Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here on Monday and Tuesday. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair.

"ONLY ONE THING IS MORE FRIGHTENING THAN SPEAKING YOUR TRUTH, AND THAT IS NOT SPEAKING IT." Naomi Wolf

"We are called human beings, not human doings."
Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

"The way to do is to be."
Laotzu

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs..(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."
Theodore Roosevelt


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Telling the Truth Tuesday - African Cats

It's been 100 degrees or close to it over the past few days here in Albuquerque. No wonder I'm feeling those lazy, hazy days of summer. And they are still hazy from all the wildfires. None near our home, but much of our beloved, enchanted lands are ablaze.

Saturday hubby had to work, so I took myself to the $1.50 theater and saw African Cats. It had come out on Earth Day this year, but I missed it. It follows two mother cats, one a Cheetah, and one a lioness, who live in Kenya on opposite sides of a river.

I'm in one of those serendipitous places in my life where books, movies, conversations, etc. can help me process whatever it is I am working on. Currently, that is a book on buddhism called "Awakening the Buddha Within." I am learning about the concept of impermanence and how everything in our life is like bubbles on a stream.

Seeing African Cats helped me get that in a visceral and visual way. Life there has so many hazards, seen and unseen. A pride of four male lions trying to overcome the one male lion who guards the lionesses and their cubs. The crocs lurking in the river. Hyenas, birds of prey. You get the idea.

Life is impermanent. So what are we going to do with the moments that we have? Me, I'm going to give my energy and attention to that which feeds my soul: my family and friends, Sugartime, and writing.
How about you?
Blessings,
Karen

Monday, June 27, 2011

Monday Musings: Ebooks, Boomer Magazine and Sugartime

I am so jazzed. I hired the awesome Diane Wolfe http://circleoffriendsbooks.blogspot.com/ to help me format "Following the Whispers," my memoir, so that I could publish it on Smashwords. It was great fun working with Diane and hearing the voice that goes with that beautiful face and spirit. Several days later and voila, the book is available now at http://www.smashwords.com for only $2.99. Soon it will be distributed to other e-book outlets. Now all I have to do is let everyone know.

I will be having a book blog tour to launch "Following the Whispers" as an e-book, beginning on 7/11/11. I hope you'll join me as I visit some of my favorite bloggers. Here is the schedule and topics:

7/11/11 - Spunk on a Stick: Managing Expectations
7/12/11 - Ann Best: Writing and White Hair
7/13/11 - Whole Latte Life: What I Love About Self-Publishing
7/14/11 - Pk Herzo: An interview with moi
7/15/11 - KarenG: to be determined
7/18/11 - Mystery Writing is Murder: Finding Balance While Juggling Life
7/19/11 - Thoughts in Progress: Finding Success as a Writer
7/20/11 - Tossing it Out: Do's and Don'ts When Writing Memoir
7/21/11 - StraightfromHel: Writing Memoir versus Writing Fiction - Is There a Difference?
7/22/11 - Alex J. Cavanaugh: 10 Ways To Maintain Sanity While Writing

In other news, Sugartime is having its 15 minutes of fame. Here is a link to an article which appeared in yesterday's Albuquerque Journal, special section Boomer Magazine. Hope you enjoy it. Sugartime story is on page 5 and continued on page 8. http://epaper.abqjournal.com/Olive/ODE/AJSPECIALS/Default.aspx?href=SP/2011/06/26

What are you musing about today?
Blessings,
Karen

Friday, June 24, 2011

Piano lessons are life lessons

When I was 8 I wanted to learn the piano, but my parents said they couldn't afford one, so they bought me an accordion. I took lessons for one year, but hated it. Now, at 62, I am finally learning to play the piano. It's hard. It's probably a bit easier when you are younger and your brain is more supple and absorbent, but, still, it's not easy.

There is so much going on in the music staff: how many beats to the measure, whether to play soft or loud, whether to crescendo or de-crescendo, whether to play the pedal or not. I'm finding that I don't see all the things that are there, telling me what to do. I can only focus on one or two elements at a time.

Isn't that a lot like life? We don't see everything there is to see, to follow, to listen to, to pay attention to. And life is also hard. In some ways, it gets easier as we get older, because we have more wisdom and experience dealing with the ups and downs. But in other ways it's harder because of the limitations that begin occurring.

My piano lessons are also teaching me patience, which is not one of my strongest virtues (that is the understatement of the century). I can't just look at a piece of music, sight-read it and play. I am having trouble recognizing the notes of the left hand. So I pluck away, one note at a time. Then, each day, I play that piece over and over. At some point, the notes are familiar and the music begins to sound like music.
I'm only up to songs like Alouette and Kumbayah, but hey, I'm playing songs on the piano. And loving the lessons--both for piano and for life.

How about you? What are you learning?
Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Telling the Truth Tuesday - Departures

We had a houseguest over the weekend - my husband's oldest friend - they've known each other since first grade. It's funny, because they couldn't be more different, yet they've stayed close all these years. Well, hubs probably has never seen a foreign film in his life, but J brought one with him called Departures. It is a Japanese film from 2008 and it is exquisite. It is about a young cello player who loses his job when his orchestra folds. He and his wife go back to his hometown to live in the home his mother left him. He applies for a job advertised as helping with departures, thinking it's a travel agency, but it turns out to be assisting with preparing bodies to be placed in coffins.

I won't give anything else away, but it was fascinating to learn about Japanese culture and its attitudes about the body and death. It made me realize that our culture, although we might do similar things, does not treat dying and death with the kind of dignity and respect I would like. Hospice workers are an exception to this. The ones I've worked with are exceptional and do treat the patient with kindness and respect.  But with retirement communities and assisted living facilities and nursing homes, our loved ones live with strangers, for the most part. We were lucky we could bring hubby's mom home to our house during her last month, and it was a sacred time for all of us.

The film has me thinking that each and every moment of each and every day is sacred. And how we speak to and treat one another should be sacred, too. Not just when someone is dying or has died. I don't want to take life or any one in it for granted. Not for one second. Departures taught me that.

Blessings,
Karen

Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday Musings: Support Systems

Just have to tell you guys I got to see Sarah McLachlan Friday nite and if you've never had a chance to hear her in person, run, do not walk. She has such a rich tone to her voice and her range is off the charts. She manages to make it an intimate experience despite singing to thousands. It was awesome. I realized how much I miss going to live music events and will make an effort to do that more. It feeds my soul.

My back had been twinging for a couple of weeks, but then, last week it twanged big time. I couldn't straighten it when I stood up. The spine is all about supporting the body and it got me thinking about support systems and how necessary they are to a healthy life. I think when we're younger, we take our healthy bodies for granted. I know I did. I abused mine with too much food for so many years. And I didn't exercise nearly enough.

Now that I'm 62 and keenly aware of the aging process, I have a deeper respect for the body and wish I could have a do-over. I'd take much better care of it. I have a physical therapist who does a kind of cranial sacral technique and it helped, but it's taking longer than it used to for my back to normalize again. In the meantime, I took the time to get quiet and do some journalling.

One of the strongest support systems in my life these days is this online writing community. All one has to do is mention an issue or a problem or a situation and dozens of responses pop up offering empathy, wisdom, advice, or just an acknowledgement, letting me know I was heard. Do you have any idea how valuable that is?

What are you musing about today?
Blessings,
Karen

Friday, June 17, 2011

I Got Plenty of Nothin'

I could throw something together for a post today, but I'm not going to. It would be a waste of your time and mine. My summer lethargy continues and I think it stems from putting everything else before writing. And why do I do that? Because the writing I am doing now is the hardest thing I've ever done. So, my dear friends, I am taking today off. Be well and have a great weekend. Hope to see you back here for Monday Musings.

Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Telling the Truth Tuesday: Detachment

I have a tendency to empathize so much with other people's stuff that I take it on. That is not empathy - that is co-dependency. I do this with everyone - not just family and close friends. Maybe I need to take the training that future therapists take to teach them how to remain objective while listening to others describe extremely painful situations.  It's called detachment and I have yet to learn how to do it, but I'm working on it.

I think it has something to do with personal boundaries. One of the effects of having been sexually abused as a young child is that boundaries are blurred. There is confusion about your body and your mind and your spirit and what is your responsibility and what isn't. You blame yourself for what happened long after you know it wasn't your fault. You feel responsible for fixing it, but you can't because you are six years old.

As an adult, if you haven't worked through these issues, these same kinds of boundaries can surface. I have worked on them - a lot. Yet sometimes something bubbles to the surface where I take responsibility for something that isn't mine. It starts with empathy - you are in pain over something in your life. I want to help you feel better. I start by listening. Then, before I know it, if I don't remain conscious inside my own skin, I am offering advice, telling you how to deal with it, and trying to take over your process.

Detachment. They used to say in the Al-Anon program, Detach With Love. Listening is where I must start. And stop. Don't offer anything. Unless I'm asked. Just my ears and a part of my heart.

How about you? Are you able to detach when those you love are in pain?
BLessings,
Karen

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday Musings: Lazy, hazy days of summer


You guys asked for it - here I am in all my red-headed glory, getting ready to do a Sugartime gig.  Why does being a red-head show up so many more freckles??







I don't know if it's the smoke and ash and haze from the Wallow Fire in Arizona that has cast it's spell over Albuquerque, or just the fact that it's hot, but I am feeling so darn lazy. I can remember being a kid in Queens, NYC, and playing hopscotch and catch and tag in 90+ degree heat, with humidity.

Now, mustering energy to get into my car to run errands is difficult. There are air quality warnings not to be outside unless you have to. I can only imagine what it is like in Arizona, in close proximity to the fire. We are 200 miles away and it is bad. They say it's like smoking heavily over a short period of time. Our poor lungs.

But summer always meant a time for slowing down after a hard year of school work. So perhaps it is nature's way of telling us to take it easy. Since I am feeling more inner peace and contentment, I am putting down the whips I perpetually wield on myself that I'm not doing enough. Whatever I accomplish in a day is just fine. It is a new space for me--not to give myself a hard time. Thanks to all of you who told me not to over-think the new-found contentment and just enjoy the ride. I am.

What are you musing about today?

By the way, if you don't know, check out these photos of a volcanic eruption in Chile. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1394503/Chile-volcano-causes-ash-cloud-lightning-tears-sky-apart.html

Blessings,
karen

Friday, June 10, 2011

Elizabeth Spann Craig - Guest Post

I want to thank Elizabeth S. Craig http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com/ for choosing Following the Whispers as one of the blogs on her blog tour.  For those of you who don't know her, Elizabeth writes cozy mysteries and her blog is a fabulous resource for seasoned and beginning writers. Elizabeth graciously chose a topic suited to my blog - how to handle the emotional roller-coaster that is the querying process. Here are her thoughts on that.

Staying Encouraged During Querying—by Elizabeth S. Craig

Being a writer isn’t easy.

Publishing is a business that demands a thick skin—but writers are frequently artistic, thoughtful, and sensitive. It takes a lot of courage to submit our work for publication and put ourselves in the position of having our work constructively criticized, or even rejected.  

No matter how prepared we think we are for rejections, they still sting when we receive them.

I’ve got a whole drawer of rejections that I received during my lengthy querying process.  I remember the sinking feeling I got every time I opened the mailbox and saw my own self-addressed, stamped envelope lying in there. 

Fortunately, I was able to convert some of that disappointment into a strengthened resolve, but it wasn’t easy.  Here are some of my thoughts on ways to stay encouraged during the querying process:

Stay busy, creatively, while you receive rejections and wait for agent or editor responses.  I always think that moving on to the next book is the best plan, but it doesn’t have to be a book.  It can be poetry, flash fiction, art, music, dance—as long as it’s creative.  Staying creative made me feel like the process wasn’t beating me down…that I was still an artist, still a creative person. 

Take encouragement from other writers—either the online community or local writers. Other writers can genuinely understand what you’re experiencing and offer support and encouragement.  Friends and family might sympathize…or they might fuss that you’ve put yourself in the position of getting hurt to begin with.  They’re looking out for you, but they may not completely understand why you’d want to continue writing and submitting (and sometimes they might discourage you from continuing the process.)

Be proactive.  Have a Plan B.  Allow yourself to think the worst…because writers are dreamers, and when the dream seems endangered, sometimes we want to retreat. It’s better to enter a querying round (and that’s what I’d think of it as…round 1. Not the only round) by saying, “I’m giving this my best shot.  If these agents don’t want it, I’ll try Agent X, Agent Y, and Agent Z.  I’ll also submit directly to Publisher A, who said they were open to unsolicited manuscripts. And while I wait, I’ll work on Project 2.”  

Remember that, no matter how personal it feelsyou’re not the one being rejected.  Your manuscript is.  And when agents or editors say “Although this manuscript isn’t for me, not everyone may feel that way…” they do mean it.  Maybe that agent no longer wants to represent that particular subgenre and wants to branch out into other areas.  Maybe they feel the market isn’t looking for books like yours right now (trends change.)  There could well be another agent who is looking for the type of book you wrote and has a connection with a publisher who is acquiring those kinds of books. 

Try to keep some distance from your writing.  The book isn’t you—it’s something you’ve created.  It’s only natural to want people to enjoy our writing, but it’s good to remember that the writing is our creation, not an extension of ourselves. 

How do you stay encouraged during the querying process?

Bio:  Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink. She blogs daily at Mystery Writing is Murder, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010 and 2011.

Twitter: @elizabethscraig



And don't forget to check out Elizabeth's new release: Finger Lickin' Dead.


Murder hits close again to Lulu's barbeque restaurant after a food critic is found dead. When her granddaughters discover the body, and friends are suspected of the crime, Lulu once again investigates to clear the names of the people she loves. http://tinyurl.com/2votpjh (Amazon) and http://tinyurl.com/42beqol (Barnes and Noble.)  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A review of Karen Jones Gowen's memoir, Farm Girl

I just finished reading Karen Jones Gowen's memoir, Farm Girl. I love history. I especially love getting a  glimpse of a specific time in history that makes me feel as if I'm right there. That is what I felt reading Karen's account of her mother's life on a 1920s Nebraska farm.

Karen's book is a slight departure from traditional memoir in that it is not a memoir of Karen's life, but that of her mother, Lucille Marker Jones. As Karen explains in her introduction, there were good reasons for this, as she wanted her mother's "voice" to come through, not her own. She succeeded brilliantly.

What struck me most was the authenticity which came through as a result of the family photos sprinkled liberally throughout the book, as well as in the exquisite, lyrical detail in the narrative.

Karen couldn't have bestowed a finer blessing on her mother than honoring her in this way by shining a light on this particular time and this particular place and on this particular young "farm girl." And for me, New York City born and bred, it was eye-opening and profound.

Please check out Karen's blog: http://karenjonesgowen.blogspot.com/, if you haven't already done so, where you can purchase Farm Girl, as well as Karen's other book, Uncut Diamonds.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A review of the memoir, In the Mirror, by Ann Best

A review of the memoir, In the Mirror, by Ann Best
Ann Best knows how to tell a story. And tell it well. Memoir is not for the faint of heart. Especially memoir dealing with being a Mormon and having a homosexual spouse. There were so many times Ann could have gone astray with this story because there are so many facets to it. But she didn’t. She held true to the idea of memoir, which is to follow one thread of your life and don’t try to deal with all of your life. Ann did that brilliantly.
She follows the thread of first meeting and falling in love with her husband, Larry, through the first years of their marriage and having children, to the discovery of his affairs with men. The memoir covers hers and Larry’s attempts to save their marriage until it finally disintegrates and Ann is faced with being the single parent of four children.
If that wasn’t enough to deal with, two of Ann’s children are involved in an automobile crash that severely injures one daughter and permanently disables the other. Memoir is meant to teach us about life. By reading another’s story, we are able to empathize with and perhaps learn from their circumstances and choices.
In the Mirror allows us to do both--empathize and learn; not an easy task for the memoirist. But Ann Best is a brilliant writer and she captured my heart with her soul-wrenching story.


You can find Ann blogging at:  http://annbest-jen.blogspot.com/ to find out how to purchase her memoir. You won't be sorry.


P.S. Please don't forget to stop by on Friday, 6/10 for a guest post by Elizabeth Spann Craig. She's going to talk about staying encouraged during the querying process.


Blessings,
Karen

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Telling the Truth Tuesday - Dare I say it? I feel content

I'm a happy camper. My weight is back where I want it to be. I am loving my red hair. I am exercising regularly. My singing trio, Sugartime, is doing so well. We're performing 3-4 times a month and working up our Fall program. It is such a blast to choreograph some of my favorite songs. The writing is happening. My hubs is doing well. I don't have any truth to tell today except that it feels so good to feel good.
How about you? How are you feeling today?
Blessings,
Karen

Monday, June 6, 2011

Monday Musings: Guest Blogger coming and Monday Musings

Stay tuned, my wonderful followers. We have a special guest coming here on Friday, 6/12. Elizabeth Spann Craig http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com/ is one of the first writers I met online and I am so glad I did. Not only does Elizabeth write exceptionally wonderful cozy mysteries, but she is a gift to the writing community. Her blog has been voted 100 best blogs for writers by Writer's Digest for two years in a row, and it is a well-deserved honor.
Elizabeth always has sage advice for us. I especially love when she ties writing to things that are happening in her own life as lessons for us.

Elizabeth will write here on Friday as part of her blog tour promoting her new book, Finger Lickin' Dead.  Her post will help us with staying motivated through rejections. I can't wait and I know you won't be sorry if you come back and meet Elizabeth.

In the meantime, my Monday musings....

Thursday night Sugartime "auditioned" (I have never auditioned for anything in my life) to be part of a community theater production of  "Radio Days." After two short 15-minute pieces, Sugartime will sing three songs from that era. Then the production finishes with a 30-minute piece. We were referred to the theater company by one of the activity directors of a retirement community where we sing on a regular basis. The nice thing about it is we will get to have the experience of singing on a live theater stage, which fulfills my childhood fantasy of wanting to sing in Broadway musicals. Of course, this isn't Broadway, but we can still fantasize, can't we???

What are you all musing about today?

Blessings,
Karen

Friday, June 3, 2011

Getting back to business

Now that the holidays are over, the hair crisis has simmered down, there are no major events scheduled until August, I am getting back to the business of writing. I found out on Tuesday that I won't be having my knee replaced any time soon. Whew! I sure was dreading that. Although I have osteoarthritis and very little cartilage left, the hydroaulinic acid injections worked and I am not in pain. The surgeon said I should increase my daily exercise and even try to add folkdance back into my life and see what my knee can handle.

With no surgery on the horizon, I am hoping I can shift my energy and attention back to this voice which came to me in Ireland and asked me to tell its story. I've got 12,000+ plus words so far; the story is emerging, albeit slowly. Why is it so difficult to allow myself to get into a meditative state in order to write. What am I afraid of? It feels so wonderful when I do it, it just doesn't make sense that I'd resist, but I do. Any thoughts?

The lazy, hazy days of summer are a perfect opportunity to hunker down and get this story flowing on a regular basis.

How about you? What are you plans for the summer?
Karen

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