Friday, June 29, 2007

Online Poetry Communities: 10 Tips to Finding the Right One for You

In my job as a "Bookseller", I find our stores section of poetry to be very small......only slightly larger than our "Large Print" section , which is only four shelves! I doubt there is 200 volumes in Poetry. Yates, Frost, Poe, E.E. Cummings, Browning, and a few more modern poets. It is rather sad.

Online poetry communities, in their simplest sense, are sites you join to share poems and to meet other poets who also share an interest in poetry. However, finding an exceptional poetry site, dedicated to its poets, is not quite that simple. With so many poetry sites out there, how do you choose which one is best for you?

1. Membership Fees: Some poetry communities say they are free, once you join, however, you have to “upgrade” for additional features. Other poetry sites rely on donations, and advertisements. Look for a site that is no more than $35.00 annually.
Bottom Line: Find a site that only charges you ONE fee to use EVERY feature on the site.

2. Site Features: Look for a site that has tons of features, not just a few lame areas of posting and reading poetry. A good rule of thumb is this: For every $2.00 you spend annually, you should find ONE UNIQUE Feature of the site. If you are willing to spend $40.00, then you should get at least 20 UNIQUE Features.
Bottom Line: Find a poetry site that offers as much bang for your buck as possible.

3. Communication System: An online poetry community should be a community. An internal mail system, and an active Bulletin Board—a place where poets share ideas—is a must.
Bottom Line: Find a site that has a few ways poets can communicate.

4. Feedback System: Examine not only HOW you receive feedback, but the QUALITY of that feedback. Will you simply be getting brief comments? Is there a point system in place? Does that point system address areas of analysis that are important to you?
Bottom Line: Find a site that has a quality review system that provides you the feedback you are looking for.

5. Recognition Programs: Most poetry sites function as a fancy bulletin board for posting poetry. A solid poetry site encourages friendly competition, and a way for you to measure your progress. Being able to rise up the ranks, gain recognition from your fellow poets is not only fun, but rewarding.
Bottom Line: Find a site that encourages several recognition programs and poet rankings.

6. Site Layout: A poetry site should be clean, inviting, friendly, and easy to navigate. Many sites are just the opposite: laden with ads, thousands of words, and links that bring you everywhere but where you ought to be.
Bottom Line: Find a site that is clean, fairly devoid of ads, strong linking and ease of organization.

7. Poetry Database: Most online poetry communities lack meaningful poetry research tools. A site that provides its poets with as many links to resources as possible, is one has your best interests at heart. Bottom Line: Find a site that helps you learn poetry forms, movements, history, poets, etc., one stop shopping if you will.

8. Awards: Poor sites have either no award system, or a poor awards system. Quality sites invest in their members. Would you rather win a quality award, or receive certificates, magnets and bumper stickers in the mail?

Bottom Line: Find a site that is dedicated to giving back to its community in the form of quality, timely awards.

9. Support: So often I hear poets lament the fact that “no one seems to be behind the wheel.” A quality site responds promptly to its members, usually less than 48 hours. Send a trial email, see how long it takes to hear back.
Bottom Line: Find a site that responds to your concerns, questions, or suggestions within 48 hours.

10. Free Trial: Avoid any poetry site that does not give you AT LEAST a 7 day free trial. You should be able to access ALL the site features, not just a few teasers.
Bottom Line: Find a site that allows you a generous, all access FREE TRIAL, so you can fully understand its community.

Finding the right online poetry community doesn’t have to be difficult. If you asked me what ONE thing I would look for it is this: The more features a poetry site offers its poets, the more likely your experience is going to be a great one.

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About the Author:
About The Author:

Rob Levasseur is a former English Teacher, published poet, owner, creator, and operator of WorldofPoets.coman online poetry community built for, and by, its online poets. To learn more, email Rob at

Monday, June 25, 2007

Get Rich, Retire Rich Books.......Do They Work?

OMG, so many books, so little brains. Initially, my reaction is the way to get rich is write a "Get Rich Book". I mean, come on, if all it took was reading a book, we would all be rich.

Personally, I believe it takes a certain personality type to pursue wealth for the sake of wealth, definitely a "Type A" personality. Someone who enjoys competition, crowds, a fraternity/sorority type...someone who "networks". And that is just to read the books!

I am sure all those who compete on the Donald Trump Show, "The Apprentice", qualify. I remember a Business Law class I took at Colorado State University, as part of my MBA program. The Professor asked the students, at least 90% who were 21-23 years of age, "How many think they will be making $50,000/yr by the time they are 30 yrs old?" At least 90% raised their hands! Uh huh.

In my present "job" as a "Bookseller", I see many people seeking these types of books. Here are some on-line lists of the "Top 10"........most are none of the ones that I see daily.

People seem to like the "Rich Dad" series......unfortunately for my kids, I was the "Poor Dad". The best way to get rich is for dad or grandpa to have been a "Robber Baron" and leave you all his money!

I suppose all the above are for what I still call "Yuppies or "Yuppie Puppies". Conventional, conservative "wannabes".

Then there are the Evangelical Christan.............."God will Bless Me with Wealth" types who actually believe that "GOD" will reward their Christian beliefs with money, power, etc. Uh huh. What happened to that bible verse "A rich man has as much chance of getting into heavens as a camel going through an eye of a needle?"

I guess I am just inherent wealth or you "get lucky". As the movie "Wall Street" stated "Greed is Good!"

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Trilogy Review

A Trilogy of fiction, of sudden climate change, due to "Global Warming". For some strange reason, I started reading Fifty Degrees Below first, thinking it was a "stand alone" novel, then recently found Sixty Days and Counting. They are good reads, and entirely plausible scenarios.

The characters are interesting and believable. There is also a "conspiracy" and "black ops" back story which , I personally like. While many do not believe in "Global Warming" caused by the almost 7 Billion Human beings on this planet (their heads must have been buried in the sand for the last 50 years!)....."something" is going on. I know the climate has changed in my lifetime........somehow!

These books, while entertaining, also give room for some thought. Here are some reviews from one of my affiliate advertisers, Amazon.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Forty Signs of Rain
In this cerebral near-future novel, the first in a trilogy, Robinson (The Years of Rice and Salt) explores the events leading up to a worldwide catastrophe brought on by global warming. Each of his various viewpoint characters holds a small piece of the puzzle and can see calamity coming, but is helpless before the indifference of the politicians and capitalists who run America. Anna Quibler, a National Science Foundation official in Washington, D.C., sifts through dozens of funding proposals each day, while her husband, Charlie, handles life as a stay-at-home dad and telecommutes to his job as an environmental adviser to a liberal senator. Another scientist, Frank Vanderwal, finds his sterile worldview turned upside down after attending a lecture on Buddhist attitudes toward science given by the ambassador from Khembalung, a nation virtually inundated by the rising Indian Ocean. Robinson's tale lacks the drama and excitement of such other novels dealing with global climate change as Bruce Sterling's Heavy Weather and John Barnes's Mother of Storms, but his portrayal of how actual scientists would deal with this disaster-in-the-making is utterly convincing. Robinson clearly cares deeply about our planet's future, and he makes the reader care as well. FYI:Robinson's Mars trilogy (Red Mars, etc.) received one Nebula and two Hugo awards.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Fifty Degrees Below Earth
continues its relentless plunge toward environmental collapse in Robinson's well-done if intensely didactic follow-up to Forty Signs of Rain (2004). As a result of global warming, the Gulf Stream has stalled, and when winter comes, impossibly frigid temperatures hit the Eastern Seaboard and Western Europe. As people starve, multinational corporations explore ways of making a profit from the disaster. When Antarctica's ice shelves collapse, low-lying island nations quite literally slip beneath the rising waters. In Washington, D.C., clear-sighted scientists must overcome government inertia and stupidity to put into effect policies that may begin to salvage the situation. An enormous fleet of ships is dispatched to the North Atlantic to dump millions of tons of salt into the ocean in the hope of restarting the Gulf Stream. This ecological disaster tale is guaranteed to anger political and economic conservatives of every stripe, but it provides perhaps the most realistic portrayal ever created of the environmental changes that are already occurring on our planet. It should be required reading for anyone concerned about our world's future.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Sixty Days and Counting
Inside-the-Beltway policy wonks and government scientists strive to save the world from environmental collapse in the well-written third installment (after 2005's Fifty Degrees Below) of this hyper realistic, near-future SF series. The Gulf Stream-slowed by global warming-has been restarted and nuclear-powered naval ships stand by to generate electricity for frigid coastal cities. Phil Chase, an ecologically minded Democrat from California in the Al Gore mold, has won the presidency, due in part to the efforts of NSA scientist Frank Vanderwal and his spook girlfriend, Caroline Barr, who helped foil a right-wing attempt to fix the election. But only time will tell if the world has both the scientific know-how and the political will to reverse the ongoing rush toward an ecological precipice. Combining surprisingly interesting discussions of environmental science with Robinson's trademark tramps through nature and an exciting espionage subplot, this novel should appeal to both the author's regular SF audience and anyone concerned with the ecological health of our planet (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Basics of Genealogy Research

I became extreamly interested in genealogy research, when I had to write a paper in Graduate School about my ancestory. Thanks to the Morman Church, whose record keeping is without par, I was able to trace my lineage back to the early 1700's.

I had help from several distant relatives to fill in the missing spaces. I even found several new "cousins" in the process. Unfortunately I began this project after most relatives had passed away!

When it comes to genealogy research, there are many different tricks of the trade that you can use to find and gather the information that you need. No matter what methods you choose to follow, however, there are a few basics that always remain the same if you hope to have a successful and fulfilling search.

Record Information

One of the most important steps you should take when conducting genealogy research is also one of the most overlooked: make sure to maintain accurate logs of the information you have collected. In order to keep accurate loges, you need to document the resources you used for each piece of information you collect. This makes it far easier to do cross-references down the road and to verify information that you may collect elsewhere.

Gather Evidence

When conducting genealogy research, it will be necessary for you to create your own hypotheses when it comes to piecing information about your family together. Don't get carried away with romantic ideas of your lineage and fool yourself into believing them. Make sure to test every hypothesis and theory you develop by finding credible evidence to back it up. If your hypothesis is not supported by the evidence, reject it and move on to another hypothesis.

Go Original

As much as possible, always use original documents when researching your genealogy. If you use ones that have been reproduced, you run the risk of having documents that have been altered. This, of course, may cause you to have inaccurate information. When it comes to published works, compilations, communications, and other electronic or paper guides, you should use them as guides in order to help you find the original documents.

Never Stretch the Truth

Never communicate something as a fact when it comes to your genealogy until you are completely sure it really is a fact. You should never mislead another researchers - either purposely or out of carelessness - when stating information. If you communicate information as facts to other genealogists and have your "fact" disproved, you will lose respect within the community and others will be less likely to help you in your search. Also, site your reference when providing information as fact.

If you are still uncertain as to whether or not a piece of information you gathered is fact, then you should state that the information is probable or possible. Once again, cite your resource for the information that has led you to believe the information may be true. Be sure to acknowledge the research that others may have conducted for you.

Work Together

Genealogy research is a collegial interest. Therefore, you should openly and freely communicate with other researchers and share the information you have gathered. In order to do this, you should publish your work in some manner so it is available to others. You might also place copies of your research in repositories and libraries. In addition, you must be open to constructive criticism.

Since genealogy research is collegial, you should also feel free to read the information that has been gathered by other researchers. Never feel afraid to ask questions or to ask others to share the information they have gathered with you.

Keep an Open Mind

Since genealogy research is a process that involves formulating and testing a variety of hypotheses, it is important to always keep an open mind. New evidence may appear that discredits other evidence you once had and proves something other than what you had thought to be true. Do not set preconceived ideas about your genealogy and then refuse to change them. Also, be open when listening to the conclusions others have drawn and when they make comments on your work. If you listen with an open mind, you just might discover new ideas you had never thought about before.

Genealogy research is a rewarding, fun, and interesting experience. Just be sure to go into it with an open mind, with flexibility, and honesty. Be willing to share your information with others and to listen to their information without being judgmental or by taking offense to their thoughts. Unraveling the mysteries of the past is like a large puzzle, and the more ideas and help you have solving the puzzle, the great the chance of creating a beautiful family picture.

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About the Author:
Marie Christianson is a senior business analyst at Visit the Genealogy Info Center for more articles and resources!

Freelance Writing On The Internet

I've written many a paper and research project, both in Graduate Business and Education classes. Depending on the Department, the Writing Style Manual impacts the style of the writing.

In Graduate Education classes, The APA Style Manual was required. I used the same style for History classes and was taken to task. Other Departments require The MLA Style Manual or The Chicago Style Manual. Each one has it's quirks and similarities. Decide the market or audience your writing for and choose the correct style manual. All are available from major bookstores and Amazon.

So, you’ve decided to take up a career in freelance writing. You’ve hooked up the computer, installed the printer, and learnt the nitty-gritty of your word processor. You’ve maybe even been published a couple of times. You’re all set to conquer the world of publishing. But wait. Do you know all the options available to you?

We’ve compiled a list of all the jobs a freelance writer can find on the Internet to keep the cash inflow steady:

Most of the freelance writing industry focuses on magazines, so let’s start there. You’ll find magazines on every topic imaginable. From teen issues to running, you’ll find at least one magazine to fit your interests. But while magazine publishing is huge and widespread, don’t try to get published everywhere at once. Find a few niche topics and start your way up from there. As your expertise and interests grow, branch out to other magazines as well. Topics most writers start out with include health and nutrition, computers, parenting, teens, relationships, disability, travel, etc.

Fillers in Magazines and Newspapers
Not all writers make it to the cover pages of magazines. At least not at first. In the beginning, you might just have to make do with fillers. And they pay as much as they’re fun to do. Jokes, opinion pieces, short lists, news items and other short pieces are termed fillers. Editors are always on the lookout for good fillers, so you stand a good chance of breaking through.

Greeting Cards
With e-cards, paper greeting cards seem to have taken a backseat. Nevertheless, the sale of paper cards is still ongoing and they are still preferred when it comes to special occasions. Despite popular myths, greeting card markets are not as easy to break into as they seem, can take a long time to respond and an even longer time to get your card into print. The upside is that greeting card markets pay extremely well for short writing. What’s more, though limited, opportunities exist for e-card writers too. So when you need to take a break from the regular work, dip your fingers into the greeting card pool

Doormats, Magnets, Bumper Stickers, T-shirts, etc
If you’ve wondered how those words made it to t-shirts, stickers, doormats and magnets, think no more. Freelance writers are often required to write the slogans for such material and are paid quite well for it. If you have the ability to coin a catchy or humorous one-liner, this could be your shot to riches. You won’t get a byline, and certainly no fame, but you could be earning as much as $50 per word!

They’re up in your room, you’ve seen them in your friend’s office, and you often find a funny one at the fast-food place down the street. Someone must have written them. Why not you? A lot of companies sell posters and generate handsome sales from them. In fact, writers of posters are usually paid in royalties, that is, a percentage of each poster sold. So, instead of being paid one-time, you’ll be paid over and over again for something you wrote years ago.

Practically every one needs a resume (yes, even us freelance writers). Some people write them up themselves, some prefer to take the help of professionals. Write up a resume for a friend or two at work (even if she doesn’t need one!) as samples and respond to advertisements and calls for resume writers. Keep in mind though that resume writing isn’t your regular every day writing. You’re not supposed to decorate the page with flowery prose or funny anecdotes. You need to be professional, crisp and attention-grabbing. Practice with a few fake ones, and you’ll soon be on your way.

Advertisers need writers, commonly known as copywriters. They’re the flesh and blood of the campaign. Getting into advertising can be a tricky business, but with a few credentials and a polished resume, you’ll have no trouble at all showcasing your talent to the world. If you are indeed good at what you do, advertisers will line up to get you to work for them. If you prefer not to work for someone, you could set up your own copywriting business and promote it to get clients.

Website Copy
With the Internet revolution finally having realized in its full form, small and big companies alike are looking for writers to write content for their websites. Not only do these companies pay well, but they also give the writer a much-desired break. If you’ve written website copy, you’ll have no trouble finding more assignments of the same kind. Simply guide the prospective client to the website and he’ll know what kind of work he can expect from you. Aim for start-up companies at first. They’ll usually hand over the whole work to you and you can make a great portfolio.

E-books are not here to replace print books. They’re here to provide an alternative resource for distribution. However, as opposed to print books, e-books are short, contain lots of web links and usually provide answers to a customer’s immediate needs. They can be downloaded off the Internet in seconds, and you can profit from a single e-book long after you’ve written it. Don’t get fooled though-- writing e-books takes just as much time and dedication as writing print ones. It’s only the mode of delivery that’s different.

Online newsletters, or e-zines as they are frequently called, are becoming the rage of the publishing industry. Many of these e-zines are paying markets and run regular features and columns. Many of them have associated website,s too. While the pay in this market is less, you’ll be writing shorter articles in much less time.

Generally, when we think of newspapers, we think news. But newspapers hold a lot more information than that. With regular columns, reviews and updates, latest findings, and point-of-view articles, newspapers are the writer’s best bet. And if you’ve gained entry into one section of the newspaper, the other sections of writing open up to you automatically. Though slow on the income, getting published in your local daily is still a major ego-booster!

There are many households and small companies that publish newsletters. And all the more are springing up each day. These newsletters are a great way to break into freelancing and gather clips. Their requirements are not as tough to meet as those of magazines and most editors are quite quick in their response times. To add to that, some newsletters also pay quite well, sometimes almost as much as small magazines.

If it’s the fame you’re after, you won’t get it here. But you can earn a decent amount of money ghostwriting memoirs, books or even articles for people who don’t want to or can’t write themselves. Ghostwriters are quite in demand today with more and more people trying to preserve their family history by getting memoirs or biographies written. However, apart from the money, there’s nothing else. You don’t get the credit, the fame or sometimes, even the byline.

The prospects for writers today are immense provided you’re ready to experiment in different areas. The Internet has made it easier than ever to find writing assignments not only in your own country, but around the world. A simple e-mail is all it takes to apply for a job and send in the assignment.

It’s easy for a freelance writer to get stuck doing the same old thing over and over. It’s not only fun, but sometimes necessary to introduce a little spice into your writing routine. If you’ve been writing articles all your life, try doing some greeting card writing instead. If the money is slow, and you could really use some extra money, apply for a resume writer job. If the book manuscripts are lying unsold, try selling short stories for a change.

With a little variation now and then, you’ll not only find your income shooting up, but also your inspiration. So next time you find yourself waiting for word on that manuscript, send out a few short pieces instead. It’ll definitely be worth the effort.

About the Author:

Mridu Khullar is the editor-in-chief of, a free online magazine for writers. Sign up for the free weekly newsletter to get a complimentary e-book with 400+ paying markets. Also check out her e-book, "Knock Their Socks Off! A Freelance Writer's Guide to Query Letters That Sell," available at

Read more articles by: Mridu Khullar

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

In The Mirror

As I look kindly upon this complex visage,
I reflect.

I see the joy,
The grace
And the mystery that is motherhood.

Behold a face that has felt every feeling
And lived so many emotions!

I survey the lines,
Notice the imperfections
And ponder the passage of time.

My eyes are filled with wonder.
They have gazed upon you as you slept,
Watched you grow
And witnessed the miracles of life.

Lips that once brushed your newborn cheek
Now smile with the secrets
That only a mother can know.

This mouth
Has imparted many pearls of parental wisdom.
I did not always say the right thing or use the right words.
I raised my voice to scold you,
Tempered it to praise you
And softly whispered lullabies for only you to hear.

I have never stopped listening for you.
With these ears I heard your thoughts.
My intuition guided me as I responded to your cries.

I brush back my hair.
It was so often neglected in the name of motherhood.
My head would spin with all that I had to do for you.
Now I hold it high and commend myself.

And what of this impressive figure I see before me?
I celebrate how it has stood the test of time.

These shoulders have carried themselves well.
They shrugged in resignation
And sagged under the strains of family life.
I now throw them back with pride
In honor of a job well done.

I think of you
And my chest swells with devotion.
How I embraced you!
These breasts that nurtured you
Were once your sanctuary.

My arms have been your comfort and support.
They cuddled and cradled
And ached to hold you when we were apart.
They now have the power to hug from afar.

I reach out my hands.
They tied your shoes, tussled your hair
And earnestly folded in prayer to beseech your well- being.

These fingers washed, ironed and held you tight.
They lovingly molded you into a person of substance.
You flourished
Under the deftness of a mother’s touch.

I stand resolute with a stalwart back
That bore such pain as I brought you into the world.
I persevered
And have carried the mantle of motherhood with dignity.

Look at these noble hips!
You sat securely on your perch
While I toted you around,
Shifting you from left side to right…
Right side to left…
And we went happily about our days together.

You kept me on my toes.

These nimble feet
Paced, ran and treaded lightly
To keep up with your life.
On tireless legs I strode ahead to guide you
And followed close behind to catch you.
Now I walk beside you as a friend.

I remember.
I reflect.

The mirror does not lie.
The humanity, the magic and the passion
Of being a mother
Is there for everyone to see.

I rejoice!

About the Author:

Maria Macfarlane is a mother of two and publishes the mom-e-news Newsletter, providing insight and information for the proactive mom. To subscribe to the newsletter or for more articles please contact

Read more articles by: Maria Macfarlane

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dissertation Guide

I completed a graduate program at Colorado State University with a GPA of 4.0 in all required courses, unfortunately, I moved to Michigan for a job interview and only submitted the first draft and first rewrite of my research paper, by then all my professors on my Graduate Committee had retired. I never graduated.

Our graduate or undergraduate curricula require us to submit a dissertation for the completion of our degree. A dissertation helps us to get an in-depth understanding of the topic that we are writing upon. We need to thoroughly research the topic that we are writing upon, form convincing points in favor of the topic, structure the essay appropriately and finally conclude the essay. This is the essence of a quality dissertation. A thesis represents one’s idea on a topic and hence requires a great deal of thinking on his part. It is not necessary that a thesis is only in the form of an essay. In certain disciplines such as performing arts the thesis may be completed in the form of performance.

A dissertation or a thesis has different scopes. A thesis written for a PhD. will be different from the thesis that is written for an undergraduate or a graduate degree. The length of a thesis may depend on the number of pages or words. If the thesis is written in language such as Japanese or Chinese the length may depend on the number of characters. The thesis is generally written in the main language of instruction at the university. If the student writing the thesis is a student of languages it may be possible that the thesis is completed in his chosen language.

A thesis leads to the culmination of a particular course of academic curricula. Hence a thesis normally starts when a student has completed all other requirements of the course. The topic of the thesis is generally decided in consultation with the supervisor. The student starts the research on the mutually agreed topic and concludes the topic within a decided timeframe. The timeframe that is required for a PhD. dissertation may be different from the ones that are allowed for an undergraduate or graduate topic. In a PhD. essay there are is generally no timeframe to complete the thesis. The scholar starts the research in consultation with their advisor and culminates the thesis after many iterations and modifications. A PhD. scholar will not have any pressure from their professors on the submission date and he will receive guidance from them on how best the thesis can be completed.

A dissertation work may have some typical components. These are the title page, an abstract, table of contents and a bibliography. The other components of a dissertation work may include introduction, the research done, the results that were derived, discussions, acknowledgements and abbreviations. A dissertation is called by different names in different countries. If the dissertation work is done in a Canadian University it may be called as a term paper, papers or essay. If the paper is done for the fulfillment of an honors degree then the dissertation may be called as a major paper. At universities in the United Kingdom a dissertation is associated with an undergraduate degree, while the term thesis is associated with a PhD. degree.

A dissertation or a thesis helps a scholar to develop a mastery over the subject. This helps to develop a career in their chosen fields.

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About the Author:
Sharon White is a senior writer and writers consultant at Dissertation writing. Get some useful tips for

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Truth or Lie: Fiction vs. Memoir - How Memoir Writers Can Approach Truth and Healing

The recent flap about James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces has hit the media with a big bang, bringing the age-old debate about what is acceptable when writing memoir--a “real” story. Every time a memoir is released that gains media attention this debate is raised. Mary Karr, The Liar’s Club, Jennifer Lauck, Blackbird, and Vivian Gornick, Fierce Attachments, all defended their memoirs in various medias, and all said that some recreations of actual reality had to occur in order to write the story and make it interesting.

As a memoir teacher, I find that people are very worried about the ethical issues involved in memoir writing. For example, the writers ask such questions as, “what if I don’t remember the exact conversation when my mother died,” or “I don’t know what clothes I was wearing the day my father went away forever.” I am always moved by these innocent, caring questions, because the writer is trying very hard to be truthful and accurate, and not leave any room to be accused of dishonesty.

In my memoir Don't Call Me Mother I researched the time the train arrived in Perry, Oklahoma to make sure the scene I was painting and the conflict with my grandmother about how long she'd kept my father waiting at the train station--three hours! was accurate. My memory told me it was a long time, but finding the time of scheduled arrival made me feel great--memory was not all I was drawing upon to create a story that would be taken seriously as "real." In fact, when I began writing the stories that eventually turned into my memoir, I was calling it "fiction," but the writing group challenged me about how unrealistic it was that a mother would act the way my mother acted, and that my grandmother was portrayed as "too over the top," thus unbelievable. My answer was, "but it was all true." Their response: "It doesn't matter what is true in fiction, but it does for memoir."

I realized that the power of the story I was going to tell was that it was true, and I did my best to recreate scenes that delivered the truth. Naturally, childhood memory is subjective, any memory is subjective, but over the years, as I talked with people who knew parts of the story and visited locations where the story took place, I discovered that indeed I had remembered very well, and I had not made things up in my mind. However, I am sure that if my grandmother and mother were alive to challenge what I wrote, they would have another point of view.

In order to reach out to the reading public and go beyond private journaling, a memoir writer must create a story that has a shape, drama, and story arc. This may mean constructing a scene that conflates time, or adds costumes to our characters that they may or may not have worn, but our job is to be as accurate and as honest as we can be. If we change the plot of our lives because another plot would be more interesting to the publisher, we are in the realm of fiction. If we say we had relationships we didn't have because it would make a better story, we need to call it fiction.

A memoir writer needs to write a first draft that sifts through the happenings, feelings, and challenges and get them down on the page--a draft that is healing and purging--and important work.

Publishing is another stage. The writer must ask many questions of the work--how much to include, what is the shape of the book, and how to write it so others can identify and understand.

What to say about James Frey? None of us can know for sure what went on for him as he constructed his book, and what he remembered. On January 15, Mary Karr wrote a piece in the New York Times about memoir writing and she had this to say,

"Call me outdated, but I want to stay hamstrung by objective truth, when the very notion has been eroding for at least a century. When Mary McCarthy wrote 'Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood' in 1957, she felt obliged to clarify how she recreated dialogue. In her preface, she wrote: 'This record lays a claim to being historical - that is, much of it can be checked. If there is more fiction in it than I know, I should like to be set right.'"

Mary went on to talk about how much she learned, and how healing it was when she didn't make passages in her book more "interesting" or shape them into a slightly different story. "If I'd hung on to my assumptions, believing my drama came from obstacles I'd never had to overcome - a portrait of myself as scrappy survivor of unearned cruelties - I wouldn't have learned what really happened. Which is what I mean when I say God is in the truth."

What a great idea—as we write memoir we are reaching for something beyond our conscious selves. In the river of creativity and the search for truth, there are forces beyond us moving us along to a place we didn't even know about, a place of healing and resolution. We can hope that James Frey also has found, or is finding, a resolution for his suffering, and that all memoir writers do the same, by wrestling with what truth is, and writing it out with a full voice.

Linda Joy Myers
Linda Joy Myers Ph. D. prize winning author of Becoming Whole: Writing Your Healing Story is a Marriage and Family therapist and teaches memoir-as-healing workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area and nationally. Lindas work has been praised by reviewers healers and radio and television interviewers. You can visit her web site at:

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Friday, June 8, 2007

Top Four City Museums In Spain

Spain , with its myriad of influences and epic history, is a country with a diverse gamut of sights and sounds to offer its 45 million tourists who visit every year. An area where this can be seen in particular is in its museums and galleries, a rich history of art and culture has left Spain a huge legacy in this department with names such as Dali, Picasso and Miro leading the list:

Guggenheim, Bilbao:

Now one of the most easily recognised buildings in Europe, the Guggenheim in Bilbao is a work of art itself. Opened in 1997 and designed by American architect Frank O. Gehry, the museum has been a lynchpin for the city’s redevelopment programme and in many ways the museum symbolises the new, modern Bilbao.

Standing right in the city centre alongside the river the museum offers 11,000 sqm of exhibition space over three galleries. The museum has a body of permanent work always on display as well as large exhibitions which run for months at a time. Currently on View is the “Aztec Empire” comprising of a huge body of work from the pre-columbian civilization. Previous exhibitions have encompassed an eclectic blend of art with work from the likes of Matisse, Michelangelo, Reubens and Warhol having graced its corridors.

Dali Theatre-Museum, Figueres

Located in Figueres, the Dali Theatre-Museum is the broadest collection of his work in the world tracing his first artistic forays, the surrealist period and even including some of the last works painted before his death. Figueres also happens to be Dali’s hometown and the decision to build the museum from the ruins of the town’s Spanish civil war-damaged theatre, didn’t seem like a difficult one. Indeed, it was here as a boy where Dali first had the chance to display his work so is a fitting place to exhibit the cream of his life’s work. Dali himself supervised the building and creation of the museum turning it into a huge surrealist playground. Dali also created some works specifically for the museum itself – the “Mae West Room”, the “Wind Palace Room” and the “Monument to Francesc Pujols and the Rainy Cadillac” are larger than life and superb examples of Dali’s fertile imagination.

Reina Sofia , Madrid

One of Madrid’s most celebrated museums, the Reina Sofia houses a huge collection of contemporary art. Once the city’s San Carlos hospital, the museum was originally founded in 1986 but underwent a serious revamp in 1990 at the hands of British architect, Ian Ritchie. They envisioned creating something to rival the Tate in London and the Pompidou centre in Paris, and, with 36,000 sqm of exhibition space, it’s one of the world’s largest museums and an extremely impressive place. The most famous painting housed there is undoubtedly Picasso’s Guernica, an immense cubist work and war protest and probably the great painter’s most famous work. Visitors can also see the many preliminary sketches that he made for the work. Other great Spanish artists on display are Dali, Miro and Orteiz to name but a few as well as Spain’s most important artists of the last 20 years.

Fundacio Joan Miro, Barcelona

One of Spain’s most important artists and often overlooked due to the lure of Picasso and Dali, the Fundacio Joan Miro in the Montjuic area of Barcelona is well worth a visit. Spacious and set in its own grounds, the museum is a step away from the regular metropolitan museums and galleries – the white building built around an internal courtyard is typically Mediterranean. Huge amounts of natural light help to bring Miro’s surrealist works to life and the museum also houses some of his sculptures and ceramic works as well as the paintings he’s more famous for. The museum also has a permanent exhibition space in which the foundation gives special attention to Spain’s more experimental artists – not everyone’s cup of tea, granted, but worth a look if you’re visiting the museum.

About the Author:

Mike McDougall works for Babylon Idiomas, a Spanish language institute with schools in Spain [Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla], Argentina and Costa Rica. Click here for more information about Spanish courses.

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