Tag Archive | FUUSA

A new year, a new book project

At yesterday’s New Year’s service at church, we sat in a circle, passed around a talking stick, and shared our goals and resolutions for the year ahead. I announced two:

  • Work on creating a serene, organized home environment
  • Complete the presentation for my new book project on creativity, then find an agent and publisher
fuusa-emerson-choir

Emerson Hall at FUUSA

The church in question is the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, and our minister, Sam Trumbore, had chosen the topic “Begin again in love.” Usually we sit with the chairs arranged in conventional rows, and there’s less opportunity for individual participation, but this being New Year’s morning, Sam expected a smaller turnout. But there were several dozen of us, and we formed three concentric circles. As we passed the South American rain stick, many people chose not to speak, and others spoke of modest, everyday goals—spending more time with family or in nature, being more mindful of health concerns, learning more about social media or, conversely giving it up entirely.

Having come late to the service, as is unfortunately all too typical, I was the last in the row of the outermost circle, and impatiently awaited my turn to speak. When I did, I failed to mention the state of disarray my house is actually in, but I was more specific about my book project, announcing my working title and the fact that I’ve already registered it as a domain name. (I’ve blogged about the project before, but I’m still not ready to go officially public with the title, because I don’t want anyone stealing it. I figure the FUUSAns won’t remember.)

waterhouse-john-william_-_i_am_half-sick_of_shadows_said_the_lady_of_shalott

John William Waterhouse

At 75, I sometimes wonder whether it’s overly ambitious to take on a major project like the book I have in mind. Granted, the goal I set is daunting, and realistically, I don’t know if I’ll manage to land a good agent and publisher within the next twelve months. But completing a nonfiction book proposal is well within my capabilities—I’ve done it three times before, although I abandoned all three projects before seriously seeking publication.

The first was a book based on my daughter’s first year of life. I’d done a project illustrating the minutiae of my daily life with her, I showed it in a SoHo gallery, and it was featured in New York magazine. An editor at a major publishing house saw the show, called me up, and I paid her a visit in her spectacular office high in a skyscraper with panoramic views of Manhattan. I’d brought my daughter along, and she peed on the editor’s couch. That wasn’t the reason I gave up on the project, but I’ll leave that story for another time, along with the reasons I abandoned my books on art therapy and gardening.

For now, let’s just say I’m confident in my ability to put together a book proposal. It draws right-brain-left-brainon the logical, left-brain side of my intellect, the side that won me my Phi Beta Kappa key at Barnard.* And as for being too old to take on a new project, I’m convinced I’m as sharp as I ever was. I could drop dead any day—far too many of my contemporaries are taking that trip—but in general, my health is disgustingly good. The only activity I’ve given up because of age is downhill skiing, and that’s primarily because I haven’t been working out regularly enough to maintain the strength in my legs, not to mention that snow conditions in the Northeast have been abominable for the past couple of years.**

But my major reason for embarking on an all-consuming project is that for my sanity’s sake, I know I have to. From past experience, I know that abandoning my dreams of creative achievement is likely to plunge me into a major depression, and that’s worth avoiding at all costs. When I hear my contemporaries rhapsodizing about their travels, their grandkids and their cats, I know those everyday pleasures and satisfactions, wonderful as they may be, will never be enough for me.

waterhouse-john-william_the_lady_of_shalott

What about you? Do you have any major new goals or resolutions for the New Year? I’d love to hear from you.

*My classmates at Barnard included Martha Stewart, Erika Jong and Twyla Tharp, but that’s another story too.

**In the back of my mind, there lurks the possibility that I may yet ski again. Many people ski into their 80’s and 90’s. Unfortunately, my old ski pants are a size or two too small, but when I told my husband I might buy a new pair, since they’re handy for snow shoveling, dog walking, and maybe a little cross-country skiing, he tried to dissuade me. Maybe I should try flannel-lined jeans, he said, or rain or wind pants. When I asked why not ski pants, he confessed that he was worried I might take to the slopes again. Hey, never say never.

Poor pitiful me–I hate marketing my books

Why should people buy my books? And why do I feel such overwhelming anger when they don’t? The answer no doubt lies deeply buried in the most basic infantile needs for unconditional love and acceptance. In my new book on maximizing creativity, I plan to delve into the research surrounding these issues, but today I simply feel the urge to vent.

julie-at-fuusa-crfts-fair-12-4-16

Last Sunday, following the service, my church held a fund-raising crafts fair, and I had a full table to show and sell my books. The early December timing was ideal, I figured. People would be in the throes of holiday shopping, and I’d priced my books to sell: $10 for a single book, with deeper discounts for more than one. Ten per cent of sales would go to FUUSA, the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, thus providing an added incentive for people to feel proud of their generosity, or so I naively imagined.

The results were underwhelming. True, I sold a few books, so my efforts were moderately worthwhile, and I would have been there for coffee hour anyway. But I spent half my haul on infinity neck warmers and ginger cookies from other vendors. The annual event is a good place to pick up on stocking stuffers. Books would fall nicely into this category, you’d think, but apparently not. There was a brisk sale in homemade $13 pies and soups. People love stuffing their faces, but reading? Not so much.

I’ve blogged about this problem before. People tell me it comes with the territory and that I should get over it, and I’ve seen a similar phenomenon at conferences like ThrillerFest and Bouchercon, where people queue up in long lines for a few well-known authors while the majority sit forlornly ignored, doing their best to put on friendly, welcoming expressions as they hand out book marks, post cards and candy. I’m as guilty as anyone in passing them by—I already own far too many books, and I can’t afford to buy many more.

Those are excuses I frequently hear from people bypassing my table, and they’re valid ones. I’m especially sympathetic to those who plead poverty, and I admire them for their candor, especially at a place like FUUSA, where the majority of congregants are comfortably well-heeled. It’s the ones who are loaded who bug me—people whom I’ve known for years, who can afford to jet around the world to exotic vacation spots yet never consider supporting a struggling local author.

I first self-published Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders a decade ago, and Eldercide a couple of years later. My vampire soap opera thriller, Hope Dawns Eternal, came out last year. This year I reissued my first two in new editions, so the three books make a nice matched set. Over the years, quite a few FUUSAns have bought my books, but the vast majority haven’t. On Sunday I asked a friend if she’d ever bought any of my books, and she admitted she hadn’t. “I never read novels,” she said. Fair enough, so I suggested if she might consider buying any as presents for friends or family who might feel differently. She gave a noncommittal shrug and turned away.

Yesterday some friends from my Nia class at the YMCA met at Panera’s for lunch. I was ranting rather profanely to Richele Corbo, our wonderful instructor, about my marketing problems. She’s not fond of marketing either, but she’s more objective about it. She’s passionate about Nia, which combines nine forms of dance, martial arts and body work, and she talks it up to people who might be interested, but many refuse. Some feel it’s too strenuous, others that it’s not strenuous enough, or too esoteric. One woman told her “Sorry, but it’s a little too ‘kumbaya’ for me.” She doesn’t take the rejections personally, accepting that Nia’s just not for everybody, and she encouraged me to adopt the same attitude.

But Richele didn’t invent Nia,* so it’s easier for her to be objective. My novels, on the other hand, are deeply personal, and although they’re not autobiographical, the first two draw on life experiences that affected me profoundly, so it’s hard not to feel the pain of rejection. I used to feel the same about my paintings, but I’m no longer so personally invested in them, since they’re now a part of my past.

On Sunday I brought two small oils—one a vase of tulips, the other a view of Lake George—to fill out my table display.** I didn’t expect to sell them, since they’re priced at over $300, but lots of people admired them. Strangely, many said they hadn’t realized I was a painter, even though I’ve shown those paintings at FUUSA in a solo show and a couple of group exhibitions. Apparently they had never bothered to look at the walls.

But enough kvetching. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably in agreement with those who tell me to “get over it.” But I’ve got a lot more to say in future posts—including thoughts about a local reporter who was writing up until his death at 84, and about what L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, had to say about the importance of admiration.

Please share this post, subscribe, and leave comments so I’ll know you’re out there. Even more importantly, please buy my books! You can’t possibly be finished with Christmas shopping yet. You can order them from Amazon, or I can inscribe them personally and mail or deliver them to you in time for the holidays. To discuss these options, contact me at julielomoe@gmail.com.

julie-at-wpa-swat-truck-aug-16

*To learn more about Nia, visit www.nianow.com. Here you can also find a registry of Nia teachers in your area, including Richele.

**The colors in my oil paintings are much more vibrant than they appear in this photo. I also did the illustrations for the original covers of Mood Swing and Eldercide, which are visible behind the new editions with their wonderful covers by Kim Killion. I still have a few copies of the original editions, although they’re no longer available on line. My stylistic influences include Munch, Van Gogh, the Fauves and the German Expressionists.

In memory of my artist friend Dan Sekellick

Dan Sekellick - Oceanic at Sunset (Star Island)

Today I’m mourning the death of my friend and fellow artist Dan Sekellick. In recent months, our Unitarian Universalist congregation has lost seven older long-term members in close succession, but Dan’s death hits closest to home.

A retired architect, Dan was dodgy about his age, but he was on the far side of seventy – I know because several years ago he told me he was eligible to ski free at Gore Mountain. Skiing was one of his many passions. He loved gardening, and normally during this dreary run of rainy March days his studio would already have been full of seed flats for his summer vegetable garden. In recent years he began writing poetry to accompany his paintings. He was a volunteer extraordinaire, helping to stock streams with fish each spring and to renovate and launch the Sand Lake Arts Center. 

Even as his health was failing in recent years, Dan had an extraordinary joie de vivre. I’ll always remember the enthusiasm with which he described the latest developments in his garden in spring, the skiing pointers he gave me at Jiminy Peak, and especially the ride he gave me back from Jiminy one early spring day in his vintage Chrysler convertible – with the top down, despite my initial protests. He was right – the windshield gave plenty of protection, and the ride through the Berkshire foothills was beautiful though breezy.

Dan Sekellick - Jazz Band

Most of all, Dan loved painting. On the website Art-N-Soul, Inc., where a few of his many paintings are displayed, he had this to say about his art:

My working method is an extension of my architectural design training. It often begins with some vague ideas of what I want to happen and it’s mixed with the influences of the works of other artists that I admire, along with my own personality and life experiences. I believe that artists are essentially self-replicating creatures, whatever their art form, and I don’t believe that I’m any exception. I refine my ideas, sometimes making fresh starts in new directions or just plugging along until I get it “right”, even if it takes years, as it sometimes does . . .

Thank you for viewing my work. I think that it helps to bring closure to a process that begins as vague idea or an inspiration or some other mysterious genesis, moves along with a lot of hard work and sometimes disappointment and then, hopefully makes a meaningful connection with another person. Now that’s the real reward in all of this.

What a wonderful description of the creative process, as true for writing as it is for painting. Dan, you’ll be missed by many, but your memory and your paintings live on. Yesterday, leaving the Sunday service at which our minister announced your death, I noticed how beautiful your abstract seascape looked hanging on the wall of our sanctuary, complete with the little seagull sculpture you’d perched whimsically on top.

Happiness is the right drug – or so I said in church yesterday

James Ensor

I was Sunday service leader for our Unitarian Universalist congregation yesterday. The sermon topic was “Psychology of Happiness,” and since I’ve lived relatively happily with bipolar disorder for many years now, it’s a subject on which I consider myself an expert.

Here was the Reverend Sam Trumbore’s preview of the service as it appeared in our church newsletter: “Psychologists often focus on the pathologies of the mind. Much of the work of psychology and pschologists deals with mental problems and how to address them effectively. New research has taken a different tack, studying healthy minds and what factors encourage good mental health. Barbara Fredrickson is one such researcher who studies the psychology of happiness.”

Great topic. Here’s how I approached it in my opening words. In the following passage, my lines are in green, my husband’s in magenta:

As a novelist, I love writing dialogue, and happiness is a subject close to my heart, so I jumped at the chance to be service leader today. Here’s a little dialogue I whipped up last night – I’d like to invite my husband up here to help me out. 

(Julie sings to the tune of “Happiness is a warm gun” from the Beatles’ White Album)

Happiness is the right drug, Happiness is the right drug. When I feel the pills start working . . .

Hey wait a minute! What drug are we talking about? What are you doing, advocating drug use on a Sunday morning at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany?

I’m talking legal drugs, prescription drugs. For some people, they’re the only way to conquer serious depression and achieve happiness.

Prescription drugs – yeah, right. That’s what killed Heath Ledger and Michael Jackson. Legal or not, drugs are bad news. Anyone can achieve happiness, if they work hard enough at it. I’ll bet that’s what Sam’s sermon is going to be about.

Who does Sam think he is, talking about happiness? He’s a Buddhist! Don’t they believe all life is suffering? But come to think of it, I’ve talked about happiness with Sam before, when I was so depressed I was practically suicidal. He believes it’s all in your mind.

Well, duh – of course it is! We all have the potential to achieve true happiness. Cognitive psychologists have all kinds of techniques anyone can use to feel better.

I know, I’ve read the books. David Burns, Martin Seligman –

Wait a minute – David Byrne? Wasn’t he the leader of the Talking Heads? His songs are full of gloom and doom. Remember Psycho Killer?

Not THAT David Byrne. This one’s Burns, with an S. He wrote Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Marty Seligman’s another one – he was on public TV just last week, and I get his newsletters online. He wrote Learned Optimism. He believes we all have a set point for happiness. Just as our weight tends to stay around a certain set point, so does our degree of optimism or pessimism. But with training and experience, we can change our own set points for the better –

Seems like you know a lot about all this cognitive stuff. So why are you pushing pills instead?

Because I believe happiness and unhappiness are biochemical to a large extent. Not everybody needs medication to be happy, but some of us do. Of course, a lot depends on our life experiences, too, and the choices we make.

So it’s the old nature versus nurture debate all over again?

Good point! But the two approaches aren’t mutually exclusive. They work well in combination, too. In fact, we could all learn to –

Julie, maybe you’ve said enough for now. After all, this is Sam’s sermon, not yours. Maybe I shouldn’t say it up here in front of the whole congregation, but you can be kind of a show-off.

I know, I admit it. I love being the center of attention – it’s one of the things that makes me HAPPY!

We got a gratifying round of applaluse for our performance, but more importantly, we put across an important message. We all have our own ways of overcoming depression and finding happiness. There are lots of paths to joy – the trick is finding which combination works best for you.

Personally, even though my current medication regimen is minimal, I probably couldn’t live happily without it. How about you? I’d love to hear your comments.

BSP, or Blatant Self-Promotion. Why should it be a no-no?

“I’m going to become a world-famous author through my mastery of the Internet.”

That was my response yesterday when our minister at the First Unitarian Universalist Society  passed around the mike and asked us what goals we could set for ourselves over the summer. We were observing our annual “Flower Communion,” in which we bring flowers from our gardens to share. Reverend Sam Trumbore had segued seamlessly from imagery of flowers and buds to the theme of what might be budding in our own lives and ready to burst into bloom.  

Chihuly florabunda rose

Chihuly florabunda rose

These were not the roses I brought. I do have a Chihuly rose bush blooming in my garden, and the blooms are absolutely breathtaking, but I was too selfish to share them. I brought some crimson Blaze climbing roses instead, more than adequate for the occasion. 

This blog isn’t about roses, though. It’s about my grandiose statement of world domination. Had I gone over the top? Am I escalating into a manic episode? Grandiosity is a common symptom of mania, as I and others with a bipolar diagnosis know full well. But I wasn’t being manic – just realistic, or almost, though it may take more than one summer to attain my dreams.

 

Why do we authors find it so distasteful to brag? Especially we women authors? Blatant self-promotion (BSP for short) is frowned upon on many Internet sites, and it’s said to be a turn-off when authors promote their work too openly at panels and signings. Yet why be so ashamed? I believe it’s ingrained in our upbringing, drummed into us from an early age, especially if we’re of AARP age or above. But how will anyone find out about our books if we’re too reticent to brag a little?

Blaze of Glory climbing rose

Blaze of Glory climbing rose

FUUSA‘s book club met last night, and we were talking about selections for the fall. One man suggested the group choose my book Eldercide, which I’ll be relaunching in September as Evening Falls Early. Another man seconded the motion, pointing out that perhaps copies of Eldercide will become valuable collectors’ items once it’s no longer available under that name. Both men were present at the morning service, so I guess my boastful declaration didn’t turn them off. Would the group have selected the book if I’d been silent when they handed the mic around? I’ll never know.

The Chihuly rose is a recently introduced florabunda, named for the famous glass artisan Dale Chihuly. It survived my northeastern Zone 5 winter in fine form, and I heartily recommend it. The blaze rose shown here is “Blaze of Glory,” a Jackson & Perkins introduction from 2005. My own blaze climbing rose is the more traditional crimson version, and it’s really taking off this year.