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Archive for the ‘Memoir’ Category

I was a prisoner in North Vietnam for almost six years. I am very familiar with the treatment of POWs in North Vietnam during those six long years. Today most people think that the North Vietnamese tortured me 24/7 for six years. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I describe my treatment as a nightmare for the first two months, a country club for the last three years, and like law school the two and a half years in between, your basic miserable existence.

Jane Fonda visited us during the summer of 1972.  She told the world, “The American POWs are being treated well.” I listened very carefully to what she said. At the time the North Vietnamese treated us better than the Geneva Convention required. We got outside five to six hours a day, we received three meals a day including sweet toast or sweet milk for breakfast, we received water buffalo meat once a week with gravy, we wrote home every month, and we received packages from home every other month.

The POWs called Jane Fonda a liar. Go figure!!

I have tried to tell the whole truth about the treatment of POWs in my book, Unexpected Prisoner. When we first came home, our government and the senior American POWs told the world and the American people that never in the history of warfare have POWs been treated so badly. That was just wrong.

Many senior American military and political leaders knew that the Vietnam War was a loser but said nothing, because they did not want to jeopardize their careers. Instead they preferred to have American boys die on the battlefield. Those same senior military and political leaders ridiculed and demeaned those brave and courageous Americans who opposed the Vietnam War including Jane Fonda.

Thank the Lord for Jane Fonda and those courageous Americans who opposed the Vietnam War. But for them, we would still be in Vietnam.

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Title: UNEXPECTED PRISONER: Memoir of a Vietnam Prisoner of War

Genre: Memoir

Author: Robert Wideman

Website: www.robertwideman.com

Publisher: Graham Publishing Group

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About the Book:

When Unexpected Prisoner opens, it’s May 6, 1967 and 23-year-old Lieutenant Robert Wideman is flying a Navy A-4 Skyhawk over Vietnam.  At 23, Wideman had already served three and a half years in the Navy—and was only 27 combat days away from heading home to America. But on that cloudless day in May, on a routine bombing run, Wideman’s plane crashed and he fell into enemy hands. Captured and held for six years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam, Wideman endured the kind of pain that makes people question humanity.  Physical torture, however, was not the biggest challenge he was forced to withstand.  In his candid memoir, Unexpected Prisoner, Wideman details the raw, unvarnished tale of how he came to understand the truth behind Jean-Paul Sartre’s words: “Hell is other people.”

A gripping, first-person account that chronicles the six-year period Wideman spent in captivity as a POW, Unexpected Prisoner plunges readers deep into the heart of one of the most protracted, deadliest conflicts in American history:  the Vietnam War. Wideman, along with acclaimed memoirist Cara Lopez Lee, has crafted a story that is exquisitely engaging, richly detailed, and wholly captivating. Unexpectedly candid and vibrantly vivid, this moving memoir chronicles a POW’s struggle with enemies and comrades, Vietnamese interrogators and American commanders, lost dreams, and ultimately, himself.

With its eye-opening look at a soldier’s life before, during and after captivity, Unexpected Prisoner presents a uniquely human perspective on war and on conflicts both external and internal. An exceptional story exceptionally well-told, Unexpected Prisoner is a powerful, poignant, often provocative tale about struggle, survival, hope, and redemption.

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About the Author:

Robert Wideman was born in Montreal, grew up in East Aurora, New York, and has dual U.S./Canadian citizenship. During the Vietnam War, he flew 134 missions for the U.S. Navy and spent six years as a prisoner of war. Wideman earned a master’s degree in finance from the Naval Postgraduate School. After retiring from the Navy, he graduated from the University of Florida College of Law, practiced law in Florida and Mississippi, and became a flight instructor. Robert Wideman holds a commercial pilot’s license with an instrument rating, belongs to Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado, and lives in Ft. Collins near his two sons and six grandchildren.

Connect with the author on the web: Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn

 

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memoriesMad Men. Don Spector didn’t just watch them on television. He was one of them.
Starting in a Madison Avenue ad agency in the ‘60’s, he actually lived the life captured in the TV show. In “Memories of a Mad Man” he shares with us an unforgettable era filled with humor, brilliance, wonderful heroes and big, bad villains.

The funny and fascinating stories he tells uncover the reality of the ad world behind the show.
• What was it like dealing with celebrities of the era?
• How did the advent of computers spoil one of the greatest boondoggles that Mad Men—and Mad Women—enjoyed?
• The Three Martini Lunch. True or false?
• What’s the real truth about truth in advertising?
The book answers these and many more intriguing questions in this unique look into a unique profession.

 

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 Excerpt from Memories of a Mad Man

 

I don’t know if it was like that before I entered advertising but by the time I did, the days of the fabled three-martini lunch were beginning to fade. And that was just as well because, frankly, I wasn’t very good at handling my liquor. Even one glass of wine at lunch made me sleepy and, besides being unable to write much, I didn’t relish the idea of someone coming into my office at three in the afternoon to see me snoozing at my desk. But I did occasionally make an exception. And once when I did, I learned a valuable lesson.
I went to lunch in a Madison Avenue restaurant with an agency producer I did a lot of work with. I don’t remember what the occasion was but Ed suggested we have a drink and I agreed. I ordered a Bloody Mary while Ed ordered a scotch and soda. I was surprised.
“Ed,” I exclaimed. “When we get back to the office they’ll smell that booze on your breath. That’s why I’m having a vodka drink.”
“Yes,” Ed said, “but you know that we’re not going to stop at just one drink. And when we get back to the office, at least they’ll know I’m drunk. They’ll just think you’re stupid.”
I thought about his wisdom for a moment and called the waiter over. “Make that a scotch and soda.”
And from that day on when I did have a drink at lunch I made sure it wasn’t vodka. I’d rather be thought of as drunk, not stupid.

 

 

ABOUT AUTHOR DON SPECTOR

Starting as a junior copywriter in a Madison Avenue ad agency in the ‘60s, Don Spector qualifies as a genuine Mad Man. Creating advertising for the agency’s high-profile accounts like Smirnoff Vodka and Tareyton cigarettes, he began his ascent up the creative ladder in several New York agencies. His commercials and print ads for advertisers like Xerox, the Yellow Pages and Jaguar ultimately led to an offer of a key position in Los Angeles-based BBDO/West where he was soon named Creative Director.  After moving to a similar position at Foote Cone Belding/Los Angeles, he eventually started his own agency where he served until his retirement.  The advertising he created for dozens of companies like ARCO, Absolut Vodka, Bristol-Myers and S.C. Johnson won numerous awards. But, more importantly, it generated millions of dollars in sales for them.

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Steve Caputi caputi_author_pix300is best known for his involvement in the creation, building and management of successful nightclub and hospitality businesses. Decades of experience in the industry and the good fortune to work with a succession of the best performers in the world gave him a broad base of skills… skills that were instrumental in his entrepreneurial quest and subsequent sparkling career.

As an Ivy-league student-athlete, he graduated from the renowned Cornell University School of Hotel Administration in 1979. Rostered as the ‘smallest player in NCAA Division 1 football’, he lettered under George Seifert, world-champion coach of the San Francisco 49’ers and played centerfielder on Cornell’s EIBL championship team of 1977, led by hall of fame coach Ted Thoren. Steve set several all-time team and NCAA records, one of which still stands 37 years later.

His career experience was equally as fortunate as he was trained by the best club management experts in the business while managing the Texas billionaires’ favorite watering hole – the ultra-private, magnificent Houston Club. In the early 1990’s, Steve was President of Michael J. Peter’s gentlemen’s club empire, featuring the world-famous Solid Gold, Thee Doll House, and Pure Platinum. It was during that era that adult clubs became legitimized. After redesigning and opening Club Paradise in Las Vegas, Steve became a partner in South Florida’s most successful long-term nightclub chain ever, Café Iguana. Over the decades, businesses under his direct control amassed nearly a billion dollars in revenue.

Steve was blessed with everything a man could want until he got tangled up in Scott Rothstein’s Ponzi scheme in 2009, at which time everything was lost… including his freedom. So began his most recent quest upon his release from the Federal Bureau of Prisons… to find out what happened, how it happened, and why!

About the Book: 

Stephen Caputi’s memoir, I Should Have Stayed in Morocco, is not just another forensic account of billionaire Ponzi-schemer Scott Rothstein’s life. Caputi opens his heart and soul as he takes the reader on a journey through two decades rife with personal experiences, misadventures and wild escapades with Rothstein, climaxing with their now-infamous ramble in Casablanca. It’s a frighteningly true story of how friendship and loyalty was dedicatedly served to a master-manipulator, just to be rewarded with deceitful betrayal and a prison sentence.

Website: http://www.stevecaputi.com

Read the First Chapter

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Q: Congratulations on the release of your memoir, I Should Have Stayed in Morocco. What made you decide to write your own biography?

A:  It was kind of a happy accident, the result of an unfortunate circumstance. I was stranded in the “Hole”, (slang for solitary confinement) in a dingy federal prison in Jesup, Ga., with literally nothing to do but ponder the past. I had nothing to read, nothing to do, nothing to look forward to until the next bowl of gruel was tossed into the cell through a flap in the door, and nothing to watch since the tiny three-inch window slit was old and yellow and glazed. Total emptiness, which was driving me crazy. For a career claustrophobe, being thrust into a seventy two square-foot space that contained only a bed, toilet and sink constituted the worst case scenario. My worst nightmare had materialized, and there was no getting away from it. No relief. I knew why I was in prison, but I didn’t know why I was in the Hole.

I began writing out of desperation. My mind was still scrambled from the shock of being thrown in the Hole. As a last resort I started to chronicle everything that happened… which wasn’t much. I wrote down every item served at every meal, everything that the guards did and said, and kept a diary of sorts that was chocked full of their shenanigans. I figured that there was no way people knew how inmates were treated in prison… and wondered if anybody cared.

Morocco_medThe process of reflection prompted me to search for answers… about my life, about the sequence of events that led me to federal prison, and about the system that put me away. It evolved into a full-fledged quest for the truth.

Q: Did you write by the seat of your pants, or did you structure the book in advance? 

A:   Actually, I wrote this by the seat of my orange jumpsuit!

Q: How would you describe your writing process? Did you find the process easy or difficult?

A: Tormented is the first word that comes to mind. Writing from a prison cell was far from idyllic. I wrote after every meal, and started by chronicling every mundane event—like the trips marching to and from the ‘recreation’ cage in handcuffs. Or the shackled treks to the showers, or after delivery of every meal. Every night I’d write for an hour before crashing, after the last of the day’s insipid counting rituals were duly completed.

For my protection, I was forced to stash the written notes I was taking in-between pages of books that I was reading. I couldn’t risk mailing them out from the Hole, so I waited until after I left to transport them out. Which presented another challenge, since everything we mailed out was subject to being inspected and read. Due to its content, my writings were extremely risky. If any of the brass got wind that I was keeping a diary of their antics, there were no imaginable limits to how they might retaliate.

As an example, an inmate buddy of mine had been the unlucky recipient of “diesel therapy”—an intimidating tactic so commonly used by the Bureau of Prisons that it commanded its own nickname. Since his arrival, he was overly insistent that his rights not be violated. Because of his annoyance, he’d been kept suspended on a perpetual road trip for a year and a half. The guards would transport him in chains in a Twilight-Zone-like ride to nowhere, on an endless bus ride from one federal prison to the next. It took months and a dozen letters from his Congressman to get him anchored somewhere. Their explanation was that they “lost” his paperwork. No apology. Acting with impunity was a routine… a matter of policy for the gatekeepers who harbored little or no fear of outside pressures or intervention.

Q: Did you suffer from writer’s block at any given time? If yes, how did you overcome it? 

A:    It was more like “cell-block” than writer’s block. The biggest challenge I faced in my writing exploits was finding the best way to properly and effectively communicate the emotion of the roller-coaster ride I was on… while I was on the ride! I had no alternative but to write about all the horrible things that were happening—to me and other inmates—while I was suffering the indignities that I was writing about in real time. The awful physical conditions, inedible meals, harsh treatment, lack of medical attention, arcane and oppressive rules and regulations, lack of exercise, heavy-handedness and the calculated, dehumanizing protocols of the Federal Bureau of Prisons were overwhelming. I struggled every day to balance giving an accurate representation of what was happening… without it being overridden with emotion and dripping with hate by the time my thoughts were scribed to paper. Controlling my own emotions was of paramount importance, since I had to keep my sense of humor intact and my wits about me in order to maintain at least some semblance of objectivity.

Q: That’s an interesting title. Did you choose it? 

A: It kind of chose me… but I knew it would be the perfect title the second I wrote the first line of the prologue. I was reliving the experience of the train pulling away from the station, on my way to federal prison, as my girl waved goodbye. It was a devastating moment for me, and that short sentence that I muttered to myself captured the essence of the book. In that singular moment, the trauma and drama of everything that I’d been feeling for the twenty-three months prior to my incarceration collapsed upon me. I was engulfed in a quagmire of heartbreak, despair, frustration, regret… and fear. It was the first moment that I really believed that I Should Have… Stayed in Morocco.

Q: Why should anyone read your book? What do you think they will gain from the experience? 

A: For one, the book gives a human portrayal of Scott Rothstein, the fourth largest Ponzi-schemer in U.S. history, from the perspective of a close friend… not from social media posts. I lived the experience with him, which was very much different than reading about him through regurgitated internet blogs. My experiences with him spanned several decades, and most of my stories are still unknown to the general public. What happened to me could have happened to anybody that was vulnerable enough to have complete trust in a valued friend of many years. A friend that suddenly went ‘AWOL’ and betrayed everyone around him without any conscience. This makes my story relevant to anyone who has close, trusted friends or business colleague whose integrity seems to be unimpeachable.

Additionally, I used my misfortune to fuel a truth-seeking mission. I wanted to know why and how the current prison system evolved into the monstrosity that it is. How millions of our citizens have been corralled into prison, and why there had been 518,000,000 arrests in this country since 1970. Why seventy million men and women now have criminal records. I was living in a prison population that consisted mainly of drug dealers, the vast majority of whom were non-violent marijuana ‘offenders’. The injustice of it all struck a nerve, and I decided to do a bona fide journalistic investigation of the subject. My findings are part and parcel of the book… and the truth is ugly. People need to know what’s really going on in America today—as well as what happened yesterday to facilitate it—and not rely solely on the mainstream media for information. The time for sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the truth is over.

Q: How was your experience working with an editor? 

A:  Outstanding… and humbling, to say the least. Their input was just what I needed. The process enabled me to view things from different perspectives, and to visualize alternative (and improved) ways to effectively communicate my thoughts. I also enjoyed being challenged and forced to defend my positions regarding different elements of the story that I felt were important. The editing process required me to validate and support the facts as I presented them. It was actually as much fun, as it was constructive.

Q: What have you learned from the writing of this book? 

A: Writing the book forced me to sharpen my focus on all the subjects I was writing about, since I was determined to keep my objectivity despite my environment. I didn’t want to write anything resembling most of the propaganda and drivel that had been written about Rothstein. I became better at stepping back from my emotions, and took great care to substantiate my conclusions (or disprove them) based on solid research of the issues. I trained myself to look for the facts behind the apparent reasons, and to be open-minded to whatever truths I found.

Q: What’s on the horizon for Stephen Caputi? 

A: I am going to finish the last two books in the I Should Have Stayed in Morocco trilogy, and then reenter my career as a nightclub and restaurant entrepreneur. The next book will be the second in the I Should Have Stayed in Morocco series, entitled Club Fed Confidential: Inside the Perpetual Prisoner Money Machine. It will be a more in-depth look at what really goes on inside prisons. The final (untitled) book will provide a professional analysis of the real cost of the criminal justice and prison systems, and a critical look into the skullduggery of the prison industrial complex.

Q:  If there’s one thing you wish readers will take away from your book, what’s that? 

A: Despite what happened to me, I haven’t given up on friendship, love and trust… which doesn’t have to be treated as if it were a four-letter word. However, people who have a trusting nature (like I do!) need to learn to place limits, keep reasonable checks and balances intact, and listen to their instincts—their ‘guts’. If you’re in tune with your intuition, you cannot go wrong.

This equates to making the conscious choice of not ever engaging in any kind of behavior that you feel might be illegal, or just doesn’t feel right for any reason—or no reason. Not for friendship, love, or money!

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Profile: Author Barry Hornig

Were you on line at Studio 54? Did you ever swap drugs for gold in Tangiers? Or try on a dog collar at the Botany Club? Ever marry a countess or a Playboy playmate? Meet Barry. He did all of that and a lot more. He’s had many ups and downs and has probably forgotten more than you’ve fantasized, but this book is what he can recall…

“I hope I left a roadmap and some signposts to show other people that when they get lost, there is a way out."

Thus goes the pitch of Barry Hornig’s candid, compelling, revealing, and ultimately inspiring memoir, Without a Net: a True Tales of Prison, Penthouses, and Playmates (Köehler Books, 2015), which, from idea to polished manuscript, took him eight years to complete.

Without a Net is the story of a young man from a middle class background who shoots for the stars and goes after things that aren’t attainable, and when he thinks he has them, they get taken away,” states Hornig. “In the process, he winds up incarcerated, threatened with guns, and succumbs to addictions, but through a powerful series of visualizations he manages to manifest somebody who helps him change his whole life around through love and compassion. And through that, he is able to help other people.” Hornig’s over-the-top life is told with honesty, self-mockery, hope, and more than a little Jewish humor.

The decision to write this memoir came about from Hornig’s anger about his great ups and downs in life and the question, “Why do they continue to happen to me?” He needed to get it out of his system. Through writing, he hoped to see life more clearly and get rid of some of the anger and pain. He decided he wouldn’t misdirect his energy by looking back, but instead concentrate on looking forward and benefit from lessons learned, and it worked. “I hope I left a roadmap and some signposts to show other people that when they get lost, there is a way out,” says Hornig. “I believe that with determination, visualization, and the right partner, you can emerge from any darkness, live an interesting and fruitful life, and recover your sanity and your spiritual balance.”

In addition to his personal journey, the book offers a kaleidoscope of America from its triumphant and proud years in the 50s to a more recent time when – from Hornig’s perspective – “A great power has been shamefully falling apart. We’ve killed all our heroes, and there’s nobody to look up to. Violence never wins. And Gordon Gekko was wrong; greed is not good. (Sorry, Oliver.)”

Writing Without a Net had its challenges. From telling the truth, to stirring the hot coals, to old temptations re-awakening, to unsupportive peers telling him he was wasting his time and would never finish the book, Hornig admirably stuck to his vision through it all and came through the other side with a completed manuscript and a renewed sense of reality.

Besides the obvious painful, emotional journey of having to access his troubled past, Hornig’s challenge included the fact that he’s dyslexic. Because of this, he decided to work with Michael Claibourne, who helped him organize his thoughts and Without a Net Coverpen his words. Claibourne loved his life story and had been urging him for quite a while to write it all down.  It seemed just as exciting as any of the screenplays they were working on. “My creative process was a form of channeling with Michael, who acted as interviewer, scribe and psychiatrist,” adds Hornig. “We wrote this memoir from Topanga Canyon to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, Montana, and New York City. Sometimes lying down and sometimes sitting up.  In person, over the phone, and over the net. It was complex but clear. I tried to be truthful and honest with all the subjects.”

In spite of help from his writing partner, as well as support from his spouse and family, becoming an author has been overwhelming for Hornig, to say the least. “I can’t quite wrap my head around it,” he says. “All I did was tell a story. We’ll see what happens from there, and I’ll leave it up to my audience.” He’s looking forward to sharing some of his experiences in this journey with younger people, and hopes that this book puts him in a venue where he can talk to them. “I want to spread the news: it’s never too late.” He hopes readers will learn from his story and even find themselves in it, and realize that even the most destructive impulses can be overcome. “I have been able to forgive the people who wronged me, and forgive myself for wronging the people that I wronged – both the ones who are dead and the ones who are still alive. And looking back now through the other end of the telescope, it’s all very clear.”

Barry Hornig currently divides his time between Santa Monica, California, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he owns a gallery of fine art rugs. He is a professional sports fisherman, an expert on the paranormal, has talked with beings from space, had visions in Masar-i-Sharif, has been blessed by Muktananda, and hugged by Ammachi. “I have so many more stories to tell… and they’re not all autobiographical” states the author on what lurks on the horizon. “Screenplays, movies, all with messages. I am hoping that with this book my other story work will be taken seriously. And that in turn the other work will get out and more lessons will be learned.”

Connect with Barry Hornig on the web:

Website / Facebook / Twitter

Without a Net is available from Köehler Books, Amazon, B&N, and other online retailers.

My article originally appeared in Blogcritics

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SharonSharon van Ivan lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her two cats, The Duke and Earl.  She was born in Brooklyn New York and couldn’t wait to move back to New York when she grew up.  Her parents divorced when she was a baby and she lived with her mother in Akron, Ohio, until she returned to New York in her early 20s.  There she studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was a working actress for many years.  But she was always writing.  Her debut as a playwright was when she was 10 years old and living in Sacramento, California.  She wrote about the hardships of a young girl in Mexico.  The play was so good, it was presented to the whole school.  Sharon was mortified and did not write again until high school.  Then when she had a writing assignment, she would dream about it the night before, and write it just before class.  She was an A student in English.  Not the most popular person in school, however.

Growing up with an alcoholic and, therefore, mentally ill mother and a mostly-absent father (plus a slew of stepfathers) was a challenge that Sharon met head-on – as she had no choice. Later in life when she did have a choice, the patterns had already been set and she followed a similarly disastrous road until she found show business, a great psychiatrist and the love of her life, the renowned realist painter, Charles Pfahl.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Juggle and Hide. What was your inspiration for it?

A: I lived through the proverbial bad childhood, and then as a young adult, I started treating myself badly. Deeply ingrained patterns had been formed and I had to work my way out of them. I had a lot of help along the way, so Juggle and Hide ends up being a story of my search for love and – ultimately – my survival.

Juggle and Hide-BEAQ: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Since it’s a memoir, I’m the protagonist. I’m lucky to be alive. As a matter of fact, my mother’s sponsor in AA on the day he met me, about 40 years ago, said that very thing to me.  He said it every time he saw me or talked to me on the phone up until the day he died — about a year and a half ago. One thing that sticks in my brain is that I never realized my mother was mentally ill until I was an adult being treated by a psychiatrist myself. I just thought she’d had a rough life and was doing the best she could. Actually, she was doing the best she could do, but it was a fight for her every day.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: As this is my first memoir, once I started writing, it took on a life of its own.  It took about six months to complete, but there weren’t many bumps along the way.  The bumps had been in my own life and that’s what I was writing about.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: With my own life story, it somehow just flowed naturally.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: I do, but I experience anxiety before sitting down to send an e-mail or text to a friend. Writing is that kind of struggle for me, but once I start, it gets easier, but I never get any less anxious.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: I write in my journal when I first wake up in the morning – about 5:00 – and most of the time that’s all I write during that day.  Then I will have a spurt of energy and write for a few days or weeks at a time.  I guess you could say I’m a binge writer. My husband, the artist Charles Pfahl – who did the cover for my book – died recently – but he was always supportive of my work.  My cats, the Duke and Earl are very supportive, too, but you’d have to ask them why.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Being able to get through each day without too much angst or too much sorrow.  Life is hard and just getting through the day makes me feel successful.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: Threaten to leave.  Leave.  Be supportive of them and their work and see if that helps. If it doesn’t help, then leave.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: Not totally, but I’m no George Orwell either. I think it is invigorating to write. I think life is the struggle.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: Just keep writing. Something good will come of it.  I hope Juggle and Hide makes its way onto your bookshelves or into your kindle, and if it does, I hope you find the dark humor in it.  And I also hope you always have a sense of humor about your work – or mine – or anyone else’s. Never lose your sense of humor.

 

 

 

 

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Faye_B_and_W_copyFaye Rapoport DesPres is the author of the new memoir-in-essays, Message from a Blue Jay. She earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College. Her essays, fiction, poetry, and reviews have appeared in Ascent, International Gymnast Magazine, Platte Valley Review, Superstition Review, In the Arts, Fourth Genre, TheWhistling Fire, the Writer’s Chronicle, and other journals and magazines. Faye was born in New York City and has lived in England, Israel, and Colorado. She currently lives in the Boston area with her husband, Jean-Paul Des Pres, and their cats. Visit her website at www.fayerapoportdespres.com. 

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About the book

From an astonishing blue jay to a lone humpback whale, from the back roads of her hometown to the streets of Jerusalem and the Tower of London, debut author Faye Rapoport DesPres examines a modern life marked by a passion for the natural world, unexpected love, and shocking loss, and her search for a place she can finally call home in this beautifully crafted memoir-in-essays.

Three weeks before DesPres’s fortieth birthday, nothing about her life fit the usual mold. She is single, living in a rented house in Boulder, Colorado, fitting dance classes and nature hikes between workdays at a software start-up that soon won’t exist. While contemplating a sky still hazy from summer wildfires, she decides to take stock of her nomadic life and find the real reasons she never “settled down.” The choices she makes from that moment on lead her to retrace her steps-in the States and abroad-as she attempts to understand her life. But instead of going back, she finds herself moving forward to new love, horrible loss, and finally, in a way that she never expected, to a place she can almost call home.

Readers who love the memoirs and personal essays of rising contemporary writers such as Cheryl Strayed, Joy Castro, and Kim Dana Kupperman will appreciate Faye’s observational eye, her passion for the natural world and the creatures that inhabit it, and her search for the surprising truths behind the events of our daily lives.

Purchase on Amazon and B&N

Interview

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Message from a Blue Jay. What was your inspiration for it? 

A: I was inspired by my daily life, my travels, the natural world, and some of the incidents and relationships that have been a big part of my life.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist. 

A: The narrator of a memoir-in-essays represents the author to a strong extent. You are telling your own story – in this case the story of a woman who re-evaluates her life as she approaches the age of 40 and begins to search for an explanation about how her life turned out the way it did. That journey takes her to many places and to interactions with a variety of important people, and helps her take stock of both her life and life in general. This is not just a book about one woman’s life, or about women’s lives. It’s a book, I hope, about life.

Blue-Jay-Cover-10.2-for-webuseQ: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way? 

A: It took me about four years to write Message from a Blue Jay and there were many bumps along the way. For a long time I worked hard to learn how to fashion the essays and improve my craft, and then I worked hard to put individual pieces together in a cohesive manuscript. Along the way I faced times when I couldn’t get an essay right, when a literary journal rejected a piece I really believed in, and when a publisher didn’t feel there was enough of a market for personal essay collections or memoirs derived from essays. I faced each obstacle, learned from it, and moved forward. 

Q: Tell us, how do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a memoir? 

A: This isn’t easy. In the case of a memoir derived from personal essays, I had to work at developing a narrative and a narrative arc and resolution. Memoirs that read more as direct narratives probably use all of the plot, pacing, and narrative tools that are used in fiction.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it? 

A: Sometimes, but not usually. I only feel anxiety if life’s pressures are making it hard for me to carve out the time to write. I just have to work at finding the right balance.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time? 

A: I usually write early in the mornings so that I can know I got my writing time in and it doesn’t interfere with other responsibilities or time with my husband. Sometimes, of course, when I’m facing deadlines, I have to write at whatever time of day works.

Q: How do you define success? 

A: Being happy with yourself and your accomplishments, whatever they might be. Touching other people’s (and animals’) lives in a positive way.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author? 

A: I’m not sure I have advice for that situation. My husband, whose father was a writer, has always been very supportive. The only advice I can think of is not to give up on your dreams because another person isn’t supportive.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree? 

A: To an extent, yes. Writing is tough, and one shouldn’t undertake the writing life lightly. On the other hand, if you really hate it, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to force yourself to do it.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers? 

A: I hope they will enjoy Message from a Blue Jay, relate to some of it and find other things thought provoking. I hope reading the book will be an enjoyable, absorbing experience so they’ll be happy they read it and recommend the book to friends!

 

 

 

 

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ABOUT FOR COUNTRY


Title: For Country

Genre: Military Memoir

Author: Donald G. Bartling

Publisher: Xlibris

Pages: 111

Language: English

A study of history shows us that a Nation is only as strong as the will of its citizens to fight for it. America has been tested many times over in its relatively short history. From the Revolutionary War on down to the present conflicts in the Middle East, the majority of the American citizens were willing to place their lives and futures in danger to preserve and build the future of this Nation. Even when the requirements of the military required the use of conscription in order to meet the needs of the day, most citizens were willing to shoulder their responsibilities and deliver the results that were of benefit to all Americans. Many times they have assured a future for this Nation by rising to the occasion. This is especially true today as the burden is falling on an entirely “volunteer force”.

 

Xlibris
VETERANS DAY AND MEMORIAL DAY
Our Nation’s citizens have over the past century decided to remember and recognize citizens that have served this Nation in war and peace over the years of our history. MEMORIAL DAY which is celebrated the last of May is primarily in respect for those of this group that are deceased, and VETERANS DAY that is celebrated on the 11th of November recognizes those veterans that are living. Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day in regard to the cessation of hostilities in WWI.
Immanuel Lutheran has had many that have served in both categories over the time that this congregation has been in existence.  To my knowledge we did not have any members serving in the military in 1898, in the Spanish-American War.  However in WWI there were a number of men that served in various capacities.  I knew some of them in my earlier years, and they are now at rest in our Immanuel Cemetery  To my knowledge only one of those died while in the Service.  That was my Uncle Dietrich Bartling.  He was a Medical Doctor that was drafted in the early months of 1918. He was sent to Ft Sill  OK. The flu epidemic that plagued the entire world that year was also a problem in Ft Sill.  In treating the servicemen that were ill with the disease he contracted the disease and it took his life.  We learned in our History lessons that that War was a very brutal and bloody one.  In 1941 the United States became involved in WWII. This turned out to be one that lasted until August of 1945. This one took many of our younger members to many places throughout the world. North Africa, Italy, France, Great Britain, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, in Europe.  Australia, New Zealand, many Islands of the South Pacific, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japanese Islands of Okinawa, and the Aleutian Islands. Five years after the close of WWII, war erupted in Korea.  This turned out to be a different type of struggle in several ways.  1. It was a war of ideology  (Communism vs, Capitalism)  2. It was conducted under the auspices of the UNITED NATIONS with the United States being the largest contributor in both men and materiel.  There also was the problem of the opposing sides being represented in the UN.  3. It was the first war that concluded in an ARMISTICE; there still is no peace treaty after over 60years.  Alaska became a “frontier”that needed to be defended as the “COLD WAR” with the Soviet Union was in full force.  This also called for a sizable Force in Europe, fortunately that
force was never needed.  In the 1960’s, and continuing until  1975, we became involved in
the VIETNAM WAR.  Congress closed down that conflict by not appropriating the funds to continue the fighting. {A very good account of this was written by Leroy Eckhardt.  He was the person in charge of the BASE EXCHANGE  in Saigon when Saigon fell.  He should have published that account. This was the second war in which we had no VICTORY.  Since that time we have had a number of incidents in which AMERICAN CITIZENS have been attacked and killed.—Beirut Lebanon, The Gulf War, Kuwait, and then IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN.   Immanuel Members have been active in almost all of these events.  We are still involved in many areas in the world.  The American people can and should recognize the sacrifices and dedication that these people have made to give our citizens the standard ofliving that we enjoy here in the UNITED STATES. This especially includes the FREEDOMS that we enjoy as enumerated in the Constitution of the UNITED STATES.
Nobody hates war more that those individuals that have been in war or observed the death and devastation that is caused by war.  Many of my comrades and myself included were grateful that the wars that we were involved in were not being fought in their home country or hometown.
Inthe course of time that these people serve their Country, they also develop a comradeship that often lasts a lifetime.  Many that are living today will say that their lives were often saved  by a comrade, sometimes by someone that they do not even know.  I will  relate and incident that occurred to me several years ago.
I had gone to Arbor Manor to visit my cousin and noticed as I parked, a vehicle on the other side of the lot with a bumper sticker that said” IRAQ VETERAN”. A young man came walking across the lot with a leg amputated above the knee.  I went over to him and said ” I as an American Citizen want to thank you for your service and sacrifice”  He said “Thank You, but I should be thanking you for the time that you did the same thing for our U S.”  I asked  “How did you know that I am a veteran?”  His answer ” Veterans are the ones that talk to me, the others do not seem to care”,  There was a lesson there.  It is estimated that at the present time only 1% of the families in this nation have a member or someone that they know in the military,  The effect ofthis is that their interests are focused in other areas i,e. travel, sports, gambling, or other forms of entertainment.
A personal experience that illustrates concern and dedication to your fellow soldiers was this occasion.  We were on a tank-mine removal detail at night near Porkchop Hill.  I was leading the patrol and my very dependable Squad leader ( S/Sgt Dale Moffitt) was second in command.  We located a Russian MK12 Mine.  Inorder not to disclose that we were very close to the enemy’s line defenses we would defuse the mines in the dark.  I never asked anyone to do what I would not do myself, so I told SGT Moffitt to take the patrol back a safe distance and that if I made a mistake and the mine exploded that he should get the patrol out of the area immediately as there would be heavy fire from the enemy.  I successfully defused the mine and nothing more was said about it.  Dale and some of his family visited here in 1997.  We were recalling some of our experiences and he said.  ” If that mine had exploded we would have tried to come back and help you” To me that is “loyalty.”
Most of the publicity that surrounds these types of incidents portray the soldiers that are directly involved as being totally credited with the success. I have always felt that every serviceperson is of importance as those that are on the “frontlines” can not be successful without the support of the many in the supply lines.to deliver the necessary supplies when they are needed. Another area that is not really accurate is “commendations” . I take nothing away from those that have been awarded Medals for their personal actions, but I always think of the many that have done the same or more that did not get recognized for it.
Because of the foregoing discussion of veterans views on many issues concerning them and the Nation as a whole,the veterans themselves have organized organizations that represent those views.  I have been a member of the American Legion for almost 60 years. The Veterans of Foreign Wars is another strong veterans organization.  There are
many more; they usually concentrate on the welfare of the wounded and disabled veterans and their families.  With the advancement of fast evacuation of the wounded, many more wounded are surviving their wounds than was true in earlier wars.  These organizations are needed to represent their member’s needs in the Legislature and the Congress.  Many seem to feel that election of a person to a legislative position automatically makes them experts in almost everything.  This is not true, they need assistance in arriving at good solutions to all problems.
From personal experience I can say that “Danger is a test of courage and faith.”  It was in my first “firefight” that I realized that the solid religious training that I received here at Immanuel School and Church would stand me in good stead no matter the outcome of that battle or those that were to follow.  Once a determination that ‘”GOD ALMIGHTY IS IN CONTROL’,  is made; a person can apply his abilities and knowledge to the job at hand.  Itbecame apparent to me as time wore on that there were others that had the same view that I had. Religious soldiers are more productive and more dependable.  Immanuel was blessed in that we have not had a seriously wounded or killed serviceperson.
Another area that deserves mention is the Chaplaincy.  I met a number of them over my time there. They add much to the quality of service life in that they give comfort and guidance to individuals that are in periods of stress.  Also they conduct the services that bring back a portion of the life that the servicepersons had prior to becoming a serviceperson.  My current observation is —–that it is more difficult to be a Chaplain today that it was 60 to 70 years ago.  The current high level of “suicides” both in the service and with retirees is very disturbing.  Certainly that is also an area of concern for the chaplains.
Inthis day and age—it seems that truth, honesty, and integrity, are not as important as they should be.  It has even become that “swearing under oath ” does not get the honesty and truth that it once did.  When we as SERVICEPEOPLE took our oath on entering the
service it said ” that we would protect the Constitution at all costs, even it that would be death”. I have taken the “public service” oath several times over the years and it,too, has the same impact on me..  Finally, we should remember that we also took a more
important oath on our Confirmation Day.  We promised  to stay faithful to the Triune God and suffer death rather than fall away from Him. Even today there are many in this world that are being persecuted and killed for their Faith in the Triune God.
Veterans are interested in all areas of citizenship and they are active in those areas especially at this time in our history. They are interested in the application of the US Constitution, operation of the Court System, and the functioning of the Executive Department. .
My experience during that time made me appreciate the blessings that I have had in my lifetime, and I hope I can convey some of that attitude to those around me.  I recall that I was told by a father that had just lost his 16yr old son in a car accident that ” the two times that you appreciate and value a person or property the most is JUST AFTER YOU GET IT AND JUST AFTER YOU LOSE IT.”  This also true of nations.  Citizens value their FREEDOMS  in the same way.  Many people seem to feel that the UNITED
STATES is invulnerable; I contend that we are vulnerable to many dangers, both from the outside —and the inside.  We should be grateful to the ALMIGHTY GOD every day that we still have the AMERICAN VALUES, and that we continue to have them for generations to come
As I referred to earlier, veterans are citizens too. As citizens we are interested in voting and as a group we vote in larger numbers than some other segments of our population . We weigh things with the added knowledge of National Defense that we have acquired through Service in the Military. We again appear to be on the way to repeating an error that we as a nation have done several times before in our history. That is of failing to keep our military properly maintained. I see a very marked similarity to the decade of the 1930’s in the economic, social, and political spheres of influence in the Nation and the world. Inorder to solve the economic problem—-we reduce our military capabilities to the point of inadequacy; then, when an emergency anywhere in the world presents it self We are unprepared to cope with it. We repeated that error in the 1946-1950’s period and again in the 1990’s. With the speed and devastation that can be delivered over long distances in today’s high technology world, there is not a time window in which to build defenses after the beginning of hostilities. I recall the Spring of 1952 we were rationed ammunition because of a sympathetic strike by West Coast longshoremen in loading the supplies that we needed on the frontlines in Korea. They were backing a strike by the United Steel Workers. President Truman solved this problem by ordering the Army to load the ships. Our National Economic problem is very large today, and no real answer
seems to be in view at this time .This problem applies to all of us in some way, to some, it applies in more than one way.
Trust and commitment to GOD ALMIGHTY is the only answer that has any hope of success.  We should pray that our Nation realizes that soon enough.

ABOUT DONALD G. BARTLING

The author is farmer that took this time to serve in the US Army in 1951-52. He returned to his chosen occupation in October 1952.

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