Radio Interview!

Tuesday I was honored to be interviewed by radio talk show host, filmmaker, and screenwriter, Dave Congalton on his Hometown Radio program about my new novel, Finding Joy. It was fun chatting with him about writing, growing one’s craft, and the inspiration for my latest work.

Have a listen here.

http://www.920kvec.com/show/dave-congalton-hometown-radio/

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and the middle grade Forest Secrets Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

The Breedloves: Barbara’s Story

Is it possible to breed love? What does that mean? Well, for one inspirational couple, who are partners in life and in music, to breed love is to create and share their ethereal sound with the world. As the first line of their website says, “Love is contagious and forever spreads in the presence of Jay Kirkland and Barbara Gorin, the Breedloves acoustic duo.”  With Jay on ukulele, lead guitar, and mandolin and Barbara on her 12-string keeping rhythm, the two shape musical constructs that both amaze and move their audience.

Barbara and Jay breeding love in Sausalito

Jay and Barbara met after Jay hired Barbara’s band, Led Graffiti, for a benefit concert. Barbara says, “We had a physical attraction the day we met…I didn’t know that Jay played guitar until months later.” As the story goes, they spent many weeks getting to know each other and growing closer, each sharing tales of family and youth. Barbara told Jay about being raised by loving Italian and Sicilian parents in Silver Spring, Maryland while Jay regaled her with his own history in Richmond, California.

Yet in all that time, she still hadn’t heard him play.

“When he stayed with me the first night…the next morning he was playing his electric guitar and I was in the other room. I had my mouth open and tears were streaming down my face,” says Barbara describing how she discovered his talent. Still shedding loving tears, she came up to him and said, “You didn’t tell me you could play like that.”

And so their musical journey began.

Barbara’s Story

Born into a friendly Italian and Sicilian Catholic family in Washington D.C., Barbara was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. This middle child with one older sister and a younger brother happily recalls lots of big noisy dinners with her extended family. Close knit, her paternal grandparents lived with them until they passed.

Surrounded by music from infancy, her mother, a secretary and medical transcriber, played piano while her dad played mandolin, bass, and guitar. Although both loved music, it was her Dad who influenced Barbara the most. Between writing for the Washington Daily News and running a newspaper delivery business, he led his own band. The Sal Caruso Orchestra was a popular 7-piece ensemble that usually had gigs every weekend.

Barbara took piano lessons from the age of six until nine and started playing guitar around eleven. Early influences included Motown as a pre-teen and teens rock and roll later.  She took lessons for a couple of years in school, but a lot of her learning came from friends. Although she dabbled with it, Barbara preferred the sweet sounds of strumming rhythm over playing lead guitar. As a teen, she used to sit in her room and listen to bands like Eagles, America, CCR, and Neil Young while trying to figure out the chords. Barbara was one of the lucky few kids at her high school who could navigate from jocks to brainiacs to band geeks.  Popular, friendly, and attractive, she was nominated prettiest eyes in 9th grade.

After high school she attended the University of MD planning to major in horticulture. However, the campus life did not suit her, so she dropped out and began working office jobs, moving to San Francisco in the late ‘80’s. Always trying to position herself for better opportunities, she eventually landed a job as a legal assistant at a law firm where she spent the next twenty-nine years until she retired to play music full time with Jay.

For many years she didn’t do much musically but strum her guitar now and then. All that changed in 2005 when she discovered Red House Studios, a cooperative organization dedicated to promoting musical learning. With a variety of classes and workshops, she was thrilled to find a place where you could bring a guitar and learn a variety of songs. They also taught people how to perform together and had “band foundries.” Her time there built both her confidence and chops but also helped her to meet the fellow musicians for the four bands she’d later become part of: Led Graffiti and Red Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin tribute bands, as well as an acapella group and Barbara and the 1, 4, 5’s.

For several years, Barbara was a legal assistant by day and a musician by night performing in shows and festivals throughout California. She loved the way the music richened her life and then, about fifteen years ago, she heard about a special organization that fostered guitar playing for underprivileged kids. She was at music festival cruising the stalls when she happened upon a Guitars Not Guns booth. She began to chat with the volunteers about music, playing guitar, and the group’s mission statement.

“Would you like to teach guitar to the kids?” Frank Darling, the President of the Contra Costa County Chapter, at that time, asked.

Barbara didn’t even think twice before agreeing to volunteer, a decision that forever altered the course of her life. She loved teaching the kids and watching their confidence grow with each passing week. Later, she began to take on organizational duties such as putting together “graduation” gift bags for the kids, garnering donations, and public relations work in the community. Within a few years she was the president and director of the Contra Costa County Chapter, a position she holds to this day.

In 2009 she was honored by Diablo Magazine with The Threads of Hope Award for her volunteer work with Guitars not Guns. She says, “It was honor I will always cherish. My Dad evenflew out from Maryland to come to the award ceremony.”

What exactly is Guitars Not Guns? Their mission statement says, “Guitars Not Guns, Inc. provided guitars and lessons to foster kids, at risk youth, and other deserving children in a classroom setting with qualified teachers. No child is turned away for lack of funds.” They loan guitars to students that are used for learning and practice during the eight-week course. Students and guardians must sign a lease contract for the equipment, agreeing to care for it. One of the goals here is to teach the students to care for their possessions. The students are not told this but those who successfully complete the course, are gifted with the guitar at a completion ceremony. There the students perform, and accomplished musicians are brought in to further motivate them to continue playing.

Barbara was already living a life of purpose when she met Jay ten years ago. With their immediate attraction they started to do things together like do live karaoke with a house band. She would play guitar and sing while Jay played guitar with the band. They had different styles; Barbara strumming to the Beatles and Zeppelin while Jay preferred the rocking sounds of Van Halen and Hendrix.

The Night Barb and Jay Met

One morning at Barbara’s they decided to give playing together a try. Although Jay rarely played acoustic, he slowed down and started to teach her the rhythm parts of his originals. Barbara found his pieces both moving and inspiring. As time went on Barbara shared some of her favorite classic rock tunes while Jay played lead.

Barbara says, “I started playing…and I knew magic was made.”

Yes, it was. And we, their fans, all are so thankful.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Surreal Strings: A Poem

Bound by surrealist strings.

She is hoisted up fortress walls.

Of a Dali-esque painting

Struggling against restraints.

Both real and imagined.

Twisting and turning.

Cords dig deeper into flesh.

Mounting her over the battlements.

While melting clocks remind her of the passing of time.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Dreams Do Come True

This book was the most challenging I’ve ever written, but it was a story I had to tell.

When I realized the book was published…

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and the middle grade Forest Secrets Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Burning Solstice: A Poem

With Winter Solstice looming near

And summer a long gone mariner

He finds power in the darkening malcontent

That traps a gaze this autumn

Above an umbrage of blazing ice clouds

Lucifer burns in the frozen star

Grinning as he weaves the death shrouds

For men’s hibernal coffins

Oh for a voyage ever southward

To a kindred hemisphere

Where azurean waves

Reflect the waxing moon

And ice surrounds no heart.

But setting sail is no easy task

In hoary waters

And dimmer skies

Where even the breath

Of mermaids’song

Hangs suspended

Like frozen desires.

For smoldering long

In the soul of man

Lingers the cryogenic star

Waiting for a time

When glaciation reigns

And the Arctic Age returns.

These celestial collisions

Bear fireballs

To illuminate and warm

A mortal sea

Eroding ice floes

That bar the way

For the long journey

Homeward.

(Photo by David Stroup)

The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Bringing Peace to Children

Just like you, recent events have rocked me to the core. As humanity’s ugly underbelly is exposed with mange and open sores that continue to bleed, I’m seeking hope. For me, it lies with children. I have seen first hand that these innocents desire justice and harmony. I believe children have the power to create profound change in our world. If there is ever to be true peace, it must transcend the generations. But first they must dream of the changes they want. Here are ten creative ideas I’ve used with my students. Let’s all begin the change.

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1. Make Peace Cards.

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2. Make an anti-bully poster.

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3. Draw cartoons dealing a bully.

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4. Paint a peace sign on a paper plate.

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5. Create a Love the Earth card.

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6. Make a dream board.

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7. Photograph someone doing a kind act.

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8. Create a dance high-fiving and smiling with your buds.

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9. Film a video of yourself singing a peace song.

Colby Jeffers: Change the World

10. Paint a self-portrait.

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Any more ideas? Share  and we’ll turn 10 to 10,000!

About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

No Going Home: A Poem

I don’t want to go home.

And face the quiet echoes

Of rooms that once vibrated

With shuffling feet

And a coquette’s laughter

I don’t want to go home

To neatly stacked dishes

And pots as cold

As hoarfrost.

I don’t want to go home

And look at the bed we shared

Night after beautiful night.

Nor crawl between sheets

Become funereal shrouds.

I don’t want to go home

So

I sit by the sea.

Until the blinding mist forces me

Through shadow

In retreat.

Photos by David Stroup

About Laurie: The author of Forest Secrets and  the soon to be released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Polaroid: A Novel Excerpt

The crumbling walls

Fall all around

While men draw

Palaces in the dust

It’s been raining all morning. Tried opening White Fang but my eyes kept blurring on the page. Guess I’ve read it too many times. Started looking through some of Mom’s books. She’s got some spooky ones like The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane.

In it there’s a girl around my age who lives all alone. She’s mega-smart, brave as shit, and independent. When her dad was dying he said he never wanted her to lose her spirit so figured out a way for her to have money and a house until she grew up.

That would be so amazing. To live by yourself. No school. No one telling you what to do. No mean kids on the bus.

So, this Saturday I curled up in one corner of my room with my giant panda and read how this girl survived. When the lady with the long cruel fingernails came to take her away the Little Girl made her a special tea. The kind that tasted of almonds. The kind she had to serve with almond cookies to hide the flavor.

I was just getting to the part when a creepy guy asks her if she has a boyfriend when I heard a soft knock on my door.

“What is it, brat?” I asked when I saw Kyle standing there, hair combed all perfect even though it was Saturday.

He put a finger to his lips. “Can I come in?”

I eyed him for a sec to see if he was messing with me before opening the door all the way. Once inside, he beckoned me to the other side of the room. I closed it quietly and approached. Then he just stood there searching my face, his long-lashed blue eyes everyone compliments him on blinking.

I raised my arms, exasperated.  “What? Just tell me!”

He cocked an ear and let the silence fill the room before whispering, “It’s Mom.”

“Huh? Did Ronny–?”

“No, no not this time. He’s off at the Club. Golf buddies.”
            I looked out the window at the steady rain. Ronny would not play in that. I gave Kyle a bewildered shrug.

“She is in the living room, just staring at some picture.”

“Of what?”

“Not what, who.”

“Then who?”

“A lady. With lots of make-up.”

“Another magazine? So.” Mom often got lost in her glamor mags. She’d thumb through them for hours until the astray was overflowing with cigarettes.

“It’s a polaroid. Has an X O written at the bottom.”

Then I knew. It was Ronny. Even when he wasn’t there, he still left marks.

I’d seen the way he was at their parties. Telling stories to ladies about the movie stars he met on the golf course. I thought that was pretty cool until he’d lean in close and whisper something in their ears that either made them blush or their faces go white.

And Mom would glance over and then pretend to check a button her blouse or if her necklace was straight before going to our glass and chrome bar for another Seven and Seven.

“Is she crying?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Just staring.”

Part of me wanted to check on her. Make sure it wasn’t too bad. Be the comforting daughter. But another part, the kid one, told me to stay in my room with my book and big panda.

I am only thirteen! I thought staring at the teddy bear Dad had given me three years before. Then I glanced at my baby brother’s face. And Kyle’s only ten so come on. Be brave. Like the Little Girl.

“You stay here. I’ll check.”

Kyle nodded, his face suddenly looking exactly like it had when he was three and off to preschool for the first time.

In the living room Mom was so deep in the suede club chair she’d become a part of it. I mean if a stranger had walked in at that moment, they might not even have seen her and sat right on her lap. Slumped over, both hands clutching a photo I could tell she’d been holding a long time because the edges were crumpled and her hands white. She didn’t seem to hear me when I approached.

For a moment, I wondered if it was real. “Mom?”

Still stared.

“You okay?”

Not even a blink.

“Mom?”

Without removing her gaze, she said. “She’s not very pretty, is she?”

I glanced at the polaroid. “No.”

“Kind of cheap. Like K-Mart.”

I didn’t know exactly what that meant but agreed anyhow. “Not like you. All my friends say so.”

Now she slowly looked up. “They do?”

“Yeah, they say you’re one of the pretty Moms. You know, the kind all the dads smile at.”

“Hmm.”

“You okay, Mom? You been sitting here a long time.”

“I have?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh.” She returned to the photo.

I didn’t ask where it had come from. Or who it was. I knew. Didn’t want her to have to say the words. Thought about giving her a hug. But we weren’t real big huggers in this family. Searched my brain for something to say.

No words came.

Finally, I just went back to my room where Kyle was waiting with a did-you-find-a-magical-brew-to-fix-it look.

But all my potions were in my mind, so I did what I always do, I lied.

“It was nothing. She’s fine.”

The above excerpt comes from my soon-to-be-released novel, FINDING JOY.

About Laurie: The author of Forest Secrets and  the soon to be released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Gaslit: A Poem

Odorless gas wafting from room to room

A noxious message within a tonic

Of sweet embrace

Tangled limbs

And connected flesh

Eyes droop

Pupils dilate

And fear begins.

The poison takes hold

With malevolous mantras

She chants again and again

Until she is a quivering shade

Of her former self.

About Laurie: The author of Forest Secrets and  the soon to be released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Mismatched Shoes: A Poem

Standing at the offramp

Mumbling incoherencies

He huddles into a hoodie too thin

To block the winter wind.

Head cast down, his gaze

On mismatched shoes

One black and muddied

The other orange with a once white strip

Both torn and worn

As if pulled from a dump heap.

When did his life become mismatched?

Was he born to disfunction and despair?

Did chemicals fill his youthful mind

Starting small then growing in need

Until that rush of liquid in veins

Became heart’s beat.

Perhaps delusions set him

Wandering down paths unknown

Stumbling over cracked and broken concrete

Until his feet were bare.

Maybe he is a victim

Of an abandoning economy

Seeking employment.

Finding none.

Cleaved from the life he once knew.

I am blessed with pair after pair.

Black, red, tan, blue, satin, and sparkling.

While the homeless man

Shuffles to nowhere

In his mismatched shoes.

About Laurie: The author of Forest Secrets and  the soon to be released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net