Thursday, August 28, 2014

It's High Time for an Author Blog Tour


Memoirist, Lori Johnstone
It's true– I'm a blogger! I highly enjoy writing for the GreeleyMoms, part of the Greeley Tribune. I also add to Live N Write (where you currently roam) as much as I can, yet I'm not quite an author... 

I have plans to change that once I get my writer's legs under me. In terms of development, I would place myself at toddler level–my will is strong, yet there is a gap between intention and execution.  

So before I fill you in on what I've been working on and how I'm strengthening my writerly muscles, let me introduce you to an exceptional human being with talent AND integrity, who was the previous link in the author blog tour chain.

A co-blogger at the Tribune, and creator of the Sean Coleman mystery series, John Daly has been kind enough to pass the torch my way in this blog tour. "From a Dead Sleep", his first novel, has often been described as an engaging mystery with well developed characters. One reviewer has even related it to a cross between the hit television series, "The Sopranos" and an old black and white detective movie, adding that it had much better dialogue. He also writes political commentary for Bernardgoldberg.com

Author, John A. Daly


You can visit John's site and click on the blog link to learn about what the future holds for John's readers and more about his writing life. 

As for me, a little history for you; 

The notion to begin writing started when I suddenly had time to savor a few thoughts. My children were finally school age and I began to write the story that had been forming in my mind as I did menial tasks around the house. This book was a paranormal fiction about a neuroscientist who stumbles upon a part of the brain that would change humanity's understanding of the afterlife. I joked that this was a way to use that psychology degree of mine, the one lying dormant so I could focus on my family. 

Entitled,"The Turquoise and Violet Sky," I set this one aside due to the necessity of tackling the processes of consciousness, known as one of the most difficult problems in science today. After becoming stuck over the mechanics of the story, not to mention the reality of my sloppy initial attempt, I decided to let it rest...but I've had a really hard time letting it go. 

"Shadow Fields" came along in my imaginative life when I realized I should be writing something else. After googling the name of the book, I realized there was another one out there with the same name. 

While this wasn't enough to deter me from the title or protagonist name, (the other character happened to be an investment banker, and mine a teenager with the ability to see demons as colored smoke) it was the words dished out at a critique panel–at my first writer's conference–that did this one in. From the first page of my work, the panel felt that Shadow was too 'high-minded' to be a teen. I had to agree. Also, my childhood pain began calling out to me in a very physical way, which leads me to my current project, and the tour questions. 

a) What are you working on now? 

I'm working on a memoir centering around resiliency, it's about survival, but it's also about how the many layers of living a life end up making us who we are. What one person labels naivety in another may be that individual's coping mechanism created to live another day. In the end, however, after all of the metaphorical blows, there has to be a sort of enlightenment with and accepting of the truth. Acknowledgement and monitoring yourself is the only way to keep abusive cycles from passing on to the next generation. I call this project, "Born in May". 

b) How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

I believe that every life is worthy of introspection to allow the chance to grow. Every life is a menagerie of pain and triumph, of players that are not always the bad guy. My book is hard to pin down to one specific theme, as it can easily be about mental health including ADD, Autism, Aspergers, Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD, and childhood emotional neglect. It also hints of personality disorders converging–Narcissim, Borderline, and Sociopathy, and also some sad surprises, as if that isn't enough.

c) Why do I write what I do? 

I have always been the sort of person who believes in a higher power, but also a higher purpose. I have no idea why I chose to take Psychology in college, except that I found it interesting and it came easily to me. No one had much faith in me, including our school psychologist. Furthermore, it was beyond anyone to know what was going on under the surface of what this little girl was showing to the world. 

My husband asked me once, "What do you want to do when you start working?" I blurted without thinking, "to help people" and so I know the answer was made up of the same substance as my soul. It's as simple as that–to help people–with the added necessity of helping myself for the first time.

d) How does my writing process work? 

At this point, I haven't been able to adhere to a consistent writing time, but I like to write at 10am, and I like to read a bit on the art of writing first. Right now I'm reading, "Writing down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg, and since it's made up of short passages, I can read one everyday before I write and become inspired. 

I have also, as a memoirist, been inspired by Beth Kephart reading "Handling the Truth," and Marion Roach Smith, especially her book, "The Memoir Project." Both of these ladies have been teaching memoir for decades, and have a lengthy writing history.






Well that does it for me, sometime next week or earlier (depending on how keen she is) expect a post from this author; 
Gina Salamon, a fast friend in my short foray into critique groups, is a member of the Romance Writers of America. She also subscribes to International Thriller Writer, Inc. On the left is the cover for "Sleepless," the first installment in her cold case series. Besides this series, she is hard at work on a heartwarming Christmas story. You can check out her  blog while expecting her post in response to mine sometime next week. Thanks, Gina!







Friday, July 18, 2014

Using Imagery to Create Positive Change


I've mentioned previously how imagery is important for implementing positive change. For some, visualization may be perceived as difficult to achieve, especially if they believe themselves to be left–brained. However, brain lateralization has been proven a myth in the scientific community. People use both hemispheres of the brain, no matter the task. More on that

I have read, however, that the more vivid the image in the mind's eye, the more easily the desired result will unfold–and you don't need to be a visual person to make a change. People without any damage to their brain can visualize. You can start small at visualizing your goals. If you're interested in strengthening your brain, I use lumosity.com. There are a few others as well, Cognifit, Fit brains, that do the same thing.

Back to imagery–the way it works is that visual images create an emotional response in us. Images elicit either positivity or negativity and those images can lead to negative concepts of ourselves, other people and scenarios, or positive ones. 

All things are comprised of energy, and they have the ability to make us or break us. Imagery and thought have the power to create action or inaction. 

In "Discovering Your Soul Signature: A 33-Day Path to Purpose Passion & Joy" by Panache DesaiDesai uses imagery to show how we can release fears.

In the chapter aptly named 'Fear', Desai gently urges the reader to tend to the garden of our unconscious mind. Metaphorically, he relates weeds to fears–fear of success, fear of failure, of being alone, and so on. 

The weeds are our 'vibrational density' such that they create a weight upon our souls. Desai urges us to figuratively pull them out. He assures the reader that only the energy of fear is pulled out, and suddenly we're left with space. Before, the fear took up so much space there wasn't any room for success. Afterward we're free to create, grow and fill that space with what we really want in our lives. 

It was uncanny, and largely synchronistic, that I ended up finding a real live giant, possibly man-eating weed in my yard. A thistle was hiding out in a small space at the side of my house. I noticed it earlier in the spring, but with all the chores and activities (not to mention laziness) and the fact that it looked really prickly and a big hassle, I promised myself I would get to it later. 

Before I knew it, the thistle had grown into an even more monstrous creature that multiplied! The job of removing them had grown much larger than when I first noticed that first inconsequential weed.

Of course, I was reminded of Desai and his book and instructions, which I understood immediately–it wasn't really necessary for me to have an analogue of the metaphor right in my backyard. Still, there it was.

The prickly base brought to mind Eeyore, from Winnie the Pooh. The thistle was his favorite food and I wonder what his tongue was made of. Alas, but I had no Eeyore, no one to remove these mutants but me. 




The work needed to be done, and it turned out to be highly cathartic. I recently had some people creating (or attempting to create) havoc in my life. I used the pent up frustration associated with that situation to remove the giant usurper of space. 

The task itself was very time-consuming, so I had a lot of time to think about imagery, Desai's words, and the subconscious mind. As you can see from the first image above, sometimes weeds can look pleasant. Thistles can almost trick you into thinking they may be a flower. The occupied space can fool you into inertia, a place where familiarity rules the day. It doesn't matter whether it's right for you or not, if it will take you far or leave your wheels spinning. 

Stuck.

Sometimes we get attached to the familiar and become afraid of the unknown, even when it could be the pathway to our dreams. We are mislead into believing this is how our life is meant to be. 

Most often, and the same as in the case of multiplying weeds, we may not realize this self-defeat is going on in our minds. The negative thoughts may occur so regularly and naturally, that they flash by, without conscious notice from us, or they may have piled up around the corner. 

The visible parts of my backyard are kept reasonably manicured (most of the time). The area of the yard that is used most often by my family and visible to anyone who may stop by–to the outside world–is kept well... 





Just as we keep those common areas well tended, so do we need to care for the areas less seen. In fact, those parts have even greater importance. It's possible that we hide and disregard our inner selves so much, that we forget that like our outer appearance and basic needs, our inner lives are just as important to tend to. If our mental health falls into disrepair we become discontent, possibly even depressed, and then we are shocked to be faced with a mutant weed.

However when you clean this space out, it's amazing what you can accomplish. And you'll keep going. The energy in your life will be renewed, you'll be free to change your life, or keep the momentum going toward your dreams. 

You'll be unstuck.



Read more on imagery in this 7 tips for creating positive mental imagery  from Psychology Today, and Using Mental Imagery to Create Goals from Clear Mind Meditation Techniques.







Friday, June 13, 2014

Miss Indiana is Not Normal. You Are. | Moms | GreeleyTribune.com



My fellow Greeley Moms writers and I have set out to show what our version of "normal" is. 

I'm sure you have all read or heard about the reaction in the twitterverse regarding Miss Indiana's body shape. She may vary slightly from the other contestants, however, I think it is a stretch (pardon the pun) to compare her to the greater population at large. 

Here are a few of our midsections, and you can decide for yourself.





Miss Indiana is Not Normal. You Are. | Moms | GreeleyTribune.com

Monday, May 19, 2014

Are You Ready to Bloom or Set Your Wings To Flight?

"If people did not love one another, I really don't see what use there would be of having any spring." ~ Victor Hugo, Les Miserables 

It's all birds and blooms to me right now, it's all I see, so it might be all you read from me. Here's why;

My favorite season is SPRING, and it's really all the living that draws me in. That which has been lying under a stagnant undergrowth of dingy darkness answers the siren call of sunlight, swiftly responding to it's beckoning. Lush chlorophyll soaked greenery snakes upward through stringy mulch to seek new life. Then blooms.

If you look at nature, including human beings, everything grows. I can't keep up with my hair growing, or the weeds in the backyard. Tiny, hairless chicks accept worm after worm from their mothers and grow in the time it takes me to realize they've been living up in the eaves all along. Then they're gone. They soar through the air testing the aerodynamic capabilities of their wings along with the laws of the sky.

So what of your soul? Is it growing? Are you bound by your own inertia? 

The thing about life is that some aspects of it fool us with their safety. For instance, the aforementioned bird having just popped out of toasty egg and fed worms enough to support it's strength for take-off might decide that the air was a danger to him. Or that little bird may prefer the cozy threads lovingly provided by mama bird to lay upon. 

So it stays the same, that neonate – in it's nest – snugged up cozy, but paralyzed in a way. Stunted. 

What might that little guy have felt upon swooping down through the rippling air, just as ribbon dances upon it? That darling bird was capable of easily doing what humans dream of doing. Only the humans wake up with a smile on their face until they realize they have arms that may flap, but keep them solidly on the ground, a slave to gravity. They lack the loftiness of birds. 

So dear friends, are you allowing yourself to grow? 

There is a sort of invigoration that sets in after engaging in something new, as spring tends to enliven the soul. I'm not talking about the thrill of buying something new, as that always results in a very short spike of adrenaline and excitement. Then it wanes, rapidly, as does the limited glow of artificial sunlight. 

Dare to transform and you will grow. Sometimes you need to cut back in order to mature.

What can you cut back from your life to allow for new growth? 

A few years ago, I decided to eliminate GOSSIP from my life. I participated when in certain circles to feel part of a group. Such a horrid pastime. Never kind this cutting people down for sport, and usually sprouts out of jealousy. 

Another thing I have focused on eliminating are DAMAGING THOUGHTS. They are often comprised of aspects of yourself that you feel bad about. Negativity that originated from the outside world that has a detrimental effect on your thinking voice, encapsulating you in total darkness when the light is essential for you to grow. Imagine that a new gardener has come along, knocking down the wall and allowing you to bask completely in the sun–where you were meant to be all along. Now you rest only at night so you can dream about the heights accessible to you. 

Are you CUTTING SOMEONE DOWN when they are newly growing? That person isn't meant to be
pruned, as they are just finding their pace of growth. Realize that you have insecurities that you need to deal with. Don't be responsible for killing some one's dream of noble heights.

Are you TALKING YOURSELF UP amongst your friends and family, your co-workers? Do you only see your own ability to grow and discount their contributions? You need a huge gut-check. The landscape is more lush and beautiful with many colors, textures, and methods of growing. And
CONDESCENSION is like placing weed killer on the most gorgeous blooms, they choke them out.

Your dreams will be tended to when you see and appreciate others around you that have supported you and also contributed to your growth, those who have watered you to your current height. See them for who they are and what they bring to your life. They, as you, may be newer to growing, but have the same ability to reach the sky.

Now you are ready, little one, sweet child of the wind. And off you go! Bloom and allow others to bloom, as well.

Imagery and metaphor are great tools of psychologists and life coaches. They allow you to manifest all manner of dreams. If you can imagine yourself as a new plant in Spring, ready to sprout up toward the sky, you will find that you can do anything. It really works. Try it. 






Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Proud of My Spoils – Pikes Peak Writers Conference

 My friend, Kate posted a book she bought from PPWC and had signed, so I wanted to share mine as well. 




Impressed with his "Getting through Draft 1" workshop, and suddenly smitten with goblins? Thought I better check out Jim's books. Hugo award winner, you know!

I told him fairytales suck, so he wrote that inside.

Jim's keynote speech was centered around the lack of diversification in publishing and storytelling today. I loved it. It struck a chord with me and I'm looking forward to reading his book.
































Chuck Wendig was the person to say what I needed to hear – basically what wasn't working in my writing. And now I am knee deep in curse words (and I really don't mind).  

I'm LOVING IT!


Monday, April 28, 2014

A Neophyte's Perception of a Writers Conference


Photo Credit: Nathan Williams

This whole account may be a little premature as I'm still living in a post-conference blender of emotions.

From Thursday to Sunday I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs, CO. It's now Monday. This means that my head is still spinning and the pendulum still swings back and forth between, 'I suck', and 'there might just be hope for me.'

A dreamer, the mere fact – which I was keenly aware of before conference – that people have written and published books, is all it takes for me to want to do the same. Nothing is going to keep me from realizing it, although I do believe that the method of extracting my story may have to come from something other than the usual way – brain summoning muscles to cause fingers to dance across the keys. It may also take more pain.

Despite being the epitomy of a newbie- necessary and a nuisance,  I have come out of the conference with my head firmly set on my shoulders, and ready to rock it.

PPWC is the self-professed 'friendliest conference' out there. It was a relief that everyone having to do with it, volunteers, speakers, and presenters, were only one baby kiss away from being saints because this was still attended by a sub-set of the population at large. You can't quite keep all the jerks out of everything. And like every necessary part of life, you show up, you participate, you do your thing, and ignore the people who have no investment in you coming out of it whole.

I'm sure that many of us went into the conference ready to take a beating, you can only be stripped down to be built back up again, a better person for it. With more skills in the back pocket for easy access, my soul has told me that I am indeed a step closer to something greater.

Really, the only rough spot I had in Colorado Springs, was with a handful of attendees and the rare expert. While most were supportive and wonderful human beings, there were some that had no patience for beginner writers. It made me feel sub-standard. It made me feel like an intruder.

Thank GOD for the keynote speakers. They rescued me. Their words cut straight to my ravaged writer's heart. I was laughing, I was crying. They made me feel like I could attain my own success, in my own way. They were so passionately into their words. Wait a second...they are authors.

So if you are considering attending a writer's conference for the first time, I would hope you consider going to this one next year. Despite my social anxiety and low tolerance for narcissistic ppl, I would easily go back to Colorado Springs, even still droopy eyed with notebook in hand – after I finish another chapter, that is.

Every one of the keynote speakers hit a home run. They all received a standing ovation. The event volunteers and organizers I met made me feel welcome. The master of ceremonies, Aaron Michael Ritchey was superbly entertaining. Hats off to the director, MK Meredith, the programming director, MB Partlow, and the faculty co-ordinator, Jason P Henry who made fantastic choices in content with top notch execution.

2014 PPWC Faculty

I can't wait until next year.





Saturday, April 5, 2014

Face to Face with ADHD


Photo Credit: Marg : CC

Are you running from an ADHD diagnosis for your child? 

I was too. 

Avery was a toddler when I began to notice differences between her and other children the same age. She was curious, she was energetic, and it took every bit of moxie I had to keep her safe. 

It was difficult for me to understand why my child couldn’t stay in one place like all the other children around us. What toddler wouldn’t be drawn in by the colorful playground equipment? Avery would see something far away in the distance and off she would go like a wildcat pursuing a tasty gazelle. 

I have extremely vivid memories of running after her as an expectant mother, trying to keep her from reaching the busy street beyond. I would rationalize, “This is just what children are like. I need to be tougher, smarter and stay one step ahead of her.” 

ADHD is a common condition affecting children and adolescents and, for some people, it extends into adulthood. I am going to use the acronym ADHD in this article to encompass both ADD - attention deficit without the hyperactivity - and ADHD.
 It is characterized by three main symptoms; inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. A child may have one or all of these, and they need not all occur for a diagnosis to be necessary. But all children exhibit these behaviors ... so what makes it ADHD? 

ADHD is when inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity intrude on the child’s ability to function normally at home or at school. 

It became increasingly clear to me, especially as her younger brother began to grow older, that the differences between my two children were significant. The biggest difference was that her brother didn’t seem to take a vacation to the furthest recesses of his mind when receiving direction or focusing on things that might prove difficult to him. 

In preschool, a particularly astute teacher of Avery’s identified a deficit in fine motor skills. In kindergarten, her teacher conveyed that she would refuse to do certain tasks. Through the years leading up to second grade, there was a general awareness that she was falling increasingly behind despite the effort we both put in with her homework. Most often these homework sessions would take way too long and lead to tears for both of us. I could scarcely think about anything else. I would lay awake at night.

Though I wasn’t ready to make any life-changing proclamations, what I was doing, however, was compiling evidence, storing it away for the day that I might say, “I’m ready to take the next step.” ADHD was so controversial - it still is. I was afraid of being wrong, of harming my child by giving her a label. 

In second grade, our situation was particularly bad; she began crying before school and refusing to go in. She would cling to me, and we would both cry. It was a terrible kind of torture, to leave your second grader at school in emotional turmoil. 

Something amazing happened soon after, though, she was accepted into a new school for third grade. At first, she responded well to the extremely positive environment that I believe is the hallmark of our school, but then it was clear that she was achieving at a lower level than what she was capable. Her test results were so varied. Sometimes she was present, and sometimes her brain was taking a little vacation. Her teacher described that faraway look that Avery would wear and all the evidence came together like pieces of a convoluted puzzle. 

In the end, it took eight years, a change in schools, and watching and working with my child to keep her from getting too far behind to finally feel comfortable exploring the possibility of a diagnostic determination. An evaluation might lead to medication - and I wasn’t fond of medication.

Today, Avery is improving day by day. After she was evaluated, our doctor put her on a very low dose of medication and the change in her was dramatic. It was noted by everyone involved in her life. We are happy with how Avery is doing, and we believe that we have made the right choice for her. She still has her bubbly personality, she is not depressed, she eats as much as she did before. My husband and I believe that after all the watching, after all the waiting, it was the right decision for us to make. 

What to look for if you suspect ADD/ADHD in your child:
ADDitude magazine’s checklist of symptoms for ADD/ADHD