Family Reunion

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(Hip, Hip, Hurah, Peder Severin Kroyer, 1888)

Family Reunion

They, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, wives and husbands, mothers and fathers…

All that were, all that are no longer

Lives come and gone

Woe is the tale of stories so splintered and marred

How meaningful it all was

It is with no regret that they have parted

They gather with you; for you

Still

 

Moments not lost on your glories…your heartaches;

Joys abound, sorrows reverberate

Time is not detached, nor space relevant

They muse…laugh at our naiveté, our innocence–

Chiding, ‘Children among the old and young’

Their jest a mere advantage from the heavens

They mean no harm…only love

Unconditional

Purer than running water; more bountiful than the cosmos

No judgment lingers; nothing unforgiven

Only hope for your happiness

For your journeys

 

Here they say:

“Gather among you, few and plenty

Keep all that we were; make all that you should be

There is no reason, no purpose to not reach beyond

The limitations set forth that we all bemoaned; misjudged

You will learn, you will teach

You will live forever from generation upon generation

With the lessons we have handed down

Family is family is family

Soul to soul to soul

We are connected; we are one

Live, breathe, know…

Death is no ending, life is no beginning…

The cycle is never broken, only continued.”

Freedom Writers or Censorship?

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(This article is the original version of the article I wrote for  OCWriters.network called, Freedom of the Pen…an American right?)

Freedom Writers or Censorship?

“As long as there have been books, there have been people trying to suppress them—government, business interests, and individuals bent on imposing their moral or religious views.” – The Authors Guild

Freedom Of Speech is granted under the Constitution. It is what defines us as a nation. The Pew Research Center reveals that Americans are more tolerant of free speech than any other nationality. It is proud legacy!

But are writers being granted the same freedom of the pen?

The publishing industry has always been the social justice warrior for free speech, fighting for the freedom to express ideas, no matter how bold or popular. But within the current political environment, there has been a brewing climate to ban certain books, boycott writers, vilify speech, and condemn those with whom the publishing industry disagrees. A groupthink mentality has been mobilizing, monitoring the creativity of writers, and limiting, if not silencing, the ability to express individual ideas freely, openly, and honestly.

Most notably is Milo Yiannopolis and the controversy around his cancelled book, Dangerous. It has been pulled by Simon & Schuster because of growing backlash of the controversial personality, and the development of a resurfaced video of Yiannopolis criticizing age-of-consent laws. Added chastisement came from fellow writers, like Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist. She pulled her book with S&S, saying, “Milo has every right to say what he wants to say, however distasteful I and many others find it to be. He doesn’t have a right to have a book published by a major publisher but he has, in some bizarre twist of fate, been afforded that privilege.”

Thomas Flannery, Jr, Yiannopolis’s agent, was berated and verbally chastised by his fellow industry comrades for his professional relationship, prompting him to write, In Defense of Milo Yiannopoulos’s Book. One only has to read in the comments section the vitriol towards Flannery, or get the sense that banning writers is an ‘acceptable’ business practice.

MIT Press never thought Communism For Kids, a ‘fairy-tale’ book that teaches children about the ‘misery of capitalism’ and where ‘dreams come true’ with a ‘different kind of communism,’ would cause so much controversy. But an outcry from a faction of conservatives had not only criticized MIT, but according to Alex Green’s article in Publisher’s Weekly, “the author, Bini Adamczak, has received ‘hateful communications,’ some of which have been ‘blatantly anti-Semitic.’”

Scholastic originally defended a children’s book, A Birthday Cake for George Washington, against scathing backlash from some groups who claimed the book “…presented young readers with an offensively sanitized version of the institution of slavery.” This book was notably condemned because of the fact that it was written, illustrated, and edited by a diverse group of people of color, including Andrea Davis Pinkey, who is black and a winner of the Coretta Scott King Award. Caving to pressure, the book was pulled from publication.

Should history not teach us a lesson?

Some of the greatest books of our times like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway were considered inappropriate and too “influential” on readers, and were detrimental to societal standards. Yet, we survived those books. In fact, our society gained from those books. Books are the means to not only educate, inform, and entertain, but also to challenge and allow people to explore ideas beyond their own limitations. At what point do you limit this and at what price?

Freedom of speech is vital to exchanging and evaluating ideas. Steven Pinker points out in his article, Why Free Speech Is Fundamental, “We come up with ideas about the nature of reality, and test them against that reality, allowing the world to falsify the mistaken ones.” Without the freedom to express ideas, good and bad, hateful or not, offensive or agreeable, we lose our ability to rationalize, question, or even wonder about the world around us. In effect, we lose or freedom of thought, let alone the freedom to express ourselves.

Does free speech have limitations?

The French philosopher Voltaire said, “I disapprove of what you say but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Freedom to express does come with limitations. The opportunity to express hate or offend others is always at play. Ken Greenfield warns, “That protections of speech will inevitably be over inclusive. But that this is a cost we must bear.” For with free speech comes the freedom to ignore it or speak out against it. And to punish it is the slippery slope that can lead to the loss of freedoms all together.

Competition of thoughts and ideas is what maintains a well-informed populace. We must be careful of this new era of censorship, no matter what side of the political spectrum a person stands. Political climates change. What offends us today will not necessarily offend us tomorrow. History has shown us that. What makes us move forward is the ability to create, express, and exchange ideas, along with the capability to assess and evaluate. Let us not fall prey to limiting that basic freedom.

Mortality

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(The Sun, Edvard Munch,1910–11)

 

Don’t despair, my son

Mortality is just a word

A meaning that holds no value

It touches me not

It worries far too many

It scalds you

 

I say, “Live!”

Wake to the morning light

(It is the closest thing to God; it is the closest thing to me, now)

Breathe in the cool breath of the heavens

See the beauty of His reason

And worry not

For do as the birds who rejoice in song at the crack of dawn

Open your eyes and see what they gaze upon

A moment, a gift, a lifetime of memories that are only fleeting

Death only a door to another flight of our souls

 

(For Helen Francis Correia,  8/17/25 – 6/3/17. May we all have a journey this long; a legacy so blessed.)

Being Me…or bust!

E10720.jpgA man at a writing table, as depicted by an unknown 18th-century American artist (National Gallery of Art)

I was talking to a friend the other night…via texting. She had not read any of my writing, so I sent over a book jacket synopsis for my latest novel to get fresh eyes on it. I wanted to know if she would be hooked based on the five lines summing up the storyline. Well, her response was more than enthusiastic!

“Yes, I would read it!” Adding, “I want to read it!!!”

How lovely for me– someone who likes the storyline of my next novel.

Then, the dreaded words lingered on the screen: “You are very good at pulling someone into what you are saying without being overly wordy, descriptive, or cliché. I remember listening to you talk about food, or fabric, or even plants….you drag a person in with just enough…But I feel like you are holding back…”

Stab!!! She was 100% right! And she wasn’t the first person to tell me this.

My third novel is killing me. Yes, literally, slowly bleeding me out, with pain and agony.  I am trying– too hard –to get it “right.” This could possibly be the one that could interest agents and/or publishers. Or, at least, that is my hope. (An editor at at large publishing house already told me so when I proposed the idea.)  The pressure is on! And it is leading me on a journey of self doubt. Thus, my writing is changing and my voice is getting covered up, or in this case, being deleted from the pages of my novel.

As I have previously expressed, I am trying to fill a gap in the marketplace with my writing. But the industry is funny…they claim they want “new and fresh” voices, but because the publishing world is so stagnant, “new” is a relative word. Filling “gaps” is code for not finding a place on the selling floor, therefore unpublishable.

Technically, I am not “new” in what I am offering. I am trying to bring back the concept of realism, but in a modern way.  So, what is realism, and what does that mean for today’s writing?

I write stories about real people as lovers, parents, friends, and foes. The “action” is the consequences and the affects one’s life has in their decisions in a realistic way, not fantasy. I want to have a moral compass for them to learn from, develop, and grow. Does that mean my first novel, Finding Jane, about a woman who falls back into the early 19th century isn’t “real.” Fiction is storytelling. Finding Jane is a story…but the characters are as real as you and me – the way they think, react, behave, desire, etc. Realism is writing about characters, their inner working of the mind, and the delicate play of emotions. It attempts to lay an internal struggle for the reader to see. Most of the “action” is internalized. It isn’t a 60 second video, keep ’em preoccupied, instant gratification style. It is intelligent stimulation, not visual stimulation. The realistic novel is about the character rather than the plot or turn of phrase. Changes in moods, perceptions, opinions, and ideas are the turning points or climaxes…not an “action”. A realist writer tries to create an intricate-layered character who can be felt as though they are flesh and blood creatures. People you want to know, invest your time, and live with. It is an adventure unto your own imagination, not one given to you as eye candy, but mind candy.

I know…who wants to think anymore? Sit-com stories are the craze. Read ’em and leave ’em is the “new” phase of publishing. Get to action! Kill the superfluous! Don’t drag on any backstory. Kill the adverbs. Cut the adjective. Show don’t tell. God forbid you let the reader get to know and understand anything deeper about a character other than how to get to the next action scene!

What happened to literature? Wasn’t the whole idea of reading to imagine? Do you realize that 99% of all classics would NEVER get published today with the rules and restrictions writers are up against?

The thing is, I am not that reader– the kind looking for instant gratification. And I know I am not alone. Not everyone, old and even the young, wants to be spoon fed their literature. There are readers out there who want “real” literature. And I am not talking about stuffy, verbose, “intelligista” narrative driven, or art-for-arts sake literature. (That is another blog for another day.) Readers are looking for great novels with meaning, purpose, depth, values, thought, romance and entertainment, but not just entertainment.

This is the gap I am trying to fill. This is what my friend was talking about when she said, “My favorite books involve all 5 senses without being overly wordy or descriptive. Just enough that you get the picture and use your own imagination. And not too much that it bores you with adjectives and clichés.”

I want to give my friend, and readers like her, exactly what they are longing for.

But I am failing with my third novel. I’m trying to be “commercial” and less wordy. Less adverbs. Less showing. Get to the action! But while listening to all these “rules” in publishing, I am being less me! I’m trying too hard to become pedestrian. I have something unique to offer the 21st century reader…even if what I’m offering is a 19th century idea. (An idea that led to a revolution in writing and has given us classics that are still on the top reading lists today!)

I am not being true to myself. 

I need to write with my voice, not just with my hands. I do have something new and fresh to offer the publishing world. As Jane Austen said about her own writing, “I could not sit seriously down to write a serious Romance under any other motive than to save my Life, & if it were indispensable for me to keep it up & never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first Chapter. –No– I must keep to my own style & go on in my own Way; And though I may never succeed again, I am convinced that should totally fail in any other…” 

So, I am taking my friend’s advice, “You are marketable!!! Be you! It will sell.”

The Gift

Morisot-Painting-of-husband1-1024x870.jpgMorisot-Painting-of-husband1-1024x870.jpg(Eugene Manet On The Isle of White, Berthe Morisot, 1875)

The Gift

If only I am granted

a few hours, a moment of your time, a wishful thought; a brief interlude

A chance of remembrance of what we were; what we aren’t

Ah, the might of one’s will and the depth of one’s emptiness– a dance of surviving the fate of unrequited love

Clueless are you, unconcerned, Oblivious…

of my longings; fettered yearnings

To revel in your being, soak in your essence–all that cannot be indulged

We are not sanctioned

It is only I who must suffer; be grateful for the crossings we have decided upon

Halting my urges to reach out  and let you know it is I you have loved…once, twice, lifetimes ago

The simple gesture of running my fingertips across your arm, absorbing your essence by mere touch, connecting the light that binds us

Hidden in density

Your handsomeness a cruel joke from the Gods

My head screams, “God I adore you!”

But I keep my smile subtle across my face, my eyes dark and steady

My mask of propriety; I do not give away my reverie

the meanings hidden in my art

Would you laugh at me, I wonder

Or run…run far away

Either way, a death I am not willing to confront

Forgive me of my sin

Please do not judge me harshly

For thy love is not in one’s power

And you have forever held my heart