Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Original Zona Rosan

There are many forms of courage, and I, who am the proverbial "chicken" when it comes to honesty in some of my writing, appreciate the courage it takes to be as open as Rosemary Daniell, the original Zona Rosan.

This weekend, I had the privilege of spending some time with her. Friday evening, she spoke at a booksigning at Nightbird Books, for Secrets of the Zona Rosa.

On Saturday, her workshop full of of thought-provoking "exorcises" and discussions helped us to "dig deep" and find inspiration, even courage to achieve our goals.

Here are a few examples of her "exorcises:"

1) Write a three sentence autobiography.
2) I never saw it coming . . .
3) Back when I was still me . . .

For some people, goals may be achieved through writing or journaling, which Rosemary strongly encourages on a daily basis -- she calls it "excavation." For many of us, the goal is writing, and over fifty Zona Rosans are published authors.

Almost three decades ago, Rosemary Daniell began meeting monthly with four other women, in her home in Savannah, Georgia. They talked about life and writing, and it was the serendipitous birth of Zona Rosa. Today, Zona Rosa has benefitted thousands of women (and some men!) around the world.

Sub Rosa groups--peer groups based on the foundation of Zona Rosa--have formed all over the United States. The local Sub Rosa group, of which I am a member, recently celebrated its third anniversary. We are a group of women (and now, our first man!) who gather monthly in a nurturing environment, to share our lives, our writing, even our favorite foods.

Rosemary Daniell is someone who has overcome many of life's greatest challenges--even tragedies. I admire her courage to write openly about them, and perhaps one day, I'll have that kind of courage. By sharing her life and writing experiences, she inspires thousands to write and live as openly and honestly as she.

If you are interested in joining the Fayetteville Sub Rosa group, let me know and I'll add you to our Zona Rosa email list.

Some of Rosemary's books:

Fatal Flowers

Woman Who Spilled Words All Over Herself

Secrets of the Zona Rosa


Monday, August 23, 2010

The Magic of Serendipity

You never know when something magical will happen. I learned last week, sometimes magical events are preceded by events that seem less than magical.

Our flight was delayed - again. The first domestic flight upon arriving back in the states from Brazil--Miami to Memphis--would be delayed because of a maintenance issue. The pilot announced the flight was being held up waiting for maintenance to sign off that a toilet was working. Anxious to get home, I huffed, but then, who wants to begin a 2 1/2 hour packed flight with a toilet that doesn't work?

So, sitting on the hot airplane for the first 45 minutes, I was patient--relatively speaking. But as we approached the outer limits of what our layover time in Memphis would be, I began to grit my teeth. I did NOT want to miss our flight in Memphis, which would cause us to miss the pick up time for our dogs at the kennel in Fayetteville. (I call it the domino effect, and it seems more and more when we fly, it happens.)

When we finally took off from Miami, the flight attendant assured the tense, packed-like-sardine passengers that everyone should be able to make their connections. "Memphis is a small airport," she said.

I closed my eyes. Let it go. BREATHE. Even if you're late, there's nothing you can do about it now.

We arrived in Memphis with 35 minutes to make our connection. Should be easy in a small airport, right? Wrong. Our plane landed on one end of Terminal A. Our connecting flight was at the other end of Terminal B. Ready, oh, so ready to get home after being at airports and on airplanes for almost 30 hours, we ran to catch our connecting flight, with one very quick stop to the ladies' room.

Three gates away and less than ten minutes before our connecting flight was scheduled to take off, I impatiently waited behind someone on the escalator "down," hardly able to pass him. I imagined the gate attendants closing the gate after the dreaded final call--the gate that would lead to the aircraft that would finally carry us home.

Someone called "Janice!"

Janice? That's an unusual enough name that I had to look around to see who called it.
There, to my right was my best friend from fifth grade--Susan--my dear friend for over four decades, calling me from a gate on the floor I was descending. Though I hadn't seen her for over ten years, I recognized her immediately. My mouth dropped and I screamed.

Still descending the escalator, I looked toward my gate and threw my hands up. "I'm going to miss my plane," I cried, torn between rushing toward her to say "hi" or catching my ride home after twelve days in a foreign country. "Oh, what the heck," I said, as I watched Stephen continue on to the gate. "I have to give you a hug!"

I skipped down the remaining steps of the escalator, then rushed up the stairway to give her a hug, dazed by the unbelievable surprise of running into her at the airport.

We barely had time to talk about where we'd been and where we were going. I grabbed my cell phone and said, "We have to take a picture." I snapped it, and we laughed about how awful we thought we each looked. But, I'm posting it anyway. :-)

For two minutes we hugged each other. I thought about how for years we'd talked about having a reunion get together, but family, jobs, whatever, got in the way. I looked at her and said, "This definitely means we need to get together again."

Five minutes later, I was on the airplane, still shaking my head in disbelief. I thought about everything that had led up to running into Susan, most of which were things I'd been irritated about before.

If our flight from Miami to Memphis hadn't been delayed . . . if I hadn't had to make a quick stop at the ladies' room . . . if we hadn't had to run for our gate . . . if I hadn't stopped to catch my breath for a few seconds . . .if I'd been able to pass that man on the escalator instead of having to wait behind him . . . if any of those things had been different, Susan wouldn't have seen me and called after me, and I wouldn't have heard her. And we wouldn't have had our brief, wonderful mini-reunion that I know, will lead to a longer one.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sacred Dissonance

Sao Bento Church and Monastery
The churches in Rio de Janeiro (as in other cities I've visited) are breathtakingly beautiful. But awe-inspiring as they are, they caused a dissonance as I sat and admired the gold trim, imported marble and hardwoods, sculptured statues, stained glass, and oil paintings.

The style and art of a church often depends on the level of prosperity in society at the time the church was being designed and built, as well as the relationship of the church to royalty at the time. Most of the churches we visited in Rio were built in the 17th and 18th centuries, a period of Portuguese royal rule.

Church of N.S. da Candelaria

But as I admired the splendor all around me, even felt calm and peaceful within the walls of the sanctuary, I also couldn't help but wonder: if a major role of the church is charity, how can such opulence be accepted?

All I know is, I didn't feel the presence of God any more so in the ornate churches than I do outside, surrounded by nature.

Trees outside Sao Bento Monastery

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Synopsis of Broken Dolls

It hit me on the drive in to work today. What have I done? In the synopsis I originally presented in this blog, I told the ending to the book! My apologies to those of you who already read the original synopsis. Nothing worse than knowing how a story ends!

NOTE: The synopsis I originally posted here was written for agents and editors -- they do want and need to know the ending of the book.

So, now I have amended it, removing the thrill-packed conclusion. Guess you'll just have to stand in line with a throng of fans to find out! :-)

It is 1941, and racial tensions are rising toward Japanese-Americans in the California community where nine-year old SACHIKO KIMURA lives. She is torn between the Japanese culture her mother compels her to learn, and wanting to be “American” like the rest of her friends. When Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, the tensions erupt, and Sachi is even more confused over her identity as a Japanese-American.

One afternoon, two days before Christmas, Sachi is at the park with her papa, MICHIO KIMURA. While playing on the slide, she witnesses three teenage boys taunting and beating her father. She especially remembers the colored boy with hazel eyes, TERRENCE HARRIS. Sachi’s older brother, NOBU KIMURA, comes upon the park scene in time to catch his three friends in the act. They run, and Nobu cries out to them. How could they beat up his father? The Kimura's are informed of Papa's death the day after Christmas.

On the morning of the beating, Terrence’s family had received a telegram that his father was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor. In a blind fury, he leaves his mourning mother’s side, searching for something to make him forget his pain. He comes across two high school friends who convince him the only thing that will help is to “get a Jap.” When they find the Japanese man in the park, they do not know it is Mr. Kimura, father of their friend, Nobu. The three assailants are arrested later that night.

The attorney assigned to Terrence’s case, EDWARD BLAKE, has sympathy for Terrence’s story, having lost his own father at the hands of the Germans in World War I. Terrence is convicted of manslaughter and spends two years in jail. Blake becomes his mentor and helps to pay his way through college.

In April 1942, the Kimura’s are sent to Santa Anita Assembly Center—a converted horse race track. There, Sachi experiences her mother’s first outward discrimination, when she forbids Sachi to be friends with a boy of lower social class. But Sachi believes that attitude makes her mother as wrong as those who put them in the camp, and disregards her mother’s authority.

Several months later, Sachi and her family are transferred by train to the War Relocation Center in Rohwer, Arkansas, where Sachi develops a friendship with JUBIE LEE FRANKLIN, a local colored girl. But, as Sachi learns acceptance and forgiveness, Nobu and Mama become more embittered by events of racism toward Japanese-Americans.

In March, 1943, Nobu’s resentment over the United States’ treatment of its Japanese-American citizens leads him to become a “No No Boy,” when he answers “no” to the two questions on the loyalty questionnaire given to internees: Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty wherever ordered? And, Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attacks by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or other foreign government, power or organization? He is categorized as “disloyal,” and like thousands of others, is sent away to Tule Lake, a maximum-security camp. Sachi and Mama remain at Rohwer.

Terrence is released from prison in January, 1944, and shortly after, passes his entrance exam into the University of California. With the prompting and encouragement of Mr. Blake, Terrence has become interested in civil rights, and pursues a law degree.

The World War II years, internment and an unexpected event affect Sachi and Nobu differently, and their lives take separate directions when the war ends.

Will Nobu be able to forgive the way Japanese Americans were treated?
Will Sachi's and Nobu's close relationship remain unchanged?
What is the surprise event?

Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Fine Line

My mother always told me I'd always be her baby, no matter how old I am. As a teenager, I used to roll my eyes and figured it was just her excuse for being an overprotective mom. I never really understood what she meant, until I had grown children of my own.

Now, I am forever balancing on that very fine line of what it means to be a mom to adult children. On one side of that wobbly tightrope is my daughter and son, still children in my eyes, and still needing their mom to take care of them. On the other side, are my adult daughter and son, independently finding their way as responsible adults. I walk that line, always unbalanced, and often falling to the wrong side.

Where is the proper mix of being there when I'm needed, yet letting them find their own way? It's a question for which I may never find the answer.

Over the last couple of days, I've tiptoed gingerly over that tightrope, while I've helped my daughter move from Philadelphia to Boston. But the details of this wonderful journey, I'll save for another blog entry!

I still remember the morning we brought Andrea home from the hospital. I carried her into the new yellow gingham nursery her dad and I had prepared, and laid her on her changing table to change her first diaper at home.

I watched her excitedly kick her tiny legs as she looked around at all the bright colors in the room. At that moment, a thought overwhelmed me: Taking care of my child, it's FOREVER. It won't stop when she's eighteen and leaves home. It's FOREVER.

It's true, and I felt the very same feeling when we brought Adam home, though at least then, it was not such a surprise.

I may always search for just the right parenting equilibrium, but I guess I can at least give myself some credit for being so insightful as a young mom!