WIP Update: This Book is Happening!

Publishing my debut book is  exciting and a little scary. Have you ever created something only to wonder if people will like it?  Coming August 9 it’s aptly titled, “Out of Chaos: A Memoir.”

It is my true story of living in chaos, what happened to throw me into that chaos, what I did about it, and now, who I am today. At times, my story is dark and harrowing, yet I promise, it will end on a bright new way of living.

My book is finished, yeah! This journey has involved plenty of hard, yet creative and fun work in collaboration with my publishing house. And questions–oh, so many questions I’d bring to the table when I’d get ideas or wondered “why this way?” The entire publishing team was ever so patient, open to my ideas, and happy to talk about anything with me.  Last Friday, I saw this book’s fruition when I approved the latest proof. This book is happening!

Through my writing and publishing journey, I’ve met numerous supporting and incredible authors. Heartfelt gratitude goes out to my new friends and to my publishing house.

My two writing groups, one on-line, and one here locally in my community have also been invaluable.

No way, could I have gotten this far alone. In all of life, in our community endeavors, and in our own personal aspirations, it is a we thing.

Often, I was asked, “Why don’t you self-publish?” That’s the route many in my local writers group have taken and have been quite successful at doing so. Success means different things to different people, and mostly, I see my fellow authors who have self-published happy with their decision.

The idea of that (of self-publishing) seems overwhelming—I don’t have the skill set in this laborious and complex world. Creating a great book cover while meeting industry standards, perfecting interior design, expense of editors, worrying about metadata and distribution—oh how exhausting to ponder. And then, there’s distribution—I want my book available most anywhere and yet so many places are out there; some I’ve never even heard of. Time was also an issue—I work full-time, writing on my lunch breaks.

My publishing choice has proven to be perfect for me. I’ve gained insight, learned plenty and have felt my fears in publishing lifted as someone else (my publishing house) has done the heavy work garnered from my vision.

You may ask, “What came before yesterday’s finalized proof?”  

  • Ringing in the New Year, I expressed my Persistence, Power, and Positive Attitude to bring this book alive. (Link here).x
  • In late March, it was how I got through developmental editing. (Link here).x
  • In June, it was copy editing; it was my motto of Inspired by memoir, focused on life today. (Link here).

Look for my debut book in paperback and e-book, releasing August 9. “Out of Chaos: A Memoir” will be available on Amazon, Kindle, iTunes, Sony/Kobo, and Barnes & Noble Nook, to name but a few. Incoming reviews (from readers like you) will determine the distribution path into brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries.

Closing this post, a shout-out with a big “thank you” to you for following my writing journey and encouraging me to keep going.  -Elle-

 

 

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“The Public”, my review of a film by Emilio Estevez

Last winter, the public library in downtown Cincinnati was all abuzz. That’s where Emilio Estevez spent many over-night hours—during the filming of “The Public.” A small ensemble cast joined Estevez, as well as many library employees—my coworkers. This public library is where I spend many days—in my job as a library page.

And last Thursday evening, I attended a private showing of this movie. It released January 31, 2018 at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in California. It has yet to be found in box-office theaters.

Written and directed by Emilio Estevez, who stars as a librarian, Mr. Stuart Goodson, it is loosely based on a true story and brings a comic relief with its true-to-life dramatization of the life of homeless folks and their daily reprieve in urban public libraries.

Emilio Estevez wrote its script based off a piece in the LA Times from April 1, 2007. That piece was aptly titled, “Written Off: A librarian’s days among the chronically homeless,” by Chip Ward, a librarian, and at the time of printing, recent past assistant library director of the Salt Lake City Public Library.

“The Public” is about more than just the plight of homelessness. It is about the role of librarians and other library workers who welcome all patrons into the library. It is about an awareness of this social issue and how two librarians (one played by Jena Malone and the other played by Estevez as Mr. Goodson) reacts. The story takes place overnight as the library is turned into a de facto shelter on an especially cold night in Cincinnati. Actor Alec Baldwin helps bring the movie to its climax, in his role as a crisis negotiator.

The personable and even at times, likeable characters can pull you in, but what is most fascinating to watch is the tension that builds when these characters are faced with their dilemma—leave the library when it closes for the night—at the risk of succumbing to freezing weather—or demand help from society.

These likeable characters, though, were almost stereotyped. The homeless folks who turned the library into a de facto shelter were entirely men. Where were the homeless women and families? Then again, families tend to be let into shelters before men are, provided there is room for them. And, as this film portrayed, many homeless men are mentally ill, incapable of changing their way of life.

I could relate to the frustration felt by these homeless men, even though I am not mentally ill. When the Red Cross helped me following an apartment building fire, their help was limited. When the recession hit hard, I was affected, unable to secure gainful employment, even with a college degree. When homeless back in the 1990s, social service agencies seemed tough to navigate.

I could also relate to our librarian in this film, Mr. Goodson. During the unfolding of this story-line, we come to learn more about this character—his history of personal problems and his corrective action to make good of his life, even by becoming a public servant despite his brushes with the law.

My bold truth, centering around my years of homelessness, brushes with the law, and other equally wrought problems are shared in my memoir, coming soon. Like Mr. Goodson, I took corrective action and like him, I too am today a public servant. While the character of Mr. Goodson is fiction, it felt real to me. It is much like my real story.

The ending to this film was a voice-over, saying, “It takes a miracle.” I say it takes action. Our country needs to talk about these topics, and if the push to get us there takes Emilio Estevez’s movie, so be it. This well-directed film about a topic not well-talked about in our day-to-day activities is a must see for all of us.

Resources:

LA Times, April 1, 2007. “Written off: A librarian’s days among the chronically homeless” by Chip Ward. http://articles.latimes.com/2007/apr/01/opinion/op-ward1

Trailer for  “The Public” (Click image, below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For a glimpse of my working day as a library page: (Click image).

 

 

 

 

 

In your day-to-day activities, are you affected by those experiencing homelessness? What are your thoughts on bringing this social problem to the forefront?

-Elle-

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Community: Giving = Gratitude

 

Community is Connection

As human beings, we need a sense of belonging, and that sense of belonging is what connects us to the many relationships we develop, and to our community as a whole. We find community though family or friends, work or organized sports, and through other activities.

Demographic, social, and economic status can bring a threat of alienation. Community involvement is the thread to bring people together to advocate and support each other in the fight to overcome such threats.

A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone or part of the same social web network. It’s about feeling connected and responsible for what happens. Humanity is our ultimate community, and everyone plays a crucial role.

Community is Social Justice

My memoir is aptly titled, Out of Chaos. My life was chaotic. I had made poor choices, was homeless at 25 years old and homeless again not long ago. No longer living in chaos, my life is good today.

Writing my memoir took time, lots of time. Lunch breaks at work, evening down time, and early morning wake-up calls got me through the first draft, which took more than a year.

During this year of my jumbled writing, life kept happening. When in my daily commute on foot, I’d see homeless folks and others struggling in the moment. When with friends, I’d feel their difficulties. And news reports would show effects of social injustices.

Giving back to my community is my way of showing gratitude for my life today. I do this through commitment to my library job, through volunteer work with organizations which help others, and through a listening ear for friends and strangers who I cross paths with.

It’s a matter of  working with others to make sure that good things happen. It’s about creating positive change. It’s a matter of avoiding contempt and embracing equality, support, and a sense of caring. So, for me, community is social justice.

What Does Community Mean to You?

There are many ways to get involved in the community through humanitarian efforts. I created an e-booklet, chock full of ideas, resources, and links, all to lead you with inspiration to your calling in your community.

Do you have the e-booklet? People Helping People is now available when signing up for my newsletter. This is new, so if you are already subscribe and don’t have it and want it, let me know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like to think of community as a collective effort for us to come together as one in celebration of, and not resistance of, our unique differences. Beliefs, goals, and identity may vary among us, but connection can be a constant attribute if we wish. Community has given me stability. It’s polar opposite to my old life; a life of chaos.

I’d like to hear your comments on community.    -Elle-

And if you like what you read here, please share.

 

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WIP (Work in Progress) Update, Inspired by memoir, focused on life today.

In March, I posted a WIP Update that my first round of editing was finished. That was the developmental editing. Since then, I’ve been inside a whirlwind of excitement to get my book ready for you. (Read that post, here.)

WIP UPDATE

Copy editing has been completed. Working with Emily Hitchcock from my publishing house, we did a line by line reading, sometimes jumping back a few chapters, or even forward. Word usage, grammar, and in essence, making my story the best it can be for you. Emily also came to the rescue for fine tuning how I’ve named chapter titles. Moving forward, proofreading will be done.

In the meantime, also from my publishing house, graphic designer Cate Labish is handling the book cover. Cate and I have collaborated well in this. I picked the picture. She’s putting it together. The front side is done. Soon, Cate will have the back cover done too.

 

Publishing my debut book is not only exciting, it is a little scary. Have you ever created something only to wonder if people will like it? My story is not a cozy one. My story is aptly named, “Out of Chaos.” It is my true story of living in chaos, what happened to throw me into that chaos, what I did about it, and now, who I am today.

Today, life is good. With my good life comes a freeing feeling. I’m okay if someone finds my story not to their liking. I am hoping that my story will make a difference in someone’s life.

An excerpt from my book explains why I wrote my story:

….to show that no matter what mistakes we made, what wrongs we did, or what hardships we endured, we can make a right-about face. A change of heart and action makes it possible to become a contributing member in society. This change gives us peace, a sense of belonging, purpose, and meaning.

 

I suppose that’s how and why I came up with my phrase, “Inspired by memoir, focused on life today.”

 

-Elle-

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Shopping With those in Need: Volunteering at the Foodbank

Saturday, I helped volunteer at the Freestore Foodbank in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of downtown Cincinnati. I’ve volunteered many times with Freestore Foodbank at their distribution warehouse. Yesterday’s experience put me face to face with those in need.

Early in  my volunteer shift, I worked alongside other volunteers to stock pantry shelves. This foodbank is a choice pantry, which allows people to choose items from the selection available, much like a regular grocery store. From canned goods, hundreds of peanut butter jars, fresh cabbage, onions and other vegetables, as well as frozen meats, we filled the food room up.

As soon as the doors opened, one of the first ladies to come in was using a walker to get around. She couldn’t push a shopping cart, too. I went shopping with her.

This lady with a walker latched on to me and right away, I felt like her friend. We walked together down each aisle together. I helped her gather her choice items and pushed her cart for her.

Each customer to the food room is given anywhere from one to four large paper sacks to fill up with as much food as they can, provided it doesn’t go over a certain weight limit. Produce are freebies, not needing to take up room in their sacks. Family size determines how many sacks of food they can take home with them.

As the volunteering day continued to unfold, I helped keep shelves stocked, helped customers as needed, and did a few maintenance tasks like unfolding paper sacks to hand out.

Chatting with other volunteers, I heard several reasons they showed up to help. “I’m retired, this gives me something worthy to do” and “My son and I came together. I want him to learn the value of helping others.” Me, my reason: “I was once on the receiving end, much like these folks we’re helping. Today, I’m on the giving end.”

This shopping experience is a helping hand to those in need in our community. Giving them food to stock their kitchen gives them one less thing to worry about when it comes to day-to-day financial struggles.

According to the Freestore’s website, this Food Room serves up to 300 families daily and more than 88,000 individuals annually.

From what I saw in the few hours I helped, these numbers are a gross understatement. Only so many people could shop at one time. This left a long line of people waiting their turn. The line never grew short. People in need kept showing up.

The Freestore Foodbank is operated under Feeding America, a national association of affiliated food banks. Feeding America is the largest hunger relief organization, connecting community food pantries in every state in America.

To join the volunteering efforts, you can find out who to contact in your local area and how by visiting the Feeding America website. On this page is a search bar for your zip code.

We can make a difference!

Resources:

Link to Freestore Foodbank. Image retrieved from this site.

Feeding America. Find your local calling to volunteer through feedingamerica.org.

 

-Elle-

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Reading Journey

Reading Journey

My writing journey today is about my reading journey—and perhaps, yours, too.

Admiring friends as they keep up with their Goodreads reading profile, I ticked this to-do item off my list today, and plan to keep up with it.

‘Having read several good books, anthologies, and literary journals lately, Goodreads is the hang-out for connecting with readers and writers. It’s a place to discover the next great book to read and why. You can follow my reading journey on Goodreads.

 

Here are some reasons for reading:

1. (To) Change When writers impart motivational, spiritual, and cognitive thinking skills to us, we become stronger to overcome personal challenges.

2. Exercise Brain Muscles (Yes, our brain is a muscle!)

3. (To) Feel for Others Feeling empathy for what the character is going through gives us greater socialization skills.

4. Imagination Other people’s stories can open a whole new world for us to envision places, people, and ideas that otherwise could remain dormant.

5. Information Gathering Becoming familiar with other places, people, and cultures, we become a little bit more familiar with our world.

6. Learning at one’s own Pace With self-help, how-to, and craft and recipe books, we are in control of our own hands-on-approach.

7. Morality Building How characters approach their challenges gives us an opportunity to discern our own choices.

8. Self Esteem By becoming more informed in various life situations, we become more confident in ourselves.

9. Stress Reliever Even as stories heighten our sensory impulses, this same story can envelop us, letting us become relieved of any current concerns.

10. Vocabulary Builder Whether it’s words in our native tongue, conversations found in other cultures, slang, or a new way to verbally express a concept, our choice in which words to use when communicating expands.

Imagination and Information Gathering are likely my top reasons.

xxx What are your reasons for reading? Any other reasons you read? Please share.x

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Resources:

 

Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/

My Goodreads profile (link here.)

For a more in-depth and comprehensive take on using Goodreads, check out this free PDF: “Make Use Of: an unofficial guide to goodreads for readers and writers” by Nicole Dionisio. (Link here).

The Importance of Reading by Tawni Fagan and Nicole Holley. This 3-minute video found on YouTube is as relevant today as when it was posted.

From my library to yours, happy reading! -Elle-

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Creating Art in the Fight Against Hunger

Creating Art in the Fight Against Hunger

Teaming with the American Institute of Architects and other members of the construction and design industry, this charity drive offers a creative way to give back to the community, in many communities in America and beyond. Teams are responsible for purchasing their own canned food and creating their own structures. All food raised is donated to their local food bank(s).

Canstructures are made entirely from canned foods within a 10’x10’x8’ space. It easily takes several thousand cans, sometimes up to 20,000 cans to create a canstructure.

 

 

 

 

 

What

 ​is

 ​CANstruction?  

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CANstruction is a nonprofit organization in the United States. This charity combines the competitive spirit of a design contest while meeting the needs to feed the hungry. This collaborative event is held in more than 100 cities across America, as well as in other cities, world-wide. It calls our attention to the pervasive issue of hunger in our communities.

It happens each year at about this time. This year, the designs were built on April 10 for display and public viewing all month, through today, April 29. By individual votes and an anonymous jury, the completed canstructures were judged for Best Design, People’s Choice, and other awards.

In my community, here in the greater area of Cincinnati, Ohio, seven downtown places participated. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was one place. I’m both happy and proud to work alongside great coworkers here at this library, who are passionate in this worthy cause.        

What​ ​is​ ​the​ ​impact​ ​of​ ​CANstruction?

This event raises awareness of the need for hunger relief. Many families and vulnerable individuals struggle when it comes to eating on a regular basis. Children who qualify for and receive reduced or free lunches at school, often go hungry on the weekends. More than 13-million American children live in households with uncertain access to food which supports a healthy life.

After the competition and exhibition, the structures are deconstructed, and all canned food is given to community food banks.

 

Volunteering at the Freestore Foodbank’s distribution center.

In my community, all cans are donated to the Freestore Foodbank, which operates nationwide and is part of the Feeding America organization. Feeding America is the national association of affiliated food banks. It is the largest hunger relief organization, connecting community local food pantries in every state of America, bridging gaps.

Resources:

While CANstruction is over for this year, there are other ways to help. Link to Freestore Foodbank and Feeding America for volunteer opportunities.

Links:

Freestore Foodbank

Feeding America

CANstruction on Facebook

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County on Facebook with Post on CANstruction.

Videos of Interest:

This first video was published prior to the event. It is narrated, explaining how to participate in the CANstruction. While locality specific, it is informative and brief, at just under 4 minutes.

For a time-lapsed viewing of creating a canstructure, check out this even shorter video:

Did you visit any Canstructures on display this year? How do you feel about the fight against hunger? I’d love to hear your comments.                        -Elle-

 

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Community of Stories

Annually in the spring, the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA), here in Cincinnati, offers a creative writing workshop, Community of Stories (preregistration required.)

Yesterday was their fifth annual event of Community of Stories and my fourth year attending. Setting aside writing rules, this event’s focus is to share our diverse perspectives and life stories. It joins a cross-section of our community as we come together as one with hope, support, and encouragement.

Under the guidance of writing mentors, we divvied up into small groups, each with about ten people. We had groups in poetry, fiction, and I participated in the memoir group. Comprised with many students from its school and area high-schools, this event is open to the community.

Our day encompassed writing prompts, quiet time for writing, then sharing our writing with open discussion. I’m amazed how these young students can make a first draft look like a third draft. My writing feels choppy to me if I compare myself. Rather, I realize my writing is but a jumping off point for me. More so, I learn so much from these students. Their views of our society and community, their hopes and dreams, and their desire for growth in themselves and others is an inspiration to me.

Following this group time, we all came together in the school’s auditorium. Those who wished to, shared their writing from the podium.

Each year following this Community of Stories event, SCPA publishes a chap book. Those who wish too, have their writing included in this literary journal. And each year, we wait patiently for this journal, which comes out in print shortly before our next annual get-together.

My contributions to the Community of Stories literary journals include:

2015

A Community of Stories: Seeds of Change

“Sun Catcher.”

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2016

A Community of Stories: Dream of Change

“Who?” (fictionalized memoir).

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2017

A Community of Stories: On the Wings of Change

“Transformation is About Becoming Who I Am” (reflective essay).

(and)  “Forest” (poem co-written with Isa Walker).

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2018

A Community of Stories: Speaking Our Silences

(Editor’s choice, to be determined).

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A big thank you to those who shared their day with me! -Elle-

 

 

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“I Remember”

This writing warm-up is adapted from Joe Brainard’s “I Remember.” (Granary Books 2001).

A few excerpts from this author’s book are:

  • I remember how much I used to stutter.
  • I remember Aunt Cleora who lived in Hollywood. Every year for Christmas, she sent my brother and me a joint present of one book.
  • I remember shower curtains with angel fish on them.
  • I remember one very hot summer day I put ice cubes in my aquarium and all the fish died.

Details from our memories often evoke more than mere facts. Reading that his fish died, I felt sad for those fish and sad for this author as a little boy. I feel he wanted to do good only for it to be the wrong thing to do. I want to know more about these fish. How long did he have them? What color where these fish? Were they goldfish?

From this list of “I remember” choose one.

  • Focus on details of these memories while recalling them.
  • Describe what is happening.
  • Show feelings during the unfolding event.
  • Was there any reaction to the event?

The “I remember” is a way to dig into the experience. We don’t want to just scratch at the surface. We want this memory to pop so that it affects our readers. By developing our own take-away from this event, our description will help us avoid clichés and blanketed statements.

Joe Brainard’s I Remember is a literary and artistic cult classic. As an autobiography, his method was brilliantly simple. He shared specific memories as they rose to the surface of his consciousness, each prefaced by the refrain “I remember.”

Like Brainard’s pieces in his book, we can keep each “I remember” piece short, at a few sentences. We can also expand further, treating this as the start to a longer piece.

Yesterday, I participated in the Community of Stories through the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA), here in Cincinnati. Under the guidance of a writing mentor, and in a group setting, the above warm-up was one of our writing exercises.

Here is my “I remember” list from yesterday:

  • I remember being alone in the dark without my candy.
  • I remember being proud of a woman going into space. Sitting on the hardwood floor, I watched my TV, seeing the rocket go up. Then, the next moment I was devasted when the Challenger exploded.
  • I remember the sensors wrapped on my fingers seemed to tighten when the needle moved further than before, displaying a peaked line on the graph paper which kept spitting out of the machine.
  • I remember the stranger who walked up to my tent on a Tuesday morning. He told me of terrorist planes hitting the Twin Towers. My kindly stranger was as puzzled as me.
  • I remember Andrea’s firm handshake was warm when I was hired for my library job.

This “I remember” warm-up reminds me that memories are not as fixed as we might assume. Memories are more fluid and then become fixed when they are recorded and supplemented with details.

Which “I remember” memory will you write about? -Elle-

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Home

HOME FOR WOMEN IN NEED

Ahead are the front doors of The Esther Marie Hatton Center and Shelterhouse for Women. Rain is in the air on this overcast day. Two women are sitting at a table, talking, in the courtyard I pass by. They look up and smile. I smile back. Inside, more women are congregating. Some are in the computer room, which has see-through glass walls. Some are waiting for dinner, more than an hour away. This place is their home.

The place sparkles with cleanliness. After checking in with staff, I join my friends in the kitchen. Savory spaghetti sauce is simmering on the stove top. Two of my friends have their hands in a big bowl of hamburger meat mixed with onions and stuff. I wash my hands then dig in to help make meatballs.

 

DINNER AND MORE

 

Come dinner time, women residents line up at our kitchen counter, eager for their home-cooked meal. We made so much spaghetti that there was enough for seconds for everyone. These women, each in their own way thanked us with words of heart-felt gratitude.

I’m thankful that today I have a home and I know I can eat when I want to eat. I’m thankful they invited me into their home, letting me help them. You see, I haven’t always had what I have today.

 

A fact sheet on the website for Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition,  says nearly 6000 women in my community are homeless.

 

This shelterhouse encourages and empowers those without resources to move from homelessness and destitution to shelter and stability.

If only I had this place to come to when I was down on my luck. But, I wasn’t in Cincinnati then. I was out west and in a town that only helped men.

I survived my hard luck times by putting one foot in front of the other (literally, ending up here). Any resources I could get back then were invaluable. As my friends and I joined these women, as part of the Feed the Need Program, it gave me a means to give back.

More than just meals, this place does so much more. On an individual basis to sixty women, it offers a social support system and connection to community services. And housing assistance and aftercare services. Medical care, too are part of the services, provided by a community area clinic (Deaconess Health Check Clinic) and other supporting health professionals.

 

HOW TO HELP

 

Nationwide, there are no less than 4000 shelters. We have a lot of homeless people in America. Too many! A great resource for discovering where in your community could use a helping hand is the website for Homeless Shelter Directory.

From its front page, click on the map, picking out your state. From there you will be taken to a page which lists not only places in need, but also the contact details.

 

HOME

 

The sun is out. It’s the morning after helping out at The Esther Marie Hatton Center and Shelterhouse for Women. Spring is finally here. My drapes are open. Birds are feeding in the bird-feeders right outside a window on my bright yellow doll-house.

My pet finches chatter back when the outside birds cackle. We had scrambled eggs for breakfast—I spoil my finches—they love their egg casserole with a hint of honey and crumbled egg shells. Across the street is a lake. Ducks squawk, also happy its finally spring-time. -Elle-

 

RESOURCES

The Esther Marie Hatton Center and Shelterhouse for Women, Cincinnati.

Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition

Homeless Shelter Directory, a nation-wide resource.

What does home mean to you? Please share.

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