To most of us this simple word means much more than just the muscle that keeps us alive. It defines our ability to feel, to love, to care, to suffer deeply, to evolve, to fight on… it is the source of all our power, our greatest strength and our greatest weakness. To me the word […]
Here is a young man who bucks criticism to create what comes from within and true to his unique vision. 12-year old Callum Donovan Grujicich is much like the heroes of Artania, born to create mystical creature. Keep being true, Callum. Your art is magical.
Giving. A simple word. But one often met with suspicion. People say, “Why help him, what’s he ever done for you?” or “Take care of yourself first.” I disagree. When you give, it not only feels wonderful but it says to others, I care. About you. My community. My nation. This amazing universe we were born into. And if you keep doing it with an open heart, it comes back tenfold.
I have experienced reciprocity from so many people over the years, I feel blessed to be Homo sapiens. But this week, something happened that brought me to tears.
Now I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember and started my first novel, oh about fifteen years ago. Like many newbies, I was sure I’d get a six-figure contract after the first draft. Well, that didn’t happen. So I revised. Took courses. Joined critique groups. Attended conferences and workshops. Wrote more novels. Self-published.
And although I had no contract, I never forgot that we are all in this together. We are here to help each other become the best we can be. So as I advised other writers about their work, they did the same for me.
One day a friend of mine contacted me about his manuscript. He’d written a few drafts but still wasn’t completely satisfied. So I offered to read it over for him and give him notes, which he, in turn used before publishing. His thanks warmed my heart. Fast forward a couple of years and he sends me an email saying he’d like to tell his publisher about me and my novels. Am I interested.
Umm. Yes! I’d had so many rejections and almosts by then I was ready to put all my savings into self-publishing.
So he did. And yesterday the publisher offered me a three book contract.
Give and watch the magic of exponential returns…
I love writing. It takes me to places beyond. Centering and providing catharsis.
At the same time, I’m like anyone, and want recognition. Others to say, I see with your eyes and it’s beautiful. So for years I’ve sent out poems, stories, manuscripts, queries, synopsis hoping to land a book deal.
And got more rejections than I can count. Until I started to doubt whether anyone would like my work.
What did I do? Stop writing? Hell no. Instead I submitted to anthologies and smaller presses. Got a few things published too. Waited. Queried some more. Then I went the indie route with Artania and Forest Secrets. Even hit Amazon top twenty.
But I wanted more so I kept querying. Until today. It happened. A publisher offered me a contract. They said, “We’ve already reviewed your MS and would be happy to offer you a publishing contract with Creativia. There’s definite market potential with your writing, and the team believes your book has a bright future in the marketplace.”
I love writing!
We the people…
Like open arms ready to
Envelop all citizens.
Of the United States
United, united, united?
In order to form a perfect union.
A union. Not dissolution of the different.
Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility.
Provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare,
Caring for others. Because they are human.
and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
Security from the Founding Fathers. Who knew just what a blessing liberty is.
Do ordain this Constitution.
Thank you to the fifty-five delegates of 1787 who spent 116 days in a hot, stuffy hall writing draft after draft. We the people…your posterity.. use them to guide us in times of light and dark .
We the people…
I know. I know, this blog is supposed to be about peace and writing. But when you have a break-up, it’s hard to think about caring for the world. The world gets smaller until it’s just you and the guy.
And the words.
And the hurt.
And the regrets.
In the end, what hurts the most? Last night he said, “I’m not into the red carpet life.”
Writing is one big red carpet? Where has he been these last two years?
I only saw the tan carpet under the couch I’ve sat on, computer in my lap. My classroom’s rug is speckled grey and turquoise. The book store where I signed copies of Forest Secrets had industrial brown.
No red anywhere.
Except maybe down my throat with the lump I’ve had since last night. You know what really hurts is that after two years, he still doesn’t understand. Doesn’t get that writing is how I make meaning in my life, and publishing is a way to share myself with the world. I’m looking to see if a little part of me moves a little part of others. It’s my way of saying, Here I am. I see you. Do you see me?
In the end, he just didn’t.
Are you shocked by the daily hatred spewed against the thems? Do the divisions in our country sadden and frighten you ? Like me, are you a dreamer who is wondering what has happened to people’s hearts?
Then why don’t we examine what it means to be different. Or the same. I differ from you, how? Let’s see. It could be my political party, what region of the country I live in, the church I go to, the shade of my skin or hair, who I want to marry. Those are the sorts of things that seem to be dividing our nation big time.
But I think they’re pretty friggin’ arbitrary. To begin with, my family is made up of many political parties; Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and even a Libertarian or two. I love each of them no matter how they vote behind the curtain. And I’ve found I don’t even agree with everything people in my own party say and do. There are some things they propose or some personal actions that give me pause. Second, I live on the Central Coast of California but does that mean I’d say to my Washington friends, “Mt. Ranier? No way. It’s Whitney or no mountain at all.” Or to Texans, “Can’t hang with you. Your state is shaped like a weird pancake.”
Of course not, it’s silly!
How about the church, synagogue, mosque, or the open field people choose to pray in? If I see them walking into those doors, or, if they choose, skipping the trip, I don’t say I’ll never walk with them again. Their spirituality is between them and their God. Same goes for shades of skin and hair. Mine change with how much time I’m in the sun and how many trips I make to the hair dresser. But I sure as Hell don’t trade my friends from season to season depending on whose skin shade more closely matches mine. Now it’s winter and I’m pale, I think Myrtle and I match but OMG when summer comes I’m only going to do drinks with tan Zelda.
Or who I want to marry? I married a man, (GASP!) but was still in school. Had to take classes after the wedding and finish my degree. But I haven’t noticed anyone shunning me for School Marriage.
The ways we are different are as myriad as life itself; birthday and time, address, social security number, how many hangnails on our left hands, height, weight, job, education, how much money is in our bank accounts, family make-up, favorite food, house color, car make, piercings, pets, music tastes of who rocks and who sucks, creative outlets…And it goes on and on.
But look at how we are the same. Every human being needs love. In fact without love, life itself cannot exist. Studies have found time and again that babies will fail to grow and thrive or even die without those kind words of assurance and gentle touch. We all need sustenance, shelter, and family. We all can become ill, injured, or healthier. We all have faces longing to be seen. We all seek a sense of worth.
We all have an immense capacity for love. Let’s honor that part of us that is the same, and maybe the petty differences will begin to fade away.
Fighting? Bullying? Gossip? When I started to see lots of problems on the playground I decided it was time to try something new. But I didn’t want kids to feel like I was just adding another rule. I decided to empower kids with a program that they could manage, organize, and man.
We called them Dolphin Mediators.
What are they? Dolphin Mediators are a group of student volunteers who help to keep our school calm. After I train the kids in assertive language, they memorize my script and roll-play situations. Once they seem comfortable with everything from stopping a bully to helping little ones take turns, they are approved to be recess monitors. Then they walk the playground, clipboard in hand, helping our school keep the peace.
If you’d like to give it a try at your school the lesson goes as follows:
Objective: Students will learn positive communication techniques to help other children resolve conflicts peacefully on the playground.
Materials: Clipboards, reward tickets, pens, Dolphin Mediator Script.
Background: Dolphin Mediators are a group of students who have volunteered to act as a go-between for other kids who might be having a conflict. With a faculty advisor, they use a prepared script to help others learn to take turns, communicate with “I feel” messages, and come up with win-win situations. At recesses, they offer advice, guidance, and rewards to those who resolve conflicts peacefully.
1) Ask for volunteers for friend mediators. Tell the students that they must be approved by a teacher to be accepted.
2) Once there are volunteers invite students to attend training.
3) At the training review the three different types of communicating
a) Passive = Giving in to another. (lose, win)
b) Aggressive = Attacking another. (lose, lose)
c) Assertive = Be firm with the desired outcome. (win, win)
4) Next, tell them that the goal is always to help others engage in win-win.
5) Also, advise them that this program is only for mild disagreements. It is not their job to be involved in situations where they could be hurt, such as breaking up fist fights. Leave those to adults.
6) Rehearse the following script with the volunteers:
DOLPHIN MEDIATOR SCRIPT
AMBASSADOR 1: Hi my name is__________
AMBASSADOR 2: And my name is________
ALL TOGETHER: And we are Dolphin Mediators.
AMBASSADOR 1: We are here to help you solve this issue. But before we start there are few guidelines.
AMBASSADOR 2: Yes. First is that the only person who can speak is the person holding the clipboard. (Holds up clipboard.)
AMBASSADOR 1: Each one of you will have a turn to share your problem, then we’ll try to help you so both of you feel better.
AMBASSADOR 2: But remember that our goal is always to have a win-win situation.
AMBASSADOR 1: Now tell me what happened.(Passes clipboard to one child. When the first child is done takes clipboard back.) Now it is your turn. (Repeats with clipboard pass.)
AMBASSADOR 2: Now let’s try to find some win-win solutions where you both feel happy.(Asks each child to come up with a solution that makes both happy.
AFTER THE SOLUTION IS FOUND
AMBASSADOR 1: Congratulations you just took a dolphin detour.
AMBASSADOR 2: And here is your ticket. (Fills in names and gives them ticket explaining it will be used for rewards later.)
7) Send children out to the playground.
I’d love to hear how things go. Let me know what happened at your school with Dolphin Mediators.
I gulped. Me? What if I sound stupid? Hell, I will. I’ll say something that’ll make Jim Carey in Dumb and Dumber look like Einstein, I thought when the president of my writer’s club, Cathy Kitchco, sent an email asking if she could interview me for her weekly radio show. I pressed reply and began to type, NO WAY! But then a quiet voice whispered in my shy skull…
Stop. Writer’s need to do interviews. You’ve done them before and didn’t die. Actually were good. Be brave.
My hand hovered over the keyboard. Forcing my shaking fingers to type what my flip-flopping gut fought I told Cathy that I’d be honored to do an interview over the phone.
Then came the big day. That morning I must have cleared out every frog that ever dared to hide in my vocal cords. Ahem. Ahem. AHEM. Then, with notes splayed all over my kitchen table, I waited for the phone to ring.
Was I shaking and nervous? Hello? Does a skunk’s spray stink? You bet I was. But a funny thing happened as I started to talk about writing. I forgot I was being interviewed and started to focus on the joy writing brings me.
And guess what? I sounded nothing like Jim Carey.
Here it is, what do you think?
Happy Father’s Day to all the men who father in creative ways. To my mentors, Dave Burnight, Bill Denneen, Charles Varni, Jay Chapel, Quinn Plante, and Richard Welch, thank you for giving me fatherly guidance when my path was confused. To my own father, thank you for your healing generosity. To my brother, Brian, I am so proud of how you love and nurture your girls. To my cousins, Linda’s children, you inspire me to be a better mother. To all who love and guide, bless you!