon, “Under the new payment method, the amount an author earns will be determined by their share of total pages read instead of their share of total qualified borrows.” What this means is the pool of money set aside for royalties each month will be split up by the percentage of pages being read written by a specific author.

For example:

If the royalty fund has $100 in it and 100 pages were read that month, if someone reads 1 page that you’ve written that month, you’d receive $1. Strange? Yes. But this new set-up could change the field of writing as we now know it.

 

Amazon Is Completely Changing Self-Publishing... Possibly How We Write Too!
The Other Side of Eve published to the Kindle Unlimited Library / Via Instagram.com/paulikin

The economics of writing have always been based on authors not being able to afford to print their own books. They take a manuscript to a company (i.e. a publisher) who prints it, markets it, and sells it to bookstores. The author only has to sell the book to the publisher; they do the rest.

With Amazon’s new system, authors can publish their work for free and expose readers all across the world to their writing. Not only that, but they can get paid to do so! Authors are encouraged to write more because publishing is essentially free. More works will be seen, more will be written, the joy of both writing and reading will abound!


But what does this mean for the literary community at large?

It means works of literature will get diluted in the flood of new publications. Without publishers deciding whether or not something is worth publishing, there are no restrictions on how big the market will become. Is it idealistic to think that the best writing will still float to the top? Or will a new generation of creative minds get buried under mountains of metaphorical e-books that are being judged based on how many of their pages are being read?

Take, for example, William Faulkner. Were he to publish The Sound And The Fury to KDP, his famous novel would not make any money based on the cryptic and hard to read first chapter. People would read fewer pages by him and therefore his novel would be deemed unsuccessful, despite it being a critically acclaimed work of genius.

 

Amazon Is Completely Changing Self-Publishing... Possibly How We Write Too!
“You don’t get this problem with books.” / Via Instagram.com/thesaucyowl

This new system favors writers who can keep readers reading. This is not a bad thing, but what impact will this have on future publications? Peter Wayner of The Atlantic made a prediction:

 

“A system with per-page payouts is a system that rewards cliffhangers and mysteries across all genres. It rewards anything that keeps people hooked, even if that means putting less of an emphasis on nuance and complexity.”

 

There is a lot of trepidation around this new system of paying author’s per page. But this could mean that author’s will no longer get hung up on lengthy intellectual experiments. This could mean that a story’s entertainment value dictates its worth. After all, what good is a book if nobody reads it?

Amazon’s new payment system will take effect on July 1st. On that day we can either brace ourselves or embrace the new system. Either way, things are changing.

 

To Blog or Not to Blog

too blog

“My blog is a collection of answers people don’t want to hear to questions they didn’t ask.”
― Sebastyne Young

Disclaimer: This post has not one thing to do with blogs for marketing, sales, self-aggrandizement, having a pity-party or even using a blog for therapeutic expression. So turn back now if this is what you are looking for.

I just wandered through Google pages looking at what has been written on the Power of Blogging. You see, I think blogs can be powerful. But, most are not.  The only useful tip I found was one that had to do with statistics proving that more people trust a blog post and its writer than mainstream journalists. I find that very interesting and totally in keeping with why I think blogging is power and a great avenue for creativity and expression.

So, you can find a score of articles on positioning yourself, gaining marketing email lists, branding and sales but what I want to talk about is the almighty sword of the written word. The world of blogging is usually focused on a goal, driven by getting viewers to sell a product, idea, book, work of some sort. But on the other end of the spectrum are vanity blogs, blogs that just throw open the windows to someone’s life who is a stranger and can range from journal entries to rants.

It made me sad when I caught myself pretending that everybody out there in cyberspace cared about what I thought, when really nobody gives a shit. And when I multiplied that sad feeling by all the millions of people in their lonely little rooms, furiously writing and posting to their lonely little pages that nobody has time to read because they’re all so busy writing and posting, it kind of broke my heart.”  Ruth OzekiA Tale for the Time Being

After wading through blogs that are like reading your daughter’s diary and then wanting to put it back in the nightstand drawer wishing you didn’t know that her heart is broken, what she thinks about my cooking, her rant on rules and being totally misunderstood, I feel like a bit of voyeur into people lives I don’t even know. So I don’t move in either of those directions when reading or writing a blog.

With our freedom of speech indeed becoming less free Blogs that are well written and have clear, good words to convey are a gift to many. Bloggers have a chance to wield words that can change thinking, change hearts and minds and anchor important truths that never see the light of day in mainstream media. Having a voice and making it heard is what blogging can be all about. And with every clear voice that wants to add awareness or good to our world, there is a ready-made audience of people waiting to hear you.

This kind of blogging as a change agent is not about followers or revenue even though after reading, Julie and Julia and seeing how one blog driven by one woman’s passion created an entire new life for Julie, you can see the possibilities. Julie did not have the mindset that she in fact was going to change the world of cooking, meet Meryl Streep, write a book, be cast in her own movie and become a writer, she simply told the truth.   Then truth-telling took on a life of it’s own.

Blogging can simply be something that inspires you, allows you to write without restraint, expands your creative repertoire and only needs one very essential ingredient: Honesty, down to the bone.

I think that blogging is about transparency, showing up fully and saying it all with the deepest awareness that there is at least one human being out there that will be affected by what you write. Knowing this keeps you writing with integrity. When you write this way, those without a firm grasp on their own voices find you, are inspired as well and if you have a subject matter that is timely, your blog is energy being cast out into a hopeless world.

I have stumbled “accidentally” on voices of people who are blogging where just one sentence changed me, opened some part of me and moved me. If you think that you have nothing to say, think again. All you have is something to say, all you have are your feelings, your ideas, your intentions and your own unique way of saying whatever moves you. Someone is simply waiting for you to say it. That’s power.

“Every time you post something online, you have a choice. You can either make it something that adds to the happiness levels in the world—or you can make it something that takes away.” Zoe Sugg

blg to change the world

 

 

 

Writer’s Block Demystified

garfield

Writer’s block “is a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which a writer loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown. The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years.”

Now that I read this it sounds like some category found in the diagnostic manual for psychologists to refer to, like paranoia or phobias. Is writer’ block some condition that they just might be coming out with a new drug for? Surely not. But writer’s everywhere have a fear of the dreaded WB anyway.

I hear from countless writers that they struggle with writer’s block, wait for the moment it strikes like a migraine headache or simply live in fear that one day they will be in the final stretch of writing a novel or a story and be stricken down by the an inexplicable moment when there are simply no words. So I thought I would take a few minutes to debunk this mystery and myth.

I am not saying that this does not occur for many writers. But the writers it does not ever occur for are those who write from inspiration and passion. When a writer is not engaged with the subject or the story, then writer’s block may become an inevitability, just like boredom. Staring at the page with no words coming and then getting sweaty palmed is only a symptom that there is no creative edge happening, no inner fire pushing the words out onto the paper and that instead the mind is in analytical mode.

Writer’s who never experience writer’s block are those who are inside of their writing, channeling the words, the characters and the stories in ways they don’t even know where the words come from, with little concern for editing till the final draft. And the key being that the writing they are doing is not a brain job it is a heart song. Now that may feel foreign to those who write for a living and for other people as part of a paid job. There is little room for being personally inspired when you are critiquing a medical journal article or court reporting. But when you sit at the page simply because you are busting with energy to see what will happen, what scene will write itself, you anticipate which muse will take control and you allow expression to be the goal.  That is when writer’s block is not an issue.

Yet, for a writer to commit at this level, to allow intuition, passion and story to run the show and allow the mind to go on vacation for a little while, or at least till the final edit, miracles happen. Writer’s block is about only one thing: Not knowing what you are inspired and moved to write. When you locate that in your own intuition and act on it no matter whether you know the destination of your writing or not, you will write like the wind.

writers block